Revisor (Contemporary Dance show)

Post-show reflection.

This cast was sublime together. Each dancer made their talent known and committed to each gesture, pose, slide, lift, etc. I am floored by their execution of this narrative. The timing of their lip syncing to the narrator’s lines was spot on each time. That gave me so much relief to see because I knew I could relax into the intensity of the story rather than trying to understand why the performers were moving their mouths. If I could go back and rewatch this, I would have screamed “Shantay, you stay” to each performer (Drag Race reference, if you were wondering).

Specifically, I’m so glad I got to see Cindy Salgado, Jermaine Spivey, Ella Rothschild and Doug Letheren. I have been fortunate enough to take classes with each of these amazing humans, and getting to watch them work through this show was such a treat. Doug was the first person who introduced me to the training of Gaga and the first teacher to help me understand how to stand on one foot. His performance as Director of the Complex was comically excellent.

Let’s talk about lighting. One of the most memorable moments for me was when the lighting was so quick that it made the dancers look like they were creating stop motion with their bodies. It threw me completely off guard because of the delicacy that the dancers used to time out the lighting shifts. Such genius. As well, the backdrop played with digital drawings that resembled a  computer screensaver. The brushes of light would fade in and out as the dancers moved, almost in coordination it seemed. 

All in all, if you are looking for a little bit of everything, go see this show. It is so well-rounded. With the addition of playwright Jonathon Young, who developed the story so effortlessly to fit the ideology of Crystal Pite’s movement, my theatre juices were bubbling the entire time. He has worked with her as a performer before so seeing what he can do with his words was awesome! I really admire when creators involve storyline into their work. It was so mesmerizing. I had to remind myself to stop moving my head so much because I kept being entranced by the dancers. My inner thighs remained engaged for the whole 90 mins. 

Thank you Kidd Pivot! You are constantly a Canadian masterpiece in my mind!

A Piece of Salt for the Soul

Selina Thompson’s performance in salt. was breathtaking to say the least. She delivered each line of text with such grace that it was easy to forget how incredibly sad her story was. The piece touched upon harsh themes, but Thompson allowed for moments of comedic light to keep the audience from pulling back. She described her unforgettable journey that took her across the world in the bottom of a cargo ship, handling many instances with sexist and racist men. A major portion of the performance included the use of a sledgehammer to smash a huge chunk of pink salt. She kept breaking it down that eventually, the salt turned into miniscule pieces of dust as she listed all of the governmental issues in our society. Each time she swung the sledgehammer, the intensity increased making this a helpful concept to accurately display Thompson’s anger. As well, it is clear that she has a background in spoken word because her rhythmic projection of voice was still audible even when she smashed the hammer on the ground. It was brilliantly executed.

The best moment in my opinion was when Thompson paused half-way through an emotional part of her story to lie down on her side. At first, this choice seemed too casual for such a profound moment, but I found myself to be blown away by this change in orientation. Putting herself at the same level as the stage created a strong relation with her and the audience, and The Theatre Centre’s Franco Boni Theatre is constructed to provide a deep closeness for the audience and the performer. She then continued speaking about the horrible men that constantly bothered her during her trip, remaining on her side. These men gave her enough stress to cause her to miss her menstruation cycle throughout the trip, and Thompson used her charm to reveal this private piece of information. Her bravery to be candid with the audience heightened the performance, and I will never forget how powerful it was to watch. She brought a unique sensation to the piece, inspiring me to choose the adventurous life over the boring and mundane version. No matter how isolating it can be to travel away from home, Thompson reminded me that the best stories come out of the most anxiety-ridden experiences. Also, the piece of salt that each audience member received was a memorable way to finish off Selina Thompson’s esoteric story.

Does purpose hold our creative process back?

During my Creative Performance Studies class on Thursday, January 17, my professor asked us to answer these questions in regards to our individual artistic endeavours. I wrote a lot and also gathered some answers from my classmates. Please enjoy.

1.Why is your work important to you?

Performing is precious to me because it helps me understand my life better. If I am playing a character or simply feeling an emotion, I use that to exercise my own thought process from different lenses. My own experiences are the only real feelings I’ll ever have but if I can understand the alternate universe of a performance, my experiences transform. I use the performance as therapy. Also, to help others have a sort of therapy.

2. Why is your work important at all?

Without sounding too pretentious, I think art and performance is crucial to human survival. Even art that may be considered “bad” has a place is our society. We must release our emotions and thoughts at some point. I would prefer to do that a lot, but some people just choose to do it every so often.

3. What makes you want to start something?

Honestly, I’ve been trying to push my limits more and performing helps me do that. Recently, I’ve been saying to myself “I know I am capable of more than I think I am.” This remind me not to feel comfortable. Using performance as a way to challenge my expectations and try new things. It feels more like a way of life, not just an in-the-studio thing.

4. Does purpose hold us back or no?

-gives us more confidence in what we are trying to express
-sometimes doesn’t really bring about new ideas
-makes us ask why
-offers a new learning experience
-can make us think too much about what the audience will think
-creation vs analysis: give a separate moment for each because trying to force the magic out of an idea is not truthful
-might end up thinking that everything we create is stupid because we haven’t fully created it
-everyday is different*

5. What are some factors that change our process?

Tiredness, happiness, an audience, desire, musical influence, sensation, goal setting, etc

6. What are the roles of the artist?

-make people feel something/tell a story
-help viewers understand themselves
-offer an escape from the viewers’ tough lives
-to shock or to trigger
-speak the universal language
-to educate
-say out loud what you can’t necessary say in public
-simple concepts
-to create magic

7. What are the responsibilities of the artist?

-to take instructions without losing authenticity
-the overall work has to be purposeful
-make the audience feel welcome in the space
-can’t try to please all the time
-try not to vomit too much to the audience
-educate ourselves and research the topic

Mike Birbigulia’s The New One (Broadway show)

Post-show reflection.

His charm had me hooked right away. When Mike walked on, someone in the 7th row centre clapped and pointed so loudly that it rang above everyone’s else’s clapping. Mike immediately told this guy that he was “too drunk for theatre” and I knew then and there that this was going be a special show for me. 

Mike ran through stories of medical issues, sex experiences, his wife’s poems and more. It wasn’t what he talked about, it was the colloquial and softness to his delivery that made me laugh so loud. To be honest, I was worried others would get offended by my outbursts. I tend to watch comedy shows in the comfort of my bedroom with my headphones on and Netflix is the only view I have. So experiencing a live one man comedy show was new for me and I’m so happy I got to fit it in my life. My Saturday night was perfected with this show. I was satisfied, although I didn’t leave with an amazement that I usually do with the theatre. But that’s okay.

There was a moment in the performance where (spoiler alert) a truckload of baby toys falls from the ceiling and onto the once-empty stage. This almost brought tears to my eyes because I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. I was simultaneously nervous for Mike because I was scared he was gonna collapse underneath this heap of paraphernalia, and shocked because the first half of his show consisted of nothing but him and the stage. It was a smart move to add in something extra to wake up the audience, and it was also hilarious to watch him navigate through the maze of stuffed toys and baby products. 

I feel very attached to comedy after this show and it reminds me to take life a little bit more unserious. Nothing has to be stressful if we want to enjoy it. Right? I think this is something my parents never taught me and I hope I find more of this in my journey to being dead.

The Waverly Gallery (Broadway play)

Post-show reflection.

Lots to think about with this show. As an avid musical theatre lover, I have to say this play was a slower pace than I’m used to. That being said, I was engaged the entire show. The dialogue was human. The acting was executed in a humanistic fashion. Kenneth Lonergan’s play was a human in itself. Troubled and lonely, just as each human watching the show has been their whole life. I paid for my ticket and I got my money’s worth.

Michael Cera and Lucas Hedges took the younger perspective to a great depth. I connected with their characters’ feelings more, obviously, because they were just as lost as I would be if an old person was going crazy in front of me. The only similar situation I’ve been through is with an aunt I knew at the ripe age of 8. She died, but I didn’t realize how sad her life had been. I was too ignorant. Having to be the light in someone’s life without even knowing it is so weird. 

Élaine May grabbed the stars with this performance. With every “what” or “huh” that she mustered, her character, Gladys, fell deeper into a state of insanity. From what I saw, Élaine handled this difficult human experience by caring for her character. She let Gladys go to that horrid place but made sure there was a pillow to land on. If she doesn’t get a Tony, I don’t know what will.

Joan Allen and David Cromer as the middle-aged babysitters for Gladys were both sad and hilarious at the same time. I really enjoyed watching them work through the dialogue that was made up of a lot of repeating themselves. It must be exhausting to make sure the second time they said the line, it had more umph to it.

I did notice that the audience laughed a lot. Maybe it was because Alzheimer’s is such a horrendous thing to discuss and so, the natural reaction would be to make a joke of it. I didn’t feel like the play was trying to be funny, in most cases, so being in a crowd of awkwardly giggling people was very strange for me. I tried to just feel my own emotions towards the play but some times I just went along with the group’s decision to laugh.

I can honestly say I feel like I went to a masterclass when watching this show. The professionalism and dedication to the craft had me so inspired to be a performer. I’ll always be a dancer, but this show helped me appreciate the wonderful world of acting.

Waitress (Broadway musical)

Post-show reflection.

It’s more than just a musical. It’s a story of domestic abuse turned into a woman’s new-found strength. I found myself in tears from the first few songs as we learned of the main character’s situation. She is stuck. And her husband is too dopey to notice that he’s ruining her life. When she discovers that her doctor actually cares about her, Jenna’s first reaction is to hate him. She says “I think you’re strange” because she’s never felt compassion from another human. Only selfish love from her horrible husband, Earl.

Oh Sara. Your melodies are timeless. I feel so connected to the story of these characters because the music has such a vibrant colour to it. I noticed that the cast really had to push their breath out with each note due to the rhythmical complexity of Sara’s score. The cast also had to really focus their performing on singing rather than acting and moving to execute the high-low pitch ratio. I listened to Sara’s other albums on the way home because I couldn’t get enough.

Christopher Fitzgerald is a MASTER of comedy. He knew exactly how to get the audience on his side. Watching him work was a real treat that I won’t forget. I’ve followed him since his run as Boq in Wicked and I was fan-girling so hard. The people behind me were probably so confused as to why this broadway-lover was jumping up and down in her seat. His timing and physical abilities were just the cherry on top of the pie that this character needed. Every single audience member was laughing, even when he cartwheeled off-stage. True performer.

Also, June Squibb! I mean, could there be anyone better to play Joe?! Better than the original cast member!

I will say that the performance I saw had four understudies and it was very noticeable. Dr. Pomatter was flat and tried too hard to sing like a musical theatre actor. He was more gifted in his comedic lines but that’s probably because the character is so lovable in the book. As well, the woman who played Dawn missed the mark in terms of capturing the anxiety-ridden waitress. Undoubtedly, she got lost next to Chris Fitz. Sorry girl! *backwards snap lean-back*

Stephanie Torns as Jenna made everything better. She definitely carried the show and didn’t fuddle with the intensity of multiple solos. I could tell her voice was a bit coarse from the weather of January but her version of “She Used to be Mine” had just the right emotional range. I especially enjoyed her stoic gaze as Earl prodded her and grabbed her during their scenes. Very well done. She also looked oddly similar to Jessie Mueller (who originated the role) so that helped!

All in all, I cried a lot and laughed a lot and appreciated the story more than anything else. If only I could have seen Gavin Creel and Sara Bareilles in the main roles, but their schedule doesn’t start until I leave New York. Still glad I saw it.

The Ferryman (play on Broadway)

Post-show reflection.

I am so absolutely in love with this piece of work. It tackles familial compassion like I’ve never seen before. This group of unlucky Irish people fight against so much and still have time to spare a drink, a bite or a dance with each other. I admire the characters’ energy levels even though most of them never seem to sleep. Caitlyn Carney, the widow, has her duties for the family and always gets them done. She fights the urge to follow her heart and in return, she is tragically at a loss at the end of the play.

I feel a connection to the 20-something men who drink while spitting insults at each other playfully. They remind me to enjoy the friends who end up taking care of you when you are too drunk to exist. Also, Fra Fee is my new crush. Damn.

The relationship of Quinn and Mary has such a sour taste to it that I find myself wanting them to stay a part in the future. Of course, they would never break up their incredible family of 7 kids, but how did they manage to fall in love? Their compatibility is very low even if it’s true that opposites attract. I don’t see them continuing as husband and wife if this play were to go on past the curtain call.

And, speaking of the curtain call. 2 encores and a standing O? Only musicals usually bring that much excitement to an audience. I am so grateful I got to stand there with the other theatre-lovers and applaud the cast’s effort. It gives me great joy to congratulate something that deserves it.

All in all, this show is true contender for a Tony. It has the heart and blood that dignifies what a new play should bring to Broadway. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t win.