Friday, July 20, 2018

Missed opportunities (the cat)

As anyone taking a casual glance at the blog knows, I have been very preoccupied with Fringe.  That said, I did manage to get to the big art fair at Nathan Phillips Square (more on that soon).  And in the evenings, I did some internet browsing.

I stumbled across a site with kittens and cats for adoption.  I was so drawn to one that looked almost exactly like my first cat, and apparently had many of the same characteristics.  She was calling to me...  As I said, I was fairly busy, and I was also slowly softening my wife's opposition, since she has never been a big cat person.  Perhaps I should have at least emailed the site.  But when I went back yesterday, she had already been adopted.  So sad.  The others just didn't do as much for me, and one or two clearly had behavioural issues.

What I will have to do, in order to move more quickly the next time, is make a real effort to clear out the space in the office where a litter box would go.  I have to clean up the basement too, but in some ways this is a bit less daunting.  Then perhaps I can get more serious about cat hunting this fall. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

12th Canadian Challenge - Consumption & AGO show on Inuit art

I pushed through a bit more than I expected and finished reading Kevin Patterson's Consumption (to get it back to the library without having to renew).  I guess I wrapped it up on what was technically the day after Canada Day, but nonetheless a very early entry into the 12th Canadian Challenge (with a 2 week lag in writing up the review!).  Details here for those interested in signing up for the 12th Canadian Challenge (still plenty of time).  As I noted elsewhere I am still reading a fairly large number of Canadian novels, but I am feeling slightly less motivated to review all of them and I may drop the challenge next year.

I'm not entirely sure how Consumption got on my reading list, but perhaps it was mentioned in the Toronto Star as a book that talked about the themes of Reconciliation but didn't have any easy answers, which seems accurate enough.  While there is a lot going on in the novel, there are a number of steps taken by well-meaning individuals that have unintended consequences, and yet it is too easy to say that these people should have done nothing.  The novel starts with a young Inuit girl, Victoria, taken from her family and sent to Winnepeg to treat her very advanced case of tuberculosis.  If she hadn't been taken for treatment, she most certainly would not have lived long.  However, once treated, she fell through the cracks for 6 years, losing her connection to her family and her traditional ways as she grows up in Winnepeg.  Then she was returned home, somewhat against her will.  She never fully integrated back into the community, and quite a few people in the small community near Rankin Inlet feel she should have stayed away.  She actually mostly socialized with the Kablunauks (aka white people) and ultimately married Robertson, a white man who eventually became manager of the local store (I believe it was essentially a Hudsons Bay trading post).  She had been warned that most Kablunauks "married" and had children, but then felt no compunction about pulling up stakes and leaving (without their families) if they were transferred.  Nonetheless, she feels affection for him and thinks Robertson is different, and indeed, he is uniquely committed to staying in this remote community.  Her decision to marry Robertson was certainly helped along by her feeling fairly alienated from the rest of her clan.

The novel makes a number of interesting and challenging choices.  First in centering so much of the story on Victoria (and making her an untypical Inuit).  Second, Victoria is not actually particularly admirable as a character, or at least I didn't like her as a person.  She makes a number of bad decisions, and then later blames others, even shunning them, when things go awry.  A bit more self-reflection or the ability to forgive would have been welcome.

The cast of characters starts expanding, and characters that only had a relatively small role in Victoria's life get more important.  By the end, it almost feels like an episode of Northern Exposure, and the doctor (Keith Balthazar) has just about as much weight as Victoria.

Here is a list of the "main" characters:
Emo (Victoria's father)
Winnie (Victoria's mother)
Robertson (Victoria's husband)
Tagak (Victoria's brother)
Justine (Victoria's daughter)
Marie (Victoria's daughter)
Pauloosie (Victoria's son)
Simionie (Victoria's lover)
Doctor Keith Balthazar
Amanda (Balthazar's niece)
Father Bernard (priest)
Two teachers at the school - Penny and Johanna
Simon Alvah (a Kablunauk with boat wintering in Rankin Bay)

I'm actually skipping over a few characters from Victoria's early life, as well as Amanda's parents and her boyfriend.  I'm not sure how I feel about this huge cast.  I think it might have been better to start off with a broader view, taking in the whole village, from the beginning, rather than switching midway through.  As you can imagine, the focus definitely starts to slip as pages are allotted to everyone, and the time spent on Amanda, who lives in New Jersey(!), seems completely extraneous to the plot (and really the two teachers as well, though they did interact with Victoria's children from time to time).  By the time the novel proper wraps up (with Balthazar meeting the retired priest in the South Pacific), the novel feels pretty baggy.  Then the reader is treated to over 50 pages (in even smaller font!) of the doctor's notes.  While there is some interest in getting his take on what actually transpired up north, it really dragged on and overstayed its welcome.  The novel would have been more effective had it been more focused, at least in my view.

What was a bit ironic is that I was reading this novel about the north (where most of the time the characters are dealing with terrible winters) in the midst of a severe heat wave.  And indeed, two weeks later, the heat has returned.  But to help put myself in the proper frame of mind, I went to the AGO.  For the first time ever, the main exhibit features Inuit artists: Kenojuak Ashevak and her nephew Timootee (Tim) Pitsiulak, who died tragically young from pneumonia.  (The AC helped a bit to put me in the right spirit...)

While I generally like Inuit carvings more than Inuit prints, some of these were quite nice.  Here are a few that stood out for me.  (The whale piece is quite large and really needs to be seen in person.)

Kenojuak Ashevak, Untitled, 1994-5

Kenojuak Ashevak, Nunavut-Our Land, 1992

Tim Pitsiulak, Swimming with Giants, 2014

The exhibit runs through mid August, so there is still about a month left to check it out.  I'll try to get back one or two more times before it closes.

Edit: I managed to borrow a copy of the exhibit catalog, and none of these three works is reproduced in it (there is a small shot of Swimming with Giants in the background).  I think that is a real missed opportunity (and I can't really recommend the catalog now that I know it is missing works from the exhibit), but it just means there is even more reason to go see these works in person!

Final Show!!!

Today at 4 pm is the last performance of Final Exam.  Last night, we had several walk-ups (a bit astonishing given our location) and got 20 people in the audience, which I was not expecting.  The energy was great (and a welcome change from Thurs, which was a low energy show to a certain extent).  We had the biggest reaction from the audience, including someone who got a bit carried away in their student role and answered Mr. Miller.  I wasn't expecting that...  It was really the best or second best performance of the run (just a couple of times the actors jumped on others' lines and one slightly missed cue).  We had great feedback after the show as well, but I think we can top that today...

We're hoping to get 3-4 more folks to turn out today (though more are welcome).  This will allow us to have an unbroken streak of 10 or more audience members at every show (in fact, we are averaging 17, which is great).  By the end of our run, just under 120 people will have seen the show.  To encourage folks to show up for the last performance, we have put the tickets on the Daily Discount, so they are only $8 (cash) at the door (or you can order them here).  Hope to see you!

Edit: It looks like we just made it to 10, and there might be a couple of walk-ups.  Yea!  Thanks for the support, and hope everyone had a wonderful Fringe!  I have just a few more shows to catch (I haven't decided on any of the Patron's choice shows Sunday evening, though I'm currently leaning against).

Edit2: Incredible!  We went from 7 last night to 27.  That might not actually count a few people that showed up at the door, and the Front of House manager said we were technically sold out.  All I know is I had to run for more chairs twice.  Now unfortunately, two of the friends of one of the actors thought the show was at 5 not 4, so they showed up as we were packing up.  Most unfortunate, but aside from that it was a great show overall, with a lot of good vibes from the audience.  I think anytime you go from thinking you are going to have a lightly attended show and then you jump up to essentially sold out is quite an adjustment.  (Obviously, a good problem to have.)  We also had the youngest audience members by far (perhaps a few under 10), which is probably the unofficial cut-off for age appropriateness of the show, but they seemed to be ok.  Hopefully no nightmares tonight.  I'm going to ponder if I am going to do anything more with the show, like run it again at Danforth Tech in the fall, but I am leaning against it.  One Fringe-like experience is probably enough.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Over the Hump aka World Fringe Day

Wed. was World Fringe Day (yea!), so hoping people were out Fringing it Up.  We were quite busy, Hiving It Up ourselves.  We played to another packed house.  Wed. was our fourth performance, and we have three shows left, so come on out!  Today and tomorrow, shows are at 7 pm and Sat. the final show is at 4 pm.

Look for the sign at Matty Eckler (Pape and Gerrard).

Tickets can be purchased here, or at the door ($13,* cash only).  See you soon!

* Thurs. night only is part of the Daily Discount deal, so tickets are only $10. 
What a bargain!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Secrets, revealed

I saw Featherweight last night at the Paddock.  It was an intriguing show about how the Egyptian gods -- who used to weigh one's heart after death to decide if one was worthy or not to pass onto the Field of Reeds (or be entirely devoured) -- were now taking one's Internet browser history into account.  You can see the set of scales and the feather on the table, but the dead man's heart is still in his body at this point.

Nothing stayed secret from the gods, and our hapless protagonist was squirming as he had to justify some of his Reddit comments.  The show has been getting rave reviews and was sold out last night.  It might be a challenge to get tickets, but it is worth checking out if you can score tickets somehow.

Speaking of (nearly) sold out shows where secrets are revealed, there are only 5 seats left to Final Exam tonight (Wed.).  So thankful for everyone for coming out!  But don't worry, there is good availability for Thurs. and reasonable availability for the Friday and Saturday shows.  Hope to see you then!

I asked the cast a number of questions to get their take on what the show covers.  The actual questions were:

#1 Did you have a big secret (in high school or university) that you didn't want anyone to know?
    #1a Did the secret get out?
    #1b Do you still feel the same way, or does it not seem such a big deal now?
#2 If you could probe the mind of anyone, who would it be and what would you want to find out?

Here are some of the responses:

Brandon - I don't think I really have any dark secrets; I'm a pretty open book if people bother to ask.

Elizabeth -
#1. I can't think of any big secret I had, no.

#2. Maybe a boring answer, but I guess I would want to read the minds of people I'm going to audition for, so I would know exactly what they're looking for! I wouldn't want to read their minds AT the audition, that would be super distracting, but I would love that extra insight while preparing!

Veronica -
#1 Yes, I am a kinesthetic learner and excelled at extra curricular activities. Unfortunately, I would always be seen sleeping in class which made everyone think I was lazy.

#1a Yes, the secret got out when I had the opportunity to perform a Chinese Folk Dance during Heritage Month and International Day. I got a group of my classmates together to choreograph a dance, and they were surprised by my drive and passion.

#1b It was a big deal because I felt I slept through my whole school life and missed out on opportunities.

#2 I would probe my grandfather's mind because he was a famous 1950s Hong Kong comedian that passed away at 36. I would like to find out how his life was growing up as a child actor.

Feel free to add your own (former) secrets in the comments.  Happy hiving...

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Upcoming Fringe schedule

It's a gorgeous day, so obviously I want to go spend most of it indoors at the Fringe.  Just joking.

I've basically figured out my Fringe schedule.  I really do have the Fringe bug this year; I'm sure this is due to the fact that I am so heavily promoting my own show but also want to see what others are up to.  I'll probably drop back down to a more normal 4 or 5 shows next year.  Anyway, I'd rather be out and about than sitting at home and fretting about reviews (and why they haven't posted yet...).

Sunday (8th)
Police Cops in Space 1:15 - Factory Mainspace (apparently a huge hit)
Josephine 3 - Randolph Theatre (I don't actually have tickets, so if it is sold out (as it appears to be), I'll just go to Nathan Phillips Square for the art show there.)
The Makeover Show 7:30 - Monsieur Barber Shop & Spa 

(nothing -- what's wrong with me?)

Flute Loops 6 - Helen Gardner Theatre (if I can sneak out of work a bit early)
Featherweight 8 - The Paddock (really looking forward to seeing Kat Letwin)

(stage managing Final Exam, so no time for anything else)

Sat. (14th)
Space Hippo noon - Randolph Theatre (a very lovely shadow puppet play)
The Ties That Bind 8 - Factory Theatre
Entrances and Exits 9:15 - Factory Theatre (another big hit at this year's Fringe)

Sun. (15th)
Entrances and Exits noon - Factory Theatre (I know, I know, but it is an improvised show, and Colin Mochrie is guest appearing!)
Paradise Lost 3:15 - Theatre Passe Muraille (poetry and puppets) 
Cluster F*cked 5:45 - Tarragon (not entirely sure about this one, as I may just be too beat, especially if I have to bike up the ridge to Tarragon) 

What's Cooking in the Kitchen at Fringe?

I had a chance to drop by the Ralph Thornton Community Centre to see Kitchen Sink Drama.  (It's actually right next to Queen Garden Centre, where I saw a beautiful tree that I hoped to plant in my front yard, only to be foiled by the city bureaucracy, but that's another story...)

As we mentioned elsewhere, we are promoting a Saturday double-feature of our show at 4 pm and then their show at 7:30.  Obviously, it's too late to do that this weekend, but next weekend would work, and the weather is supposed to be nice.  There's plenty of time to grab something quick to eat on Queen St. as you head down to Queen from Gerrard.  But leave some room for the snacks.  My companion for the evening and I ended up with pretzels, chocolate-covered coffee beans (a bit too bitter for my taste), almonds and gummy bears.

The cast was solid.  My favourite courses were the Main and Sweet Dessert, both about affairs of the heart and both ultimately quite sweet.  If you really follow along, you can learn how to cook risotto and how to make a trifle, which looked decadent indeed.  One thing that was a bit of an issue, but probably won't be next week, is that the Leslieville Music Festival was going on.  There was a band right in the street between Ralph Thornton Community Centre and Queen Garden Centre playing Latin music at full blast during three of the short pieces.  (There was a short set break that coincided with the Main course.)  For the Sweet Dessert, the setting was a late-night raid on the kitchen (at a bed and breakfast).  When the music kicked back in (a cover of Camila Cabello's Havana), one of the actors started dancing along, as if it were a radio in the next room playing really loudly.  It was probably the best way to acknowledge the elephant in the room...  While I was initially a bit nervous about being in the front row for the show (it's a very tight venue, much smaller than our room at Matty Eckler), I was glad we sat there, so we could hear the actors over the music.  I really don't know if I would have been able to hear at all had I been sitting next to the window.  Music aside, it was a satisfying ending to the day, and I would encourage folks to turn up and support a fellow East End show.