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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Found Festival - Exploring Theatre in New Locations!

Coming up soon in Edmonton is the second annual Found Festival presented by Common Ground Arts.

WHAT IS THE FOUND FESTIVAL? A site-specific multidisciplinary arts festival that takes place in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood. It’s a living, breathing showcase of dance, theatre, visual art, music, creative writing and more all in unexpected places. Their aim is to produce an event that is affordable, accessible, interactive, and empowering, encouraging artists to contribute to the cultural landscape of the city.

Past venues have included a funeral home, residential garage, and a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan. They've had live music played off rooftops, movies projected onto buildings, and a play performed— in the middle of June— on a giant pile of snow. Some pieces are designed for as few as 5 people at a time, with others accommodating as many as 200.

This year: 

2014 Festival Schedule
Thursday, June 26 7:30 pm – 1:00 am
Friday, June 27 3:00 pm – 1:00 am
Saturday, June 28 10:00 am – 1:00 am
Sunday, June 29 11:00 am – 1:00 am

Festival Line Up
Click HERE for Detailed 2014 Line Up!

Individual Tickets – $8/$10
Festival Pass – $40
Festival Main Grounds, Flash Mob, & Citizen’s Gallery – FREE!

Looking through the line up of shows, things range from TYA shows like Never, Never by Ellen Chorley which takes place in the River Valley and by the Strathcona Trolley Tracks and the audience walks along with the Lost Boys and Darling children through the urban wilderness (sensible walking shows recommended); to Faraday Cage by Morgan Smith which explores the darker side of the High Level Bridge; to Live Mural Painting by visual artist Shannon Clark. There's a lot more - check out the links for more information.  You can also contribute to the group's indigogo campaign which helps make this an affordable event for all.

A Couple of Shows... Feels like a while since I've seen anything!

This past weekend I took in two fun shows after what feels like forever... I think that's because I have been in rehearsal and busy getting other things done, but also the theatre season slows down a bit in Edmonton in June because seasons wind down and a lot of theatre artists start getting ready for Fringe. There are a few festivals on their way between now and Fringe though, so there are a few things to see!

Friday night, I took in the Opening Night of Teatro La Quindicina's Lucy and Mr. Plate.  It's a sequel to a 2001 production called Citizen Plate (which I did not see as I was living elsewhere at the time).  Ned Plate is played by Jeff Haslam and is delightful.  He's a bit tell it like it is, with a plainspokenness that is both charming and small-town Alberta (Mundare - the town of origin).  While on holiday in Hawaii, Ned meets Lucy (played by Jana O'Connor), a free spirit from his youth in Mundare.  As her relationships tumble and turn, Ned steps in as new best friend and confident and helps her through it all .  It's a light and funny show that is never hard to engage with.  Ned Plate's turn of phrase and view of the world is entertaining and Haslam plays him with an authenticity that charms us all. The show has some meta-theatre moments as Haslam plays Ned playing all of Lucy's ill-suited suitors.  It's the kind of play where we, the audience, are just as much a part of the show, where Haslam, as Ned,can make a comment to us about the over-loud Turkish music playing from Gazebo Park across the street and it works and is hilarious. O'Connor is luminous and the perfect counter point in her try-anything attitude to the more reticent Ned Plate. There are no earthquakes or deep reveals in this show, but it is delightfully fun and these are two characters I am glad I got to meet.

On Saturday night I caught Two One Way Tickets To Broadway's La Cage Aux Folles at La Cite.  La Cage Aux Folles is the musical that inspired the movie The Birdcage that starred Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, it focuses on a gay couple: Georges, (Morgan Smith) the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin (Ron Long), his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when George's son, Jean-Michel (Andrew Boyd), brings home his fiancee's ultra-conservative parents to meet them. At the core of the play is really the relationship between Albin and Georges who, at a time when it was not legal nor publicly accepted, really have a true marriage.  Long and Smith do a really nice job with this relationship in both book and musical scenes. Long's rendition of I Am What I Am is particularly strong, as is their duet Song on the Sand. However, there are elements of the script that feel a bit dated, and I wish the time had been played up a bit more to really highlight the attitudes of the time period more as I think things that shocked in the 80's don't necessarily shock anymore, at least not to the same degree... or maybe I know too many drag performers...  I have seen The Birdcage more than once, so the big finale wasn't as surprising as I wanted it to be.  I think for someone not familiar with the plot twists it might be more compelling.  The people in the row in front of me were much more surprised so I think they didn't know what was going to happen.  This is a piece that works best with no spoilers. There is some wonderful singing and choreography and this company attacks it with gusto, but for me, this show is all about Albin and Georges.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SUMMER READING! #yegbookclub

On May 26th we had a lively chat on twitter with author Thomas Trofmiuk about Waiting for Columbus.  It was wonderful to be able to ask questions about the characters and their possible paths and has the author answer them.  It was very clear that they all continued to live outside the book.  We begged for a Consuela sequel as she was a favorite of many of us readers. It was also great to learnt hat there is a Waiting for Columbus movie in the works.  When I read the book I was struck by how cinematic it was and, like The English Patient, I thought it would lend itself to film.

Following the discussion I indicated that there would be some Summer Reading Choice(s) for the next #yegbookclub.  I don't know about you, but I am always hard to pin down for the summer.  With holidays and day camps for the kids and, for this year, directing two Fringe Shows I thought we could have 2 selections to read over the summer and then in September we could take two evenings to chat about those books.

So (drumroll, please) the two Summer Reading Selections are:

The Dilettantes by Michael Hingston
I was inspired by the Alberta Reads panel and thought a humourous choice would make for a great summer choice.  The description and topic and the feedback from the reader made me think this would be a great book to sit on the deck and read while sipping my wine!

We'll have our #yegbookclub chat for The Dilettantes on Monday, September 8th, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. I hope Michael Hingston will be able to join us!


Demon Gate: Ehrich Weisz Chronicles By Marty Chan
Perhaps this is a reaction to a recent article circulating about grown-ups reading fiction written for younger audiences, but I feel a compulsion to do so and I like the genre.  I think for summer it might be nice to check out this dimension hopping series.  Also, I have an almost 13 year old and I wanted to pick something we could both read.  He's not on twitter, but I am going to get his questions and feedback!

We'll have our #yegbookclub chat for Demon Gate on Monday, September 15th, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. I hope Marty Chan will be able to join us!

So happy reading! We'll chat in September!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Jazz and Babies! The Jazz Mother at Teatro La Quindicina

I had a fun time this past Thursday at the Varscona for Opening Night of The Jazz Mother presented by Teatro La Quindicina. We were greeted in the lobby by a server with champagne flutes and what followed was a laughter-filled evening.  My date, @stuporstar, was the perfect choice.  She confessed to me that the first play she had ever seen was a Teatro Show (Fall Down Go Boom! A Skater's Tragedy in 1996) and she was so excited to be there.  She has also requested  a remount of said show as it was the beginning of a love-affair with theatre for her. After seeing The Jazz Mother, I can see how Teatro is the perfect first introduction to theatre.  It's witty, clever, and quirky with just the right amount of ridiculous. Each of the three actors (Jocelyn Ahlf, Mat Busby, and Kristi Hansen) bring charm, excellent comic-timing, and likability to the stage.  Busby is endearing as the owner of the boarding house, hopelessly in love with his tenant Enid. Hansen, as the nurse Enid, is hilarious.  Her delivery of the line "I'm trash." almost killed me. And it's hard to imagine anyone but Ahlf being able to pull off Bobby Romayne, the titular character.  Her audition/monologue is simply brilliant.  Don't expect anything too deep here - this is a show to just relax and have fun with! Have a glass of champagne and enjoy the singing, the romance, and the ridiculousness that ensues!

Inspector General and Wonderful Town - Two very different productions!

This week I took in the 2 Citadel Young Company productions. On Tuesday, I went to the Dress Rehearsal of The Inspector General.  The Inspector General is an adaptation by Michael Chemers of the Nikolai Gogol play.  It was directed by Dave Horak and featured the 13 members of the 2013/14 Young Acting Company.  It was so much irreverent fun.  Set in the fictional town of Edmoronto it was chock full of topical references to Canadian political corruption. It tells the tale of an incredibly corrupt town run by idiots and crooks, who hear that an Inspector is coming to check them out.  They mistakenly identify a visitor as the Inspector and much bribery, flirtation, and other deals ensue to try to secure his good report.  The cast embraced the ridiculous and played this full-tilt.  Eric Smith, as the Rod-Ford-like Mayor, seemed born to play his role.  I was also very impressed with Niko Ouellette as the mistaken-for Inspector General.  Ouellette has an incredible charisma that I can see serving him well onstage in the future.  The other stand-out for me was Eva Foote, who had so many wonderful little subtle moments.  However, the whole cast did a great job. They worked very well as an ensemble, not afraid to make the big choices and understanding that those were what the piece needed. It was nice to see a young group like this so tight onstage with no weak links.

Then, on Sunday evening, I took in Wonderful Town presented by the Young Musical Company with Direction by Bridget Ryan and Musical Direction by Sally Hunt.  It was also very well done, but couldn't have been more different a show.  Its origins fundamentally come from the collection of autobiographical short stories by Ruth McKenney published in The New Yorker three years following the incidents portrayed where she and her acting bound sister seek out success from their basement apartment of New York City's Greenwich Village. Set in the 1940s, it's songs by Leonard Bernstein are bright and chipper.  There's a variety of styles and the cast play multiple characters that populate Greenwich Village. As the sisters, Eileen and Ruth, Sydney Williams and Zia Mizera are excellent.  Williams channels Grable and Monroe as the younger wannabe actress that all the fellows fall for.  Mizera is a born comic as the wise-cracking writer.  Both have superb voices that seem so well suited to this 1950s musical. Again, the entire cast is tight and cohesive.  It's hard to pull out any one in particular because I had so many favorites.  Adam Houston is fabulous as the Irish Cop and the awkward Walgreen Manager; I found myself looking forward to the Skiddely-Bops of Bryce Stewart's nightclub owner, Valenti; Michelle Diaz is a fire-cracker as the landlord/painter Appopolous; and Roland Meseck as romantic lead, Robert Baker, has a baritone that recalls Sinatra. I look forward to hearing him sing onstage in the future.  All in all, a Wonderful Time!

Photo Credit: EPIC Photography