Wednesday, December 30, 2009
This month's winner of a Theatre Junction GRAND Pick 3 Flex Pass is:
Sabrina Oakey of Bonterra Energy Corp.
Next time you're at Theatre Junction GRAND for a show or dining at Velvet, don't forget to drop off your business card in our front foyer to be entered to win more great Art Prizes from Theatre Junction GRAND.
After 7 years as part of the 'junction' team, we say farewell to General Manager, Carol Armes. Carol was part of the project to renovate the historic GRAND Theatre and was instrumental in developing Calgary's culturehouse of contemporary live arts. We wish Carol all the best in her future endeavours and continued success.
Her presence will be greatly missed!
Monday, November 23, 2009
On the surface Martin Crimp’s play seems to plunge us into the most quintessential of middle class dilemmas: the revelation of sexual infidelity in marriage. This narrative arc usually includes the ramping up of jealousy and distrust and ends in a bitter quagmire of smashed dreams, unravelled love, and eroded empathy. While these elements do appear in The Country, both the script itself and Theatre Junction’s production dissect the cliché to reveal far grittier conflicts such as the breakdown of communication and the sheer brutal power of language itself to inflict and precipitate wounds of various kinds.
Crimp’s dialogue is a fast ferocious barrage that, for all its formal beauty, leaves no character (and likely no audience member) with an illusion intact about the inherent goodness of human nature. Richard and Corinne have moved out to the country together to raise their children in pursuit of a pastoral dream of innocence and rebirth and yet each character’s ironic stance toward such dreams foreshadows this impossibility. As the play unfolds their dreams and the dream home the couple live in (built in a restored grainery!) are revealed as a battered and flimsy shelter incapable of withstanding the intrusions of Richard’s mistress Rebecca and dangerous double life.
The spatiality of the house is exploited to underscore the way that Richard attempts to keep the dissonant elements of his world separate. He and Rebecca have an agreement that includes total secrecy and separation that is punctured when he becomes worried about her safety and brings her to his home. The extent to which the separation has been executed is underscored when she asks the children’s names and he replies that they don’t have names. It is unavoidable that Rebecca meets Corrine and Richard’s lies are hauled out into the clear light of day. And yet he still tries to preserve something: Rebecca may not pass through the children’s room. She wishes to have a shower, but to do so she would have to walk through the last bastion of innocence and perhaps stain it with her presence. The desire for purity, cleanliness and innocence here are reminiscent of Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House (2004).
The association between sleep and innocence is powerfully interrogated. While the young woman is asleep the wife can find empathy for her, but she becomes somehow monstrous upon waking. The children sleep and as long as they are awakened they can remain in the blameless unknowing state of bliss/ignorance. If they are not awakened they cannot hear their father’s story: A story that in no way resembles a bedtime story. If none of us are awakened we need not be troubled by the fate of the young woman. We need not wonder at the harm she might have received at the hands of a man of healing (another layer of irony) as Corrine asks Richard whether he gave Rebecca something to help her sleep, or to make her sleep. It is hard to commit a crime in your sleep although you can be made complicit if you are literally or figuratively sleepwalking.
The ambivalence of Richard’s position is underscored by the economy of gift giving in the play. A delicate, beautiful watch is given to the mistress while the risqué high heels are given to the wife and both gifts, in way are destined to become objects of desire and aggression.
Crimp has created three intensely intelligent characters whose modus operandi is to use the other two as verbal and emotional punching bags. Husband and wife work one another over with verbal jabs and rhetorical low blows that ironically end up showing us not why they should part company, but why they are destined to stay together. We are witness to the perverse delight they find in one another, a delight akin to peeling a scab or sucking a wound. Rebecca, far from being an unwitting victim of the abuse of power at the hands of a pillar of the community, is instead an intelligent iconoclast with her own challenging views about history and her own set of problems may involve but are not fully created by Richard. She is not a device of plot.
In terms of pacing and delivery, links could be made to David Mamet, but Crimp worries less about teasing and pleasing the audience. There is a flying-without-a-safety net or a grasping-in-the-dark-quality to the way that Crimp uses symbolism to expose the workings of power that, for me, has affinities with post-realist Caryl Churchill. Structurally this piece does not adopt the additive “anything goes” approach that some postmodern plays do. Instead it riffs powerfully upon our narrative expectations. A thematic element is introduced and then elaborated upon not through deductive reasoning, but through the logic of the tangent and the peripheral … like great jazz.
This play is not about keeping up appearances and it is not about staying together for the kids, although both of these ideas are present. It is an odd and an unconventional portrait of a marriage that highlights the tangled web of desire, want/need and addiction and scorches (or is scorched by) the life of a young woman with big ideas.
The skilled delivery and complex character work of the Theatre Junction cast is evident throughout. Byrne and Thiriet steer clear of the too easy “cat-fight” tone that could gloss over the very real conflict between the two women and this allows them to lay bare the fascinating inner workings of their characters, while Lawes resists the temptation to turn Richard into either a victim or a monster. The cast use words like weapons, as the cruelty of Crimps text demands, but they also nuance their characters with a multifaceted vulnerability. We somehow never lose sight of the fact that these weapons could blow up in their hands at any moment.
The set design is elegant and sparse, introducing a powerful visual vocabulary that underscores the notions of complicity and framing that are so central this play. This is a must see for those in search of an intellectual and aesthetically challenging theatre experience.
Dr. Natalie Meisner
Department of English, Mount Royal University
CLICK HERE to buy tickets to THE COUNTRY
In this staging of The Country, a series of four dialogues played in a single room, the intimacy of Martin Crimp’s text is zoomed up to loom large over the audience. Julie Fox’s richly austere set has outsized the proscenium – usually absent in Theatre Junction – into a frame that disappears as it engulfs. Within this space, the first scenes play out across rectangles of light running across and up – a set of stairs, a solid wood table extended laterally through the wooden floor – that project axes on which the characters contest duels of “violence, cruelty, and sexual competition,” as we read in Mark Lawes’ concise introduction. The first scene assaulted me with its energy, which exploded inexplicably but relentlessly out of its questions and cross-questions. Mark Lawes is balled and pugnacious, Fiona Byrne desperately deliberate and contained, and it matters little that only one of them draws blood. The tight, delimited space of the theatre has always held a special power to represent the claustrophobia of our domestic worlds and the psychological dystopias we create at home. Crimp is compressing dramatic tradition in reducing and restricting this inner world into a theatre that is absolute because it performs only dialogue, and his text gives no directions to frame this performance beyond the sparse naming of several objects: “A large room, wooden chairs, an old table.” The play could be performed in cinematic close-ups, or on a runway where characters speak past each other, or directly at the audience. But here, in a space simultaneously centered and pushed off kilter with shadows, I found myself dizzied as if its pettiness had suddenly become twenty feet tall.
It was the words that made me most dizzy. Having read the play in the afternoon, I had the sense that they persisted from the text not as ideas or thoughts, but as things. Sharp, lightweight things – like the syringes in Rebecca’s bag. This was at first an effect of Crimp’s dialogues and the clarity with which they were performed. Crimp forces apart the banal weapons and damaging effects of intimate quarrels: the formulaic rejoinders, habitually defensive or aggressive, that come tumbling out of one partner before the other has finished; the duplicity between what is said and what is left unsaid; the swift punches that land square because their angle of attack is oblique. The work centers on these fissures. In Crimp’s most celebrated play, the baffling and post-modern Attempts on Her Life, the title’s heroine exists only in a dismembered state of seventeen identities. The effect of Crimp’s dialogue in this piece, superficially less avant-garde, is similar. The characters are effects of the exchange – flashpoints where words manage to hit their mark and make their violence visible. And when the words do claim a certain weight, when they seem to refer to solid and heavy things outside in the world, or to flesh, they express desires of belonging, of finding some place in the world, in which the voice metamorphoses into the landscape it bespeaks.
This outside is Crimp’s country, which the text imagines to be wet: a glass of water from the kitchen, the sounds of a shower upstairs, or a moist landscape of moss and fell. It is tasteless, pure, absorbing, cleansing. The third character Rebecca, played with corrosive vulnerability by Raphaele Thiriet, embodies the only way in or out. For me, the strength of this performance was to frame this threshold as the violent pivot of the play, and to anchor our view firmly in this frame.
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
CLICK HERE to buy tickets to THE COUNTRY
Friday, October 16, 2009
7 Important Things is a life-story anchored not by what we see, but what we hear. Despite the theatrical framework – scenes of improvisation and role-playing, switching between flash back and talk show, and the symbolic, even archetypical or fetishistic dimensions of its props and staging – the work closely hews to an utterly traditional form of narrative. A single voice chronologically remembers his own life-story, and this life-story becomes a metonym for a generation. Of course, he is prompted and parried, conceived and introduced by another voice that never settles on any single role, but this variety is in fact structured by a very simple principle: it enables him to speak. George’s voice seeks out gestures of authenticity poised between confession, interview, and therapy, and the generic irony of his story is the reason why it resonates with the audience – with our memories of the past and with the everyday realities of our working lives. But it also risks cliché. One wonders about the vitality of a tortured dance across prison-like shadows of a bar code. More fundamentally, the piece represents a deeply conservative impulse: the tragic failure of romantic rebellion and imagination that becomes here the failure of dramatic theatre.
The piece is deeply aware and distrustful of the power of theatrical illusion and seduction, and of course of modern forms of marketing and propaganda. And as an inheritance from Brecht, it also shows us something about the dangers of theatrical absorption – the kind of theatre that draws its audience into the happenings on stage and makes them forget the world for a time. Whether as ritual or escapist entertainment, this kind of theatre risks the destructive and alienating effects of a drug, as self-oblivion becomes self-abandon and the loss of all social responsibility. The piece insists instead on deliberate slowness and reflection, on wry wit, and on the power of therapeutically staged memories that contain these images and this absorption within clearly visible theatrical boundaries and conventions – a four-minute timer, a mask, commands from the director. Perhaps this is an appropriate form to represent the bourgeois origins of the belief that the freedom of self-creation and utopian community would follow from the rejection of authority and convention. But the piece also seems haunted by our age of media spectacle, in which reality TV turns authenticity into the crassest kind of performance. What are we to make of the pictures from George’s past? They elicit a phantasmagoric connection with the soul of a man whom we will never know except as a piece of theatre, and the piece itself never offers us a framework for understanding these documentary interventions as more than evocations of nostalgia. But even the impulse to insist on authenticity as itself a kind of theatre can be timid and uncertain. For me, the final revelation to the audience – a plea to see something, a living presence, denied the reality of what we had just experienced on stage. It also shifted the locus of authentic truth from the performance itself to the director as the ideal spectator. If only we could she what she sees. This is another deeply conservative gesture, and I wonder if it betrays a lack of trust in my imagination. I take Nadia Ross at her word that “each of us has a story to tell, and once we tell it, we fade into silence.” But what I missed was a work that more radically confronts, even suffers, this deficit. Instead, the tragic scheme of the story and the simple redemption it offered left me with an uncomfortable feeling of pity.
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
Thursday, October 15, 2009
STO Union fittingly anchors an exploration of the politics of counterculture in the personal story of one man in 7 Important Things. We witness the hopes and dreams of a young George Acheson as he walks away from a life that he sees as drudgery; as he grows his hair, joins the hippie movement and refuses the life in the army that would make his father proud. He had hopes for peace, free love and the creation of “a whole new kind of person” that could possibly emerge out of the web of interconnected countercultural movements of the 1960’s. These hopes are dashed when the hippies sell out to the free market and so George becomes a punk anarchist rather than a duped and branded consumer.
The troupe uses a number of techniques to gently tease the meaning out of the quotidian and to revisit aspects of George’s spent (or misspent?) life. Role playing, flashbacks, and interviewing techniques reminiscent of qualitative research are all deployed at various points in the piece. The audience is acknowledged; made part of the process of meaning making without pandering to us and without poking us just for the satisfaction of seeing us wince. Due to the sophisticated viewing filters of contemporary theatre audiences, this is no mean feat. Ross changes from the role of moderator to that of provocateur to that of various key characters from George’s past with ease. Sections of focused interview and pointed questions about politics and culture are juxtaposed with the replaying of highly personal moments of George’s past.
There is an assumed “we” posed to the audience, which at various points in the performance is skilfully called into question. Do “we” share George’s valuation of work as a way of life as soul destroying? There are certainly some chuckles of recognition in the audience when he describes the mind-numbing environment of muzak and cubicles that marked his foray into the workforce in the mid seventies. And yet we are also called upon to interrogate our ideas about work. Can it bring delight as well as reward? Are there other models than the “necessary evil” with which we can animate our places of work? Doesn’t anyone offer a living wage for something that might fall under the category of a labour of love? If not, then what is wrong with us?
The vague spiritual quest that is mentioned becomes somehow substituted for the many legitimate political demands of the 1960’s protest movements and this feels like something of a shell game. But then again, this very shell game is likely a nod to the way that narcotics were problematically woven into the fabric of the legendary decade of protest. Drugs seemed to offer enlightenment, freedom and rebellion and yet they ultimately sapped the strength of otherwise talented and capable people. They dulled the capabilities and contributed to the conformity of otherwise iconoclastic, and legitimately pissed off young people.
As George lost his way, so did the youth movement of the 1960’s. This is one of the theories posed by 7 Importan Things. And yet, if one listens carefully to the heartbeat of the peace there is something else. Just as we now enjoy a greater degree of freedom, citizenship and equality as a result of the gains made by various threads of the 1960’s counterculture movements, so too has George benefitted from his unorthodox school of hard knocks.
Things seem to come ironically full circle when George finds himself at age 50 cutting hair in a small town and yet the act no longer holds the significance it once did. Now he seems to find his place in society through the offering of a small comfort. He tells us that people feel a bit better about themselves when they leave his chair and perhaps in this simple act he seems to have arrived at his answer; his offering to a world that he’s never, until now, felt part of.
Dr. Natalie Meisner
Department of English, Mount Royal University
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
7 IMPORTANT THINGS
by STO Union
Oct 14-17/09 4 Shows Only!
7 IMPORTANT QUOTES from 7 IMPORTANT THINGS
1. "The boys didn't believe that the commies were going to take over the world."
2. "Your dollar is your best friend."
3. "The guy who looked normal wasn't trusted."
4. "I loved walking through a crowd of office workers on their lunch break wearing my Sergeant Pepper's jacket and my hair down to my waist."
5. "You cut your hair in '73 because long hair didn't mean anything anymore."
6. "On Friday, they say: 'T.G.I.F.'- That breaks my heart."
7. "TO EACH HIS OWN."
Thursday, October 1, 2009
FLUID MOVEMENT ARTS FESTIVAL, October 19 – 25
Select Shows at Theatre Junction GRAND
Physical. Fun. Fierce. Fluid. Calgary’s only festival merging outstanding contemporary dance and physical performance by local, national and international artists.
Hofesh Shechter - a dance sensation from the UK – is an international headliner.
A performance of truly extraordinary beauty and profundity – Probably the most important new dance work to be created in Britain since the millennium." - The Observer (UK)
And a Canadian company also making international headliners - Montréal Danse – with choreographer Sarah Chase create a series of stunning stories with icy imagery.
Chase’s special blend of narrative biography and movement permeate the dancers. Known for their fresh audacious approach to contemporary dance, Montréal Danse performs accessible and exhilarating work.
Our outstanding international, national and local performers astound with their unique imaginations and confound with their emotive physicality. And share their expertise through artists talks and workshops.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Orpheus and Eurydice contains many of the trademark Chouinard elements:
otherworldly simmering sexuality, gravity defying lifts and leaps, utterly committed physicality, and costuming that highlights the conflicted and conflicting forces that meet at the site of the human body. Chouinard’s choreography is provocative and demanding. It causes us to rethink the limits, not only of the performer’s body, but of the human body. What is our own body, after all? A package, a possession, a prosthesis, an object, or a point of contact with the outside world?
The piece evokes both the devastation of tragedy and the bawdy roots of comedy. This is especially noticeable in the hilarious, sensual, and oddly touching segment where the dancers wear (or are worn by) their oversized phalluses which seem to almost pull them across the stage cavorting and sliding singly and in pairs. In keeping with its point of departure, the work evokes the roots of comedy with the Satyr: a high spirited companion of Pan/Bacchus, part human and part bestial who, in Greek mythology, roams the woodlands in search of erotic adventure.
There is an interesting physical/spiritual dialectic at play here about the nature of erotic connection. The electric joy visible in the dancer’s physical choreography and facial expressions seem to celebrate multitudinous copulation while the use of minimalist staccato music and robotic gesture underline the mechanical and even the dance macabre aspect of sexual acts.
The summary of Orpheus and Eurydice on the overhead screen seemed beside the point and risked reduction and packaging of the myth rather than enlarging upon it. Both the placement of a dancer in the audience and the device of pulling the words out of the dancer’s bodies seemed overused and conventional methods of enlarging upon the distinguished tradition (Artaud, Handke , Sarah Cane, Carolee Schneemann, etc. ) of audience confrontation. While Orpheus and Eurydice might lack some of the bite of her earlier work, this piece is worth the experience, especially for those who haven’t yet confronted the heady mix of dance, performance art , high fashion, musical experimentation and spectacle that we have come to expect from the reigning queen of the avant-garde.
Dr. Natalie Meisner
Department of English, Mount Royal College
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday was the opening at Theatre Junction GRAND. Orpheus and Eurydice takes both the performers and the audience on a wild journey of the senses. From the opening moment to the final piece, there is something going on stage that is felt and experienced, a visceral experience for both the performers and the audience. The communication progressed into a dialogue, each reaction by the audience created a stronger connection that built into the crescendo of the final scene.
There was a feeling in the room like a spell was cast on the audience. When I occasionally took my attention off the performers and onto the audience, I saw a collective group mesmerized, and glued to their chairs. There was no movement. It was as if each and everyone’s senses were being so fully absorbed that their bodies were rendered motionless.
Earlier on Tuesday I had a chance to speak with three of the lead dancers Lucie, Dorotea and James and these are some of their thoughts on Marie’s work for them. There is a deep exploration through Marie’s work a lot of possibilities, layers and pockets that allow you to go deeper and deeper, accessing subconscious states. Marie’s inspiration changes every time, continually blossoming throughout the whole creation of the piece its completion and even after. If she was a painter she would sneak into a gallery that held one of her finished paintings every night adding another brush stroke, continually adding a new element. Past works, even pieces that are 10 years old are still being modified as no piece is ever fully finished.
Marie is focused on the dancer’s body, and is in tune with movements that are pleasurable to the senses and body that the dancers can have fun with. This creates a comfort and openness, and allows for change and new creation each performance. She has really found a way to find joy and out of her work, an amazing edge without being a tortured artist. It is seen as a process by all involved in the creation. Dancers have a great trust and love for her connection with the dance, dancers and the audience.
I personally love when I see something that makes me want to connect with others and discuss what I have witnessed because there is so much to share, whether it is joy, sadness, anger or any other emotion. After the show a packed room awaited full of people sharing their thoughts and insights. The woman I shared the evening with was full of observations and questions, and so was everyone else who visited our table. The place was buzzing with excitement. If you are looking for a feast of the senses that entices and offers a new way of experiencing and seeing the world this is for you. Calgary is blessed that Marie Chouinard’s work continually shows at this beautiful venue. Performances like this will be talked about for a long time.
Ari Hershberg, All The Best Things Magazine
What we got in last night’s performance of Orpheus and Eurydice was eros on stage: as in last year’s revival of Chouinard’s Rite of Spring, the company explores the primordial drives and energies of myth as the foundation of modern theatre. But this new theme is more deliberately artistic: Orpheus marks not only one of the most essential myths of poetic creation and loss but also, with Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1607), the birth of opera. It is telling that this opera was rediscovered and performed in 1905, as part of the same explosion of artistic energy that produced the avant-garde primitivism of Rite of Spring. The smashing of the classical forms that had come to define the rituals of European theatre went hand in hand with the canonization of Orpheus as the figure through which theatre imagines its origins.
Yet in re-telling this story Chouinard loses Orpheus much the way Orpheus loses Eurydice when he looks back. The piece leaves it open as to whether the singer looks back out of fear, audacity, or sheer desire; and at one point it makes us, the audience, into Orpheus, rendering Eurydice—her loss and the lament it provokes—an object of our desires, too. Mouths become one enduring sign for this loss and the pain of this lament: mouths gaping open, making ghoulish and senseless sounds; offering entryways and exits for ingestion and reanimation and for passage to the sexual organs, and exposing the dancers’ bodies to the torture of being pulled inside out. These openings cut a void through the center of the piece’s highly stylized vocabulary of carnivalesque and ecstatic gestures and movements, and above all, through the dancers’ faces, which display an amazing gamut of extreme expressions. The effect is both fierce and silly, and what appears bestial and demonic can turn quickly into vaudeville or magicians’ tricks. This is a work that knows it has put a myth on stage, and that all stages have barkers, however high or serious the art. For Chouinard, the Orphic myth thereby becomes a prism to articulate the desires set free when modern dance ritualizes and formalizes essential, everyday movements of the body, and to register the displacement and spectacle—the shared experience of the body—that result when these movements become theatre.
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
Monday, August 31, 2009
In the Greek myth upon which Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s new work is based, Orpheus is allowed to bring his beloved Eurydice back from Hades on one condition – that he never, ever look back. But like the L’Enfant terrible, Orpheus has the audacity to defy this command. He does the forbidden and Eurydice is lost forever. Chouinard sees this act as a beginning rather than an ending, where the spirit of the artist is born.
Chouinard’s work exposes us to the full rawness of the human condition with unashamed honesty and remarkable beauty. In a society increasingly marked by isolation, live performance brings us these kinds of encounters we crave to have. Orpheus and Eurydice tempts us to taste the illicit, to defy convention and embrace truth.
Chouinard sees Orpheus as the original artist, because he does what is forbidden. Like the artist, he steps outside of the boundaries of right and wrong, sense and chaos, and endures the consequences. He dares to dream in a world that forbids dreaming.
Orpheus and Eurydice shows us that sometimes we should dream that the forbidden might really be possible. We are all like Orpheus, when we dream, when we create, when we tempt the forbidden.
Orpheus and Eurydice is the first of several presentations of Theatre, Dance and Music making up a survey of leading contemporary National and International live-art at Theatre Junction GRAND in Calgary. I hope that you will join us for each of these remarkable performances in our 2009-2010 Season.
Mark Lawes, Artistic Director
Theatre Junction GRAND
09/10 Season Passes and Single Tickets to Compagnie Marie Chouinar'd Orpheus and Eurydice NOW ON SALE!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Some exciting news - The Betty Mitchell Awards nominees were announced last week at The Auburn where Theatre Junction RCA member Nicolas Bernier was nominated for best sound design for On the Side of the Road. The recipients of the 2009 Betty Mitchell Awards will be announced at the gala ceremony on Monday, August 24, 2009 at the Max Bell Theatre.
Congrats to the entire RCA!
... And we can still hear the sounds of those pesky mosquitos and slaps!
For me the theatre is, at its essence, the art of meeting. Superficial encounters, the kind that we often have in our everyday lives, are easy-- nothing is changed, nothing is challenged. They are uneventful. They require less investment than buying a burger and fries and are the equivalent of fast food. We are left empty and craving more. Our common desire to be with like-minded people, to think the same, to dress the same, to be comfortable, to fit in, slowly drains our desire to be confronted with the unknown. We forget that the unknown is exciting. It keeps us alive. It nourishes us. An authentic meeting is just that, an encounter with the unknown.
Real encounters, the kind that provoke confrontations and propel both parties into new territories so that they might see the world differently and share new dreams, are possibilities. I want to create possibilities of meetings that are charged and have resonance, whose outcomes are strong and lasting. They satiate us and influence the society in which we live. This is the strength of the theatre and this is why it is essential.
This season, come face to face with pioneers of essential art. Reacquaint yourself with luminary Marie Chouinard. Join us as Theatre Junction and Toronto's Crow's Theatre team up to take on the knife-like writing of Martin Crimp in the Canadian premiere of The Country. Finally, let loose with the hilariously versatile and amazingly skilled Spaghetti Western Orchestra as they reintroduce you to the unforgettable classic Ennio Morricone film scores.
This is Theatre Junction GRAND Season Four. We should meet.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Round up yer Posse for the Spaghetti Western Orchestra! We are now offering a special group ticket presale to this show (Apr 28-30, 2010). CLICK HERE for more info on how to reserve prime seats for your friends, including those Good, Bad, and even Ugly!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Although Season Passes and single tickets are not on sale yet, we are now offering a special group ticket presale to Marie Chouinard's Orpheus and Eurydice (Sept 22-26, 2009). CLICK HERE for more info on how to get in on some group action to this sweltering and steamy show opening Theatre Junction GRAND's 09/10 season.
Great news for all Theatre Junction GRAND 08/09 subscribers! We will be doing a special prelaunch of our 09/10 season to all our subscribers THIS WEEK. This means that all subscribers from the past season will be the VERY FIRST ones to hear the full 09/10 season lineup and have the first opportunity to reserve the best seats in the house. Subscribers should watch their inbox this week for a special 09/10 Season PDF which will include all the shows and how to purchase 09/10 Season Passes.
The official launch of Theatre Junction GRAND's 09/10 happens in August! Season Passes will be made available then to the public, with single tickets for all shows on sale September 1.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Theatre Junction's new creation, On the Side of the Road, which premiered in Calgary last March has been invited to perform at Harbourfront Center's Worldstage in Toronto in 2010. On the Side of the Road will be performed at Worldstage March 24-27, 2010, with the possibility of further tour stops in Montreal and in Europe. The show was well received by local audiences and media, with the Calgary Herald giving the show 4 stars, calling it "a smart, big hearted, sexy, strange, hallucinatory, Franco Western Canadian piece of cottage country mythology".
And due to popular demand, the show will be remounted in Calgary at Theatre Junction GRAND before it heads off on tour next spring. Those who did not get a chance to see On the Side of the Road when it first played here, will get a second chance to catch the show in early March 2010.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It might be a mistake to say that Wen Wei’s “Three Sixty Five” is danced to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” because the music has been so radically displaced, as though it had been beamed in from another planet, garbled in transmission and reconstituted in Theatre Junction GRAND. It sounds industrial, but also painfully organic whenever a bow is scraped across cello strings. The past has been wrenched into the future.
But this alien-like displacement of classical form – harmony, repetition, counterpart, and a play between solo and tutti – could be taken as the driving idea behind the show’s movements, meaning not only its physical vocabulary but also the composition of its segments. The pulse of the original score has survived in an idiom of delayed, even spastic jerks and contortions, passed on and copied from one dancer to the next. When dancing as a group, the performers evoke a stand of immobile waving organisms, like sea anemones that have become robots. The dancer’s bodies are most mesmerizing when their entire length seems to flow into their arms and their limbs, becoming all appendage and no torso, while the fingers or toes acquire an intricate, writhing life of their own. Still, the physical movements themselves are largely drawn from a modern vocabulary that can certainly be called ‘classical’ by now, just as the line and tension of the evening as a whole (as well as the leaps and agile athleticism) come from the ballet. Vivaldi’s work is straightforwardly programmatic, from the design of the four seasons to details like the summer storm or the barking dog. And while “Three Sixty Five” resolutely refuses to offer any narrative, its abstract play with form does give way to some thematic moments, all of which are tied to the progression of the seasons. One could disagree about whether the sexual languor of the summer or the closing shrouds of winter are bold anchors for the abstraction or glossy cover shoots. (An uncharitable, acerbic viewer might find the costuming reminiscent of last year’s J. Crew catalog.) It seems significant to me that these moments also remind us how dance itself displaces classical beauty onto the bodies of its artists. Wen Wei’s earlier works confront the disfigurement and violence this displacement demands. But “Three Sixty Five” unabashedly embraces the beauty and purity of its forms in a way that, to my mind, undoes the shock of this displacement and thus smoothes out the disruptive, and hence inventive potential of the performance.
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
-Elevator available for load in/load out of props and set pieces.
-Suitable for dance.
-Greenroom and bathroom located off of the Studio.
Studio is available from March 30th, 2009 until September 1st, 2009
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out further
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The second installment in Theatre Junction’s trilogy of meditations on death, desire and the Canadian west packs a powerful visual punch and employs a language of visual poetry that evokes the North: ice, a bare white landscape, and a pile of deer antlers whose strange beauty highlight nature’s sublime architectural and sculptural lines. These forms sit in sharp contrast to the minimalist almost acidic modernity of mylar balloons and a shimmering sliver backdrop that throw slivers of low sidelight about the stage in a manner evoking both water and ice.
On The Side of the Road, like Little Red River, was generated through a process of collective creation. This process aims to democratize the process of play making by involving the actor in the process of creation. Although theatre, perhaps more than any other literary art, has always been collaborative in nature, this process evolved in the 1960’s in response to the centrality that the theatre director had taken in preceding decades as the primary interpreter of the text. Collective creation is noted for the authentic performance that it can call up from its performers who feel more invested in text that they have had a hand in creating. Collective creation in Canada has a rich history with shows such as Theatre Passe Muraille’s The Farm Show influenced by the collaborative work of the Living Theatre in the U.S., Roger Planchon in France and Peter Brook in England.
Whereas many of the preceding experiments in collective creation had a documentary focus, allowing actors to interview members of a given community and develop a play from their stories, Theatre Junction’s RCA starts with a different focus. The company takes as their points of departure a piece of visual art by Winnipeg artist Marcel Dzama, and fictionalized autobiographical material they call “autofictions.” The company’s dramaturges have shaped the material generated through improvisation around a central plot. Boy travels to Europe, meets girl falls in love, nearly loses girl then transports her to the remotest area of what (in the popular European imaginary) is a land composed entirely of bucolic wilderness, lakes and cabin country after which she takes off, has an accident and falls into a coma.
The status of Canada as untouched and pristine is thrown into question by the provocations of the scientist, played by Mike Tan, who notes that the lake that Samuel’s father’s cabin sits on is dying. Is this a natural process, or one “aided” by human interference? The question is never answered but the seed of doubt is planted in the audience’s mind and throughout the piece the images of creeping decay that emanate from the lake seep into the minds of the personages and the audience alike.
The performance style is relaxed and char/acters relate to one another from a place of comfort and trust. The opening in which Uncle Bill and Lola(Diane Busuttil) greet the audience gives a nod to Brechtian gestus as we are continually reminded that we are watching a performance and the narrative style keeps us from getting caught up in the action to the extent that we experience catharsis. Unlike Brechtian gestus this style does not seem to have a political aim, other than the positivist desire (given a substantial workout over the past few decades in literary theory) to deconstruct or abandon one’s identity, and hence to avoid the traps of identity politics.
Moments of prairie humour include having the entire cast attacked in a choreographed dance routine by electronic versions of the ubiquitous swarms of mosquito that will be familiar to anyone who has visited a prairie lake. There are also tongue in cheek full cast country tunes such as “I got you in the cab of my heart” which tread a fine line between homage and satire. A wave of knowing laughter swells from the crowd when Uncle Bill (Stephen Turner) continually insists that there is nothing is out of the ordinary at Lac La Biche since “ALL THE NORTHERN LAKES HAVE ALGAE!”
These plot questions (Will Alice Ever Awake from a coma? Will Samuel ever come in from the middle of the lake?) are less important than eerie appeal of the dream/nightmare logic of accident and coma, however. The most intriguing moments of the piece are only tangentially related to the plot. A masked woman in sparkly underwear stalks across a dream landscape splitting the air inches from our heads with double whips that echo the lightening of a summer storm. Alice (Raphaele Thiriet) replaces the conventional narrative of the coma with her uncommon and surreal description of a coma as a state of restful bliss. A dancer (Virginie Thomas) who has been flitting, agile and deer-like through the set for the entirety of the piece suddenly breaks the dancer’s sound barrier and accosts the audience with song that insists she is a deer, and follows with a diverting and poetic ode to the animal and its thematic place in the play.
Dr. Natalie Meisner
Department of English
Mount Royal College
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
A light creature springs deftly through a landscape of silver and white, chanting the rhythm of her approach. She is a deer, watching in the “death angle” on the side of the road, a new and familiar danger in the Alberta landscape that we entered last year with Little Red River. The danger comes from the possibility of collision. Hands thrust forward like antlers, she runs at the audience, lunging to the front edge of the stage. The force of the accidental impacts that propelled Little Red River and now drive this new show are captured here and made imminent.
This is how Theatre Junction celebrates a death. What began as an invitation to the audience, and to tell a story, never settles. The story is, at first, a love story following a young writer who returns home from Europe upon the death of his father, together with his French girlfriend, to meet his uncle and take possession of his father’s cabin on Lac la Biche. All love stories necessarily fracture along unavoidable fault-lines: as narratives of an encounter, they resist a single point of view, and in recounting a moment of pure experience, they threaten to ossify into memory. In this theatre, though, these ruptures become principles of the performance. “Go on then, tell him the story,” Lola says to the Bill when they first meet his nephew Sam, and the narrative immediately refracts into slightly incongruent points of view spoken in idioms that jostle each other. Words are doubled and translated, metaphors echoed back as jargon, and the same sounds come out shaped differently by widely separated origins. This friction is productive. But this performance is most keen when it forces open the gap where telling becomes acting, where remembering finds no anchor, and where the narrative loses its keel as things begin to happen. The exuberance of these events coalesces compellingly into a shared story when the cast sings the refrains of Ian Kilburn’s original songs (or when the audience erupts into laughter). But like all song and dance numbers, these celebratory gestures also suspend the narrative in a way that underscores the fragility of its illusion. The illusion of this performance is sustained by emotion and atmosphere, and both of these can be shattered in an instant by another rupture inherent to love stories: the impulsive, violent power of accidents. The impossibility that opens up in the hope and desire of one “harpooned by love” cannot help but explode the structure of any narrative that would carry this moment alive into the future. To maintain such intensity and avoid triviality, love stories inevitably draw upon undercurrents of betrayal, loss and separation. But this production avoids redeeming the sacrifice of its ‘love’, either for the characters or for the audience as a kind of tragedy. Instead, it risks refashioning one of the theatre’s most fundamental resources: the power to make things otherwise that comes from the power to forget.
At times, the show purports to have a word for this loss. Identity is a game, we are told, a series of masks, and characters appear true when they adapt to the situation they inhabit. Although not all of the characters are equally adept at this metamorphosis, all seek in their own way to make sense of the world. Sam’s earnest and pained naiveté encounters its rebellious counterpart in Alice; Bill is a sculptor whose work on a medium that is constantly melting helps him keeps a grip on reality; John is a chemist who methodically measures the algae in glimpse of a theory that would unlock the secrets of nature, the “memory of water.” The landscape too seems to relinquish secrets of time and culture, preserved in rock and ice, but its open secret – and perhaps the strongest element of the performance – is the sound and stage design. Introduced as the game warden responsible for “protecting the environment,” Nicolas Bernier performs minimal, precise sounds that create space in the same way that music creates mood, or that a changed voice can suddenly and utterly alienate an identity. To contain this space, Julie Fox sketches a collection of planes with spare ornaments that anchor, in the course of the performance, a world that fills out and comes together with stark complexity, each new iteration and each new addition surprising in its potential to transform, extend, turn topsy-turvy or to one side. Nevertheless, this space strikes hard as one vast, claustrophobic imagination of the Northern Lakes, standing sideways to its own history and landscape, like this theatre in Western Canada. On the Side of the Road produces the most friction when the performance collides with obstacles that dislocate its elaborate lyricism, when its characters and images jut through the inexorable shaping force of its artistic vision to come straight at the audience, tranquil and fierce, “I am a deer, deer, I am a deer.”
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
Friday, March 20, 2009
I just wanted to relay, again, how much we all enjoyed the production last night. From the verbal poetry of a manic lover to the trucker talk, the dialogue was consistently engaging. Often extremely humorous. At times I could hardly sit still as the music and dance had my feet moving. At other times I was frozen as I felt suddenly placed in the middle of the stage by the silent dramatic tension directed straight at the audience. The themes, accident and identity, reality and the unconscious, had us talking well into the night. As we left, most of us were talking about when we could return to watch again. Best of success on your opening night!
- Devon Gillard
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
THEATRE JUNCTION’S ANNUAL CASINO 2009!
The Casino is a vital part our funding, and is a great way for staff, volunteers and friends of Theatre Junction GRAND to have fun, get to know each other, raise money, and support Theatre Junction!
We are required to provide the Casino with 25 volunteers for each day we are at the Casino (that’s 50 volunteers!), so we need some help! There are a variety of positions to fill and there is definitely NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED! You don’t even have to like gambling or know anything about it – all positions are trained on the day of the casino, and each job is very simple.
Variety of Positions!
We need Bankers (just pretend its Monopoly money), Cashiers, Chip Runners, Count Room Staff, Count Room Supervisors (to keep the Count Room Staff in line, of course), and General Managers.
We are fortunate that we are able to hold our casino at the Stampede Casino again this year, which is easy to access by transit (LRT -Victoria Park/Stampede Station) and close to downtown.
Bring your friends!
Not only does it help us out, but it also makes it more fun for you!
Sign up now!
We need the key positions (General Managers, Count Room Supervisors, Bankers) filled ASAP
– so please don’t delay! Any scheduling conflicts can be worked out closer to the casino date.
Contact ADELLE at 403.205.2922 EXT 201
INFO@THEATREJUNCTION.COM to sign up!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
How did you come up with the idea for On the side of the Road?
On the Side of the Road was created from multiple points of inspiration, films, novels, paintings, field research, and the “auto-fictions” of the Resident Company of Artists (RCA) . The first point of inspiration was a painting by Marcel Dzama, a Winnipeg artist, depicting a young woman carrying a dead deer on her shoulders. The 2nd was the small town of Lac La Biche situated three hours northeast of Edmonton on a beautiful Northern lake. I helped to build an addition on Uncle Sid’s cabin on the lake when I was a teenager. Lac La Biche (‘biche’ is French for deer) is a complex crossroads of cultures and nature that has tremendous historical significance for Alberta and Canada.
How is the theme of the accident explored in this work?
An accident is the moment of fragility, the moment where everything changes. It is a shock that shatters your vision of the world. The collision between culture and nature, the car accident that kills the deer, sends Alice into a coma. We are asking questions of identity by provoking the confrontation between what is conscious and rational and what is unconscious and unexplainable. An accident happens by chance. Chance is everything that cannot be explained by reason.
What was your creation process for On the Side of the Road?
We are taking an archeological approach to creation by exploring the intersection of people from different roots and memories who compose a specific place and time. In our process, theatre, dance, music and visual art intersect to find a live writing. This results in a pop-art hybrid that is both accessible and new. The Resident Company of Artists (RCA) is comprised of a unique combination of people, skills, disciplines and backgrounds. The RCA are authors as well as interpreters and performers. I propose characters within a story and each of the artists writes on his/her character, and then on the characters of the others. The combination of presentation, training, creative practice, research and development in multiple layers, as well as political and philosophical discussions about why we are engaged in creating theatre together, result in the particular qualities of our work.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Opening Night - Friday, March 20th
Industry Night - Saturday, March 28th
Closing Night - Saturday, April 4 (in conjunction w/ All The Best Things magazine launch)
Admission is FREE and we encourage everyone who comes out to see On the Side of the Road on the above dates to stick around after the show and party with us. There will be free food, cheap drinks and live music, including performances by Theatre Junction's very own Ian Kilburn!
The parties are scheduled to begin at 10 pm in the Studio following the performance in the theatre.
Mark is the founding artistic director of Theatre Junction. Since 2005 and the reinvention of Theatre Junction GRAND, he has been working as a director/creator with the Resident Company of Artists (RCA). Themes of memory, identity, death, and desire set against the backdrop of the Canadian West, have been explored in the new works, Archeology, The Atlantis Project, Little Red River and now On the Side of the Road.
Mark has traveled extensively in Europe working under directors in Opera, Theatre and Dance. In 2003 he lived in Paris where he worked on projects at The Paris Opera, Théâtre L’Athenée, The Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Le Scène Nationale d’Orléans, The Steirischerbst in Graz, and with The Splinter Group in Berlin. He has worked as an interpreter of classical and contemporary text both as an actor and director. His productions of Patrick Marber’s Closer and Molière’s The Misanthrope were nominated for Best Direction and Best Production in Calgary. Mark was the driving force and visionary behind the redevelopment of Theatre Junction GRAND.
Alexandra has worked as a director, lighting designer, dramaturg, stage manager and instructor. For the past eight years she has been based in Toronto, where she has been working predominantly in new work and inter-disciplinary performance. She holds an MA in drama from the University of Toronto, and a Graduate Diploma in Directing from the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, where she worked with director/creators Richard Murphet, Jenny Kemp and Lindy Davies.
Since then, she has been particularly interested in ensemble performance and creation, and in the role of the performer in the rehearsal process, which brings her to Theatre Junction. For the past two years, she has been a member of the Toronto-based interdisciplinary collective, draft89, who are dedicated to the collaborative creation of new work and to exposing emerging artists to new disciplines.
....An enormous bearded man gently hammering pieces of metal....
Stephen P Turner returns to the RCA to carry on with the journey, the exploration of life, death and all things in between. Visual art and performance now mingle to form a new vehicle that lays out an endless road to travel. With a varied background as a sculptor, musician, youth and crisis intervention worker and community liason for people with disabilities, Steve uses these experiences as tools to create and develop his ideas and delve further into his obsession of discovery of the world around him.
He has participated in stone sculpture symposia in Vietnam, Thailand, and Canada, working with artists from Thailand, Czech Republic, France, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Austria, Japan and the Netherlands. Stephen's sculptural work is in private and public collections in Canada, the U.S., South Africa, Vietnam, and at the University of Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Virginie Thomas studied Visual Art at the University of Rennes. In 2000, she received her professional designation in dance from the Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier, and began working with such French choreographers as Thierry Baë, Anne Lopez, Florence Saul, Dominique Boivin, Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh, Catherine Contour and David Wampach. For the past seven years, she has been a member of the collective, the Clubdes5, developing interdisciplinary research and performance work. She has also collaborated with designer-walker Mathias Poisson, filmmaker Guillaume Robert, and various theatre practitioners. Recently she created a solo piece — "dans le décor", a work centred around a touristic fiction. Virginie is also a member of Les Vraoums, a performative girls’ band.
Raphaele studied theatre in France at the Conservatoire National de Région de Toulouse, learning the Grotowsky Technique under Henry Bornstein. After graduating in 1997 she went to the Université d’Aix en Provence, where she studied philosophical and political views on theatre. In 2001, she honed her dramaturgy and acting skills under Angela Konrad, dramaturge and artistic director of In pulverem reverteris company, a research laboratory. She worked on new creations, Time is out of joint part 1,2,3, Richard III, and Traumzeit touring in France and Germany. She has also worked with choreographers Heddy Maalem and Emilio Calgagno (Ballet Preljocaj). She acted with several other companies in France including Ma voisine s’appelle Cassandre on contemporary authors Novarina, Edouard Glissant, and Schimmelpfennig. Recent work includes the new creation Les instituteurs immoreaux with the company Les travailleurs de la nuit, inspired by the writings of Donatien Alphonse Sade. Raphaele is a writer of iconoclastic theatre and poetry including Crash, Fading, X, and Berlin. She is a creator, performer and dramaturge for Little Red River and On the Side of the Road.
Mike is back for his third year for new contemporary creation at Theatre Junction Grand. Over the past few years at Theatre Junction Grand, he had the opportunity to work with artists of various disciplines from all over the world, such as France, Germany, Australia, New York, and Poland. The RCA experience has opened the door to varying perspectives about making and considering theatre, and art as a whole for Mike, and he hopes it will do the same for Calgary's viewers. This recent summer he
has been busy working with Calgary Young People's Theatre as a Drama instructor and with Kids Play Klassics performing at local festivals. He has also worked with young indie companies such as Downstage, and most recently as a visual artist for Swallow-a-Bicycle's 'Wanderlust' this summer. Mike was trained at the U of C, and is from Calgary. Special thanks to Aiden and Nancy.
Tracey's feet are killing her from pounding Calgary's Streets and Avenues in search of fabrics and found clothing pieces to compliment the RCA's ideas for each costume.
Having created costumes for a variety of performance media, from independent film, circus, contemporary theatre classics, opera, skating, Broadway musicals to Shakespeare, Tracey draws on her adaptability and tenacity to satisfy the needs of those she is collaborating with.
Most recently, Tracey's costume designs were seen in Calgary in the Musicfilm "Love Songs" by the award-winning Laura Taler, as part of the CSIF Festival of Surrealist Film.
Ian Kilburn studied at the University of Calgary in the faculty of Fine Arts, where he absorbed acting and theatre history in the department in Drama. Since this experience, he has played in Stories, Lies and Heroes (Lynn Eaton), Titus Andronicus (Mob Hit), and As You Like It (Shakespeare in the Park). Ian is a writer and musician and plays in the band Appollo. Ian created Little Red River and On the Side of the Road with Theatre Junction's RCA.
"A huge thank you to my family, friends, and my sparrow. For all the support that helped me get back on stage."
Since finishing her studies at the National Theatre School in 1994, Julie has been working as a free-lance set and costume designer for theatres and dance companies across Canada. In theatre, she has worked primarily with Toronto directors Daniel Brooks and Chris Abraham, on both new creations and classical texts. Their work has received many awards and been seen in a number of international theatre festivals. She has twice received the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Set Design, and been nominated many times. She was also nominated for a Sterling award for her 2005 design for Frozen at the Citadel Theatre. Since 2002 she has lived part-time in the Czech Republic, designing sets, costumes and installations for dance. She has taught design at Concordia University, Glendon College, and the National Theatre School of Canada. This is her second season with the RCA at Theatre Junction GRAND.
Nicolas Bernier’s initiation into musical creation was through popular music. However, his curiosity quickly brought him to electroacoustic composition. His love of experimentation has inspired him to develop acousmatic compositions, live electronics, installations and art video, as well as music for dance, theatre and cinema. In the midst of this eclecticism, his artistic concerns remain constant: the balance between the cerebral and the sensual, and between organic sound sources and digital processing. He has collaborated with many artists from a variety of artistic spheres, inclucing choreographer Ginette Laurin, director Denis Marleau, musician Delphine Measroch, guitar player Simon Trottier, sound artists Alexis Bellavance, Érick D’Orion, Hélène Prévost, Jacques Poulin-Denis. In 2006 he created Ekumen, a microorganism dedicated to the dissemination of sound art. In 2008 he took on the art direction for Réseaux, a major Canadian electroacoustic concert producer. His works have been broadcast at various festivals around the world including AKOUSMA (Canada), Mutek (Canada), DotMov Festival (Japan) and Transmediale (Germany), and have won many awards. See more at ekumen.com and myspace.com/nicolasbernie.
Diane comes from Sydney Australia where she began dance classes at the age of eight to curb her hyperactive tendencies……she hasn’t stopped moving since.
Throughout her career Diane has utilized her skills in tap dance, contemporary dance, choreography, directing, acrobatics, release-based movement, improvisation, acting, knitting and whip-cracking.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance as well as two diplomas in Graphic Design and Business Studies. She is a qualified Iyengar Yoga teacher and an avid practitioner.
In 2000 she studied BODY at the International Women’s University in Germany and is currently based in Berlin. In Europe she worked with directors: Constanza Macras – Dorky Park, Rodrigo Garcia – La Carniceria Teatro, Marco Berrittini and Ulf Otto as well as presenting her own performance and film work at dance and theatre festivals across Europe, Asia, America and Australia.
Diane directed three experimental short dance films and recently wrote and directed her first narrative short film titled Dirt and Desire.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Marie Brassard’s Invisible: Ghost in a Machine
Ectoplasm was a word coined shortly after the turn of the century by a French psychologist to describe the physical manifestation of spiritual energy through bodily openings. Still visible today in photographic images from this age, it is a decidedly modern substance tied to the invention of the camera and to the discovery of x-rays, which predated it by ten years. As indexes of reality, photographs had always claimed to reveal rather than merely capture or document reality. Ectoplasm was thus no invisible, paranormal spirit within the body. It was a ghost in a machine, a projection of a technological medium.
The strength of Marie Brassard’s most recent show, The Invisible, is to bring this machine on stage. Brassard appears among metallic strips and balloons reminiscent of the earliest photographic negatives; she moves and speaks with the same deliberate restraint as the theatrical contraptions surrounding her, from a smoke-machine that comes down out of the rafters to an ancient film-projector sitting on the stage. The austere aesthetics and surreal landscapes may remind you of de Chirico, but the theatre adds a third and fourth dimension of sound and duration. The slow pace stretches the audience tight; like other elements of the performance, it can feel physically disrupting. This machine is not about ratchety dualisms of mind and matter, reality and imagination. It reveals our dreams and desires, as well as our fears and our pains, to be creatures and projections of our technologies. And in Brassard’s retelling, the realm of this revelation is the realm of fiction.
Fiction appears here most immediately as JT Leroy, a recent literary hoax of an author. A ghost and causality of a literary market that trades in imagination but mercilessly punishes fraud, JT Leroy absorbed the violence that can be wielded by the consumerism controlling artistic creation today. It is thus unfortunate that Brassard’s own channeling of this androgynous character, and of the painful images of abuse and homeless prostitution that circulate through her works, falls flat. The stories that Brassard tells and the dreams she speaks are too flimsy, too predictable, too recycled to match the tension of the landscape she inhabits. The unnerving range and force of the figures from Peepshow are missing. Despite the distortions of her voice and the iterations of her character, she remains too present, too constant, too visible on stage as a performer – as the theatrical “sorceress” that others have (rightly or wrongly) seen behind her work.
Michael Thomas Taylor
Assistant Professor of German
The University of Calgary
Quèbècoise virtuoso Marie Brassard’s newest show, The Invisible continues to investigate the questions raised by Jimmy and Peepshow: Questions which are at the forefront of international avant-garde theatre and performance. The interface between the live body of the performer and machinery and apparatus that deliver the spectacle, the role of the audience in the process of meaning-making and the status of character and narrative in contemporary performance are all at issue in this play.
The work of Brassard productively mines the tension between text/narrative and the post-dramatic performance paradigms, as she transforms her body and voice to reveal the hidden and marginal spaces of the human psyche. For years, she notes in an interview, she fought her own adherence to the spoken word, believing theatre should be purely physical. She then realised that talking itself is a physical act. When you embody a story, she notes, and perform it, the body organizes itself. “There is a subtle choreography that is being staged without you even knowing about it." This interface between the story and the teller, between the creator and the created is at the heart of The Invisible.
There are some stunning moments of pure stage technique where a simple piece of mylar and the play of lights upon it tease the audience’s assumptions about what is in front of their eyes. Brassard’s collaborations with Alexander MacSweeny and Mikko Hynninin allow her to push the limits of the actor’s body and vocal range. As a microphone moves around the stage under its own power we might ask ourselves whether seeing is believing or whether it is the other way around. These moments of technical prowess, along with Brassard and MacSweeney’s particular use of voice technology combine for an otherworldly effect that leads us back to the play’s thematic exploration of the supernatural.
Another dimension of Brassard’s new play is its meditation on the art of acting and character development. We often speak of the actor’s skill and ability in bringing characters to life for us, but less often do we ponder the way that embodying and channelling these characters impacts the actor. Whether an actor uses the Stanislavski technique, Strasberg’s adapted “method,” or any of the ever-proliferating physical approaches to actor training, there is still an imprint that playing any character will leave on him or her and this is the terrain that Brassard wants to investigate.
Her latest in a series of one person ( but notably multi-character) performances has Brassard channelling spirits. One of the most interesting emanations she brings forth is the ongoing and complex literary/gender performance hoax that is J.T. Leroy. Leroy was supposedly the author and protagonist of Sarah: A book based on the life of a young boy who was raised as a girl and forced to turned tricks at truck stops with his drug addicted mother. He was supposedly born in 1980 in West Virginia into a life of homelessness, drug addiction and prostitution from which he emerged after the publication of his first novel. It turns out, however, that none of this was true. Leroy was recently revealed to be the nom de plume of Laura Albert, an American woman writer who also gave birth to the persona of Leroy by asking her sister in law Savannah Knoop to play J.T. Leroy at readings and public events. Then, as Brassard tells us, the play began to spill over into real life. Savannah played J.T. Leroy who became a cult figure and instant celebrity, a hero to trans-gendered people and began moving in the circles of celebrated filmmaker Gus Van Sant, Winona Ryder, and Dennis Hopper. Leroy even had a brief affair “in character” with actress Asia Argento.
Although the reaction has been mixed by those who befriended, worked with and even became romantically entangled with this fictional, yet embodied being, Laura Albert doesn’t see Leroy as a hoax, but rather as a veil or a meditation on the power of celebrity and society’s fascination with “real” tragedy and our hunger to peer voyeuristically into one another’s tragic and sordid pasts. John Strausbaugh, former New York Press editor, has compared Albert’s creation to the combination of pseudonym and real life role playing engaged in by French Writer Georges Sand and this is likely one of the points of inspiration for Brassard’s invocation of J.T. Leroy.
Despite the fact that J.T. Leroy was exposed as a hoax and the author Laura Albert convicted of fraud by a Manhattan Jury in 2007, J.T. this character who no longer exists continues to compile an impressive resume and is listed as a contributing writer on a film shot in Amsterdam in 2008 and slated for release in 2009. Savannah Knoop has, in fact, written her own book, GirlBoyGirl which explores the experience of being the public face of J.T. Leroy. Not only was she the public face of another’s literary productions, she was a woman playing a man who was supposedly raised as a girl; a complicated experience with gender to say the least. Knoop notes in an interview that her experience playing J.T. Leroy has been the inspiration for a line of designer unisex clothing called Tinc. Knoop sees her work as a form of wearable art that uses fashion as a vehicle to examine identity and gender.
In a recent interview the real life woman who played the character of J.T. Leroy at readings, parties and public engagements still speaks about being possessed by him. So where is J.T. Leroy now? As Brassard points out he continues to exist, in limbo perhaps; in fragmented and refracted forms. This is a fascinating case that asks questions about identity and performance, not only in terms of spiritual emanations, but also in the very concrete sense. What is identity? How is it formed? Who owns it? What are the limits of the law when it comes to regulating such heady matters? In defiance of the very concrete demands of economic profit and the law, J.T. Leroy lives. Despite the fact that he has been declared non-existent he is out there, refusing to exist simply inside one body. He is out there, making clothes and selling them. He is writing movies and books. He is onstage with or inside Marie Brassard each night as she performs The Invisible.
This play invokes some most powerful and timeless questions about identity and gender that are the stock in trade of the theatre since men playing women staged a sex strike upon the men to end the Peloponnesian war in Lysistrata. Or since a male actor playing Viola disguised as a man wooed Olivia in Twelfth Night.
Dr. Natalie Meisner,
Department of English, Mount Royal College
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
QUEEN LEAR Presented by Urban Curvz (Feb 11-21/09)
Theatre Junction is pleased to partner with Urban Curvz to offer a 2 for 1 ticket special to Queen Lear by Eugene Stickland for Tuesday February 17th & Wednesday February 18th at the Joyce Doolitle Theatre. All Theatre Junction patrons who have bought tickets to Marie Brassard's The Invisible can take advantage of the 2 for 1 offer for Queen Lear for the selected dates . Just phone the Pumphouse Box Office and quote "Invisible" to redeem the Queen Lear 2 for 1 or buy in person.
In a tribute to Ms. Doolittle, Eugene Stickland tells the story of an aging actress cast in an all female production called Queen Lear who has employed a young girl to help her memorize her lines. Musing on the different stages of life that both women exemplify, illustrating beautifully how time and experience separate them, this beautiful and touching story about the strength of the female spirit is not be missed.
This will be a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical event to see Calgary theatre icon, Joyce Doolittle perform in the theatre named for her, in a play written for her, in the 80th year of her life!Pumphouse Box Office Phone Hours:
Mon - Fri 10:00am- 5pm MST
2140 Pumphouse Ave SW
Calgary, AB. T3C 3P5