What happens when you grow up with the Bogeyman narrative playing out large in the culture around you? Literary darling Emma Cline grew up in California where the Manson drama was the defining event in the zeitgeist of her parent’s adolescence. The story of the charismatic sociopath was too familiar to her as a novel protagonist so she decided to focus on the peripheral players in the story, and conjured up a character who might have been on the sidelines of a dangerous cult. This became the starting point for her critically acclaimed debut, The Girls, which kept me enthralled on my sickbed this week. Read More
April is National Poetry Month.
We almost missed it, didn’t we? There are so many distractions in this fine city. Last night I was at Hot Docs 2017, with Last Men in Aleppo. There are two more screenings of this. Highly recommended. I cannot think of anything else this morning.
Thank goodness for Henry, a clever boy I love, who gave me one of my most favourite gifts ever last year: a collection of his own poetry.
Meet the under ten set’s new poet laureate.
Hooray for Henry, you’re our Friday inspiration.
For more on poetry…
from a year ago:
from two years ago:
from three years ago:
from four years ago:
from five years ago:
“hanging out with the hipsters is hard work
how many selfies can you take without looking like a jerk?”
-Sheryl Crow, Be Myself
- Sheryl Crow has released her ninth studio album, Be Myself. Nine seems a good number for Crow who has nine Grammies to match. After a recent foray into the country music arena, Crow’s latest is a fierce flourish of rock-pop born of a wish to revisit the sound and feeling of her earlier records. Still, the record hardly ignores the current landscape as the musician felt a sense of “real urgency” following Trump’s election. Match that with a recent bout of breast cancer, motherhood, and the launch of a new clothing line, and you have a sage on your spring jam.
- Director Sofia Coppola is behind a new series of underwear ads. What do you think of this one? Cheeky old school vibe?
- Tap-dancing is one of those skills you can’t do without absolute commitment. See it nailed down in full glory this weekend with the most buoyant cast of spring in Wavestage’s latest production, Anything Goes.
- Toronto’s Soulpepper is bringing their most celebrated productions to New York for a month of programming this summer. I’ve seen most of these shows and loved them here and here. Read on about the hidden figures behind this initiative and others.
- Fun quiz: read this description and try to guess which famous Torontonian is featured in an essay in this week’s New Yorker:
She would look striking even if she were not familiar. She owns an array of brightly colored winter coats—jewel red, imperial purple—with faux-fur-trimmed hoods that frame her face, as do her abundant curls of silver hair. She has high cheekbones and an aquiline nose, the kind of features that age has a hard time withering. Her skin is clear and translucent, of the sort that writers of popular Victorian fiction associated with good moral character.
Read on here to see if you guessed right.
This spring chick is spring cleaning this weekend (sigh) between cheering (GO LEAFS GO!). Then again, I might just ditch and hang out in the best playhouse in my neighbourhood. Guess where? Then again, if I tell you, I might have to kill you.
Winter has been rich for readers and arts lovers. Lots to love, and some? Not so much. Read More
YIPPEE! MARCH IS HERE!!!!
It’s been a hell of a week out there. Reading and absorbing news is deadly. For now, a prescription of sorts:
Make coffee. Take dog for walk. Note the sunlight on the scant snow. Try to work. Try to remember that work is meaning. Seek out seeds of growth and creative bursts that colour a black sky. Find them in art, in fiction, on the screen and stage. A million stories to reframe the day as one to embrace instead of despair. Read More
When you’ve been married a long time, you tend to forget the theatrics of that day once upon a time, when an unblemished future stretched out before you down the aisle. Thanks to a couple of colleagues from my days in a television newsroom, I have hours of footage to prompt a rusty memory or two. Earlier this month, said footage was dug out, edited, and shown with those brave wedding party people who shared our celebration on that weirdly warm day in January of ’92. Too lengthy for this space but Little Bo Peep Bride will give you some corny life advice.
As a movie buff, you can’t find better material than corralling a massive group of friends and family for a ceremony that has every potential of falling off the rails. Ours was a magical circus with few mishaps (my hairstyle, the missing bottles of Scotch swiped from the bar) —we made it out the door to a car that honked all the way through the downtown corridor en route to our hotel room. Of course, weddings and storytellers have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship. The best of the lot avoid the sentiment and go for the funny bone like the new play, The Wedding Party, by Toronto-born writer/actor Kristen Thomson.
Well, a marriage is a contract you enter into, and some of the essential elements of the wedding are that words are spoken and witnesses hear them and believe them. That’s very much what happens in the theatre. You walk on stage and you say such and such, and everybody believes in it.
Kristen Thomson, playwright, on her new comedic play The Wedding Party
Thomson stars in her own play as the mother of the bride, and also a few other characters—all of the actors play multiple roles. We never meet the bride and groom but instead, “backstage” at the reception, various family members come and go and emote about their own disgruntled relationship with a wedding spectacle put on entirely by the father of the bride. Played for maximum laughs by Tom Rooney, he’s a wealthy tycoon, estranged from his twin brother, who shows up (of course) and cues the meltdown, fuelled by booze and bruised egos. Popped in for potent laughs throughout are the father’s beloved dog, played deftly again by Thomson-remember all the characters she played in her hit I, Claudia? Easily nailing the nutty mom, a former circus performer shut out of the wedding planning and speech podium, Thomson’s drunk act is the high of this show. There’s a note here and there of real drama, but mostly we’re in high camp terrain and the timing keeps the pace going with swift turns of costume and character.
Winter requires outings like these and the headlines require it more-never has the sky looked so bleak. I am afraid to check my newsfeed. Instead, I’m on the hunt for stories that swell the heart. Give me beauty in an ugly world and I’m yours. My heart is with all those families in Quebec City today.
The Wedding Party is playing at the Streetcar Crowsnest, the beautiful new home of the Crows Theatre in Toronto’s Leslieville. It runs until February 11th. Dine beforehand nearby at The Maple Leaf Tavern, the perfect set-up for a night of kicks. Or just order a fancy cocktail at the spanking new bar of the theatre itself and go ahead and take it inside to your seat. Permitted here. Permitted everywhere this winter in our sorry mess of a world.
Check back tomorrow for another winter outing:the terrific new film from Mike Mills, 20th Century Women.
Forgive me, readers, for neglecting you
January is the month to clear out
my brain the house, staring back at me in spartan disbelief. It’s breathing room time.
I like soaking in the bath in January. The rest of the year it’s shortcut showers. Indulging comes easily as the new year dawns, for January is the month of the always anticipated getaway with my book club, an event we dub the Favourite Things weekend. Who doesn’t love receiving gifts just because?
Also in January, my birthday, and too, an anniversary of the day we chose to get married twenty five years ago.
Silver anniversaries deserve some sip and sizzle. Gather the bridal party and toast an imperfect union that endures yet, mostly because of a sustained diet of laughter. Rooting out the good and setting it to the applause setting appears to be our recipe. Then again, it could just be called fuck the flaws, you’ve still got mojo. That we still impress one another more than hurt one another is evident—the capacity for the latter lingers unless we pay close attention.
We get excited together easily about things we love. Thankfully, not all of them are caloric.
I am still unsure if I should be flattered or concerned that, after watching our wedding video, our girls (home for the occasion) remarked: you know, you guys haven’t changed at all. Note: they were NOT referring to our outward appearance. Let’s do all pics from waist up, shall we?
I am still a kid, despite attempts to pretend otherwise. All the adult posturing falters when splendour is about. Finding it yet is the secret to living.
Here is the list that has me excited this month:
- A glorious global parade of pink hats and shared vision for a better world. My girls were plenty inspired. That’s a good thing. Forget the rest. It’s too big a pile of bullshit. Just massive. Read the signs instead. They will fuel me as I work this month on some fantastic new initiatives.
- Billy Campbell is back and the six-part series he stars in is touted to be chillingly perfect. Cardinal, debuting tomorrow night on CTV. A long time ago, a dear friend and I dished over Billy Campbell in a show we both loved called Once and Again. So glad he’s back. We will be dishing again in commercial breaks. Billy Campbell is a great antidote to winter blues. Just saying. He also loves Canada so much he moved here.
- The Oscar nominations are out and some very solid cinema has been recognized. Getting out to see these films will help ensure other great works get made. Stay tuned for my Standouts Series coming up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, see Moonlight. See Manchester by the sea. See Lion. See La La Land. Fall in love, in lust, in something. Some of the nominated films are on iTunes and Netflix. Here’s one I loved, but fair warning: I love everything this guy does, including rocking a red suit in this film.
- I saw Hidden Figures with my eighty-four year old parents. That’s a celebration right there. Hot dogs delivered right to their seat. No, it wasn’t Christmas. Just garden variety kindness from popcorn stand employees.
- My sister Jane splurged on my birthday gift with theatre tickets to Come from Away, a sold-out show now headed for Broadway. I predict a huge tourism boost for Newfoundland. The show was moving and well-crafted, a complete joy from start to finish. I’m guessing lots more ink is about to be spilled on this successs story.
- In the next week, I will see two more promising shows including one starring Sandra Shamas, in Toronto with her What Now show.
- This video. This father and this daughter. Yes, it’s adorable and she’s irresistible with her very own Youtube channel. A Shirley Temple for our time. Her family seems incredibly supportive yet, I fear for her future. Just saying.
- My tailbone, injured right before Xmas after a spectacular slide down icy front stairs, is on the mend. Pilates and yoga classes are back on my calendar. Creaky knees be damned.
- Am thinking I need a new cover for my book. This adorable kitchen elf from Halifax, Canada is guarding his oven door so no one takes the cupcakes out too early. Recipe for said cupcakes is from my food memoir, with love and sugar. Have you got your copy yet?
- This punch we served to our wedding party at our intimate anniversary event. Sign up for my buzz sheet and I’ll send you the recipe.
What’s popping in your January ? Please share. Inspiration comes from all corners.
I am going for buoyancy this year. What about you?
2016 was a year to say goodbye to my youngest off to university, and to my childhood home where my parents lived for almost six decades. A year of frights that came deep in the night, some that lingered longer than others: my mother and my oldest child suffered accidents, as did my father-in-law. Caring emergency workers and excellent medical supervision mean we have them all yet to cherish this holiday season.
We will toast them tonight, but first, a peek at some of my favourites of 2016: Read More
Fun’s over and everyone’s back at work including my guest blogger, the other guy in this household of film freaks. Here’s his final tally on the last days of TIFF and his Top Ten. If you missed my list, check it out here.