Monthly Archives: January 2010

My Big Lottery Win

It’s official, I’ve won the lottery. No I won’t be chauffered around in a Rolls Royce anytime soon. In fact, this lottery has already cost me $600 and has not paid me a cent and guess what? There will be even more costs to come. You’re probably wondering how a reasonably intelligent blogger type could have fallen for, what appears to be, some kind of scam. Nothing at all sketchy here friends.

I’ve won a spot in the Ottawa Fringe Festival.  This is a festival that takes place in downtown Ottawa every June. The Fringe features short performances (less then an hour in length) for the accessible price of $10 a show +Fringe pin. What is particularly interesting about this festival, is that anyone who is willing to put up the $600 fee has a shot at getting in. The companies are chosen by lottery out of a large collection of applications (international in scope). There were many applicants this year and I was fortunate that my name was pulled from the hat.

I’ve had the directing/producing bug for awhile and this lottery win has given me the motivation to create my own company. I’ve decided to call it Current Productions. The company’s name is  a play on words of sorts:  I  believe in putting on contemporary work by living artists. In other words, work that is current and “Current” is also my last name. Combining the two seemed like a no brainer. What do you think? Kind of catchy huh? It’s certainly easy to remember.

For our inaugural show the company will be putting on Prisoner’s Dilemma by local Ottawa playwright Sterling Lynch. Sterling has had a lot going on recently. His play Tangelico (a former Ottawa Fringe show) will be performed in Phoenix Arizona in conjunction with Cube With a View written by Mare Biddle. This looks like a fantastic evening. If you’re in that part of the world, I fully recommend checking it out.

Also a dramatic reading of Sterling’s award winning Home in Time will be the theatrical feature of the Cube Gallery’s next Cube Salon (Feb. 13). This play has been described by Sterling as the sister play to Prisoner’s Dilemma. Both plays deal with similar themes in a humourous, insightful, and unexpected manner. The Cube Salons are a lot of fun, a combination of music, poetry,and theatre by local artists with complimentary munchies. They are fantastic evenings and worth checking out.

So I have a script from an award winning playwright and a spot in the Fringe. What’s next? Watch this blog for more stories about my preparations for the Fringe Festival and  my thoughts on running a brand new theatre company. This is going to be fun!

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Going Big: The Pros and Cons of Large Casts and Highly Technical Shows

Recently, I was at a preview performance of Peter Pan at Carleton University.  A play like Peter Pan is certainly an ambitious choice for a university theatre company. It has several very technical elements: sword fights, a giant crocodile, a fairy, and flying actors. The cast is also huge. Generally, previews are not reviewed and I will honour tradition and not review this show;however, I think a general discussion of the pros and cons of community theatre staging these large technical shows might be interesting/useful.

Let’s deal with the cast size first. There are certainly advantages to having a large cast. The first being a guaranteed large audience (friends and family of the cast). Large casts also allow more people to be involved in the show. I think, for a university theatre company, there is something nice about a show that gives a large group of people the opportunity to share the experience of putting on a play.

The downside of large casts is that it is very difficult for a director to give each actor sufficient attention. There simply is not enough time. Often (but not necessarily) the performances will suffer as there are not enough talented actors to play every character.  Also, a large cast will also most likely involve more costuming, props etc., which can put more pressure on the stage managers keeping track of it all and the costume/set designers etc. who have to produce everything (probably on a shoe string budget).

The second issue is the highly technical aspect of these large productions. On the positive side, it is great to take on something challenging that will require a lot of creativity on the part of the production team. Fight choreography, elaborate sets, and complicated lighting design can be a lot of fun. There are many in the theatre community who live for these kinds of technical challenges. Everyone has to start somewhere, and university theatre can be a great place for people with an interest in the technical side to have an opportunity to get some experience.

That being said, the more technical elements there are in a show, the greater the risk that there will not be sufficient time to pull everything off. One or two technical elements carried off well will, ultimately, have a greater impact on the audience than a show with a lot of technical elements that are not completely successful.

So here’s a few questions for you: Should community/student theatre companies attempt large highly technical productions? If so, what are some strategies to mitigate the obstacles? Care to mention any other positive/negative aspects that I’ve missed here? or share stories of successful, or unsuccessful, community theatre productions with large casts and a lot of technical elements.


Notes To A Younger Wayne

This post is inspired by Nadine’s most recent blog post. What would you tell a younger version of yourself?

Notes To A Younger Wayne:

1. Hey 7 year old Wayne. Don’t be afraid of World War 3. So far the world has managed to avoid a nuclear holocaust. I know, I know, you saw that children’s play and up to that point you couldn’t even imagine the possibility of nuclear war and now you’re terrified the world is going to blow up. The only solution being offered to you is making origami cranes as a symbol of peace. For what it’s worth, you’re absolutely correct; origami is not a realistic solution to prevent nuclear annihilation. Your teacher won’t EVER get that. Keep it to yourself and just make the stupid paper bird.

2. Sorry to break this to you, but George Lucas will wreck Star Wars. Greedo will shoot first. The prequels will all suck. Try not to spend well over a decade anticipating these films. You’re in for a huge letdown. While we’re at it, the same is true of Aliens and Terminator. Don’t bother to watch anything past the sequels.

3. Hey adolescent Wayne. Grade 7 and 8 is going to be awesome! Sean and Sterling will remain friends for life. You’re going to have a blast. Would it kill you to try talking to more girls? You say “you’re not afraid”. Prove it! I triple dare you!

4. Grade 9 is going to suck. You will be eating through a straw for a couple months after you break your face. I won’t tell you how, because after it happens you will never do that activity again. Right now you are enjoying this activity and I want you to have fun. As much as the accident will suck, you will learn something valuable about yourself.

5. Senior High school Wayne: Playing guitar is awesome. Your hair is long, your jeans are ripped at the knee, you’re wearing brown docs (rebelling against the rebellion). Also, you’ve written, directed, and produced your first play and started a band “Fresh Garden Salad”. Grunge is cool. Cobain is still alive (not for long though). Here’s the thing. Somehow you became cool. Surprise huh? What still don’t believe me? “It’s cool not to be cool.” Sorry dude. You are now the quintessential cool guy. Deal with it. Preferably by hitting on Meagan’s friends.  So what if she’s “Sean’s little sister?” Man, you’re killing me!

6. 20 something Wayne. Quit CD Warehouse! Go back to school, finish your honours, and get your masters. The government will pay you a lot of money to write. Much more than the $10/hour you’re making now. I know you don’t think you are “suited to a desk job” and you like the free concert tickets. Bullshit!

What would you tell a younger version of yourself? Feel free to respond here or at the Adorkable Thespian.

Bash’d: a gay rap opera for everyone

On January 14th I saw my first-ever gay rap opera, Bash’d, at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. To be honest, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this show. Would this production be a campy comedy? A politically-driven hip hop performance? A love story?

Impressively, the performance is a compelling blend of all three.

Written and performed by Chris Craddock and Nathan Cukow, this is the story of two men Jack (Craddock) and Dylan (Cukow) who meet and fall and love as teenagers. The first part of the performance is about being a gay man in a small town, the pain of coming out to your family, and the giddy joy of finally finding real community after moving to the big city.

After the passage of the Civil Marriage Act (2005), Jack and Dylan decide to get married. Of course, despite the new law, currents of homophobic violence still run deep in Canadian society. This is made evident in an emotionally powerful scene where Jack is brutally assaulted. As the second half of the performance unfolds, we see the impact of this violent act on the couple; the fear, the anger, and then, unexpectedly, something more – a desire for revenge…(Read the full review at the Wellington Oracle. Click here)

A review of Christopher Morris’ and Human Cargo’s Night at the NAC

I was intrigued by the description of Toronto-based multi-disciplinary theatre company Human Cargo’s approach to the creative process. They aim to “transform their life experiences into theatrical language” through a “cross cultural exchange and professional mentorship.” With this process, Human Cargo aims to “expose and discuss” social and political issues. My attention was peaked, so I set off to the National Arts Centre to see Human Cargo’s latest work, Night.

According to playwright and director Christopher Morris, Night was created by a collective of 17 individuals over three work shops — a process that took 6 years. It’s worth noting that despite a clearly collaborative approach, it is Morris who receives top billing as the writer of the play. Responsibility for the script in its final form, therefore, resides with him.

Night tells the story of a Torontonian museum worker Daniella (Linnea Swan) who at the request of an individual in a Northern community has taken it upon herself to return something of value to that community. Her effort is an attempt to reconcile a historical crime, but her naivety results in a series of culture shocks. Some of these are humorous (like her surprise at the price of a grill cheese sandwich in the far north), others result in revelations that call into question her entire project and, by extension, the reconciliation efforts of well intentioned, but equally naive, night1aSoutherners in general.

There are some strong performances in the piece. Michelle Montieth gives a subtle and understated performance as Gloria, which has a lasting impact on the audience. It’s a difficult part to play, and I was very impressed by her performance. Similarly 16 year-old Abbie Ootova’s (Piuyuq) final monologue, a defiant call to action, resonates long after the show is finished. Mike Bernier is challenged with playing five separate characters, some of which are very good — the Mayor, Piuyuq’s father, and the Candyman. Unfortunately, on opening night, his portrayals of an RCMP officer and a teenager fell flat.

The script feels very much like the product of many hands over several years and Morris, as playwright, ultimately fails to give it cohesion. Many scenes feel tacked on haphazardly (possibly the product of previous incarnations), and this results in a jarring experience for the audience… (For the full review at (Cult)ure Magazine click here)

Home Theatre

Those of you following my blog will be interested to know that I finally saw MiCasa Theatre’s Countries Shaped Like Stars. This was a raincheck performance for a show that was cancelled due to illness back in November. The show was sold out (when does this show not sell out?) but Charlie and Bridget were kind enough to squeeze me in. I’m very grateful they did. Seeing theatre in a home was a novel experience for me. What a great idea!  I’m  a firm believer in taking theatre to audiences. Performing in a living room seems the most direct application of this concept.

The audience itself was an interesting eclectic mix of people (neighbors, friends, musicians, theatre types and one lone blogger.) All told, there were approximately 40 people in attendance.  Charlie and Bridget are warm friendly people and wonderful hosts. I’m not surprised they had such a large turn out. In fact,  this was not the first time that they have hosted artists in their home.  I was intrigued to learn about a network of folk musicians who tour across the country putting on concerts in peoples living rooms. The artists make money off of donations and by selling other products.

So what did this reviewer think of Countries Shaped Like Stars? I think any show that receives this kind of enthusiastic response from audiences is pretty special. Yep, I liked it too.  I’m especially thrilled that this was an original work (based on text by Emily Pearlman) produced by an independent theatre company on a shoe string budget. This is clearly a theatre success story.  Ottawa theatre-goers and theatre practitioners are wise to celebrate it.

It’s worth noting that MiCasa Theatre now has CDs available for purchase of the music performed in the show. Order a copy if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about.   For those of you in New Mexico, the show is coming your way contact MiCasa for the details. I recommend buying tickets early. This one sells out fast.