April 2010

enough saidAt last, 23 days from the date post-marked on the envelope, my registered letter has been delivered and signed for in New York.

The Canada Post tracking form still shows neither its arrival in the US nor the fact that it has just been delivered. Despite the information on the screenshot from the Canada Post tracking form. Updated daily. Hmmm...  wanna buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

But no more sniggering from those of you who have followed this sad saga of slow, sloppy, snail-like service from my first plaintive posting "Does Canada Post use Ox-Wagons" through sucessive  reports of non-arrival.

Its a double magnum!A few days ago a friend and I joined a large roomful of Bard on the Beach supporters at the Pan Pacific Hotel. The occasion was a breakfast fundraiser for the company's educational programs. While we enjoyed  fresh fruit salad, Eggs Benedict, pastries and coffee, Artistic Director Christopher Gaze invited the four set and costume designers for the 2010 season to tell us about their concepts for the Mainstage and Studio Stage productions.

On the Mainstage, comedy (Much Ado about Nothing) will alternate with tragedy (Antony and Cleopatra). Set designer Drew Facey described some of the challenges of creating a stage setting that must be switched from  Much Ado director Dean Paul Gibson's concept of Messina in 1910 Italy, Scott Bellis's locations of Rome and Egypt a millennium earlier for Antony and Cleopatra. Costume designer Mara Gottler showed some of her costume designs and gave us some interesting insight into how various techniques are required to create as an example, a light diaphanous look for Cleopatra's clothes.

Joan Bryans as Frances and Andrée Karas as MadeleineThe Breath of Life by David Hare
Directed by Adam Henderson
United Players of Vancouver
Jericho Arts Centre
Apr 2 -25, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I finally managed to see the last of the four plays with "great roles for older women"  featured in Vancouver  within the past 4 months, as alluded to in my Preview of Collected Stories. Starting with the Arts Club's, Mrs. Dexter & her Daily in January, this coincidental "series" of plays includes  Queen Lear at  Presentation House in March, and  Collected Stories at PAL Theatre and Breath of Life, both this month.

Tiffany Bilodeau & Davin Luce. Photo by Glenna TurnbullMasters' Play
Ballet Kelowna
Roundhouse Community Centre
Sat, Apr 19th, 2010

Vancouver, BC: In an unusual conjunction, this weekend I had the pleasure of seeing two dance shows (instead of two plays  back to back on successive evenings. Friday night's show was the stunning high energy Burn The Floor Ballroom and Latin Dance production at the Vogue Theatre. As a lovely counterpoint, on Saturday night, Ballet Kelowna, a small ballet company with a huge heart performed at the Roundhouse Community Center.

The Ballroom BoysBurn The Floor: FloorPlay
Conceived, Directed and Choreographed by Jason Gilkison
Vogue Theatre
Remaining shows Apr 17, 2 and 8 pm, April 18.

Vancouver, BC:  Last night at the Vogue Theatre I saw  Burn the Floor for the third time in eight months . The show has lost none of its impact from the first two times I saw it  in New York and the dancing- and the singing - is as fantastic as before. They got several standing ovations and deservedly so. Anyone who loves dance should see this show and there are only three performances left  before they head off to Toronto.

We were a group of 8 people with very mixed experience in dance,  that met to go and see  the Friday night performance.  All of us, from the 5 who are simply enthusiastic observers of dance shows, to me - a very late starter in ballroom dance, and my two teachers, who are ex-competitive dancers, were wild about the show. 

The Dirty BoogieEarlier this week I had enjoyed the opportunity to chat to some of the dancers and to Preview the cast dancing in three of the numbers up close, but the energy they generated in the dance studio was nothing compared to that  in the theatre, when magnified by the strong percussive music.  You could power a city with the force of their energy.

Unfortunately I had a very large, tall man  in the seat in front of me with a big head that really blocked my view of the overall  stage, except for two numbers when he sat a little lower in his seat. If it was the first time I saw the show I would have been really upset. 

But as it was, looking around his head,  I found myself focusing less on the spectacle and more objectively on the individual dancing- the various steps that I could identify and the awesome precision of the footwork.

Deborah English & Karen Austin.Collected Stories by Donald Margulies
Directed by Mel Tuck
PAL Theatre
April 14 to 17, 21 to 24, 2010

Vancouver, BC:  Well I have now seen three of the four plays I mentioned in my  Preview of Collected Stories. Plays with satisfyingly meaty roles for "veteran actresses." Ruth Steiner in Collected Stories is such a character and, in the opening night show,  Karen Austin did full justice to the role.

Collected Stories, by American playwright, Donald Margulies (who teaches playwriting at Yale School of Drama) premiered in New York in 1997 and won a Drama Desk nomination for Best play. it is beautifully constructed to show the changing relationship between successful writer/ professor, Ruth Steiner and the young student Lisa (Deborah English) who  becomes her protege, her friend and ultimately her rival.

It must have been post-Olympic nationalistic lunacy that made me walk into a Canada Post Office to send a letter by registered mail to the US. Why else would I utilize the "services" of a Corporation who expend more effort on advertising their politically correctness than they do on providing service?

I handed in a letter to go by registered mail to New York on April 3rd. The 4th was Easter Monday- that's a holiday in Canada so the 5th would be the first working day.  According to the Tracking System two days later, on the 7th, my little registered envelope "left Canada".

Unless it goes to the North Pole for Santa's elves to sort,  it should have reached New York at least by the next day. I mean a passenger plane takes less than 5 hours direct from YVR to any of the New York city airports. So being charitable let's say it landed somewhere in the US by the 8th of April.

Well it is now the 15th April - seven, yes SEVEN days later, and it still is not even showing that it has been scanned in at a US mail destination, never-mind having been sent out for delivery. Unbelievable.

I checked two other shipping companies - you can guess which -  and their standard delivery times are around 5 business days.

Deborah English and Karen AustinLast year I came across some interesting posts in The Guardian newspaper's theatre blog on the subject of stage roles for older women. Critic/blogger Lyn Gardner  asked "what happened to great stage roles for older women" and academic/critic Karen Fricker responded by naming some great classic roles.

Since "older' is a relative term - viewed differently at 70 then at 20 - Fricker suggests "middle age [for which there is actually no one accepted definition anyway ] and best played by an actress in her 50s or above."

Terence Kelly and Anna Hagan: Photo by Tim MathesonRefuge of Lies
Written and directed by Ron Reed
Pacific Theatre Company
Pacific Theatre,
April 9 - May 1, 2010

Vancouver, BC: Refuge of Lies is the kind of play that makes theatre exciting for me.   It tells a great story, has strong characters struggling with profound life questions and has the power to engender intense discussions as well as individual explorations of  one's personal sense of morality. Throw in a number of excellent performances and powerful staging under the direction of the playwright himself, and you have a riveting drama.

As Reed states, his impetus to write this play originated sixteen years ago when UBC botanist and Mennonite, Jacob Luitjens, was extradited to the Netherlands for war crimes committed some fifty years earlier, during the second world war. Reed took  the title and theme for this play from the lines of  Isaiah 28:7 - " And I will make justice the line... and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter.”

While the play grew out of the Luitjens story (and that of others like him), Reed emphasizes that the play is not biographical but more about the emotional conflicts stirred up in the playwright himself  in response to the events.  And the different degrees to which these conflicts spill over into  each audience member adds to the power of the piece.

Damion and Rebeca Sugden and ensemble - Tanguera: the sultry tangoForget about your superheroes. Forget about "swifter, higher, stronger". The fittest athletes not to compete in an Olympic Games are performing in Vancouver this week. It's the cast of Burn The Floor, the  dance spectacular that reinvents International Ballroom and Latin Dance in a show that is absolutely riveting.

They are fresh off their Broadway run - where I loved it so much that I saw it twice in two weeks  - see Burn The Floor - New York Theatre.

And guess what,  I already have my ticket for the Vancouver show.

So what's so special about this show? The music will rock you to the core and the percussion rhythms of Georgio Rojas with vocalists Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia will make you want to get up and dance.

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