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Angular Momentum

Wed, Oct 2, 2013

Photo courtesy of Wonderbolt Circus

Tanya Burka may describe herself as an introvert with a background in nuclear physics, but you can often find her suspended 30 feet off the ground, without the benefit of a harness or a net, with only her grip on a bolt of lycra keeping her aloft as she spins, swings, and flies through the air.

Fresh off her run with Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, Tanya Burka will be in town this October as part of the Wonderbolt Circus show Bolt out of the Blue.

The circus seems traditionally to be a family business. Does it run in your family?
Performance definitely does not run in the family, no! My mom, before retiring, was a project manager for a pharmaceutical company, and my father runs an auto-body shop. My parents thought I was going to become a rocket scientist and work for NASA. Instead, I’m the first professional performer in my family.

What brought you to the circus?
Perfect chance. A gymnast for years, I decided to have my last hurrah (before going off to become a rocket scientist, naturally) by trying to learn a bit about the circus. I found a circus school online (the San Francisco Circus Center) and asked if I could be their personal slave in exchange for taking some classes. They said yes.

In exchange, I took classes in contortion, Chinese acrobatics, and static trapeze. I loved it so much and found I had a natural facility with it that I had never really had with gymnastics as a competitive sport.

I had never considered a career as a performer. I had never so much as tried anything like this before! But the idea instantly grabbed me and took hold in my mind, and deep down, I instantly thought, “I want this opportunity.”

I knew it wasn’t really practical to drop my plans for university and my future on a month’s acquaintance with the circus, so I decided I would go to university and get my bachelor’s degree, and just see how I felt about the idea as those four years went by. I figured if it was worth waiting four years, I would know I was serious then.

I auditioned for the National Circus School of Montreal as I was finishing my bachelor’s thesis in nuclear engineering, and they accepted me. I graduated from university and enrolled in circus school just a few months later to do a three-year professional program to turn me into a performer!

I’m told you have a physics background?
Yeah, I worked at my university’s research nuclear reactor while getting my Bachelor of Science. I often did handstands in the reactor control room.

Although I’m a performer now, I do find that my background in physics stays valuable in developing and teaching acrobatic moves in the air. The physics of how we use our bodies and our equipment in the air is fascinating. Acrobatics is all about propulsion, momentum and torsion.

Even for a circus act it sounds extremely physical. How do you prepare for something like this?
You have to be really fit to perform on aerial silks. It takes years of preparation and work to get to a professional level. Learning to use your upper body to support your full weight in the air is challenging. And falling isn’t an option.

After being a gymnast for almost 13 years it took me three years in school full-time to transition to being an aerialist. And I still have to work constantly to maintain peak form. Depending on the flexibility involved in the act, I might start stretching up to an hour before each performance, and I’m constantly doing abdominal and upper-body strengthening work.

What’s your biggest challenge as a performer?
My biggest challenge is that I’m an introvert. Performing is an intensely social experience. You have to project lots of energy towards the audience to be interesting to watch onstage. Most circus performers are naturally high-energy extroverts, and performing comes easily to them because of that. I had to learn to push way outside my boundaries of comfort to function as a performer onstage. I work on it constantly.

What’s going through your head when you’re performing?
When I’m up in the air performing, I’ve often got a story in my head about what the fabric represents, or about what’s around me in the space that my character is moving through, so that my choreography has a bit more meaning. Sometimes I dedicate my performances to someone specific that I care about, so that I think of projecting my energy “big enough” to reach them too.

For sure there’s always a part of my brain that’s processing the technical part of what I’m doing, but I make that part as small as I can. That way the rest of me can concentrate on who’s out there watching me and be as generous as possible towards them.

Wonderbolt Circus will be at Holy Heart Theatre on October 11-13. Tickets available at the Holy Heart Theatre box office. For more info visit www.wonderbolt.ca.

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Finding Your Inner Clown

Tue, Jul 2, 2013

Photo by Brian Williams

The story of Fruithead reflects our own story, with larfs.
By Carrie Ivardi.

None of us can escape the human story. We can’t avoid the desire for sex, the metallic thrill of violence, the mortality our bodies bind us to.

So why not enjoy it?

This July She Said Yes! Theatre Company presents Fruithead, a fun, indulgent clown show for adults only.

“[It will be] a very rich visual experience, with beautiful stop motion animations,” says Sara Tilley, artistic director.

The show is a chance to get lost in the hilarious and touching world of Fruithead, a character Tilley has been working with for the past five years.

With this method of character-based clown, said Tilley, the performer holds up a warped mirror to humanity. The clown reveals our flaws, allowing us to see them in a new light. What this means for Fruithead’s audience is that it’s not your typical clown with balloons kind of experience.

“There’s a lot of phallic imagery. The character has no shame.”

Nor does she have anyone to be ashamed for, since she is born on an island. An island only large enough for one. An insular microcosm, where nothing exists beyond the solitary shores of her confinement. “She animates the island to try to deal with her aloneness.”

As every one of us does in our lifetime, Fruithead undergoes transformations that are both confusing and empowering. Fruithead morphs from the seed of her beginning, into an animal, a human, and an alien. Along the way, she comes face to face with some of life’s bigger issues: Sexuality and gender, destruction of the environment, spousal abuse.

But there are a lot of silly instances. And no audience participation.

“Clown is very naked. Vulnerable,” says Tilley, who studied Pochinko Clown Through Mask technique in Vancouver after completing her BFA in acting at York University.

She was drawn to clown because she says it was opposite to the process of her theatre training.

“With this, you go deep inside your imagination. It’s about letting the body’s impulses lead the way. It’s very in the moment.”

The show is full of surprises.

“We have a set of a hundred balloons, which was a joke at first, because we were looking to subvert the idea of the traditional clown,” says Tilley. The balloons pop unexpectedly, and this random popping, along with other spontaneous moments, ensures each and every show is unique.

Tilley was fortunate to find a group of collaborators who share a common passion for the Pochinko Clown technique. Most of them have trained under Tilley.

“We have this very specific vocabulary, and everyone on the design team understands it. It’s a group of very positive energy.”

With its use of primary colours and plenty of silliness, the show can settle us into a sweet reverie of childhood. Unless we were traumatized by a white-faced, fake-nosed weaver of phallic-shaped balloons given to us in childhood.

“If you are wary of clowns, you maybe haven’t experienced the right kind of clown,” says Tilley. “A clown wants to turn the world inside out and connect with people.”

Fruithead does this for us, balling up our own masks and throwing them out the window to take pleasure in the raw humanity that lives in each of us.

Fruithead runs from July 17 to 21. $20, $15 for students and seniors, with a special $10 Thursday deal (prices include HST plus surcharge). Call 753-4531 or book online at rca.nf.ca. For more information, visit shesaidyestheatre.ca.

by Carrie Ivardi

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Under Wraps

Thu, May 2, 2013

Robert Chafe, playwright and lead actor in the original production of Under Wraps. Photo courtesy of Artistic Fraud.

Newfoundland and Labrador theatre company Artistic Fraud rarely does anything small. And never does anything boring.

They started in 1995 with a cast of 20 in the original adult comedy, In Your Dreams, Freud. It featured an on-stage rock band and a toga-clad chorus. The cast count ballooned to 85 for their contribution to their one-off performance, The Cheat, at the Sound Symposium the following year.

A few months later they presented Under Wraps, a story of gay unrequited love performed by two actors on top of a 40’ x 60’ white parachute cloth. Hidden underneath was an 18 member chorus, wielding lights and objects to transform the stage beneath the two performers on top.

Under Wraps really took off. The show toured across Canada, and has seen four local remounts. It was the first of many co-creations between playwright Robert Chafe and director Jillian Keiley, and featured an original musical score by Petrina Bromley, also a long-time Artistic Fraud collaborator.

Now, after a little bit of tinkering, Under Wraps is back with a new cast ­— and a new parachute cloth.

Elling Lien spoke with playwright Robert Chafe.

Is it true that [Director] Jillian Kieley first approached you with the idea for this show at a party? What happened?

[laugh] Yeah. I guess it was back ’95 or ’96, she came to me at a Christmas party. We were just becoming friends, we had just done In Your Dreams, Freud together, and she had just moved back from Toronto. She came to me a few drinks in and said, “I got this great idea.”

One thing that myself and Jill really connected over when we first started to hang out was we both had these huge, melodramatic youthful stories about undying love we felt for people, and those people didn’t know we were alive. We used to laugh so much about it, and share stories about that, and because of that she came to me one night at this party and said, “I’ve got this great idea for a show. It’s this girl and she’s standing there on this big white sheet. She’s standing there and she says, ‘He doesn’t even know that I’m alive!’ and then from under this sheet, 45 heads pop up through holes in the sheet and sing, ‘No, he doesn’t!’ And they sing all the way through the show and the whole show is this woman trying to get this guy to fall in love with her, but he doesn’t!”

I said, “That’s fantastic!” (I’d had a few drinks in me too.)

So I went away for a couple of weeks and came back with the first scenes and, of course, it immediately turned into two guys.

Jill was like, “Great, well, now it’s your story.”

So that’s where it all started. It happened so quickly after that. That was Christmas, and I think by the middle of January we were sitting in her kitchen looking at scenes, looking at probably the first half of act one. We just dove right in. The show went up the following winter.

It sounds like it was really exciting.

It was. I was doing another interview the other day and I was talking about some of early projects. She said, “it all sounds really joyful.” And I said, “Wow, it really, really was.”

Not that it’s not now, but now there’s a kind of caution — I guess that’s the right word — we plan and we plot and we know what we’re doing a little more. But back then we don’t know what we’re doing, we were just running off the cliff and seeing what happens. Just running around with blindfolds on to see what would happen. Under Wraps became a big success story because of that, but after that there were a bunch of shows that weren’t. [Laughs] That’s the way it works, I suppose.

But it was only after Under Wraps closed that myself and Jill and Petrina [Musical Director/Composer] looked at each other, and we looked at each other with this awareness of what we had just done. We hadn’t really had a moment to think about it. It certainly had never even occurred to me that I was going to put myself on stage in such a personal way. I distinctly remember closing night as I was coming out of the stairs of the LSPU Hall on the way to the dressing room and going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I just did that. I can’t believe my parents just saw that.” [Laughs]

But there’s something kind of gloriously — as that person said — joyful about just running into that stuff. Trying new things.

Certainly, as we go back to it now, and while we do have that caution and that plotting and that planning, and to make things better, every now and then a little moment will happen in the show in the rehearsal process. You can see it on Jill’s face. You can see it on the face of a couple of the chorus members who were in the original production. You can see this little flash of, “Ah, I remember that, that was so great!” A little flash of recollection.

Under Wraps was a big breakout for Artistic Fraud, right? It was the company’s first big tour?

Yeah. I was really just involved as an actor before that point. We’d done In Your Dreams, Freud which was the big piece that Jill did as soon as she moved home from school. That was a massive show as well, a huge hit in its own right. It was 45 people and it sold out two big runs in St. John’s. After that, Jill did another piece, and it was the biggest show we’ve ever done; an 82 person movement piece she did for the Sound Symposium in 1996.

Then we moved onto Under Wraps. So it was kind of the first. The first fully original co-creation of the group that went on to create most of the other shows: Jill Kielley, Petrina Bromley, and myself. [Under Wraps] was the first one where those relationships really started to cement. In Your Dreams, Freud had two or three runs, it toured to Halifax. The Cheat happened once for eight minutes at the Sound Symposium and then never happened again. [Laughs]

Under Wraps had a four year life from the beginning to the end. It had this great life.

A lot has happened to gays and lesbians in Canada since Under Wraps first opened in 1997. Would you say it’s still as relevant as it was back then?

Around the time gay marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005 we were talking about doing Under Wraps again, and I did express to Jill, that “things are so different now. The country has evolved,” and I wondered if there was a place for, essentially, what is a coming out story. I wondered about that. But then a year or so later Jamie Hubley [an Ottawa teenager who was the subject of anti-gay bullying] committed suicide. and those stories just kept emerging. And that made me think that the story of coming to accept your sexuality at that age — which is so complex and frightening, particularly if you don’t have familial support or support in your schools — that there’ll always be a place for that story.

When I was a kid, stories like that really connected and were important for my process. I hoped that this story would be the same for others.

But it’s something that never really — even though society is getting better — it never really changes the internal process. It’s not, for me certainly and I would imagine for a lot of other people, it’s not an objective process of, “Oh well, society now accepts it.” It’s a very deeply personal, deeply introspective process that some people go through. Some people kind of burst out and they’re great, and they’re fantastic, and they’re out at 12 and they’re totally together. Boy, do I ever wish I was one of those people.

But for a lot of other people, they don’t come out until much later in life, because it’s a real process of looking at who you are and who you want to be, and thinking about how it affects all that.

So in the process of rewriting it, it actually became less of a story about unrequited love — which was what it originally was meant to be, and how it started off 15 years ago — but it really turned into a story about loving yourself. It turned into a story about self-worth.

That makes it all sound really, really heavy, but it’s actually one of the funniest things I’ve ever written as well. [laugh]

Every time I talk about the themes in the show it’s like, “oh that sounds so heavy.” But the play is actually really fun. And Jill’s work, I think, I think Jill’s work was absolutely extraordinary. Petrina’s work is as well, but the visual element of this show is some of Jill’s best work. It’s so clever and cheeky and funny and out there and just beautiful to look at. The entire sheet acts like a cyclorama so it just sucks up any light that you shine on it, so the stage can just go from bright pink to bright blue in a flash of an eye, and the whole shape of the stage can change around the performer.

It’s really beautiful to look at.

Under Wraps will run from May 8 – 19 at the LSPU Hall, 3 Victoria Street, St. John’s. Purchase tickets at 753-4531, or online at www.rca.nf.ca

Lead actor for the 2013 production, Ron Klappholz. Photo by Flora Planchat

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Live Documentary

Fri, Mar 1, 2013

Louise Moyes is known for her “docudance” performances, an innovative mixture of dance and storytelling incorporating materials from various media. Her new show, Moore-Galant, features theatrical and film interpretations of stories by local legend and recent Canada Reads winner, Lisa Moore, and the Montreal-born master of the short story, Mavis Gallant.

What does the “docu-” part of “docudance” stand for exactly?
It refers to the documentary aspect of a lot of my work. Often I tell people’s own stories, in their own words and accents, like a “live” onstage documentary, through film, theatre and dance.

A sense of place and the way it manifests in people seem to be essential concerns of your work. When you give performances abroad, do you make any changes to your performances? Do audiences react differently?
Certainly they react differently. I would say the most intense performance I have ever had was in Cape St. George for my show “Florence,” about a woman from the Port-au-Port. The community centre was full and the audience was loud—they laughed at the sad parts (laughter of recognition) and cried at the funny parts. They were with me all the way. One man said afterwards “I never thought I’d see a show about the places I know.”

When I perform abroad, the reaction is one more of curiosity than such a tight familiarity. Mind you, even when I performed in New York, I thought beforehand, “How will city people react to this show?” but, you know, most everyone has rural roots somewhere, and they connected through that. In Tasmania, which is much like Newfoundland, people said directly that except for the French elements, “Florence” could have been about a woman from there. In New Brunswick, audiences identified with Florence as an Acadian woman, which was a whole other feeling for me as a performer.

Do I change the performances? In a show with French content, I vary the French-English quota, depending on the levels of the audience. When appropriate, I actually give a slide show on the basic history and show off the geography of Newfoundland and Labrador before I perform.

How does your new show relate to your previous shows?
It will be quite different from most of my previous shows, although I have done works made by other choreographers in the past five years, Jo Leslie and Eryn Dace Trudell, where if there was text it was not from interviews.

But story is still central to all my work. The Mavis Gallant piece is like my previous work in that I am working with film, song, theatre and dance to tell a story, intercut in a non-linear way. There is a verbatim first-person account from Gallant in the form of an excerpt from her diary…

Lisa Moore’s story will be a complete contrast, in all ways. More contained, more focused, me telling the story from beginning to end, with three simple props and a pool of light. It is a sculptural and contained telling, to reflect Lisa’s very fine, multi-layered story. It was published for the first time this Fall in Anansi’s The Selected Short Fiction of Lisa Moore.

Why did you choose to pair these particular stories?
While they are completely different in topic, “All Zoos Everywhere” and “Rue de Lille” to me both deal expertly in the many ways of self-deception; the ways we lie to ourselves.

Michael Ondaatje said of Gallant’s writing: “Before we know it she will have circled a person, captured a voice, revealed a whole manner of a life in the way a character avoids an issue or discusses a dress. She meets these characters in the zone between thought and possible action.”

Gallant writes about a complex love triangle; Moore about a man, a gorilla, a woman and Heidegger. And the line between human and animal, which is always rich and full of tension.

Moore-Galant runs from March 6-9 at the LSPU Hall.

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Dance in Disguise

Thu, Oct 4, 2012

Photo by Chris Randle

Tara Cheyenne believes everybody has a number of different characters living inside of them.

She’s been able to uncover a host of characters for her solo shows, including a slimy talk-show host, an uptight 50s mom, and a high school metal-head. For this year’s Festival of New Dance in St. John’s, Cheyenne will play Goggles, also known as Norman, a nine-year-old boy. It’s a full-length work that draws from her background in theatre, improv comedy and dance to create what’s become her own style of one-woman dance-theatre.

A video clip from the metal-head work, bANGER, shows Cheyenne sticking a scraggly-looking goatee to her chin before she shape-shifts into a greasy-haired, air guitar-playing teenager brimming with angst. She thrashes her way through scenes full of screeching guitar until there really is no question about it: She is this person. This person is her.

Cheyenne says she spends a lot of time making sure the character is authentic.

“My husband is always elbowing me because I’m staring at somebody,” she says. “But it’s all out of sincere interest of how people move and how people speak.”

For the role in Goggles, Cheyenne will hit the stage in a hooded sweatsuit and goggles. It’s quickly apparent things aren’t all right with Norman. His dad and his new girlfriend have gone away and left him with a babysitter. He copes with his loneliness by building a fantasy world.

When she talks about him there’s a certain quality to Cheyenne’s voice that sounds tender and concerned.

“He’s a weird kid”, she says. “He’s a really weird kid, but the kind of kid we all recognize.”

While stuck at the babysitter’s house, he fantasizes he’s the detective in a crime scene of a double murder. A dark comedy whodunit the audience also gets a crack at trying to solve.

Cheyenne says she herself is obsessed with crime drama and grisly murder mysteries like CSI and Law and Order, and that’s where this character came from. In the studio she was searching inside herself, trying to find one of the personalities inside her that has that obsession.

“You know how little people go through a phase where they’re interested in gory things, dead things, and worms, and poop? Well, [Goggles] came out of that place.”

“It sounds like multiple personalities,” she says, “but I think if we all did what I did we could all probably pull these different kinds of people out of yourself. It’s something I think is really fascinating and can be quite liberating.”

Tara Cheyenne will perform Goggles as part of the Festival of New Dance on Wednesday, October 10 at 8pm. Tickets are $25-$15, and are available at the LSPU Hall, 3 Victoria Street. 753-4531.

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St. John’s Women, What Are We?

Wed, Aug 29, 2012

Photo by Jared Reid

“I started out with an idea to interview a St. John’s woman in her 60s who had been through feminism and the Catholic church,” says dancer and documentarian Louise Moyes. “I wanted to have her talk about all of the changes that have come over those years for women here. But then a colleague suggested talking to the three women, one from each generation. And that was a really interesting idea.”

The result is St. John’s Women, a collaboration between dance and documentary film that will be presented and danced by Moyes at the LSPU Hall from September 19-22.

The piece centers around interviews with three women: Kay Haynes, a woman in her 60s; Ashley Kapoor, a woman in her 20s; and Moyes herself, a woman in her 40s.

Moyes asked each of them the same questions about feminism, religion, children, and life, and their responses were captured on video and will play on screen, interspersed with Moyse’s own responses, which are both spoken and danced. She also performs a dance for each woman, capturing their spirit with music and movement.

So what did she learn about St. John’s women?

“We are all very much of our generation,” she says.

Haynes, now a real estate agent, grew up on Barnes Road in the 1940s and 1950s. At 15, Kay had to pay rent, and so went to on Water Street to work in a bank.

“She loved it,” says Moyes. “She had people from all over the world coming off the ships and coming in to exchange money. Then she got married. And back then, when you got married, you stopped working, that was it. You stayed home with the children.”

In the film Haynes talks about growing up in a household with a widowed father and learning from the woman who eventually become her stepmother­, who was born in the 1920s and worked her whole life, and helped other women of her generation to have the courage to do the same.

“Kay says she isn’t militant, but that she is a feminist,” says Moyes. “And it’s wonderful, because she helps dispel all the stereotypes of feminism: the women in battle, hating men, and not looking for equality but to be better than men. She is so gentle about it.”

Moyes herself also identifies as a feminist.

“For me, it means recognizing that things aren’t equal yet,” she says. “There has been great progress, for lack of a better word, but there’s still a glass ceiling. And those battles are hard won. Those rights can be taken away pretty quickly. We don’t have to look far beyond our borders to see other cultures where women are very clearly oppressed. It keeps me vigilant.”

Kapoor, the third subject of the documentary, has worked with the local chapter of Oxfam dealing specifically with women’s issues in developing countries.

“And yet she doesn’t consider herself a feminist,” says Moyse. “I worked with Ashley for a time in the same office, and I was fascinated by her and the other women her age that I worked with: they were smart, independent, gorgeous, and they had a confidence that our generation of women just didn’t have. And though they recognized that these struggles came before them, they did not call themselves feminists.”

Moyes has mixed feelings about their reluctance to use the word to describe themselves.

“In some ways I find it exciting that she doesn’t feel that there’s a need. It means there has been progress,” she says. “But it does make me nervous that a ball may be dropped, that we could go backwards.”

“I wonder, does feminism need another name? Is it a dirty word?”

When it comes to having children and building the families, Moyes says the women she spoke to are all, again, products of their time.

“For Kay, well, you just got married and had children,” says Moyes. “That was it.”

Moyes’ generation, on the other hand, were encouraged to focus on their careers and have children when it was convenient for them.

“We were almost an experiment,” says Moyes. “Most of us had our children quite late, and we had every intervention possible: in vitro, borrowing eggs… You name it and we’ve been through it. It turns out not to be true, you can’t wait forever.”

Kapoor doesn’t have children, and hasn’t yet decided when she would like to have them.

What does unite the women, though, is that they all consider themselves to be St. John’s women. It’s an interesting idea in Newfoundland, where the sense is takes a few generations before one can honestly call themselves a Newfoundlander.

“Kay is a multi-generational Newfoundlander,” says Moyes. “So she is a Newfoundland woman. But she is a St. John’s woman, through and through.”

Moyes’ parents moved here from England in 1964.

“They came here and they integrated,” says Moyes. “But I don’t think they will ever feel like full Newfoundlanders. But I am a St. John’s woman. What else would I be?”

Kapoor’s mother is a Newfoundlander, but her father is from India. She spent the first part of her life living in Toronto.

“Ashley came here when she was 11 or 12,” says Moyes. “She often says that when people ask her where she’s from, she forgets, because she’s brown, they’re expecting her to say something other than St. John’s. But St. John’s is where she is from.”

Louise will be digging deeper into these ideas on the show’s opening night, which is doubling as a fundraiser for Oxfam. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion with three immigrant women discussing how they identify as St. John’s women: Zainab Jerret, the Coordinator of the International Food and Craft Fair for the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador; Mimi Sheriff, who works for Oxfam; and Yamuna Kutty, president of the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. John’s Women and My Secret Pig run at the LSPU Hall from Sept 19-Sept 22. For more info see our listings on page 24. For ticket info visit the LSPU Hall’s website.

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Lady of the Dance

Wed, Feb 1, 2012

Marg Delahunty (played by Mary Walsh) on her way to surprise Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Mary Walsh talks to Sarah Smellie about Rob Ford, the state of Canadian political satire, and her new show “Dancing with Rage” at the LSPU Hall.

“It’s very hard to be a political satirist in Canada lately,” says Mary Walsh. “Everything is just so upside-down, everybody is just lying all the time. I hate to quote Joseph Goebbels, but I believe he said that if you’re going to lie, you have to lie big. And the bigger the lie, the easier it will be to believe.”

Mary Walsh is, of course, a founding cast member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which premiered during the 1993 federal election. In its early days, 22 Minutes was wildly popular, and celebrated for being ballsy and sharp. Walsh led the pack, ambushing, and sometimes humiliating, politicians as Marg Delahunty: Princess Warrior.

This past October Delahunty returned to ambush Toronto’s right-wing mayor, Rob Ford. He panicked, phoned 911, and swore at the dispatcher.

“He frightened me, actually,” says Walsh. “For the first time in my entire life of ambushing people, I was so frightened by his reactions that I just forgot all my lines. In hindsight, I don’t think that 22 Minutes would have ever aired it because I didn’t get any clever lines out. It was only because he made such a hoo-rah-rah about it that it even saw the light of day.”

When the 911 call prompted a media storm, Ford claimed that Walsh had stormed his home in the dark, and frightened his daughter. He also said that he had been receiving death threats and was thus already on edge.

“There was no daughter, and it wasn’t dark, it was 8:30 in the morning,” says Walsh, “And [in 2008, when he was a city councillor] he had actually been charged with [uttering] death threats against his wife. He’s the person who is actually uttering death threats. He got Mr. Goebbel’s message, but he didn’t lie big enough—he should have said that I stabbed him.”

Those charges against Ford were eventually dropped by his wife. And he had been the recipient of death threats just before Walsh’s ambush.

The stunt was met with both criticism and praise, and the video made the usual viral rounds on Facebook. It was the most talked-about bit to come out of 22 Minutes in a while, a show that is now regularly out-viewed by the Rick Mercer Report.

Short of a few quick bits by George Stroumboulopoulos on his talk show, 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report are the only political satire programs on Canadian television. With budget cuts looming at the CBC, we probably shouldn’t expect much more. In 2006, when the Air Farce, 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report were dominating Can-con ratings, the CBC announced that they would not be producing any more political satire.

“The country has changed,” says Walsh. “We have a very conservative government now. Everything’s gone, really. We are now a small-c, right-wing country. There’s no access, they’re building prisons, and it’s really hard to get anyone’s attention to say anything about it. People lie so relentlessly on the right, and if anyone does say anything, they’re trounced.”

In that spirit, Marg Delahunty will rise again, in Dancing With Rage, a theatre production written and performed by Walsh. It’s the story of Marg who, like Walsh, is suffering from macular degeneration. She’s decided that before she loses her sight, she wants to track down the child she gave up for adoption after she got knocked up at Expo. So she packs up her rage and her belongings, and sets off, meeting other classic Walsh characters like Dakey Dunn and Connie Bloor along the way.

“Rage is the very basis of comedy, isn’t it?” says Walsh. “Even the simple scenario of buddy falling on the banana peel, it’s really so funny because he goes down with such a smack. There aren’t very many comedians that want to protect the status quo. That seems to be a comedian’s job: to rail against the inequities and indignities of life.”

Mary Walsh’s Dancing with Rage LSPU Hall-3 Victoria St 753-4531 (Thu Feb 9 to Sun Feb 12 / Tue Feb 14 to Sun Feb 19 / Tue Feb 21 to Sat Feb 25, showtimes at 8pm; PWYC matinees Sat Feb 11 / Sat Feb 18 / Sat Feb 25 at 2pm; matinee Sun Feb 26 at 2pm)

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“It’s like getting out of the limousine and not having money for the subway.”

Thu, Sep 29, 2011

Photo by Julie Perreault

Elling Lien speaks with Canadian modern dancer Margie Gillis just before her debut performance in Newfoundland on October 11 at the Festival of New Dance.

She has been called a courageous and free-spirited pioneer of modern dance, and Margie Gillis is already internationally renowned for her solo work, but this year, her fame has been kicked up a notch by two things:

1. In May of this year she received the Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award from the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award Foundation. Her career has spanned more than 35 years.

2. In June she bore the brunt of a hostile interview by Sun News Network’s Krista Erickson. As Globe columnist John Doyle put it, Erickson “accosted dancer Margie Gillis on air about arts funding and tried to beat her up, verbally.” Erickson demanded to know why Gillis and her dance foundation had, over the past 13 years, received what she said was $1.2-million of grants from taxpayers. She then mocked her arm gestures and told Gillis she had no right to talk about art when Canadian soldiers were dying in Afghanistan. It was pretty weird. And for the arts community in Canada, it sparked a bright white anger. People wrote so many letters of complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council—twice more than they usually receive in a whole year—that the organization was overwhelmed. 

During and after the interview, Margie Gillis remains as composed and calm as ever.

I caught up with her by phone to talk about her work and the Sun News Network debacle.

I wanted to first wish you congratulations on your Governor General’s Award.
Thank you. It really, really is wonderful, but a lot in our life is like getting out of the limousine and not having money for the subway. It’s a very wonderful combination of extremes. I am utterly and completely delighted by the award, of course, and by the recognition from my country.

You know, I just love the human body in motion. It just thrills the heck out of me. I was teaching three classes here in New York yesterday. I teach very intensely and someone said, “How are you going to do it?” and I said, “Curiosity.”

I just get excited, I get totally enamoured each time with a new group of people and what they are doing and how their minds affect their bodies. The whole inner landscape becomes manifest. It’s like reading great literature or poetry. Something tremendously revealing and exciting. So it thrills me.

What are you working on these days?
Recently I’m involved quite excitedly and heavily in a project called Dancing at the Crossroads which is investigating the use of dance and movement as a way of conflict resolution, the premise being that “knowing is not enough.” Often our minds will know a certain thing is good or right for us, but we just can’t

Also, in conflict resolution there’s an awful lot of luggage, or ghosts. A person can represent a community or a family or a history, so how do you bring that to the table?

And often by going into abstraction it becomes non-threatening.

How did you get your start in dance?
My background was very untraditional in the dance world. I was one might say voted most likely to fail.

I was just a mess as a child, but I loved to dance. I was not the right height, I was not the right weight, I was pigeon-toed, I was way emotionally… I needed to release emotion and not control it, so any kind of controlling was really an explosive event for me.

Ballet was not for you, then.
Not for me, no. Not one of those kids. So how I worked with that was through dancing. It calmed my mind.

At this point, knowing what I know as an older woman and what’s happened recently, I would say thank God that I didn’t end up on Ritalin and that I was able to go along with the adventure and find my own solutions for my own problems, through dance. I started performing thinking it would be a failure, but it was this phenomenal success. I was able to travel all over the world, I was able to represent my country, I was able to touch people’s lives very deeply and I still do and I love it.

Then I began to realize, “Hey, I actually can teach this to other people” and people started coming to me, mainly dancers at first, and I was the only modern dancer on the ballet circuit. It’s just a strange, strange thing to be [laugh] but there you have it.

Going back to conflict resolution­—can you tell me about what the Sun News interview was like? How did it happen?
After the Governor General’s Award they had phoned my office for about two weeks. I was politically very opposed to what I referred to as Fox News North, because it came out of the Murdoch affiliate, but I was told that there was deep respect for me and that they wished me to come and give another point of view and I thought, well, maybe in Canada it will be different. And after being assured by my administrator that for two weeks they had been phoning every day, being extremely flattering, really wanting to offer me a chance to speak, and that there would be a few difficult questions but it was about the arts in Canada, funding for the arts in Canada, I said yes. And indeed of course she never even asked one question about funding the arts, she was just right at me.

I think that people think that dancers are just pushovers. I think they think we are a fun little group of I don’t know what.

So you didn’t have any idea that the interview was going to proceed as it did?
I knew I was going to a conservative interview, but I had been assured, absolutely assured and in fact I was less angry or upset… like I don’t think I was really angry. I was shocked for a few hours, then I felt frightened.

Why frightened?
Because I was in a room, alone. Because I know that this woman comes from a powerful group of people that really do believe that the arts are actually not… that they are a threat, and that her idea of disagreement is aggressive and that a lot of damage could be done. We live in a country where it’s not always acceptable to stand out in that way and my funding, my personal funding was being questioned.

Yes, the very first question was “What is the sum total of grants you received throughout your career?” [laugh]
Yeah, I knew I was being set up as a poster child for a certain amount of anger. I actually am not worried now. At the moment I thought it was really worrying, and now I’m really realizing that most people are not on board with this at all. The outpouring, not only from Canada but from around the world, but particularly from Canada and from Alberta, from the west of Canada, was just astonishing. People saying, you know, we want to be able to disagree, but not like this.

I do think it’s important to be brave, I do think it’s important to stand up and I do think it’s important to be respectful and proper.

How do you feel about it now?
I really don’t have any animosity towards Erickson. I feel very sorry for her. Somebody was speaking in her ear the entire time so it was not her interview per se, it was somebody else telling her what to do and how to go at me. I had something to hold my ground for, which is my community. And I also am really lucky to be in Quebec. We love and value the arts to a profound degree.

Just watching it myself again recently I can’t help but get angry again.
Yes, but it is intended to create anger, it’s intended to create aggression.

My Google Alerts thing is pretty wild. I get a note for every article. Some of it is aggressive, but the majority of it is incredibly pro arts… not necessarily pro Margie Gillis. I’m not looking for that. This is about community, this is about humanity, this is about who we are as a society, how we treat each other and how we express ourselves within and to the world, so I feel very reinforced in being appropriate and kind and strong. That does not mean not being wild. I do think being wild is important, but I think being wild and appropriate can co-exist, just as I think compassion and discernment can co-exist.

So how do you defend arts funding now?
Basically my fundamental thing is that the arts are about creation and that’s about ways of problem solving. The arts allow us to create places where we cast out what is possible for humanity. We play things out and we speak about our humanity. We can illuminate our humanity. It’s an area to reveal. Whether it’s literal or it’s abstract, or whatever form that takes, whatever form of art is created, whether it’s music or dance or visual art. It’s a testing ground.

You’ve say the arts in general, but thinking specifically about contemporary dance… If you could do the interview over and you could explain the value of contemporary dance, what would you answer?
Well, contemporary dance is researching what is possible for the human spirit within the body. It’s about ideas and feelings and thoughts and what the soul wants. All aspects of who we are turn into motion. We speak to our generation and we research what is going on with our generation. We research what is possible for the future. We research what’s happened in the past and whether and how it may have value.

A lot of what we reveal through the art becomes part of sports, it becomes part of the medical field. It becomes part of the philosophical field. We interact and share our knowledge and a lot of knowledge is experiential. That has been devalued over the years. Experiential knowledge is extremely important so, as I say, you can know something is important but you can’t quite get there. But if you can make the shift in experience your brain will reorganize to find the solution to revisit that place that you know deeply.

The arts create a place where people can dialogue safely about their big, large ideas.

I had a conversation with a man recently and he joked he only likes tractor pulls and has never been to the theatre. That’s what he loves, he said. I said, “Your money is going to fund the arts and to fund me. What do you think about that?”

And he said, “Well you know, just because I’m not sick doesn’t mean I don’t believe in medicine.” And my heart went big.

Well I really appreciate the time that you have given me today Margie.
My pleasure, and I am so looking forward to coming and performing. I have wanted to come to Newfoundland for a long, long time.

Margie Gillis will perform Voyages into the Interior Landscape as part of the opening gala for the Festival of New Dance at the LSPU Hall on Tuesday October 11.

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Lisa Moore’s February comes to life

Fri, Aug 12, 2011

Photo by Barbara Stoneham

It’ll look like February at this year’s Winterset in Summer literary festival in Eastport, but that’s not because of the weather. (Actually, the weather should be fairly nice out there this weekend.) It’s the festival’s tenth anniversary and to celebrate, they commissioned author Lisa Moore to adapt her multi-award-winning novel, February, to the stage, with help from the Rising Tide Theatre Company.

Focusing primarily on Helen, a mother of four widowed by the Ocean Ranger disaster, February zips back and forth in time, following the paths carved out by grief in the lives of Helen and her children.

It can’t have been easy to script.

“It was a steep learning curve,” says Moore, who has never written a play before. “Everything that the characters thought, every description, must be dialogue or action. When you change the form that dramatically, it changes the characters and changes the content. I had three different readings of the play with different actors, and sometime the readings were very different from what I expected, and so I realized how actors can make a character their own. That was a really interesting experience for me. And I also had to learn about all the limitations of the stage. Little things, like lighting a candle on stage, can be very complicated because it’s a fire hazard whereas in a book, it’s a sentence. But it was a thrill to see how the same story could be altered and made new.”

The story has been whittled down to fit into a production that, she estimates, will be about an hour and twenty minutes long.

“The story really belongs to both Helen and John now, her son,” says Moore. “It begins with his journey home. He’s coming home for a job interview, and to deal with the fact that he’s gotten a girl pregnant. She’s a Newfoundlander in the script, so he’s flying home to see his mother, for a big job interview, and to deal with this problem that he doesn’t want to deal with. I think the character of John is much bigger in the play.”

There will be two public readings of the play at Winterset in Summer, which runs from this Friday, August 12th, to Sunday, August 14th. The readings are at 2pm and 7pm on Sunday. If you head out there, you may as well go for the entire weekend. On Friday, Giller Prize nominees Alexander MacLeod and Sarah Selecky, and winner Joanna Skibsrud, will be reading and discussing their novels with host Ramona Dearing. On Saturday, Sherman Downey and Andrew O’Brien will play before authors Leslie Vryenhoek, Kate Evans and Gerard Collins discuss their experiences of getting published and getting by. Oh, and CBC’s Michael Enright will be kicking around, too. Check out the entire schedule here.

If you can’t make it out there to catch Lisa Moore’s writing on stage, don’t worry. She says she hopes to write more for the stage. “There’s something very exciting to me about the idea that a play is an ephemeral thing, that it changes with every performance, that the audience and the actors are creating this illusion together and that, when it works, there’s magic but the magic only lasts as long as the play,” she says. “I like that idea.”

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Who is Stanley Braxton and why is an improv troupe named after him?

Tue, Jun 21, 2011

It's just an image of some dude.

Local improv got a minor shake-up when Stanley Braxton arrived on the scene. Braxton is a collective entertainment unit or, put another way, the unlikely name of an improv troupe consisting of Canadian Improv Games veterans Alex Bond, Mike Fardy, Mike Hammond, Tim Matson and Robert Robere. The group is scheduled for two shows at the Rabbittown Theatre, June 24th and 25th. Adam Clarke spoke to the improv hive-mind for a quick Q & A.

How did you guys get together?
Alex Bond: I’ve been doing improv for 11 years, starting in high school. I met the gang through Canadian Improv Games.

Mike Fardy: I started in grade 7 and performed all through juniour high and high school. I became a trainer for CIG and then I became regional director shortly after that. I did improv with some cool folks and shortly after that we did some really bad shows…

Mike Hammond: I started doing improv at Rabbittown with Pat Dempsey, Aiden Flynn and Tim Ronan. I also worked as a trainer and judge for the Improv Games.

Robert Robere: I performed with CIG all thru high school and volunteered with them ever since.

Tim Madson: I did improv in high school, took some classes in New York, came to Newfoundland where I was put into contact with Mike Fardy and Mike Hammond. The rest is Stanley Braxton apocryphal history

MH: Myself, Fardy and Tim performed in the “Hilarity For Charity” [earlier this year at The Levee]. We decided to form a core group to jam shortly thereafter.

 
Why the name Stanley Braxton?
MF: Stanley Braxton was actually a rejected name from another project I developed. We all dressed up in suits and crashed business parties. We all made up business names so we could mix it up. My character’s name was Max Daniels, but I was considering was Stanley Braxton.

AB: None of us could get to the meat of an e-mail without suggesting half a dozen names beforehand.

MH: We got up to 96 names.

MF: So, Stanley Braxton was one of my suggestions amidst the 96 names.

 
Any highlights from the reject pile?
TM: The Cowan Heights Tabernacle Choir

 
What can people expect from a Stanley Braxton show?
AB: Our past couple of shows have been two acts. The second act is a long-form improv based on a suggestion we receive, weaving a bunch of little vignettes togethere. So we start with a scene and then we’d revisit it some time in the future or some time in the past.

MF: Overall, we don’t have a set structure. No two shows will be the same. We begin with a series of games, but we may stop doing that.

 
So you may not always be doing comedic scenes?
RR: We don’t aim for a comedy show, but it does tend to come out that way.

MH: I think that’s where our strengths lie. We’ve all been doing comedy improv for a while.

TM: An old improv teacher likened improv to The Matrix. It can be anything. While improv leads itself to comedy, we’ve had some more serious, heartfelt or touching scenes in rehearsals. They’re not necessarily dramatic, but we try to find a certain amount of truth whenever we’re on stage. Sometimes that’s funny, sometimes it’s not.

 
Some of your past shows were staged at Rocket Bakery, which might strike some as unusual…
MF: It’s downtown. It’s not a bar, which means high school students can go and they’re our biggest audience. They serve milk and cookies at half-time, they treat us wonderfully and I’d love to make Rocket our home. It’s a huge room

AB: It’s got a great atmosphere. You bring in lights and a stage and away you go. There’s so much flexibility.

 
What does the future hold for Stanley Braxton?
MH: In a year or two, I want to be at the LSPU Hall. I can see us there. I have big hopes for Stanley Braxton and I think we can break out like the Dance Party Of Newfoundland did. I’m confident that if we held a show there, it would sell out.

Stanley Braxton is scheduled for two shows at the Rabbittown Theatre, June 24th and 25th. Doors open at 7pm. $5.

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A Comedy of Manors

Mon, Apr 25, 2011


Headlining stages across the country for his This Tour Has 22 Cities… The Road To Majumder Manor tour, local comedian and actor Shaun Majumder, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame, kicks off his return to comedy in St. John’s on April 28th. Majumder spoke to Adam Clarke about why he’s building a manor, his development as a stand-up comic and why you don’t want to buy his new fragrance.

Shaun Majumder is eager to set foot back in Newfoundland. “What drives people here is fear and greed,” Majumder says about L.A, where he now lives. “They just think about another way they can be famous and richer. Like, ‘I need to have a paint, a scent and a strip of leather named after me.’”

On the cusp of his upcoming Canadian tour, Majumder is quick to recall his painful early attempts at stand-up comedy. The first such attempt occurred in his hometown of Burlington after receiving a vote of confidence from his high school English teacher.

“Mrs Hymen—I’m not joking, that was her name—said there was a talent competition coming up and I should do it,” Majumder recalls. “I got up and I was supposed to do ten minutes. By the time I did two, I look at the back and see Mrs. Hymen doing the finger-across-the-neck sign. As in, ‘You suck.’”

After that rocky start, Majumder’s first true stand-up gig arrived when he was tapped to perform for an MS charity event. “I was horrible,” the actor-comedian confesses without a tinge of regret. “After my first time doing it in Toronto, I thought I’d never do it again. Yet I keep coming back.”

By his own estimation, Shaun Majumder’s evolution as a comic took time. “I think it takes about 10 years to shed it all and find your own voice,” he says. “I’m still trying to find it. I’m really excited about this tour, but I’m also really nervous.”

The comedy tour is but one aspect of a larger project that includes a documentary TV series commissioned by the W network. Both the tour and the series will generate money needed to realize Majumder Manor, a ritzy five-room inn to be created in Burlington.

“We don’t have a lot of high-end accommodations in the province,” Majumder says. “I think that this kind of structure will attract a certain kind of higher-end clientele.”

All staff will consist entirely of Burlington residents. “We’re not going to bring in chefs to cook a meal here,” he says. “All the money will go back into the community.”

In addition to Burlington’s economy, Majumder also hopes to take some of the attention away from St. John’s and back to the outport communities, largely out of his love of storytelling. “I believe the outports of Newfoundland are the birth of story, food, song, poetry and culture,” the 22 Minutes veteran says. “It’s almost like St. John’s is the Hollywood of Newfoundland because everything fits a mold when it comes to St. John’s. There’s some hoity-toity stuff going on in town that I don’t like. Because town has some people who are a little more elitist than others. They’re smarter and better all because they’re in town. You go around the outports and you hear people talking and they deserve an Academy Award! Rural Newfoundland is where the real heartbeat of Newfoundland is.”

For the Manor to succeed, Majumder is hoping to garner support from the board of tourism and the government. Should his financial plans go awry, will he resort to hawking his own celebrity fragrance?

“I’ve got a scent and it’s not one you want. It’s called Sh** and Sweat. I’m gonna put it in a bottle and sell it and people are going to say ‘aww, this is horrible! Why did I buy this?’”

Shaun Majumder will be performing at Holy Heart Theatre, with special guest Nigel Lawrence, on April 28. Ticket info.

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Hedwig & The Angry Inch: Sex & Rock & Roll

Thu, Mar 10, 2011

Photo by Ian Vardy

Back in 2009, local theatre company c2c mounted their version of the cult musical about a rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. And this month they’re doing it again.

It’s a strange kind of theatre show. It’s held in a bar. The actors stay on stage for the entire set. They play loud rock and roll. Yet, somehow, they manage to make it work like a piece of theatre. But don’t let that scare you.

Elling Lien got a chance to talk with Brad Hodder, who plays the character of Hedwig.

ON BECOMING HEDWIG

…I heard from someone that as you get the wig on and start putting your costume on backstage, you start turning into a real diva. How do you get into your character? How do you find your Hedwig?

[laughter] The costume definitely completes the character. I would rehearse in jogging pants and a T-shirt, because I wanted to be able to move, but the minute I put on that stuff… It’s pretty restrictive… It’s pretty tight. And the fake nails go on. And the hair is crazy. You have to give yourself over to it.

Normally I bite my nails, so I don’t have nails, but then all of sudden you put on these long nails and that, as ridiculous as it sounds, that actually means I have to pick things up differently. There’s something about that, now that I think of it, the nails really do something. They force me to interact with the things and the people around me a lot more daintily because I don’t want to break a nail. Seriously. Because we’ve only got so many of them.

Put on some press-on nails and see how it changes you. Put on nails and try and do up your shoes. Seriously. Try and tie your shoes, or take a beer cap off a beer. You can still do it, but it’s a completely different way of interacting with the world. And that’s just the hands. Just the fingers. It changes everything.

 

ON TRICKING THE AUDIENCE INTO SEEING A PLAY

…How does this show relate to other kinds of theatre you’ve done? Because it seems like a real hybrid. An actual rock gig and a theatre show in one…

Yeah, I think this one’s kind of different. It has a built-in cult following because of the movie adaptation [from 2001], so you’ve got people who have seen that. It speaks to a community.

Charlie Thomlinson [the director of the show] he talked about this last year. With this show you are tricking people into coming to a play. They think they’re going to a rock show and then you trick them. You hit them with a few monologues here and there and then ha ha ha! It’s a play. [laugh]

There are metaphors! There’s character development!

Yeah, there’s all kinds of stuff. And because a stage production is different from a movie, and most people here who went knew it from the movie only.

What we found last year is we had a lot of people who came once and they came back again the next night. The word-of-mouth was really great. We put a lot of work into it and we were really happy with how it turned out. We were pretty proud of it.

I think what really made a difference is it’s in a bar. You can buy a drink. You can even get loaded while you watch the show, which can be fun.

I guess that’s the thing. The Rock House is a perfect spot for that show, but I’d like to try this once in a theatre too just to see how it works there. It’s definitely a play, but there’s a lot of interplay with the audience, because the premise is you’re at a live Hedwig gig, and whatever happens, happens. Some people in the audience react to things and we riff off that.

I was just looking at the photos from last year and there was a sequence of two photos where someone from the audience was feeding you gummi bears. That wasn’t a plant, was it?

Hedwig talks about the gummi bears, but that wasn’t a plant. That just happened. Closing night last time we even had a bunch of people show up with Hedwig-style styrofoam wig cut-outs on their heads.

At that point you know you have a phenomenon on your hands.

[laugh] It helps too that we have a great band. Janet Cull can sing the crap out of anything. You know, I like to rock and roll and pretend I’m a rock star, that’s fun. And when you know you’ve got Janet Cull there to pick up where I waiver, it’s go great. She just comes in and saves the day.

Yeah, it’s a show that has been taken up. Last time we did a few appearances before opening, and I guess that got some word out. But it really rallied beyond what we expected. It seemed to me like it got the regular theatre audience out, but it also rallied a whole other kind of community out for it as well.

Lots of people took ownership of it. For me, on a purely selfish level, it’s the closest thing I will ever have to feeling like a rock star. Which feels so great.

The music for the show is so great. When you do the show you’re given that gift. I mean, the text is great. The story’s fantastic. You have interplay with the audience. But then on top of all that you get these songs that are just…

You’d do it a disservice to call it musical theatre, because they’re real rock and roll songs.

They wrote a tribute to rock and roll. There are so many influences there, in the text and in the music.

I read that when they were getting that show ready for the first time in New York City, they were playing covers in bars—like glam era David Bowie—and changing the lyrics to fit the story. Later they wrote the music.

Yeah, mostly music by the people referred to in the show as “crypto-homo rockers.”[laugh]

Yeah, from what I know of the show, they spent a lot of time playing around with it, playing it in dingy bars and trying different venues for it. Messing around with it with no real, conscious idea that it was their workshop period. It just took on it’s own life and it worked, because it’s still going over 20 years later.

Photo by Ian Vardy

 

ON AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

…I really enjoyed the audience participation when I saw the show last time. The singalong especially.

Thanks. There’s this moment in the show where it’s kind of like storytime. Charlie wanted us to treat it like story time as an experiment.

“Maybe we’d get people to sit down at this point.” And sure enough, when Hedwig goes, “all right everybody, storytime,” we watched 90 per cent of the audience sit down on the scuzzy floor of the Rock House. Like, holy crap! It’s moments like that, and moments like the singalong where people actually do sing along, and moments where people give you the gummi bears, that you realize that this is a different experience.

With this show, I don’t know how else to describe it except there was a real sense that, in some way, the show wasn’t ours any more. Ten minutes into the first performance last time there was a sense that this show wasn’t just ours. For whatever reason, it belonged to everybody in that room. That sounds a little flighty, but I don’t know how else to describe it. It really did become this thing that had all of those wonderful elements of live performance. We are all here, right now, for this next hour. This is special, this is unique, and this is ours, and it’s only going to happen here.

 

ON MOM & DAD

…I heard your parents went to see it last time. What do they think of it all?

You know, when they heard we were remounting it, mom and dad couldn’t stop telling everyone about Hedwig. It was so weird hearing my dad at the table at Christmas time telling my uncles, “so in this show Brad plays this character who had a sex change and now he has no penis and no vagina. It really is an excellent show.” [laugh]

Dad came to the opening night, and then they came back again for another show. And my parents, they don’t do that usually. But they really liked this one. On some level, I think this show is really fringe and bizarre. But there seems to be a truth to it that lots of people can identify with.

Ultimately it’s someone trying to find themselves. And that’s something everybody does. We spend our whole lives doing that. Hedwig has such a rough go of it, but then you can watch her on stage finding herself, in some way.

c2c’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, directed by Charlie Tomlinson, will be at the Rock House on Thursday, March 10 at 9pm and Friday, March 11 at 9pm and 12am. Tickets are $20 and available at Model Citizens or at the door. 19+ only. Rock on.

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Zombies take to the streets of downtown

Fri, Oct 29, 2010

Photos by Will Fowler

Last Sunday, October 24th, a group of zombies went for a casual stroll through downtown St. John’s.

Makeup artist Emma Young coordinated the walk, spurred on by the success of similar walks in other provinces where hundreds of people dress up like the undead and scare innocent bystanders every year.

Young is really happy with how things turned out, especially the scaring the innocent bystanders part.

“There were two ladies ladies who saw us, ran in one direction and then turned around again to get away and ran straight into a store,” Young says. “It was all one highlighted moment!”

See more photos at the St. John’s Zombie Walk Facebook group.

Emma Young

Zombie pedestrians always have the right of way

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Three local authors up for GG Literary awards

Fri, Oct 15, 2010


Photo of Robert Chafe by Andrea Hann. Photo of Richard Greene by Linda Dobbs.

Finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced on October 13th, and three Newfoundlanders have been nominated for the prize.

In the English-language Fiction category, Kathleen Winter has been short-listed for her novel Annabel which tells the story of Wayne Blake, a hermaphrodite born in 1960s Labrador. St. John’s playwright Robert Chafe was short-listed in the English-language Drama category for Afterimage, a play revealing the intimate and electric lives of a family on the margins of society. Richard Greene, originally from St. John’s, was nominated in the English-language Poetry category for his collection of poems Boxing the Compass, which includes the long narrative poem Over the Border about random encounters on American buses and trains.

The short-list represents 70 nominations out of 1,702 submissions. Winners will be announced November 16th in Montreal and will be presented in Ottawa at Rideau Hall on November 25th. Click here to see the other authors in the running.

*Edited on October 17 to include Richard Greene’s nomination.

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Working icons: Gordon Pinsent

Fri, Oct 1, 2010

This month, two documentaries will examine the lives of two Newfoundland artists whose dedication to their work has brought joy to their audiences, but, occasionally, pain to themselves and their families. Why do they do it? What’s it like having a camera focused so closely on their private lives?

Interviews and photos by Elling Lien

Click here to read an interview with musician Ron Hynes.

Gordon Pinsent

…has written the play Easy Down Easy, directed by Mary Walsh and accompanying the grand opening of the LSPU Hall on October 5th.

…is the subject of a film about his life by Barbara Doran (director of Love and Savagery) entitled Still Rowdy After All These Years, which will be showing October 26 at the Women’s Film Festival. It tells the story of the charismatic actor’s beginnings in Grand Falls (being ‘blessed’ by Bob Hope) to his work today.

So, my first official question is pretty ridiculous: What’s it like being a Newfoundland icon?
[laugh] A Newfoundland icon! I’m not sure. Every time I hear the word “icon” I figure something’s going to fall off the mantle, you know?

You are very respected here in Newfoundland, I mean. When you appeared on the Republic of Doyle, for example, that little part, people were talking about it everywhere. I don’t think I heard a negative word said about you.
Even though that part was of a villain? [laugh] It’s a lovely feeling. I get a way better feeling out of a smaller part than I do when I’m doing a lead and shouldering so much of the weight, you know? It’s a very good feeling to come in, go to work for a few weeks, have a good and interesting role to play, meet wonderful people, and have a terrific time with the crew. It certainly makes you look as though the reason why you got into the business. You know, it has that same feeling to it.

I enjoy it immensely, and St. John’s is of course, you know, you get it. Every time I land I feel at home. So I mean it couldn’t be a better atmosphere in which to work, you know?

So tell me about Easy Down Easy, the play you wrote.
There’s no sense in getting into the finest possible detail of it, but basically it’s about a sign-post in our lives. That we really don’t lose our backgrounds. We don’t lose our mistakes, our errors. We live with them, we learn by them and from them. Basically, it is that as a story of eventual self-tribulations and self-forgiveness.

It’s just a marvelous story between three people on stage. Mysteries and memories from the past, and having to deal with those in the happiness in the present.

There was the scene at the beginning of the documentary where you were pushed over a railing and it was muddy and cold. Sometimes the work behind-the-scenes isn’t very glamourous. What is it that’s keeping you working? What keeps the passion there?
The fact that it’s different, not the same thing. I remember going to work earlier on in my life and realizing that I might have to settle down to a particular kind of work that I didn’t want to spend my life at. I was so lucky to find something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That’s the beauty of the arts, because they’re all about creating, and you never stop creating. When they put me in the box, I’m going to bring a pen and scratch out something on the underside of the lid. There’s always something. Always something to say, always something to do. You are that way until you stop breathing, so might as well keep at it. Otherwise it’s not very interesting. The later part of life can be very dull, in fact, depending on what you’re involved in. This has always been a very dynamic way of existing. It really demands the best of you. I like this kind of activity, being able to sit down and create something that nobody’s seen. It’s a wonderful sense of achievement, even though nothing may ever come of it. But it’s yours, it’s all yours.

When you set out to work as an actor, you had no idea that you were going to be able to make a go of it. In the film it talks about your first marriage, which broke up. And I couldn’t help but notice a connection with the play—not being able to run away from yourself, or from your past.
Well, I think it would be a fairly uninteresting, uneventful life if things stayed on an even plane. I think being in an unchangeable situation you don’t discover much of anything, much less about yourself. You have to see things as they go along. They are there. They’re in us. You know, we have a source in ourselves to go to when we want to open it up and enlarge our existence. That happens by, probably, through an adventurous nature where you want to lead a different kind of life than what might be expected.

I found out fairly early that I was not the best at manual labour. I was also mechanically un-inclined, so instead of all that I went for the other, the arts. Then I would have been really dead wrong if that didn’t work. I don’t know if there would have been a place for me.

I didn’t go to drama school. I didn’t have the money to do the wonderful schools in England. A lot of people did that. That was the way to go. I didn’t have that, so I had to go with whatever assets I had.

Another person in town who has had that kind of impulse is Ron Hynes—and there’s another documentary in the same film festival this year about him.
Yes, that’s The Man of a Thousand Songs.

For these interviews I wanted to concentrate on you and Ron because you both have had some times in life where your artistic passion took over. Where you chose it in place of a more stable life…
I would say we’re lucky to have had a checkered past. In the checkered past, if you haven’t done absolutely dirt to people, if you’ve been a fairly decent individual, you just happen to make mistakes, what it does is it adds layers to you. With more and more layers, that gives you a greater inventory of places to go to when you’re writing and you’re creating. Even as an individual, it adds. It’s a plus. Otherwise, can you imagine?

I remember when I started I was a painter at one time, and I still do some. I’d go around and I think, “I’ll touch up that painting.” That was one I had done years and years ago, but my wife said, “Don’t touch it. That was you then.”

And it was. It was me then. That’s how I felt like wielding the brush at that time.

There’s a marvelous thing about looking back. Yes, sometimes, sadly, since my wife past, I can look back think, I want that particular day back. I want that week back. I want to do something that I had never done. I want to take her somewhere where she’d never been. That kind of regret.

But things worked out well. We got on famously and stuff. It’s been a very worthwhile trip for just about everybody involved. It’s not seen in any sort of unseemly way. It’s seen in very good light. Because what you’ve done is you’ve learned from it, and it’s your book of life. The place in your own private place. If you’ve handled it okay. It’s all been okay. It’s been very good. I mean regrets are going to be there. She said if you start fixing up your paintings, if you start trying to perfect in that false way of life, you’re going to end up with a very thin book. You’ve got to have a bigger book than that.

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cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzktV0VCLWxvZ290eXBlLnBuZyI7aToyO3M6NjA6Imh0dHA6Ly90aGVzY29wZS5jYS93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzgtV0VCLWxvZ290eXBlLnBuZyI7aTozO3M6NjA6Imh0dHA6Ly90aGVzY29wZS5jYS93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzctV0VCLWxvZ290eXBlLnBuZyI7aTo0O3M6NjA6Imh0dHA6Ly90aGVzY29wZS5jYS93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzYtV0VCLWxvZ290eXBlLnBuZyI7aTo1O3M6NTg6Imh0dHA6Ly90aGVzY29wZS5jYS93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzUtc2NvcGUtbG9nby5qcGciO2k6NjtzOjYwOiJodHRwOi8vdGhlc2NvcGUuY2Evd3AtY29udGVudC93b29fdXBsb2Fkcy80LVdFQi1sb2dvdHlwZS5qcGciO2k6NztzOjU4OiJodHRwOi8vdGhlc2NvcGUuY2Evd3AtY29udGVudC93b29fdXBsb2Fkcy8zLWxvZ28tdHJhbnMucG5nIjt9PC9saT48bGk+PHN0cm9uZz53b29fdmlkZW9fY2F0ZWdvcnk8L3N0cm9uZz4gLSB0dnNjb3BlPC9saT48L3VsPg==