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Blind Date

Blind Date

Rebecca Northan’s solo clown show Blind Date starts out innocently enough. Before the show at the Lunchbox Theatre, the audience is invited to have a drink at the Auburn Saloon next door. Mimi, the Parisian clown, scouts out the audience, looking for an unsuspecting victim to partner with her in the show.

The premise is that Mimi has been stood up on a blind date, and she wants to find a replacement date as soon as possible. At the opening night show, she selected a charming 20-something-year-old named Danny, who wanted to make a great impression. His girlfriend, by the way, was in the audience, and that night was their anniversary.

Saddled with a rough-and-tumble Parisian accent, Mimi is an easy-going, sociable, talkative, blushing individual who has complete control of the situation — and that’s what makes the dynamic interesting. Danny (or whichever guy she chooses) may have the impression that he has at least partial control of the date, but, later on, that is certainly not the case.

Things are pretty safe for awhile: Mimi and her date share a couple glasses of (actual) wine at a nice bar and ask each other questions. Keep in mind that Mimi, being an invented character, can make up her own stories, while Danny, a real person, generally feels obligated to tell the truth (especially with his girlfriend watching, encouraged by Mimi to speak up if he starts fibbing). We soon hear his opinions on the environment, Calgary living, and socks — and his underwear preferences. Mimi gives him a break once in awhile with the option of a “time-out”, which consists of leading him to a tall chair to the side of the stage and asking him how things are going, if there’s anything he’d like to get off his chest. Mimi also has the option of calling a time-out if she feels he said something completely stupid or not date appropriate.

Then it gets a little sexier when Mimi invites him back to her place, just after a scene change. On the blind date, this was just a game; but now Danny is sitting on Mimi’s elegant couch, being seduced by a sexy clown in a red dress, while erotic tunes play in the background. There is pressure from the audience (“Take off your shirt!”), pressure from his girlfriend (“I don’t mind what you do!”), and pressure from Mimi, who can only be described as GGG (“good, giving, and game”, an abbreviation coined by sex columnist Dan Savage). Suddenly the game becomes very, very real: the clown gives the impression that she is up for anything. And that’s when things get a little uncomfortable…

I’m not sure if this happens in every show (I imagine various things change depending on the date selected from the audience), but farther into the story, the style of the show delves into tame Bouffon — which makes for a rather odd transition, but still fun to watch — and then finishes with a rather tender moment between the two.

This is semi-improvised clown at its finest, and it plays until January 23 at the High Performance Rodeo.

Gender-bending discussion question

Would this show have worked as well if Rebecca Northan has chosen a female date from the audience? I mean, we can just assume this is a heterosexual clown and leave it at that. But would a female date have provided the same entertainment for the audience? Would it be even more uncomfortable for the audience? Would it have been uncomfortable for the performer?

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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
    Purpose:
    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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