Busy Theatrical Week Coming...

So, before I rant (in a separate post) about the de-valuation of art through commodification of it, I want to share a couple events in the coming week.

First, my project for the past few weeks has been to direct for the Manitoba Association of Playwrights Highschool Playwriting Competition (sponsored by Scirocco Drama). This annual event provides the opportunity for 5 young playwrights - often first time writers - to have their short plays developed with a dramaturg and director, and be presented on the stage at MTC Warehouse. This year I am directing a new play by Beatrice Tuano called Intoxicated. The piece delves into the impact of loss on a young life through the eyes of two characters - the boyfriend who dies in a car accident, and his girlfriend who is left behind. I've been blessed to work with three lovely actors - Eric Rae, Ruth Rietze, and Kaeleigh Ayre. 

Tickets info here:

Performances are Thursday and Friday evenings - and audiences get to vote for their favourite play! dear friends over at Theatre Incarnate have been re-working a piece they shared in the Fringe 
Festival a couple years ago called Master Orloff and Madame Clodile's Freakshow Beautifique. Using buffon 
techniques, circus freaks, and live music, the original production was highly enjoyable, and I can't wait to see what the
re-work brings to light! 

Saturday and Sunday evening they'll be hosting workshop performances, followed by a Q&A session for further development
of the piece. Info here:

Looking Backward to Impel us Forward

I thought now would be an appropriate time to review what has been utterly amazing year personally and artistically. A brief walk through the year's events mentally caused me to pause in wonder at just how much one can accomplish in as short a time as a year.

January - In the throes of the MA, I also took on projects outside the course. Performed with the hit You Me Bum Bum Train in the West End, an immersive theatre project which challenged my own conceptions of audience participation - something I had heretofore loathed - edging me toward a desire to unsettle the audience's cocooned experience of theatre.

February - ceaseless creation ensued, and I was busy writing my first play along with directing and interpreting the work of Jean Genet. Explorations in rehearsal for both impelled me to risk at a greater level in my creative endeavors.

March - a whirlwind, I directed a scene in response to Genet, and performed in 4 others for fellow students on the MA. Had a workshop performance of my own piece of writing Trying, a new sort of out-of-body experience, even more unnerving than directing. Created a performance art installation Autel which showed at RADA to great success. And finally, if that wasn't enough, co-directed Ludus Daniellis in full medieval Latin at King's College, London.

April & May - Dove into research and preparation for my dissertation, as well as rehearsals for the other pieces I was contributing to. Presented my work at a conference of art historians, sharing my creative response to The Duchess of Malfi called Forc'd To Woo.

June - performed in a piece of promenade one-on-one theatre called How We Met, written by colleagues at RADA Eleanor Massie and Holly Bragg. This piece fed into ideas I had already been having for pieces to create at home, and will crop up again in some work commissioned for 2013.

July - Performed and created my own dissertation piece No More Prayers, and also performed for two others - Nil by Mouth by Holly Sharp and Between Sand and Stars by Dena Rysdam-Miller. I have performed and created work under pressure many times in the past, however nothing was comparable to the intensity of this period, absurd attention to detail and aggressive pursuit of clarity in my artistic vision.

August - With the performances completed, I dove into the writing of my final dissertation paper - a 10,000 word artistic statement and critique of my performed work. The process for writing this was arduous, but rewarding overall, as I found it extremely useful to dig through my own creation and defend it in such a rigorous fashion.

September - Directed 4 staged readings for FemFest 2012, having returned to Winnipeg. Had a fabulous re-immersion to the Winnipeg theatre community, also beginning new contracts teaching at Prairie Theatre Exchange School.

October - my performance installation from earlier in the year at RADA, Autel, was selected to be part of a group installation at the Gas Station Arts Centre, running to the first week of January 2013. This was an amazing experience, the first time I had participated in a show in a non-performance based way.

November - finalizing the script for my latest play Dear Mama (which premieres on 17 January 2013) I began developmental work with my director Megan Andres to finalize the script. Also had the opportunity to re-ignite work on a show from 2011 Dionysus is Getting Impatient, which I was part of creating with I was part of creating with Theatre Incarnate.

December - as the best christmas present possible, learned mid-month that I have officially graduated RADA and the University of London with  Distinction. If this weren't enough, I had the fabulous opportunity to be part of a reading for Winnipeg's Theatre By the River for their annual holiday fundraiser.

And now for 2013, onward and upward! Dear Mama opens in mid-January, after which I expect to dive into a few other projects not yet mentioned here. I am eternally grateful for the year I have had, and look heartily forward to further opportunity in 2013!

Review - Twyla Tharp's The Princess And The Goblin - Royal Winnipeg Ballet

You know a performance is really enjoyable, when you suddenly realize you have been sitting with a huge grin on your face for an unknown amount of time. This is how I found myself about 30 minutes in to Twyla Tharp's new ballet The Princess And The Goblin, performed by the RWB with Guest Artist Paloma Hererra. The piece begins with a fairly classical look - king father, princess daughters, classical movement vocabulary - and as the story twists and turns, the movement also twists and turns, until the Goblins are moving in a very contemporary manner. There are even touches of break dance in some areas. The blurring of style is what one would expect from Twyla Tharp, and this piece did not disappoint in any way.

One of my favourite things was the dance-fight choreography, which was highly stylized, and almost looked like Brazillian Capoeira. The humour and fun in the movement, along with the more dark and serious notes were fabulous.

The sets and lighting were beautifully simple, with many lovely diversions coming down from the ceiling to populate the same space as the dancers. One highlight was the use of shadow to create a music box style image - this section was absolutely captivating.

Paloma Hererra - her mischevious grin filled the stage, and every movement she made was outstanding. I am honoured to be able to see this living legend dance.

Yayoi Ezawa - an RWB favourite, Yayoi really shone, particularly in her moments opposite Hererra as the grandmother.

Sophia Lee - This girl is a star. Her turn as the Queen of the Goblins was a fantastic performance, and a highlight.

Yosuke Mino - I could watch him jump for days and days, and his strengths really came through in Tharp's choreography.

Please see this if you can! It isn't every day that Twyla Tharp has a new piece performing in your city, nor that you get to see it performed by this calibre of dancers.

Review - Duet for a Schizophrenic - Little Theatre of the Gray Goose & Adhere and Deny @ Ace Art

An interesting and strange little play, Duet for a Schizophrenic is Chris Johnson's foray into double and triple worlds. A place where people pretend to be people pretending to be other people, and popuulate the dream you dream i dream you dream i dream. How's that for a mouthful?

The quick and clever word play as He (Graham Ashmore) and She (Erin McGrath) weave between various characters was very enjoyable, and began the piece at a nice pace. There were times, particularly in the second act, where the pace needed some variation - I was urging with my mind for things to delve a bit deeper at this point. The piece really hit its stride, however, in a scene with the actors, preparing for a play within a play (within a play....and more). The beautiful timing of this bit made me wish the whole play was like this.

Each act was interspersed with musical interludes of He and She singing their feelings to one another. This I had some trouble with, as the lyrics weren't always comprehensible over the loud (but excellent) band. These bits also made use of large marionettes of the two actors, which were very fun.

Some clever references to Pirandello, for those who are very familiar with his work were great, however I worry that some of the truly clever humour would have been lost without this background. In a way, I wonder whether the piece would have been enjoyable to an audience not steeped in theatrical history and information.

Upcoming Project: Shorts! at FemFest 2012, Winnipeg

My first project upon returning to the fair 'Peg is to direct 4 excerpts from plays at the annual FemFest, presented by Sarasvati Productions. These 4 plays will each be presented once between 19 September and 22 September, as an offering in the studio theatre between the two full productions each evening. Tickets for the festival are available through the site; I strongly recommend checking out as much as you can at this excellent event!

I am extremely excited to be working on these 4 unique plays from female playwrights, and will be doing a guest blog about the process and the plays for Sarasvati's blog - which I'll share here :)

I recently did a Q&A for the festival's blog, which you can read here. Have a look to learn my favourite word, and my advice to actors.

The time to hesitate is through

We are here. After months of angst, tears, sweat, more reading than you can imagine, and rehearsals upon rehearsals, we are in our final week at RADA. I can't actually believe that I am here. It honestly feels like mere weeks ago that we were all crammed into the tiny basement studio on the first day, receiving our RADA booklets and cautiously selecting whether we would do scene study with Tom or Andrew.

I have learned so much about myself in this year. I have learned that I can make some pretty interesting theatrical pieces. I have learned that I can maybe, sort of, write a little. I have learned that the times when I feel most comfortable about a piece of work, those are the times when I haven't done enought. I have learned that I really like to scare myself into action. I have also learned from (and with) some of the most brilliant and talented people I have ever had the opportunity to be in the same room as. Tutors, obviously, but more importantly my fellow students, whose intellect, bravery, and talent have pushed me to become a better artist every minute of every day. I only wish that we could stay together and create work, rather than scatter the globe as we are bound to do. I will do everything possible to work with each of them again in the future.

So. . . as the title states, the time to hesitate is through. Dissertation performances are underway. I am assisting by performing in two presentations; Dena Rysdam Miller's adaptation of The Little Prince, and Holly Sharp's devised piece Nil by Mouth, about mental illness. I will also be reading a new play in development for Nika Obdizinski.

Largest looming in my future is my own piece - No More Prayers - an interrogation of Antigone through dramatic and philosophical history. Creating this piece has been a rollercoaster, and it has morphed to something completely different from what I first imagined, although simultaneously it continues to be an embodiment of that first seed of an idea. The piece I have ended up with is (I hope) the start of something bigger, that will continue and develop into a full production down the road. Thursday will be a "first viewing" for the work-in-progress, and I hope to share some photos and video of the presentation as well as the subsequent Q&A.

For all intents and purposes, the blog will be dark until mid next week, at which time I will try to make sense of this all. And wrap my head around the final written aspect of the dissertation, not to mention my impending move back to Canada and everything that entails.

In other news, I can happily announce that I will be directing a handful of readings for new plays at Sarasvati FemFest in September (Winnipeg) and will also be developing a piece titled Dear Mama, inspired by Sondheim's Gypsy for the RMTC SondheimFest in early 2013 (Winnipeg). More on those later, once I regain sanity.

Image: Cindy Sherman, Untitled 175

Matilda @ The Cambridge Theatre (West End)

It isn't often that you can sit through a full length musical and not have even a second where you feel that you are in the moment of superfluousness, with the the song added to make the second act long enough, or to ensure each character had enough to do to justify paycheques.  Matilda was a solid 2.5 hours of well written music and scenes, performed with gusto by this brilliant cast. The directing and choreography was fabulous, most notably the work with the children. There was not a second of doubt or uncertainty, each piece of choreography executed with impeccable precision and commitment, and crafted to tell us something about the story as the song went on.

Favourite moments for me included the song and choreography for Alphabet Song, which cleverly manipulates the set piece from school gate, to play climber, to shelf of alphabet blocks, weaving bodies in and around the structure beautifully to move the story forward and capture the terror young kids feel in approaching school the first time. Also beautiful was When I Grow Up, choreographed on swings with large sweeping gestures. Finally, in a moment of comic genius (and too bad for those hanging out in the bar at the interval!) was Telly, performed by the father and son of the Wormwood family. Had me reeling with joy.

Most importantly, though, is the magic this show brings for kids. My own little Matilda, obsessed with this book, was on the edge of her seat, grinning ear to ear for the duration of the piece. She was thrilled by the scariness of Trunchbull, the caricatured ridiculousness of the Wormwoods, and the moment Matilda accomplishes her first miracle.

I strongly recommend this show. Keep in mind that the original Dahl book is dark, and the adults in general (Miss Honey aside) are not nice to the kids, so preparing young audience members is essential.

Upcoming Projects....

Because a dissertation just isn't enough, I've got some extra projects on the side coming up shortly.

First, I have workshopped and will be performing in a piece of new writing titled How We Met as part of the RADA Festival on July 2 and 3. This is a piece of one-on-one theatre performed on promenade through Bloomsbury in London. The piece runs throughout July 2 to 7 - for more information or tickets, check out the festival site here:

Second, I am contributing to a performance art installation titled Moving Forest, to be performed July 4 (afternoon) at the Chelsea College of Art, described as "a twelve hour sound art opera of betrayal and rebellion". The section I am involved in is a reading of a long form poem, 500 slogans, in the Parade Ground outside the college. For more about this interesting adventure, look here:

Finally, I am participating in a reading for the Early Modern Reading group at Birkbeck College, on 4 July (evening) where we will be reading John Lyly's The Woman In The Moon, led by Darren Royston.

Have to keep busy! I hope you can try to make it out to one (or all!) of these adventures. And more posts related to work-in-progress dissertation presentations soon. . .

Video Post....Lavinia

This is an older video of a piece-in-development from 2009 (Performed in autumn 2009 at FemFest Cabaret in Winnipeg, Canada). Titled Lavinia, it is inspired by Lavinia, Titus Andronicus' daughter in the dark Shakespearian play. Lavinia is kidnapped and raped, then has her hands and tongue cut off to stop her from telling who did this to her. In the piece, I wanted to explore her mental state, knowing that she is henceforth unable to communicate, trying to tell of the horrors she experienced whilst still re-living them in her nightmarish reality.

The audio is a cut-up interpretation of the BBC production of Titus Andronicus (1985 - the voice you hear is Edward Hardwicke), merged with a PJ Harvey song....all audio editing done by John Norman.

Here is the vid.

Review - The King's Speech @ Wyndham's Theatre (West End)

I went in knowing little of the production, and only knowing the script in its film incarnation. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of the direction of Adrian Noble (former RSC AD) and the ability to stich seamlessly together the multiple short scenes in various landscapes in this rather cinematic script. It visits many of the same locations as the film, but obviously lacking outdoor settings in the theatre, Noble, and his very talented sound and set designers, used the depth of the stage and a series of frames to give shape and distance to the space, and ingenious sound placement and effect to give the impact of being in very large or very small spaces.

This was a very crisp production, with top knotch performances on all fronts, even for the matinee crowd. Notable were Charles Edwards as King George VI, and Joss Ackland as King George V. Ackland's monologue about Edward's impending coronation after his death was riveting; a master class in acting. The only actor whom I felt less engaged with was Charlotte Randle as Myrtle Logue; granted, this is a challenging role, rather one-dimensional, as we really only see her complaining of the desire to go home to Australia. That said, her performance felt up and down, which was noticeable in comparison to such seamless performances from the rest of the ensemble.

It is refreshing to see a professional production who clearly have an enormous budget (revolving stages don't come cheap) and yet don't overuse this budge to clutter the space visually or technically. The design, as with the performances, didn't have anything that wasn't necessary. Noble has clearly taken a page from Peter Brook's manifesto and brought it sparklingly to life.

One thing to add...perhaps it was the timing and seeing this in London, but the stage show came off with a much greater sense of patriotism to the empire, rallying the troops, etc, than did the film.

Reflections in Latin - Ludus Danielis @ King's College London

I spoke briefly about this project in the fall, but in the swarm of work that has occurred since December, haven't spoken much since. This project, based in a long-term relationship RADA has had with King's College London, is an opportunity for MA Text & Performance students to direct a production populated by MA Latin students at King's. Outside of the play selection, the date, the location, and the necessity not to cut any of the latin text, the directors are given free reign on how to proceed.

Our play was Ludus Danielis - the story of Daniel - the c.1140 Beauvais play, in Medieval Latin and French. The location: the beautiful King's College Chapel inside the Strand Campus. So far, so good. Three of us from the MA T&P volunteered, and agreed to work together to co-direct the piece. This worked remarkably well, as each of us had the chance to jump in on areas where we were most interested or expert, allowing the overall production to have a very lively feel; a major accomplishment with an 800 year old play in a language very few speak or understand.

Our decision was to approach the story as a fairy tale of sorts; The student actors began as their "normal" selves, coming in as if they, too, were going to see the production. From here, we had 2 magical stagehand/ushers and a musician who weaved them into a magical land, wherein they took on the characters of the Beauvais play, and the play began. With limited cast, we opted to use puppets to populate chorus parts such as nobles or satraps, which traditionally would have been performed by larger choruses. This worked extremely well, adding a slight comic element to the piece. Now, adding comedy to a 12th century liturgical drama might seem odd, however our dramaturgical research uncovered evidence that these plays would have been fun and not purely serious; the role of early liturgical dramatic pieces was to engage the parish in the bible stories in a way that would be fun and exciting, particularly given that few would have understood Latin - much like our present-day audience. Another feature we added was music; a leitmotif was created for each character, which played as they began or ended an important speech or moment. This was in reference to the musical nature of these plays (many would have been fully or partially sung) and also to help the audience follow along with the story.

Overall, the production was a success. Our performers had a fabulous time, and reports from audience members was that the production was highly enjoyable. I look forward to this sort of unusual challenge again.

Photos: Ludus Danielis, directed by Kendra Jones, Cristina Cugliandro and Maria Kivinen
Design by Liv Wright


Well, the day is here! The play I dared write will have a scene performed at RADA this evening, in the lovely hands of a talented director and 2 talented performers. What a surreal experience, not only having my characters brought to life, but having my text interpreted by a director, seeing how she makes my words come alive.

I was just sitting in a rehearsal, listening to their final work before our workshop presentation, and it was like an out of body experience; I know I wrote these words, and yet performed, it sounds like words that came from someone else.

I look forward to tonight's performance! I will be recording it and will post it up for viewing enjoyment.

Devise This

Workshopping our devised response to The Duchess of Malfi continues to go well. We have made a few adjustments to clarify the script we have created, and have come up with some really neat ways to visualize the story. We still have one enormous bit of physicality to work out, however aside from that have worked out basic blocking for the rest, and are unlikely to make many more script changes. A break on this for a couple days, then back in to share what we have done so far with Tom on Tuesday.

Class today was also focussed on devising, this time as a dramaturgical task. We each came to class with a couple observed quotes and situations from around London, from which we created two plays, and then performed the other group's play. This was a fantastic exercise, and one that would be great to help introduce people to devised work in a class or workshop. I should also add that it was greatly fun, and the stress-relief I think we all needed at this point.

And because I don't have enough going on, I have volunteered for the smash immersive show You Me Bum Bum Train. This ran last year in London to sold out audiences as part of the Barbican season, and a new Bum Train has been created for this year, at a new location. Because of the nature of the show, I can't really say more than that. I am really excited to have the chance to be a part of this!!

Scene Study (2) and Theorizing the Contemporary

Scene study today was our presentation of the first act scenes of Duchess of Malfi. We went in order of the play. The first group up had some challenges with the language specifically, watching you could see some need for more clarity in purpose. That said, good things did come out of watching the group. Tom's comments were quite forceful about the specifics of what he had seen. The expectation for clear intention and clear speaking of the verse was also made clear. Although this isn't an "acting" exercise it is a good opportunity to make clear the impact an actor has on our ability to understand the text (practically) and the role of the director in teasing this out of the script.

Our group was up next; our scene went reasonably well, there were moments that felt rushed and some of the detailed physicality was lost, but overally we conveyed the scene clearly. Tom commented that he was a little confused at times as a result of how we had to deal with double casting and limited bodies, but this rectified itself quickly. I agreed, that I would like to try staging this scene on the same ideas but with the full "body count" so to speak. One other thing I found interesting was the response a couple students had to the scene after Tom asked them to only listen; they noted that they could hear the sense of status from the characters vocally (yes!!) and also that the sense of using the space was clear, even if they couldn't see the performers. This made me quite happy.

The next group presented the final scene of the act; the image that stood out to me was the way the Duchess turned about during her monologue (they did a long column stage with audience on two sides). She seemed almost to be in a whirlpool, a metaphor for the choices she was making and their eventual impact on her in the spiraling out of the play..

We continued from here to discuss the play and what is going on. One piece of advice that stuck with me was when Tom advised us to always look back to what the playwright is giving you; what do they want you to see? Why have they given us these people at this moment?

We were divided into larger groups and assigned sections of act 2. Becaused I directed this week I'm acting for the new week, and will be playing the Duchess of Malfi. Rehearsals on Thursday.

After a break for dinner we moved on to our first actual class Theorizing The Contemporary with Dr Aiofe Monks. This class is intended for us to see theatre from the audience's perspective; why do we go to theatre? What impacts the way we experience the theatre? and then how do we talk about this? There was a great discussion about the effervescence of theatre and its immediacy. We also did an exercise in iconography and our experience relating to symbols, imbuing meaning in simple images created by two still objects. We moved from simple description (EG black chair, made of cloth and metal, one foot from a toy doll, etc) to imbuing meaning on this image (what does this make us think? What is the narrative??).

I don't know that I agreed with all of the assertions about us needing to understand certain images to understand theatre. I feel very strongly that a good play or performance will bring something for people with no "social" or intellectual references to compare and also for those who have a background of higher education. I will continue playing out this tension and my thoughts on this as we continue the course.

Practically, we also spent some time discussing our assignments for this class, of which there are two. More on those later.

Show Tomorrow!

Short notice, but for anyone in Winnipeg, I am performing with the Winnipeg Talking Radio Orchestra at Aqua Books. This is a really fun project run by the fabulous Kelly Hughes, which hosts a double-feature of old radio plays each Saturday!
The Winnipeg Talking Radio Orchestra presents live radio plays from the medium's Golden Age, performed by a great cast and a live foley artist. This week, The Snowball Effect and The Thin Man.

Chickie Hughes
Kendra Jones
Tim Higgins
Liz Higgins
Kelly Hughes

Show starts at 2pm, Tickets are $5 at the door. Hope you can make it!