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Friday, February 24, 2012

Seeing RED - How does it make you feel?

Last night I went to see Red at The Citadel Theatre with my good friend Janine. The play follows two years of Abstract Impressionist artist Mark Rothko's life as he worked on a large mural project with his new assistant, Ken. Together they talk of many things - art, suicide, tragedy, art, selling-out, keeping integrity, art for now, art that is timeless, and in this back and forth is a marvelous play. I did not know anything about it beforehand - at least not specifically. I am familiar with art and the abstract expressionists and I have taken courses on Criticism of Art and Art History so I had a little bit of background. However, I didn't need to know anything. The specific discussions that evolve as their friendship/professional relationship grows are so universal with regards to art that I was locked in.

"It's a job. This is about me." says Rothko, and it is, but it is about more than just him. It's about waves of art, the old and the new and the now and the timeless. It is just as much about young artist Ken and others like him as it is about Rothko and Pollack and Picasso.

It certainly helps that the set (designed by David Boechler) is impressive and the paintings mesmerizing. Each shift of the light (designed by Alan Brodie) changes them into a new work of art. It also helps that Jim Mezon as Rothko and David Coomber as Ken are wonderful actors who never leave the space and who play off each other so perfectly. Director Kim Collier is clearly gifted at creating wonderful stage pictures that evolve naturally out of the action and her use of silence and space maintains tension and engagement. However, the star of the show is this brilliant script by John Logan. I intend to order a copy, even though there is no role in it for me. The way the play discusses Art hit me hard. I think anyone who engages in any type of art (not just visual art) should see this. It speaks to the why of it and the idea that these things we create are like our children and how our egos and self-doubt fight with each other on every single project we produce, and if they don't - then that might lead to other problems. I think even people who do not actively do art themselves would benefit from this show - for certainly that struggle is universal.

I was locked in from the start. I have never thought so hard during a play before - about what they were saying and about what it meant in my life. Truly a wonderful piece.

Look at it. How does it make you feel? It makes me feel inspired, conflicted, sad, joyful and amazed.

*#7 in my 2012 Theatre Goal

Friday, February 17, 2012

Albertine In Five Times - Canadian Classic X 6

On Wednesday I finally saw Albertine in Five Times at Walterdale Theatre. Although it is not my favorite script I was looking forward to it since I knew the cast was exceptionally strong and I was not disappointed. All the performances were sincere and committed and it was well directed into a lovely piece of theatre. I had some issues with a few of the technical elements but I think that was more difference of opinion than anything else. The set and costumes were wonderful and coherent despite representing a span of 40 years. I wouldn't have thought that possible having seen the set under the work lights, but it all worked wonderfully. I have seen a number of these women before onstage and I was most impressed by the transformation of Amelia Maciejewski into Albertine at 30. I have worked with Amelia (last year's Rabbit Hole) and know she is a powerhouse but this performance was remarkably subtle and internal. There was so much going on beneath the surface. I was also impressed by Janine Hodder as Madeleine. I have also worked with Janine before (Pieces - Fringe 2011) but it was nice to see what she could do with a substantially larger and more realized character. Her Madeleine was lightness and joy, the perfect foil to the 5 Albertines. The biggest surprise however, was Syrell Wilson as Albertine at 60. Her anguished and tortured portrayal of the drug-addicted Albertine of the 1970s was startling. I have seen Syrell onstage in a number of things but never as this kind of character and her realization of it was mesmerizing.

All in all it was a well-done show. A single act of an hour and a half, but you never feel shortchanged. There is only one show left and it might be a challenge to get tickets, but if you can I would recommend it.

* Photo of Michele Vance Hehir and Amelia Maciejewski by Douglas Dollars-Stewart

* #6 of my theatre goal for the year

Thursday, February 09, 2012

One Small Step for Theatrekind...

This week the New Works Festival opened at the University of Alberta. I was fortunate to be able to direct one of the pieces which is being presented. I attend the University of Alberta as a Special Student in the Department of Drama and have been doing so for the past four years. I had a show in New Works 2 years ago as a Playwright (Tight Rope) but the completion of my ADship at Walterdale had allowed me to free up a lot of my time so I applied to direct. I was accepted and overjoyed to find out that I would be directing Bevin Dooley's script, The Playmates. It has been a wonderful experience. I loved working with Bevin and the Production Team as well as the Festival Team. So just for experience I have been blessed. I am also very pleased with the show itself - the script, the cast, my crew, the designers - truly wonderful people to work with.

The Festival opened Tuesday Night. I had to wait for Mark to get home so I missed the first piece, a Staged Reading of Fire in their Eyes by Ben Dextraze and directed by MFA Candidate Jessica Carmichael. I hope to catch it later in the Festival. One of my cast members saw it and said she quite liked it. New Works is about development of work and apparently this piece will change throughout the festival as they are treating the festival as a workshop so that might be one to catch on more than one night to get the sense of development of a piece. I know before I started writing I would think of plays being unmalleable once produced, but I have learned that not to be true. The work is not frozen in Amber. A piece can evolve and have more than one incarnation as the playwright crafts it. This has been observable for me with the staged reading on Night B: Murmurations of Starlings by Evan Tsitsias, directed by MFA candidate Donna Marie Baratta. As part of the festival tech week I sat through tech and dress rehearsals and Opening Night and the evolution of the piece in those three days has been incredible. It is really very cool to watch a play evolve from one draft to the next, to the next. Whereas the non-reading plays are basically set for the duration of the festival - these readings are still evolving and it is pretty cool to see. You can only imagine what the script will grow into as the playwright continues with the writing process.

Following the reading on Night A were Sitter and Felix and Max. The two shows I got to see were quite enjoyable. The first a comedic juxtaposition of two different couples in an unusual situation. The writing was natural and funny with smooth direction. The second dynamic, funny and full of tension with an almost absurd ending. On Night B, just before us, is Laundry Cycle - a fast paced comedy which I absolutely loved. As part of my directorial application involved reading the four produced scripts it was very cool to see what the other directors did with them, as well as see how the script evolved. Since the process is about developing work all four scripts changed from the original submissions. I was really impressed with what their assigned directors did with the pieces and how they used the space. We all share the same set and yet each one of us uses it so differently. It becomes a house, a 2-story apartment, 2 apartments, and a rocky coastline and it works beautifully for all of them. I think the Festival Directors did a great job matching directors to plays because each of the other directors seemed to make choices that totally worked for the scripts they were working with.

Anyhow, I gush. Hard not to when you are in the midst of things and really enjoying the experience. I do, however, highly recommend checking out one or both nights of this Festival. For $10 you can see 3 brand new plays written by future Daniel MacIvors or Judith Thompsons. If you can't make both nights or even a whole night, I highly recommend you check out The Playmates, which goes up on Night B (Fri 9:45 p.m., Sat 4:15 p.m., Sun 9:45 p.m.). I am quite proud of it and would love if you came and checked it out.

#4 and #5 of my theatre goals for the year.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Mikado - Great Fun, Well Sung!

I was lucky enough to catch a Dress Rehearsal of The Edmonton Opera's The Mikado this past week. I say lucky for a number of reasons. First, because I was unable to make any of the show dates due to schedule conflicts and second because it was delightful! The concept was in many ways the star of the show. Each costume was pitch perfect in the anime/hara-juku interpretation. The cast lived up to how they looked, so this was not style without substance. It was so pleasant to see and hear skilled Opera Performers who could sing well AND act and dance! Who knew?! Ko-Ko was outstanding, but from the tittering school girls of the chorus to the iPad using male chorus to Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum onto Katisha and The Mikado himself, it was all so very well done and so much fun. Hard to pick a favorite moment, but I always love "A Little List" and the careful use of topical references throughout the show was just right! A fun, fun, fun night out!

#3 in my year goal for theatre adventures.