Monthly Archives: June 2011

Postcards From the Fringe Part 3

The Ottawa Fringe Festival closes this Sunday so if you haven’t yet gone out to see a show, it is your last chance to do so. What should you see during Fringe’s last weekend? You could start with the winners of the Best in Fest award. These are the shows, which got the highest attendance during the first week of Fringe. This award means that these shows will get a bonus show at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Best in Fest is usually a safe bet. From this list, I particularly enjoyed Rob Gee’s Fruitcake: Ten Commandments From the Psyche Ward. It’s a show that will not only make you laugh but also make you think. The writing is sharp and intelligent and Gee’s performance is solid. Go early to get a ticket for this one as it has been selling out on a regular basis.

At Fringe, there are always shows that for one reason or another slip below the radar. These shows tend to get low attendance early on, but by the end of the festival everyone is talking about them. Dying Hard by Mikaela Dyke is a show like this. The last performance is tonight (June 25) at SAW Gallery at 9:30 p.m. Dyke is unquestionably the finest actor I’ve seen this year, but more importantly she is telling a story that needs to be told.  If you miss this one you will regret it. Powerful, moving, and brilliantly acted.

I’ve been hearing about shows at the beer tent and I thought I would pass this along to you. Keep in mind, that I haven’t seen these shows, but whenever four people say a show is good then I’m always eager to check it out. Here’s the buzz from the tent:

Ken Wilson’s The Interview  is a new work with an award winning script that is getting lot’s of attention. An old man with a possibly failing memory is interviewed by the police. The venue is the Janigan studio (found within the Ottawa Little Theatre building).

I’ve also heard good things about May Can Theatre’s Sounds From Turtle Shell. It’s described as a comedy with a hint of charm about a rejected musical. I’m going to check this one out.

Jimmy Hogg’s one man comedy show Curriculum Vitae is getting great reviews. It’s on my list to see too.

The Fringe Festival will be over all too soon. Make sure you catch a show before it leaves town. At $10 a ticket (with a $2 Fringe pin) you can’t beat the price for quality entertainment. If you feel like talking theatre, look for me in the beer tent. I’m always interested to hear what other people think about the shows at the festival.


Postcards From the Fringe Part 2

Fringe Courtyard. Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival

Well, I’ve sampled every beer available at the beer tent, lost track of the days, and seen a whole lot of theatre. Clearly, the Fringe Festival is well underway. Over the last week I’ve been really fortunate to have also met a bunch of really cool people including Brent Hirose  SUCKERPUNCH, Katie Hood, from the Animal Show, Mikaela Dyke from Dying Hard, And RC Weslowski from The Wet Dream Catcher. For me, half the fun of Fringe is meeting new people and the beer tent provides a great place, for performers and audiences, to mingle as equals.

Here are a few of my highlights from the last few days:

Last night: Was my favourite Fringe Beer Tent event. Karaoke night! I enthusiastically belted out a hard core rendition of the Smashing Pumpkins “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” Other’s sang an eclectic mix of show tunes, pop ballads, and rock songs. Good times!

Also, I finally got around to seeing Katie Hood’s the Animal Show. I wish I saw this one earlier so I could have given it an earlier endorsement. Hood is a gifted storyteller and The Animal Show is a powerful recount of her experiences working as an animal hospital rescuer.  It’s an insightful window into a life few of us experience.I laughed a lot but was also quite moved by her story. Go see it.

Day ? (possibly Sunday): I was completely blown away by Nancy Kenny’s newest creation Roller Derby Saved My Soul. This is Kenny’s strongest performance to date. Her comic timing is impeccable. This show is in my top 3 favourite shows for this year’s Fringe. The woman performs on roller skates people! Enough said.

In the same day, I also enjoyed Subnormality. Based on a web comic, this play presents a series of vignettes (many of them humorous) about the “weirdness of human nature.” I love that this one is also a benefit performance for Jer’s Vision (an anti-bullying organization). It’s nice to see performers working with charities to make our communities a better place to live. For that reason alone, it’s worth your support.

So what’s next on my list to see? I fully intend to check out Am I Blue by New York performer Elizabeth Blue, Dying Hard, by Mikaela Dyke, RC Weslowski’s  The Wet Dream Catcher and FRUITCAKE:Ten Commandments From the Psyche ward by Rob Gee.

I hope I’ve inspired some of you to come down to the festival and check out some shows too. You know where to find me if you want to talk about a show or recommend something to see. Happy Fringing everyone!

Postcards From The Fringe 2011 Part 1

Have you ever taken a trip where you were so busy meeting new people, taking in the attractions, and of course enjoying a drink or two, that you barely had time to take it all in? Let alone write about. This is how I feel about writing about the Ottawa Fringe Festival. There are so many shows to see and fun to be had in the beer tent that I always find it difficult to get away to write about it. So like a busy traveller, stopping only to send a quick postcard home between adventures, I have decided to write short mini reviews of several shows this year, rather than full length reviews. Hopefully, it will inspire you to come out and see some theatre and give you a taste for what this festival has to offer.

Thursday: was the launch of the festival and it was great to see many people who I hadn’t run into a very long time (many since the previous Fringe). I only saw a couple of shows, but the one I can fully recommend is When Harry Met Harry . Allan Girod stars in this one man show by Flaming Locomotive Productions about Harry, a man who prides himself on his attention to minute details and lives for the routine of office work, who is suddenly forced to confront his greatest fear– a team building workshop!  Girod’s movements are delightful to watch as he shapes his very tall frame into Rodney and Harry two very physically distinct characters. The story is simple, with a fair bit of audience participation, but anyone who has ever worked in an office, or, dare I say it, the Civil Service will be able to identify with the action on stage. I know the team building exercise felt very familiar to me. This one is simple, hilarious, and kind of endearing. A must see!

Friday: I saw two shows that I really liked. The first was Playing Dead a show about a zombie apocalypse by Dead Unicorn Ink. While some of the performances and production elements were a little rough around the edges, the script is excellent and the zombie puppets are amazing. Who doesn’t enjoy watching puppets being dismembered on stage? In the end, I was totally onside with this show and had a great time. There is also a great cameo appearance by well known local actor Jody Haucke. Playing Dead is a little unpolished, but a whole lot of fun. In other words, perfect for Fringe. I recommend it.

Zombie puppets from Playing Dead. Photo courtesy of Andrew Alexander

In the evening, I checked out Every Story Ever Told where Ryan Gladstone attempts to tell every story ever told in one hour. This one has a manic pace and Gladstone puts in a well executed performance. I loved it. You might want to buy tickets in advance for this one. I have a feeling it will sell out.

That’s it for my first two postcards. Stay tuned for my next installment and, in the meantime, come down to the Arts Court courtyard and join me for some cold beer and great theatre.

KISMET: one to one hundred

Hazel Venzon (left) and Emelia Symington Fedy (right)

There is a growing movement in contemporary theatre where creators interview others in their community and then turn the text into a script for a play. Some call this verbatim theatre, others documentary theatre or interview theatre. When this form of theatre works well, these plays create a connection with the audience based on shared common experience.

KISMET: one to one hundred
by The Chop theatre company is part of this movement. It is a fun and interactive piece that shares the thoughts of one hundred Canadians aged 1-100 about fate and destiny. In the process many other themes are explored, such as, death, love, and the importance of family. Not surprisingly given the subject matter, it is an easy script to relate to and one with an optimistic message.

The creators have chosen to use a combination of video, audio and live performances to tell their story (some of which works better than others.) In particular, the audio and live performance were more effective than the video due to the small size of the screens.

The set design is simple and clever–100 Canadians are represented by white Styrofoam balls on a black grid. The actors manipulate these at various points during the performance in interesting ways that tie in with the dialogue. It’s quite effective.

Overall the piece succeeds because of the charisma of the three main performers (Emelia Symington Fedy, Daryl King, Hazel Venzon). All three deliver high energy performances that kept me engaged.

KISMET: one to one hundred is a “feel good play” with lot’s of audience interaction, while at times it can become a little overly earnest, ultimately KISMET succeeds because of the energy of the performers and the authenticity of their script.

For more information and to purchase tickets click here

The Magnetic North Theatre Festival Is In Town: See It While You Can!

We’re lucky in Ottawa. Every other year, the Magnetic North Theatre Festival comes to town featuring the best of contemporary theatre from across the country. It also showcases workshops for professionals, opportunities for the public to interact with creators, and a bar for all festival goers to kick back and relax before and after a show.

I always look forward to this festival and this year is no exception. On Thursday, June 2, I checked out Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks’ This Is What Happens Next at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre (GCTC). Daniel MacIvor is well known among theatre audiences for producing thought provoking and innovative plays and is something of a cultural icon. He is unquestionably a brilliant writer; however, after seeing this performance, I feel MacIvor may be a stronger writer than he is a character actor. Simply put, at times I wasn’t fully engaged by the performance. Yet, I really enjoyed where he took the narrative. I loved the humour and the message of the piece. This one took a little while to get going, and at times the performance was a little uneven, but overall the strong writing and its empowering message made this play worthwhile.

On Friday, I went to Yichud (Seclusion). This Theatre Passe Muraille show is a really special play that emerges the audience into the wedding day of Rachel and Chaim two Orthodox jews in an arranged marriage. It’s a wonderful script skillfully performed by a talented ensemble (including a klezmer band). The show works because its themes (love, breakdowns in communication, family struggles, and crisis’ of faith) are universal. The script is smart, at times humorous, and overall quite touching. Definitely one of the best weddings I’ve been to this year.

Julie Tepperman (Rachel) and Aaron Willis (Chaim)

So what else am I looking forward to at Magnetic North? The show I’m most excited about seeing is Kismet: One to one hundred. This Chop Theatre (a Vancouver based company) production is a verbatim theatre piece taken from interviews with Canadians from across the country (ages 1-100) where they describe thier beliefs about fate and destiny. It promises audiences “a myriad of personal stories of mystery, joy, love and endurance.” Sounds pretty incredible huh?

The Magnetic North Theatre Festival will be over far too soon so go out and see some of the best contemporary theatre Canada has to offer!

For more information and to purchase tickets click here