Sunday, 17 November 2013

Q Dance presented by Royal Winnipeg Ballet at Gas Station Arts Centre

I sometimes wonder whether audiences truly realize the extreme caliber of creativity in this city. Peter Quanz' young company - Q Dance - is celebrating its first season to be presented by the RWB as part of the regular subscription. The performances this week included two of Quanz' well known pieces - Quantz by Quanz created for the Banff Arts Centre, and the ingenious Double Bounce, along with the World Premiere of his new story ballet, Murder Afoot.

Quantz by Quanz is a beautiful piece with quickly changing shapes. The challenging choreography is clearly influenced by George Balanchine in its many extensions and juxtaposed angles. The strength of the dancers shines in this piece, with Sofia Lee and Liang Xing dancing the lead roles, and a very strong ensemble supporting them. In this piece, an earlier one of Quanz, we see primarily a classical vocabulary, but the beginnings of the bending, asymetrical shapes which characterize his later work.

The second piece, danced by an enigmatic Beth Lamont with Stephan Possin, is centred around a playful idea - what if the tutu's edge were maleable, to be re-shaped every time the dancers come in contact? Lamont sparkes, and breezes through the choreography which showcases more of the Quanz obsession with unusual shapes. Possin however struggled with the challenging work - one can see quickly that the piece was choreographed on the dynamic and nearly superhuman Yosuke Mino.

The final piece, Murder Afoot, really allows Quanz sense of humour to sparkle, while using the most provocative movement vocabulary of the three pieces. Essentially created for 7 soloists, with only minimal ensemble dancing, the piece incorporated fantastic lighting and video design by Hugh Conacher, including a live feed from other parts of the theatre. Truly pushing its way into dance theatre, Quanz and Conacher's collective vision is unlike any other narrative ballet you've seen. Its sense of the theatrical was undeniable. I would have liked to see even more interplay - the moments where the video seemed to comment on the stage action had a fantastic Brechtian quality, and the piece would have been even more outstanding with this.

Overall this was a fantastic programme which not only showcased the incredible dancers, but the emerging genius that is Peter Quanz.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Best Brothers by Daniel McIvor - Prairie Theatre Exchange

Daniel McIvor brings us a very Canadian story with this tale of two brothers whose mother has died under curious circumstances (crushed by a large drag queen falling off a pride day float) and now the pair must deal with their loss together. The two could not be less alike, with the elder a straight laced hard working type-A architect, married with an ostentatiously expensive flat in Toronto (an entire scene plays out on the subject of his $250,000 kitchen. honestly...). The younger is a gregarious real estate agent, dressed regularly in purple through the show, and the reason for his mother's presence at the pride parade. The third "brother" is their mother's beloved dog - who truly had the mother's love, unlike her less furry sons. 

The piece was snappily directed by Bob Metcalfe with a keen attention to the darkly humourous subject matter, and well performed by the two performers. I would have liked to see more detailed physical work go into the scenes where the sons donned a hat and gloves and "took on" their mother's persona for a series of monologues. While these had potential to be sparkling, they came across as caricatures of the mother, which for me lost some of the impact. 

My overriding feeling, however, was that the play itself appeals to that part of us that wants to live that "ideal" life - the part that wants to write the perfect obituary for the slightly eccentric widowed mother, and whinge over such things as a $250,000 kitchen. But to be fair, I don't think that part of many of us even exists. 

We've struggled for years to create a truly Canadian theatre with our own voice separated from that of the British and American theatres, and I worry that this sort of piece sets us back. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Handmaid's Tale - Royal Winnipeg Ballet

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet company have developed a reputation for exciting contemporary story ballets in recent years, so it was truly exciting to learn that the company had paired with NYC choreographer Lila York to interpret Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. From its very start, the piece set a highly theatrical tone, beginning with the stage opened in plain view, and  a stark set which simultaneously evoked the prison in Chicago and the brothel in Miss Saigon. Many steps were taken to give a feeling of being watched, including follow spots situated on the stage, and the very opening sequence in which Offred is stolen away from her family as they sat in the lower part of the stalls.

York's choreography clearly evoked the many complicated relationships, from the rigid and painful movements of the handmaids, to the sweeping jumps of the resistance, to the most uneasy feeling of voyeurism we felt as we watched Offred, the Colonel and his Wife dance a sickening pas de trois in which his wife used Offred as an extension of her own body. There are countless images from throughout the piece which called up similar feelings.

The company looked good throughout, although much of the corps work could have been cleaner. In particular, Yayoi Ban was fantastic as the headmistress of the handmaids, and Elisabeth Lamont's feature as the pregnant handmaid was stunning. Amanda Green had a spunky charm as Offred, but was out shone by the fabulous Sophia Lee dancing opposite her.

I look forward to this piece becoming a part of the company's regular repetoire.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Crackwalker by Judith Thompson - Sweet and Salty Collective

This new Winnipeg theatre company burst out of the gates with their premiere production of Judith Thompson's The Crackwalker. Helmed by Debbie Patterson, the cast led the audience through an up close and personal interaction with people normally at an arm's distance from polite middle class company. Thompson's play, which focuses on a mentally challenged prostitute and her boyfriend, along with her abused friend and her abusive boyfriend lays out in plain view that which many of us wish to pretend does not occur; people of base needs making poor choices, all of which get infinitely more complex when a baby is introduced into the mix. Stylistically, the production took many risks which paid off; situated in the basement of a legion in what is generally considered a seedy neighbourhood, the first encounter with the characters is actually outside at a bus stop where the first scene takes place. The audience are then led in and downstairs, giving the feeling that they have truly stepped outside their own world and down into the underbelly. From there, in casual seating, the action takes place around the room, and many bar scenes make the audience feel that they are right there in the middle of things. This immersive quality was highly effective in initially creating a sense of comaraderie, then shocking us as the play transpires into judgement of the characters' actions, immediately followed by a realization of the prejudices which feed those thoughts.

The ensemble, led by Spenser Payne in the leading role, were superb.

If you missed this, you may have missed the best thing to step out on a stage (or orangey brown cacrpet) in Winnipeg this year.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Maple Route by Jeremy Scarth Bowkett - Theatre Incarnate @ PTE Colin Jackson Studio

Theatre Incarnate are known for edgy, sometimes quirky, and often controversial productions, so it may seem strange that the company have worked with local playwright Jeremy Scarth Bowkett to develop a 3 act epic about a moment in Canadian History. The company's departure is our gain, as we get the opportunity to see a shocking and truthful glimpse of the life soldiers lead when they return to civillian live. Under the measured and specific direction of Christopher Sobczak, the play and performers catapult through this challenging time. Things appear normal at first as we see Cam and Alexa in what are clearly the early stages of their re-united marriage, however we quickly see that Cam is a boiling pot with the lid rattling, waiting to burst. Just like that pot, Cam bubbles and eventually explodes, his confusion and rage at what he experienced in the former Yugoslavia rendering him unrecognizable to his wife. With a text this filled with angst, there is the potential for over-doing it, however every moment of Karl Thordarson's portrayal of Cam is truthful. Toby Hughes as Cam's reservist buddy Dean offers a believable lovable hoser, bringing much needed release of tension with his comic timing, and Theresa Thompson's Alexa is a believable troubled but loving army wife.

3 acts may seem long, but the production does not feel that way; rather it feels as if we in the audience are sitting on a runaway railway car, careening toward a mountainside as the play progresses.

This notwithstanding, the script could continue to be developed; some scenes felt they could be trimmed just slightly to achieve an even more explosive effect. Additionally the voice of Alexa wasn't quite as clearly developed as the other two characters, which under less steady direction could be clunky.

That said, this is a production that you need to see. An important story, well told, and pieced together artfully by a fantastic company. Go see this play!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Flood Contro by Marilyn Anne Campbelll - FemFest 2013

FemFest prides itself on presenting new work by Canadian Female artists each year, and Marilyn Anne Campbell is definitely a playwright I am grateful to FemFest for bringing our attention to.

This is a smart and funny script, with lovely dark undertones, which focuses on Gina and Ray, two adults who meet on a bridge with the common intention of killing themselves. As the play unfolds, we identify with the hilarious neuroses of each of these characters, whether it is Ray's fear of turning 40 without having kissed a girl, or Gina's obsession with the location of coasters and ensuring things are completed. Hope McIntyre's direction brings a lovely ebb and flow to the text, matching the many pieces of river imagery, meandering smoothly in and out of the conversations with a strong sense of truth. And the performances by Elena Anciro and Grant Burr bring an enjoyable life to the story.

My only quibble is that I would like more! Coming in at 37 minutes, I only just started to feel I got to know them, and the wrap up in the final minutes felt quite quick. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vacant Circumstances: this and something else - Dong Kyoon Nam @ Aceartinc

Dong Kyoon Nam's solo show at the Ace Art gallery is a collection of 5 installations, each of which uses common household items in a provocative way, calling attention to our reliance on objects and the frightening control they can have on our lives.

The most striking pieces for me were Event Horizon and Just Once.

Event Horizon consists of clock timers and fluorescent light fixtures mounted on a long wall, and a short bit of the perpindicular wall adjacent to it. The lights glow down on the wall, reminiscent of hip nightclub lighting, but as you approach the installation, the incessant ticking of the clock timers grows louder and louder, to a point where it is overwhelming. It immediately called awareness to our obsession with time; i caught my thoughts wandering in that direction, and had to remind myself i wasn't in a hurry. What is even more interesting is that upon hearing the ticking, even walking to other parts of the gallery where I had previously stood unaware of the sound, the sound resonated (whether actually or just in my head I couldn't say).

Just Once is created of two tall fans, clicked on and facing toward one another, wrapped in white extension cords. I could not help but think of the fans as two lovers, facing one another, trapped in embrace. The human quality of these two fans pushing at one another non-stop triggered thoughts of the constant barrage of sound and intensity we often throw at our loved ones, without pause to listen and take them in.

This is an excellent show, and it is free - so I highly recommend you check it out!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Appropriation, or Why Miley Cyrus' Performance Isn't Simply a Feminist Issue

"Appropriation in art is the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them." (Wikipedia). 

Is this not what we witnessed; teddy bear onesie, dancing african american women, silly putty bikini, foam finger. Cyrus' body itself, and Thicke's body as well. Cyrus, her choreographers and image-makers absconded these images, and used them. No transformation actually occurred, despite claims from many camps that this was to take Cyrus from little girl to woman, much as oversexed images such as Britney Spears with the snake, or Christina Aguilera in a boxing ring orgy took them from pop princess to mature artist. But let us ponder a moment over the chosen imagery. Teddy bears could not be any less mature; the choice of this image only reinforces her youth and the impropriety of Cyrus' sexual behaviour, rather than solidifying it as a statement of her new found maturity and control over her sexuality. Thicke is just as culpable here; his choice to participate in this charade, to allow Cyrus to gyrate up against him whilst whining his misogynist lyrics at the young girls in the crowd is deplorable.

Priviledged white girl takes on images associated with black culture. Priviledged white boy takes on images associated with black culture. The misogyny is only a part of the picture. They even went so far as to carry oversized cardboard cut-outs of paintings around the stage. Appropriation. Taking the object, the image, without transformation. 

In a way, the misogyny is appropriation too. Not that it is a good thing, mind you, but it is certainly a hallmark of stereotypical hip hop culture, "bitches and hoes" and "bling" gangsta mentality. What we saw was a 21st century minstrel show. Both performers put on their blackface in the form of words, gestures and costumes, and attempted to "fit in" - they took on these images, performed them. 

But this begs the question of WHY. Traditionally minstrel shows in late 19th century Americana were Irish-American performers who were trying to fit in, doing so by highlighting their dissimilarity to the OTHER, in that case, the african american. Eventually, the Irish American worker, once the much scorned member of Northeastern society, actually became the symbol of the American dream, stretching as far forward as the inherent symbolism in the Die Hard trilogy, pitting working class Bruce Willis against European Alan Rickman. 

So what then does this imagery purport to achieve? If it is to follow the same trajectory, it suggests that in some time the definition of the American dream will be entitled children parading around in a highly sexualized fashion, making all those around them objects for use. Entitlement. Achievement through family connections and money, rather than talent and work. 

We can be concerned about the sexuality, the misogyny, the racism. But the larger message underlying is that success doesn't come from what you do, but who you know and where you were born, and even worse....what you can pay to get what you want. Now this is truly something to be concerned about. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Impel Theatre present The First Time at MEME 2013 (Winnipeg)

I've been crafting this experiment for some time now, aiming to air some questions for myself, and for people experiencing dance music and theatre . . .
What happens when we take two independent experiences - a piece of theatre, and a music performance - and let them lose at the same time? How are you impacted as an observer? What do you notice? How does this in tandem experience change your understanding of each individual piece in a way that you may not have viewed them when separate?

The First Time is an audio installation designed to be experienced in tandem with a live DJ set performed by John Norman - Friday will be the premiere of this experience, beginning at 7:30pm.

If you're around and interested, the audio file can be downloaded for free at - simply download the file, select a meeting place, and turn up at 7:30pm. There will be a girl in a purple dress who will lead you to the Cube, where John will be playing.

If Friday evening doesn't work, that's ok too - the installation can be experienced at any time during the festival - and will create a different experience for you! Just begin at a meeting point, and slowly walk yourself toward the cube stage.

If you do participate, please share your thoughts here, by tweeting me @impeltheatre or using hashtag #memeFirstTime and #meme2013

Huge gratitude to the MEME festival for allowing this experiment to see the light, and to my volunteer devisers and performers on the project!

Created by artistic director Kendra Jones (

The First Time will take you on a journey immersed in the festival’s main stage atmosphere which will amplify your aural
experience of the event and your surroundings. In a festival dedicated to live
performances of recorded sounds, come enjoy two forms of recorded sound at once,
and share in a further amplified experience of these two art forms in tandem with one
another. Downloadable for you to experience at any point through the festival, the piece
is best experienced corresponding with a DJ set by Winnipeg’s techno-maven, John
Norman (Hype Muzik, UNT! Records).

Download link:


Step 1
Download the audio file to your phone, mp3 player, or some other portable audio

Step 2
Make your way to one of the meeting points shown here for 7:30pm on Friday
August 16th:
Meeting Point 1 – In the small triangle park across from the Burton Cummings
(Walker) Theatre – 364 Smith Street

View Larger Map
Meeting Point 2 – In front of MTC John Hirsch (Mainstage) Theatre – 174 Market Avenue

View Larger Map
Step 3
Wait for the girl. She will be wearing a purple dress.

Step 4
Put your headphones in. Press play at 7:30pm. This is best experienced on your
own, so resist the temptation to take them out at any point, or to chat with others. Let
the experience envelop you.

Step 5

Step 6
Follow the girl. She will lead you to the Cube stage to enjoy the festival.

Step 7
Notice. Keep listening.

Step 8
The full experience is about 40 minutes long, and will then leave you the remainder
of John Norman’s set to enjoy the site and music. And don’t forget to stick around for
more great acts through the evening!

Questions? Email or tweet @impeltheatre – and don’t
forget to share your thoughts using hashtag #memeFirstTime and #meme2013

Monday, 12 August 2013

100 Masters @ WAG (until September)

I was simultaneously overjoyed, and disappointed with this exhibition. On one hand, it was very exciting to see the pieces, curated from galleries across North America, showcasing major and influential Canadian artists alongside the world's masters. The innovation of someone like Emily Carr  stood out like a beacon, and the piece by Wanda Koop was oustanding, pulling focus in the room.

At the same time, and perhaps only because I have been lucky enough to see the famous works by many of the international painters, I was left feeling disappointed in the selection for those artists. I actually said aloud "why would they choose that Gainsborough", and although the Monet was lovely, it paled in comparison to some of his more infamous work. Granted the VanGogh was every bit the energy-filled frenetic canvas that his work is, and the Matisse was outstanding.

In a way it almost felt as if the less exciting works were selected to help the Canadian artists stand out more. Disappointing, because the Carr, Koop, and Thompson would have shone regardless.

I suppose that my overall assessment is that if you haven't been lucky enough to visit the world's major galleries, then this will be a fantastic exhibition, providing an excellent opportunity to see many masters and learn more about Canadian artists in the context of the world scene. If you have, then you may not find it as engaging.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Til Death: Six Wives of Henry VIII - Monster Theatre @ Winnipeg Fringe

Tara Travis is outstanding in this one-woman show written by Ryan Gladstone, embodying 6 wives of Henry VIII along with the king himself with unwavering detail and clarity. The script cleverly posits an afterlife in which all six wivevs and eventually Henry are held together in a purgatory, in which St Peter will allow only one wife in to Royal Heaven - purportedly better than "regular" Heaven. As the women jostle for position, their stories and perspective toward Henry (and their own life's potential) is seen, creating a larger picture sense of the opportunity for women of that time. 

There was still something a bit lacking from the script; it centres heavily on beauty and sex, the ability to make the king happy, which seems to detract from its supposed feminist message. 

Notwithstanding, it is well worth seeing. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Dog Act - Nancan Productions @ MTC Mainstage Venue #1

Local company Nancan Productions brings us this clever script from American writer Liz Duffy Adams with a stellar cast of Winnipeg performers. Situated in a future-past time where tribes war and cities are destroyed, yet vaudevillians roam performing their old standards. The world of the play is truly imaginative, and the cast bring it to life briliantly. Notable is the tribe thugs' near-iambic pentameter, peppered with expletives.

Yet despite excellent performances and a great script, I found my mind wandering; the piece could have done with some tightening, and more nuances in the shape of the action pertaining to pace in particular. As well, there were occasions when the rich language was lost to rushing, as if the actors themselves were aware of this.

These things aside, it remains a strong production and one I recommend seeing.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Mixtape - Theatre 3 @ Winnipeg Fringe Venue #9

Mixtape is a series of  stories told through clown and physical work, ranging from silly stories of watering a plan, to clownish circus acts. R.G. Chesterson is captivating with his highly detailed and specific physical work; his smallest movement evoking emotion from the audience. He plays on the audience through clever participation activity, and truly engages. Some highly enjoyable de-familiarization of objects occurs, including dancing robot heads for some clever puppetry.

Unfortunately his partner is not as deft a physical performer, and lacks the polish that Chesterson offers. The result is that her solo scenes drag somewhat, and diffuse the energy of the performance.

Overall this is an enjoyable piece. Personally, I would love to see Chesterson either working on his own, or perhaps with a different partner.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Taking Things Apart

I had the unique opportunity yesterday to be in the audience for a filming of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's acclaimed Moulin Rouge, choreographed by Jordan Morris. The project will be  broadcast to cineplex theatres around the world, and is a really monumental occasion for the nearly 75 year old company, home to many brilliant dancers.

What was really exciting for me was the process; having trained in dance myself, I am most engaged with the work of the dancer, and the effort made to make it appear effortless. Due to filming, the ballet was shot out of sequence (as it is easier to situate cameras and costumes for filming this way) which had an unusual effect. What it brought out was a reminder of the work that goes into performing a ballet of this magnitude. Occasionally while waiting for technical setup, the dancers would wait on stage, stretching or reviewing their choreography - things that always happen, but typically are hidden from the audience to maintain the illusion of perfection. As well, the movement of sets and testing of lights throughout was unintentionally performative, and highly engaging.

It was just as much an experience of dance performance as it was an experience of the structure and production of dance performance - something ballet of all modern art forms has the tendency to hide. The result was the most Brechtian dance performance you could imagine. Verfremmdungseffekt is generally the antithesis of classical ballet - whose very aim is to transport you along with the story - however in this instance the distancing, the objective observation of the behaviour, was truly possible. A moment when Zeigler pulls a pistol on the young lovers, then proceeds with a dance of seductive pas de deux with Natalie, gun still in hand, was haunting in a way it couldn't have been had we been caught up in her story. As well, the masochism of ballet rang loud and clear (perhaps ironically for a company which recently dismissed a student for appearance in a porn) with the fact that the goal of all female characters was valuation and redemption in the eyes of a male character.

I'm very excited to see the piece "Put together" as it were, in the intended order, as it will be a very different experience of the ballet.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Busy Theatrical Week Coming...

So, before I rant (in a separate post) about the de-valuation of art through commodification of it, I want to share a couple events in the coming week.

First, my project for the past few weeks has been to direct for the Manitoba Association of Playwrights Highschool Playwriting Competition (sponsored by Scirocco Drama). This annual event provides the opportunity for 5 young playwrights - often first time writers - to have their short plays developed with a dramaturg and director, and be presented on the stage at MTC Warehouse. This year I am directing a new play by Beatrice Tuano called Intoxicated. The piece delves into the impact of loss on a young life through the eyes of two characters - the boyfriend who dies in a car accident, and his girlfriend who is left behind. I've been blessed to work with three lovely actors - Eric Rae, Ruth Rietze, and Kaeleigh Ayre. 

Tickets info here:

Performances are Thursday and Friday evenings - and audiences get to vote for their favourite play! dear friends over at Theatre Incarnate have been re-working a piece they shared in the Fringe 
Festival a couple years ago called Master Orloff and Madame Clodile's Freakshow Beautifique. Using buffon 
techniques, circus freaks, and live music, the original production was highly enjoyable, and I can't wait to see what the
re-work brings to light! 

Saturday and Sunday evening they'll be hosting workshop performances, followed by a Q&A session for further development
of the piece. Info here:

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Audience by Peter Morgan @ Geilgud Theatre (London)

Stars do their turn in the West End and Broadway all the time. Mainly, I am disinterested, however my ultimate respect for Dame Helen Mirren's craft drew me to queue for return tickets on a chilly Spring evening in London.

The play itself is a slow, pedestrian piece with little spark in the story. The production itself, for all its West End high-value budget lacks interest visually. The supporting cast are of varying quality (Though a few stand out).

Yet I was able to set every one of these mediocre aspects aside in the wake of the sheer brilliance of Helen Mirren's performance. On stage for nearly the entire length of this full length play, Mirren transforms before our very eyes (with the help of stagehands in costume) through various points in The Queen's life. Literally moving from an older Queen counseling John Major, to a young Queen in her first meeting with Churchill, and various points in between, Mirren's physical and vocal work are breathtaking. She is utterly transformed - almost shape shifting - between these, and yet with a consistently clear sense of who this woman is and what she truly wants in life. In short, Mirren is unbelievable.

Ultimately this is not a script which will stand the test of time, nor do I expect any actor - regardless of skill - to be able to step in and make this even moderately interesting.

Narrative by Anthony Neilsen @ Royal Court (London)

This concept had such potential. Aiming to follow in the footsteps of Beckett and Ionesco, Neilsen presents a script which departs from traditional concepts of narrative with a forward trajectory, instead giving us multiple scenes, none of which propose to have an end point. Unfortunately, in my estimation he falls short. The characters and scenes do not escape a forward trajectory; actions and consequences do still have cause and effect, and by the end there is a sense of completion (albeit shaky). The path to this point is frustratingly peppered with absurd concepts; people growing horns, communicating with the dead via skype, trying to take photos of their arseholes. 

Whereas there was potential for this to say something about our inability to connect, instead it showed frustratingly selfish people, most of whom I couldn't be bothered with. 

This isn't to say it didn't have high points; a few of the scenes were strongly written and performed. The lighting design was stunning. It is just the script itself; purporting to be about nothing, but telling us that so often that it did, in fact, gain meaning. 

Friday, 26 April 2013

My Perfect Mind @ Young Vic Theatre (London)

I happened to chance a return ticket on this sold out extended run, and was immensely grateful. The play's concept has the potential to become a monument to celebrity, focussed around Edward Petherbridge's real life experience of having a stroke whilst preparing to play Lear. This brilliant two hander, however, steers well clear of this. Instead, it offers a funny, touching look at the life of a performer and a life spent pretending to be someone else. Staged on a cleverly designed open space, in which we see all of the workings, objects morph to differing purpose, and the room takes on many locales with ease. The characters, too, move smoothly from one moment in time to another - this almost spastic understanding of time clearly reflecting the concepts of identity and memory being put forth in the script.

Brilliantly written. Brilliantly staged. Brilliantly performed.

There is a moment when Petherbridge stops the action and says "this isn't hte kind of Lear I wanted to be in". We are grateful that it was.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Oedipus Stadt @ Deutsches Theater, Berlin

This new translation which premiered with the Deutsches Theater (Berlin) in August 2012 takes the many plays comprising the Oedipus myth and combines them; we begin with Oedipus Rex, are thrust into Seven Against Thebes after his blinding, see a sprinkling of The Phonecian Women (and I am quite certain Oedipus at Kolonus, though my very dodgy German may betray me) and finally we fall into Antigone. All of this happens in just a couple short hours. The result of combining the pieces of the myth from their respective longer plays into shorter bits is that the hubris of this family, their fatal flaw, is crystal clear. Each of the characters dives into power, willful to set things "right", and each of them learns of their terrible error and the pain it causes. 

First, the staging - within a traditional theatre space, the stage has been morphed into a white bowl, with stark and visible lighting, within which rests a large unfinished wooden curve extending from the front row of the audience up the back wall. The actors enter and exit down log runways on either side of the curve stage, echoing their footsteps in loud shoes. Every movement within this space was highly specified, self-aware and yet highly emotionally connected. It is as if the concept of verfremmdungseffekt is as inherent as breathing for these performers. There were countless visual moments which caught me in the pit of my stomach, but none more so than the moment toward the end of Seven Against Thebes/beginning of Antigone in which the characters (at varying times and sometimes together) ran up the curve, then slid down, countless times, exhausting themselves yet continuing to push on in futility. The simplicity of the direction was outstanding.  

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the brilliant Susanne Wolff. The usher we spoke with in advance of the show advised that she has built a career on playing men, and in this instance was the most powerful Kreon I could have imagined. Strong and wilful, she played such an understated fiery soul, peppered with beautiful physical work. I could not take my eyes from her, and as the piece progressed into Antigone, when she assumed a key role, this feeling grew. There was a moment when Menoikus was arguing, and physically got right up into her face. A lesser performer would have done something, even minute, to indicate their displeasure. Wolff did absolutely nothing, with chilling effect. In short, she was unbelievable. 

I am extremely grateful to have happened upon this in my short time in Berlin; it has excited me to consider returning to my own grapple with the Greeks, and Antigone specifically, No More Prayers. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Wine & Words - Fundraiser for Theatre By The River

So, there is this snappy little theatre company in Winnipeg called Theatre By The River. It was formed by some awesome folks whom I was in undergrad with at the brilliant University of Winnipeg Theatre Department (seemingly ages ago...).

They are having a fundraiser! For only $20 you can have wine and listen to actors read brand new play excerpts. This year, I am honoured to be one of the writers whose work is featured in this year's event, as a piece of my new play in development Trying will be read.

Please come out if you can to support art, local theatre, and wine.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Live Experience, Recorded Medium

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to the experience of recorded media within a live theatrical performance. How does our interaction with the recorded media shape and colour our experience of the live performance in front of us? I'm sure everyone has been in an audience when a poorly mastered sound cue took them "out" of the world of the play, reminding them of the reality of their situation seated and observing a real and live, truthful fiction. In such instances, the recorded medium which is intended to add "reality" to the scene serves exactly the opposite purpose reminding the audience of the falsity of the performance, the pretense and conventions, the audience's choice to "buy in".

Of course, there are times when particularly well-designed sound can add significantly to the experience. Most notably in my memory was the sound design for Rupert Goold's Decade (Headlong, London UK, 2011) wherein beautifully spaced siren sounds across multiple speakers in the space created an effect of ambulances surrounding the building, heigtening the potential as an audience member to be coerced in to the world of the play. These instances add colour to the theatrical experience, and for audiences seeking something like the "reality" of movies and television, offer a shade of this.

Other art forms use recording; dance, most obviously, but also music. The work of Steve Reich has for years dabbled in the inclusion of recorded media within live performance; in the case of Reich's work, he pushes at the edge of our understanding of live performance. The recording is being played live, and also manipulated (at times by Reich himself) so what makes this any less live? Going further, modern DJ culture, even when sold as a "live" performance is still at its core a living performance of recorded media. The sounds pre-exist, unlike the cellist or drummer who creates the sound live, pushing it into the ether in that very moment. But is one necessarily better than the other? The DJ is still manipulating that recorded sound in a way that is unlike any previous manipulation; the risk factors at play mean that like the violinist who could play a squeaky note, the DJ could not mix the sounds together in a pleasurable way, could not match the beats together, etc.

All of this thought leads me to my current project; alongside my husband (DJ and Producer John Norman) I will be creating a piece of audio theatre which will correspond with a live DJ performance of his. Each of us will be working with our sounds, the materials pre-recorded. Then, the audience will be invited to experience them live from their recorded state. Furthering the experiment, we will question what occurs when the two live experiences of recorded media are experienced together; audience members will be able to listen to the play in their personal mobile devices with headphones, while around them hearing the DJ set. Our key questions are: how do these two experiences function independently, and in tandem with one another? Is there a new sort of experience this opens up to the audience members? Is either performance impacted by the correlation with the other?

More on the project soon....keep some time open in mid-August to come check it out.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Ride The Cyclone - Atomic Vaudeville @ MTC Warehouse

Any musical whose premise is that of dead children in an amusement park immediately sparks my interest. Morbid, I know, but a fact nonetheless. Atomic Vaudeville's production, now in its third incarnation and seeing interest from increasingly big name producers, lived up to its reputation for a wild, slightly silly, and ultimately touching ride.

Lets start with the good; again, the premise is joyfully dark, with six children in purgatory after dying in an amusement park accident in the town of Uranium, SK, led through a game to determine who will return to life by a puppet fairground game with a very creepy voice. Each child gets their opportunity to be showcased, singing a song about themselves, their hopes, their dreams, all the while making their case for being returned to life. The songs are of varying strength; the songs of Noel Gruber and Jane Doe are outstanding, while some others such as that for Ricky Potts seem to come from far left field, adding layers to the character that don't seem to be consistent with what we see from him in the bits of the show beforehand. The monologue given to Constance is very strong, but the subsequent song is only mediocre. Similarly, the choreography has its peaks and valleys; some songs are extremely clever, while others have a very unrefined feel, as though the choreography may have been strung together.

None of this, of course, takes away from the overall feel, which is like a firecracker. The cast are all very strong performers, with beautiful physical work carried through the show and its conventions. Most notable is Sarah Jane Pelzer as Jane Doe, who consistently has a dead look in her eyes, yet fully pulls the audience to her through engagement and physicality.

I'm told that some of the conventions were new for this tour of the show as it is undergoing development on its way to bigger and brighter stages. For me, the story could still use some work, but there is certainly a gem beneath this that deserves to be polished into recognition.

Monday, 4 March 2013

This Is War by Hannah Moscovitch @ Prairie Theatre Exchange

Toronto playwright Hannah Moscovitch's new work, This Is War, explores a seemingly regular operation of a group of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and the resulting inquiry. Moscovitch plays with time and place, splicing back and forth from the inquiry (in the present) to the actual events and memories of it (in the past), showing us the same scene but from multiple characters' lead in. This flipping of perspective, triangulating at the truth, is mirrored in the set design with its angles and low ceiling which stretches out over the audience.

This has a unique effect, challenging us in the audience to look past the surface response for what lies beneath in the fog of war. Reflecting, I do wish this had gone a little further; what if the truth we see from each perspective differs slightly? What more does this tell us about memory and trauma?

That aside, the production itself wasn't as strong as I'd have liked it to be. The performances were adequate, however none of the performers really shone. Nearly all felt stiff in their roles although the physical work by Ian Lake as Private Jonny Henderson is notable, shifting effortlessly between his able bodied past and his injured present.

On the whole, I wanted the piece to deal with the characters in a more balanced way; it came off as Tanya's story, whereas it should have been all of their story, their collective memory which pieces together a semblance of the truth. It wasn't quite muddy enough to truly evoke the feelings of confusion relating to such a moment in time.

Despite all this, I do feel it is worth seeing, even if only as a sparking point for further thought on the issue, the white elephant in every living room in Canada that is rarely discussed; our soldiers and their role in a war where Canada's role is questionable at best.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Janet Cardiff - Forty Part Motet @ WAG (to 28 April 2013)

You can hear the voices from the next room in the gallery, and are drawn in by the sound. Normally an avid reader of the gallery cards explaining the piece and its creator, I pushed past this, around the corner to the darkened room. A perimeter of speakers in an oval shape greeted me, with a group of benches in the centre. People sat, eyes closed, absorbing the sound, or moved through the space. My 8 year old daughter wanted to explore, so we circled the room, sometimes following the sound, and sometimes felt we were causing the sound to occur.

What was really remarkable was precisely what Cardiff desired the experience to be, the sensation of climbing inside sound. I've sung in a circle before, and even listened in a circle to others singing, however the sensation caused here felt different somehow. Perhaps it was just that - the sensory deprivation of a darkened room with no other objects, no colours. Looking at photographs, there have been versions of this in beautifully ornate churches, or more livened rooms, which I'm sure created another slightly unique experience.

I strongly recommend taking this in - the piece will be at the WAG until 28 April under regular admission.

For more info, check here:,exhibition/125/janet-cardiff-forty-part-motet

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Follies - Dry Cold Productions for SondheimFest 2013

Apologies, as this post is late-coming.

Dry Cold have made their name in Winnipeg for producing challenging and mature musical theatre (Read: mainly Sondheim) so when the festival was announced it was no surprise that they would opt to mount yet another production of his work. This time, the selection was for Follies - Sondheim's postcard to the glory days of New York Theatre. The show itself is not, in my opinion, Sondheim's strongest work. The piece comes through as a revue, mimicing the type of show a true follies would have been, however at the same time aims to give storyline, showing what occurs when two couples are back together with one another once again, and interested in the wrong partner. The music in Follies is memorable and challenging. Despite the play itself lacking in drive, the songs serve their purpose well. Significant pieces include Broadway Baby and Losing my Mind.

Dry Cold have assembled in this cast some of the serious heavy-hitters in Winnipeg's musical theatre elite. Donna Fletcher, Brenda Gorlick, and Carson Nattras sparkle, demonstrating their ability to commit serious emotion within a song. Patricia Hunter's cheeky rendition of Broadway Baby is the kind of "selling a song" that I only wish more performers were capable of. However unfortunately the strength of the production falls on the acting chops of the cast, and as a whole, becomes stilted. The feeing of cohesiveness one expects from a full length production is missing. Additionally, the pieces of the 2nd act which function as fantasy for the 4 lead characters were tough to distinguish from the style of the rest of the production, so this more clever piece of Sondheim's writing was lost.

Overall it was a master class in performance from some, but as a full production did not hang together the way I would want it to.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Steve Reich's Chamber Music - at WSO New Music Festival (Winnipeg)

Steve Reich is a name unknown to many, however his influence is heard in the music many of us listen to day to day. Considered to be a "father" of the minimalist movement in music, Reich's work has served as inspiration for countless numbers of the contemporary indie and dance music creators. He is, without exaggeration, one of the most exciting artists living and practicing today.

31 January the WSO New Music Festival featured 4 of his chamber pieces in concert, as part of their feature of Reich for this year's festival.

Opening with a performance of his piece, Clapping Music, the evening began with excitement. The piece, written for rhythms created only by 4 sets of hands, hearkens to folk music traditions such as flamenco or african drumming. As the rhythms depart from one another to syncopation, then intertwine seamlessly, the phasing of the same instrument making the same sound is almost trance-inducing.

Next, a quartet of string musicians from the WSO performed Reich's moving Different Trains. Reich is one of (if not the) first to begin experimenting with recorded sound and live sound in a musical setting, allowing the two to converse. Different trains begins with recorded sounds of America Before the War - train destinations, and a rhythmic chugging created when the recorded and live violins work together. Seamlessly, though, the trains and voice overs grow ominous, and the recordings are no longer happy destinations, but statements of fear. My 8 year old daughter attended the concert with me, and was moved to tears over the feelings of uneasiness induced by the second movement. The third movement's sounds reflect what we heard in the first, but our experience of them differs after having heard the second movement and its danger. Reich spoke in the subsequent Q & A about the desire to have rhythms change out of nowhere, and thus the role of the recorded strings. Their impact elicits a strange feeling of the impetus for change existing outside our own control, in my mind.

Next came New York Counterpoint, a clever and cheeky clarinet piece which counterpoints against several recorded saxaphones. Again here, the impact of phasing, the live mix of recorded and live sound causes an uncanny sensation of confusion in the ear, which is very satisfying.

Finally, In Tandem, which paired Reich's Double Sextet with choreography from Peter Quanz and outstanding dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. With the musicians on stage, surrounding the dancers, the 3 movements of the piece truly felt like an experience of the dance and music working together. Both could exist independently, however experiencing them together brought forward a heightened experience of the two. (more on this idea from me later...things are brewing). Quanz' choreography with its broken shapes and complex detail fit impeccably with Reich's music. To be honest, I have trouble finding sufficient vocabulary to express how outstanding this piece truly was.

Some more thoughts on the performance here: Winnipeg Free Press - Review

And a bit more about Different Trains here: CBC Scene - Different Trains

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A non-review

Well...I was in Chicago earlier this week, and had hoped to see the Steppenwolf theatre production of Pinter's The Birthday Party. Sadly, United Airlines had other ideas. So rather than getting to see what I hoped would be a solid production of a fabulous play, I got to spend 5 hours in airport limbo, then 4 hours in a car, then 3 hours of actual airport check in and travel.


I've also managed to see 0 Sondheimfest plays. You should go see things and tell me about them!

I'm hoping I'll get to Steve Reich's Chamber Music at the WSO New Music Festival tomorrow though. It isn't often that such an amazing opportunity to expose my young one to minimalism presents itself.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Day After

Months of writing, then rehearsing, and finally over. The first run of my new play, Dear Mama, has come to an end.

It has been an absolutely fabulous, terrifying, exhilirating and rewarding experience. I knew going in that it would be risky to create a piece of theatre so close to myself. On top of that, opting to perform it myself placed me in a position even more vulnerable as an artist. Any failure really could be pinned to me. How thrilling!

What has been truly amazing is the response the little show has received. Each performance was followed by a talkback, each of which had its own flavour and was filled with thought provoking discussion. What can we do for little girls to help avoid them becoming hyper-sexualized? What is it that drives parents to push their children to perform? And is it possible for your child's skill to be developed and nurtured in a way that pushes them, but still lets them be a child? Just some of the amazing points of debate that arose.

What has been even beyond my wildest expectations has been the way the piece is continuing to resonate with people days after the fact. CBC reviewer Joff Schmidt offered his praise ( ) and many other audience members have written me or blogged about the show and how it has them thinking. It is extremely humbling to know that at least some bit of what I'd hoped to achieve artistically - pushing audiences out of their comfort zone, and forcing them to think - has succeeded. 

None of this would have been possible without the support of our creative team - Megan Andres, my fabulous director and dramaturg, along with Leah Borchert and John Norman.

Below are some production photos by Leif Norman taken at the dress rehearsal for the original production. More are available here:

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Press Releases...

It is a very strange phenomenon to write a press release for a show you have written, produced, and are performing in. I've certainly written my fair share of press releases, but somehow this was different. I'm simultaneously thrilled and terrified to be putting myself out there as an artist. Our RADA tutors provided excellent advice on this subject in our final days of the MA, and I'm aiming to live by it. You aren't really an artist if you aren't regularly putting yourself out there and laying it on the line.

Well, since i've just successfully blogged about a press it is. Come see my show!

ps. thanks to miss Pamela Roz for her help with the press release :)


Dear Mama, Impel Theatre's new one-act play, will premiere as part of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's SondheimFest in Winnipeg. The show, which was created by the exciting young company for the festival, marks Impel Theatre's first production in their hometown with writer Kendra Jones playing the lead role of Ruby.
Dear Mama is a work which pays homage to the classic stage mother in Gypsywhile making reference to contemporary child performers. Also inspired by Sondheim's lyrics in Gypsy, this new piece delves into the mind and body of a girl obsessed with fame, beauty and attention teaching that words have the power to build you up or tear you down.
"Not everyone is capable of being loved, RubyThey are too selfish. They aren't willing to give themselves to the people who want to love them," reads a line from the show. "Beautiful. I'm beautiful. Look, Mama, I'm beautiful. Mama will be proud.
Kendra Jones has performed, devised, directed and choreographed work with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's Master Playwright Festival, Prairie Theatre Exchange Carol Shields Festival, Sarasvati FemFest, Theatre Incarnate, Winnipeg Fringe, and more. She has performed in the hit You Me Bum Bum Train in London's West End (2012) and directed/devised work at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as well as for King's College, London. Dear Mama is Kendra's first play in production.
The process of researching this piece has been very rewarding" says Jones. "I look forward to sharing the piece with audiences, and also the talkback sessions following each performance. I'm excited to see what sorts of discussions are sparked by the play."
Tickets can be reserved now by emailing kendra[at] or by phone at 204.475.8747. Note that capacity for each performance is limited to 35. The production is suitable for ages 15 years +.
The production is directed by Megan Andres, design and dramaturgy by Megan Andres, movement by Kendra Jones, stage management by Leah Borchert and sound by John Norman.  
Public information
Dates: ​​​​​January 17th  – January 20th 
Address:​​​​ Studio 320, 70 Albert Street
Ticket prices: $10 or SondheimPass
Twitter:​​​​ impeltheatre

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Dear Mama - 17-20 January

Can I just say how strange it is to move from the academic world back to a world where you need to promote your show?

Anyway, please see below for details. Come to the show!

Impel Theatre proudly present Dear Mama, a new one-act play in response to Sondheim, Gypsy, lost childhood, and stage mothers around the world.

"Not everyone is capable of being loved, Ruby. They are too selfish. They aren't willing to give themselves to the people who want to love them."

Inspired by Sondheim's lyrics in Gypsy, this new piece delves into the mind and body of a girl obsessed with fame, beauty and attention. Words have the power to build you up or tear you down. "Beautiful. I'm beautiful. Look, Mama, I'm beautiful." Mama will be proud.

No wheelchair access | Capacity 35 | 40 mins
Warning: Language, mature themes

Each performance will be followed by a 30-minute Q & A session with the creative team.

Written and Performed by Kendra Jones
Direction and Dramaturgy by Megan Andres
Stage Managed by Leah Borchert

Thursday 17 January - 8:00pm
Friday 18 January - 8:00pm
Saturday 19 January - 8:00pm
Sunday 20 January - 2:00pm

This production is part of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's SondheimFest - 2013 Master Playwright Festival

**To Reserve Tickets**


call: 204.475.8747

Note that seating is limited to 35 per performance.