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Thursday, September 25, 2014

What you want to do? Isn't that what I said?

This past summer I directed two shows at Fringe, one of which I wrote (Little Monsters) and one written by my friend Anne Marie Szucs (Crack). Over the last several weeks a few lines from the latter have been rattling in my head, making me think hard about what my time is filled by.

     ANGELA: Sometimes I wish there were 2 of me - just to do everything I want to do.
     PAM: What you want to do.
     ANGELA: Yes. Isn't that what I said?
     CHRISTINE: Pam.
     PAM: Sometimes I think you do what everyone else wants you to do – Andy, the kids, church.  Where do you fit into the list?

I find myself coming back to that question... what is it I want to be doing?  I have many things I 'have' to do.  Some are things I have put in place, some are work or store related, some are volunteer commitments, some are things that people have asked me to do and I couldn't say no to...  I would say that most of them are things I like doing, even enjoy doing, but I think the big problem is that I am just finding more and more that there are simply too many things.  I know this because the thing I wish I was doing the most - writing - is not getting done.  It is the thing that gets pushed to the back burner by all the other stuff. 

I'm trying to clear the decks a little bit.  Some of the obligations will take longer to clear up.  Some will never go away because they are related to the children and you can't just absolve yourself of them once you have them. But I do intend to take some time to write this year, AND I do plan on getting onstage this year.  Those are my two 'Things I Want to Do' that I will make happen in between all the other things I have to do. And if you catch me saying to myself, what do I want to do, know that this is what's running through my head. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Telling Canadian Stories... Kim's Convenience at the Citadel...

Tonight Previews for Kim's Convenience started at the Citadel Theatre.  Last night, I got to watch the final Dress Rehearsal. As part of my job, I had read the play and thought it quite a nice story on the page, but it was so lovely to see it realized on the stage.  Beyond the picture-perfect corner convenience store and the sounds of the Toronto street, seeing the story live on the stage really emphasized for me the the play was truly a Canadian story.  So many of us here are from somewhere else and the freedoms and hopes of the immigrant coming to Canada for their children is a story that I certainly understood.  It was also both funny and touching.  I didn't know that I would laugh so much -  in recognition of things in my own world, in the deliberate misunderstandings between people, and in the unique relationships between parents and their children. I also didn't realize, despite reading the play, that I would get a little teary-eyed. Because Canada is a softer country than others with a tradition that is more flexible due to it's youth it is a place where you can make mistakes and go home again. 

I'm looking forward to seeing it again. 

Fatboy... Hard to Describe... Harder to Stop Laughing...

I took in the ridiculous and excessive Fatboy by John Clancy (not to be confused with the author of The Hunt For Red October) directed with controlled abandon by Dave Horak and presented at Theatre Network by the Edmonton Actor's Theatre. This is not a show for the faint of heart. It's rude, and bawling and lusty and violent and irreverent and full of more curses per minute than any of show I have seen in my life. I will admit, at first I wasn't sure what I was watching.  The show starts with a belligerent bang of a shouting match between Fatboy (Frederick Zbryski) and his extremely buxom wife, Fudgie (Melissa Thingelstad). It's over the top - not in a Broadway musical kind of way - but in a nightmarish, twisted circus of lechery and violence.  Once acclimatized to the phenomenal patter of cursing interspersed with cries for Sausages!! and Pancakes!! I just held on and went for the ride. They are joined by a multitude of characters played brilliantly by Ian Leung, Tim Cooper and Mathew Hulshof.  The entire cast is incredible.  This kind of piece only succeeds with 100% commitment to the choices and, boy, do they commit.  There were so many times while watching that I marveled at how good they all were.  The world was so complete and there was never a glimpse of the real person beneath the white pancake make-up on their faces. It was as though they had been doing this show for years.  Zbryski's patter is both frightening and hilarious. Thingelstad is marvellously brash.  It's all complimented by a delightfully tilted and distressed set designed by Scott Peters and costumes that are whimsical and macabre designed by Melissa Cuerrier.

The tale is a twisted reinterpretation of the scandalous Ubu Roi (1897) by Alfred Jarry - famous for opening and closing on the same night and causing a riot in the theatre. A comment on the excess of our world, and on the inherent selfishness of humankind, particularly those in power.  It's a little mind-blowing at the end.  I am personally not quite as cynical as the play is in it's final moments.  I can't see the world quite in the way that is suggested by the wrap up.  What can I say? I'm an idealist. But after the roller coaster of violence and ridiculousness is over, the closing comments are what you'll be talking about with your friends for hours afterwards. Depending on where you sit on the spectrum of political and social belief, I think you will come away from this with a completely different reaction. It's really whether you can see Fatboy in Kim Jong Il or perhaps  Rob Ford or your Next-door-Neighbors or even yourself that will tell just how you see the world.

I'd say this is a must-see for those that can handle the language and violence (the violence is all very comical, but for the faint of heart...).  If you are an Edmonton theatre aficionado you simply
have no excuse.  If you are a drama student at either of the two Universities I would be appalled if you missed it. It's a masterclass. Give yourself permission to laugh, and buckle-up for the ride!

Photo credit: Ryan Parker

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Smallish Project on the Horizon...

This Sunday I will be starting a smallish project for Walterdale Theatre.  When I was asked to be Master Painter for the first show of the season way back in the early summer I had to say No.  I knew that I would be too busy with the advent of the new theatre season and my new position at the Citadel.  However, a request from the set designer, former student Brendan Boyd, for help with painting the floor made me do a slight reversal. It's hard to say No to former students, especially those like Brendan. I came in with conditions, because my time is tight, but this Sunday I will go in and start the process.  I have yet to see the set design, so I am hopeful that I will have the right colours in the shop (it's a wood floor and there were a lot of varied browns in the paint shop). It should only take a couple days - for me, this month,that means Sundays.  There are a couple of wrenches in the works with the theatre being over-shared and the surprise of finding out an Open House and Tour is being held on one of my limited painting days, but I am optimistic about getting it done. I might be a little 'grumpy old man' about it, but it will get done.  I'm looking for suggestions for a good place for a massage in early October to recover from floor painting (it's the hardest on my back) so if you know any, let me know...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Terrific #yegbookclub with Michael Hingston's The Dilletantes

Last night a group of readers met on twitter for an hour and chatted about Michael Hingston's The Dilettantes.  This was the first of our two summer reading choices.  It was a lively discussion with many threads and side roads and the hour flew by.  It was a great way to spend a snowy evening in September (yes, there was snow!).  The conversation swerved from favorite weird sodas, to student newspapers (comparing U of A's The Gateway to SFU's The Peak) and angst... plenty of angst.  Michael joined in and it was great to have the author chime in and answer questions. If you want to check out the conversation, use the #yegbookclub on twitter to search.  You should be able to pick up most of it.

If you want to check out the book, here's a link to find out more.

Next week we tackle our second summer reading choice, Marty Chan's The Demon Gate.  I think you have time to get it read and join in! See you on twitter on Monday, September 15th at 7 p.m.!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Northern Light Theatre's Race for the Limelight a.k.a. an Edmonton Theatre FUNdraiser a.k.a. a Great Event Bringing Together the Edmonton Theatre Community!

Yesterday was the 1st Annual Northern Light Theatre's BATTLE FOR THE LIMELIGHT - An Amazing Race style fundraising event which took place in the Old Strathcona district. Theatre companies and related organizations across the city were invited to enter a team to
up to four competitors to participate in challenges whereby they would earn points to see who was the winner. They would also use the event as an opportunity to fund raise for their particular organization. The winning team was presented with The Golden Handjob (there were silver and bronze handjobs for 2nd and 3rd place finishers, as well).  Northern Light Theatre did all the organizing and the event ended with a BBQ at Queen Alexandra Community Hall and a great party for all involved.  I was unable to participate in the actual event due to Mom-related Obligations (i.e. Piano Lessons) but followed the tweets and FB posts and swung by the BBQ at the end.  The energy was fabulous and it was great to see so many people from Edmonton's Theatre community visiting and celebrating together.  A great event and a great FUNdraiser! I hear it's going to be an annual event and I am determined that one of the theatres I am involved with will participate next year and I will be on a team!

The Winners:

First Place - The Golden Handjob - Team AIEEEEE! (representing Teatro la Quindicina)
Teatro la Quindicina’s team consisted of: Shannon Blanchet (actor), Mathew Hulshof (actor), Ryan Parker (actor), Amber Bissonette (actor)

Second Place - The Silver Handjob - Team Nextfest #1 (representing Nextfest Emerging Arts Festival) Nextfest’s team consisted of: Maggie Baird (Nextfest Festival Manager), Ainsley Hillyard (Nextfest Dancefest Curator), Patrick Lundeen (Nextfest Emerging Artist Award Winner for 2014), Perry Gratton (Nextfest 2014 Image Artist and actor)

Third Place - Team Theatre AL-BEAT-CHA! (representing Theatre Alberta) Theatre Alberta’s team consisted of: Aaron Talbot (Theatre Alberta Communications and Marketing Coordinator), Morgan Norwich (Theatre Alberta Office Administrator & Executive Assistant), Frazer Andrews (Theatre Alberta Programmer)

Friday was One of Those "I LOVE MY JOB!" Days!

Sometimes I feel like I am unusual, because I generally wake up very happy to go to my job.  It's a terrific fit for me.  I work at the Citadel Theatre in the Marketing Department, so right off the bat you have me working in a theatre, and I love that. It's also a theatre that produces a wide variety of work and at a very high level so that's a super double bonus.  For the actual work I do, it's a great fit for me in that it uses my organization skills, my people skills, my problem-solving skills and I get to work with a lot of fun people.  It's also busy, and while some people are not as fond of that, I do like a fast pace, and there are periodic lulls to recharge when you need to.

Anyhow, I really like my job, but on Friday I had one of those I LOVE MY JOB days.  We had a photo shoot for the upcoming ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS which stars John Ullyatt and for a couple of hours in the afternoon we were entertained my his antics in front of the camera.  He kept us giggling the whole time with his contortions, ad-libs and improvising with the various props.  I was there to take behind the scenes shots and it was the most fun couple of hours anyone ever got paid for!