Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra (Theatre Thursday)

On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about something tangentally related to theatre that I absolutely loved – The Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra.

Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra - A Rocky Mountain High Christmas publicity image
A Rocky Mountain High Christmas (image lovingly stolen from: Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra)

This week on Theatre Thursday, I want to share something just a little bit different. Normally I’m right within my comfort zone with these posts. I know the theatres, I know the artists, I know what to expect when I walk into the space. But this time? This time was something very new to me. On November 29, we braved the cold, bundled up, and headed over to the Grey Eagle Casino to take in an experience that I didn’t even know existed in Calgary… The Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra!

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Murder on the Orient Express – Theatre Thursday

On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about one of the many holiday productions currently running – Murder on the Orient Express.

Murder on the Orient Express poster
Poster lovingly stolen from Vertigo Theatre. Photography credit to Tim Nguyen.

Guess what everyone? It’s December 1! And you know what that means? It’s Blogmas!!

Unlike last year, I did stunningly at Nanowrimo this year. I clocked in at 50,5871 words at about 11pm on November 30. I am so hyped about my book and ready to keep grinding at it. Mostly because I just really need to know what happens next to my characters. 

I am also excited to keep my practice of writing every day going, but refocusing a little bit to sharpen my non-fiction writing skills. And I had so much fun doing Blogmas last year, how could I not do it again? Once again, I can’t promise everything I write will be Christmas related, but y’all know it will all be fun! 

Especially because this year December 1 is a Thursday, so that means we get to start out with an old classic – Theatre Thursday! And you read it above – I’m talking about Vertigo Theatre’s production of Murder on the Orient Express.

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Cipher – Vertigo Theatre

On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about a show that I was supposed to see almost two years ago – Vertigo Theatre’s Cipher.

vertigo theatre cipher
Poster lovingly stolen from Vertigo Theatre. Credit to Tim Nguyen.

Cipher was originally set to open just a few days after what almost everyone I talk to cites as the “start” of the pandemic in Canada. (March 13, 2020, if you were wondering. Though there were cases in the time leading up to this, March 13 is when everything really came crashing down around us.) And, yes, I had tickets to opening night.

Almost two years later on January 20, I had tickets to opening night once again. And, yes, it was well worth the wait.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Wait Until Dark – Vertigo Theatre

Vertigo Theatre - Wait Until Dark poster

(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 MidnightWait 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!

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I’m In a Play – Secondary Cause of Death – Theatre Thursday

secondary cause

(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.)

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Fluffy Theatre – Theatre Thursday

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.

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