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Friday, August 29, 2014

What's On in September?

September is a traditionally quiet month for theatre in Edmonton.  I think the Fringe has something to do with that.  People need a little time to recover, rehearse and build the next show.  Similarly the audience needs a bit of down time to handle all that happens in the Fall and many are a bit tired out and pocket poor from whatever shenanigans they have participated in over the summer months.

There are a couple of shows coming towards the end of September to kick off the 2014-15 Theatre Season.

 Kim's Convenience by Ins Choi opens the 2014/15 season at the Citadel Theatre.  This is the Soulpepper Theatre production which started at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival.  It's a tight little comedy about a Korean family who runs a convenience store in the rapidly changing Regent Park area of Toronto.  Following it's runaway success at the Toronto Fringe, it was picked up by Soulpepper for an even more successful production (both commercially and critically) and then the show began a National Tour. This is a quintessentially Canadian story (how many of us are immigrants?) and has been described as both hilarious and touching. Kim's Conveniences runs at the Citadel Theatre in the Shoctor from Sept 20th to October 11th.

Fatboy, at Theatre Network is another show with it's roots in the Fringe. This time it's the Sterling-Award winning show from the 2012 Edmonton International Fringe. Described as a live-action Punch and Judy show inspired by Alfred Jarry's UBU ROI! Scatological, scabrous and scandalous - a pummeling comedy that will leave you punch drunk. Fatboy runs from September 16th to 28th at the Roxy Theatre. 

Finally, The Violet Hour kicks off the Studio Theatre season at the Timm's Centre. A deliciously dark comedy set in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby era. A Princeton graduate who wishes to be a publisher must choose between two manuscripts: his best friend from college's masterpiece, or his lover's compelling memoir. I beleive this would be one of the MFA Candidate's shows but I am not sure which one. The show runs from September 18th to 27th.

It's going to be hard for me to wait until halfway through the month to see anything.  I'm hoping the start of school will be enough crazy to keep me satisfied until these shows open!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fringe Wrap-Up

It feels a little weird to write a wrap-up because technically I am not done.  I have a hold-over show to go to this Saturday so that means it's technically still Fringe, right? I have to say, I was very pleased with the line up for hold-overs this year.  I think they really represent some of the best work that was presented this year - best in that the companies involved worked hard and went the extra mile to produce something that was artistically excellent. It's also very diverse, which I like, as I think it represents the diversity of what Fringe goers want to see. Also, all of the shows held-over made my Word of Mouth posts which tells me that they were the kinds of shows that a Fringe Goer would tell someone to go to!

You can find the Hold-Overs here.

So, as I look back, here are the shows that resonated the most with me from this year's Fringe Festival.  Bear in mind I did not see everything (I think I saw 27 shows in addition to my own 2):

DogFight - This show left me crying. Other than the seating, it felt like so much more than a Fringe show.

McCrackin 2: The Whackining - Going to this show felt like an event.  The theatre was packed and even before the show started there was an electricity.  Then it started and was deliciously ridiculous!

eleven-oh-four - Best new work I saw this Fringe.  Creepy and hilarious.

Flora and Fawna - Hilarious and touching.  No Mean Girls!

Red Wine, French Toast and the Best Sex You've Ever Had - such a cool show - surprising, athletic, emotional and whimsical.

3... 2... 1... - This was the last show I saw of Fringe and it was well worth the wait.  It's a tightrope of a show that requires excellent direction and acting or else it could easily be a disaster.  Luckily, with Wayne Paquette at the helm and Jamie Cavanaugh and Chris W. Cook on stage it veered close enough to the edge to keep us pulled in, but never went off into melodrama.

Anyhow, I hope you all had a great Fringe.  I know I did.  Two shows was a little much for me to manage, but luckily I had great teams to help them come together and run! See you next August!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Five Show Friday at Fringe!

I saw four shows in addition to my own yesterday and in my travels I got from the Fringe site to Scona High School in less than 10 minutes.  I am pretty proud of myself! Here are the highlights from what I saw!

Red Wine, French Toast, and the Best Sex you Ever Had - A Sold Out Westbury Theatre for a dance show? WHY?  Because it was so good.  Accessible, complicated, whimsical, & saucy - so many descriptors for this show.  It's held over for good reason and I am so glad to see a piece like this in the mix.  This is one of those fringe gems that makes the Fringe lottery of ticket buying pay off.  You pay $15 and you get to see something worth so much more.

Polly, Polly - A really interesting concept and very funny solo piece all about Polly. Sit centre if you can because of the sight-lines in the space, but it's still engaging even from the sides.  It surprised me a little because it wasn't what I was expecting - that's always a good thing. Lots of laughs, and a little bit more.

Dogfight - This show had me in tears at the end.  It's hard to believe that this was a fringe show, the quality of the production was so good.  Excellent singing and acting all-around, but especially from the leads Chris Scott and Mary Kate Whitehead.  Sydney Williams is another stand-out in a smaller role but I cant' wait to see her again onstage.  She has something. Like Red Wine, French Toast this is one of those gems that you are lucky to see. I am stunned that it got anything less than 5 stars because I honestly do not know what more they could have done.

I've got a couple more to see tonight and tomorrow.  I hope you manage to get out to see some great stuff. I know I have!

Word of Mouth... Saturday, August 23rd... Fringe 2014

A Couple More Word of Mouth Recommendations... I was running a lot yesterday so I didn't get a chance to talk much...

3... 2... 1...
The Story of O's
McCrackin 2 (good thing it's held over!)
Daddy Issues

Two more days, catch 'em while they're here!

As to the running, over the last few days I made it from Holy Trinity to the Garneau Theatre (Metro Cinema) in 6 minutes and from the Fringe Grounds to Scona in less than ten minutes.  For the first feat, Keri Mitchell dubbed me a "Fringe Goddess" so I am going to be getting that on a t-shirt!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fringe Highlights, Thursday, August 21st - TONIGHT I LAUGHED! A LOT!!

Today was our Back to Back Shows day for Crack and Little Monsters.  Both shows went well with healthy audiences for the afternoon and engaged and appreciative audiences.  So wonderful to see familiar faces as well as new faces of people who just came to check us out. We only have one more show left for Crack (Sunday - 8 p.m.) but there are two chances to catch Little Monsters (Friday - 12:30 p.m. and Saturday - 11 p.m.). The response for both has been terrific so I hope you get a chance to catch one or both of them.

After the double feature I took in my Janine Hodder Double Feature!  First up was Swordplay by David Belke with music by Darrin Hagen. It's a silly but clever story of royal siblings separated at birth with a prophecy and evil villains and assassins.  The cast was wonderful.  Great voices from pretty much everyone (although I wished for mics - but it is fringe) and excellent comic timing and choices.  Mat Busby was delightful as the not so bright but charming suitor to Jenna Dykes, the far from helpless princess in disguise.  Loved the fight scenes, especially the ones between Garrett Ross and Janine Hodder. I think, however, the one that made me laugh the most was Jason Hardwick as the Evil usurper.  He was very funny in Superman, but he certainly kicked up a notch for this one. It's silly fun, but this cast makes it a good choice!

Then it was off to McCrackin 2: The Whackining all the way down on 109th street.  The place was packed and it is huge.  I'm betting the Fringe grounds were empty because everyone was at McCrackin!  Accidental Humour does such an amazing job, but this time it felt like they outdid themselves.  Playing on action movie tropes with a seriousness of tone that amps up the parody, they pulled out all the stops. I laughed. A. Lot. I'm pretty loud too... so I think they must know how much I enjoyed it. I wish, wish, wish I could see it again, but I have a show on Friday and Saturday.  I'm crossing my fingers for hold-overs because I really, really, really want to see it again. I also feel like we all didn't really pay them enough for what we got.  You can see they haven't cut corners.  I think there was over 300 people there tonight.  I hear the sales for Saturday are already pretty good, so I'd suggest buying now and going to see it.  It's a movie and a play and both are hysterical. 

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2014 - Thursday, August 22nd

Here are the Word of Mouth Recommendations for Thursday, August 22nd. I had both my shows back to back today and then saw two shows so I didn't get to ask a lot of people... but here you go!

Shangri-La - I have to say I have received the most number of recommendations for this show than any other.  It shows up in the list on any given day only once, BUT I actually have had more than one person that day recommend it. I'm hoping to fit it in, if I can. 

Eavesdrop - This is also a repeat!

Her Mark - Also a repeat!

God is a Scottish Drag Queen - Again!

3... 2... 1... - We've seen this one before too!

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman - First day to make the list!

AN UPDATE - I keep forgetting to put Crookback on this list.  It came to me from someone via twitter so it wasn't in my notebook, but they wanted me to make sure I got it on the list!

I hope you all make it out to some shows - I cannot guarantee the pedigree of these recommendations, but the repeats make me think that there is something to them!  Happy Fringing!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fringe - From Monday to Wednesday...

I slowed down a bit because having two shows was catching up to me, but I have still seen some good things.  Here are the highlights of Monday to Wednesday:

The Deep Blue - Moody, tortured, well-acted and directed. If you like a serious piece and if your fringe show choice doesn't have to be about laughs, this is a solid choice.

Her Mark - Atmospheric monologues about a family of women from Newfoundland.  Gorgeous lighting and authentic in look and tone.  I loved hearing the accents (reminded me of home - Fort McMurray).  Cheryl Jameson delivers one monologue that nearly broke my heart.

Little Miss Understood - Any parent of a teen will relate to this, although the teen onstage seemed far more likable than was implied (maybe I'm just comparing her to my own). It's a light comedy and suitable for 10 and up.

eleven-oh-four - I CANNOT SAY ANY MORE STRONGLY: SEE THIS SHOW - This is my favorite of the Fringe so far. I am not done, but this is a brilliant new work, written and performed by Cat Walsh.  She is excellent, hilarious, and note perfect.  It's very funny, a little creepy and proof that simplicity is often best, especially with a strong script.

I hope you are all getting out to shows. I have 9 more tickets purchased and room for a couple more if I have the brain for it. I also have my second double header for Little Monsters and Crack tomorrow so if you are free in the afternoon - come and check them out! Crack is on at 2:30 p.m. and Little Monsters is at 4:45 p.m.

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2014 - Wednesday, August 20th

These are from the last two days.  I've had some great conversations with people in line.  Remember, read the program for what kind of shows these are.  They are what people recommended, but you may not like certain types of shows or some kinds of content and they might be on this list!  My favorite is on this list (eleven-oh-four) so I encourage you to check that out!

We Glow
Body of Light
Bull's Heart
Zanna Don't
The Deep Blue Sea
Flora and Fawna
Little Monsters*
Harold of Galactus
Newman Mentalism Presents: Mind Games
Letters to Laura
Her Mark
3... 2... 1...
This is Cancer

I hope to have some more conversations tomorrow! Enjoy the Fringe! Go see a show!

* Yeah, so these are my shows - but those were the recommendations.  I did know the people, but they insisted they were recommending honestly based on what they saw.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2014 - Monday, August 18th

Here are a few more Word of Mouth Recommendations:

The Legend of White Woman Creek
Who Killed Gertrude Crump
Lobster Alice
Zanna Don't
Her Mark
3... 2... 1...
We Glow
McCrackin 2: The Whackining
This is Cancer
Neon Nightz
God is a Scottish Drag Queen

There's a variety here! I think it's cool that there are dramas, musicals, comedies, solo-shows and dance shows on this list!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fringe 2014 - From Friday to Sunday!

I've managed to rack up a few shows this weekend, in between opening both of my own shows, and trips to the beer tent to visit with friends! Here are some of the highlights:

Thom Pain - It's a a cool, challenging piece of theatre excellently performed and directed.  Key word is challenging.  This company has taken a real risk with this play, but isn't that what Fringe is all about?

Famished - I laughed so much at this completely inappropriate musical about zombies in Victorian England. Well-sung and it holds no quarter on crossing lines. You have to appreciate the politically incorrect.  If you can't, then this is not for you.

Letters and Words - A Dance Show!? Yes! I haven't seen a dance show in years, but I was so glad to see this.  So wonderful to see such strong, powerful, graceful women in this piece.  I found it so engaging. The music was very cool and sometimes it was whimsical, sometimes sad, and sometimes in-your-face funny. I guess I need to see more dance shows!

11 O'Clock Number - So much fun!  I'm not sure if I like it best when the songs are perfect (There was one that was perfect - Model Girlfriend - could have been written down and recorded) or when they aren't (There's a hilarity in the weird rhyming and sometimes nonesensical lyrics). So much fun in a "how'd they do that?" kind of way.  Oh, and now I really want a pony!

Rat Wives - I'm amazed that this was a first time directing foray for Brad Bishop - it was so well done and the script is so funny.  I think theatre people or at least literary people will appreciate it the most, but it's sharp and witty and the four actresses on stage were great.

Ligature Marks - This was a super cool script and the two person cast (Morgan Smith and Chris Schultz) were completely up to the task.  Very timely, a bit of an edge, and clean and sharp.  I really liked this one.

Tin - For those of you who like the true "Fringe Experience" - a show in a Shipping Container.  I had to push myself outside my comfort zone to do this one, but the production was great in providing a cold water bottle (necessary and so appreciated) and the option to sit close to the door if you are claustrophobic.  The play itself was emotionally charged and the space helped contribute to that tension.

Flora and Fawna - I love, love, loved this show!  So funny and engaging. I didn't realize that Drag Shows could have a message underneath all the laughs (this was my first).  I even teared up at the end.  Every girl (or boy) should get to be a Nature-Elle! I highly recommend! I do have to find someone to ask about a couple of the badge names, but I might just have to go to the Urban Dictionary so as to not expose my ignorance!

The City That Eats You - I can't remember why I picked this one, but I was glad I did.  Two very strong actors and a truly original idea in the script.  It's a little bit police procedural, a little bit sci-fi, a dash of poetic language, a wonderful convention of parsing memories, and two really strong women onstage.  I liked it.

I hope you get to see some of these shows!  I'll be back at it tomorrow!

Word of Mouth - Fringe 2014 - Sunday, August 17th

I took a little time today to talk to some people in lines and at the Beer Tents about what shows they would recommend.

Here are the Word of Mouth recommendations for Sunday, August 17th, 2014:

Tales She Tells
Daddy Issues
Maison de Reves 
War  of 1812
Off Book the Musical
Running in Stilts
Flora and Fawna
3... 2... 1...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fringe Day One: Super Start to My 2014 Fringe with Plain Janes Superman!

I only saw one show today, but I'm a little spent!  Of course, I also walked in the parade and worked all day, so maybe my tiredness has something to do with that.  The energy was celebratory at the Fringe site as we visited with the other performers waiting for the Parade to start and I think we were all glad that Fringe was finally here! Huzzah!

My first show was the Plain Janes production of It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Superman at the Varscona. I really enjoyed Little Fish last year at the Fringe and the offerings from Plain Janes during the season, so I thought this would be a great kick off to the Festival.  It was bubbly and snappy with great singing and dancing.  The script is light-hearted and the cast ran with that.  Sheldon Elter made a perfect Superman/Clark Kent - I loved the contrast to how he played each persona, and Elena Porter was a feisty no-nonsense Lois Lane.  I think my favorite was Ryan Parker as the narcissistic Max Mencken, but there are no weak links in this show.  There are a lot of fun songs in this new-to-me musical.  It's got a real fun cheekiness to it! Perfect for all ages!

Tomorrow I have a few shows to hit (I think 5?), but my focus is really going to be on the first performance of Crack at 2:30 p.m.  Once that is up and running I can relax and watch some others!

Fringe Primer - The Solo Show!

One of the things that you will notice about Fringe is there are A LOT of Solo Shows.  There's a good reason for this, particularly with regards to touring, but it's important to think about what show you want to see.  I have seen some fabulous Solo Shows over the years (Jake's Gift, Shimmer) and some I'd rather not name... I tend to like ones that feel more like a play than a story, but I also know that there are incredibly gifted story-tellers on the Fringe circuit.

Anyhow, I took a trip through the Program and thought I would highlight some solo shows that look like they will be good to catch (remember this is sight unseen, based on program descriptions and some research on my part), so if you are a fan of the one-person show, here are some suggestions:

No Tweed Too Tight: Another Grant Canyon Mystery by Vancouver based Ryan Gladstone at Walterdale Playhouse.  This show had a sold out run in 2012. He's also one half of the duo from last year's Hockey Night at the Puck & Pickle, which I loved and found hysterically funny so I think that bodes well.

Polly, Polly is a one-woman show over at the Fringe Cabaret Lounge written and performed by Toronto artist, Jessica Moss. This show was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. You can check out a glimpse of the show in this video. Moss is also part of the Tarragon Theatre Playwrighting Unit so you know she must have the writing chops!  You know I am a sucker for a female playwright!

At The Academy at King Edward, you can check out Edmonton's own Cody Porter in thom pain: based on nothing presented by Orange Cat Theatre. Described as Samuel Beckett for the John Stewart generation, it sounds like a one man show that is bound to be a little different. It's directed by Trunk Theatre's Sterling nominated Amy DeFelice.

You will find a lot of solo shows at Venue 10: Acacia Hall.  It's size makes it ideal for a smaller cast and increased intimacy.  Two shows there that have caught my eye are eleven-oh-four, written and starring Cat Walsh and Shangri-La, written and starring Judy Wensel.  Walsh is another Edmonton favorite who has demonstrated a unique voice before in her writing.  The description suggests a tale of revenge, perhaps with a twist?  Wensel is from Regina, but Shangri-La is directed by the electric Edmontonian Michelle Kennedy, who is never afraid to make big choices.  Shangri-La sounds as though it will be a trip to past where idyllic nostalgia is likely to be challenged. Shangri-La premiered to sold-out audiences and rave reviews at the 2013/2014 Shumiatcher Sandbox Series at Regina’s Globe Theatre.

If you are a fan of story-tellers you can catch Sam Mullins, Peter Aguero, Martin Dockery, and others. Fringe seems to bring out the best of those who can spin a tale and these are a few who are consistently able to hold their audiences in the palm of their hands.

Have fun choosing!  I've got tickets already for a few of these.  I'll let you know how they were once I see them!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Sharing the Space! This is Who is in Walterdale with Us this Fringe!

I couldn't wait to get my artist's package so I went and spent the $10 for the Fringe Program.  It's beautiful this year!  A real souvenir of the festival and very pretty!  What I flipped to first, of course, were the pages for our venue, Walterdale Playhouse. I wanted to see if I knew any of the companies that we were sharing the space with.  Having 2 shows we are going to be in the building every day of the festival and sometimes we have two shows in one day.  I was excited to see some familiar faces from the local arts scene and am looking forward to meeting those out-of-town performers!

Here's who's in the neighborhood:

From Near:

One sick puppy theatricals presents Scrap Paper written and directed by Gerald Osborn. The ultimate stage mother, her reluctant playwright son, sparkling repartee, head-cracking slapstick, and a finale of EXPLOSIVE proportions! Fringe favourite Ruby Swekla reprises the role she created 25 years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing Ruby in and around the building.  She was in the original production of my play Pieces in 2007 at Walterdale and she always entertains when she's onstage! What It is Productions presents Ligature Marks by Mac Rogers, directed by Taylor Chadwick. Terry is an ex-con. Jill is his ex-girlfriend. To get through this level in their lives they are going to need each other. A twisted romance about love, video games and getting away with murder. I'm really looking forward to seeing Morgan Smith onstage in this.  She always has an incredible intensity onstage that brings the humour to a sharp and gritty edge! DuckRabbit Theatre presents Beware Beware by David Walker, directed by Joe Perry.  A makeshift confessional. A bottle of rum. Sam just wants to feel better. Lauren just wants to help. Set in the Edmonton river valley, Beware Beware is a play about the anxieties of youth, the limits of friendship, and what we talk about when we talk about God. The wonderful Erin Valentine is stage managing this piece that is chock full of young talent.

And Far:

From Vancouver we will be joined by Ryan Gladstone Productions with No Tweed too Tight: Another Grant Canyon Mystery.  The name Ryan Gladstone should be very familiar to Fringe audiences as his 2012 run was sold out. From Toronto, Operation Snatch presents Neon Nightz. From it's description it looks like it will appeal to those who like shows that cross the line - an edgier choice. From Brooklyn, NY, Pair of Animals... wants to marry YOU! Every night a new couple from the audience will meet, fall in love and marry! From Chicago, Smoke and Ask Theatre presents Hospital - which is all about travelling through that part of the healthcare system. And finally From Sunnyside, NY, Peter Aguero presents Daddy Issues, a storytelling show tackling the hardships of not being able to choose your own family.

And of course, FinallySauces is presenting Little Monsters and Crack.  It looks like there is a real variety in Walterdale this year.  It's my favorite venue and I am so glad we are there and I'm excited to meet all these other artists!

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Fringe - It's all in the family...

I am not the only one in my family who is involved in a Fringe show.  My husband, Mark, is also part of a show that you should check out.  He's lucky in that although you can see him in the show, he doesn't have to be there every night.  How's that work? Well, a couple of months ago he shot a few scenes with Accidental Humour for their production, McCrackin 2: The Whackining.  I know little about his actual role, other than it's funny and he's a lumberjack.  I'm excited to see this show, as the first of the series, Happy Whackin Jim McCrackin was hilarious and I am always so impressed with how well this company merges film and theatre.

You can check out the trailer here. If you watch closely you will catch a glimpse of Mark at around 00:46!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

It's Finally August... You know what that means... FRINGE!!!!

Summer is interesting when you are producing a Fringe show.  July becomes all about prep and then when August hits it feels like an hour glass has been tipped over and started and away you go!  This is exaggerated even more when you are producing and directing TWO Fringe shows (one of which you are also Playwright for).  It's a Fringe show, so I am also set designer, props mistress, costume designer (well, of a sort - they are both pull-shows, as is pull from your closets, but this is what I want...), marketer and media rep. I'm so lucky to have a fabulous Sound Designer in Erin Foster-O'Riordan (who is also acting in one of the shows) because she always takes sound design as a challenge and gives me more than I can even imagine. I'm also blessed with fabulous Casts and wonderful Stage Management teams who work hard and bring their own special talents to the projects.  AND I am not only getting to see another one of my scripts realized onstage, but also a lovely, layered piece by first-time playwright, Anne Marie Szucs - how blessed am I to be trusted with directing and producing someone's first play?!

But August is now upon us and we are, or will be, ready when the audiences come. Both shows are blocked and off-book (for the most part), all the set pieces are acquired and painted if need be, almost all the props are done (there are a few consumables that will be purchased day-of-show), and we head into this last week before tech ready to run and clean!

Here are my two shows.  I hope you can make it out to one of both of them.