Archives for posts with tag: theatre

Every year, Ontario buildings open their doors so you get to explore places you’re usually not allowed to go. Or wouldn’t think to go. Or can only go under specific circumstances (like paying admission).

I started the morning with a walking tour led by the Theatre Museum of Canada where I learned a little bit more about downtown theatres (did you know YPT used to house horses that pulled streetcars?). Then I met my dad (and had a fancy lunch surrounded by fancy ladies wearing pearls and drinking martinis) and we joined the masses. We didn’t go into the Design Exchange because there was a line up.  But we went into Old City Hall, the Ontario Heritage Fund headquarters, the Bank of Commerce, and the Elgin and Wintergarden theatres.

Having been to both theatres before, I didn’t anticipate how magical it would be to wander around and take pictures (take pictures in a theatre! in a theatre!) It was magical indeed.

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Inside the Wintergarden Theatre in Toronto.

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Seats at the Wintergarden.

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A view of the stage from the balcony.

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The Eglin Theatre: where, in 1992, I realised I probably needed glasses during a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond.

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If this was truly “Doors Open,” we’d be allowed in the box seats. Non, mais!

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Theatre stairs. I got pretty excited taking pictures in a place you’re not supposed to take pictures, normally.

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The Elgin: a theatre of contrasts. Black brick stage surrounded by glitzy glam red and gold.

Peter Brook turned 90 yesterday and he’s still at it.

I feel very lucky to have seen a couple of his productions in my life. Once, when he brought Sizwe Banzi est mort to Montreal and then when we went to Paris and I finally had the chance to set foot in the Bouffes du Nord theatre.

As a once-aspiring theatre director myself (I am no longer aspiring in the sense that I have more or less given up), he inspired me with his writings and ideas and experiments. His 60-year-old production of Titus Andronicus became the backbone of my MA dissertation (for which I cherish and hate him. The reasons for these feelings will be obvious to anyone who has written a dissertation about anything). One of the most magical (nerdiest?) moments of my research was when I found my way to the theatre museum archives in London and, while leafing through Brook’s prompt book, worked on deciphering his penciled notes in the margins.

He is an important director with a career spanning 65 years. He is still working. And in January, I got to see his production of Beckett’s Fragments at the theatre he found in 1974 as the home for his company.

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Théâtre Bouffes du Nord, before the show

I was happy to be able to smugly say that I would be seeing Beckett in Paris, darling. But I was mostly happy to see the insides of this theatre. I was relieved and thrilled, really, that the building had the same magical feeling that BAM’s Harvey Theater had (also renovated for a Peter Brook production).

You can feel the history, the age, the ghosts in this theatre. The wooden seats, the unpolished clockwork-like ceiling, the distressed paint on the walls… It was great that the performance was funny and moving and that the chosen pieces exposed Beckett’s silly, human side (he can be a bit bleak, can’t he?), but I wouldn’t have cared because the space was so rich in its simplicity (much like Brook’s direction). A bit of history and lots more pictures can be found here.

People of all ages in fancy and/or bohemian Parisian garb sat on the floor in the front rows. We sat on the shallow balcony next to a couple of theatre students with hearty laughs. The place was full.

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This is the inside of the theatre (stolen from Wikipedia).

I was on a high after the show- the theatre, the play, Katherine Hunter’s amazing voice, being in Paris, taking the metro to a neighbourhood I’d never seen, having a boyfriend who will enthusiastically go see Beckett- but the night was still young. There was still steak frites and wine and beer to have and an old friend to see.

I know New York. I need New York. I know I need unique New York.

“Hello, poor people!” cried Alan Cumming as the MC, waving his hand at us all the way up in our balcony seats.”This can’t be much fun for you.” We chuckled and we were actually having much fun, but being in New York on a budget can sometimes feel like you’re missing something.

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Broadway can be beautiful and cheap.

During a long weekend in the big apple I must admit that I thought how nice it would be to be rich in NYC.

Having spent my entire budget on somewhere to sleep (and ok, fine, a ticket to Sleep No More– just things related to sleep then), I decided that in New York, like everywhere else, the best things in life should be (and are often if you open your eyes) free.

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Look! A new, sharp, shiny building being a bit moody.

It helped that I was there because I had $25 Cabaret tickets (Roundabout Theatre has cheap tickets reserved for people under 35 at each performance) and to meet up with this guy I like.

I resisted a cashmere sweater with an elephant holding a pink ball with its trunk and didn’t even set foot into the Kate Spade stationery store.

Instead, I watched couples kiss and practice a few shy dance steps in Grand Central Station while I waited for my Baltimore boy to arrive.

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Grand Central Station is a good place to sit down and weep in, but it’s an even better place to dance in.

Instead, we walked in the rain and avoided rats in Central Park.

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Walking in the rain and discovering secret gardens is free!

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Taking multiple pictures of ducks is a cheap and entertaining way to spend a few minutes in New York’s Central Park.

We riffled through antique shops in Chelsea and Williamsburg and window shopped at my new favourite (or only favourite) jewellery store, Adorned by Love in Nolita (I thought we were in SoHo).

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Window shopping in impossibly cool and expensive places.

We found cheap breakfasts and had falafel in the park, splurged on coffees and walked until our feet fell off.

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Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge at sunset… what could be more romantic?

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View from the bridge.

I love New York. I need new York. Know I need unique New York.

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At the top end of Australia, over a year ago.

One year ago yesterday, my plane from London touched down in Montreal. My mother was there to meet me at arrivals and it felt a bit like one of the Love, Actually airport moments where there’s hugging and jumping up and down and perhaps even a tear of two.

I was home after over a year of travelling around the world. I was home with my mum, ready to celebrate a wedding of a dear friend with old friends, ready to take on the next adventure. A chilled-out, at-home adventure.

That was a year ago.

I’ve neglected this blog because it’s supposed to be about travel and theatre and there has been very little travel and very little theatre in this past year.

Strangely, I’ve only recently started to miss those things, things that I thought defined me more than they ultimately do, I’m realising.

This past year has been amazing and I’ve felt very happy working a 9-5 job, coming home to my one-bedroom apartment, indulging in Netflix, and having long Skype conversations.

But now seems like the perfect time to get back to it all. Shake off the comfortable routine (i.e. laziness).

And it all starts with booking stuff. My credit card has had quite the workout and (if I cover the actual costs- literally, like, with my hand so that I don’t see the numbers), I love looking at the statement. My spending represents who I think I am.

  • Train tickets to Montreal. Discount business class tickets, baby!
  • Tickets to Cabaret in New York. Alan Cumming, wait for me!
  • Tickets to Paris via Reykjavik. In January. But I love Paris when it drizzles. And days with 3 hours of light. Right?
  • And tickets to a couple of SummerWorks plays.

SummerWorks is like the Fringe Festival’s sober sister. The one who has her shit together but still likes to have a good time. But a good time with focus, if you know what I mean. So my tickets are booked for two shows that I know are going to be amazing: He Left Quietly and Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales. Check them out.

I’ll also be making myself a calendar of playwriting submission deadlines. So I can watch them go by. Wheeee!

And, mostly, I hope to have many amazing adventures to post here.

I have been back in my hometown of Toronto for 3 months now, after over a year living out of my backpack. Thinking back, my record is 3 years in one place since the year 2000. And those three years were during undergrad when I’d go home for the summer. So maybe it’s normal that my feet are itchy for my own space rather than for another hostel dorm on another continent. We’ll see how long this lasts. (I’m already getting vague yearnings to see Chile. Or go back to Ireland. Maybe take a road trip down to Louisiana.)

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Winter is coming! The first snow on a dried hydrangea, Toronto.

Sitting here, settling into my new one-bedroom apartment that still smells of paint, I wonder: am I, you know, a grown up? I have a lease signed, a couch purchased (off Craigslist, but still) and lugged down the street with the help of a couple strangers and a good friend. There are butter dishes and sugar bowls and a brand new toaster sitting patiently in the kitchen and very serious thoughts of buying a Christmas tree a’brewing.

Something that’s making me feel more connected (other than working 9-5) is getting back into the loop theatre-wise. I haven’t written about any of the plays I’ve seen so far because I was either so affected I didn’t know what to write or so bored that I forgot I should maybe be blogging about things.

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Pig: rainbows and lollipops!

Pig (by Tim Luscombe at Buddies in Bad Times). Although this play made me feel every single emotion under the sun in a very intense way, from compassion to physical barfiness, I don’t know how to talk about it. This in-your-face show’s first professional staging about the gritty underbellies of certain gay cultures (including SM and sero-conversion parties) wasn’t my ‘cup of tea’ content-wise, but it was very well written and produced and acted. And it was nice to see a change from all the sanitized relationships we see on TV and on stage. And yes, it was provocative in the best sense of the word. I’m still reeling.

I mean- look at those shoes!

I mean- look at those shoes!

Venus in Fur (by David Ives at Canadian Stage) felt like a feel-good kid’s play after Pig. It was amusing and a bit brash but had beautiful moments. It was a crowd-pleasing look at S&M and there definitely was a perfectly sexy moment involving a boot being unzipped. But I spent most of the time wondering if the actress was really going to spend the duration of the play in those insane heels (she did and didn’t show any sign of distress).

A moment of action in The Valley. I'm glad they didn't shy away from staging this part.

A moment of action in The Valley. I’m glad they didn’t shy away from staging this part.

The Valley (by Joan McLeod at Tarragon Theatre). Um, I was never bored, but it was more a plateau than a valley (no peaks, if you get what I’m saying). Maybe I just don’t connect with Joan McLeod’s writing. Blasphemy!

But then I went to see The Gay Heritage Project (by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir at Buddies in Bad Times) and I realised I have to get back to writing. Because although you’ll read this an it will have already closed, I wanted to mark the play that motivated me to write again. To not give up on seeing shows and not to give up on the notion of creating them.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project.

Paul, Andrew and Damien in The Gay Heritage Project. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot.

I refuse to give standing ovations just because every single Toronto audience gives standing ovations for every single play. But for this, I stood up.

It was both an intimate and globally important investigation. It was theatrical. It was funny. It made me sob. With only three actors, it managed to swing from big, rich song-and-dance numbers to the most quietly heartbreaking questioning. The physical preciseness of the performers was mind-blowing. It was aware of the difficulty of asking the question “is there such a thing as a gay heritage?” and it attacked the question from various angles, speeds, times, ages.

So I’ve set myself some deadlines and I will also attack. Hopefully something of what Paul Dunn, Andrew Kushnir, and Damien Atkins did in The Heritage Project will magically rub off on me.

So I’m home. I have a physical space I am solely responsible for keeping tidy. I have objects like couches and desks. And now I have a writing deadline. But these are all good weights.

Home for the holidays. You can't really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

Home for the holidays. The Eaton Centre. You can’t really tell, but that giant reindeer has ribbons as guts and brains.

I appreciate that I have friends to call for impromptu dinners and family to call on for help moving all my photo albums and chairs into my new apartment. I am also holding tightly onto that openness that travelling forces you to develop: I’ve become that girl who talks to people while waiting for the bus and who crashes a neighbour’s housewarming party.

I am holding tightly onto that feeling where you don’t quite know where the day will take you (the day meaning weekends and after 5pm on weekdays) and going with the flow of the buffalo.

I am on a train. In Canada. On my way back to Toronto. This is full-circle. I left Union Station westward-bound July 19th 2012. In a few hours, I will be arriving back there from the east.

A trip around the world. Well, to certain places in the world.

I was warned about reverse culture-shock. The shock of coming home after travelling for an extended period of time.

But I haven’t felt it yet. It only feels like summer holidays, like the ones I’d have in undergrad.

I’ve spent my first two weeks back in Canada in Montreal. There, I have done nothing but let myself be spoiled by my mother, meet friends for coffee, poutine, and croissants, watch two full seasons of The West Wing on DVD (I’ll be the cop that doesn’t go to the meeting), and have a reunion with old friend in l’Ile d’Orléans to celebrate the wedding of one of the most beautiful couples there can be.

All this makes it easy to come home.

It also must have helped that I went through London on my way back to Canada.

London feels like home too, with a familiar public transport system, my favourite theatres, and, most importantly, close friends always ready to offer their spare room, go to gigs in sweaty caves, take the day off work to make ourselves sick with fancy cakes in pubs, and go halfway across the city to buy a mug I saw that one time.

It helps that my quick visit to London included breakfast in Southwark, a picnic in the park, magic tricks over cider, a Josh Ritter show, a Doc Brown DVD-taping, and two Irish plays by favourite playwrights (Martin McDonaugh, Conor McPherson) starring favourite actors (Ciarán Hinds).

It helps that it was sunny every day and that the tube lines I needed were open.

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A picnic in Soho Square behind this guy. Before a matinee of The Cripple of Inishmann, starring Harry Potter himself.

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Sweating to the sweet tunes of Josh Ritter in a hot venue in a hip part of town.

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Destroying cakes at The Bridge, London.

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And then home for a wedding and dancing all night (or until 1:30 because we are old now.)

Who knows what being home will mean, but I hope to keep my eyes, heart, and options open. You know, keep that “travelling” vibe.

Hello from a rainy and cold day in Ljubljana (I typed that without even double-checking the spelling. Gold star.). What’s up, Slovenia, with your 8 degrees and wet-feet weather?

I thought I’d take a little time out to invite any of you who are in Toronto to go check out the InspiraTO festival, starting May 30th.  It promises to be a very cool and original week of curated theatre. For the full schedule, tickets, and more information on the festival, please check out www.inspiratofestival.ca.

My short play will be presented in the RedShow programme. It’s called Carrots in the Toy Box and was written while in the middle of nowhere in New South Wales, which seems like a lifetime ago.

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I wish I could be there and am sad to miss so many pieces by so many amazing people, but I’ll count on your honest reports to let me know how it goes!

As part of pretending that I’m still somewhat being productive on my trip around the world, I’m trying to see at least one play in each country that I visit. This gives the impression that I’m doing research and getting inspired for future projects.

Weirdly, I’ve been more successful in my non-mission of eating a burger in each place I visit (there will be a burger round-up in August).

After a failed attempt to see a play in Cambodia (on World Theatre Day of all days!) due to cloudy weather and nausea (thanks, malaria tablets!), I was keen to make up for it in India, a country with strong and vital theatrical traditions. So I saw two plays. Two! I win.

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Man applying makeup.

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Another man applying different makeup.

In Kochi, I got the chance to take a tourist’s peak into Kathakali, a type of classical dance-drama from the state of Kerala, at a lovely and air conditioned wooden theatre in the old city.

Usually very long (like, 8 hours), they cut and dumbed this one down for tourists, complete with a make-up application demonstration and a quick run-through of the gestures and their meanings. I read the synopsis in two languages and still couldn’t quite follow the plot and my mind wandered a bit.  But I got to see what I’d learned about in my World Theatre course in 2006 in action, so I felt pretty good about that. And the costumes were quite amazing.

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In full costume, a type of demon boar.

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The boar and the lady.

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The main character, being egotistical (spoiler: at the end he’s enlightened and no longer full of ego).

And then, on my last day in India, I was treated to Gasha by the Indian Ensemble Theatre in the beautiful and sleek theatre space Rangashankara in Bangalore.

As the contemporary play was in Urdu, Hindi, and Kashmiri, all I understood that sometimes the two characters were at school (“If you concentrate, you will go far”) and that there was a dead dog at one point.

Though I was completely right on those two points, my friend explained everything to me afterwards and what I thought had been a joyful story of a friendship was quickly revealed to be about the horrors of the political conflicts in Kashmir.

I loved the use of the simple props and quick shift between characters by actors Bhat and Sandeep Shikhar. And the theatre itself made me feel so at home (Torontonians, it was very close to the Dance Theatre). But I guess with a play like this where accents and quick dialogue, it would make sense to understand at least one of the languages spoken…

I’ve been away from home for almost 9 months now. Strangely, I haven’t felt homesick much. But there are things I miss. Mostly, it’s people (and most often my little nephews), but I also miss eating cereal at 10pm with fresh milk in my pjs, public transit I understand, and knowing where the good second-hand bookstores are.

I also miss things like the great theatre going on back at home. A festival I love and have done for years is World Stage at Harbourfront in Toronto (I clearly remember Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs starring none other than Cillian Murphy way back in 1998, and being totally in awe of it).

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Jo Strømgren Kompani’s A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football (Norway). Photo: Knut Bry

As I travel, I’ve been trying to catch shows in every country I visit, but there’s nothing like having the best of the best from around the world gather in one place.

Between now and the end of May, World Stage will be presenting shows from Norway, Germany, Belgium/Portugal, Canada and the Netherlands.

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Beligan/Portuguese duo Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido/CAMPO in Still Standing You. Photo: Phile Deprez

 Up next is A Dance Tribute to the Art of Football (looks seriously awesome) followed by She She Pop & Their Fathers: Testament, Still Standing You, what we are saying and finally KAMP.

KAMP - photo: Herman Helle

KAMP – photo: Herman Helle

For more information on this year’s festival, please check out www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage

If you could go check these out and report back to me, that would be amazing.

I might be heading for an overdose. After nine weeks in the bush where I ended up addicted to Dance Academy (for lack of anything else and because it’s awesome), I arrived in Sydney starved for a bit of artsy-fartsy company.

 

With volunteering for the Arts Festival and as a workshop assistant at the Australian Theatre for Young People, I had my fill of theatre all day, every day, in one way or another. I haven’t had a moment to make it to Bondi beach yet (and I might skip it, actually, to go see some Shakespeare in the Blue Mountains).

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Handing out flyers promoting the festival outside the train station. I met some interesting people, including the righteous king of Northern Ireland.

Walking from my swish hostel to my volunteer job on the wharf every day, I walk past Cate Blanchett’s theatre and rub shoulders with Sydney Dance Company ballerinas on their coffee breaks.

The Sydney Dance Company cafe.

The Sydney Dance Company cafe.

I spend the day playing zip zap zop and telling kids to zip it. Evenings are spent checking out shows at the festival (when I’m not totally worn out). A wonderful perk of volunteering for the festival (or knowing generous artists- thanks Dan and Clare!) is getting free tickets to shows you wouldn’t normally rush out and spend $70 on when you’re a non-gambler on a backpacker’s (or artist’s) budget.

The first show I went to see was a on a sweltering 43 degree day. In the Eruptive Mode from Kuwait didn’t quite have me erupting into uncontrolled applause, but it did make me think about how I don’t know enough about the revolutions in the middle east and how you really need to have extraodinary actors if you show is made up of monologues. I did meet a nice Swiss stats major who accepted my extra comp ticket in exchange for a glass of wine that made me sleepy.

As I waited for the bus after the play, I considered how ridiculous it was that, at 10pm, I was sweating just sitting there in a wind that felt like car exhaust.

The next night, I went to Eraritjaritjaka with Patrick, a guy I met my first days in New Zealand (he took me to a bar that rotates where only tall European ladies are allowed to work and where I had a fancy drink with lychee and elderflower and basil- I like these free tickets in exchange for a drink things I’ve got going on).

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View from the fancy rotating bar.

It was a lovely piece that I decided was about poetry to stop me from trying to figure it out and just enjoy the sound of Goebbels’ music and André Wilms’ mesmerizing voice, the fun lighting, inventive use of technology, and the bending of the audience’s expectations. I didn’t get it, but I was transported.

I got to end the week with a fantastic show at the Carriageworks (awesome venue!) by Die Roten Punkte and their hilarious and irreverent punk/comedy/clown/theatre concert. If ever these guys show up at a festival in your ‘hood, check them out and say hi for me. Rock bang!

I realised I hadn’t seen any theatre for Sydney yet, though I tried to get the cheap day-of tickets for The Secret River several times and even tried to book very not-cheap tickets, but it was always sold out.  It’s apparently the new Australian classic- important in scope, production, and cultural/historical/political significance. I guess I’ll just have to read about it for now…

But I did manage to see Rust and Bone at Griffin Theatre. I felt at home instantly in the Monday rush-ticket line- unlike at the festival shows where I felt underdressed, no matter how clean my t-shirt was. The new Australian play was intimate, stark, horrifying, and hilarious all at once (and part of it was set in Red Deer). And at 70 minutes, it is my favourite kind of theatre (short and cut to the bone).

The Griffin Theatre lobby. My new favourite theatre.

The Griffin Theatre lobby. My new favourite theatre.

Weirdly, in the lobby, I met a couple who had stayed at the retreat I’d worked at (I’d served them dinner and I remembered them because it was the first time I’d heard the term “amaze” to mean “amazing”). If that wasn’t coincidence enough, one of them is a theatre director and they are thinking of moving to Canada.

Sometimes you meet people whose paths your meant to cross and plays you were meant to see. Others, not so much.