Sunday, May 31, 2009

PGC, part 1

So I'm writing this sitting at the blogtender's bar. I'm in Vancouver attending the PGC conference and one of the highlights has been finally meeting Simon. He's as interesting in person as his writing and he's been instrumental in making sure I've had a good time here.

This is just a short post since I leave for the airport in less than an hour. I'll talk more about the conference in the next couple of days and a lot of the guild members will be showing up on Umbrella Talk in the next little while. And in the morning (Toronto time since I'm taking the red-eye back) I'll be seeing my favourite piece of public art, commercial division.

As Media in Canada describes it:
Mississauga, Ont.-based Samsung Electronics Canada has erected a 50-foot-tall sculpture by renowned artist Jan Lorenc outside of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Shaped like a large palm clutching an over-sized Samsung phone, the well-travelled work of art - which first appeared at Paris' Charles De Gaulle International Airport in 2002 - has since been placed in London and Dubai.

The statue plays on Samsung's global "World in Your Hand" campaign by Seoul-based agency Cheil Worldwide, and is meant to symbolize bringing people together through communication.

The gargantuan piece, which is visible to drivers on the busy 427 highway, will remain perched at Toronto's airport for the next five years. Samsung worked with Clear Channel Outdoor to secure the space.

I've passed by it many times travelling home late at night and think it's one of the best pieces of advertising I've ever seen. And today, it will tell me that I'm home. Sad to leave Simon though. We have to do this in-person thing more often.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An amazing story

Sorry everyone, there's no Umbrella Talk this week. Between home renos, rehearsals, theatre performances and income generation, I've had no time to track interviews down. So if you want to be interviewed, contact me! Two plays professionally produced (not workshops or school situations) is the only requirement.

In the meantime, I want to pass along this great post about Roy Halladay. I haven't talked much about him recently but besides being the ace of the staff for the Toronto Blue Jays, he's a personal hero of mine I've written about before. This story talks about what he went through to reinvent himself after hitting rock bottom. It's incredibly inspiring and makes me admire him even more.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Michael Rubenfeld

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Michael Rubenfeld talks about dreams of leather journals, international productions, and posterity.

A little more about Michael Rubenfeld

Michael Rubenfeld is the Artistic Producer of the SummerWorks Theatre Festival. He is also the co-artistic director of Absit Omen Theatre with Hannah Moscovitch. Michael’s work as an actor, writer and director have been seen on stages across the country. In 2008, he was Dora-nominated for his play, My Fellow Creatures. He recently performed his play, Spain, in New York City (Bridge Theatre Company) and directed his short piece, An Exercise in Futility, for the Rhubarb! Festival (being remounted for the Clown Festival in June).

In May, he will be performing in his piece, The Book of Judith, co-created with Sarah Stanley in a large tent on the CAMH grounds. The piece is a one-man musical (with a choir) telling the story of his relationship to Judith Snow, a quadriplegic woman, and their attempt to make theatre together. Michael is a 2001 graduate of the National Theatre School.

What do you drink on opening night?
Whatever I can.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Sarah Stanley, or Quentin Tarantino.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
I'm not sure. I tend to only write about what scares me. That said, I think things like science and math scare me, because I don't feel smart enough to write a play about them. I would love to write a play like Copenhagen but it would probably end up coming out more like Proof.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Religion, death and my mother.

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

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I like praise as long as its sincere. It's very easy to tell who is full of shit and who isn't. Criticism is great also, as long as its mindful.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
New York, U.K and Germany

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Always keyboard. I have romantic dreams of writing in leather bound books, but I am much too lazy.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
Michael Rubenfeld was really brave and really hot.

What inspires you?

Courage, complexity and love.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Umbrella Talk with playwright Bobby Del Rio

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Bobby Del Rio talks about why audiences are dwindling, his favourite directors, and how he plans on making his mark.

A little more about Bobby Del Rio

Bobby Del Rio has written: Porn Life (named one of 2007's best shows by Fab Magazine's 3-time Emmy nominee Paul Bellini), Christian Values (#3 selling hit of 2001 Toronto Fringe Festival/NOW Magazine cover story), When Children Fall (named one of 2000's "best Fringe/SummerWorks shows" by Eye Weekly), Half-Chinx Taking Over the World (published in Spring 2002 issue of Canadian Theatre Review/broadcast on CBC Radio), Professionally Ethnic (published in Summer 2009 issue of Canadian Theatre Review), and Child Hood (SummerWorks 2005). He was the sole subject of a 30-minute documentary that aired nationally on Bravo!, beat playwrights all across North America to receive a prestigious writing showcase in New York City, is the inaugural recipient of the Robertson Davies Playwriting Award and is currently developing feature film scripts with established film producers. His latest play is entitled The Market. Please check out!!

What do you drink on opening night?

Protein shake. I'm not much of a drinker. I'm a health guy.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
I'll pick 3.

1. Ross Manson. He directed a reading of my play Professionally Ethnic. He was awesome to work with, and I'd work with him on anything.

2. Chris Abraham. I find him to be the most inventive theatre director working in Toronto.

3. Daniel Brooks. His raw intellect and perpetually creative spirit are inspiring.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
I'm not scared of anything. I tend to write about the things that other people won't.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
I would've said the stock market a few weeks ago. But I just wrote a new play called The Market. So scratch that. I want to write about Native genocide, and I've wanted to incorporate mathematics into a play for awhile now. I was a big math guy before I wanted to be an actor, so I'd love to utilize that skill set... I also want to start writing novels.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Part farce, part political thriller, part teen drama, part existentialist, and part intellectual masturbation. Definitely not a musical.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I like praise and hate criticism. But I'm well aware that they both essentially mean nothing. I just do the best I can. Inevitably, the audience tells you everything you need to know...

Where would you like your work to be produced?

A couple years ago I would've listed some of the most established theatres in the country. But now I want to work with exciting artists who 'get' the work I'm trying to do. We've been producing far too much mediocrity in this country for far too long, and that's part of the reason audiences have dried up. Try getting someone outside the theatre community to attend your play. It rarely happens. If we get over our fictitious egos and start focusing on telling the best stories to a wide audience, they will come...

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?


What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I'd like them to say that I revolutionized the way multiculturalism was conceived in Canada, that I changed the definition of normalcy, that I created innovative work that brought people under 35 back to the theatre, that I displayed a range of content with unparallelled contrasts, that I turned being a Canadian playwright into a badge of honour as opposed to an apology, that I was the first playwright in decades to start riots, and that I found a way to make money doing it. ;)

What inspires you?
The potential humanity has to use our collective brilliance to save lives instead of sell people useless shit all the time.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Needing help

I've been planning for a while to attend the LaMaMa International Symposium for Directors. However, I haven't gotten enough money together for my deposit. Can anyone give me guidance as to what actions I can take to have the money I need before May 15th?

Friday, May 1, 2009


I have to say off the top that I ADORE Rick Miller. He's incredibly nice, insanely talented and very smart. His previous show, Bigger Than Jesus, is one of my favourite shows of all time. So I was predisposed to like this show. And I did. But don't walk in expecting it to be anything like Bigger Than Jesus or MacHomer. This is a vastly risker show.

I was sold on it from the pre-show music. As a swing dancer, I loved it and hearing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's I Wanna Be Like You scored extra bonus points. The music during the show is great too. The man can move!

Moving on from the superficial, the show is a huge risk because our master of ceremonies, the mad, sad, Vaudevillian clown Arnie, is hard to like. It's a huge risk for a performer to make himself unlikeable, but Rick does it with aplomb. Bitter and cynical, his soul destroyed, he guides us through his life and that of his twin brother, Rick Miller.

Every time we think we get a glimpse of the real Arnie, he tells us what he just told us was from a show he has done. Arnie represents the soul of the performer, the part married to the stage, the part that paints a smile on even as they're dying inside.Using this construct, Rick gets us to look at the messages we're being inundated with and how we're being manipulated in different ways. The ideas come out at random, much like the jungle of ideas and images we navigate in everyday life.

Despite the dark themes, it's a fast paced, entertaining show. I'm still not sure what to make of the ending, but Rick told me after that was the point. Theatre as experience, much like bluemouth inc's work. When looking at it this way, I thought of the parallels to advertising being an emotion feeder.

The final image, no matter how you interpret it, is stunningly beautiful, a counterpoint to much of the ugliness that has gone before. It's a show I'd like to see again as it struck me like an onion, its layers waiting to be revealed.

One other thing struck me. Arnie's voice sounded like the God voice in Bigger Than Jesus. Tying together heaven and hell adds extra resonance to the humanist ideas Rick is presenting.

If you like thought-provoking theatre, this show is a must-see.