Live Theatre from the London West End: Hangmen

Hangmen

As part of the Live Stage to the Screen series, this Thursday Cineplex will be showing the recent winner of Best New Play at the Olivier Awards, Hangmen.

The piece was written and directed by one of the best playwrights at work in the UK, Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopats), who went ten years without treating his fans with new material, at least on stage.

Hangmen takes place mostly at a pub the day the British government announced the abolition of capital punishment (1965, not that long ago). While the decision has a considerable impact in the general population, no one is more affected than Harry Allen (David Morrissey), England’s second best executioner. Continue reading “Live Theatre from the London West End: Hangmen”

Life In 2167

Don’t feel like calling in sick tomorrow because you are green to the gills? Here is an alternative way to spend your evening without all that fun St. Paddy’s unhealthiness:

Canada 300 is an ambitious travelling theatre project that questions what Canada will be like 150 years from now through nine short plays and audience dialogue. Regina is the halfway point of twenty locations, as it travels from the West including Yukon and NWT, and goes east to Charlottetown where it was conceived. The audience chooses six of the nine plays and one of the official languages. Last night’s performance was by invite only but tonight’s is open to the public. It really was a multicultural event.

The plays were written by acclaimed playwrights and performed by accomplished actors. If you are familiar with Canadian theatre you will recognize some of the names. The concept is to open up dialogue among Canadians as to where we were in the last 150 years and where we are going in the next 150 years. The twenty national performances will culminate in a final dialogue in Charlottetown with 150 participants invited from across the country.

My doom and gloom prophesies that we won’t have an earth to live on in 150 years was largely ignored by a bright beautiful future where water is still drinkable and everyone holds hands and sings Kumbaya. (I don’t think I will be invited to Charlottetown.) I exaggerate so go check it out for yourself. Canada 300 plays at The Artesian tonight at 6:30 pm. The cost is free.

Regina International Fringe Festival

donkey_derby_71-editTen years and counting, that’s how long the Regina International Fringe Festival has been around.

It’s yet to reach the size of other better established fringe festivals in Canada, including the PotashCorp Fringe Festival which goes July 31-Aug. 9 in Saskatoon. But it’s probably fair to say that it’s enjoyed steady growth and continues to gain traction with theatre audiences in town.

The 2014 festival runs July 9-13 and will feature 18 provincial, national and international acts. The performances will be held at four venues: Artesian on 13th, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Unitarian Centre and St. Mary’s Anglican Church.

In addition to the regular festival aimed at adults and older youth, there will be a special Kid’s Fringe on Saturday July 13 at the MacKenzie Gallery. It’s free for parents and children alike, while tickets for the main fringe are a very reasonable $10 per performance.

There’s also a special fundraiser on Saturday night with a cabaret performance by Sharon Nolan and Paul Hutchison at the Artesian at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25.

To learn more about the fringe artists at this year’s festival, and to get a schedule of when they’re performing, visit the RIFF website.

One of the artists you’ll find mentioned is Gatineau-based Tess McManus (pictured above). The work she’ll be performing is called Tales She Tells. It’s a show she wrote and produced herself, and it concerns a young woman’s struggle to reconnect with her mother by revisiting Irish folk tales that she remembers her mom telling while she was growing up.

You Can’t Get There From Here

You Can't Get There rom HerePresented by Regina Little Theatre, this comedy by American playwright Pat Cook sees a tabloid reporter go undercover to try to expose a scam involving a Bed & Breakfast in a small town where unsuspecting travelers are waylaid by a giant pothole when they’re passing through on Main Street and then milked for all they’re worth by a variety of shady operators.

You Can’t Get There From Here runs at the Performing Arts Centre June 11-12 at 7:30 p.m., and June 13-14 at 8 p.m. Tickets are Adults $20, Students & Seniors $18, and can be had by calling 306-779-2277.

Fiddler On The Roof

Set in Tsarist Russia in the years preceding the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, this famous Broadway musical is based on a series of short stories by Sholem Aleichem. With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein, it tells the story of a pious Jewish milkman named Tevye who struggles to hold his family of five strong-willed daughters and his faith together as the world changes around him.

The musical’s title drew further inspiration from a series of paintings by Marc Chagall that featured the image of a fiddler, symbolic of tradition and perseverance in Jewish culture. It debuted on Broadway in 1964, and ended up winning nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

May 21-25 Regina Lyric Musical Theatre is presenting its version of Fiddler On The Roof. It’s directed by Andorlie Hillstrom, and stars Robert Ursan as Tevye and Eduard Minevich as the Fiddler. The production is being held at the University of Regina Theatre. May 21-14 show time is at 7:30 p.m., May 25 it’s at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 adults and $20 students. More info can be found here.

To give you a taste here’s an excerpt from a 2013 Stratford Festival production:

Cathedral Village Arts Festival

If you picked up our May 15 issue you should have received a copy of the program guide that we do each year for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival. It’s your best source of info on all the music, theatre, dance, spoken word, visual art and other creative activities that will be going on in the Cathedral neighbourhood over the next week.

The 2014 festival theme is Fabric of Life, which reflects the importance of the arts in the development of the Cathedral community. The festival has a kick-off parade and picnic starting today at 11:30 a.m. The parade route runs along Elphinstone St. from 13th Ave. to Les Sherman Park at Elphinstone & College Ave. From there, the picnic takes over.

The festival runs May 19-24, and will include a Street Fair next Saturday along 13th Ave. that’s always a big draw. In addition to Prairie Dog, paper copies of the guide are available at most venue sites. More information can also be obtained by visiting the CVAF website here.

Regardless of how you acquire the guide, if you check it out you’ll see that one band that’s performing is Andino Suns at Holy Rosary Park Saturday evening at 8:45 p.m. They’ll be preceded by Brass Buttons at 6:30 p.m., and Jeffery Straker at 7:30 p.m. Here’s the video for Andino Suns’ 2013 song “Cantando el Pajaro”:

 

Spring One Act Cabaret

Tonight and Saturday night Regina Little Theatre is presenting this biannual fundraiser which also is held in the fall. There are four one-act plays on the bill. Here’s a brief synopsis of each:

Chemistry Lessons, a farce by George Freek about a chemistry teacher who experiences some romantic bumps on the road to the altar; Faugh, a comedy by Jerome McDonough about a group of co-habiting Fine Arts students; a comedy by the Frantics called Her First Period in which a father provides cell phone advice at a bus stop to his daughter about what she needs to do deal with the onset of menarche; and a drama by Jennifer Fell Hayes called Nothing In Common about a pregnant teenage girl and an older woman who is desperate to adopt the baby.

The cabaret is being held at the Regina Performing Arts Centre, and begins each night with food and drink service at 6:30 p.m., with the plays to follow at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12.50 and can be obtained by calling 306-779-2277.

Man Of La Mancha

Written by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, this musical is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th century novel Don Quixote. It debuted on Broadway in 1965, and is structured as a play within a play with Cervantes and his servant enacting a story about a mad/idealistic  knight as they await a hearing along with other prisoners before the Spanish Inquisition.

Man of La Mancha opened on the main stage of the Globe Theatre on April 23 and runs until May 11. For ticket info call 306-525-6400. And to give you a taste of what the musical is like, here’s a clip from a 1972 movie version starring Peter O’Toole:

Taking Steps

Taking StepsRegina Little Theatre has presented several works by the prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn in the last few years — most notably, his trilogy The Norman Conquests which dates from the mid-1970s.  

This farce was first produced in 1979.  It concerns a hard-drinking tycoon with a disenchanted wife who is contemplating buying a house that was once a brothel. Throw in a brother-in-law, his fiancee, the tycoon’s solicitor, and the vendor, all of whom decide to make a night of it at the house, and you have the potential for all sorts of shenanigans to ensure.

Taking Steps runs at the Performing Arts Centre April 9-10 at 7:30 p.m., and April 11-12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are Adults $20, Students & Seniors $18, and can be obtained by calling 306-779-2277.

Salt-Water Moon

SaltWaterMoon_600Written by Canadian playwright David French, this romance is set in a small Newfoundland town in the 1920s. In fact, it takes place on a single moon-lit September night. While waiting for her fiance to arrive, a woman named Mary passes the time looking up at the night sky with a telescope. While doing so, she’s surprised by a former beau named Jacob who had left Newfoundland abruptly the year previous to seek success in Toronto.

That used to be the standard practice for many Newfoundlanders. Of course, these days the province enjoys a lot more economic prosperity due to its off-shore oil wealth. Regardless, this play, which was written by French in 1984, offers an interesting look at Newfoundland in the post WWI era.

Salt-Water Moon is being performed on the main stage at Globe Theatre until April 6. For ticket info call 306-525-6400.

Review: Venus In Fur

Golden-Apple-Venus-Pstr-Feb-10-fnl-file-low-resThe first thing you need to know about Golden Apple Theatre’s production of Venus in Fur is that it takes places on a dark and stormy night.

Much has been made of the play’s erotic charge, its rapid-fire profanity and its dabbling in S&M conventions, but its greatest act of daring may be the thunderclaps that punctuate the dialogue. Never mind the boots and dog collars – it’s plenty fun to watch the talented cast and crew execute such a knowing play without hitting (as far as I can tell) a single false note.

A mutant adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel, Venus in Fur takes place over the course of an evening in an audition room. Playwright Thomas (Daniel Arnold) is seeking an actress to play Vanda, the female lead in his adaptation of von Sacher-Masoch’s book. Frustrated and bored to the point of contempt with the women who’ve come through his door that day, he’s ready to head home when Vanda (Amy Matysio) bursts in.

Unscheduled, unsophisticated and apparently untalented, Vanda pleads for a chance. Thomas eventually gives in, only to find himself beguiled by Vanda’s strange command of the material. It soon becomes clear that Vanda is not quite who she claims to be. Thomas’ claims about his own identity may be similarly suspect – except in his case, Thomas is primarily lying to himself.

Venus in Fur is funny, erotic, provocative and massively entertaining, but it’s a delicate play; in the wrong hands, the increasing tension and constantly shifting registers could tip over into campy humour. Director Jim Guedo coaxes out the script’s strength by bringing out focused and sure-footed performances from Arnold and Matysio. Regina theatre goers will be familiar with Matysio and her improv-trained wit and strong physical performances, but here she’s given the chance to shine, switching roles and accents with dazzling confidence. David Arnold performs in a slightly lower key (he doesn’t spend any time in lacy black underwear, which puts him at a disadvantage) but he does a fantastic job of portraying of a man who is undone by his inability to recognize his own desires.

Oh yeah, and it’s really sexy. So go see it.

Venus in Fur runs March 5-22 at the Artesian on 13th. Tickets are available at Bach and Beyond, Cobb Swanson Music and Mysteria. $35 for adults, $25 for students, and worth every nickel. But don’t bring in a pile of nickels, that’s tremendously inconvenient.

Where The Thunderbird Lives

thunderbirdCreated by Skookum Sound System and Curtain Razors, and presented in partnership with the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Where the Thunderbird Lives is an experimental performance piece that explores the relationship between traditional stories and images of the mythological Thunderbird from south Saskatchewan First Nations and those from Pacific Coast First Nations. 

Where the Thunderbird Lives features performers Bracken Hanuse Corlett, Csetkwe Fortier, Dean Hunt, and Michele Sereda, and is described as a fusion of beats, mash-up, poetry, song, video, and spoken word.  The performance is being held at the Mackenzie Art Gallery on Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, and more information can be found here.

Colleen Murphy

Quebec-born, northern Ontario-raised playwright, screenwriter and director Colleen Murphy is in town for two literary events in the next week. The first is Talking Fresh 12 which the Saskatchewan Writers Guild is hosting at the University of Regina on March 7-8 (RIC119)

The theme this year is “Exile: Writing Beyond the Borders”. In addition to Murphy, Ottawa poet and academic Armand Ruffo and Toronto dub poet and reggae musician Lillian Allen are feature presenters.

Allen is pulling double-duty too as she’s also appearing at Thursday Night Live! at the MacKenzie Art Gallery tonight at 7 p.m. It’s being co-hosted with Vertigo Series, so there’s a bit of a literary theme. Allen and musician Brian Templeton are two of the presenters. And while you’re at the MacKenzie be sure to check out the Amalie Atkins show if you haven’t already.

As for Murphy, she’ll also be presenting at the Playwrights Reading Series at the University of Regina (ED114) Monday, March 10 at 8 p.m. Before Murphy arrived in Regina I had this email exchange with her:

At Talking Fresh 12, in addition to a panel discussion and reading, you’re scheduled to give a talk on the subject “Emotional Theatre: A Country Without Flags, A Land Without Borders”. Could you elaborate on what you intend to discuss and the relationship with the conference themes of exile and writing beyond borders.

I am approaching the notion of exile from a writer’s perspective, asking whether writers can free themselves from having to represent where they come from, where they are now or where they wish to be in the future.  How do I, as a playwright, write beyond my own personal borders and create other worlds on a stage?

2013 saw the premiere of two plays for you. Armstrong’s War debuted in Vancouver in October. It features two characters (a 12-year-old girl who’s a Pathfinder and a 21-year-old man who is an Afghan War veteran). Both suffer from physical and psychological injuries when they meet in the hospital — she as a community volunteer, he as a patient. What was your motivation for writing the play?

War fascinates me — the impulse to kill for your country and the impulse to sacrifice yourself for your country.  I am not sure what all that means but I am interested in the meaning of honour in war; honour between soldiers under extreme duress… and because war smashes young people I created a young soldier who lost his courage and a young girl whose own trauma helped her find courage.

The second premiere occurred in Edmonton in November. Pig Girl deals with very dark subject matter tied to the Robert Pickton mass murder case in Vancouver and has some very graphic scenes. What was your motivation here, to perhaps provide audiences with a visceral representation of the horrible crimes that occurred in Vancouver and the general indifference in many quarters of society to people who exist on the margins?

Societal indifference to women being abused and murdered makes me angry. The play, which is deliberately fictional, puts a woman on the center of the stage as she defiantly fights for her life against a brutal killer. It’s a very, very serious play and demands a great deal from those who watch it.

On March 10 you’ll be participating in the Playwrights Reading Series. What works do you intend to read from?

I am excited to read the outline of a new opera in development about the Canadian Arctic called THE BREATHING HOLE, and I will read a bit from a new one-person play called LUMPS, about a clown.

Venus In Fur

Set in New York, this comedy-drama by David Ives sees a writer-director named Thomas Novachek (played in this Golden Apple Theatre production by Daniel Arnold) doing an adaptation of a 1870 novella by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch called Venus In Furs. The novel, as is evident from the author’s last name, has strong masochistic overtones. Novachek struggles to find an actress to fit the title role though until he meets an woman named Wanda don Dunayev (played by Amy Matysio). As the play unfolds a relationship develops between the two characters that recalls elements of von Sacher-Masoch’s novella.

Ives’s play debuted off-Broadway in 2010. Several film versions of the novella have been made over the years, and in 1967 the Velvet Undergound, with the help of Nico, released an album inspired by the novella’s themes that included a song called “Venus In Furs”.

This Golden Apple Theatre production runs at the Artesian on 13th from March 5-22. Tickets are Adults $35, Students $25, and you can find more information here.

To give you a taste, here’s a three-minute compilation of scenes from a 2011 Broadway production:

Alexander Abrams’ Magical Space Boots

SpaceBoots_webWritten by Colby Richardson and Jonah McFadzean (who happens to be the brother of Prairie Dog illustrator Dakota McFadzean), this science fiction fantasy uses puppets, animation and visual art to tell what, judging from the accompanying graphic, is a pretty otherworldly story.

Alexander Abrams’ Magical Space Boots plays at the Globe Theatre as part of the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. For ticket info call 306-525-6400.

The Golden Age Of Broadway

Directed by Jane Ursan, this musical brunch is a fundraiser for Regina Lyric Musical Theatre. As it traditionally does, the brunch will feature some great food courtesy of a three course meal provided by the Hotel Saskatchewan kitchen and some great tunes courtesy of Regina Lyric members.

Oklahoma, and Fiddler on the Roof are two of the Broadway musicals that will be saluted during the performance portion of the event. Start time on Sunday is noon at the Hotel Saskatchewan

To give you a “taste” of what to expect, here’s a scene from the 1955 Hollywood version of Rogers & Hammerstein’s musical Oklahoma!  where Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae perform “People Will Say We’re In Love”:

Conrad-Roy: Daffily Ever After

Conrad_Roy_web

I don’t have a ton of information about this musical comedy that’s being presented at the Globe Theatre as part of the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series other than that it’s written and performed by Dakota Hebert and Rebecca Lascue, and it concerns two young people from northern Saskatchewan who are determined to pursue their dreams regardless of what obstacles might confront them

Conrad-Roy: Daffily Ever After opens tonight and runs until Feb. 8. For ticket information call 306-525-6400.

West Side Story

Inspired by Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story  features contributions by two of the most famous talents in American musical theatre — composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The story itself was written by Arthur Laurents, and concerns a clash between two gangs on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s: the Sharks, who are tied to the Puerto Rican community, and the Jets, whose members are Polish-American. Tension flares when the leader of the latter gang falls in love with the sister of the leader of the Sharks.

The musical debuted in 1957, and was pretty ground-breaking as far as its gritty depiction of poverty, racism and working class life in general.

Tonight and Thursday a touring production of the musical will be playing at Conexus Arts Centre. Curtain both nights is at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $47-$87. To give you a sense of what to expect, here’s a trailer of sorts from a 2013 production at London’s Sadlers Wells Theatre:

Things Are Looking Up For The Indian Head Opera House

301504_10200960827601906_763206368_nIt’s been a long haul, but following many months of fundraising events featuring Belle Plaine, Andy Shauf, Rah Rah, and others, it looks like the community of Indian Head is going to save its 110 year-old theatre. Indian Head Theatre and Community Arts Inc. announced today that they’ve successfully purchased the Indian Head Opera House (currently the Nite Hawk Theatre) in Indian Head.

If all goes according to plan, the non-profit group will take possession of the theatre on February 15 – so Regina fans of performing art and cinema can look forward to many trips to “the Head”, as it’s affectionately known, for years to come.

If you’re up early tomorrow, tune into CBC’s Morning Edition to hear Indian Head Theatre and Community Arts Inc’s Tara Leigh Heslip chat with host Sheila Coles about how things are developing.

Becky’s New Car

BeckysNewCar_600Some of the publicity for the latest Globe Theatre main stage play riffs on the classic Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken. Written by Steven Dietz, Becky’s New Car is a comedy about a married woman who faces a mid-life crisis when she meets an attractive millionaire and has to decide which path to take — the well-traveled one  that most people follow, or the less-traveled path that perhaps holds a certain amount of risk, but ultimately offers the promise of greater fulfillment.

Becky’s New Car opens at the Globe on Wednesday and runs until Feb. 9. For ticket info call the Globe at 306-525-6400. And you can find out more about the play here.