Browsing articles in "Theatre"

Nights on the town

Feb 11, 2010   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, Real Life, Theatre  //  No Comments

The other day, I participated in a focus group that was part of a study commissioned by a theatre company in Calgary, to explore theatre-going trends and opinions in the city. The focus group that I was part of was one of three types: people who have been to the theatre within the past six months; people who have been in the past (2 or more years ago), but not more recently; and people who have never been to the theatre. Of course, this one was the first type, and most of the people there were even more frequent than every six months. I think that I was the only theatre professional in attendance, but most of the others were season ticket holders, and many regularly attended shows presented by more than one company.

The first question we were asked was, “What is your ideal night out in Calgary?” Read more >>

Take the Name

Nov 25, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, Faith, School, Theatre  //  No Comments

I can’t think of that ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” without my mind jumping to “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.” Two separate commandments, but they go hand in hand, to me.

More than just an admonition against swearing, particularly blasphemous utterances, that third commandment is a reminder that, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we literally take the name. Whether it’s identifying as God’s Chosen People or as Christians, something about our very identity invokes God’s presence. Read more >>

Through the wardrobe

Nov 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Reviews, Theatre  //  No Comments

Last week, I went to see PCPA’s production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a decent production — technically very good, relatively strong acting overall — and while there were things that I nitpicked about it and directing choices that I would have made differently, I really did enjoy the show.

I’ve talked before about adaptations and maintaining the integrity of the work, and there are certain movies or adaptations that I won’t see because I enjoyed the original too much to risk being disappointed by an adaptation that falls short. If the story is misinterpreted or characters don’t look the way I think they should or the overarching themes are viewed differently than I’ve always seen them (not to mention the disturbing propensity for adaptations to change the endings of the original work), it can turn the experience of a beloved story into a bittersweet (perhaps more bitter than sweet) shadow of what it should be.

I realized last weekend, though, that while that may be my immediate reaction to many adaptations, it’s actually the middle ground for me. On the one side, there are adaptations where I have little or no attachment to the original. Most comic book movies, for instance. I have virtually no attachment to the generative works, and while I fully recognize that I am experiencing the work on a very limited level, I’m enjoying it on its own merits and I am happily ensconced in my ignorance of the work. Read more >>

Dinner and a movie

Oct 20, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, School, Theatre, Weekly Round-up  //  No Comments

Ah, this was the kind of weekend that makes my heart sing.

I saw the West Coast premiere of Eclipsed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on Friday night. Saturday, I saw Medea at UCLA Live — two very intense, very brilliant nights of theatre. Which, of course, meant that I needed a comedic break, so Sunday, I saw Whip It. Read more >>

First of many steps

Oct 13, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Career, Creative Discontent, Ministry, Theatre  //  No Comments

I got my start in the arts in church. I sang in the kids’ choir (which my mom directed), got my first speaking parts in musicals, and did special music on Sunday mornings, all starting from the time I was 5 years old. My first full-length script was produced there; I started directing plays when I was in high school; I did shows where I simultaneously wore the hats of director, producer, production manager, and designer; and I even got my first taste of arts administration and producing in the church. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time, but I instinctively knew that something had to make the show go. Someone needed to create the infrastructure for the work to happen, and there was no one else doing it, so I did.

I’ve gone on and done a lot of work outside of a church environment, of course, and I’ve never wanted to build my entire career within the church, but I’ve always had a very clear view of its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the arts. I know how important the arts are within the church. I know the kind of growth and support that a church can give to an arts program. I also know how incredibly frustrating it can be at times to work primarily with volunteers, or to work in an organization whose mandate is not, first and foremost, arts-centered — where the arts fit into the fabric of the rest of the community, and not the other way around.

However. Read more >>

It’s the little things

Aug 25, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Culture, The Arts, Theatre  //  No Comments

A few things that are disappointing me (just a little bit) right now:

Standing Ovations

We saw two shows this weekend. One of them deserved a standing ovation. The other was okay, but not brilliant. However, they both received ovations.

It’s sad that the power of a standing ovation has been lost — it’s expected, for the most part, that an adequate performance will receive a standing O, and the power of that collective moment of awe that drives the audience to its feet has been lost.

As an audience member, the automatic expectation of an ovation takes away my power to respond in some way to a performance that deeply moves me or is in some way excellent enough to be acknowledged beyond simple applause. As a performer, the ubiquity of standing ovations takes away that next level of connection with the audience. It removes the breathlessness of knowing that this show garnered a reaction above the ordinary.

When standing ovations lose that power, what’s left? Standing on the seats to elevate the praise to another level?

I don’t stand for every curtain call. I’m not letting the fact that everyone else is standing up take the power of my own reaction away from me. It does, however, mean that I don’t always get to see the curtain call, which kinda sucks.

Facebook

Or rather, what Facebook tells me about people. The Lion King has been on tour in Calgary and Edmonton this summer, and a lot of people have gone to see it. We saw it on Sunday, and it was fantastic. Truly. I’d been wanting to see it for years, but when I lived in New York, I didn’t have the opportunity, so it was finally time. Definitely worth it, and it’s the kind of show that it’s been great to hear people talking about, knowing that so many people are going (and taking their kids) to the theatre.

However, all summer, I’ve been seeing people’s Facebook statuses updated about how amazing Lion King is — which it is — but those updates seem to be at the expense of seeing the Fringe Festival or Shakespeare in the Park or the Folk Fest or the cultural festivals or any of the other — local — shows and events that are going on. I’ve seen exponentially fewer updates about those events, even though there have been a summer’s worth of festivals and things to see, than I have about one show. It’s a sad day when it’s a tour, as opposed to local work, that gets the most attention.

Broadway Tours

More specifically, the fact that Calgary is a place where things are seen on tour, 10 years after they’ve been something cutting-edge and on the cusp of what’s big and groundbreaking. I love this city, but there’s something to be said for living in a place where you can see those shows when they’re a) just opening, or b) (and even better) being developed and still just outside the realm of really being big. By the time they’re on tour, there’s really no more street cred to them. They’re just part of the mainstream culture, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but I like being ahead of the game.

That’s it. Nothing earth-shattering. Just a few little things I wanted to get off my chest.

Harry Potter and the Generative Artist’s Intent

Jul 16, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Movies, Theatre  //  2 Comments

I’m a reader. Always have been, always will be. I started reading when I was about 3, and I’ve never looked back, and while reading was my first love (okay, second; I’m pretty sure that music was first), I have a distinct love for other, non-literary art forms. Of course I do. My life wouldn’t be what it is if I didn’t have that love. Theatre, music, film, dance, and visual arts are all art forms that I have a great deal of respect and passion for (and in the case of music and theatre, extensive training and a career built around), and they’re not necessarily based on the written word.

Read enough books, and you’ll soon come across movie adaptations of some of them. Take something successful and make it even more successful by making it accessible to a different audience! What could go wrong with that? I think it’s most prevalent in the film/TV adaptations of books and plays; then in plays that are adaptations of books or movies; and then novelizations of existing movies, TV shows, and plays.

(I think that music, dance, and visual arts tend more toward derivative works than toward adaptations; because their storytelling is less narrative and less linear, the relationship between those three and the other three, going both ways, is less of a direct re-telling of a story. That’s another conversation altogether; right now, I’m mostly concerned with the distinctly narrative art forms.)

Now, don’t misunderstand; I’m not trying to argue the superiority of books to their film adaptations. While this may be couched in a conversation that is primarily about books and movies, the scope is far broader than that. I’m talking about understanding the generative artist’s intent. Regardless of form or genre, that’s the most important thing to be aware of. A TV show can be superior to a book; a movie can be superior to a play. It’s not about which forms are more “valid,” because none is more or less valid than the others. They each require a different set of skills, they each have the potential to showcase truly great art and storytelling, and every single one of them is constantly adapted from and by other art forms. Books are not inherently better than television; theatre is not inherently better than film, and great culture and art can be found in all of them.

I think, though, that there are several important questions to consider:

Read more >>

Unseen heroes

Jul 10, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  2 Comments

Last weekend, we went to the Stampede and saw the grandstand show, which is essentially a big, expensive variety show that happens every night of the Stampede and involves music, dance, 130 (dancing and singing) kids, aerial gymnasts (Cirque du Soleil-type), extreme motocross bikers, and $45,000 of pyrotechnics each night. In other words, quite the production. It’s always fun; we love the whole spectacle of the thing, and we make sure to go see it pretty much every year.

Given a show that size, it’s pretty obvious that it requires a high-caliber staff — everyone from the producers to the stage managers to the designers to the composer to the choreographers to the crew. Especially when it comes to each individual show, there are too many elements for things to be only half-done. I mean, they have kids suspended in birdcage-type things above the stage and pyrotechnics in the near vicinity of many, many kids and teens. There’s definitely a large potential for things to go very wrong, if the work is done incorrectly.

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Letting go, stepping back, giving up?

Jun 29, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Creative Discontent, Theatre  //  5 Comments

I made a decision yesterday.

I made the tough decision to step back from a project that I’ve been involved with — a project incorporates many departments, most of which are continually reaching new levels of professionalism and quality — because the element of it that I’ve been a part of is the lowest quality, the least professional, and the most resistant to change.

It was a tough call, and I’m still not sure I did the right thing, but if I’d stayed with it, I’m not sure that would have been the right thing, either. There is no right answer here, and I’m having a hard time reconciling that.

I place great value on not doing work that is below an acceptable standard, and that holds true for the work I do as an individual, as well as for organizations that I’m involved with. I don’t want my name associated with that particular sub-group of the project. I don’t want my reputation to be intertwined with it, no matter how little of an impact my involvement may have in the larger scheme of things, until the quality improves.

And that’s the thing. I’m still committed to the long-term success of the project as a whole — including this particular, less-than-quality element of it. There are many things that can, should, and must be done in order to up the ante and make it what it can and should be; they’re just not being done yet, and until they are, I don’t feel like I can be involved in a visible way. I’ll be working behind the scenes and offering support and help to those who are making the decisions and taking things in the right direction, but I don’t know that I can be the one to put my name to it.

And yet, Colin can. He’s staying on in the same capacity as he always has, and he’ll continue to be that presence, and that’s the right decision for him.

But for me? I don’t know. I’m unsettled, no matter what I do.

Weekly Round-up: June 21

Jun 22, 2009   //   by Alida   //   Books, Creative Discontent, Movies, Reviews, Television, Theatre, Weekly Round-up  //  No Comments

This was supposed to post last week, but with one thing and another (first some internet downtime and then some “me” downtime), I’m just getting to it today. The plan is for this to be a weekly post, but like everything else, it seems that it’s taking a little longer to get started than I’d like it to.

Once I get into the habit and routine, this will be a weekly roundup of what I’m reading, listening to, watching, attending, and doing. This one, however, is not quite a weekly roundup; more like a “last 3 or 4 weeks” listing.
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