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Friday, February 23, 2018

The EAC Calls for Community Engagement...

I received the following enews from the EAC (Edmonton Arts Council):

2029: Building Edmonton's Community Plan for Arts & Heritage 

In 2006, members of the arts and heritage community in the City of Edmonton came together in recognition that the economic boom in Alberta had increased the pace of development, creating a need for a proactive plan for the arts, heritage, and culture. The resulting plan, The Art of Living 2008-2018: A Plan for Securing the Future of Arts and Heritage in the City of Edmonton, spurred 17 arts recommendations and 11 heritage recommendations. The arts recommendations focused on space, education and mentorship, investments including grants, recognition, and integration of the arts into the civic fabric. The recommendations reflected the adventurousness, creativity, and optimism for the future of arts and heritage in Edmonton.

With The Art of Living reaching its end, the EAC, on behalf of the City of Edmonton, is preparing Edmonton’s next comprehensive 10-year Arts and Heritage Plan. Since implementation of The Art of Living, Edmonton’s creative communities have grown and advanced to become a model of cooperation and resilience. This new plan will leverage the work of the Art of Living, and will guide and strengthen the City’s planning, investment, and ongoing development of the arts and heritage sectors.

The new 10-year Arts & Heritage Plan will be unique to Edmonton, and will provide strong recommendations that will infuse the arts into every aspect of the civic landscape. To guide the new plan, the EAC has identified four key principles:
  • Inclusivity that reflects the diverse values of the communities of Edmonton
  • Leadership, excellence, and innovation in the arts and heritage communities
  • A collective responsibility for the arts and heritage
  • Strengthened economic security for the arts and heritage
 How can you participate in the creation of the new plan? 
Public Community Engagement Sessions & Sector Specific Sessions

To ensure the success of the plan, we need input from Edmontonians. Community engagement sessions are being planned for all 12 wards of the city, and certain surrounding communities. Share your thoughts about the current state of the arts and heritage, and your vision for the next ten years.  To create a plan that is truly unique to our city, we want to know your fondest culture memories, the impact of the arts in your community, on your networks or for your cause, and your aspirations for the future of the arts in Edmonton. This is your chance to make your voice heard and help shape the recommendations that will guide the arts and heritage for the next 10 years.
Community engagement pop-up session schedule:
February 28, 2018  / 5:00-9:00pm /  Whitemud Crossing Library, 4211 106 Street
March 3, 2018  / 11:00am-3:00pm /  Terwillegar Recreation Centre, 2051 Leger Road
March 4, 2018  / 1:00-5:00pm /  West Henday Promenade Library, 818 Webber Greens Drive
March 7, 2018  / 5:00-9:00pm /  Lois Hole Callingwood Library, 17650 69 Avenue
March 10, 2018  / 11:00am-3:00pm /  Calder Library, 12710 131 Avenue
March 11, 2018  / 1:00-5:00pm /  Highlands Library, 6710 118 Avenue
March 14, 2018  / 5:00-9:00pm /  Clareview Recreation Centre, 3804 139 Avenue
March 17, 2018  / 11:00am-3:00pm /  Mill Woods Library, 2610 Hewes Way
March 18, 2018  / 1:00-5:00pm /  Meadows Recreation Centre, 2704 17 Street

We are also hosting a suite of in-depth facilitated conversations for arts and heritage organizations, artists, collectives, etc.  
Facilitated session schedule:
March 12, 2018 / 11:00am-1:00pm /  CKUA Performance Space, 9804 Jasper Avenue –Theatre/Performing Arts Session
March 12, 2018 / 6:00-8:00pm / ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave – Ward 8 Public Session

March 13, 2018 / 6:00-8:00pm / Manning Hall, Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square – Ward 6 Public Session

March 14, 2018 / 11:00am-1:00pm / CKUA Performance Space, 9804 Jasper Avenue – 
Festivals Session
March 15, 2018 / 6:00-8:00pm / CKUA Performance Space, 9804 Jasper Avenue – Music Session
March 16, 2018 / 11:00am-1:00pm/ Art Gallery of Alberta Theatre Lobby, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square –Public Art Session
Not all engagement session dates and venues have been announced at this time, so keep an eye on the EAC Weekly for information on additional pop-up community engagement sessions and facilitated conversations with the arts and heritage sectors. 
If you require ASL interpretation or other assistance, please contact the EAC at with the date and venue of the engagement session you will be attending.   
 2029: Building Edmonton’s Community Plan for Arts & Heritage Website 
Keep an eye out for the YEG Culture Map website!
Launching at the end of February, you can also visit the Arts & Heritage Plan website – -- as another way to share your memories and vision for the future of the arts and heritage. 
Have you experienced a performance or piece of art that really struck you, and you wish you could see more of that type of work? Is there a specific heritage activity or site that has been influential in shaping your story of Edmonton? You’re invited to share your experiences and explore the memories of others on our digital map of Edmonton, providing a visual representation of notable arts and heritage moments. 
On the website, you can also find the latest news about the Arts & Heritage Plan, sign up for the project newsletter, and sign up for the Online Engagement Community where you will be able to answer questions in greater detail about the topics important to you.

Have any questions about the Arts & Heritage Plan or any of the engagement sessions? Feel free to get in touch at
Anyhow, if this is something you want a voice in, there are a few platforms for discussion. I recommend you check one of them out. I will likely be waiting for the online survey - but that is really because my time is a little too absorbed with seeing shows and volunteering right now. Eventually that will die down... 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Terrific Night of All Your Favourites in Motown The Musical!

Last night we took in Motown The Musical presented by Broadway Across Canada at the Jubilee Auditorium and it was simply terrific! Okay, I'm a major Motown fan, so I was thrilled by the song list, but I also only enjoy it when it's well done and in this show everything was simply perfect! When you are presenting so many iconic songs and artists it can be a challenge because everyone has expectations, but this production certainly rose to that challenge and met it handily!

Motown The Musical is a jukebox show, using the story of Berry Gordy Jr.'s life and decision to "be the best Berry Gordy Jr. he could be" by creating the iconic music sound that came to be known as Motown. The shows uses a framing device of a 25th Anniversary Television special where all the artists he worked with have come back to perform but there is some question as to whether Gordy (played by Kenneth Mosley, who has a phenomenal voice and impressive stage presence) will show up. To explain why he might not, the show whisks us back in time to his beginnings and through the course of his life up to the moment of the TV show. The scenes are quick and loose, but this provides opportunity for us to meet and hear many of the now legendary artists he worked with and whose careers he arguably managed to success.

Along the way we meet Gordy's right hand man Smokey Robinson, played with charm and high energy by Justin Reynolds. Matt Manuel makes for a charismatic and combative Marvin Gaye who challenges Gordy and who wants to bring more politics into his music. We also meet a young Michael Jackson, played alternately by Kai Calhoun and Chase Phillips, who has the moves and the voice that foreshadow his future as pop-royalty. Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Mary Wells, The Commodores, Martha and the Vandellas... they are all there, and they all do a fabulous job recreating the moves and sound of the era. I was so very impressed by the sound. The balance of all those harmonies was spot-on!

We also get a glimpse into the romance between Gordy and Diana Ross (Trenyce). This relationship gets the most stage time and we get a first hand look at the molding of Ross by Gordy from Supreme, to front woman, to solo artist and to movie star. Trenyce does a beautiful job of channeling the diva both in her scenes and her songs, without stooping to caricature. The best book scenes are the ones between Mosley and Trenyce, and she truly captures Diana Ross in both sound and gesture.

Like most jukebox shows, most of the scenes are quick sketches, giving us the feeling of what happened, but the quickness interspersed with the performances of the songs and their shifting tone manages to paint a picture of how Motown helped to contribute to the advancement of civil rights. There's a big shift both musically and culturally from My Guy to Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology), and yes, this is a musical, but it tells you something when you are confronted with the fact that just a few decades ago artists of colour wouldn't even get played on certain radio stations. I'm pretty sure if I turned on the radio right now there's a good chance I would be hearing Rihanna or Bruno Mars. I'm glad for that.

Anyhow, if you want a terrific night of music - fast paced, with excellent dancing, and charismatic performers, this is definitely a show to see, particularly if you love that Motown sound! There is something special about seeing a show where you know all the songs. I expect to feel the same way when I see Mamma Mia! next week at the Citadel, but that collective connection to the pop-culture really allows you to step right in and just enjoy the experience.

Motown The Musical runs to February 18th at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Click here for more information and tickets.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Living in Extraordinary Times... Tempus Extraordinarius at L'Uni Theatre

A mad dash across the city and we made it just in time to catch Tempus Extraordinarius at L'Uni Theatre on Saturday night. Featuring Tubby and Notubby as two clownlike figures in a post-apocalyptic world, the show was in both French (70%) and English (30%) with surtitles to capture the opposite language for the audience. It was an interesting show and the simple, yet effective projections and staging were well-used. It left a lot to chat about in terms of the cycle of the world's history through oppression and struggle into a more peaceful world and back again. Sprinkled throughout were references to Shakespeare and songs. I'm always interested in seeing the L'Unit Theatre shows as the added layer of language makes me work harder as an audience member. I think that makes me less passive and more engaged. 

Tempus Extraordinarius ran From February 7-10 so you can't catch it, but the next L'Uni Theatre show will be En Mémoire de Moi/Do this in Memory of Me which will play in both languages in rep from March 14 to 24. Click here for more information. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Nice Night Out at Walterdale Theatre with THE WOMEN!

Once I got through fumbling with the words of my pre-show speech I was treated to a nice evening of estrogen fueled laughter at Walterdale Theatre with The Women. Directed by Catherine Wenschlag, it's the stage play of one of my all-time favourite movies from 1939 starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell and a whole bunch of other women. It was ground-breaking in that in the film none of the men were ever seen, only talked about. The play is the same. A cast of 17 women playing many more roles tell the story of the loving and loyal Mary Haines (Roseanna Sargent) as her marriage falls about when she discovers her husband is fooling around with the predatory Crystal Allen (Julie Whelan).

I clearly enjoyed it, as so many people commented to me after the show on how much I was laughing. It was filled with quite a few scenes of witty conversation and larger than life characters. There's a lot going on in the show as the play serves to show the disintegration of the marriage of Mary and Steven Haines from multiple points of view. I loved the debrief about the state of the household between the maid Jane (Sadie Bowling) and the Plain Cook (Peg Young). I also really enjoyed all the scenes between the eternally pregnant Edith (Jenn Robinson) and the envious and somewhat innocent Peggy (Mandy Stewart). Another standout was Lilianna Coyes-Loiselle who demonstrated the sharp intelligence of Little Mary as she deals with her parent's divorce. Nicolle Lemay also gives a wonderfully devious performance as the meddling Sylvia.

There was a lot going on - I pulled out a few scenes, but really what makes this show work is the strong ensemble and the commitment by all the cast to big choices and being able to embrace the cattiness along with the kindness of the women in their various relationships. It's a fun ride full of laughter and although I would like to think we don't quite live in this world anymore, episodes of the Bachelor might suggest that there is still a lot of truth to it.

The Women runs until February 17th at Walterdale Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at Tix on the Square at 780.420.1757 or online or at the Box Office 1 hour prior to show start.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Minosis Gathers Hope and Her Mark...

I actually started my day taking media photos for The Women at Walterdale Theatre, but scurried quickly next door to Fringe Theatre Adventures to catch Minosis Gathers Hope as part of the Rubaboo Festival. It was a TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) production about a young girl, Minosis, who has to spend the summer with her grandparents. She's lonely, and fearful about meeting new friends, and begins to explore the backyard. She travels to the four directions of the Medicine Wheel (forgive me if I get details incorrect, I am not an authority, merely interpreting what I saw) and finds ribbons at each corner. The journey helps her reconnect and learn more about her culture and religion and also helps her adjust to where she is. Told with narration from 5 dancers who symbolize the four directions of the Medicine Wheel and Mother Nature, it is the dance that keeps the piece dynamic and magical. There were no programs so I sadly cannot identify all the actors, but the actress playing Minosis was quite passionate and lovely to watch onstage. There were only a few public performances so I don't think you can catch it anymore, but the Rubaboo Festival is an annual event so keep it in mind next year.

In the evening I headed back to Old Strathcona to catch Her Mark presented by Whizgiggling Productions at Orange Hall. I saw this show in 2014 at the Fringe and quite enjoyed it, but I like this new iteration even better. Perhaps it's the staging and new location, as it seems very suited for Orange Hall - the creaky floors adding realism and texture to the soundscape, and the candlelit atmosphere is dreamlike and haunting. As well, the action takes place both in front of and among the audience so you feel truly engaged. It's an adaptation of Michael Crummy stories about a family in Newfoundland in the early part of the 20th century. A mother (Linda Grass), her 3 daughters (Cheryl Jameson, Lora Brovold & Jayce MacKenzie) and son (Matthew Lindholm), tell stories in monologue about their lives and the patchwork creates a quilt of this family's history. The stories are interspersed with songs and often underscored by violin (played by Astrid Sparks). Director Trevor Schmidt has created a lovely atmospheric work. The seating for this show is extremely limited as the space is quite small and intimate, so I would recommend getting tickets in advance. It's a warm, touching show about loss and hardship but above-all the fierceness of a people who live in hard circumstances.

Her Mark runs to February 10th.
Click here for tickets.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

A Very Busy February... And it begins with EMPIRE OF THE SON at the Citadel

By my latest count I have 12 shows to see this month... That's not quite 1 every two days, but pretty close... I'm earning a few nights off by booking matinees on Saturdays! It's all in the planning.

I kicked off the month of theatre tonight at Opening Night of Empire of the Son at the Citadel (full disclosure - you all must know I work there),  a touching and resonant one-man show created and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu about his relationship with his distant and seemingly unemotional father. Shigematsu is an effective and likable story-teller who clearly loved and respected his father but who also found it hard to really communicate with him. He's crafted this story of his life and that of his father well, sharing the remarkable details of what his father witnessed (Hiroshima, tea with the Queen, Marilyn Monroe's birthday serenade to JFK...) and contrasting his awe against his father's placidity.

It's a story that everyone can relate to and Shigematsu's charm easily drew in the entire room. It's filled with ups and downs, but underscoring the controlled emotion of both himself and his father, it's very layered and avoids sentimentality and hysteria, and it's funny often drawing laughs of recognition from the house. It's a human story. One that everyone can relate to - either as a parent or a child - because it's really about that generational gap that occurs to some degree between every parent and child. And while this is a specific relationship, because it is about simply seeking to understand the other person more fully, we all can connect.

It's also quite beautiful. Projections illustrate remembered conversations with whimsy, the lighting is gorgeous, and the set transforms from lecture hall, to a house of falling sticks seeking order as they descend.

Empire of the Son runs to February 18th in The Club at the Citadel.
Click here to learn more or purchase tickets.