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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Family Adventure... Singing in the Rain at Metro Cinema - Make Mine Hollywood Film Festival!

So last Friday, Metro Cinema kicked off it's Make Mine Hollywood Film Festival in conjunction with the World Premiere show, Make Mine Love at will be opening in a couple weeks at the Citadel.  Make Mine Love is set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, so all the films in the film festival are classics from the 1930s and 40s. We took the boys to the Gala Opening to meet the cast of Make Mine Love and to watch one of my personal favorite films, Singing in the Rain.  It was funny when I told Gibson we were going to see it.  He scrunched up his face and grumbled, "Isn't that an old movie?" as though this were torture I was about subject him too.  I reassured him that, yes, it was an old movie, but that it was a very, very good movie. So, off we went.  There was an unexpected bonus for wee Gibson, too.  As we stood in the lobby waiting for the movie and event to start he looked at the big poster for Make Mine Love and whispered to me, "Does that say Mark Meer?"  He's a big fan of the Irrelevant Show and Mark Meer is his favourite so when he found out Mr. Meer was going to be there, he was doubly pleased. He didn't want to meet him, too star struck, but thought it was cool to see him so up close and personal.

I was really happy with how the boys reacted to the movie. They laughed and were mesmerized. At one point during a tap number I leaned over to Oliver and said, "Isn't that amazing?" and he replied, eyes totally glued to the screen, "Yes."  After the movie, both boys said they liked Donald O'Connor the best because he was so funny, but they found so many things to comment on afterwards. Gibson and Mark even made up songs to the tunes from the movie - Singing in the Dark, and Good Evenin'.  I was so pleased to share this favourite film with them and have them respond so positively. 

I am hoping to take them to see Make Mine Love.  It's not specifically for kids, but it has that same sensibility and slap-stick humour.  I think they will be even more impressed to see that kind of story play out onstage.  There's some pretty amazing things in the script, from a car chase, to a bus crash, to crazy costume designers, to bigger than life characters that I think they will be thoroughly entertained. I will get to check it out early in the run to make sure that it's appropriate, but I have read the script and know my kids so I think that it will be. It's definitely not for little, little ones.

Monday, April 28, 2014

An Alberta Family Fun Vacation! Woo!

This past Easter weekend we closed up the store and headed to Jasper for a few days, just the family.  It was really nice.  We stayed at the Sawridge, which was very comfortable, with nice restaurants, and a pool which was a big highlight for the boys.  It was a quick trip, but there is something about the mountain air that recharges me.

We got in Friday evening, had a little supper, and then went for a little walk towards the town.  It was a bit rainy so we retreated to the hotel where we settled in and played charades and taboo like games (it's an App on my husband's iPad and it's terrific).  We even got the electronics obsessed 12 year-old involved by playing the video game and Pok√©mon categories! Then we snuggled in and watched Frozen on the hotel TV.  My older son and husband hadn't seen it before so this seemed like the right time.  I liked it just as much the second time!

On Saturday we started with a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel and then headed into town for a little exploration.  I like Jasper and it was nice to window shop a bit.  We also checked out the VIA rail station which is like a mini-museum in some respects. The boys, however, wanted to get to the wilderness, so we drove up to Lac Beauvert and hiked around the lake.  we got some great walking in and wanted to try and make it to the JPL, but the little guy kiboshed that and we instead headed back to the van.  He was just not able to walk too much more (late night, tired camper!).  We instead headed back to Jasper where we grabbed some Pizza before returning to the hotel to make good use of the hotel's pool.  Mark caught a nap and I read while the boys played and swam.  I think they could easily have stayed in the pool for hours and hours. 

The next morning was Easter and the boys woke up to an Egg Hunt in the room, followed by an Egg Hunt in the hotel.  They got a lot of chocolate, luckily not much that I like.  The Easter Bunny was smart about that! After all the hunting we hit the road and drove back to Edmonton for Easter dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's with family and yet another Egg Hunt. 

It was nice to have this little mini-vacation and to enjoy one of our Province's treasures.  We have gone to Drumheller before, and I think next I would like to take them to Banff.  So much wonderful to see!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#yegbookclub - On April 14th we talked about Pilgrimage by Diana Davidson

This past Monday I was joined on twitter to discuss the latest #yegbookclub selection, Pilgrimage, by Diana Davidson.  It was a lively discussion that grew as more people joined in and we were even visited by the author who shared some answers to questions about the book.  If you haven't had a chance to read it, I recommend, particularly if you are interested in early Alberta history.  The book takes place in the 1890s in and around Lac St. Anne and Fort Edmonton and bravely tells the stories of several women of different social situations and cultural backgrounds. Themes of pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood are strongly woven into the tapestry of the Northern new frontier.  As well, the challenges of clashing cultures is explored from more than one point of view. It has moments of passion and sadness and offers a unique look into our present location as it was. It made me reflect on how things are today and how some things have changed greatly, but other things not nearly as much as you would think. If you want to follow the conversation use the tags #yegbookclub and #Pilgrimage to search the message stream.

The next #yegbookclub selection is (drum roll please)...

Waiting for Columbus by Thomas Trofmiuk

The book already has a bit of a pedigree:
WINNER – City of Edmonton Book Prize
FINALIST – Georges Bugnet Award for Novel
NOMINEE 2011 – International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A Richard and Judy Book Club pick for fall 2010
Picked as one of Richard and Judy’s “100 Books of the decade”
A #1 Edmonton Journal Bestseller
An Best Book of 2009

The next Book Club will be On Monday, May 26.  I am bumping the time to 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. as several of our participants had to leave in the middle to put kids to bed. Hopefully this helps out! There is a flexibility to the Club that I am hoping allows everyone who wants to participate to join in. I will again make a list of prompts to help guide the discussion, but really, the beauty is that you can talk about whatever you want!

I hope to see you all there!

Theatre Alberta - Theatre in Alberta - A Board Meeting in Calgary and a Trip to The Mountaintop

This past weekend I took a trip to Calgary for one of my quarterly Theatre Alberta Board Meetings.  This was a big one, chock full of great conversation about what Theatre Alberta is and what we want it to be in order to best serve theatre practitioners in the province.  We also had time for strategic planning to look forward into the future.  That's always a challenge because you never know what the future will bring, but the optimism and vision of this Board is inspiring to me.  We have a fabulous mix of people on the Board from a variety of theatre practices and above-all they are all invested in the cultivation of a healthy arts culture within the province. We also have amazing Staff and every Board meeting I leave more impressed with those who do the front line work. I drove done with one of our relatively new Board members and this was not only great company for the drive, but it also gave me the opportunity to get to know her better and she is delightful.

One of the other things we did was take in Theatre Calgary's production of The Mountaintop.  I was very glad to be able to do this.  As you may well have guessed from the contents of this blog, I love to see theatre, and in particular I love to see a great variety of theatre of different types and in different spaces produced by different artists, so this was a great treat!

The play was very well done and it was a fascinating 'what if' story of the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s (Kevin Hanchard) life.  A visitor comes to the room but it becomes clear that she is more than what she seems.  I guessed early on that something was up with Camae (Beryl Bain) as there was a manner to her that seemed a little at odds with what she purported to be.  Both Hanchard and Bain were strong playing off each other and although the piece is overall respectful of King's memory, it also does not forget that he was a real man. I will say I liked the first 75 minutes of the show, but I absolutely LOVED the final 15 minutes. I think the pace could have picked up in some place early on, but that might just be the wanting to get there in retrospect.  The ending very much answered my most important question about any play, "Why this play now?" in a flash and boom!  It made me think and continues to make me think.

I do have to say one thing though.  We were in the second balcony and I thought I was going to pass out from the heat. Heat rises and boy did it ever.  It was a real relief to walk down the stairs to the lobby after the show.  I would have stood for the bows, but with the heat I was a little worried about vertigo hitting since the balcony is so high and steep.  Always cool to be in a new theatre, but I think I would have liked to have been closer to the ground.

In any case, a great night of theatre as a capstone to the excellent Theatre Alberta weekend!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Join the Board of Stage Struck!

Help develop and maintain community theatre in our city!

Stage Struck! the Edmonton Regional One Act Festival  is recruiting committee members. Stage Struck! is an adjudicated adult one act play festival scheduled for February 2015 at the Walterdale Theatre.  Positions to be filled include publicity, box office and reception.  The committee meets 3 or 4 times per year and works the Friday night and Saturday of the festival. If you would like to play a role in encouraging community theatre, please contact Mary-Ellen Perley, Committee Chair at for more information or to send a letter of interest.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Great Way to Wrap up Fifty Years - Madama Butterfly at the Edmonton Opera

Last Thursday I was very lucky to take in the Media Dress for Madama Butterfly with the Edmonton Opera at the Jubilee Auditorium.  I say very lucky because it was truly a wonderful show. I am never sure about how I will connect to Opera because I do not know it  or understand it as well as I do musical theatre, but this one really pulled me in.  The piece rests heavily on the shoulders of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) played by Anne Sophie Deprels and she is simply marvelous.  Her voice is gorgeous, she looks perfect and she IS Butterfly.  It was truly some of the finest acting I have ever seen in an opera.  Always present and clear in her choices and truly mesmerizing. One of the biggest challenges for any actor is to stay present during long periods of silence, but Duprels manages this exquisitely as she waits for the return of Pinkerton (Luciano Ganci).  It's a long scored section with vocals from an off-stage ensemble (Coro a bocca chiusa - Humming Chorus), but Duprels holds us in her hand as she goes from hope to distress to resignation.  I think I was even holding my breath for part of it.

The whole cast is brilliantly committed to supporting her.  Ganci brings a likability to the crass Pinkerton.  You can see why she would fall for him, despite his shallowness.  He has charisma and a gorgeous voice and commits fully to the slightly abhorrent character.  Margaret Thompson, as Suzuki, gives a layered performance that is thoughtful and Il cannone del porto! ("The cannon at the harbor!" - The Flower Duet) was one of my favorite scenes.  The two women's voices merge so beautifully.  As Sharpless, John Fanning was also very strong.  He demonstrates apology for his countryman's actions so honestly.

I was so satisfied with this show.  The entire cast seemed committed to the story and it was cohesive and tight. I was a little confused by some of the set elements as I'm not sure if the little mirrors on the front panels worked, but the cast committed to what was there and made it work. I thought a lot about Miss Saigon both during and after, since I hadn't realized that Madama Butterfly was the source material.  I think Puccinni made a stronger choice by making Pinkerton so shallow, than Schonberg and Boublil did with Chris in Miss Saigon.  It felt much more honest in that respect.

All in all a lovely night - see, I was lucky!

Madama Butterfly has two more performances on April 8th and 10th.  Tickets are available online here or you can call 780-429-1000.