Thursday, December 30, 2010

Parade - Berkeley Street Theatre

How easy it is to write a good or a bad review. A good review will write itself listing praises and a bad one pointing fault. But when theatre leaves you cold, leaves you feeling nothing, there the challenge comes. And I am so challenged after seeing Studio 180's production of Parade tonight.
Studio 180 is possibly the best small theatre company in Canada right now, with a mandate to produce "socially relevant, provocative theatre".
The problem in telling a story is it quite often helps to have an angle. I was thinking of "To Kill a Mockingbird" another story of a kangaroo court in the deep south, and how that story uses Scout, a small girl, to bring us in. Studio 180's last play, the Overwhelming, the best contemporary play I have seen in five years, also used an English family of outsiders to show the struggle between the Hutus and the Tutsis. So the challenge in tackling this story head on is how do you make it relatable? And staging it as a musical, which lends itself to over-dramatization, how do you make it relatable for an audience of today?
Well, the short answer is you don't. The entire cast, with the exception of the accused, could be called "Redneck #1" and "Redneck #2" and so on. No effort is made to understand these people's motivations. We know from history that fifty years after the civil war it must have been difficult for a Jewish man from the north to get a fair trial, and that's all we're really left with.
I must say here that Michael Therriault as the accused is handsome and sings well and does all he can, but who casts a heroic lead as a mousy Jew with hook-rim glasses?  All problems intrinsic in developing this story for stage.
The songs are overall mediocre with the exception of the rousing "That's What He Said", brilliantly performed by Daren A. Herbert. It's what's needed more of, some exposition, and the song whips the town into a frenzy of bloodlust for the accused. It should also be said that the second last song, "All the Wasted Time" between the accused and his wife, while supposedly presented as one final heart-felt goodbye falls totally flat and had everyone grabbing for their coats.
Finally Jeff Irving, who I last saw as Rolf in The Sound of Music, is very handsome and a great singer but I didn't feel the emotion all the time, for tonight's performance anyway something didn't quite click. Mark Uhre stood out from the Ensemble for his strong singing voice and stage presence.
A note, it is a smaller theatre and the actors are not miked. If you sit on the left hand row of seats you will have the band in front of you and they will COMPLETELY drown out the actors voices, you will end up hearing less than 50% of the dialogue. I've seen musicals at the Berkeley Upstairs before and had the same problem. The band needs to play much quieter, the actors need to be miked, or the venue needs to be changed. Either way, don't sit on the left!
Overall I'm glad I went to support Studio 180 but an average play. It should be noted this was a co-production with Acting Up! Stage Company

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The End of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"


Sixty-six years ago, in the dense, snow-covered forests of Western Europe, Allied Forces were beating back a massive assault in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. And in the final days of fighting, a regiment in the 80th Division of Patton’s Third Army came under fire. The men were traveling along a narrow trail. They were exposed and they were vulnerable. Hundreds of soldiers were cut down by the enemy.

And during the firefight, a private named Lloyd Corwin tumbled 40 feet down the deep side of a ravine. And dazed and trapped, he was as good as dead. But one soldier, a friend, turned back. And with shells landing around him, amid smoke and chaos and the screams of wounded men, this soldier, this friend, scaled down the icy slope, risking his own life to bring Private Corwin to safer ground.

For the rest of his years, Lloyd credited this soldier, this friend, named Andy Lee, with saving his life, knowing he would never have made it out alone. It was a full four decades after the war, when the two friends reunited in their golden years, that Lloyd learned that the man who saved his life, his friend Andy, was gay. He had no idea. And he didn’t much care. Lloyd knew what mattered. He knew what had kept him alive; what made it possible for him to come home and start a family and live the rest of his life. It was his friend.

And Lloyd’s son is with us today. And he knew that valor and sacrifice are no more limited by sexual orientation than they are by race or by gender or by religion or by creed; that what made it possible for him to survive the battlefields of Europe is the reason that we are here today. (Applause.) That's the reason we are here today. (Applause.)

So this morning, I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (Applause.) It is a law -- this law I’m about to sign will strengthen our national security and uphold the ideals that our fighting men and women risk their lives to defend.

No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay. No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love. (Applause.)

As Admiral Mike Mullen has said, “Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.” (Applause.)

That’s why I believe this is the right thing to do for our military. That’s why I believe it is the right thing to do, period.

Finally, I want to speak directly to the gay men and women currently serving in our military. For a long time your service has demanded a particular kind of sacrifice. You’ve been asked to carry the added burden of secrecy and isolation. And all the while, you’ve put your lives on the line for the freedoms and privileges of citizenship that are not fully granted to you.

You’re not the first to have carried this burden, for while today marks the end of a particular struggle that has lasted almost two decades, this is a moment more than two centuries in the making.

There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country; their service has been obscured in history. It’s been lost to prejudices that have waned in our own lifetimes. But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands.

There can be little doubt there were gay soldiers who fought for American independence, who consecrated the ground at Gettysburg, who manned the trenches along the Western Front, who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima. Their names are etched into the walls of our memorials. Their headstones dot the grounds at Arlington.

And so, as the first generation to serve openly in our Armed Forces, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models to all who come after. And I know that you will fulfill this responsibility with integrity and honor, just as you have every other mission with which you’ve been charged.

Some of you remembered I visited Afghanistan just a few weeks ago. And while I was walking along the rope line -- it was a big crowd, about 3,000 -- a young woman in uniform was shaking my hand and other people were grabbing and taking pictures. And she pulled me into a hug and she whispered in my ear, “Get ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ done.” (Laughter and applause.) And I said to her, “I promise you I will.” (Applause.)

For we are not a nation that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We are a nation that says, “Out of many, we are one.” (Applause.) We are a nation that welcomes the service of every patriot. We are a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal. (Applause.) Those are the ideals that generations have fought for. Those are the ideals that we uphold today. And now, it is my honor to sign this bill into law. (Applause.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Christmas Carol – Soulpepper

I have always liked Charles Dickens. In addition to great stories, he really wrote for the reader, with a wit very evident today and a gift for hyperbole and exaggeration that matches my own. With this and Oprah recently picking A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations as her book club selections, I couldn’t wait to see a classic version of A Christmas Carol on my birthday.

I had a couple of reservations going in, the seats had been expensive and what newness could be brought to a story I had seen 1,000 times before, performed by The Muppets or Bill Murray. But after the Star’s fantastic 4 star review, I couldn’t wait.

The play was mesmerizing. Performed in the round, with the stage in the middle and the audience on each side, every seat was in the middle of the action. This more traditional re-telling included elements I had never seen, like a lively dance intermission during Christmas past, and fantastic costumes like long flowing velvet robes for the ghosts and short pants with stockings for the young men.

The first hour before intermission went by in 5 minutes. Scrooge looks on with wonder at the forgotten aspects of his life in Christmas past, occasionally instructing his past self with commands made in vain to change, and we watch too, mesmerized. This device of the character watching the events of the past unfold, unable to change them, while we watch too is brilliance, and with Joseph Ziegler as Scrooge, we see every nuance of emotion is his pained face. His performance is amazing, he checks any sense of his self at the door and becomes Scrooge, not the cartoon character, but a fully fleshed out man reflecting on his life.

This was the first time I saw Scrooge as human, not a caricature, and I was able to indentify with him at certain moments. When Scrooge is asked for money to help the poor celebrate the holidays, he protests, saying he already funds the shelters and the work houses, what else do these people want? An echo of words I have used myself.

This play made me re-think the concept of charity. In modern times charity has become such a business, it’s easy to be cynical. You have to read between the lines of every ask. For example, the Canadian Stage Theatre Company called me for money early this week, saying tickets sales only account for 50% of their budget and they need to make up the short fall. But if you look closer, you’ll see tickets sales cover the productions, the other 50% of their budget is outreach, free theatre for schools, book clubs, paid apprenticeships, and other things that are nice to have, but not strictly necessary. If for example 100% of their budget was suddenly covered, they would simply increase the budget, come up with new outreach programs, and call me again to ask for money to support them. There is no end, no enough.

As a consequence of this, it’s hard to know what to support, and easy to lose sight of true priorities when you’re called 3 times a week for donations. The tendency when the phone rings is to say “Humbug!” and quickly hang up, and this play re-affirms the need to keep vigilant, that there is still need out there if you look for it, not just an endless sea of wants.

The other aspect that moved me is how easily Scrooge turned his back on his friends and family, and also how easily they welcomed him back. This also hit close to home, it’s too easy in these busy times to focus on your own game and temporarily forget the benefit gained by social relationships.

I’ve gone a little off topic, but I have to say Matthew Edison as Scrooge’s nephew and also Scrooge as a young man was fantastic as well, and I loved his period dress. I last saw Matthew as the lead in Loot, also at Soulpepper.

As Scrooge’s nephew says in the play, Christmas is “the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys”. In the age of adding arsenic to children’s candy to make it shine brighter, and bleach to bread to make it whiter, this sentiment must have seemed radical, and in a great example of how when things change so much, they change so little, it still kind of is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Citizens concerned about Project Sanctuary

December 13, 2010

Open Letter re: Richard Dyde

York researcher Richard Dyde killed himself on December 9th. It was the day after police named him and 56 others in connection with Project Sanctuary, their child pornography probe.

We have serious grounds for questioning the legitimacy of this probe. In past years, Ontario police departments have launched similar investigations – Project Guardian in London, Project Truth in Cornwall, among others –that were later revealed to be little more than opportunistic sex scandals. Often relying on dubious allegations and perjured evidence, many of the cases related to these investigations collapsed in court. No matter: a witch-hunt mentality prevailed, jobs were lost, families and reputations were destroyed, and several men likewise took their own lives.

Police have admitted to journalists that one of the most inflammatory charges Dyde faced, “making child pornography,” may actually refer to “putting it on a different type of medium.” Does this mean saving a downloaded jpeg as a pdf? This blurring of crucial distinctions seems calculated to foster hysteria, not informed opinion.

We do not know the specifics of Richard Dyde’s case. All we know are the screaming headlines, which presumably drove him to take his life. All we know are sickening feelings of déjà vu as we witness a police force trafficking in maximum sensationalism, a complacent mass media cashing in on the frenzy, and a legal system perpetuating and enforcing questionable laws that equate representation with physical molestation. The public identification and shaming of these men, before any court process, is an intolerable injustice of which Richard Dyde is only the most recent victim.


Mary-Louise Adams, associate professor, Kinesiology and Health, Queens University

Brenda Cossman, professor, Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Richard Fung, associate professor, Faculty of Art, OCAD University

John Greyson, associate professor, Film, York University

Gerald Hannon, writer

Peter Kingstone, artist/lecturer

Gary Kinsman, professor, Sociology, Laurentian University

Tim McCaskell, writer/activist

Matt Mills, editorial director, Xtra

Alan Sears, professor, Sociology, Ryerson University

Rinaldo Walcott, professor, SESE OISE University of Toronto

Tom Waugh, professor, Film, Concordia University

For more information, check out the facebook group Citizens concerned about Project Sanctuary.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Things that make me happy

  • Cats
  • Good plays
  • Giving presents
  • A new app for my iPod
  • Planning a vacation
  • Ru Paul's Drag Race
  • The Golden Girls
  • Deliveries from
  • The Sound of Music
  • Laughing with my mom
  • Cooking
  • An old book I haven't seen before
  • A handsome man
  • Saturdays
  • Sewing

The Ways to Make Friends and Influence People

No problem is ever made better by talking about it.  On the contrary, word gets around, and whatever is bothering you gets rehashed.
NOTE TO SELF: Don't talk about problems.

Be flexible in your viewpoints.  No one likes absolutes, no one likes being told they're wrong.  Be agreeable, bend and fold.
NOTE TO SELF: Don't have opinions.

No situation is made better by walking away.  It's taking the easy way out, it's being a quitter.  Learn ways to cope with bad situations.  Turn the frown up-side down.
NOTE TO SELF: Stay in bad situations.

Adapt to situations you are in.  Know your audience.  Don't be disagreeable.  Don't be disliked.  Keep peace.  Get along. Be respectful. 
NOTE TO SELF: Be what other's want.  Don't be yourself.

I can see the past unfolding as the present.  I can see the error of my ways.  I feel the wounds of the people I have treated badly, the things I have done to them, and I see myself falling into patterns, doing the same things to others.  I see the circle closing as a result, less and less people.  And I feel lonely and I want to reach out but I hear, so loud, the wailing of the ones before, and I know I am still the same person, and I see pattern in my behaviour, and I worry about doing the same thing again.

The way I'm feeling now is the way I always feel after.  If only I hadn't.
If only I hadn't spoke.
If only I hadn't shown my feelings.
If only I hadn't have been myself none of this would have happened.

And I feel like King Kong, gone out to the city to say hello and the entire world reacted in terror and ran, and I couldn't understand why.
And I want to lick my wounds,
and go to my cave,
and stroke my cat,
and hide,
in the dark,

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Silicone Diaries - Buddies in Bad Times

Didn't know what to except going in. I had sat this play out in last year's lesbian season, but with a SLIGHT shift toward gay friendly programming I bought a subscription to Buddies and went to see "The Silicone Diaries" last night.
The play was fantastic, a detailed story of a desire for beauty and transformation, at it's best exploring the essence of self acceptance.
Nina Arsenault was stunning, moving. At the height of the play she describes a friend and mentor who died from surgery with an urgency that takes your breath away.
The play de-rails a bit after that with a lengthy coda about an exercise bike and the phrase "the next step of my body transformation" being used more than ten times in the space of five minutes. It's jarring as the rest of the play is grounded so much in reality, this abstract ending could work in another form but it needs to be more concise, I got on the journey at the beginning and this ending derails the train a bit.
Afterward a Q & A, which works for most plays but here felt uncomfortable with too many questions about transsexuality as a concept and questions and what is between people's legs. The play suspends this question and moves on to the real story beneath, one would hope the audience was mature enough to do the same.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wicked - Canon Theatre

I had high expectations for this show, I had heard a lot about it and tried to see it in Chicago in 2008. It met many of my expectations.
The show itself was quite good but overall too many saccharine moments, sticky sweet girly parts of love and friendship I could have done without.
This being said, I have coined a phrase to describe the show. Just before the intermission, the witch sings "Flying Gravity" and flies for the first time and it was (here's the phrase) "Wet-Your-Pants Good". Amazing moment in theatre I'll never forget.
Richard H. Blake as Fiyero underwhelmed, I didn't buy him as the leading man, but Chandra Lee Schwartz as Glinda was great and Jackie Burns as the lead Elphaba was perfection.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


There's an episode of the Simpsons where Bart is watching TV and he sees a commercial for the new Gamestation 256.  He says: "256?!?  And here I am stuck with this useless 252!" and he kicks the old console into the fire.

I just tried to put the new Lego Harry Potter game, which I already bought, on to my Ipod, and it turns out mine is a second generation Ipod and it won't work on it.  

What's this, the newer Ipod is very slightly faster?  And here I am stuck with this old piece of crap! (tosses in cat's dish).   
Cat: Meow?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Equus - Hart House

I'm in the intermission now. The play is fantastic, moving, transcendent. I remember after watching it in London in 2007 wanting to see it again so I could comprehend more of it. I had forgotten that with time but I am glad I get this opportunity now.
The play unravels slowly like an onion and draws you in with each layer, each breath, each movement.
The stage was almost bare in London and I prefer this staging, a series of swings.
The play is finished now. The acting is brilliant with the two leads carrying the show, Martin Dysart as the psychiatrist and the beautiful and talented Jesse Nerenberg as Alan Strang. Both acts of the play build to a crescendo and with Jesse it's a fever pitch. During the height of these scenes you don't move, you don't look anywhere else, you barely breath he is so transfixing.
Claire Acott as Alan's mother seemed at different points to be trying different accents and would break her speech pattern by saying more sophisticated words in a more sophisticated voice, which was distracting.
One more thing about the lead Jesse, to play a scene with such open emotion and to do it while naked on stage for about 15 minutes takes remarkable skill, especially for someone so young. Bravo.

Anderson Cooper, monkeys, and the BUNNY!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying)

At 7 pm on September 1, 2011, I will be on Broadway in NYC watching Daniel Radcliffe in "How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying)".
More details of the trip to follow, looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Day I Insulted Jonathan Franzen

Went to hear Jonathan Franzen read from his new book Freedom tonight. Afterward a lengthy line for his signature, about 40 minutes, so I started to talk to the people in line around me and they all looked at me like I was crazy. We had nothing else to do so I started asking people if they had read the book - I figured we were all standing in line waiting for him.
No one had read the book.

Now I should preface this by saying I fell a little out of love with Franzen in his most recent book.  He came off arrogant sometimes, he bad-mouthed cats, he made all his female characters servile and mono-sylabic. He came into the reading with a leather jacket and a swagger and a part of me thought "This guy is the biggest blow-hard I've ever seen!" which may not have been true but was still on my mind as I approached the front of the line.
I'm not very good at hiding my feelings.

As I waited to approach him with mixed emotions, the woman in front of me was taking FOREVER and telling her life story. She closed with "All the best to you".
I thought "that sounds good" so as I walked up I repeated her line "All the best to you".
Franzen goes on the defensive, saying "She really meant it!" and I thought "This is starting well...."
So I said "Good!  I mean it too!" and he accused me of being sarcastic and mocking the woman. I said I wasn't mocking her as I wouldn't want his job anyway, talking to crazy strangers all day, and then I realized I had inadvertently mocked this woman some more and then I rambled for a while.
Franzen quickly signs my books with what looks like a circle instead of his name, no personalization, and says "Next!"
The pretty girl a couple in front of me got a doodle drawing and her name and everything, which kind of reinforced my "he's a douche" thing, but at the same time....
That didn't go how I planned.


I want to be covered in rocks.

Big boulders, smooth, and hard and round.  Impenetrable.

I want to lie down, lie back,

the first one is placed on my chest.

It feels heavy and I ask for more.

Another on my left leg, then another on my right.

Hard, firm, solid.

I can feel the crushing weight.

"But sir, I have a question", I hear,

as I ask for another on my head.

And another on my groin, and another on my feet

and another on top of another, on top of another.

The wall complete.

There is silence.

I want to be encased and covered, smothered.

And I lie back, and breathe,

for the first time in 20 years.

I am at peace.

I feel my place.

I feel content.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last One - The Gravy Train

I worked for city hall temping for the computer leasing inquiry in 2005.

While there I remember they had one photocopier for the entire East York civic centre, and I'm guessing from it's looks it was bought in the early 1980's.

I remember using outdated computers with Word Perfect, the 1995 edition.

I remember only two computers in the entire office had the internet.

I remember they couldn't afford cleaners so at the end of every day you want to walk your garbage can over and dump it in a main receptacle. 

I remember there was a water cooler and if you wanted to drink from it you had to join "the water club" and pay $10 a month for the privilege.

Basically conditions that no private sector would ever put up with.  EVER.

And now we find out, from Rob Ford, that this ladies and gentleman was the gravy train.  And the time of the gravy train is ending....

Heaven help us all.

The God Delusion

Rob Ford

Ford was opposed to funding an AIDS prevention program and made homophobic remarks: "If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you won't get AIDS probably. That's bottom line."

Regarding bike lanes and cyclists who are killed in accidents: "I can't support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it's their own fault at the end of the day."

Mr. Ford reacts to councillor Howard Moscoe's suggestion that police overtime be audited:
"It just makes me sick when you left-wing nut jobs like Howard Moscoe are down here trying to bash the police non-stop."
- February 2003

he most notorious incident involving Rob Ford occurred at a Toronto Maples Leafs game at the Air Canada Centre. Ford got very drunk, yelled obscenities and essentially made a spectacle of himself. Some people asked him to tone it down and Ford began harassing them. Dan and Rebecca Hope, from Enniskillen in Durham Region, were on the receiving end of Ford's nasty obscenity-filled attacks, and was eventually escorted out of the Air Canada Centre by security. The Hopes did not know the identity of the man who harassed them, but Ford had left a business card identifying him as a city councilor. The couple wrote a letter to Toronto city clerk Ulli Watkiss. When reporters asked Ford about it, he lied and claimed he wasn't at the game, and then alleged he was being slandered, that it was a "hatchet job" and that he was actually a victim. Ford changed his story however the following day, admitted that he had lied and that he harassed Dan and Rebecca Hope.

Fuck Rob Ford

Toronto needs to de-amalgamize. 
Let the suburbs have their Mel Lastman's and their Rob Fords, downtown doesn't want them.

All I hear is how worse off the suburbs have it.
"My road hasn't been paved in 3 years and downtown roads are perfect!"

Me and the 250 people who live in my unit pay to pave the road in front of my house.  The same amount of road in front of your house is paid by you and your neighbour across the street.  By that argument my road should be paved every 10 minutes but it's not as my money is going to fund you already.  And you say you're not getting enough?!?!?!

I'm ready to split this city in two.  Who's with me???

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Anderson Project - CanStage

The Anderson Project - CanStage

This is how the season should have started.

A play advertised as a biography of Hans Christian Anderson put on as a one man show. The play opens in Paris with loud rap music in French and quickly changes venue to a porno theatre.

This is theatre that opens your mind, that is new, and fresh, and thinks outside the box. Yet it's all still likable, relateable.

Incredible staging and performances, a tour de force of modern theatre.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Death of a Salesman - Soulpepper

Death of a Salesman - Soulpepper

The only thing I knew about this play going in was that it was depressing and that the main character was the model of Gil from the Simpsons. It took a while for me to shake that Simpsons image of hapless Gil, but shake it I did.

The play unravels slowly, like an onion, layer by layer to the point that even at the midway point I was unsure of what was keeping me there.

By the end the story is revealed, a timeless story of a search for identity, our place in the world, of hope.

In my opinion Death of a Salesman is the best play ever written.

Soulpepper as always means quality acting, the lone misstep being Nancy Palk whom I felt did not stay consistent. In her defense her part is the most thin, but I felt times where she lost her motivation. It should also be noted she is the real life wife of the lead, Joseph Ziegler.

Ari Cohen is fantastic as Biff, simmering with discontent throughout the play and finally boiling over at the end in a flood of emotions that had me and the entire audience in tears.

The revelation here is the lead Joseph Ziegler as Willy Loman, the salesman of the title. He does not go for show, but is consistent through out and I'm guessing most people didn't realize how good the performance was. Like a master actor, he embodies the role, becoming Willy so completely you can't imagine him as anything else.

A great performance of one of the seminal works of the 20th century.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical - Princess of Wales Theatre

We sat in the front row and they should have left the seats behind us empty for when we were blown away back in to the row behind us.
The best costumes, the best songs, the best staging.
"Material Girl" was the best performance of a song I have ever seen in my life.
If I won the lottery I would go every night until the show closed.
So beyond utterly fabulous, go now, sing, dance, live.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blasted - Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Both of the new artistic directors of CanStage and Buddies in Bad Times had something to prove when they took over the reins and both optioned provocative lead plays to start the season.

Whereas CanStage mis-stepped with Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter, Buddies director Brendan Healy hits with Blasted.

Provoking but not exploitative, the play has a lot of positives, with a cast that is totally not afraid to check their ego at the door and go there, to excellent thoughtful staging and sensitive direction.

The problem lies with the script, a first play from a 23 year-old British author, it contains too many parts where you don't know what is happening.

That being said the 1.75 hours flew by, and you leave the theatre with a discussion, as opposed to CanStage's Fernando Krapp, where you feel like you SHOULD be leaving with a discussion, but aren't.

Marks off for the plot holes that are never explained, I hate that.


Nuit Blanche 2010

Best Nuit Blanche ever!
Started out at the Kent Monkman Iskootao show as I wanted him to sign his book, The TRIUMPH OF MISS CHIEF. As you can see from the link, a used copy is selling for $1,145, and that's unsigned. Not that I would ever sell it though. Art is worth more than money.
We got there a bit early as I was hoping to catch him setting up and flag him over to sign the book. We asked and were told he'd be there between 8 and 10 depending on the crowd. D'oh.
We went over to the ROM to see 20,000 Species? We asked as we couldn't find it and the description said "High up in the historic Red Oak tree in front of the ROM". The Nuit Blanche people said it was inside, so we waited for about 20 minutes in line, went in and saw Crossing which was people projected on the side of the ROM and not worth raising a camera for and heard XXIX which was people singing together on a video in 29 different languages and not worth even sticking our head in for one second.
Once inside there were blankets made of liquor bottle caps. No photos allowed. It looked like they took a LOT of work but ultimately not very satisfying.
We had a quick dinner, I was out-voted and we went to Taco Bell. I've learned you can't eat crap food and still walk around, so I had a snack size sandwich only, but Sarah has not learned and had like 4 tacos and fries supreme, ensuring she would be limping behind us for the rest of the night. And the minx shared her fries with me! Foul temptress!
From there we waited in line about 15 minutes for KortuneFookie, a huge fortune cookie that is interactive, you can write fortunes for it online. I kept guessing mine would be "You will find disappointment in a cookie" but instead it was "Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, 'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.'" Which I thought was rather stupid.
Everyone was talking all these pictures of themselves with the cookie which held up the line considerably, so I decided I would too.

Lynn's dauther Key-something with the cookie.

From there we walked past Monument to Smile (Michael Jackson singing 'Smile' and more photos on a wall I didn't bother photographing) and went back over to Kent Monkman and there was now a HUGE crowd gathered. I was able to find us an amazing spot right up front, we had to nearly fall in a water fountain to get there, but it was worth it. After about another 30 minute wait he appeared!
She was dressed in full native/drag and beat a drum over a pulsing piece of the Canadian shield, representing a new mother earth, in drag form. Watching her dancing and drumming in huge heels and everyone clapping and moving along, that was cool. Unfortunately I mostly had a view of his back, but at least we were REALLY close, and no one could stand behind us because of the water.

This is the best photo I took, as she was making her departure. I was kind of reaching for the book at that time....

But Lynn's daughter took this amazing photo and I am forever grateful.

Afterward I snuck around back and found her tent and stuck first my head, and then the book through the hole and he signed it! I was so happy, like on cloud nine, I had to stop afterward to collect myself. Lynn's dauther was like "Would you like a picture with him?" and I was like "How? Get him to stick his head through the hole in the tent in full drag?" So that didn't work.

A short walk from there was our longest wait of the night, about 45 minutes, and Interactive landscape Dune at Lower Bay Station. I had wanted to see this FOREVER, well ever since I heard there was a dis-used subway station underneath Bay Street. There's apparently another unfinished one under Queen Street btw. Unfortunately they had parked subways on either side of the tunnel for the exhibit so we couldn't see much of the actual station.
I know the photo below is out of focus but it best represents what we saw in the exhibit.

Light sticks that somehow interacted with people, as you walked by they lit up. You were encouraged to run up and down the row and the lights would follow you. Here with the full flash to hide the darkness is Lynn's daughter doing just that.

I took this photo as we were leaving, a sign indicating Bay Station as 'Upper Bay'.

When we left we were already on the subway and had magically gotten in without paying, so we hoped on and went down to King Street with about a million other people.
The first thing we saw was Endgame (Coulrophobia), the squished clowns head between two buildings, which had gotten big press coverage for some reason and was just weird.

Next was the one we wanted to see, 1850, which was to show a recreation of the former Lake Ontario shoreline from 1850 with an "array of lights projecting an immersive wash of blue". What we got instead was a blue/black light with a bunch of people standing in front of it like it was a rave. Although "impromptu rave" would have probably worked as an installation too.

From there up Yonge St to The Task. The concept was a man moves 15 tonnes of bricks from one side of the lot to the other side and back over the course of the night. We saw him move one brick. I think he was ahead of schedule or something.

Back east to The Next Community. This sounded cool, a machine would take photos of people and digitally mix them up so that the resulting photo would be a combination of all the people's photos.
There were problems however:
1) 15 minute line to get your photo taken
2) The projection was like in an alleyway between two buildings and you could barely see it. Look in the photo, it's WAY at the top:

3) The resulting photo had no mouth.
All this said, the resulting photo's eyes did look Asian.
From there we went over to I Cried For You, which I had been discussing as a highlight of the evening. Over the course of a 10 minute "audition", a "director" asks you to make yourself cry. Would I be able to do it? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else as when we got there the place was set up but deserted.
Over to Arrivals/Departures, a huge chalk board where people write either where they're coming from or where they're going. I was impressed at the size of the chalk board.

Here's a close up.

Starting back home we passed The Bus House Collective, which was: "Bus shelters will be transformed info comfy, interactive environments that question traditional ideas of infrastructure, home, and public space." This was the best one:

As we passed Yonge/Dundas square I spotted Trevor Boris and shoved Sarah over to him so we could get a group photo.

An exhibit called Just because you can feel it, doesn't mean it's there was just a big fire in the middle of Yonge/Dundas square.

I have no idea how it could be called art, but it was a cold night so the fire was nice.
We walked past Nuit Market Starring the Toronto Weston Flea Market but there was a HUGE line to get it and we didn't feel like waiting in line for a flea market at 1 am.
Our final stop was Happy Birthday to _____________! which was a bunch of people signing Happy Birthday to You every 15 minutes. We thought they'd be miserable but they were still happy, with huge smiles on their faces.
From there we were too tired to continue. A great night!

Alyson folds

One of the world's oldest LGBT book publishers, Alyson Books, has effectively folded. They released a statement recently announcing a switch to e-book only format, with the first e-books not being released for 9-12 months, if ever.
I don't read e-books.
Plus they published some vital stuff, like this collection from OUT magazine (also owned by Here! Media, also in danger of folding...). I pre-ordered this book over a year ago and am still waiting.

I have been critical of Out magazine for having like no content, and I found out recently it's that they haven't been paying their writers, according to Michael Musto. No payment means no writers. No writers means no content. No content means no readers. And another 10 page article on "What's new in port wines!" That is not gay!
The worst part is my favourite author, Paul Russell, who has like no web presence, his book was to be their fall lead title, The Unreal Life of Sergey Vladimirovich Nabokov.

Now Paul Russell is under contract so he can't even publish anywhere else, this book may never see the light of day and that SUCKS.
The argument that gay publishing is dead doesn't really fly. What about Josh Kilmer-Purcell? An unknown whose first book his the New York Times bestseller list. Argh.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Clockmaker - Tarragon Theatre

The Clockmaker - Tarragon Theatre

The play starts well with strong characters. The title character, Charlie Chaplin-esque, is not over-played, the police chief played by a handsome gay man and the husband in unfortunate pants is criminally attractive. The only faulty piece is the wife who runs around in a haze, then freaks out, and finally turns in to Nancy Drew. 
The problem is the story, far too convoluted, un-followable. I fell asleep 30 minutes in and awoke for the unsatisfactory finale. The play started with character and ended like a poorly written episode of 'Touched By An Angel'. 
2.5 out of 10. Definitely miss - no redeeming value. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Theatre Reviews: Krapp and Crap

If I had more time in my life, and a workstation, and well, a couple other things, I would write theatre reviews as I left the theatre or as soon as I got home. I would take notes, I would keep the program to refer to it, I would spend time on it.
I do these things occasionally, but rarely, and so this space is often left for the truly good, and the truly bad.

The first play I went to see last week was the first of my season subscription with CanStage, Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter.
I'm thinking this was not the season I should have subscribed for as they plan to "test the limits of theatre" and a bunch of other not-appealing words from the program. I read The Star review, we were both there opening night, and I agree with like two things, the rest it's like he was on another planet. I agree with the 2.5 out of 4 stars and with the line "Ashley Wright gives a panto-level buffoon performance as the eponymous Krapp". I thought the actor playing The Count stole the show, getting huge applause during and after the show and stealing every scene he was in. The Star says: "Ryan Hollyman lacks any class whatsoever as The Count". Did you stay for the curtain call when he got the biggest ovation?
I think crowds in Toronto are too cheap with their standing ovations in general. On this occasion, opening night, with the author (from Germany!) in attendance, only about half the audience stood, the rest, including me, stayed steadfastedly seated.
I thought the performances fine in general, even the story was interesting, and most of my 2.5 stars are for bringing something new, in this case German new-wave theatre, to Toronto, and for making me think.
That being said, I'm still thinking a week later. The play makes no sense, starting off with an arresting story and beautiful sets and ending with an alternate reality (I think??) and people talking through vocoders.
The problem is the play cannot be understood, at least not from the script, and that as a device works rarely, and not here.

The second play I saw last week was The Great Farini Project. I had really wanted to see this and was looking forward to it all week.
The premise made it seem like "The Prestige" with one acrobat daredevil trying to out-fox the other. There were adds all over the gay village, alluding to the gay themes, and it sounded great. Also advertised was the high wire tricks and flying over the audience, what's not to love.
Well, I'll tell you what's not to love.
The piece was mainly dance. There was no plot. There was little dialogue. It opened with each man dancing individually, and occasionally together, stoping to recite what seemed like random words to each other, I can't imagine they were scripted. So 10 minutes of individual dance, then 60 seconds of one saying "Anarchy!", and the other saying "Potato!", and repeat. Then back to the dancing for 10 minutes, then more words. This took up the first hour of the play, during which no plot was revealed, no dialogue spoken more than a sentance long, and no dance moves of note were displayed. I quickly fell asleep.
I must have been snoring as I was awoken when one of the actors threw a ball at my chest which bounced off and slid under my seat. In my defence, the guy beside me was sleeping too. Now we were in the front row, but how was I to know this would be beyond terrible?
Once awoken, I watched as the actors mounted some gizmo, about an hour into the "play" and hovered over the audience, which was amusing. There was no reason for doing so, and no "plot" was revealed, but at least it woke me up.
Now the Star of course called the play "Delightful". It goes on to say "Wyatt's... resonant voice is prone to sibilance." Even after I looked up the word in the dictionary I still don't understand what it means. Basically the review also gives 2.5 out of 4 stars yet does nothing to explain why the review is not higher, writing away their own criticism with "in fairness, given the physical stress of the dancing, it’s a wonder they have breath to declaim anything, especially when they must compete with a pastiche score of this and that." Using yet another word that is beyond definition. Helpful.
The problem with such a poorly acted, non-plotted, boring mess, is that it turns me off going to unknown plays. I see listings and think of how terrible this one was and it makes me not want to go. For the record, this was the second worst play I've ever seen, worse than XXX Live Nude Girls, which at least didn't pretend to be unpretentious, and not as bad as If We Were Birds, which has to be the worst play ever written, and the winner of a Dora Award, of course.
One last thing. For the first 15 minutes of this play, I was watching one of the lead actors and wondering why they give him a prop hand of a tiny doll. He was supposed to be an acrobat so why the prop hand? When he took off his coat, I realized it was his real hand. I would suggest putting it more out there in future, getting it out of the way early on to stop people from guessing. Also I was thinking that having a hand like that has probably held him back in life in social situations and I was overcome by a "Who the fuck cares?" Your hand isn't perfect, who cares? And I wanted to give that to him for a moment, to transfer it from my brain to his like Dumbledore and his pensive in Harry Potter, that no one minded, that no one cared, and that hopefully if it had ever held him back, it would never do so again.
Which got me thinking of my own maladies. Could "Who the fuck cares?" be applied to myself?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria - Part Two

Better late than never I suppose!
On our last day of vacation and our last day in Victoria we decided to go to a castle and the historic military site Fort Rodd Hill.
The castle was outside of town and we were told it was about a 2 km walk from the nearest bus stop. We got on the bus, told the driver where we were going, rode for about half an hour until the driver said "Last stop, everyone off!" When we asked him about our stop he started cursing a blue streak and saying he would have to drive us back now. He said it was all the confusion from the people on the bus, and two people had gotten on since we did...
Anyway, he drove us back, we walked down an incredibly steep hill, and found the castle!

I don't remember what it was called but it doesn't matter as it was a private function and they wouldn't let us in. Nice.
From there we wanted to walk over to Fort Rodd Hill. When we asked how to get there at the castle the woman had to get help to give directions and I thought "This isn't good".
Walked back up the steep hill and down a road to nowhere for about a half an hour and I started to feel dizzy. I hadn't eaten and we had been doing a ton of walking everywhere and my body decided to quit. I sat down on the side of the road and saw some blackberries, which I thought I could eat to keep my blood sugar up and not feint.
I could barely stand but I started grabbing berries left and right, I must have had over 100. They were so perfectly sweet, I loved them. I think Sarah was just watching in amazment, oh and taking photos:

When finished I sat down, then lay down, and almost passed out but didn't. I felt quite weak but we were almost there, and we were in the middle of nowhere so I had little choice, and we marched on.
Fort Rodd Hill is where they defended Canada presumably against the Japenese if it had of come to that.

I had never seen a lighthouse actually attached to a building before, it's a good idea. Why don't they all have that? A plaque said this was the first one on the west coast.

Inside the fort a recreation of barracks life:

I had to sit down quite a lot as I was still weak but Sarah had energy for the both of us, and was climbing around.

As I was saying...
Oh, actually in this shot I said she should look like she was defending Canada, so she shook her fist.


My last photo, from the mall across the street from our hotel.

We went back to the hotel room and had a quiet night in with Swiss Chalet and watched "The Sound of Music". An amazing time!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jury Duty

September 16, 2010
10:19 a.m.
I'm at jury duty right now. I talked to a lot of people trying to find out what to expect and a lot of people know someone who did jury duty or were called and had a reason to get out of it, but very few people actually went. My goal here is to document what's happening to me without giving away any case details or anything so I avoid being thrown in the hoosegow.
About 7 or 8 weeks ago I got a letter in the mail saying I may be selected for jury duty, this was like a pre-letter and asked for just a few things like my name and occupation which I filled out and sent back to the Sheriff. Who knew Toronto had a Sheriff?
About a month after that I got a summons in the mail saying I had been selected for jury duty and I had to go to the courthouse today at 8:30 am.
I talked to my boss about it and she commented I would probably make google-y eyes at the accused which is entirely true, I very likely will. And at the lawyers, the judge, and any other man in a 100 foot radius.
I had this fear that I would wake up late this morning. My plan was to be here at 8:15 and I kept picturing what would happen if I was late. Would I get thrown out and have to go in to work? Would the judge yell at me? Would I have broken some law?
I worried all night about that, got little sleep, and woke up at 8:35, five minutes after I was supposed to be here, and proceeded to have a heart attack. I ran around getting dressed and realized I should have picked out an outfit the night before. What does one wear to jury duty. Not something too fancy or the Defense won't pick you. Not something too casual or the Crown won't pick you and the judge might yell at you. Ultimately I still don't want to do this but if you're up for something human nature dictates that you want to have a shot at getting picked. Who wants to be left off the team? It's like high school gym class all over again, and I was always picked last.
I raced out the door and saw it was pouring rain. Luckily I had just acquired a nifty Vancouver olympics umbrella so I grabbed that and was off.
I considered taking a taxi but I couldn't find one going the right direction and traffic was terrible so I knew it would still take a long time and I'm not getting paid to do this. You don't get paid until your 11th day of service, and then you get $40 per day, yahoo. I hope that's tax free.
I took the streetcar/subway combo and it took forever so I got here about 9:20, over 30 minutes to travel 1.9 km. Thank you TTC.
I saw people walking in and thought maybe there were other late people too and that I could blend right in but they had already checked in and had gone for coffee, d'oh. The woman did look at her watch but she still checked me in and told me to take a seat.
Oh yeah, I forgot, there's only one entrance to this building and every time you enter your bag must be scanned and you have to go through a metal detector.
So I sit down in a room with about 500 people and there's a man at the front of the room talking about procedure. I look around and see a shelf with games and magazines and a woman doing a puzzle. The man at the front mentions something about stepping out for five minutes and I may have missed something but it seems like we can go for smoke breaks at our own discretion. This is something I asked my friend from London, Ontario who had jury duty on Monday and he said it was like a job and they told you when you could take breaks. I can see people in Toronto being less respectful of the courtroom setting and just walking out whenever anyway, plus how do you keep track of 500 people so I'm glad this worked out this way. I have common sense and will go during a low point anyway.
The man at the front finished talking and everyone who couldn't serve was instructed to hold up their summons and a clerk would collect them and call the people by name. It turns out many people in here have been here since yesterday or even Monday so I guess I can consider myself lucky.
The people who had a reason they couldn't serve all lined up at the front of the room to wait to explain their reason to the judge so I took this opportunity to grab a coffee and a cigarette. There's a cafeteria in here and you're allowed to bring in food, someone else had told me you were not.
Out into the pouring rain, smoke, and then through the metal detectors and back.
Once the people at the front of the room finished, they let the people who had started yesterday or Monday check in which was another line, another wait. And thats where we are now, it just turned 11 am. My iPod is still on B.C. time for some reason. Will update later in the day.

11:28 a.m.
Still sitting here. Now the people who were excused have moved out into the hall and are being talked to. I still have not been asked to do anything, nor had the possibility of doing anything. I'm waiting to see what the next step is so I can go for another smoke.
A lot of people are reading books, I've seen about three women playing on Gameboys, a lot, in fact most, are just sitting and looking forward. Some people brought laptops, there is wifi but it costs money. There are stations for laptops if you brought one. I didn't, although I could have brought my iPod charger with me. Will do that tomorrow.
They just shut the doors, that can't be a good sign.....

3:31 p.m.
I'm back in the juror lounge.
I haven't been asked to keep anything confidential, no one has mentioned anything like that, so I assume I can go into general details.
My group of jurors was called around noon and we had to go up to the courtroom. At this point the judge and accused were there so to show respect for the court, no reading, no texting, no nothing. Sit there and look straight ahead. It felt like I was the accused.
They began with reading what the people were accused of and they got a chance to plead guilty or not. The accused were two people, an older white man and a late 40's brown woman. They were accused of conspiracy to commit murder and coercion to commit murder, both pled not guilty. From there the judge told the court the trial would take eight weeks and be over in the middle of November.
The judge then asked if there was anyone who couldn't be a juror for a few reasons, and after each reason a bunch of people went up and plead their case to the judge.
The reasons I remember were:
- can't speak English or not a Canadian citizen
- health or hearing
- financial difficulties (a LOT of people went up for this)
- anything else
All this took about 2 hours and when the people were giving their reasons to the judge they were trying to whisper and be discreet for the most part so I couldn't hear a thing. Still we couldn't read or do anything.
I had a smoke and came back in through security, then I called work, where I was told that I had too much work to be allowed on a murder trial, then my mom and when I finally found the cafeteria the line was so long I didn't have time to wait in it. I grabbed a muffin by the checkout and ran back to the courtroom.
Its a good thing I didn't get to eat as the next part was the nerve wracking part.
They put all the jurors into a container and pulled out names. It was like some lottery from Hell and every time they called a name everyone held their breath.
The first 20 were called, not me, and they went through each person with the lawyers getting a chance to oppose everyone. Out of the first 10 people maybe 2 got through and by the end of the 20 they had 6 jurors.
What surprised me most during this was how quickly it all seemed to happen. One second these people were sitting with us and the next second they were on a jury for two months.
Another 20 called and they had their jury and the rest of us were dismissed. Back down to the jury room for 30 pointless minutes and they let us go home at about 4 pm.
I'm due back tomorrow at 9:30 for another go.
Btw it took me an hour to get home from Dundas and University on the TTC. If it wasn't raining, that's less than a 30 minute walk. And when you do get on the driver spends the entire ride yelling at everyone to move back, even though it's full and you can't. I hate the TTC.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Victoria - Part One

We took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. It was a huge boat, a cafeteria, a gift shop, and big enough for several cars and even a bus to drive on.

We took the city bus to Victoria from the ferry dock, about 40 minutes. It was a double-decker which was cool but with all our bags we couldn't go upstairs. In fact the bus was so full we barely fit downstairs so I ended up holding the bags in the doorway through each stop and turn. Fun!
Once here we checked in to our hotel. I actually miss the hostel a bit, it was right in the village and there were loads of people around.
Anyway, we went downtown and saw the B.C. parliament which was pretty impressive.

You'd think there'd be loads of postcards with that on them but they were all really crappy for some reason, like the back of a statue or a huge tree in the way.
From there we went to the Art Gallery which was open 'til 9. They had an exhibition on of the work of Kent Monkman called "The Triumph of Miss Chief" or mischief. I loved it to death.

The exhibition catalogue was $60 so we went back to the hotel and I looked it up online, hoping to get it cheaper or be able to buy it later when I had some money. Turns out the book is now out of print and selling for over $1000 online! Yikes! So we went back the next morning and I bought the book.
Also of note, Kent Monkman will be performing as Miss Chief at Nuit Blanche in Toronto so I MUST go see that and get him to sign the book.
From there off to Craigdarroch Castle which Sarah really loved.

It was quite nice.
Off to Chinatown for lunch and shopping, we stumbled upon Three Fan Tan Alley and had an amazing lunch of rice and roast pork.

We came back to the hotel to recharge and I also needed to recharge my camera battery which I forgot to do earlier.
From there back downtown to Miniature World. The displays were fantastic and the detail incredible. Here's a scene from WW2 Germany, you can click to enlarge the photo.

Exquisite detail in this living room.

Walking down the street we found a couple of cats (of course) so I played with them for about 15 minutes. Sarah suggested I should keep cat treats in my bag at all times and that's such a good idea I think I just might. Oh, I also got a new bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The old one is looking a bit weathered.

I knew there were a couple of Emily Carr sites in Victoria and while looking for the world's largest totem pole we happened to come across Carr's birthplace. I took a few photos mainly for my mom but when we tried to stop in and look at the giftshop we found the place was shut, it closes at 4 apparently, and we had just missed it.

We did end up finding the world's largest totem pole, it wasn't easy to find. It's hidden in a park and we had to ask a lot of people for directions. Note Sarah on the right at the bottom.

As we were walking back to the Museum we came across a peacock, which I thought was the most unusual thing ever. I stalked in for about 10 minutes while Sarah stood carefully back at a safe distance. As we turned the corner we saw a few more, I guess they live in the park.

Sarah and I both got to give a squirrel a nut from our hands. Neither of us had ever done that before, that was pretty cool.

Outside the museum more totems, I think this was the largest cluster we had seen, they tend to be solitary or at least far more spread out.

After dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory we went back and took some photos of the parliament buildings at night and then off to home and bed!