Tag Archive: CanStage

2012 in Review: Shows I Saw

For the last four years I’ve been keeping track of what I see, and each year the number has been growing. This year I saw a staggering 174 different productions (some of them more than once) spanning the performance art disciplines in 10 cities and five countries. I saw a high school production and a West End Musical. I went to the Vancouver Fringe and the Paris National Opera. I saw magicians, musicals, and modern dance; ballet, busking, and butoh; Shakespeare, site-specific, and SummerWorks.

As with every year there are shows I regret missing, but there are way less this year. There were things I wanted to see in London that I didn’t make it to. I couldn’t see every show at PuSh. I missed Terminus at SummerWorks.But overall, I saw more great theatre this year. Of course, I also walked out of two shows this year (something I rarely do) and wanted to walk out of at least three others that I couldn’t walk out of due to political reasons or logistics.

Here they are, the 174 shows I saw in 2012 in something close to chronological order:

  1. Waiting for Godot (Blackbird Theatre at the Cultch)
  2. Never Swim Alone (TWU)
  3. All The Way Home (Electric Company)
  4. Red (Vancouver Playhouse)
  5. The Idiot (Neworld/UBC at PuSh)
  6. Amarillo (Teatro Linea de Sombra at PuSh)
  7. Glory Days (The Boys Upstairs Equity Co-op)
  8. Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner (Chelfitsch Theater at PuSh)
  9. Gunmetal Blues (Playhouse)
  10. El Pasado un animal grotesco (Grupo Marea at PuSh)
  11. Craigslist Cantata (Arts Club Theatre at PuSh)
  12. Almighty Voice and his Wife (Native Earth Performing Arts/Touchstone Theatre at PuSh)
  13. Calendar Girls (Arts Club)
  14. No. 2 (Silo Theatre at PuSh)
  15. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea (Pacific Theatre)
  16. Bride on Credit (TWU)
  17. Tempting Providence (Gateway Theatre)
  18. Problem Child & The End of Civilization (Theatre at UBC)
  19. I Love You Because (Intimate Productions)
  20. Intimate Apparel (Arts Club Theatre)
  21. The Silicone Diaries (Nina Arsenault at The Cultch)
  22. Hunchback (Catalyst Theatre at The Vancouver Playhouse)
  23. All Shook Up (Chemainus Theatre Festival & Gateway Co-pro)
  24. Ignorance (Old Trout Puppet WorkShop at The Cultch)
  25. Doubt (Pacific Theatre)
  26. Goodness (Volcano theatre at the Firehall)
  27. King Lear (Honest Fishmongers)
  28. Kismet 1 to 100 (The Chop at Gateway)
  29. A Vessel of Ruins (Taketeru Kudo – Tokyo)
  30. Barber of Seville (Vancouver Opera)
  31. Importance of Being Earnest (Arts Club)
  32. Importance of Being Earnest (Gallery 7)
  33. Flop (Delinquent Theatre)
  34. Snooker (Camillo the Magician)
  35. Fresco (BellaLuna Productions)
  36. The Bombitty of Errors (20-Something)
  37. Scar Tissue (Arts Club)
  38. Henry & Alice: Into the Wild (Arts Club)
  39. EndGame (Main Street Theatre)
  40. A Last Resort (Rough House Productions)
  41. Trial by Jury (VSO & Vancouver Opera Ensemble)
  42. Aida (Vancouver Opera)
  43. The Exquisite Hour (Relephant Theatre)
  44. 100 Saints You Should Know (Pacific Theatre)
  45. Blue Box (Neworld Theatre)
  46. Bliss (Ballet BC)
  47. High Society (Arts Club)
  48. Godspell (Christ Church Cathedral)
  49. Obstructions – Boca Del Lupo
  50. Shelter from the Storm (Touchstone/Firehall)
  51. Fantasticks (Gallery 7)
  52. MacBeth (Bard on the Beach)
  53. Wolf at the Door (Pacific Theatre)
  54. Not Everything You Are (Stones Throw)
  55. Obstructions – Felix Culpa
  56. UnBoxed (Scarlet Satin)
  57. Reasons to be Pretty (Matchbox Theatre)
  58. The Alchemist
  59. Xanadu (Arts Club)
  60. Titanic (TUTS)
  61. The Music Man (TUTS)
  62. King John (Bard on the Beach)
  63. Merry Wives of Windsor (Bard on the Beach)
  64. Alter Boyz (Arts Club)
  65. Armed (Xua Xua)
  66. Mary Poppins (Broadway Across Canada)
  67. Stationary (Delinquent Theatre at Neanderthal)
  68. Coercion (Hardline at Neanderthal)
  69. God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment.at Neanderthal)
  70. The List (Bouchewhacked! at Neanderthal)
  71. Tyumen, Then (Groundwater Productions at Neanderthal)
  72. House of X (Wild Excursions at Neanderthal)
  73. The Taming of the Shrew (Bard on the Beach)
  74. Obstructions – Beautiful Karrats (Radix)
  75. Sunday Service (Neanderthal)
  76. Exhibit A (411 Dramaturgy at Neanderthal)
  77. The Marraige of Figaro (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre)
  78. My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productions at SummerWorks)
  79. France or the Niquab (Old Pirate at SummerWorks)
  80. Haunted (The Haunted Group at SummerWorks)
  81. Artaud: un Portrait en Decomposition (TheatreRUN at SummerWorks))
  82. Medicine Boy (Native Earth at SummerWorks)
  83. Purge (Brian Lobel at SummerWorks)
  84. One/Un (Orange Noyée at SummerWorks)
  85. The God that Comes (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
  86. When it Rains (2b Theatre at SummerWorks)
  87. Petrichor (Kitchenband at SummerWorks)
  88. Barrel Crank (Suitcase in Point at SummerWorks)
  89. Extinction Song (Voodoo Theatre at SummerWorks)
  90. Dutchman (lemonTree Creations)
  91. Wondermart (Rotozaza at SummerWorks)
  92. Marine Life (Theatre Crisis and Aluna Theatre at SummerWorks)
  93. Captain Ron’s Ship of Friendship/Atomic Vaudeville Cabaret (Atomic Vaudeville at SummerWorks)
  94. The Frenzy of Queen Maeve  (Live Lobster Theatre at SummerWorks)
  95. Breath in Between (Breath Collective in Association with Crow’s Theatre at SummerWorks)
  96. 40 Days and 40 Nights (Nina Arsenault at Summerworks)
  97. Your Side, My Side and the Truth (Compass and Trying Science Co-Production at SummerWorks)
  98. Peachy Coochy (Summerworks)
  99. We Will WeeTube (An Experiment with Theatre Replacement’s WeeTube at SummerWorks)
  100. Iceland (The Iceland Collective at Summerworks)
  101. Speed the Plow (SoulPepper)
  102. Motor Vehicle Sundown (Andy Field at SummerWorks)
  103. Midsummer Night’s Dream (CanStage)
  104. Mojo (ItsaZoo)
  105. Eurosmash! (Die Rotten Punkte at The Cultch)
  106. My Marvellous Melcher Machine (James Melcher)
  107. Pirates? (Quimera Collective)
  108. Just Bust a Move (Nathaniel Roy)
  109. Home Free (Staircase XI)
  110. Riverview High: The Musical (Entrance Theatre)
  111. In the Time of the Dream Warrior (Golgonooza)
  112. The 1812 Event (Just Push Play)
  113. Romance (Queer Arts Society)
  114. Adult Entertainment (Squidamisu Theatre)
  115. ReLapse (And the Other Leg)
  116. Miss Cosmos (Bright Young Theatre)
  117. Felony (Dreams Beyond 30)
  118. First Day Back (10 Foot Pole)
  119. Alpha (Compassionate Bone)
  120. Three More Sleepless Nights (o.o.o.o.)
  121. Weaksauce (Sam Mullins)
  122. You Are Here (Allentina Francesca)
  123. Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos (411 Dramaturgy)
  124. Tales Told by Idiots (Not The Mermaid)
  125. Lost in Twine (Looking for 143 Productions)
  126. Underbelly (Jayson MacDonald)
  127. Zanna, Don’t (Awkward Stage)
  128. Psychopomp (Psyche Theatre)
  129. Smudge (Two Wrongs That Write)
  130. God is a Scottish Drag Queen (Delcon Entertainment)
  131. Peter ‘n’ Chris Explore Their Bodies (Peter ‘n’ Chris)
  132. Loon (Wonderheads)
  133. Gadfly (Theatre of the Beat)
  134. Guernica (Hidden Harlequin Theatre)
  135. Fishbowl (Mark Shyzer)
  136. How to Love (Idea Factory Entertainment)
  137. Welcome to my Wake (INC – Ingrid Nilson Collective)
  138. Little Lady (Sandrine Lanford)
  139. The Histories AKA Will Shakespeare’s ImproMusical (GrinkeInk)
  140. Riot (Carson Graham Secondary)
  141. The Missing Piece (Theresa Hamilton)
  142. The Best, Man (Urban Rogues)
  143. Risk Everything (Squidamisu Theatre)
  144. No Tweed to Tight (Ryan Gladstone)
  145. Vincent (Spitfire Productions)
  146. Bookworm (Corin Raymond)
  147. Blind Date (Rebecca Northan at the Cultch)
  148. Post Secret: The Play (TJ Dawe, Kahlil Ashanti & Frank Warren)
  149. The Spitfire Grill (Midnight Theatre Collective at Pacific Theatre)
  150. Capslock: The Musical (Pipedream Productions)
  151. Master Class (Arts Club)
  152. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Elbow Theatre at The Cultch)
  153. A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers)
  154. Zombie Syndrome (Virtual Stage)
  155. The Unplugging (Arts Club)
  156. Initiation Trilogy (Electric Company/Boca del Lupo/Writers Fest)
  157. Debts (ItsaZoo)
  158. La Boheme (Vancouver Opera)
  159. Dancing at Lughnassa (Capilano University)
  160. Chelsea Hotel (Firehall)
  161. Cozy Catastrophe (theatre Melee with Rumble and the Cultch)
  162. Gold Mountain (Les Deux Mondes & unity theatre at The Cultch)
  163. Dickens’ Women (Miriam Margoyles at The Cultch)
  164. Go Back for Murder (SAMC Theatre @TWU)
  165. Tomb with a View (Genus/Up in the Air)
  166. Far Side of the Moon (Ex Machina @ SFU)
  167. Matilda the Musical (Royal Shakespeare Company in the Westend)
  168. Twelfth Night (The Globe)
  169. NSFW (Royal Court)
  170. The Effect (National Theatre)
  171. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Zurich Opera House)
  172. Jultrad-i-tion (Gotenburg Opera)
  173. Don Quixote (Ballet of the National Opera of Paris)
  174. Le Retour (Odeon Theatre of Europe)
  175. La Cenerentola (National Opera of Paris)

SLIP 2012 – Day 0

See! I totally found Factory. Now I just need to do so again tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the first day of the SummerWorks Leadership Intensive Program aka SLIP and today was all about preparation.

I get really anxious in new situations, especially if I feel unprepared for them, so I knew I wanted to spend some time today getting myself ready for tomorrow: figuring out public transit from my friend’s house to Factory Theatre, from Factory to the LOT, and from the LOT back to my friend’s house. Armed with my weekly TTC pass, iPhone, and a sharpie-drawn map I began my journey. Now let me be clear – I am pretty bad with directions. It took me more than two years to figure out north, south, east and west in Vancouver, even when working in a venue that uses those four terms instead of upstage and downstage. I’m not holding out much hope for figuring out Toronto in the next two weeks.

My very first attempt to get out of the neighborhood, I got on the streetcar going the wrong way. I didn’t figure out that I was going the wrong way until I pulled up the maps app on my iPhone. Thankfully I was right near the end of the line and it turned around and I got going the way I needed to. Hooray! Factory Theatre: found. Again on my way to the LOT I found myself going the opposite direction from what I needed (once more due to my trusty iPhone map). Jump off the streetcar. Cross the street. Jump on the streetcar heading the correct direction. Breathe. Lower Ossington Theatre: found. SummerWorks seven show pass: acquired. Number of minor freak outs: only one.

Amanda and I at High Park, ready for some outdoor theatre!

To wrap up the day, my lovely friend and host Amanda and I made our way to High Park to see CanStage’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was certainly a very Toronto way to spend the evening, and it was delightful to open the program and learned that the show had been designed by a friend. As the sun set over the park I felt the temperature go down for what seemed the first time since I arrived in Toronto four days ago. Lovely.

Now it is getting late and I’m going over the mental check list for tomorrow.

Festival kit: check
iPad charged: in progress
iPhone charged: once the iPad is done
Notebook ready: yes, but if I get up early I’m going to go buy something special
Re-reading everything about tomorrow: done

All that’s left is to get some sleep and go into tomorrow ready for adventure. And hope I don’t get lost on public transit on my way there.

On the Canadian Theatre Conversation

This morning I happened to be online at the right time to catch the audience development chat on twitter. Hosted by Praxis Theatre, with special guests Catalyst Theatre and Canstage, the conversation quickly evolved to include artists, companies, and critics from across Canada as well as a handful of US theatre people. The conversation was held under the hashtag #auddev (and actually began trending in Canada!).

In the hour and a half that we all gathered around our computers and discussed the role of social media in audience development for theatre I did not see any new ideas. There was primarily a discussion of what had worked for some and whether or not actors would be bothered by people tweeting in the audience. There were questions of time commitment required to engage in social media and there was consideration of the Such Tweet Sorrow campaign.

It was not the content of the conversation that excited me. It was the fact that the conversation was happening.

Although I have been quite involved in the 2amtheatre movement and the conversations that shaped that and that have spawned from it, they have been primarily US based. Today was, in my recollection, the first time that Canadian theatre artists have used twitter to have a nation-wide conversation about the role of social media – in fact – to have a nation-wide conversation about anything. Based on this conversation new relationships between companies and artists have been formed. And this gives me great hope.

When I first discovered the “theatrosphere” through the prompting of Simon Ogden, he, Kris Joseph, and the folks at Praxis were really the three Canadian theatre blogs to read. They were engaging with big ideas and collaborating cross-country to keep a dialogue going. In the three years since that time more and more Canadian theatre blogs have popped up (I think of Nancy Kenny, Sabrina Evertt, Rebecca Coleman, Lindsay Price and TheatreFolk, Jeremy Crittenden, and a number of theatre companies), but the ones that I have found & follow are still primarily BC, Alberta, Ontario & Quebec based. And it’s not that I’m simply most interested in those provinces, but despite hunting and searching for others, I haven’t been able to find them. I know working theatre artists in many of the other provinces as well as the territories, but there has been a real lack of online engagement on both an individual and community level. (If you know of any Canadian theatre blogs, please share them in the comments so I can follow them, especially prairie or maritime based ones!)

As I’ve watching US theatre companies host symposiums on play development and audience development all across the country, based on conversations that have started on blogs and twitter, I have watched with anticipation, hoping that soon Canada would follow suit. I have not felt that I was in a place to start the conversation – I’m not a producer or presenter of theatre in Canada – but as an artist, I care that we are talking and sharing ideas and I look forward to the next part of the conversation.

Theatrical Excellence in 2010

I saw some truly great theatre in 2010. I also saw some good, some mediocre, and a few shows that were just plain bad.  I’m not here to critique but rather to celebrate the excellence I saw in the theatre in 2010. Some of it was flashy and full of spectacle, but more often than not, it was an innovative but simple approach to a fantastic story.

Meg Rowe, Craig Erickson, Gabrielle Rose & Kevin McNulty in Blackbird Theatre's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The very first show I saw in 2010 still remains with me. I was excited about Blackbird Theatre‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? As soon as I heard the cast list. Gabrielle Rose. Kevin McNulty. Craig Erickson. Meg Rowe. I went in with high expectations. And I wasn’t disappointed. They brought so many nuances to the play, making it feel so real that there were moments I felt embarrassed to be watching these private moments, even knowing they were being staged for me to see. I leapt to my feet at the end of the show, and can’t wait to see it in its remount at the Arts Club in the coming months.

My second standing ovation of 2010 didn’t come until five months later when I was on vacation in Toronto and I took my host for the week, the lovely Amanda Ballard, to go see Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein at CanStage. I had heard so many great things about the show after its run in Vancouver in 2008 (which I missed), and once more my expectations were high. Did I have dramaturgical issues with the show? Yes. I thought it could stand to cut about 20 minutes (15 from Act 1, 5 from Act 2) to keep the story tighter and more focused, but that was my only issue with the show. The designs were stunning, the music haunting, the performances so physically distinct and the images created by the combination of all of those elements still stick with me. I can’t wait to see more work from Catalyst theatre.

Tarragon Theatre's If We Were Birds

I also saw If We Were Birds at Tarragon Theatre while I was visiting Toronto. I knew very little about the show before going to see it. I knew it was a retelling of a greek myth, but it wasn’t one that I was familiar with, and I knew that I wanted to see something at Tarragon because so many shows i have worked on over the years have had their premieres there. What I did not expect was a production so haunting I couldn’t bring myself to fully clap at the end, let alone stand as I wanted. Complete with a chorus, this production used incredible simplicity to create images that haunt me still. Blood dripping from the corner of a young woman’s mouth. A disturbing shadow play. Choral voices that echo in my head. Stunning.

The fourth excellent show I saw this year, was something I saw by accident. I was in town from Chemainus for only a couple of days, popping into town to see friends and one of them said to me, “Have you seen anything at the Neanderthal Festival yet?” I hadn’t, and soon I was on a bus heading to see a show I knew nothing about. It took only seconds of arriving at the theatre and getting the program for the show to start seeing names I recognized. Countries Shaped Like Stars (Mi Casa Theatre) was directed by Pat Gauthier who I was acquainted with from the 2008 Vancouver Fringe, but knew better through twitter. I then spent an hour being transported by Gwendolyn Magnificent and Bartholomew Spectacular from islands to constellations as they sang, danced, and played their way through the story. Technologically speaking, it was utterly simple (in fact, they advertise it as available to tour to living rooms!) but each spoon, jar, mandolin, ladder, balloon, lamp, etc was a part of the journey, usually when I least expected. I still hear the songs in my head sometimes. It was a perfect excursion with my imagination. You can check out the Countries Shaped Like Stars trailer on YouTube

Josue Laboucane & Nevada Robert Yates in The Exquisite Hour

The fringe festival is always a bit of an adventure – there will be some awful shows and some good shows, but I think I somewhat discounted the ability of the fringe to present a show that would stand with the most excellent things I saw all year. I was wrong. Relephant Theatre‘s The Exquisite Hour lived fully up to its name. When I arrived at the venue I was greeted with a mason jar of lemonade and then experienced a beautiful story. It was an absolute gem of a show, and one of the few fringe shows that really felt fully realized. I smiled, I laughed, and I cared so greatly for the characters by the end of the hour.

After three years of trying, I finally saw the Electric Company’s Studies in Motion in Edmonton at the Citadel. The projection design for this show, combined with its choreography is what makes it so phenomenal. An exploration of movement and the human body, it’s the images from this play that stick with me rather than the story. And I’m so completely okay with that. As the female performers ran across the stage with white fabric flowing behind them or the men hopped with their briefcases or a naked figure simply walked from one side to the other, there was such beauty.

Vancouver Opera's Lucia di Lammermoor.

On a completely different side of the art form, Vancouver Opera‘s Lucia di Lammermoor earned my third standing ovation of the year. I am by no means an opera buff, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating a beautifully sung aria, an elegant staging that played so forcefully with perspective, or a love story that brought me to tears. I highly doubt this is the last we’ll hear of Michael Fabiano, and I hope Vancouver Opera will be bringing back Eglise Gutierrez (who i first saw in 2009 in Rigoletto).

Honorable mentions:
– Dancing the night away at Dance Marathon (Bluemouth Inc/Boca Del Lupo) wasn’t something I expected to enjoy, in fact I went in as a grouch, but came out with a new spring in my step.
– Carousel Theatre’s A Year with Frog & Toad was an absolute joy to experience, especially alongside a room full of five year olds who were seeing their literary heros come to life.
– I’m still trying to wrap my head around Tear the Curtain! (Arts Club/Electric Company), but I think that was the point. One of the best uses of technology in the theatre that I have ever seen, not just in 2010.
– I’m curious to see The Trespassers again when it opens at the Vancouver Playhouse, because one of the things I loved about the production at the Belfry in Victoria was the intimacy afforded by the smaller space. Amitai Marmorstein is fantastic in this show.
– The co-op production of Marsha Norman’s ‘Night, Mother was absolutely heartbreaking. I just wish more people had seen it.

Back from Toronto

I’m writing this from 39,623 feet, currently somewhere above Wisconsin (if the television screen in front of me can be believed). I’m on my way home to Vancouver and am already finding myself missing the people I met over the past eight days. One of the main reasons for my trip was to try and tour some theatres & get some interviews, but I was not able to arrange for either of those things to happen. The opinion of the theatre artists I met in Toronto was that this is not abnormal – for someone to reach out to local companies and not receive any sort of response. While I found that situation a little bit discouraging I did not let it spoil the trip for me in any way. I learned a lot about the Toronto theatre scene from the artists I met and shows I saw and I see a number of ways that the things we discussed over the course of the week may come into play in the work I am doing in the near future.

Here are just a few of my highlights from the trip:

  • Meeting Amanda & Brittney for the first time after over a year of online friendship and hitting it off so well that all of a sudden it was 3am on a Monday night and we were still giggling. As discussed recently on the 2am Theatre website, Twitter and an online relationship lets you jump past the initial feeling out of the friendship and just be friends.
  • Seeing Catalyst Theatre’s Frankenstein at CanStage and then spending the entire rest of the week figuring out why we loved it so much despite dramaturgical issues. I now completely understand why my Vancouver friends are still talking about this show two years after it came to town.
  • Exploring Toronto on foot & Public Transit: St. Lawrence Market, King Street, Queen Street, Yonge Street, Bloor street, Bay street, (basically all of downtown), Kensington Market, Roncesvalles, the CN Tower, Union Station, and much more.
  • Going to see a show I knew nothing about because someone I knew from online was going to see it and then leaving with her & her boyfriend at intermission because the show was just that terrible. Instead we went out for coffee, tore the show apart, and got to know each other better than we ever would have if we stayed to watch the whole play.
  • Getting kidnapped by Amanda and taken (along with Brittney) to Niagara Falls in the middle of a lightening storm. We were so excited that we created a hashtag for the trip, laughing all the while at how big of geeks that made us. And then a racoon popped out of a garbage can. And Brittney did a toe dance.
  • Nancy Kenny coming up from Ottawa for the weekend. Another internet friendship brought offline.
  • A midnight stand-up comedy show called the Canuck Cabaret run by Nancy’s friend Paul Hutchinson in a closed movie rental store complete with ukelele songs and light twirling.
  • Visiting the Harry Potter Exhibition at the science centre with Brittney. It had all sorts of props, costumes & set pieces from the movies. We got to sit in Hagrid’s chair and pull up a shrieking potted plant. Sadly there were no photos allowed within the exhibit, but the attention to detail – right down to the buttons & clasps & textures & fonts & shading of feathers – blew us away. Can you imagine if theatre props paid that much attention to picking the right font for an on stage document? One of the most interesting things was looking at some of the costumes for Viktor Krum and noticing a recurring image of talons. One jacket had talon style toggles as the fastener, another cape had a full talon attaching it to the sash. It’s the kind of thing that in theatre, because there are no close ups, might not ever get noticed, but still ties things together so beautifully.
  • Being asked by the lady at the Harry Potter Exhibit if Brittney & I were best friends who had known each other forever and then owning up (through gales of laughter) to having met for the first time a week earlier.
  • Making gluten free, dairy free cupcakes & brownies with coconut cream icing. And having them actually taste REALLY good.
  • Visiting with Amanda until we fell asleep in the middle of what we were saying.

I had an amazing week, but Vancouverites, let me put your minds at ease: I don’t want to move to Toronto. Vancouver is home. I would love to have more opportunities to spend time in Toronto whether on vacation or through work. I want to spend more time there, I want to work there, I want to learn from the theatre community there, I’d love to be there even for a few weeks a year if for no other reason than to see the people again. And hey, there are now at least three couches I can crash on when I decide to return to the city.  But it isn’t home.