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 of Verona 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.

BOOM – Theatre Calgary

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.

‘da Kink In My Hair – Theatre Calgary

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.