Sunday, February 5, 2017

Too much theatre?

I suppose with anything you can overdo it and get sick of it, even temporarily.  I do get that way about the huge list of novels I am going through.  It's not a particularly balanced approach, when I am not able to squeeze in movies (many of which I've been wanting to see for years) and I've basically completely eliminated TV from my time budget.  I basically can squeeze in a bit of time for visiting art galleries (and this becomes a key preoccupation when traveling) but otherwise it is down to reading and going to live theatre and occasional concerts.

In the next 8 days, it looks like I will be at 5 theatre events.  If that isn't too much, I don't know what is.  I saw a very good production of Twelfth Night (one of the more memorable Olivia's and one of the better Malvolio's I've seen).  This was done by Shakespeare Bash'd, and it was definitely worth seeing.  However, everything I've seen by them has fit into the 90 minute time limit of a Fringe show, and I expected this to be roughly the same.  However, they did the whole play and it took 2 1/2 hours.  I know I've seen Twelfth Night done in 90 minutes, but I am wondering what they cut.  Probably some of the badinage with Sir Aguecheek and almost certainly the jester Feste popping up at the Duke's castle.  Maybe a bit of the tormenting of the bound Malvolio.  And they cut the musical cues down, whereas here they were expanded a bit.  I think the only thing that really made us nervous was that the older child was watching the younger one.  It's great that we have finally arrived at this point where they can be left in the house, but it's still not a good idea to leave them for too long...

Today I saw Annie Baker's John.  It finally started getting a bit of attention, including this Star review.and this rave from the Globe and Mail. I have to say that it is a play that is entirely about the journey, not the destination.  (Maybe inevitable for a play that lasts 3 hours 15 minutes!)  In fact, I actually thought the ending was in a way too pat, since it made one person almost entirely responsible for the break-up of a relationship.  (Other viewers might feel differently of course.)  But there are some really interesting stretches along the way, including the opening and closing of Act II.  The events all take place at a bed and breakfast in Gettysburg, PA.  The set is quite incredible, almost justifying the ticket price by itself.  While The Company Theatre was supposed to stage The Aliens a year or two back, this is probably a more appropriate challenge for them, and a storefront theatre might tackle The Aliens down the road.*  Baker (and the director) really let the action, such as there is, unfold gradually, even glacially at times.  There are hints at all kinds of odd things that are never completely resolved, such as why does Mertis the inn-keeper think her place is haunted and why is she apparently writing her journal in an unknown tongue?  I felt she is almost always on two planes -- a dotty, bemused inn-keeper and someone with much darker secrets.  She actually calls herself a neo-Platonist at one point.  It is also extremely odd that she reads "The Cult of Cthulhu" to Genevieve, her blind friend.  Genevieve probably has the best set speeches, including one where she talks about how she went mad and thought that her ex-husband John was inhabiting her body.  In many ways, the problems of the couple staying at the bed and breakfast seem almost a bit trivial in comparison.  I think theatre lovers probably should see this play, though it is not a conventional play with a neat ending.  It runs through Feb. 19.

Tomorrow as I mentioned, I have a short piece being read at Sing-for-your-Supper.  I'm pretty excited about it, and I've convinced a few co-workers to come out.  I even got some props for the piece.  I just have to finish wrapping up the fake cash.

I haven't entirely decided, but I'll probably go check out Rabbit Hole at Red Sandcastle Wed. or Thurs.  I've heard it is a tough play, but the acting is very good.

Sat. I will be seeing Shakespeare again, As You Like It, with my son this time.

So that is quite a lot to take in and process.  March also looks busier than I thought, especially if I do head over to Buffalo for The View from the Bridge.

On top of this, I have sorted through a bunch of notebooks and think I have basically turned up all the scraps that need to be typed up (yes, I still write a lot of my scripts in longhand).  This includes one new monologue (possibly for my night of shorts) and a page or so of the new ending of Finding Mr. Mouse.  I have several chunks of The Study Group and I may be up to 20% complete when it is all said and done.  The most interesting or at least most challenging to deal with is two completely separate beginnings to Final Exam.  I don't know how I will fuse the two together.  On top of everything else, I may be convinced to rewrite this so it isn't set in an English private boys school (think The History Boys) but rather a somewhat posh Toronto school with boys and girls.  I think some of the interactions would be a bit different in a mixed class, but I haven't gotten so far in that I couldn't redirect.  I suspect it would just be easier to stage with boys and girls rather than just boys.  I'm going to take some of this downstairs and try to type it up before it gets too late for the evening.  Ciao.

* I've just seen the oddest thing yet at DPS, which is Coal Mine now has the rights to do The Aliens at the end of April, though this would overlap a bit with their production of Orphans.  So they might try to run in rep for a couple of weeks or the rights for Orphans may have fallen through.  I'll keep watching to see what happens there.

Edit: (Feb. 7) I have been writing a bit madly and managed to get endings finished for both The Pitch and Meeting Mr. Mouse.  That's not to say they couldn't be improved with a bit more refinement, but I'm reasonably happy how they turned out.  Two of the pieces still need to be typed up, but I should be done by the time I leave for work.  Then I'll ship off the package to a couple of actors for their feedback on whether to take it to the next level.

Sing-for-your-Supper at Tarragon felt just a bit weird, including how weird it was from them to staff the bar for a single free event.  I'd say roughly half the actors turned up that usually do.  Some may have gotten lost, and some may not have known that a temporary home had been found in the first place.  A couple of people from work turned up, which was nice.  Almost all the pieces were a bit more serious at heart -- a bit about a soldier and a spy, and a clown being interrogated.  The first half all were about criminals in one way or another, but like Les Smattes mixed humour with more serious moments.  It was fun, but definitely less hilarity than last time.  I thought the actors did well with my piece, though the ending didn't land quite as well as I had hoped.  No one knew it was supposed to be a pancake in the briefcase.  To some extent that is what happens when you mix absurd elements with more serious dialogue.  It's kind of hard to sustain.  Thinking everything over, I think my best received pieces were my very first - Straying South and then Finding Mr. Mouse back in January.  But also The Re-Up and The Pitch did well also.  This gives me some hope that I am on the right track and that other people actually enjoy my writing.

I also heard that there will be a very short, 4 performance run of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Box at the end of Feb.  I haven't decided if I will go, but I am fairly sure this is a more respectful version than the inverted version of Glass Menagerie that played at The Theatre Centre a few months back (which fortuitously I didn't actually manage to see).

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