Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009: The Year in Review

January: My contract with NRCan continued. I spent a lot of time trying to avoid a colleague who was clearly a nutcase. Many of the experiences I had there (along with other government departments) have inspired the script I am currently working on.

February:  Skated the length of the entire Canal for the first and last time that year. It almost killed me painfully demonstrating how soft and doughy I had become.

March: A quiet period at work led to the creation of this blog. My supervisors seemed to be getting annoyed that I kept asking for work when they had none to give me. My blog became a lifeline to keep sane and kill the day.

I went to see Chamber Theatre Hintonburg’s performance of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge at the Elmdale Tavern and met the talented and friendly  Jessica Ruano for the first time. Little did I know then, that this vibrant stranger, I met in a bar, would become a good friend by the year’s end.

Also in this month, because of Sterling’s blog, I gave up all beer that wasn’t organic for 40 days (almost) Link

April: Checked out BC scene and wrote about Playing with Death. I also joined Twitter and began Tweeting, following and being followed.

May: Work was once again very slow and so on May 27 my contract ended. I applied for EI and decided to take a few months off to pursue creative projects. Including: directing a play, writing for a friend’s online mag. and playing guitar (maybe an open mic.) Did two of the three.

June: I began reviewing theatre for  (Cult)ure Magazine at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. On day 1: Hung out with HM in person (we had communicated previously in the blogosphere) and began a series of ongoing conversations about theatre and the function of reviews and reviewers.  HM now writes about theatre too and her work can be found at (Cult)ure and the The Wellington Oracle.

Evan, the editor of the Wellington Oracle and now also Spacing Ottawa was another Fringe friend with whom I have since enjoyed many conversations about theatre, Edward Said, and how to best use technology like google docs. (usually over pints).

It was also during this festival that I met Nadine . I had no idea what was in store for me when I offered to buy this talented actress/playwright a drink at Fringe. Nadine holds the record for the fastest entry into my inner circle of friendship.

I met many others too but this section is getting a little lengthy. In short, Fringe was awesome!

July: I became an uncle again for the third time when my nephew Teo was born. He had a rough start with an infection and jaundice, but is now doing very nicely and is a very happy baby. My good friend Jay also became a father in the same month, which seems to have inspired him to create more art than when he was younger with fewer responsibilities.

Oh yeah, I got a job with the Department of Finance, so much for a Summer off.

August: I finally got a cell phone and there was much rejoicing (mainly from Sterling). I almost joined Facebook twice but didn’t much to the chagrin of the entire Facebook world.

September: Turned a year older and later on, had a memorable night of karaoke with Kelly and Nadine. A  significant chunk, of the evening; however, is more memorable to them than to me.

October: Began rehearsing for The Soldier Dreams. This play would go on to win many accolades at the Eastern Ontario Drama League festival including People’s Choice and Best Production. I had a small but challenging role playing a guy in a coma (dying). Staying in the moment for the entire play (including a half hour while the audience was taking their seats) takes a huge amount of effort. I also had a few (morphine induced) lines to deliver so I had to be very aware of where my fellow actors were in the play. It was a great experience and I feel very lucky that Chantale and Tim gave me the opportunity to exercise my long atrophied acting muscles.

November-December: Wrapped up my contract with Finance Canada, started writing a play, was introduced to salsa dancing, and I won a lottery. There will be more on that lottery win in another post.

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The NAC’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the Ghost of Theatre Past

current nac

Here is an excerpt from my latest review:

There’s a new theatre company in town, and it is based at the National Arts Centre.

It has been a quarter of a century since the NAC last had a resident English theatre acting company, and I am excited that it has been resurrected.  ‘The NAC 40th Anniversary English Theatre Acting Company’ is a diverse collective of 18 actors from all over the nation.  On Friday, December 11, the new company launched their season with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Dickens’ family-friendly yuletide favourite is, on the one hand, a very un-ambitious start for a brand new national company. It is, nonetheless, an appropriate choice for this time of year.  There is something timeless about the story that appeals to a broad audience, which is undoubtedly why there are so many versions of it in circulation this year. Opening night was nearly sold out, and I’m sure tickets will be hard to come by if you don’t book them early.

In many ways, the NAC’s version directed by Peter Hinton is a very conventional take on this well-known 19th-century play. Eo Sharp’s costume design does an admirable job of evoking Victorian England, and the minimalistic set design is also generally effective (though Scrooge and Marley’s names in large golden lettering far above the stage is tacky and out of place).

The show’s greatest weakness is in its lighting design, which for the most part is much too dark. It is undoubtedly meant to set the mood for the performance, but cloaking performers in shadow for prolonged periods of time only serves to hinder the audience’s view of the actors’ expressions and performances. Even as atmosphere, the content of many of the scenes is actually much lighter than the lighting design would suggest….

Click here for the full review. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the play in the comments section.

Dating and First Drafts

Sterling suggested a few months ago that I write a play about my experience in the Civil Service. I wrote an outline quickly and was pretty excited about the idea. After all that is the quintessential Ottawa experience. The Civil Service still remains the biggest employer in this town and it colours the fabric of the community as a whole. Everyone in this town knows someone who works for the Federal Gov’t whether it’s a friend, neighbour, or a family member; there are many stories to tell.

My experience with government, while far from unique, is interesting. I work casual/temp communications contracts for various government departments. Not being a “permanent” Or (as they say in gov’t speak) “indeterminate” gives me a different perspective on the whole thing.  The play will be written from this viewpoint and I feel confident that Ottawans will relate to it because a play about this institution is really a play about all of us. Well all of us who make our home in this government town.

I’ve finally moved beyond the outline stage and into writing the text.  I’m on  scene 1 page 2 at the moment. 🙂

However, I have decided to take a little break to pass along a valuable tip from Nadine (who has recently finished a draft of her latest script) that I think will be useful for all writers. Nadine says, don’t get caught up on perfecting a first draft. First drafts are never perfect but the sooner you get it done the sooner you can work on editing it and creating the second draft. Even if it’s ugly get it done. The next phase will be easier. This is excellent advice.

Writing a first draft is kind of like going on a first date. No matter how carefully you plan, or how much you like the individual, there are going to be moments of awkwardness, things you regret saying or at least wish you said differently, and surprises that may throw you off your game. All part of the process, enjoy it if you can (I’m not that enlightened yet) or at the very least push through it because that’s the only way to get to the good stuff.

Now back to the play, before it gets jealous!

Missed It Again!

I used to believe in fate. That everything happens for a reason. This is a view I no longer fully subscribe to; however, this Friday I had one of those evenings that went in an unexpected direction, it may not have been fate, but it felt significant and even a little bit magical.

It all began with my attempt to see Countries Shaped liked Stars at the Irving Greenberg Theatre. Those of you who have been regularly following my blog will remember that this was the same show I tried twice to see at the Ottawa Fringe, but failed both times. Then I was going to catch a performance at the home of friendly Australian couple. Unfortunately one of the actors came down with a horrible throat infection and that show had to be cancelled.  I was disappointed but knew I would have a chance to catch it at the IGT. As luck (or maybe fate) would have it, Friday night was the only night I had available to see the performance.  Realizing that it was probably general admission I decided to arrive early at 7:35 p.m. You see the majority of the plays I have seen this year have started at 8:00 p.m. Much to my dismay, Inclement Weather/Countries Shaped Like Stars started at 7:30 I was late and couldn’t get a ticket.  Total bummer.

This is where the magic began. I got a call from my favourite local poet and she invited me over to watch a video and drink some chai. Later we went to a pretty incredible photographic art/exhibition with a friend of hers.  Soon we gathered more good people and went for martinis at the Collection to celebrate a birthday of another special individual. Three of us went on to dance salsa late into the evening at another club. I was a little out of my league, as I am a salsa newbie but no one cared really. It was a fantastic evening and has inspired my first ever haiku:

Sitting on your bed

Sharing a quiet moment

Watching puppets die