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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!