Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caesar and Cleopatra: The future of theatre?

Last night I had the privilege of going to the local Cineplex to watch this Stratford production. Considering the cost of getting to Stratford, I'm extremely glad it was filmed, giving me the chance to see it. A lot of this had to do with Christopher Plummer being in the cast, and I hope that this is not the closest I'll ever get to seeing him live. It was also nice to finally see some of Des McAnuff's work.

The way it was shot you never lost sight that you were in a theatre, yet the cameras managed to capture a lot of the experience of being in the audience. It wasn't perfect but it was a really good attempt. What's really amazing about this was that the showing last night was an encore, after the initial showing in theatres at the end of January, which tells me there's a definite market for this.

I wish that Fuente Ovejuna had also been filmed. I've still never seen a Lope de Vega play and I feel that seeing this great Spanish master might give us a new perspective on Shakespeare, who was his contemporary. The possibilities of improving theatre literacy are endless. In fact, if you're in Toronto at the end of March, you can go see Kabuki on the big screen using the same technology. While this will never replace the experience of live theatre, I think it's a great way to build audiences and give productions new life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Rebecca Fisseha


Welcome to this week's Umbrella Talk with playwright Rebecca Fisseha. Rebecca chats with us here just before her play Wise.Woman opens on Saturday, February 20th at the Theatre Centre in Toronto.



A little more on Rebecca Fisseha

Rebecca Fisseha trained in creative ensemble performance at York University and honed her writing skills as a member of b current’s rAiz’n the sun training ensemble. Her works February, The Exhibition of Love, Leaving Home, The Product and Daughter’s Last Supper have all received workshop productions with b current, Obsidian and the SummerWorks and Crosscurrents festivals. Wise.Woman marks her first full-length play and main stage production. It is inspired by the popular King Solomon and Queen of Sheba legend of her native Ethiopia.


Umbrella Talk with Rebecca Fisseha

What do you drink on opening night?
Water.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
One who gets it.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Dirty laundry.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Music.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be?
(eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Silent foreign film.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Smile and nod.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Everywhere.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Bed/Sofa/Desk/Tub/Floor. Both.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
Fifty years??!!

What inspires you? Envy.

Thanks for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. If you are a playwright who has been produced several times here in Canada or elsewhere and would like to talk to us too, please send us a message to obu@web.ca.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Dianna Fuemana



Welcome back to Umbrella Talk! This week we are talking with another New Zealand playwright, Dianna Fuemana. Dianna tells us which two New Zealand and Australian actor/directors would direct the coolest production of one of her plays; why she's banking on her kids to move out to start writing what she hasn't yet; and being inspired by 3 people and 1 angry one.

A little more on Dianna Fuemana (Niue/ Amerika Samoa)

Dianna Fuemana emerged on the New Zealand theatre scene in 1999 with her one woman show Mapaki. She is credited with being the first New Zealand Pacific playwright to merge the Niue and New Zealand born way of life through professional theatre. In the same year, she was nominated at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for Outstanding New Writer and best up coming actress of the Year. The same year, her acclaimed play Mapaki was performed around New Zealand and then toured internationally across the United States and Athens, Greece. This was followed by her next play a comedy Jingle Bells produced in Auckland, 2001.

Fuemana completed a Master of Creative and Performing Arts with honours in 2005 at the University of Auckland, writing her third play The Packer during her study. The Packer was performed to sold out audiences in New Zealand, Australia as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe. Her fourth play My Mother Dreaming premiered in Auckland in 2005. Her most recent play Falemalama was produced during a residency in 2006 at the Pangea World Theater in Minneapolis, USA.

Born in 1973, Dianna is the youngest and only New Zealand born child from a family of eight. Her brothers and sisters were all born and semi-raised in American Samoa and Niue. Dianna's most recent work Falemalama is semi-biographical and is based on the life of her mother. A highlight of the playwright's career to date was staging Falemalama at the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in Pago Pago 2008. The first time she had been to American Samoa. She has had writer residencies in Niue and with New World Theater in Amherst, USA. She has been a selected guest writer at the Tahiti writers festival 2005 and has sat on the Auckland Readers and Writers festival panels. Her plays Mapaki, The Packer and Falemalama have been published.


As well as writing for theatre, Dianna has been instrumental in building arts partnerships for the benefit of Pacific theatre in her work as an arts adviser for Auckland City Council (2003-2006) and working alongside Playmarket developing and managing a development programme for Pacific playwrights. Her contribution to these fields was recognised recently when she won the Pacific Innovation and Excellence Award at the 2008 Creative New Zealands, Pasifika Arts Award. These achievements have sealed her reputation as a leading light in New Zealand Pacific theatre.


Umbrella Talk with Dianna Fuemana

What do you drink on opening night?

The first bottle is always good Champagne and the rest is up to whose paying.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?

Definitely Hori Ahipene (NZ) and Jeremey Lindsay Taylor (AUS). Both are Actor/Directors that can drill deep into the heart of a matter and can pull it out onto a stage AND both know how to sexy things up when required.

What scares you?

A lot scares me but I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe in a higher power and I accept those scary situations/people are there to test and strengthen you for the greater good.

What can't you write about?

Things that are mundane and have no significant meaning in my life.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?

HEAPS and F%# HEAPS of stuff!

I'm banking on the kids moving out soon so I can string all my magical stories together uninterupted by 'teenage' angst. I am practising Godly patience at the moment so not much head space. Not long to go now...

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)

It would FULLY be all genres! I see you've left out porn. In saying that, I'll add, most of everything I've written thus far has a significant piece of my life attached to it.


How do you deal with praise? With criticism?

I take praise with much humility. As a writer I take criticism based on whose giving it. For example, if a theatre reviewer has given me a stink review and that person has been reviewing for less than a few years than I don't give a shit! Same goes for people who don't actually write... like actors, family and friends, you know... love a little, leave a little...

Where would you like your work to be produced?

Where the venue staff are amazing and the bar has great food, cheap drinks, spunky punters and they don't have a problem opening until all the actors are ready to leave, which is usually 6am. Again, this depends on whose paying.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?

I write everywhere I go. In note books and pieces of paper. I do hand writing before finger tapping.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?

What was her state of conciousness when writing these things?

What inspires you?

Living life Fully and Honestly.

Meeting and experiencing people from vast cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Believing in a higher power.

3 beautiful people and 1 angry one.

Thanks again for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. Next week we chat with playwright Rebecca Fisseha. If you are a playwright who has been produced several times in Canada and elsewhere and would also like to talk to us, please send us an e-mail to obu@web.ca.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Canada Prizes saga continues

Have I mentioned recently how much I love James Bradshaw? Go read.

Thought-provoking

This great post from Aaron at Tracking Righteousness is worth a read. I think he did a great analysis of the arts funding issue.

James Bradshaw does it again

Yet another wonderful investigative piece in the Globe and Mail about the new Canada Arts Prizes and the community misgivings.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Jean Betts

This week's Umbrella Talk comes all the way from New Zealand and it's really short and sweet:





Umbrella Talk with Jean Betts



What do you drink on opening night?
Anything free.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Pedro Aldomovar

What scares you? What can't you write about?
Nothing scares me and I can write about anything – lack of writing skill is all that stops me and it stops me a lot

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Apathy. Hard to find a compelling storyline.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
All of the above.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Extremely badly with both

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Anywhere there is an audience who gets it

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Write anywhere and use both

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I would rather they didn’t

What inspires you?
Courage and good research; George Monbiot in other words

A little more on Jean Betts


Jean Betts is a New Zealand Playwright, actor and director, particularly interested in re-thinking the position of women in the classics, and myth, religion and 'traditional' cultures.
As a child, Jean and her family emigrated from The Old Kent Road in London to Sumner in Christchurch. She obtained a degree at Canterbury University in English and New Zealand & Pacific history and graduated from the New Zealand Drama School in 1970. Jean has had a long association with all Wellington theatres as an actor, director and writer. She was a foundation member of Playmarket (1975), Circa (1976) and Taki Rua/The Depot (1983). In 1979 Jean was a founding member of the expatriate group The Heartache and Sorrow Company which presented work in Amsterdam, Germany, London and at the Edinburgh Festival, and Jean co-wrote and directed many works for them. In 1993 Jean co-founded WOPPA (Women’s Professional Playwrights’ Association). The WOPPA festival, presented in Women’s Suffrage year, premiered her play Ophelia Thinks Harder at Circa Theatre. Subsequent to this the Women’s Play Press was formed to continue to encourage, develop and support the work of women playwrights.

Jean is a founding member of Circa and Taki Rua Theatres, Playmarket, The Play Press (www.playpress.co.nz) and the Women’s Play Press.

She has two sons and lives in Wellington.

Thanks again for reading this week's Umbrella Talk. If you are a playwright that has been produced a few times here in Canada or elsewhere and would like to talk to us too, please send us an e-mail to obu@web.ca.



Friday, February 6, 2009

Dance Marathon

Just came from this show and I'm urging anyone who loves to dance to make it out to the final two performances. I wish I could go back.

The show has bluemouth's trademark mix of movement, music, video and text but this time there is total audience interaction which makes the show more personal. I can't be too objective because I was just thrilled for the chance to bust loose and dance. I also don't want to give away the surprises, so hopefully this description will be more enticing than my gushing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All The News Fit to Print

Hi all. Not being able to blog on the road has made posting a challenge the last few weeks. So this is going to be a quick summary of things I've been following recently.

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