Happy holidays 2018!

Hey all!

Holy cow, it’s that time of year again! Time to get the holiday activities into high gear, with shopping and social events taking over the calendar.

This also means it’s time for the cowbell blog’s annual December hiatus. This gives me a chance for some R&R after a very busy Fall theatre season, and to take some time with friends and family.

As usual, I’ll be covering some holiday shows: two next week and one during the last week of December. Also keep an eye out for my Top 10 Theatre of 2018 list at the end of December.

In the meantime, I wish you and yours love and joy this holiday season—and all good things for 2019!

Cowbell on hiatus in June

20150606_164326Hi all. Hope you’re enjoying the spring weather (especially now that we’re out of the stinkin’ heat of last Friday/weekend).

As is my custom, I’m taking a break and will be on hiatus for the month of June. I’ll still be out and about, tweeting and Facebooking stuff, just not posting on the blog.

I’ll also be sorting out my schedule for Toronto Fringe Festival (June 29 – July 10). Stay tuned.

SummerWorks: The beginnings of a beautiful ode to the North in To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0

evalyn-620x500For my final SummerWorks production, I returned to Studio C of the Pia Bouman School for Creative Movement to see the closing night performance of Evalyn Parry’s To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0. You can read the post about my visit to the installation here.

The table of objects and remembrances of visitors’ experiences of the North has been moved to the side of the space to accommodate chairs for an audience. The stage is set against the back wall, designed to look like a wall of ice.

Frank, the studio cat, lounges upstage right and eventually wanders about during the course of Parry’s performance. This is his space, after all, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that he inserted himself into the show.

Weaving history, songs, personal anecdotes and images of her trip to Greenland with Students on Ice, along with some visitor interview excerpts recorded during the installation’s residency at SummerWorks, Parry takes us from the Franklin expedition to the present day, winding through exploration, a brief history of the Dominion’s early and shameful relationship with the Inuit, to her own personal thoughts and experiences of the North. The performance has a kitchen party quality to it, especially when we are invited to turn our chairs around to face the map, with Parry’s soundscaping and singing continuing throughout, in a crystal clear and soothing, mantra-like celtic folk style. Parry’s father David, who was a folk singer and member of The Friends of Fiddlers Green, also features prominently in the performance – and To Live in the Age of Melting may be as much an homage to him as it is to the landscape.

History, geography, ecology, politics, art and culture merge in this moving and enlightening performance. And although the SummerWorks installation and performance is now over, this is just the beginning of Parry’s exploration. She plans to continue honing this work, and will go on to conduct a similar examination of Northern views of the South.

Evalyn Parry’s To Live in an Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0 is the beginnings of a beautiful ode to the North.

Keep an eye out for Evalyn Parry and To Live in an Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0 – and its continuing evolution and addition of Northerners’ perspectives.

Installation kitty
Frank, the Pia Bouman studio cat, lounges on Parry’s t-shirt on the exhibit table


SummerWorks: Installation & audience contribution leading up to performance of To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0

evalyn-620x500It was a chillier than usual August night in Toronto last night – and I found myself purchasing hot chocolate and wishing I’d brought a jacket, which felt odd – but it was what it was. To be honest, I’ve really been enjoying this cooler summer. I had some time before my next show, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop by Studio C of the Pia Bouman School for Creative Movement to check out Evalyn Parry’s work in progress – with fellow creators/performers Elysha Poirier and Laakkaluk Bathory Williams – for OutSpoke Productions’ To Live in the Age of Melting: The Idea of North 2.0, part of this year’s SummerWorks Live Art Series.

The first phase of To Live in the Age of Melting is part installation, part viewer participation, as Parry collects objects and images from patrons of their experiences of the North, and asks people if they’d like to be interviewed about their thoughts and perceptions of the North.

Featured prominently when you first enter the space is a giant map of Canada. Visitors are invited to share how far north they’ve been – and Parry’s assistants (in my case last night, SummerWorks volunteer Pauline and Aidan) will plot your destination on the map, from start to finish, using pins and colour-coded string/thread. In my case, it’s the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), Ontario to North Bay, Ontario; my thread is black, as I took the trip by car (with my family when I was around 10-12 years old, when my mother’s sister and her family lived in Callendar, ON).

I also took the opportunity to be interviewed. Since I’m not down with spoilers, I won’t mention the specific questions Parry asked me, but I will say they were extremely thought-provoking and interesting. A reminder of relative perspective – when I think of “North,” in terms of perceived geography, I think of it as starting around North Bay – but that’s the farthest I’ve been, so that will be different for someone who’s been to NWT, Yukon, Nunavut or Iqaluit. It was a pleasure chatting with Parry, and I look forward to seeing the work come together in the performance this weekend.

The assembled personal artifacts and interviews will contribute to the final performance piece, which will also be a work in progress (as the installation and viewer contributions continue daily from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.) – with performances running Aug 15-17 at 9 p.m.

Here are some snaps I took of this work in progress last night:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



In the meantime, check out NOW Magazine’s piece by Glenn Sumi, where he speaks with Parry about, among other things, her two SummerWorks projects: directing Shaista Latif’s Graceful Rebellions and the genesis of her work on To Live in the Age of Melting.

Niagara on the Lake – some places I like

So here’s a brief photo tour of some of my favourite spots in Niagara on the Lake – besides the Shaw Festival, of course. I also ate at The Stagecoach (http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/242/1690746/restaurant/Ontario/Stagecoach-Family-Restaurant-Niagara-on-the-Lake), The Irish Harp pub (http://theirishharppub.com/) and Corks (http://corksniagara.com/), had breakfast at the Charles Inn (http://www.niagarasfinest.com/properties/charlesrestaurant/) and stopped by Cows (http://www.cows.ca/) for ice cream.

The Charles Inn – with details of the painting & bouquet in my room (the Sunflower Room) & the 2nd floor veranda (see thumbnails).
Viking Shop – one of my favourites because of all the awesome wind chimes & shiny/stained glass hanging things.
Irish Design & Irish Tea Room – shop in the front with tea room & patio in the back (tea room is licensed!).
Husbands, boyfriends & others not into/tired of shopping can take advantage of the many “husband benches.”
The Shaw Cafe – nice & a bit fancy, but relaxed. Make sure you visit the George Bernard Shaw statue just outside (see thumbnail).
No trip to NotL would be complete without getting some fudge – I always go to Maple Leaf Fudge.
Fan of movies & movie memorabilia? Check out The Silver Screen.
Take a horse-drawn carriage ride. You’ll find them waiting by the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Also not far from the Prince of Wales Hotel, the town Cenytaph.

Arizona dreamin’ – the last two days

Here’s what I got up to during the last two days of my Arizona adventure…

One thing my parents hadn’t done yet is visit the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix  (there’s also a location in Scottsdale: Heard North Scottsdale). And part of the fun was getting to and from, which we did on the light rail, part of the Valley Metro system in Phoenix. The light rail line goes between Mesa and downtown Phoenix, through Tempe and the Arizona State University (ASU) campus, with a stop across the street from the Heard. For those of you who live in Toronto, picture the dedicated track of the St. Clair streetcar but instead of a streetcar, the vehicle looks more like a train. I was very impressed by how economical the day pass was too: $3.50 for adults, with a reduced rate for the folks, who are seniors.  Seriously, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his transit folks should check this out if they haven’t already.

The Heard Museum houses exhibits on American Indian art and history. We decided to take two tours while we were there, then wander about ourselves. The first tour, which we took with a young  tour guide named Isaiah (who turns out was Navaj0), was of the museum’s Signature Exhibit – Home: Native People in the Southwest. This exhibit features pottery, jewelry, textiles, Hopi katsina dolls and a Navajo hogan, as well as video/multi-media – and Isaiah’s tour was especially good as he was able to provide personal anecdotes of being present at celebrations and ceremonies.

The overview tour gave us a look at the museum’s art collection, an exhibit of American Indian dolls and even one on the history of the bolo tie – and ongoing exhibits on the history of boarding schools (which we call residential schools in Canada) and one on the 21 tribes in Arizona, which included a presentation of student art (12- to 18-year-olds). The student art has been reproduced in greeting card for and the proceeds go to support grants for art supplies for teachers of American Indian children and the American Indian Student Scholarship Fund of the Heard Museum Guild. Perhaps one of the most interesting things we learned during our visit came up during a chat with the overview tour guide (whose name I can’t recall) when we bumped into him in the courtyard afterwards: Arizona’s native peoples prefer the term “American Indian” to “native American” – to differentiate themselves from other native-born Americans.

My full last day there (a Friday), we spent the morning at the Mesa Market Place Swap Meet.   And, man is that a gianormous swap meet! It’s actually not a swap meet, but a bunch of vendors in a covered aluminum building. A lot of vendors. It was here that I picked up a couple more things: my Dirt Shirt (which sports a Navajo design), and a silver and turquoise bracelet (of Zuni design). My folks got ASU hoodies for the grandsons and my dad found his sister a birthday present (which I won’t identify in case she reads this).

This is an honest-to-God sign I saw as we were driving into the parking lot of the swap meet.

With the afternoon free – and loads of time left before meeting my aunt and uncle for dinner – we drove out to Saguaro Lake marina, in the Tonto National Forest, not far from Mesa (there’s also a paddle boat tour you can get there). We had lunch there, with a beautiful view of the lake. Who knew there was so much water to be found? Seeing saguaro growing by a lake seemed a contradiction, in a way.

That night (my last night in Mesa), we went to Rosa’s Mexican Grill (in Mesa) for an authentic Mexican meal. I had the Flying Saucer, which – after eating their amazing appetizer of tortilla chips and salsa – I was only able to eat about three-quarters of. So good! Nice, homey atmosphere and a family-run place. Highly recommended – thanks to my uncle Gerry for suggesting it.

And that is it for my Arizona adventures. It was a great time, over so quickly – and I’d be happy to visit again.

Arizona dreamin’ – cacti, cacti & more cacti

If you want to get a good sense of what grows in the Arizona desert, pay a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Flora and  fauna – and even examples of structures created by desert-dwelling people – abound in this carefully tended outdoor environment.

Throughout my time in Arizona, I noted how the saguaro could dominate the desert landscape. On the way back from the Grand Canyon trip, the further south we got, the more we saw (they thrive at a particular elevation – though we did see a few anomalous saguaro a bit south of Flagstaff) – including dozens of them side by side, army-like on a rocky, scrubby hilltop. They can live for a couple hundred years and don’t start producing arms till around age 45. And, at the garden, we learned that they have skeletons – which, I suppose is what keeps them upright, since their desert-thriving root system is only a couple of inches deep, but spread very wide underground. The skeletons resemble ribs – and these expand and contract along with the level of water content.

While the folks and I had a break coffee break at the garden’s outdoor cafe, we saw several quail roaming about the patio and a squirrel (that looked like a chipmunk, but with a faded coat), the latter working the cuteness and begging for snacks. As we were getting up to continue our exploration, a roadrunner showed up. Of course, my dad (ever making friends with our feathered friends) decided he wanted to see how fast it could run, and so he advanced on it. It took off – fast. Apparently, he learned nothing from the raven incident at the Grand Canyon (I swear, ravens were stocking him all the way back to our hotel in Tusayan after that) – and I predicted that next he would see a boulder from above with his name on it. (My first sight of saguaro and roadrunner was in Warner Bros.’ Roadrunner cartoons.) Out on one of the several garden trails, we saw some bunnies out for an afternoon snack. They seemed to be relatively used to the visitor foot traffic – and, thankfully, my dad left them alone.

There are loads of other cacti at the garden: agave (though not necessarily the kind used in the production of tequila), prickly pear, one that looked like a pipe organ, some flowering ones, a nasty spikey one that hikers swear jumps out to catch them with its hooked, barbed needles, and even one that looked like a pile of writhing snakes – most with names I can’t recall. My parents did their first tour of the garden several years ago, with a guide named Cactus Jack, who warned that everything in the desert either sticks, pricks or stings.

And at the garden entrance was a cacti sculpture, in glass – gorgeous.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Re yesterday’s post about the Così read-through. I’d forgotten that Jamieson Child was also in Alumnae’s production of You Are Here last season; that detail has been added to the post (thanks to Ed Rosing for pointing this out). My apologies for the omission.