Happy Valentine’s weekend: have some theatre with your champagne

Living Room Love Songs, Citadel Theatre. Photo, Citadel website.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Let’s try to ignore for the moment the origins of Valentine’s Day as a feast day in honour of a martyr, and, more recently, a massacre. Or the source of a bottomless supply of gummy limericks, and dreary memoirs about unsatisfactory ex’s. Arguably, we have enough to contend with in these parlous times without contemplating the baleful prospect of Romeo and Juliet getting poisoned and stabbed, respectively. By themselves. For love. Online.

But I digress. In 2021, this is a Valentine’s Day when you don’t have to feel like the world’s biggest loser because you’re at home alone, eating the chocolates you bought for yourself online. True, it’s a day to feel keenly how much you miss the sense of togetherness, of the shared communal spirit, laughter, breath, of live theatre. But thanks to the sheer ingenuity and wilful persistence of our theatre artists, the V-Day weekend is not without its theatrical prospects, my friends — brought to you on location at home, and consumable with your own champagne throughout.

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•The Citadel taps the romance repertoire with Living Room Love Songs, an online fund-raiser concert featuring the stellar musical talents of Nuela Charles, Farren Timoteo, Tara Jackson, Audrey Ochoa, Michael Bernard Fitzgerald, and John Wort Hannam. Each performs a set of three songs, originals and classics. It runs Sunday through Wednesday, and goes well with both chocolate and bubbles. Tickets: citadeltheatre.com.

playwright Natalie Meisner, Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story. Photo supplied

•KyleThe Alberta Queer Calendar Project, which spent 2020 premiering  some 13 podcasts of original dramas by AB’s queer writers, is hosting another this Valentine weekend. Co-hosting with Calgary’s Sage Theatre, it’s a “virtual listening party” Saturday at 4:30 p.m. In Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story, Calgary’s Natalie Meisner celebrates the life of the last Canadian man jailed simply for being gay. It’s a story little known to Canadians, an homage to a “quiet hero.” And the performance is followed by a Q and A with the cast and crew. Sage’s Jason Mehmel directs. sagetheatre.com.

•If you saw The Rocky Horror Show or Next to Normal at the Citadel, a few seasons ago, or more recently Jesus Christ Superstar at the Mayfield (his Judas was a knock-out), you already know how high Robert Markus rates in the watchability factor. A U of A theatre school grad in the day, he’s Toronto-based these days, with a notable list of Stratford and Mirvish credits like Dear Evan Hansen. His new cabaret Letting You Go — a title that resonates with every theatre artist in the country who’s lost gigs and a livelihood this past year (i.e. every theatre artist in the country) — is part of Stratford’s cabaret series. The song list includes Jason Robert Brown, Ben Folds and Stephen Sondheim. It’s streamed free through Sunday on Stratford’s YouTube channel, before joining the ticketed STRATFEST@HOME archive.

The Free Willies. Photo supplied.

•Revive your long-lost dreams of summer before they atrophy altogether by thinking about Freewill Shakespeare, that al fresco festival with the hot resident playwright. That festival, cancelled for 2020, launched a travelling trio of musical troubadours, the Free Willies (Jameela McNeill, Chariz Faulmino, Billy Brown), in parks and on river banks near you. The Free Willies will be back this summer, says Freewill artistic director Dave Horak. Meanwhile, catch a couple of their music videos at freewillshakespeare.com: The Free Will Song and their light-hearted What A Rogue Am I (which makes a question of I Will Survive) a speed-up musical version of Hamlet.

•The dazzling National Theatre production of Tony Kushner’s monumental two-part Reagan era epic Angels in America is available for rent, ntathome.com. I saw it in a memorable double-header day and night in New York. And Marianne Elliott’s production, starring Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane as Roy Cohn, James McCardle, Denise Gough, and Russell Tovey, is still astonishing, as I found out last night with Part One: Millennium Approaches. I’m saving Part Two: Perestroika for the weekend.

•Mile Zero, the dance theatre headed by the unstoppably inventive Gerry Morita, is back tonight and Saturday (7 p.m.) with For Cruising At 30 Kilometres A Second And Attempting Not To Crash. It’s an online “community participatory performance” which amalgamates pre-recorded video from participants who identify with Edmonton’s LGBTQ and/or BIPOC communities (and don’t have prior knowledge of each other’s contributions). Kevin Jesuino provided each with a score, and the footage is unedited and unseen till show time. Hey, video editing improv! Tickets: milezerodance.com.

•From the Grindstone Comedy Theatre & Bistro, an outfit with a festive regard for all high holidays, host Kyle Canniff presides over an online Valentines Revue Saturday and Sunday (7 p.m.), featuring Byron Martin, Danielle LaRose, Jocelyn Anselmo, Monica Gate and Terry Knicle. All pre-recorded in strictly distanced COVID-ian safety. Tickets: grindstone theatre.ca.

Ronnie Burkett and friend. photo from High Performance Rodeo website.

Catch this year’s 35th annual edition of Calgary’s great groundbreaking performance festival, the High Performance Rodeo, founded by One Yellow Rabbit. Who Are You Now? Thirty-Five For Thirty-Five had been transmuted for these pandemical times, by repairing to Instagram till Valentine’s Day (and then to the Rodeo website hprodeo.ca). An international array of 35 artists of astonishing variety and diversity who have appeared in the first 34 Rodeos were invited to answer the “who are you now” question, in any form they liked, in anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes. Theatre companies, musicians, burlesque artists, unclassifiable multi-disciplinarians, avant-garde clowns … the list is long and fun to explore. And, hey, it includes marionettiste/playwright extraordinaire Ronnie Burkett.

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