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With Pride celebrations popping up as per usual throughout the summer months across the world, New York City was of course no different.  On the heals of the official ‘week’ the Shakespeare in the Park continues to celebrate as it inches closer to the fall theatre season.  Part of this year’s programme line up includes The Twelfth Night (June 10 – July 12) staring Private Practice’s Audra McDonald and big screen starlet Anne Hathaway as Olivia and Viola, respectively.  Hathaway celebrates many firsts within the casting, not only is it her debut in public theatre, it’s also the first time she’s ever kissed a woman!

McDonald & Hathaway in The Twelfth Night

McDonald & Hathaway in The Twelfth Night

Unfamiliar with The Twelfth Night? Shakespeare in the Park describes it as a beguiling comedy which follows the romantic adventures of Viola and her identical twin Sebastian, both shipwrecked in the enchanted dukedom of Illyria. At the helm of this time-honored story of cross-dressing and mistaken identity, all in the name of love, is Tony Award winning Director Daniel Sullivan.

For a little outdoor Shakespeare action a little closer to home for readers in Newfoundland, there is the reliable Shakespeare by the Sea troop who’ve worked hard to put together a brilliant summer season.  This year’s line up includes the classic Romeo & Juliet (July 5 – Aug. 10) and The Tempest (July 17 – Aug. 15) along with a Fairy Tale Mix Up (July 11 – Aug. 16) written and directed by Newfoundland’s own Krista Hann.  Also for the kids, Classics by Candlelight (July 4 – Aug. 16) returns this year and Tunes ‘n Tales (July 6 – Aug. 10) is an addition following Romeo & Juliet performances which celebrates authentic Newfoundland music and yarns.

The ladies of Herstory

The ladies of Herstory

Originally commissioned by Rising Tide in 2005, Sara Tilly wrote the first draft of The (In)complete Herstory of Women in Newfoundland (and Labrador!).  She then developed it with Berni Stapleton through the RCA’s Write On! Program before a series of staged readings in 2006 and 2007.  Now on its sixth draft, the show will have its premier as a co-production between RCA and She Said Yes!  Tilly is co-directing with Lois Brown and the show promises saucy humour that will make you think.  It’s presented as a blend of traditional theatre with clown improvisation.  “This silly and strange show is grounded in familiar and universal human emotions,” says Tilly.  Both Sara and Lois spent some time to tell Current a little more:

Clown development can be difficult, can you speak to that?
ST – There’s a lot of different types of clown training and approaches to what ‘is’ a clown. I’m trained in Pochinko Clown Through Mask and the process begins with mask work using your own mask, then transference to a clown nose and potentially into a non-nose, Joey clown. We’re not in red noses for this show. These are sophisticated, adult clowns, not as innocent or as bumbling as the red nose variety, with a much larger vocabulary than your standard circus clown. You wear the mask and let it move you, then take that energy and keep it going when the mask comes off. This way, you allow your character to take the lead organically. We follow impulse in rehearsal and let it dictate how to create the show.

How do you turn your clown on?
ST – It comes from the mask. We spent a two weeks in January working with masks and taking that physical exploration; now we’re comfortable experimenting within these clowns and can find their full range of emotions and tics. There’s no need to have the nose if you are intent – we’re using headgear like swim caps as a character anchor.

Who is in the cast and how did they come together?
ST – The cast is my dream team and I’m glad they were all able to do it! Susan Kent is playing the director (Herr) and Ruth Lawrence is the star actress (Prima). Lois Brown is the old-school feminist theatremaker and visual artist and writer Craig Francis Power, in his first onstage role, as the lighting operator (Noseworthy). I play Squirrel, the stage manager, who is thrust into the show after Janice has an accident with her curling iron.

How have they all done getting into the world of clowning?
ST – This has been an amazing group to work with and I thank my lucky stars that I have such open, talented artists. They’re all naturals and it’s been a belly laugh and a half leading them through the clown work and watching these characters come into their own.

Who else is involved behind the scenes?
ST – I’m designing the set, costumes and props; Sean Panting is designing sound, Jamie Skidmore is designing lights and Craig Francis Power is doing the projection design.

How much of a history lesson will the show be?
LB – I think there is a fair bit of history there – but because Sara is showing us how we bend history for political reasons.

ST – Well, most of the ‘facts’ are true. The truth was, in most cases, funnier or more bizarre than anything I could think of. It’s how we mess with the facts that make it a questionable lesson. More like a weird and hilarious dream involving a lot of historical detail. I think more than anything you might be tempted to look a few things up later to see if we made them up.

What’s the overall concept and storyline of the show?
LB – Legendary feminist theatre artist Janice pokes herself in the eye with a red-hot curling iron minutes before showtime on opening night and dies. Marco is debilitated after being trapped under the Death on the Ice set. Noseworthy is stoned. And Squirrel the stage manager turned actress is so scared that she pisses herself several times during the opening number. That leaves the director, Herr who is in love with her star, Prima. They say show must go on.  How will the Estro-collective do it? It’s a show that not only satirizes Newfoundland history and feminism – it satirizes itself. It takes the notions of patriarchy, feminism, Newfoundland history and the way we tell it and mocks it all. It’s irreverent. Takes the piss out of everything, really.

The show runs March 24 – 26th at the Majestic Theatre in St. John’s, check out for more information.

John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

John Molloy with cask's of Jameson Whiskey

With St. Patrick’s Day nearing, John Molloy, relocated to Vancouver, is busily representing the Jameson Irish Whiskey on a cross Canada tour.  He was kind enough to give me an education on what the spirit was all about and what I’d expected to be a story like any other became memorably personal.  Molloy, who is one of 29 country-dedicated brand ambassadors, spoke candidly and passionately about Jameson and even made me consider it as an alternative.  It’s not just a stuffy drink for old men, it’s evolved and that’s a huge part of what Molloy is spreading the word about.  Molloy himself is quite young, something Jameson looks for in its brand ambassadors along with the requirement of being Irish.  He’s the first rep to be placed in Canada and Vancouver was the natural spot owning a quarter of Canadian whiskey sales.

Jameson is a proper Irish whiskey, with an “e” mind you, linking it to the Gaelic name Uisce Beatha.  There are four regions that produce this spirit – Ireland, Scotland, Canada, and the US but depending on where it’s from the name changes from whiskey to Scotch, Rye or Bourbon respectively.  What’s more is that they’re all different and knowing why helps you pick the right one.  They all use the same ingredients, the most important of which is barley and water.  But, in scotch the barley is dried with smoke and peat which leaves a heavy peaty finish in the drink itself.  Jameson uses natural gas so pure warm air does the work and results in a lighter finish.  That’s helped by the fact Jameson is the only spirit in its category that is triple distilled, the more times that happens the crisper and cleaner the taste.  For comparison, bourbon is usually once distilled, with rye and scotch being once or twice.  Molloy says “it’s the true Guinness of the spirits.”

Jim Morey, known as the “godfather of whiskey” agrees and has given it a 94/100.  Industry bar setting magazine Impact has called Jameson the Hot Brand of the Year for the last eight, consecutively and the company garners $2.7 million in annual profit, all from one distillery in Ireland.  The road was challenging though, let’s not forget prohibition and the fact that Jameson’s been around since 1780.  But, Jameson held on in a country that went from 2000 distilleries (on a land mass you can drive across in 2 and a half hours) to only 3 because of a 95% market loss for Irish whiskey from 1845 – 1933.

It would seem survival was directly correlated with quality in this case.  Not only is it light, crisp and clean, there also isn’t a bottle younger then 5 to 7 years old.  Important, because it’s legally sellable after only 3 years, but John Jameson himself said it was worth the wait.  The brand also offers a 12 or 18 year and a gold or vintage, blend’s of 18 and 12 and 24 and 18.

Also tied to quality is the source, which also hasn’t changed for Jameson since day one.  The barley has all come from the same farmers and fields from within 50 kilometres for the last three generations and a fresh water source runs right through the distillery.  That building also houses 32 warehouses where all the casks are held full of patient spirit.  Remember how long it has to age in those?  The equivalent of 6000 bottles gets lost ever day in what’s known as the angels share, or more scientifically – evaporation.

History alone didn’t make me consider the Jameson alternative, which Molloy says is consumed at a rate of 20 glasses per second worldwide.  But knowing the process and how to pick the right one helped.  It had history and critical acclaim but needed cool.  Where Canadian rye Crown Royal aligns with NASCAR, Jameson aligns with film and is a huge supporter of the Toronto International Film Fest and Tribecca with Cannes involvement pending.  Bono of U2 loves the stuff, so does Colin Farrell and Guy Ritchie’s film Rock’nRolla breaks out Jameson with the line “whiskey is the new vodka.”

So, never really liking Guinness, with my new found knowledge and appreciation for a whole new category of sprits I’ve decided to give Jameson its fair shake.  The same afternoon while picking up my usual for the weekend, I also picked up a small bottle of Jameson for $16.00, which is hanging out in my fridge waiting to be mixed with ginger ale, coke or cranberry juice to John Molloy’s suggestion for St. Patrick’s Day 2009.  We’ll see how it goes!

Current 10 Year Cover

Current 10 Year Cover

My involvement with Current began over a sandwich and a chocolate dipped doughnut at the Tim’s that used to be attached to the Ultramar on Elizabeth Avenue (in all fairness, the new one just up the road on Torbay is much nicer).  I had been asked to meet Karla Hayward, a contact from my past who’d reconnected with me on Facebook.   She had seen a note I’d posted (not one of the questionnaires, an actual note) which compared America’s Next Top Model to Larry King Live. Admittedly, it was more about admiration for Larry King then anything else but nonetheless it had caught Karla’s attention. I’m not sure if it was the journalistic admiration or the writing in the piece that led her to invite me on board, perhaps a bit of both, but there hasn’t been a single day since that I haven’t felt in love with what I get to do with Current.

As Roger so aptly put it, this paper is a labour of love. Everyone that has been involved with it over the last decade has more then likely had another ‘main’ job, or at least something else to supplement. From my experience most everything in the arts scene is of that nature, unless of course one is extremely fortunate. But it’s not just about the money. I recently learned about a 20-something named Tony Hsieh, he’s a young guy who happened to be one of the co-founders of LinkExchange which he got $265 million for when Microsoft came sniffing around. Not to shabby. He’s a shoe salesman now. Why you ask? He’s in it for the love; because he didn’t want to stop programming and he founded which went from a speck on the net in 1998 to being worth over $1 billion 10 years later. In a recent interview I’d watched with him where I learned of this, he was asked what his best advice was and he said all you can do is work at what you love and if it’s genuine and where you really want to be, the money will come.

Current is about the experience, for the writers, editors, designers, photographers and most importantly the readers.The writers get to bring an experience or share a story with the people who grab an issue with their coffee. Or, perhaps an article will get that reader involved somehow or help plan a great weekend. It’s about the community, what’s going on in it and the paper evolves, to that effect. Current is nice slice of St. John’s life that tracks our culture and trends; everything from our music scene to books, theatre, wine, sex and community issues. “If you’ve got something to say Current wants to hear about it,” is a slogan Ally Baird, the present editor, applied when she established the paper’s Facebook group and that’s been true since the first issue. In her time as editor along with Jim Baird as publisher, Current has already surmounted what many thought would be a challenge, going weekly. Since the fall of 2008 we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to offer up the Current slice of life every Friday. So, while 10 years later we’re all not exactly a billion bucks richer, we have our weekly achievement.

My journey has led me to cover a lot since that chocolate dipped doughnut, going from an occasional column to one or two a week, co-editing a few issues here and there. Sure it’s more work but it’s also done with a great sense of pride and privilege. I have gotten the sense that this is a widely shared sentiment amongst all those that have contributed to Current over the last 10 years. Our commemorative cover represents the faces of some past and present contributors, those that work in the front lines and behind the scenes to put each issue in your hands, every week. We’re all only to happy to do it and look forward to another great 10 years. Aw, make that 20!

originally published December 2008

CFMA logo

CFMA logo

With Edmonton and Ottawa among previous host cities the Canadian Folk Music Awards, created in 2005, will be brought east for the first time ever to St. John’s. The CFMA’s were created in response to the fact that there seemed to be a nation-wide void for recognition of folk and roots music. While the Juno’s and the East Coast Music Awards make considerations, the CFMA’s were designed to publicize the many achievements of the entire genre, across the country for the whole year. Pairing up the CFMA’s and St. John’s couldn’t make more sense, without even mentioning the phenomenally successful annual Folk Festival, the province has strongly developed it’s culture into a tourism charm, with the folk music scene and overall lifestyle playing a strong part.

This has already been a memorable year for many Newfoundland folkies, with the reunion of hall of famers Figgy Duff who returned to the stage for four performances in 2008. Kelly Russell said “all it took to say yes was a phone call from Pamela Morgan, ‘n we were all in,” and so a 9 year hiatus was broken. “She wanted to put out a live CD and do a release for it,” Russell shared. That took place at the Bella Vista but the highlight for Russell was at the Folk Festival the next day. “For the older crowd there was a sense of nostalgia and the chance to see us again but for the young people it was a chance to see us actually perform.” Figgy Duff did make a return to the stage in 1999 as well marking their silver anniversary and still 34 years later they have a strong fan base and will be one of the most anticipated highlights of the 2008 CFMA Gala.

The group’s reunion certainly won’t serve as the exclusive highlight though if the line up of performers is any indication. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Murray McLauchlan and two-time Juno winner AlexCuba will also take the stage. Enoch Kent, an acclaimed Scottish traditional music singer is set to perform as well as the Juno-nominated Aboriginal a cappella group Asani.

Another performance featuring Blue Rodeo accompanist and two-time CFMA winner Anne Lindsay alongside Smithers piano accompanist Emilyn Stam will get a little help from the fiddle students of St. John’s Suzuki Talent Education Program (STEP fiddlers) to pay tribute to Oliver Schroer, a renowned Toronto fiddler, died of leukemia in July at 52. He developed a teaching concept called Schroer’s Twisted String in which he made squads of colourfully-dressed young fiddlers and taught them music he’d written in a fun and interesting way. Stam is a graduate of the Smithers squad and for the tribute will pay it forward, teaching a Schroer number to the STEP fiddlers.

The spotlight is also on Schroer, who leads the pack of nominees with a total of four nods for his album Hymns and Hers, one of three albums recorded in his short year long battle with the disease. He’s up for Contemporary Album of the Year, Solo Instrumentalist of the Year, Producer of the Year and the Pushing the Boundaries award. Behind him with three nominations apiece are Vancouver roots singer/songwriter Wyckham Porteous and Nova Scotia fiddler Troy MacGillivray.

Award nominations for Newfoundland artists totals two – one for Daniel Payne up for Traditional Songwriter of the Year and one for Rik Barron nominated for Children’s Album of the Year. Within the National picture, Atlantic Canada has 5 nominations including the two for the host-province. The others all went to Nova Scotia’s Dave Carroll of Halifax for Contemporary Singer of the Year and Chrissy Crowly and Drumlin each nominated in the Young Performer of the Year category.

To suit the truly National scope that the awards promote, the gala will be presented en francais aussi. The gala’s hosting duo is made up of CBC radio-legend Shelagh Rogers and Quebec traditional dance expert and Juno award winning musician Benoit Bourque, who has been recognized by the United States government which provides him with funding to teach Quebecois traditions to Franco-Americans. Rogers has been getting noticed, or heard rather, since 1980 with the CBC becoming the youngest female on-air starting in Ottawa. She has been the host of many national CBC programs, most recently The Next Chapter – a weekly program devoted to Canadian writing of all kinds.

The two will host the gala event which will take place in St. John’s at the Arts and Culture Centre at 8:00pm and tickets are still available for $44.00 from the box office. WestJet’s notably kicked in a 10% discount for anyone flying to the Capital city for the fourth annual awards which will no doubt a cultural highlight early on in the winter season. A series of four workshops will also be offered to anyone interested on the days book ending gala itself which is on November 23, 2008. For more information about these, the complete list of nominees or more event details the CFMA website can be of service at

originally published December 2008

Arthritis Banner

When Spring and Summer finally come around everyone gets excited to finally be able to break out of their homes and get outside. Though for people with severe (and even not so severe) joint and mobility problems caused by arthritis, the changes in season means little. Perhaps that’s part of the reason behind The Arthritis Society stepping out and deciding to create a Winter event. Granted the fact that, from May to September, the general public is faced with about a dozen “Walk for …” events so it doesn’t hurt that there’s significantly less competition in the Winter. But you have to admit, the idea’s kind of novel isn’t it – why didn’t we think of this before?

The Jingle Bell Run in a concept that’s been highly successful for American Arthritis organizations and the concept is catching on in Canada. The Arthritis Society – Newfoundland and Labrador Division in is one of a few provincial chapters giving the event a test run. Supported by North Atlantic, they’ve set a fundraising goal of $18,000.00, which was over 10% reached before the walk has even stared. Even more impressive is that of $1,110.00 of what’s raised so far has been brought in by a team led by Brenda Kitchen.

She’s the new Executive Director of the provincial chapter, so you’d expect her to be a powerhouse, bringing in a substantial chunk. But, what’s unique is that she’s only recently took the job! Kitchen was long involved with Newfoundland Sexual Health Centre, back when it was Planned Parenthood. The leap was unsolicited but after a lot of research, where she learned that Arthritis affects 1 out of 5 people here, she decided to make a career change. The compelling research wasn’t solely responsible though, she’s had personal experience.

Her grandmother suffered from Arthritis but was unable to take anything to minimize it because they caused other ‘more dangerous’ health problems. “She was so crippled from the disease that we had to lift her from her rocking chair to a wheelchair and when we did, her legs stayed bent as if sitting.” This isn’t even the most extreme situation either; many with it in their hands are unable to even feed themselves. It was these considerations that ultimately led Kitchen to want to get involved and help speak up for the 95,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

She says the challenge is in making people understand that arthritis is not just minor aches and pains or that it’s a natural part of aging. Of the people affected, more then 60% of people are within a working age population. There is even juvenile idiopathic arthritis which targets youth as young as 18 months old. But The Arthritis Society is there to help and offers a number of assistance programs, informational workshops and works with government and medical professionals to address the need for public awareness.

A big part of that awareness will come from the very inventively positioned Jingle Bell Run (or walk) for Arthritis. It will be happening in St. John’s in just a few days on November 16 with registration starting at the Royal Canadian Legion in Pleasentville at 9:30am. New World Fitness has come on board to make sure everyone is properly warmed up for the walk which will conclude around noon complete with entertainment from the Kilkenny Krew, awards, prizes and refreshments. “I’m looking forward to this event and will even be sporting my elf costume!” says Kitchen, as it is a holiday themed walk, team members are encouraged (but not obligated to) wear something festive. The registration for an individual is only $30.00 and families can get involved for $70.00 which covers 1 – 2 parents and any children under 12. With each registration comes an entry into all the prize draws but the good cause is reason enough to turn out for this rain or shine event because as Kitchen points out, “arthritis makes the things we all take for granted take forever.”

originally published November 2008

“A boat that floats on air has no heart,” Jack (John Dartt) says aboard the Miss Tilley, the rumrunners boat on which the entire play takes place, in the round, for Berni Stapleton’s latest comedic but historically relevant and poignant masterpiece, A Rum for the Money. The show had a long ‘rum’ itself, featured from June to September at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival before a final run in the capitol city.

Dartt, White & Furlong — Photo by Denyse Karn

L-R: Dartt, White & Furlong — Photo by Denyse Karn

The show is about Jack and two other men, Jim (Evan White) and his Uncle Frank (Colin Furlong). Jack and Frank were the seasoned experts of rum running but took Jim, a boat builder who’s afraid of the water, along for his young strength. Their conversations made references to life and culture of Newfoundland – the ‘divide’ of people smoking rollies versus tailor-mades, Hard Buns, “that’s a raisin bun without the raisins,” Tibbo’s store and Foote’s Taxi – not only helping to familiarize an audience with the setting but also the men themselves. The references weren’t overkill; interestingly, women so often wonder what men would say in the place of chick-chat and this seemed to be it.

They shared their stories as a way of allowing one another to get to know them. Though Dartt is from Halifax he can certainly talk like a Newfoundlander. Though the stories it was evident that while they are all quite different and rum running for their own reasons, they were all struggling against something. Uncle Frank is plagued with forcing doubt in his own polished abilities with no cause immediately given. He references his hateful wife but is on the run to afford her “one of them new fangled rotary phones.”

Jim’s reason is a baby on the way with his wife Lizzie whom he’s madly fallen for. Although his excitable and sometimes overactive personality is charming, Lizzie’s patience with him is clear by how he speaks of her. Teaching him to read and write, he shared, she said that “a man can’t be expected to learn all at once ‘cos his head’d get stogged!” Jack’s mission for the money is to move to the big city (St. John’s, not New York) and go out on Saturday, church on Sunday and Bingo on Monday, but the real prize will be his new dentures – “the good kind – the kind that fits your mouth.”

On the voyage back with the rum the three face perils of nature, being ill-prepared and themselves. The set was designed with half a dory cut to be creatively used for the entire show. The old boat’s wood creaked when the actors moved around on it which kicked up the ‘real’ factor. There was an engine aboard for which there was sound when it was being started but once it was ‘running’ the sound cue ended there was a calm silence again. Having a low hum might’ve been monotonous on an audience for as long as it would be needed but a faint sound of water rippling along the boat now and then might have held on to the realism. Vocal tracks leading in and out of the acts were good and a story told in act two by Frank with Jim singing underneath was surprising and beautiful.

Overall the show was very entertaining. The only beat missed was when a cobbled together wooden cross made in the darkest hour tumbled off the boat but it was handled with grace. The full package of ambient blue lighting, punchy and thoughtful script, the set and performances did an excellent job of dramatically telling the stories of three rumrunnin’ men and taking it’s audience back in time for an evening.

Before taking in Nan Loves Jerry there’d been cautioning as the first night was ‘just a preview’. Preview or not Sherry White and Sue Kent have put together a terrifically entertaining presentation. The show struck a delicate balance between tongue in cheek humour with moments that almost seemed raw and delicate.

Sue Kent as Jerry

Sue Kent as Jerry

Nan Loves Jerry is a one person show that’s both written and performed by Kent. The initial character, Jerry, is the one that anchors the show and is by far the more publicly recognizable of the two. In fact, there was no expectation to see anyone other then Jerry, though that was quickly dispelled when lights went up revealing a bed with none other then Nan herself in it. Although “Nan” was only physically present three times, her character is who ultimately lent weight to the plotline.

First introduction to Kent and Jerry was through a short video Kent had made with director Jordan Canning when the ideas for a full script were still nothing more then conceptual. The video was entertaining in its own right but seemed to lack the depth needed for a full show. A second presumption quickly destroyed as it was so easy to laugh and listen to Nan as if she was family. She brought up her own values in a tidy bundle, clearly important to her as they were listed a good three or four times when the moment invited her to do so, even with slightest opportunity. They showed a younger side, even in her aged wisdom. Kent delivered Nan’s values as though they were meant to be adhered to but also with the slightest uncertainty and variation each time so it was questionable as to whether she herself followed them.

It makes sense to look at Jerry and understand why he is the way that he is. Kent’s worked hard to show that people are products of their environments. But more touching is how she’s demonstrated that it’s possible to find emotional profundity within people typically dismissed casually by general society. Jerry is abrasive, rude, and vulgar in many ways at many times. But it seems Kent has written the show with ‘excess’ in mind, an accessory in her execution of comedy.

Even though Jerry is less then colloquial when speaking about women and hardly graceful about how he goes after ‘Brown Eyes’ (a young woman whom he tries to woo in his spare time away from Nan’s errands for bananas). A scene comes to mind with Jerry hovering over a series of five or so cordless phones in Nan’s bathroom, trying to rotate handsets to call her so as to seem a little less compulsive. Jerry’s actions aren’t always the best thought out plans but more precious were the seconds where his motivations for doing so shone through almost defensively.

Nan Loves Jerry was pensively creative and made full use of a completely stripped stage space. The legs and all curtains had been removed and the full black space was turned into an imaginative playground. Kent pulled on just enough to set a room’s tone and left creating the rest of the space up to the audience. The creation of the bathtub scene was brilliant, using the old cot style bed to double as the tub draped in white fabric with a portable very classic 360 degree chrome shower curtain stand. Kent then climbed on top of the bed and poked through the curtains as Nan.

While this was an invariably creative way to create the tub space, Kent then led into a conversation between Nan and Jerry. She stood on the bed to poke out over the top of the curtain, becoming Jerry in the shower. Understandably, the dialogue between the two moved too quickly for her to have gone from standing in the shower as Jerry to poking out through the curtains again as Nan. So the solution was to just look left for Nan speaking and right for Jerry. The profile approach did work very well, but it seemed like the setting should have changed to accommodate that part. This is probably a fair place to also admit that taking in Nan Loves Jerry was a first time experience at a one-person show; and there was an effort to keep reminded of that fact.

It would be unfair to not give a nod to the fantastic lighting design as well. It was nothing extraordinary, but again, creative approaches to making the space work and encouraging the audience to envisage their own familiar reality, or in a personal case, the various settings from the YouTube short as they seemed to fit easily enough. The lighting was framed to form boarders and blocks on the stage that created doors, which worked particularly well for the many times Jerry was buzzed in (often after 11pm much to Nan’s chagrin).

The highlight for many though was likely the first of three times Jerry picked up his bicycle with almost celebrity audience appeal. Before switching from Nan to Jerry, after trading in the bright pink fuzzy house coat for Jerry’s signature blue windbreaker suit, Kent unapologetically turned around to face the audience, sharply putting on a mascara moustache with two confidant strokes. It takes guts to bare all and perform personal work on stage and while Nan Loves Jerry may not be flawless, it was performed extremely well, showing Kent’s incredible diversity as an actor.

originally published May 2008

With more then a dozen of the arts scene’s finest fused together, hailing from a variety of disciplines, newfoundlandartistx (N.A.X.) created one of the most entertaining nights of original theatre to be experienced in St. John’s in a while. Part way through the show the realization came that it was already one of those memorable shows you feel you can relive in your head whenever you’d like. 5 Very Short New Plays in a Tub lived up to its name, both literal and critical. Lois Brown is the Artistic Director of N.A.X. and also one of the four writers that came together to make the production come to life.

Brown was joined by all-stars Robert Chafe, Mary Walsh, and Lynn Panting to ink the words for Sue Kent, Philip Winters, Dave Sullivan, Ruth Lawrence, Kira Sheppard, and Aiden Flynn (in order of appearance). As the name of the series suggests, every one of the five shorts took place in the bathroom, either immediately or eventually incorporating the luxurious spa tub full of water into the scene.

Gloria written by Chafe and directed by Brown featured a stunning performance by Kent who started the scene “a little over dressed for the tub” in an ardent red dress. Opposite her was Winters who shared a rather implied in-depth conversation to ensure Gloria was “ok,” leaving a guessing audience to try and sleuth out the situation. All the while, Winters’ character was left struggling with trying to deflect and lighten her mood with short comedic quips.

Because they couldn’t have bubbles in the tub for the opening number, the first of four somewhat lengthily scene changes started. Although the first was the longest, the crew executed a stellar distraction and got some willing audience members out of their seats and up to their elbows to shake up the suds.

5 Plays in a Tub

5 Plays in a Tub

Up next was Walsh’s contribution as directed by Amy House called Introducing Romanticism, which abrasively shattered the more somber tone of the prior scene. It featured a ‘present’ and ‘past’ setup with Lawrence in the tub recounting a confrontation. She had signature Walsh sarcasm in her lines which offered relief from the loud and drunken memory being played out behind her. Impressive was that with little eye contact Lawrence delivered lines in sync with her character’s younger-self portrayed by Sheppard.

The ‘very short’ short that probably had the most meat on its bones was Leona and Ruth written by Brown, directed by Roger Maunder. It told a story that left an audience wanting more. More back story and a deeper background of how Leona had come to share this conversation over, her caregiver, Ruth’s bath. It recalled childhood memories with Leona now telling stories to Ruth while parting the bubbles and dropping a homemade and quite symbolic raft made of popsicle sticks into the tub.

Both of the last two shorts could have served as the final piece in the line up. Whichever one was chosen, however, would drastically effect the audience’s final impressions. Two Witnesses which was written by Panting and directed by Nicole Rousseau featured a take on the apocalypse and opposing emotional approaches. Sullivan’s skittish character appeared with Lawrence’s more accepting and go-with-the-flow nature. She was prepared and ready for the end, in the tub (conceivably to stay warmer) with a party dress on and offered Sullivan his top hat with invitation to join her.

Death Would Be a Relief completed the evening and featured Flynn’s only appearance with Kent’s fourth for the night and Sullivan for his third. This, serving as the final piece, allowed the audience to leave with an amusing and charming scene that eventually went over the top. It worked though once the satiric observational comedy had enough time to compound upon itself.

It was an incredibly satisfying way to spend an evening with bite-sized pieces that were easy to digest and didn’t convolute themselves. It was easy to leave not only with a new play to revisit in my imagination but also plenty of great personal bath time memories revisited. The show made me realize how pensive and memorable that place can be. In fact I’d always said it was where I went to clear my head but perhaps all this time I’ve just been organizing it better and filling it up with more thoughts.

originally published April 2008



A line in the press release read, “it is abandoned and joyful, intimate and tender,” not only is “it” those things but it’s also touted as “flirting with obscenity” and “notoriously adventurous,” the latter from Toronto Life magazine. With all those condensed words in just the opening paragraph, instantly you would think – this is a show that has to be seen.

So what is “it”? It’s a show that’s been travelling abroad and through Canada that included a stop at the LSPU Hall. Neighbourhood Dance Works made the jump to bring /DANCE/SONGS/ to St. John’s in partnership with a Toronto based production company. The show is the latest creation of Artistic Director Ame Henderson who has worked with under Public Recordings which she created “in 2004 as a vehicle for the production and dissemination of performance work of an interdisciplinary nature.”

It’s a perfect fit for Henderson who says that /DANCE/SONGS/ is “a dance in the shape of a rock show,” which sounds like something Bjork would think up. The clash of two typically dissimilar art mediums that are separated by their differences; and sure enough when I was presented with the visual feast it was indeed a clash of sound, dance, and video but there was some twisted beauty within that complete chaos. Henderson has combined them because of their differences, disrupting “the dance concert with wit, energy and excess,” just like a good ‘n proper rock show.

There certainly had to be a lot of pent up energy in the performers. The show features Chad Dembski, who was nominated for a Dora Award for Best Performance, along with Claudia Fancello, from Montreal who has worked on a number of Henderson’s shows. Rounding out the cast very distinctly is Matija Ferlin who is originally from Berlin, Germany and seemed to be meant for /DANCE/SONGS/. It is without question a physically demanding performance leaving its cast looking as though they’d been put through the ringer by the end. Smiling between each song, it’s evident that they love what they’ve created and snap into other versions of themselves immediately at the first tone, note, or noise of the soundscape behind the next performance.

Henderson also recruited Eric Craven. He’s the guy behind the music – ever so important for a show based in dance shaped like a rock concert. That was recognized by the Toronto Alliance for the Performance Arts at the 2006 Dora Awards, where Craven got a nomination for his contributions to /DANCE/SONGS/. Some parts of the soundscape had touches of a Daft Punk flavour which really worked for me as well as the more mellow pieces and the interesting ways that sound was used. A mic being put entirely in one performer’s mouth to make a repeating and rather grotesque noise is one example coming to mind. Admittedly, part of me was distracted thinking about how unsanitary that was.

If there was any critique to be made it would stem from that wondering of my thoughts in that there were perhaps some things that carried on for a little too long. It would be fair to say that /DANCE/SONGS/ is not for everyone. It is a show that is more interpretive than most, even for a dance production. It was incredibly organic which really worked for the show and there were times that it was difficult to determine if the performers were either constantly in character or if they were all just really being themselves as members of a band would be. Sometimes it seemed like something that was a living art piece, like I was really in an art gallery, not a theatre.

A highlight was a piece introduced as Milk Carton, which seemed to have the most dictated ‘story’ being told in the song. It was communicating the idea of being lost, missing people on the sides of milk cartons. Also of note was the piece where the three performers did yoga-like manoeuvring up against the raw back wall which was flooded with a live video close up shot of what was going on. In fact the live video was consistently interesting and almost added a fourth presence on stage. Daniel Arcé, who directed the live shots, added a new dimension by showing the audience things up close and extremely personal.

The show is meant to be that way and Ferlin directly spoke to the idea of personal space before introducing a piece at one point. Not to mention the fact that the stage was set up in a round with seats on the sides as well as in front and as if that wasn’t getting close enough, the performers told everyone to pull their seats up as close as possible for the encore. It without a doubt gave a different experience being closer and did make it all the more interesting.

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August 2020
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