Two hardy soups and two containers of hummus

Sara Schwartz Geller is a producing dynamo. She has produced theatre and film internationally. Perhaps her most ambitious theatre experience was co-producing The Curious Voyage with Arkady Spivak, Artistic Producer of Talk is Free Theatre, in Barrie, Ont. Over three days a group of hardy participants followed clues and participated in site-specific adventures beginning in Barrie, Ont. and ending in London, England, culminating in a musical that exemplified everything the group experienced on the voyage.  

I was on the first voyage (there were several after that) and got a first hand look at how efficient, fearless and committed Geller was to serving her audience and making them feel comfortable, certainly on this wild theatre adventure. It was clear late in the evening of the first day that there was a concerning issue. Arkady Spivak was set to depart by plane from Toronto to London, England that evening (11:30 pm) and be in England the next day, ready to welcome that first group of voyagers when they landed in England. Spivak was e-mailed of the difficulty as the plane was about to depart. He e-mailed Geller immediately. The next morning, at 5:00 am the group was to be picked up by limo in Barrie, Ont., driven to Pearson International Airport in Toronto where we would take the 9:00 am flight to England where we would land at 9 pm that same day.

That morning, at 5:00 am Sara Schwartz Geller was in Barrie to assure us the problem had been resolved completely and no further issues would arise. She wished us a bon voyage. She lives in Toronto, but at 5:00 am she was in Barrie to tell us all was ok and to have a great trip. I want this woman on my side if I get into trouble.

During the pandemic there is no in-person theatre. She had productions ready to go that were cancelled. This did not stopped the ‘producer’ in Sara Schwartz Geller. Instead of producing theatre she began producing soup. She formed a soup company called The Toronto Soup Co. which produces and sells soup out of her newly created store called Soul Provisions (571 Vaughn Road; 647-654-5065). And in keeping with her care and consideration of people, she donates soup to people in need with every container of soup she sells.

There are vegan, vegetarian and meat choices of soup. I’ve had all three variations and they are hardy, substantial and delicious.  The hummus is the creamiest I have ever tasted. There are grain salads and other healthy meal choices. This summer she created an ice-lolly using the best fruit juices and if chocolate was involved it was Ghirardelli. Woow.   The menu changes every month and you can order on line or go to the store where there is more choice. Delivery is free. If you are lucky Johnny will deliver your soup, a courtly, gracious, charming man.

Geller employs artists/theatre people to work in the store. She pays everybody very well. She displays and sells their art.  Sara Schwartz Geller is a woman who is grateful for her good fortune and works to give back to the community and play it forward. She is an example to us all of how to live a good, conscientious life. The soup is delish. Try the hummus as well.

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There will be two more spotlights on Theatre Artists branching out.

There will be one last review with the Red Face of Fury, a fitting way to end this lousy year.

There will be a remembrance of a person who meant a lot to me.

The Tootsie Awards will be revealed.  


Streamed until Jan. 4, 2021

Written by Christina Anderson

Directed by Lucie Tiberghien

Set by Lina Younes

Costumes by Ari Fulton

Cast: Crystal Lucas

Kevin Mambo

Jared McNeill

Postell Pringle

Another terrific production from Molière in the Park briming with ideas and lots to think about.

The Story.  pen/man/ship by Christina Anderson is a parable of a maritime story involving violence, racism, religious oppression and rebellion. One might think of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner but Christina Anderson has fashioned a play that is all her own.

“It’s 1896 and Charles Boyd and his son Jacob board a ship in America heading for Liberia, Africa on a mysterious mission. Also with them is Ruby Heard an opinionated young woman who is a friend of Jacob.

On the open sea, an unexpected detour resurrects family secrets and reveals true intentions, fundamentally changing the course of their journey and their lives forever.”

We soon see that Charles Boyd is a bible thumping bully to his son and the men of the crew. He is not happy that Ruby, a woman, is on the voyage. Charles has hired the crew and the captain and says that “I am the ideal man for this journey.” He is going to survey land in Liberia. We are told the dastardly reason in the play. Charles has contempt for everybody, including the crew and keeps away from them as much as possible, except for one crew-member named Cecil. Cecil played the ‘squeeze-box” and amused Charles. Most of the time Charles spends his time writing in his journal, drinking a bottle of gin and getting more and more paranoid.

Ruby is leaving America because she was treated badly as a Black woman. She has a stunning line that references Jim Crow and “peculiar fruit that hangs in our trees.” A line that echoes Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” and leaves you breathless. The crew and the captain are Black and so are Charles and Jacob.

Playwright Christina Anderson is writing about racism from a white point of view in the case of Ruby. But mainly she’s writing about the racism within the race when you listen to the arrogance of Charles towards people he feels are beneath him—such as Ruby, the crew and his own son. I found that fascinating. 

The Production.  The title is a wonderful play on words because the words ‘pen’ ‘man’ and ‘ship’ are written as if ‘penmanship’ is broken up into syllable. And once you hear the story of the play the three words: pen, man, ship give a clever sketch of what the play is about.

Initially the production it looks like a zoom call. Each actor has his/her own square/location  from where they are talking. But director Lucie Tiberghien is creative. The cast does interact. One might look sideways as if looking at a person to their left or right. The character who is looked at returns the gaze. Objects are passed from one character’s square to another who reaches out to receive it.

In one scene the Ruby (Crystal Lucas) is talking to Jacob (Jared McNeill). She is looking out to us but behind her, hanging on a wall to her right is a small mirror and reflected in it is Jacob’s face as if he is in the room with her talking to her with his back to us. It’s one of many creative touches that raises the quality of this digital production above many others.

Sometimes the placement of a square with a person talking changes the dynamic. For example at times the square with Ruby is between that of Jacob and his father, Charles (Kevin Mambo), with Ruby being a bit above them both, showing a superiority she actually has on that ship. The men trust her and not Charles Boyd. She talks to them with interest.  Crystal Lucas, as Ruby has a calm grace about her. She is an intelligent woman who is not intimidated by Charles Boyd. She’s delt with many overbearing, bullying men like Charles and she is armed with the smarts and wit to outsmart him. Charles does not interact with them because he holds them in contempt. Kevin Mambo as Charles seems to have a permanent sneer on his face. Mr. Mambo is ever mindful of that arrogant line that Charles feels he is the only man who could have planned the voyage. I have news—Ruby could have done it in a snap, with delicacy. Mr. Mambo illuminates Charles’ demons who haunt him at every turn.  He’s impassioned, paranoid, imperious, and volatile. He is overbearing with his son. He must have the last and first word. You get a sense of the kind of marriage he had regardless of the rosy picture he tries to paint. As Jacob, Jaret McNeill tries to stand up to his father when he isn’t trying to please him. Jacob is a man trying to stand on his own two feet and be confident. Perhaps he can get that from Ruby. He won’t get it from his father. Finally, Postell Pringle as Cecil, is an easy going man but with a sense of who he is. He’s rather puzzled about what Charles sees in him as good company.  

Lina Younes has designed a smart set. There is a model of a four masted schooner and it looks like it’s rolling on something resembling blue water with curled waves that move the ship along. In fact the waves are made of clay shapes that are overlayed and filmed again and again to look like waves with the schooner on the waves. Ari Fulton’s costumes are of the time of 1896—rich material, form-fitting for Jacob, Ruby and Charles, and tatters for Cecil. To suggest the whole crew we see silhouette figures on the ship’s deck. Terrific production.  

Comment.  This is Molière In the Park’s first contemporary play. I think it’s a beauty.  I’ve only discovered this wonderful company on line. What a powerhouse organization. They usually do productions of Molière’s plays.Because they believe in serving the multi-ethnic, diverse people of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park they do their production in open spaces (parks for example), and they offer them for free. In this time of Covid, the company explores the many opportunities to use technology to bring theatre to a wider digital audience.  And they have adapted beautifully to this pandemic world.

pen/man/ship is a beautifully written play about racism in unusual places, greed, escape, and freedom. I’ll be looking out for more work from Christina Anderson and this wonderful company.

pen/man/ship is available on the Molière in the Park YouTube channel until Jan. 4, 2021:


Streamed until June 1, 2021 from Koerner Hall

Conductor, David Fallis

Director, Marshall Pynkoski

Choreographer (Something Rich & Strange), Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg

Set designer/Art director, Gerard Gauci

Lighting designer, Michelle Ramsay

Filmaker, (The Eye and Eye’s Delight), Marcell Canzona

Composer/performer for The Eye and Eye’s Delight and Inception, Edwin Huizinga

Contemporary Choreographer/Dancer Inception, Tyler Gledhill

Cast: Colin Ainsworth

Mireille Asselin

Measha Brueggergosman

Christopher Ennis

Edwin Huizinga

Danielle MacMillan

Cynthia Smithers

Artists of Atelier Ballet

Tafelmusic musicians.

Exquisite in every way.

Note: As always I am not ‘reviewing’ the singing or dancing of the piece because they have a different vocabulary that I would not presume to comment on with any justice. So consider this as an appreciation of the artistic gifts of director Marshall Pynkoski and choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and their creation.

Co-Artistic Directors, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg had planned to produce Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas to celebrate their 35th Anniversary Season this year. A pandemic put a stop to that. They explain: “But Opera Atelier remains committed to creating beautiful theatre—even in the face of adversity! In fact, the challenges inherent in producing under Ontario’s health and safety guidelines have proven to be exciting challenges, and a genuine catalyst for creativity.” It’s such resilience and tenacity along with an unwavering esthetic that has brought Pynkoski and Zingg to the 35th anniversary of this wonderful company.

In Something Rich & Strange, their first offering of their 2020/21 Season of Visions and Dreams,they have created a program of music and dance from such works and composers as: Purcell’s “Music for a While” from Oedipus, Handel’s “Mi Lusinga il dolce affetto” from Aldina, Lully’s “Transformation” from Armide, Rameau’s “Entrance of Mercury” from Platée Locke’s “Curtain Tune” from The Tempest and a new work from Edwin Huizinga entitled The Eye and Eye’s Delight.

While each piece is distinct and separate, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg and their creators have fashioned the evening so that it seems a cohesive piece in which each segment focuses on dreams, secrets, desires and visions and seamlessly blends into one another.

They offer a synopsis: “The evening opens with the appearance of an Angel (the luminous, majestic  Measha Brueggergosman), who is herself recounting a dream-like experience. A doe in the wood catches the eye of the Virgin as she passes by, and as a result, magically gives birth to the Unicorn.

The Angel, in turn, bends her face so close to that of the Virgin, that the encounter instills something beyond ecstasy—the Angel’s encounter with perfection engenders terror—a terror that becomes the catalyst for song.

Tonight we are reaching towards perfection—a beauty so extra-ordinary we can only approach it through the safety of sleep.

Morpheus, The God of Sleep, appears and sends the entire cast into a deep, protective slumber, from which each singer and dancer emerges to recount their encounter with perfection.

Some encounters result in fear, some in anxiety and confusion, and others in joy. For every performer, the encounter is cleansing and cathartic—exactly what we wish for our audience tonight.”

Gerard Gauci’s simple, exquisite set adds to the beautiful esthetic. A screen suspended at the back over the stage projects a different image that conveys the change in the segment. Gauci’s stunning star-like design for the floor offers filmmaker Marcel Canzona beautiful over-head shots of dancers gracefully negotiating the space.

Both Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg bring their fascination with the music, dance and theatre of the 17th and 18th centuries to the stage. Their productions look like exquisite paintings come to life. Zingg’s work as choreographer with her careful placement of the hands and arms of the dancers, make me look harder to appreciate this vocabulary that creates ballet.

Even the staging of their star singers: Colin Ainsworth, Mireille Asselin, Measha Brueggergosman, Christopher Enns, Danielle MacMillan and Cynthia Smithers, make them look as a piece with the dancers. There is no jarring movement that takes away from the grace of ‘the line’.

Tyler Gledhill is the contemporary choreographer for the evening and a dancer in Inception. There is a muscularity and sensitivity in his dance.

While this is a staged production that was filmed in Koerner Hall it does not look like a film. It does look like a beautiful theatrical production come to life through technology. Kudos to Michelle Ramsay for her shimmering lighting that illuminates every artist.

I started going to Opera Atelier productions years ago. It was a company I had heard of but was not familiar with at the time and thought I should open my horizons to other art forms. It’s been an exquisite (that word again) education, in art, dance, music, opera, singing, painting, sculpture and what perfection looks like. I don’t ever get the sense that co-artistic directors, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg ever user the word “compromise”. Their audiences are the better for it.  

Available for streaming until June 1, 2021.


Mon. Dec. 14, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Live streamed benefit reading.

A King and No King

By Beaumont and Fletcher

From the wonderful Red Bull Theatre.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely in this delicious Jacobean tragicomedy. Arbaces, the King of Iberia, conquers Tigranes, King of Armenia, and offers him noble treatment – and his sister for a wife. But it’s been awhile since Arbaces has seen his sister. When he does, he is seized with incestuous passion. Arbaces resists this forbidden love with all his might – until she professes she loves him too! But now, what to do about Tigranes? Alongside the natural pleasures of a surprisingly funny tragedy, A King and No King also offers some particularly piquant allegory for this time of transition from one administration to the next. Find out more.
Directed by José Zayas, this livestream benefit reading will feature Rajesh BoseRobert Cuccioli, Edmund Donovan, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Topher Embrey, Chukwudi Iwuji, Teresa Avia Lim, Cara RickettsSocorro Santiago, Reagan Tankersley, Craig Wallace, and CJ Wilson.
(Note that Cara Ricketts is involved—she’s done great work in Canada)

This is a LIVE EVENT. This exceptional cast will come together to present the play LIVE from their homes––anything can happen. It will premiere at 7:30 PM EST on Monday, December 14. A recording of the broadcast will be available until 7:00 PM EST on Friday, December 18 – then it disappears. GET DETAILS

Thurs. Dec. 17, 2020 beginning at 6:30 pm

Live streamed.

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare

Professor Sir Stanley Wells and Dr. Paul Edmondson, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, launch their new book on the celebrated lyric poems that have prompted so much speculation over the centuries. Their discussion of the discoveries they made by freeing the sonnets from the order in which they were printed in 1609, and complementing them with passages from the plays, is accompanied by readings by Ijeoma Emesowum and Geraint Wyn Davies.

If you are not familiar with Sir Stanley Wells and Dr. Paul Edmondson are, you are in for a treat. They are rock stars in the world of Shakespeare. And the readings by Ijeoma Emesowum and Geraint Wyn Davies are a wonderful bonus too.

Leer Estates created and performed by Dan Chameroy is a hoot about the zany goings on by the rich, bored and wanting to be famous.


Fri. Dec. 18, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Live streamed reading

Produced by Studio 180 from their “In Development” Series


By Ali Joy Richardson.

Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr

Starring: Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Thomas Olajide & David Storch

“Roy, a revered theatre school teacher, falls from grace after his behaviour with a student comes to light. Mark, his past student (now colleague), has to make him understand. Vic, Roy’s daughter, desperately needs her Dad to do the right thing. Nobody’s giving up without a fight. Dad asks us: What does true atonement look like? What comes after the fall? And can we ever learn the hardest things?
After the reading, join playwright, Ali Joy Richardson, and director, Ann-Marie Kerr, to ask questions about the creative process and dive into the themes of the play in breakout discussion groups.”

I think Ali Joy Richardson is one of the up-and-coming writers to watch. From past productions I’ve seen of hers, her story-telling is compelling and her dialogue dazzles with invention.

Sat. Dec. 19 and Sun. Dec. 20, 2020  

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Produced by Ross Petty Productions.

Streamed digitally Sat. Dec. 19 and Sun. Dec. 20 between 10:00 am and 9:00 pm

No global pandemic will stop Ross Petty from producing his zany holiday family musical. And while we can’t gather in a theatre proper, we can enjoy the show in the comfort of our own homes. Cheering our favourite characters and booing the villain is very encouraged,  the louder the better.  It’s the show we need for a laugh, a smile and to get us through these difficult times.

After 24 years of producing cherished holiday family musicals on Canadian theatre stages, Ross Petty is putting his magical touch on the first-ever virtual pantomime show for national broadcast as narrator. In a surprising twist of events, There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays picks up from the iconic heel click in Wizard of Oz and follows Dorothy on her journey home meeting new friends and encountering many entertaining moments along the way.

There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays, a hilariously entertaining and interactive virtual family show that will deliver holiday spirit across the country in support of Kids Help Phone. There’s no Place like Home For The Holidays is an accessible, safe and fun way for all families in Canada to experience the magic of a Ross Petty Productions family musical. The show will be available for viewing from the comfort of Canadian homes on Saturday December 19 or  Sunday December 20, 2020.  

“We think families in Canada will be delighted to meet our hilarious cast of characters as played by musical theatre stars Dan (Plumbum) Chameroy, AJ Bridel, Eddie Glen, Camille Eanga-Selenge, Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Alex Wierzbicki. We’ve taken our beloved family winter holiday tradition at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre and reconfigured it to bring its silliness and joy into homes across Canada.” said Ross Petty of Ross Petty Productions. “It’s been such a pleasure putting this show together. Matt Murray has written a brand new script featuring the fun of being together, dealing with adversity, and feeling excited about the holidays.”



·      Tickets are $35.00 per household

·      Tickets available for viewing on Sat. Dec. 19 or Sun. Dec. 20 between 10 am and 9 pm

·      Tickets are available for purchase at

·      A portion of each ticket sale goes to Kids Help Phone 


Streaming on demand until Dec. 18, 2020.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Written by Daniel Jamieson

Directed by Emma Rice

Composer  & Musical Director, Ian Ross

Set and Costumes Designed by Sophia Clist

Lighting by Malcolm Rippeth

Sound and Broadcast Designer, Simon Baker

Co-choreographers, Etta Murfitt and Emma Rice

Cast: Marc Antolin

Audrey Brisson

Musicians: James Gow

Ian Ross

A tender, moving play about the love story of Marc Chagall and his wife Bella Chagall, given an exquisite production directed by Emma Rice.

The Story and Comment. The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk  was written by Daniel Jamieson and it’s directed brilliantly by Emma Rice. It’s produced by the powerhouse theatre company called Wise Children (Emma Rice is the founder and Artistic Director of the company), in collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic and Kneehigh theatre company.

Interestingly the play was originally entitled  Birthday when it was first done in 1992. The two people playing Marc and Bella in that original production were Daniel Jamieson and Emma Rice.

It’s a two-character play with musicians now and it’s the story of artist Marc Chagall, his obsession with art, his focus on colour and wild imagery and how he was besotted with Bella the first time he saw her.

He was born to a poor Jewish family in Vitebsk, Russia in an area that is now Belarus. She came from a wealthier Jewish family in the same town. He was awkward and shy around her, but also bold. She was confident and almost amused by this young man but she did love him. Just as quickly as they fell in love, he left for four years for Paris to paint, learn about art etc. make contacts. She was a bit miffed he was away so long and didn’t write often. He tried to explain that he had a showing in Berlin so painting occupied his time. But he also decided that when he got home he’d marry Bella.

The title of the show, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk says everything about this charming, moving show. They were lovers and they were from Vitebsk, so that’s easy. But the flying part references Chagall’s work. He was noted for wild oversized characters, often suspended in air. And he was also known for his bold colours used in an extravagant way.  

In one painting there is a large, exaggerated man playing a violin in the air with one foot on the roof of a very small house. (yes, this is where the idea of a Fiddler on the Roof came from). In the painting “The Promenade”, Chagall painted himself and Bella euphoric in love. He’s on the ground smiling, they are holding hands but she is also smiling and is totally in the air, as if floating side-ways on a breeze.

It was a life full of uncertainty and difficulty.  They endured:  pogroms, being unsafe in Russia because they were Jewish, antisemitism, and displacement  until they finally found themselves safe and accepted in New York.  And through it all Chagall painted and was celebrated for his work. The only time he stopped painting was after Bella died of an infection. It was WWII and there was not enough medicine available to fight the infection.  But hardship comes into every love story.  

The Production and Comment. The live production of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk  was filmed live in an “empty theatre”—the Bristol Old Vic—and Emma Rice used actors with whom she’s worked before. There actually was an audience. Emma Rice noted the two masked people over there in a side box who usually worked in the box office for the Bristol Old Vic. She noted the technicians, lighting designer etc, around the space and the person filming her while she talked to us watching from home. I found that whole introduction to the ‘empty theatre’ and the ones watching there to be very moving.

The streaming  has been held over from today Dec. 11 to Dec. 18. What people will be seeing is the recorded show, not live. It doesn’t matter—it’s all magical.

Emma Rice directs this production with her usual flair, blazing imagination and inventiveness. Sophie Clist’s set of leaning poles is quirky and seems off kilter. Poles tilt and meet at odd angles and could be considered several lopsided frames for paintings. Often Marc Antolin as Marc Chagall would lean out to Audrey Brisson as Bella as if assuming a pose in a painting or perhaps leaning into space and air. He wears make-up, a dusting of white on his face to look ghostly, otherworldly or just appropriately of the world of Chagall. She looks gamin. Together they are charming. Antolin assumes an expression of constant amazement at the images he sees and envisions. He is always curiosity, focused on creating his art, almost oblivious to the cruel world around him. Brisson is matter of fact, delicate, sensible, sometimes exasperated by him but loving just the same.  

At one point a friend comes to see Bella and she notes that the friend had a very red face. Emma Rice represents the friend as a red balloon on the end of a long string. Then I realize that Emma Rice is directing the production as if it was a Marc Chagall painting. She stages her actors as if they are often floating—all that tilting and reaching out. She uses images (the balloon) as Chagall would use images that seem odd or out of place. I thought it all was stunning. I urge people to see this wonderful production directed by this gifted director. If you can’t see an Emma Rice production in the flesh, this is the next best thing. It gives a wonderful sense of her tremendous creativity.

Be mindful of the five-hour time difference from the U.K and Canada. The times given when you order tickets are for the time in the U.K.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk streams digitally until Dec. 18.

For tickets please go to:

Ohio State Murders

Streamed for digital viewing.

Written by Adrienne Kennedy

Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton

Lighting by Sherrice Mojgani

Sound by Larry Fowler

Visual Effects by Kelly Colburn

Cast: Rex Daugherty

Yao Dogbe

Heather A. Gibson

Lynda Gravátt

Billie Krishawn

Andrea Harris Smith

Note: Ohio State Murders by Adrienne Kennedy is the third play of an on line four part festival of her work. I’ve already reviewed the first two plays of that festival.

The Story and Comment. Ohio State Murders was originally produced in 1992.

Suzanne Alexander is a writer who is invited to Ohio State University to talk about her work explain why it has such violent imagery. (Suzanne Alexander is a character who often appears in Adrienne Kennedy’s work. Is she a stand in for the playwright? In some plays it does seem so).

Suzanne Alexander begins her ‘lecture’ by talking about the life of her younger self. She was in fact an undergraduate student at Ohio State in 1949. She was diligent, hard-working, shy. Attentive.  She took an English course with Professor Robert Hampshire. They were studying “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy, about a good woman who was wronged by class, position in society, people who took advantage of her.

Young Suzanne Alexander wrote an essay for the class and the professor called her into his office. “Did you write this essay?” he asks, implying she couldn’t have. Should I say here that Suzanne is Black and the professor is white. Suzanne is slightly offended that her integrity would be called into question. She was able to comments on it her essay and the novel as proof that the work was hers.

Professor Hampshire says quietly that the essay and the analysis is brilliant. A relationship develops between Suzanne and Hampshire. When the young Suzanne speaks to the audience she refers to someone named Bobbie. She says she’s pregnant.  We realize that Bobbie is Robert Hampshire, the professor. When she tells him she’s pregnant, he says that she can’t be pregnant because they were only ‘together’ twice. I guess Hampshire didn’t read “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” very carefully to pick up how it only takes one time to get pregnant.

When Suzanne began her undergraduate studies, she did not declare a major. After that one year she applied to take English as her major but is denied. It is hinted she was denied because she was Black.

She gives birth to twins and there is no question she will keep them and raise them herself since Hampshire has no interest in being responsible. One day one of them is kidnapped and found drowned soon after. At first it’s not clear who could have done it. Suzanne suspects Robert Hampshire did it, but the authorities don’t look hard enough to prove it. The university protects Hampshire and expels Suzanne. And it goes from there.

Adrienne Kennedy is continuing with her theme of racism and class distinction as seen in He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Sleep Deprivation Chamber the other two plays I’ve seen in the series. (Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side begins streaming Dec. 12).

She establishes the systemic racism of that University. Suzanne did not find safety or sanctuary there. She was not allowed to continue as an English major because of a racist system that held Blacks back even if they were talented students like Suzanne. The university protected the white Professor. Suzanne had a champion in her aunt but they seemed alone in that world. Suzanne found the love of a good man but what she endured was astonishing.

Production and Comment. The production is presented as a partial reading and partially performed for a streaming platform and it’s stunning.  Lynda Gravátt plays Suzanne Alexander, the older, established writer who is narrating the story, with wonderful understatement. She is reading her script as if she is reading a paper for a lecture. She is tempered, measured and does not betray an anger or pent up emotion. Her younger self, is played by Billie Krishawn again as quiet, understated and attentive, certainly when she is in professor Hampshire’s lectures.

Hampshire is played quietly by Rex Daugherty. Daugherty deliberately does not imbue Hampshire with any enthusiasm when he is reading “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” in class. I thought an odd choice in this case. Perhaps it’s the conversations between Suzanne and Hampshire out of the classroom that that we don’t hear, that intrigued her and drew him to her. We can appreciate that her brains and analytical acumen drew her to him.

So we get the sense from Valerie Curtis-Newton’s direction that they were directed to be calm, controlled and not raging or angry in their delivery. In a way they have to come to the last line of the play that should be a wallop—as to why her work is so full of violent images. The quietness of this presentation emphasizes the violence done to Suzanne and it should leave you limp. Which it did to me.

With every play I see of Adrienne Kennedy I’m stunned and impresses anew. She’s a towering presence in the American theatre. And everybody should read her work not only go get a forceful look at racism through the ages in America but also to see a playwright at the top of her powers.

Ohio State Murders streams digitally until Feb., 2021.

For tickets please go to:


Live Streaming for Free.

Written and Performed by Dael Orlandersmith

Directed by Neel Keller

Set by Takeshi Kata

Costumes by Kaye Voyce

Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger

Sound /Composition by Justin Ellington

A shattering piece of verbatim performance theatre about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. And everybody should see it. Dael Orlandersmith is stunning.

Background: In 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri Michael Brown, a black youth allegedly stole a box of cigars. The police were called and Officer Darren Wilson allegedly shot Mr. Brown several times and killed him. The details of what exactly happened were confusing. Officer Wilson said he shot in self-defence. Alleged witnesses disagreed. Officer Wilson was found innocent of any wrongdoing by a Grand Jury and was released.

Conservatory Rep Theatre of St. Louis commissioned Orlandersmith to create the piece in 2015 and also produced it.

Dael Orlandersmith is an American playwright who interviewed people in Ferguson, Missouri about their thoughts on the events. She did not interview any of the people who were witnesses or the police.  She culled the interviews and we hear the words of eight of them, alternating between a Black person and then a white person. Orlandersmith plays all the parts speaking in their voices.

They are all ordinary people: a retired school teacher, a barber, two 17-year-old  Black High school students, a retired police officer, a landowner and electrician, a school teacher and a minister.

In the voice of each interviewee, Orlandersmith speaks the name of the person, their general age, if they are Black or white and their job.

Takeshi Kata has designed a set with a single chair in the middle of the stage. Around it looks like a garbage strewn street or playground.  Kaye Voyce has created the costumes for each character. One might wear a bomber jacket, another a scarf or shawl. It seemed as if each one wore something with a vibrant pinky-orange colour to it. That colour on some part of different costuming seemed to bind these different characters in the event, not as being shackled, but as sharing the event.

Until the Flood begins and ends with “Louisa Hemphil, Black, early 70s, retired school teacher.” Louisa quietly sets the tone, concern, emotional toll, prejudice, attitudes in that town and almost as an afterthought, the effect of the killing of Michael Brown.  

She says, “I’m angry at him. I’m angry in general.” She laments that Michael Brown was so close to graduating high school and could have gotten out of there to a better life. She tells how she left Ferguson, Missouri to go to teacher’s college in New York City. She came home to see family and recounts going into a local store run by a (white) woman she had known for years. Her family frequented the store. Ms Hemphil was greeted by the woman who chided her about leaving her town to go elsewhere for her education, as if this was a betrayal. Orlandersmith delivered these words in a measured way, not forced or full of contempt.

Hemphil continued by saying when she was younger she thought her father acquiesced to being treated badly by whites. Her mother came back at her with pointed words who set the young woman straight about what she and her father had to endure to survive there. My cheeks stung with embarrassment for the rebuke and the reason her mother had to give it.  

We get the clear sense of no matter how friendly Blacks and whites were in that town, there was a sense of standing off, being apart, not melding.

Hassan was a Black 17-year-old, student,  rapper-loving man who said he didn’t care about dying and that he was going with the flow.

He was contrasted with Paul, also Black, also 17-years-old and a student. He knows and says that “it could have been me.” It could have been him that was shot by the police, not because he had stolen anything, but because he was Black.   You sense the very fine line Paul has to walk on to not get killed for no reason. He just had to graduate high school and get out. Hearing his story made you hold your breath, you so wanted him to be safe.

“Dougray Smith, white, late 30s early 40s, landowner, electrician.” He scared me. As a kid he was a reader. He loved books. His father was a bully and beat him questioning his ‘manhood’ because he loved books. One day Dougray was reading Steinbeck and his father took the book away and threatened to burn it. The last straw for Dougray. He took a chair and hit his father with it, left the house and never went back. He was 16. He lived in shelters for a time. Finished school; got jobs and worked hard; became and electrician; married; saved his money and bought properties as investments. He bought them in the Black section of town and said that he always got his rent on time. “Blacks know not to be late with the rent to me.” Orlandersmith said this quietly but with an edge, looking at the camera, a hard look.

One day Dougray was with his young son and the boy was bullied by some Black kids and came crying to his father. Dougray told his son to get right back there and beat that kid up, and Dougray suggested his son was a sissy for not doing it. The boy went back and beat the kid. His son was five years old. You suck air slowly with this complex, difficult story. The son bullied by his father becomes a bullying father to his own son. And so it continues, the anger, the racism, the divide.  

There were other interviews in Until the Flood told with compassion, wit, humour, perception, and wisdom. These people were complex, multi-layered and articulate in their own way. You get such a clear idea of the lives of the Black interviewees living in white America and how they were so different from their white counterparts.  Orlandersmith is brilliant in showing one’s pre-conceived ideas about another’s life, not only from the point of view of the characters in the play regarding each other, but also from our point of view of them.  She is never judgemental. She let’s her characters have their say. It’s a balanced, devastating work and every single person should see it.

Until the Flood streams at


Heads up for the Week of Dec. 7-13, 2020.

Mon. Dec. 7, 2020. 7:00 pm

Critical Reflections (Live Panel Discussion)

Monday, December 7 at 7:00 pm ET

A live panel discussion examining the critical and academic response to Adrienne Kennedy’s work, moderated by Dean of the College at Princeton University Jill Dolan and featuring Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks, Star Tribune reporter Rohan Preston, and director and arts critic Regina Victor. Free and open to the public. View on YouTube

Tues. Dec. 8, 2020. 7:00 pm

Playwrights Canada Press book launch.

Join Playwrights Canada Press in celebrating the launch of five new amazing plays with a virtual group author reading from across the country! Featuring Christine Quintana reading from Selfie, Beth Graham reading from Pretty Goblins, Trina Davies reading from Silence: Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, Norm Foster reading from The Writer, and Colleen Murphy and Janet Tamalik McGrath reading from The Breathing Hole | Aglu ᐊᒡᓗ

I’ve seen many of these plays in performance. Well worth your time to check them out.

Here is the link to register.

Thurs. Dec. 10, 2020 beginning at 6:30 pm

Caesar and Cleopatra

With Christopher Plummer and Nikki M. James. The filmed production that played at the Stratford Festival several years ago.

Part of Stratford@home as well as the zany Leer Estates, created, performed and lots of other things by Dan Chameroy.

Fri. Dec. 11-18, 2020.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Written by Daniel Jamieson

Directed by Emma Rice.

It’s the love story of Marc Chagall and his wife Bella. It played on line last week and will be held over from Dec. 11-18 on demand. Have you ever seen Emma Rice’s work? She’s brilliant.

She has directed this like a Marc Chagall painting! See it.

From the press info: 
“We’ve had such a wonderful response from you all, and so many requests to make the show available for a bit longer, that we have added a week ‘on demand’ to the schedule. You can now buy a ticket to watch a recording of the show at any time from the 11th to the  18th December. 


Bristol Old Vic, Kneehigh and Wise Children present
Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
Written by Daniel Jamieson
Directed by Emma Rice
With music by Ian Ross

Sat. Dec. 12, 2020. 2:00 and 7:00 pm


“Join us in admiring their fantastic work in our virtual presentation of pen/man/ship, featuring the groundbreaking new technology StreamWeaver and bringing live acting, real-time lighting and sound design, as well as live camera cuts, to your living room.

Christina Anderson writes a telling parable about violence, betrayal, faith, and freedom in this moving maritime epic.”

pen/man/ship is a Molière in the Park Production

Directed by Lucie Tiberghien

Co-Presented by French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)

In partnership with Prospect Park Alliance and LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

French subtitles will be available. A recording of the show will be accessible until January 4th.


Sat. Dec. 12, 2020. 7:00 pm

Something Rich & Strange

Opera Atelier proudly announces the new livestream date of the highly anticipated world

premiere of Something Rich & Strange, based on the famous quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and featuring some of Canada’s finest artists, Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 7pm.

The production will be livestreamed from Koerner Hall at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning.

The production will feature the full corps of Artists of Atelier Ballet with choreography by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg C.M., stage direction by Marshall Pynkoski C.M., set design by Gerard Gauci , and musicians from Tafelmusik led by Music Director Elisa Citterio under the baton of OperaAtelier Resident Music Director David Fallis .

Something Rich & Strange features  Baroque arias and dances exploring the themes of sleep, visions and dreams and will include theatre music by Handel, Lully, Locke and Purcell.

This extraordinary production will also feature a brand-new creation by Canadian violinist/composer Edwin Huizinga for Canadian Soprano Measha Brueggergosman. Huizinga’s composition is based on the Symbolist poem by Rainer Maria Rilke titled  Annunciation , for which Opera Atelier has commissioned a new English translation by American author and playwright Grace Andreacchi.

Something Rich & Strange will include a luminary cast of Opera Atelier audience favourites: Sopranos Measha Brueggergosman , Mireille Asselin , and Cynthia Smithers, Tenors Colin Ainsworth and Christopher Enns, Mezzo-Soprano Danielle MacMillan , and Artists of Atelier Ballet , with additional contemporary dancechoreography created by Tyler Gledhill.

Tickets and information to the livestreamed production of Something Rich & Strange :

Purchase livestream tickets to both Something Rich & Strange(December 12, 2020) and The Resurrection (April 1, 2021) and receive an invite to a special Zoom chat with Opera Atelier’s creative team! Chats will take place on November 19, 2020 at 7PM ET and on March 21, 2021 (time TBD).

Sat. Dec. 12, 2020. 7:00 pm

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side |World Premiere

By Adrienne Kennedy | Directed by Timothy Douglas.

This is the last in the four-part Festival of Adrienne Kennedy’s plays.

Etta and Ella Harrison are astoundingly gifted scholars, deeply connected sisters, and dangerously bitter rivals. They frequently write and teach together, and even their separate works are unnervingly similar, often sourced from their own family history. Now, after a lifetime of competition, they are on the verge of destroying each other. Set against the gothic backdrop of their academic New York world, Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is a taut, kaleidoscopic tale of ambition and madness—brought to theatrical life for the very first time.

Buy tickets | Learn more


Two plays from Adrienne Kennedy: He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Sleep Deprivation Chamber.

Streaming on-line from the Round House Theatre until Feb. 21 as part of a festival devoted to “The Work of Adrienne Kennedy, Inspiration and Influence.”

You can book tickets to the whole festival of four of her plays (and it’s a deal if you do), or you can book them individually. (Ohio State Murders streams Dec. 5 at 7:00 pm, Etta and Ella On The Upper West Side steams Dec. 12 at 7:00 pm)

NOTE: Adrienne (pronounced ADD-rienne) Kennedy might be considered one of the most accomplished, respected and honoured American playwrights you’ve never heard of. She is a great chronicler of the Black experience in America.  Her plays are mainly autobiographical and if the two I have just seen are any indication, they are astonishing. Her language is vivid. She is poetic in her writing, often surreal, references history and grips you  in the world of her plays.

He Brought Her Heart Back In A Box

Written by Adrienne Kennedy

Directed by Nicole A. Watson

Visual Effects by Kelly Colburn

Lighting by Sherrice Majgani

Sound by Darron L. West

Cast: Michael Sweeney Hammond

Mayo Jackson

A chilling history lesson from 1941 of Blacks in America.

Introduction to the play: The play was introduced by Jeremy O. Harris—a blazing young talent in the theatre.  He wrote Slave Play while he was still a student at Yale. It played on Broadway last year.  

Jeremy O. Harris said that he saw the premiere of He Brought Her Heart Back in A Box in Brooklyn in 2018. And he says of Adrienne Kennedy: “When I was a young playwright and theatre aspirant, Adrienne’s work has been a North Star for me.

I’ve always felt that it’s one of the playwright’s supreme duties to look at their own histories and their own traumas and draw from that some universal truth that can’t be denied no matter how dark or complex or unwieldy….

And if you are a playwright in which you decide that is the way you want to work, there is no other playwright to look at than Adrienne Kennedy.”

(I love that comment—‘When I was a young playwright…” Jeremy O. Harris is now 31 years old!)

The Story. He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box is set in Montefiore, Georgia in June 1941.

Chris Ahern is a young, privileged white man. His grandfather established and ‘designed’ the town, making sure that the Blacks and the whites were separate.

The grandfather didn’t think the Blacks needed anything better than dirt roads, or needed grave markers in the cemetery, or should have mail delivery—they could go and pick up their mail and he felt they certainly should not be allowed to try on clothes at a certain department store.

Chris’s own father, Harrison Ahern, prospered and became a landowner. Harrison Ahern also fathered several black children in the town. He gave them some attention—made sure they went to the Black boarding school for an education, bought a piano for one of them to practice her music,  etc. Everybody knew Harrison Ahern fathered  those children. Chris’s father has passed away before the play begins.

Chris’s mother was none too happy about her husband’s wayward ways and made sure her husband’s illegitimate children never inherited any of the family’s property or wealth. On this particular day, Chris’s mother had just been buried. Chris did not seem too broken up about her death.

Kay is a young Black woman of the town and of course knew Chris. Kay’s mother gave birth to her when she was 15 and the shame of it drove her out of town. Kay’s father was Chris’s uncle. Kay’s father almost never acknowledged her if he saw her in the town.  

Chris has feelings for Kay and we see that now that both his parents are dead Chris can express them to her and tell her of his plans.  He says he wants to leave the town and go to New York and be an actor. And he wants to marry Kay and after the war they can go to Paris. From the way Adrienne Kennedy has established  the arrogant stiff-fisted attitudes the Ahern family, Chris would never have been allowed to have feelings for Kay or even think of being an actor.

Kay is mindful of the difference between them. He calls her Kay and calls him Mr. Chris.

Adrienne Kennedy establishes this complex world the powerful taking advantage of those that can’t fight back. She paints a vivid picture with language. At one point Chris says of his grandfather that he “understood how language can be used to humiliate.” At another point Adrienne Kennedy writes of “the devastation of the human spirit. “

The Production and Comment. Nicole A. Watson has directed a spare, economical, inventive production. The two actors have memorized their parts. (Agyeiwaa Asante read the stage directions)

If there is a reference to the Black boarding school, one of the characters holds a small model of it in her hand. Some small props are held up to establish artifacts in a store room that Chris is working in.

In their first scene, Chris and Kay are side by side looking out to the ‘unseen audience’.  Michael Sweeney Hammond as Chris is sweet, awkward, blinkered and clueless about his privilege.  But there is nuance in Hammond’s performance that suggests that Chris has some understanding of the inequity. Is it a step forward in his world that he actually wants to marry Kay, considering that both his father and uncle fathered children with young Black woman no older than 15-years-old it seems.  I would imagine that Chris knew his mother would never allow him to be an actor and certainly not marry a Black woman.  

As Kay, Mayo Jackson is savvy, aware, and you sense she internalizes everything rather than blurt out what she really thinks. There is an obvious difference between that white privilege and the ‘respectful Black person’ who has to endure the inequity, slurs and subtle innuendo.

In this exquisite one act play, Adrienne Kennedy harkens back to another time, and paints a compelling picture of that world in America in the 1940s.

Sleep Deprivation Chamber

Written by Adrienne Kennedy and Adam P. Kennedy

Directed by Raymond O. Caldwell

Lighting by Sherrice Majgani

Sound by Tosin Olufolabi

Cast: Kim Bey

Deimoni Brewington

Rex Daugherty

Marty A Lamar

David Schlumpf

Jjana Valentiner

Craig Wallace

Like a punch to the gut.

The Story. Teddy Alexander is a Black college student studying theatre at Antioch College Theatre Department. One night he’s driving home when he’s followed for a few blocks by a police car that has the siren and the lights going, wanting to pull him over. It turns out Teddy has a broken tail light. Teddy Alexander is very close to home and drives slowly but only gets out of the car when he drives into his driveway. Teddy gets out of the car to find out what the officer wants.

The police officer beats, drags, and pins him in the driveway of his family’s Arlington home—all because of a broken taillight. The officer beats up Teddy thinking Teddy is being difficult but he isn’t. And Teddy is charged with assaulting the officer which he says never happened.

The play alternates between Teddy being arrested, preparing for his trial and terrified he could go to jail, and his mother Suzanne fighting his cause. She writes endless letters to the governor, her senator, the police department, all in an effort to alert them to the injustice of the situation. She can’t sleep.  She has nightmares of Shakespearean dimensions—Suzanne teaches playwrighting.  

Teddy is told that if he pleads guilty to a lesser charge he could get off. Maybe. But Teddy is a man of principle, he knows he didn’t do anything wrong and won’t lie that he’s guilty. You look at his two accomplished parents who are still caught in that inequity.

Adrienne Kennedy does not paint a picture that is cliched, in which we would know what’s going to happen. Again, her language is chilling. For example, when Teddy is punched repeatedly in the chest he gasps. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.   I’m an American citizen, could you please let me up and breathe?”

Sound familiar? Here’s the chilling part, the play was written in 1996. And it actually happened to Adrienne Kennedy’s son Adam who co-wrote the play. So here we have an autobiographical play that just hits you in the gut. As the program note states:  “Sleep Deprivation Chamberis a chilling meditation on race and powerlessness that remains painfully relevant today”.

The Production and Comment.

Adrienne Kennedy paints the picture of a justice system that is different depending if one is Black or white.

Again, the actors had  their parts memorized. Director Raymond O. Caldwell used very effective close-up shots and lighting (kudos to Sherrice Majgani) to emphasize the claustrophobic world of being a Black person at the will and whim of a broken justice system.  Raymond O. Caldwell ramps up the tension as the action alternates from the courtroom and Suzanne trying to get someone to answer her letters.  

The acting is powerful with Kim Bey playing an impassioned Suzanne and Deimoni Brewington playing Teddy with dignity, emotion and a sense that his world is spiralling out of control. The knot in your gut is well earned.

Terrific play.

He Brought Her Heart Back In a Box and Sleep Depravation are streamed on line until Feb. 21.

Ohio State Murders begins streaming Dec. 5 at 7:00 pm and continues on demand until Feb. 21.

Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side begins streaming on Dec. 12 at 7:00 pm and continues on demand until Feb. 21.


Heads up for the Week of Nov. 30 to Dec. 6.

Mon. Nov. 30, 2020 at 7:00 pm Virtually streaming.

Scirocco Drama is having a virtual book launch of several plays:

Scirocco Drama 2020 Book Launch

Come celebrate the launch of our terrific 2020 Scirocco Drama titles: bug (Yolanda Bonnell), Controlled Damage (Andrea Scott), Dragonfly (Lara Rae), The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale: A Place About the Cost of Love (Haley McGee), Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells) (Rose Napoli), The Orchard (After Chekhov) (Sarena Parmar), The Runner (Christopher Morris), Serving Elizabeth (Marcia Johnson), Some Blow Flutes (Mary Vingoe), and Suitcase / Adrenaline (Ahmad Meree). MC: The wonderful Marcia Johnson.

Thurs. Dec. 3, 2020 at 2:30 p.m ET. (Toronto Time)  Streaming.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Written by Daniel Jamieson, directed by Emma Rice

This is your last chance to snap up early-bird priced tickets for our live broadcast of  The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
Until midnight on Sunday, all tickets are £15 (+ £1 booking) – from Monday 30, they go up to £20 (+ booking).
Don’t miss out!
7.30pm Thursday 3, Friday 4 and Saturday 5 December,
with a 2pm matinee on Saturday 5
Bristol Old Vic, Kneehigh and Wise Children present

Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
Written by Daniel Jamieson
Directed by Emma Rice
With music by Ian Ross
Broadcast live from Bristol Old Vic to your living room!

“Wraps you in the soaring giddiness and deep solace of overwhelming love.”
Financial Times
Perhaps you’ve seen them floating over a Russian village? Or perhaps you’ve seen her toppling forward, arms full of wild flowers, as he arches above her head and steals a kiss.
Meet Marc and Bella Chagall—the flying lovers of Vitebsk! Partners in life and on canvas, Marc and Bella are immortalised as the picture of romance. But whilst on canvas they flew, in life they walked through some of the most devastating times in history.
Performed by Marc Antolin, Audrey Brisson, James Gow and Ian Ross; Set and Costume design: Sophia Clist; Lighting design: Malcolm Rippeth; Sound design: Simon Baker; Choreography: Etta Murfitt
 Thurs. Dec. 3, 2020 6:30 pm Live Streaming.

The Tempest (production on film)

Starring: Christopher Plummer

Directed by Des McAnuff.

The “Before Party” and introduction begins at 6:30 pm with the production starting at 7:00.

Also check out “Leer Estates” Created and performed by Dan Chameroy in all his multi-talented glory.

Sun. Dec. 6, 2020 at 3:00 pm

The Harold Green Jewish Theatre will hold a virtual Hannukah Party.

Jewish Theatre Companies
Around the World Come Together in Song

A Global Hanukkah Celebration

Sunday, December 6, 2020 at 3:00 PM

FREE for the whole family to enjoy!
The event will be streamed live from our website

Amy Sky Live and Online Trailer

We invite you to join us for this FREE Hanukkah celebration from the comfort of your own home!

Supporting Sponsors
Wendy and Elliott Eisen
Mark Steinfeld

With performances from
Alana Bridgewater, Gabi Epstein, Jake Epstein, Avery Saltzman,
& Temple Sinai’s Ledor Vador Youth Choir

And featuring performances from Jewish Theatres from around the world.