Yep, I’m an Actor – Theatre Thursday

You know when you have to introduce yourself to new people and find a clever way to sum yourself up so they understand what you’re all about? No? Just me? There’s a very real tendency when we meet someone new to immediately ask “What do you do?” as if that defines them as a person. And I know for some people it does – some people have jobs that they’ve been working towards for their entire lives or where they do something they absolutely love. But I know that for myself, even though I love my day job, it gives very little insight into who I am or what I love… there are so many different personalities and types of people who work my position.

So? When people ask, I generally tell them that I am an actor. (Or occasionally a theatre artist, but you’ve really got to read the room on that one because it can sound a little snooty-patooty if you don’t nail the tone.) Being an actor is such a part of my identity and knowing that I am going to keep theatre in my life even while everything else fluctuates and changes has been such a touchstone for me. However, I struggle with this because 9 times out of 10, people don’t actually know what being an actor is all about and they immediately jump to questions that they mean to show genuine interest like “Oh, what movies have I seen you in lately?” But if I don’t identify as an actor, I find that people don’t appreciate how big a part of my life acting is and how much it defines me… I once had an ex-boyfriend say to one of his friends “Oh no, she’s not actually an actor. She doesn’t do it for a job, it’s just her favourite hobby”. (By the way, ouch. And when you are dating someone who doesn’t get you on a really core level, you should probably get out way earlier than I did.)

Anyway, I know that the “What movies have I seen you in?” question comes from a place of kindness and also from a lack of knowing. Everyone knows Hollywood, not everyone knows about all the other levels of acting that are out there. I figure it’s time to put my fancy education degree to use instead of just complaining when people ask totally logical questions because they just don’t know any better. So, my newest series in “Theatre Thursdays” is going to be a casual exploration of what all is involved in being a non-professional actor in Calgary – at least what’s involved in it for this girl.

What Pushes Are We Wenches Driven To?

I’m going to kick off this whole series by talking about four different shows I’ve seen in 2016 that I can use to demonstrate the different types of theatre companies that make up our diverse and exciting theatre scene in Calgary.

Theatre Calgary – The Little Prince
Little-Prince-poster-17th-Feb
The most recent show I saw at Theatre Calgary was actually Bad Jews, their currently running production, but for fairness to the other companies I want to talk exclusively about shows that are already closed. Little Prince had a huge cast. It had high production values with bikes on stage, a lamplighter performing a “ballet” in a giant wheel and more actors playing roses onstage than you could fill a bouquet with. I don’t know if you remember The Little Prince the book, but it was super weird and this world premiere musical stage adaptation was equally weird. But it was kind of awesome to see Theatre Calgary do something new, even if it didn’t quite land for everyone. (I personally had some difficulty understanding everything that the Little Prince sang in her lyric soprano and the plot was a little thin… but the great thing about theatre is not everyone needs to like everything about everything they see.) Professional theatre companies often have to walk a fine line between putting on shows that will appeal to their subscriber base, shows that will bring in a wider and newer audience and shows that will challenge their team to do something different artistically. Sometimes all these shows come together in one!

Other major professional theatre companies include: Vertigo Theatre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Theatre Junction, One Yellow Rabbit

Ground Zero Theatre – The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook
Boy's Own Jedi Handbook Poster
Ground Zero Theatre is actually also a professional theatre company, but it is smaller than those in the first category. The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook is a contemporary script, written by Canadian actor and playwright, Stephen Massicotte and the production starred a small and rampantly talented cast of four actors (most of who played more than one role). The set was minimal but innovative, relying on projections, acting and many neutral but easily transformable boxes to set each scene.

Budgets may be smaller for these smaller, newer professional companies but like we were fond of saying in university “constraints facilitate creativity”. The smaller professional companies also often do not have their own performance spaces, instead renting various spaces around town for their shows. They also may have shorter runs. For example, The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook was performed in the Vertigo Studio Space and only ran over two weekends… the end of the run actually snuck up on me and I ended up seeing the closing “night”, a Sunday matinee. Most of these companies do have their own rehearsal spaces, though.

Other examples of smaller professional theatre companies include: Downstage Theatre, Sage Theatre, Verb Theatre

Simply Theatre – She Kills Monsters
She Kills Monsters Poster
She Kills Monsters was truly community theatre at its best. A group of talented people were brought together and put on a show – some with post-secondary training in theatre, some fresh out of high school, some who just love the stage. There were incredible performances and earnest performances and both shone. There is a stereotype floating around out there that community theatre is a lot like “Waiting for Guffman” or full of wannabes who “couldn’t hack it”… this stereotype could not be more untrue. The people who do community theatre are passionate about what they are doing, work hard and put out some solid productions. Calgary even has its own awards ceremony for community theatre, the CAT Awards.

Oh, and if you follow that link to the Simply Theatre site for “She Kills Monsters”, for set design it says “hehehe… yeah right!!”. That’s not inaccurate… sometimes you run into budget constraints and you have to focus your resources on building a Beholder and some crazy awesome dragon heads. It’s all good.

Other examples of community theatre companies (specifically ones that I’ve worked with) include: Morpheus Theatre, Scorpio Theatre, Workshop Theatre

Theatre Transit – Basically Twins
Basically Twins Poster
There a bit of a nebulous area between community theatre and professional theatre that I’ve been proudly referring to as “Indie” theatre ever since that was the term Scott Roberts used while we held auditions for Full Circle Theatre’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream back in 2012. Young and upcoming theatre artists band together to create their own work and opportunities while they work to “make it” professionally. Theatre Transit is a great example of “indie” theatre – Basically Twins was a one-night only improvised show created by sisters and artists Carly and Anyssa McKee and last year they put on the show that put Mindy Kaling on the map, Matt & Ben – rad, right!?

Generally speaking, actors/artists doing indie theatre don’t get paid (though that is always the end goal once the bills get paid) and they do new or little known shows – often collective creations – or they may take a classic script from the public domain and put their own twist on it. It’s a ton of fun. Also, lots of the smaller professional companies in category two started as indie companies so…. You do the math. 😉

Other indie theatre companies include: Chromatic Theatre, Major Matt Mason Collective

A couple notes: This is not a remotely comprehensive list of theatre companies in Calgary, you can check out Theatre Alberta for that. Also, this is a pretty opinion-heavy list and your mileage may vary – you may stick a company that I put in one category in a completely different one. No judgement intended for any of the examples I spoke about, I am just so thrilled that there is so much theatre in the city I live in. I blatantly stole poster images from the official theatre company websites so please do follow the links for more information and to see some awesome upcoming shows. And I pretty much exclusively do shows that fit into the third and fourth category right now, but we’ll talk about that more on a future Theatre Thursdays.

Swine and Sow – Big Taste Calgary

Surprise! I actually have one last Big Taste Calgary review under my belt! I had thought I was done after Teatro (and my wallet was probably a little relieved, since even $35/meal adds up when you are a crazy person and do it upwards of five times)… but I had a surprise last minute invite pop up for Saturday night, so how could I say no? Girl’s gotta eat!

menu

My date selected Swine and Sow for our final dinner – in part because of the usual bonus of the Big Taste menu having a few options to select from and in part because we had never been there before and, with its location next to Theatre Junction Grand, we’ve always been curious. It was a good, good choice.

cocktails

We started our night with some delicious craft cocktails – the Basilisk (gin, elderflower liquor, basil and lime) and the Vegas Water (blueberry stoli, grapefruit and 7-up) since we’re always on the search for cocktails we can re-create at home. I’ve been a huge gin fan since I was 19 and mixing it with cream soda like only a dumb new drinker can, so I was obviously partial to the Basilisk. As we sipped our cocktails, we perused the full menu and excitedly made plans to return in the future for charcuterie and bacon tacos – but tonight? We were ordering and sharing literally everything from the Big Taste Menu.

first course

For our first course, we shared a Forest salad and risotto croquettes. The salad was fine (actually, I’m sure it was very good, I love mushrooms and it was probably wise to get some vegetables into our systems) but those croquettes… they knocked the memory of any other foods right out of my mind. They were so so good. They’re also kicking around on the regular menu and you better bet I tucked that information away for the future…

second course

Can we talk about how much food we got for the second course!? That lovely photo right there shows two racks of cherry wood smoked ribs and a phyllo-wrapped steelhead trout. Delicious, sizable and easily shareable. I preferred the trout to the ribs, but I’ve never really been a fan of food that requires lots of work for very little pay-off so I may be a biased party. (You know… Ribs, wings, bone-in meat… so much work for so little protein!)

third course

I was most excited for the dessert – a sticky toffee pudding and a Fiasco Gelato ice cream sandwich… and it was the Mini-egg gelato! March is totally my month! We initially had plans to share both desserts and, yes, we did each take a bite of both, but once that ice cream sandwich hit the table, there was no way I was sharing. Thank goodness my date preferred the sticky toffee pudding!

During our dinner, we noticed that there was a super large party downstairs (it sounded like a birthday party) and the staff was doing such a great job of keeping on top of it. We noted that our order was in just behind theirs but we never felt like we waiting for our next course and watching the Big Taste plates file past us to downstairs just got us more excited for our next course. I have to give the team at Swine and Sow big props for that and we will definitely be back.

ice cream sandwich

I’m in the midst of developing a new series for the blog, now that Big Taste is over, so check back next week for that and in the meantime have an amazing long weekend! I am looking forward to both catching up on sleep and dressing up to go out drinking/dancing with Claire on Saturday… best weekend ever!

Teatro – Big Taste Calgary

I’ll be the first to admit it, I’ve been pretty glowing in my reviews of the Big Taste restaurants that I’ve gone to. Part of that is because I chose my restaurants pretty carefully, part of that is because I just wouldn’t post about an experience that I didn’t like. I would like this blog to be a positive place for all the exciting/fun/interesting things I do in my life. And also for nonsense. Obviously. All that aside, Teatro really was a highlight of the week – of the year, more likely.

My date for Teatro was my most high-powered, fancy, successful friend who is probably also the smartest person I know – and I neglected to ask her if I could feature her on the blog, so I won’t be calling her by name. She has had a few disappointing Big Taste experiences this year, so we decided to really go for broke, treat ourselves and choose the Gourmet menu. It was the best choice we could have made – everything was delicious, everything was perfectly proportioned to allow us to end the night satisfied but not full, and the service was impeccable. The pacing of the courses was completely on point, our server was so patient when we got busy talking instead of ordering, and she gave incredible recommendations. Teatro may be pricey, but they without a doubt deserve it.

Teatro Cocktails
Our Teatro date was on a Thursday night and, since we both had to work the next day, we declined to go for the wine pairings. (Though, they were exceedingly reasonable at only $30 added to pair wine with five different courses.) We started our night with a cocktail – my date selected the always fabulous Kir Royale while I ordered something delicious with gin that I totally forgot to record the name of. C’est la vie.

Teatro Insalata
First course – the Winter Lyonnaise Insalata which was the perfect start to our night. How can you ever go wrong with a poached egg? Or pancetta? I suspect this was a smaller portion that you would normally get when you order ala carte but, with five courses to follow, it was perfect.

Teatro Salt Cod Risotto
The second course – the pasta course – was the only one where my date and I deviated from ordering the same thing. She loved her dish, but I couldn’t resist the creamy draw of the Salt Cod risotto. I actually saw a gentleman at another table sending his risotto back and I cannot imagine how you could possibly do that – I loved every bite of the mild flavours!

Teatro Eggplant
This Eggplant Parmigiana was actually the dish that tipped us over from getting the 3-course menu to the 5-course menu. Eggplant, tomatoes, cheese – and not just any cheese, but a fior di latte. Yum. This dish is on their regular menu as a Contorni (side dish) and I suspect I would order it again. Maybe just it and a cocktail before a show – is that weird? I’m okay with that…

Teatro Flat Iron Steak
Red meat twice in one week is not usually something that I rock – but when a prix fixe menu has a flat iron steak on it, you pick the flat iron steak. And look at that portion! (There are little potatoes hiding under the steak, but still. It’s a lot. And I didn’t even know that arugula puree was a thing that I loved, but it was definitely a thing that I loved.)

Teatro Panna Cotta
We finished our night with coffees and vanilla panna cotta. The panna cotta was light, the strawberry-rhubarb compote was appropriately tart – dessert was probably my least favourite dish, but it was still absolutely delicious… the rest of the dishes were just so elevated that this was the least of the best. And, honestly, after my week of dining, it was nice to have something light to finish off.

This review is much shorter and less rambly than my previous ones but I just don’t know if I have the words to approximately communicate how incredible the food and the experience really was. I can’t do Teatro all the time, but I am so glad I did it this time and that we went big. Thank you to the smartest person I know for helping me make a smart dining choice and for staying out way too late on a Thursday night, talking life and catching up.

Murietta’s – Big Taste Calgary

In my “About” page, I wrote about how this blog wouldn’t at all be aspirational because, let’s face it, I’m no Cup of Jo or Cupcakes and Cashmere. I don’t live in a major city that people dream of moving to and I certainly don’t have a book deal. I don’t even have a DSLR camera! That being said, my blog so far has mostly been fitness classes, wine tastings and nice dinners out, soooo…

Here’s some real life for you.

Today, I went to grab an English muffin from the fridge (because I am super not a morning person so I have to plan one breakfast for the entire week that I can make in approximately 2.65 minutes). The English muffins were moldy! I only bought them on Saturday! Ugh, what do you even do in that situation? Do I return them? (No, I threw them out when I got home from work.)

Anyway, I am not capable of coming up with a new breakfast plan that I can make in 2.65 minutes on the fly, so I grabbed a McDonald’s coupon out of the recycling bin. Classic money-saving! I probably just should have leaned into the fact that I was doing the McDonald’s thing and gotten something greasy-slash-delicious but I have recently designed the flimsiest of plans which involves a health component so I got the kale feta More-ning wrap. It was okay. The kale was a weird component, I think it was only there to sound fancy. Eh. What can you expect from McDonald’s?

I still have three Big Taste restaurants to talk about (I know, I said two, but if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I had a surprise dinner out on Saturday as well), so let’s dive into it. Last Wednesday, I spent a lovely evening at Murietta’s Bar and Grill with my very oldest friend, Lynn. (We’ve been kicking it together since junior high school – over 17 years ago now. How old does that make me feel!?)

I’ve been to Murietta’s a few times in the past after other events to take in some live music, so I knew they had a great cocktail list, but I’ve never done food there before. I also didn’t realize that they had a spacious dining room off to the side and just set slightly away from the live music so you can easily chat with your dining companions. Since this was my first time seeing Lynn since her honeymoon in Japan-New Zealand-Australia-etc and my recent change in my living situation, we had a lot to chat about and took about an hour per course!

We specifically chose Murietta’s because it offered options on the menu and, of course, we made a real effort to try all the different things.

Salad

Soup

Course One offered a choice between a garden salad with lemon balsamic dressing or a seasonal soup (in this case a perfectly light tomato-based vegetable soup with lentils). Lynn was kind enough to allow me to take a picture of her salad – we were shocked by how big it was! Generally speaking, Big Taste portions are a little smaller than normal due to the great deal you get on the menu but that was definitely not the case at Murietta’s.

short rib

For Course Two, I selected the Braised Short Rib and Pork Cheek Duo. I do love short rib, like any good resident of Alberta, but I don’t often think to order it so this opportunity was perfect. I’ve never had Pork Cheek before – it was a little rich for me – but the short rib was a perfect compliment to it and I just alternated between the two proteins. Also, there were beets. You can never go wrong with beets. (I paired my dinner with a Mirassou Pinot Grigio with the soup and then the Pinot Noir with the entrée. I am excellent at pairing, apparently.)

Dessert
And, finally, we both wrapped with the Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake with bananas flambé. How can you not!? It was rich, moist and, even though it looks small when plated, it was almost too big to finish. (Actually, I think I finally did have to tap out and just eat the bananas off the second half of my dessert leaving the cake behind.) Of course, we were so busy chatting once again that the waitress was worried we didn’t like it… I promise, we did!

I love the ambiance of the bar side of Murietta’s so much that I suspect that’s where I will be returning to in the future… but I certainly wouldn’t mind a classy little dinner in the dining room first!

Anejo – Big Taste Calgary

Tuesday night, for Big Taste, I hit up Anejo with one of my most favourite friends, Claire. (Yes, of the fun and less-than-professional tasting event post. This time I took pictures!) Anejo is a trendy Mexican eatery on 4th Street, with a menu featuring tableside guacamole, 200+ tequilas and our city’s most innovative margarita flavours.

4th Street means parallel parking and, since I spent most of my 20s hanging out in theatre and railyards, I don’t have a lot of experience doing the parallel parking thing and am subsequently less-than-skilled at it. After looping around the side streets around Anejo, looking for the perfect spot, I arrived about five minutes late for our 7:30 reservation and was immediately informed by the server that tonight Claire and I were only drinking tequila. So I immediately ordered an Anejo size chili coconut margarita. Happy Tuesday!

Margarita
(Only order this margarita if you can handle your heat – I loved it, but it involves habanero so there is definitely some kick to it.)

We were sorely tempted by the tableside gauc, but decided to stick to our guns and go with the Big Taste menu. With three choices for the first two courses and two choices for our dessert, it offered lots of options of its own!

Note that Anejo has a great, fun atmosphere – slightly dim lighting, tables of differing sizes and configurations so everyone has a great view of the scene, and while we were there, they were projecting “Blazing Saddles” onto the wall over the bar. This atmosphere is a little dim to be taking pictures in, though, unless you want to rock a flash so I only have pictures of my own selections.

Tartare Taco
For my first course, I was all over the steak tartar taco in a crispy wonton shell. This isn’t something I would normally order as an appie at Anejo because I just don’t know if I can do tacos on tacos on tacos, but with just a single one offered as a first course on Big Taste, I was all in. It was tender, a little bit spicy and paired well with that crispy wonton shell. Claire also had no complaints about her salmon ceviche, which seemed equally delicious and maybe a little bit more fun to eat.

Enchilada
I wish Max Fuller’s catchphrase on Fuller House was “Holy enchilada!” instead of “Holy chalupa!” so I could make a somewhat topical cultural reference. (Instead I just wrote an awkward lengthy sentence.) But seriously, holy geez! Look at the size of that enchilada! It took some serious girding my loins and double-down to get through even half of the deliciousness. The enchiladas were stuffed with adobo pork and potatoes, topped with a restrained amount of cheese and a spicy red sauce. “Hot” was the theme of the night, apparently! (Though what else can you expect at a Mexican restaurant?)

Claire partook in the mole chicken and devoured every bite – other than her carrots, which are one of her least favourite vegetables and which the server totally teased her for in the most charming way.

Fiasco Gelato
Dessert! (And a dessert margarita – we both chose to go for fruit-based margaritas to wrap up our experience since they are more like dessert. I had a strawberry rhubarb marg which did have a nice tang to it.) Anejo has about a thousand Fiasco Gelato flavours on their menu, so the server brought us over an entire little printed list to choose from.

I went for the Salted Caramel, Lavender Vanilla Bean and my absolutely favourite flavor… Mini Egg! Hello Spring Collection!

I don’t remember what Claire had, I was too excited about my own ice cream. I think I remember a Pear Riesling, that I may be all over next time, though.

We’re already making plans to come back on a Saturday and see what the vibe is like then – another successful Big Taste outing! Three down, two to go…