Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reading Plays 2: 7 Stories

In honor of Canada Day this Wednesday, I decided that this week would be geared to Canadian playwrights.

7 Stories is one of those plays that being from Vancouver, everyone has seen, talks about, etc. I have never seen it and had never read it before now. But I certainly went into it knowing the basic plot: A man stands on a seventh storey building ledge, preparing to jump to his death but is constantly interrupted by the building's residents.

What I didn't know (but should have suspected) was how wonderfully quirky the 12 building resident characters are. Played by only 4 actors, the 12 characters are a great mix of comical and tragic with a lovely hint of neuroses.

I would love to see a production of this show. There is a lot of potential for interesting design choices as well as the variety of ways the shows ending could be perceived by various directors.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes: R&G Edition

In the past two weeks of rehearsing Rosencrantz & Guildenstern I've picked out a handful of my favorite quotes, some about what it means to be actors and others just because they make me smile. Enjoy.

"We keep to our usual stuff, more or less, only inside out. We do onstage the things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit being an entrance somewhere else." - Player, R&G

"We're the actors - we're the opposite of people" - Player, R&G

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reading Plays 1: Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

I know that it's cheating to talk about reading plays that I'm doing, but this past week has been entirely filled by reading, re-reading, scheduling, listing, re-reading, and all of the other "first week of rehearsal" things that go with stage managing two shows in rep [point of clarification: I am SMing R&G and ASMing Hamlet].

I don't know about you, but I read Hamlet in high school and studied it until I no longer cared about any of it. I also did a production of it when I was in university where it was cut down to 60 minutes and again, didn't really care. All of this makes it far more interesting to read now and enjoy in a whole new way. The version we are using for the show is cut by our director using the First Folio as well as the quartos...It's not your traditional Hamlet. There are scenes in different orders what what you'd find in most modern publications of the play and as such the character relationships are different. And I like it. I sat at the first read today, finally hearing aloud the play I have been reading all week and the characters came alive for me.

I've always been an auditory learner. I learned that fact in grade 3 and have been forever grateful for it. When I hear something I remember it and if I don't hear it (but rather see it) I am far less likely to remember it. For me this means that plays I have read are not nearly as alive for me as plays that are read aloud.

On the other hand, I had never read R&G before going into this process. Sure, I knew of it, but I didn't know anything about how it fit together, and my god is it brilliant. Every time I re-read it (by which I mean every day this week) I am amazed at some new detail. Today as we read Hamlet aloud, I was amazed by pieces of R&G where words and phrases were turned on their heads that I had not previously noticed.

Both plays are a lesson in solid playwrighting, though from completely different schools. Shakespeare is considered a master playwright for a reason. His words evoke images so beautiful and detailed while still furthering story. Stoppard's post-modern look at the fall of the meta-narrative and the dissapearance of the hero is similarly evokative, but in its simplicity and absurdity rather.

And I'll never look at a coin toss the same way again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

New Season's Resolution: The Summer Play Reading Plan

My new year's resolution was to see more theatre; to be specific, 3 or more shows a month. This summer, there isn't that much theatre to see in Kamloops and my lack of vehicle makes going elsewhere to see theatre problematic. With that in mind I have set myself a new resolution. For the next 7 weeks (until August 6th) I will read 2 plays a week and discuss them on my blog. You'll find the first post on Thursday of this week and then every Monday & Thursday after that.

Reading plays is hard for me. I'm not a visual person. I don't dream in pictures. When I read a play I can't picture it staged. It's much easier for me to spend my time watching TV or even reading novels where things are much more clearly written out for you. But connecting with theatre and the larger theatrical community doesn't happen solely by going to see plays. Reading plays, both new and old, is a vital part of our development as theatre artists (regardless of what role we play within the theatre world). It sharpens our theatrical senses and makes us aware of the plays that are out there - both good and bad.

I have a lot of friends and aquaintences who are playwrights. I go and support the work my actor/director/designer friends are doing. Why am I not supporting the work of my playwright friends?

As a first step to finding plays I made a call on Twitter on Saturday & Sunday. I said, "I am starting to blog about reading plays. Mostly because I need to read more plays. What should I read first? Suggestions please!? #theatre" And the responses came roaring in. Here's just a small sample of the plays people are suggesting:

  1. runismymantra I am assuming you have read top girls, anything by Ibsen, my beautiful laundrette- more of a screenplay though, Walsh by S Pollock
  2. getrealtheatre Killer Joe by T Letts, all of David Lindsay-Abaire, As Bees in Honey Drown by D Carter Beane LOTS more
  3. RyanInVancouveraugust Osage county is a great play I'd look into!!!
  4. atomicfezThe list is massive. I'd recommend 'anything you can get your hands on', or start with names like Orton, Pinter, Churchill #theatre
  5. kittybelleOn the not-so-obvious list: check out Ugo Betti.
  6. lekogirlAmy Freed is a completely brilliant contemp playwright with the best intelligent sense of humor. "You, Nero" is PHENOMENAL.
  7. _redshoes_Anything and everything by Wole Soyinka.
  8. MareBiddleRabbit Hole, How I Learned to Drive, Homecoming, and The Goat.
  9. fishbowlmuse@SMLois Anything by Daniel MacIvor and "Proof" by David Auburn
  10. PBCrookTry Fat Men in Skirts, by Nicky Silver #theatre
  11. helenemontagnaOne of my favorite plays ever is Sam Shepard's "Fool for Love". Also, anything by O'Neill, esp Long Day's Journey Into Night.

The house where I'm staying here in Kamloops belongs to the former AD of a theatre company, so there are scripts throughout the house. Some I've heard of or read before, but others have no name recognition. Some are on the recommended lists that people have sent to me. I plan to read some from all categories. I will try to read some Canadian plays, some international plays, some modern plays, some classics & some that defy categorization. If you have suggestions of plays I should read, please leave them in the comments section!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Arts Quotes: You Still Can't Edition

With only 3 performances left of You Still Can't at Pacific Theatre, I bring you an all YSC version of Friday Arts Quotes.

Grandpa Tony: "Working against something you believe in. That's not good for a person's soul. What'll you have to take home with you at the end of it all?"

Norman: So you actually got to work with Philip Glass?
Dylan: You will recognize something of a cyclical organizing principle, and would be correct in any conjecture with regards to a certain Glassian influence.
Norman: Cool! Ripping off the greats!
Dylan: I think of it as a consciously post-modern referentiality -"

Photo: Sasha (Laura VanDyke) encouraging Dylan (Brett Ziegler) to sign the Dylan poster for Norman's (Tim Bratton) pseudograph display.

(Cut from the play) Norman: "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Awards for Stage Managing

My friend Nick posted today about the lack of awards for Stage Managers in both the big awards shows (Tonys) & the smaller community based awards.

Nick suggests that "the need is really to recognize SMs who are emerging in their careers and trying to get enough work to develop their craft into full-time work, which is really what I see these awards as being all about anyway....My feeling is that public recognition by the community enables a talented SM to be exposed to larger theaters so that they can do their work and get compensated appropriately for it. Without that recognition, the SM is the most likely position to achieve burn out."

Here in Vancouver at the Jessies there is the Mary Phillips Prize for Behind-the-Scenes Achievement which is
"Awarded to an unsung hero. The recipient is nominated from the community and chosen by a private committee. Nomination forms are available online and must be received by April 30th. The recipient is chosen by a private committee. Receives a cash prize."
This is not specifically an award for Stage Managing, but I have seen stage managers win it before.

So. Should there be awards for stage management? If there should be, what should they look like? Chime in here, or over on Nick's post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

But what do you DO?

I was recently at a dinner party where one of the guests commented that when she asked people what they did for a living, she wished they'd give details. To her, hearing a title, whatever it may be, didn't matter. What she was interested in was the nitty-gritty of what people actually do with their lives.

When I tell people that I'm a stage manager I usually qualify that. For people who are involved in theatre there is no need to explain, but for those who attend theatre without working on it, the title of Stage Manager is one they just don't understand. To them I usually explain it as "I carry heavy things around and tell everyone what to do." It's not an accurate description, but its something they can understand. When I start talking about prompt books, blocking, cueing, etc I know that the conversation is done for.

So with that in mind, I bring you "A day with Lois - in Pictures!". Look at all the fun things that being a Stage Manager can mean!

Laundry is far from my favorite part of my job. On this show I do 3 or 4 loads two times a week. That's upwards of 12 hours of laundry a week. One of the best things about this past year was when the theatre bought a new washer/dryer that are a bit faster than the old ones!

This is me killing time while I do the laundry. That's my messy desk, and I'm on gmail, chatting with Travis to pass the time. The cartoon on the upper corner of my monitor is from our former Theatre Administrator who is off on maternity leave. In the cartoon, the baby is thinking "When I grow up, I wanna be a stage manager" and the character that is me is thinking "When I grow up I wanna get pregnant so I can escape this nuthouse too!"This is my assistant Laura. Her arrival is always one of my favorite things because it means help is finally here.On this day we had run out of sticks name tags which are a show prop, so I ran down to the Loonie Plus store and $3.36 later I had two more packs.

Someone's got to make sure all the lights are working, and that person is me. When a bulb goes out, the ladder goes up! Another great buy this year was a telescopic ladder that I can carry with one hand and store so that its easily accessible. And then I call the security company for the building and ask them to ignore all alarms from the building until after the show. There is a smoke machine in the show & I am not interested in setting off the fire alarm & send the audience into a panic.

So this picture, not really a necessity of my day, but come on, who doesn't want to be in a touring case full of fake turkeys! You just never know what each show will hold. These are 12 custom built latex turkeys. In the script they are described as "raw, but not frozen" and they have to be carried around & thrown on stage. Finding the right turkeys was hard and we ended up contracting a film prosthetics student to build them for us.

In the booth, playing at running the show. The booth is so small that I run both the lights and sound, as well as any special effects for the show. My book has to be half on top of the lighting board in order to fit.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Return of Friday Arts Quotes!

After a hiatus, Friday Arts Quotes are back!

"Rehearsing a play is making the word flesh. Publishing a play is reversing the process." - Peter Shaffer

"I began my talk by saying that I had not written my plays for purposes of discussion. At once, I felt a ripple of panic run through the hall. I suddenly realised why. To everyone present, discussion was the whole point of drama. That was why the faculty had been endowed — that was why all those buildings had been put up! I had undermined the entire reason for their existence." - Tom Stoppard

"If you want to help the American theater, don't be an actress, be an audience. " - Tallulah Bankhead

I was in the paper...

...and I didn't even know it.

Two weeks ago the Langley Advance ran an article about You Still Can't at Pacific Theatre, talking about the connection between it and Trinity Western University. From the article:

A Langley contingent is collaborating to bring a wickedly hilarious comedy to the stage in Vancouver this month.

Many theatre lovers will be thrilled to hear the Vanderhofs are back; they're an eccentric family first brought to life in the comic classic You Can't Take It With You. Well, playwright Ron Reed has revived this family in his homegrown sequel called You Still Can't, which opened last week on the stage of Pacific Theatre.

Reed is an award-winning playwright who founded Pacific Theatre in 1984 and serves as the group's artistic director. He has also been teaching advanced acting classes at Trinity Western University (TWU) for the past 20 years, and in 2006 took on the designation as TWU's artist-in-residence.

But he's not the only one with a tie to Langley. Reed is joined by five actors, current TWU students or recent graduates, as well as the resident stage manager Lois Dawson, who is also a TWU alumni.

My mom called me today, having googled me this morning and found the article. I love that my mom googles me :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009


So thrilled to officially be returning to Pacific Theatre next season. I'll be stage managing The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and Refuge of Lies by Artistic Director Ron Reed. which premiered off-broadway this past year.

Here's to a great year to come, and many more shows both seen & worked.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The June To-See List (and what I saw/worked on in May)

It's been a very busy month for me theatrically.

In May I saw the following plays:
  1. John & Beatrice (Pi Theatre)
  2. Secret World of Og (Carousel Theatre)
  3. 36 Views (Tempus Theatre)
  4. Antigone Undone (Leaky Heaven Circus)
  5. Fat Pig (Mitch & Murray Equity Co-op)
  6. Les Miserables (Arts Club)
  7. Top Girls (Vancouver Playhouse)
  8. Palace of the End (Felix Culpa, Touchstone Theatre, & Horseshoes & Hand Grenades)
Based on this list, I still missed one show from my "To-See" list last month (Dying City), however I added Top Girls & Antigone Undone, so overall I feel pretty good about it as a month of theatre seeing.

I also rehearsed and opened You Still Can't at Pacific Theatre. This monster of a show features 14 emerging theatre artists from a variety of theatre training programs as well as three "extras' who volunteer and rotate through from night to night. In addition to a large cast (at least for our little 20" by 22" stage), it's a very props heavy show. I've mentioned the dozen custom-made latex turkeys, but there's also a working amusement park model, a Beatles-themed feast, & a working radio DJ booth. It's been a crazy ride and it still runs for another two weeks.

The day after You Still Can't closes I'll be hopping a 7am bus to Kamloops to spend my summer working with Project X Productions on Hamlet & Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It's going to be a fun summer as far as I'm concerned. Also, it will be a nice break from Vancouver (not that I hate Vancouver. I love Vancouver. I just need a bit of time to get away) and a chance to be close to my parents for a while.

Because I leave town on June 14th, my "To-See" list for June is quite short, though I've decided that I will list shows that I will not be seeing but that I think the rest of you should make sure to check out.

June To See List:
1. Othello (Bard on the Beach)
2. Flower Drum Song (VACT)

Shows that you should see, even though I won't be seeing them:
1. The Walking Fish Festival ( {from what I hear this year has a whole range of shows from amazing to terrible - I'd love to hear what people think!}
2. The Comedy of Errors (Bard on the Beach)
3. All's Well that Ends Well (Bard on the Beach)
4. Mixie and the Halfbreeds (Neworld Theatre)
5. Alter Boyz (Arts Club)

And for those of you in Vancouver for the month of June, don't forget to attend the Jessie Richardson Awards for theatre. If I were in town, I'd definitely be there!
Let's all see some theatre!