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Today my friend and colleague Kat Fournier and I launched the very first episode of Just Another Gala: Your Ottawa Theatre Podcast. Ottawa’s theatre scene has exploded in the last few years, and we feel that some thorough on-air discussion is in order. Join us!

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I shall be tossing in my sleep dreaming over it! It really was the most powerful female performance I have seen in a very long time. Her voice still rattles in my bones.

– review from an audience member who will be attending ‘SAPPHO …in 9 fragments’ for a second time next week

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SAPPHO …in 9 fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths transfers to The Rose, Bankside from 21st May to 2nd June, 2013. This politically-charged and visually-compelling solo performance, featuring the “magnetic” (RemoteGoat) Victoria Grove, achieved critical and popular acclaim with a sold-out extended run at the White Rabbit Theatre.

Rose“The Rose – part fringe theatre, part excavation site – is the perfect venue for a play about Sappho, whose extensive collection of poetry has been all but lost, save for a few fragments that suggest what might have existed; just like the foundations that permit us to imagine the theatre once used by Marlowe and Shakespeare” 

– Jessica Ruano, Director of SAPPHO …in 9 fragments

Following its two-week run in London’s historic venue, this “uncommonly exhilarating” (Exeunt Magazine) production begins a tri-city Canadian tour in June 2013, then plays at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2013 at theSpace Venue 45. 

Within a secluded cavern, Ancient Greece’s first love poet laments her erasure from history, while a chorus girl named Atthis is seduced into a modern-day Sapphic romance.

Featuring Victoria Grove as Sappho/Atthis and directed by Jessica Ruano, this production is designed by Ana Ines Jabares, with lighting by Sarah Crocker, sound by Luca Romagnoli, and aerial work by Jani Nightchild.

SAPPHO …in 9 fragments plays at The Rose, Bankside, 56 Park Street, London, SE1 9AS (near London Bridge Station) from 21st May to 2nd June, 2013, Tuesday to Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are £12 (£10 concessions) at wegottickets.com

For more information: 0207 261 9565, info@rosetheatre.org.uk, and rosetheatre.org.uk.

For a one-minute trailer of the show, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN2E8j5UfiE 

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A Clown Wedding at the Eiffel Tower

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I remember being sixteen and receiving my report card for theatre class and noticing that my average was a little lower than I had expected. Scanning my grades for each assignment, I realized with abject horror that I – a straight-A student – had received a 60% for my acting work in the ‘director’s scene.’ You see, at my high school, every grade 11 theatre student had to act in a scene directed (and marked) by a grade 12 theatre student, presumably trying to give these students agency in their work.

Frustrated and a little hurt, I approached my teacher who agreed to meet with me at lunch hour to discuss my grades. We met in the drama office, and she shared with me the notes written by the student director regarding my work. She listed off a handful of negative things he had said about my acting (perhaps an accurate assessment; I never claimed to be the world’s greatest actress), including, and this is the clincher, that throughout rehearsal I kept ‘showing off my breasts’. Direct quote.

This shattered me. Because although I immediately and rightly denied the accusation, I began to wonder from where it had come. I thought back to rehearsals: what was I wearing, how was I behaving, what had I said to him. Maybe I had been wearing clothes that could have been considered revealing – but then, most of the time, we were wearing the costumes that he had given us. And I thought about how some of the blocking required demonstrative gestures, leaning forward facing the audience, so maybe that was it. And I remembered a few times after rehearsal when the other actor had left, that he and I chatted for a while, perhaps even flirted, though nothing happened.

‘Tell you what,’ said the teacher. ‘I’ll increase your grade to a 75%, and then we can forget about this, alright?’

I agreed. And suddenly the notes disappeared and it was as if it had never happened. Although, I’m pretty sure that from that point on, the grade 12 directors were no longer allowed to assign grades to their actors.

This happened almost ten years ago, and for some reason I remembered it this morning and I haven’t been able to put it out of my head. Sometimes people ask me why I wear jackets and waistcoats: ‘You have such a nice body. Why cover it up?’ Sometimes people ask me if I’ve been raped: ‘Define rape’ is my usual answer.

I’m angry. And I’m not even particularly angry at the pathetic adolescent boy who had some small effect on my grades: he’s a fucking moron, and that’s his problem, and I never have to deal with him again. I am angry at that teacher who let it happen and was too cowardly to stand up for me when she could have. And I’m angry at myself for not making a bigger fuss at the time. Because TEN YEARS LATER thinking about this incident completely ruined my morning. And I deserve better.

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My background was, I suppose, theatrical…

Simon Callow, My Life in Pieces: An Alternative Autobiography

After about half an hour of waiting for Simon Callow at the stage door of Trafalgar Studios following a performance of his one-man show Being Shakespeare, Ottawa playwright Lawrence Aronovitch asked me: How determined are you?

Considering his book Being An Actor was practically my bible throughout high school and ‘Meet Simon Callow’ is number 91 on my list of 101/1001, yes, I was pretty keen to exchange a few words with the guy, perhaps snag an autograph.

Just as we were contemplating heading back to our respective homes, Lawrence looked over my shoulder, smiled, and said simply, There he is.

And out walked The Actor into the dimly lit street, followed closely by a young man with a fold-up bicycle. He greeted us warmly and happily agreed to sign our newly purchased books.

 

Did you find the script or did the script find you, I asked with uncharacteristic succinctness.

He laughed and replied: Well, I wrote it.

Didn’t the playwright write it…?

It was a collaborative process. We worked together quite closely. There were some changes made.

Lawrence is a playwright! I couldn’t resist playing the role of agent/producer…

Ah, really! T.E. or Olivier?

Confirming the correct spelling of his name, my companion mentioned that he, too, was working on a one-man show.

You inspire, Lawrence said graciously. I saw you in Wilde. And I’ve read Tuesdays at Tescos.

An extraordinary play, noted Simon Callow. A difficult play, difficult to memorize.

Probably keen to continue with their evening, The Actor and the man with the fold-up bicycle politely made their excuses and headed up the street and into the crowds of Trafalgar Square.

Funny he would say that, said Lawrence.

Say what?

That he wrote the play. Really, Shakespeare wrote most of it. And the playwright, presumably. There was a lot of subtext in that statement.

Yeah, true. Interesting. [pause] Hey – we met Simon Callow! Nice!!

And that’s how I celebrated my sixth month anniversary of living in London.

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Several weeks ago I attended a play at the National Theatre called Travelling Light, and it was a wonderful production. But the interesting thing about my experience with this play was not the any one aspect of the production, but how it – as a whole – affected me afterwards. Which is not to undervalue the qualities of this play: despite an unnecessarily sentimental ending, this is a strong and witty script about the creation of film, stemming from small-town ambition, complete with endearing Jewish personalities, a neurotic young film director, and his beautiful assistant turned silent film actress. And it had Anthony Sher, who is a fantastic stage actor.

My experience is not something I can explain in objective terms. I suppose the best way I can describe it is that it had this intoxicating, contagious energy that stayed with me the entire walk and tube ride home. I found myself walking so quickly I was practically skipping down the street with nervous excitement. I just wanted to keep moving. Even waiting at a crosswalk, I could barely keep still. I took out my iPod touch and started filming my route, paying close attention to the quick turns in the road, observing small details as I passed. Similar to when I became acquainted with Harriet the Spy and immediately bought myself a spy notebook just like hers; but, in this case, I thought I could be a film maker. Granted, the little video I created was far from imaginative, and it is, in fact, so boring to watch, that I won’t even bother sharing it. But the point is, at the time, something electric happened, and it felt fantastic.

I mention this only because sometimes going to the theatre can be an exhausting experience, which is why, I think, it isn’t as popular as it once was. Watching videos at home requires far less emotional sacrifice. But if a play is poor quality or simply ‘not for you’, the effort it takes to watch and stay engaged with a live performance can feel wasted when the experience is not gratifying. Still, once in a while, during or following a performance, you find yourself in a similar state to riding down a steep hill at full speed on your beloved bicycle (sometimes more therapeutic than therapy, I recently discovered…) or flying down a particularly lush snow hill with a sharp wind hitting the parts of your face not covered by ski goggles. And those moments are somehow magnified, multiplied by the closeness of theatre, by the intimacy of sharing the same space. And that’s why I keep going back – hoping to renew my acquaintance with that feeling.

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