Tonight I returned to my old stomping grounds of the University of Alberta to see one of the two nights of The New Works Festival. I am sad I won't be able to see both nights, but there are only so many available days in my calendar right now. I am always interested in seeing new work and I think it is fabulous that the University of Alberta has this festival. Each year, since 2000, they have produced 6 new works by University students, providing opportunities for dramaturgy and direction. I am sure for many it is only one stop in the development of their plays, but it is also an important one. I have both had a script in as a playwright (Tight Rope) and have directed (The Playmates) and found the experiences to be extremely rewarding. Tonight I saw The Comedian, Solitaire and All That's Left. These were three very different shows in various stages of development, and the evening had many laughs and many moments of tension. I connected most to Solitaire, by Sophie Gareau-Brennan. It was so lovely and the language was very elegant and essential. No wasted words and repetition was deliberate and served a purpose. It was also directed beautifully with some wonderful choreography. It was a lovely poem about how we are sometimes alone even though the world is crowded. There is only one more day of New Works and you can catch all the shows if you hit both the matinee and evening performances tomorrow.
Solitaire reminded me a lot of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata which is currently playing at the Citadel. I got to see it twice this week. Both pieces make observations about human connection in today's modern age. Craigslist was very funny, but also kind of sad. I wasn't sure what to expect - a musical based on Craigslist ads? What's that going to be like? It's not a traditional musical, but rather a Song Cycle. The songs are based on and include actual text from Craigslist ads. The oddities of what some people are looking for or looking to sell are truly comical, but there is also an underlying theme of seeking connection. It made me think of my FB and Twitter feeds. There are people who I think are lonely based on what they post and some of the posts are like breadcrumbs hoping to lead people to them to make a connection. Some are more like blaring announcements about what they are doing and who they are, as those each post is a confirmation of how much they count. Craigslist shows the people at the ends of the messages. The real, human people who are just seeking a connection but who don't know how to make them without help. The music is catchy, yet complicated, the actors are all up to the task. There's some phenomenal singing. I hope to get back to see it again. A Craigslist Cantata runs until February 23rd. It's in The Club, so seating is limited. I would advise buying tickets sooner, rather than later.