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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Ubiquitous End of Year Post... My Year in Review

2011 Here it goes. For more detail, of course, you can flip through the whole Blog, but I know that I wrote more sparsely at different times of the year and sometimes my writing was motivated more by the emotional state of my life than the actual events. So a look back seems to bring out the significance in what happened this year.

Theatrical Events:
It was busy in 2011. The first half of the year I wrapped up my tenure as AD of Walterdale. I started the season knee-deep in Rabbit Hole and I think that will always be one of the most satisfying directorial experiences of my life. I had challenges that fed my personal needs. I had a terrific cast, production team and crew. I had to make some tough decisions. I had a script that I really wanted to serve and I think I did that. I also complicated my life by overlapping rehearsals for that show with The Threepenny Opera. I enjoyed doing that show. It too had elements that really made me work. The music in that show was some of the most challenging I have ever sung. Like G & S, Weill is not in my wheelhouse, meaning I had to work. So many fabulous people and it was great to be onstage in the season. I confess, I was trying to find a way to do as much as I could before the end of my tenure. So that led into my first 'real' set design for Village of Idiots. I was more nervous about that than any acting or directing job I have ever done. I worked with the wonderful Linette Smith in a kind of full-circle sort of way (she directed Steel Magnolias which was my second show at Walterdale, but the one where I really knew I was home). The summer meant Fringe and this year I was so happy to re-visit and re-draft Pieces. I was thrilled with the response form both critics and audiences. I can tell you quite honestly that the sounds of sniffling audiences makes me very happy. I also really enjoyed working with my cast and Team. The luxury of doing your own Fringe show is picking the people you want to work with. I was happy with our picks. I was also happy with the new draft as I felt that it was so much closer to the story I wanted to tell. Fall rolled into A Little Night Music at Festival Place. Another wonderful new family and the joy of singing Sondheim. And then I wrapped up the year as Master Painter for Wyrd Sisters at Walterdale. This was a fun challenge as I did not have my mentor, Joan, on hand so I had to solve the painting mystery myself and I also brought my kids on board to be my crew. Someday I see Gibson as having the potential to be an excellent set painter. Oliver might be too, if he gets paid, but I doubt he has the patience for detail work.

Educational Events:
I did Drama 209 first semester and Drama 257 second semester. Drama 209 is the second theatre history course at the U of A and you travel from just after Shakespeare to Ibsen. I really enjoyed it and find that aside from the essays I really love theatre history. Good thing I kick major butt on the exams! Drama 257 is scene study and while I really enjoyed the class, particularly my classmates, it really made me ask questions about what I was doing at University. I haven't fully answered this question but I was frustrated because although I enjoyed the course I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know. It did remind me that I was lazy about some of the character prep work that I could be doing. It also shook up my approach to objectives and tactics because I think I do them a lot more instinctively and less formally and really they are so useful, but it was more like a refresher course than an eye-opener. It is making me re-think my second semester choice. Outside of University I went to Playworks Ink in the Fall and for one very short weekend I was reminded of how much I love writing and how little time I put into it. I have so many plays I need to write. I need to make time for that writing. I don't. I need to.

Personal/Family/All the Rest:
* This year we said goodbye to Smeep, our beloved cat. This was very hard for me. She was a wonderful member of our family. I still expect her to greet me when I come home and the bumps and thumps in the night have no explanation any more. We had her longer than Oliver.
* Oliver and Gibson started basketball and for half a year it took over our lives. Well, mine anyhow. I have a better idea of how it works now and know that it means the Fall will be challenging for scheduling in other activities, but it has been very cool to watch Oliver grow as a player and start to think like a team player and an athlete.
*My cousin Margaret got married and I got to travel on my own to San Francisco/Berkley for a great family reunion - too short, as always.
* I taught my first (hopefully of many) Workshop By Request in Calmar. It was on Giving and Receiving Direction and I had so much fun with this wonderful group who have a fabulous attitude towards what they do.
* I did not gain weight, but I haven't really significantly lost any. This has to change. I am working on trying to streamline my life so that I am doing only the projects I want to do and therefore can have enough to be happy and not too much so that I can't work more on my physical shape. I just don't want that whole diet and fitness thing to take over my life. I think that would depress me and make me want to eat... I did lose 10 lbs in the last 10 weeks of 2011 and have a great support group online with my extended family. So hopefully I can continue this momentum into the new year. I am comfortable with 10 lbs in 10 weeks. It's not crazy. It's realistic.
* I did not write as much as I would have liked. This is also about time. I need to make the time for it. Pieces was a lovely opportunity and I do have a half a draft I was supposed to finish for December 15th to send to Daniel MacIvor. I need to finish that and do more. I must.

It's been a good year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Goodbye Smeep...

This past week we said goodbye to Smeep. She had a rough go of it the last 8-10 months. She was diagnosed with diabetes in late March/early April. We thought it was a urinary tract infection but it was a little more than that. We struggled at first with what turned out to be an over-prescription of insulin which led to 2 diabetic comas. When she had the second one she flat-lined at the vets. It was pretty bad. We got her level, but to be honest, we struggled with the routine of it. I lost confidence in my vet because of the insulin comas and after a pretty calm summer she declined again this Fall. We had Smeep for 12 years and she came into our family at a time when I was sad about some other things and she was truly my cat in many ways. She was a wonderful cat, never afraid to offer her belly up for a rub when a stranger came in the house. This December Smeep was featured in Today's Parent magazine (you can check the article out on page 64). I think she waited for her fame and then it was time to go. I will miss her.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A week in which I see two productions which use good strategies to overcome flawed scripts...

I wrapped up the term this past week and took advantage of the 'free-ness' to take in Wyrd Sisters at Walterdale and Fuddy Meers at the U of A. Both of these evenings were enjoyable but left me thinking. I find it's hard for me not to get somewhat analytical when watching theatre, no matter how hard I try to just be there in the audience.

I painted the set for Wyrd Sisters, but auditions for New Works and other commitments made it difficult for me to get to the show earlier in the run. I had read the play previously and knew it to be a good fit for Walterdale. That said, the script is somewhat flawed. I think, if you are a Pratchett aficionado you definitely would have less issues with the script that I did (in the same way as someone who has read The Pelican Brief can follow the movie better than someone who hasn't). So the first act has a lot of exposition that I worked hard to follow. That is all mixed up with Shakespearean references and a definite British humour that leads to general silliness. The second act, in contrast, whips along and no thinking is required! The production I felt did many great things to compensate for the weaknesses of the script - big choices, not being afraid to be ridiculous, & going for the cheap laughs - all those things helped. As well, phenomenal make-up and costumes and a bang-on set with special effects helped keep us firmly planted in the world. Best of all, my kids (7 & 10), not bothered by the need to know all the details like I was, had a wonderful time. They just went with it and proclaimed it "pretty hilarious"! Not a bad review!

Fuddy Meers had me similarly trying to understand the details in the first act. It was hard to believe that the play was written by David Lindsay-Abaire, who also wrote Rabbit Hole. The number of ridiculous details and gaping holes in the information in the first act, made it seem so very implausible. The second act, when things started to get filled in showed me a bit of the writing that I could connect to Rabbit Hole. It was an absurd little journey. This cast overcame the absurdity with 110% commitment physically, intellectually and emotionally. The brilliant momentum of the piece was maintained and even enhanced by the high energy scene changes. I cannot even explain the physical stuff... Oh to be able to jump on top of a fridge - believably! Most outstanding was Laura Metcalfe as Claire. It is her journey the audience goes on and as she seems to be entertained by it all in the first act, so are we, and as she becomes more and more disturbed by what she learns in the second act, so do we. A luminous performance.

Next I shall be taking in some of the snow globe festival. I will probably not be seeing a 'grown-up play' until the new year!

Monday, December 05, 2011

On Membership...

I am writing this post here instead of the Walterdale Blog because the following is my own thoughts on membership fees and although I believe it is in line with the official Walterdale policy, it is not coming from that organization. It is how I feel.

At a recent meeting we had a lengthy discussion about membership fees at Walterdale. It came out of wanting to have a consistent message going to our members about what that fee is for and what they would get out of it. The consistency in message is, I think, very important as there is miscommunication about the why of membership fees in the first place. I like that. It's good. Everyone gets the same message.

When I was AD, I attended the auditions and would give a little speech about the membership fee and what that gave and that everyone who was cast would be expected to get a membership. This came out of the fact that the first time I directed at Walterdale I had two cast members ask about getting paid after they were cast. I helped construct the audition form and I thought it was clear that Walterdale was a community theatre and therefore non-paid. As well, the audition form indicated that those cast would have to get memberships. It was on the paper in black and white and yet people didn't seem to see that. I started the audition introductory speeches as a way to make it totally clear to people that this was an expectation of doing a show at Walterdale. I didn't want any surprises. I know that my predecessor has continued this. And yet, we still get people balking at paying the fees. They argue that they are putting in a lot of time and that having to pay on top of this is not fair.

This makes me kind of angry... There was no attempt made to hide this requirement. It was clearly out there, in print and verbally delivered. It is an expectation for everyone who is part of the organization. It is not something we merely assess to the actors. I know people who are members who only work coffee bar. I know people who have been members for many years and haven't done a show in any capacity for most of those. The membership fee is about buying in to the community. It is about investing. You are not paying a person, you are paying for the luxury and benefit of working in the space and you are paying so that we can continue to do that for many years to come. People (primarily actors) complain that they are having to pay to work at Walterdale as though that money goes to someone else. It doesn't. It goes to the operating budget for the theatre. We are fortunate to receive grants and have casino money and that sort of thing, but we cannot assume that those funds will cover all our costs. The theatre itself is an older building and things come up that cost. We also want to be able to fund the productions to the extent that we produce them properly. We talked about not giving Comp Tickets to those without memberships and someone argued that those people still put in many hours... to which I say, I put in the hours AND paid the membership... should I get double the comps? No. It doesn't work that way. I could direct the show, paint the set, work front of house and be on the Board (I have done that), paid my membership and still only gotten my 2 comps. So what is really fair?

I guess I get most angry because some people act as though they should be exempt, as though what they are contributing is so valuable that they should not have to contribute, but as a paying member what that says to me is that they feel that I should have to pay for the honour of having them on our stage. That I should foot the bill for just being able be graced by their talent. I am sorry. I have put thousands of hours into Walterdale. I don't need to pay to hang out with them. I do the work to DO THE WORK. I think everyone with that attitude should have to read the Walterdale History book to see what a real contribution to our theatre is.

Again, this is my opinion. Pay your membership or don't, but don't think I will ever agree that you have a legitimate reason for not doing so.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Another Busy Week... Auditions, a Final Exam, 2 BBall games and a Funeral...

This week has been jam packed for me. The top end of the week has three nights of auditions for New Works. I am directing the lovely Bevin Dooley's script, The Playmates. Four directors settled down to watch 74 auditioners over three evenings. We saw so many good actors. At the end I had 11 possibilities for Clare, 8 possibilities for Rose and 4 possibilities for Edmund. It came down to schedules and who I thought would fit together best, but I think I have a nice solid cast (If I don't, after 74 auditioners I only have myself to blame!). The morning after auditions I went in early to have a final rehearsal with my group for my Drama 257 Final Presentation. It went well. We made some good choices in cutting the script to made the scene arc stronger and I felt good about my performance and the whole group's work. I think I did well.

Oliver had an added basketball practice on Thursday and then a game on Friday night and one first thing Saturday morning. Both games were tight with nice competitive play. Friday we were missing the head coach and 2 players. I think if he had been there we would've won the game. Saturday was very close with the lead going back and forth. We probably should've won, but the other team had enough for 3 lines whereas we only have 2 lines and I think that made the difference. Eight of our guys played the night before and you could see they were tired. However, Oliver got named Game Monster by the coach and got to bring home a ball for the week! He played really well in both games. He really started playing like an athlete and showed real intelligence on the court. That combined with his 'hugeness' (he is so tall compared to the other kids) made for some nice playing. It was cool to see him snatch the ball out of the air above the heads of the other kids.

However, this week Mark's best friend's father passed away. So, he headed down to Olds for the Wake on Saturday. That meant it was me and the boys. The snow came down so we were/are content to camp out inside. I made cupcakes last night and filled the house with the smell of chocolate cake. I attacked the huge pile of laundry and 4 loads later I finally have the last of it in the washing machine. At least when I leave it so long I can really sort colours! Ha ha ha! Classes end this week and I hope to get on top of the miasma that is the inside of my house. Christmas is coming and I am not ready!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Seeing As Much As I Can... Missing too many, still...

Tonight I am heading out to Spruce Grove to catch Horizon Player's Ordinary People. The other half of FinallySauces is in this one and I am excited to see her work. I like to see what other directors get out of the actors I work with because then it pushes me to get more out of them (since I see what they can do!).

Last week I caught two very different shows, This is What Happens Next (Citadel) and Howl! (ABBEDAM). Both were very well done and very different. I loved the MacIvor show. The first 10 minutes I wasn't sure what it was going to be but then all of a sudden BAM! I was in. The last 10 minutes were so beautiful I got all teary eyed. Lovely, lovely performance and script. It runs for another week so I would highly advise catching it if you can! Howl! was a dramatization of Alan Ginsburg's poem. It was very well done, with phenomenal movement and attack. It is over now - it was the ABBEDAM show at the University and only had 4 shows. I saw both shows in the same day. They were very, very different from each other. I must admit I connected much more with the MacIvor show, but while This is What Happens Next was a carefully crafted piece written for the stage by one of Canada's foremost playwrights, Howl! was adapted from a poem. A poem and a play do not have the same type of arc, so while it was well done and true to it's source, I am clearly not an angel-headed hipster and I did not relate to much of the material. I can, however, respect the work done.

I feel like I am seeing a lot of theatre, however, there is so much I am missing. I would love to see them all... basketball and my own commitments make that impossible.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dear Parents and Care-Givers of Dunluce School

Re: Traffic Issues – Dunluce School

2011-2012 School Year

I have been growing more and more upset by the way parents and caregivers have been behaving when they come to pick up their children after school this year. I have never seen it this bad and I have been picking my kids up after school for the last 4 ½ years (I did take one year off where they rode the bus – so 3 ½ of the last 4 ½ years).

I have observed rampant jaywalking, with and without children, often done by darting out between parked cars (when visibility is poor) or by making oncoming traffic stop. Remember, because of where the crosswalks are located this means people had less than ½ a block to walk to a marked crosswalk no matter where they were. So not only are these people acting unsafe and illegal, but they are also lazy.

The driving and parking habits that I have observed also concern me. Every single day there are people parking in the no parking areas surrounding the crosswalk. I fear for the crossing guards and pedestrians as your car being in those non-parking spots means that you have greatly reduced their visibility to oncoming traffic. Your being there means they have to step out further into the road to stop the traffic. You put them at higher risk. You endanger the life of those children. I have seen reckless u-turns, high speed pulling out of parking spots, lack of signaling, pulling out into the crosswalk (because, of course, that’s where you were parked). All of those things are unsafe for our children. Yesterday, I saw one van driven by a school parent that thought to go around the line of vehicles stopped at the crosswalk. Why were they stopped? They were stopped BECAUSE THERE WERE PEOPLE CROSSING THE ROAD. She (the driver) looked puzzled that I would honk frantically at her to stop (at this point she was driving on the wrong side of the road in order to get around those pesky stopped cars).

I wrote to Mrs. Busby (our School Principal) about these issues. She informed me that the school is very concerned but unless there are police out there ticketing people will say to the staff members who tell those of you who break theses rules that they could get a ticket that “They will take their chances.” I wonder, are you going to take your chances with a child’s life? Because that’s what it’s about – those children’s lives. It is not about whether you get ‘caught’ and get a ticket, it is about the message you send to our children. The message you send is that it is okay to break rules as long as you don’t get caught. The message you send is that safety is second to convenience. The message you send is that what they are taught in school does not matter. You send a terrible, terrible example to your children and to mine. My fear is that one day one of our children is going to pay for it.

Please stop taking chances.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

And then the snow came...

Funny how the weather can change your perspective on the week. It looked busy on the page but then the snow came and made everything more challenging! It's swirling around out there and that's what the week felt like!

Sunday Night I started off the week with a bang! Caught The Rocky Horror Show at the Citadel and had a BLAST! It's not my favorite show, because it's hard to do 'right', but they certainly did it up proper! I love Camp when it's done well and everyone was on top of their Camp Game! To do the show you can't show fear, you can't apologize for it's ridiculous, you just go for it and they certainly did. It was enhanced with the controlled audience participation. Just enough to keep us all in the game but not too much that it got annoying. We could get up and Time Warp and sit back down for the show (everyone was so well behaved - but having fun!). There were a few people who really know the shout-outs and they kept it up in just the right amount. Special kudos to John Ullyat as Frank-n-Furter (is there anything he can't do?!?!?!?) and Julian Arnold as the Narrator (his interaction with the audience was inspired!). All the voices were fantastic (how does Robert Markus do that with his voice?!?!?) and the whole thing was fabulous!

The week continued with basketball, a snow storm or two (((we were right behind a very scary accident on Monday night))), a workshop reading of the script I am directing for New Works (auditions in two weeks!), and a skipped painting session for Wyrd Sisters (the snow and my back made me stay home!). I also had a major assignment due and spent 11-15 hours working on that. That got handed in this morning so I can relax!

This weekend I am off to see Daniel MacIvor's This is What Happens Next at the Citadel Theatre and ABBEDAM's Howl at the University of Alberta. I hope the roads are sanded!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is What Happens Next... I spend a day with Daniel MacIvor...

Last weekend I journeyed south to Calgary for Playworks Ink (you can read about that weekend in my previous post). The whole weekend was wonderful, but Saturday I got to spend the day with Daniel MacIvor and that was indeed a great day for me. There were a lot of other people there, but still, it was good.

Who is Daniel MacIvor? Well, if you know anything about Canadian Theatre - you know. He is one of the most prolific and most successful Canadian theatre playwrights we have. "We" - it's nice to have ownership of him, isn't it? His plays vary from multi-cast pieces like Marion Bridge, A Beautiful View and This is a Play to his solo-shows like Monster, Cul-de-sac and his upcoming This is What Happens Next.

The day played out as follows:

The Session - Play Finding
Eleven of us were lucky enough to take this session with Daniel. We walk into the room and meet Daniel and Buddy, Daniel's incredibly well-behaved and occasionally focus-stealing dog. First, each of us has a getting-to-know you conversation with Daniel. He talks to us about our goals, our past projects and then he reads our writing - aloud. Then he deals with us, one by one, talking about what is in our writing, where it could go, he ask questions, he makes statements, he makes us each think about what we want to do with it. Then Homework - over lunch we each get an individualized assignment to complete. The task is daunting, impossible, challenging and thrilling - "Yes! That is exactly what I need to do! How come I didn't know?!" - is what goes through my brain. We come back and share what we have done. For some of us it is a monologue or a scene. Others are tasked with writing a synopsis, character list & a scene. Each gets what they need. He does not leave it there. After he hears our homework he gives further questions for us to think about where to go next and then he has us set a deadline for the completion of a first draft. All in one day. I leave with the beginning of a play I didn't even know I needed to write. It might not sound like much, but there is something compelling in what he talks to each of us about. We all talk about wanting to go to Banff in February to complete the 3 day workshop with Daniel.

The Keynote - The Artificial Authentic
Please note - Theatre Alberta or APN will often publish the Playworks Ink Keynote in it's entirety - herein I just scratch the surface.

What I take away from this keynote is summed up as follows:
- Theatre is bigger than us - We are not the theatre. Ego = Death of the Authentic.
- Theatre is context for being - it is a place for communion and transformation (we should be seeking to connect as theatre artists - to allow the audience true moments of communion and transformation). This is opposed to observation and appreciation. We should be aiming for connection - not just entertainment.
- There is a difference between criticism and judgement. Trust instinct not taste. Enough is not enough - the audience is enough.
- And the most important Questions are: Why Bother? and Who cares?

The Upcoming Show - This is What Happens Next

MacIvor speaks to the production upcoming. He talks about his vowing not to do another solo show and then needing to do the show after coming through the challenging events of his life. He sought to leave theatre for a while, feeling that all he was doing was making things up and pretending and then discovering that once he left, got married and tried to live a 'normal' life - that everyone was pretending but they were just not being honest about it. So he reversed his earlier decision and worked once again with his long time collaborator Daniel Brooks. Brooks helped him take something that was very dark in his life and lift it into lightness. I ask about being authentic when everyone is pretending. How is that possible? He says it is the attempt to be authentic on stage that what counts. To find that moment of communion or at least to seek it.

I know why I am going to see this show. I have spent the day with Daniel MacIvor. His charisma is undeniable. His keynote is inspirational. If he is that compelling giving a keynote speech, I can only imagine what seeing him onstage in one of his shows will be like. The session on play-finding demonstrated his generosity of spirit in art. I missed seeing him in Cul-de-Sac a few years ago at La Cite - my friends rave about it and the complexity of the performance and the sense of place and story that permeated the one man show. I too have had those moments of 'where is my life going now' and that fascinates me. I have many reasons to go. I ask MacIvor why Edmonton audiences should go - if those reasons about are not enough, and he says, "I think that the show appeals to many people on many levels. For anyone who is interested in storytelling - which seems to be most people - the show looks at the pros and cons of what it means to live in a world where our whole lives are made of stories. And for those who might have some understanding of or interest in how people survive dysfunction and addiction, there is a level they will get that others might not. And who doesn't like a hands-down, no-holds-barred happy ending? And did I mention that it's funny?" Good enough for me.

The Citadel Theatre presents Necessary Angel's production of
This is What Happens Next
A scary comic fairy tale
Written and Performed by DANIEL MacIVOR
Directed and Dramaturged by DANIEL BROOKS
November 12 – December 4/11
in the Rice Theatre

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Recharging the Creative Battery - Playworks Ink

This past weekend I had the wonderful experience of partaking in Playworks Ink, a drama conference with a particular focus on playwrighting as well as other theatre related skills. There were sessions directly related to playwrighting as well as movement, breath control, directing, and (from what I heard) a phenomenal workshop where you could learn the Catalyst Theatre process from the inside. This conference is run by Theatre Alberta and Alberta Playwright's Network and they managed to bring in world-class instructors who worked with the many participants of backgrounds ranging from enthusiasts, to drama educators, to emerging professionals to full-fledged professionals. I cannot speak to anyone else's experience but mine was fantastic and everything I needed to get me recharged.

My first session was with Karen Hines and in a jam-packed session on Friday afternoon I discovered 2 major things that will help me with my in-process script Girls in White Dresses. The activities she taught us are also ones that I can take and use again with the same script and others. Very valuable.

I spent all of Saturday with Daniel MacIvor. His session, Play Finding, was individualized. He worked with the 11 of us to pull out the best of what we had and push us on to the next step and for me, the next 2 or 3 steps. I have a new play to work on now from that. This session has me desperately trying to figure out how I can do his 3 day workshop in Banff in February. I'll be talking more about MacIvor this week. I got to interview him for this Blog about his upcoming show, This is What Happens Next, that opens at the Citadel this weekend. He also delivered a Keynote that spoke to theatre in a way that was refreshing and enlightening. A generous instructor, a charismatic speaker, and a thoughtful thinker - I cannot wait to see his show.

Sunday was the last of my three sessions. I got the low-down on how to market my work from Ken Cameron. For me this was the most scary workshop and perhaps the most valuable. I am not scared to delve deep for my work, but have me talk about it to a potential producer and I freeze up. I have a plan now and hopefully this will help me face me fears.

A wonderful weekend. It's every 2 years - which is a financial necessity for the organization, but I could go twice a year if it was possible!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cowardly Kiss Theatre Presents Night Time - No Cowards Here!

I took some time to chat via email with Andrea Beca about Cowardly Kiss Productions, Night Time and what is on the horizon for this company in Edmonton. I am always excited when people commit to what they believe in and take risks while enriching Edmonton's theatrical community so the announcement about an entire season from this company was welcome news for me.

Andrea, you are the Artistic Director of Cowardly Kiss Productions. I have seen a few of your shows at Fringes and last year's Bunburying in the regular theatre season. Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and the company and what you have done in the past? Sure! I've been writing my whole life, from my own "radio" show when I was in grade 1 (my mum still has the tapes I recorded - good lord!) to novels in elementary school. I started writing plays seriously when I was around 16, which was also the first year I got involved with Nextfest at Theatre Network. Everything sort of snowballed from there: I went to the University of Alberta and got my BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. I also started working at Theatre Network during my second year of uni, which really boosted my theatre education on so many levels. I founded my theatre company, Cowardly Kiss, that same year and decided to apply for the 2007 Fringe. Between 2007 and 2009, I wrote, produced, and directed four successful plays at the Edmonton Fringe: B, or, Unless You Steal Her Pen! (2007), Sylvie (2008), She Came From Planet X! (2009), and 00:00AM (Zero Ante Meridiem) (2009). In the Autumn of 2009, I moved to Glasgow, Scotland, to pursue my Master's in Playwriting and Dramaturgy at the University of Glasgow. Since returning to Edmonton, I've really expanded Cowardly Kiss: I produced my Master's thesis, BUNBURYING, this past Spring, as well as an experimental Fringe play, (Real) Gone (Girl), and now I'm embarking on producing Cowardly Kiss' inaugural season, which begins on November 4 with Night Time!

What do you see for the future for Cowardly Kiss? I have lots of plans to continue expanding Cowardly Kiss. We have our season, of course, which is comprised of four plays: Night Time (November 2011), The Maids (April 2012), A System of Pulleys (Summer 2012), and Happy Homes, Perfect Children (Summer 2012). We'll soon be branching out to include a bit of short film work - I have a couple of web series in the works, which I'm hoping to start production on soon. Cowardly Kiss will also be offering freelance dramaturgy very soon, from our two resident dramaturgs: myself and Margaret McCall. (Keep an eye on our website for further info.) In the meantime, I'm also nearly ready to introduce something that has been in the works for the last two years: the children's branch of the company. But that's all I'm going to say for now - more soon, I promise!

Which brings us to Night Time... I couldn't find any information in English on the piece - where did you come across it? Well, not much has been written about Night Time, save for a few reviews of the original production, because it's only been produced once in the past. I'm guessing that what you did find was probably written in Selma's native Croatian! Night Time premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe at the Traverse, Scotland's new work theatre. Selma (the playwright) was one my two playwriting mentors at the University of Glasgow. The other was Philip Howard, who was the AD at Traverse for over a decade, so I was extra attached to the play while I was at school. After working with Selma, I really wanted to read something she had written, and I wasn't disappointed.

Why this piece for your company? For Edmonton Audiences? Night Time is such a quiet, beautifully written script. Upon first reading, the story seems simple, almost uneventful, but with an uneasiness looming over every word. The more you read it, the more you uncover about what's really going on, the more complicated it becomes, and the more eerie and haunting the characters become. I chose to put it in the inaugural Cowardly Kiss season for a few reasons: first, it's a script I love and it's a challenge to stage; second, the core of its story is one that audiences from anywhere in the world can identify with; and third, I really wanted to bring something from Glasgow home with me, and even better that it would be a play no one has ever heard of before. I learned so much while studying in Europe, but one of the most striking things I learned was just how many incredibly talented playwrights there are whom we have never heard of in Canada (and vice versa, which is why I forced everyone I spoke to to read some Daniel MacIvor)!

Tell us about the people you are working with. Who have you cast and who rounds out your production team? I'm lucky to be working with an amazing cast and crew! The cast is comprised of Nicole Schafenacker (CHRIS), Brennan Campbell (FRANK), Patrick Errington (THOMAS), and Cody Porter (BOWMAN). Ainsley Hillyard has brought her astonishing choreography to the piece, which was not an element of the original production, but which fits so beautifully with the sparingly written script. And last, but not least, Trent Crosby is our fab stage manager.

Where can people go to get more information on the show and purchasing tickets? The Cowardly Kiss website is always up to date with the latest -! You can also find information on the Catalyst Theatre website, which is where the show is being produced - - and you can purchase advance tickets through Tix on the Square -!

Is there any other things that you want people to know about the show? It's such a fascinating piece - even among our cast, we had several different interpretations of the story, so I'm very excited to see how each audience member interprets it. I'd love to warn everyone now that it's 90 minutes long without an intermission, so pee when you get there! (I want you to have the opportunity to be first in line for the bathrooms.) We're actually fully booked for volunteers (yay!), but stay tuned to our website and Facebook page - we have an IndieGoGo campaign coming up to raise funds for the next show of the season, Jean Genet's The Maids!

Thanks so much Andrea. I am looking forward to seeing this show and the other work that you will be bringing to Edmonton this season!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Snow Globe Festival - Filling the need for Quality Children's Theatre in Edmonton in the Winter Months

Recently I noticed a lot of buzz on Twitter and Facebook about a new theatre festival for children happening this winter. The Festival was called The Snow Globe Festival and was running the week prior to the Christmas holidays in the Avenue Theatre. As a mother of 2 elementary school aged children I have long wished for more theatre programming throughout the year. I get my kids out to the Fringe and have occasionally been able to take them to productions at FTA, The Citadel and Concrete Theatre, but have always wanted more choices for them. And, as they age, I have discovered that I need more variety and options for them. This Snow Globe Festival seemed right up our alley.

I took a little time to ask the festival's creator, Ellen Chorley, some questions.

What is the Snow Globe Festival? Who does is serve and why did you think it would be a good idea for Edmonton and the 118th Avenue area? The Snow Globe Festival of Children’s Theatre is a new Edmonton Festival created and produced by Promise Productions (an independent TYA company in Edmonton). The festival will take place in Edmonton’s Avenue Theatre and will feature student matinees and evening shows of three full length plays and a musical lobby show over five days-Tuesday, December 20, 2011- Saturday, December 24, 2011.

I wanted to a do a festival in the 118th Avenue area because it was really important to me to create both affecting and affordable theatre. I noticed that there a lot of awesome events that happen in Edmonton right before Christmas, but most of them seem to be pretty expensive. The Snow Globe Festival offers affordable tickets so the whole family can attend. It is also is in line with the Arts on the Ave Initiative: "We Believe in 118"- where arts and family oriented events are important. 118th Ave is a great neighbourhood full of people who believe it can be a safe, vibrant area. I wanted to give families and schools in the area a really, fun, affordable festival for the holidays!

Finally, the Snow Globe Festival allows my company Promise Productions, to branch out to producing scripts with bigger casts and production values, as well as take care of 32 artists over four different projects. It's a big challenge and I felt like I was up for it!

Tell us about yourself. Who is Ellen Chorley and what is her background in theatre? In children's theatre? My name is Ellen Elizabeth Chorley and I am a workaholic obsessed with creating theatre.

Indeed she is. Here is an excerpt from her Bio:

Ellen Chorley is the Founder and Artistic Director of Promise Productions and the Festival Producer of the Snow Globe Festival of Children's Theatre. For Promise Productions, Ellen has written, produced and performed in: Cinderella the Wizard (Edmonton/ Athabasca/ Calgary Fringe 2007), The Too Tall Princess (Edmonton Fringe 2008) , The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Edmonton Fringe 2009) and The Tortoise and the Hare (Promise Productions @ FTA 2010) and The Fairy Catcher’s Companion (Edmonton Fringe 2010) as well as writing and producing The Not Evil Stepmother (Edmonton Fringe 2011).

Ellen has written many plays for young audiences including Lost and Fever Pitch (Evergreen Theatre), Mixed Up (co-written with three other writers for Centre Stage Theatre), The Heights of Love (Calgary’s Heritage Park) and two original high school plays The Albright Pact (Central Memorial High School) and Highlands at One Hundred (Eastglen High School).

Along with her work with Promise Productions, Ellen also serves as Artistic Associate for Edmonton's Northern Light Theatre, and between 2005-2010 worked with the Calgary emerging theatre company Mob Hit Productions as Head of Research and Development/ Playwright in Residence. Ellen also is a co-founder of Edmonton’s new theatre burlesque company Send in the Girls Burlesque.

Ellen has worked for the past twelve years as a drama teacher- starting her career as a teaching assistant at Edmonton’s Stage Polaris Academy for the Arts, Foote Theatre School at the Citadel Theatre and Theatre Zocalo. Now, Ellen teaches drama to all ages as a teacher at the Foote Theatre School, as a guest artist for the City of Edmonton, the City of St. Albert, and the City of Fort Saskatchewan, and as an artistic residence leader for Centre Stage Theatre (Calgary), Alberta Opera, and her own theatre company Promise Productions. In the fall semesters of 2009 and 2010, Ellen lead long term drama residencies in high school in Calgary’s Central Memorial High School for the Performing Arts (2009) and Edmonton’s Eastglen High School (2010). In each of these residencies, Ellen wrote and directed full length and tailor made plays for the students she worked with.

Ellen was nominated for the Emerging Artist Award at the Edmonton Mayor’s Evening for the Arts in 2008 and is the recipient of the 2011 Enbridge Nextfest Emerging Artist Award and Ellen was nominated for a 2011 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding Fringe New Work (Award to Playwright) for her script The Fairy Catcher’s Companion. At the Edmonton Fringe 2011, Send in the Girls Burlesque received the first ever Staff Choice Award for their production of Tudor Queens: A Burlesque.

You've written, directed and performed in Children's theatre quite a bit. What draws you to that particular form? When I was six, I told my mother I wanted to be princess when I grew up. Then when I was twelve, I told my mother I wanted to be writer on broadway. Then when I was sixteen I told my mother I wanted to go to theatre school and become and actor. Doing children's theatre has allowed me to do all three.

What are the shows? What should audiences expect to see? Are there any specific age recommendations for the individual shows?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, adapted by Joseph Robinette When four children- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are shipped off to country estate to escape wartime London, they stumble upon a magical land in a wardrobe called Narnia. Narnia is ruled by an evil white witch who makes it so it is always winter and never Christmas. What Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy don’t know is that their arrival in Narnia aligns with an ancient prophesy calling for the end of the White Witch’s rule and the return of the King Aslan. This story of love, faith, courage and giving, with its triumph of good over evil, is a true celebration of life. Target Age Group: 5-14 years old

The Fairy Catcher’s Companion by Ellen Chorley
Back by popular demand! After a sold out run at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, Promise Productions remounts their 2010, Sterling award nominated hit The Fairy Catcher’s Companion. The Starling Sisters have been waiting for their father to return home from war, but after two years without a letter, they are beginning to worry. Finally, an official typewritten letter arrives imploring Charlotte and Beatrice’s mother to travel to collect their father. Beatrice and Charlotte are shipped off to live with their stern Aunt Bernadette at Prince Manor- a dark, drafty countryside manor. Charlotte and Beatrice are at their wits end waiting to leave Prince Manor, until they find a peculiar-looking book called “The Fairy Catcher’s Companion” and use it to catch a real-life fairy named Fusser. But could having a fairy friend be more trouble than it’s worth? Target Age Group: 7-12 years old

Miss Electricity by Kathryn Walat

An electrifying, educational and entertaining comedy for all ages! Violet is a normal fifth grader who would much rather be breaking a world record than studying for her geography test. But when the world record attempt goes array, Violet walks home in the rain feeling sorry for herself, only to be hit by lightning, not once but twice! Now Violet isn’t a normal fifth grader anymore, she’s Miss Electricity- a super hero who can control electricity with her thoughts. An off the wall comedy with a great anti-bullying message about finding strength in yourself!Target Age Group: 4-12 years old

The Holiday Half-Time Show Baby, it’s cold outside! So stay inside the Avenue Theatre and let Holiday Half-Time Singers keep you warm and entertained. Enjoy your favourite winter songs before and after every performance at the Snow Globe Festival of Children’s Theatre, and you’ll be back in your seat for another show in no time at all. With voices sweeter than sugar plums, tunes toastier than hot toddies, and music merrier than mistletoe, who could ask for a better way to get ready for the holidays? (Evenings only) Target Age Group: All ages

What can parents tell their children before bringing them to the shows? Are there any special etiquette that they should be aware of? I think it's so great for parents to talk to their children about theatre etiquette! I would say the things to cover are:

- there there are any scary parts, it's just an actor, so don't worry! (and in fact usually the actor on stage playing a scary character also plays a good guy too!)

- make sure you go the bathroom before hand

- unlike watching a movie, watching a play means that actors can see and hear you! so to make the play enjoyable for everyone, try to keep quiet during the show, that doesn't mean that you can react to the play, but it does mean that you probably shouldn't shout "hey look behind you" to an actor on stage

Tell us a little about how people can support the festival. Is it more than just attending? Are there volunteer opportunities? Is there a way for people who want to see a Festival like this succeed to help out?

We need any support you can offer, especially since The Snow Globe Festival is NOT being funded by grants or government funding bodies like AFA or EAC this year.

First of all, anyone can donate to the festival though out IndieGoGo fundraising campaign at any donations made through this campaign will go directly to the 32 artists working on the shows!

Secondly, you can support us by buying tickets at Tix on the Sqaure by clicking You can buy passes to the festival or singular tickets.

Third, we will be needing volunteer ushers and box office people, so if you are interested in volunteering check our website at or our facebook page at!/pages/Promise-Productions/134007796617404

Finally, we still have a few student matinees left to fill, so if you think your child's school might like to see one of the shows, you can talk to you principal and have them visit my website

Thanks so much Ellen, for answering all my questions. This sounds like a wonderful way to spend time with our kids over the holiday season. I know I am glad to have the option and will be taking my kids!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Great Opportunity for Edmonton Playwrights of All Levels...

Alberta Playwrights’ Network is proud to announce the start of the:

Edmonton Playwrights’ Gym

Want a creative workout? Want to kick-start for a new project? Or maybe you’d like to take a chance and try some new approaches to your writing process? Playwrights’ Gym is unique opportunity for playwrights to exercise their crafts via a series of in-class and take-home writing exercises, weekly discussions and sessions with senior Canadian playwrights and dramaturgs. Topics and writing assignments will give participants creative workouts in crafting dialogue, building characters, using structure, driving dramatic action, unlocking intuition and editing.
There will be homework each week, sharing, and timed exercises in each class. Playwrights are encouraged to work on a new short piece or use the class to enhance something they are already working on, but this is not necessary. Playwrights at all levels as invited to participate.

Classes will be convened by Director/ Dramaturg Heather Inglis with special guests, Daniel McIvor, Colleen Murphy, Mieko Ouchi, and Brian Dooley. See below for more information on the special guests.

When: Classes will be held Mondays 7-10pm
Where: All classes will be held in the Workshop West Theatre’s 3rd Space*.
Fee: $250.00

Course dates are:
1. November 14th, 2011
2. November 21st, 2011
3. November 28th, 2011
4. December 5th, 2011
5. December 12th, 2011
6. January 9th, 2012
7. January 16th, 2012
8. January 23rd, 2012
9. January 30th, 2012
10. February 6th, 2012

Participants will be given a complete syllabus at the start of the first class.
Please note: The maximum number of participants for this class is 10, so register now to avoid disappointment!

For more information or to register, please email Michelle Kneale at <>
*APN gratefully acknowledges the support of Workshop West Theatre for this program.

Heather Inglis is an award winning director, dramaturg, producer, and educator whose career has taken her across the country. Over the past 15 years Heather has worked with countless playwrights and lead over 100 play development workshops and staged readings. Heather has formerly been both the Dramaturg at Saskatchewan Playwrights Centre and the convener of the Playwrights Development Centers of Canada. Some of Heather’s recent dramaturgical credits include serving as guest Dramaturg/Director for Scripts at Work in Red Deer (2011) and as guest Dramaturg at Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre’s Annual Playwrights Colony in Sackville New Brunswick (2011). Heather currently leads the Citadel Theatre Playwrights Young Company and is the Artistic Director of Theatre Yes in Edmonton.

Daniel MacIvor is playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto. For 20 years, he and Sherrie Johnson ran da da kamera, an internationally respected company that toured his work to Australia, Israel, Europe, the UK, and extensively throughout Canada and the United States. With Daniel Brooks, he has created the solo shows House, Here Lies Henry, Monster, Cul-de-sac, and This Is What Happens Next. Daniel’s play In On It garnered him an Obie Award and a GLAAD Award. Daniel is a recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama and the Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize for Theatre.

Colleen Murphy is the 2011 Canadian Playwright-in-Residence at the Finborough Theatre in London. In 2008, she was shortlisted for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre. She is currently working on four plays: Deliver Me (National Arts Centre), Armstrong's War (Banff Centre), The Birthday Boy (Shaw Festival) and Pig Girl (Factory Theatre). She has also begun work on a new chamber opera with composer Andrew Staniland. Her play The December Man (L’homme de décembre) won the 2007 Governor General Literary Award for Drama Winner of 2008 CAA/Carol Bolt Award for Drama, the Canadian Authors Award/Carol Bolt Award, the 2006 Enbridge playRites Award and was nominated for Betty Mitchell Award for Outstanding New Play 2007. Other plays include The Goodnight Bird, The Piper, Beating Heart Cadaver (nominated for the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award), Down in Adoration Falling and All Other Destinations are Cancelled. As well as being a playwright, Colleen is also a filmmaker. Her distinct films have played in festivals around the world and garnered a total of eight Genie nominations. They include Putty Worm (’93), The Feeler (’95), Shoemaker (’96), Desire (’00), War Holes (’01), Girl with Dog (‘04) and Out in the Cold (’07). Colleen is 2011 Writer in Residence at the University of Guelph and a writer in residence at Factory Theatre in Toronto.

Mieko Ouchi
is an actor, writer, and director who works in both theatre and film/TV. Her plays The Red Priest (Eight Ways To Say Goodbye), The Blue Light and The Dada Play have been produced across the country and in the U.S. and have been short-listed for the 4 Play Series at The Old Vic in London, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, the Gwen Pharis Ringwood Award and the City of Edmonton Book Prize, winning the Canadian Authors Association Carol Bolt Award. The plays have also been translated into French, Japanese, Czech and Russian. Her documentary, narrative and experimental films have played over 30 festivals and aired internationally. Mieko is a co-founder and Artistic Co-Director of Concrete Theatre and was the inaugural Faith Broome Playwright in Residence in 2009 at the University of Oklahoma. Mieko’s new play Nisei Blue premiered at ATP playRites Festival in 2011. It recently won a Betty Award for Outstanding New Play and has just been nominated for the 2011 Carol Bolt Award.

Brian Dooley
is a Producer, Director, Dramaturg, and Actor. Mr. Dooley has participated in many workshops and development projects for new plays for a variety of organizations including Playwrights Workshop Montréal; Factory Theatre in Toronto; The Banff Playwright’s Colony; The National Film Board; and Le Centre des Auteurs Dramatiques (CEAD) in Montréal.Early in his career Mr. Dooley was Associate Dramaturge and Director of the Young Playwrights Program at the Playwrights Workshop and has been a guest instructor at various colleges and universities across Canada. Mr. Dooley maintains a long-standing relationship with the National Theatre School in Montréal having been involved as an instructor and coordinator for many years. From 1990-94 Mr. Dooley led the Directing and Self-Start Programs of the National Theatre School and was an Acting Instructor from 1983-94. Mr. Dooley has a diploma from the National Theatre School (’80; Leo Cicery Award recipient), and is a graduate of Bishop’s University (B.A. Honours, Drama ’77; O.B. Thornton Scholarship recipient). He is currently the director of Play Development at the Citadel Theatre.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Busy Week - then I get serious about writing!!!!

This Friday I will be onstage for the Drama 483 scene I am in. I am enjoying the people I am working with and my director is positive and organized. We run too much, but that's my knees talking. Oliver has an additional basketball practice tonight to help get the team in better shape before Saturday's game. I have dress rehearsal for my midterm Drama 257 presentation tomorrow and I have to get a handle on it. I am doing it okay, but I want to be far more 'in' than I feel. I also have this tiny monologue that is kicking my butt for some bizarre reason. Once this week is over I shall have some breathing room. Hopefully I will no longer be sick (it's hanging on - grrr) and I will get to writing.

At least that's the plan. In the view of my lack of focus recently I am trying to figure out where I want to go. If I am honest with myself it is the writing. However, I do enjoy the acting and directing, as well, and feel that those things enrich my writing, but the time they take interferes. I might have to scale back. I cannot just NOT do the Mom stuff and the Store stuff because the kids would suffer and we have to pay the bills, so the areas I need to cut back on are in acting. I am committed to, and excited about Nine, so I will be ready for that, but I will work hard to ignore other offers until then. I will also think carefully about what I want to do in terms of writing workshops. I want to do this intentionally, with purpose and quality. I cannot do it on the fly or in tiny bits and pieces. It might be time to think about applying for grants...

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

The last few weeks have felt very strange to me. I have been sick, that hasn't helped, but I have also been in a weird kind of funk about what my focus is right now. Because the last two years I had a purpose and artistic vision through Walterdale, now that my term as AD is complete I am realizing I need to find that same kind of purpose for my own life, but I am not sure how. I know I need to really focus on my writing, but I am not spending the time I should on that. There are other personal things I need to be doing with regards to my health, but I am not spending the time I should on that, either (being sick has not helped there). I feel stretched thin with my kids - trying to encourage them and help them and get them to practices and the like, but I feel like I am not doing that well. I must admit a bit of regret for the basketball because its irregularity upsets my sense of planning and scheduling, but I see it's potential for good things for both my boys. I do regret that I haven't found a way to fit in piano yet...

I know I need to sit down with myself and figure this out. A few more weeks feeling like this and I am going to lose it. I am looking forward to Playworks Ink and hoping that weekend time will provide some clarity for me. I even bought a few more colours of highlighters to help me organize my day timer in case that is what I need. I am worried, because there have been a few opportunities come my way that I had to pass on because they didn't feel right, but I worry that I will stop getting offers if I keep saying no. On the one hand, I do not want to be volunteering my time for something I do not want to do 100%, but on the other hand I do not want to miss out on fabulous experiences. I wish I could just roll a die and make my choices that way...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Theatre as Writing Workshop

Tonight I took in Michel and Ti-Jean at Theatre Network. It was a very well-executed production of George Rideout's play with a gorgeous set, pitch-perfect soundscape and phenomenal acting. The script itself doesn't follow a traditional arc - it's an imaginary meeting between Michel Tremblay and Jack Kerouac - but instead becomes a very cool formula for a lesson in storytelling. I have to recommend this for any writer. I have to. It still has my brain buzzing with ideas about storytelling and character. There's more to it than that. The analysis of Les Belles Souers is the absolute best and should be required viewing for anyone taking a Canadian theatre course. Brian Dooley as Kerouac and Vincent Hoss-Demarais as Tremblay are exceptional actors and have true chemistry together onstage.

I feel lucky to live in this city. I have seen so much good theatre this season and it is only the second week of October!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thinking about the Ugly in people...

Last night I went to the Opening Night of Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute at Walterdale Theatre. Overall the show was done as you should do any LaBute show - out there, unapologetic and not hiding the ugly side of human nature, but this is not a review. This is more a discussion of the content of the play and other works by LaBute. This is the second LaBute show I have seen - the other one was a poorly directed, but generally well-acted production of The Shape of Things that I saw a few years ago. I really have a hard time with his work. I know there are people who love his stuff. They love delving into the more despicable aspects of human nature. I just have a hard time with it all. I always leave thinking 'are people really like that?' I hope not. I know there are people out there who have baser, more selfish, and more superficial reasons for doing what they do, but I guess I have a hard time going through life thinking about people that way. I try to be positive and honest and think the best about people's intentions. I'd like to think that most people do too. Maybe I am wrong. That's okay. But if those kind of people are around me they do not stay there for long.

I'd like to think that LaBute writes these plays to reinforce the idea that those people who are ugly of nature should not be rewarded. That we should shun them and call them on their behaviour. That both people in a conversation are responsible for communication. That we should be striving NOT to be those kinds of people. I'd like to think that. I hope he isn't just saying that's just the way people are, get used to it and don't be a chump or you lose. Sometimes I worry that is what people take away from his plays.

Go see the show - tell me what you think he's trying to say.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Making Connections...

One of the things that I loved about being the AD at Walterdale was that I often got requests from people to help them find someone for their project. Walterdale has a diverse membership and often has people of ages and demographics that are useful. I liked searching through the membership and connecting the right people to the right opportunity. Sometimes this took a bit of time, but usually if someone explained what they needed I could think of a few people to suggest to them. Despite no longer having that position, I was pleased this week to be able to continue with that and I think I might have connected a very talented person that I met through Walterdale with a fabulous opportunity (maybe even two opportunities). This is exciting for me. I like getting talented people to the right places. It was a good thing. I hope I can continue to do things like this!

In other connections news, today I met with the Playwright and Dramaturge that I will be working with for New Works at the University of Alberta. I was happy to get assigned The Playmates by Bevin Dooley for New Works and the Dramaturge is fellow student Hans Potter. We had a good first meeting where we discussed roles and communication pathways and, of course, Bevin's wonderfully mood-filled script. I am excited about this. Bevin and Hans seem very invested in creating good theatre and I think this will be a good team to work with.

Another connection happened this weekend. I was at the Uni waiting for my first Drama 483 rehearsal and I ran into someone who recommended I audition for Romeo & Juliet. I hemmed and hawed, knowing full well my schedule is pretty yucky, but I decided to do the audition anyhow. I auditioned yesterday and had a fabulous time. I don't know if I will get it (again, my schedule sucks), but I had such a great time working in the audition with the Director, Jessica Carmichael. It was like a mini acting workshop. I would love to be able to work with her. It washed away my bad feeling about my last audition when I was so unprepared. I was nice to feel like I still got it. Either way it goes, I was happy to have had the experience of the audition.

Friday, September 30, 2011

So Much for a Lull...

Well, I have been saying that there is a lull in my theatre life between September and April (basically between A Little Night Music and Nine), however, I have managed to fill some of that time up this week. In addition to working a couple of casinos (Shadow Theatre and Theatre Yes) I also auditioned for the Drama 483 midterms and was cast in one of them, as well, I interviewed for and received an offer to direct for New Works at the U of A. The 483 scene is for the play Mrs. Packard. I do not know which role I will be playing at this point. I will find out Sunday. And the New Works script is also a mystery. I have my fingers crossed for one in particular but will be happy to work on whatever they want me to! I am excited. I think I should pause now before auditioning for anything else. At this point the time is filling up. Since I am also Master Painter for Wyrd Sisters at Walterdale I am running out of free time. But it is parcelled out nicely.

I also wanted to mentioned I am working on a scene from Marion Bridge by Daniel MacIvor for my Drama 257 scene. This makes me happy as I really connect to the writing and the characters in the piece. I only wish we were presenting after Playworks Ink when the experience of actually hearing MacIvor speak would potentially enrich the project.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is This Going to Be the Year of the Citadel for me?

Due to a happy circumstance I once again was able to see a show at The Citadel last night. This time it was a Preview for Death of a Salesman on the Shoctor Stage. A few years ago I saw a very well done production of this play so I wasn't sure how I was going to receive it. It is always hard to judge when you have seen and enjoyed a piece before. However, this production was everything it should be. Although Tom Wood, as Willie Loman, was clearly the anchor for it, it was a true ensemble, with stand-out performances from Wood, John Ullyat (Biff Loman), Brenda Bazinet (Linda Loman) and Tim Campbell (Happy Loman). But that's not really even fair. Not one actor onstage felt miscast or lazy. I could list them all, really, it is really that the core of the play is the family itself. I will admit, I am a bit of an Arthur Miller fan, however, I had a couple friends tell me at intermission and after the show how much they had hated the play when they studied it in high school and how this production reversed their opinion of it. That's impressive.

As is almost always true of The Citadel, the set and lighting was brilliant. The past literally floats in (stunning) and it glows in contrast to the drab present. I found myself haunted by the score which punctuated the piece with it's moodiness. And from Willie's rumpled brown suit to Miss Forsythe's red dress to Happy's mad-men suit, the costumes were letter perfect.

Why this play now? Well, it's perhaps more relevant today with the economic down-turn in recent years and advent of the entitlement generation. Just last week I heard a statistic on the radio about how likely you are to be hired if you are over 54 years old (not very). It speaks to the little guy just trying to get ahead and comments on those who want the short cut, who constantly try to figure out what the secret is. Well, all I know is that in terms of this production, it was well-liked by me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taking My Theatre Volunteering Out of the Walterdale...

This season is going to be interesting... that's what I keep telling myself. I already feel the lull between projects. This is something I hadn't felt for the last 2 1/2 years because there was always something to do with Walterdale. Even if I didn't have an active project on the go I often needed to be helping in coordinating upcoming events and helping others to fill out their teams. There was little down time. I liked that. But this season will be different. Night Music wrapped up and my class at the U of A was on the go - so there was that. I threw in an audition (which I will admit was not up to my best - too tired from Night Music at the time and woefully unprepared). I also signed up for Shadow Theatre's casino and for working FOH for NLT's first show of the season, Heroine. After all, there are many theatres in the city who benefit from volunteers and, hey, I got the time.

The Casino was fun. Worked a shift with a couple of friends and some other nice people. I generally find casinos pretty easy work, although late at night, and I love counting the money (I know, it's weird - but I love working the money counter!). I will be working a casino for Theatre Yes this week. I think casinos are so easy compared to the alternative (BINGO - Shudder).

Last night I worked the FOH shift. It was the simplest volunteer shift I have ever worked in my life. Literally 20 minutes of tearing tickets and I got to sit in and watch the show. Not bad. The show was interesting. A little more exposition in the script than I was expecting, but well performed and it's kind of cool to see women sword fighting instead of just guys. I imagine it was an arduous physical rehearsal process. Not only were they sword fighting, but they rolled around, fought hand to hand and climbed the set in various configurations. The piece was an interesting juxtaposition of the two pirate women (Ann Bonny and Mary Read) who chose unconventional ways to live in a man's world. Similar life choices, but done in very different ways, with Bonny living as a blood thirsty woman and Read disguising herself as a man. Interestingly enough, Read seemed more feminine (or what we might think of as traditionally feminine) - she was quiet and mannerly whilst Bonny was lusty and loud and aggressive.

Anyhow, I was glad to help out. It's time to step outside, I think.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Penny Plain - EXTRAORDINARY Theatrical Experience

I was lucky enough to catch a Preview of Ronnie Burkett's Penny Plain this past Sunday at The Citadel. What a fabulous show! Yes, it's all marionettes (wait, there were a couple of hand puppets in there too), but it was a fascinating story of a distopian future all told by Ronnie Burkett through many characters. I thought I would be distracted by the puppets, I was not - I was so in I often could have sworn there were tiny little people inside each of them. The mannerisms were subtle and individual and the story itself, although dark, was compelling. You wanted to know what was going to happen. You were shocked and entranced by the changes in the characters. You cared about them.

It was more than just a play in so many ways. Just the fact that one person was creating the voices and characterization for all the characters and you totally believed them, was pretty cool - but the seemingly effortlessness of the movement was brilliant. There were a few exceptions of Preview night glitches that were dealt with masterfully and if anything underscored the complexity which Burkett made seem so easy. We were all along for the ride and if anything, those bumps brought us more into the piece. It was beautifully lit and scored. All in all, a lovely, conceptually complete piece of art. I highly recommend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Educational Journey Has Begun!

Today was class three of my Fall course, Drama 257. I was a little leery (as usual) at the beginning, but I am really enjoying it. The 'kids' are nice and I like the style of our instructor, Donna Marie, and I think that I can get something out of it. I always worry about those things when I take classes at the Uni now. Being that I am 20 or more years older than most (read: all) the other kids in class and I might even be older than the instructor, I tend to worry about how I will fit into the dynamic. However, this group of students seem to like me and accept me as one of them (whew!) not just 'the old lady' in the class. The first two Projects that we presented I think demonstrated that I am not just a dilettante, but that I am serious about this and that I have something to offer.

I am anxious for script work. I understand the vocabulary of intention and specificity and choice and being present, so I want to apply that to some script work. I am curious as to who I will be paired with. As I have done in my previous acting classes, I am trying to work with as many different people now to get a sense of who they are. I can definitely tell there are stronger and weaker students in the class and students who will be easier or harder to work with (they unfortunately do not all match up). I think I offer a variety to scene choices for the instructor as I am older and that contrast in age and maturity will mean different situations to explore. I hope that she pushes me from where I am now, not from where the majority of the class is. I think that if I feel she isn't, I could easily talk to her about and she would be keen to do so. Anyhow, it is going well. Thursdays are like my Fridays and I am enjoying the rhythm of the Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Let's go!