Theatrical plant names, the ones that evoke imagery of powerful sorcery or wondrous mystical creatures, make me sparkle. My longtime love, Amanita bisporigera, the Destroying Angel, served as my nom de plume for many years. The Monkey Puzzle Tree makes me grin. Butter and Eggs makes me hungry. My army of Monstera Deliciosa at home make me imagine that I’m caring for a bunch of Gremlins, who run around at night eating treats from my cupboards and moving around my furniture.
Nature inspires and fascinates me, always. It’s as much a part of who I am as my obsession with puzzles. My mother literally hugged trees everywhere she went, so I’d argue that it’s in the genes. My friends used to laugh at me at playing with dragonflies and worms. Being alone in the woods is my happy place. I want to go mushroom picking always, foraging is amazing. I’m really liking the heightened focus on plants in this city, in no small part due to the plant-based food movement in general gaining traction here. I love the wall-art in Planta, or nooks like Stamen and Pistil and Dynasty. Terrarium workshops are awesome, botanical posters adorning your walls are fabulous. And let’s all agree that what the Actinolite team are doing to Toronto as a whole is genius, shall we?
I’m always looking to be inspired, I think we all are. I guess I feel very fortunate that all I have to do is to look outside to marvel at the mysteries of the world. And I’m still, always, looking to find my tribe, and I believe with all my heart that people who love and respect nature are the best kind of people. The ones that show me a baobab fruit and star apples. The ones that divide rhizomes to share plants. The nerds that discuss mushroom varietals. I love you little monsters, you’re my kind of weird.
An important listen, in whole but especially starting at 21:30
The subject of hermitage (or withdrawing from others) is interesting, and rears it’s head often. I am someone who needs a tremendous amount of personal space and privacy. Many people do not understand this because they think I’m bubbly and chatty in public and assume that that means I’m naturally gregarious. I’m not. The energy that I give to others is energy I take from myself. Because of this discrepancy, I’ve been subjected to a lot of opinions regarding the space that I need to regroup and recharge, and people think it’s about them. I’ve had former supervisors comment that “I think I’m better than everyone” when I don’t participate in outings, family members become hostile when I don’t want to see them on a weekly cycle, a former coworker angrily hissed at me once that “oh, you need people to come to you, I get it”, acquaintances comment that they need me to engage more. When you’re a child and you play alone with your Lego’s, that’s typically viewed as a good thing, but as an adult you’re labelled as a snob, or worse, as lazy.
My Lego’s today are my photographs, my books, my various projects-in-progress. “You’re prioritizing your little snapshots over person X or Y?”, someone noted. Yes I am. My snapshots fill me with inspiration and wonder and strength, and person X or Y drains me. My dear friend Graham once commented that he doesn’t paint because he wants to, he paints because he needs to, without art he would die. At the time I thought that this was a bit dramatic, but actually I understand him better now than ever. He was the ultimate hermit.
I’m a huge snacker. I need to eat probably every two hours or so, and though that’s not necessarily bad in itself, it’s entirely dependent on the quality of the foods that you’re snacking on. In the past, if there was pizza or candy like sour peaches around, they would be gone in a heartbeat. When I worked in Amsterdam, the office would offer a spread at 3pm of cookies and pound cakes. Heaven help the Oreo’s within my arms’ reach. Or the Maltesers. Or the Rolo’s. You get the picture.
I think that’s why chia seed pudding is such a godsend for me. Look, I have no idea if I’m buying into a bunch of baloney eating this stuff, whether it’s worth the plastic bag it comes in, but I do know that it tastes great and it’s easy as pie to whip together. I know that it complements well the fruits that I throw into it, and that with a handful of steel cut oats and coconut shavings and almonds, I’m good to go until dinner. And I need that, I need that on the days when apples are boring me to tears and it’s raining cats and dogs outside.
Just came back from seeing Théâtre Français’ English edition of The [Post] Mistress at CanStage, and it was just wonderful. Beautiful, uplifting, lively, an astounding job by the sole actor on stage, who managed to captivate a sold out crowd for two and a half hours with her endearing charm, her juicy gossip and her killer pipes. The show was in a cabaret style, with the lead accompanied throughout by the playwright, Tomson Highway, on piano, and Marcus Ali on sax. Just fantastic.
There’s one number in there that just had me in stitches, a piece in which the empassioned lead sings about a sexy Argentinian man, Ariel Juan Eduardo Javier Manuel Rodrigo etc etc at which point I died laughing, since I know all too well a man who has a grand total of six given names. Spot on.
I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with Tomson before the show, and was very touched by his gentleness, his kindness and his wonderfully refreshing enthusiasm. He grabbed my hand, spoke of travels to Zimbabwe, and smiled a charmed smile before dashing off to ready himself for the show. A beautiful soul, with a beautiful gift that he just keeps on sharing. I love people like that.
Theatre lovers living on a dime take heed – Factory Theatre has launched their Toonie Tuesday preview extravaganza. Now there’s seriously no excuse to not go and enjoy these amazing Canadian productions.
Last night Mom and I saw David Yee’s “Acquiesce”, a play about a young man who must go and bury the father he barely knew in Hong Kong, and all the emotional turmoil that the experience brings up. I really enjoyed the performances, and for Mom and I it was good catharsis, as it deals with issues of abuse (Mom’s father, though a “good man”, was physically and verbally abusive to his family), the anger that comes from abandonment (I know my dad, but I don’t know my dad. I’ve seen him a handful of times in my life. My memories of him include a pizza and ice cream trip when I was a child and him being really angry at me for putting on nail polish before falling asleep and trying to kill everyone in the house with poisonous vapours) and the frictions that arise from straddling two vastly different cultures your entire life.
I have to give a giant thumbs up to the crew, who put together a fantastic modern, functional set, eerie musical interludes and terrific props and effects. Wonderfully done.
Well if this isn’t the most exciting news since I learned that you can buy Oreo cookies without the filling, I don’t know what is – admission to Canada’s National Parks will be free in 2017 to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary. That’s pretty amazing, and a great reason to pack up your car, make some PB&J sammies, and hit the road to discover all the beauty that this country has to offer.
I will be celebrating the occasion with a bunch of amazing people and amazing Canadian geography. Because what is Canada if not a spectacularly beautiful place?
We had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Skylight at the Berkeley Theatre last night, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s always great to see people who have been somehow involved in the production sitting in the audience, fidgeting nervously, anxiously awaiting the audience’s reaction and getting the pleasure of witnessing the fruits of their labour in full bloom. As usual, the Berkeley reception was a glorious, classy affair, with staffers and volunteers ensuring that every detail was tended to.
I love being exposed to new plays (well, new to me!) and novel techniques when I see a show. In this case, it was the fact that the main character cooked an entire meal onstage in real-time that impressed me (I was looking to see if certain elements were precooked, and couldn’t tell, to be honest) and completely embroiled me in the story. The kitchen is definitely the heart of my home and many an emotion peeks out as vegetables are chopped, plus it’s such an intimate act that I’m not sure if the characters’ closeness and comfort with each other could easily have been portrayed otherwise. It was a lovely choice – whether dictated by playwright or chosen by production team – but I applaud it vehemently.
And so, it seems, did Amy Pataki.
Saw a beautiful play at Factory Theatre last night, Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”. It was amazing to see the turnout – I’m pretty certain that the entire run is sold out. I watched the audience as they poured into the theatre, excited and smiling and hugging each other in greeting. There was a good energy in the hall. I saw three and four generations of women coming in together, young girls holding their mom’s hands, with grandma close by, and great grandma making her way not far behind. The perfect Mother’s Day gift. It made me feel really happy to somehow be a part of it. As the play unfolded, I watched these women’s faces illuminated by the stage lights as they nodded vigorously in agreement during many scenes, laughed aloud at others, shook their heads in frustration at others. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a play resonate so strongly with the audience in a long time. People are often so reserved in theatres, you watch them and are not sure sometimes if anything really connects, and this audience was very different.
The subject matter is in part about what happens when mothers leave their children behind as they seek a better life for their families elsewhere, and how children view that perceived abandonment as they grow up. It’s difficult territory, but one that I could relate to, our family having gone through the same journey as mom ran away from the despair and “greyness” (as she always called it) of freshly post-communist Poland, leaving me in the care of others. I didn’t feel the same anger towards my mom as the protagonist in this play did, but I was definitely conflicted and struggled with self-worth. Of course understanding her choices was at times difficult, as was trying to belong to a culture that I often felt outside of. My dark era came when a friend referred to me as a “f*cking immigrant” at a dinner party, prompting a withdrawal from the life that I had built here and a reassessment of whom and what I value in life. At the root of it for me, all analysis aside, is the peace that comes when you simply love the people in your life who have tried their best with the cards life dealt them, and leave desires of perfectionism behind. I look at the people around me who gently nudge and support me, and I thank my stars for them, and love them dearly. I don’t say it enough, but I do.
Playing now until March 13th at the Factory, this beautifully uncluttered production of David French’s play left me in tears. Kawa Ada (whom I’ve already encountered this season in Bombay Black) is just breathtaking, as is his partner, the wonderful Mayko Nguyen, plus a remarkable supporting musical role by Ania Soul. Run folks. Run. The Globe and Mail reviewer loved it so much he bought himself a second ticket.