Sunday, November 28, 2010

15 Songs about You meme

This meme went around Facebook earlier this week:
First rule - be honest! Don't keep shuffling forward for "cooler" songs. This is a 'getting to know you' exercise. Once you've been tagged...

(1) Turn on your MP3 player or music player on your computer.

(2) Go to SHUFFLE mode.

(3) Write down the first 15 songs that come up - title and artist. NO editing/cheating, please.

It seemed like fun and since I've been madly burning a bunch of cds this week I thought I'd see what would happen. Of the 1798 items in my playlist, these were the first 15. I guarantee no one will know all of them!

Mom Song - Stew - Passing Strange
I was introduced to Passing Strange by my friend Michael Gillis, who fell in love with this show after being kicked off the Phantom of the Opera tour (and his subsequent touring in Europe). Stew created this rock-musical which may or may not be autobiographical about the quest for authenticity. It's full of yearning lyrics and rocking songs. Spike Lee filmed its final three performances and made a documentary.

This is one of my favourite tracks, the song that moves the action from South Central LA to Europe. It features a lovely duet between the Narrator and the Mother. Short and very, very sweet.

Caravan - Erich Kunzel - The Big Band Hit Parade
This song is actually mislabelled, thanks to whoever did the album entry to CDDB/freedb. However, this track is why I bought the album. It's a wonderfully lush version of the Duke Ellington song featuring most of the Tonight Show orchestra (Johnny's band) mixed in with the Cincinnati Pops Big Band Orchestra. This whole album features new arrangements of jazz standards and is probably my fave big band album.

Crystal Ball (live) - Styx - Styxworld Live 2001
As much as I love Styx, and as much as they kick ass live, this album sucks. It doesn't in any way capture the energy of their show. However, it does have the Styx version of A Criminal Mind to recommend it. I do really love this song but would rather listen to the album version I have.

Cry Wolf - a-ha - How Can I Sleep With Your Voice In My Head (Live)
Great live album from one of my all-time fave bands. This song appears on one of my fave albums, Scoundrel Days but I find this song itself lacking and I usually skip it. It is a great live version though.

Miss Me Blind - Culture Club - Best of Culture Club
I've always liked the music. This was my sister's fave band as a girl and my cousin Joanne had a major thing for the drummer Jon Moss. Can't blame her - the guy oozed sexiness on stage. This is not one of my fave CC songs but it has a cool beat and is fun to sing after a few drinks.

Tonight - The Whitlams - Little Cloud
This is my first time listening to it! I've waited many years to acquire the album (as my Australian pipeline dried up), listening to the singles and snippets wherever I could find them. Much thanks to Ben Noble for being the one to make it happen. Frontman/songwriter Tim Freedman wrote most of these songs while he was living his dream of living in NYC, the rest upon his return. The album is two discs: the first one (Little Cloud) are feelings on return to Sydney, the second one (The Apple's Eye) about hanging around NY. This album marked a bit of a departure in sound as this was the band's first time working with producer J. Walker.

I had to listen to the song a few times before I could comment. I love it! It has my favourite incarnation of the band - a lush arrangement, Tim's trademark brilliant lyrics and a lovely mellow feel to it. I may not be able to stop!

No Aprhodisiac (live incomplete)- The Whitlams - ?
Obvious Whitlams is in the air today. This is one of the many versions of this song I own. This song was my gateway drug into the band. It's a beautiful ballad that has a kick-ass outro that was originally written for a song called Horny Blonde Forty by a band called Machine Gun Fellatio (no, I'm not making this up). They're longtime friends of Tim Freedman and he asked to borrow the lines.

The funny thing about this track is that it's incomplete. It's less than 2 minutes while the song runs around 4. It sounds like it's broadcast live from a studio and they're messing around with the arrangement and have a female vocalist playing around. That would probably date it around the release of Fall for You. I'm not sure why I have it, except that there was a period in my life when I was collecting everything Whitlams related. Now the live NYE version in front of the Opera House? It kicks major ass.

Little Darling (I Need You) - Doobie Brothers - Listen to the Music: The Very Best of the Doobie Brothers
This is my go-to album for train rides. I usually just loop Long Train Running but every once and while I'll listen to the whole thing. This was during the Michael McDonald/early-synthesizer phase and it's catchy enough. Just not one of my faves.

Anything Can Happen - Glen Dias with the Polarity Bears - tip of the iceberg
My first must-go-to-as-many-gigs-as-possible band, when they were in residence at C'est What in the early 90s and can be best described as eclectic. (When I took my brother Anthony to see them he turned to me at the end of the night and said, "We are so different".) The band was Noah Zacharin, Geoff Bennett, and Glen. Years later, when Glen had moved to Stratford, he got a grant to record an album of their best tracks. This is a cover of a Bruce Cockburn song, a comedy love song Glen does as a duet with Caitriona Murphy. It's a lot of fun. Unfortunately this file is damaged. I'll have to re-burn the cd.

Three - Jonathan Wilson - Explorations
The requisite meditation track. I don't listen to it often but this album is a lovely one. This track is over 10 minutes long and features a piano with a basic drum beat. About 4 minutes in the music starts shifting and changing. It's light without being New Agey and it's very soothing.

Sweet Pandemonium - The Fixx - Happy Landings and Lost Tracks
I love this band. A few years ago I lent out my favourite of their albums, Elemental, but it's never been returned and I can't find it anywhere. This song was written to be a bonus track. A couple of years after the release of Elemental, they packed early demos and bonus tracks onto this album. This track has never impressed me much. It has the trademark political lyrics but I'm not a fan of the arrangement or the tempo.

Blur - Britney Spears - Circus
I love a lot of the stuff on Circus but this is not one of them. I usually skip this song. Not that it's a bad song, it just doesn't really connect with me. I love Britney's dance stuff. Don't hate me.

Take Your Time (Do It Right) Pt 1 - The SOS Band - The Disco Years vol 5
I just burned all my disco stuff this afternoon. Not one of my go-to disco tracks. Another one I'll skip over.

Star Turtle 1 - Harry Connick Jr - Star Turtle
This was his funk concept album and I really love it. This is the opening track, a simple, sweet guitar melody to start which turns into a funky groove about a minute in. Dialogue over this sets up the concept we follow through to the end. It then changes into classic New Orleans jazz as the journey continues.

Analogue - a-ha - Analogue
Analogue may be my least favourite of the a-ha albums but I like this track. Morten Harket's voice is heavenly, the lyrics are typical life-affirming, the arrangement solid. But if I'm listening to this album I just keep cycling the first two tracks, Celice and Don't Do Me Any Favours.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Umbrella Talk with Melissa Major

Yes, it's been a while since we've had an UT. Apologies to Melissa, who sent me this in May. Hoping to get regular interviews again, so point us to great writers!

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Melissa Major talks about saving the world, fear of the personal, and high-flying productions.

A Little More About Melissa Major

Melissa is double-jointed in her fingers. During the past 10 years she has worked on sixty-five stage productions. She is the Artistic Director and of The Cheshire Unicorn Theatre Company and has had work produced in Canada, USA, Hong Kong and India. She has won 6 awards for her work and has been nominated for several more.

Previous credits include: writer of Art is a Cupboard and Sapphire Butterfly Blue which were presented as a reading in Mumbai, India at the Women Playwright's International Conference 2009, writer/performer with Reza Jacobs on Floozy: The Musical (Toronto Fringe 2008), writer of Even Burning (Toronto Fringe 2008 & New Ideas Festival 2008), director of Kid Cosmic (Summerworks 2008), writer/performer of Unicorn Horns (IDEA World Congress of Theatre in Hong Kong, Theatre Passe Muraille & Nuit Blanche 2006), writer/director of Kicking & Smiling (Nuit Blanche 2007 & Squiggfest 2007) and writer of Art is a Cupboard (Toronto Fringe 2006 & hotINK Festival, New York 2007).

Her university degree collection began with Bachelor of Arts in (1) Theatre, (2) Psychology and (3) a Bachelor of Fine Arts Education from York University and an finally, (4) a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at University of Guelph. She is a full member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

She is opening up MAJORspace, a new affordable rehearsal + performance space in Queen West.

What do you drink on opening night?
Oh, you know, whatever is good for the going. Maybe a vodka soda. Or a martini. Yeah, those tend to shut the nerves up nicely. Or some surprise drink. I’m really indecisive. Maybe just some juice.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Shit, that’s a tough one. Probably some old Russian absurdist who can push the actors beyond the world of the words. Or Salvador Dali. If he could take my plays into the strange worlds of his paintings, that would be pretty cool.

What scares you?
The thought of having no one in the audience freaks me right out. Before every show I think... oh god, what will we do if no one comes. Why did I do this? What if there is only 1 person? 2? Shit shit shit.

What can't you write about?
For the longest time I couldn’t write about anything personal. None of my plays were even set in Canada, none of the people even remotely resembled people I know. I was more interested in the biographies of obscurely oppressed literary- political figures. I seem to have moved away from that. Now I’m writing about things in my own backyard. Now it scares me to write about things or people that I could be appropriating the voice of.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Oh man, so many things. I have a database of all the ideas of things I want to write about. It’s about 20 pages. I’ll never write about them all in my entire lifetime, but at least it lets me look at all of them and choose the ones I’m most excited about. I’m interested in writing about people with rare psychosomatic conditions- like someone who physically isn’t able to be touched by other people. But then I also like to satirize real issues and bring them to an absurd stage... like what about a play where the government has a program that trains squirrels to sort recycling instead of just running around in parks all day?

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

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Praise- I say thank you. Criticism- I say thank you extra politely to show that I’m not at all defensive about my work, when really I’m thinking: Well that’s just your opinion. Praise gives me the courage to write the next play, while criticism fuels me to write the next play because goddamnit, I’ll show you how it’s done!

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Anywhere and everywhere! The more places the better, like in the CN Tower restaurant. That would be good. Or on an airplane going to Abu Dhabi. That would be an awesome set.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
At my desk, on my laptop. I need the rhythmic tapping of the keys to help keep my thoughts coming out in a certain rhythm. I can also type faster than I can write and my hands don’t cramp up. Holding a pen is just too exhausting and painful. I can hardly write my name without my hand cramping up.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
“Melissa Major has produced the most thought-provoking material that has transcended time and will forever. Her work is so good that it is performed more than Shakespeare and it has even lead to the abolition of all war and suffering everywhere and has fixed all of the problems in the world!”

What inspires you?
When I see really great theatre. Oddly enough, it’s often physical theatre that does it for me. Then I want to write things that adapt well to physicality. I’m interested in the spectrum of where theatre verges on being dance and vice versa. That stuff inspires the hell outta me when it’s done well. I saw the production of Damaged Goods’ Do Animals Cry at Harbourfront’s world stage. At least 10 people walked out and I was amazed because I had a zillion little electricities spinning around in my brain. I don’t know what the walk-outers were thinking. They missed such an interesting experience.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I haven't forgotten about arts funding

Hey there. It's been a long time. I've been producing a successful fringe show, recovering from a bad fall (a sprained elbow makes it hard to type), and contemplating how I'm going to end my long commute. Rest has been very, very, good.

I have been keeping up on Twitter and in an article about the resignation of the chair of the British Columbia Arts Council (BCAC), I found this great comment that I want to have for future reference. The writer uses the handle DavidJN:
I'm a businessman and I've done volunteer work for performing arts organizations for about twenty years. During that time I've come to have a fairly rich understanding about how the business of art works in this country and I can attest that many of the derogatory comments seen here are based on ignorance, either that or sheer stupidity.

Entitlement is not the operative word in public arts funding. The key word is competition. There is a fairly limited amount of funding available and artists vie for a share just like in the "real world". Further, most public arts funding decisions are adjudicated in a professional fashion by qualified people, contrast that with politics. Finally, I've witnessed the impressive multiplier effect of arts spending. Give an artist a grant and the first thing they do is hire other artists and artisans. Arts funding circulates quickly, effectively and locally. Contrast that with the huge delays we see in infrastructure spending.

The arts are a great public investment with fast, local returns and it is a genuine pity so many people cannot get their blinkered heads around it.

I also really liked this commentary from screenscribe:
I'd like to respond to "toxicboy" who wrote, "Why is that the arts expect any money? The government should be responsible for (in canada) for health, education, agriculture, regulation and the military/policing. All of these deal with security. The arts, not so much." This is such a common sentiment, and it is wrong on these points:

1. When we say "arts" we are really referring to a wide-ranging set of disciplines, including musicians, painters, dancers, poets, playwrights, writers, filmmakers, sculptors, large and small orchestras and ballet companies and theatre companies and museums, interdisciplinary artists...the list goes on. It's huge, in other words. And the reason I list it is so we're talking the same thing.

2. Arts in education is proven to increase student's comprehension of everything from math to science to the humanities.

3. Canada--the concept of the country, our idea of who we are--is not only our much-envied health system, not only our skilled, brave armed forces, not only our farmers and "salt of the earth" workers in resource industries. It is also how we define ourselves to each other and to the world through our arts. Arts funding is not a disposable adjunct to other federal and provincial and city funding: it should be seen (and is seen, in most countries) as a core component of a responsible society's governance.

4. The arts, in general, offer spin-offs, beyond their value to education noted above, which amount to more than the cost of the subsidies they receive; why this hasn't been comprehended by, for instance, the British Columbia Liberals under Gordon Campbell is beyond me (I suspect they know it all too well but are playing to the same misguided sentiment that you offer in your comment).

5. Lastly, as a new documentary filmmaker, I haven't applied for funds because I know the well is dry; my wife hasn't received a penny in Canada Council grants; our artist friends have yet to receive any funding. Most artists fund themselves.

The PR problem is still there, even with these noble voices defending it. And with Rob Ford leading in the polls for the Toronto Mayoralty, our recent gains in our fair city will be in jeopardy too. Will we ever see a time when arts investment is considered a valued tool of social policy?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Needing time

Yes, life is insane. Besides working paying jobs, I'm currently working on Joe White and the Seven Divorcées, which goes up June 30th at the Bathurst Street Theatre. Within the last week I attended a couple of days at the Magnetic North Festival and a couple more at the London Fringe. (Martin Dockery is an incredible storyteller and if he's hitting your local fringe you have to see him.)

The blog isn't the only thing that's being sacrificed. I completely missed Luminato. I missed my sister's graduation from teacher's college too. I'm so proud of her it hurt that I couldn't go but I missed so many rehearsal already. I believe the sacrifice was worth it but next week you'll be able to tell me.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


So while I was out watching VideoCabaret's The Great War (definitely worth seeing), Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game. (For non-baseball fans, it means he only faced the minimum amount of batters in a game. This was the 20th time it's been done in major league baseball history.)

One of my great dreams was to be sitting behind home plate when he threw a no-hitter. I knew it was going to happen one day. And it does and I miss it. Which is hard enough. But what's making this so hard is that he did it for the Phillies, not the Jays. There were so many times he came close while he was pitching for us and I was privileged to see a couple of those. As one person put it on Twitter, "Doc threw a million perfect games for T.O. in my eyes. Tonight he just made it official."

So on an occasion richly deserved, I'm finding it hard to be happy for him. And that totally sucks. It's like losing him all over again. It's as if his time here wasn't important, didn't exist. And why does it matter so much?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Stuart Hughes

Faith Healer is a play I didn't know anything about. I knew Briel Friel's rep but since I'm not interested in spending my evenings being depressed, I was going to give this a pass.

But I couldn't resist the siren song of Stuart Hughes. He's intelligent (see these interviews), talented, and awesome. I've been a fan for a very long time, ever since he and Joe Ziegler did Kiss of the Spider Woman at what I believe was still Toronto Free Theatre. In those days, he was sex on stage. He's not conventionally handsome but when he was onstage he was absolutely compelling.

He disappeared for a while from Toronto stages, trying his luck in LA, then became one of the founding members of Soulpepper. And for the first couple of shows I saw him in, the magic wasn't there. But I'm really happy to say that it felt llike those days again seeing this show.

My theory is that he works energy, probably unconsciously. He forgot how to do it for a while but now he has it again. And this role completely showcases that. He works his charisma in the first monologue, then brings it down for the end of the show. I may be biased but it felt masterful to me.

My bias comes because he is an incredibly open and beautiful person, one of the sweetest people I know. I'm in awe of his talent. And I feel so priviledged to know him.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Umbrella Talk with Beverley Cooper

In this week's long-delayed Umbrella Talk (long story), Beverley Cooper talks about opening nights, her favourite directors and inspirational women.

A Little More About Beverley Cooper

Beverley has written for theatre, TV and film. Beverley’s writing for theatre includes Thin Ice (co-written with Banuta Rubess) – Dora and Chalmer’s Awards, published by Playwrights Canada Press), Clue in the Fast Lane (co-written with Ann-Marie MacDonald), the critically acclaimed The Eyes of Heaven (soon to be published by Scirocco Press) and The Woman in White (adapted from the novel by Wilkie Collins) which was produced at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton in 2008. Her play Innocence Lost: A Play about Steven Truscott was a sold out hit at the Blyth Festival in both 2008 and 2009 and was recently nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award. Innocence Lost is published by Scirocco Press. This past November Beverley was invited to speak and read from Innocence Lost at the 2009 Women Playwrights International conference in Mumbai, India.

She has written extensively for CBC radio drama; both original dramas and adaptations. Her adaptation of Rohinton Mistry’s epic novel A Fine Balance and her original drama It Came from Beyond! both earned her nominations for a Writer’s Guild of Canada Award. She worked as the story editor on the award winning radio series Afghanada, as well as producing the second season and directing five episodes. She has dramatized the following books for radio: Alias Grace, Away, The Secret World of Og (Silver Medal Award Winner - New York Festival - International Radio Awards) and The Englishman’s Boy. Other original dramas include the hugely popular series The Super Adventures of Mary Marvelous and several episodes of Hartfedt Saskatewan. Beverley’s television writing credits include episodes of Ready or Not, Sesame Park and Street Legal. She has also written a film script entitled The Partly True Adventures of Pearl Heart.

Beverley trained as an actor at Studio 58 in Vancouver, and has performed in TV, film and in theatres across the country. Beverley is a member of PEN Canada: an organization that assists writers around the world who are persecuted for the peaceful expression of their ideas. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

What do you drink on opening night?
Before the show I like to go out for dinner with supportive (this part is very important) family and friends and have a glass or two of wine to dull my nerves and give me a false sense of confidence. Over the dinner there has to be lots of chat about how successful the play is going to be as well as yummy food eaten. After the show I hold a glass of whatever someone puts in my hand - usually feeling a bit stunned and shell shocked as I "meet the people". Then later on those same supportive friends (I have very nice friends) might open a bottle of champagne - the real deal - and we will raise a glass and talk about what an extraordinary night in the theatre it was. I find that the right amount of drink will keep me in a bubble of denial quite well. But not too much.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
I have been so lucky with the directors I have worked with. My absolute favourites are Miles Potter, Maureen White and Gina Wilkinson. They all have great minds and work me hard which is important with a first production. Each brings strong ideas to the table, but listen to my thoughts and make me laugh. As an actor I have really enjoyed working with Michael Shamata and he has given me wonderful dramaturgy over the years so I would definitely have to throw him into the mix. As well as being terrific directors, all of these folks are valued friends as well. The fact that we have worked together on new plays and remained friends is remarkable. However, if I had to choose one director right now I would have to say Maureen White because she lives in Dublin, Ireland and we don't get to see one another very often.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
I don't mind writing about dark places but there has to be some hope in the end for me. There has to be some redemption. Maybe that's because I have children and I can't imagine with a world without hope. I know that world exists - the world without hope - I just can't write about it.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
I have about 5 writing ideas floating around my brain at any given time. They're kind of like the Lotto balls - I'm not sure which one is going to pop out. I have always been fascinated about the world of diplomats. I am currently developing a series for CBC radio drama called "The Diplomat's Wife".

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
I am very fond of satire. So it would probably be a satire of a blond/playwright/hockey mom's middle class life with dark and sad undertones. And, of course, lots of witty jokes.

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
Not too well. Who does deal with it well? I don't think I'd trust a human who said it comes easily. Criticism burns and hangs around like a bad odour for years. Even with praise I find it hard to believe. Although there are times, when I have a loss of confidence, when I can recall hints of real praise and it can help me get on with my day.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Everywhere. Big and small. I have a special fondness for the downstairs theatre at Berkeley. I like watching theatre in that space as well as performing in it. It's a good size. And it's got a particular "theatre smell" that I'm quite fond of.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
First thing I do when I start a play is buy a new notebook. It's my favourite part of the whole process I think. Then I write down all my thoughts in pen. Once I start the business of writing I tap away on my iMac keyboard. Then I make notes on a hard copy of the script in pencil, ready for the next draft. And I use lots of stickies.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I would like to be remembered for four or five really good plays that got produced a lot and touched people in a significant way.

What inspires you?
Women like June Callwood and Margaret Atwood; writers who wrote/write wonderful words yet manage(d) to find time to raise children and save the world. My friends and family who support me. Watching, listening, reading the work of great artists. I am reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver right now. It's a thrilling novel. But, you know, I can be inspired by just seeing good acting or a newspaper article.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Garfoose

I am well aware of the irony of writing about someone who I only know through Twitter on the first day of my Twitter fast. However, since today was the day I had hoped to meet him, the story needs to be told now.

See, I had planned by this time to have read pitcher Dirk Hayhurst's book The Bullpen Gospels and spend this afternoon at the Chapters near the stadium at his book signing. I was then going to go to the Jays home opener. However, my non-income situation (hopefully changing very soon) means I haven't yet read the book and I'm not going to the game. I thought about going to the signing anyway and just observing, something I like doing with people who fascinate me but I wouldn't be home in time to catch the start of the game, and that's something that's important to me too.

So instead of being there, I want to talk about why I'm fascinated and why you should follow him on Twitter and get his book. You don't need to be a baseball fan to enjoy his writing because on top of everything else he's also studying media during the off-season.

The way he's using Twitter is incredible (@TheGarfoose). At times he's used it to raise money for causes important to him (KIVA and Haitan relief) and to raise awareness about autism, an area his wife does work in. Currently a lot of his tweets is around his new book - retweeting comments by people who like it (and sometimes don't), linking to reviews, and publicizing his signings. Other times he runs contests, usually when he hits follower milestones. Occasionally he'll share what he's doing, what he's watching, asking for help with an essay, stuff that all of us do every once and a while. He's actually pretty geeky, with a love of superheroes and a penchant to make silly videos. And then there's my favourite times when he lets his imagination run wild and he tells stories about the real origins of his teammates or the adventures of the Garfoose and Ray Halladay, the evil left handed brother (born in a Russian science lab) to my fave pitcher Roy Halladay.

This article gives you a pretty rounded sense of the man. And he totally endeared himself to me when he wrote this incredibly beautiful ode to Roy Halladay. Doesn't name him, doesn't need to. Doing it that way just adds to the poignancy of the piece.

I've described Roy in the past as a poet with the baseball. How does Dirk see pitching as art? He was asked recently and said this:
GY: Pitching is a craft. Writing is a craft. Obviously they are not the same, but I imagine there are some similarities in terms of preparation, process, etc. What skills from one arena have you been able to apply to the other?

DH: Oddly, the two don't seem to share anything for me, and I like it that way. I like writing because it is a complete escape from pitching. I control all the letters and words and can assemble them any way I like. With pitching, however, I have to let go of the ball, at which point I no longer have any say in the matter—good or bad. I know there are many arguments for both being an art form, and I suppose that's true in some cases. Yet, I don't know many painters who are called in to get the starting painter out of a jam with runners on base.

One thing writing has taught me about pitching is how small pitching is. I've said things along the lines of this, but it's true. Writing about baseball is a great way to put thoughts and feelings which seem so large and overwhelming into the confines of small, unremarkable print. Seeing events, whether big or small, in words lets me look at them more objectively. Writing has the power to diffuse and explode things, a power I use frequently.
What amazes me the most about him is his openness and honesty, his willingness to share his down times with all these strangers. I find that so difficult to do, even among friends (heck, I'm having a hard time just writing this post - I've been working on it on and off ALL day) and here is this guy sharing his trials and tribulations alongside his joie de vive and active imagination. He's someone who isn't an either/or. Baseball AND writing. Responsible adult AND big kid. I know that reading the book will tell me how he got to this point but right now I'm just so impressed that he IS there. I wasn't when I was his age. It probably has something to do with the pressure cooker that is professional baseball.

A few months ago he found out he would have to undergo shoulder surgery. For someone who had finally managed to achieve his dream, this was cruel fate indeed. And he shared his fears with us. The support he got from the "Garfooslings" demonstrates how powerful social media can be.

In the end, he realizes he can make a difference in people's lives, mostly by being himself. In his words:
That's what I wrote about: the balance of things, the value of our dreams, the time we have to chase them, and their hard price in reality. Of fantasy and a sometimes blindly ignored set of facts. And of what it's like to come through it all with more than just soppy clothes and a beaming smile, but perspective culled from our terminal competition with time. I discovered we are all more valuable then what we accomplish in our profession—Big or minor league—and I shared it as best I could.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Social Media Burnout

I am taking a week's retreat from Facebook and Twitter.

Lately, I've been finding it harder and harder to get motivated to do things that are priorities to me. I spend hours reading tweets and the linking articles, a lot of which have to do with social media. I'm also feeling less connection with working on Facebook. I'm finding that I don't have much to say. Combine this with a week where it's been extremely difficult to connect to Twitter (Rogers, I'm blaming you), I've decided that it would be best for me to take a break. I plan to refocus and get moving on these things that are important to me. My life is undergoing a big shift and this seems a good time to recalibrate. I hope I'll come back refreshed and ready to engage again.

Any messages sent me by DM on Twitter or by mail on Facebook end up in my inbox, so I can still be reached if you need me. Part of the plan is to devote more time to blogging so I'm hoping I'll have a couple of posts for you this week. This is the only time I'll break the fast, to let you know it's here.

And now, to keep a promise. This Friday and Saturday, the incomparable Sharron Matthews is doing a fundraiser for her World Domination Tour at Buddies. Details are here. Sharron's a fantastic cabaret performer and full marks for her for taking the risk internationally. Because of what she does she couldn't get funding so this is all on her dime. I know how hard that is. If you're not in Toronto you can still help, whether its throwing some money her way or having ways to help her out in NY and Edinburgh. Please help her out any way you can, for she is a wonderful soul who deserves her shot.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Umbrella Talk with Drew Carnwath

This is the second of two Umbrella Talks we're doing to support the Playwrights of Spring festival in Aurora which runs May 5-15. Playwrights of Spring’s goal is to support and encourage the development of new voices in theatre, particularly those of writers. Now in its fourth year, new scripts are solicited by playwrights in Ontario and are juried by three theatre professionals, one of whom is the Festival Dramaturge. From those scripts, the jurists (Readers) select the best two evenings of theatre that perform for one week each.

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Drew Carnwath talks about the music that inspires him, the director he wishes existed, and the stuff he doesn't dare write.

A Little More about Drew Carnwath

Drew is a Toronto-based playwright, screenwriter & performer. A former member of Tarragon Theatre Playwrights' Unit, his plays (Grace and After, Total Body Washout, Killer) have been produced across North America and published by Playwrights Canada Press. A graduate of The Canadian Film Centre, Drew is currently working on adapting 2 of his plays into feature films (Hide and Seek, Johnnyville). Most recently Drew just finshed producing and directing Vanishing World for the Discovery Channel. Upcoming: his play Virgin Tears won first prize at Playwrights of Spring and as a result will get a workshop production at Theatre Aurora.

What do you drink on opening night?
"Whatvever you're having."

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
If John Sayles and Kathryn Bigelow had a love child, THAT child.

What scares you?
Right now? Not being able to answer this questionnaire.
Tomorrow? Reading my answers.
Real answer: anything bad happening to anyone I love. Seriously, I get friends and family to call me after travelling to the corner store.

What can't you write about?
Umm... I can't write about being a writer, evidently. There are some stories from my own past - true stories - so horrific and embarrassing that, even if I changed the names, dates and places...Everyone would still figure it out.

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

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Biography... on ice! Drew's-Capades! "And here he comes with the much-vaunted triple SOW COW...'

How do you deal with praise?
Just fine, thank you SO much... now tell me about my eyes.

With criticism?
To heart, with a dash of salt

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Nature abhors a vacuum, so I'd be happy to be produced just about anywhere. Hey, we already know I can be bought... we just haven't negotiated the price yet...

Where do you write?
Anyplace there's a surface ...and sometimes, even, without that.

Pen or keyboard?
Pen for sure - first drafts are always on paper, 8.5 x 14 long legal paper. I don't fire up the keyboard til the very last...

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
"He had fine incisors, a natural grip, a sliding fastball, fallen arches, and a winning disposition."

What inspires you?
Music. Always. Both inspiration and influence. London Calling. Lifes Rich Pageant. Grace. Mass Romantic. Peer Gynt Suite. Shakespeare My Butt. Songs in the Key of Life. The Bends... Al Green... Elvis Costello...Early Who... Dusty Springfield... Neko Case...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Umbrella Talk with Kathleen McDonnell

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Kathleen McDonnell talks about inspiration in water, what she wants in a director, and where she'd like her work produced.

A Little More about Kathleen McDonnell

Kathleen is the author of eight books (fiction and non-fiction) and a dozen plays. She has done playwriting residencies at Youtheatre in Montreal and at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in Toronto. She received a Chalmers Award in 1994 for her TYA play Loon Boy and two Dora nominations in 2003 for The Seven Ravens. Other Canadian theatres that have produced her work include the Blyth Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille and Shadowland Theatre.

What do you drink on opening night?
Good microbrewery beer - too bad theatres don't have taps.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
For my new play "Beautiful Savage" I want a director who's as excited about the story as I am, but who brings something totally different to it - especially a strong visual sense, which I don't have.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
There's a story I've been circling around for years - a murder that I have a personal & family connection to...

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Growing up in a big (9 kids) family, without the reality-TV spin or "Cheaper by the Dozen" cuteness.

If someone was to write a play about your life, what genre would it be? (eg. comedy, tragedy, melodrama, horror)
Is it a cop-out to say "all of the above"?

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I respond with profound embarrassment to both. Crazy, eh?

Where would you like your work to be produced?
Well, I'd be an idiot not to answer "everywhere". But to get specific, I'd like see Beautiful Savage at Canadian Stage or the NAC. And one of these days I would love to have a play produced in Chicago, where I grew up, so my family can see that I really do work for a living.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
Both - I write first drafts in longhand - once something's on the screen it feels "locked-in" and no longer fluid to me, so I don't keyboard till draft #2, at the earliest.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
Every writer's daydream: "If only her brilliance and startling originality had been recognized in her lifetime!"

What inspires you?
Water - in liquid and solid (ice) form. I get my best ideas while swimming and skating in/on natural bodies of water.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How did the export funding cuts affect you?

It turns out that I know someone pretty high up in the Department of Finance. I'll be seeing him tomorrow and I'd love to be able to point him to stories and stats showing that the lack of export support is hurting this industry.

So I'm asking how did the cuts affect you, or people you know? Please tell the story in the comments, being as specific as possible. And please forward this request to other organizations/artists. It would be great to have as wide a range as possible.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Transformation of Canadian Stage

I was at the launch of Canadian Stage's 2010/2011 season, the first programmed by Matthew Jocelyn. It's a day that's been long awaited, going back to when the search for Matthew first started. (Here you can find the excellent reportage of Kelly Nestruck on the issue. Sadly, the comments have been lost thanks to server switching.) I had my own ideas of what Canadian Stage should be. And when Jocelyn was named, there was widespread anticipation of change.

Now we know what the change is and I'm totally delighted. It was everything I'd hoped for. Catherine Kustanczy has done a fantastic job of summarizing the season, so I'm just going to talk about what I like about it.

I'm incredibly thrilled about the international Spotlight series. I love that we're starting with Italy, as I can't remember the last time an Italian company was here. It's a nice compliment to the work Tina Rasmussen is doing at Harbourfront with World Stage. In recent years she's been concentrating on Scandinavian, Pacific Rim and United Kingdom countries (with a bit of South Africa, IIRC). If she continues that trend and Jocelyn uses his central European contacts, we should be a long way towards getting to see the best of the world. Speaking of which, local productions of a German play (based on a Spanish novel), a Polish play, and a Scottish play? Love it.

I also love that Canadian Stage will be working with Theatre Passe Muraille on the Project Humanity project. One of the big problems I have had was the feeling that CanStage and Soulpepper operated in isolation from the rest of the Toronto community. This project signals Canadian Stage's integration into the community.

I adore the NAC co-pro. Not only do we get to see Peter Hinton's work and the vaunted NAC ensemble, but they're doing a classic Canadian play. I've never seen Saint Carmen of the Main and didn't think I ever would. I love this reclamation of Canadian theatre history. I also really love that we're getting a contemporary Quebecois piece as well, courtesy of Nightwood.

The Electric Company is coming! This continues the trend of the last couple of years of finally getting to see some of the top companies in Canada. National touring is finally a reality for us. Major kudos must go to Factory Theatre as well for this trend.

Jocelyn plays wisely to the existing subscribers in bringing in Robert Lepage (Ex Machina) and a new piece by Édouard Lock (La La La Human Steps). This gives him recognizable names to sell while still keeping in the new direction he's pointing the company.

Notice what's missing? New York and London plays. I'd rather see Tarragon get a crack at these shows because I believe their strength is text-based work. I'm hoping that's what we'll see in the future. Maybe that will be the Toronto community association next season?

I'm totally thrilled. This was the direction I hoped the company would go in. Now I hope the audiences will support this as well. Can't remember the last time I was this excited about one of their seasons. And with all the other seasons that have just been announced, next year is going to be an amazing one for Toronto stages.

In fact, for the first time in my memory I feel that all the mid-size companies now have distinct identities. (Waiting to see what Brendan Healey has in mind for Buddies.) They're all doing play development but in different areas. Tarragon is focusing on text-based work with an emphasis on the use of language. Passe Muraille is the home of diaspora theatre. Factory is urban focused. The Theatre Centre is the home of Canadian multi-disciplinary creation. And now Canadian Stage is working with an international focus within the Canadian context. These are rough sketches, I know each are doing shows that don't fit this template, but it's what I see. And it's really exciting.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I saw An Evening of Cabaret at the Vaughan City Playhouse on Saturday and immediately got excited by the idea of directing cabaret shows. It seems to dovetail nicely with my interests and strengths.

But I'm haunted by one question. Does the nature of cabaret preclude a director? My understanding of the form is that it's devised and then presented by the performer. However, watching the shows I could see where an outside eye can shape the performance. My work with storyteller Jean Bubba went against the idea of storytellers working alone, so I do have some precedence in doing this kind of genre-busting thing.

Being new to the genre, can you give me a definition of what cabaret is and what separates it from the one-man show? I would love the thoughts of those do cabaret or those who see a lot of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


On Saturday I got my long-awaited ticket to see a-ha. And I'm talking 25 years of waiting, ever since Massey Hall sold out in 1986 and I was a poor student with no money to pay scalpers. With all the service fees I guess I did this time but I don't care. I'm six rows back for one of my all-time favourite bands.

Most of you only know the first album and Take On Me but there's so much more to their music. They've taken risks their whole career. Each album has its own feel and sound, like all great artists. I connect to the music and lyrics on such a deep level, so please allow me to take you on a musical tour.

Cold As Stone (all 8+ minutes of it), from their Memorial Beach album, is as far from Take on Me as I think you can get. Epic in scope and melancholy in its aspect, it never fails to elicit tears from me - in a good way. (The official site has a remixed version of the song in their media playlist.) If I had to choose only one song it would be this.

But it's a difficult choice. Lifelines features a lot of amazing tunes. The title track and Forever Not Yours, besides being amazing songs have incredible videos, continuing the tradition started by Take On Me. White Canvas has one of the most uplifting lyrics I have ever heard, while Time & Again's lyrics are haunting. You Wanted More, Did Anyone Approach You, Oranges on Appletrees, A Little Bit, Less Than Pure, Cannot Hide, and Dragonfly are all amazing songs. Yes, I think Lifelines might be my favourite album, with the disclaimer that I haven't heard the most recent one, Foot of the Mountain, yet. (HMV has it. Road trip!)

Then there's my previous pick for favourite album, Scoundrel Days. I'll let Ned Raggett, AllMusic Guide, say it for me:
The opening two songs alone make for one of the best one-two opening punches around: the tense edge of the title track, featuring one of Morten Harket’s soaring vocals during the chorus and a crisp, pristine punch in the music, and The Swing of Things, a moody, elegant number with a beautiful synth/guitar arrangement (plus some fine drumming courtesy of studio pro Michael Sturgis) and utterly lovelorn lyrical sentiments that balance on the edge of being overheated without quite going over…The ’80s may be long gone, but Scoundrel Days makes clear that not everything was bad back then.

The track that follows, I've Been Losing You, is also fantastic. And The Weight of The Wind has stunning lyrics. This album underperformed in the US (I have no idea of the Canadian numbers) and doomed North America to being a-ha-less for 25 years. Wish I knew why.

Then there's East of the Sun, West of the Moon, featuring a wonderful version of The Beatles' Crying in the Rain. The title track is gorgeous, I Call Your Name dangerously catchy, Cold River hard-rocking, and Sycamore Leaves is the ultimate driving song.

Minor Earth, Major Sky marked the reunion of the band after a 7-year break. Great songs on this one too: the title track, Little Black Heart, The Sun Never Shone That Day, Thought That It Was You, I Wish I Cared (which appeared on Smallville), You'll Never Get Over Me, I Won't Forget Her, and the centrepiece of the album, the world-record setting Summer Moved On. (In it, Morten holds a note for 20 seconds!) I prefer the premiere performance of this song at the Nobel Peace concert. I adore how Morten comes in to the long note (at 3:25). Most singers would make a big production of this, or you'd at least see them prep, but he has such incredible breath control that you don't even know it's coming. And when it's done, it's just another day at the office. Stunning. And he still does it. This is from a concert five days ago - the note's at 2:50.

This brings me what I have for the longest time felt was the weakest album, Stay on These Roads. My CD player decided to stop working and Baby's having media player issues so this album, which I only have on cassette and isn't in a box, has been my only option. And to my surprise, even the songs that used to annoy me (Touchy!, I'm looking at you) I'm enjoying. I'd always loved The Blood That Moves The Body, This Alone is Love and There's Never a Forever Thing; and liked the James Bond theme The Living Daylights, the title track, and Out of Blue Comes Green. But now I'm not skipping any of the tracks and I'm singing along to the songs I used to despise, which surprises and delights me. And in singing along, I'm appreciating all over again that incredible breath control.

So now I think the weakest is Analogue. It's not a knock on the album. The one-two punch of Celice and Don't Do Me Any Favours is fantastic and the next three, Cosy Prisons, the title track, and Birthright are good. But rest heads into a style that's really not my thing. Others love it and it got glowing reviews but to me it sounds like the 90s grunge I'm not a big fan of. (Not that it's grunge. I don't know that style enough to classify it.) But who knows? It took me years to truly appreciate Memorial Beach and I'm just now getting Stay On These Roads. It may be another one that grows on me.

And now, if you're still reading and you're not a hard-core fan, I'm hoping you might want to check some of this out. The official site has done an incredible job of having everything available. I'm really impressed - even if I can't get the videos to run.

In the end, I just want to share the love. After this tour, the band is breaking up for good. It saddens me that the first time I'll see them in concert will be the last but believe me, I'm grateful I'm getting the chance. A lot of other people aren't. And I'll probably gush on this blog all over again when I do.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Umbrella Talk with Diane Vanden Hoven

Yes, it's been six months but we finally have a new Umbrella Talk! Totally on my shoulders. I need to be more aggressive in finding great playwrights to bring to you.

This is the first of two Umbrella Talks we're doing to support the Playwrights of Spring festival in Aurora. Playwrights of Spring’s goal is to support and encourage the development of new voices in theatre, particularly those of writers. Now in its fourth year, new scripts are solicited by playwrights in Ontario and are juried by three theatre professionals, one of whom is the Festival Dramaturge. From those scripts, the jurists (Readers) select the best two evenings of theatre that perform for one week each.

In this week's Umbrella Talk, Diane Vanden Hoven talks about her attachment to her laptop, her struggles with praise and criticism, and invents a new genre.

A Little More about Diane Vanden Hoven

Diane’s first play This Above All, about Canadian painters Lawren Harris and Prudence Heward, won Theatre B.C.’s National Playwrighting Competition and toured throughout the province. Her next play, The Twisted Land, received an Honourable Mention in the Herman Voden Playwrighting Competition. Her short plays Welcome to Naxos and Faeire Inc. were presented at the Alumnae Theatre New Ideas Festival and her one woman show Bobasaurus played at the Poor Alex Theatre in Toronto. Two other short pieces Strings and The Inferior Planet were performed as part of the Grand Theatre’s Playwrights Cabaret.

Her latest play, Like A Mustard Seed, was chosen as the full-length production for Theatre Aurora's Playwrights of Spring festival. It was also selected to be a part of the Women’s Work Festival in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. Her one act, Bought and Souled is slated to be in the London Fringe Festival. Originally from Huntsville, Diane now lives in London with her young family.

What do you drink on opening night?
Is it an open bar? Oh it doesn’t matter - red wine.

Who would direct the coolest production of one of your plays?
Robert LePage or Julie Taymor.

What scares you? What can't you write about?
I’m scared that I will run out of ideas or conversely that I won’t have enough time to write the ideas I do have. I have the hardest time writing plays that take place during my own life time. But I’m trying my best to rectify that.

What do you want to write about that you haven't yet?
Someday I’m going to have to write about losing a loved one a piece at a time. I think I touch on it a bit in my work but I haven’t fully confronted the idea of the mind having left, while the body remains.

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

How do you deal with praise? With criticism?
I use to deflect praise with self deprecation. But then I realised, if someone is kind enough to say something nice I should be gracious and accept it. Criticism makes me cry. I remember it forever. Though I try to remember the source. The thing is, it’s all art, it’s all subjective. Some people aren’t going to like it. Lately, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with a group of people who are great and giving supportive feedback and that helps to keep things in perspective.

Where would you like your work to be produced?
How about the smallest town in the middle of nowhere, in front of an audience that has no expectations, but is there simply for the experience.

Where do you write? Pen or keyboard?
I keep a spiral notebook where I jot down ideas for each play. I had a beat up lap top that I was very superstitious about giving up. Now I have a fancy new computer but I’m squirreled away in a little hutch in the corner of the room.

What would you like academics to write about your work in 50 years?
I believe Ron Cameron-Lewis said I have a way of making everyday speech sound like poetry. Or maybe I just imagined he said that. If academics said something akin to that I would be very happy.

What inspires you?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet The Fierce

Last week, conversation happened on Twitter around the recent Theatre on the Net panel hosted by Canadian Theatre Critics Association (CTCA) and Tarragon Theatre after Amanda Campbell blogged about it. Essentially, there were people on the panel who were dismissive of social media and a sense that internet reviewers were not legitimate critics because they weren't going through an editing process.

It started out as an idea for prominent Toronto theatre writers on Twitter to have their own panel, which quickly turned into a lighthearted plan to form an alternative to the CTCA. The first meeting promises "Hostility! Wine! Theatre!" I, wanting to hang with the cool kids, asked if I could tag along and was brought into the group.

So here are The Fierce (according to their Twitter bios):

Catherine Kustanczy @catekustanczy: Journalist, Producer, Interviewer, Broadcaster, Foodie, Artist, Painter, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen(sometimes).

Amanda Campbell @mt_champion: I review theatre in Toronto and I love it.

Kelly Cameron @broadwaybabyto: Broadway nut, film geek, writer and reader - self described nerd, passionate about promoting the arts through social media. And I dabble in finance.

Megan Mooney @mooneyontheatre: I'm a Toronto theatre writer who spends a ridiculous amount of time at Jet Fuel.

Glenn Sumi @glennsumi: NOW Magazine editor/writer covering theatre, movies, comedy, dance, books, whatev.. CTV News Channel entertainment blabber

ETA: I've been asked to mention that this is all in good fun. The Fierce is really about the cutting edge of internet critical engagement. I'm excited to see where this is headed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hitting the Button

Yes, it's a curling term. I've been spending a scary amount of time watching men's curling at the Olympics. Never underestimate the power of a successful, attractive man. I'm also a huge fan of men's figure skating and ice dance, so a lot of my life is revolving around the Olympics these days.

It's also put me in mind of the last Olympics, when funding for international arts export was cut and we were galvanized to plead the cause of funding for the arts. Sadly, nothing has changed. In the case of BC, it's gotten worse. We never did get the chance to use the Olympics as a jump-off point for the arts - the Cultural Olympiad is happening but you wouldn't know it from CTV's coverage.

I still believe in the necessity of partnering with amateur athletes to make the case for funding what we do. In the wake of disappointing finishes off the medal podium, they are going to hear the same call for cuts as we did. This is a golden opportunity if we can leverage it. The question is, how? I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last night I had the privilege of seeing Birdland Theatre & Talk is Free Theatre's production of Assassins. I'm very grateful as I found out this morning that the rest of the run is now sold out.

I was especially curious about the show for a couple of reasons. One was that I saw Canadian Stage production in 1994, with my friend Christopher Shyer playing Booth. It's particularly memorable as my grandmother had died that morning, so seeing the show was part of my grieving process. The other reason was that we had Jay Davis and Evan Builing do The Ballad of Booth in Sondheim in September, which ended up being one my personal highlights of the experience. Jay is in this production but in a different role, and it is thanks to him I got to see it.

It's amazing how the show came back to me as I watched it. Like the Canadian Stage production, this one was intimately staged and Adam Brazier did a fabulous job in directing it. I'm not a fan of the John Doyle style of presenting Sondheim with the actors playing their instruments, but Adam chose his moments so when they came they punctuated the action, not distracted from it. He used the balcony of the Theatre Centre well. And the design was simple elegance, working in a sometimes problematic space.

As for the performances, they were all great. I do have to mention Graham Abbey though. Richard McMillan played Sam Byck in 1994 and was one of the highlights of the show. Graham topped him. A powerful mix of twitchiness, intelligence and anger, he blew me away. I hadn't see him on stage for many years and it was nice to be reminded just how good he is.

As for Ballad of Booth? Geoffrey Tyler and Paul McQuillan did a great job but I was haunted by Jay and Evan. I would have liked to have seen Jay play the Balladeer, although he did a great job as Zangara. And I did prefer Chris Shyer's Booth. However, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the evening.

The thing that struck me most is all this amazing musical theatre talent we have. And it makes me angry that we don't have work for these people all the time. I glad to be seeing companies like Birdland and Acting Up Stage picking up some of the slack, letting us see more intimate musicals like Assassins and Light in the Piazza. These shows have sold out the end of their runs, showing there's an appetite. So why are so many of the musicals in this city road shows, some of them mediocre? It's criminal that we're not using more of what we have, from both sides of the stage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cultural Olympiad

For those of you lucky enough to be in Vancouver in the next few weeks, there are a myriad of events happening as part of the Cultural Olympiad. This is my personal recommendation list.

I'm most excited to see Dance Marathon on the list. My thoughts on it are here.

I saw Fear of Flight last year when Factory Theatre brought in Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland. It takes place on a plane and its mix of sound, movement and text is stunning.

I've heard amazing things about Nevermore. This is from Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton. I saw their Blue Orphan the last time I was in Adelaide and was stunned by their visual style. Nevermore is coming to Toronto after this and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

BASH'd: A Gay Rap Opera has played Toronto a few times. I saw it at Theatre Passe Muraille and it's a wonderful mix of storytelling and music, with a dash of surrealism thrown in. I don't know one person who has seen it who didn't rave about it.

China is by the wonderful Australian photographer/performance artist William Yang. I've seen his previous work, Shadows, at the Six Stages festival and loved how he integrated the photos and storytelling. This piece is about his four trips to China.

Robert Lepage is bringing Blue Dragon. I haven't seen this one but any Lepage is worth seeing.

K’NAAN & Tinariwen. I love K'NAAN and this sounds like it's going to be a fantastic show.

Where the Blood Mixes. I didn't see this one but it won a boatload of Doras, so I feel safe in recommending it.

Another one I didn't see but heard amazing things about: Dis/(sol/ve)r by Toronto Dance Theatre.

This isn't a recommendation but something I'm really curious about, Michael Sakamoto: Sacred Cow. If anyone sees it, can they tell me about it?

And while not officially part of the Cultural Olympiad, my good friend Tyler Yarema is going to be in residence at Ontario House at the Concord Pacific pavillion throughout the Olympics. He's playing from 6-8pm every night. Check him out and tell him I sent you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Limitations of the Internet

I've been spending the last hour trying to track down the last name of an actor I knew at Stratford between 1990 and 1992. I know he played Fenton in Merry Wives in 1990 and Ferdinand in The Tempest in 1992. The Merry Wives review I found doesn't mention him, and I can't find any review of The Tempest. That's including searching through the TPL magazine and newspaper database.

I know there are limited resources but it would be great if companies would have cast lists in their archives.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Moving towards the future, connecting with the past

I've spent most of the last day setting myself up on LinkedIn as part of the application process for a social media position in a large theatre company. I'd been hearing more about it in the last few months and it was becoming harder to ignore. But I had been worried about all the time it would take to set up and wondered who might be there that I didn't already have on Facebook.

I discovered some cool things. It allowed me to import my contacts and I immediately got reconnected with some of my Australian contacts I had lost touch with. I hope to soon get caught up with them. I also got in touch with a couple of old friends I'd been thinking about recently and I hope to have more time to talk to them at some point soon.

It also allowed me to import my resumes (I have about 40 different versions spanning over 15 years) to quickly get a lot of my job history done. I've been wanting to do a full CV for a while now because I've had so many different jobs but the thought of going through all those resumes and cutting and pasting was daunting. I don't have any of my freelance or temp admin jobs in there yet but I've gotten a good start. I also chose to enter each of the shows I directed as a separate job, with the exception of the two I did for obu. I believe it gives a more complete time line of my working life. I'd be interested in other's people thoughts on that.

This ties into a discussion that went on over Christmas about the state of the Canadian theatrosphere, hosted by Simon at The Next Stage and Michael at Praxis Theatre. (Round 1, Round 2, Round 2.5, Round 3, for those who want to read the whole thing. An abbreviated version will show up in the next edition of Works.) This discussion happened at the worst possible time for me, when I was madly working as many hours as possible in advance of a layoff, but I couldn't help but join in because it touched upon something that's I've been struggling with for a while. The issue of time.

The timing of the discussion itself was a splendid illustration of the problem. A desire to truly engage with people in all the new avenues available but not having the time to read and comment on everything I want to. Since the layoff, its been a little better but I'm still way behind on my blog reading. It really helped me to talk about why I do this, why I spend so much time being connected (besides loving to network).

We need to harness the power of social connection to grow our audiences, to break down the perceived barriers to theatre, to do something about artists' PR problem. And to do it without burning ourselves out. For me, the solution has been harnessing all the abilities of TweetDeck to allow me to keep up with Facebook and Twitter at the same time. We'll see what LinkedIn brings to the table. Still need more blogging time but I'm working on that.

And yes, I'll have some fresh Umbrella Talks for you soon. In the meantime, I'll keep plugging along.