Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes: The Scripted Edition

This week's edition of Friday Arts Quotes features quotes from the stage, films & TV.

"You write your first draft with your heart but you re-write with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think" -William Forrester in Finding Forester

"Observation is a more powerful force than you could possibly reckon. The invisible, the overlooked, the unobserved are the most in danger of reaching the end of the spectrum. They lose the last of their light. From there anything can happen...lives altered forever by you. By the simple effect of being present, by entering the light, by joining the dance." - Old Lady God on Joan of Arcadia


My arts quotes book is beginning to run out of fresh quotes. If you have any favourite arts quotes that you would like to see featured here, please send them to

Thursday, February 26, 2009

World Theatre Day International Message 2009

This year's International Message is now available on the ITI's brand new website:

World Theatre Day – International Message - 27th March 2009 - Augusto Boal

All human societies are “spectacular*” in their daily life and produce “spectacles” at special moments. They are “spectacular” as a form of social organization and produce “spectacles” like the one you have come to see.

Even if one is unaware of it, human relationships are structured in a theatrical way. The use of space, body language, choice of words and voice modulation, the confrontation of ideas and passions, everything that we demonstrate on the stage, we live in our lives. We are theatre!

Weddings and funerals are “spectacles”, but so, also, are daily rituals so familiar that we are not conscious of this. Occasions of pomp and circumstance, but also the morning coffee, the exchanged good-mornings, timid love and storms of passion, a senate session or a diplomatic meeting - all is theatre.

One of the main functions of our art is to make people sensitive to the “spectacles” of daily life in which the actors are their own spectators, performances in which the stage and the stalls coincide. We are all artists. By doing theatre, we learn to see what is obvious but what we usually can’t see because we are only used to looking at it. What is familiar to us becomes unseen: doing theatre throws light on the stage of daily life.

Last September, we were surprised by a theatrical revelation: we, who thought that we were living in a safe world, despite wars, genocide, slaughter and torture which certainly exist, but far from us in remote and wild places. We, who were living in security with our money invested in some respectable bank or in some honest trader’s hands in the stock exchange were told that this money did not exist, that it was virtual, a fictitious invention by some economists who were not fictitious at all and neither reliable nor respectable. Everything was just bad theatre, a dark plot in which a few people won a lot and many people lost all. Some politicians from rich countries held secret meetings in which they found some magic solutions. And we, the victims of their decisions, have remained spectators in the last row of the balcony.

Twenty years ago, I staged Racine’s Ph├Ędre in Rio de Janeiro. The stage setting was poor: cow skins on the ground, bamboos around. Before each presentation, I used to say to my actors: “The fiction we created day by day is over. When you cross those bamboos, none of you will have the right to lie. Theatre is the Hidden Truth”.

When we look beyond appearances, we see oppressors and oppressed people, in all societies, ethnic groups, genders, social classes and casts; we see an unfair and cruel world. We have to create another world because we know it is possible. But it is up to us to build this other world with our hands and by acting on the stage and in our own life.

Participate in the “spectacle” which is about to begin and once you are back home, with your friends act your own plays and look at what you were never able to see: that which is obvious. Theatre is not just an event; it is a way of life!

We are all actors: being a citizen is not living in society, it is changing it.

Augusto Boal

(Original Portuguese)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ambiguity or the Lack Thereof

Please note :: This blog post will contain spoilers for the ending of East of Berlin. If you haven't seen the play and don't want to know how it ends, stop reading now.

I went and saw East of Berlin tonight. It is produced by Tarragon Theatre, presented by Touchstone Theatre, performing at the Firehall Arts Centre as a part of the Chutzpah Festival.

The Touchstone Theatre website describes it like this:

Rudi has grown up in Paraguay, blissfully ignorant of his father’s past. When he discovers the awful truth, he tries to atone for his father’s appalling acts. Can love heal what history has so brutally torn asunder? Or will the horrors of the past haunt him forever? East of Berlin is a stirring and absolutely essential meditation on the psychological legacy of the Holocaust, brought to life in a stunning production from one of Canada’s most respected and consistently innovative theatres.

The show is very strong. The script is well crafted. The lead actor gives a mannered, but solid performance. The lighting design is haunting. The directing was to the point. The actress was fascinating to watch. The sound design had only one troubling choice (the use of "One is the Loneliest Number" both underscoring a sex scene and repeated as curtain call). I wasn't thrilled with the secondary actor (I found him a bit robotic), but I was still ready to come home and write about how strong the show was until the final scene.

When Rudi, who has returned home to face his father, pulls out a gun, my first thought was "Oh god, please don't go the route of the cliche and have him commit suicide." Then he started talking as though he was going to kill his father and I thought "please have it end with him just walking through the door, the sound of it slamming and the blackout. Let us discuss among ourselves what happens. Make us think." But they didn't. And in the plays final moment, stagier than any other point, Rudi opens the door and puts the gun to his head & we went to black.

I felt ripped off. I wanted the ambiguity. The ambiguity would have left me questioning just what his grief and guilt had driven him to, or whether he was capable of forgiving himself & his father. Instead I was told exactly how things were and it didn't work for me.

I love ambiguity in theatre. I love it when I can walk out the door and talk to the person who I've seen the show with and we each have a different interpretation of what happened in the end. That was my experience after reading Doubt by John Patrick Shanley. A couple of friends had also read it and we each had different interpretations of what had happened - whether or not Father Flynn was guilty (an experience that was unfortunately NOT repeated at the Arts' Club production in fall). A lot of my favourite plays are ones where you leave uncertain & asking questions.

After all, if theatre doesn't exist to ask questions of you and force you to ask them of yourself, what good is it?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

World Theatre Day Planning

Above: Simon Ogden, Rebecca Coleman, myself, Jessica Hutchinson & Nick Keenan on video conference to discuss World Theatre Day 2009

My mind is still racing after this afternoon's meeting to discuss World Theatre Day 2009.  Eight of us from around the world (Texas, Chicago, Vancouver, Australia & London) met online - some with audio & video, others typing - to discuss the endless possibilities for making World Theatre Day a huge success.  

The first chunk of the meeting was taken up with how great it was to all be talking to each other. Travis and I played tic-tac-toe while we waited for others to join the room. It was just neat to be talking "face-to-face" over the computer with theatre professionals from around the world. 

Of course, then we settled down to business to talk about what we wanted to see happen internationally on March 27th.  What each city could do individually & how we would tie the international theatre community together. There are certainly a lot of ideas out there. Kate suggested some sort of flash mob.  Andrew wants to try some sort of twitter-based playwrighting. 

I'm really excited about this, despite the fact that we don't yet know what it looks like. Why? Because it is linking theatre artists from all different disciplines (in our meeting alone we had a stage manager, actors, publicist, sound designer, AD, vocal coach, writers & other theatrical hats) around the world to talk about theatre together and to celebrate what we do.  It is giving us a good reason to build international communities & support each other's art.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes

"The poor need beauty as much as bread becuase they live in ugliness all the time." - Martin Luther

God comes to us in theatre in the way we communicate with each other, whether it be a symphony orchestra, or a wonderful ballet, or a beautiful painting, or a play. It's a way of expressing our humanity. - Julie Harris

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wandering Mind

There are lots of things on my mind that I'd love to blog about in detail, but haven't had time to, so here are some snippets of what I'm thinking about:

1 - World Theatre Day

World Theatre Day is March 27 & this year the international theatre community is getting together to celebrate.  How do we intend to do this you may ask? Well just check out the World Theatre Day 2009 Blog for more info.

2 - Fundraising Letters

In the past week I've received letters from both the Playhouse Theatre Company & the PuSh International Performing Arts festival asking me for money.  I don't have any to give, but if I did it would have gone to PuSh. Why? The extra effort to put a handwritten note thanking me for volunteering was a good start, but my decision was confirmed when the Playhouse called me yesterday following up on my attendance of The Drowsy Chaperone & asking for a donation.  Only one problem: I never saw The Drowsy Chaperone.

3 - Provincial Arts Cuts

My friend Jackie graduated with a theatre degree at the same time I did and now works with a local dance company and earlier today sent me the following e-mail:

"Well in case you needed another reason to contemplate the increasing incidence of "Gordon Campbell" sounding like a swear word. Follow this link to see what he has done to the arts. Health-care, education, and the arts -- hmmm and yet he's still smiling at all the olympic venue openings right now, perhaps he has no need of hospitals-schools-or theatres, after all those things cater to organs he might have misplaced -- like a heart and a brain. "

4 - Shows I Plan to See or Have Just Seen

I went to the PWYC matinee of Whale Riding Weather today at the PAL theatre.  If you haven't yet gone, I'd highly recommend it.  Allan Morgan, who I most recently saw as Prospero in The Tempest at Bard, is brilliant as Lyle and both Jeff Gladstone & Jon Lachlan Stewart give strong performances as well.

On my to-see list for the next month: 
- East of Berlin (Touchstone/Tarragon @ Firehall Arts Center)
- Coriolanus (Coriolanus Co-op @ Jericho Arts Center)
- Beggars in the House of Plenty (Evolving Arts Collective @ The Beaumont Stage)
- Summer of My Amazing Luck (Gateway Theatre Co)
- And also (hopefully) Rigoletto (Vancouver Opera @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

If you have any shows to recommend, please do!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Looking for some theatre experience?

(Above: Past & Present apprenti & their friends getting ready for Vintage Valentine)

Pacific Theatre, the company where I am the resident stage manager, takes on three or four apprentices each year. These are not equity apprenticeships, but are apprenticeships designed to produce well rounded theatrical people. The apprentices assist with Front of House and Box Office, they act in a show (if they want to), produce their own work, assist with tech calls, assistant stage manage, do scene studies with artistic director Ron Reed & numerous other theatre-related things. It is all about helping the emerging theatre artists get a footing from which to leap forward into the next step of their lives.

For more information, please head over to

The application deadline is March 15.

Personally, I love our apprenticeship program. It's how I met my roommate (she was an apprentice last year). We've had apprentices whose focus has been directing, acting, tech work, writing, administration, etc and we work hard to make sure that they get the most out of the program.

This past Friday night, the apprentices put together a one night musical review called "Vintage Valentines". It ran after the mainstage show and patrons were invited to stay for free for the show. There were also people who came just to see it. And from what I hear it was a great time.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes

Just one quote this week, but a good one.

"All children are artists, and it is an indictment of our culture that so many of them lose their creativity, their unfettered imaginations, as they grow older. But they start off without self-consciousness as they paint their purple flowers, their anatomically impossible people, their thunderous, sulphurous skies. They don't worry that they may not be as good as Di Chirico or Bracque; they know intuitively that it is folly to make comparisons, and they go ahead and say what they want to say. What looks like a hat to a grownup may, to the child artist, be an elephant inside a boa constrictor. So what happens? Why do we lose our wonderful, racketty creativity? What corrupts us?...A lot of my adult life has been spent in trying to overcome this corruption, in unlearning the dirty devices of this world, which would dull our imaginations, cut away our creativity." - Madeline L'Engle

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holy Mo Sneak Peak

Today we did our archival photo shoot for Holy Mo. Here's a glimpse at the show. All photos are by Damon Calderwood.

Meet our clowns: (from l-r) Buffoona (Erla-Faye Forsyth), Guff (Julia Mackey), and Follie (Katharine Venour)Guff & Buffoona Face off.

Mo recieves the 10 commandments from Yamma (along with a book of guidelines for the ministry of health and wellfare)
"You cannot see my face and live"

So those are just a few of the sights you'll be in to see if you come see Holy Mo ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes: Opening Night Edition

It's opening night for Holy Mo at Pacific Theatre, so in honor of that, this week's arts quotes are all about audience - the theatrical ingredient that gets added on opening.

"The writer does want to be published; the painter urgently hopes that someone will see the finished canvas (van Gogh was denied the satisfaction of having his work bought and appreciated during his life time; no wonder the pain was more than he could bear); the composer needs his music to be heard. Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still-born. The reader, viewer, listener, usually grossly underestimates his importance. If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life....The author and the reader "know" each other; they meet on the bridge of words. So there is no evading the fact that the artist yearns for "success," becuase that means that there has been a communication of the vision: that all the struggle has not been invalid." - Madeline L'Engle

"When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, "We're all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world." If you're not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that." -David Mamet

"You need three things in the theatre - the play, the actors & the audience - and each must give something." - Kenneth Haigh

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mid Tech Week

Hello. Out. There.

See that mess there on the left? That's where I've been hiding for the past week.  I've been hiding in a dark little room with my binder of awesomeness.  We're mid tech week for Holy Mo and every now and then I wonder how much more information I can cram into my brain (somehow there's always room for more, but I'm not quite 
sure how).   Tonight was our first full dress rehearsal where I actually got to run the show.  At Pacific Theatre the Stage Manager is also the lighting and sound operator, so I look forward to the day when the lighting console and sound computer get turned over to me so that I can have a little practice before the first audience members arrive.  But tonight went well. I only screwed up a few times & none of them were cause to stop the show.  

I'm always amazed during opening week how far forward the shows move with each run through.  The actors get to live and settle into the world of the play and so more discoveries are made as they are immersed in it.  It's an exciting time.  We cut a whole long slow-mo sequence today that had gotten a lot of laughs from the designers yesterday, but it was the right choice.  Not only did it take a couple of minutes off the show, it is also funnier.

I should really get back to sending out my rehearsal notes, but I just wanted to poke my head in and say hello to the rest of the world.