Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Sunday was the opening of Girls! Girls! Girls! - a cabaret and gallery exhibition in support of the Gas Station Arts Centre. This marked my first inclusion as an artist rather than a performer in this sort of event (in a non school related setting), and was a truly new experience for me. Standing in the lobby/gallery while the audience came in, I found myself anxious, constantly looking over to my installation, checking to see if people were listening and if they were, what their reaction seemed to be.

Why? who knows. I'm paranoid I suppose. In the same way that my director-brain never quite turns off, so when I'm watching the same performance as the audience, all I see are the gaps, the over-long pauses, the missed timing. All I could see were the people NOT looking at my work. Nothing fleeted through my mind about the fact that only 1 person at a time can experience it, that it is about solitude by design.

This is a new perspective for me to learn.

Autel is available for your interactive enjoyment at the Gas Station Arts Centre (River & Osborne, Winnipeg) until early December. Entrance to the gallery is free.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review - The Brink by Ellen Peterson @ Prairie Theatre Exchange

PTE open this seasons with their 140th new Canadian Play, this time coming from playwright in residence Ellen Peterson. The Brink tells the story of a family in Niagara Falls, Ontario, struggling to keep their printing business as well as their hope afloat. The story is set to the backdrop of the moon landing, and beautifully pairs this moment of intense optimism for the younger generation, Pat (played with nuance by RobYn Slade) while the older generation (a fabulous Jan Skene and heartbreaking Steven Ratzlaff) whose hope is all but gone as they are stuck in an endless cycle of flashbacks to moments of their youth.

Peterson's strength is dialogue; the razor-sharp, spitfire back and forth between the 3 members of the family, with its natural overlap and interruption is unbelievable. The constant unfinished sentences, pausing to breathe when a character (normally Pat) realizes no one is listening capture the essence of the family's dynamic.

The overall feeling of the need to push forward, to change and not be tied to the past pervades the play. The young characters do not experience the flashbacks, and are therefore the ones able to break free.

The only weakness for me, were the flashback scenes for Jim's character; at times these felt a bit long, although the character information was all necessary and moved the plot forward. I wonder whether it was the device of having the characters melt into their new bodies slowly, rather than snap into that world which caused this feeling. I would be curious to read the script to see whether this feeling can be eliminated by a different directorial choice.

PTE have developed a reputation for premiering strong Canadian drama, and this play can easily be added to the cannon.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review - Twyla Tharp's The Princess And The Goblin - Royal Winnipeg Ballet

You know a performance is really enjoyable, when you suddenly realize you have been sitting with a huge grin on your face for an unknown amount of time. This is how I found myself about 30 minutes in to Twyla Tharp's new ballet The Princess And The Goblin, performed by the RWB with Guest Artist Paloma Hererra. The piece begins with a fairly classical look - king father, princess daughters, classical movement vocabulary - and as the story twists and turns, the movement also twists and turns, until the Goblins are moving in a very contemporary manner. There are even touches of break dance in some areas. The blurring of style is what one would expect from Twyla Tharp, and this piece did not disappoint in any way.

One of my favourite things was the dance-fight choreography, which was highly stylized, and almost looked like Brazillian Capoeira. The humour and fun in the movement, along with the more dark and serious notes were fabulous.

The sets and lighting were beautifully simple, with many lovely diversions coming down from the ceiling to populate the same space as the dancers. One highlight was the use of shadow to create a music box style image - this section was absolutely captivating.

Paloma Hererra - her mischevious grin filled the stage, and every movement she made was outstanding. I am honoured to be able to see this living legend dance.

Yayoi Ezawa - an RWB favourite, Yayoi really shone, particularly in her moments opposite Hererra as the grandmother.

Sophia Lee - This girl is a star. Her turn as the Queen of the Goblins was a fantastic performance, and a highlight.

Yosuke Mino - I could watch him jump for days and days, and his strengths really came through in Tharp's choreography.

Please see this if you can! It isn't every day that Twyla Tharp has a new piece performing in your city, nor that you get to see it performed by this calibre of dancers.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review - A Few Good Men @ Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

MTC open their 2012-2013 season with Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men - a script made famous by the film version starring Jack Nicholson. Clearly stepping into some big and well-known shoes, the cast did a great job of making the words their own. There were only a few moments where delivery felt stilted or put on, specifically and inorganically recalling other interpretations. There was a lot of shouting (yes, I know this is a play about the Marine Corps...) however not all of it felt necessary. I would have liked to see more variation in the non-Marine-shouting scenes. A woman behind me commented a few times that she missed lines as a result of this.

The minimalist set evoked both a prison and a military base, and the beautiful lighting design helped create the buildings with long corridors and cramped offices evocatively. The use of a revolving stage piece was less successful in creating this feeling; luckily this device was used less frequently as the play went on. I found myself comparing the production to another recent play-of-fim I saw - The King's Speech, on the West End - Unfortunately I found that A Few Good Men lacked a bit of the theatricality in its staging that made The King's Speech so enjoyable for me months before. At times it felt like it was staged for the stage only because there were no film cameras. Detailed work was clearly done on military protocol; the actors' physical work clearly delineated levels of power, and gave the tense, testosterone-filled atmosphere of a millitary base.

On that note, though, the play really highlighted for me the misogyny in Sorkin's text. Perhaps it was the opening image, with a straight line of actors spanning the width of the large mainstage, and only one female actor which sparked the thought. As the play went on, I couldn't help but react to the treatment Galloway takes from the others, specifically Jessop and Kaffee. Each time she absorbed the words of disdain, I shuddered. Later in the script, when Kaffee berates her to the point of tears which causes her to leave, I was appalled that she gave in for the slapstick apology he offers. What kind of message does this give?

Overall it is a fairly strong production, just not really my cup of tea.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Little Things

Last Friday marked my first night teaching the Friday Night Drama group at PTE School. This is a new project for me, working with a special group of adults with various abilities. This was the first time in ages that I have been nervous to teach a class; not because I was unsure of my preparation, but mainly because i was anxious with anticipation of the group, their dynamic, and whether I would fit into their circle.

We did a range of work on drama exercises, focussing on imagination. We began with a circle, talking about imagination and creating an imaginary place together. We then got up to walk around, creating our own imaginary beach, eventually finding an object, and sharing it with the group. The imagination game was very successful, every member of the group participating. We moved into other imagination-based exercises. As the group got more excited, I sensed myself getting excited too, veering from my plan into exercises with varying levels of success.

Several times through the class I found myself simply grinning with joy at the enthusiasm of these individuals, and how happy the simple theatre games made them for those 2 hours. I recently read an interview with Robert Lepage in which he stated that these days there is too much acting and not enough playing; this class reminded me of exactly this, the joy that comes from playing.

Overall, my fears were for nought, as the group really took to my style of physical imagination  and games. I'm really excited about my continued development with this group over the coming weeks, and may share more of my trials and tribulations.

Photo: Autel @ Gas Station Arts Centre - photo by Leif Norman

Monday, 8 October 2012

My Winnipeg: There's No Place Like Home @ PlugIn Gallery

This was my first visit to PlugIn since their move to downtown, part of the University of Winnipeg buildings. Exhibition aside, the space itself is very exciting. Comprised of a cluster of oddly shaped rooms in part of the triangle shaped building, you get to weave from one room to the next as if exploring, each nook and cranny filled with installations, quotes, and light.

The first part of the My Winnipeg Project, There's No Place Like Home, focussed on the myths relating to this city. Those funny things about Winnipeg that to an outsider seem absurd; toboggan races turned awry, maps highlighting childhood homes, greasy spoons, and mythical beasts of the prairie. Some of the pieces (for me) failed to engage, however this may be due to the overwhelming enjoyment I got from the toboggan video, and the mythical map. Unfortunately, due to the layout in the furthermost room, I wasn't able to see who the artist was for each individual piece, which is unfortunate.

I look forward to checking out further installments of the My Winnipeg Project through the winter months.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Winnipeg Now @ WAG - to 30 December 2012

An exciting exhibition which showcases local artists of the younger generation who have been stirring things up not only in the Canadian Art scene, but internationally, Winnipeg Now at the WAG reminded me of all the reasons I am proud to say I am from this frigid and isolated island in the prairie. The imagination, curiosity and daring exhibited in these pieces is outstanding. Each piece I encountered while moving through the exhibition struck me differently, however the resounding commonality among them was the ability I feel each would have to find itself included in a major gallery of modern art, such as the Tate Modern or Hayward Gallery.

Some individual pieces stood out for me specifically.

Sarah Anne Johnson's (title unknown) made me want to sit underneath its stratosphere for hours. My eye danced around the sculpture as it loomed over my head, colours bursting.

Michael Dudeck's pieces from his Baculum Cosmology call into play ideas of liveness, nature, and human relationship to this; the body mummified but with pipes and cables emerging from its form was haunting, and called to mind similar ideas in Damien Hirst's work, challenging our perceived supremacy over nature and science, and ultimately our mortality. I am saddened that I missed his live performance with the pieces, and only hope I can catch this in the future.

Finally, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millian's Bedtime Stories for the End of the World intrigued, due to the idea of a comfortable, relaxing space in which pre-recorded stories are heard. Similar to my own work (Autel) this pushes us to see storytelling as art, and to truly audit what we are taking in, even in seemingly everyday scenarios.

I strongly recommend taking this exhibition in, for a sense of the intelligent and sophisticated work being created by fellow Winnipeg artists.

Photo: Michael Dudeck Religion project