Tag Archive: Vancouver Opera

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)

2011 in Review: Shows I Saw

Last year when I wrote about all the shows I had seen, I set forth a two part goal.  I wanted to achieve balance in my hobbies and I wanted to end the year with no regrets in regards to my theatre viewing.

Now here we are at the end of the year and even though I saw more shows than ever I’d say I did do better in finding balance.  Part of the reason that makes sense is that instead of stage managing all year I spent 5 months working for the Vancouver Fringe.  For the most part it was a day job which left my evenings free to see some awesome theatre.

But I do have a handful of shows that I regret not seeing.  I missed the work of the guys at Main Street Theatre for the second year in a row.  I missed Death of a Salesman at the Playhouse. I didn’t go see Ride the Cyclone more than once. I didn’t see Wonderheads during the Fringe (but lucky for me they won an award and will be at the Cultch next year!). I missed Wicked Shorts. 

For the first time in a couple of years, my list is entirely West Coast – I didn’t make it out to Edmonton or Toronto this year, which I regret, but I’m looking forward to more travel in the coming year – including my first ever trip to Europe!

Here they are – the 155 performances I attended in 2011, in something close to chronological order.

La Marea at the PuSh Festival. Photo by Flickr user jmv

  1. Wee Tube (Theatre Replacement)
  2. La Marea (Boca Del Lupo/PuSh Festival/Mariano Pensotti)
  3. The Pavillion (Osimous Theatre/Firehall Theatre)
  4. Iqualit (Berlin/PuSh Festival)
  5. Circa (Circa/UBC/PuSh Festival)
  6. 100% Vancouver (PuSh Festival/Rimini Protokoll/Theatre Replacement)
  7. Tuesdays With Morrie (Gallery 7 Theatre)
  8. Dead Man’s Cell Phone (UBC)
  9. Floating (Hugh Hughes/Arts Club/PuSh Festival)
  10. Bonanza (Berlin/PuSh Festival)
  11. Whale (Boca del Lupo/Kyle Jesperson)
  12. Gloria’s Cause (Club PuSh/Donya Hansen)
  13. City of Dreams (Roundhouse/PuSh Festival/Peter Reder)
  14. My Name is Asher Lev (Pacific Theatre)
  15. Hard Core Logo: Live (November Theatre/Touchstone Theatre/Theatre Network/PuSh Festival)
  16. Avenue Q (Touring Broadway Production)
  17. August: Osage County (Arts Club)
  18. Peter Panties (The Cultch/PuSh Festival/Leaky Heaven/Neworld)
  19. Clemenzia di Tito (Vancouver Opera)
  20. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Blackbird/Arts Club)
  21. Nocturne (20 Something Theatre)
  22. The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Fighting Chance Productions)
  23. Swimmy, Frederick & Inch by Inch (Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia)
  24. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Glass City Theatre)
  25. Quiet in the Land (Gallery 7)
  26. Cinderella (Vancouver Opera in Schools)
  27. Wild Honey (UBC)
  28. Cinderella (Exit 22 at Capilano University)
  29. Chairs (Itsazoo)
  30. The Philanderer (Arts Club)
  31. 1984 (Virtual Stage/Studio 58 at the Cultch)
  32. Evelyn Strange (StairCaseXI)
  33. The Last 15 Seconds (MT Space Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre)

    The Last 15 Seconds at the Firehall. Photo from http://bikesbirdsnbeasts.blogspot.com/

  34. Under The Influence Cabaret (20 Something)
  35. The Bacche (TWU)
  36. Another Home Invasion (Arts Club/Tarragon)
  37. Jake’s Gift (PT/Juno Productions)
  38. The Forbidden Phoenix (Gateway Theatre)
  39. Rosmershom (United Players)
  40. Letters from a Soldier; My Name is Aslam (Stones Throw Productions)
  41. The Trespassers (Vancouver Playhouse/Belfry)
  42. Ballet BC’s 25th Anniversary (Ballet BC)
  43. Scared Scriptless (Vancouver Theatresports League)
  44. Dress Me Up In Your Love (Theatre Replacement)
  45. The Graduate (Arts Club)
  46. The Wiz (Fighting Chance)
  47. My Funny Valentine (Zee Zee Theatre)
  48. Tape (Alley Theatre)
  49. Side Show (Pacific Theatre)
  50. Mambo Italiano (Firehall/WCT)
  51. Prodigals (20-Something Theatre)
  52. Love/Stories (Kineticism)
  53. Beautiful Problems (Radix Theatre)
  54. The Great Divorce (Pacific Theatre)

    Pacific Theatre's "The Great Divorce" Photo provided.

  55. Eurydice (Secretly Women)
  56. Macbeth: Nacht Shakespeare (Theatre Conspiracy)
  57. Hairspray (Arts Club theatre)
  58. What we leave behind (Lamondance)
  59. Community Dinner (Rumble Productions)
  60. Wicked (Broadway Across Canada)
  61. A guide to Mourning (Genus/Enlightenment Theatre)
  62. Merchant of Venice (Bard)
  63. A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline (Arts Club)
  64. BridgeMix (Itsazoo)
  65. Matchmaker (Gallery 7)
  66. Verona Project (Stones Throw)
  67. Bash: Latter Day Plays (Hardlines Theatre)
  68. Bye Bye Birdie (TUTS Vancouver)
  69. The Casino/The Disappearing (Stones Throw)
  70. Party This Weekend (The House Party Collective)
  71. Project X (Faust) (Leaky Heaven Circus)
  72. Other Side Through You (Cat Main)
  73. Visitors (Walking Fish 2011)
  74. At First I Thought It Was (Walking Fish 2011)
  75. Armed  (Walking Fish 2011)
  76. The Gas Heart (Gas heart Theatre)
  77. Homecoming King
  78. Chairs  (Itsazoo) (The revised version)
  79. My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productins)
  80. Compassion for Killers (Whirlwind Productions)
  81. Anything Goes (TUTS Vancouver)

    Anything Goes at TUTS. Photo credit unknown.

  82. Troika and The Troubles (Some of the New Bees/Resounding Scream)
  83. Flop! A one man musical (New Hands Theatre)
  84. Bare: a pop opera (Fighting Chance)
  85. When I Was (Les Petite Taquines)
  86. Richard III (Bard on the Beach)
  87. Kunst Rock (Die Roten Punkte/The Cultch)
  88. Sea of Sand (The Only Animal)
  89. As You Like It (Bard on the Beach)
  90. Cativo (Hardline Productions)
  91. Tough (20-Something Theatre)
  92. The Selkie Wife
  93. Trouble in Tahiti (VanCoCo)
  94. Archy & Mehitable
  95. Yum/Yuck
  96. Oh That Wily Snake!
  97. Jigsaw
  98. The Sparrow and the Mouse
  99. Phone Whore
  100. Screaming Silently
  101. wreckage

    Nita Bowerman's Fringe show "wreckage". Photo by Brendan Albano.

  102. This is Cancer
  103. Jesus In Montana
  104. Short & Sweet
  105. The Progressive Polygamists
  106. The Animal Show
  107. Rove
  108. Stay Away from my Boat, @$$hole (ItsaZoo/Vancouver Fringe)
  109. The Razzle Tassel Tease Show
  110. Lost in Place
  111. Duck Off
  112. Fruitcake
  113. The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Hotel (Peter ‘n’ Chris/Vancouver Fringe)
  114. Smile (Awkward Stage Productions/Vancouver Fringe)
  115. Tinfoil Dinosaur
  116. The Other Side
  117. Houdini’s Last Escape (Monster Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
  118. Night of the B Movie
  119. The Devil & Billy Markham
  120. Giant Invisible Robot
  121. Sally Lives Here
  122. Mr. Kinski’s Cabaret of Bullshit (Vancouver Fringe)
  123. Acrobatic Daredevils

    The Acrobatic Daredevils at the Fringe. Photo by flickr user arianec

  124. Oh My God (Delinquent Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
  125. Fortunate Son
  126. Willow’s Walk: Ripples in Time
  127. Arnie the Carnie’s House of Fun
  128. Next To Normal (Arts Club Theatre)
  129. Tuesdays with Morrie (Gallery 7 at Pacific Theatre) (The Remount)
  130. National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour (National Ballet/Ballet BC)
  131. Little Orange Man (Snafu Dance Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
  132. The Light in the Piazza (Patrick Street Productions)
  133. Circle Mirror Transformation (Arts Club Theatre)
  134. Ride the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudville)
  135. True Love Lies (Touchstone Theatre at the Cultch)
  136. A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum (Fighting Chance Productions)
  137. Visions of Vancouver (Pi Theatre)
  138. Love Lies Bleeding (Alberta Ballet)
  139. West Side Story (Vancouver Opera)
  140. Romeo and Juliet (TWU)
  141. 50 Words (Mitch & Murray  Equity Coop)
  142.  Falling in Time (Screaming Weenie)
  143. Vimy (Firehall Arts Centre)
  144. The Outsiders (Gallery 7 Theatre)
  145. Penny Plain (Ronnie Burkett)
  146. Mary’s Wedding (Gateway)
  147. Blood Brothers (Arts Club)
  148. The Patron Saint of Stanley Park (Arts Club Theatre)
  149. A Christmas Carol (Pacific Theatre)
  150. La Cage aux Folles (Playhouse Theatre)

    The wonderful Greg Armstrong Morris in La Cage aux Folles. Photo provided.

  151. Hotel Bethlehem (Ruby Slippers Theatre)
  152. Sound of Music (Gateway Theatre)
  153. Christmas Carol Project (Brass Monkey Productions at the Cultch)
  154. The Gift Horse (Caravan Farm Theatre)
  155. Christmas Presence (Pacific Theatre)

I am already excited about what is to come in 2012.  My first booking of the year is for Blackbird Theatre’s Waiting for Godot.

There’s Something About Opera…

Let me start by saying that I don’t know a lot about opera. I can’t say I even know the official difference between a Soprano and a Mezzo-Soprano (I know that the range of the Mezzo-Soprano is slightly lower, but I don’t know by how much or anything more specific). I don’t speak Italian, French, German or any of the other “traditional” opera languages and I didn’t grow up going to the opera. But I would certainly consider myself an opera convert.

I saw my first opera when I was 16. My high school had this amazing theatre program which had a tradition of taking a trip each year to one of Western Canada’s big theatre cities – Vancouver, Edmonton, or Calgary – and seeing multiple shows and touring local educational facilities and generally immersing ourselves in all things theatre. The trip when I was 14 was to Calgary and in addition to the typical fare, the instructors had arranged for us to see a dress rehearsal of La Traviata at Calgary Opera. I know that I had never seen an opera before, but I had certainly judged it. Based on what, I have no idea. In order to prepare us for our trip, the teachers brought in a couple of local opera singers to talk us through the plot and sing some snippets for us so we knew what to expect. And I remember sitting there with fairly rapt attention – at least for a 16 year old. When we saw the show I was blown away by the artistry in the music, the designs, and the whole experience.

My second opera was a couple of years later. A friend’s parents were playing in the orchestra for a local performance of La Bohème and I was invited to come along to see the show. This time I went with no prior knowledge of the plot and no idea what to expect. It was a low-budget community performance with none of the big visuals that had struck me in Calgary. But there was still something about it that I couldn’t shake.

Vancouver Opera's March 2009 Production of Rigoletto

Fast forward to two years ago. I got a phone call from an acquaintance. Vancouver Opera had a 2-for-1 sale on tickets so he had bought two tickets and wondered if I would be interested in going. He had called a few other friends, but none of them were free, and he was pretty sure I liked “artsy” stuff. I didn’t even ask which opera was playing before I agreed to join him. It was Rigoletto and it was one of the most beautiful productions I’ve seen in a while. I was surprised when I recognized some of the music and was absolutely struck by the staging of it. It didn’t feel anything like the more traditional staging of La Traviata and it CERTAINLY didn’t fit with my pre-disposed notions of opera. And I’m pretty sure I decided in the audience that night that I was going to find a way to see more opera, and I started that quest by following Vancouver Opera on Twitter, which led to the discovery that Vancouver Opera offers $25 tickets for people under thirty.

I’ve been to three performances at Vancouver Opera in the past two seasons, and I can’t say that I know any more about the terminology, history or technique than I did when I started.  That said, I try to attend the pre-show lectures so that I at least have a sense of the period for the show I am going to be seeing that evening, even though much of what is said flies over my head.  But I have been absolutely touched by the performances I’ve seen over the past two years. There is something that moves deep within me when the note sung is pure and strong and the images take my breath away. I can only think of it as magic. Now, if I’m honest, not every opera has held that magic – I haven’t loved all of them as much as I loved Rigoletto, and once or twice I’ve fallen asleep in the comfortable chairs of the warm theatre with the beautiful music playing (but I do that during theatre performances sometimes as well). But here’s the thing – if I let one bad play turn me off of ever seeing plays again or one bad movie turn me off of all movies for all times, I would just be stupid. For that very reason I cannot let one less than magic opera turn me off the whole art form.  Instead, it is time to learn. It is time for me to spend some time learning a little bit more about the history, the terminology, and the music of opera so that the next time I attend, I can be that much more attuned to what I am hearing.

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.

2009 In Review: Top Ten Theatre Experiences

Tuesday The Globe & Mail published their Top 10 Productions of 2009. Wednesday The Vancouver Courier followed suite with their Top 14.  Today it’s my turn.

2009 was a big theatre year for me.   I saw 68 shows. I worked on 12 shows. Picking a top ten was hard, but I love that it is a huge range.  It includes an opera, a musical, some shakespeare, but mostly it includes shows by small, local companies who are doing fantastic work.

I did find that I couldn’t rank them from one to 10, so I’ve listed them in chronological order.

1. 20 minute musicals (Rumble/ Push)
* Distant Second: The Steve Fonyo Story
* Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

When I first saw these shows at Club PuSh back in January I rushed home to gush about them here on the blog. I called it “one of the funnest nights of theatre” & told everyone to go see them.  11 months later I still remember that evening’s entertainment & the amount of laughter that accompanied it.


2.Rigoletto (Vancouver Opera)

Rigoletto was a show I wasn’t sure I would see. It was on a “hopefully” list, but money was tight and when I called they were out of their cheap tickets.  Then my friend Craig called.  He’d bought two tickets and didn’t have someone to go with and he knew I liked theatre and would I like to go to the Opera with him.  For me it was a no-brainer.  I was first exposed to opera as a genre at 14 and fell in love with the grandiose nature of it all. Rigoletto was no exception.

Lissa Neptuno in Tempus Theatre's 36 Views.

3. 36 Views (Tempus Theatre)

36 Views was one of the most visually stunning plays I saw this year.  When I originally gushed about it, I said, “Michael Kopsa is pitch perfect as Darius Wheeler, the somewhat shady art dealer and the use of projection with the design is beautiful.” The script was intriguing and had myself & friends talking about it for weeks following its viewing.

4.Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)

I had read Fat Pig about a year before it’s Vancouver premiere this past spring.  I read the play and thought “Wow. Tom is an asshole. Other than that this play has potential.”  I went into the local production with low expectations based on that and they were blown out of the water.  In this production Tom was not just an asshole – he had depth & his struggle was real.  And Kathryn Kirkpatric as Helen was wonderful: endearing, hilarious, & heartbreaking.

5.Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)

Three theatre companies. Three Directors. Three incredible performances. Three different looks at the war in Iraq.  One show I’m glad I saw because I will never look at the war in the same way.

6.Alls Well That Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)

Prior to this Bard production, I had never seen a production of Alls Well that worked – the offstage bedroom scene always felt wrong. Even in reading the play it was like this enormous plot point was missing from the story (of course, that can be said for a lot of Shakespeare’s plays where major plot points happen offstage and are only ever discusses), however under Rachel Ditor’s direction, it works. And it worked. Well.
7.Midsummer (The Cultch & Traverse Theatre Company)

A quirky little play about Bob & Helena.  He’s a used-car salesman. She’s a high powered divorce lawyer. With original songs & a set that transformed into everything from a bar to a bondage club to the church steps for a wedding, it was both hilarious & made me wish there were more designs that transformed as well as this one did.

Bob Fraser as Judas & Michael Kopsa as Satan in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at Pacific Theatre. Photo by Tim Matheson.

8.The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Pacific Theatre)

What can I say about Judas? The script is so rich that even now that I’ve read it multiple times I am still finding new depth.  Add to that the remarkable performances given by the entire cast & the beautiful simplicity of the final moments and I still find myself moved by it.
9.The Project (Solo Collective)

The Project had everything going for it – Aaron Bushkowsky’s new script is a witty look at starvation in Africa through a new lens – a camera lens.  Christian fundamentalism. Militarism. Hollywood.  And strong performances by the cast, especially Lindsey Angell & Andrew McNee.

Alessandro Juliani as SuperFrog in PiTheatre/Rumble Production's After The Quake.

10.After The Quake (Pi Theatre/Rumble Productions)

I didn’t have to come home and gush about this show because Simon beat me to it.  This show was a perfect balance – no one element outshone the others, but rather all the elements (design, direction, acting, script) worked together to make the story ever more engaging.  This show certainly earned its place on this year’s top 10 list.

Honorable Mentions:

Anne (Chemainus Theatre Festival) – My first trip to Chemainus was just a week ago to see  Anne.  It didn’t break the top ten, but this girl whose middle name is Anne with-an-E, was delighted by this stage production of a story that shaped my childhood.

Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus) – One of the more bizarre plays I saw this year, it was all choreographed to 67 minutes of music & projections and sure, it didn’t stick directly to the traditional story of Antigone, but you would expect nothing less from Leaky Heaven.

Skydive (Artsclub/Reelwheels) – Skydive doesn’t really qualify for the top 10 since it premiered in 2007, but the innovation of the ES Dance Instruments & it’s ability to let anyone fly makes it worth another mention.  Besides, who doesn’t love a Madonna dance party mid show?

Previously: 2009 in Review: Top 10 Tweets

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