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.Continue Reading
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.
(As always, poster image stolen directly from the Vertigo website. The volunteer ushers were super engaged last night and warning people about using their cameras in the theatre. And then I knocked my program onto the floor and it was almost gone forever – like, literally, a man almost stole it from the floor until my mom swiftly said “oohhh, thank you so much for picking that up, she knocked it on the floor!” so he stole someone else’s instead – and that was just way too much program-ness.)
Guys, I’m having all the anxiety about not blogging. The problem is, lately I haven’t really been doing anything new and fun. I pretty much exclusively go to Cibo or Earls during Happy Hour if I’m going to read a book and drink wine. I go to barre or yoga classes (I’m actually doing a challenge at Junction 9 right now and it’s taking up a lot of my time). I write a play with my friends. It’s a busy and fun life that I have, but it’s pretty repetitive.
So, I’ll work on changing that up for you, dear readers. And in the mean time? I have a play review!
Last night, I hit up the Opening Night of Vertigo Theatre’s Wait Until Dark. Those of you who have read my blog before will know that I can be a bit bratty when it comes to dealing with bozos, so you can probably guess that I love opening nights. Minimal bozos, just lots of members of the theatre community and theatre enthusiasts! (Also, there is usually food after the show. Last night I got to eat a soft pretzel and a shooter glass of Village Ice Cream’s Salted Caramel ice cream. It was awesome.)
I’ll start by being honest and admitting that I always get I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, Wait Until Dark and Gaslight confused. Which is actually kind of nice, because even though I’ve seen all these plays before, I never remember which plot elements belong to which show and it’s always like seeing a whole new show. Woo hoo! For the record, Wait Until Dark was adapted into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn and involves a blind girl and the criminals who try to take advantage of her after luring her husband out of their shared apartment.
I feel like my description of the show is super creepy – and the show is super creepy, in an environment-setting, suspense-building, slow burn kind of way. The play was written fifty years ago but it really does feel like a modern thriller. So, I think I’ve alluded to the fact that this play is produced fairly often and that begs the question – why see this production?
1) This is a new adaptation! So cool! I actually didn’t realize this until I was reading the program last night – because my reading comprehension is good, I guess? And I didn’t notice the words “adapted by” in anything I read earlier? Anyway, Jeffrey Hatcher wrote this adaptation, transferring the era from the 60s to 1944 and adding a few other twists and turns along the way. Pretty cool for any viewers who feel like they aren’t interested in seeing a story they’ve already seen – and the era change absolutely works. Admittedly, I get this plot confused with other plays so I may not be representative of a truly educated viewer, but for myself, at least, I wouldn’t have thought that the show didn’t originally take place in the 40s if I hadn’t read it.
2) This is the most Calgary show that ever Calgaried and it makes me so happy. Simon Mallet did his MFA at U of C right around the time that I did my BFA and he has put together a team of Calgary-based talent – people I know and love, including one of my former campers from the Pumphouse DDC in her professional theatre debut! I’m just so proud of this entire team and it warms my heart. (Yes, I’m even proud of the people I only know because I’ve seen them in lots of shows. Shut up. I feel like I know them. It counts.)
… I’m sorry I told you to shut up.
3) Anna Cummer is so wonderful as Susan. She really has to carry the show and she’s so sassy and spunky and wonderful. I spent the entire show rooting for her and knowing she could put it together and save herself… even when she wasn’t quite there yet. I can see how there might be a tendency to play this role as overly weak or tragic but it doesn’t go there at all. She is such a wonderful heroine.
It’s a strong showing from Vertigo Theatre. The show runs until February 19th and tickets can be purchased by visiting their website or calling (403) 221 3708. Do it, yo!
(Note: This image comes directly from the Theatre Calgary website, as a girl can only take so many pictures in the semi-darkness of her wine and program in her theatre box before it gets weird and her readers get tired of looking at it.)
Much like Theatre Calgary’s first offering of the season, BOOM crazy surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. I did a little reading on the TC website, as well as a little exploration of Rick Miller’s Official Boom website prior to seeing the show and I just felt like I couldn’t get a grasp on the show. The description made me think of a theme park variety show and, to my mind, did not do it justice.
Of course, I was wrong. Why do I even try to read about shows beforehand? The reason I love theatre is because it hits you in a visceral way, touching something inside you, that is hard to put into words so why do I expect copy written for a website to communicate that?
BOOM is a tapestry, not a variety show. It is a mixture of the sweeping world history between 1945 to 1969 and the personal stories of important baby boomers in the playwright/actor’s life. It is a collection of music, stories, imitations, news clips, advertisements, cultural touchstones. I personally don’t truly have a baby boomer in my life – my mom was born in 1961 so she didn’t remember any of the events referenced in the show, but my grandparents were already well grownup and established by 1945 – but I do love history and I was able to give myself over to the three characters that were growing up over the twenty years the show covers.
I don’t know that I can truly put into words what seeing BOOM is like any better than the Theatre Calgary website can – the show is running until October 29th, though, and tickets are available on at Theatre Calgary. I highly recommend seeing this one for yourself, I can guarantee it is like no other show you’ll see at Theatre Calgary this year. When picking your seats, I would pick ones in the centre section of the theatre (even in balconies) rather than any of the side boxes – though I loved being away from the riff-raff, I felt like I missed the full experience of some of BOOM’s projections from my angle.
Disclaimer: I know it sounds like I love every show I see. This is not the case… I just prefer to write about the shows that I love so that I can get other people to see them which thus gives me someone to talk to about them. I’m really terrifically selfish in that way.
(Caption: This is the face of a girl who slept for four hours during the daytime on Tuesday because she was sent home from work, and went on to kill it at the theatre that night. This is the magic that theatre does.)
I’m in a play!
Let me be real here – this is not a review for the play that I am in. Mostly because I think the show is pretty great but it is nigh impossible to be objective about a play that you are in. This also isn’t really an advertisement or promotion for the show that I’m in – I’ve been doing a ton of that on social media, even including a “tech week selfie” game with Claire since we always seem to manage to be in tech week at the same time. So, what is this? I guess it’s really more of an ode.
I can’t remember the last time I was so thrilled to be in a play – maybe when I did Scorpio Theatre’s world premiere of Blood of the Red Queen, had a role rewritten for me and knew that I was a part of something that was going to just take off? I don’t know… I’m always pleased to be in a play and I always love it (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), but this time I’m just thrilled.
Part of it may be that I was asked to step into this show to fill a role once they lost an actress after rehearsals began – I hadn’t met the director before so I did do a bit of an audition, though nothing like the ones I’ve written about before – and it’s always nice to be needed/wanted.
Another part of it may be that I’m really getting to stretch myself as an actress. I am playing the type of role that I often get cast in (lovely and graceful) but the process hasn’t been “easy” by any means, and I appreciate that. I swing towards bubbly when I act and I’m playing a character who is on the older end of my age range so there is absolutely no room for bubbly. The show also takes place in England in 1939 (and is very British murder mystery in feel) so accents are imperative. I went to U of C, I haven’t learned accents! But I can do one now…
I think the biggest part of it, though, is that I just feel like such a part of things doing this show. I am a shy person by nature (which people always seem to mistake for my being a bit of a bitch and not just rampantly socially awkward) but everyone in this show has just made such an effort to make me not feel like the “new girl” since Day One. There is a camaraderie in the dressing room that I haven’t actually felt since university (other than during Full Circle Theatre shows, but that’s really just me gathering my friends together and going “let’s make a play!”) and I love it, even when I just sit quietly and listen to everyone else. I absolutely trust every person on that stage to pick me up and save me if I forget a line. (Oh gosh, that better not happen… knock on wood!)
I’m in a play. And even though I am going on vacation the day after it closes, I’m going to miss it when it’s done.
If you would like to see the play that has inspired such gushing from me (and hear my sparkling dulcet tones), Simply Theatre’s “Secondary Cause of Death” runs until October 1 and tickets can be purchased by calling 587-575-656 or by visiting http://www.simplytheatre.ca Come see it. It’s worth it. (This is not a promotion, I’m just happy.)
Caption: Yaaaasss, Gaga, we got a box this year! We are tired of bozos and just want to enjoy good theatre and that is what the box is for, y’all!
(Note from 2020 Erin: when the blog got hacked, I lost the photo I originally had posted here. I have no idea what I was talking about, so I have included the TC poster – but I was very excited to have a box that year.)
Fall is officially here and that means theatre season is back on in Calgary. Granted, during the summer there is a smattering of theatre offering in Calgary – Shakespeare by the Bow, the Common Ground festival and the Calgary Fringe Festival being some of the most notable – but I tend to take the summer off to regroup and nourish my artistic spirit… by reading a ton of books, laying in the sun and taking fitness classes, I guess? I don’t know… and I actually started rehearsing my current show during August this year so I’m really just rambling now.
tl;dr – Theatre is back and I’m back.
Speaking of the Fringe Festival, the first show I’m writing about this year is one of those stunning Fringe Festival success stories that every theatre artist dreams of happening for them. Fifteen years ago Trey Anthony created ‘da Kink In My Hair for the Toronto Fringe Festival because she was determined to create the type of roles she deserved to play rather than accepting the type of roles that were being offered to her – and it became a runaway hit with productions in the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, across the US and London, and even a tv series. The Theatre Calgary production runs until October 1 and then transfers to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
In the interest of complete honesty, I was surprised by how much I related to this show. When I was a teenager, I was always trying to relate to shows that actually had nothing to do with my lovely Newmarket existence and since I was a teenager in the GTA in 2001, I sort of figured that ‘da Kink In My Hair fit into that box without ever having actually seen it. In the grand tradition of “Erin walking into the theatre with preconceived notions”, I was wrong and I’m very pleased. Bits and pieces of every one of the women resonated with me and Virgilia Griffith as Stacey-Anne absolutely stole the show, leaving me with a lump in my throat as she embodied such a real and joyous little girl. For the skeptics out there, the show does get a little bit “Fringe show”-y as it hits every single “big issue” but the performances are full of such heart and are so honest that I was able to fully put aside my inner skeptic and give in to the story.
It’s terribly on brand for me to love this show – after all, my theatre company was also developed to give a voice to all the incredible young female artists I know – but ‘da Kink was transformative and is important. To horribly paraphrase Craig Finn talking about the experience of performing music… There is so much joy in what they do up there.
‘da Kink In My Hair is a musical in its purest sense – as I remember so many of my best teachers saying, a show should happen in a musical when the feelings get too strong for mere words and you have to sing them instead. That is exactly where the songs in ‘da Kink spring from and though I didn’t walk away singing any of the tunes, I was completely carried away by each of them. (And, confession: I do sometimes catch myself humming “What am I gonna do with this hair? My hair my hair my hair…” as I try to wrangle my hair into a cute 1939 style for my show.) All the women have beautiful voices but Krystle Chance as Sharmaine in particular is just absolutely stunning. Her second act solo is a true standout.
‘da Kink In My Hair is a strong season opener and an interesting choice for a transitional season (Dennis Garnham has stepped down as TC Artistic Director and Shari Wattling has stepped in as Interim Artistic Director). It runs until October 1, 2016 and you can get tickets here… after you come to see my current show, which also closes on Oct 1 and I will be writing about very very soon.
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.
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!
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 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!)
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 Company, Hit & 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.)