Tag Archive: Project X

2009 In Review: Shows I Saw

Fringe!One of my New Year’s resolutions last year was to start seeing more theatre.  I had decided that if I was really passionate about this, I probably needed to see more than 2 shows a month.  I settled on 3 per month, figuring that to be a fairly easy place to start.  I did, of course, surpass those numbers, seeing 76 plays in 2009.  That averages out to just over 6 shows per month.  Double my original goal.  Below you will see my list of shows, in nearly chronological order (some are out by a little bit, but its very close).

The shows I have seen vary. I saw plays in Canada & the USA. I saw plays at the largest local theatres (Playhouse, Arts Club, Bard),  at the smallest (Little Mountain Studios) and everything in between.  I saw kids doing Shakespeare in the park in Kamloops, I saw my first show at Vancouver Opera, I saw my first ballet in years.  I saw musicals, comedies, dramas, & horrors.  I saw mask pieces, movement pieces, character pieces, plays that were all about the set, or costumes, or script, or directing.   I saw almost everything I wanted to see (there were a few shows I missed, which I think is inevitable when one works in theatre and only has maybe 2 days a week in which to attempt to see plays).

You may wonder, how do I afford to see 6 plays a month on a stage manager’s income? I volunteer. A lot. Probably two-thirds of the shows on this list I have been able to see for free because I volunteer as an usher, bartender, a poster-puter-uper, a money counter, or whatever else the company needed.  I also have a lot of friends in theatre, so sometimes I can get free tickets for opening nights or days that they are running slow.  Probably only 20% of the shows were paid for, and half of those were at a reduced rate as an “artist” or “friend of cast” or “2-for1” or “rush ticket” promotion.

Seeing theatre doesn’t have to be expensive.  It can be a very affordable way to spend a night out.  And, for those within the theatre community, what better way to open your next cover letter than with genuine praise for the work of the company you are applying to.

As I look forward to next year, I will probably scale back a bit.  I will probably aim for four shows per month (in the middle between 2008’s two and 2009’s six).  I saw a lot of theatre this year, but I did it at the exclusion of other things & now it is time to be pickier about my theatre and make time again for the other things I love to do.

Here is the official list of plays I saw in 2009:

1.Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (Vancouver Playhouse)
2.Skydive (Arts Club /Reelwheels/ Push)
3.5 Days in March (PuSh/Cheltfish)
4.There Came A Gypsy Riding (United Players)
5.Whale Riding Weather (Zee Zee Productions)
6.20 minute musicals (Rumble/ Push)
1. Distant Second: The Steve Fonyo Story
2. Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata
7.Bye Bye Birdie (Studio 58)
8.Medea (UBC)
9.The Be(A)st of Taylor Mac (Club Push)
10.Coriolanus (Coriolanus Equity Co-op {Mad Duck Collective})
11.Shocker’s Delight (Squidamisu)
12.Beggars at the House of Plenty (Evolving Arts Collective)
13.East of Berlin (Tarragon/Touchstone/Firehall)
14.Rigoletto (Vancouver Opera)
15.Under The Hawthorne Tree (The Two Marys)
16.Munsch Alley (Carousel theatre)
17.The Idiots Karamazov (UBC)
18.Death of a Clown (ITSAZOO)
19.The Real Thing (Arts Club)
20.Where The River Meets The Sea (Presentation House)
21.LifeSavers (Ruby Slippers)
22.Earnestine Shushwap Gets Her trout (Firehall Arts Centre)
23.John & Beatrice (Pi Theatre)
24.Secret World of Og (Carousel Theatre)
25.36 Views (Tempus Theatre)
26.Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus)
27.Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)
28.Les Miserables (Arts Club)
29.Top Girls (Vancouver Playhouse)
30.Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)
31.Othello (Bard on the Beach)
32.The Tempest (2-bite Bard)
33.SchoolHouseRock Live (Small Nest Productions @ Edmonton Fringe)
34.Rent (Fighting Chance Productions)
35.Macbeth (Limbo Circus Theatre)
36.Orestes (Cambiare Productions)
37.Unidentified Human Remains; or, the True Nature of Love (20 Something Theatre)
38.Alls Well That Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)
39.Dog Sees God (Fighting Chance Productions)
40.Kicked (Project X)
41.The Saddest Girl in the World
42.Circus x2 (Cabbage Under Heavy Fire)
43.Nggrfg (Small Brown Package)
44.Drinks with Friends (Whirlwind Productions)
45.Lavignia: A Modern Fairy Tale of Gigantic Proportions (Sticky Fingers Production)
46.Some Reckless Abandon (Over the Moon Productions)
47.Cabaret of Bullshit (Vancouver Fringe)
48.Caberlesque! (BSide Productions)
49.AfterLife (Sunset Gun Productions)
50.murder, hope (Infinity Live Productions)
51.The Veil (Presentation House & OneLight Theatre)
52.Midsummer (The Cultch & Traverse Theatre Company)
53.The House of Kosa (TigerMilk Collective)
54.Gift of Screws
55.The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Pacific Theatre)
56.Any Night (Touchstone, DualMinds & The Cultch)
57.Lot’s Wife (Studio 58)
58.Love You Forever & More Munch (Carousel Theatre)
59.Becky’s New Car (Artists Repertory Theatre – Portland)
60.Evil Dead: The Musical (Downstage Right Productions)
61.Anatomy of Gray (TWU Theatre)
62.Master Builder (UBC)
63.Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour DreamCoat (Footlights Theatre Company)
64.The Big League (Carousel Theatre)
65.The Project (Solo Collective)
66.Moulin Rouge: the Ballet (Royal Canadian Ballet)
67.These Walls Are Paper Thin (Critical Mask & Mind of a Snail)
68.The Vertical Hour (United Players)
69.King Arthurs Kitchen (Axis Theatre)
70.Demon Voice (Touchstone Theatre)
71.After The Quake (Pi Theatre/Rumble Productions)
72.Wired (Green Thumb Theatre)
73.A Winter’s Tale (Studio 58)
74.Robin Hood (Carousel Theatre)
75.A Beautiful View (Ruby Slippers Theatre)
76.Anne (Chemainus Theatre Festival)

Previously: 2009 in Review: Work

Severe Thunderstorm Warnings

LIGHTENING_STRIKEIn the last two weeks my loathing for those three words has grown exponentially.  It has gotten to a point where three or four nights a week we head down to our site uncertain of whether or not we’ll be doing a show that night.

Opening night’s forecast called for a chance of rain, but there was no mention of thunderstorms and then BAM, the rain was dumping down, the lightning was cracking all around us, the thunder was rumbling & the power station up the hill was having transformers blow.  All in all, not a fun opening night (although the memory of running on stage in the middle of act 1 to mop up the deck to the applause and laughter of the audience is one that I won’t forget quickly).  We ended up cancelling that show at intermission which was really dissappointing for everyone: cast, crew & audience alike.

Fast forward: We are now in week three of the run and are heading to site every day with the knowledge that the forecast calls for that kind of crazyness again.  When the winds pick up we run to the fences to make sure they don’t blow over and pray that the rains don’t follow. And at this point opening has been the only nightmare, but every day we go in anticipating it.  For example, today’s forecast is for thunderstorms from 2pm – 8pm.  Only half an hour of that would overlap with performance, so we’ll keep going on with today and see what happens.

But if I ever do outdoor theatre again, which I hope to do, I want a magical device to control the weather. I get that the uncertainty is part of what makes live theatre unique from other art forms, but it really raises my blood pressure when it comes to weather.

Shows to see: August

July was a bit of a bust as far as seeing shows went.  Let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of summer theatre going on in Kamloops outside of X Fest, which I’ve been working on.  I will give a special shout out to the folks doing “two bite bard – Shakespeare” for kids down at Riverside park.  A group of us went down and saw their production of The Tempest and it was really fun.  More importantly the group of kids sitting there watching got a good introduction to Shakespeare.

Now Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead are within their last week I am beginning to plan my August.  It’s starting to look like I won’t be back in Vancouver til August 28 or 29, but I’ll be at the Edmonton Fringe and still try to catch a Vancouver show or two.

Here’s the August list:

1. School House Rock Live @ Edmonton Fringe

2. The Secret Love Lives of Ophelia @ Edmonton Fringe

3. Totem Figures @ Edmonton Fringe

4. Alls Well That Ends Well @ Bard on the Beach

5. Macbeth @ Little Mountain Studios (Limbo Circus)

6. Unidentified Human Remains and the Nature of True Love @ PTC Studios (Twenty-Something Theatre)

Hamlet: Worth the Wait

HamletAny of you who follow me on twitter saw the stream of posts on Saturday night as we attempted to open Hamlet in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Ultimately, we canceled the show at intermission which was disappointing for everyone.

Today we received our first, and likely only, review for the show:

“X Fest’s lead offering in its sixth season of outdoor Shakespearean theatre had to endure both pre-show and mid-show cancellations Thursday and Saturday before the young prince was able to meet his father’s ghost and exorcise his demons.

And, yes, the tragedy was well worth the wait.”
(Read the whole review here)

I’d say that’s a pretty stunning way to kick off the run.  We have another week and a half to go and while I’m praying for there to be no more thunderstorms, I’m also secretly hoping it’ll cool down a little.  The whole cast has been suffering heat exhaustion after the 4o degree Celsius (in the shade!) days.

I’m truly proud to be a part of Xfest 2009 and am so glad that I have had the opportunity to spend my summer here.  When I think back to the dilemma in my mind as to what I should do for the summer, which job I wanted, where I would end up, I now know that I ended up in exactly the right place.

The Winds & Woes of Outdoor Theatre

Yesterday started out as a normal rehearsal day: Wake up, check the weather (twice), and then head to site for the day. The forecast included a 30% chance of thundershowers, but with light winds and almost no rain, so we pushed forward. About 2 hours into rehearsal the winds began gusting – we’re estimating about 80 km/hr and we began to scramble to get the site secured so it wouldn’t get wrecked.
The winds were so strong that our fencing was blowing sideways, and after getting pushed around trying to keep it upright, we finally gave up and lay it down on the ground and began to focus on securing the tents which were trying to take off. At the same time we were being hit by gusts of wind that started to knock over the front rows of seats.
The wind did not want to stop there though! It decided that tree branches should no longer be remaining in trees, and once the large branches started falling on stage, we decided that for safety’s sake we all needed to leave the site and head to safer grounds. The dust was flying and getting in everyone’s eyes, and if the tents did pick up we did not want to be under them.

Today’s forecast is for thunderstorms again, so hopefully we don’t have to cancel opening night.

Welcome to the rehearsal hall

During my time as a stage manager I have come to strongly believe that the atmosphere of the rehearsal hall is one of my key contributions to the rehearsal process. This contribution takes a few different shapes.

First of all, it is important to maintain an atmosphere of respect and safety – a place where actors are comfortable being vulnerable and are able to do their best work. In and of itself this charge takes numerous forms. It can mean covering over a mirror in a dance studio so that actors aren’t checking themselves out instead of looking at their scene partner. It can mean silencing a group of actors waiting for their scene or asking them to wait in another room while scenes are being worked. It can mean talking to the director and encouraging him/her to give more positive notes after running scenes & acts to keep spirits up. It can mean being the listening ear for an actress who has just found out that her costume is essentially a spandex cat-woman suit. Each of these things help to create a safe environment.

The second part to creating a good rehearsal hall atmosphere has to do with the room itself. Most rehearsal halls are dark and dingy. Rooms rented out for this sort of thing that never get cleaned. I’ve been lucky on my current show to be rehearsing in a dance studio that is closed for the summer. We have separate rooms for each show, so we can put things on the wall and not have to worry about taking them down at night. We also had access to a kitchen, so I didn’t set up a coffee station in the room as I usually would. But our walls are full of show related things.

When costume designer Bonnie Pavlovic did her design presentation for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead she had renderings for the three main characters: Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, & The Player, but instead of individual renderings for our 6 ensemble members who play all of the Hamlet roles as well as creating the ensemble of traveling players, she created these collages of 60’s icons Each ensemble member, she explained, would be dressed as one of these icons, but she was waiting to see them to pick their inspiration. We hung her collages in the rehearsal hall so whenever the actors had questions about their look it was easy to check the photos, but it also gave the room a bit more warmth & some of the flavor of the show.Our rehearsal schedule began with a week of working just with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and one of the exercises the director did that week was a series of tableaus: waiting, hopeful, hopeless, etc. Of each tableau we took photos and hung them on the wall. These photos became inspirations for blocking moments, as well as something else about our show to have on the wall, making the room feel like it was ours.

One of the complications of doing Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in rep is that the cut of Hamlet we are doing doesn’t always line up with the Hamlet lines that have been inserted in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. In an effort to make that transition easier for people who have the same speech in both shows except in one show there is an added line here and a removed line there, I created text comparisons. Providing the dialogue for the scene from each show side-by-side so that any confusion could be quickly cleared up.

This sign is compliments of the director, and I think is as much for her own benefit as for that of the company. However, we all need to be reminded, especially during the rehearsal process, that we need to “Keep Calm & Carry On”.

The June To-See List (and what I saw/worked on in May)

It’s been a very busy month for me theatrically.

In May I saw the following plays:

  1. John & Beatrice (Pi Theatre)
  2. Secret World of Og (Carousel Theatre)
  3. 36 Views (Tempus Theatre)
  4. Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus)
  5. Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)
  6. Les Miserables (Arts Club)
  7. Top Girls (Vancouver Playhouse)
  8. Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)

Based on this list, I still missed one show from my “To-See” list last month (Dying City), however I added Top Girls & Antigone Undone, so overall I feel pretty good about it as a month of theatre seeing.

I also rehearsed and opened You Still Can’t at Pacific Theatre. This monster of a show features 14 emerging theatre artists from a variety of theatre training programs as well as three “extras’ who volunteer and rotate through from night to night. In addition to a large cast (at least for our little 20″ by 22” stage), it’s a very props heavy show. I’ve mentioned the dozen custom-made latex turkeys, but there’s also a working amusement park model, a Beatles-themed feast, & a working radio DJ booth. It’s been a crazy ride and it still runs for another two weeks.

The day after You Still Can’t closes I’ll be hopping a 7am bus to Kamloops to spend my summer working with Project X Productions on Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It’s going to be a fun summer as far as I’m concerned. Also, it will be a nice break from Vancouver (not that I hate Vancouver. I love Vancouver. I just need a bit of time to get away) and a chance to be close to my parents for a while.

Because I leave town on June 14th, my “To-See” list for June is quite short, though I’ve decided that I will list shows that I will not be seeing but that I think the rest of you should make sure to check out.

June To See List:
1. Othello (Bard on the Beach)
2. Flower Drum Song (VACT)

Shows that you should see, even though I won’t be seeing them:
1. The Walking Fish Festival (www.upintheairtheatre.com) {from what I hear this year has a whole range of shows from amazing to terrible – I’d love to hear what people think!}
2. The Comedy of Errors (Bard on the Beach)
3. All’s Well that Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)
4. Mixie and the Halfbreeds (Neworld Theatre)
5. Alter Boyz (Arts Club)

And for those of you in Vancouver for the month of June, don’t forget to attend the Jessie Richardson Awards for theatre. If I were in town, I’d definitely be there!
Let’s all see some theatre!