A “puzzle box”: Broken Toys Theatre plays with Pinter’s Betrayal

Cody Porter, Elena Porter, Chris W. Cook in Betrayal. Photo by Ryan Parker.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“Just like old times,” says one character to another in the first scene of Betrayal. Funny how four simple words can evoke a whole world of memory and feeling. But then, this is Harold Pinter, the master of the unsaid, the pregnant pause, the space between the lines.

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Since Pinter’s chronicle of an affair, now over, between two married lovers, happens in reverse chronology, we’re at the end. And in the course of it we’ll backtrack a decade through an intricate nexus of betrayals of marriage and friendship, to the beginning. The 1978 masterwork by the playwright who famously said “I can sum up none of my plays” opens this week in Edmonton, amazingly for the first time. The production, directed by Clinton Carew, is the work of the small but mighty indie company Broken Toy Theatre. 

Silences speak in Pinter. Forget the staccato urgency of TV-like theatre. “If you’re not having people wait (meaningfully) between lines on a semi-regular basis, you’re not doing it right,” grins actor/ director/ playwright/ musician Carew of the 90-minute play widely regarded as one of Pinter’s most accessible. “In North America, now more than ever, people like to have their entertainment compressed…. We’re going to tell this story and we’re not hurrying up to do it.”

Elena Porter, the other half of Broken Toys — she plays Emma, whose lover (Chris W. Cook) is her husband Robert’s (Cody Porter) best friend — echoes the thought. “The words are so precise, so clear, so specific. And when there are no words, it’s just as precise and specific.”

For Carew and Porter, husband and wife in real life, this isn’t a first encounter with the intricacies of Betrayal. Three years ago they played the husband and wife in a U of A production, directed by Suzie Martin. Porter thinks they understand the play in a new way now.

What’s been happening, and in quantity, is … life. It’s gotten exponentially more complicated. And, therefore, so has producing theatre. “In the three years since, we’ve had a child (Penelope is a backstage veteran, at three). My mother died. We’ve looked after my father … everything, the experience, that has happened in our own lives ,” she says. “We’re not the same people we were….”

It’s been three years of improvising creatively in real life to make theatre, have a theatre company, figure out babysitting and daycare. Ah, and run a small business: Heights Residential employs a roster of actors and musicians, who wash household windows, clean windows, install Christmas lights.

“There is no rational way to do theatre as a blue-collar family,” shrugs Carew, who’s directing a Broken Toys production of a new Trina Davies play The Trophy Hunt this summer at the Fringe, one of five different premieres of that play across the country’s festival circuit. “Since theatre is such a big part of our lives, it’s important that Penelope be a part of that.”

It’s pressurized life, to understate the case. And the scheduling challenges are enhanced when one of the pair accepts a gig. Recently, Porter, a musical theatre triple-threat Edmonton audiences have seen in Plain Jane musicals, starred  (opposite Jake Tkaczyk) in Shadow Theatre’s production of Lungs. And it was on a scant week’s notice with the departure of the original cast. “You say Yes, and then figure out how,” she grins.

Inevitably, their sense of Betrayal, a play that unspools over 10 years has evolved: “people change, they have children, jobs change, relationships change,” says Carew. “It’s not just one character arc. It’s a decade of life.”

“Are (the characters) older and … wiser? or more hardened?” Porter muses. In the end, which is the beginning, “you see them on the cliff, at the instigating moment.” The play’s distinctive reverse chronology structure affords “the ability to look back and know where started and where you ended, to re-evaluate the moments when choices were made, and things could have been different.”

“For Pinter the future is a prison, and the present, in any moment, is infinite possibility,” says Carew. The “weird structure” of Betrayal means that actors have to “live the moment…. If actors are thinking about how one moment attaches to another, they’re not doing that.” 

The illusion of spontaneity that’s at the heart of the mystery of acting isn’t optional when time runs backwards. Porter finds a parallel in the out-of-sequence way film and TV gets shot.

“The smallest professional theatre company in Edmonton,” as Carew cheerfully describes Broken Toys, has a surprising attraction to the large. True, the company debut was a 2013 production of a two-hander “play with songs” (Midsummer, a musical romantic comedy of Scottish provenance in which Carew and Porter played strangers on an epic bender in Edinburgh). Their second outing, though, was Chekhov, Carew’s original translation of Three Sisters.

Star Killing Machine, a Broken Toys Theatre musical by Clinton Carew and Kris Schindell. Photo by Ryan Parker.

And after that, Broken Toys premiered a new 10-performer musical comedy by Carew and Kris Schindell about the end of the world, Star Killing Machine (scientists at a research facility working to develop a machine that will destroy the world). Carew argues persuasively that it makes sense for Broken Toys to combine the masters, Chekhov and Pinter and the rest, with original pieces. “If you didn’t, it’d be like building a building and never apprenticing with an architect or a sub-contractor. For me there’s a straight line between the Chekhov and Star Killing Machine.”

Outside the Fringe, Pinter is rarely seen on Edmonton mainstages (the Citadel hasn’t done any Pinter for decades). Broken Toys is partly motivated by that. Betrayal is “a different kind of challenge than I thought it would be,” says Carew of a play that is “less oblique,” more rooted in realism, than Pinter’s earlier work, The Caretaker, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter and the rest. For one thing, it was inspired by Pinter’s own life, his clandestine seven-year affair with BBC TV presenter Joan Bakewell (as he confirmed to biographer Michael Billington). 

“It’s more of a puzzle box than I thought,” says Carew of Betrayal. “There are so many things that make sense once you discover something three or four layers deep. But if you don’t go that far …. ‘Aren’t you interested in discovering clues?’ one character says to another. I think of that as a little shout-out to the director of the play.”

“You look at the script, the actual words, pauses and beats. And you try to discover what there is to discover,” he says. “There’s an ellipsis in Act I that completely changed my view of one of the characters.”

“It’s clever as hell. Almost irritatingly clever. It’s SO on the nose.”

PREVIEW

Betrayal

Theatre: Broken Toys Theatre

Written by: Harold Pinter

Directed by: Clinton Carew

Starring: Elena Porter, Chris W. Cook, Cody Porter, Jake Tkaczyk

Where: Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: Thursday through June 2

Tickets: 780-409-1910, fringetheatre.ca

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Can’t fight this feeling: Rock of Ages is onstage at the Mayfield next season

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

As the life-coach sages commonly known as Journey have taught us, don’t stop believin’. The Mayfield’s Van Wilmott didn’t.

For months, he’s been working on getting the rights for Rock of Ages, the unrepentantly good-time hair metal jukebox musical spun from danceable ‘80s nostalgia. And he’s succeeded. Next season Rock of Ages, which became Broadway’s guilty pleasure in 2009, plays the Mayfield Dinner Theatre (April 7 to June 7), to revel in the (loud) give-‘er repertoire of the tress-tossing MTV thrasher era — Twisted Sister, Nightranger, Quarterflash, Whitesnake, Poison and the rest.

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These are the hits you know you know even if the name Quarterflash doesn’t quite ring a bell. Can’t fight this feeling, as those poets of the American songbook REO Speedwagon have it.

There is a story — heck, there’s even a subplot via a story that is shamelessly silly (and wouldn’t mind anyone saying so). An air of affectionate self-mockery hangs over the whole enterprise, along with a serious arsenal of hair products. Kate Ryan, who has brought such Mayfield productions as Jesus Christ Superstar, All Shook Up, and Canada 151 to the stage, directs. The whiz-kid video designer T. Erin Gruber (you can see her work in Sister Act, currently running) evokes the dive-bars of L.A. And Leona Brausen, an expert in retro, teases  the coiffures and appoints the Spandex butts.

The upcoming season opens (Sept. 3 to Oct. 27) with another rockin’ jukebox musical with a chart-busting song list. Million Dollar Quartet, last seen here in a 2016 Citadel production, starts from the real-life inspiration of an impromptu jam session in a Memphis recording studio. The young Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis show up. And the hits roll out.

Casting is tricky, as Wilmott points out. “The characters are the band.” The hardest of all to find is the right Jerry Lee Lewis. “I’m working on it,” he says cheerfully. He’ll direct the Mayfield production.

The Yule season show (Nov. 5 to Jan. 26), often the Mayfield’s best-seller and almost always compiled and written by the mysterious Will Marks, is Class of ’63: A Rockin’ Reunion. “The characters are in 1988, at a reunion and re-living their glory days in the ’60s,” says Wilmott of the new creation whose song list is culled from 1960-63, and the rise of girl groups.

Here’s a stand-out from a season heavily weighted to the jukebox musical: The most deluxe of all contemporary farces comes to the Mayfield stage Feb. 4 to March 29. Michael Frayn’s 1982 Noises Off, which takes the door-slammer form to a level of complication unsurpassed in modern theatre, intertwines two sex farces, one onstage and one backstage, which collide disastrously on a backwater tour. Jeremy Webb, artistic director of the Neptune Theatre, directs a cast of nine (yet to be announced) who will propel through eight doors, and possibly a window.

The summer musical of 2020 (June 16 to Aug. 2, 2020) is Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, with its canon of Holly hits (owner: Paul McCartney). It’s packed the joint twice before, in 2010 and 2012. Director and cast for the upcoming production are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, this season continues. Sister Act gets “sanctifunkadelic”through June 9 (see the 12thnight.ca REVIEW here). After that (June 18 to Aug. 4) it’s Tony Award-winning Sleuth, Anthony Shaffer’s intricately plotted 1970 cat-and-mouse comic thriller, directed by Marti Maraden and starring Michael Hanrahan and Tyrone Savage.

Tickets and subscriptions: 780-483-4051, mayfieldtheatre.ca.

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Peter Oldring is funnier than you: star comedian joins Grindstone’s new comedy fest

Peter Oldring. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

If you got incensed the day your ear was caught by an item on CBC Radio One that the province of Nova Scotia had cancelled Grade 4, you’re not alone. (And you already know something about the way Peter Oldring’s mind works).

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“I can’t believe it! That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard!” declared one irate listener on the CBC talk-back phone line. “An outrage!” said another, his verbal exclamation point quivering in the air.

The next item, about a roaming walrus discovered on the prairies who’d perambulated some 400 km on the Yellowhead Highway, seemed to put it all in perspective. You, my CBC-listening friend, had just been had by This Is That. Season after season the comedy dreamed up by Oldring (and his creative partner Pat Kelly) rather unerringly nailed the dry and earnest gravitas of interview shows on Canada’s venerable public broadcaster.

Oldring, who arrives in Edmonton tonight to be part of the Grindstone Comedy Theatre’s first-ever comedy festival — along with such comedy stars as Mike Delamont, Rebecca Kohler, Graham Clark and Edmonton’s Caution: May Contain Nuts —  remains impressed by the game willingness of the CBC to support comedy that satirizes public radio, and that “earnest deadpan tone you grew up with listening to.”

“Our idea,” he says of This And That, which ended its nine-season run last year, “was to apply that tone to absolutely outrageous, ridiculous stories and documentaries, interviews, crazy characters.. We were given a very long leash creatively, a great deal of freedom to run with it…”

A puckish and cheerful voice on the phone from his L.A. home earlier this week, the award-winning actor/ comedian chats about his comic muse. And he reflects on the route, full of “well, that sounds like fun” left turns, that’s taken him from small-town Alberta through theatre school and into a cross-border career that includes sketch and improv comedy, and roles of every description in video games, movies, and TV. There’s a fair patch of comic real estate between Corner Gas to House of Cards

“Edmonton, yes!, suspiciously close to where I was born,” says Oldring. Though he left Drayton Valley at age two — “to move to the hustling and bustling metropolis of Castor, AB, think Stettler, go east, think smaller” — he made his mark. “I got a silver spoon as the heaviest baby born in the month of September.”

It was an insightful drama teacher at Sir Winston Churchill High in Calgary who pointed the young Oldring towards Loose Moose, the Calgary improv stronghold. “And that was that,” he says of his teenage self. “Improv, characters, characters, comedy … it was everything I was interested in!” A performer was born in that comedic cauldron. By university Oldring and his buddies — including Kelly — were doing seven improv shows a week, six at comedy clubs, and Sunday night at Loose Moose.

It didn’t leave much time for, well, studying. “But I was a sociology major, and that’s all multiple choice,” he explains. Next came the National Theatre School in Montreal (“I loved it!”). His first two years after graduation were non-stop roles at the country’s regional theatres.

It was “time to get my couch out of storage and sit on it. So I moved to Toronto.” Oldring’s story, as he tells it, owes more to free-association than segués. Toronto was film, TV … ah, and The Second City. Oldring and a cluster of other alumnae from both sides of the border were flown to L.A. to open a Second City locale there, in a back alley off Melrose Avenue. And “I started to get sketch comedy work,” he says of a career chapter that included Blue Collar TV and spin-offs.

And as he explains genially, that circuitous route, primed by cues from teachers, mentors, comedy friends and connections, is how he “packed up two bags and moved in with his now-wife (American actor Sara Erikson) in L.A. “Growing up in Calgary I always knew I wanted to pursue comedy. Always. But I had no real plan about it; I followed the path that began to emerge….”

There’s a certain life improv quality to all this, as he concedes, laughing. “The same improv principles: Listen. Say Yes. And see what develops!”

In both sketch and improv comedy, the creation of scenes is a multi-limbed task, as Oldring points out. “You’re creating a story, a narrative, characters, scenes. You’re writing, acting, directing — wearing all those hats. And I quickly learned that you don’t need to wait for permission to create things.”

He and Kelly started “wouldn’t it be funny if…?” brainstorming. The fake breakfast television show Good Morning World, with its “two bronzed TV hosts in bad-fitting suits,” started on the internet and got picked up by a comedy network. Then came This Is That, the radio show that made CBC execs laugh and perplexed them, in roughly equal measure. “What exactly are we making fun of here, people who read?”

It was “an incredible playground,” he says. “The CBC covers every conceivable range of voice, from the small-town artisanal cheese maker in northern Ontario to the real-estate shark in Vancouver…. As comedians we could have fun with that. We can tell any story, the craziest characters to the long-wondered navel-gazing arts interview….”

“Pat and I aren’t particularly political or driven by headline news,” he says of their shared comic sensibility. “It’s more social and cultural satire, and how we present (those) in media.… When you present in a dry straight way, it’s leaves some responsibility with audiences to (figure out) is this something real or insane.”

Lately the nature of satire and the role of the satirist have, in so many ways, been co-opted by reality. Oldring says “It’s an interesting time for us…. In the last three or four years, the idea of ‘fake news’ has a completely different connotation, with dangerous repercussions. We’ve pulled back; we’ve been a little less hush-hush about this being a comedy show. We’re not trying to fool people.”

“What changed is the media landscape,” Oldring thinks. “There is some value in putting the onus on ourselves as listeners to do a little due diligence.”

The pair has gravitated to podcast space. Dexter Guff Is Smarter Than You stars “a self-help guru, under-qualified over-confident, who shares the tricks of the trade so you can live your very best life. Meanwhile his own life is kinda falling apart,” as Oldring describes a series crammed with entrepreneurial tips and life hacks. This Sounds Serious, about to launch a second season, as “a satirical look at true-crime podcasts.” 

Grindstone Theatre’s The 11 O’Clock Number. Photo supplied.

Oldring, an engaging sort whose conversation is peppered liberally with the word (and concept) “fun,” is taking time out from working on a third season by joining Grindstone’s award-winning The 11 O’Clock Number, a wholly improvised musical spun from audience cues, for two shows  — Thursday at 9 p.m. Friday at 11 p.m. — at the tiny, happening Strathcona club.

As you might expect from his history, Oldring seems blithely unfazed by this prospect. “I’m packing my tap shoes, bowler, cane…. Yes, I’m literally coming to Edmonton to sing for my supper. Which could go horribly horribly wrong!” he says in delight. “It’s exciting. I really don’t know what to expect!”

PREVIEW

Grindstone Comedy Festival

Where: Grindstone Comedy Theatre & Bistro, 19919 81 Ave.

Running: tonight through Sunday

Tickets (and full schedule): grindstonetheatre.ca

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A kickstart for Chekhovian ennui: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Shadow. A review.

Coralie Cairns, Davina Stewart, John Sproule, Jamie Cavanagh in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Shadow Theatre. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“Oh let’s not talk. I’ll keep my sadness to myself,” says a mopey sister to a melancholy brother near the start of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen.

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As the title suggests, the glum, bickering 50-something siblings we meet in Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winner, the season finale production at Shadow Theatre, are in a Chekhov mashup. You know, middle-aged disappointment, Russian-style ennui, under-achievement, regret, missed chances, the ineffectual pursuit of lost causes.…

So … comedy, right?

Yup. As the Shadow production demonstrates, there’s spirited fun to be had hanging with dispirited characters whose world view is bleak. And oddly enough their Chekhovian ambivalence actually accommodates Durang’s exasperated, ranting kind of absurdism (though you might not predict it), in this surprisingly mellow and strangely upbeat comedy. Or maybe it’s a question of Durang reflecting on the earlier Durang of such gleefully splenetic outbursts as Sister Mary Explains It All For You, Laughing Wild, Betty’s Summer Vacation.

Anyhow, even nostalgia is depressing in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Sonia fondly remembers dear old dad in his glory days before he lost his mind, his special endearment (“he called me his little artichoke” and he even liked artichokes!), and the heartwarming fact “he never molested me.” Vanya remembers as if it were yesterday incurring dad’s wrath, at the tender age of seven, when he didn’t know who wrote The Imaginary Invalid

Anyhow, with differing degrees of resentment and resignation, Vanya and Sonia have put their lives on indefinite hold in the family home in the Pennsylvania outback, taking care of aging, then dying, now dead, parents, profs who’d had an unfortunate affinity for community theatre.

And these days they occupy themselves arguing whether 10 cherry trees constitutes an orchard. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is peppered liberally with every sort of Chekhov allusion, should you be of a mind to savour them, as scrambled among the characters.

A beautiful, comfy, bookish sort of prof house is before us, in every detail, in Daniel Van Heyst’s outstanding design. And you’ll laugh out loud when you see Leona Brausen’s costumes, starting with Vanya’s nightshirt and Sonia’s defeated-person’s bathrobe and Crocs. Coralie Cairns and John Sproule play along the whole keyboard of sighs, accompanied by Sonia’s cadenzas of tearful Chekhovian asides: “I’m in mourning for my life,” “I haven’t lived,” “I hate my life.”

Their only companion, is a housekeeper Cassandra (Michelle Todd), much given, as per her Greek namesake, in making dire prophecies at length and top volume: “Beware … everything!” 

Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux.

The unexpected arrival of a third sibling, Masha (Davina Stewart), a glam movie star on the wane, in the company of her latest boy-toy lover Spike (Jamie Cavanagh), is a boot to the butt of this status quo. True, Masha has been off “having a life,” as Sonia fumes. On the other hand, her lucre has been footing the bills back home, and now, a little cash-strapped, she wants to sell it.

Masha, who’s an adrenalized whack-job version of the grand dame actress Arkadina from Chekhov’s The Seagull, is famous — about to be formerly-famous — for her starring role as a nymphomaniac psycho serial murderer in the hit Sexy Killer franchise. And you can see in Stewart’s go-for-the-gusto performance — all tigerish appetite and rampaging narcissism — how she might have landed the role. Cavanagh is very funny as the preening but guileless bimbo Spike, whose solution to everything is to strip, and be admired. He is genuinely oblivious to middle-aged regret.

Rachel Bowron and Davina Stewart. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux

When a beguiling neighbour, an adorable aspiring young actress named, yes, Nina (the very amusing Rachel Bowron) arrives, a further rattling of cages happens. Masha is threatened, Vanya is cajoled into a reading of his post-apocalyptic play (à la Constantin’s experimental avant-garde play in The Seagull) and it’s a corker. Oh, and did I mention the costume party next door, in which all family members and assorted hangers-on are assigned (by Masha, of course) supporting roles in Masha’s Disney version of Snow White? Sonia rises above ennui and comes into her own as the Evil Queen in Snow White as played by Maggie Smith on Oscar night, in an absurd accent.

Jamie Cavanagh, John Sproule, Davina Stewart. Photo by Marc J. Chalifoux

I find that all the comic scenes go on a little long, possibly because both play and this production try a little too hard to be funny, and seem pitched a bit high and cartoonish.  But in a comedy by one of English-language theatre’s great ranters, there is a climactic verbal explosion that’s intentionally extended.

Goaded past endurance by the blithe indifference of Spike to social civilities, like not texting during a play reading, Vanya gets his atrophied dander up. And he lets loose with an all-encompassing full-blooded attack of disaffection with everything about the rude modern world that devalues bona fide human connection — social media, video games, pop culture, cellphones, the 2-D screen world from which quality is so notably absent…. “all worthless, and we don’t even watch the same worthless things together.” Sproule plays it with a kind of rueful, tear-y emotional quality that is a long way from the ferocious blood-letting of the Durang canon.   

How this arrives at an ending that’s not only not savage but downright chipper, maybe even heartwarming, is something I’ll leave you to discover. But there it is, a domestic comedy by Durang that feels happiness is achievable.  “I’m back,” says the terrifying Masha. “My dark night of the soul was very brief.” 

REVIEW

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Theatre: Shadow

Written by: Christopher Durang

Directed by: John Hudson

Starring: John Sproule, Coralie Cairns, Davina Stewart, Jamie Cavanagh, Michelle Todd, Rachel Bowron

Where: Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave.

Running: through May 19

Tickets: 780-434-5564, shadowtheatre.org  

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A Man Draws A Bird “because he wants to fly”: theatre, music, and Taiko drumming in a new Booming Tree show

Greg Shimizu and Twilla MacLeod, A Man Draws A Bird. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

As in so many life-changers, there was a moment when it all could have been different. And that was the moment — on one of those lingering Edmonton summer evenings in 2012 — that Greg Shimizu got on his high-end carbon fibre bike to go for a spin.

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Shimizu, a seven-time Canadian national team triathlon athlete, in training for the world championships in his age group, was super-fit, pumped, adrenalized, chafing at the bit after a three-day break in Victoria where his dad was getting an honorary degree. 

His favourite route took him through Hawrelak Park and into the Legislature grounds. He liked it because it was , “treed, peaceful, green, calming.” The last thing he remembers about that ride, “a flicker of a memory really,” was riding down a hill. A van was coming up, and hung a sudden U-turn in front of him. 

The next thing he remembers was opening his eyes in the hospital. “What happened?” asked actor/musician Twilla MacLeod, his partner in life and in Booming Tree Taiko, their drumming duo. The answer was simple, and revealing. “I don’t know.”

Broken bones, cracked ribs and torn-up AC joints eventually mend;  smashed cheekbones reassemble themselves after a traumatic accident. To the naked eye and the mirror, you are your old self. But in the shadowy shifting world of brain injury into which you’re violently reborn, nothing is the same. You are only a reasonable facsimile of you, a doppelgänger not quite put together the same way. For you or your partner. As Shimizu puts it, “I was in the earthquake; Twilla was hit by the tsunami….”

Twilla MacLeod and Greg Shimizu, A Man Draws A Bird. Photo supplied.

That’s the world into which Shimizu and MacLeod take us in A Man Draws A Bird, a unique fusion of theatre, true story, music, and Taiko drumming premiering tonight at the Backstage Theatre. A show about identity — “part theatre/ part concert” as MacLeod puts it — it was developed with the material assistance of the Westbury Family Fringe Theatre Award.

“We didn’t hear the word ‘concussion’ at all,” says MacLeod of the aftermath of Shimizu’s accident seven years ago. Five hours later, Shimizu was home.

His nightmare was about to begin. “You assume your (inner) computer processor will just re-boot,” he says. “It’s like the first time you’re drunk, and you think what the hell’s the matter with me? And you assume that you’ll bounce back, like a hangover, that everything will be all right.”

What ensued was seven years of crushing fatigue, constant headaches, sleeplessness, and the sense that a self had somehow fractured and slipped away, in shards. Shimizu has been “the reverse of a vampire; night is the worst time for me,” he says. “Concussion slowly, slowly, takes things from your life…. Your work, your relationships with people, your energy, your focus, your personality.” Ah, and your memory. Who are you without your memories?

The commonplace advice to “rest,” proved counter-productive for Shimizu. “I have to make myself do things! It’s like walking on fire; you have to keep moving to distract you from pain…”

“It takes so much more energy to do things,” says the vigorous, vivid multi-tasker, one of the world’s natural extroverts. In addition to age-group triathlons and Taiko drumming, Shimizu had owned, and worked, the Whyte Avenue bar/cafe The Pour House. It was too much: He had to sell it, a further blow to his sense of self. But Booming Tree he couldn’t give up. “It gave Greg so much joy,” says MacLeod of the duo that performs at a wide variety of Edmonton events and festivals.

“I couldn’t let (concussion) take away our Taiko,” says Shimizu, an activist for brain injury causes. “It’s the glue that holds us together, connects us to each other and who we are….” Macleod nod. “It’s our craft and our identity.”

Unlike his partner (MacLeod is a U of A theatre and music grad), Shimizu isn’t a trained actor. Now, in the expanding sense of possibility that A Man Draws A Bird has galvanized, his creative energy is directed into performing in an original theatre piece spun from his own experience. Together the pair has gathered collaborators, including Newfoundland-based playwright/director Charlie Tomlinson and jazz musician Farley Scott.

MacLeod describes the score, which includes seven original songs, as a “folky, roots, old-style country” melange. Taiko drumming is there, not as part of that score but “because it’s a big part of our life,” says MacLeod of Booming Tree. “Taiko is such a big powerful voice,” she says of the challenging, highly physical Japanese art form. “And our story is mall.”

Rehearsals haven’t been without challenges, as MacLeod and Shimizu point out. If memory is problematic in the story, it remains so in real life too. And Shimizu can’t ever quite predict when his energy is going to crash.

But “in year 7 I’m SO much better,” grins Shimizu. “And this is is cathartic!” says MacLeod. “A man draws a bird because he wants to fly…. It’s not ‘woe is me’. It’s about survival, and the music is all happy!”

PREVIEW

A Man Draws A Bird

Theatre: Booming Tree and Fringe Theatre Adventures

Created by and starring: Twilla MacLeod and Greg Shimizu

Where: Backstage Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barns, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: tonight through May 11

Tickets: tickets.fringetheatre.ca

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Have you met our new friend? thoughts on Nassim at the Citadel

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

There are many things I can’t tell you about Nassim (tempting though it is).

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(a) It just wouldn’t be fair. The show created by the Iranian playwright artist Nassim Soleimanpour, who travels the world with it, is not only surprising, but it’s actually designed as a surprise — for you, and for the actor who’s in it. And (b) it wouldn’t even be revealing. At every performance, a different local actor walks out onstage in Nassim and sees the script, and its stage directions, for the first time. The old theatre truism that every show is a different experience is on the money!

Nassim. Photo supplied.

Sometimes the playwright’s instructions are flat and precise (“read whatever appears on the screen in a loud voice”). Sometimes they’re puckish and you have the fun of watching a top-flight actor put on the spot. Sometimes they’re open-ended and enigmatic; reflexes are tested and choices are called for. Nassim is playful that way, an impromptu theatrical encounter between a resourceful playwright and his audience via a game actor.

On Tuesday night, that actor was the alert, impressively dexterous Belinda Cornish who is (not coincidentally) a star improviser. She gave every indication of enjoying herself in the course of connecting with her new friend. And we got to meet the quick-witted Soleimanpour himself, in person this time, though silent, as a stage partner/stage manager/actor’s assistant. Jeff Haslam, Farren Timoteo, NASRA, Sarah Chan and John Ullyatt get their turn in Nassim in the course of the week.

In Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit, a sort of animal fable/adventure about the ripple effects of oppression which played the 2013 Canoe Festival, the actor onstage has never seen the script before he/she/they open a sealed envelope onstage. Since playwright was prevented by the regime from leaving the country, that fable had a personal and political edge: Soleimanpour had never been able to see his own play onstage in his own language, Farsi. 

Now Soleimanpour can travel (he lives in Berlin), though his plays have never been performed in his home country or language. Onstage the playwright has a certain playful charm about him. And that sweet quality fuels a play that’s all about language, and making friends across the language divide. Nassim is also about what we share — a complex wistfulness about home and what that means, the universal urge to tell stories that start with “once upon a time.”

Is Nassim a play? So much of it fractures, or winks at, the usual framing of plays you’re thinking that, no, it’s in a theatre but why not call it a theatrical experience instead? And yet it is a play: there are characters who connect, there are stories, there’s an arc. This much I can tell you: What happens will captivate you, make you smile and sometimes laugh, and in the end touch your heart. 

Nassim runs through Sunday in the Citadel’s Rice Theatre. You’ll never have seen anything quite like it. Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com.

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The Shadow knows: putting the comedy back into Chekhov, and the new season

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“If everyone took anti-depressants, Chekhov would have had nothing to write about….”

The playwright himself called it “Chekhov in a blender.” But Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by the raucous American absurdist Christopher Durang (Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Laughing Wild, For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls), is so much more. Nothing less than “Greek tragedy to Neil Simon” is the scope of the 2013 Tony Award winner that is Shadow Theatre’s final production of the season, says director (and Shadow artistic director) John Hudson.

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He’s had his eye on the comedy for a while now. But its dimensions — a cast of six and “a major set” — put it beyond the resources of the company till more recently. In three years, says Hudson, “we’re up 35 per cent,” in attendance, subscriptions, and box office revenue. And that success makes Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike feasible.  

The production reunites onstage Coralie Cairns (who’s also the company general manager) and John Sproule, who have a long Shadow history. They’ve been onstage together in Shadow shows since 1991 and Shaun Johnston’s Catching The Train,  “our first production outside the Fringe,” as Hudson says. They’ve been Shakespeare’s Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing; they’ve been George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. The list of shared Shadow curtain calls is long. 

In Durang’s comedy they play the bickering, regretful middle-aged siblings Vanya and Sonia, named for Chekhov characters by professor parents “active in community theatre.” They’ve put their  dreams on hold and stayed home at the family estate in the Pennsylvania boondocks. Meanwhile the third sibling Masha (Davina Stewart), whose movie star income funds the operation, has been “off gallivanting, having a life,” as Sonia puts it resentfully. The engine of the comedy is Masha’s return, accompanied by her latest boy-toy Spike (Jamie Cavanagh).

Hudson’s cast also includes Rachel Bowron and Michelle Todd. The production runs at the Varscona (10329 83 Ave. Thursday through May 19. Tickets: shadowtheatre.org.

In its upcoming season at the Varscona, Shadow premieres two new Canadian plays, one by an Edmonton actor/writer, the other by a Toronto-based actor-turned-writer who graduated from the U of A drama department. The latter is award-winning Nick Green. And his edgy new comedy Happy Birthday Baby J (Jan. 22 to Feb. 9), says Hudson, is all about “taking the piss out of political correctness.” A couple is celebrating the second birthday of their kid J, whom they’re are raising gender-free. Says Hudson, “you laugh out loud, and then you catch yourself: should I really be laughing?”

The Wrong People Have Money (April 29 to May 17), billed plausibly as “the funniest play ever written about moving Greenland,” is by Edmonton actor/playwright Reed McColm.  The comedy, nicely honed to a political edge, concerns a proposed capitalist venture to monetize Greenland by moving it farther south.  

Cairns co-stars with Nadien Chu in the inaugural production of Shadow’s upcoming season, directed by Nancy McAlear. The framework of The Roommate (Oct. 23 to Nov. 10), by the American writer Jen Silverman, is pure Odd Couple: two 50-ish women of widely contrasting personalities and habits — a Midwesterner and a worldly New Yorker on the rebound from her previous life — find themselves sharing a house. In Iowa.

Heisenberg (March 11 to 29) is by the English playwright Simon Stephens (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), “a rock star in our industry” as Hudson puts it. The two-hander explores the unlikely relationship between an older man and a much younger woman, strangers who meet by chance in a railway station. Hudson describes it not as a love story but “a story of human necessity…. We need human contact. We’re not meant to be alone.” The Shadow production stars Amber Borotsik and Glenn Nelson. 

Subscriptions to the 2019-2020 season are available at 780-434-5564 or shadowtheatre.org

  

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Nassim, an adventure in language and connection: meet playwright Nassim Soleimanpour

Nassim Soleimanpour in Nassim. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

The last time I talked to Nassim Soleimanpour, six years ago, the Iranian playwright was in the middle of Tehran on a cellphone that kept fading out, and I had laryngitis. There’s got to be an absurdist comedy of communication in that, just waiting to be written. 

It’s right up Soleimanpour’s alley.

His play White Rabbit Red Rabbit — which exhorts audiences to keep their cellphones on throughout, and email or text him photos —  had been seen around the world, in theatre capitals and at prestigious festivals, and translated into 25  languages. Toasted in London, New York, Toronto, it was about to open in Edmonton, at the 2013 Canoe Festival. And not only did the globally-connected Soleimanpour know where that was, he had good theatre friends here.

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Its author, though — genial, much inclined to laugh, and nothing if not cosmopolitan — had never left his home country. He’d never been allowed a passport (as a conscientious objector he hadn’t done the obligatory military service). And, although a front-row seat was always reserved for him at every performance everywhere of this play with no director, no set, and a different actor nightly who’d never seen the script until the moment onstage, that chair was always empty.

Life, like theatre, is full of surprises and dramatic changes. Six years later, Soleimanpour lives in Berlin, a city he likes “for its history, for its green spaces,” its proximity to British theatre, and for the fact that his agent is based there. He’s fresh from New York and a four-and-a-half month run of his play Nassim, doing eight shows a week. Ah, and in his non-existent spare time, writing a little American Gothic play (Down By The Creek, set in rural Arkansas) for the New York TimesT magazine, America 2024 issue.

And he’s making up for lost travel time. In November alone, Soleimanpour was in eight countries with Nassim, “running from one continent, one airport, to another” as he says.

Belinda Cornish stars in Tuesday’s performance of Nassim at the Citadel. Photo supplied.

Starting Tuesday, he’ll be in Edmonton, onstage in the Citadel’s Rice Theatre in Nassim, with a succession of intrepid different Edmonton stars at each show, who (as in White Rabbit Red Rabbit), have never before seen the script till the moment it’s fetched from a sealed box.  

“I was trying to evolve this form,” says Soleimanpour of his fascination with “cold read” theatre and its coterie of undirected unrehearsed actors who’ve never seen the script before being onstage on the night. It started with White Rabbit Red Rabbit and his own situation, grounded in Iran. Now, “with each (play) I think, OK, this is the last one; I don’t want to get trapped here. And then I find something new and I have to go back and finish my job, develop the form into something a bit more complicated.“

That was one of his starting points for Nassim, he says. “Second was the idea of language,” he says. “I’m a Farsi speaker, then I learned English since I was a kid. It’s still a struggle (Soleimanpour’s English is excellent) but I’ve been working on it for so long now. And suddenly it’s 2015 and I move to Berlin, and someone has hit the re-reset button,” he laughs. “O my god I’m 30something and I can’t even say ‘I’m hungry’. So I have to learn a new language…. When I go to German classes it brings me back to my childhood and memories of my mom telling me I shouldn’t be lazy and I should practice my English!”

“The last bit of the (Nassim) puzzle  was meeting my amazing friend Omar Elerian, the director of the show,” he says. In 2013, they found themselves at Theatretreffen, a major festival. “We made friends very quickly…. I was working on another play (Blind Hamlet, an actor-less piece on its way to the LIFT Festival in London. “Omar is London-based. And he cooks very good pasta. So we kept talking and eating pasta….”

“He asked me ‘do I want to write a play for him?’. But I said ‘you’re a director. And I write plays without directors…. Very smartly he said ‘you keep mentioning you like challenges. And here is a challenge’.”

The swirl of languages became an inspiration for Nassim. The pair shared English, but Elerian is Italian, with a Palestinian father, who learned French at theatre school and then moved to London more than a decade ago. “So we were left struggling with questions like ‘where is home?’, ‘what is my language?’. That was the combination of three corners that shaped the triangle of Nassim,” says Soleimanpour.

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. Photo supplied.

He’d written White Rabbit Red Rabbit for export only and in his English not his native Farsi, sadly knowing that his mother would never get to see or understand it. “And Nassim is the solution!” he says cheerfully. His mom, who’s visited him in Berlin a couple of times, “gets to hear some parts of the show at the end of every performance,” he says mysteriously (he wants to keep the surprises under wraps).

He does reveal, though, that in the course of performances “we laugh a lot and then we cry a lot.” Especially he says, during the bows and the hugs.

In the age of Trump’s travel ban Iranian passports aren’t exactly a recipe for quick visa negotiations.Welcome to a  nightmare tangle of applications, rejections, waivers declared eligible then refused then delayed. It took six or seven months to get a U.S. visa for Nassim in New York, “the longest process ever!” despite petitions on his behalf from Lincoln Centre and other notable American theatre organizations. In his four-and-a-half months in New York, he never did succeed in getting one for his wife, a painter who is executive director of Nassim Soleimanpour Productions.

His own visa was nail-bitingly late in coming (and involved a last-minute flight to Madrid and back in a day while he was on tour in the Far East). The visa came finally on Dec. 4. He arrived in New York from Europe on Dec. 5, the very day of dress rehearsal. “The whole team was wondering ‘will he make it?’. The first show I was totally jet-lagged.”

A buoyant sort, Soleimanpour permits himself a sigh. “Weird. Brexit! Are you kidding me? What are we doing? Going backwards?”

New York is emphatic in its demeanour vis-à-vis Trump. “Every Nassim show we ask the local audience to teach us one word in their language, a sophisticated word,” he says. “I have a notebook, and I write them down, in the hope of learning new words.” In English-speaking destinations, words like “onomatopoeia” and “serendipity” come up a lot. “But here’s a totally New York phenomenon! One word kept getting repeated, at least twice every week. And that was ‘impeachment’.”

“I’m in love with New York!” Soleimanpour declares feelingly, of the storied city and its audiences, “so loud, so nice, so emotional.” He found it “a bit crowded” at the beginning, and he missed his wife. “But in the course of 160 shows there, I made a lot of friends.” He laughs. “I got treated to a lot of breakfasts.”

Big New York stars — Nathan Lane, Brian Dennehy, Whoopi Goldberg among them — had stepped up to take the leap into the unknown with White Rabbit Red Rabbit.  With Nassim (which premiered in London at the Bush Theatre in 2017), it happened again. New York audiences saw a galaxy that included Michael Urie, Michael Shannon, Tracy Letts, Letts’ wife Carrie Coon. 

John Ullyatt stars in the May 5 performance of Nassim. Photo supplied.

“I’ve learned a lot from every single actor who’s done the show,” Soleimanpour says. He jokes “I got my M.A. in acting watching these legendary actors … how they treat the script, how they think, their choices, where they stand, where to sit, when to pause. O my god, sometimes I’m like ‘I don’t believe it that you didn’t rehearse!’ ” he laughs.

The performances of Nassim vary widely, actor by actor, he reports. “I use the metaphor of a car…. With someone licensed to drive it’s supposed to be safe; if it crashes because it isn’t then it’s my fault as the designer. But the way you drive is your choice. You can decide to listen to rock music and drive fast. Or you can enjoy silence and stop every now and again and look at the scenery. I’m physically sitting next to you as your navigator. I don’t talk but I give you liberty and freedom. Do you want to turn left? No? That’s OK, do what you want to do….”

In 300 shows,  “there are no car crashes. And every driver is different.”

PREVIEW

Nassim

Citadel Beyond The Stage Series

Theatre: Bush Theatre and Nassim Soleimanpour Productions

Directed by: Omar Eulerian

Starring: Belinda Cornish, Jeff Haslam, Nasra, Farren Timoteo, Sarah Chan, John Ullyatt on successive nights — with Nassim Soleimanpour

Where: Citadel Rice Theatre

Running: Tuesday through May 5

Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com   

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Romance into tragedy: the dark, violent, original new hearing-deaf Tempest at the Citadel. A review.

Lorne Cardinal (top) and Nadien Chu in The Tempest. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

It never stops raining in the version of The Tempest that’s now lashing and splashing and skidding across the Citadel mainstage. As the Fool in Twelfth Night sings (borrowed by this wettest of Tempests for the occasion), “the rain it raineth every day.” 

It’s a measure of dark originality of Josette Bushell-Mingo’s high-precipitation production that its opening pair of images, wordless both, are juxtaposed so violently.

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Rain lashes a huge, looming wreck of a ship (designer: Drew Facey) as a father in its shadow cradles his daughter protectively as she sleeps. In the other image, that father, kneeling and compliant, shouts in agony as a tattered figure hammers a long spike into his bare back, over and over. Torture? Self-willed flagellation? Moral retribution? An over-empowered tattoo artist with an ax to grind? When he turns we see a black circle, like a noose, engraved on the father’s flesh.

And that is how we meet Prospero (Lorne Cardinal), a rightful duke with a gift for the dark arts, fuming in exile on a remote island ever since he was deposed by an evil brother. And his innocent daughter Miranda (the luminous Thurga Kanagasekarampillai). And a forlorn local islander with grievances of his own, Caliban (Ray Strachan).

It’s been a season at the Citadel that has ventured into new ways of storytelling — witness the simultaneous pairing of an immersive free-associative comedy and a full-on door-slammer of a farce with a single cast (The Party and The Candidate, just ended). And now, as the season finale (and finale of the Citadel-Banff Professional Program that trains the cast), Edmonton’s largest playhouse takes a leap into complex inclusivity in a 90-minute bilingual (spoken English/ ASL) production with a multi-cultural ensemble of deaf and hearing actors.

Half speak; half do not. All, however, embrace a heightened acting style, flamboyant physicality, and hurl themselves into the striking theatricality of Bushell-Mingo’s stagecraft and water-soaked imagery. May I single out an outstanding performance from Braydon Dowler-Coltman as Ferdinand, flung to the watery deep again and again by Prospero’s dark magic? Or Nadien Chu as the queen of Naples, stabbed to death by a treacherous ally and springing back to life over and over, as pulled upright by Prospero’s unseen power?

The tricky business of interpretation across the language and sound/sight divide has ingenious solutions in the production: there are half a dozen versions of Ariel, Prospero’s disaffected sprite assistant. And, like an energetic zombie chorus, they carry out his orders and interpret — some ASL to spoken English, some English to ASL. Sometimes speech is chanted in unison, sometimes not.

Thurga Kanagasekarampillai, Braydon Downler-Coltman in The Tempest. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

Not only is there less of the poetry of The Tempest, there are interpolations from other Shakespeare plays that land nimbly on their feet in the production. You’ll hear fragments of Romeo and Juliet in the charming budding-romance scene between Ferdinand (Dowler-Coltman) and Miranda (Kanagasekarampillai), for example, where their struggle for communication —he hears and speaks; she is deaf and signs — is lyrically invoked as part of the storytelling. They write in the water on the stage; they find common ground in the ASL and English signs for “heart.”

You’ll hear Lady Macbeth’s pep talk in the murderous subplots involving Prospero’s shipwrecked enemies, with a little Midsummer Night’s Dream thrown in for some tweaking of the interplay between Caliban and the comic characters. 

Purists may balk. But purists have always been nonplussed by The Tempest. And why wouldn’t they be? For centuries this most mysterious of Shakespeare’s plays, a late-period romance full of magical interventions and spectacle, has always invited — demanded, really —strangeness and original re-invention. Hey, when the goddess Iris just drops an enchanted banquet into the proceedings, the director has to step up, right?.

This condensed version does something unusual: it reimagines Shakespeare’s late-period romance and turns it into an out-and-out tragedy. Prospero the magus is not just the stage manager of the tempest, the conductor of the storm that brings his enemies within his grasp. His fury is the tempest. And his all-consuming thirst for revenge, which conjures the other characters from the foggy, lurid hold of the phantom ship, destroys his world.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on” will become the stuff of nightmares. And when Prospero the dad finally wakes up it’s to a “reality” that will allude, both in word and image, to another Shakespearean dad, who made some disastrous choices about his third daughter and his kingdom.

Although he presides from the very top deck of the ship, there is nothing serene and magisterial — to invoke the most persistent 19th century clichés — about Cardinal’s Prospero. Cardinal, who has a four-square incantatory style of delivery, is a formidable presence. But, in the interests of focus, he’s asked to hit the same note of vengeful anger, so often and so relentlessly, that a certain repetition begins to weigh on the production.

And you may well feel you’re missing something of the poetic arc of a play that finds a route, however circuitous or difficult or costly, to a kind of resolution. This is especially true in a production that acknowledges the toxic colonial strain of dispossession built into Prospero’s situation: a victim of usurpation who becomes himself an usurper. As Caliban points out repeatedly “this island in mine!”. 

Pure rage is a difficult emotion to sustain indefinitely onstage. And so are the comic antics of the phantasmagorical pageant of thugs, led by Stephano (Troy O’Donnell) and Trincula (Elizabeth Morris). Although set forth with sprightly invention on the water-covered stage, they are tiring company in the long (OK, the medium) haul of the production.

The Tempest. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

But I think you’ll be fascinated by the production’s stunning interconnected imagery, enhanced dramatically by the gorgeous lighting of Bonnie Beecher and a remarkable sound design by composer Dave Clarke. The latter has a thunderous rumbling buzz and the industrial roar of tectonic plates, or a kind of cosmic heart-beat drumming, that will vibrate in every ribcage. It’s sound to be felt not heard.

The glass cage in which one of the Ariels is encased, and against which the force of Prospero’s wrath hurls Ferdinand again and again, is linked to the scene in which Ferdinand and Miranda overcome their sense of the Other, and “discover” each other. Which might be a metaphor for the entire production.

And that, in the end, is what this “insubstantial pageant faded,” does leave behind, beyond the thought that vengeance might be a dead end (move on Prospero, move on). The zombies vanish into the netherworld. The world of theatre is there for the sharing. It’s all a matter of communication, and a wide embrace.

REVIEW 

The Tempest

Theatre: Citadel

Directed by: Josette Bushell-Mingo

Starring: Lorne Cardinal, Thurga Kanagasekarampillai, Braydon Dowler-Coltman, Nadien Chu, Jarret Cody, Derek Kwan, Ray Strachan, Troy O’Donnell, Elizabeth Morris, Barbara Poggemiller, Denise Read, Hodan Youssouf, Hayley Hudson, Sage Lovell, Suchiththa Wickremeso

Running: through May 12

Tickets: 780-425-1820, citadeltheatre.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Two big birthdays, one big bash: Rubaboo and Dreamspeakers festivals

Josh Languedoc in Rocko and Nakota. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

The celebration of Indigenous artists and their many-sided contributions to our shared culture takes another step forward with the tandem anniversary editions of the Rubaboo Arts Festival and the Dreamspeakers Film Festival today through May 7.

Rubaboo, named in the Michif language (a mixture of Cree and Métis French) for a traditional multi-ingredient stew to feed the soul, celebrates 10 years of multi-disciplinary showcases. First up Friday evening, after the 4 p.m. cedar smudge opening ceremonies, is Rocko & Nakota. Josh Languedoc’s solo show, which premiered at the Thousand Faces Festival and crossed the country at Fringes last summer, is framed by two characters, a little boy sick in the hospital and his grandfather Rocko, who arrives with a cache of traditional (and specially created) Indigenous stories.

In the course of his hit show, the multi-talented Languedoc conjures a dozen characters, humans, spirits, animals, even trees. It flips back and forth between past and present, in which Rocko is telling his own stories. The Theatre Prospero production directed by Barry Bilinsky runs at the Alberta Avenue Community Centre, 9210 118 Ave. tonight through April 30.

Actor/playwright/director/improv star Josh Languedoc talked to 12thnight.ca last spring before the 2018 Fringe tour of Rocko & Nakota; read the interview here. 

Other Rubaboo highlights include Kaha:wii Dance Theatre’s Blood, Water, Earth; an indigenous burlesque, Sovereign Bodies, starring Vancouver’s Virago Nation with local artists Iskotew Iskwewak and Audra Dacity, and film by Janet Rogers; and Making Treaty 7’s Kaahsinnoniks. There are workshops, visual arts exhibitions, musical offerings. Ah yes, and the annual Rubaboo Cabaret, which as its name suggests, embraces every art form and then some. But you’ll need to check out the entire lineup (and schedule) of shows, workshops, and panels at dreamspeakers.org.

The 25th anniversary edition of Dreamspeakers, wide-ranging, international in scope, and crammed with choices, includes such features as Falls Around Her, a Darlene Naponse film starring Tantoo Cardinal (Saturday, 8 p.m. at Metro Cinema) and Carla Ulrich’s Three Feathers (Sunday, 7 p.m. at Metro). The full annotated lineup is at dreamspeakers.org.

Rubaboo tickets are at the door of the venues. Dreamspeaker tickets are at metrocinema.org.

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