Music saved my Saturday night

First, a bit of back story: So I’d been thinking about getting me a pair of old school roller skates for some time now and finally got a pair at Cardinal Skate Co. on Good Friday (yep, they were open). They’re a low-cut black vinyl boot with light blue outdoor wheels. And, being the safety-conscious gal that I am, I also got a helmet and wrist guards. Check them out, they’re good people: http://www.cardinalskate.com/

Since the weather has not been entirely co-operative since then – and I was out of town during our one day of nice weather on Easter weekend – I wasn’t able to get out and skate till this past Saturday. And, since I haven’t been on roller skates since high school – and then only on indoor wheels – I decided to go easy on the first time out and start off on the asphalt running track in the schoolyard near my house. This turned out to be the best idea I had on this outing: no one to careen into, grass on either side to make for softer landings and relatively little traffic in the park/yard so fewer people to see me make a total ass of myself.

And make a total ass of myself I did. I fell more than skated. The wrist guards saved my hands from getting shredded. On one fall, however, I came down hard on my right hand – so hard that the impact jammed my elbow but good. And that was it for the day. I’d been out about 15 minutes and I was done like dinner. I did, however, manage to actually skate a few feet before that last crash landing, though. So in addition to the achy right palm, elbow, shoulder, neck and side, I also managed to sprain my left index finger (must have done on an earlier touch-down) – the latter I didn’t notice till I was taking some R&R on my loft neighbours’ patio.

Luckily, I had my friend Kerri’s birthday party to attend that night – so I got some rest, did lots of Advil Liqui-gels and headed out to Ten Feet Tall, where jazz singer Ori Dagan was performing an Ella Fitzgerald tribute, with special guests that included pals Shannon Butcher and Shelley Hamilton, and Mark Keiswetter (who I’ve seen playing with my pal Kira Callahan) on keys. It was a great time – and between the excellent company, the music, the beer and the Advil, my achy self was soothed for the evening. Check out Ten Feet Tall -they’re also good people, with a fabulous menu (the menus are inside old record album covers) and a great jazz line-up: http://www.tenfeettall.ca/website/wp/ 

Sunday morning was a different story. No, not hung over – just with the achy-ness.

Oh – and if you’re sick and tired of voting at federal elections – after you cast your ballot, come out to Revival Bar tonight for Shelley Hamilton’s Grace show: http://www.revivalbar.com/

Also playing this week, my pal Kira Callahan and the Big City Big Band at Hollywood this Thurs, May 5:  http://www.hollywoodonthequeensway.com/livemusic.html

Synchronicity, simpatico & love

Categorizing this post as “Stuff” since I wanted to mention two movies and a play I saw recently: Jane Eyre, Water for Elephants and The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union.

The two films are period piece stories of main characters facing some serious tragedies, and struggling through further trials and tribulations in their quest for love. Jane Eyre is the most recent film adaptation of the famous Charlotte Bronte novel, featuring Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester; it also features Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed and Jamie Bell as St. John Rivers (Bell was Billy Elliot in the movie version). Water for Elephants is also based on a novel, by Canadian Sara Gruen, and stars Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz and Hal Holbrook (he and Pattinson play the same character in different times). Nice adaptations both – and I’ve always been a sucker for hardship and struggles in the search for true love. And, even more so, the role that chance and fate seemingly play in the characters’ journeys.

The most mind-blowing case of synchronicity and simpatico in the search for connection (and love), though, is Can Stage’s production of Cosmonaut, by Scottish playwright David Greig and directed by Jennifer Tarver – now onstage at the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre. Characters, relationships, even bits of dialogue and objects, cross over time and space. A very fine cast featuring Fiona Byrne and David Jansen – I’m a particular fan of Byrne – and a relatively minimalist but clever, and magical, set. Two cosmonauts lost and forgotten in space grapple with each other while trying to communicate with Earth, where a husband and wife struggle to connect in a disintegrating marriage – all told in 42 very short scenes.

Added bonus the night I saw it (they’re doing pre-show chats with production folks before all Friday night performances, I believe): an introduction to the play from assistant director Birgit Schreyer Duarte, hosted by Joanne Williams (who works at Can Stage and is also a member of Alumnae Theatre).

Also, check out the interview with actor Fiona Byrne by NOW Magazine: http://www.nowtoronto.com/stage/story.cfm?content=180126

Life examined on stage

One of the things I love about theatre is the examination of life and the world around us it provides – and the universality of personal experience.

This past Friday/weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing two thoughtful and entertaining pieces of theatre (one of them twice, as I covered both opening night and the talkback matinée of the Alumnae production): GuineaPigging by Catherine Frid (Alumnae Theatre Company) and The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan (Soulpepper).

For my take on GuineaPigging, please see the posts from Saturday and today on the Alumnae blog: www.alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com GuineaPigging runs on the Alumnae main stage until Sat, April 30.

As for The Time of Your Life, here’s the first couple of lines of playwright Saroyan’s prologue: In the time of your life, live – so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding- place and let it be free and unashamed.

Wow. I wish I’d written that. Written and set in 1939, the play’s portrait of social change, hard times and the human response to life’s challenges are still so relevant to today. And Joe, the central character played with love, strength and vulnerability by Joseph Ziegler, is the play’s agent of goodness.

An excellent – not to mention large – ensemble cast, with stand-out performances from Ziegler, as well as Derek Boyes, Kevin Bundy, Stuart Hughes and Karen Rae. A honky tonk microcosm of humanity, with the audience watching as life passes through and Joe works to make amends for his ill-gotten gains by doing good with his time and his money.

This was a truly inspirational piece of theatre. Check www.soulpepper.ca for dates and details.

More amazing TV

It’s Thursday and I’d normally be hunkering down to watch Grey’s Anatomy tonight, but instead I’ll be at Alumnae Theatre working the final set painting shift for GuineaPigging. And, anyway, Grey’s is a repeat tonight.

Last week’s music event episode was incredibly moving and displayed an amazing array of vocal talent. Here’s one of my favourite songs/scenes – Chasing Cars, by Snow Patrol. The trio of voices at the end just give me chills (WARNING: graphic ER trauma): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMVFmRiPifY

For the more squeemish among you, here’s the song without the scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AMleHZMT-8&feature=related

Republic of Doyle had a very exciting season 2 finale last night. I love this show. I just wish Jake and Leslie could catch a break.

If you missed either of these, you can probably catch them on-line: Grey’s Anatomy on www.ctv.ca and Republic of Doyle on www.cbc.ca 

For my ongoing GuineaPigging set painting adventures at Alumnae Theatre, see the Alumnae blog: www.alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com

Some new TV jazz

Listening to the Glee season 2, volume 4 soundtrack CD right now. I find it stifles the urge to kill.

Anyway. In less disturbing news, did ya catch the premiere of The Borgias on Sunday night? It’s got everything: money, power, sex, murder. And it all takes place in the good ‘ole Vatican in 1492. And, sweet Jesus, it’s good to see Jeremy Irons and Colm Feore on the small screen together. Fabulous cast all around. It’s airing at 10 p.m. on Bravo – and if you missed the double-episode premiere (apparently, Bell satellite customers were shaking their fists when service went down Sunday night), you can watch it on www.bravo.ca 

Also just recently caught Endgame (on Showcase, episodes run several times a week) which is interesting (and shot in B.C.), as well as Dana Delany’s new show Body of Proof (ABC or City TV on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.). Crime/murder mystery stuff with neat twists: a Russian chess champion (played by Canadian actor Shawn Doyle) traumatized by the murder of his fiancee, is terrified of leaving his hotel and solves crimes without ever leaving it (presumably to pay for the huge hotel tab he’s running); and a former neurosurgeon turned medical examiner after a car accident left her unable to do brain surgery solving murders/suspicious deaths. Both darkly funny – and a good mystery is always a good time. Plus, Delany’s legs are to die for. Literally.

Friends, food & scenic painting

At long last, got a day off this past weekend amidst busy times at Alumnae Theatre and my office job: Saturday – and it was lovely.

After getting some chores out of the way, I accepted an invitation from my neighbours Terry and Phyllis (who live in the loft building next to my house) to join them on their patio for a late morning coffee. It was gorgeous out in the sun – and a light jacket was all I needed to feel comfy outdoors, relaxing over coffee and conversation. We were soon joined by their neighbour Randi, who shared a tall boy of a lovely Swedish cider with us; it had Elderberry in it, and tasted like champagne and flowers. Terry and Phyllis brought out some snacks shortly before I left – and the only reason I left was because I was meeting two friends for a late brunch at Zocalo.

Zocalo is run by life and business partners Paul Hardy and Heather Braaten (who I met at Alumnae Theatre) – and I met two other Alumnae pals there, sisters Catherine and Martha Spence. It was our first time having brunch there – and Catherine’s first time there, period – and we were very excited to be there, not to mention finding a time/date when we could meet. We started with mamosas (Martha and I had the version made with pink grapefruit juice – a lovely change from o.j.), then I had the squash and sweet potato soup, followed by the quiche with greens – the latter I had with a crisp Chardonnay. Relaxed dining over the course of about three hours left room for dessert; I had a feeling there was something with pumpkin and spices (I smelled the heavenly aroma  when I arrived) and the pumpkin loaf was delicious! The atmosphere is welcoming and cozy, our server was lovely – and we even got to see Paul and Heather before we left.

Zocalo’s website is still under construction, but you can get info (including press coverage) at Urban Spoon: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/10/1534373/restaurant/Junction-Triangle/Zocalo-Toronto

The rest of the day, I vegged and made a meatloaf (which I’ll be consuming this week). Saturday was a lovely, languid, relaxing oasis in some very busy times.

Part of those busy times included Friday night and Sunday on the painting crew for Alumnae’s upcoming show GuineaPigging. Not counting travel time, between the office job and painting, Friday was a 14-hour day for me; Sunday was only about seven. We got tons done – with small crews of four or five people. Check out my post on the Alumnae blog, as well as the Alumnae website, for more on that, as well as info on the play: www.alumnaetheatre.wordpress.com and www.alumnaetheatre.com

PGC workshop: Linda Griffiths on visceral playwriting

Man, where is my head at these days?!

I was just reading Theatromania’s review of the New Ideas Festival week three program and nosing about some of their other posts – and was reminded of a very cool, fun and informative playwriting workshop I attended a week and a half ago: playwright Linda Griffiths on Visceral Playwriting. Jeez – guess I’ve been distracted by all the Alumnae work (blog coverage and set painting), as well as the day job.

Anyway. The workshop was organized by the folks at the Playwrights Guild of Canada as part of a series of workshops under the name The Locomotion. It was the first one I was able to attend and I had a blast.

And, because I’m exhausted (not to mention lazy) – and I really like their blog too – see the March 31st post on Theatromania for the details of the workshop: http://www.theatromania.ca/

I partnered with a really nice guy named Peter – and somehow managed to find the guts to get up and present his story, in character and with as much detail as possible (phrasing, body language, tone). And it was great! Folks in the group were very supportive and responsive, and I had a good time telling Peter’s story. I will not divulge his love story – but I will say that I enjoyed it very much, from a storytelling perspective, as well as from a personal perspective. It gave me hope.

I’ll be attending another Locomotion workshop this spring: with playwright Judith Thompson on How to Do Exceptional Readings of Your Own Scripts.

For more info on the PGC, check out their website: http://www.playwrightsguild.ca