Archive for the ‘Visual Arts’ Category


Kinder parks darkened

Imaginations enlightened

There, a sharp stool

There, a dull red bench

Slide straight and narrow

Empty, for lack of light

Echoes of children passed: we were here

we were here once

Kinder ghosts

A new type of chocolate

Wrapper left in the sand box

We were here



Blunt pencil shades

Rodin inspired ebony tits

Stone nipples rise

With the garden breeze

Fleshed heavy and heaving

Leaves no room for breathing



Spoiled bulldog whines

Fills the balcony with excrement

‘Bueno’ spits his owner

And throws him into the ocean

(True story)

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I felt a little glimmer of girlish excitement upon receiving an invitation to the Ottawa launch of Halston Heritage, the clothing line for which Sarah Jessica Parker is Artistic Advisor. If you’re a fan of Sex and the City, you may have seen SJP donning one of these gorgeously flowing outfits in one of the recent films. I told my friend Marissa about the invitation and she was so excited about the soiree (not to mention the potential for an SJP sighting…) that I knew she would be the perfect date for this show.

The following is a brief photo diary of the event. Enjoy!

Marissa and I chose the perfect outfits for the event. Also, enjoying our complimentary cosmos!

Local A-list fashionistas attended the event, including Girl About O-Town from the Ottawa blogging community. It was so nice to finally meet her, as I have been following her fashion/culture blog for some time.

Another celeb sighting: Tony Martins of Guerilla Magazine

Four glam models take the stage to show off Halston's new fashions

Especially glam

Then I dragged Marissa into the dressing rooms to take photos of me in various outfits. In this dress, I felt like the mistress of a brothel in some exotic locale. Meow.

I've always thought of myself as more of a silver girl, but I rather enjoyed this pocketed gold number with the popped collar.

Um, no.

We finished off my little vanity session with this daring pink number. I know, isn't my posing totally obnoxious?

And then there were the shoes; never forget the shoes.

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Feathers ruffle like

Modern Ballet practicum

Dancers crinoline

Photo: Jessica Ruano

Image: Edgar Degas

Image: Edgar Degas

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Greetings arts enthusiasts!

Hope everyone had a great World Theatre Day on March 27. Congratulations to new Ottawa theatre group Rock the Arts for winning the Ottawa Theatre Challenge with their awesome puppet show. I also really enjoyed Scott Florence’s tribute to Henrik Ibsen, featuring the Wakefield Nudes Calendar.

It seems like everyone has decided to take advantage of April Fools’ Day, so April 1 is jam packed full of events. Good luck trying to decide on just one activity!

As always, visit my website https://jessicaruano.wordpress.com for updates throughout the month, and feel free to add any upcoming April events in the comments section.

April 1
6th Annual Urbana


URBANA celebrates the tireless work of Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa that has been an important part of our community for 50 years. The evening includes urban rhythms by DJ Memetic, hors d’oeuvres and live visual art, created by young artists from YSB, under the direction of local artist and illustrator Jordan Kent. Ottawa’s own Funk Delivery, performing street style dance such as locking, popping and b-boying will be featured. There will also be a silent auction of unique pieces of art created on windows.

April 1
Mélissa Laveaux at the Black Sheep Inn

Mélissa Laveaux returns to our old stomping grounds to re-release a new-er version of her debut album on the Spectra Musique label. Available in France since 2008 on the No Format label, Mélissa’s album captures her distinctive voice, performing acoustic blues, soul, folk and calypso in English, Creole and French. I first saw Mélissa perform at Café Nostalgica when I was 16, and it is so satisfying to see her working as a successful international musician; she really deserves it.

April 1
Patrick John Mills Contemporary Fine Art Gallery presents Going Local

Now that’s a title I like to hear! This (free) exhibit runs all month, but on April 1st you can meet the artists from 6 to 9pm at the gallery, with a reception catered by Essence Catering. These local artists are: Dane Atkinson, David Cation, Chikozero Chazunguza, Angela McGowan, Daniel Martelock, Patrick John Mills, Daniel Nadeau, Dawn Sandy, Robert Toovey, and Mariam Qureshi. Video film by artist Marc Adornato. Sculptures by: Garry Bowes, Shaukat Chaney, Cairn Cunnane, and Stefan Thompson. Also, check out the monthly Gallery Hop with seven participating galleries, all in the same neighbourhood!

April 1 & 2
The Bus Driver’s Handbook to Far Flung Destinations

Don’t miss this theatre creation between two members of Tatiana Jenning’s Kadozuke Kollektif: Brad Long and Sean Robertson-Palmer. It takes place at the relatively new Guerilla Heart Juice Studio, 111-A Rideau Street. For me, this venue is fitting because I first met Brad through a GHJ workshop last summer; I can’t wait to see more of his work.

April 6 to 10
Unicorn Theatre presents Blood Relations

Winner of the Governor General’s Award, Blood Relations by Sharon Pollock is a metatheatrical approach to the story of Lizzie Borden, who was accused and acquitted of her parents murder in Massachusetts, 1892. Miss Lizzie and her close friend relive the events leading up to the murders, removing the boundaries of time from 1892 to 1902. This production is directed by Rideau Award Nominee (Outstanding Adaptation for Pirate Jenny‘s Circus, Counterpoint Players 2009) Bronwyn Steinberg, an MFA candidate in Directing for the Theatre at the University of Ottawa. Ivo Valentik is the set designer; Sarah Waghorn, the costume designer; and the show features prominent local actors Michelle Leblanc and Kelly Rigole. Looking forward to it!

Also, on Saturday, April 10 – the last day of the run – the University of Ottawa’s Department of Theatre will be hosting its inaugural multidisciplinary bilingual graduate student conference entitled Staging History in Canada. And I’ll be on one of the panels giving a paper about international festivals. For more information, visit this website: http://uottawatheatre.wordpress.com/

April 7
The A B Series presents Sonnet L’Abbé

Don’t miss Sonnet L’Abbé, the award-winning author of two collections of poetry, at the Mercury Lounge in the Byward Market.

April 7 to 24
The National Arts Centre English Theatre presents The Comedy of Errors

The NAC English Theatre concludes its 40th anniversary season with one of Shakespeare’s earliest and silliest comedies. I have never seen this play performed, so I’m glad to have the chance to see it now. With this show you get two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, hilarious wordplay, and even a case of demonic possession. Inspired by Montreal’s crazed summer festival season, this show is directed by the one-and-only Peter Hinton and features local actor Paul Rainville.

April 11
The Spoken Word Plot presents Nadine Thornhill and Jessica Ruano

The Spoken Word Plot presents the poetic stylings of Ottawa-based writers/performers Nadine Thornhill and Jessica Ruano. Both feisty and thoughtful, these poetesses bring their personal stories to the stage with an adorkable elegance and a hint of mischief. Having both headlined separately at the Voices of Venus series at the Umi Cafe, we are super excited to be doing a show together for the first time. And if you need more incentive to attend – I’m going to be playing Nadine’s clitoris. Yes, you heard me.

April 13 to 24
Spring Fest 2010

SpringFest 2010 is a grassroots festival of local and regional poetry, visual arts, theatre, and music dedicated to the celebration of community and the emergence of spring. This celebration is for the people of Ottawa by the youth of Ottawa, and is a small effort against the homogeneity and elitism of art in our city. All are welcome at this festival featuring the same bards and artists who frequent the same parks, the same cafés, the same libraries, and the same community of neighbours.

April 13 to May 2
The Great Canadian Theatre Company presents Facts

Khalid Yassin, a Palestinian inspector and Yossi HaCohen, an Israeli detective are brought together under political pressure to solve the murder of an American archaeologist in the West Bank. But how do you solve a murder when all sides are suspect? A politically charged mystery, this new play by local playwright Arthur Milner looks at the space that lies somewhere between fact and fiction, truth and lies, friends and enemies. Don’t miss the world premiere directed by (former AD of the GCTC) Patrick McDonald.

April 14
Jer’s Vision Gala

Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative & the international Day of Pink celebrates its 5th anniversary at the Exchange in the Rideau Centre (formerly the Elephant and Castle). The FREE event will celebrate diversity, and will include a reception and performances all evening! I attend Jer’s Gala every year and it’s always a most wonderful evening. Actually, for a couple of years I stage managed the event: and let me tell you, you don’t know what stage managing is until you’ve done it with drag queens.

April 16
Halabisky’s Uprising Video Release Party

Check out local musician Dave Halabisky joined by Moka Only, directed by Luca Furgiuele at Zaphod Beeblebrox.

April 17
The Cube Salon
presents “carpe diem”

“Procrastini” is the name of Jonathan Koensgen’s playwriting debut on the Ottawa stage. Since he was first cast professionally at the age of 11, Koensgen has racked up stage and screen credits too numerous to list, and Cube Salon is thrilled to be working with him as he turns his theatre craft to the written page. With musical support from recording artist John Carroll.

April 22 to 27
Ottawa International Writers Festival

Festival season kicks off with the Ottawa International Writers Festival: the perfect event to stretch your literary muscles. The festival has a new home this year at the Mayfair Theatre in Old Ottawa South, with lunchtime programming back at the National Library and Archives. Full schedule available online!

Thanks for reading, and have a great month!

Artistically yours,

Jessica Ruano

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Official launch: March 14

Greetings arts fans!

There is a lot to celebrate in the month of March: International Women’s Day (March 8), World Theatre Day (March 27), and my half-birthday (March 12). All very important occasions; and yes, I expect lots of half-presents.

In recent news: the nominees for the 2009 Prix Rideau Awards have been announced! For a full list, please follow this link: http://wp.me/p1SoS-wQ

Once again, if I have not included any local events in March featuring Ottawa artists in this newsletter, please feel free to post them on my website “the most exquisite moments” in the comments section.



March 6
Capital Slam featuring Elyse Maltin

March 7
Dusty Owl Reading Series “Open Hoot”

March 9
Voices of Venus featuring Ruthanne Edward

Storyteller extraordinaire Ruthanne Edward takes the stage at this Ottawa literary series that shines a spotlight on women writers. Quickly becoming my favourite local event! See my piece on VoV on my website: http://wp.me/p1SoS-wV

March 11
Bill Brown’s 1-2-3 Slam featuring Luna Allison & The Living Sound System

March 12
Urban Legends Poetry Slam


March 27
The A B Series presents Gary Barwin


March 2 to 21
The Great Canadian Theatre Company presents blood.claat: one oomaan story

I saw this vibrant production featuring d’bi.young at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival a year and a half ago. This is a fine example of dub poetry used in a theatrical setting: totally accessible and still makes your heart sing and your fingertips dance. For spoken word and theatre lovers alike.

March 3 to 6
Toto Too Theatre presents Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean

Members of a James Dean fan club meet up on the anniversary of his death in small town Texas. Ottawa artist and professor Janne Cleveland directs a predominantly female cast in this play that features an openly transsexual character. Toto Too is passionate about bringing queer theatre to the capital, and I’m glad to see the company is producing this female focussed piece, especially so close to International Women’s Day! Woot!

March 4 (runs until the 28)
Canteen Gallery presents Two Days Slow: An Alice in Wonderland Group Show

Sure, the gallery is capitalizing on the upcoming Tim Burton movie. But I think this is a fabulous idea!
A gallery of pure nonsense, Canteen hosts Two Days Slow, an Alice in Wonderland themed show. Featuring a multitude of talented international and local artists indulging in the whimsical world of Wonderland, the show promises the irrepressible silliness of white rabbits, tea parties, wise caterpillars, Cheshire cats and wide-eyed wonder.

March 13
Show Tune Showdown 2010 – fifth anniversary!

Join three teams of musical theatre performers as they compete for bragging rights and cold hard cash for their theatre company. This year, Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre program returns from Oakville to compete against Ottawa teams from Orpheus Musical Theatre Society and Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company. Judging them this year will be famed Ottawa actor and playwright Pierre Brault, CBC Radio host Kathleen Petty, and performer Erica Peck.

March 14
Von Allan launches graphic novel “the road to god knows…”

This critically-acclaimed graphic novel by (the red-headed and freckled) Ottawa artist and writer Von Allan explores the struggle of a teenage girl as she comes to grips with her mother’s schizophrenia. The formal launch takes place at the independent bookstore Perfect Books on Elgin Street from 4pm. Don’t miss it!

March 14
Acoustic Waves: Ana Miura

Ottawa based international touring artist Ana Miura performs at the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre as part of the Ottawa Folk Festival acoustic waves series. In addition to having a great voice and charming stage presence, Ana has been really involved in the Ottawa community: you might know her as the founder of Babes for Breasts, a collection of female singer/songwriters that raise money for breast cancer charities, or the General Manager of the Ottawa Folk Festival. Also, on March 20 & 27, you can check out the Ottawa Folk Festival Auditions at the Raw Sugar Café.

March 19 to 28
New Ottawa Repertory Theatre presents Cherry Docs

In this critically acclaimed play by Ottawa playwright David Gow, a neo-Nazi skinhead charged with murder has a Jewish legal-aid lawyer appointed to defend him. The title is an abbreviation of the phrase “cherry red Doc Marten boots”, worn by skinheads. The lawyer, Danny, insists that the young offender, Mike, help construct his own defence, to make the young man “stand up” and be accountable. Directed Paul Dervis, this production features local actors Jeff Lefebvre and Garrett Quirk.

March 23 to April 3
The National Arts Centre English Theatre presents Where the Blood Mixes

Hey, I also saw this at the Magnetic North Festival a year and a half ago! Looks like my travels are catching up to me in this weird time-warped fashion. For his play Where the Blood Mixes, Kevin Loring was awarded the 2009 Governor General’s Award in Drama. Well-deserved, I think. The play looks at the effects of residential schools on the next generation of aboriginals. It is humourous, touching and original, and does not fall into the trap of being preachy or didactic. This is darn good – and important –theatre.

March 27
Ottawa Theatre Challenge on World Theatre Day

Join a Company of Fools at this 10th annual Contest of Creation at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage for an amazing evening of creativity. Forty-eight hours prior to the Theatre Challenge, local theatre companies are assigned inspiration items and will create scenes based on these items. The results are hilarious. Eddie May Murder Mysteries took home the rubber chicken prize last year; let’s see who grabs it this time!

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to email me with upcoming events for April. Remember, this newsletter focusses on local artists and events that take place in Ottawa.

Artistically yours,

Jessica Ruano

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When my brother was much younger, he would make model buildings out of paper and tape. They would be replicas of castles, of palaces (including a phenomenal one of Versailles), and other structures of note. He would also create little figurines to inhabit the space, perhaps imagining how they interacted once upon a time.

I think he would have loved this production of Kamp (from company Hotel Modern, the Netherlands) at the PuSh Festival. Just look at this set:


According to a recent article on the show, there are 3500 hand-made clay figurines used in the performance. They are arranged, re-arranged, and animated by three performers; these mute performers are always visible and always present, though not the focus of the piece. The focus is on the buildings and the figurines that are captured by a video camera and displayed in real time on the white screen backdrop. The audience catches glimpses of the gas chambers, the sleeping areas, a nazi drinking party, the hard labour forced upon the prisoners, and one particularly wrenching scene in which a sadistic soldier beats one victim to death with a shovel.

It is difficult for me to understand the sheer magnitude of the Holocaust and its destruction; statistics and numbers mean very little to me, and that is often all we are given in history books. The most striking thing about this visual display was actually seeing these numbers, these statistics come to life: row upon row of figurines, their swollen faces staring out from the screen, the camera slowly and carefully capturing every detail; dozens of figures piled into the showers; dozens of bodies thrown into a pit. It hits you hard.

The performance is only one hour long. But the audience on Thursday evening stay for yet another hour to attend the talk-back. Some audience members had actually been to Auschwitz and said they found this performance much more personal and affecting.

One particularly interesting question was asked: how far can you push an audience? At what point does the horror and destruction become too much to bear? I’m thinking specifically of the scene with the shovel; it almost made me ill. Is this something we should strive for in dramatic theatre, or is it just too much?

Here are a couple more close-up photos:



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Greetings arts fans!

I’ve had the most amazing month traveling across Canada and researching theatre festivals. My travels have brought me to Edmonton, to Calgary, and to Vancouver. If you’re interested in following along, please check out my blog entitled “the most exquisite moments” and feel free to partake in some of the ongoing debates, or just post a comment to say hi! I’ve been updating more frequently lately, and I’d love your feedback.

I’ll be back in Ottawa after this weekend, and I’m looking forward to attending all these fabulous events lined up. I’m especially excited about being asked to play a judge in the Great Canadian Laugh-Off: I have a feeling one of my sneaky comedian friends got me involved in this…

Here goes!


February 6
Capital Slam featuring Kay’la “Kiki” Mahy

February 7
Dusty Owl Reading Series featuring PrufRock

February 9
Voices of Venus featuring Kathryn Hunt

February 11
Bill Brown’s 1-2-3 Slam featuring Festrell

February 12
Urban Legends Poetry Slam


February 2
Canteen Gallery presents Picturama! (February Edition)

I would have loved to have been part of this event! Last month Canteen asked all aspiring photographers to send in their 4×6 photos to display at the gallery: your friends, your pets, your camel trek in Mali, your street art, your child’s shadow puppets and those adoring photos of your bike. Tomorrow the results will be in and Canteen will display the photographs and handle sales at $1/piece. Get some inexpensive local art for your walls!

February 3, 10, 17, 24
Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh-Off

Every Wednesday this month, Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club is holding the preliminary rounds of the Great Canadian Laugh-Off in Ottawa. Local celebrity and media personalities (including yours truly!) will act as judges for the Ottawa series. The Laugh-off contest is open to all comics amateur and professional, and the Ottawa winners will go on to compete in Toronto. If you think you’ve got a funny streak, I dare you to sign up – and be subjected to my harsh, harsh judgment. Mwahahaha.

February 5 to 27
Spins & Needles presents Urban Cozy Project at Winterlude 2010

Spins and Needles will be doing a series of events this year at Winterlude including craft & DJ parties, weekend warm-up workshops, public arts&crafts installations, and more! Get involved by visiting the website, or simply showing up at the numerous Winterlude locations. All events and workshops are free! Also, you can contribute to the Winterlude 2010 Urban Cozy Project by creating various warm coverings, or cozies, wrapped around trees, lampposts, and other elements on festival grounds.

February 10
The boxcART Film Festival presents “EAT MY SHORTS”

Last month, filmmakers received an envelope with the top secret criteria and were instructed to come back 72 hours later with a short film. Participants of the film challenge will have an opportunity to screen their short films at the Film Festival that takes place at the Lieutenant’s Pump. Stop by for a pint and help celebrate local film making!

February 4 to 14
Third Wall Theatre Company presents As You Like It

You know, the one that takes place in a forest. No, not with the fairies, the other one, the cross-dressing one. No, not with twins… with that Rose girl, the one who says “Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.” I guess that was just my way of sharing my favourite quote. Directed by Charles McFarland, this production features an array of talented local actors, including Kristina Watt as Rosalind and Jordan Hancey as Orlando.

February 12
Painted Lips and Lolly Licks: Mayfair Theatre’s Annual Sexy Short Film Festival

Sounds like my kind of festival! My friend Nathan Ings is acting in one of the films called Valentine’s Night, written by Thierry Papineau.The story centers around Val, a single gay man, dating and partying, just trying to get through life and do a little shopping. He is torn between an internet hookup with someone totally inappropriate and a young friend with benefits. Naturally, Nathan is playing the totally innappropriate one…!

February 13
Cube Gallery Salon featuring Sterling Lynch

Supported by singer-songwriter John Carroll and spoken-word artist Kel Parsons, local mover-and-shaker Sterling Lynch and his gifted cast of actors will be presenting a staged reading from his (recently award-winning!) play entitled “Home in Time” for the Cube Salon audience.

February 17 to March 6
The National Arts Centre English Theatre presents Mrs. Dexter and Her Daily

I’m looking forward to this next show; I really enjoyed Glass’ last play Trying that premiered at the NAC. “Mrs. Dexter and her maid Peggy must part ways after Mrs. Dexter’s divorce. As the women reflect on their lives we are privy to their journey, their losses, and their laughter. Join us as two of Canada’s most celebrated actors—Fiona Reid as Mrs. Dexter and Nicola Cavendish as her ‘daily’ Peggy —bring Joanna McClelland Glass’ endearing new drama to life under the direction of Former NAC English Theatre Artistic Director Marti Maraden.”

February 26 to 27
V Day Ottawa presents The Vagina Monologues

The vaginas are coming! (Sorry, sorry… that’s a recycled joke, but I couldn’t help using it again.) I’d say we all need a little feministing this month, especially after a certain irritating article that was recently posted in the National Post. Boy, the parodies were too, too easy. Also, this is a great chance to catch my friend Lauryn Kronick onstage; moaning her pretty little head off, no less!

If I’ve missed anything, please post information about your event on my blog: https://jessicaruano.wordpress.com. Thanks for reading!

Artistically yours,

Jessica Ruano


Jessica Ruano
Ottawa Arts Enthusiast
Publicist, Journalist, and Theatre go-er


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… and that’s why I love it.

scenes from Poetics: a ballet brut

One of the first performances I caught at the 2010 PuSh Festival was called Poetics: a ballet brut by this New York group the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. I decided to attend this show on a whim, so I didn’t have the chance to read up on the company (bad blogger, bad!), and for that reason assumed that I was going to be watching something resembling a ballet.

I have learned never to make assumptions about festival performance.

Four odd-looking performers (two male, two female) take the stage wearing eclectic street garb (running shoes et al), holding grocery bags, and flirting passive-aggressively with each other. The closest thing to dance in the first fifteen minutes is a series of gestures, such as putting hands on hips, crossing arms above the head, making devil horns, and grabbing their own chests. What followed was a series of movement pieces that seemed to be based around yoga and aerobics.

Immediately I was disappointed, as I recognized this as one of those shows that has been put on earth to bug me: more concept than result, more comedy than actual dance talent; some post-modern garbage that young people put out there to be different.

And yet I was seduced. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point my eyes lit up and I thought to myself, This is genius. I think it was around the time the performers were doing some kind of rolling-in-your-sleep dance, and one of the guys rolled too far upstage and shrieked shrilly as he “fell” behind the curtain. It was a priceless, priceless moment: everybody got it and everybody laughed.

Then at another instance (at this point the upstage curtain has opened to reveal more audience seating) this guy strolls in — seemingly accidentally — from the back, and decides to find his place in the empty seats opposite us. As he watches the dancers, he pulls out his camera and snaps a picture of the dancers with flash. I think the funniest thing was how much this upset me: I get so annoyed with people who leave their cell phones on during a performance, or try to take pictures, or whisper back and forth. And yet, here it was, happening onstage in front of me, and it was part of the performance, so of course I had no right to be annoyed. It was so infuriating!

And then, near the end of the performance, the curtain opens yet again to reveal a 30-person dance chorus that participates only in the last few minutes of the show. And this was even more ridiculous! In my arts-administration mind, I imagined the cost of including all these dancers in the show and all the work involved for that short-lived routine, and it just boggled my mind. Same with the brief inclusion of the ballerina near the end — which, for me, made all sorts of implications about how street dance can influence classical dance, as she incorporated many of the contemporary movements they had used earlier into her routine.

This show is perfect for uptight people like me who need to loosen up a little bit.

Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut was another odd performance. Wearing an adorable bunny suit, James Long (Theatre Replacement) recounts the tale of trying to put together a show based on a number of family photo albums he found abandoned in an alley way in Vancouver. He tried to contact the family to ask permission, and had some trouble with certain members who ordered him to drop the project immediately. This turned into a whole debate about morality, legality, copyright, and ownership.

This show was originally presented two years ago at PuSh, mere weeks after Long was told he couldn’t use the material. Within that short period of time, he had to rework the show entirely to be in accordance with the family’s wishes, but still retain his sense of artistic integrity and share the story of which he had grown so fond. I think seeing this same show two years ago would have captured that sense of urgency and made for a really exciting performance. The one I saw this week, while delightful, was a tad too relaxed; and until a certain secret is revealed at the end, I wondered what the point of this would ultimately be.

That being said, Long is a wonderful performer: his writing style reminded me of a lot of storytelling and spoken word I’ve seen recently. I’ve learned that people love sharing stories and hearing shared stories, and that’s exactly what he is doing — offering up fragments of this simple family that has a dog and goes to the cottage with lots of children and takes lots of photos. It fills a basic need, provides a human connection. After the show as everyone was piling out of the theatre, I noticed an elderly couple still sitting in their seats, gazing at the empty stage, just holding each other. I’m not sure if it was because of the show, but I’d like to think so.

I’m glad I had the chance to see the video presentation of The Passion of Joan of Arc. The screening of this 1928 silent film was held at the gorgeous Christ Church Cathedral and was accompanied by the Eye of Newt Ensemble and singer Vivane Houle performing a new score by Vancouver composer Stefan Smulovitz. The film is haunting and the music was beautiful.

Also it gave me some context for another performance I saw two days later…

Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project is an electrifying work that compresses the entirety of Carl Dreyer’s classic silent film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc into a 30-minute concentration of movement, projection, installation and sound collage. The audience surrounds a 10×10 foot area, flooded by four projectors, in which Laura K. Nicoll meticulously arranges and rearranges a number of parchment screens in a series of choreographed movements that explode the film into three dimensions. A transformative and dynamic sculpture takes form as the hanging canvases grab hold of the fleeting, flickering images.

Reading the program, I was excited to note that Farrington is a former member of the Wooster Group, that very famous experimental theatre company based in New York. I had read so much about the collective, so I was glad to get a taste of this video artist’s work.

I loved the urgency with which the dancer Nicoll captured each film image with her panels. It seemed to say something about our desire to archive things that could very well be lost in time. This connects directly with the history of the film itself, so controversial that it had been destroyed and recreated more than once. This performance was more of a moving visual arts display than a theatre piece, and once I had that idea in my head, I could enjoy it entirely.

And that leads me to something I have been noticing lately about myself: I have become far less critical (far more open-minded, perhaps) when it comes to performance. Whenever I see something I don’t quite understand, or something that is unfamiliar to me, or something that I would not consider conventional “theatre”, I force myself to look at the piece from another point of view, to see its merits from an angle I had not considered.

This may be a good thing. After all, being open-minded opens up all sorts of possibilities and imaginative ideas; it makes room for discussion rather than flat-out criticism; it allows me to consider other genres and aesthetics when seeing theatre. I find that rather exciting.

But then, I don’t want to be one of those people who likes everything. I want to have strong opinions and strong tastes and be able to distinguish the brilliant from the banal. What do you think? Can I be open-minded and critical all at the same time?

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After rehearsal yesterday, my musician friend Marie-Josee Houle, who also happened to be in town visiting family and friends, gave me a wonderful driving tour of downtown Edmonton. We also went for some darn good pizza and limoncello. Anyway, I thought I would offer my own virtual tour of the Catalyst Theatre workspace. Yes, everyone, this is where it all happens…

From the outside, the gray-blue building looks pretty ordinary: just off a busy road that leads to the highway, a solitary structure in an open field with tall apartments in the distance.

view from the road

A little closer look shows an imposing wooden door with scattered colouring that suggests something unusual lurks inside… (alright, there’s a reason I’ve never written mystery novels)

front door

And this is where it gets interesting: the entrance way of the theatre. Talk about atmosphere! Imagine audience members piling into the theatre and running their hands along the walls covered in thick crumpled fabric with dim lights… and a recycling bin! To the right of the door are the office spaces of the Artistic Director, Managing Producer, and the other administrative staff.

entrance way

Here’s a closer look at the material, likely put together by Resident Designer Bretta Gerecke.

fire extinguisher

Then we move closer into the theatre where, for now, many of the costumes and props are laid out for rehearsal. That structure on the right is a bar, and the washrooms and dressing rooms are to the left.

hallway into the theatre

This next photograph is a shot of the theatre itself: it’s a black box space with a raked seating area that comfortably seats 138 people. If you look closely to the right you can see director Jonathan Christenson hard at work, even during the actors’ break. His focus is admirable.

rehearsal / performance space

Here is another shot of the space, so you can get an idea of how much room they have to perform. I’d say it’s only slightly bigger than the Arts Court Theatre in Ottawa. The shows, though, could easily fill a larger space than this: in terms of audience and in terms of the spectacular nature of the productions. You may also notice a rising garage-like door at the back: for a touring company, this is very important for transferring their materials directly from the theatre to the moving van.

rehearsal / performance space

Speaking of materials, here are a few costume pieces from Nevermore, mostly skirts for the ladies. They are made from a variety of materials: sticks, twine, duct tape, tent poles, and lace. During the Magnetic North, Gerecke was asked a question about her use of unusual materials and she replied “Well, I’m not really fond of sewing…”


And this is her studio…. ah, streaming sunlight! All the staff at Catalyst work in close proximity to one another so that the designers can be working in their studios, but it is easy enough to be constantly dropping by the rehearsal hall.

the design studio

And here is one more photo, just to give you the shivers. BOO!


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Okay, that’s a lie. I’m actually leaving on Air Canada. But that doesn’t sound half as romantic, and the plane will probably be late, and there will be all sorts of complications, and I’ll lose my suitcase, and there will be jet lag and general nausea…

I mean, yay! traveling!

This Sunday I am leaving Ottawa to do some research in Western Canada for my MA thesis. In case you’re not familiar with my academic work, I am currently studying at the University of Ottawa in the new Master of Arts program in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy. That means lots of writing.

My thesis examines the role of festivals in the consecration and distribution of new works. I’m researching three different companies – Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton, the Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary, and Electric Company Theatre in Vancouver – and looking at how their productions have developed through the process of touring and participating in festivals. Here’s hoping it’ll be awesome and revolutionary; or at least that I’ll pass the program…

Here is my itinerary so far:

  • EDMONTON – January 10 to 17
    Purpose: visiting with Catalyst Theatre and attend rehearsals for Nevermore. Also visiting with the Artist in Residence at the Citadel Theatre. Oh, and freezing to death in the street.
  • CALGARY – January 17 to 28
    Purpose: seeing shows at the High Performance Rodeo (long-running international festival created by members of One Yellow Rabbit) and getting the general vibe of the event. Hopefully visiting the workspace of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop.
  • VANCOUVER – January 28 to February 7
    seeing shows at the PuSh Festival (newer international festival) and meeting with Norman Armour. Also visiting the Electric Company Theatre and finding out more about their first show Brilliant! The Blinding Enlightenment of Nikola Tesla. I’ll be seeing the following shows at the PuSh Festival: Joan of Arc, Clark and I…, Passion Project, Edward Curtis, Sonic Genome, Nevermore, Best Before, and Kamp.

I will try not to have too much fun because this is supposed to be a research trip for academic purposes and I’m going to be working really hard. At least that’s what I’m telling the university…

Check back on this blog for more details: I’ll be posting reviews of shows, sharing travel stories, and disclosing fun theatre gossip. Stay tuned!

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