RED….

Red.. the name of the play I saw a few days ago. Red… the colour of love, of anger, of strawberries, of blood, of carnations, of rosy cheeks, of cooked lobster, of cheeky lipstick, of eyes that have cried too much. The list goes on. Red.

Red by John Logan, produced by First Impressions Theatre of Deep Cove, directed by Jim Hebb and performed by Cameron McDonald (Mark Rothko) and Mike Bodzanowski (Ken), is brilliant. Thoughtfully written (I kept wanting to write down quotes in my dark theatre seat), this production takes the words off the page and splashes them around with no false notes. I want to go back.

I grew up with a painter….. Continue reading “RED….”

My Solo World Theatre Day Mission…

Today March 27 World Theatre Day celebrates it’s 50th anniversary with a succinct & pertinent speech by John Malkovich. Fifty years….. It’s amazing that fifty years later there are so many people who still aren’t aware of this celebration.

I took it on as a mission today to make sure that a whole bunch of people would become enlightened by a simple gesture. I made my sign. Put on my runners and a smile. Then hit the streets with no fanfare.

Me and my World Theatre Day message
Me and my World Theatre Day message

It worked! One person CAN make a difference.

I had conversations about theatre, plays, musicals, husbands who won’t go, time that doesn’t allow, people who loved theatre in Europe, good memories, the politics (especially recently) and I even made some play suggestions that were received positively. I We all laughed. I felt happy as I brought smiles to people….(isn’t that sort of live theatre?) Some cars honked and the drivers gave me the thumbs up.

Now, back at home I feel good that I stirred up a little bit in my quiet community. The dry cleaning man said, “Why isn’t there a parade?” Well… maybe next year, I’ll instigate a parade!

You in?

Here are some people I met who didn’t know about WTD (except one…guess who?)

The local librarian at the West Vancouver Library
The local librarian at the West Vancouver Library

Ginnie & Doris who love theatre! (gave good life tips too!)
Ginnie & Doris who love theatre! (gave good life tips too!)

At our local cafe "Cafe Trafiq"
At our local cafe "Cafe Trafiq"

Our favourite local Iranian store
Our favourite local Iranian store

Our Friday night sushi place
Our Friday night sushi place

This guy wants a World Theatre Day parade!
This guy wants a World Theatre Day parade!

Love small hardware stores!
Love the small hardware stores!

These gals were such fun. It's the middle one's birthday, too!
These gals were such fun. It's the middle one's birthday, too!

Happy West Van busdriver!
Happy West Van busdriver!

Family supporting the arts.
Family supporting the arts

World Theatre on the beach!
World Theatre on the beach!

I dedicate this World Theatre Day to those who continue to make theatre despite the trials & tribulations, and this world of high technology. Vive Le Theatre… Nous allons continuer!

(did you guess the one person who knew about World Theatre Day?)

March 27, World Theatre Day 2011

World Theatre Day has rolled around again – where did that year go?

This year I would like to acknowledge playwright Landford Wilson, who passed away March 24, 2011. His name conjures up special memories as one of his plays was my first foray onto a professional stage.

Pulitzer prize winner “Talley’s Folly” is a deliciously provocative two hander (2 person play) set in 1944 introducing Sally Talley, and Matt Friedman. Matt in pursuance of Sally tries to find ways to get to know her. They both have deep serious secrets and are cautious when it comes to opening up and trusting each other.

Talley's Folly
My original copy of Talley's Folly I studied..

I was fortunate to be cast and spent a summer at the Victoria Playhouse, in Prince Edward Island, Canada doing repertory theatre. The Victoria Playhouse was, and still is, situated idyllically by the ocean in a tiny community. I was surrounded by inspirational nature and a lot of positive support for my first major professional role.

As Talley’s Folly took place at a gazebo by the river, the set was embellished with trees, branches, and bushes that I had to make my way through for my entrance. Every time the stage was re-dressed there seemed more and more trees for me to clamber through, expounding my first line, “MATT!!!” I think the stage hands were having fun challenging me each time. It helped my performance!

The dialogue was witty, deep, and intelligent, and had a rhythm that was pure pleasure to play with. It is a hopeful love story that strips the protective shells of Sally and Matt, in order to find their truthful depths.

Talley's Folly
Me as Sally Talley, my first professional role!

Matt: “This guy told me we were eggs. … He said people are eggs. Said we had to be careful not to bang up against each other too hard. Crack our shells, never be any use again. Said we were eggs. Individuals. We had to keep separate, private. He was very protective of his shell. He said nobody ever knows what the other guy is thinking. We all got about ten tracks going at once, nobody ever knows what’s going down any given track at any given moment. So we never can really communicate. As I’m talking to you on track number three, over on track five I might be thinking about …. Oh any number of things. And when I think you’re listening to me, what are you really thinking??”

Sally: “And you think he’s right or you think he’s wrong?”

Looking back, I realize that I must have understood only certain elements by instinct as I was so young playing a thirty something. I would love to play Sally Talley again. (albeit.. an older one!)

Thank you, Landford Wilson, for this play, and many others you wrote. I dedicate this year’s World Theatre Day to you. R.I.P. Mr. Wilson….

Read more on Landford Wilson: The New York Times

Read the World Theatre Day Message

Read the Canadian Theatre Day Message

Happy World Theatre Day
Happy World Theatre Day

World Theatre Day…and more!

Today marks World Theatre Day, and it also marks exactly one year since I started this blog. Despite being here a year, I still feel like a newbie who desires to write more frequently, and explore more (hopefully that feeling will last forever).

In the meantime, I would like to wish you all a very Happy World Theatre Day.  I wish this day had the same buzz as the Olympics, but, unfortunately we live in a world where sport accomplishments seem to rise to the top, long before artistic ones. I guess it’s a number game.

However, I didn’t show up to my blog today to rant. I came here to celebrate theatre, and honour the spectacle, the liveness, the unexpected, the truth, the mistakes, the improvisation, the courage of the story, of the actors, and of the support behind the scenes.

Theatre has been in my life since I was 17 when I first got involved with costumes at the Charlottetown Festival in Prince Edward Island. I eventually became a dresser and the joke was always that “one of the performers had fallen” and “Trilby had to go on”. In my imagination, I would burst out of my dowdy pinafore and conveniently have a sequined outfit underneath. I was READY!

That scenario didn’t happen, but I did end up taking the place of one of the clowns in the children’s clown show where I was also doing the lights and audio. And, I loved it. The performing seed was planted.

My journey was seriously launched at Le Conservatoire d’Art Dramatique, in Quebec City, where I studied acting, en Francais, for three years.

Outside le théâtre du Conservatoire
Outside le théâtre du Conservatoire

Since graduation (many moons ago), I have played with lots of actors, told lots of stories in both languages, had funny things happen (remember your mustache drifting off your face, Dan?), had scary moments (oh..it’s awful to have a blank on opening night!), and had a lot of fun.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to have directed “The Memory of Water” by Shelagh Stephenson and I truly enjoyed the creative adventure. This evening, appropriately, the cast and crew are celebrating our journey together.

Cast & Crew of "The Memory of Water"
Cast & Crew of "The Memory of Water"

So, today, I dedicate World Theatre Day to them, our experience, and to all those who continue to dare to write plays, mount plays, act in plays, tour with plays, renovate old theatres, and to the audiences who continue to appreciate witnessing live theatre.

Merci, et, célébronskeep celebrating theatre! Vive Le Théâtre!

Saving The Santa Monica Playhouse!

Just recently we were in Los Angeles doing some “biz” stuff, and had the pleasure of spending some time at the Santa Monica Playhouse, Santa Monica, my favourite area of LA. Peter D. Marshall and I spent a Saturday at the Playhouse at their Main Stage having a little “Meet ‘n Greet”.

When you arrive at the Playhouse, you have no idea what awaits. You walk into a magical cave, a funky old building with doors hiding performance spaces, a European flavoured courtyard, and a vibe of valued history.

Part of the courtyard

Evelyn Rudie, and Chris DeCarlo are wonderful people who have been running the Playhouse since 1973. The Playhouse, itself, has been producing, non-stop for 49 years and is headed to its 50th, if all goes well. Since Evelyn and Chris have been co-artistic directing, the Playhouse has been honoured with over 250 awards and commendations, and has presented 500 classic, contemporary, and original productions!

Evelyn Rudie and me

Things are somewhat challenging for them at the moment (who isn’t having problems in the arts?), and they have started a “Save The Playhouse” campaign to get them to the end of this year.

After, seeing this intimate treasure with its maze of lovely spaces, and a main stage drenched in theatrical vibes of a historical nature, I promised I would see if I could get a bit more of the world to know about them. And with that exposure, maybe some help would come through.

Entrance to the Main Stage

I could be criticized for not writing about something that is more local, but these days, my world feels quite global, and a theatre in need is a THEATRE in need. And, besides, I just like these guys, a lot, and it’s my blog!

And this isn’t just any theatre.

Co-Artistic Director, Chris DeCarlo, a Viet Nam veteran, said that his experiences convinced him that his mandate was to put the human back in humanity. “All of us at the Playhouse want to make a dramatic difference in our world.”

I hope they continue, because as I strolled on the boards of their “Main Stage”, I dared to speak a few words of my one-woman show I’m developing, and it felt good!

If you would like to investigate further, please see their website, and if you feel moved to contribute to their continued success, don’t hesitate (there’s a “donate” button on their site). They are super, and the kids who study there think so too!

(By the way, Evelyn Rudie was the youngest actress to ever receive a Hollywood Star on the Walk of Fame….wow! 🙂 )

Save the Playhouse!

The Art of Listening…?

I was in grade 8. It was lunchtime. Hanging out in the classroom with my friends, I was eating my tuna and pickled onion sandwich (home made onions by my Mom) and launching into a story.

I can’t remember the story now, but I do remember suddenly noticing one of my friends completely interrupt me to talk about something. I was incensed. I stopped talking. Eventually, all of my friends noticed my silence. The girl who had interrupted told me to continue.

I refused. I dug in my heels and point blankly refused. “You weren’t listening, so I’m not going to tell you the rest.” And, I didn’t.

When I was even younger and hanging out with adults a fair bit (I was an only child) I used to ponder the magic of these big people. As I watched and listened to them, I marveled at how they could talk and listen at the same time, since their voices were often all going at once.  As a kid, I concluded that you gained an extra sense when you became an adult enabling you to listen and speak simultaneously.

Nope!

Listening. Hearing. Empathizing. Sympathizing. Understanding. Relating. Connecting.

In recent rehearsals for a play, our director would remind us to listen, really truly listen to the others. This advice was always valuable as it pushed a sort of “refresh” button. Anticipating the delivery of your lines and your fellow actors’ lines kills the life in a scene.

In performance, you must hear, and speak the text as if for the first time. If you trust your listening skills, the interpretation will then reveal fresh nuances . The result is a greatly satisfying experience for both the audience and the actor.

In real life, ineffective listening shows up chronically.

Wandering eyes, vacant looks, the chest rising with a breath that is ready to interrupt with their own thoughts that are quickly formulating in their head, or a polite nod, are all clear indicators of an unsuccessful listener. And, they never ask questions. (The good ones do the opposite!)

In business, truly listening to a potential client, and being curious about their needs will most likely be more effective than constantly “pitching” them. I know most of us get annoyed at those badly scripted phone calls from large companies trying to sell us something.

The other day I had one of those calls. At breakneck speed, a guy assumed he had what I wanted and pitched me over and over, using statements like “I want you to..” “You need this..” “I will sign you up today…”. He most certainly was not listening to me as an individual with unique needs.

I stopped him and suggested, gently, that his company should change their tactics to ask what the potential customer would actually like before they assumed they knew best! Their business would most likely improve!

Today, we communicate frequently via the social media (Facebook, twitter, etc..)  where some “interesting” listening is occurring. Some people seem to think that constantly giving people information is a “social” action.

In my mind, being social usually entails listening, conversing, and possibly mutually creating deeper value. The  successful internet socialites shine and are a great example.

What do you think?

What is your best or worst listening experience, and your best or worst “being listened to” experience? I challenge you to observe those around you, and yourself as the art of listening unfolds. I will join you in this venture… honest!

Let me know how it goes.

(Oh, and by the way… one of the most important listening skills to develop is listening to yourself, your instincts, your ideas, your dreams, your loves, your questions, and your ponderings.)

And, for your listening pleasure…..

Playing… “Under The Piano”

Remember those forts you use to build, as kids, in your living rooms, or bedrooms, or outside, using chairs, blankets, and anything that could help to create a cool cave? Worlds far from the one we were in were concocted with no agenda.

Just recently, I relived a similar experience.

Under The Piano Sound Spa” is a new and unique offering by pianist, composer and entrepreneur Craig Addy.

After a short personal conversation with Craig, he invited me to place myself under the grand piano where he would improvise for approximately 40 minutes.

Immediately I was reminded of those childhood living room forts and feeling extra safe and snug. Under the piano, regally awaiting, were shiny gold cushions matching the interior of the piano, a soft bedding of puffy brass blankets and a red velvet one to pull over you for more cozy warmth.

As I tentatively crawled under, I wondered what the protocol really was when you curl up under someone’s piano. I felt awkward but rapidly enjoyed the mysteriously secure feeling.

I closed my eyes and heard the first note, strong but not too loud, and felt the vibration. My body liked the sensation. For the first few minutes, I felt my brain drifting to the banalities of life chores but thankfully the chords would draw me back to the present.

As I permitted myself to relax, my creative juices started to flow.

The sounds transformed as Craig improvised with an awareness of my energy under his piano, producing a symphony of soft notes, thunderous notes, quiet thoughtful notes, sounds of hope, sounds of sadness and melancholy, and soothing sounds.

Images of my past and present life appeared and disappeared.

Befitting, I thought, another childhood memory rose up with Craig’s final notes. I was reminded of me dancing with abandon at age 5 or 6 in the living room of a family friend. Our friend would put all kinds of exotic music on his record player and I would sneak into the living room, my theatre, and dance while the adults visited in the kitchen.

After the session, Craig and I, in my blissfully dopey state, discussed our individual journeys. We acknowledged a musical sadness that had emerged, but also agreed that it was beautiful and not to be ignored. In a society that constantly promotes being positive we tend to hide the sombre side that also has a place in our lives. After all, isn’t good theatre made from comedy and tragedy? The lighter notes that occurred as well balanced the experience nicely.

And, I felt inspired to write!

Under The Piano, to me, is another tool to tap into our creativity and I look forward to experiencing it again. Anything that slows us adults down long enough to open up our “kid” in us, and our imagination, is magnificent.

Thank you Craig! Craig Addy’s In Tune

Permission To Play… reviving your inner kid!

When I was little, I didn’t want to grow up. The grown up world looked terribly serious and my instincts told me sub-consciously that there would be a drastic change.

One day when we were kids hanging out in the back shed lighting matches for fun (no we didn’t burn the place down), my little girlfriend told me that she couldn’t wait to get married and have kids. Wow. I thought she was nuts. I felt no rush nor desire for the same. None.

Now, gazillions of years later I know what my childhood instincts were telling me. There was going to be a lot less play in the grown up world and a lot more problems to solve. I just knew.

The other day on my walk, I watched an impish mix of  adults and kids playing soccer with abandon. It made me grin and I knew that nothing else could be on their minds. Too busy playing, they were in the elusive “now” where all the great contemporary gurus are telling us to be. (have you read Eckart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”?) The soccer game was a perfect example.

Silly us adults frolicking for fun.. imagine!
Silly us adults frolicking for fun.. imagine!

Theatre, stage work offers this opportunity for me and I believe my journey to this world was an honest trek from childhood. I needed to keep playing. It felt like air, a serious necessity. Being a character on a stage, in a situation, with a live audience, if you are sincere with your work, will keep you divinely present.

When we get to witness, as an audience, a truly connected, compelling, and riveting performance in theatre we are privy to the players in the now. There is clarity and presence. And a strange truth.

To get to some of these great moments, I believe play is of the utmost importance. En Francais acting is called “l’art de jeu” – the art of playing. If we allow our grown up tightness to breathe and expand, we have an opportunity to experience extraordinary unexpected times.

We need to have the chance to discover and explore. I guess that is why I turned to Le Bouffon as a tool to get us all to our playful selves, and discover some gems in our work.

Bouffons in their element! Adults gone.
Bouffons in their element! Adults gone.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child” Pablo Picasso

This idea of play translates beyond the theatre, musical and artistic world.

Who isn’t more productive when we have permission to laugh, or play in our working environment? A boss who reprimands employees who dare to enjoy themselves at work risks stymieing the worker and ironically losing productivity.

When I worked as a costumer in the film industry, I had a favourite designer who had a great sense of humour. We developed a wacky reputation as laughter frequently burst out of “that crazy wardrobe truck”! That laughter got us through the immense work and long grueling hours much more easily.

How is play in your grown up life? What do you do to nurture yourself in your working world? I’m curious. Do you have a situation to share where play proved to be the answer?

Despite my strong will to play, I still write to myself as much as to you, when I say that play is imperative. My bouffon students have heard me say, “I wish I could take my workshop!” as I watch them play wholeheartedly, forgetting about their adult masks, and discovering the sacred pleasure of the now. Their results? A freedom of expression that leads them to more.

I dare to wish that for everyone.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw

Create Your Own Door, & Open It…

When one door closes, another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Alexander Graham Bell

Thank you for the great quote Mr. Bell.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about those opening and closing doors. I’ve been thinking about the doors that have opened in my life and the doors that have been kept tightly closed. I’ve been thinking about some doors I should have maybe NOT gone through. And, some, I thankfully did go through.

As much as I can, and as much as I remember, I try to pay attention to any dusty lights suddenly extending my way from open doors. Sometimes, I’ve walked into doors, forced my way through doors, and found some doors just way too heavy to open. (I got my finger badly damaged in a closing door twice in my life because I was still trailing my hand as the door closed…hmmm… “don’t linger while the door is closing behind you”?)

Recently, I’ve watched others fall back in shock as doors have slammed in their faces just when they thought they were almost through. (Quick…look behind you! Maybe another door is waiting!!)

Can you relate?

Or, maybe it looks like there are so many doors open in front of you and you have to choose which one is seemingly the correct one. This can feel like playing Russian Roulette.

Sometimes, we wait too long for doors to open. We wait, and wait, and wait. Especially as actors, or people in the arts in need of others for their work to advance. We hope and wait. We get that audition and we wait. We get the call back and we wait. We wait for the jury to jury. We wait for the interview results. We wait for someone to tell us that we can practice our art.

Frustrating? I’ll say! You give power to someone you don’t even know in order to do the work you are destined for or are hungry to do.

A friend of mine who is also an Oscar winning actress was seeking work and wasn’t finding it. (Yes.. even winning an Oscar doesn’t guarantee you work!) Finally, she decided to create her own one-woman play. As she put it… she needed a job! A long story short, the show became a huge success and was requested everywhere. She had created her own door, and opened it wide. More attention eventually came her way and, of course, she was offered more of the work she had earlier been pursuing.

I look to the those imaginative pilgrims who boldly stride forth, and fling their own doors open and not passively wait for others to do so.

With some resistance, I was forced to open my own door several years ago because of a back operation. I had been doing work on film sets in costumes to help fund my theatrical thespian adventures, but after a long period of rehabilitation, and some permanent nerve damage, I knew I couldn’t costume supervise any longer.

So, I got entrepreneurial and started my own business – Hot Scarves ‘n Stuff, a special scarf with heat pads that I had created on a film set. I learned all the “businessy stuff”, and even did a business plan, but most importantly, I learned that you must love and be passionate about the work, which keeps you going through the tougher times.

Hot Scarves on Display
Hot Scarves on Display

Well, I didn’t love my “scarfy” venture enough. Try as I might, I just couldn’t sustain excitement for a fleece scarf. (What WAS I thinking?!!)

But, it did lead me to another venture that I do love- my buffoonery workshops. I had to open one door so I could get to the second door, which I managed to open on my own. (Thank goodness for those ideas that come in the shower!) I am hugely rewarded during my workshops when I get to watch others blossom in their “bouffoness” and become freer beings having fun!

Bouffons in Action!
Bouffons in Action!

The next heavy door I’ve created and I’m slowly pushing open, and I mean slowly, is a theatrical piece I’m writing for myself. Fear is the weighty material of this door, but I know I have to do this, especially as you are witnessing this statement!

What about YOU? May I ask you if this subject stirs some deep projects that have been brewing for some time or are you already boldly throwing doors open for us to watch? (I guess we all open doors at different speeds.) Do you perform work that feels extraordinarily satisfying?

What do think? What is the door you need to create for you? (…buying a canvas, going to a poetry slam, playing at an open mic?) Are you waiting for something? What doors do you want to fling open?

I think I used the word door way too many times in this post, but, there are not too many synonyms for “door”! Wishing you well!

The Roles We Play On Stage & Off Stage…

Some of the roles I’ve played onstage are waitresses, a Welsh woman, pregnant hired help, Italian brothel lady, lost “can’t have baby” southern “old maid”, unfaithful preacher’s wife, uptight British wife, drunken British wife, free, flirty British wife, a French widow, a French suicidal punk, a mother trapped between her daughter & her mother, a mentally challenged comedic princess, a serious author, a new kid on the block, a bisexual Goth, a Jacobean lover, Booboo the clown, Madame Rouge the bouffon, Matriarch of a large family, a whip wielding trainer, an incestuous mother…

Some of the roles I’ve had offstage are waitresses, daughter, lover of many types, supportive partner, mistress, heart breaker, horse lover, mentor, guide, surrogate aunt, friend, drunken friend, actress, ESL teacher, drama teacher, businessperson, costume designer, costume set supervisor, driver, cook, milliner, scarf maker, poet, writer, student, groupie, photographer, painter, clown, bouffon, driver, listener, patient, woman, surrogate sister, partyer, dancer, traveler…

On stage, my role is clear, defined, if I have done my homework. I feel good, focussed- present. I figure out my objectives for each scene, for each line, and for the whole play. I listen, respond, and remain open to possibilities. I look after myself, warm up my voice and my body, and give trust to the team of people around me. In the wings, I breathe deeply, listen to my music, and prepare to plunge forward leaving the critical voice behind. Out there, I feel the presence of my whole being, and the audience. I feel alive, strangely truthful, and, myself as I consciously play my role. Of course, there are those times when I just feel “off” and the flow isn’t there. You re-group, try not to beat yourself up, and you try again in the next performance.

What about all the roles we play in life? What about the different masks we wear for each of these roles, and our own judgement of how well we play each role? Which of the roles is most truthfully “me”, and which ones take more effort than the others? Where do you feel YOU?

The topic of “role” comes up frequently during a therapeutic sales course I take (oxymoron, I know, but true). The instructor always asks us from 1-10 where do we see ourselves? I know the answer is supposed to always be 10, but our judgment of ourselves on any given role, on a given day tends to alter the number. I may have given myself a 10 as a businessperson one day, but a 3 as a lover or friend the same day. The trick is to know you are a 10 no matter what. I’m still working on that.

Is our truth, our personal truth only true when we are alone? Or does it exist only in our art – our creative ventures? Maybe my answer for successful role-playing in life is in my theatre rituals.

Again, this isn’t a new topic, but maybe just another version. What are your roles? How do you view yourself within these roles? After all, isn’t “all the world a stage”?

Have a listen to Verve’s song where the lyrics include the line “.. I’m a million different people from one day to the next..I can’t change my mold, oh no…”  Plus, it’s just a great tune!