Posts in Category: Theatre

How Black Mothers Say I Love You

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.

Salt-Water Moon

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.

Domesticated

Saw Paul Gross, Martha Burns and the entire fantastic cast of Canadian Stage’s new play Domesticated last night. Was floored by Tori Higginson, whose command of the stage and confidence in voice and physicality were just outstanding.

Next up at CanStage – Hedda Gabler. I have the screenplay sitting by me, and have loved this play for ever. I’m so excited to see what they’ll do with it!

Toronto Traditions

It’s been a beautiful time in Toronto, with the unseasonably warm temperatures and the gorgeous, sparkly sun. I’ve been enjoying indulging in old traditions – Saturday morning hoagies at St. Lawrence Market, green apple, rapini and squash hunting at Kensington, watching plays at Factory and Berkeley, and remembering fun times in Germany whilst perusing the offerings at the Distillery Districts’ Christmas Market.

CanStage’s beloved volunteer coordinator, Julie Cloutier, is moving over to the City of Toronto (huge score for municipal government) and I’m excited to see someone with her passion and dedication power-housing behind upcoming cultural events. It’s going to be a great winter!

Theatre Thrills

Arguably THE most difficult part of living in Holland for me has been the absence of quality English theatre. I still choose to believe that it is here and I just don’t know how to find it, but what I have seen has not been good. I remember reading an article in a Dutch online theatre publication that quoted director Ivo van Hove saying essentially the same thing, and nodding vigorously in agreement. I went to see an experimental play called Recovery by Florentina Holzinger at the Frescati theatre, and definitely didn’t get it. I went to see Angels in America at Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam‎, excited that it was content that I was familiar with and maybe I would enjoy it. I didn’t. Ditto for English-speaking productions at Ostadetheater and Badhuistheater. Of course, there is always some fan base for any type of production, but generally speaking the “experimental” and “minimalist” shows so adored by Amsterdammers is just not my thing. I guess I’m too conservative. Or closed-minded. Whatever. What it has made me appreciate is the wealth of beautifully, creatively and passionately crafted productions that Toronto boasts, even at the “amateur” level, but I think I’ve said that before. I think Toronto theatre is top-notch.

What is super cool about living here, however, is that it’s thisclose to London, so basically whenever the opportunity presents itself for me to snag some kind of rush seats to a play (and a ride with a friend), I do it!

April has been an exceptional month for theatre for me, and makes me miss my alma mater Claude Watson – and its theatre program – immensely. First, Juliette Binoche led a spectacular cast in the Barbican/Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam production of Antigone (standouts were absolutely Kirsty Bushell, Finbar Lynch and Samuel Edward-Cook). And tonight, Damian Lewis, John Goodman, and Tom Sturridge performed David Mamet’s American Buffalo. It was Press Night, and we were quite lucky to grab the last two tickets available. The always amazing Rowan Atkinson was in the audience, as were Sienna Miller and Kit Harington, and it was great to see actors supporting each other’s work.

Lewis’ physicality and voice stunned me – I actually couldn’t quite believe it was him at the start, and Sturridge was heartbreaking as a young sidekick to John Goodman’s dreamer pawn shop owner. The thing that struck me most about both productions, however, was the set design, and I cannot stress how integral this component is to the world that theatre is meant to create for the audience. I have never fully enjoyed any production that omits set design and opts solely to put to use the audience’s imagination. Great set design doesn’t have to break the bank, some great sets were done using creative tactics on a shoestring budget (I vaguely recall one production where the set was made of toilet paper symbolizing cedar trees and it was great). The “American Buffalo” set was absolutely killer, and as much a character as any one of the men.

Theater is my drug. I don’t think I could live in London or New York, I wouldn’t be able to control myself. Or, I just have to get a job as an usher or an assistant to a theatre critic. Anyone got any leads?