Browsing Category

Performance

A good catch

By June 14, 2018 Film, Life, Performance

As Summer offers up her breezy welcome, I salute the Spring that was, the Spring that sprung me loose, for a time, among olive groves. Did I manage to catch enough? Moments, not olives. Here follows a few that sustained me before the days became long and sunny:

Watching the sweet new documentary about Mister Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbour with my guy, both our faces stained with tears, all of us there in that theatre suddenly children again, we agreed we were the lucky ones who grew up with this gentle spirit leader, even if the experience was again peering at the snowglobe: the world will never be like this again. Go see this film, out now in theatres, my favourite from Hot Docs 2018.

Fun Home. What a theatrical masterpiece, featuring three actors playing a character at different stages of her life; the production we saw received rapturous applause. Mine was mostly for Sara Farb for her solo, I’m changing my major to Joan. Who doesn’t remember that first thrill of amazing sex, no matter what your orientation?  Here’s the Toronto cast:

 Other theatrical highs for me this past spring include the exuberant cast of Wavestage’s Beauty and the Beast. I’ve rarely seen that show done with such joy, helped along with the mad skills of a young choreographer who juggles gorgeous wedding photography on the side. More reason than ever to admire these hustling millennials. Yup. I said millennials. They are more than a trend colour.

Every social gathering is now lined with small screen binging currency. What have you seen? What are you watching? My answer this spring is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Yes, it is marvellous, and reason enough, along with Mozart in the Jungle, to keep an eye on Prime. Both are antidotes to The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, I’m watching that too and who could not as it is beautiful execution at every turn, even as it is harrowing.

 

To rid myself of too much angst, I go to a handful of NHL hockey games every season. Let’s leave stats and scores for the whiz kids like my nephew John but here’s a confession: it’s mostly about the collective experience for me. Are there any left? Where hollering and whooping with the rest of the crazies is better than…just better? We may be shouting Go Leafs Go but here’s a handy translation: Fuck Gloom. We’re for Glory. World Cup mania is about to hit. I’m ready. 

Driving my youngest kid home after her university year wraps up and she has to say goodbye so of course there’s tears, and me maintaining control of the wheel on the 401 when there is a sudden cry in the car: she’s looking at her phone as an email just came in from her school with her marks. And her smile is as wide as the road ahead.  I turn up the radio and we’re rocking all the way home now.

Hearing my father express his enduring love for our mother on their 61st anniversary with this simple grace note, when I wake up in the night and reach over, she’s there, warm beside me. 

Two months later, they were together at University of Toronto, where Mom showed off her medal received, along with other classmates, for their 65th reunion from Victoria College.  I sat beside Mom as she smiled at her two old chums across from her, all of them singing their school song there in Burwash Hall, and she told me she didn’t want to leave quite yet; there was strawberry shortcake after all.  Memory isn’t like my ten year old dog, Lucy; she our faithful door butler/surest secret keeper. Memory flirts ferociously, flutter here, flutter there, where did I put my keys? I don’t know how to find my way there anymore… But old friends and school songs and holding hands like college coeds?  That’s the there there.When my young nephew Henry came over to muck about with our dollhouse, his current set-up for the miniatures that inhabit our children’s library were configured as a band surrounded by fans. He was hearing music in his head when he set this up. Imagination just needs a door.

Then came Greece. Check back soon for my travelogue. Leaving for a spell is easy when you have people. Not rows of uniformed help. Rather, friends. A certain kind of friend who says yes when asked if she can be your surrogate caregiver while you are away. You know there’s work to be done and people in need, and without a back-up, your absence would produce challenges too hard to bear. So you ask. Her response, I would be honoured. Every day I was gone, she was here, quietly offering up intuitive leadership with efficiency of which I can only dream. My siblings cleared a way for me to travel. My friend Eva made it easy for my soul to fly.

 

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world. 

-Mary Oliver, To Begin With, the Sweet Grass

 

You Might Also Like

Surviving the slop of Fake Spring, one eyebrow raise at at time

By April 19, 2018 Art, Headlines, Performance
  • Is it just me or did that horrific crash in Humboldt not just seem the most Canadian ever of tragedies??  A bleak and frozen intersection, a hockey team of beautiful boys, an overturned bus? Is it just me that can’t stop thinking of that sad and stunning 1997 Atom Egoyan film, The Sweet Hereafter?  I know I’m not alone in my tears.  Last night, the GoFundMe page dedicated to the hockey team stopped taking donations after raising $15,185,700 in twelve days.

  •  Is is just me or was the crowd at the ACC in Toronto just a little too ratcheted up for the Leafs playoff game? Waving those silly towels in the air like the mad dogs we’ve become, fed up entirely with Fake Spring, one of thirteen Canadian seasons (freak February thaws, dog turd melt, pothole construction). We need to cheer for something. Go Leafs Go!

  • Is it just me having a laugh listening to Viggo Mortensen making the media rounds in Toronto this week? Here to chair the jury for the $100,000 Glen Gould prize, Mortensen had to endure just about everyone being dumbfounded at his depth. “Isn’t it fascinating to discover someone with so many layers” mused one. Over on Breakfast Televison, the host dubbed the actor (also poet, painter, photographer, author, and musician) a “renassiance man”. Over here at the Red Chronicles, I’ll stick with a gem befitting no box. Mortensen said he doesn’t much believe in any kind of artistic competition but was drawn in by the level of artistry, his respect for the other jurors and past recipients, and his own curiosity, which he confessed was his guiding principle. Just place him at the head of my Fantasy Dinner Party, please and thank you. Past winners include Oscar Peterson, Leonard Cohen, Yo-Yo Ma, Phillip Glass; this year the prize went to opera singer Jessye Norman, the first female laureate in the prize’s history. Wow. It took only twelve years…

  • Is it just me being schooled by my children? Over at the Pulitzer HQ, the folks who dole prizes out are also waking up to reality. Kendrik Lamar is the first hip hop artist to win the music Pulitzer for his 14-track “Damn”. The Pulitzer has long been interested in jazz and classical works yet this year’s board deemed the twenty-nine year old’s work as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of African-American life”. Now it’s my children turn to gape. Huh? We knew already, Mom. Waaaaay before you clued in. 

  •  I know it is not just me who lives in a world controlled by robots. Don’t think so? Didn’t you just have to type in some code for your computer’s brain to let you in? For basic access? Now let your mind travel to space. Luxury space travel. Book it now.  (Globe and Mail)

  • Is it just me or does this sound just wacky…and wonderful too. Gravity blankets. They’re a thing.(New Yorker) Would you get one? Report back and let me know if your sleep was suddenly delicious.

 

 

You Might Also Like

Unpredictable means entertaining (she says with hope)

By March 4, 2018 Film, Headlines, Performance

Drama. The certainty of it is sure to bring viewers to the Oscar telecast tonight. But how many viewers? The awards show has been bleeding viewers in one steady decline to match that of the overall box office: we are just not going to the movies as often. Streaming devices have proved so disruptive that movie fans like me should be alarmed. Our beloved and immersive art form is in threat. Yes, wondrous things are happening on small screens, yet watching anything that way is a different way of  interacting with art. Not a worse way, just a different way. If you can pause the film, get up and let your dog whining at the door out, you are not immersed; and that will fundamentally change the way these stories will be told in the future. Already, wizards are at work interpreting data of this very nature.

Now, there are things that should be killed off immediately. Let’s start with the casting couch. Set all of them on fire. I’ll dance around that blaze.

Other things I’d like to see gone forever? Read on:

Read More

You Might Also Like

The search for authenticity continues. We just need to know. Is it real?

By February 22, 2018 Headlines, Performance

Watching the Olympics over a two-week span is to view one inspirational narrative after another, sandwiched between superhuman feats of athleticism. Some have a little extra romance to offer. Or so we hope…

Read More

You Might Also Like

wear a pin but open your wallet

By January 8, 2018 Film, Headlines, Performance

The Golden Globe awards are popcorn and candy floss; bread and circus for the masses still stunned from holiday comas.
It’s just fluff. Or is it?

This year, a seismic shift turned the tables on a creative community reeling from one announcement after another of powerful industry men being rooted out from their plush and seedy man caves.
Instead of rainbow gowns, women—actors and all their peeps—were wearing black for a movement they hope will open the gates to true equality in pay, in production, and so on.

Is it a true shift?

Wearing black is easy. Ditto a lapel pin. Real change comes with money.

Read More

You Might Also Like

Best of 2017

By December 31, 2017 Books, Film, Headlines, Life, Performance

I’m staying in tonight. Spending the last day of the year with my main squeeze, my only squeeze, who has mopped the floor three times this holiday season and knows how to make a bed better than any hotel maid. He has many tricks but these are two you appreciate after a long marriage. That he makes me laugh daily is why this party girl is content with our plans to cook up Nigella’s champagne risotto and tick off happy moments in our cosy abode. I promised him chocolate mocha creme brûlée. I too have other tricks but that’s one of them.

Last day of a very rich year. Rich in lessons. Rich in moments. Rich in howling at the moon or the tv screen.  A year I almost threw my phone in the toilet for surely nothing good was worth reading on it, or in my still-delivered-daily newspapers.

On the first day of this year, I made a toast with my family present, a toast to buoyancy in heavy times. I’m thrilled to say I think we made it. The world is not broken. Aim for the light.

Here is my Best of 2017: or what I can remember after the holiday coma.

Favourite moments on the page:

  • In a year rocked by revelations of terrible deeds, one author’s words screamed at me from the page. Of course it was Alice Munro (Lives of Girls and Women). “There is no protection, unless it is in the knowing.”

  • from Felicity by poet Mary Oliver, this line from her poem Moments: “There is nothing more pathetic than caution, when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.”

  • from The Girls by Emma Cline: “That was our mistake, I think. One of many mistakes. To believe that boys were acting with a logic that we could someday understand. To believe that their actions had any meaning beyond thoughtless impulse. We were like conspiracy theorists, seeing portent and intention in every detail, wishing desperately that we mattered enough to be the object of planning and speculation. But they were just boys. Silly and young and straightforward; they weren’t hiding anything.”

  • from Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips: “She doesn’t picture them as Arabic—she has been wondering, of course. But they do not sound like that kind of terrorist. They sound like young, obnoxious white men—aren’t they always young white men?—and she is not sure whether this makes them more or less dangerous than fanatics on a jihad.”

  •  Canadian poet/novelist Steven Price wrote the kind of big fat novel you want to hide out by the fire with and speak to no one but the characters on the page.  I loved it, and read it in the moody month of March and I wish to return to exactly that sensation every time I read. By Gaslight was my favourite read of 2017.

Favourite moments on the stage:

  • Come from Away was the first show I saw early January 2017. What a start to my year of theatrical highs, thanks to an early birthday present from my sister. My 2017 personal theme of buoyancy was shared by those actors on that stage delivering the most heartfelt piece of Canadian theatre I have seen in years. Come from Away later opened on Broadway and scored seven Tony nominations, and won for best direction of a musical.

  • The Shaw Festival’s Michael Therriault as Bill Snibson in a note perfect production of Me and My Girl

  • The brilliant new musical Life After featuring a sensitive and intelligent performance by lead actor Ellen Denny who brought me to tears. “If you grow, then you know it was worth a little bruising. And it’s alright, as long as your height gains in inches what you’re losing.” I’ll be watching everything playwright Britta Johnson does now.

  • Kristen Thomson made me howl in The Crow’s Theatre production of  A Wedding Party 

  • In the lobby of the small but mighty Coal Mine theatre, following a fantastic production of Superior Donuts, I was introduced to Sarah Polley (there, along with many other actors, to wish the cast well following the show).  Polley has zero airs. That she penned a brilliant piece in the New York Times later this year made me even prouder of this true Canadian gem.

  • The entire cast of Soulpepper/Bad Hats Theatre coproduction of Peter Pan lifted me high into the rafters of imagination. I felt blessed to have seen it, alongside my nine-year old nephew who told me after the play he wished he could learn swordplay to take on Captain Hook. I’m with you, Henry.

  • the kids of the youth programme at Wavestage theatre who truly nailed my favourite Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, in particular the mature performance of young Lucas Guesebroek as Marley

  • Is it cheating to say I loved a performance on ice? A stage of sorts, no? My six-year old niece Charlotte sparkled and held her own in a year end skating show that also featured dazzling performances by Canadian Olympians. Made me itch to get my old skates out. See you on the ice this Saturday. 

Favourites on screen: A near impossible task for this film nerd as you regular readers will know by now. Best place to start is my Scrumptious Films list from TIFF 2017 for my favourites, many now released in theatres.

In addition, these films all impressed and moved me in some way:

  • Patti Cake$

  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

  • Dunkirk

  • Bladerunner 2049

  • The Big Sick

  • Step (documentary)

  • I, Daniel Blake

  • Girls Trip

  • Land of Mine

  • The Man who Invented Christmas

Favourite moments lived (in no particular order because memory doesn’t work like that!)

  • Moving was an unwelcome theme this year. Moving kids from residence to home and back to university and out of apartments and then to another country and my own belongings to pack up while my house was under repair from a flood and then unpack when it was done and through all of it, the kindness of family and friends who didn’t know they saved me from myself with their extra arms (my godson Ben who responded so swiftly when we asked for help moving heavy stuff that he surely deserves a medal, my sister Mary who arrived, flood-ready with rubber boots and towels in the middle of the night, my friends who offered houses and food and come sit in my garden).

  • My entire wedding party gathered at the start of the year here in our home to, among other things, recreate our wedding photo from 25 years ago. One of my bridesmaids brought a surprise. She unzipped her winter coat and there underneath was the dark red velvet dress made, along with all the others by my mom way back when women did these kinds of heroic domestic duties. We all shared laughing fits when she told me it didn’t zip up quite as readily in the back but she still wore it with panache.  Later that night, my other bridesmaids brought out letters I had written about this crazy man child I adored, way back when taking a pen to paper and gushing about love was still in fashion. Both my girls were there to listen to it all.  When I showed a movie I made about our wedding to my mom, who sometimes forgets, she said, “weren’t we lucky to have that talented man to make your sparkly dress?” I won the lottery that night. Yes indeed.

  • My eldest graduated from University of Toronto this year (Victoria College) and was able to celebrate this with her grandparents, who graduated themselves from this very institution six decades ago, and other cherished family members who attended the university. After a glorious day on the lovely campus, as we drove away, came this from our newly minted graduate: I learned a lot here. This was a good place for me. Later, my daughter told me her beloved Pappou, who hasn’t been well and was unable to attend her ceremony, gave a long diatribe about having no mother or sisters (he grew up an orphan, and was raised by his four older brothers) and then told her, our family needed more women. You were born and you are a smart woman, We need more like this.

  • I will be in a bad mood if you don’t come. Blessed are you if you get that kind of text from your sister.

  • Barenaked laps in a lake that time forgot in Algonquin late summer. I was there for a solo retreat courtesy of my brother John who joined me on the first night for a beer. Did he himself deliver that perfect sunset? Or the autumn Ontario heat wave that made warm water that felt like a hug? Who knew I needed it that badly that moment?

  • Dancing in the aisles to Earth,Wind& Fire with Peter and the girls. Best moment of the summer, second only to a spectacular weekend of wine, theatre, friends and gorgeous weather in Niagara over the Canada Day weekend.

  • Attending McGill Homecoming and I get to sit in a dazzling new Montreal resto (Jatoba) and hear my own McGill kid tell me, over the course of a fantastic meal, about the hardest paper she’s ever written, and did I say yet it is likely the best I’ve written too? 

  • A three-way tie between the absolute glee when we sat down together in my dining room for our annual Christmas book club table with all our wee trinkets for one another- you’d think we were opening diamonds; when my pal Jo went to dig her dish gloves out of her purse to do all the dishes and everyone pitched in to dry;  the recitation of A Night Before Christmas by another member Jill, complete with perfect eyebrow punctuation.

  • Sitting beside my folks at Christmas dinner. My dad clinks a spoon to his wine glass; we all stop talking. “Let’s remember this is a good country. And I’m lucky to have my wife.”

  • Picking up my kids in the airport following their six week Summer of 17 Sisters backpack trip. There is no better moment than seeing my kids in that airport. Not by a mile.

There are things that, as a parent, you cannot do for your children, as much as you might wish to. You cannot make them happy (if you try too hard they become whiners); you cannot give them self-esteem and confidence (those come from their own accomplishments); you cannot pick friends for them and micro-manage their social lives, and finally you cannot give them independence. The only way children can grow into independence is to have their parents open the door and let them walk out.

-Michael Thompson, Homesick and Happy

I wish all my readers a magical year ahead. What adventures will it hold? I know one thing. It will be more fun with you along. #WeRallinthistogether

Happy New Year.

You Might Also Like

It’s over just in time

By December 23, 2017 Performance

The Great Canadian Baking Show is a wrap. As promised, my thoughts on this inaugural season. Warning: I’m low on sugar content.

Read More

You Might Also Like

Thoughts from my baking peeps

By December 20, 2017 Performance

We’ve been following The Great Canadian Baking Show, my love and sugar baking peeps and I. Tonight is the Grand Finale. Who will win Canada’s Best Baker? I’ll be back tomorrow in this space with my final thoughts on this first season. First up, a sampling from some very keen Toronto bakers who know a thing or two around the sugar headquarters! Read More

You Might Also Like

Singing tweens (ps they’re away from their phones!!!!)

By December 11, 2017 Performance

We sing more in December. The light disappears and we sing to infuse the dark with magic. In the car, spontaneous karaoke erupts frequently and I’m humming at every turn. It’s in my bones. I come by it naturally so I seek out places where singing is celebrated. Earlier this month, I found it in the voices of the youth programme at Wavestage Theatre. Clearly, these kids don’t limit their singing to December.

I felt instant kinship, as I too connected to drama and performance at their age. If there was a show at camp or school, I was all over it.  Yet, compared to these gorgeous talents, I was a geek at their age. These kids are far more savvy and professional about their commitment to the work. They wowed me. How did they arrive here? A wise teacher, that’s how.

My sister Sarah has been singing too all her life. My own television career might never have happened without Sarah’s prompts at the back of our summer camp rehearsal hall.  I CAN”T HEAR YOU!  She taught me to “throw”my voice, to lend it inflection, nuance, and give character to all my solos and speaking lines. A former opera singer, Sarah has run an outstanding theatre and performing arts school for decades, in addition to directing and producing several shows a year with her company, Wavestage Theatre. She has taught in Newmarket and Aurora, and new this year, due to demand, Sarah is also accepting students here in Toronto. Some come for help with Royal Conservatory exams and university prep; most are keen for the opportunity to be directed on stage by a passionate performer who has turned directing into a true vocation.

I asked some of her youth performers what they have learned from Sarah: most told me showbiz tricks like opening your mouth wider for better enunciation, but all of them had picked up something far more profound about being involved in special seasonal productions like a black box production of A Christmas Carol. Here’s a sample of what I discovered when I met a few of them backstage:

 

For singing and performing lessons, contact Sarah at keepsinging.com and sarahlangfordstudios.com

While the Wavestage production was a one-night special, you can catch their upcoming show Big Fish in January. For all you Dickens nerds (you are my peeps, I bless you all), check out the Soulpepper production as it’s one of the best I’ve seen, and of course, the new movie, The Man who Invented Christmas, starring none other than Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.  Other reasons to celebrate this movie? The screenplay was written by Canadian actress/writer Susan Coyne.

As for me, if you pass me on the road, I’ll be bopping to Queen Aretha. Kind of like Bieber does here.

You Might Also Like

The Great Canadian Baking Show: a fan report Part 2

By November 29, 2017 Performance

 

Subscribers have the password for this (and the crazy night of the show kick-off!) Want to be part of the hoopla? Subscribe to my monthly buzz sheet. It’s an easy click to join the fun.

You Might Also Like