Monthly Archives: November 2009

Countries Shaped Like Stars Revisited

Without a doubt, the “must see” show of the 2009 Ottawa Fringe was Countries Shaped Like Stars . This play was so popular it sold out regularly during the Fringe.

I tried to see it twice but failed both times because of its popularity. During one occasion, I actually saw people running to try and catch it.  That’s even more impressive (for me anyway) than any other form of accolade could be; however, Countries Shaped like Stars also took down the Fringe 2009 award for outstanding overall production and it won top honours in the Ottawa Citizen’s top 5 critic’s picks as well.

 I was disappointed that I missed it at Fringe but I feel fortunate that I have a chance to see it again.  Those of you in Ottawa will have the same opportunity :).

What is unique about this performance is that it will be put on in a family home. I think this is fantastic and will make for a very intimate venue. Bringing theatre out of conventional spaces is ground breaking. I love when this happens. In fact, tonight I am off to the Mechanicsville Monologues at the Carleton Tavern. I am therefore very excited to be going to this house performance of a Countries Shaped Liked Stars on Saturday November 21 at 8:00 p.m.

If you’re interested in attending  as well please contact Charlie and Bridget at this e-mail address for more info.:

I am told some snacks will be provided as well.  Great theatre, good people and snacks, what better way to spend a Saturday evening?


Seeing Stars

As many of you know, I began reviewing theatre at the Ottawa Fringe Festival back in June. Before I took on this assignment, I decided to check out other reviews from other Fringe festivals to see how others went about the job of reviewing.  I quickly noticed that most reviewers had adopted the star system.  The system was straight forward. Each show would earn between one and five stars based on how much the reviewer enjoyed the show. One star would be given to the worst of the lot and 5 to the best.

I decided not to adopt this system and instead chose to just use words to convey what I thought was or was not successful about a given production.  Theatre is a very subjective experience. A show I loved others might not enjoy as much and a show that I found boring might have mass appeal.  This is why I always encourage others to see a show and decide for themselves how “good” it is.  

A star rating system would only be useful for those readers who either have similar theatrical tastes as me or the exact opposite aesthetic sensibility.  I suspect both these instances are pretty rare. Maybe I’m wrong and excellent theatre is more universal than I am letting on here. Any thoughts?

For these reasons, I would feel very guilty if a theatergoer missed out on a show that they would have loved because I did not give it 5 stars.  Yet, this is the kind of thinking that the star system encourages. People want to see “the best” without recognizing how artificial this is.  (Then again it seems to work for wine.)

 I do understand why this system is popular. I saw 14 shows at the Fringe and yet this was still only a sampling of what the festival has to offer. Most theatergoers don’t have the time to watch even that many and so they are understandably looking for short cuts.

I feel that talking about the various elements of a production gives a reader a sense of what a show is about so they can make these judgments on their own.  This decision process, on the part of the reader, is more useful than simply seeing a show based on a high rating.