Monday, 10 November 2014

UPCOMING: Special Reserve - A Wine & Words Launch Event -- Nov 19 @ ACI, presented by Theatre By The River

I'm very excited to share with you information about my first directing project with the company since joining Theatre By The River earlier this year. For those unfamiliar, the annual TBTR fundraiser is Wine & Words - a night of new writing read dramatically by local actors and celebrities. The Spring event this year had so many fantastic submissions that we've held on to what we're calling our "Special Reserve" and holding a smaller, more intimate event this month as a launch to the 2015 season including the Spring Wine & Words, as well as some other upcoming projects.

There are many performers to be excited about! Virgin 103's Pamela Roz, Winnipeg Free Press writer Bartley Kives, Singer/Songwriter Süss, as well as local performers such as Justin Otto (Armstrong's War - MTC Warehouse), Ellen Peterson (The Small Things - PTE), and the TBTR company who have just wrapped Cock & Bull in rep are joined by a host of others.

Prior to joining the TBTR fold, my own writing has been featured (in the 2013 event) and in the Spring 2014 event I was honoured to read a poem by Christine Fellowes. I'm very excited to get to lead this event this time around!

Please join us for a unique and informal night of words, wine, and music.

Tickets are $15 and available at 

The Small Things by Daniel McIvor @ PTE

Prairie Theatre Exchange open the 2015 season with another new play by Canadian Daniel McIvor. The Small Things focuses on a home care worker in a small town and her daughter, who encounter an  older widow. The premise is simple; mother and daughter don't understand one another, encounter the wise and surprising older woman, and learn more about each other and themselves in the process. The execution (both the writing and production) take this premise to a more interesting level, offering unexpected twists from each of the women, and some very funny moments of revelation about our own apprehensions to things we don't think are "for us".

The performances are quite lovely, most notably Ellen Peterson who gives a strong and nuanced performance. Alyssa Watson is also touching as the daughter. Barbara Gordon (and her brilliant voice) are highly enjoyable, the three of which come together nicely under Bob Metcalfe's direction.

My only quibble is that the play felt like it wrapped up entirely too quickly, the final scene feeling a bit too neatly tied up, and (I expect) unintentionally Chekhovian, with the three characters gazing outward and exclaiming about something which is beautiful, oh so beautiful.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Armstrong's War by Colleen Murphy @ RMTC

RMTC open the Warehouse season this year with a new play by Canadian playwright Colleen Murphy. Similar to some of Murphy's previous work (EG The December Man which was a part of PTE's season a few years back), Armstrong's War digs in at a piece of contemporary Canadian experience, this time dealing with a young soldier returned from Afghanistan due to injury. Soldier Armstrong (played with beautiful sensitivity by Justin Otto) meets young Armstrong, a 12 year old Pathfinder aiming to complete her community service badge by reading to a veteran.

The unlikely couple begin, as you would expect, at odds with one another. Otto's soldier wants simply to be left alone, however the plucky young girl, played convincingly by not 12 year old Heather Russell, shows that the elder isn't the only one with steely determination. Russell's character, portrayed from a wheelchair, eventually coaxes the elder soldier into a reluctant, but ultimately rewarding friendship.

The early scenes do come off as stilted; Murphy's play gives very little time for them to be opponents, and in only their second meeting the hardened soldier eases in to a friendship, which to be frank is unbelievable. That said, the play then jumps into the real friction between the characters, when each begins to reveal at first their stories about themselves, and then the real truth. Under Robb Patterson's direction, the pair are well matched, each bringing a strength and vulnerability to these characters.

Opening night energy meant that the piece moved a little bit too quickly, particularly in the set changes, which cleverly employed a stage hand dressed as a hospital orderly. I fully expect the pace to slow as the performers settle in, for as we saw on opening night this was the case, and the latter half sat beautifully.

An important play about the real effects of our international engagements as Canadians and the human cost.