Two Gentlemen of Verona – Theatre Thursday


(“Two Gentlemen of Verona” Poster Image, as always, lovingly stolen from Theatre Calgary. Their site is always adding more incredible, informative material about their shows, please take the time to explore it.)

First off: I probably should have written about this show a month again. Actually, if I were really good at my job, I would have seen the show early in it’s run and written an actual review to actually encourage my readers to go see it. But long-time readers know that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here for ruminating on things for far too long and then vomiting my thoughts about important theatre onto this blog. And today? The #importanttheatre that I’m talking about is #ShakesBow‘s production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

What’s #ShakesBow?

Shakespeare by the Bow is our forever evolving summer outdoor Shakespeare theatre in Calgary, Alberta. It’s varied in format over the years – sometimes two shows running in currently, sometimes just one… sometimes allowing experienced actors to work with those of all levels, sometimes emerging artists being allowed to tackle amazing roles. They have partnered with different theatre organizations in town and recently rebranded from “Shakespeare in the Park” with their most recent partnership with Theatre Calgary. ShakesBow has even experienced variety in its performance spaces when flooding in 2005 and 2013 damaged their usual space at Prince’s Island Park. (Note: this is an incredibly vague and non-detailed history. Don’t come at me.)

However, one thing that has remained consistent over the years is that ShakesBow offers donation-based, accessible classical theatre. It is Shakespeare to help people who maybe only ever read Shakespeare in high school – if that – “get it”. It is equal parts fun and touching. Above all else, it is completely understandable. (Note: Again, don’t at me. Anyone can understand Shakespeare when it is done well and ShakesBow does it.)

So, what makes Two Gentlemen important?

Aha! Great question! After all, why am I writing about this show over a month after it closed?

I don’t love Two Gents. Part of it may be that I saw an insane musical adaptation of it almost a decade ago. (Seriously. It was over the top. I thought I had an old livejournal review of it somewhere, but I couldn’t find it and also I don’t want anyone reading my old livejournal from a decade ago.)

A bigger part of it is that I don’t love watching Julia, who is spunky and fun and takes action, chasing around Proteus who immediately falls in love with his best friend’s girl. I don’t love that Proteus and Valentine are big ol’ dummies and Valentine volunteers to “give” his girl to Proteus. I know, I know, it’s a different time and potentially Shakespeare’s first play but I’m still allowed to not love it.

Unless…?

Unless. (tm. McElroy brothers)

ShakesBow does the play. And doesn’t actually change the dialogue, but completely reclaimed the play for the women. With a look, blocking and a very specific song choice, our heroines realize the boys are bozos and truly become heroines.

You guys. It was so good.

I love Shakespeare.

Sometimes A Video Comes At The Right Time

introspective after video
I’m the worst at Youtube videos. I never like, I never comment, it takes forever before I remember to subscribe – even if I love every video you post. I’m working really hard at being an engaged viewer. I’m not there yet but, hey, what is life if we aren’t always striving towards something, right? One day I will totally remember to comment on a video.

I also go in waves in terms of what videos or channels I watch based on what I need in life. (Yes, I realize this is not unique to me. I’m building to something. Give me a break, imaginary reader that I have apparently decided is harassing me!)

I really love watching Carrie Dayton when I need a video with a few laughs, some body positivity or just some old fashioned reassurance that it’s okay to not be 100% a grownup all the time at 30. Also, can we talk about how jealous I am of her ability to rock a half bun?

My other fav, and I’m not alone in this at all, is Kalyn Nicholson. Kalyn is not someone to watch all the time. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for her spiritual early 20s discoveries and I just want to shout “Yes, we were all 24 and drove cars through the mountains once! Geez!” But sometimes… sometimes I let those videos pile up and I just disappear into two hours of beautifully edited, yoga-filled, inspiring content.

Sometimes a video just comes at exactly the right time.

(Or I watch that video two months after it came out and that is exactly the right time.)

This video is the one I’m talking about. As you may be able to guess from my radio silence recently, I’m grappling with the idea of regret and wondering about some choices that I made what seems like a very long time ago – or was somewhat manhandled into, what seems like a very long time ago. Nostalgia is a real bitch, my friends.

Anyway, I was finally in a Kalyn mood and the Toxic Things video popped up on my feed. It was exactly what I needed this month to get me out of dwelling in the past and force me to focus on the future. We let go of things for a reason and sometimes it is hard but it’s so worth it. And Kalyn says it better than I do so please head on over to Youtube and give this girl a little love.

(Just for fun, Here’s a throwback to the last time I felt real introspective about this exact thing and also used this exact picture, apparently. Two steps forward, one step back, my beautiful friends.)

~*~*~

I’m thinking that I want to make Tuesday posts (when I have Tuesday posts) about new discoveries/media that I like, etc. How do ya’ll feel about that? It’ll be like a mini-version of Wonderful, except not a podcast and not as clever as Rachel & Griffin and also not starring a 30 under 30 media luminary. So… not like Wonderful at all.

Hey! What’s your favourite recent discovery? Hit me up in the comments!

This Girl Reads Books

Yes, it’s true. This girl has fallen into an absolute spiral of locking herself in her basement and just all reading books, all the time. Why? Why have I turned into a book hermit?

Partially – I went to a writing conference with my brother Kevin from the weekend of August 10-12. You know how being around people who are hyped about the books they are writing just makes you want to read all the books they are writing?

Partially – it’s been hot and smoky in Calgary which makes me just want to hang in a cool, dark, well ventilated space. It’s as if I am a good bottle of red wine. (And yes, I know we are so much luckier than our friends in BC or California, but my asthmatic lungs just can’t mess with that 10+ air quality index situation.)

And partially – I have a problem that I think all my book buddies can relate to. I put a bunch of buzzy e-books on hold at the library, I waited months for them and then suddenly they all came in within days of each other. Yeah. That’s what I’m dealing with. My life is obviously terribly challenging. #firstworldproblems

Reading books, while being terribly fun, inspiring and transforming, is not exceptionally good blog content. Unless you do what I’m doing… and review a few of the books you’ve read lately! Yes! Without further ado… here are some books:

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

How can a goddess be so human in her flaws and dreams? Circle is absolutely magical in its re-telling of the full mythology of Circe (not just her appearance in The Odyssey). It is equal parts poetry and modern realism and absolutely compelling.

I’m super into Greek mythology, mostly due to performing in productions of Oedipus Rex, Antigone and The Trojan Women during university. Well, and Troy. Man, I love a trashy, non-historically accurate “historical fiction” movie. Circe takes the Circe of The Odyssey and pieces together the various myths about her in an absolutely gorgeous way. It does start up a little bit slowly and I did keep thinking every mortal she met was Odysseus but I still whipped through this dense book in something along the lines of three days.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Ugh.

I’m sorry. I loved The Rosie Project and I just kind of felt like this book subverted everything that was charming and quirky about the first book by taking it too far. In an attempt to create drama, Simision pulled all the characters so far that they were just unlikable. Your mileage may vary, but this book was not my jam. Some books just don’t need a sequel, methinks.

The Fountain by Suzy Vadori

The Fountain by Suzy Vadori

As a YA novel, you expect a quick read (which isn’t a bad thing!) – what I didn’t expect was to be completely engrossed and whip through this lovely little story in about two hours. Vadori masterfully paints what it’s like to be a teenager (granted, a teenager who makes a casual wish only to have it actually come true… can’t we all identify with that?) in a novel filled with magic, friends and rivals, adventure and a tiny bit of romance.

I whipped through The Fountain over a glass of wine and reviled in the memory of what it was like to be a teenager and live vicariously through a little magic.

Vacationland by John Hodgman

Vacationland by John Hodgman

No, John Hodgman is not particularly relatable. But who wants to read a memoir that basically describes their own life? He is insightful, funny and incredibly self-aware. Just like his podcast, Vacationland offers an absurdly witty reflection on the human condition told by a man who was once a teenager who just wanted to grow up to be a middle-aged bachelor.

I do think you might need to be into John Hodgman and his whole vibe in order to appreciate this book… but isn’t that true of a lot of memoirs? Context is key.

You can check me out on Goodreads (which I literally just started up), if you so wish… or you could just recommend me some good books here! Hit me up, whatcha reading!?

All images lovingly stolen from Goodreads

Bonding in Musicals – Theatre Thursday

wicked

Here’s a fun picture of the time I did Popular for a talent show thing in high school. In my defense, it was 2003-2004 and incredibly timely and not overdone at that point. Musicals!

I feel like sometimes when I write about theatre topics (especially some of the more serious ones like fear in theatre or auditioning for shows), the most important thing about why we do theatre doesn’t come across. Creating something is fun. It’s scary and exhausting and hard work, but it’s also fun. I find theatre especially remarkable because it is a collaborative creative experience, when so much creation is very solitary. Recently, someone commented to me they enjoyed doing musicals more than straight plays because they found that the cast bonded better during musicals.

Well, huh. That stopped me in my tracks. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a musical – I love them, but this girl does not sing, like to the point that when I have auditions that require singing, I sing Sing from A Chorus Line… wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, it’s been a long time since I did a musical but, in my experience, that actually is a pretty true statement. But why?

Is it because the rehearsal period for a musical is typically longer? (There’s so much more to learn – not just lines, blocking and motivations but choreography and songs as well!?)

Is it because choreography so often leads to touching each other? (Okay, that sounds creepy… I just mean that you need to get comfortable with each other pretty quickly because trust is important and… okay, you get it. I think.)

You know, I actually do think it has to do with the choreography and the songs. Not the touching or the time it takes, but the process of learning something together. Theatre is so collaborative but when you really think about it – only the actor learning the lines actually learns those lines. You can run your lines with your co-stars, they can help you, but at the end of the day it’s all on you. The way that we learn the things that are specific to musicals – song and dance? Those things happen together and they can’t be performed without each other.

But damn, what is out there for those of us who sing Buffy the Vampire Slayer songs because Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t a singer either and they wrote the songs for her?

I’ve figured it out. Collective creation. Write a play together. Completely create something from the ground up. This is what my theatre company does and it’s amazing.

We may have a little project in store for the 2018-2019 theatre season and I’ll track the journey here. Watch this space.

Fear In Theatre – Theatre Thursday

First Theatre Thursday of 2018, ya’ll, and I’m treading onto some probably already well tread ground… fear. And Theatre.

You Mean Stage Fright?

Now, I don’t mean stage fright – I think most peoples’ minds immediately pop to stage fright when they think of acting, but it’s a totally different fear. “Oh my gosh, I could never do that, I’m so afraid to talk in front of groups!” you say. I hear it all the time.

Like a jerk (or like most actors), I’ve never suffered from that fear, though. At my day job, I take literally any opportunity to talk to the class… you need someone to give exam instructions? I’m your girl. And I’ll probably think I’m hilarious while doing it. That being said, I’m not going to pretend that I’m not nervous before I go on stage. Of course I am, even when I feel confident – I want to do a good job and I think when you stop feeling a little bit nervous about a big project, that’s when you stop caring about what you do.

Acting In a Play Isn’t Like Delivering an Exam Spiel Though, Is It?

You’re right, it’s not. I free-style my exam instructions like crazy, when I’m in a play we spent approximately 1-2 hours rehearsing for every minute that takes place on stage. Combine that with a lack of fear of public speaking, and you get nerves, but not fear… because all the big risks happened during rehearsal!

For instance, I’m in a show right now. (When am I ever not in a show, am I right?) Tonight was the first night that I put my script down and delivered my lines completely from memory. My script is my security blanket, I will hold it until the last possible second even if I’m not actually reading from the book in my hand. It’s a real crutch.

So, tonight I put the book down. And it was terrifying. I was anxious all day. Even though there was a support system – our stage manager had the script in front of her and I could say the word “Line” at any time, at which time she would tell me what line I had forgotten – I still didn’t want to do poorly. I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of my well prepared colleagues who didn’t make the mistakes I made.

Obviously, I love to overthink things.

But I took the risk, I swallowed the fear and I did it. And it was fine.

So, What DO You Mean By Fear?

I may have tipped my hand by talking about taking risks in the previous section… but the fear in theatre is wrapped up in the vulnerability actors need to experience to be successful in theatre.

When you see an actor sobbing, screaming or laughing on stage, they truly go somewhere inside themselves that allows them to experience that emotion.

When you see a ridiculous piece of physical humour, the actor had to test out that physicality in rehearsal. They had to try something out, make a big offer and know that maybe this huge thing they were trying wouldn’t work. The thought might have crossed their mind that if it didn’t work, they would be embarrassed – or something deeper – in front of their colleagues.

No wonder actors drink right? J/k, j/k. (Maybe not j/k…)

In a good rehearsal hall, you take the risk. You make the big offer and if it doesn’t work, you make another big offer and keep trying until something works. It doesn’t matter because you know your colleagues are right there with you – you will just all keep working together to make the show amazing.

I’ve been lucky enough to always be in good rehearsal halls.

Ophelia in Shakespeare's Heroines