2014 CBCmusic.ca Festival Tease: Crystal Shawanda, Hannah Georgas, and Arkells

Funny how so often when you are down in the dumps and needing that reminder that things are okay … that you are okay … you happen upon that song that ever so simply reminds you of just that! As I went to discover more music from the 2014 CBCmusic.ca Festival lineup, that is exactly what I found!  Give it up for …

Crystal Shawanda

Thanks Crystal!  Beautiful Day  was exactly the song I needed after having a rather rough day and emotional week.  Very much looking forward to kicking back on the lawn to more of your music at CBCmusic.ca Festival at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, BC this Saturday!

To all of the rest of you, hailing from Wikwemikong Native Reservation on Canada’s Manitoulin Island in Ontario, Crystal will be bringing a bit Nashville and a whole lot of country to the tantalizing mix of Canadian musicians to heat up the summer at Deer Lake this Saturday. And an honour it is, I must say, as in the past year Crystal not only graced Inauguration Day at the White House with a performance, but also won a Juno for Aboriginal Album of the Year.

Crystal will take to the Courtyard Stage at 2:50 pm.

… and the next artist of the day …

Hannah Georgas

I can’t help but smile fondly when I hear Hannah’s name, as I was first introduced to her music by one of Ahimsa‘s summer students years ago, Bronwyn Malloy.  Bronwyn is friends with Hannah and created this tribute video to Hannah’s song The Beat Stuff  with Alyzee Lakhani for some experimentation they were doing in character storytelling:

… and here is Hannah’s official video of The Beat Stuff …

Very much looking forward to Hannah taking to the Lake Stage at 3:20 pm, as despite to being a VanCity gal and enjoying her music for years, I have yet to see her live!

… following Hannah on the Lake Stage at 4:25 pm …

Arkells

A bit of nostalgia, simply because the Arkells take me back to old haunts like Jackson Square!  And what kind of Canadian gal would I be if I didn’t start the summer off with visions of dancing naked around a fire!?!  Can picture the giant bonfire right now in the back fields of someones’ Ontario farm!

Kisses,

Emme  xoxo

PS Stay tuned for more #CBCMusicFest teases as the week goes on, click here for an earlier tease, and for what to expect of the day read on with: CBCmusic.ca Festival Ignites this Summer at Deer Lake Park

Wittenberg at the Pacific Theatre in Vancouver

Wittenberg, Pacific Theatre’s latest offering, was a surprisingly educational (and entertaining) way to spend Halloween. David Davolos`s play takes us somewhere where Hamlet, Dr. Faustus, Martin Luther roam the same halls, pondering life`s questions, drinking away sorrows, and engaging in heated debate — Wittenberg University. Shakespeare’s Hamlet takes place soon after he returns from Wittenberg where he studied,  — Davalos’s play weaves a tale set in the semester before he returns. In this play, however, Hamlet’s struggles are not entirely at the forefront.  What takes centre stage are the strong and opposing religious views of the Dr Faustus and Martin Luther — or rather’s Faustus’s a-religious views and Luther’s strong devotion to the Bible and its tenets. These two historical & fictitious figures spark a dynamic dialectic that is the strong pulse at the heart of the play.

 

Anthony F. Ingram, Mack Gordon, and Marcus Youssef in Wittenberg. Photo by Emily Cooper.

 

Faustus and Luther also have an friendship that is endearing to watch. Though their rigourous debates often descend into amusing name-calling matches, they also have a deep respect for one another, and each clearly enjoy being challenged by the other — perhaps as much as they enjoy being drinking buddies at the Bunghole. The play is set also around the time Copernicus was making his discoveries about the Earth’s rotating around the Sun, and this radical, world-changing idea makes its way into the play as a destabilizing discovery that delights Faustus and seems to disorient and frighten others. The way Davalos ties Copernicus’s discovery into the play really gives the audience an idea of the anxiety and fear evoked by the Earth’s movement at the time. I found that a very educational experience, since as a modern student I always found it hard to imagine how and why the Copernican revolution angered the Church and destabilized faiths so strongly.

 

Shauna Johannesen and Anthony F. Ingram in Wittenberg. Photo by Emily Cooper.

 

The subject matter sounds serious, and it is, but the play is not without its lighter moments. Anyone who ever wanted to see Hamlet running around in sweatpants, attending office hours, fretting over tennis matches and all this while holding a number 2 pencil in his mouth will not be disappointed. Also, Dr Faustus makes a seriously charismatic professor. You gotta love a Professor that prescribes medicinal cures for existential distress and even makes time to perform a weekly gig at the Bunghole. I was also happy to see the devil make an appearance. Who’da thought he could sing like an angel?

Kudos to Anthony F. Ingram (Faustus), Marcus Youssef (Martin Luther), Mack Gordon (Hamlet) and Shauna Johannesen (The Eternal Feminine) for their great performances. Big thanks to writer David Davalos and director Stephen Drover for an entertaining, thought-provoking show.

Wittenberg runs nightly until November 10th 2012 at the Pacific Theatre at 8 p.m. with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m, and an artist talk back on Friday, November 9th.

 

Corridors: A Podplay at Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre

Having once been a newcomer to the city and slow to make friends, I have often mulled over our ‘eternal-iPod’ culture, and thought about how isolating it can be for those of us who call the city home. During many solitary walks and bus rides, I contemplated how strange it is to feel lonely in a crowd — and such a common experience, when nearly everyone is plugged-in, and effectively miles away from one another while sharing the same space.

Joel Stephanson‘s Corridors: A Podplay, is among other things, an artistic response to that very experience: of being alone in a crowd, occupying the space of a million different people and stories, many of which are never brought to light.

 

Photo by Sera Katie

 

Quiet Hum Theatre Company‘s experimental offering uses the very same ‘isolating’ technology create a certain intimacy: through the iPod, we hear the stories of others, while a narrator guides us through the spaces they occurred in, many years ago. In Corridors we gather personal histories through our headsets, by way of overheard conversations and confessions between certain Vancouver residents long ago, while at the same time wandering the ancient Chalmers Heritage Building — also home to Pacific Theatre and The Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

I’d never experienced a podplay before Corridors, and so was slightly taken aback by its unconventional format. After being given an iPod, a prodigious pair of headphones,  and shown which the Pause/Play button was, I was left to wander Chalmers Heritage Building only loosely supervised, with the narrator gently guiding me to various nooks and crannies in and around the building. It was surreal to experience a play in which the only “special effects” were auditory, and where I was imagining the invisible characters at the very spot I was standing, many years previous, having the conversation I was hearing.

 

Photo by slworking2

 

While I was listening, it was business as usual in the Pacific Theatre lobby, as Box Office attendants and other staff were getting ready for other performances. Just like in the real world among iPod listeners, they paid me no mind, and the general, unobtrusive bustle in the lobby added a whole other dimension to my experience of the play. Although most of the play takes place in more solitary parts of the building, there is a constant reminder that the present is continuing in Chalmers Heritage Building, even as we are trying to consolidate the snippets of the building’s past as we hear them in Corridors. It is almost as if the present is jostling with the past for our attention, washing over it, and making it blurry, more distant and harder to picture.

 

Photo by Chris D 2006.

 

Many characters in the play are aged, and struggling to recall their past, as they are having trouble finding their bearings in the modern — and changed — Chalmers building.  Being surrounded by both the stories from the past and the present in Corridors, we can understand their struggle to organize the information surrounding them as we listen to the play.

My favourite part of this play was that I was able to explore Chalmers Heritage Building in what is probably the most curious and imaginative way possible — Corridors is like a dramatic tour within a play. The narrator leads the listener outside the building, up stairs, into a chapel,  a sanctuary, a defunct gym, an elevator, a parkade and several other spots in the building — many of which are nicely furnished with comfy couches for easy listening.

 

Installation by Alex MetCalf (click to read more). Photo by abrinsky (http://www.flickr.com/people/abrinsky/).

 

A couple of times I thought I made a wrong turn, so rewound and replayed the instructions, marveling that I could do that — stop the play and listen again that is — until I was sure I got it. Not something actors would take kindly to, Im sure. Corridors is in many ways the opposite of what you’d expect at a traditional evening at the theatre: instead of a stage and an audience, all the world’s a stage (or at least the ancient building is), and instead of a numbered seat in among many, there is only you, mobile audience of one.

Corridors offers the strangely haunting experience of being able to occupy many different times at once. It also provides us with little- known histories (and fictions) that evoke a Vancouver very different from the one we know now. And being a solitary, but interactive play, makes me think about the many forms of solitary-but-social media that fill our world now, and wonder what that means in terms of the forms that theatre, history, learning, and interaction can take. Big questions I know, but that’s a credit to the play — it is a bold experiment that raises many questions, specific to our present historical moment.

 

 Corridors: A Podplay is written & directed by Joel Stephanson, and presented by Quiet Hum Theatre Co. You can see it in the Chalmers Heritage Building — the same place as Pacific Theatre and the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. The remaining shows run on Dec 16, 23 and 30. Since Corridors ends before Pacific Theatre‘s evening show commences, you must arrive sometime between 4-6 pm to see it. See Quiet Hum’s website for details.

 

 

Fighting Chance Produces: The Tempermentals at PAL Theatre

I like it when plays teach me about history that I’ve never learned before. Especially when they show us the people behind the stunning historical figures. Fighting Chance Productions‘ newest offering, The Tempermentals does just that: John Marans‘ play dramatizes the personal struggles and stories of Harry Hay and Rudy Gernreich, who pioneered homosexual rights in the United States. And they did this in the 1950s, with the House of Un-American Activities in full swing, with people being arrested and brutally stigmatized based on vague and arbitrary suspicions.

 

Rob Monk, Robert Sidley, Devin Pihlainen and Brian Hinson in FCP's The Tempermentals. Not Pictured: David Nicks. Photo by Devin Karringten.

 

The play shows us just how hostile the McCarthy era was towards homosexuals, suspected leftists, or anyone thought of as threatening to the fabric of “good, clean American society”. The danger of the times is especially strident in the crackly recordings of General McCarthy‘s outrageous speeches that intersperse the performance. I couldn’t help but laugh at his warnings about how to spot a communist, because they were delivered in dead seriousness, but sound like the ravings of one who has taken leave of his senses entirely. Of course, nothing is funny about his opinions, or the laws and policies they supported. We see their oppression and cruelty that hurt, bully and punish the people in the play, whose only crime is being who they are.

And in this dark and hostile climate, there is a beautiful, hopeful thing: the love between Harry and Rudi. It is a sweet, mischievous, witty love, between two unlikely mates. Rudi is an up-and-coming LA fashion designer, who moves easily through the glamour crowd, charming everyone in his wake. Harry on the other hand, is political science teacher, with a background in law, who is terribly passionate, but easily incensed and uncompromising in his vision of a safe society for homosexuals.

 

Rob Monk, Robert Sidley, Devin Pihlainen and Brian Hinson in FCP's The Tempermentals. Not Pictured: David Nicks. Photo by Devin Karringten.

 

Neither belongs in the other’s world — especially because Harry is married — but the two are like a refuge for each other, a space away from the world where they don’t have to fight or hide. It is really touching to see how their love for each other emboldened the movement that led to the founding of the Mattachine Society — the first specifically homophile society in the United States. Watching the play, you really get a sense of how terrifying it was to take the stand that Harry, Rudi and their allies did. But while also seeing how doing anything other than taking a stand involved living with the tremendous amount of shame and loneliness that comes from living like a fugitive while having done nothing wrong.

Harry Hay and Rudi Gernreich were stunning human beings who showed incredible courage in hard times, and their actions shaped history. I know this now thanks to The Tempermentals, playwright John Marans, Fighting Chance Productions and director Ryan Mooney for bringing this play to the Canadian stage for the first time.

The actors did an great job transporting the audience, and so did the unusual set design. It is stark and intimate with few props, and with four different platforms that light up at different times. This set up with the minimal lighting gives the impression that we are overhearing whispers, secret rendezvous, and dangerous truths. Congratulations to actors Brian Hinson (Harry Hay), Devin Pihlanien (Rudi Gernreich), James Gill, David Nicks and Rob Monk (all three of whom played a variety of characters wonderfully and in quick succession).

You can (and must) see The Tempermentals at the PAL Theatre in Vancouver until December 3rd.  Showtimes are 8 pm from  Tuesday — Saturday, 2 pm matinees on Saturday and two shows on Sunday at 2 pm & 7 pm.

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Vancouver Theatre: The 13th Chair at Studio 58

Who doesn’t love the jazz age? The Thirteenth Chair at Studio 58 is an unusual murder mystery set in a New York speakeasy in 1929. The Studio’s production of Bayard Veiller‘s play draws heavily on theatrical and cinematic styles of the era, making the play feel like an evening’s immersion into the 1920s themselves. The 13th Chair presents a theatrical medley containing elements of dinner theatre, silent film, vaudeville, and the classic “whodunnit“. Throw in a little bit of paranormal activity, some melodrama and family intrigue, and you have a hilarious, exciting, entertaining production, brought to you by the  students of Langara’s Theatre Arts program.

 

Stephanie Moroz as Helen O'Neill in Studio 58's production of The Thirteenth Chair by Bayard Veiller.

 

I’d never been to Studio 58 before last night, and I have to say I have fallen in love with the place. Sure I had to navigate my way down a few winding staircases to get there, but for me that provided added charm — when you’re going to see a murder mystery on the rainiest of November nights, it only makes sense that the path to the theatre would have its perils. Cue thunder and all that. But fun aside, I was really impressed by how small and secluded the Studio 58 theatre is.  Draped with heavy purple fabric all around, with strict rules about exits and entrances, the audience and actors really are in a little world of their own for the duration of the play. It seems like the perfect set up for the audience to be drawn right into the story happening only a few feet away. With actors as talented as the ones in this cast, that’s exactly what happened.

Now a bit about the story — we enter it on the eve of an engagement between the son of the wealthy host and his sweetling (pictured above). Just when before their engagement is announced, a family friend (Edward Wales) objects strongly, begging the boy’s parents to wait 24 hours before they allow the engagement. His misgivings cast a shadow of suspicion upon the innocent looking Ms. O’Neill.

 

Lindsay Winch as Mary Eastwood in Studio 58's production of The 13th Chair by Bayard Veilles.

 

Much to everyone’s frustration, Wales can’t say anything about why he is suspicious, and only begs them to wait and see what the evening brings.

Later that evening a vivacious medium arrives at the party. The medium is to hold a seance that will reveal who murdered Wales’s friend, Spencer Lee — we can gather than one of the party guests is guilty. After much skepticism, laughter and magical demonstration, the group sits down to their seance. When the light’s come back on. . . can you guess? Here’s a hint: the services of one Inspector Donahue are required, and he is summoned immediately.

 

Kazz Leskard as Inspector Donohue in Studio 58's production of The 13th Chair by Bayard Veiller.

 

Don’t let the Inspector’s expression there fool you, he’s a hard-boiled detective, he is. With evidence and everything.

But don’t worry about the story ever getting too dark. When things threaten to get too serious, the two entertainers (who’s clever stage names have slipped my mind) accompanied by live piano music (composer Matt Grinke) take the stage with silly, feel-good numbers that you’ll be humming on your way home.

Thanks to director Sarah Rodgers for this wonderful play! And a warm congratulations to the whole cast and crew — there are so many talents that have contributed to this play — including an Irish Dialect Coach (Ashley O’ Connell) — that I can’t possibly name them all. Notable faces of the cast include: Cheyenne Mabberley as the medium Rosalie Le Grange, Kazz Leskard as Inspector Donahue, Stephanie Moroz as Helen O’Neill, Katey Hoffman as Grace Standish (whose character I am certain draws from Popeye’s Olive Oyl) and Joel Baillard as Edward Wales.

The costume and lighting crews are magicians, and their talent and hard work is hard to ignore in this performance.

You can see The 13th Chair at Studio 58 until December 4. Showtimes are at 8 pm from Tuesday through Saturday, with matinees at 3 pm on Saturday & Sunday.

P.S. Outside, during intermission, I found a flyer entitled “Do the Charleston like a pro!”, containing steps to the popular dance whose name I hitherto had not known. Thank you Studio 58  for educating me, about the dance and the name. While waiting for the bus in the shelter of the Canada Line station later that evening, I practiced the steps as I remembered them from the flyer. It seemed like the only thing there was to do, since it was still pouring rain and the bus was certainly taking its time.  I’m sure I provided entertainment for my fellow stranded travelers. And soon I am sure I will dance it like a pro. After all now I have inspiration.