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Monday, July 29, 2013

Getting Ready...

This week is about getting ready it seems.  Getting ready for my new job that starts after the long weekend.  I have a closet to assess and then likely some clothes to buy for that.  I have pretty much everything in place for the boys at this point.  I have lots of nerves and excitement to deal with.  I will be starting at the Citadel Theatre as the new Marketing Administrator.  It's an exciting new challenge and I feel I'm am in need of it. I am figuring the learning curve will be steep in August but it's that kind of push that motivates me!  Wish me luck!

I have also taken the time to work a bit on the schedule for Proof.  Of course, it isn't written in stone, as I will have to take into consideration the schedules of the actors I cast, but with my schedule getting a little tighter I have fewer options for flexibility. I luckily was informed of a new policy change at the theatre regarding move in time for the incoming production before I sent the conflicts out to those auditioning.  So, between my anticipated Citadel work conflicts and this new policy I spent a bit of time tweaking the schedule. It's a bit of a pain because it affects a Sunday and those are my absolute easiest day for rehearsing, but I will make it work somehow. I guess it's better to know now than to find out later...

I am excited about the list of people auditioning.  I can tell already I will have hard decisions to make with each character... but that's a nice problem to have.  I can take the time to find the right chemistry because there is choice. Everyone who gets cast in this play will have a great role - a complete and compelling character with an interesting journey. I'm looking forward to leading them all on it!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wedding and a Road Trip...

This past weekend I had company visit from afar and long ago and we took a little road trip back home to Fort McMurray for another long-time friend's wedding.  My best friend from my high school days, Tina, flew in from Toronto and the two of us loaded up the van and heading up the highway to see our wonderful friend Tammy marry Bryce.  It was a great day for a wedding and it was a lovely casual affair filled with friendship, great food, and a sing-a-long around the fire pit.  They also had fireworks and a very cool balloon release of wishes for the couple.  The best though, was seeing Tammy so obviously happy and full of joy.

The trip to McMurray was fascinating.  It has been a few year since I have been there, I think four, and a lot has changed.  I think Tina was even more blown away as it had been much longer for her so there were many more changes to absorb.  We didn't have a lot of time to explore but Mac Island was incredible and the proliferation of new development in Timberlea and up on the top of Confederation Way was hard to wrap my head around.  We didn't really check out the areas that had been flooded as we had a lot of territory to cover to do that too, but I was really impressed with the new facilities.  I hope the people there appreciate it and use it.  There is no excuse for saying there is nothing to do there. 

Tina and I headed home on the 881 after a breakfast in Anzac (where Tammy lives) and I think this was a less stressful drive home, although I have to admit 63 wasn't too bad on the way up. We had a nice weekend catching up on things from the far past and recent events.  Stories of our kids and our work and what we still wanted to accomplish.  It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Midsummer Magic - A Great Time in the Park with Shakespeare!

It's the last week of the 25th Annual Freewill Shakespeare Festival but I think you are in for a good show whichever of the two plays you manage to get to. Earlier I wrote about Lear, which I liked so much I went to it twice.  I have to be completely candid here, I wasn't going to go to Midsummer.  I've been in it and have seen it many, many times and thought I had my fill of the play.  But this review by Liz Nichols in the Edmonton Journal and this Blog post by John Richardson and my reaction to Lear made me think that if I went, I would be seeing a 'new' Midsummer.  AM and I took in the Sunday matinee and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  The approach felt fresh and physical and sections that normally fail to draw me in (the lovers) were captivating and engaging.  This is a version that you can take kids to and you won't have to worry about them checking out.  I'm hoping to get back there this week with my kids as I think they would absolutely love it. Everything was delightfully topsy-turvy.  Kevin Corey's Puck mocks the traditional spry and acrobatic role, reinventing it. I loved the use of the dog for the changeling child. Best of all was the use of magic to control the action.  I have never seen the objectives played quite so well.  Why would Lysander keep talking to Hermia when he now loves Helena?  Because magic compels him to.  Brilliant! The physical contortions of Jesse Gervais and Sheldon Elter (Demetrius and Lysander) are hysterical.  And best of all, it is all even.  There is no waiting for your favorite parts because every one of the stories is fun and interesting.  Sorry, I gush, but I did really like it. So very glad I went!

Anyhow, whether it's King Lear or A Midsummer Night's Dream, I don't think you can go wrong this year in the park!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Next Next Gig... Directing at Walterdale in the Fall - Proof

Hey Everyone, I have mentioned this earlier, but I am directing Proof by David Auburn at Walterdale Playhouse this fall.  They've just wrapped up the Dracula auditions so it's time to spread the word on the next set of auditions.  I am excited to work on this one as it has been on my list for a few years now.  It's such a nice tight script with complete and compelling characters with interesting and complicated relationships.  It's almost mathematical!

We have our first Design/Production Meeting tonight with the team and I am excited to share my vision so that everyone can get started thinking about the show!

Here are the Audition Details:

Performance Dates: Dec 4 – 14, 2013
Audition Dates: Sept 15 & 16, 2013; 7 – 10 p.m.
Walterdale Theatre (10322 83 Avenue)

The Team:
Director: Kristen M. Finlay; Asst Director: Katelyn Arthurs; Stage Manager: Bethany Hughes; Designers: Joan Heys Hawkins (Set), Elaina Bolton (Costumes), Richard Hatfield (Lighting), Erin Foster-O’Riordan (Sound); Master Builder: Pierre Valois; Production Manager: Catherine Wenschlag

Show Description:
Proof explores the link between genius and madness.  Catherine, a troubled young woman has spent years looking after her brilliant but unstable father, Robert.  Now, following his death, she must deal with her own volatile emotions, her estranged older sister Claire and the attentions of Hal, a former student of her father.

Catherine – 25
Claire – 29, Catherine’s older sister
Robert – 50s, Catherine and Claire’s father, a mathematician
Hal –28, Robert’s former graduate student

Please note:  ages are as given in the script, and are based more on how old someone reads as opposed to actual physical age.  There will be flexibility in casting as they are also relational based on how two individuals read as siblings and parent and child.

The auditions will comprise of the following:
* READINGS FROM THE SCRIPT – These can be emailed out to people in advance of their auditions upon request.
* CALL-BACKS (if required):  TBA

A Rehearsal Schedule will be emailed when you book your audition.  Please bring any potential conflict dates you have to the audition.  Anyone auditioning for the role of Catherine must have a pretty available calendar as she is in almost every scene.

Headshots and résumés are recommended, but not required.

Copies of the script are available for reading at Walterdale Theatre.  Contact the Theatre Administrator at to sign one out (not available during Fringe).

To book an audition, contact me, Kristen M. Finlay by e-mail at or by phone at 780.406.1256

(Drop-ins will be accommodated as time allows)

Walterdale is a volunteer/member organization.  We cannot engage Equity performers.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

You Can't Get Something for Nothing.... aka There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch...

Those of you who know me, know that I do a lot of volunteering. I generally enjoy it and much of my volunteering has also paid me in other ways - experience, friendships, skill development, artistic satisfaction, etc... Because of the work I have done volunteering or free of charge (like this blog when I use it in support of Edmonton Theatre) has started to bring requests from people for more.

Some of these requests are very flattering and even exciting.  Being asked to work on a show by someone you respect and on a project that you feel challenged and inspired by is very cool.  Being asked to be a part of a Board or Committee that contributes to an enriched experience for artists and their audiences can be amazing. I do not want those requests to stop. I always hope when I ask people to work on my shows that they know that I am asking because I respect their talent AND that I think the artistic pay-off for them will make it worth their while.  I understand when people say 'no' because it's unpaid and there are people that I only ask when I know that there can be some sort of financial compensation because it is their livelihood. I know that people are doing me a favour working on my project, and I work hard to make sure that it is a positive and fulfilling experience for them. I believe in quid pro quo.  There are times when I am asked and I know that it is more to help someone out - a friend, someone who has talent but not a lot of experience, someone who needs a leg up - it may not be an activity that is particularly gratifying for me in action, but the gratification comes from helping someone to develop and grow.  They are also usually someone that I feel has a level of respect for me and that I know well enough to know that they have talent that I want to invest my time in. Usually when this happens, there is also a level of 'thank you' that makes it even more worthwhile.

But over the last couple of years something weird started happening.  I started to get requests from people that I barely knew, or people that I didn't even know at all, to help them.  I have been asked to promote a company I know nothing about, to meet to 'pick my brain about how to produce a show', to act as a casting agent for an unpaid workshop of a new play that I haven't read for a playwright I have never met - all without any offer of compensation - not even a free coffee. I wonder at the chutzpah of these people.  Some of them have been referred to me by a mutual friend.  I wonder at my 'friends' who blithely give my name and contact information out.  I know when I refer someone I tend to contact my friend first and ask if it is okay if I connect them to another person. But people need to know that just because someone volunteers this does not mean that their time and skills are free for anyone to use.  That is a bit insulting.

I guess the bottom-line is that, while I like to volunteer, I also like to choose my projects.  I not only want to work on something challenging and exciting, but I also want to work with people who respect me and are generally fun to work with.  Just because I might work for free on one thing does not mean that my time is up for grabs.  I continue to be involved in Board Work for various organizations and I love this. I will work the occasional casino because I know how far that funding goes. I have a project that I am working on in the fall that I am very excited by and it is volunteer but I anticipate that I will be paid artistically.  I want the opportunities to keep coming in, but I do want them to be relevant and meaningful.  What I do not want is to feel used and taken for granted. I don't think any volunteer does.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Tap Dancing, Kid's Movies and Tinsel Teeth... My Week at a Glance!

I've had a very busy first week of summer vacation.  I started it off on Sunday with a get together with friends to celebrate Bacon! That's right, a Bacon Day party.  It was good to see many of my Spelling Bee family but I had to take off earlier than I would've liked to go get the boys as Mark was out of town helping shovel and clean in High River. I don't have the boys in camp this week... I do next week and I am glad for that as it is hard to get them moving and doing things and with the heat there have been some tensions... Anyhow, I tried to alleviate that by taking them to a couple of movies. We saw Monsters University which was a very well done prequel to Monsters Inc.  I love that Gibson got the message of the movie (teamwork and playing fair and that cheating does not make you a winner). We also went to Despicable Me 2 - another great kid's movie. The boys declared it better than the first one and I kind of agree.  Gosh, I love those minions! We started the braces process for Oliver this morning so that was the last popcorn for him for about 18 months so we made it count!

Last night I went to Opening Night of Anything Goes at Walterdale.  I sat next to AM and Joan and had good visits with both of them before the show started and afterwards. I had been to the special invite Dress Rehearsal on the weekend so I was literally back for more! The show was tighter and the jokes landed more firmly so I think their two shows with preview audiences got them warmed up properly for Opening Night.  Anything Goes is a riotous little romp of a show.  It's a Cole Porter musical so the songs are familiar and toe-tapping and for one audience member sitting near me they were also sing-along songs. It's interesting for me to see a show from this era. I am so used to the modern musical which has a very different dramatic investment for it's songs.  It's a challenge because I always want to go back to the questions "Why this Show Now?" and after thinking about it, I guess the answer is "For Fun!".  It was certainly a crowd pleaser and even though there are some culturally suspect things that are remnants of the era is was written in, it was easy to be forgiving of the script and just sit back and enjoy. Highlights for me include the crazy chemistry between Kyle Thulien (Billy) and Morgan Smith (Moonface) as they assemble a myriad of disguises and accents.  Morgan Smith is generally a hoot and a half every time he is onstage. Christina O'Dell as showgirl Reno Sweeney belts it out of the park as she tackles the huge role.  Her Reno has swagger and spark and, boy, can she tap dance! The ongoing dynamic between Lauren Kneteman (Erma) and the sailors is a lot of fun to watch and Lauren certainly has the sex-appeal her character brags about! Finally the tap dancing.  I did prefer the section with the smaller group because I could see how clean the dancing was because of there being fewer bodies, but for making an impression there is something incredible about a stage full of tap dancers. Anyhow, it's a fun lighthearted show full of committed performers.  It runs until July 13th.  Opening Night was Sold Out and advance ticket sales are already high for this one, so I would advise getting your tickets in advance if you want to catch it.

Monday, July 01, 2013

A Shakespeare Weekend... And More to Come...

This past Friday I took in Opening Night of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.  I had never seen King Lear before so I was excited to see it on the line-up this year.  I also had donated enough to get myself a VIP Concierge Card so I wanted to put it to good use. It was kind of exciting to be ushered in right away with the Card, however, I do not think we will arrive so early next time.  I am an 'early' person and I was still in the frame of mind of when to arrive when I have to line up for good seats so we were there much too early.  Now we know.  But it was fun to get ushered in, given popcorn and a drink and then sit down and watch the mic checks.  Actually, that felt awkward, but again, now I know and I will not go so early next time.

And then the show!  I went in cold with no knowledge of the show beyond the program description and what little I knew from general life (mad king, three daughters, two of them flatterers and the other honest... that sort of thing).  I really enjoyed it.  Having never read the play I had to stayed very focused in the first act because I wanted to know what was going on.  I find when I go to Shakespeare I have to work hard to get my Shakespeare brain to click in, but once it does I am good.  We are lucky to have such a gifted company here in Edmonton with people who know how to interpret Shakespeare so well because that certainly helps. By the time the second act rolled around I was in and along for the ride! It was such a good show!  I am going back next week and plan to read the play in the interim.  How often do you get to see Lear?  I am making it count! As well, as I have gotten older, I find I enjoy watching the tragedies more... I used to be all about the comedies, but I have shifted a bit in my age...

I was so impressed with both Annette Loiselle as Goneril and Belinda Cornish as Regan.  This is a nice meaty play for the women and these two each have embraced their treachery and duplicity, appearing generous in one scene and showing their true natures in the next.  Very fun to watch, especially when the big showdown happens. John Wright is perfect for Lear, his madness fickle and childish and then sad and confused.  I quite liked Sheldon Elter as the treacherous Edmund, he was such a  charming villain, relishing what he could get away with. The whole cast is tremendous, indeed as I looked at the stage at one point I realized that almost any of them could anchor a show and it added so much depth to the entire production have a cast of this caliber.  My absolute favourite, however, was John Kirkpatrick as Kent.  He is the calm in the storm of madness, just trying to keep Lear safe.  There were so many layers to his performance that spoke of the history and love between him and his King and his sadness at the decline of Lear and this was combined with an ease with the language that was simply beautiful.

I will return to Lear next weekend. I am looking forward to seeing it again! I am not sure when I will catch Midsummer, the other Freewill show this season, but from the descriptions and pictures it might be a good one to take the kids to! It looks very colourful and I am intrigued by the casting choices!

On Saturday night I added to my Shakespeare weekend by taking in Joss Whedon's Much Ado at the Princess Theatre.  It was so nice to be back in the Princess as I hadn't been there for years.  In my university days it was like my second home.  I met up with a group of my friends - all Whedon and Shakespeare fans - and we took in the movie.  Disclaimer: Much Ado About Nothing is my current favorite Shakespeare play (used to be Twelfth Night, but that changed about 15 years ago). In any case, I really, really liked it.  I think it was a nice translation of the script to screen.  I found it very accessible and very funny.  I thought Alexis Denisof was wonderful as Benedict (so funny) and Amy Acker a delightful and intelligent Beatrice.  So many fun moments in the film and wonderful little details.  The black and white seems perfect and it was a nice evening out for a film you won't see every weekend in the big theatres.

Never a bad weekend when there is that much Shakespeare!