Posts in Category: Musings

Talking to Travellers and Theatre Therapy

What do you do when you love theatre and you have four nights alone in New York City?

You binge. Oh baby, you binge, on theatre and on food (and it’s also partly a trick question, because you’re never really alone in New York City).

Night 1: Grabbed a great last-minute ticket to 1984, and since we’re in a dystopia and times are tight, 99¢ pizza. My interest in seeing this show was mainly to see Tom Sturridge (whom I loved in American Buffalo), Olivia Wilde (whom I’ve met in person at Artists for Peace and Justice events and really like, so I wanted to applaud her in her Broadway debut), and the fact that I loved the book. I quite enjoyed the play, but it was really violent and had tons of strobe effects, which distracted me from the story.

Night 2: Despite everyone telling me I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any kind of rush seats to it, I actually got a fantastic last-minute ticket to see Hamilton, and in the process met the two sweetest Puerto Rican ladies in line that couldn’t have been prouder of Lin-Manuel Miranda. This show truly is everything that everyone says it is – I’ve never seen the public this happy and energetic at the theatre (ok, maybe Book of Mormon was a bit like that). Choreography was mild-blowing. Performances were astounding. There was no weak link. For me, Brian d’Arcy James as King George and Gregory Treco as Burr totally floored me, James for his comedic delivery and Treco for his vocals. Afterwards, starving and singing, I had trainwreck fries at Virgil’s because it’s a medley of everything from everywhere and well… it seemed fitting!

Night 3: Sweeney Todd at Barrow Theatre was fantastic, again, chatted to the box office before showtime and they had “secret seats that they rarely use” that were the only ones not sold, and gave them to me pretty cheap. The play came as a recommendation from the staff at Joseph Leonard, where I popped in for dinner, and darling Drew (who let me sit there way past my welcome and offered tips on great NYC spots) found out for me what the hot ticket in the area was.

Night 4: I thought that perhaps with the luck that I’ve been having grabbing tickets to difficult-to-snag shows that maybe I could see Oscar Isaac in Hamlet at the Public Theatre in Noho. Alas, it was an invite-only opening night event, and not even with my charm could I schmooze my way in. “Don’t you know who my father is?” I joked to the staff. They smiled that smile where you like someone but you’re not 100% sure that they’re not insane. I did see John Turturro in the lobby, and smiled broadly, hoping that it would translate into “you’re fantastic, I love you” without disturbing him during his private time.

I have much respect for Apple, by the way, for adding a theatre mode to the Apple Watch that minimizes disturbance during performances. I need to talk myself out of a snarky remark whenever I see a theatregoer activating their phone screen when the house lights are dimmed, so this is at least a nice gesture (although fifty bucks says no one ever remembers to actually enable it).


A small lobster meal at Lobster Place at Chelsea Market. Have been eyeing these babies every time I’ve been there, and resisted the urge. This time I treated myself, and as I sucked every last morsel out of every foot, crevice, and antenna, passersby looked at me with genuine amusement. 

My flight home was interesting. Trump had shut down the airspace around NYC to fly to a golf game in the afternoon, so flights were completed messed up. Mostly cancelled, though some delayed, but basically no airline could recover afterwards, since once a chunk of day goes, delays just cascade down and it all falls apart. Newark International was complete chaos, filled to the brim with seething, self-important travellers, and in my calmness I did manage to somehow get hooked-up as a standby passenger on the last flight out (at 23:30, landing in Hamilton, which had me home at 3am). In all the screaming and threatening and customer service calls and apologetic service personnel that madly swirled about what I noticed was this: the way people come together and connect in times of disruption can be awesome. Completely overlooking the jerks, the remainder of folks kind of laughed it off, knew there was little that was in their control, sat together at the airport restaurant, had some drinks, met strangers, compared notes on where they were going, where they had been, where they were from. Typically, it’s such a cold, solitary environment – everyone in their world, on their phones, having somewhere to be, in their bubble. In this situation, there was nothing to do but wait and see, so people put their phones down (which contained wholly inaccurate information anyway) and chatted, met each other, commiserated. What stood out to me was people helping each other, comparing notes on what information they had, which flight was cancelled and which wasn’t, where to get some food, where they could charge their phones, where free coffee and water was, what remaining flights still had seats. Years and years ago, I met a man with his wife in a pizzeria in Tuscany, and without my asking for advice on life or anything, he looked at me and said “remember this one thing: always talk to people”.

That’s always stayed with me.

Jean-Michel Jarre

When I was a kid, I was exposed to a lot of music. I had to learn how to speak English with Roxette and Samantha Fox. Mom encouraged me to learn how to play the flute as a teen to train my messed-up lungs, something that only became cool once I was given a recording by Jethro Tull (I remember actually the teacher wanted me to play double bass when we were picking instruments, because of my height. My response? To pick the smallest instrument available). Mom kept her Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin LPs close at hand, all her Jean Jarre cassettes in a shoebox, and my stepdad had his Gordon Lightfoot and his Anne Murray in plain view at all times. I liked this juxtaposition in them, her with her untz untz untz and he with his spling spling spling.

Last night Jean Jarre performed his first Canadian show, at the Sony Centre, and I thought it’d be the perfect Mother’s Day gift. And you know what, it totally was. I watched my mom morph into a teenager during this time – she was feeling kind of crappy and started the evening off a little softly and slowly – and by the end of the night she was jumping near the front of the stage screaming “We Love You” at this energetic 68 year old who waxed poetic about Snowden and privacy laws and the state of the world. We got to chatting with a girl who grew up in South Africa about how popular JMJ was there during the 70’s and 80’s, and how baffled she was when she moved to Canada and realized that no one knew who he was.

The Poles came out last night in abundance, they have a deep affection for JMJ and remember his support during turbulent times, a gesture of goodwill that they are clearly committed to repaying. They even made him an honorary citizen of Gdansk.

Guys. Laser harp. Come on.

Crumble Master

It was a most gorgeous day outside, with an evening that necessitated the use of the bicycle, the purchasing of fresh fruits, and of sitting on the porch studying my favourite MasterClass lecturers while eating freshly-baked crumble. With May days like this, life ain’t bad.

Little Monsters

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.

The Importance of Being Hermits

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.

Chewy Chia

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.

The [Post] Mistress at CanStage

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.

Toonie Tuesdays at Factory Theatre

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.

Canada’s Birthday Present

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?

Skylight in Toronto

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.