The Passionate Playgoer

From the wonderfully inventive people at DopoLavoro Teatrale  (DLT) (DopoLavoro Teatrale www.dltexperience.com) we have “Theatre On-Call” their initiative to cope with being at home while we deal with “the virus”.

DLT (dopolavoroteatrale) is an international award winning company that is dedicated to innovative and experimental multi-disciplinary productions. Often, but not always, their work is immersive, with the audience engaging directly in and with the production.

Theatre On-Call is their latest creation in which ‘audiences’ have a theatrical experience via the telephone. There are two options. The first is Bedtime Stories Collective in which you are called at a certain time to hear various stories that are told to you to get you in the mood to go to sleep.

The second initiative is Invisible City, Episode 2. Participants are invited to join a ZOOM meeting (just audio, not visual), in which the listeners are read excerpts on cities from various readings. And the participant is engaged in conversation with the creators of the initiative.

Bedtime Stories Collective.

Before the phone call you are instructed to make sure your phone is charged; that you are comfortable in your pyjamas; that you have brushed your teeth and wherever you are receiving the call, the lights are turned down for relaxation.

Danya Buonastella called me at the appointed hour and ensured it was me who had answered and she told me who she was. In the most lilting, calming voice she read me about seven stories or poems that were both serious and whimsical. One was “Hypnotized” by Shel Silverstein, in his usual prickly, impish way with a situation. There was George Saunders’ story “Sticks” about an eccentric father who decorated a pole for various holidays and affixing some sticks to it on one occasion. It was odd, compelling and even a bit sad. The call ended with a poem? Story? In which various things were wished “good night”. I can’t remember really if this was the wonderful “Goodnight Moon” but Danya Buonastella reading it had so much gentleness and compassion I kind of wished it was. And I was softly wished good night. A perfect ending to a lovely call.

If there is a comment it’s that in spite of the wonders of technology cell phones can be finicky and the sound quality can be a touch murky. The overall effect of the call though was lovely.

The next night I ‘participated’ in a Zoom call for Invisible City, Episode 2. In this initiative various participants joined Daniele Bartolini and Rory de Brouwer to explore through the written word, the beauty and mysteries of cities. I, Bartolini and de Brouwer were in Toronto, another participant was joining from Hong Kong and another was in Montreal. We had the option of engaging in conversation or just listening. I chose the latter. Bartolini had an added connection to the subject; that evening he took his parents to the airport where they would fly home to Florence, Italy. They had been with Bartolini and his wife and toddler for 63 days. Now they were going home to Florence. Bartolini was born there and loved the place (me too). His longing was touching.

Rory de Brouwer read from two books that gave a view of cities from different times: “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino dealt with many cities referencing the different times of  Marco Polo and Kublai Khan; “City of Glass” by Paul Auster (from his New York Trilogy) talked about the magic of New York in modern times. That magical look gradually revealed the grunge, grime and sadness of the place on closer reflection.

Rory de Brouwer read in a clear almost poignant voice. After each reading Bartolini asked the participants how they viewed cities; what intrigued them about where they lived; what was an ideal city. The participants plus de Brouwer and Bartolini shared their relationships to various cities. It was a deeply felt, highly personal viewing of what a city meant to each person, and certainly to me, who did not verbally share my ideas of where I live, but still appreciated the conversation.

Such depth of thought of an intriguing question or idea is typical of DopoLavoro Teatrale and the wonderful work they do.

This initiative continues until the end of May.

You can find out the full show line up here: https://www.dltexperience.com/theatre-on-call

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Note: This revised version properly reflects who did what (because of new information).

Factory Theatre, via the magic of technology.

Written by Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set designed by Nina Lee Aquino and Kevin Hanchard

Lighting designed by Michelle Ramsay

“House” Technician, Quincy Hanchard

Cast: Kevin Hanchard

A compelling production of a gripping play in this time of isolation.

Note: The production of House by Daniel MacIvor was supposed to open on May 7, and was the last production in the 50th anniversary season of Factory Theatre. COVID-19 put a stop to that and the production was cancelled. But the ever-resourceful Daniel MacIvor had other ideas. He suggested to Nina Lee Aquino, Factory Theatre’s Artistic Director, and the director of House, that he tweak the play to reflect they are in isolation and that they do a one-off on-line version. And so they did. The production took place in Kevin Hanchard’s basement (he plays Victor in this one man show), with a set created by Nina Lee Aquino and Kevin Hanchard (furniture provided by Christine Hanchard)  with technical help by Quincy Hanchard, Kevin and Christine’s son. The  lighting was by Michelle Ramsay.

The Story. Victor is a disappointed man who wanted to be an engineer but instead is a clerk in a company that sells septic tanks. His father left the family to join the circus to portray The Saddest Man in the World. Victor married his third cousin because his mother told him to. The marriage is unhappy. His wife has a penchant for the ‘swinger’s life’ and Victor does not. Instead Victor goes to group therapy to deal with his issues of being tense. Friends have disappointed him. Members of the group aggravate him with their weird behaviour.

The Production.  The production takes place in a low-ceilinged room. A child’s red chair is positioned in front of a backdrop of unmarked cardboard boxes that are piled on top of each other almost to the ceiling. Michelle Ramsay’s lights give off a foggy, ghost-like glow.

Kevin Hanchard plays Victor as a wired, anxious, easily aggravated man. He often sits in the too-small chair, or he stands awkwardly and shifts from one foot to another. Victor says that he’s tense. Our perception might be of a man who is angry. Victor is angry at his lot in life—his father left the family to join the circus. Victor is unhappy in his job as a clerk and in his marriage. When Victor says that his wife is his third cousin and that his mother told him to “marry her” Hanchard says it in what one presumes is the mother’s lilting accent from one of the ‘islands.’ (Note Hanchard was “born in Jamaica and raised on the mean streets of Mississuaga” according to his programme biography.) Victor is angry because is has to endure endless slights. And most of all Victor feels ignored, irrelevant and unseen.

He tries to handle his tense feelings by going to group sessions with other people who have their own issues. One silent woman chews on her split ends. Another friend drags him to a huge supermarket to buy a pack of gum. Victor gets into a verbal altercation with a man in the check-out line who has a whole cart of stuff to check out and doesn’t offer to let Victor’s friend through with just the gum. During the altercation the friend runs off with the gum, leaving Victor there to deal with the fall-out. Victor has a lot to cope with.

Over the course of the 80 minutes of the running time Kevin Hanchard uses the small space to illuminate a man confined. Occasionally he reaches up and yells “House” as if to try and expand the confines of the space. Because Hanchard is a gifted actor in both theatre and film he knows how to use the “new” medium of ‘on-line’ theatre for a theatrical effect. It’s quite startling to see him lunge forward, his face up close to his computer’s camera—challenging and stark.

Nina Lee Aquino has directed a production that was bracing and compelling and never let us turn away from Victor’s anger in his world.  The play certainly reminded us of what a fine writer Daniel MacIvor is. He illuminates the life of a man on the edge, who feels marginalized  but who functions and operates in the hopes of being better. And I loved seeing Kevin Hanchard’s take on Victor.

Comment. At the end of the production there was a conversation with Nina Lee Aquino, Daniel MacIvor and Kevin Hanchard. MacIvor said that he tweaked the play to reflect our time in isolation. Also in that conversation it sounded as if MacIvor tweaked Victor to reflect that he was black because Kevin Hanchard is black. For further clarification, according to a spokesperson for Factory Theatre, Daniel MacIvor “just gave Nina and Kevin the license to reinterpret him (Victor) during their rehearsals online.” The tweaking was subtle—a line reference here and Hanchard’s accent as Victor’s mother. This deepened the work of the actor exploring the work of the character. Terrific result.

https://www.factorytheatre.ca/

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Factory Theatre, via the magic of technology.

Written by Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set designed by Christine Hanchard

Lighting designed by Michelle Ramsay

“House” Technician, Quincy Hanchard

Cast: Kevin Hanchard

A compelling production of a gripping play in this time of isolation.

Note: The production of House by Daniel MacIvor was supposed to open on May 7, and was the last production in the 50th anniversary season of Factory Theatre. COVID-19 put a stop to that and the production was cancelled. But the ever-resourceful Daniel MacIvor had other ideas. He suggested to Nina Lee Aquino, Factory Theatre’s Artistic Director, and the director of House, that he tweak the play to reflect they are in isolation and that they do a one-off on-line version. And so they did. The production took place in Kevin Hanchard’s house (he plays Victor in this one man show), with a set created by Christine Hanchard, Kevin’s wife, with technical help by Quincy Hanchard, their son. The  lighting was by Michelle Ramsay.

The Story. Victor is a disappointed man who wanted to be an engineer but instead is a clerk in a company that sells septic tanks. His father left the family to join the circus to portray The Saddest Man in the World. Victor married his third cousin because his mother told him to. The marriage is unhappy. His wife has a penchant for the ‘swinger’s life’ and Victor does not. Instead Victor goes to group therapy to deal with his issues of being tense. Friends have disappointed him. Members of the group aggravate him with their weird behaviour.

The Production.  The production takes place in a low-ceilinged room. A child’s red chair is positioned in front of a backdrop of unmarked cardboard boxes that are piled on top of each other almost to the ceiling. Michelle Ramsay’s lights give off a foggy, ghost-like glow.

Kevin Hanchard plays Victor as a wired, anxious, easily aggravated man. He often sits in the too-small chair, or he stands awkwardly and shifts from one foot to another. Victor says that he’s tense. Our perception might be of a man who is angry. Victor is angry at his lot in life—his father left the family to join the circus. Victor is unhappy in his job as a clerk and in his marriage. When Victor says that his wife is his third cousin and that his mother told him to “marry her” Hanchard says it in what one presumes is the mother’s lilting accent from one of the ‘islands.’ (Note Hanchard was “born in Jamaica and raised on the mean streets of Mississuaga” according to his programme biography.) Victor is angry because is has to endure endless slights. And most of all Victor feels ignored, irrelevant and unseen.

He tries to handle his tense feelings by going to group sessions with other people who have their own issues. One silent woman chews on her split ends. Another friend drags him to a huge supermarket to buy a pack of gum. Victor gets into a verbal altercation with a man in the check-out line who has a whole cart of stuff to check out and doesn’t offer to let Victor’s friend through with just the gum. During the altercation the friend runs off with the gum, leaving Victor there to deal with the fall-out. Victor has a lot to cope with.

Over the course of the 80 minutes of the running time Kevin Hanchard uses the small space to illuminate a man confined. Occasionally he reaches up and yells “House” as if to try and expand the confines of the space. Because Hanchard is a gifted actor in both theatre and film he knows how to use the new medium of ‘on-line’ theatre for a theatrical effect. It’s quite startling to see him lunge forward, his face up close to his computer’s camera—challenging and stark.

Nina Lee Aquino has directed a production that was bracing and compelling and never let us turn away from Victor’s anger in his world.  The play certainly reminded us of what a fine writer Daniel MacIvor is. He illuminates the life of a man on the edge, who feels marginalized  but who functions and operates in the hopes of being better. And I loved seeing Kevin Hanchard’s take on Victor.

Comment. At the end of the production there was a conversation with Nina Lee Aquino, Daniel MacIvor and Kevin Hanchard. MacIvor said that he tweaked the play to reflect our time in isolation. He also said that he tweaked the character of Victor to reflect that Kevin Hanchard, a black actor, was playing him, therefore this established that Victor was a black man. The tweaking was subtle—a line reference here and Hanchard’s accent as Victor’s mother. This deepened the work of the actor exploring the work of the character. Terrific result.

https://www.factorytheatre.ca/

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Steven McCarthy’s St. Steven’s (“Pure Bliss”) Bagels.

Something mysterious and wonderful is happening in Parkdale besides gentrification. Actors whose work we know and love are branching out and making treats that are irresistible.

Craig Pike has always augmented his income from acting by making special orders of his famous chocolate chip cookies (from his mother’s recipe) and selling them in variations  to his friends and others. His private cookie business was so successful that he opened his first store, Craig’s Cookies, on Queen Street West in Parkdale a year ago. He recently opened his second store on Church Street. (There is a third store called Newfoundland that sells all sorts of food stuffs from his native Newfoundland—that store is on Queen St. West next to Craig’s Cookies). With COVID-19 closing many businesses, Craig’s Cookies is selling his cookies on line for delivery and for curb-side pickup (from the Church Street store.) Those cookies are delicious, whimsical, inventive and a necessity when we are all stuck in doors.  https://craigscookies.com/

Steven McCarthy is a wonderful actor, director, musician, singer, rock-band member and now bagel maker. I kept seeing references on Facebook to orders of Mr. McCarthy’s bagels being delivered to other actors in Parkdale. I seem to recall that a delivery of Steven McCarthy’s St. Stevens (“Pure Bliss”) Bagels was made to Craig’s Cookies’ and perhaps there was an exchange of goods between the two acting entrepreneurs. I was intrigued, curious and hungry. How do I get those bagels? I must have them! I private messaged the man himself. Mr. McCarthy said making and selling the bagels depended on the available time and he would put me on the list for the following week. You have to be ready at a moment’s notice to commit to an order—in my case I was told today that there might be bagels but he would have to check and he would put me down for one dozen bagels. Because he only makes deliveries in Parkdale where he lives, and he had meetings (!?) all afternoon, he asked if I could pick up the bagels from his place. But of course.

I texted him when I was outside his address. He met me on his porch with two bags of still warm bagels that were obviously just out of the oven. Money changed hands. I wonder if it looked like a drug-drop? If one loves bagels, I guess in a way, it was like a drug-drop. On the bag is a square label that says St. Steven’s Bagels with a dark-haired woman at a microphone underneath which was the phrase “pure bliss”. That’s how I would describe St. Steven’s Bagels, pure bliss.

I ate one right then and there and swooned, with Steven McCarthy witnessing the result of his baking brilliance. The outside of the bagel has a crispy crunch to it and the inside is chewy and saliva-inducing. My dozen bagels were covered with sesame seeds that were perfectly baked to a golden-brown. Mr. McCarthy used as his model the bagels he ate every day coming home from the National Theatre School in Montreal St. Steven’s Bagels don’t have that hint of sweetness that a Montreal bagel has and that’s fine with me. St. Steven’s Bagels are simple, pure and obviously made with care and pride. They are worth a trip to Parkdale. I envision making that trip as often as Mr. McCarthy makes a batch of his bagels.

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Life in a Box episode 3.0 (on Instagram from Friday, May 1, 2020.)

Background. The wonderful Landon Doak & Matt Finlan are presenting episodes of their apocalyptic-friendship-stoner-musical Life in a Box live on Instagram (@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

They perform about 15-20 minutes of the show in succession, playing the instruments live and using wifi lightbulbs for the effects, have incorporated some new music, and then after do a talk show-style chat about the show, life, weed, etc. with some good news stories thrown in.

I love the show when I saw it live. Here’s my review of the full show when it played the Grand Canyon Theatre last year.

In this week’s episode Landon Doak and Matt Finlan know their ‘time machine’ works because it has taken them back in time to be able to prepare the future for a conflagration (getting high is the focus of the show, so the mind-blowing story seems about right). They are ready to return to the future only Matt finds that he has returned to someone named Langdon and not his good buddy Landon! Langdon looks like Landon only Langdon wears glasses and it seems has never gotten high. A bit of a glitch there. How to fix this? It’s all part of the cleverness of the story and the creation of the production.   

This episode has several examples of the clever word-play in the songs and of Doak and Finlan’s beautiful harmonizing.  Their performances are full of energy and dazzling timing. Again, they riff off each other, never miss a beat (until they tell us they did later in the chat section. Even that is expressed with gleeful enthusiasm.)  And while Life in a Box is described  as a ‘stoner musical’ you don’t have to be high to enjoy the artistry, musicality and wild imagination of the two.

The chat session happens after they (supposedly) have ‘a bowl’ to unwind. There they give their shout-outs to all those who helped put the segment together, or donated equipment. They always end with a bit of good news.

All the episodes are available on YouTube and on their Instagram page. The details are below.  Check them out. In our worlds of isolation, Life in a Box is a breath of fresh air even if it might be filled with the fragrance of weed.  

@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm. May 8 will be the last episode unless these two gifted performers decide to carry on with the story, with a bong.

And their Instagram handle for the show is: @_lifeinabox_

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Life in a Box episode 2.5 (on Instagram from Friday, April-24, 2020.)

Background. The wonderful Landon Doak & Matt Finlan are presenting episodes of their apocalyptic-friendship-stoner-musical Life in a Boxlive on Instagram (@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

They perform about 15-20 minutes of the show in succession, playing the instruments live and using wifi lightbulbs for the effects, have incorporated some new music, and then after do a talk show-style chat about the show, life, weed, etc. with some good news stories thrown in.

I love the show when I saw it live. Here’s my review of the full show when it played the Grand Canyon Theatre last year.

In this week’s episode Landon Doak and Matt Finlan know their ‘time machine’ works and they have been sent back to the past in order to leave a note for their future against the impending conflagration. They are then ready to return to the future. They realize that if that doesn’t work, that might be the last time ‘they can hang together.’  

This episode has several examples of the clever word-play in the songs and of Doak and Finlan’s beautiful harmonizing.  Their performances are full of energy and dazzling timing. Again, they riff off each other, never miss a beat (until they tell us they did later in the chat section. Even that is expressed with gleeful enthusiasm.)  And while Life in a Box is described  as a ‘stoner musical’ you don’t have to be high to enjoy the artistry, musicality and wild imagination of the two.

The chat session happens after they (supposedly have ‘a bowl’ to unwind). There they give their shout-outs to all those who helped put the segment together, or donated equipment. They always end with a bit of good news. In this segment they championed the good neighbours of their ‘hood’ at Brunswick and Wells who come out to bang pots or sing or listen to the local trumpet ‘concert’ at 7:00 pm or so.

All the episodes are available on YouTube and on their Instagram page. The details are below.  Check them out. In our worlds of isolation, Life in a Box is a breath of fresh air even if it might be filled with the fragrance of weed.  

@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

And their Instagram handle for the show is: @_lifeinabox_

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Where: from the comfort of my very own apartment, on the phone.

When: April 13-18, 2020.

Who: Outside the March presents the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries.

What: The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock.

Creative Team: Nick Blais, Katherine Cullen, Mitchell Cushman, Anahita Dehbonehie, Colin Doyle, Sébastien Heins, Amy Keating, Griffin McInnes.

Ministry Direction by Mitchell Cushman, Griffin McInnes

Cast: Colin Doyle

Sébastien Heins

Toby Hughes

Liz Johnston

The always inventive folks at Outside the March have fashioned some theatre for these extraordinary times, all in the comfort of your home. They call it The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries and those who get involved fashion their own ‘mundane mystery’ that an Inspector and his/her team has to solve. To date the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries have worked on 120 individual cases with their own scenarios, clues and teams.  The teams have solved issues of coincidence, lost keep sakes and anomalies (one was the mystery of the three-yoke egg—the makings of an anomaly if ever there was one).

My issue might be mundane to some but to me was a serious concern: The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock.

Participants arrange a good time to be called on the telephone for six days straight by a member of the team who will try and solve the case. I was lucky. I was assigned Inspector Doyle who told me his track record for solving his cases was impeccable. He was not boastful. He was just stating the facts.

I was called on Monday, April 13 until April 18 at a certain time every afternoon. Inspector Doyle’s attention to detail was obvious. He was punctual. His ability to listen and empathise was heartening and he went the extra mile in my case. He began our discussion by singing me “Happy Birthday” (and I wasn’t even washing my hands). It had in fact been my birthday the day before. His attention to detail was impressive.

The facts of my case were these: I had been given a pair of socks by loving friends for a significant birthday. One sock had “Right Foot” printed on it and “Left Foot” on the other. Somehow I lost the “Left Foot” sock. The socks had sentimental value. I looked all around the washing machine and the dryer in the dust and could not find the sock. I looked in drawers and could not find the sock. I thought static electricity held it captive in the pile of ironing that had accumulated over the years (!) and I thought it might be stuck at the bottom of the hamper. Nothing. I unfolded an extra duvet cover and looked inside and found two!!!!! mis-matched socks but not the one I was looking for. I did not give up and just toss the errant sock. I held out hope. Inspector Doyle was that hope.

He confided that a close personal friend had been in the same position regarding the loss of a cherished sock. He knew my pain and sympathized.

Inspector Doyle kept meticulous notes of what I said, as did his team, because in subsequent calls from other members of his team (I won’t divulge their names to protect their cover) they referred to other bits of information I shared. One operative believed there was a conspiracy theory and that nudist in Caledon were taking socks to make a point (??? Don’t be careless with your clothes?). I got another call from a person representing the nudists in Caledon saying the previous caller was a crank who besmirched their good name and was known to them. Inspector Doyle called me during the week, talking softly, saying he was in a cave in Caledon checking out the clues about the nudists. In that call with Inspector Doyle he cried out in surprise then the phone went dead. What was I to think? When he called at the end of the week he said that he had been in a cave. There was bad reception.

All the clues and information were gathered. Inspector Doyle solved the case in a logical way. He played the catchy theme song for the experience composed by the gifted Britta Johnson. I was able to share with him my new favourite song “Stand Up” sung by Cynthia Erivo and co-composed by her and Joshua Brian Campbell (thrilling). And in true classy fashion Inspector Doyle played that recording for me too, as a parting gift. There was nothing mundane about this experience.

The experience of The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock was fun, engaging, uplifting, full of unexpected turns and presented by an expert team who were creative and intellectually and artistically nimble. The wonderful people involved with Outside the March have created this to help bring theatre through the phone because we can’t go out and engage in person. It’s great fun. Sign up and see what I mean. 

 Presented by Outside the March

https://www.mundanemysteries.com

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For immediate release April 15th, 2020
Home-Prov – the virtual improv experience!
A new way for families and friends to have fun and stay
connected.
In this strange new world of social distancing, we’re all longing for connection.
That’s why veteran Toronto actor-improvisers and parents Shari Hollett and
Chris Earle created Home-Prov, the new virtual improv experience to help
people stay connected through the joy of improvisation.
Home-Prov is a hilarious 1-hour improv workshop, led by 2 veteran Second City
alumni-improvisers. Up to 8 players per session – all ages 7+
With 2 ways to play!
Private: Host your own jam! Invite friends and family to play with our
team from any location in Canada or around the world.
Public: Play with other families from all across Canada.
Collaborators in life and work, Chris Earle and Shari Hollett are
veteran directors, writers, actors, and Co-Artistic Directors of the
award-winning theatre company the night kitchen. Alumni of
The Second City comedy troupe, Shari and Chris are also
experienced workshop facilitators for businesses and non-profits,
as well as sought-after teachers of acting and improvisation.
For more info or to book a workshop, go to www.hollettearle.com/homeprov or
contact us at homeprovfun@gmail.com

  • Offering free workshops weekly to essential workers, as a thank you for
    keeping us all safe! *

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Life in a Box episode 2.0 (on Instagram from Friday, April-17, 2020.)

Background. The wonderful Landon Doak & Matt Finlan are presenting episodes of their apocalyptic-friendship-stoner-musical Life in a Boxlive on Instagram (@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

They perform about 15-20 minutes of the show in succession, playing the instruments live and using wifi lightbulbs for the effects, have incorporated some new music, and then after do a talk show-style chat about the show, life, weed, etc. with some good news stories thrown in.

I love the show when I saw it live. Here’s my review of the full show when it played the Grand Canyon Theatre last year.

In this week’s episode Landon Doak and Matt Finlan have built the time machine that will take them back to the past so that they can warn people of the impending conflagration that will happen in the future. The minutiae of navigating the past, knowing the future, and how to work with the two time periods, is one of the beauties of the show as a whole, and the segments on their own. They had to figure out how to get that message to the future and where to put it to be useful.

The lively, clever songs pepper the whole musical but we only got one song in this segment. Viewers get a taste of the strong voices, harmonies and chemistry between these two friends. Again, they riff off each other, never miss a beat (until they tell us they did later in the chat section) and play their characters with committed seriousness and whimsy. And while Life in a Box is described  as a ‘stoner musical’ you don’t have to be high to enjoy the artistry, musicality and wild imagination of the two.

I am so delighted to say that now all the episodes will be available on YouTube and on their Instagram page. The details are below. Doak and Finlan are gracious, generous performers giving credit to their co-creators and people who have supported them and written reviews (thanks, Guys, for the shout-out). Check them out. In our worlds of isolation, Life in a Box is a breath of fresh air even if it might be filled with the fragrance of weed.  

@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

And their Instagram handle for the show is: @_lifeinabox_

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Where? On my very own phone.

Written (for the most part) by Julie Tepperman

Directed by Julie Tepperman

Cast: Some of this city’s best actors, comedic and otherwise.

A grand telephone experiment during this weird time of isolation because of the Corona Virus.

Background. Convergence Theatre composed of Co-Artistic Directors Julie Tepperman and Aaron Willis, specialize in site-specific plays. The Gladstone Variations for example took place in and around the Gladstone Hotel a few summers ago. That was my initiation. They are brilliant in creating a world of interconnecting stories that have the audience follow a group or character in unusual places for maximum effect.

Stories, performance, comment. We have a pandemic that is keeping us isolated at home so we can’t go outside to see theatre. Why should that stop the fearless Convergence Theatre ?

The audience of one or with a family receives six phone calls in one evening. For the most part you listen to characters ranging from lovers dealing with separation, a marriage on the rocks but with a bond, two high-school students coping with missing their friends and trying to be cool but responsible, blind-dating by phone, sibling rivalry, and trying to ease the anxiety of a lonely senior. The stories are poignant and hilarious. They cover a cross-section of ages, relationships, dealing with missing a loved one even when that love has gone so they think and even strangers reaching out in isolation for that personal connection. Julie Tepperman has beautifully captured the whimsy and depth of emotion that the characters are going through, and by extension, the audience.

Unlike a ‘regular’ review, I’m not listing the actors. That is best left a surprise until you have completed your own cycle of plays, and I urge you to participate in this adventure.  Two of the calls involve ‘audience’ participation. Don’t be scared—you have a script and all you have to do is read your part. It’s quite clear. Tepperman takes care of her audience as well as her actors. There are surprises—you might be asked to ‘engage’ when you don’t expect it. Step up. Engage.

I loved the complex effort of the whole endeavour. Trying to program what story was scheduled for what time must have been a Hurculean effort. It all seemed effortless. This is such a bold idea—phone plays for quarantine and bravo to all of the participants for engaging with such commitment and verve.

A few comments: it gets tricky if actors talk over each other. It’s hard to hear what you are saying. Sound and volume should be tweaked for best results so the ‘audience’ can hear the call clearly especially if participants are in different rooms using different phones. These are easily fixed; after all Convergence Theatre is doing the impossible, bringing us theatre by phone and making it meaningful and joyful. The Corona Variations is a wonderful accomplishment.  

The slots for this segment are sold out, but the company plans to have dates in May. Please click on the link below for more details.

http://www.convergencetheatre.com/corona-variations

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