Friday, June 24, 2016

OMG! We open in 5 days!

This is my favourite photo of Keith. In it, I see the performer he's becoming. The lighting creates a feeling of mystery, a theatricality, a raising of the ordinary. He's reaching out to take a card from an audience member, his eyes focused, highlighting his personal connection to the audience. The moment captures the face of the man - which is rare as like me, he has the challenge of looking much younger than he actually is. (It's great once you reach thirty but until then it's a huge pain in the butt.)

It's this photo that I'm using as the image of what I want Absolute Magic to be. (I hope you'll be coming to see it.)

It's an interesting process in that it's a collaboration. Like working with Rusa on Harper Girl, I don't get the final say. My job is to guide the artist into becoming the best expression of themselves. I have ideas - some of which Keith has been completely on board with while others just didn't feel authentic to him. Which is fine. His authenticity is what makes him stand out as a magician and a speaker and that quality is the thing I most want to preserve. I hold the space for him to be more vulnerable. I hold the vision of what the show can be. He puts the pieces in place.

I was remarking to Kent (remember him? The founder of Umbrella Talks and co-writer here?) today that this way of working suits me.

Doing theatre is always a growth process for everyone involved but this show is a nexus for both of us. He has talked about wanting to open doors of opportunity. This is one of those for him. For me, working with him has given me the catalyst to take the next step. I've been in preparation mode for a long time and this show has brought this new way of being from concept to reality.

And we open in 5 days!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Just when I though I was out...I get sucked back in

So the intention had been to render this blog defunct, I had turned One Big Umbrella into a personal development business, originally intended to help artists. Old posts transferred over to the new business site and a new platform. I was walking away from theatre towards music and energy work.

I tried it for a while. But it never clicked. I found myself doing a lot of stumbling around, questioning what my purpose is, trying to fit all the disparate pieces of my life together. Trying to figure out what all my years in theatre meant in getting me towards changing the world, one person at a time.

Then last summer I had the chance to stage manage a touring show (Eleanor O’Brien's Lust & Marriage) and it felt amazing to be back in tech. I had no idea I missed it so much. I found myself missing being part of a show, even though I still didn't want to take on the burden of doing a production. I had other things to do.

You can guess what comes next.

While working on Harper Girl Does Canada, I was introduced to the London Fringe and fell in love with it. So I went back as a birthday present to myself. While there I met a young magician named Keith Brown. We went off for coffee and spend hours talking. One of the things we discussed was where he wanted to go as an artist. We've kept in touch as he spent the last two summers doing the fringe tour.

This year, he got into Toronto.

He called me from Vegas (!) to get some advice about getting people out to his show as an out-of-towner. As the conversation evolved, I suggested he use Toronto as an opportunity to up his game, to experiment with some of the elements he had shared with me during that coffee talk. He said he'd need someone to help with that. I replied, "good thing you're talking to a director".

So here I am, once again working with an alternative performer (following working with a storyteller and a comedian) on a fringe show. And I couldn't be happier.

There's a big difference to this show than the others. It's a tested show that he took across the country last summer to great acclaim. People love him because he's so authentic and open on stage, which was the same quality that drew me to him. So instead of building a show from scratch, the challenge becomes maintaining that authenticity while making the show more theatrical. I feel confident we can do that. It's going to be fun.

The other thing that is sucking me in was finding out about the Intimacy on Stage workshop. This is an area that has fascinated me for a while.

When I did the Soulpepper's directors' workshop many years ago, I took it as an opportunity to experiment with the idea of creating intimacy at the beginning of the process as a way to speed up scene discovery, something that short rehearsal times demand. So I did an exercise at the very beginning then we went working on our scene. My fellow students were madly racing to find time outside of class to continue working on their scenes but we stayed strictly within the allotted class time. When it came time to perform, our work was at the same level as others who had put in more rehearsal time than us.

I've always found that point of connection between characters the most interesting part of the script and the process. So I'm fascinated by this idea of intimacy choreography. It ties into my own strong ideas of a consent culture as well. I'm thinking of training with Tonia Sina and offering my services as an intimacy consultant for productions. Would you guys hire me for that?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Team Ulsrud Update

It's confirmed the team is breaking up.

But they're going out World Champions!

In a post game interview, the interviewer was rehashing the game. Then Thomas said:

"Yes, I made a mistake. I don't care. I'm World Champion!"

This is why I love this man.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thomas Ulsrud, 2P4H, and the pursuit of excellence.

I was very torn about the Olympics. I have huge issues about how LGBT people are being treated in Russia, yet I also wanted Thomas Ulsrud (I've written about him here) to win a gold medal and watch him do it. So I made a deal with myself. I would only watch curling. I do love the spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies but I refused to watch China's and I had no problem missing these as well.

Most of the matches I wanted were only available by internet stream anyway so I wasn't feeding the corporate machine - too much.

It was a rough go. There were times I didn't understand why he was calling the shots he did, but this happens when you're in love with a high-risk, high-reward player. I watched him lose some tough matches, nothing more heartbreaking then watching him lose the the tie-breaker to get the final playoff spot on the final rock. He slumped against the boards in shock after congratulating the victors. You could tell the team was devastated.

Later on in the day he did this interview. I don't expect you to speak Norwegian,  so I'll give you the highlights.He is thinking about quitting as his competitors now get to curl full time while his team has to balance practicing with working full-time. The funding for their international competitions the last few years has been coming out of his own pocket.Without sponsorship to allow them to devote their time to the game, they will no longer be able to compete.

This didn't surprise me. You could see the decline in their results since the last Olympics and the rise of dedicated curlers after Canada was so successful in turning a men's curling team professional in advance of the Vancouver Olympics. How hard must it be to watch others surpass you, when you know you can match them if you had the same resources.

I'm reminded of 2 Pianos 4 Hands. The play (one of the most successful ever produced in Canada) concerns two boys who have dreams of being concert pianists. We see their trials and tribulations as they grow up. One of the boys is told by his father early on he's only allowed to rehearse an hour a day because the father wishes to see him live a normal boyhood. Near the end of the play, the boy auditions to get into a conservatory program. He is reamed out by the examiner for not having put in nearly enough work as the people he's competing against. This was heartbreaking to watch and has stayed with me. To have the desire and not the resources is something I'm familiar with.

I now see this with Thomas and his team. For four years the dream had been to return to the Olympics and claim the medal that they came so close to having. And now that dream is drifting away because they don't have the opportunity to be the best they can be. It saddens me, the thought they could retire, because I love to watch them play and they've done so much to popularize the sport. 

But I totally understand and respect the choice.