Two years ago, as part of a Canada Council-supported Director in Training residency at The Tarragon Theatre, I was shipped out to Vancouver to learn more about how the technical aspects of theatre-making were being approached out West. I was paired with The Electric Company, where I became assistant to director Kim Collier while we were shooting the film sections of an in-progress theatre/film hybrid. (During The Olympics!)
My film scene has been cut from the 2012 production!
I pretty much immediately fell in love with the company/production/script and so I was thrilled when they asked me to come back and continue as Assistant to The Director for the rehearsal process at Progress Lab leading up to opening night at The Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre in September 2010.
Two years later the production is coming to Toronto as the opening production of The Canadian Stage season at The Bluma Appel Theatre and really, I am quite excited. This super-cool medium-bending production I was a part of that none of my friends and colleagues have seen is finally coming here.
Even better, I will be joining the production when it moves into the theatre to begin teching into the space.
I’m hoping that my experience as assistant director on Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God in The Bluma Appel last year, combined with my knowledge of Tear The Curtain when we put it together originally will make me useful. The cast is rehearsing in Vancouver first, so I will be playing catch-up. If nothing else, I can still hopefully provide some interesting online updates.
Has anyone handed you a paintbrush dipped in red paint recently? We got one. Canadian Stage has upped its marketing game recently, with some interesting interactive elements for Red in particular.
Click to enlarge
Those red-tipped paintbrushes came tagged with the website EXPERIENCERED.CA and the site offers an opportunity to “interact” as artist Mark Rothko’s assistant using your computer’s own webcam. There are a series of different video responses from Rothko based on how each user responds, so theoretically you could have a different experience every time you interacted with the site.
An experiment in partnership with Toronto ad agency, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Canadian Stage tells us they are interested in exploring how pre-recorded video can be used in different ways to promote a live performance. Most of us have already discovered that staging live scenes for video just doesn’t work.
The site features Red‘s lead actor Jim Mezon in the role of Rothko, allowing users to get a sense of the play, without having to watch pre-recorded stage scenes on film. Check it out!
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Tony Nappo, Kristen Thomson, Tom Barnett and Maev Beaty. Photo by John Lauener
by Michael Wheeler
I realize it is a little strange as the Co-Artistic Director of Praxis Theatre and Editor of praxistheatre.com to publish a blog post about the best play I’ve worked on so far and for it not to be a Praxis Theatre show – but there’s PR and then there’s an attempt at truth. Hopefully people read this thing because we appreciate the latter over the former in this space.
Shine Your Eye - Dienye Waboso. Photo by John Lauener
This participation has taken number of forms; first as Artistic Producer Trainee with artistic and producing duties on all three productions, which I blogged about extensively on praxistheatre.com in a seven part series, and then as the creator and curator of The Africa Trilogy Blog.
Both of these experiences were immensely rewarding. In terms of gaining an intimate detailed understanding of how an ambitious international collaboration goes from idea to reality (praxis) they were invaluable.
There could be no better education in creating original plays than the opportunity to experience directors Ross Manson and Josette Bushell-Mingo, cast, dramaturge, choroegraph and stage new works by new voices in theatre.
In particular, seeing Shine Your Eye, the first dramatic work by Binyavanga Wainana, (just pronounced this week by Forbes magazine as one the 40 most powerful celebrities in Africa) come to life as a thoroughly contemporary African perspective on Africa, expanded my understanding of theatrical potential.
The majority of my work over three years and seven (yes seven!) rehearsal processes was as Assistant Director working alongside director Liesl Tommy and choreographer Heidi Strauss on Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Maev Beaty, Kristen Thomson. Photo by John Lauener
Developing a World Premiere of a Schimmelpfennig text over 2008-2011 has inspired two extremely vibrant emotions in me:
1 – Pure inspiration: I remember walking home from a read-through of the play sometime in the second workshop in 2009 with a deep suspicion that, assuming we are still here on earth, this text will be performed in fifty years by Norweigan high schoolers, community players in Austin Texas, and subject to a number of revivals.
There’s nothing quite like being sure what you are doing is important and may possibly outlast you.
2 – Absolute dread: As an artist literally in training to have responsibilities connected to the success of this a once-in-a-lifetime text was intimdating to say the least. When I found myself rehearsal director of a workshop to review blocking and camerawork from Luminato with new Canadian Stage cast members Tom Barnett and Kristen Thomson in April, it was frankly the most pressure I have put on myself.
I watch enough sports to know sometimes guys make The Stanley Cup in their rookie year and that’s the only shot they ever get.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God - Maev Beaty, Tony Nappo, Kristen Thomson, Tom Barnett. Photo by John Lauener
If you can’t tell, I am immensely proud of this play and there is a week-and-a-half left to catch it. You can get some seriously cheap tickets: Under 30: $12.50, PWYC Mondays, and $22 Arts Worker opportunities are all in play.
If you enjoy new performance that pushes the potential and form of live storytelling I hope you will come. Don’t make it one of those shows you meant to see but things were crazy in the fall, yadda, yadda, yadda. If you come this Friday October 14, Volcano Theatre General Manager Meredith Potter will be talking in more detail about creating the production in the second floor lobby at 7:15pm before the 8pm curtain.
That’s it. That’s my pitch. Thanks to Volcano Theatre for the unprecedented trust and opportunity and to director Liesl Tommy for giving her assistant director real things to do. Hope you can make it.
Yves Jacques was interviewed about The Anderson Project when it toured to Philadelphia.
by Michael Wheeler
This morning I watched the dress rehearsal for ex Machina’s The Anderson Project, directed by Robert Lepage, starring Yves Jacques at Canadian Stage. It is fairly astounding. I will leave it to the critics to dissect all the craziness, but I think it is safe to say that this is must-see material for theatre creators who live remotely near the Toronto area.
This show has been touring since it opened in London in 2006 and for good reason: The technical creativity that goes into the opening credits sequence alone is a little humbling. A projector hooked up to an infra-red scanner that can tell what it is projecting on, and a set attached to a vacuum system that can expand and contract, are just a small part of what you DON’T notice while Lepage weaves at least three tales together in a multi-character drama starring a single actor.
Thanks to Canadian Stage for allowing me to watch it be loaded in and teched for the past couple of days as part of my training program. The Anderson Project is only here for 10 days. I almost missed Lipsynch a year-and-a-half ago and the thought makes me shiver with hypothetical dismay in retrospect.
While Praxis Theatre became super-obsessed with our own product and process for a week, lots of other things have been going on:
HIVE 3 has been rocking Vancouver as the theatrical grand finale to the grand funding opus known as The Cultural Olympiad. Simon Ogden of The Next Stage has some interesting thoughts on what the event means for Vancouver and building and attracting new audiences by re-branding theatre.
In Toronto, Tarragon, Factory, and Canadian Stage all announced their seasons in quick succession in a bid to spare their subscribers the added cost of HST if purchased before April 30th. Buddies in Bad Times has made some hints about the first season curated by Artistic Director Brendan Healy, stating the new season, “will reflect a renewed engagement with Buddies’ social and political roots.” Luminato also officially announced the theatrical components of this year’s festival.
Roy McGregor wrote a very interesting piece in The Globe and Mail about the often skewed relationship between “hits” and good journalism as the world of information gets all 2.0 and hit-count-y.
Speaking of interactive theatre…. Check out this awesome show that’s gaining steam Down Under. If this is half as cool as the article makes it out to be I want my ticket yesterday.
Finally, The Theatre Centre’s annual Free Fall runs March 18th – 28th. Included in the festival is a show that occurs in the shared office space Praxis rents at The Great Hall, but is being used briefly by One Reed Theatre (who also rent a desk in the office) as a mini-theatre for their show.
This year, for the first time The Best of The Fringe will be at The Berkeley Street Theatre with the support on The Canadian Stage Company and NOW Magazine. Big step up from the old Diesel Theatre stand up comedy chamber that used to host these post-Fringe hits!
Hipcheck – The Musical
Book by Shelley M. Hobbs, Music by Rob Torr; Lyrics by Shelley M. Hobbs and Rob Torr
UPSTAIRS AT BERKELEY: Friday July 17 – 7pm · Saturday July 18 – 7pm · Wednesday July 22 – 9pm
My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding
By David Hein and Irene Carl
UPSTAIRS AT BERKELEY: Wednesday July 15 – 9pm · Thursday July 16 – 7pm · Friday July 17 – 9pm
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories
Based on the Book by James Finn Garner; Adapted by Jessica Beaulieu
UPSTAIRS AT BERKELEY: Wednesday July 15 – 7pm · Thursday July 16 – 9pm · Saturday July 18 – 9pm
Choreography By: Holly Treddenick and Sabrina Pringle
BERKELEY MAINSTAGE: Thursday July 23 – 9pm · Friday July 24 – 9pm · Saturday July 25 – 9pm
As You Puppet
By William Shakespeare and adapted by Hank’s Toy Box Theatre
UPSTAIRS AT BERKELEY: Thursday July 23 – 7pm · Friday July 24 – 7pm · Saturday July 25 – 7pm
A Singularity of Being
By T. Berto
BERKELEY MAINSTAGE: Thursday July 23 – 7pm · Friday July 24 – 7pm · Saturday July 25 – 7pm
Morro and Jasp Do Puberty
Written and Performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee
UPSTAIRS AT BERKELEY: Wednesday July 22 – 7pm · Thursday July 23 – 9pm · Friday July 24 – 9pm · Saturday July 25 – 9pm
Tickets are $16.50 each and are available starting July 14, 2009
416.368.3110 or www.canstage.com.
The Berkeley Street Theatre – 26 Berkeley St.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”