Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

One Shirley, Two Actors

Posted: April 12, 2016 in Art, Theatre

I know… it’s been a while. But hey, when life does give you a few minutes to yourself – parking in front of the computer is rarely what you want to do as “down time”; so the blog stays idle until there’s a compelling reason to post something. Well, something has come up… so, here you go.

I’m sure many of you have seen, or have at least heard about, the movie Shirley Valentine. Before it was made into a movie in 1989, it was an amazing play written by Willy Russell. Starting the last Tuesday in April, 4thWall Productions will be staging a production of Russell’s play and they have invited me to design the soundscape for it. It’s what is sometimes referred to “in the biz” as a one-hander, which means there’s only one actor on stage for the whole play.

That’s one actor, delivering all the lines, for two hours, every show. And when there are two shows a day for five days in a row, that’s a lot of work; especially if, like most actors in Canada, you need to hold down a part-time or even a full time job just to pay the bills. Add in the kids, and soccer/hockey, and… well, you get the idea. What’s the solution? Before I answer that question, let me tell you a little about Shirley Valentine in case you are among the uninitiated.

Shirley is in a place a lot of us find ourselves at one point or another. She’s in her forties, her two kids have moved on, the bloom has fallen off the romance with her husband and when she takes the time to sit down and have a glass of wine and think about it, she’s saddened by the fact that life is not what she imagined it would be. She wonders where it all went sideways and what happened to all the dreams she had when she was younger. So she goes looking for them and also discovers, as a wise Greek philosopher once put it, “Dreams are never where you expect them to be.”dreams

So what happens? Well, that would be telling now, wouldn’t it?

But, back the solution: as my title suggests, the trick is one Shirley, but two actors! You get two people to share the role, trading off one performance to the next. In this case that also means two Jennifers; first, my good friend Jennifer Barson, whom I’ve enjoyed working with a number of times, and second, my new friend Jennifer Cornish, whom I certainly hope to work with again. Two great actors sharing one tremendous role to the delight of all. It’s a remarkable thing to watch them work. Same story, same dialog, same blocking, but, in a manner of speaking, two great plays. You may have to come see it twice!

So this is my invitation to you my faithful reader, to make your way to the Fergus Grand Theatre in, of all places, Fergus, Ontario and take in a remarkable show. Grab a date and enjoy an evening show together, or round up the book club and grab a matinée. It all starts on Tuesday, April 26th and runs two performances a day (2pm and 8pm) through to April 30th. Tickets are just $25.

To buy tickets online… CLICK HERE!

shirley-valentine-post-card-600pxw-2016-v2

star is bornWell, that’s another “Christmas Show” at Guelph Little Theatre wrapped up and put away. We call it the Christmas Show because it’s usually aimed at kids and because of it’s chronological proximity to the Holiday Season; even though more often than not it isn’t about Christmas. I really get a kick out of doing these pantomimes each year. It’s a present in a very real sense of the word.

It’s a present to me because I get to do a host of audio gags that just don’t fit into productions like Doubt, or Death of a Salesman (although I suppose there are a few places in Shakespeare where a well places rimshot might work.) It’s a chance to do a few things I don’t normally get to do as well. This time around I got to figure out how to make an unplugged microwave “cauldron” light up and beep on cue. It’s just a whole lotta fun!

It’s a present to the Guelph Little Theatre as well because it’s the best type of show to introduce a whole new generation to the joy of live theatre. The pantomime is always youth and kid heavy and this year there was a lot of kids I’ve never seen before, and a few adults actually. Their youth and energy is absolutely contagious. Though, like any show, it can be tiring spending 3 moths working on a production, this year I was just a little less tired, and a little more pumped about the season. The best part though is knowing that some of these kids will be back. They’ve caught the bug and will be around on other more serious productions to bring their energy and enthusiasm to bear on those projects as well. I can’t wait to see it!

It’s also a present to the community, as is every production we mount at Guelph Little Theatre. It’s easy to get caught up in the big screen experience. I won’t deny it. However, some of my most emotionally touching and compelling experiences have been had sitting in a small intimate theatre watching the unfolding of the human condition happen live, right there in front of you, only a few meters away. And while Bill Murray and Meryl Streep aren’t going to climb down off the screen and ask you how you liked the film; these wonderful local actors, who work just as hard I think, on their own time, for no money (it’s all volunteer folks) but rather just for the love of the art, are happy to meet with you after the lights go down and share a few thoughts over a drink in the lobby.

But unlike a lot of Christmas presents this one gets “wrapped up” after it’s been enjoyed. We put everything away and sweep off the stage until the next show. Which you can get tickets for here!

Community theatre has become the second biggest part of my life after faith and family. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and working with this wonderfully crazy cast and crew on “Once Upon a Witch” has only served to re-enforce that. The list of who to thank for that is as long as the full list of everyone involved. I owe each and every one of them for the gratitude I feel.

But as usual two stand out: our Director Tim Campbell, and my personal little “Morty” (stage manager) Beth Freeth. Thanks to you both so much for including me!

See you next year!

Number 7 on my Turning 60 List goes as follows:

Outliving your friends really sucks. It’s happened too often. Lately it’s been happening more and more. The longer I live the worse it’s going to get. Like I said, it sucks!”

Today offered up more evidence of this.

I first met Gary Chapman working on the set for “Death of Salesman” at Guelph Little Theatre in 2006. He and his wife Lin were in charge of building and decorating the set. When we went on to WODL  Festival that year he was the one who coordinated moving what was essentially a two-story house from our stage to the one in Sarnia. To put it frankly – he impressed the hell out me! One of the most amazing experiences of my life.

That experience was re-enacted in part when Gary and Lyn served as technical directors when Guelph Little Theatre hosted the WODL Festival a couple of years ago. It was such great fun. One of the best March Breaks ever. Gary proved once again why he was so loved and respected by so many.

You noticed the past tense right? Yeah, Gary died this morning. He’d been sick for a while. Cancer–what else?  He and Lyn were scheduled to host the 5th Annual Arthur Awards Gala back in September. He couldn’t make it because of surgery. I guess it was too little, too late.

To describe him as warm, friendly, talented, and dedicated is understatement. He was all you could hope for and more. The theatre community in Guelph and area has lost a tremendous friend and talent. To say he will be missed is to engage in more of the aforementioned redundancy. But, it needs to be said.

It’s gonna take a while to process this, but for now…

Goodbye Gary, gonna miss you pal.

Gary Chapman

 

Much Ado about an Anniversary

Posted: January 8, 2010 in Personal, Theatre
Tags: ,

It was a year ago this week that I underwent the surgery for my ruptured Achilles tendon. Not unexpectedly, it had a profound affect on the way things unfolded this past year. I spent almost half of 2009 in rehab of one kind or another trying to get back to where I was before the accident. I would have to say that I’m at about 85-90% which is just about what they told me to expect.

I can still ride my bike, for which I am very grateful. In June I had a great time on the Ride to Conquer Cancer with the rest of Team Kortight and I am looking forward to participating in the 2010 Ride later this year with an even larger team; but more on that in another post.

What I wanted to write about today is that this week, one year after the fact, I finally returned to the scene of the crime. The other night I attending a production meeting for “Much Ado About Nothing“, the Shakespearean comedy being presented by Guelph Little Theatre in April.

There was every much a sense of déjà vu as I crossed the parking lot and entered the front doors. It was, after all, a winter night the last time I was there. Just like that night a year ago there was a slight breeze, stars were twinkling in the clear winter sky, the soft glow of the florescent lights emanated from the lobby, and smoke rose lazily from the cluster of smokers near the front door – (heavy sigh)  it was almost as if no time had passed at all.

However, time has indeed passed and that became abundantly clear shortly after walking in the door.  I spent some time catching up with friends, hearing about the projects they had been working on, telling them what was happening with me.  Each conversation was punctuated by the same expression, “Man, has it really been a year?”

The time lag continued to make itself obvious during the discussion about the play. It took a while to get back in the groove, feeling my way into the conversation almost like a newcomer. Adding to the feeling was the fact there are only two familiar faces on the production staff:  Gerry Butts is directing, and Beth Freeth is stage managing.

I’ve worked with Beth as SM before, on ‘Kitchen Witches’ for the Elora Community Theatre. She’s an energetic type,  knows her stuff, understands the dynamics of what I need to fulfill my role as Sound scape Designer, and has a self professed affinity for Star Trek.  I’m going to enjoy working with her again.

Gerry is a gentle giant of a man who I first got to know when he played Willie Loman in GLT’s production of “Death of a Salesman.” I’ve never worked with him as a director though and I’ve seen other director/actor types in action, some ofwhich can be a regular Jekyll and Hyde. I am looking forward to discovering both his directorial style and how he functions at the helm of a team.

Poster for Much Ado about Nothing at GLT

Romance & Comedy in 16th Century Italy

There’s is one other familiar face. I’m beginning to believe there is ethereal conspiracy afoot in the heavenly realms designed to keep me in the company of this person. But I don’t mind because he is one of the more congenial and dare I say brilliant people it has been my pleasure to meet. Once more Ken Cameron is involved in the same production as I, this time he brings his thespian skills to bear in the role of Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon. Ken is a gifted actor who has worked with me on every project I’ve been on save one (‘Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean’ – on which I was brought in only a week and a half before opening) and I have come to value his friendship.

Adding to the mix this time however, is the addition of Ken’s son Andrew to the cast in the role of ‘Boy’, in Act II. It’s Andrew’s second excursion under the lights and I’m looking forward to getting to know this remarkable young man better. I call him remarkable because, quite frankly, the shoe fits. In March of 2009 Andrew and Ken made the trip to Queen’s Park to see Andrew receive his Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Award.  There’s a pic of Andrew and the other winners HERE (he’s the one in the chair beside Lieutenant Governor Onley); the write-up can be found HERE. Having two Camerons around is really going to keep me on my toes.

So that’s where we are in the opening days of 2010, one year after My Great Fall. I’m back in the theatre and working a Shakespear piece for the first time since high school. It’s going to be an interesting spring.

Now there is a lot more going on than just my return to the tech booth at GLT. But we’ll talk about that another day.

Happy New Year!

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Posted: March 3, 2009 in Theatre
Tags: ,
2009 Rayal City Ambassadors Show

2009 R0yal City Ambassadors Show

I’d like to invite you all to one of my favourite events of the year.

Every year about this time The Royal City Ambassadors put on their annual charity show.  The Ambassadors are a men’s chorus and quartet organization that promotes the performance and enjoyment four-part a cappella harmony. The natural, un-encumbered music of the human voice.

This year, as found in the title of this post, the show is called, Experiencing Technical Difficulties.” It’s a great evening of… well, why don’t I let them tell you:

“The Royal City Ambassadors are pleased to be on the stage of River Run to present their 41st annual show.  “Experiencing Technical Difficulties” will delight young and old in the audience as the chorus shares their infectious humour and love of singing.  In addition, the zany antics of this year’s guest quartet CORNERSTONE will complement a great evening!

The Ambassadors are a group of men from all walks of life who love to sing in four-part a cappella harmony.  Every Tuesday evening they gather from Guelph and surrounding communities to enjoy singing, fellowship and fun.  The Guelph Chapter is proud to raise funds annually in support of “Harmonize for Speech”.  These funds assist organizations locally and provincially to assist individuals with speech disorders.”

I’ve attended a number of these shows in the past and have always enjoyed them. None of the men are professional singers, just a bunch of regular guys; bus drivers, computer geeks, accountants, and the like, who really enjoy getting together just to sing.  And they do it very well.

The show includes not just great comedy and great songs by the chorus and it’s member quartets, but specials guests “The Cornerstones” and a late addition, the Centennial Concert Choir.

But most importantly, the show supports a very worthy cause. As mentioned above the Ambassadors sing to raise money for Harmonize for Speech, an organization that provides much needed support for those who suffer from speech disorders.  This can happen for a variety of reasons from birth defects to stroke.  They as their motto says, “We Sing That They Shall Speak.”

So if you’re going to be in the Guelph area on March 27th or 28th, follow the link below to the River Run box office and grab a few tickets for the show.  use the email link to have a member of the Ambassadors arrange to get the tickets to you.  You be glad you did!

Until next time…  Sing!


Click here to Purshase Tickets from the River Run

Click here to Get Tickets from an Ambassador

I suppose the time has come to write about my current situation, if for no other reason than a multitude of individuals who have said to me in the last few days, “I expect much blogging while you are laid up the next few weeks.”

I think that was one of the things that made me take an hiatus from blogging – the sense of having to meet expectations. I started it because I just wanted to get things down for myself, but soon I was writing for everyone but me. But that is of course the dilemma every creative thinker faces, is it not? Do I write, paint, play, sing, sculpt, or whatever else it is I consider my raison d’etre for my own satisfaction, or do I do it for those whose opinions I hold in even higher regard – my audience, though I may be loath to admit it. I suspect, like most things in my experience, the truth lies somewhere in between, consisting of x parts one and truth – x parts the other.

But to return to the subject at hand: on Friday morning (Jan 9/08) I shall report to Guelph General Hospital’s Day Surgery ward to undergo a procedure to repair the Achilles tendon on my left foot. It seems I have a knack for putting my foot in it (as my wife Roberta will confirm) and this time what I put my foot in was a hole in the floor backstage at Guelph Little Theatre. The details of exactly how it happened are largely unimportant. Let it suffice to say,”Black floor + black hole x large differential bifocals = Ouch!” If you have no idea what the bifocals have to do with it, ask someone who wears them.

And so I find myself faced with the prospect of surgery, followed by several weeks in a cast, then more time in a walking cast, and who knows how many sessions of excruciating physio-therapy. Oooh! – what fun! But then I suppose it could always be worse. There will be time to think, to write, to sort, to meditate, to vegetate, and of course, to blog.

I strongly suspect that this may well be one of those, be careful what you pray for scenarios. As the New Year unfolded I found myself offhandedly praying for more time to engage in all of the above – especially the writing. Then this happens. Powerful stuff prayer. Use at own risk!

So there you have it, the back story to where these ramblings will be coming from for the next little while. If you would like to support me in some way during my period of recovery then I ask you to click your way over to the Guelph Little Theatre website and book a few tickets for “The Curious Savage“. It is the delightful little comedy I was working on the preparation for when this happened. Yes I know, it’s a shameless plug; but if it sells out in a stampede of sympathetic consumerism it shall serve to bolster my self-esteem as I will have ‘taken one for the team.’

What is “The Curious Savage“? It is the story of three siblings, five friends, two attendants, and a woman and her bear; all drawn together by means of foolish expectations and not so foolish dreams. Yes, it is a rather cryptic description I know, but then, where’s your curiosity?

Until next time then, I covet your prayers, your well-wishes, and your contributions to the box office.

Shalom

Okay so here’s the situation… You are the producer/director of your mother’s cable-access cooking show. You get the word that the show has been cancelled and during the final episode, your mom’s chief rival shows up to disrupt things. After all, her show’s been cancelled too, and with the history that exists between her and your mom, she’s not going down without settling a few things first. And if that wasn’t bad enough, this is the week you’ve chosen to stop smoking!

Such is the starting point of “Kitchen Witches”, Caroline Smith’s hilarious comedy. Directed by Denise Gismondi and produced by Jim Monaghan it is the latest offering by Elora Community Theatre. Performances are being held at the Fergus Grand Theatre, 8pm each evening (Sunday Matinee – 2 pm), April 25 – 27 and May 1 – 3, 2008.


Yes, it’s shameless self promotion time again, and once more I make no apologies. “Kitchen Witches” is my latest adventure as a soundscape designer. The unique challenge to face this time around is the production of some original music for the show. The play centers around a cable access cooking show and like any good TV program it needs a theme. And simply re-cycling the music from the Galloping Gourmet or even Bewitched isn’t going to cut it. Besides somebody, somewhere likely still holds the copyright and they’d want their piece of the action.

Fortunately, I had the assistance of a very talented young man by the name of Ben Leibovitz. He came up with a great theme and with the help of some local singers and my friend Brian’s in-home recording studio we’re getting the job done. The final mix should be ready some time next week.

The show is also giving me an opportunity to work once more with Ken Cameron. I was privileged to work with Ken on “Death of a Salesman” at Guelph Little Theatre a while back, and in “The Missing Piece/Peace” with In the Light Productions this past Christmas. This time around Ken plays the role of the producer/director in “Kitchen Witches” and has to referee the tussles between the troublesome twosome. I have really come to admire Ken’s talent and professionalism and I’ll tell you, if I wasn’t already involved with the show, I’d be coming out to see it anyway just to enjoy watching Ken do what he does so well.

So if you’re going to be in the Fergus/Elora area during the run of the play (again that’s April 25 – 27 and May 1 – 3, 2008 at the Fergus Grand Theatre) do yourself a favour and come out for an evening of fun and laughter with Community Theatre at It’s Best.

Tickets are available in advance by calling Ralph Basset Associates @ (519) 843-4852 -or- Long Distance (866) 500-6652. The box office open one hour before each performance.