The Passionate Playgoer

When we ‘return’ in person to the theatre, I want every performance to start exactly at the time noted on the ticket. I don’t want to have to wait the traditional seven minutes for ‘late comers’. We’ve waited long enough to get back into a ‘real’ theatre. The ‘hold’ time used to be five minutes. Then it stretched to seven. Waiting. For the latecomers.

Enough.

Ninety-nine-point nine percent of the audience are in their seats by the noted start time. One hundred percent of the cast and crew are in the building way before that noted start time, ready to ‘go on’. One hundred percent of the front of house, the usher and the box office are in the building ready to serve. But we’re waiting seven minutes for latecomers.

Enough.

Even when we do start seven minutes after the advertised start time, there are still latecomers who are allowed in “at a suitable break in the action” thus distracting our attention and that of the cast to what is going on on stage. This enables the latecomer to be late.

Enough.

This time of isolation, with lots of time spent missing live theatre, had me thinking about the theatre and how I love it and how whole worlds can be changed because of it. This idea came to me when I participated in three different ‘productions’ that involved telephone calls.

Outside the March produced The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries in which I had to suggest a mystery I wanted them to solve and then in a series of six phone calls over six days to be delivered at the times I specified, I would be called and questioned and my mystery would ultimately be solved. With Convergence Theatre there were The CORONA Variations in which I would receive six phone calls at specified times over an evening in which I would hear a scene, speech, exchange between actors etc. And finally, with 4th Line Theatre Company I could arrange to hear any one of 27 monologues from previous produced plays of the company, again at specified times and days. I chose to hear all 27 monologues, delivered at various times during one week.

In every single instance except one, I received the phone call at exactly the time I requested. With one exception. With that exception the actor was late by 10 minutes. “Is he dead?” I wondered. “Did he forget?” “Did I get the time wrong?” No. He was all apologetic when he finally called. He was fishing. Huh? FISHING!!! And he got all caught up in the exercise. “Did you catch anything?” I enquired. He did but he let it go. “HUH?” I quizzed. It was catch-and-release. He caught it. Admired it. And let it go in a humane way, although I’m sure that hook gave the fish some pause. But I digress.

Actors can start a ‘show’ on time. The audience is willing and anxious to start on time. The stage managers are chomping at the bit as is the crew etc. The Front of House is holding to wait for the stragglers. I have heard that some valiant stage managers have started anyway—bless them.

I’m seeing lots of innovation of companies trying to negotiate the on-line world of Zoom and digital programming. Bravo. But there are also hints that in spite of the new adaptation to the digital world they are holding on to the ‘old ways’ and ‘productions’ start late. I saw two on-line shows recently: Orestes from Tarragon and Scott Silven’s The Journey through TO LIVE and both started late Orestes started at 8:07 pm (!) and the nice man managing the start of Scott Silven’s The Journey said he was holding for a few minutes because there were people who had not signed in yet, even though we were told to sign in a half an hour early. I said, “They are at home! What are we waiting for?” He was sheepish. We are enabling people who are always late to continue to be late.

Enough!

I’m told my request is complicated. It’s tradition to start late and wait. Perhaps late patrons were stuck in traffic, or couldn’t find a parking spot and they paid a lot of money for the ticket, so we wait, which only enables that behaviour.

Enough and tough.

Earlier in the pandemic the Stratford Festival gave over its social media platforms first to Black and then Indigenous actors to talk about the racist issues they had to endure, hurtful comments they had to listen to, unfair practices they had to accept. The results were revolutionary for a place that was complicated, steeped in tradition and thought it was acting with good intentions. After those discussions the “As Cast” contract was cancelled for the future. The whole idea of hours of rehearsal, work week, the horribleness of tech week etc. was being closely examined and changed.  That was revolutionary.

When Robin Phillips was the Artistic Director of Stratford, he wanted every performance to start exactly on time. People questioned how that would be accomplished considering people are sometimes late. “We start on time. People will be late once when they see they missed out.” Or words to that effect. I can’t remember when or if latecomers were allowed in during the show. The point is that is has been done successfully.

Ok. Start on time. It can be done. It’s always complicated, but not impossible. We’ve seen how companies have adapted to this lousy time. Fix this problem of waiting now so we hit the road running when we come back. Tradition? Change it, for the better. Stuck in traffic? Leave earlier—the whole rest of the waiting audience left early.  The late patron paid a lot of money for the ticket? Yeah, so did the rest of the waiting audience. The cost of the ticket implies you are there at the time stated on the ticket as your part of the bargain. I don’t know of any reputable business that caters to the exception to the rule rather than the majority. No plane or train waits for the latecomer.  

Time for the late patron to take the responsibility and the consequences. You won’t be allowed in until intermission—that way no one is disturbed or focus is ‘pulled out of the show,’ or distracted and the latecomer is not embarrassed. Forgive my distrust but if you let a person in to sit at the back until intermission, what’s to prevent them from lurching around in the dark to go to their assigned seats and disturb everybody? There are consequences if you are late, even if it’s not your fault. You wait in the lobby watching the show on the tv until intermission. 

No intermission? Work it out. Ok perhaps sit them at the back of the theatre. I don’t know. Work it out, but holding the curtain is not the answer.  And start now to tell your patrons that when we all gather in a theatre to watch a play together we are starting on the dot of on time. We are not waiting seven minutes because we’ve waited enough to return. Be aware. Be prepared. New day dawning.

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Streaming on CBC Gem.

Season Three.

To mark Obsidian Theatre’s 21st anniversary, Artistic Director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu asked 21 Black playwrights to create 21 short monodramas to be filmed and streamed, focusing on the idea of the future of Blackness. 21 Black Futures was born.

The selections over the first two seasons have been inventive, bracing and provocative. The third season carries on with these fascinating monodramas.

Cavities

Written by K.P. Dennis

Directed by Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu.

Performed by Alison Sealy-Smith

This situation is perfect. Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu is the present Artistic Director of Obsidian Theatre and she is directing Alison Sealy-Smith who was one of the founding artists of Obsidian Theatre and its founding Artistic Director.

In K.P Dennis’ touching monodrama, it is after the desolation of the Revolution and Ancestor has to plant seeds for the new generation. It’s a daunting task because there is more ash than soil but she perseveres. She holds out a handful of ‘odd looking seeds’ and plants one at a time in the powdery ash. She feels she has worsened with age and has not gotten rid of her rage. From some where she feels a pain in her jaw. Excruciating. Then she realizes that she must provide one of the most important seeds—a wisdom tooth, which she pulls out of her mouth. Of course, the odd looking seeds are teeth to be planted for the next generation to take over. “Joy will be free and limitless” she says.

K.P. Dennis’ monodrama is wise and imaginative. Alison Sealy-Smith is such a welcome presence here—tenacious, overwhelmed but undaunted. A dandy performance. And Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu directs this with sensitivity and enough close-ups for the viewer to wonder about the clues and finally ‘get it’.

40 Parsecs & Some Fuel

Written by Omari Newton

Directed by Lucius Dechausay

Performed by Daniel Faraldo

It’s 2050 and Satchel Dew wonders how you inspire people who refuse to dream. In urgent, buoyant hip-hop, Daniel Faraldo as Satchel, recounts how he felt he was contributing to the betterment of the world. As a Black man, an engineer who created important things, he was relevant. He lived in a place where Black people could live in peace and with respect. But then he realized his employers had other thoughts. He realized racial integration of nations had failed; that something he created was not being used for good. So Satchel decided to solve the problem, dream big and save himself and others.

In stunning lines like: “My people still can’t breathe.” “Trust me that there must be life beyond one on our knees,” playwright Omari Newton briskly creates Satchel’s world and its future.

The Prescription

Written by Lisa Codrington

Directed by Alison Duke

Performed by Akosua Amo-Adem

Chantal Thompson is no push-over. She thinks long and hard before she makes any decision.  She knows you don’t speak without there being consequences. In a stroke of costume designer brilliance (Rachel Forbes) Chantal wears a t-shirt that says in big letters: Ba-boom! With Lisa Codrington’s name below the lettering.  Chantal has been presented with what might be a terrific opportunity: to be given a prescription that gives Black women their voice back; that provides endless doses of time and space for Black women to speak their minds and be heard.  

Chantal is not so sure. She’s wary and careful. She says, “It’s hard to alter your route when you’re filled to the brim with doubt.” (“route” is pronounced as if it was the American pronunciation so “route” and “doubt” sound the same and rhyme). The prescription sounds too good to be true, so Chantal is going to read the fine print before she makes her decision.

This is a terrific piece by Lisa Codrington. Her writing is smart, economical and pointed. Alison Duke directs this carefully and tightly.  There are moments when Chantal notes those times when things go ‘BA-BOOM!” and there is a rain shower of pink bits that have exploded. Akosua Amo-Adem as Chantal is fearless and formidable.

Chronologie

Written by Stephie Mazunya

Rehearsals directed by Katia Café-Fébrissy

Film director, Mike Payette

Performed by Sheila Ingabire-Isaro

This is performed (beautifully) in French by Sheila Ingabire-Isaro, with English subtitles.

Playwright Stephie Mazunya explores the loaded question: Where are you from?

Muco was trying to find out who she was and how to answer the question. She spoke in the third person, perhaps to gain some distance. Her mother was from Burundi but told her daughter virtually nothing of her life there. Muco was expected to marry a Burundi man and no one else. There were many different ethnicities but Muco was not told how to differentiate them. She met a young man at work who shared her love of books but the relationship was charged because he was not Black. She decided to become a writer after reading the works of Kafka, Dedalus and James Joyce. But she was keenly aware she was a Black woman, wanted to write about Black Lives Matter, and so she asked her university English professor to add Black writers to the curriculum. His reply was tasteless, ignorant and fireable if it happened today.

Stephie Mazunya has written a powerhouse of a monodrama that shows the tiny, daily cuts Muco and others endure to realize their dreams. Muco’s resolve is tremendous. Sheila Ingabire-Isaro’s performance is a gem of composure, anger, and tenacity. And she comes up with the perfect answer to the question: Where are you from?

Yen Ara Asaase Ni/This is Our Own Native Land

Written by Tawiah M’Carthy

Directed by Dorothy A. Akabong

Performed by Peter Fernandes

It’s 2080. There was a race war in North America so a boat with 500,000 refugees of mixed races, led by a young rich Black man sits in OSU harbor off the coast of Ghana, waiting to be accepted and allowed to disembark. They’ve been waiting a year.

The young man is half Ghanaian, ¼ Chinese and ¼ British. His grandfather came to Ghana to make his fortune and did but in doing so, the people remained poor. When the young man’s grandmother inherited her husband’s wealth things shifted. The young man was given a choice: he could inherit his grandfather’s money or his grandmother’s heritage. He chose the money in the hopes he could do good.

Ghana had seen its land and riches plundered by those who came from elsewhere to make money. Now the rules were shutting them out. The young man was caught in the middle.

Tawiah M’Carthy has written a complex, challenging play with many and various questions to ponder. Peter Fernandes as the young man gives a performance full of passion. It’s nicely directed by Dorothy A. Akabong.

Builders of Nations

Written by Joseph Jomo Pierre

Directed by Kimberley Rampersad

Performed by Philip Akin

Hussein is carving a monument with a hammer and chisel out of a huge rock. He seems to be the last man on earth. There was some kind of destruction and there is nothing but rocks left. He has issues with God. He asks what the rush to create the world in six days? Surely He should have at least taken His time in creating man, since He’s done such a poor job. He says: “It wouldn’t have taken the entirety of those seven days to notice the flaws—insecurity, jealousy and hate.” During the chiseling of the rock Hussein hurts himself. We notice a scar on his wrist—could it be from a shackle? Hussein addresses much of his speech to the spirit of his son, Amiri. Hussein wanted to build a better world for him. Hussein had hope once. He says he was conceived to the words: “Yes We Can”, during the night Obama won the election. There was hope then. There doesn’t seem to be much hope now. Hussein suggests that the virus killed mankind but him. He tried to get it but he just couldn’t

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre does not present a sugarcoated future for Hussein. The language is poetic and yet hard. Director Kimberley Rampersad has created a world that is desolate and huge—there is a backdrop of rich purple light. As Hussein, Philip Akin reveals a man who is haunted by an overwhelming task, consumed with love for his son, and raging at God for doing a lousy job and leaving him there to struggle to complete his monument.

Omega Child

Written by Cherissa Richards

Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela

Performed by Emerjade Simms

Years before there were racial wars started by a megalomaniac known as ‘Agent 45’ that ended the world as they knew it. His final parting shot was to press the ‘red button’ that destroyed life on earth. A group of Black freedom fighters escaped and went underground until it was safe. It was thought that aliens took over and were ready to pick up any vibes from adult life. So a child named Omega was sent to investigate because a child’s scent would not be detected. She is shocked when she does not see light, or colour or rainbows. But still she perseveres until she sees something that gives her hope. She is prepared to be part of a future that will be lived in honour of ‘Martin and Malcolm and Rosa and Treyvon.”

Cherissa Richards has written a sobering piece that seems within reason regarding the destruction. Emerjade Simms is a smiling, cheerful presence who is up for the task to find life. It’s a performance of nuance that has been realized by director ahdri zhina mandiela. There were moments at the end when there was lively colour and Omega did not remark on it. I thought that odd, but on the whole, I like the piece a lot.

Again, all the selections in Season 3 of 21 Black Futures investigate the question of what is the future of Blackness and they do it with economy, imagination, deft thinking and wonderful writing.

For all episodes:

Cinematographer, Keenan Lynch

Set and costumes, Rachel Forbes

Lighting by Shawn Henry

Projections by Cameron Davis and Laura Warren

Theme Music by Tika.

www.gem.cbc.ca

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Heads Up for the week of March 1-7, 2021

A really light week this week so far.

Thur. March 4, 2021 7:00 pm

Stratford@Home

The Taming of the Shrew

This is the celebrated 1988 production directed by Richard Monette, starring Goldie Semple and Colm Feore. It was exquisite. Monette set it in 1950s Italy. Petruchio makes his entrance on a Vespa. Monette directed it as if it was his own family. The play is prickly. The production is a joy. You will think long and hard about what the play is saying. You will also lament the passing of Goldie Semple and Richard Monette.

Also check out the other treats of Stratford@Home: Undiscovered Sonnets and Up Close and Musical,  available for a modest price of $10/month.

https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AtHome

Saturday, March 6, 2021 6:30 pm

Tom Stoppard: From Stage to Page with Hermione Lee Live Digital Event – Saturday March 6, 3:00 pm Toronto International Festival of Authors, in association with Canadian Stage, presents the great literary biographer Hermione Lee in conversation with acclaimed actor and Canadian Stage favourite, Fiona Reid (King of Kensington and My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as they discuss Lee’s new book Tom Stoppard: A Life. This in-depth exploration into the life and art of one of the world’s very best playwrights will be complemented by a selection of scenes performed from across Stoppard’s oeuvre, directed by David Storch.

FREE!
https://canadianstage.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=820c28ff95085d71ed824ccd8&id=22f0bb76c1&e=59951e702c

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Streaming until March 7.

Created and performed by Ellen Denny and Emilio Vieira

Directed by Mairi Babb

The ‘audience’ is checked in by a friendly, masked woman who reads a series of questions from a clipboard to see that all is in order:

“Do you suffer from loneliness? Fatigue? Existential dread? Longing for live theatre?

Have you been exposed to any confusing health regulations and or conspiracy theories?” She makes a check after each question after looking at the person to whom she is asking the questions.

Hilarious! A wonderful way to begin.

Then the friendly woman guides the ‘audience’ to a bench, over the back of which is a blanket for warmth and a thermos of hot chocolate. The bench is in a courtyard of a building. It’s winter. There is snow on the ground.

Since this is a love story in the time of COVID, everything is tipped on its ear. The title, february: a love story is in lower case. The characters are known as “Her” and “Him.”

It’s created and performed by Ellen Denny who plays “Her” and Emilio Vieira who plays “Him”.

The couple, Her and Him, met at a party when parties were acceptable. Now they are on their first COVID date. He wants companionship. He spends his time taking care of his aged, fragile father. She wants sex. Her boyfriend broke up with her and she wants a rebound person to have sex with. He’s charming (‘Him’ is charming, not the boyfriend). She’s smarmy and brittle. He is physically distant, being very careful about safety protocols. She is emotionally distant.

They meet outside in winter,   adhering to keeping a proper distance. He suggests a game of Baci and he’s brought the Baci balls. (this is the Italian ‘ball’ game that elderly Italian men play on grass.) She thinks he means “Winter Baci” which in the urban dictionary means something sexual. (I get such an education from the theatre and Google). They navigate that misunderstanding and wrangle and tease and argue and confide secrets.

On that first date she suggests they go back to her apartment to put some Bailey’s in the hot chocolate he brought for them both. Sex, not Bailey’s is the intention. She wants to “hook up.” He says, in the kindest of ways, that he can ‘t do that. He says he has not touched another person (except his father) for 11 months. (A line that makes you ache and suck air.) We really get a sense of how the pandemic has affected them being in isolation, physically distant and so yearning to get close to someone.

The play seems to take place over several days. That first date went from the daytime when they first met and continued into the evening, when the scene changed and it was now night.  The next scene is the next day. I don’t get the sense they spent the night outside because there is a tiny line that says that she came back the next day. Each time they return to the courtyard for more conversation. Over time the physical distance between the two characters shortens.

In a wonderful scene, she comes up behind him and gently puts her hand out to touch him. The scene is both achingly intimate and also horrifying. We ache for them to get closer because we all ache to get closer to someone during this time in isolation.  But that touch is also horrifying because we know it’s wrong. We know how adamant he is about physical distance. It’s as if they can’t help themselves. And then director Mairi Babb eases the tension for the characters and us, in a wonderful, yet chaste, bit of business. She turns and leans against his back and he doesn’t move away. Stunning.

I thought february: a love story was a lovely, poignant, smart piece of filmed theatre. Ellen Denny, as Her, is sparky, smarmy and vulnerable. And Emilio Vieira, as Him, is sweet, confident, kind, generous and funny. The piece is full of wit and humour and well worth your time and a mug of the best hot chocolate.

february:a love story streams until March 7.

februarytheplay.com 

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Streaming on CBC Gem.

To mark Obsidian Theatre’s 21st anniversary, Artistic Director, Mumbi Tindyebwa Otu asked 21 Black playwrights to create 21 short monodramas to be filmed and streamed, focusing on the idea of the future of Blackness. 21 Black Futures was born.

The 21 plays are divided into three ‘seasons’ of seven plays each, streaming on CBC Gem over the month of February. Season One began Feb. 12. Season Two began Feb. 19. And the last seven plays in Season Three will begin Feb. 26.

As with Season One, the episodes in Season Two illuminate a cross-section of ideas, forms of expression and different voices. The ideas of the future of Blackness are fascinating.

Season Two:

Special

Written by Keshia Cheesman

Directed by Jay Northcott

Performed by Avery Grant.

Zari is eight-years-old and laments that since her mother and she moved to an all-Black town (her father has died recently), Zari does not feel special anymore. Before they moved, she was the only Black kid in her school. She liked being different. She liked feeling special. In her new school she is like all the other kids. She fits in. She feels she’s not special anymore. She prays to God for a sign that this problem will be corrected. She gets that sign in an unlikely place.

Keshia Cheesman’s episode is gently sweet and quirky; taking a potentially troubling situation—feeling special because she was the only Black kid in her school—and then feeling ordinary when she goes to an all-Black school.  Zari learns an important lesson about being and feeling special and we do too. Avery Grant is charming as Zari. Jay Northcott directs the piece with sensitivity.

Umoja Corp

Written by Jacob Sampson

Directed by Leighton Alexander Williams

Performed by Pablo Ogunlesi

Jacob Samson has written a wonderfully prickly monodrama that creates payback for bad treatment of Blacks. Typing across the screen says that Adrian was born of ‘unknown degenerates” who abandoned him at the hospital. The system did not believe in giving care for such a defenseless person. (The font was too small to read easily and the font should be larger). He was eventually adopted by a tough but loving woman and Adrian was happy for the four years he lived with her. But then his ‘mother’ died—she had been sick and didn’t tell him. He continued collecting her cheques for his education, but was caught for fraud.  Adrian would have spent a long time in jail but the Umoja Corp came to his rescue. It was a mysterious organization that believed ‘care must be given.’ (One does research, according to Google: Umoja: Unity – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race. 2. Kujichagulia: Self-Determination – To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves).

Adrian’s lawyer—from the Umoja Corp–put the fear of God in the government by promising a long trial if they didn’t bow to her wishes with respect to her client. Adrian got off with a fine and 500 hours of community service. He could serve the hours at one of Umoja’s homes or join the Corp. The Corp was founded by rich like-minded ancestors who learned and passed on the techniques to suppress Black people to give them a fighting chance. Adrian joins the Corp for payback. As Adrian and his sassy female lawyer, Pablo Ogunlesi is nuanced, subtle and compelling.    

Notice

Written by Luke Reece

Directed by Ngozi Paul

Performed by Lisa Berry

Luke Reece takes preconceptions about so many things: women in sports, basketball, tall people and basketball, the fire of candles, running the game, and turns them all on their ear in his bracing, smart, compelling play.  

Crystal Hinds always wanted to play basketball professionally. Her parents supported her. Even when she was the only girl playing and the only Black kid playing, her parents supported her and Crystal never lost her focus. When she was 12 years-old she was stunned when the NBA walked off the court demanding social justice. While the teams were owned by rich white people, Black players had the power to stop the game. Crystal knew that anything was possible and she planned her assent to make a difference and effect change. In 2045 she got her chance. Crystal has a line regarding that change that now Black athletes “Speak up and dribble” which is a sly middle finger to Laura Ingraham the Fox News Host who told LeBron James to “Shut up and dribble” when he offered a political comment during an interview.

Luke Reece’s dialogue is as elegant and muscular as a three-point “whoosh.” Notice is beautifully directed by Ngozi Paul. Lisa Berry as Crystal is dynamic and compelling. Terrific.

Blackberries

Written by Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick

Directed by Alicia K. Harris

Performed by Adeline Bird

Blackberries is a delicate play about longing, leaving home to find a more peaceful one and belonging. Effie has come from B.C. to Nunavut for her grandmother’s funeral. Her own mother refused to return. Miali-Elise Coley-Sudlovenick uses language to show how things have different words to describe them. Effie picks what are called blackberries with her cousin. Effie notes that that’s not what she calls them in BC. They are still delicious. By the same token home has different connotations to the family she is visiting. Several times we are told that for the two weeks she was there everyone seemed to be drunk, perhaps to forget the emptiness of their lives. Effie, however, feels a love for the place, she doesn’t want to leave. “I could live here. I needed this. I love this.” It’s an interesting play that looks at the different aspects of ‘home.’

Emmett

Written by Syrus Marcus Ware

Directed by Tanisha Taitt

Performed by Prince Amponsah

 It’s been seven years ‘since the fall’, ‘the virus to end all viruses and the earth has suffered a catastrophe. Desolation is everywhere. Medgar scrounges for wood, sticks, rocks. He is industrious. He marvels that he survived. “I survived the fall. Me, my disabled, chronically ill and Immunol compromised” body survived the catastrophe. But in the doing he lost his lover Emmett, the person he cherished more than everything. Medgar notes that life has been found on Venus and this is hopeful since Mars was a disaster. Prince Amponsah gives a gentle, determined performance as Medgar, perhaps indicating what gets a person through such a horrific situation. Syrus Marcus Ware has created a thoughtful monodrama and director Tanisha Taitt has directed this fascinating piece with a firm and sensitive hand.  

Georgeena

Written by Djanet Sears

Directed by Weyni Mengesha

Performed by Virgilia Griffith

Georgeena is driving in her car away from whatever has caused her anguish. She says: “I’m going to die.” That certainly grabs our attention. You get the sense from Virgilia Griffith’s fierce performance as Georgeena, that she’s not exaggerating. She wears her wedding veil which she tears off her head and throws it in the back seat. She is furious and distraught. She was to marry Mathiew until she realizes that even though she would be marrying a person who was Black like her, their world would be anything but. His white parents adopted him from Rwanda and raised him. Georgeena uses her rarely used middle names as she talks to herself. “I Georgeena Shakel Beroney Darson (I’m sure the spelling is incorrect), am going to die.” She refers to her middle names as “a cultural hic-up.”)

At the wedding rehearsal Georgeena realizes the world she is in—everybody but she and Mathiew at the rehearsal was white, her bridesmaids, grooms, guests, everybody. Her future mother-in-law said insensitive things to her. The best man is a racist. So she left. Her phone continues to ring. A car is following her. She knows it’s Mathiew on the phone and following her. Only, it isn’t.

Djanet Sears is a towering presence in Canadian theatre. Sears has written a play that grabs you and leaves you breathless. I must admit that some moments made my eyebrows crinkle: Georgeena only realized at the wedding rehearsal she would always be in a white world? That her future-mother-in-law was insensitive to her and that Mathiew’s best man is racist? Huh? Hmmm. That said the effect of the whole play, Weyni Mengesha’s tight direction and Virgilia Griffith’s stunning performance, left me winded for all the right reasons.  

Rebirth of the Afronauts: A Black Space Odyssey

Written by Motion

Directed by Jerome Kruin

Performed by Chelsea Russell

The year is 2059, ‘the year of our George.’ Motion has written a funky, hip-hoppy look into the future and that future is in outer space. Chariott, our heroine has no work, no training, and no prospects in the city of Tkaronto. There is a curfew and she needs to get off the street. She meets a strange woman with attitude on a bus who guides her to a better place. Chelsea Russell plays both Chariott and the strange woman with tremendous style. Jerome Kruin directs with a sense of dazzle, lights flash and wiz as if a space ship is taking off. Wild.

For all episodes:

Cinematographer, Keenan Lynch

Set and costumes, Rachel Forbes

Lighting by Shawn Henry

Projections by Cameron Davis and Laura Warren

Theme Music by Tika.

www.gem.cbc.ca

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Mon. Feb. 22, 2021, 7:00 pm

In Good Company: Education and the Arts.

A panel of high school teachers discuss the importance of arts education with Arkady Spivak the Artistic Producer of Talk Is Free Theatre.

www.tift.ca

Mon. Feb. 22, 2021, 7:30 pm

Streaming from Red Bull Theatre:

The Belle’s Stratagem.

Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch

Featuring Cecil BaldwinJasmine Batchelor, Mark Bedard, Neal Bledsoe, Lilli Cooper, Peter Jay Fernandez, Santino Fontana, Tony Jenkins, Lauren Karaman, Aaron Krohn, Heather Alicia Simms, and Chauncy Thomas

In this light-hearted comedy of courtship, the knife-sharp Letitia has been betrothed to the foppish Doricourt since childhood, but she fears she is soon to be trapped in a loveless marriage. With the help of the sly Mrs. Racket, the saucy Mrs. Ogle, and country Lady Frances Touchwood – whose sniveling husband is terrified of her discovering city life – Letitia hatches a plan to fascinate her fiancé, ensuring that he knows he is soon to be wed to an equal partner. The women conspire to open the eyes of the men – dancing rings around them at a masquerade ball where mistaken identities ensure joyous resolution. Written in 1780, Hannah Cowley’s rom-com romp is a timeless and triumphant cry for love, decency, and equality.

www.redbulltheater.com

Mon. Feb. 22, 2021. Streams until Feb. 28.

The Colored Museum

The Atlanta Black Theatre Festival streams George C. Wolfe’s bracing satire about African-American stereotypes set in a museum. Click the link below and then scroll down.

https://gem.godaddy.com/p/5be7e11?pact=795429-161876990-13019205503-ecdd524773ff23aedb6ef6356a216f7ce5bdf3e2

Tue. Feb. 23, 2021, 7:00 pm

4th Line Theatre hosts fascinating conversations with artists.

Kim Blackwell, Managing Artistic Director of 4th Line Theater and Beau Dixon, actor-musician-composer-playwright-extraordinaire has a conversation about is life and art.

https://www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

Fri. Feb. 26, 2021.

21 Black Futures

Obsidian Theatre and CBC Gem present the final season of seven monodramas focusing on the Future of Blackness. Terrific playlets written, directed and acted by Black artists.

https://www.cbc.ca/artsprojects/21blackfutures

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Review: Deer Woman

by Lynn on February 19, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streamed on line until Feb. 21, 2021.

Playwright and director, Tara Beagan

Director and designer, Andy Moro

Collaborating sound designer, Luca Caruso-Moro

Original music and composition, performed by Lacey Hill

Cast: Cherish Violet Blood

The story is devastating. It’s a harrowing play that references the thousands of missing Indigenous women and girls in this country. The production is superb.

Background. Deer Woman was written in 2017 and has played across the country, at the Edinburgh festival and as far away as Australia. Because of COVID 19 the creators of Deer Woman are presenting this as a digital presentation.

The play is about a Lila, a proud Blackfoot woman. She is a determined. She has parked her truck in the woods. She takes a long-handled axe and a shovel out of her truck and tosses them on the ground.  She carefully sets up her tripod at the right height and then places her cellphone on it. She sits on a trunk and positions herself in front of the cellphone, ready to record her message.

She wears a sweatshirt with the word “ARMY” in large letters printed across the front of it.

She says: “I’m taping this ‘cause I was thinking I don’t want anyone to decide that I’m crazy and say what I did didn’t count. That wouldn’t be fair…I’m gonna tell you lots of stuff. Some of you don’t deserve knowing.” In spite of that line I get the sense that Lila is recording this for a friend, a person she cares about and trusts, a person who should be told the truth about what happened. And of course, Lila is recording this for us—the audience, the people who will bear witness.

Playwright Tara Beagan has Lila give an autobiography of her life as background for context. As a young girl Lila learned she was going to have a little sister and she was overjoyed at that news.

Her parents were together then—there was some reference to the mother giving birth to a hamster. When Lila’s sister was born she was named Pamela but was always called Hammy.Over the course of the story, Lila displays a dark sense of humour but rarely any joy except for and with her sister. We soon get the sense of that family.Lila’s mother had a sister who disappeared, and was assumed murdered but there was no investigation etc. Lila’s father soon was not on the scene and her mother showed little interest in the children. They lived in a trailer. Her mother drank with three men on Monday nights and one of them quietly sexually abused Lila regularly on those Mondays.

Lila noticed that her mother threw a door stop into the trailer and Lila couldn’t figure out why until she realized she should use the door stopper to her and her sister’s bedroom, then the pedophile couldn’t get in. That was all the mother seemed to do for her children. Moments like that make you suck air.

There is a point where the girls have to decide with which parent they want to live. The mother is going to go off with the pedophile—do the girls want to live with the mother or the father—who is back in the picture. They pick the father. As a parent the father seems terrific. He is gruff but attentive. He takes them hunting and teaches them how to hunt deer and be respectful of them as they are shot. They learn never to shoot a doe because they are female and carry on the line. Always kill the male. They have endless questions for him. He answers every one without impatience.  Lila learns how to do a clean kill and how to dress the dead animal properly. Lisa is so attuned to the deer that she feels their spirit enters her being and she is then referred to as “the deer woman.”

When Lila is of age she joins the army and goes overseas to Kandahar. While she is there she learns that Hammy has disappeared and is presumed murdered. Lila feels guilty about not being there to protect her sister. When Lila returns home she uses everything she learned in the training by the government, and tracking of an animal she learned from her father, to find her sister’s killer.

There are times watching Deer Woman that it almost seems like a checklist of misery wrapped up in one story. But this is how Tara Beagan makes a universal story about missing Indigenous women and girls; by making the story specific to this family. From what we have read and heard in the media about these terrible stories, this is true, fact, it’s recurring and there seems to be little in the way of tracking down the murderers.  

Lila does track down her sister’s murderer herself and offers a reason at the beginning of her story—she wants to make sure the truth is told and she will tell it.

There is a recuring theme in these Indigenous stories and in the stories of Black History month….these marginalized people want to be seen, heard and allowed their space.

The filmed production is a mix of brutal honesty, harrowing events and self-deprecating humour. Lila speaks of Auntie Gary and how he was always kind to Lila and her sister. We wait patiently for an explanation about anyone named Auntie Gary with a pronoun ‘he’. Auntie Gary was a gay man, a hair dresser who was both an uncle and an aunt to Lila and her sister. He offered unconditional love and moral support in spite of having to endure cruel behaviour from those around him because he was gay.

This is a one person show and Cherish Violet Blood plays the various parts, especially Lila, with style, efficiency and without any sentiment. She beautifully realizes Lila’s a dark sense of humour. I will note that this production is for those 16-years-of-age and over because there are scenes of violence.

Tara Beagan is a compelling playwright. The story is tough and she does not let you look away. Unfortunately, it’s a story that has to be retold so that something is done to find those missing Indigenous women and girls, or at least to learn what happened to them and by whom.

Presented by the National Arts Centre, Indigenous Theatre and Article 11.

Plays until Feb. 21, 2021. https://nac-cna.ca/en/event

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Streamed on-line to Feb. 21 and then March 16-28, 2021.

Created and performed by Scott Silven

Text by Rob Drummond

Directed by Allie Winton Butler

Production designed by Jeff Sugg

Sound design by Gareth Fry

Composer, Jherek Bishcoff

Sometimes you just throw up your hands and say, “I don’t’ know how he did that. It must be magic.”

Scott Silven, mentalist-extraordinaire, magician, re-creator of ‘the impossible,’ has fashioned a new on-line show guaranteed to raise your eye-brows in disbelief. (He did the same in person when he played Luminato in 2018).

This new show melds time, connection, place and 30 people for each show. We are instructed to let intuition guide us and to trust our instincts. He is in his home in rugged Scotland. We are at home, where ever. We are connected by our computers (cell phones are not recommended to be used to follow The Journey). It’s recommended that we use ear buds; check our connections; sound levels etc. We enter a lobby waiting area before the hour to begin The Journey.

We see Scott Silven walking over the rugged hills and narrow pathways supposedly in Scotland near his home. There are flashes of five smooth stones piled up, a piece of paper with markings on it that he scrunches up, a box, a rocky formation. All are reference points to be noted carefully.

Scott Silven’s quiet voice enters our heads via the ear buds, first the left ear, then around to the right and at times around the room. It’s spooky. How did they do that? That’s what I thought the first time I experienced this moving sound in my ear buds a few years ago. A quick look at the program for Scott Silven’s The Journey reveals that answer. The Sound Designer for this show is Gareth Fry. He also did the incredible surround sound for The Encounter for Complicit, a production I listened to via computer using my own ear buds a few years ago. Hearing that effect in Scott Silven’s The Journey does not make it any less impressive.

(NOTE: When it’s time to actually begin The Journey, there should be some clue that we have to exit the ‘waiting lobby’ go back to the home page and then click to begin The Journey. One might think to just wait in the Lobby for the show to begin there).

When the show begins, Scott Silven is in his house. Our faces in our own computer squares are flashed across the walls of his room. Scott Silven welcomes us and calls on us to participate over the hour of the show. He does it in the most respectful of ways—kind, gentle, inviting and happy of our involvement.  He tells us a compelling story of a little boy who wanders away from his home. A line of light snakes along the walls of his room for effect. There are projections of the sea banging against rock; wild clouds forming in the sky. He hangs a closed box from a rope from the ceiling that will factor in the culmination of his most elaborate feat of the impossible.

At various times we will be asked to hold up an object that means something to us, pick the number of an address that meant something to us, a date of significance, think of a scene that is important and he will take that information and connect it to objects around his room. In one very subtle instance he takes a framed page off the wall and gently taps the wall to show it is solid and not fake so that the framed page could have been manipulated somehow.

With Silven, the mind-manipulation, the intuition etc. are used to elevate his ‘impossible’ creations—to call them ‘tricks’ seems so ordinary, and there is nothing ordinary about Silven’s imagination or creative mind. Just when your jaw drops at what we think is the conclusion of a trick, Silven goes further.

Scott Silven’s The Journey is a fascinating ‘magic’ show full of images to distract and engage, a lovely message of connection, and endless moments where you shake your head in amazement.

Only in one instance does Silven not have control—the beginning. I was told by “Thomas” who checked in to see that all was good with my computer, that we would be holding for a few minutes because all the participants had not checked in yet by the start time. I said, “We’re at home and these few are still late?” “Thomas” had to sheepishly say yes. I said, “Start. They’re late.” The pandemic is making us impatient and irritable. We’ve been waiting a year to get back into a live theatre and to have to wait even more because of a late few, is galling. Something to think about for future shows.

http://www.tolive.com/thejourney

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The Shaw Festival is presenting a virtual conversation between Stephen Fry and Artistic Director Tim Carroll this Thursday February 18 at 7 p.m. EST on the Festival’s YouTube channel via the link bit.ly/3jCBKSY. This 60-minute conversation will cover a myriad of topics, including the value of storytelling.

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Mon. Feb. 15, 2021.

Deer Woman

FEBRUARY 15 to 21, 2021  |  1h 20 min. For 16 years of age and older.

To honour the lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people.


This week the National Arts Centre is presenting a free online broadcast of Deer Woman by Tara Beagan. This powerful play fearlessly examines this crisis, and the pursuit for justice. Watch on our website anytime, on demand until February 21.

https://nac-cna.ca/en

Mon. Feb. 15, 2021 7:00 pm

Art of Design; a conversation about stage design from Talk is Free Theatre

One of the participants is Joe Pagnan who is a master at creating the worlds of

plays.

www.tift.ca

Mon. Feb. 15, 2021, 8:00 pm

Soliciting Prophecy.

Faced with the uncertainty of living in a pandemic and the repeated closures of theatres, Scapegoat Carnivale co-Artistic Directors Alison Darcy and Joseph Shragge initiated an online writer’s room to explore the theme of prophecy as it relates to today, and create a series of digital performances as artistic responses. The group includes artists from Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City and Los Angeles.

https://www.scapegoatcarnivale.com/soliciting-prophecy

Tue. Feb. 16, 2021 6:00 pm (to Feb. 21)

The Journey with Scott Silven

He is an illusionist-extraordinaire. Offered through TO Live.

https://www.tolive.com/thejourney

Tue. Feb. 16, 2021, 7:00 pm.

4th Line Theatre Company presents a conversation with Kim Blackwell, Managing Artistic Director of 4th Line Theatre, and playwright Andrea Scott (Controlled Damage).

https://www.4thlinetheatre.on.ca

Wed. Feb. 17, 2021(to Feb. 20) at 2:30 pm

Streaming from the Almeida Theatre in London, Eng.

Hymn

By Lolita Chakrabarti

Starring Adrian Lester and Danny Sapani.

Two men meet at a funeral. Gil knew the deceased. Benny did not. Before long their families are close. Soon they’ll be singing the same tune. Benny is a loner anchored by his wife and children. Gil longs to fulfil his potential. They form a deep bond but as cracks appear in their fragile lives they start to realize that true courage comes in different forms.

Featuring music from Gil and Benny’s lives, Lolita Chakrabarti’s searching, soulful new play asks what it takes to be a good father, brother or son.

https://almeida.co.uk/whats-on/hymn-live-stream/17-feb-2021-20-feb-2021

Thur. Feb. 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm

Undiscovered Sonnets Double Feature.

Shakespeare, Improv. Rebecca Northan and company have their way with a phrase and a story. Has to be seen to be believed.

stratford@home

Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 at 7:30 pm

From Studio 180, In Development:

6 x 10 by Rachel Mutombo

About the project:

Isabelle and Jamal’s father was incarcerated for a violent crime. Though they’ve lived the majority of their lives without him, the stain of his actions has been on their lives ever since. Years of resentment and pain threaten to disrupt their lives when they learn of his impending release from prison. Despite the urge to continue to sweep it all under the rug, this pair of siblings is forced to come face to face with their complicated feelings and shared family trauma. 

http://studio180theatre.com

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