Tag Archive: Vancouver Playhouse

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)

Playhouse Closing Photos

I was sad to not be able to join the 200+ people who gathered at the Vancouver Playhouse tonight at 7pm for the vigil/memorial/rally. I walked over to the Playhouse after my show came down tonight. When I got there shortly after 10pm there was no one standing outside, but the flowers, candles, signs and notes remained. A young couple leaving the Canucks game walked past. “What’s going on?” they asked.  “The Playhouse is closing. Tonight is likely the company’s final performance.” “Oh wow,” they said, “We’ve never seen a show here but it should definitely stay around.  Can we sign the poster?” “Of course.” Slowly others began to arrive – people who felt it was simply right to be there for what may well be the Playhouse’s final curtain call.  And as we stood outside waiting, the Ballet BC show next door came down and we watched those patrons begin to file out.  We listened as they walked past and in many cases found out for the first time that the Playhouse was closing. We watched them pick up the sharpies waiting to sign their names to the posters of support.

When the show came down and the audience began to leave, I saw many familiar faces among the crowd.  They reported an amazing night of theatre, and a curtain call that made them cry.  The cast of Catalyst Theatre‘s Hunchback took their bows and gestured to the booth as they have done every night in their run.  And then they slowly turned 360 degrees, giving the applause and ovation to the company that has hosted them here.

I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did have my iPhone.  Here are just some of the signs, flowers, and notes left outside the Playhouse tonight.

[Galleries 2 not found]

Update:  A handful of the folks on twitter have been looking for a copy of Morris Panych’s letter. Using my own photos and a handful of others’ I’ve transcribed it below.

Playhouse Forever

The Vancouver Playhouse is more than just the sum of its parts. Yes, it employs hundreds of actors, directors, designers, administrators, ushers, builders, technicians; but it’s what the theatre gives back to the community that really counts. The Playhouse has been central to the cultural identity of the city, the province, and the nation, for fifty years. Without such cultural institutions as this, we are diminished collectively. Our very hearts and souls and the hearts and souls of our community are tied to this theatre. One should fight with all of the demise of this company or any other cultural organization that has been so central to the development of cultural life here, as it represents the very voice of Vancouver. Whether or not you are a regular theatre-goer in this community, you are a member of this community and this theatre belongs to you. It is through cultural institutions like this theatre that the collective voice is heard, that consciousness and art has a home and that life is breathed into the concrete and steal of this city. Vancouver needs culture to stay alive, vibrant, relevant; it’s more than just real estate.

Please call your City Councillor, your MPP, or your MP, and make your voice heard. Stand up for cultural life in this city; stand up for your city.

Morris Panych

Grieving the Playhouse

The text messages, emails, phone calls, tweets, and Facebook messages started shortly after 2pm.  The Vancouver Playhouse had announced that after 49 seasons instead of launching the celebratory 50th anniversary season, they were closing down due to overwhelming debt. Closing night of the current show – tomorrow – will be the final performance. As the day has gone on and I have continued to speak with friends and colleagues the responses are the same: shock, anger, and grief. For many the Playhouse was a first exposure to professional theatre. For others it was the stage they dreamed of one day gracing or celebrated achieving that goal. For others still it has been a place of employment.  For all of us it has been a touchstone of our cultural community.

My ticket stub for the 2001 production of The Edible Woman

I first attended the Playhouse in fall of 2001. October 25th to be exact. I have the ticket stub to prove it. I was in grade 10 and my high school in Vernon, BC had a program in the drama department where twice a year they would load a greyhound bus with 50 students and 5 chaperones and drive to Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton or Calgary for four or five days of seeing theatre, touring schools, and getting experiences we wouldn’t get in Vernon.  That trip was my first experience of professional theatre other than TYA. I don’t know how many of you saw The Edible Woman, but the lights came up and there was a man, naked, in a bathtub, thrusting against the air and then Jillian Fargey slid herself in under him while narrating. So there’s one first the Playhouse afforded me: my first time seeing a man’s bare behind. I remember not loving the show, but I also know that I’ve previously blogged about how the bed that flung out on to stage in that show felt like magic to my young self.  We saw many other shows on that trip (Flying Blind at the Arts Club’s Granville Island stage, Elizabeth Rex at the Stanley, All Grown Up at the Gateway to name a few) and I look back on that trip as being one of the places that my love of theatre began to flourish.

My ticket stub for the 2012 production of Hunchback

Most recently, I was at the Playhouse last night.  It was my fourth (and final) time to see Catalyst Theatre‘s Hunchback. I’d been going as a volunteer for The Cultch which meant that in exchange for sitting at a table and telling people about the upcoming shows at The Cultch I got to go see Hunchback for free. I knew it was my last time going to see Hunchback, but I had no idea it would be my last time attending a show by the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.

Members of the Vancouver theatre community are planning a memorial for tomorrow night before the final performance.  They are planning to gather at the Playhouse at 7pm.  There is more information available via the facebook event page. I can’t go as I will be backstage elsewhere, but I will certainly be thinking of them.

There is a large part of me that is not ready to give up hope. During the press event they repeatedly said that with the help of sponsors and/or donors it would be possible to salvage the company. While I pray that they will find the support they need, I recognize that it is unlikely.

A couple of times already today I’ve found myself overwhelmed by waves of grief as I try to imagine Vancouver without the Playhouse. Their impact has stretched far beyond their performances. I can’t think of a single company in Vancouver that hasn’t rented their rehearsal room or rented or borrowed props or costumes. And I’m sure their are implications that I have not yet begun to consider and that we won’t begin to see until it is too late.

Allowing the Playhouse to cease to exist is a huge mistake for Vancouver and for the province of British Columbia.  It is one of Canada’s oldest theatres and has been the cultural heart for this city. Someone on facebook (I can’t remember who at the moment) referred to today as a Cultural Black Friday. And I agree.

Please use the comments to share your memories of the Playhouse – shows you loved (or hated), firsts, and other stories.

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.

Make it Magic

Do you remember your first theatre experience? I don’t.

I am told I was approximately five years old when my parents took me to see a stage version of The Christmas Mouse at a local high school. I know I liked it a lot, because I named my pet gerbil after one of the mice in the play. Shortly after that I was taken to see Annie at the local community theatre. The only thing I remember about it is that when Annie goes into the laundry cart to hide from the police, it happened downstage left. I have no idea why I remember that.

Axis Theatre & Arts Club's Flying Blind

The first theatre experiences that I remember vividly came in high school. W.L. Seaton Secondary had a tradition of taking 30 students on a trip twice a year to some of the larger theatre cities within a 10 hour drive. The year I was in grade 10 we went to Vancouver in the spring– my first time in this city without my parents – and we saw Axis Theatre‘s Flying Blind at the Arts Club Granville Island, Elizabeth Rex at the Arts Club Stanley, The Edible Woman at the Playhouse, and some musical review at the Gateway. When we arrived in the city, we checked into the YWCA downtown and then headed to Granville Island where we spent the afternoon shopping before seeing Flying Blind. I remember after the show that night, the group of 35 of us (including the chaperones) sat in one of the rooms at the Y to have our own talkback after the show and pretty much everyone hated it. They were all confused by it – it wasn’t exactly a linear story. I didn’t “get” it either, but I was completely taken in by the magic of it. When we saw The Edible Woman I remember that there was this bed that was on tracks of some sort, but I didn’t know about tracks, I just knew that this bed magically flew out of the wings towards the lead at a faster & faster pace as the show went on. It was all magic to me.

Now, the magic seems to be rarer and rarer. Part of the reason for that is that I know how most of the tricks work. I know about tracks in the floor, and traps (which I usually spot long before they are used), I look at the lighting grid when I arrive at the theatre and noticed that siren light and I know that every door on a set will get used eventually. I am well versed in the language of theatricality, both as a practitioner and as an audience member. But allow me to let you in on a little secret: I am capable of forgetting all that I know.

When I am gripped by a story – when it has me and won’t let me go – I forget all of my theatre education. I forget that I saw a mirror ball hanging above the set before the show and I forget that I saw a picture showing a set piece for a later scene and I forget that I heard someone tell me how your show has an awesome trick in it. At that point all that matters to me is the story and how well you are telling it.  Each of those technical pieces becomes a necessary part of the story-telling. A part of the world you are creating. And that is when I know that it is a truly great production and when I stand up in the curtain call and celebrate your work publicly.

That is your job. It is your job and the job of your production to be so great that it forces me to forget what I know and forget my small irritations because I am so involved in the story you are telling me that I am afraid to think negatively for fear of missing something. It is the job of the production to be so good that I don’t feel like I can clap for fear of missing something. It is the job of the production to be so good that I stop noticing the running lights backstage that I can see from the house (or, you know, you could just do a blackout test during tech and shutter those running lights more effectively). It is the job of the production to be so good that I don’t leave at the end of the show wondering why exactly there is a siren type light on your lighting truss that you never use in the course of the show.

Catalyst Theatre's Frankenstein

The first time I saw a Cirque du Soliel show I was afraid to clap because I was afraid I would miss something. Now, I wouldn’t say that Cirque tells a story in the traditional sense, but they do endeavour to have an overarching narrative to tie all the acts together. With Cirque the goal is to have all the acts at the same level so that one weak act doesn’t take away from the cohesion of the entire production. Another example would be Catalyst Theatre‘s Frankenstein, which I saw in Toronto a year ago. I have some problems with that show (I think it could use about 15 minutes edited out of it and the music, despite being repetitive, is ultimately unmemorable), but it didn’t matter as I was compelled to my feet at the end of the evening. The production as a whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The story was compelling and the technical elements worked in service of the story. That is a very flashy show, but no piece was flashy to the detriment of the story. And a year later I am still talking about how much I loved that show and encouraging others to see not only that production, but anything that Catalyst produces because I believe that they know how to tell a good story.


Blackbird Theatre‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Is a great example of a show that took me in and does not have any big technical elements to it. The show is on a box set with only a handful of lighting cues, but here’s where we come back to the important thing – that the box set & handful of cues serve the story. The reality of the play is that I am peeking into George & Martha’s living room for one extraordinary night. The script, the actors, the set, the lights, the costumes, and the sound all worked together on the same level to create a world that was painful to live in, but was a fully recognizable world.

When your show has that sort of magic to it, people (like myself) won’t be able to resist talking about it and more people will see it.

I know that not all shows have that sort of magic in them – that sustained world that holds the audience in the palm of its hand. It can happen many ways. Maybe the script is just plain bad and no matter what the directors, actors & designers do, they can’t make this world work because the words don’t work. Maybe the production is full of tricks – technical wizardry that looks cool, but doesn’t serve the story or is inconsistent with the world created in the rest of the production. Maybe one or more of the actors feels more like a puppet than a fully realized human being. Maybe the director has blocked the show in a way that people would never actually move. In any of these circumstances, the elements are not all working together and that is likely preventing the magic.

If there was a formula for creating theatre magic, it wouldn’t be magic anymore. I can’t name a playwright, director, designer or actor who always creates magic and its even possible that the same production won’t be magic every night. But when all of the elements – the script, directing, design, & acting – are strong, unified, and serve the story, there are moments of transcendence where true magic occurs.

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

The October To-See List

IMG_1452It’s officially fall. The leaves on the tree beside my balcony are turning yellow and the theatre season has kicked into high gear.  As I began going through the lists of what is playing in Vancouver this month I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount happening.   It seems to me that the volume of good theatre in Vancouver is increasing, and this can only be a good thing (though I’m not sure how I’m ever going to have time to see everything I want to). There are also a number of productions happening at post-secondary institutions that I am going to try to fit in.  This is in part because I have friends in this productions, but it is also because it is an opportunity to see the people who will be shaping our theatre community within the next couple of years.

Lot’s Wife (Studio 58) – A modern re-telling of the biblical story of Lot & his family (from the Soddom and Gommorah period – She of the famous pillar of salt).

Love You Forever…and More Munsch (Carousel Theatre) – 6 favorite Robert Munsch stories on stage. And this time featuring the first book I ever memorized: Love you Forever. (I still have the copy my parents were given when I was born).

Any Night (DualMinds, Touchstone & The Cultch) – The team behind this production is outstanding, the play itself won the “Best New Work” award at SummerWorks 2008 in Toronto.  It’s a psychological thriller that looks at privacy, paranoia & the role of the subconscious.

Gift of Screws – It’s two one act plays by local playwright Bill Marchant. And it is already allowing you to be a part of the process with videos from behind the scenes.  Just see it.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Pacific Theatre & Pound of Flesh) – It’s a staged reading, but with a cast of Vancouver’s most well know and respected performers, it’s sure to be interesting. The concept:  Judas is on trial for betraying Jesus, but the witnesses span the centuries.

The Miracle Worker (Vancouver Playhouse) – It’s a classic. It’s also being done in Kamloops this year.  But this production is directed by Meg Roe, whose directorial debut with The Tempest last year remains one of my top theatre experiences.

Anatomy of Gray (Trinity Western Theatre) – Trinity is my alma matter so I always try to see their shows, but department chair Angela Konrad is a fantastic director and is at the helm of this play. I always look forward to shows she directs.

Evil Dead – The Musical  (either of the two productions)  – I don’t want to get political about this, choosing one production over the other. If you want more details about what’s happening with this, check out Rebecca’s blog.

The House of Kosa (TigerMilk Collective) – I love seeing shows at Vancouver’s PAL theatre because it is such a unique performance space.  The play is about haute couture and is by another local playwright.

In addition to my regular Vancouver list I’m hoping to see a couple of shows in Portland. I have plans to head down for a week to visit friends from University and I always try to take in a show when I am down there. We’ll see what I can fit in this time. If you know of any great shows playing in Portland mid-October, drop me a note and let me know – I’d love to check them out.

How Many are Too Few?

I was incredibly disappointed this afternoon to receive a phone call from the Vancouver Playhouse informing me that the performance of Studies in Motion to which I had booked tickets was being canceled due to lack of attendance.
The performance was scheduled for next Thursday afternoon and for me, a week day matinee is the ideal time to see a show. If I am in performances, I have my day times free and this coming week when I am off work I have booked in evening performances most nights of the week and squeeze in a matinee as well (of course they also tend to be more affordable – in this case a difference of about $15). At this point the Playhouse has refunded my ticket without any problem, but I am uncertain if I will be able to see the show now despite really wanting to. Am I willing to shell out the additional money to go to an evening show? Do I have an evening free to go? What about the closing Saturday matinee?
So I’m curious: how many people are too few to do a show for?
I can understand the need to have enough people to cover costs, but for any union house, you wouldn’t be paying performers & stage management extra per show – 8 shows per week are written into the Equity contract. The only additional fees that would exist would be technicians who are paid hourly & any additional front of house and bar staff. There really must not have been many of us booked in for that matinee.
In a smaller theatre where there is no hourly staff, I’ve done shows for as few as four people. In a Fringe situation I can remember doing shows for two. Friends tell stories of doing a production of “Jack, or the Submission” for one elderly woman who at the end, when asked how the production was, said, “That was exhausting!” Reality is, in smaller theatres we can make those decisions and go on with the show.
Backstage during co-ops there are always the whispers of “if the house is smaller than the size of the cast we can cancel” but each time I’ve been in that situation, the cast has chosen to go on with the show: they’ve come this far, they don’t want to turn back now. And I’ve had positive experiences in doing those smaller audience shows. There are people who have come up to the performers afterward talking about how touched they were by the show. And we’ve been glad that we haven’t canceled.
What would it take for you to cancel a performance?