Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 15, 2009

Dear People of the World…

ron pederson, kayla lorette, ted dykstra and naomi snieckus
in longing fortnight; a play not written by samuel beckett
photo by skye regan.
Dear People of the World,

Last Friday evening at the Theatre Passe Muraille Cabaret Space I was delighted and treated all at once to the launch of Impromptu Splendor’s Second Season with a play not written by David French. The play was entirely improvised by Naomi Snieckus, Ron Pederson and special guest star Ted Dykstra in the style of the Newfoundland playwright, best known for his Of the Fields, Lately (1973) and Salt-Water Moon (1985).
Ted Dykstra. Where to even begin. I had seen Ted Dykstra improvise with Impromptu Splendor early in January in their play not written by Samuel Beckett Longing Fortnight and he brought a palpable wisdom to the Splendor. Strongly rooted in Beckett, Dykstra had always insured that the play be improvised for the theatre, and that the style adhered so tightly to the chosen playwright that it seemed incredible that his lines had not come, had not been channeled, directly from Beckett’s imagination. In the not-Beckett, Dykstra was the foundation upon which Pederson and Snieckus (along with Matt Baram and Kayla Lorette) built their play. He inspired the brilliant moments that would emerge from the other improvisers, such as Pederson discovering the use of the bowler hat and Baram’s mind-boggling monologue reminiscent of Lucky’s in Waiting for Godot.
In the not-French, Dykstra became indomitable and gave a performance that would have been worthy of sincere accolades had it been scripted, but to know that he was improvising, so entirely and so effortless, was like watching a wizard weave straw into gold. He entirely transformed into the old Newfie whose whiskey tasted like vodka, demanded his wife (played by Snieckus with a hotplate) cook him six pieces of bacon and six eggs for breakfast, read the obituaries aloud thoroughly, and who says what he says and does what he does, drinks what he drinks and walks how he walks, sits how he sits and thinks what he thinks. He was at once incredibly funny, utterly deplorable and beautifully heartbreaking.
Here, Naomi Snieckus and Ron Pederson provided a solid foundation for Dykstra’s ability to create this formidable character. They proved beyond doubt why they were voted Best Improv troupe at the Canadian Comedy Awards to be sure. Impromptu Splendor is a theatrical wonder because it proves how powerful the dynamic is of the audience knowing that everything they are seeing is being discovered in the moment. It allows humor to crawl into places that is usually quite devoid of laughter. It fosters a strongly intertwined relationship between laughter and tears that is utterly unique, beautiful and compelling.
Impromptu Splendor is a new theatrical form that proves that as wonderful, creative, and talented as playwrights and directors are, in the hands of a troupe seasoned with the very best Canadian Theatre has to offer, their services are not as essential as we have come to believe. If you have not yet witnessed the brilliance, the magic, and the art of Impromptu Splendor, I strongly urge you to treat yourself to a taste of the theatre that makes you laugh with your heart.
The next Impromptu Splendor show is on October 18th in conjunction with The Thistle Project as a fundraiser for their production of Peer Gynt, directed by Erika Batdorf and featuring Susan Coyne and Matthew Romantini. Impromptu Ibsen is at 7:00pm at the Church of Holy Trinity, 10 Trinity Square and tickets are $25.00. The next Impromptu Splendor at the Passe Muraille Cabaret Space is on October 23rd at 10:30pm and they will be creating a brand new Canadian play in the style of Brad Fraser with Guest Star Chris Craddock of BASH’D (Mainstage Passe Muraille). For more information, you can visit this lovely website.
I hope to see you there!
Amanda

reid janisse, rob baker, adam cawley, dale boyer, darryl hinds and caitlin howden
I sit at a table and stare at the empty Second City stage, which is dominated by a gigantic photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is staring at me eerily as I try to decide whether or not to indulge in a drink with a funny name or a platter of sweet potato fries. The Second City, of course, has become a mythic theatrical institution in Toronto as its alumnus has included some of the world superstars of comedy: Dan Aykroyd, Joe Flaherty, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Mike Myers, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles. It’s nearly inconceivable that it would take almost a quarter of a century for me to find my way into the audience for a Second City revue. And yet; here I am.
Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets is a show that sits on the very edge of the world as it is being experienced at this precise moment in history. Like a monologue from a Late, Late Show or weekly sketches from Saturday Night Live or This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Second City cast uses the sharpest of wit and provocative humor to help contextualize and examine our world riddled with irony, hypocrisy and absurdity.
The show establishes its “take no prisoners” philosophy right off the top with no subject too taboo, and no issue too important or solemn to escape an acute dressing down. From a party where guests balk at the suggestion of personal interaction in favour of updating their tweets (via Twitter), to an examination of our, at times absurd, desire for personal space, especially on crowded public transit, this revue paints an accurate portrait of the beeping, ticking, mechanized, automated, ringing, vibrating, computerized, disconnected, insular world our media and our technology has created for us to exist in.
Indeed, the phrase “Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets” is a perfect encapsulation of our newfound ability to live life virtually through a cell phone reducing the art of conversation into something wistful and obsolete. And then, of course, there’s politics. What would happen if an asteroid were hurtling toward the Earth and estimated to destroy only the Middle East? How would the G8 Leaders respond to such a calamity? How do Canadians reconcile their Peace Keeping image with the reality of clubbing baby seals to death? As in any good revue of this sort, Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets has the ability to make an audience laugh as well as to reflect critically on the issues that are being hurtled from the stage wrapped in sardonic absurdity.
The six performers in the show are all hilarious in their ability to create precise, pastiches of characters that we encounter in our daily lives, from politicians, to people we see on the subway, meet in the office, have met while dating, or have seen on television. Darryl Hinds is particularly incredible as a pitch-perfect devious Dell Support Technician (who hasn’t been on the phone with Gary in India for four antagonizing hours?). He also enlivens the entire stage in a mesmerizing gun dance which has the most precise footwork and meticulous timing I have seen outside a musical in a very long time. Reid Janisse gives consistently captivating performances throughout the show and is especially great as the poor, liberal schmuck attempting to give a lecture on Healthcare Reform in Town Hall, America. This scene is one of the most vibrant in the show, as the room erupts into chaos, with each of the performers screaming and heckling the most ridiculous Republican anthems overtop of one another from scattered throughout the audience. Caitlin Howden, in particular, become most belligerent and nonsensical, yet, I have to wonder whether she copied her lines down verbatim from an actual rally captured on youtube. This scene packs so much punch because although it seems utterly outrageous, it’s actually (sadly) one of the most realistic sketches in the show. I also was in stitches watching the “White People Doing Stereotypes” sketch, which was all sorts of politically incorrect fun.
I appreciated director Sandy Jobin-Bevans’ use of media throughout the show. Having Stephen Harper continually looming over the action certainly helped to perpetuate the idea of his conquest of our nation and our pathetic attempts to pacify him out of fear that he’ll one day go berserk and annihilate us all.
I did find some of the Ontarian-specific jokes to be a bit above my own consciousness and it’s clear that the performers are primarily improvisers, comedians and actors rather than “singers,” but, in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my foray into the world of Toronto’s Second City. I must also tell you that the theatre was jam-packed and the audience was going absolutely wild for every moment with hearty, continuous howls of laughter. So, in true Harper style, Ecouter and Repeter, you sons of bitches, if you have a gang of friends, an office filled with coworkers, a class filled with people who like to study the same thing as you, it’s a good idea to gather them all up and head to the Second City for an aptly named drink, some sweet potato fries and to Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets.

Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets plays Tues, Wed, Thur at 8pm – $23.00
Fri at 8 pm, Sat at 8pm & 10:30pm – $28.00>
Sunday at 7:00pm — $23.00
The Second City: 51 Mercer St. at Blue Jays Way, next to Wayne Gretzky’s. For tickets please call 416.343.0011 or visit
www.secondcity.com.

As a bit of an aside, if you ever go to Second City, or even if you just creep its website, or even if you just creep any website at all, you should considering donating, even as much as a toonie, to Gilda’s Club Toronto. Gilda’s Club is named for the brilliantly hilarious, stunningly captivating Toronto Second City alumni and original Saturday Night Live Cast Member Gilda Radner, who died tragically far too soon from cancer in 1989. Gilda’s Club is “a free non-profit support community for men, women, teens and children living with cancer along with their families and friends. It provides a comprehensive program of social and emotional support and is based on the philosophy that no one should face cancer alone.” For more information, you should visit this website. It’s a pretty incredible organization.
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 10, 2009

Vaudeville is Taking Over Carnegie Hall!

naomi snieckus and matt baram in the carnegie hall show
photo by: mandy sellers
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to attend an evening of Vaudeville, on one of the most prestigious circuits in New York circa about 1910? Have you ever wondered what this “vaudeville” thing was all about? Well, I’m pretty sure that Vaudeville is back with a vengeance in the guise of the National Theatre of the World’s The Carnegie Hall Show.
As reviewed last spring, The Carnegie Hall Show begins with an improvised retrospective of the greatest improvised scenes of all time, and thus the audience is treated to a myriad of comedians filling the stage, a plethora of witty banter and more often than not a pratfall from Chris Gibbs. Last Wednesday saw the brilliant improvisational talents of Naomi Snieckus, Kurt Smeaton, Kate Ashby, Carolyn Taylor and Chris Craddock. Filled with organic chemistry and precise comic timing, these improvised scenes caused hearty, continuous belly laughs as the cast paid homage to the trials, tribulations and virtues of the noodle.
Carnegie Hall was also catapulted headlong back to 1931 with Nick Babatsikos’ heartfelt rendition of the Yip Harburg/ Jay Gorney gem “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” a song frequently sung by both Frank Sinatra and Al Jolson. Indeed, Babatsikos had a sort of Jolson quality to his performance that infused it with dynamism. It is sad that this classic Depression Era song has once again found such relevance in the modern world, but it is a haunting number which is not performed very often.
There was a little bit of Burlesque with Cleopatra and the Carnegie Hall Dancers who performed the sultry production number “Big Spender,” which certainly caused the boys in the audience to sit up and take notice. It also gave the room a certain Broadway-style energy, having so many dancers running about the Bread and Circus, fluttering with bits of costumes, music, and the last minute perfecting of their dance moves.
This was followed by the return of Snieckus, Smeaton, Ashby, Taylor and Craddock as they presented a live improvised radio play, which certainly harkened back to a simpler time. Once again, the audience was treated to much clowning around, the sweet sabotage of one another’s performances, and a delight in the absurd, the chaotic and the unknown. Carolyn Taylor was particularly hilarious as this week’s radio play director, who approached her duties very seriously and attempted to rule the Improv with an iron fist.
The evening finished off with a gosh-darn sing-along, a rousing rendition of “What A Wonderful World” that the audience was encouraged to lend both their voices and their interpretive lyrics to.
In pure Vaudeville style, The Carnegie Hall Show is always looking for new acts to incorporate their show, which plays at the Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Avenue) at 9:30pm each Wednesday evening. There is always a musical guest featured in the show, but they are also looking for a variety of different acts to be showcased between the improvised sets. I cannot wait for these variety acts to come in droves and for us to be treated to buskers, magicians, fire-breathers, gymnasts, dancing of all kinds, clowning and a guy with a monkey!
Vaudeville is back; who would have ever imagined that it would reemerge from that cathedral of legitimacy– Carnegie Hall?
I hope the Bread and Circus is licensed for livestock!
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 7, 2009

Alabanza

*Reprinted from The Montreal Gazette*

Douglas Campbell, Renowned and Beloved Actor, Died Today (1922-2009)
By Pat Donnelly

Douglas Campbell, the robust, unconventional Scottish-born character actor who was one of the greats of the Canadian stage and starred for years in the The Great Detective on CBC television, died yesterday in Montreal’s Hôtel-Dieu hospital. He was 87.
Campbell would never have been mistaken for a matinee idol “I am not a very glamorous person. I am not particularly good looking. I’ve got a big, bulbous nose, I’m on the heavy side,” he once said of himself. “I come across as a loud and aggressive apparently. I am not the sort of person who attracts people on the ordinary level.”

But attract attention he did, and much affection, too.
“We’ve had phone calls from all over the country. “ his wife, actor Moira Wylie, said yesterday. “People just adored him. Even though they disagreed with him. He had a good time in the theatre. He loved the actors and wished them well.”
When Campbell was admitted into the hospital last Tuesday, it was for what seemed to be a minor ailment. But longtime diabetes and resultant congestive heart disease had taken their toll. “Everything just sort of went at once,” she said. “It was just incredibly surprising. It all hit us sideways a bit. He was going to be in two plays at the Segal this year and he was really looking forward to it.”
Douglas Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland on June 11, 1922, to parents who were “socialists, pacifists and vegetarians,” and Campbell boasted that he, too, became all three. He came to Canada in 1953.
His father was a postal inspector. His mother an amateur actress who promoted theatre as a tool for communicating ideas to the working class. Initially Campbell wanted to be a painter but his father discouraged art as a career. Kicked out of school at 17, Campbell hitch-hiked from Scotland to work with the Old Vic which at the time was a regional theatre in Burnley.
Although The Second World War was underway Campbell declared himself a conscientious objector and was hired as a truck driver to tote the Old Vic’s stage scenery around. He was inspired to become an actor after seeing a production of King John that had been directed by Tyrone Guthrie. Guthrie gave Campbell the break he needed by allowing him to do bit parts. By the time Campbell was 19 he was touring with Dame Sybil Thorndike. In 1947 he married Thorndike’s daughter, Ann Casson (who died in 1990). They had four children, Dirk, Teresa, Thomas, and Benedic. (No T). Later he had two more with Wylie, Beatrice and Torquil.
“I had two wives and six children, and supported them all. It’s really nobody’s business but ours,” he once explained. “It’s quite a mob but we all get along well.”
Campbell came to Canada in 1953 when Guthrie, invited him to join the inaugural season of the Stratford, Ont. Festival. For the next 10 years Campbell played a major role in Stratford’s development. His Othello in 1959 was a triumph as was his appearance in Oeidpus Rex and his portrayals of Falstaff, Henry VIII and Sir Toby Belch.
Jane Needles, executive director of the Quebec Drama Federations recalled being in awe of Campbell when she was a child growing up in Stratford. “He taught as all as younger people to behave and respect our elders,” she said.
Her father, now 90, remained one of Campbell’s closest friends.
“I stood in awe of Douglas from the first moment I met him at the beginning of the Festival in 1953,” wrote Dan Needles, in an e-mail. “ I had no idea what a friend and mentor he would become in the next 56 years – always there to advise me and encourage me and give me the heart to go on in a profession in which he was a leader, along with Guinness, Worth, Guthrie and Moiseiwitsch. Despite the fact that he was somewhat younger, he became a father figure for me, latterly more concerned about my health than his. His loss is immeasurable for theatre arts and those who were privileged to be close to him.”
Campbell started his own theatre company, The Canadian Players in 1954 before there were any regional theatres in the country, designed to take highbrow drama to audiences from coast to coast. Productions were spare but imaginative, such as an Inuit King Lear set in the Arctic.
Although Lady Eaton picked up most of the bills, the company could not pay its way and and after nine years it folded.
In 1963 Campbell followed Guthrie to Minnesota as artistic director of the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. But his socialist ideals, his commitment to nuclear disarmament and his vocal opposition to the war in Vietnam put him at odds with the community.
Because of his left wing politics, he was often harrased at the border, and once, was even refused entry.
“I am a William Morris socialist, not a Marxist dialectical materialist,” he once told a reporter. “Like Morris, I’m interested in craft, doing things well, living life well. My intention has been to serve the craft of the theatre, not to push for my own personal image. Monetary success means little. As a socialist, I don’t believe in investing. Materialism does not improve the quality of life. We should all live more simply. ”
Campbell might have been a star, but he sacrificed his popularity to the service of good theatre and took enormous pride in his craft.
“I never went in for that PR BS. Some actors hire publicists,” he said, “I have never done anything like that, nor would I consider it proper or just to do so. And I never paid the slightest attention to what the critics wrote about me. If I did, it would be difficult to sustain my pacifism.”
When Tyrone Guthrie died in 1970 Campbell returned to England to take over management of Guthrie’s Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

He was lured back to Canada in 1975 by the CBC to play the lead in the television series The Great Detective. Thus began a 20-year interlude in Toronto and renewed connections with Stratford. He also taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts for three summers and directed at the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake.
He played Broadway in Paddy Chayefsky’s Gideon, and directed the Broadway production of the Orson Wells adaptation of Moby Dick.
In 1980 he joined the National Arts Centre in Ottawa where he stayed for three seasons. His last appearance at Stratford, Ont. was in 1989 as Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady. After that he free-lanced as an actor and a director, “helping little theaters master big plays”
Campbell became a naturalized Canadian in 1990 and in 1997 was awarded the Order of Canada. He moved to Montreal the following year. He was honoured in 2003 with the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award.
His wanderings took him all over North America, to Vancouver’s Shakespeare by the Sea, and in 2002 to the Piggery in North Hatley, which he ran for a season.
Wylie was at his side, along with several other members of the family, when he passed away.
Both Campbell and Wylie were to appear in the upcoming production of Inherit the Wind at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. But Campbell dropped out of rehearsal due to illness, then Wylie quit to look after him. Campbell was to have played the judge.

Campbell performed at Centaur Theatre many times (notably in The Gin Game and The Crucible) and in 2007 directed Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker there.

Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 7, 2009

News from Around the Barrio

Well, Well, Well. Canadian Theatre is ushering in autumn with a rush of excitement and much invigoration.

jason robert brown
Firstly, some news hot off the presses and very thrilling, Monday, November 23rd, 2009 at 8pm the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto will play host to AN EVENING WITH TONY AWARD WINNING COMPOSER JASON ROBERT BROWN and the Caucasian Rhythm Kings with The Toronto Youth Music Theatre Company Choir and Special Guests. TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE AT http://www.ticketweb.ca/. OR BY PHONE AT 1.888.222.6608 $30 (Students/CAEA Members), $50 and $75, plus applicable service charges.
Michael Rubinoff and Mark Selby present the return of TONY AWARD-WINNER JASON ROBERT BROWN on Monday, November 23, 8PM at the Glenn Gould Studio in the CBC Broadcasting Centre, 250 Front St. W. Backed by his band the Caucasian Rhythm Kings, the evening will feature songs from his award winning and internationally performed musicals SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, PARADE, LAST FIVE YEARS and 13, his solo album Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes and some new material. Brown will be joined by the Toronto Youth Music Theatre Company Choir and some outstanding Canadian talent to be announced.
JASON ROBERT BROWN has been hailed as “one of Broadway’s smartest and most sophisticated songwriters since Stephen Sondheim” The New York Times refers to him as “a leading member of a new generation of composers who embody high hopes for the American musical.” With The Last Five Years, Brown won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics. Brown received a 1999 Tony Award for his score to Parade, which is currently playing to rave reviews in Los Angeles. Songs for a New World opened Off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre in the fall of 1995, and has since been seen in more than three hundred productions around the world. “Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes” is his solo CD (available on Sh-K-Boom Records).”
Sounds, incredible! See ya there!

mary walsh

From the Canadian Comedy Awards, TWISI wishes to proclaim loudly, amid trumpets and cherubs that “The Princess Warrior has triumphed again!” Last weekend in St. John, New Brunswick, the 2009 Canadian Comedy Awards were presented, including the Dave Broadfoot Award for Comic Genius to Mary Walsh. The Dave Broadfoot Award for Comic Genius was created by Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson from Royal Canadian Air Farce in 2006 as an annual celebration of comic genius in honour of Canadian funnyman Dave Broadfoot. The award includes a cash prize of $2500 has been given to Mike McDonald, Russell Peters, Jeremy Hotz and now, Mary Walsh.
“Over 35 years into her career, Mary is still creating new tv projects, and winning strong reviews for film acting. She’s created successful projects not just for herself, but for other writers and performers. And in a somewhat male-dominated field, she’s a mentor and beacon to women in comedy. Most of all, for 35 years she’s made people laugh with smart, sharp wit. Once we started thinking of Mary, she was the perfect choice as a “comic genius” reflecting all of the values Dave Broadfoot has always stood for.” Roger Abbott
Mary’s most recent film, Crackie, was screened at TIFF (an official selection) and the Globe and Mail said “Mary Walsh gives her finest ever dramatic performance here!”
Mary is shooting a new sitcom for Canwest, recently appeared on the Murdoch Mysteries, and just wrapped the film, The Love Child, with Donald and Rossif Sutherland.
“I couldn’t have been more surprised, or thrilled, to win this award. Under the rouse of presenting the award to someone else (why not me I wondered) I was floored, and literally fell to the floor, when Don and Roger said my name. I really couldn’t be more surprised, or thrilled, or proud!” said Mary.
Congratulations Mary Walsh for being a Comedy Genius!


Here is some interesting and inspiring news from Halifax, Nova Scotia. On October 12th, 2009 there will be an eveving of monologues and song called Women of Halifax at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) as a fundraiser to support a mission trip to Northern India. The performance begins at 8:00pm with a Silent Auction at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20.00 and are available at the door or by contacting Lisa Rose Snow at 902.497.6654 or emailing lisarosesnow@hotmail.com.
According to the press release: “Women of Halifax Fundraiser is an evening to celebrate the talented actresses that live and work in this city. Through monologues and songs these fantastic ladies will be sharing their gifts with us, reinforcing the strong and sometimes overlooked talent that comes from this part of the country. Each woman will do a monologue, piece of theatre or song of their choosing, whether it be a piece that they’ve always wanted to do in front of an audience, or an old favorite. Come celebrate with us at the intimate Bus Stop Theatre and have a great time, all while supporting a fantastic cause!” It features performances by the extremely talented and impressive lineup of performers: Martha Irving, Ann-Marie Kerr, Geneviève Steele, Andria Wilson, Keelin Jack, Emily Forrest, Courtney Seibring, Kristi Anderson, Margaret Legere, Katie Swift and Lisa MacCormack.
“All funds raised will be going to support a missionary trip to Northern India. Lisa Rose Snow will be traveling to India, where she will spend most of her time working at the North Bengal Outreach Ministry, an orphanage and school that currently cares for 107 children in the small village of Satali. Lisa will spend her time working and playing with the children, who have been learning English, and helping out around the facility. Our fundraiser celebrates the wonderful women of Halifax who make a difference not only in their own community, but also in communities around the world.” Brilliant.

jackie torrens and kathryn maclellan
Also, listen up, Halifax! A Beautiful View, a beautiful play by Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor, which I saw and really liked at the Tarragon Theatre last Spring, is playing at the Neptune Studio Theatre from October 13th-31st and it is directed by none other than the brilliant Daniel MacIvor, and it stars none other than the captivating Kathryn MacLellan and the exquisite Jackie Torrens. Please support Neptune Theatre steadfastly as it fosters, champions and promotes divine Canadian Theatre and Nova Scotian artists in Halifax.

daniel macivor

Speaking of Daniel MacIvor, you know what my definition of bliss would be? Well, terrified bliss, but bliss nonetheless? It would be creating and developing an original text with Daniel MacIvor. If you are a playwright, I highly recommend that you apply for this Master Class at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Play Finding with Daniel MacIvor. Program dates: December 11, 2009 – December 13, 2009. Application deadline: October 23, 2009. Arrival: Thursday, December 10, 2009 Departure: Monday, December 14, 2009. “Join celebrated playwright Daniel MacIvor and investigate the process of creating and developing original text — whether it be a monologue, dialogue, a fully-formed idea, or a vague notion. MacIvor will guide you over the course of this intensive workshop in finding the differences and connections between yourself and your idea. Through specially designed conversations and exercises, MacIvor will lead and inform participants to take their creations to the next level. This workshop is designed for playwrights and actors who are interested in creating performance text. Workshop Capacity: The workshop will accept a maximum of 10 participants. For more information on how to apply- please visit this website.

bob martin and monkey, with sutton foster
Well folks, Jason Robert Brown is not the only Tony Award Winner to grace this town- No, BOB MARTIN, along with HOTBOX STAR, PAT THORNTON are going to appear on the Canadian Comedy Award winning Monkey Toast on Sunday October 11th.
Start time is 8pm (doors 7:30pm) and the show is, as always, “Pay What You Think” (after the show, the audience is given the opportunity to pay whatever they think the show is worth). This show’s performers are: Jennifer Goodhue (Comedy Inc.), Jan Caruana (Second City), Matt Baram (Second City), Naomi Snieckus (Second City), Paul Constable (Second City) and more. Music by Steve Cruickshank (The Bad Dog Theatre).
Each show, David Shore (Second City) interviews a number of guests. After an interview segment, David throws the focus to the Monkey Toast players who then use the interview as the inspiration for their improvised scenes.
The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. West, Toronto, Ontario.
Gobble your Thanksgiving Dinner up fast– and then come on down to the Gladstone Hotel for a toast that you won’t soon forget!

North America’s largest and oldest Fringe Festival, the glorious Edmonton Fringe Festival, has its 2010 Fringe applications available online at http://www.fringetheatre.ca/. I would strongly urge all those with artistry and passion for the theatre to apply to the Edmonton Fringe Festival, as there is none other quite like it in the world! Also the Canadian Association Fringe Festival Touring Applications are available online at http://www.fringefestivals.com/.

As always, if you have some theatrical news from around your barrio, send TWISI an email and let Amanda Campbell know at twisi.theatre.blog@gmail.com
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 5, 2009

Teatro Treats and Around Ye Olde Varscona…

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is Going to Mitzi’s.

It’s been awhile since the smash success of Teatro la Quindicina’s the Oculist’s Holiday; but fear not, debutantes and esquires, la Varscona Theatre is dishing up a brand new play and it’s sure to be the not-to-be-missed event of the season!

Here is what I know:

Teatro Goes Out Swingin’ with an All New Musical Comedy Season Closer!

Teatro La Quindicina may be approaching the conclusion of its 2nd spring/summer/fall season, but let it not be said that things are winding down gently. It’s just the opposite, in fact, as we prepare to launch the premiere production of Everybody Goes to Mitzi’s, a sparkling new musical comedy, created by a quartet of Teatro’s brightest young stars, and featuring one of the company’s best loved leading ladies. Leona Brausen headlines this uproarious tribute to the Edmonton supper club scene of the 1960’s, with book by Jocelyn Ahlf and Andrew MacDonald-Smith, lyrics by Farren Timoteo, and musical score by Ryan Sigurdson. It’s the golden age of dining and dancing in Alberta’s capital, and while The Embers, The Sahara, and The Beachcomber are all big… EVERYBODY goes to Mitzi’s.

In addition to Leona Brausen as the wiseacre chanteuse and restaurant proprietor Mitzi Dupar, the cast also includes co-writers Andrew MacDonald-Smith and Jocelyn Ahlf as oil and water bartender and waitress Mitch and ‘Numbers’, and Ryan Parker as Jack Hayden, Mitzi’s bandleader and sometime paramour, who has his head turned both by dreams of success on the Vegas strip and by winsome new vocalist Tippi Lala, played by Robyn Wallis in her first Teatro appearance, and as befits a play created by an exciting new creative team, this production marks a number of other significant company debuts as well. After numerous onstage appearances in recent seasons, Farren Timoteo takes his first turn as a Teatro director, and set/lighting designer Daniela Masellis and costume designer Brian Bast are also welcome newcomers, creating Mitzi’s glittering lair and outfitting all in the best looks of the Eaton’s catalogue circa 1966. Composer Ryan Sigurdson, whose last Teatro credit was composing original music for Eros and the Itchy Ant, returns as musical director and leader of the live three piece combo. Veteran Teatro stage manager Rachel Rudd returns to count in the band and make sure the pineapple steak orders are up on time in the kitchen. Teatro playwright emeritus Stewart Lemoine serves as Elucidator for the creative team, and Jeff Haslam and Davina Stewart are The Producers!

Everybody Goes to Mitzi’s runs at the Varscona Theatre from October 8 to 24. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm, with additional matinee performances on Saturdays at 2pm.Ticket prices are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. All seats on Saturday afternoons are $15, and Tuesday evenings are Pay-What-You-Can. Friday October 9th at 7:30pm is our special 2 tickets for the price of 1 night! You must bring a companion to take advantage of this deal. For reservations, call 780 433-3399, Voice box #1. Tickets also available through Tix on-the-Square at 780 420-1757 or http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/

I, for one, cannot handle this excitement! A new Canadian musical set in Edmonton in the 1960s! Rapturous! I have also learned the following news regarding Die-Nasty, our country’s longest running Improvised Soap Opera:

Die-Nasty season passes will be available for sale on Monday, October 5th from 7:30 – 8:30 pm at the Varscona. Cash or cheque, made out to Die-Nasty, only. Season details to follow (as we make them up) but we can confirm that this season the show will begin at 7:30 pm instead of 8:00.

If you’re in Edmonton, you know you want a Season Pass. What is the Season without Die-Nasty?

Mark Meer, who is delightful and charming and I had the absolute pleasure of meeting at the Opening of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Canstage the other night, told me that Oh Susanna! (Edmonton’s favourite Euro-style Improvised Variety Show) will kick-start its season on Halloween Night this year! It’s sure to be spooktacular! More details to come!
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 5, 2009

Organic Theatricality

I had meant to post this ages ago, but time and opportunity continued to run away with me. There is a new opportunity for a physical theatre workshop in Toronto. It is conducted by Stefan Dzeparoski, who has a MFA in Theatre Directing, a MA in Theatre Studies, and a BFA in Directing (whew, that’s A LOT of schooling!). He also has “extensive experience in Performer Created Theatre, Collective Co-Creation, Movement Improvisation, Text Creation and Text Improvisation, Scene Study and directing.”
Here is the information about his course:

-ORGANIC THEATRICALITY – A Drama Course for 21st Century
Experience the transformational and healing power of drama. Unlock your performers’ body. Learn. Act. Create through ORGANIC THEATRICALITY
For theatre professionals, for theatre enthusiasts, for the ones willing to step into the magic!Practice the Art of Performance through the principles of Body in Time Body in Space Performer- Created Theatre Collective Co-Creation Movement improvisation Scene/Character Study. Learn to connect your Internal with External Self, Psychological with Spiritual Body Reality with Dream (Re)Discover your harmonious body. Discover your other consciousness. Redefine your acting skills. Experience Acting through the map of body memory.
Body remembers. Body knows.
Course is lead by Stefan Dzeparoski, international theatre practitioner and educator.
For more info:416.797.6202
stefan.dzeparoski@gmail.com
3 x 2 hours -
$120 Regular
One Class $ 40
Where: HUB 14Markham Street 14-Toronto-Ontariowww.hub14.org/where.html
When: October 3, 10, 24 11am-1pm
For more information, visit Stefan’s website: http://www.organictheatricality-stefan.blogspot.com/

Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 5, 2009

Who’s In Awe of Nancy Palk?

diego matamoros and nancy palk

I spent my undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax listening to an assortment of students from Toronto raving about Soulpepper. We would speak about Canadian Theatre and the development of the Regionals, or we would discuss the emergence of Stratford and our experiences seeing Anne of Green Gables when we were eight and Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Alex when we were twelve, and there would always be those who looked at us, with perchance a touch of superiority in their eye, and reiterated that regardless of what we said or knew or thought we knew, the future of the Canadian Theatre was Soulpepper.
Since moving to Toronto in 2007, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (playing until October 24th, 2009) is the tenth Soulpepper production that I have seen and it is brilliantly worthy of the praise that my Torontonian schoolmates once lavished on the company. Wow. Edward Albee’s 1962 play has become the stuff of legends and his two formidable leading characters, George and Martha, have become iconic for actors, for scholars, and for theatre audiences all over the world. As Nancy Palk writes in her programme note, “The part of Martha lay before me, one of those iconic parts you can never “achieve.” You know the movie, you saw it with someone who was perfect, you’ll never come close to that extraordinary character; her heart, her pain, her disappointments, her abandon, her stamina, her belly laugh… her ability to keep on drinking! The summit of the mountain is too high, too distant. If ever there was a time to be fit and loose, the time is now. No time for fear.”
It is Soulpepper Theatre that gives Toronto Canadian productions of these epic, classic works with the richest of theatrical and artistic histories, and here they are served up for us to enjoy and experience and often to come to a greater understanding of why these great playwrights, like Albee, like Chekhov and Ibsen, Beckett, Mamet and Pinter, Williams and Stoppard have become the theatrical giants that they are. On the surface Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf can be encapsulated in a single sentence: George and Martha invite Nick and Honey over for a late-night social engagement involving drinking and games. Yet, these four characters are unrestrained in their complexities, their idiosyncrasies and their power to destroy each other and themselves. This play is Edward Albee’s uncontested masterpiece, but I also think that it is one of the greatest plays ever written.
Soulpepper is a theatre company that is firmly rooted in actors and artists creating their own work, so it is no surprise that when it comes to staging such epic productions, Soulpepper always provides some of Toronto’s most talented performers to bring theatre history’s classic characters to life. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf boasts of four exceptional performances by Diana Donnelly (Honey), Tim Campbell (Nick), Nancy Palk (Martha) and Diego Matamoros (George). Campbell and Donnelly’s Nick and Honey arrive at Martha and George’s house as Brad and Janet arrive at the Frankenstein Place. They are remarkable in their adherence to the social norms and traditions of ambitious, athletic, handsome biologist and sweet, innocent, placating homemaker. Campbell is brilliantly icy as he paces about a room that quickly begins to feel too small, and becomes increasingly vile and callous as the evening wares on. Donnelly is equally strong as Honey, a woman whose social mask is so restricting, even her body attempts to purge itself of the brandy which represents her potential to think and feel and experience life for herself.
Nancy Palk and Diego Matamoros are at their very best in this play as they spar, and regroup, and find another strategy for the assault and the attack and the defense. Albee has written this play to cut deep into the open wounds of love and marriage, but the plan of attack is always through humor. Indeed, Diana Leblanc’s direction and Palk and Matamoros’ interpretations lend themselves to this production being very funny, yet in the humor there is the absurd and in the absurd there is the gut wrenching anguish from which Martha and George seek refuge and absolution. I felt like I had been in Martha and George’s home once before, as it seemed vaguely familiar to me. Indeed, as I watched the play unfold, I seemed to know the two characters in some distant, different form. I realized that I was reminded of the set of a sitcom, like I Love Lucy or The Dyke Van Dyke Show, and that Palk’s Martha had elements of a deranged Carol Burnett, while Matamoros’ George was an extremely disillusioned Woody Allen. Honey and Nick are devoted to keeping up the appearance of their perfect marriage, as they were cast in these roles as children based on economics and convenience. In this production especially, I felt certain that George and Martha had known a love that Honey and Nick would never know. Honey and Nick may grow up and divorce one another, or they may remain in an embittered, loveless marriage of betrayals, but they will never attack one another with as much passion, wrath and revulsion as George and Martha who mourn the life they might have had if the world and its crippling expectations had not interfered.
One could write for years on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and only ever scratch the surface of its themes, imagery and the many interpretations it evokes. At Soulpepper, it is three hours of purely exquisite theatre and a demonstration that yes, indeed, the future of Canadian theatre owes a great deal of gratitude to Soulpepper.
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 5, 2009

There’s A Lot of Truth in True Love Lies

david w. keeley and susanna fournier
These days Brad Fraser’s reputation in the Canadian Theatre Community usually precedes him; and this is especially the case here at The Way I See It. Brad Fraser is brave and controversial, he is open about his opinions and he is refusing to allow Canadian Theatre to remain stagnant or to become merely adequate. He is also a master at writing dialogue. The latter is particularly evident in the North American Premiere of his newest play True Love Lies currently playing at Factory Theatre until November 1st.
True Love Lies is a play where boundaries are continually crossed. Fraser takes two seemingly ordinary experiences, a husband and his wife raising their children, and a relationship between two men coming to an end, and asks, “What would happen if these two worlds collided?” And thus, we are introduced to Kane, a middle-aged man in a seemingly typical marriage to his wife, Carolyn, and their two almost-adult children, Madison and Royce. We are also introduced to Kane’s ex-boyfriend David. The play explores the complex, overlapping relationships that emerge between all these characters as truths are revealed, secrets are kept, and the lines between love, true love, lust and sex become blurry and elusive.
What is a young girl’s relationship to the man who once fucked her father? How about if he is also her boss? What happens if he is “gay” and she is “straight” yet she finds herself oddly attracted to him? What is a woman’s relationship to her husband’s ex boyfriend? How does a son relate to his father when he discovers that he once had a relationship with a man who has done porn and whose naked body is easily Googled across the World Wide Web? Fraser continues to return to the word “love.” David tells Madison that all marriages have expiration dates, and that people only tell themselves of love’s ability to last “forever” because otherwise it does not seem real. What is “real” love? Carolyn devalues Kane’s relationship with David as not having been “real” because it does not fit into the normative heterosexual lifestyle that Kane has come to adopt. Madison has a beautifully naïve, utterly heartfelt, moment with David where she says, “they’re your family, you’re supposed to love them forever.” Can we and do we, what happens if we don’t and what happens when we do; these questions all tumble around in Fraser’s play exposing how weird and complicated love actually is.
For me, the most remarkable feat of this play is the striking realism that it evokes. This is in part due to Fraser’s brilliant gift for writing dialogue that always sounds as though it were transcribed from a conversation he overheard on the subway and then injected with slightly more immediacy. Yet, the five actors involved in this production are equally skillful in their ability to create beautiful, nuanced, often wordless relationships with one another, which makes the dialogue the perfect piece to the dramatic puzzle.
Ashley Wright and Julie Stewart are really married as Kane and Carolyn, they are not pretend Soap Opera married, or even “Honey, I’m home!” Everybody Loves Raymond married, they have a marriage; a partnership with its own quirky shorthand and its own sense of comfort and compromise. They are also parents in the same way, a mom and a dad who obviously love their children and who are struggling with the new boundaries that have emerged since Madison and Royce have grown up. It could be argued that Fraser’s characters still adhere to certain contemporary stereotypes. Madison is the token twenty-two year old whore who seems to have an apathetic relationship with the world, while Royce is the outcast who bottles his emotions and festers like a bubbling volcano. Yet, in both the performances and these characters’ interactions, even Madison and Royce seem to rise beyond society’s labels and to tell their own unique stories.
I found Andrew Craig’s performance as Royce to be especially captivating because despite his nonchalant exterior and a particularly fantastic sheepish physicality and shifty eyes, it was obvious that Royce cared very deeply about his family and about life. It is a strong testament to Susanna Fournier that I felt compassion for Madison, as I generally am strongly adverse to the depiction of twenty-something year old girls as materialistic whores. However, Fournier kept a genuine quality to Madison that was not all caustic wit and rolling of the eyes that I really appreciated.
In all, True Love Lies examines the true nature of love in relation to one family at the moment when an old lover reappears at their door. The characters and the specific situations may seem familiar, but in this case, that allows us to question the boundaries of our own relationships and to reflect on the idea that in a world made up of these sorts of people, perhaps “true love” is, in fact, a lie.
True Love Lies plays at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street at Adelaide) until November 1st, 2009. For tickets please call 416.504.9971 or visit www.factorytheatre.ca.
Posted by: twisitheatreblog | October 5, 2009

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)

fiona reid, belinda cornish, kenneth welsh
Last Spring I emerged from Soulpepper Theatre after seeing their brilliant production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties with creativity, unbridled, bubbling deep within me and I knew that I had to write a play. On Thursday evening I emerged from the Bluma Appel Theatre after seeing the Canadian Stage Company’s production of Stoppard’s new play Rock ‘n’ Roll (2006) with my head spinning and saturated, my mind stimulated to make the historical and political connections and eager to intellectualize and to question the authority of the world. Yet, my heart didn’t want to write a play. My heart felt a little left out.
Rock ‘n’ Roll is a play that chronicles the rise and fall of communism in Czechoslovakia after the Second World War and throughout the ensuing Cold War, and connects it to the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll music and its themes and images of rebellion, freedom, social expression, and the youthful energy associated with sex, drugs and promises of tomorrow. There is nothing simplistic about Stoppard’s play. Although Stoppard only lived in Czechoslovakia for the first two years of his life before fleeing the Nazis (eventually going to England) with his family and other Jewish Czechs, it can be assumed that he has a personal connection to the development of his native country throughout the Cold War, and it is obvious that Rock ‘n’ Roll was meticulously researched and the theories and historical contexts of communism were vigorously investigated. In this way, this play is extremely dense and seeks to immerse its audience into the historical and political climate of Czechoslovakia entirely. For this reason, the programme of the Canadian Stage Company’s production includes a timeline of communism, a glossary of terms and more contextual information is provided in the lobby. This is theatre that demands an audience’s investment and I am very proud to see such a production being produced at the Bluma Appel.
I found that the performances in this production were captivating and thrilling and helped to root Stoppard’s theorizing in something far more human and easy to connect to. Yet, my heart was still not drawn into the equation, and I think that is because Stoppard wrote this play as one inhabited by a gang of bright, passionate, intellectual characters who coexist, and by times enjoy each other’s company, but who are utterly self-sufficient, independent and intent on burrowing down into the deepest crevices of whatever interests them and then will remain content. It doesn’t mean that this is a bad play, or one that cannot be enjoyed, I just think Stoppard showed more artistic balance in Travesties.
The Canadian Stage Company has assembled a formidable team of artists to bring this play to life. Donna Feore directs the piece by breaking the play very stylistically into short snapshot scenes. I liked the briskness of this effect as it kept the pace in a sense of urgency and motion as the play hopped between countries and catapulted us through time. The Bluma Appel Theatre has the ability to use screens and projections which are used throughout Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I feel like none of the productions I have seen at the Canadian Stage Company have used this technology to its full potential. The images always seem too conservative and sluggish when I expect to be assaulted by something gripping, raw and immediate. For if the projections aren’t eliciting something different than the actors are, why are we mixing media at all?
Indeed, nothing could detract from the brilliant performances given by Kenneth Welsh, Fiona Reid and Shaun Smyth. Shaun Smyth played Jan, a young Czech who was raised in the Communist Party at Cambridge, who, upon his return to Czechoslovakia, becomes inspired by both Western and Eastern rock ‘n’ roll music and battles against the censorship and oppressiveness of his native land. Smyth’s Jan is idealistic and loyal, who grows wiser as the play progresses, but never looses a sense of gentle faith and quiet confidence in his dreams. Fiona Reid gives a mind-blowing performance as Eleanor, an intelligent University professor, who has found herself fighting for her life. Reid throws so much raw, compelling emotion into the formidable Eleanor. She created a character I wish I could meet and who I know would have commanded my utter respect. In a dazzling shift, in Act II Reid played Esme, Eleanor’s flower child daughter, with every bit as much presence and conviction. Kenneth Welsh was every bit as imposing and incredible as Max, a British Professor at Cambridge who still clings fervently to the concept of the development of an ideal manifestation of Communism. Welsh created a character who was utterly sympathetic, although frequently frustrating, and developed the same complex and surprisingly tender relationship with the audience that he had with his wife, daughter, granddaughter and Jan.
I must say, however, as brilliant as Reid and Welsh are (and that’s undeniable), there is a stunning scene in the play featuring both of them and the young, incredibly bright scholar Lenka, played by Belinda Cornish, which I also found worthy of note. Cornish has remarkable poise and persistence as Lenka, as well as a flawless Czech accent, which adds this wonderful element of tension and dynamism to the play. I was captivated by her status in the midst of Reid and Welsh and wished that she had a larger role in the play.
Rock ‘n’ Roll examines some brilliant questions and investigates the power of music. Rock ‘n’ roll can easily be dismissed as being just music, but when it is the pulsing heart of a revolution, even the Beach Boys can become the means for a political anthem. My mind enjoyed being stretched with this Stoppard play and I was grateful for all the performers who gave so much passion and ardor to their roles. Travesties propelled me to express myself in writing, while Rock ‘n’ Roll has propelled me to listen to the music and perhaps to consider the lyrics with a little more reflection. There is a line that Jan has when talking to a Western Character about the Czech band, The Plastic People of the Universe, where he beseeches him to write about the music, and to learn about the band, rather than simply studying their social consequence. So, perhaps, in that way, it is apt that I am left with a hankering for music to tell its story and to shift my focus toward the rock’n’ roll.
Rock ‘n’ Roll plays at the Bluma Appel Theatre (The Canadian Stage Company) until October 24th, 2009. 27 Front Street East. For tickets please call 416. 368.3110 or visit www.canstage.com.

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