Sunday, 30 September 2012

Review - Duet for a Schizophrenic - Little Theatre of the Gray Goose & Adhere and Deny @ Ace Art

An interesting and strange little play, Duet for a Schizophrenic is Chris Johnson's foray into double and triple worlds. A place where people pretend to be people pretending to be other people, and popuulate the dream you dream i dream you dream i dream. How's that for a mouthful?

The quick and clever word play as He (Graham Ashmore) and She (Erin McGrath) weave between various characters was very enjoyable, and began the piece at a nice pace. There were times, particularly in the second act, where the pace needed some variation - I was urging with my mind for things to delve a bit deeper at this point. The piece really hit its stride, however, in a scene with the actors, preparing for a play within a play (within a play....and more). The beautiful timing of this bit made me wish the whole play was like this.

Each act was interspersed with musical interludes of He and She singing their feelings to one another. This I had some trouble with, as the lyrics weren't always comprehensible over the loud (but excellent) band. These bits also made use of large marionettes of the two actors, which were very fun.

Some clever references to Pirandello, for those who are very familiar with his work were great, however I worry that some of the truly clever humour would have been lost without this background. In a way, I wonder whether the piece would have been enjoyable to an audience not steeped in theatrical history and information.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Girls! Girls! Girls! - A fundraiser for the Gas Station Arts Centre

I learned this week that Autel, a performance installation I created while at RADA has been selected for an exhibition in Winnipeg! The Exhibition will open at the Gas Station Arts Centre on  21 October, coinciding with the Gala event Girls! Girls! Girls! - a cabaret evening showcasing female performers. The exhibition will run for a further 3 weeks in the lobby gallery of the Arts Centre. 

Autel is an exciting piece for me - it is among my first explorations into the relationship between live experience and recorded audio, aiming to merge the two making the audience aware of the way they are experiencing art as they are experiencing it. It uses recorded audio to guide the viewer to relate to the text, and also to the other works of art and individuals around them. The piece was inspired by and created from play texts written by Jean Genet, and theoretical texts by Antonin Artaud. 

I am extremely grateful to the organizers for selecting my piece for this year's exhibition, and look forward to seeing the other pieces, as well as the cabaret performance on the 21st. I will post information on tickets for the Gala as it becomes available. The Exhibition is free to view during opening hours at the Gas Station Arts Centre. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review - Sonofabitch Stew @ FemFest 2012

This one-woman show tells the story of a Womens' Studies' tutor forced into retirement after her wild-west antics inspired by the life of Calamity Jane embarass the department for one last time. Jane regales the audience with her tales, and after a few minutes we learn that the audience have been given the role of her students at her penultimate lecture. Jane goes on to talk of her career, flashing into moments of Calamity herself. The show progresses back and forth, paralleling the professor's life with that of the Western Female archetype as we hear of her rise to infamy and her ultimiate demise resulting from the very acts which made her famous.

The script itself is intriguing as it twists these two lives together, playing on ideas about what femininity and ultimately feminism are made up of. I did find that the stylistic traits of the language between the two characters was not as distinct as it could have been; this, muddied the ability to distinguish which character was being inhabited at each moment. Ultimately I would have appreciated a clearer distinction between the two, as it would have defined the parallel more clearly. Without this, the two characters spun together a bit too much and made the piece difficult to follow at times.
Overall this was a nice, enjoyable script and one I would love to see further work on.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

FemFest 2012 Begins!

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Opening Cabaret for the 10th Annual FemFest. I've had a fairly lengthy history with FemFest - I first worked with the festival as Assistant to Director Hope McIntyre (AD of the Festival) for Ordinary Times in 2005. Since then, I've directed workshop productions of new plays (The Dance of Sara Weins, 2006), shared my own work-in-progress piece Lavinia in the 2009 Cabaret, directed scenes for the launch of their book of scenes for female actresses (Generation NeXXt, 2010) and now directing readings of short plays in the 2012 festival. As I sat in the audience, hearing host and festival supporter Susan Tymofychuk speak of the history of the festival, and the opportunity it has provided for emerging artists (particularly female ones) I reflected on these experiences. FemFest has provided me the opportunity to hone my skills as a director and creator of work, providing a safe environment for me to learn and help those around me explore new works of theatre. I don't know of many festivals anywhere in the world that provide this kind of environment, and I must say that my career has been enriched immeasurably due to my involvement with FemFest.

There are shows throughout this week at the Centre for Theatre & Film at the University of Winnipeg; ticket prices are very affordable, including many free readings and talks about creating theatre. I encourage you to try to spend at least an hour taking in a piece of the festival. The work presented touches on all aspects of human experience; from Food Bank usage to Immigrant families, re-imagined fairy tales to readings from esteemed playwrights. Judith Thompson is this year's guest artist. She is one of the most well-known Canadian playwrights, and certainly the most known female playwright from Canada, and her support and participation in the festival says a lot about the amazing work Sarasvati do.

Take some time and check it out this week!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

It is voyeurism, plain and simple

John Doyle, writer for the esteemed Globe and Mail, and often someone I can agree with, has truly missed the mark on this one. His recent article for the Globe which argues that the purpose of such shows as "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is to "kick open the shutters of closed societies and closed minds" could not be further from accurate. Certainly, I can agree that popular culture at its best will do just this; it will push the edges of what society deem acceptable from a perspective of fashion, music, pop art. The very best pop culture is where the lines of art and pop merge and blur - the Sex Pistols, rave culture, David Bowie, etc. The difference, however, is that these have something to say, a commentary on the state of the world as it is now compared with how it ought to be.

To state that a show like "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" is doing something like this is, for me, a stretch. What it is, simply, is voyeurism. There are people who live differently from our own experience, and there has always been an interest in how "the other half" live. Jean Genet made a career of this instinct for voyeurism, writing plays which exposed our own human base desire to see and be seen, to control our image. This interest, however, does not appeal to our intellect (or heck, even an anthropological interest). Rather, it appeals to our most base desire to see people at their worst. Watching a family who so clearly will say and do anything if the TV cameras are watching is not condemned by critics for touching close to home, a harbinger of the death of the middle class, as Doyle argues. It is condemned for the same reason most reality television is condemned by thinking people; it encourages the lowest common denominator, pushing humanity not toward our best, but our worst.

The example Doyle gives of Roseanne Barr is a misguided one; Barr did challenge bourgeois ideas about the working class, but did so in a way that demonstrated the humanity, intelligence, and integrity of the working class. She pushed her audiences to look past stereotypes. The family in Honey Boo Boo take her cause back 20 years, portraying the working class exactly as bourgeois stereotypes would want them to be; rednecked yokels, overweight, feeding their child cheetos at every turn, swimming in mud holes.

I have been giving a lot of thought to these reality shows, in particular ones which focus on children, making them "stars" - this is a singularly distressing development in popular culture, and one we must be wary of encouraging. Think of the hundreds of children featured on these shows, or exposed to watching them. . . what will happen to their ability to value integrity and hard work? We already see a generation of entitlement graduating from our high schools, kids who have never been failed despite poor attendance and effort. Now these kids are going to universities or into the workforce, without any preparation for the challenges of life, and into one of the most challenging job markets in recent history. A recipe for the downfall of our ability to continue as a society, if you ask me . . .