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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Planning for the New Year in Theatre...

Well, as we wrap up one year, it means that we need to think ahead about what we want to see next... don't we? Well, I do... It's good to take this lull and think about what is coming up that interests us and as always, there are a lot of possibilities.  I know I won't make it to all of them, but I am going to try!

So let's start with January 2014!

There are quite a few shows on in town this January.  I'm gearing up for Clybourne Park and Hawksley Workman's The God That Comes at the Citadel.  Both have been on my radar as things I was looking forward to for awhile.  Clybourne Park because of my Tony-obsession, and The God That Comes because I had heard good things about it from when it was in Calgary last season. I'm also hoping to catch Theatre Yes' The Elevator Project at Canoe Festival this January. I missed it last time because of simply having too many things to do when it was on.  I know it will be new stories but the concept fascinates me so I really want to get to it this time around.  For those of you who caught it in the fall, the plays are all new so it's worth your while. I'm also hoping to catch Plain Jane Theatre Co.'s Mack & Mabel in Concert.  I really liked Little Fish at the Fringe this summer and am hoping for more of the same.  I'm also liking that there are more professional theatre companies doing musicals. 

That's only four... if I am lucky I will also make it to A Bronte Burlesque at Theatre Network.  I saw this at Fringe a few years ago and I am hoping that, like The Tudor Queens, it will be even better in a space with better sightlines and space to move.  I thought the script was quite good and would like to see it in a better space. At Shadow Theatre, Marie Antoinette, Colour of Flesh also looks intriguing, so I hope to catch that, as well. With no show in rehearsal I should be able to!

I'll also be keeping my ear to the ground for some of the yet unadvertised University Projects.  I quite enjoyed the ones I got to last year so I hope to make it out to more this year!

I haven't set a 2014 Theatre Goal yet - I started one last year, but stopped counting.  I am pretty sure that I made my goal.  I think my goal this year will be to continue to challenge myself by seeing a variety of things. I'm pretty sure I will hit a minimum of 40 shows... that actually sounds a little low.  I think also, that I will try to take theatre newbies out more.  If I can get a few more people addicted that can only be good!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking Back at 2013 - A Year in Theatre... Part Two: What I Saw...

I saw a lot of theatre this year.  I like that.  I have said it before and I will say it again, but I feel so incredibly blessed to live in Edmonton because of the variety and the amount of theatre we get to see. 

What I Saw:

First of all, this list is not exhaustive because I saw a lot.  I think you'd have to flip through the blog to read about everything.  These are what stayed with me for various reasons.  Other people would have a completely different list...

Second of all, there is no real order to this list.  It's not a ranking, more a reflection...

My favorite theatre experience of the whole year was Ride the Cyclone at the Citadel.  As I compiled everything it is the one that kept coming back to me.  So fresh, so odd, so Canadian and so well done.  I saw it twice and wished I could have seen it more.  It's not often I want to see a show more than once, but this one I did.  I would see it tomorrow if it were playing here still.

My favorite play of the year was Let the Light of Day Through from Theatre Network. As a playwright I marvelled at the unwrapping of the story and I thought that it was a beautifully presented with honesty and humour.  I laughed and I cried and I hope to see this play go further.  It is a play that transcends Edmonton and should be seen elsewhere.

The Citadel brought a lot of great moments to my year in theatre.  I loved Beth Graham and the fearless cast of The Penelopiad and I was tickled by Ronnie Burkett's Theatre of Marionettes and The Daisy Theatre (so much so that I saw that one 3 times!). I was caught off guard by how good 2 Pianos 4 Hands was... I mean, I expected good, but it surpassed my expectations! It was a treat to take my kids to that show and listen to Gibson giggle through the entire first act. it was also a treat to take my mother to see Long Day's Journey Into Night.  It has long been once of my favorite plays and it was wonderful to see it performed so excellently for the first time.

The theatre that got me thinking this year was Northern Light Theatre.  Both Ride and Dust made me think about things long after I saw them.  I am long past the casual dating of Ride and never have confronted the issues in Dust, but both were fascinating with strong performances from actors directed delicately by Trevor Schmidt.  They avoided the over-play that we see so much on our stages and took us somewhere real.  Both of these were so good, but it was An Accident that broke my heart. Michael Peng and Melissa Thinglestead - can't say much more than that. Anger, bitterness, blame, guilt and survival - It was all there. I still think about that play.

I really liked both of the Freewill Players productions this year.  I wasn't going to go to A Midsummer Night's Dream since I have seen it so many times and have even been in it, but a blog post I read intrigued me.  I was so glad I did as it re-invented it for me.  I had never seen King Lear before and went twice to make up for that! 

Speaking of Midsummer, I checked out Midsummer (a play with music) at the Roxy, the premiere production by Broken Toys Theatre and had a fabulous night laughing and feeling like I was a long for a wild ride.  I also caught Broken Toys second production, The Three Sisters, at the Varscona.  It was another laugh-filled evening.  I still marvel at the size of the cast.  For an indie production it was so weird to see so many bodies bowing.  I really loved Clinton Carew's adaptation and hope he does some more as he certainly dusted the cobwebs off this Chekhov piece.

Freewill wasn't the only place I got good Shakespeare this year.  I saw a fabulous production of MacBeth performed by the 3rd year BFA class at the U of A.  It had some of the best stage combat I have ever seen and in corner stage it was right close up and personal. I also saw one of the MFA candidates media room show - Much Ado About Nothing.  It was so fun and delightful.  You'd think  would be tired of these shows that I have seen so many times before, but when they are done right and told as though for the first time like these were, they become refreshing.

On the Big Stage - the Jubilee - I was most impressed with Billy Elliot, and with the kid that played Billy  as his triple-threat tour de force was mighty impressive. I also quite liked the Edmonton Opera's Onegin.  The clarity of this performance was amazing as I relied less on the surtitles and more on the performances of the Russian-speaking cast.  Every choice was clear and the production as a whole was beautifully sad.

There were also some lovely 'small stage' shows.  Trunk Theatre's Days of Wine and Roses, Three Form Theatre's Ordinary Days, and Horizon Player's Marion Bridge were all well-done productions which stayed with me long after I saw them. Well-acted and directed, these shows overcame their lower budgets to provide excellent evenings of theatre.

For Fringe 2013 - I did well this year.  Most everything I saw was really quite good - but the shows that have stayed with me are Hockey Night at the Puck & Pickle, Little Fish, Princess Confidential, Coraline: The Musical, and A Picasso. I could probably list more, but I wanted to pare them down a bit.  Really, I saw no duds...

It was a good year.  There were a lot more shows, but this was more about what has stayed with me.  When I read through my blog these were the shows that jumped out.

Looking Back at 2013 - A Year in Theatre... Part One: What I Did...

This was a busy year for me for theatre.  I finished off the second half of my great VUE Weekly Season Grand Prize and also had a few fabulous projects of my own on the go. This is What I Did, and the next post will be What I Saw...

What I Did:

I started the year with Auditions for ELOPE's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  It feels so long ago...  I was blown away by the auditions and was thrilled with the cast I was able to assemble. There were new faces and familiar ones and the cast had that incredible kind of synergy that made it a most joyful experience.  The show surprised a lot of people.  I had so many people tell me that they were not expecting much because of the title but then when they came to see it, they both laughed and cried and loved it.  I did too.  So much so that I saw all but 2 of the 8 performances.  Of course, I missed the most incredible one where the power went out and they finished the show in the lobby.  I followed at home on FB and Twitter and heard from cast and audience members about how absolutely wonderful the experience was.

I overlapped this with Chairing/Production Managing From Cradle to Stage at Walterdale - the annual new work festival.  I also set designed and mastered-painted that.  Luckily the run for it nested between the two weeks of Putnam so I could make it work but I was stretched pretty thin.  My goal was to create two sets that didn't feel thrown together and that could share the same space.  This doesn't always happen as the focus for this festival is on the scripts, but I wanted these playwrights to have a fully realized world for their scripts.  I think I made it work.  I had some challenges with  people on the team who didn't quite understand the lines of communication, but in the end I was happy with what was on stage.  Sometimes you just have to have longer conversations to get what will work for everyone, and Walterdale is about learning so hopefully some learning happened.

I started directing a piece for Fringe 2013, but we were on the Wait List and never came off in time to make it work. With 3 of the cast in other shows we anticipated conflicts so we let it go.  It was fun to dip the toe into the work, but letting it go cleared the way for my new job at the Citadel. I don't know if it would have been as smooth a start if I was still committed to directing.

This fall I rounded off the year with Proof at Walterdale.  I have been in love with this script for a few year now and was blessed with the support of one of the finest teams I have ever worked with. And then I got a tremendous cast.  What a cast. I will be honest, I was spoiled at auditions, there were several fine casts in there, but I was truly pleased with the one I chose.  Such dedication and commitment to the show and my process.  It was so wonderful to see onstage.  I was very, very proud of it.  The only fly in the ointment was the relatively low attendance.  I will admit being disappointed by some of the no-shows, but the crappy weather, the lack of media coverage and the Christmas season wasn't doing us any favours.  I know I have to let that go.  I don't get to everything myself because I get busy, so I can't expect everyone else to.  We did the show for those who came and everyone seemed to love it so I think I can be happy with that. Plus, my Mom, Dad, Sister and 2 of my Brothers came to see it and that hasn't happened in forever!  That was pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spice, Proof and an unfortunate Germ or two...

This weekend was to be a little holiday for me.  My sister came to town on Friday so I took the day off work to go get her from the airport and get some visiting in.  Of course, the weather has been crap so a normally 45 minutes drive to the airport took an hour and a half.  I left plenty early so that was alright and the drive back meant for more visiting so that was all cool. I had, however, woken up with a scratchy throat and low-grade headache which did not bode well for the weekend... Good thing my husband is a pharmacist.  I medicated and hoped adrenalin and positivity would carry me through the weekend!

We took in Wannabe (Spice Girls Tribute Band) at the Citadel Club that night which was so much ridiculous fun.  We were joined by friends Kim and Cliff and enjoyed much chair dancing and singing a long to the tunes we guiltily knew all the lyrics to.  Cliff provided the biggest moment of entertainment however when he and a couple of other guys jumped onstage during the encore and he recreated the splash moment from Flashdance.  It was hysterical!  A fun night and my medicine managed to carry me through it alright. It was also great to see the house so packed.  The Club is a fabulous space for shows and I am so looking forward to Hawksley Workman in January for The God That Comes. 

Saturday I was supposed to do some shopping but instead I slept in and left my sister to go off shopping with my mom and brother.  I think I needed the sleep and that night we had dinner with more family before the Closing Night of Proof. It was nice to have our biggest house for the Close and share the play with so many friends and family.  Everyone seemed really impressed with the show so I was gratified that the hard work paid off.  We then had a relatively quick strike of set and theatre clean and then a nice potluck party where we enjoyed no-pasta pasta and square root vegetables and other yummy treats.  My ongoing sickness meant I wasn't going to be able to stay too late, but it was a nice wrap up to a wonderful theatrical journey.  I was so pleased with everyone on the team and in the cast.  I hope to be able to work with them all again!

Sunday the cold kicked into high gear.  I missed breakfast with the family and slept quite late.  I also missed a baby shower for a good friend but sent the gift on without me and my germs.  You do not bring germs to an 8 month pregnant lady.  You just don't...

And the cold continues... I missed work on Monday - did some work from home (was actually impressed with how much I could do from home - this Internet thing is pretty cool!), but slept a lot and medicated a lot.  I made it in today because the low grade headache seemed to be abated, but still left a little early when the productivity seemed to drop off.  I am hoping for even better tomorrow.  I have a long day tomorrow as it is Christmas Concert time for Gibson at his school.  I'm trying to get caught up with Christmas prep - a little baking, a little cleaning, bought a turkey, did some of my cards and some of my shopping - but I have a ways to go and if I don't get back to 100% soon, I am not going to be ready! Wish me luck and good health, please!

Anyhow, there are a few great theatre opportunities for you all this holiday season - The Snow Globe Festival is in it's third year, A Christmas Carol at the Citadel has a week left in it's run, With Bells On at Theatre Network is on, The Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant Ever is at the Varscona and Grindstone Theatre is a having a special Christmas 11 O'clock Number. So there is a lot to see this week.  It seems to quiet down over the actual holiday, but this week is packed with things to do and see!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winding Up a Great Couple of Months with Math, Madness, Genius and Doubt...

We are approaching the end of the run... only two more shows left and the journey that has been Proof will be over.  It's been a great experience. The cast really rose to the challenge of the script and they have consistently delivered engaged, present and compelling performances.  I was blessed with a fabulous design team who delivered pitch perfect details in set, costumes, props, lights and sound.  It was really lovely to just direct and not worry about the details because I had a team that was looking after it.  And my crew... I left the show in their capable hands with no hint of fear that it would be well cared for and looked after.

There were disappointments, mostly that we were hit squarely with the cold and snow and that affected attendance.  It descended on opening weekend, receded a bit around our dark day and then came back today.  It's hard to compel people to venture out when police are recommending people stay indoors. Throw in a lack of media attention and you have a recipe for disaster.

We did get a fabulous review from Sound and Noise which I was extremely pleased with.  You can't knock a review like that. Also, local blogger Louise Mallory wrote a nice review of the show.   VUE Weekly and St. Albert Gazette also did lovely preview articles on us. We also hosted a tweet-up night and had great fun following the show on twitter.  It was very cool to catch the reactions of the audience in near-real time. Anyhow, have a read and then buy your ticket.  I guarantee it is worth the price of admission and venturing out in the cold.

I will miss this when it's done. When you direct you kind of feel lost once the show opens.  I have been back a few times but I wanted to give the show and cast time to deepen and grow.  But I am really looking forward to seeing it again on Closing.  It will be a bitter-sweet evening I am sure.

I hope to see you out, if not at my show, then maybe at yours...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Chekhov Makes Me Laugh! Yay!

This past week was insane!  I had two Openings: Proof on Wednesday and A Christmas Carol on Thursday.  As Director of the first and Marketing Administrator for the second I was very busy!  Fortunately both went very well.  I have been very pleased with Proof and it was great to share it with an audience.  Although the weather kept the turn-out smaller than I would have liked, they were extremely appreciative and I received glowing reviews from audience members at the reception following the show.  I hope that you all can take the time to see it.  I guarantee a great night of theatre worth braving the cold for. It runs until December 14th and the tickets range from $12-$16 so it's really an affordable theatre opportunity.

A Christmas Carol also went well.  It is so cool to see the people coming to Opening Night for this show.  Many of them have seen it before and they all look so excited to be back for it.  For many of them it is the kick-off of their Christmas season.  I also liked meeting the parents of the kids in the show. The pride and expectation is visceral.  If you haven't seen it before it is definitely worth checking out.  If you have, you know it's worth a return visit.  There's a very good reason why so many people have made this part of their holiday tradition!

Today, I saw the penultimate performance of Broken Toys Theatre production of The Three Sisters at the Varscona.  IT WAS SO GOOD!  I really wish I could have seen it earlier so I could have told you all how good sooner (but this literally was the first chance I had to get to it...).  The last show is currently underway so if you missed it you are out of luck. Clinton Carew did a fantastic job as both translator and director.  It's the same play by Chekhov, but he made it accessible and engaging. I'm really hoping this qualifies for Sterling 'new work', I am not sure how the category works for adaptations/translations.  He really tapped into how funny Chekhov should be.  The direction is also very elegant.  His use of the space is brilliant and often there are three clusters of action onstage, but never are you focused on the wrong grouping.  It moves briskly so that the 3 hour running time flies by.  Great performances from all involved.  Indeed the cast list is amazing.  It's so cool to see so many bodies onstage in an indie theatre production.  Everyone is in the same world.  Hard to pick a favorite when everyone is so strong.  Well done!  This is their second production and they are certainly proving themselves to be a company to watch!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Fringe on the Horizon... The Far Horizon...

So in the midst of all my busy, the Fringe Lottery was held last week.  I couldn't attend because I was knee-deep in a tech rehearsal, but had my iPad on hand for updates and was overwhelmed to get word that Finally Sauces was drawn, not once, but twice.  Round Barn did not get pulled, so we will try again next year if everyone is still up for it. I had decided to let the Fringe gods decide which projects would be on the docket and would have been happy with one, or two and probably stressed with all three so this has worked out.  We (Finally Sauces) will be presenting one of my scripts and one of Anne Marie's.  After Proof gets up and running we will have to have a meeting to figure out roles and responsibilities and discuss possible casting, but it is exciting to know so far in advance that we will be in.  I have done the Wait List before and that is stressful - best when you get in and are ready, but very sad when you are working on being ready and you don't get off the list. Trust me, the stress level drops considerably when you know one way or another.

In any case, it is fuel to put my focus on my writing at this point.  I have a script, but it needs work.  I look forward to having a deadline to push me forward.