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Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Last post of the year...

A good year.  Sometimes I was busier than I would have liked and sometimes I was less busy than I would have liked.  It all evens out in the end.  I leave 2012 excited for what is on the horizon in 2013 and knowing that with my two major projects that the first five months will be very busy.  I am working hard this week to schedule, schedule, schedule so that Spelling Bee and From Cradle to Stage are organized ahead of time and not on the fly. 

After those are done, I am not sure.  Finally Sauces is investigating BYOVs for Fringe, but if we don't get those then we will move to Plan B.  Just have to figure out what Plan B is... I have some ideas. The other Fringe project definitely has a Plan B that we just need to decide on details for. So, you see... busy.

The country is in a weird place right now.  Idle No More has replaced Occupy as the latest rallying movement.  It seems to be more organized and have more focus, but like Occupy, I still have trouble connecting with it.  It's hard to have 6-10% of the country's population telling you that they want to dictate what is best. Isn't that why we have elections? I still don't understand if this bill (C-45) and others violate the agreements in place, why there is not a legal way to prevent it.  And I do not personally connect to round dances and hunger strikes and train stoppages. Part of it is a cultural disconnection (I'm not even big on my own cultural rituals so imagine how someone else's won't grab me) and part of it is my respect for following the rules.  I'm a rule follower and I know I'd've been so ticked off to have been on that train. The cynical me always thinks it's really all about money - not the environment - but I always think that economics are always the fuel behind any push.  I'll keep reading.  It's hard to sort through the rhetoric.  It's better than Occupy was for information dissemination, but still hard.  It's also hard to respect some of those pushing Idle No More when they use words like Evil, Douchebag and Racist to describe anyone who does not agree with them. For a movement that preaches that it is open to all it has some very vocal supporters who seem very antagonistic and closed off. Sigh. Anyhow, I will welcome links that help explain the situation better, but please stay away from rhetoric.  I'm a facts and figures person.

Anyhow, I felt more grown-up this year than ever before.  Actually this was the first year in my life where I actually felt OLD.  I am 45, how come it took so long to hit? I don't know.  But I felt it.  I felt a real shift in how I felt about myself and other things.  There were many times when I lost patience with childishness and incompetence. I felt like an old man... I hope this passes... I think it's part of me still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and realizing that I have to figure it out fast if I want to get it done. Maybe this year...

Goals for the Year:
1) Submit a play to APC and cross my fingers
2) Submit scripts to at least 10 competitions
3) Finish first draft of Pitchfork
4) Finish second draft of The Easy Road
5) Finish Fourth draft of Little Monsters
6) Go to or be involved in at least 50 Theatrical Events

Dream Goals for the Year:
1) Take the boys to Disneyland/Disneyworld
2) Visit Toronto
3) Visit Havasu

Let's see what happens.

Friday, December 28, 2012

In Retrospect... What I loved this year onstage...

So I took a little walk through my blog this morning to reflect on what I saw and what really stuck with me.  I saw a lot so it's hard to narrow down, but that's a good thing.  It's a testament to what we have onstage in Edmonton. So, in no particular order but with a little classification, here were some of my favorite moments from the year:

My children's theatre favorites:

The Gooble Portrait  produced at the Fringe by Surreal SoReal Theatre. I wished I had brought my kids to this one but I went on the Me-Day.  The concept, script, acting and direction was outstanding.  No skimping on the elements and a really high quality production.  It also found a way to say something in a subtle and engaging way (not the usual 'hit them over the head with a hammer' way).

Robin Hood  at The Snow Globe Festival.  A real great piece created with low-tech magic and a three stooges approach to story-telling.  It grabbed my kids and was so fun to watch.

Mary Poppins at The Jubilee as part of Broadway Across Canada.  A beautifully done piece of theatre.  I loved the colour-blind casting, the music and the magic of it and so did Gibson.

Personal Involvement favorites:

Directing The Playmates by Bevin Dooley at New Works.  I really enjoyed helping to bring this new piece of theatre to the stage and working with the brilliant cast I had was so rewarding.

Acting as Stage Mom to Gibson in Titanic (Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway) at The Winspear. I was so pleased with how serious he took his 'job'.

Directing Nine at Walterdale Theatre.  Few experiences are so completely rewarding as this one was for me as a director.  A committed and uber-talented cast and team made this such a blessed journey.  The final product was thrilling for me to see. For me it was proof you can do great work without a huge budget if people are talented enough and care enough.

Painting The Weir and Misanthrope at Walterdale.  I learned so much through doing this year and I might even be making some connections to do this work for other theatre companies.  I also made some fabulous friendships on both these projects.  The Misanthrope nightly warm-up routine was one of the best I have ever experienced!

Fringe Favorites:

Hard to narrow down, but in thinking back the two shows that stood out for me were Mojo Mikeybo and Gruesome Playground Injuries

Great Performances:

Nicole English and Corben Kushneryk in Avenue Q (Two One-Way Tickets to Broadway).  You'd think those two had been playing with puppets all their lives. They were amazing!

Cody Porter in The Weir (Walterdale Theatre).  I enjoyed this whole show, but Cody was a stand-out. This is the best I have ever seen him and he's always so good.

Garrett Ross in Jack Goes Boating (Shadow Theatre - The Varscona).  Such a wonderful internal performance.  I was so impressed by the subtlety.

Both James Hamilton and Paul Welch in the side-splitting With Bells On (Guys in Disguise - Roxy Theatre). The script deserves a nod too - so well written!

Robert Markus and Sarah Farb in Next to Normal (The Citadel).  This whole production/show blew me away (I had to go twice I loved it so much) but Markus and Farb were major stand-outs. 

All the other Favorites:

The Mechanicals of A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Citadel. The play within a play that the mechanicals perform at the end of the play was so well done.  Oliver laughed so hard and talked about it for weeks.  If I want to make him laugh I can still reference Chris Bullough's silent scream and it sends him into fits of giggles.

I loved the conceptual design of The Mikado (Edmonton Opera) and Boeing-Boeing (Mayfield).  Both shows upped the ante in design and incorporated it into acting choices in a way that made the shows feel like a complete world. 

I loved Red at the Citadel.  They brought this challenging intellectual script to life. What could have been dry and disconnected was engaging and fascinating.

The duo of Nathan Cuckow and Frank Zotter in In On It (Theatre Network - The Roxy) reconfirmed for me what a brilliant gift we have in Canadian Theatre in Daniel MacIvor. 

There were many other great moments and performances but these are the ones that stuck with me. I hope you all managed to see some great stuff this year. 

I'd be curious to know what your favorites were...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Food! Glorious Food! And that was just my Christmas...

Well, I am stuffed! As for most people the last few days have been about culinary indulgence.  Christmas Eve I do okay because our family's tradition of Oyster Stew is not one I over indulge in (I eat my bowlful - it is not Christmas without the taste of it).  I did do some damage to many a cookie, however.  On Christmas Day I am the meal preparer and we have whoever is in town over for the big turkey dinner.  Mark asked me about making 'extra' stuffing - to which I replied - "It doesn't matter how much you make, there is never any 'extra' stuffing".  And I was right.  I made a tonne of it and it was all gone. So I told him I would make him more a few days afterwards to compensate - the bread is currently drying right now. We had a group of 11 this year.  Gibson had probably the best time this year.  He had so much fun with all the cousins and before they came on Tuesday, he kept asking "When are the people coming?!?!" The meal turned out very well - although I clearly do not know how to thaw a turkey.  Mark had to do some cold water baths until the wee hours of the morning to make sure we had a nice thawed but still cold bird in the morning!

I skipped any real action on Boxing Day.  I always look at the piles of stuff under the tree and think "what more could I want?"  I tend to have a hard time when people ask me what I want because I don't really need anything.  So the idea of boxing day seems like over-kill.  Plus, I don't like crowds. As a parent I am finding it a bit hard to cope with this season of excess.  It's hard to make your kids appreciate what they have when there is simply so much of it. The starving kids in Africa story only goes so far. It's also hard to explain why we think an 11 year old doesn't need an iPod Touch when his younger cousin gets an iPad. In his eyes, he feels either deprived or punished.  The latter is sad, because he has been a really good kid this year and that is not why we aren't getting it. The former is sad because we have so much stuff.  Sigh, again. I'm not going to give too much more thought to it.  I am not caving and getting the iPod, and have no problem stating why, but it's a challenge.

I did check out Oliver! at Festival Place with Gibson last night.  It was great to see my friends onstage. I did the show many (read: about 20) years ago in Fort McMurray and although I am not sure how good the show was, it was one of my most favorite theatrical experiences. It's where I met Wanda and where Wanda and AM and I really bonded. The grown-ups in the show have a lot of time backstage together and boy-o-boy we were silly.  So, it was nice to see the show from the other side.  I realized that when doing the show myself I hadn't paid much attention to the play as a whole.  Gibson commented that he thought there were a lot of horrible people in Oliver's London.  He enjoyed it, but it was a bit long for him so he spent some time at the end of the show snuggled up to me snoozing. I thought that Nadine Veroba, as Nancy, was phenomenal.  Yes, I know her. She was Claudia in Nine and is the only person to ever make me cry during an audition and she is lovely to work with, but I make this assessment of her from an objective stand point.  There is something about her that is electric and her singing - wowsers! There were many other nice things about this production.  I was glad to have caught it.

Oliver! marked my 60th show this year that I either saw or was involved in.  It would be more if I counted each Fringe show I went to, but I count the days I went to Fringe instead. I had a goal of 40 so I am very pleased with the number.  That's an average of 5 shows per month.  Pretty good! I will make a new goal for 2013 and it will be closer to the 60 number. I may not win another fabulous ticket prize though, so I am not sure I will be able to match it. We shall see.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What if The Three Stooges told the story of Robin Hood?

Well, that's basically what I saw today at The Snow Globe Festival.  The four person cast of Evan Hall, Caley Suliak, Paul Sutherland and Brendan Thompson In Robin Hood deliver a fast paced, physical and very, very silly rendition of the classic story of the archery expert who stole from the rich to give to the poor in the England of Prince John and the absent King Richard the Lion-Hearted.  The boys loved it.  They are suckers for slapstick and extreme silliness. The ensemble is tight and the action fast paced.  They incorporate audience participation and Oliver even got to go up on stage to compete in the archery contest (he hammed it up his own way).  Highlights included a very funny chase sequence to Gibson's favorite Yakety Sax and I would tell you who both boys' favorite character was, but then there would be a major spoiler, so I can't.  For those who have seen the show, it was the character with the most hair... I loved Caley Suliak as the somewhat Jewish Friar Tuck and Paul Sutherland's Prince John was priceless!  One more show tonight at 7:00 p.m.

Getting in the Spirit of the Season With Bells and Snow Globes and a couple of School Concerts!

You would think I would take a rest after a 2 week run, but no, not me.  I had a brief pause on Monday night (which I used to start some baking) and then dived into two nights of School Concerts (my kids are three years apart so I always get to go twice), then I caught With Bells On at The Roxy (Guys in Disguise) and last night I took the boys to Babes in Toyland at C103 (formerly The Catalyst Theatre) as part of The Snow Globe Festival.

I wrote about Snow Globe last year when Impresario Extraordinaire Ellen Chorley created it. I took the boys last year and once the commitments of the season wrapped up we headed off to see what was happening onstage this year. We bundled up and headed out to catch Babes in Toyland and had a great time.  The boys are the target audience so I will translate their responses.  My kids are 8 and 11 so that can give you an idea of the source.  From the first moment the lights when down Gibson (8) was mesmerized and sitting on the edge of his seat.  He is fascinated by anything musical so once the 3 piece band started playing he was hooked in.  Oliver (11) is a little more laid back - he's an almost teenager, and it's killing me - but he was delighted to actually get a cup of water when Jack and Jill entered selling it. I heard many a laugh from both of them throughout the show and they particularly enjoyed the 3 villains - Barnaby (Devin Bruce), Rodrigo (Rebecca Merkley) and Gonzago (Corben Kushneryk) - who were ridiculously silly/stupid.  The best moment was when Merkley did something particularly silly, Gibson pointed at the stage and yelled to me under the applause, "I LIKE that Girl!  She's funny!" (He also kept saying 'Alan' all the way home). As Oliver declared on the ride home, "It is always better when the villains are dumb!". When I asked for particulars about the show, the two boys declared everything "Really good!". Mission Accomplished!  We return this afternoon for another show (Robin Hood) and there is a third show (Birdie on the Wrong Bus). I encourage you to check them out if you can.

Thursday Night I took a friend to With Bells On at The Roxy.  It was fabulous!  A drag show that was more about conquering loneliness and finding friendship in an usual place and person and while that sounds kind of mushy, it was also HILARIOUS!  I had so many big belly laughs.  I was impressed with both actors (Paul Welch and James Hamilton) as they each brought so much depth to what easily could be stereo-typical roles. They also both have great comic timing.  Darrin Hagen's script is sharp and witty and although there are the prerequisite sparkles, tinsel and 6 inch heels needed for every drag show, it also had a lot of substance behind the flash.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Well, we wrapped up the show this weekend.  It was a great experience overall, with some crunchy bits on the production side.  That came through at the Post Mortem and I am trying to put that crappy night behind me. It's too bad that it had to play out like that. It made me think a lot about my commitment to Walterdale (which is sad) but it is hard to work so hard and feel unappreciated and (worse) resented for the work that you do. I luckily have a little video of a snippet of the show to watch to cheer me up and make me remember what I loved so much about the experience of doing this show.  I made some great connections and have plans to work with some of the cast and team again in the future. I am chairing the From Cradle to Stage One Act Festival, but I am more tentative about it now.

And now, onto the next adventure!  This week is jam packed with Christmas fun!  Two times two Christmas concerts at the boy's school (2 dress rehearsals and 2 evening performances), With Bells On at Theatre Network and the cleaning of my house will take over my life this week.  I have to go shopping in there sometime too. It's a good thing the kids are still in school so I can theoretically get some of this done.

I am also diving headfirst into Spelling Bee.  I hope to reread the script at least 5-10 times before auditions. The audition sign-ups are amazing and I am excited to get to those auditions so I can can this thing.  It's such a terrifically silly and fun show with fabulous music and just looking at the audition sheet makes me giddy.  Such great singer/actors on that page! I am looking forward to asking them to be ridiculous!

At this point I have seen or been involved in 56 Theatrical Events this year, and With Bells On will make it 57.  I also have plans to see some shows at The Snow Globe Festival and Oliver! at Festival Place, so I think I will hit 60. This surpasses my goal of 40 shows, so I am very, very pleased with myself.  I will have to re-evaluate for next year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Misanthope Makes Me a Philanthrope!

Reflections on The Misanthrope Experience. 

I have had such a wonderful time working with this cast and crew.  I have met so many wonderful people and been inspired by their dedication to do good work on the stage and with each other.  I regained a sense of silliness and joy with them that I haven't had in a while (at least as an actor).  The newer actors in the cast made me revisit my early days on the stage.  The one who bailed us out when we lost a cast member made me appreciate the spirit of the show must go on and there are no small roles. Working with Afton made me realize how lazy I can be and because of her phenomenal hard work I pushed myself to be more present. It is hard to express how much I value that. It can be too easy to go through the motions and thanks to her example, I never felt like I was. It was also so lovely to share the stage with some fabulous emerging artists like Zachary, Brennan and Amanda and I hope to see them in lots more stuff and (cross fingers) work with them again.  The main thing is, I got to work with some great people onstage and from our joy-filled ridiculous warm-up every night, to our creative sign-in sheet, to getting laced up every night up to bows and the Act afterwards, this has been great. I also enjoyed being a part of Janine's first directing gig at Walterdale.  I am glad she got to work with this group and tackle this challenge (because it wasn't an easy script).

Anyhow, I leave The Misanthrope a Pilanthrope, and that feels good.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Couple of Nice Reviews of the Show... First week recap...

The first five shows (plus two previews) are done and tonight we head into the final stretch.  We had a nice opening week and I am excited to get back onstage this evening.  When you spend so much time with people you like you really miss them on the dark day.  But it was a much needed dark day as there was a lot of laundry to do!

Opening Night was tonnes of fun with an audience who seemed primed to laugh. It's always interesting to see how different audiences react - some are laughers and some are listeners.  This is a play that requires heavy duty listening skills, but it's worth it.  Best night for me was Saturday night because my sister was in town all the way from Toronto and she and a friend came and saw it.  It has been a long time since she has seen me onstage so I was very happy that she made it out for this one. Plus, she is sharp and a loud laugher so she got a lot of the funny stuff and we were rewarded.

There have been a few reviews so far, and all are (yay!) positive. Here are some links.

From Sound and Noise.
"If you’re able to keep up with the rapid-fire dialogue, this play will have you laughing and leave you thinking."

From St. Albert Gazette.
"...director Janine Waddell Hodder has created a solid production that provides stimulating discussion."

A Personal Blog.
"I thought the play was very funny, and it probably would have been funnier for someone with a more intimate knowledge of the source text.  For one thing, the dialogue (some of it possibly a different Molière translation than I’d read, and some of it completely modern) was in the same kind of rhyme and metre used in the source text.  The actors – especially Brennan MacGregor who played Alceste – did a great job phrasing the long speeches for sense rather than emphasising the metre."

I hope that people can make it out.  This has been a wonderful challenge for me and I would love it if people saw it.  Learning the dialogue felt like it does when you are doing Shakespeare and I am very proud of what it is. There are only five shows left and then it's gone...

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Misanthrope Loves Everyone Who Came to the Show Last Night!

See what I did there?

Anyhow, we had a fabulous Opening Night for The Misanthrope at Walterdale Theatre last night.  We had enjoyed Previews, but the audience last night was HOT! It was thrilling to hear all the laughter and feel such gratitude to the generous audience.  I always say that a show is nothing until there is an audience to perform for so it is nice to be finally open and sharing this new twist on an old classic with people.  I love the character I get to play and the people I get to play with.  We celebrated the opening with a lovely after show reception (mmmm, lobster tarts...) and Tonight is 2 for 1 Night so hopefully we get a nice sized audience from that to continue with the journey!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Citadel Theatre's A Christmas Carol - A Storybook Brought to Life

This was another jam-packed weekend for me.  Filled with basketball, a dress rehearsal and theatre clean, and two tries at seeing A Christmas Carol at The Citadel Theatre (one successful!).  I had never seen the production before and this was greeted with astonishment by most people I told that to, but the show itself actually replaced a different Christmas tradition of our family so when it first started I wasn't really into it.  I have seen or been in 5 different productions of the story so didn't figure I needed to see it.  I always heard from people 'Oh! You must go! It's really something wonderful!' - and it was.

You may note I said two attempts to see the show.  I had tickets for the Saturday night performance and an unfortunate power outage took out the lighting board and I have to get my tickets re booked for Sunday.  The Citadel was outstanding in dealing with the re-booking.  I did notice that they have also added another matinee to deal with the demand for tickets as this is a big selling show for the house. On Saturday, Kristin (my date for the evening) and I coped with the lack of show by having a fabulous visit and I was happy that she was able to rejoin me the next evening to see the show.

It was a wonderful night and every note is perfect pitch, a true storybook brought to life onstage.  You can tell that everyone in the cast is dedicated to telling this age old classic story with both reverence and joy. It's warmth and sharing of the Spirit of Christmas (and what that means) feels truly authentic.  I may go again and take my boys to it.  I think they would both appreciate the magic of the show, because the clockwork precision of the scene changes feels truly magical, and I think they are old enough to deal with it.  There were a number of children who were really too young for the show but most of them were far away from me so they didn't spoil my night. There are a few potentially scary elements but really, you shouldn't be taking a child under 4 or 5 to any show longer than an hour... they do not have the focus for it. That's not fair to the rest of the audience. That's my rant.  I like that people are taking kids to theatre, but know the appropriate age... that's all I am saying...

Anyhow, if you haven't see it, I now join the group of converts heavily endorsing it. Go, it's a wonderful way to get in the Christmas mood!