Culture

Beach Hat

Guys, I get to go to the beach tomorrow. I’m so excited! I love nothing more than reading a light girl-gets-the-guy book in the sun with a cool drink and maybe a giant hat. Beaches are few and far between in Calgary, though, unless you live in a lake community. (Which my parents actually do, but that means hitting up the beach involves convincing one of my parents to go with me, which is just so uncool.) So that means, even though this is one of my favourite things, I haven’t actually gotten a solid beach day since my trip to Cabo in February 2015. I’m so out of the loop!

Speaking of which, anyone have any suggestions for some good light beach reads? I spent a couple of days earlier this week delving into my Meg Cabot collection, but, unsurprisingly, it’s not going to hold up to a second read within a week so I need something new to borrow from the library (aka: download to my e-reader).

My search for some beach reads got me thinking about theatre, though. Mostly about “fluffy” or “light” theatre. I know I’m not the only girl who is perfectly able to accept some fluff in her literature – as long as the storyline isn’t problematic and the heroine exhibits an appropriate level of unique perspective, we don’t mind if we know from page 32 that she is going to end up with that Or even with tv… we always knew that Mindy and Danny would eventually end up dating, the question was how?

So why don’t we accept the same lightness in our theatre these days?

I feel like we are always asking for a story to be special, for it to be something that needs to be told because no one else has ever told this story before and now it can change the world if the right person hears it. Which is absolutely true of some theatre, some movies, some tv shows and some books. But sometimes you just want a pretty, spunky heroine who has the exact life you always wish you had in your dreams. Or you want the mismatched set of friends who are just like your group of friends only with slightly better references. We accept this in all our media, why not theatre?

My brother once wrote what was essentially a buddy comedy, taking place in a crappy apartment with an eccentric cast of characters including neighbours, a handyman and a landlord. It had a cute little plot, but was essentially a sketch comedy just intended to make you laugh for an hour or two and forget your life. We took a reading of this show to a festival and were just lambasted by a newsboy-cap wearing, muttonchop having, pretentious audience member who couldn’t understand why we chose to make such a thing a play and demanded that Kevin rewrite it so it could be a black commentary on sitcom tropes.

Why couldn’t it be pure entertainment?

I once took a group of girlfriends to see Neil Labute’s Reasons to be Happy and after the play they said to me “Wow, I didn’t know that plays could be like that! They were real people, like us!” I mean, Reasons to be Happy isn’t exactly fluff, but I still think that means there is an untapped market in the theatre community. We want it to be for everyone, let’s make it for everyone!

Which is why my girlfriends and I are working to create a play that takes place in a ladies’ washroom at a club. It’s going to be awesome.

Culture

post-show blues

For this week’s Theatre Thursday, I’m addressing what should be a crazy topical post, considering I closed a show less than a month ago. The Post-Show Blues… what they are, how to combat them, whether you even should… (Btw, I was just doing a little casual googling about this topic and apparently the Post-Show Blues are a thing in the fitness world too. It makes sense, but… who knew?!)

I’ve actually been putting off writing this post for a few weeks, because I’ve been waiting for the blues to hit. After all, I was just a large role in a super-fun show where I got to fight with a super close friend… shouldn’t I be singing the blues? But I’m not, and at this point I don’t think I’m going to. I’m cool with it, and I’m starting to think that maybe you don’t get them as much with age and experience, but I’ll chat about that below.

What Are They?
Honestly, the term “Post-Show Blues” is pretty self-explanatory, I think, but I’ll dig into it anyway. The Post-Show Blues are the malaise that you hold after your show closes, the general doldrums, the feeling of missing every beautiful and difficult moment of working on the show and all the beautiful and difficult people you did it with. The sense that your real life isn’t nearly as exciting as the rush of the stage, the lights and the audience.

High school kids feel the Post-Show Blues really intensely – in part because they feel everything really intensely, in part because the amount of shows they can do are so limited. Most teenagers can only do the shows at their school, which rehearse for a longer time period than the typical community or professional theatre, and there are only so many shows at a high school.

I know I really felt the blues while at university too, again because I was so young and because there were only so many options for shows I could be in. Now, there are so many different shows I can audition for (I mean, I get to be picky about what I audition for!) and there is always a new opportunity on the horizon. Yes, I will never do that one show I just closed again, in the same way, but like I wrote in Monday’s post, I’m beginning to accept that “nothing will be never-ending”. Every experience is fleeting so I have to accept them for what they are.

How Can I Combat Them?
Personally, I think I may have beaten my Post-Show Blues for good by accepting that experiences are beautiful, fleeting and there are always new ones around the corner (to quote myself, naturally).

So that’s a great thing to keep in mind – you can always do another show and it will be just as fun in a totally different way.

I also was running on so much adrenaline during my show, I was doing so many things in addition to the play, that when I was done I was just so ready to relax, visit with friends and kick back with the newest season of Orange is the New Black. My liver, pocketbook and sodium levels were also ready for a bit of a break. When the show is over, luxuriate in your free time and treat yo’self a little, yo.

My friend, Megan, who played the lead in the show I just closed, went straight from our show to writing and acting in her own play. I doubt she’s had any time to feel any blues yet either, though I’m sure she’s about due for a big ol’ crash once her current show closes… so I don’t know if that’s the best of solutions but it certainly is a solution.

Should I Combat the Post-Show Blues?
There’s always the opposite option too – lean into your emotions and really feel them. I once was speaking to one of my friends from the barre studio and she told me that the grieving process was like facing down a wave. You can run straight-on into a wave but it’ll drag you down and thrash you around. The other option is to dive into a wave, dive right under it, and you’ll emerge on the other side… a little wet but none the worse for wear.

Or maybe you could just write a blog post addressing them, just like I had planned to do. That works too!

Do you get the Post-Show Blues? Let me know in the comments section!

Culture

Two Thursdays ago my mom, Bryan and I went to see the opening night of Vertigo Theatre’s season closer Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. Normally this would be a weird time to write about it – the show is still on but it would only have a week to go so it may be hard to get out to see it. However, this show has actually been so well received (it just won a Critter award!) that it has been extended until June 18 (which incidentally is also the day my show closes…)

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily
Program Image belongs to Vertigo Theatre

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily was a bit of a revelation to me. I’ve seen the team of Haysam Kadri and Karl Sine play Holmes and Watson before, and I’ve seen Haysam in a variety of roles over the last nine or so years… but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Haysam be quite so funny. He – and the entire cast, really – was obviously having a blast onstage, and the enjoyment is infectious.

If Sherlock Holmes isn’t necessarily your jam, you still may love this show because it is peppered with real historical Victorian London references and characters. Paul Welch’s Oscar Wilde looks astonishingly like the real deal and lights up the stage with his witticisms. The script tends to stick to Wilde’s more popular works for its referential humour so even casual fans will be “in on the joke”.

I can’t imagine that I’m in the minority when I say that I love clever humour that throws around cultural references. This past month of theatre in Calgary has absolutely fed into this love and I hope that it is a trend that will stick around for awhile.

And if you’re on the fence about Holmes at all, let me just say… I was offered a ticket to see it again last Friday and I deeply considered it. I decided not to take it though so someone who hadn’t seen the show could have the opportunity. Soooo…

(Please note: This show did just win a Critter award for Best Direction of a Play so that may increase interest in seeing it. You can get tickets by visiting the Vertigo Theatre website.)

(Double please note: I know today is Tuesday… Thursday is the day before my show opens and if I thought I was stressed before… At least Tuesday still alliterates, guys!)

Culture

Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) Program

Sometimes you see a show that takes you completely by surprise. For me, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) was that show.

I read it in university. I’m certain I read it in university – it’s a Canadian play. It was written by Ann-Marie MacDonald (yes, the author of Fall on Your Knees) in 1988 long before Fall On Your Knees. As director Kate Newby remarks in her Director’s Note, it explores a seemingly endless list of important historical, cultural and political themes. I apparently own two copies of this play. I absolutely read this play in university… and I don’t remember doing so at all, except a vague recollection that “this play seems kind of odd”.

My vague recollection is completely wrong.

This production of Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) (a co-production between The Shakespeare CompanyHit & Myth and the newly re-branded Handsome Alice Theatre) absolutely proves the common refrain that plays are meant to be seen and not read. The show is equal turns clever, thought-provoking and downright hilarious.

The production also lands on so many levels. Though Shakespeare fans will have a million “Oh! I get it! I’m so clever!” moments (much of the show is written in iambic pentameter and MacDonald skillfully weaves actual Shakespearean dialogue into her own), the absolutely clear intentions and communication on the part of the five actresses in the show coupled with adept physical comedy allows audience members of any background to enjoy the show.

Oh yes, did I mention? The cast of Goodnight Desdemona is five powerhouse female actors – a virtual “who’s who” of young lady actors in Calgary – who play everything from a Henry V style “Chorus” (Julie Orton) to a swaggering Tybalt (Mabelle Carvajal) to Juliet (Genevieve Pare) and Desdemona (Allison Lynch) themselves. (Each of the aforementioned actors plays at least three different characters and it is never any doubt at all who they are. Stunning.) At the centre of it all, is Ayla Stephen as Constance Ledbelly, an academic who falls into the worlds of two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies as she tries to sort out the truth of the plays and the truth of herself. Ayla and I attended university together, so I’ve seen her play a dizzying array of different roles, but she really does shine when she gets to play a fish-out-of-water and lean into her comedic side. She, and, actually, all the ladies in this show, can communicate more with a facial expression than the average person can with a whole speech.

I generally wait until shows close to write about them, but in this case, I couldn’t wait. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) runs until May 21, 2016 and absolutely everyone should go see it. I’ve done my best not to spoil any plot elements, but I genuinely think I could go see the show again tonight and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time even knowing how it ends. Tell your friends, get a girl (or guy) squad together, grab your lover or guilt your mom into hanging out with you and take in this show before it closes. Tickets can be purchased by visiting The Shakespeare Company’s website.

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for writing this blog post. I just really really liked the play and want everyone I know to go see it so I can talk to them about it.)

Culture

Today, I really feel like a super grown-up. My house was built in 1990, which is not old at all though it is older than my roommate for the summer, but the fixtures in the bathroom are original and the water is super hard in Calgary. So there’s a lot of calcium build up in the tub. So as I type this blog post up, I’m doing a CLR soak in the tub, on the shower head and on the faucet. Not a thrilling thing at all, but apparently I am one of those annoying people who wants backpats any time I do anything remotely grownup. (But, guys? CLR works SO WELL. Like, so well. Like my stuff almost looks brand new. I’m impressed.)

Anyway, while my really thrilling cleaning progresses upstairs, it’s time to dash out another Theatre Thursday post on another incredibly common question – “Well, how do you even get into plays?” This question, I think, is usually followed either secretly or actually outloud by “Because I think I would like to do plays!” The follow up comment is super easy to respond to – yes, you would like to do plays, they are real fun and we always want more people involved – so we’ll focus on the original question.

script

Auditions
Generally speaking, you get cast in plays by auditioning for them. Think of an audition as a job interview – you have to make the people in charge of making the decisions (usually the director, sometimes there is a producer or artistic director of a theatre company involved) want to work with you and show them that you can do what they need. Yes, even big stars have to audition to prove that they are the right person for a role… especially if they want to play something that is outside of their usual types of roles.

Auditions are all about making a good impression and standing out. There is an old, possibly apocryphal, story that floats around the theatre community about a young, unknown Barbra Streisand coming in for an audition while chewing a huge wad of gum. As the story goes, she came into the studio, stuck the gum under her chair and proceeded to nail the song… and when the director got up to remove the gum from the chair, there was no gum there. It was acting all along!

What Happens at Auditions?
Auditions fall into two basic types – a general audition and a show specific audition.

Theatre companies may choose to hold what they call “general” auditions which allows actors to audition for an entire season’s worth of shows at one time. General auditions usually take place in the spring, just after a company has released their upcoming season, and are attended by a company’s Artistic Director so they may make recommendations to the individual directors of each show moving forward. Sometimes an actor might be cast directly from a general but most often, they will be asked to come to a second audition (a “callback”) for a specific show and character. At a general audition, an actor wants to show off both their best work and a range of emotions – they may do two contrasting monologues, a monologue and a song or just one killer monologue depending on what the company requests. This is often how professional companies run their auditions.

Individual directors may also choose to hold independent auditions for their specific show – many indie/community theatre companies exclusively work with this model of auditions since their directors are like contractors who are not directly affiliated with the company. Show specific auditions can take a range of different forms.

The director may ask the actors to prepare a monologue or two, just like for a general audition, though they may request that the monologues reflect the feeling of the show. Actors also may choose their monologues very specifically to reflect a specific character and subconsciously – or very consciously – put themselves in the director’s mind for that role.

Alternatively, a director might ask their actors to prepare short scenes from the actual show, known as “sides”, so they can actually see them in the world of the play. The actor may be given the sides ahead of time, or they may be handed the side in the audition in what is known as a “cold read”. The actor may read a scene with the director/stage manager/someone behind the audition table or they may read the scene with another actor who is onstage with them and also auditioning for the play. They may just read the scene once or the director may give them something else to keep in mind when reading the scene again or they may even read the same scene a bunch of different times with a bunch of different actors reading opposite them.

An audition may even look like a combo of all of the above, where an actor does an initial audition with a monologue and then comes back for a callback to read sides for the character(s) that the director saw them as after the first audition!

My CLR needs to be rinsed off and I realize that I could talk about auditions for pages and pages so I think I will leave it there for today… And save more rambles for more Theatre Thursdays.

Culture, Life

Happy Tuesday, blog buddies, and let me apologize for my disappearing act over the past two weeks. I swear I have a good excuse, though – I just returned from a terribly exciting, relaxing and historical trip to London with my youngest brother, Kevin. (And I promise that I would have tipped my hand and told you all ahead of time, except that apparently in my 29th year I’ve grown somewhat paranoid and decided that it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to tell the interwebz that my house was going to be empty for two weeks…) I booked the trip on a whim after a bit of a life shakeup at the end of last year. Kevin is a writer who took a day job this year and decided to join me to take advantage of finally having a regular income. My favourite people know that I love solo travel, but this time it was so much fun to spend some time with my little brother as an adult and to have someone to laugh about shared nonsense with.

I probably won’t do a formal day-to-day recap of my trip – partially because it was just a lot of wandering around museums and streets, partially because I’m not sure that we’ve built the blog relationship where you care to hear about me sitting in nine different pubs to kill the hours between adventures. (Yes, we averaged almost one pub per day. It was pretty impressive.) I will be dropping tidbits/anecdotes here and there, though, as we return to our regularly scheduled blogging. But for today? How about a few highlights?

Tower of London

1) Did you know that people live in the Tower of London?! This has been the first thing I’ve said to absolutely everyone who has asked me about my trip because it still blows my mind. The Yeoman Warders (“Beefeaters”… yes, the uniformed men who give hourly tours – they are not “just” tour guides at all) are actually Members of the Sovereign’s Body Guard formed by Henry VII and the 37 Yeoman Warders and one Chief Warder that compromise this military group actually live at the Tower of London with their families! The Chief Warder lives in the Queen’s House… literally, her house at the Tower because it is still an active Royal Palace. There is also a doctor, chaplain and the Resident Governor living on site. I had been to the Tower of London before, but somehow this fact slipped my notice before and Kevin and I just could not stop marveling over it.

pub

2) The system of ordering in British pubs is quite different from Canadian ones, and really wonderful. Jetlagged and starving at 9 pm on our first day there, it did take us probably far too long to figure out how things were done but once we did, we were hooked. Essentially, the system in the pubs cuts out the middleman and takes a lot of the pressure off of sitting for too long or not ordering food – you can do everything on your own time. For those who don’t know (and to save you the jet-lagged confusion that I experienced), when you enter a pub proceed directly to the bar to order and pay for your drink of choice. Bring this drink to the best possible table and enjoy it (and maybe one or two more!) with your friends and conversation. If you decide to do food with your drink (and please keep in mind that there is never any obligation to do so… you’ll probably notice that most of the tables around you aren’t eating), bounce back up to the bar to order and pay for your food. In a small bar, you’ll just indicate to the bartender what table you’re at; in a bigger one, they may give you some sort of table marker. The best part of all? When you’re done with your evening, you can just leave… no waiting for the cheque because you already paid!

airbnb

3) AirBnB is always worth it. I’ve done AirBnB before but other people have always done the actual renting and I’ve just tagged along. We rented a lovely little flat in Kennington owned by a very charming and friendly gentleman, and it could not have gone smoother! It was so nice to have a private, relaxing home base in which to kick back in the evenings and to enjoy some cereal in the mornings. I think the cereal is what saved us from getting tired of restaurants on this trip!

wicked

4) If you are really thrifty and clever, you can see two professional West End shows in one day for less than forty pounds. In our case, a Wicked matinee for 17.50 and an evening showing of The Woman in Black for 12.50. It was our second last day and was absolutely thrilling.
I think that may be enough for this Tuesday… but I have so many more rambles and pictures so I’m sure you’ll see more pop up soon…

Culture

This is probably the second most common question I get asked, usually right after I say that I don’t do film, just theatre. (Note: I probably would do film, given the opportunity, but theatre has always been my focus. In part because I love to do the entire journey in one go, in part because I love the energy exchange that comes with having the audience right there with you while you do the work.) I suspect that what most people are asking, even if they can’t put words to it, is “Do you do musicals, Shakespeare plays or just plays?” I usually try to break it down a little more than that, without getting too ramble-ly because, really, who wants to get lectured by someone they just met? But lemme break it down for you.

The Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare

I do love Shakespeare. There is something so freeing about telling big stories and feeling big emotions in a way that never seems appropriate to do in “real life”. I mean, how often do you actually get to keen in your day-to-day? How often do you get to make pithy sexual remarks or craft oddly specific insults or choose the perfect Classical reference to describe exactly how screwed over you are? It’s like a puzzle, finding all the nuance and allusions in Shakespeare’s lines and then figuring out exactly how to communicate that to a modern audience who isn’t sitting in the audience with a dictionary and a mythology reference book.

It is important to remember, though, that Shakespeare isn’t the only classical playwright in the world and there are other plays out there that are just as bombastic, descriptive and stirring. Classical Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Aristophanes wrote comedies and tragedies about great women and men in Greek “history” who met their fate in spectacular ways – Oedipus gouging out his eyes after discovering he had murdered his father and slept with his mother, anyone? You could also take in a tragedy written by Christopher Marlowe – one of Shakespeare’s rivals who was largely considered the greatest tragedian of their time and is rumoured to have actually written Shakespeare’s plays. Or you could read a George Bernard Shaw play and luxuriate in his descriptive stage directions. There’s some pretty cool stuff out there.

What Pushes Are We Wenches Driven To?

Contemporary Theatre

On the flip side, I have a real soft spot for theatre that’s been written in the past 20-or-so years. I saw Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things when I was 16 years old and it just blew my mind that theatre could be like this. It was raw, it was immediately accessible… the lines were simple but there was so much underneath them. Like good tv, good contemporary theatre is like your life but elevated. Only the good parts are picked out. There are absolutely still epic, sprawling plays being written (and Classical works are being adapted all the time) but, as my current director put it at rehearsal last night, there is an ever growing trend in theatre of plays being written like movies – all smash cuts from one scene to the next and real life playing out right in front of your eyes. The air in the theatre is electric during the climactic scene.

Good contemporary theatre makes me feel the way every 14 year old theatre kid feels when they discover Rent for the first time.

By the way, The Shape of Things is also a film starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz – people tend to either love the show or think it is terribly overrated, so watch it and decide for yourself.

Shakespeare's Heroines

Collective Creation

Collective creation – a bunch of theatre artists get together with some sort of inspiration (A vague concept? A piece of literature? A striking photograph?) and write, move and brainstorm to create a show together. There could be a cohesive storyline or it could be a serious of snapshotted moments. There could be music, dance, improvisation, projections, it could even tour through different locations. A collective creation can look like anything the creative team imagines it to look like… that’s the beauty of theatre.

My theatre company does a ton of collective creation work. I know so many beautiful, talented women, and we can never find a pre-existing show with enough good roles for ladies that speaks to us the way we want it to. So we make our own plays. Maybe they aren’t always as polished or good as The Shape of Things or A Midsummer Night’s Dream but they are ours. They are honest, they are raw, and they are genuine. And they are always getting better.

So. As always, this is not a comprehensive list, it is wildly personal, but that’s the type of theatre I do. If you ask me in person, I’ll try to give you the short version. If you ask me on the internet, I may just refer you to this blog post…

What types of theatre do you love the most? What do you wish you could see done more?