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(“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.

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Culture, Life

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
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boom-final-rgb

(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.

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da kink in my hair theatre calgary poster

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.

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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!)

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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.)