l-r Mark Wilson, David Matheson (photo: Dahlia Katz)
Giving Good Pause by Jason Booker The Dumb Waiter. Pinter, eh? Pauses.
Great production by Wordsmyth Theatre here, an independent Toronto company. See, sharp direction by Melee Hutton leads David Matheson and Mark Wilson to superb performances. These two, they play Gus and Ben as harsh, hardened, yet vulnerable. Two agitated hit men received a call but now, stuck in the basement, waiting for the word go. Then they begin getting notes from the dumb waiter – you know the device in the wall of old-fashioned hoity-toity estates, delivers dishes of grub and that sort of thing. And good for a café, which is maybe what is upstairs of the basement, so says Ben, when they begin sending up their snacks. But just the sound of that dumb waiter rattling into life, well, it gives you the heebie jeebies. And that’s without mentioning the ever-present guns these two whip about.
Anyway, Andrea Mittler’s set captures grimness, er, griminess. Like who has washed the walls in this place in the last decade? Grey and brown: my favourites. Dark, dirty and immersive – no one can tell what part of this space is the set and what part is her design. A set built on contrasts between Ben’s crisply white bed and Gus’ rumpled pong-y sheets.
Theatre Production 101 – Don't Do It Alone. Don't. Seriously.
by Andrew Wade @AndrewActs That's all I wish someone had told me. Though I admit that if someone had, I would have sunnily ignored their wise words and continued on my merry way, because I, the eternal optimist, know I am a very capable individual. After all, I've pulled a couple of Fringe shows out of my hat before! How hard can this next one be?
And with that thought, I entirely overlooked the fact that putting on a local Fringe show and putting together a solo tour across several provinces are two VERY different beasts. The Hatter is driving me Mad.
(The name of my show is 'The Hatter'. In case that wasn't apparent.)
We are t-minus three weeks until I head to Ontario for the very first time (aside from once as a child being locked in a small room at the Toronto Airport for five hours). T-minus three weeks until I begin a tour of London, Ottawa, Toronto, and Saskatoon over the course of two and a half months – the longest amount of time I will have ever been away from where I live. And for the life of me I have not been able to work on the show for more than an hour or two.
The Small Town Boy and the Mob by Bryce Alexander Dudley Bryce Alexander Dudley was born in Cobourg Ontario. Since moving to Toronto he has worked for, Fringe, Next Stage, SummerWorks, Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Massey Hall, The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, Toronto International Film Festival and various independent. Having worked for the Fringe itself for the past five years, and in various other performance outlets for eight, he's also Factory Theatre's current Front-of-House Manager and Special Event Coordinator. He trains volunteers and staff alike in the underlying philosophy - the customer is always right. Sometimes, however, the customer is not always right. What happens then? The stuff of tears and laughter, often, but always high drama. Mr. Dudley's play, Excuse You!, explores the many stories from his own experience and submissions from fellow customer service practitioners in theatres andvenues across Toronto. Mr. Dudley hasdecided to move the "pre-show" to the main stage, and put the venueemployees and its various patrons in the spotlight. With a script based onpersonal experience and research, he has headed back to the writer's desk tobring a voice to his observations.
Something was missing. I had moved to Toronto, and was working in the food and beverage side of theatre, and around art all of the time, but… it had been four years since I’d worked on a creative project of my own. So, eight months ago, I realized it was the Fringe Lottery deadline… and I put pen to paper.
Having worked for the Toronto Fringe in various capacities over the past five years, I had a clear picture of how things ran, and I wanted this to be the place I made and produced a play. To apply, I needed to create a theatre company name and, as the clock ticked closer to the submission deadline, I kept trying to think of something… something clever, catchy and witty. And, then it came to me - Theatre on a Thought.
Finding the Find by Laura Moore Laura Moore, Associate Producer of The Matchmaker of Montréal, is a Vancouver based Stage Manager and Freelance Writer who has worked with numerous theatre companies within the Lower Mainland, and has had the privilege of touring with several Vancouver productions across Canada and internationally. When not working in theatre, Ms Moore works for NBC Olympics in their Engineering department, making sure that Team Canada has a cheering section no matter where in the world the Games are held.
I fell in love with theatre at a very young age, and when it came time to decide on a profession, I knew exactly where to look. While my younger days were mostly spent onstage, I discovered stage management during my time as a student at Simon Fraser University, and after graduation I began working in Vancouver’s theatre community as a stage manager. I quickly learned that this job description required a general knowledge of every aspect of theatre, and therefore over the past several years I have worked in many departments, including lights, sound, sets, costumes, projections and special effects. However, there was one job title I had never tried: Producer.
What I learned Before...why it is wrong by TJ Dawe @TJ_Dawe The director's job ends on opening night. What a crock.
Here's how the gig works, as I learned it in theatre school: -the director directs the rehearsals -she gives notes after every run through, tech dress, full dress, previews, and opening -after that it's the stage manager's job to preserve the show in its opening night incarnation -if the director wants to watch the show again after opening, she's welcome to buy a ticket like anyone else -she is not welcome to give further notes to the cast, crew or designers.
I didn't study to be a director. I studied to be an actor. I didn't study to be a writer, dramaturg, designer or stage manager either. I stumbled into self-created theatre, and wound up doing all of those things, going on instinct, learning by osmosis. Mostly outside the bounds of theatre as it's practiced in established, regional houses across the country. Outside the rules Equity fights to uphold. Working exclusively with new scripts. Creating them myself, or midwifing the works of others. Usually while on tour.
Saskatchewan native and 2013 McGill graduate Gordon Bintner has made the tricky transition from student operas to the world’s great stages look effortless – and he’ll do it again in L’Opéra de Montréal’s new production of Manon, Jules Massenet’s classic of the French opera repertoire…
by Richard Burnett @bugsburnett (production photos by Yves Renaud)
My new favourite website Barihunks defines a “barihunk as “any hunk who sings in the baritone and bass/baritone range. Singers must be professional, semi-professional or serious students with real potential.”
Real potential for singing, of course.
But Saskatchewan native Gordon Bintner – who plays the role of Lescaut in L’Opéra de Montréal’s new production of Massenet’s classic French opera Manon at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier beginning tonight – he knows that in today’s digital world of opera, fitness, youth and good looks will help him connect with young mainstream audiences.
“That’s cool!” he says proudly. “I believe I have to be in good shape. It’s always been important but nowadays it’s even more important. There’s this baritones-without-shirts thing happening. There are physical aspects you need to be ready for. Even in this production [of Manon] there’s lots of physicality, jumping and running around. And when you’re a tenor or baritone, you are also expected to lift women when [the director] asks you to.
Multiple by Cameryn Moore @camerynmoore As I was sitting on the porch on Thursday with my morning cup of coffee, a breath-taking weight settled on my chest, and I couldn’t focus anymore on the blue sky and the air that is warming up again after a few days of retreat into winter. I felt my head drop back with the one sigh that managed to escape, and I knew that feeling: I’m contemplating a new creative project that scares the shit out of me, and I wish it were in my personality to retreat.
It’s just another script, really, and I have plenty of experience now at getting started with those, at getting stuck and unstuck, at moving forward in spite of my fears and sitting still with the possibilities until the right ones emerge. I have the experience, but experience doesn’t matter, because I know the stuff in the middle will be shitty.
See, I’m contemplating my new work for 2014, the one with a title that’s been bubbling around in my brain for six months at least. Only recently have I figured out how I think I want to write the thing, and that’s what’s freaking me out.
HOLLYWOOD TAKES A NEW PATH INTO THE WOODS joel fishbane @joelfishbane
Long-time readers of this column will be familiar with my opinions on the movie musical – last winter, after the release of Les Miserables, I remarked that material written directly for the stage often becomes weaker when put on the silver screen. I wasn’t the only one who had mixed feelings about Les Miserables, a movie which remains controversial among cinephiles and musical nuts alike (I suspect the world is essentially divided between those who like it and those who don’t, sort of like with Cats). Yet critics aside, the movie was a financial hit which means that other movie musicals are headed our way.
This week, more news came down the pipeline concerning the movie version of Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s seminal mish-mash of fairy-tales and their characters. First written in 1988, ITW won a heap of awards and has become a staple of the modern musical repertoire. According to Sondheim, in his book Look, I Made a Hat!, a movie version first began to take shape in 1995 where it would have been spearheaded by Jim Henson. Two readings were done, both of which included a cavalcade of stars including Martin Short, Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, Steve Martin, Neil Patrick Harris and Julia-Louis-Dreyfus.
Miss Caledonia has a thread bare set. A bench and a chair is all that is needed. Everything else is provided by Melody A. Johnson and accompanist Alison Porter on fiddle.
This is why it works quite well. The play is free of artifice or pretension; a simple story of a simple life and a simple dream. Melody A. Johnson is a completely engaging storyteller with an honest, straightforward style that reinforces the theme of a common rural dream to escape the farm and head to Hollywood.
Gavin Crawford (top) and Kimberly Persona (photo: Alejandro Santiago)
Ecce Homo’s homage to the diva is its own brand of fame monster
by Christian Baines
What a strange and fascinating construct is Of a Monstrous Child: A Gaga Musical. Almost as strange and fascinating as its central icon, whose song catalogue now seems destined for a shelf life well beyond that of her peers. Side note to author Alistair Newton, who has pre-empted the inevitable West End jukebox abomination with something far more insightful and interesting – for this, Sir, musical theatre fans everywhere should thank you sincerely.
Nobody should step into Of a Monstrous Child expecting to hear a simple regurgitation of hits. It’s not even a ‘musical’ in the traditional sense (though if the show wishes to brand itself as such, that’s good enough for me). Rather, it’s a powerful deconstruction of the nature of art, icons and contemporary celebrity that skilfully uses Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta as its case study.
Once the toast of off-Broadway, the musical revue I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has returned to Toronto courtesy of Angelwalk Theatre – and despite attempts by the artists to update the show, it’s starting to look its age. A sitcom-style look at the love lives of the affluent middle class (think Friends with songs), this new production is saved by the talents of its cast and director Evan Tsitsias, who helps bring some fresh tricks to what, despite being written only 15 years ago, is already an aging dog.
Moving from dating to relationships to marriage, this revue of sketches and songs rarely cuts anywhere deep, relying on a truckload of clichés and stereotypes. Only occasionally do we get a glimpse of the show that could have been. Halfway through the first act, a sketch involving two friends who suddenly realize they want to be something more finally manages to leave the stereotypes behind. Wonderfully portrayed by Dean Hollin and Leslie Kay, the sketch is so charming that I was sorry to see the characters disappear.
The Essentials, Part II [We pestered our contributors to offer one essential theatre book and explain why it is essential. Here are two more essays.]
A Life by Elia Kazan
by Caitlin Murphy, senior contributor, Montreal
Elia Kazan's dual career in theatre and film was remarkable; he directed premieres of such important plays as A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman, as well as such brilliant films as On the Waterfront and Baby Doll. Along the way, he worked with the greatest artists of his time. At 800-plus pages, A Life is likely not for the mildly interested, but this autobiography is one of the most engaging and satisfying reads of my life. I was in such awe and appreciation of Kazan's crazy ability to soak life up, and his seemingly endless energy for writing it down. Beyond this, his comfort with human nature as complex and contradictory is admirable; he is a truly fascinating figure and a pleasure to spend time with.
It is quite amazing how seldom a show gets cancelled. There are so many bugs that go around, particularly in the winter where we are forced to stay inside and share our space and airborne viruses. Next season GCTC is presenting You Fancy Yourself by Maja Ardal. It was supposed to be performed last season but because of health issues Pierre Brault stepped in with Blood on the Moon. Fortunately Ms Ardal is healthy now and is scheduled to do the play next season.
l-r Michelle LeBlanc, Sarah Finn and David Whiteley, photo by Andrew Alexander
The Next Room (The Vibrator Play) Humms Along
by Jim Murchison
There are lots of opportunities for cheap jokes in a review about a play called The Vibrator Play. I will avoid overdoing it, but I am only human. First let’s get right to the point. Bronwyn Steinberg has done a wonderful job of directing and the cast make sure that the story confidently humms along. There will very probably be a good buzz about this very well performed production. Sarah Ruhl has written a very funny play set near New York City in the 1880’s. Electricity is an infant and the full benefits of it have yet to be realized. The medical community and, in this play, a particular doctor by the appropriate name of Dr Givings are treating female hysteria with a device used to stimulate to the point of achieving hysterical paroxysm. While 21st century audiences will recognize the euphemism for orgasm, this is not a word that is ever uttered in the play.
[Republished, with permission, from Playwrights Guild of Canada's Online Journal. For information about the conference "Censorship versus Self-Censorship" which Mr. Leiren-Young will be moderating, click here]
My introduction to gay porn was being shown images and words so disturbing they were blacked out by the guardians of decency at Canada Customs. But if I held the paper up to the light at just the right angle I could see what was considered too dangerous for the tender eyes of Canadians -- condom ads.
Maclean’s Magazine had hired me to research a story about a disease killing gay men and I visited Vancouver’s gay and lesbian bookstore, Little Sisters, to see what they knew about it. The manager of the store showed me the magazines with the disturbing ads and articles suggesting that perhaps the spread of this disease might be stopped with condoms. Then he explained that because condoms implied that gay men were having anal sex the ads were considered indecent.
Dreamgirls is glitz, glam, and so very showbiz Aurianna Angelique is powerful and passionate as Effie by Chris Lane
Dreamgirls is about selling a performance, and selling a song, and the cast at the Arts Club truly sells this show. It’s full of Motown soul and a whole lotta vocal talent.
The hit Broadway musical chronicles the story of the Dreamettes, a Motown trio inspired by the story of the Supremes. They start out as a closely-knit group fronted by Effie, before the slick and smooth Curtis Taylor Jr. moulds them into a money-making pop group. Dreamgirls is an homage to the sounds of Motown, with an engaging storyline that still resonates today.
Yuri Dojc took some great pictures for The Charge of the Expormidable Moose but we like this one especially both for its hypnotizing and authentic-looking violence (Ben Irvine sleeper-holding Hume Baugh) but also for the way the shot captures that odd blood-red ring Mr. Baugh is wearing. This tiny part of a rather large picture actually seems to heighten the emotional impact of the captured moment. Details matter.
Ronnie Burkett has been captivated by puppetry since the age of seven, and began touring his shows around Alberta at the age of 14. Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes was formed in 1986, continuously playing on Canada’s major stages, and as a guest company on numerous tours abroad. Ronnie received the 2009 Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, The Herbert Whittaker Drama Bench Award for Outstanding Contribution to Canadian Theatre, a Village Voice OBIE Award and four Citations of Excellence from the American Center of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette.
CHARPO: Though your productions are not particularly dark, this one, again, seems to come from a dark place. Why do you think that is?
BURKETT: The original daisy plays done by Czech puppeteers during the Nazi occupation certainly happened in a dark time; the shows were actually named with a nod to the notion that daisies grow in the dark. But darkness was not the theme; metaphor and allegory through familiar and beloved characters shed light on what was going on. My hope for The Daisy Theatre is that I’ll create a few characters that similarly resonate with the audience in their own simple way. I suppose I’m attracted to “dark” material simply because I’m fascinated by characters who are ridiculous, yearning and hopeful in their own tiny struggles toward light. The Daisy Theatre is one of the silliest and frothiest things I’ve done in years. I suppose after the darkness of Penny Plain I just need to be foolish again. Luckily, I have a job that totally allows that.