Sunday, September 24, 2017

Waiting, waiting, waiting for Godot

I had a chance to catch the current production of Waiting for Godot at Soulpepper.  I decided that, since I had seen this play in two earlier productions, I just didn't feel like paying $60+ dollars, so I went the rush ticket route.  I had planned on going last Thursday, but work got in the way yet again.  So I thought I would try for Friday, even though I had relatively low expectations of getting in.  Nonetheless, there were quite a few available seats (and not only in the first two rows!), so I plunked my money down.

I should admit up front that I was not in the very best of moods and not completely receptive to the play, just because I was tired out from a long week.  I kind of was going out of a sense of obligation, which does dampen things a bit.  And this Beckett play is sort of a bleak masterpiece, but is fairly inert for long stretches.  I caught myself nearly nodding off at a couple of points, at least until Pozzo and Lucky show up.  What is somewhat different about this production is that somewhere around the midway point of the first act and through most of the second act, the two leads tried to amplify the situation, so for instance anytime that Vladimir says they can't go since they are waiting for Godot, Estragon shouts wildly rather than groans, which is the "approved" approach in the stage directions.  There was also a fair bit of physical interaction between the two -- perhaps out of character for two completely world-weary characters.  I was also a bit taken aback at just how roughly they treated the boy at the end of Act I (and was somewhat glad that I hadn't taken my son after all).  I was also a bit worried for the actor playing Lucky, as Pozzo really was yanking his rope fairly hard, even if he did move with the rope, anticipating the blows as it were.  In general, the play has a lot more shouting going on in Act II than I recall from other productions, which personally I thought was a mistake.  This means there is less distance between Pozzo (who does shout a lot) and the other characters. 

On the other hand, when Lucky goes into his long thinking speech, the production also departs from the stage directions, so it was slower and far more intelligible than other productions.  I thought this was actually a good thing, and this is probably the best Lucky I have seen, or at least the most memorable.  Pozzo was quite good, though I think I still preferred Brian Dennehy in the Goodman production (that then transferred to Stratford in 2013, where/when I caught it).  Still, as an overall piece, the best production I have seen was in Chicago (Remy Bumppo) all the way back in 1998.  (I probably have mentioned more than once that I was supposed to see Godot in Vancouver at The Cultch, but the lousy directions on their website caused me to get lost, so I just went home.  Now that I think about it, that might make a good short piece.)  Somehow I just wasn't as gripped by the main duo and their fate, however, though I should say this is likely partly due to my general exhaustion.  When all four characters were on stage, the play really came alive, but I just wasn't as interested when it dropped back to Vladimir and Estragon.*

Overall, I thought this was a good, but not stellar, production, so I am a bit surprised at the raves it is getting from critics in the industry.  I would certainly recommend going if one hasn't seen the play live, but it may not live up to one's expectations if one has already seen it.  (And maybe the rush ticket route is the way to go.)  I suspect this is my last time round with this play** (diminishing returns and all that), but never say never.


* To be completely frank, it felt to me Diego Matamoros and Oliver Dennis (or the director) were a bit bored with these characters and tried to change things up and push the boundaries so they aren't such static parts, but I thought that was a mistake.

** The play that I am really trying to see (Beckett's Happy Days) just is not in standard rotation at all.  Endgame, which itself only has rare sightings, is still produced more often.  The only production of Happy Days this entire season was out in Vancouver at UBC.  I came very close to flying out to see that and do a few other things, but the flight prices just never came down to the point it was a reasonable decision.  I guess I'll just have to keep hoping it turns up somewhere nearby next season.  While it isn't as "deep" as Godot, it is a bit more amusing, so I am also hoping to see Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead again.  It looks like Soulpepper put it on one year before I moved to Toronto (drat), but then I somehow missed a production at the Annex Theatre in 2015.  So that's on me to try not to miss it the next time it turns up.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Underground reading

The reading of my short plays is over.  I'm not going to lie -- I have very mixed feelings.  The reading itself went quite well, but I couldn't round up an audience at all.  Of the 12 or so people who said they thought they could make it, only 2 showed up (one from work and one other actor I know but none from my block).  This is going to be a sore spot for me for a while, and I think I'll just refuse to discuss it with the people who bailed (regardless of how valid their excuses were).

Fortunately, the actors brought a few friends, and my family was there.  I guess we had twice as many people in the audience as actors, but still, it was a huge disappointment, given the number of people I had started counting on.  (If 5 or so more had made it, it would have really helped to fill up the theatre.)  I realize Tuesdays are a tough sell, but essentially every other date would have had some conflicts.  Thank goodness I didn't try to go the full production route!

Of the people who actually turned up, two older couples left at the intermission, presumably because they thought it was a full production, rather than a semi-staged reading.*  But otherwise, people were very complimentary, including liking the music that we picked to start the show.  Even the manager of The Red Sandcastle thought the pieces were quirky, written with a unique voice.  And one of the actors asked if she could keep the scripts to work up a monologue for future auditions.  I probably should have tried to record the pieces, but it would have taken away from my overall enjoyment of the reading (and I did think the pieces went over well despite the poor turnout).  I did attempt an audio recording of the last rehearsal, and I'll see how well that came out.


We were able to get all the pieces done in 90 minutes, including the intermission. Then I hung out for just a while afterwards with the actors.  Good thing too, since we were sort of hustled out and I had forgotten my laptop in the rush.  The manager tracked me down outside and handed it over.  That would have been quite a disaster had I left it there.

The actors and I talked a little bit whether I would take the pieces to the next level, and the answer is probably not, though they did think that The Re-Up could be expanded, perhaps with the AIs conspiring to keep their respective owners together.  That's not such a bad idea, and I could work it up a bit more.  If Seven Siblings does another SF-based festival, I might submit to that.  But I think I learned my lesson to not attempt to produce a piece on my own, since I clearly do not have enough of a fan base.  I'll only do something in collaboration with another company or through the Fringe.  And now, I think I'm done talking about these pieces, and I'll move on to the next thing.

* On further reflection, they might also have thought that Eric Peterson (the Billy Bishop actor) was involved one way or another.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A full weekend

This weekend was just as exhausting as a typical workweek!  To some degree it started on Friday where many of us were on a learning tour of the east side, where we walked the entire route of the future Downtown Relief Line, i.e. from Pape station down to the Unilever site and then across the Don and finally to Union.  We found out about the city's plans for various stations along the way.  Very interesting, but it was a particularly warm day, so we had to stop and hydrate several times, including at Kim's Convenience (I guess they still do the exterior shots here).


Probably the weirdest and saddest thing was that as we cut through a neighbourhood, this squirrel started darting out and sniffing people's legs and shoes, and then started chasing after us.  I was trying very hard not to get bit, as it probably was quite sick, since this is not normal squirrel behaviour!


Anyway, it followed us to Queen and it then ran out into the street and was run over by a streetcar.  That cast a bit of a gloom on the tail end of the tour.  Some calculated and we did something like 12,000 steps on the tour, though I walked up to Pape Station before the tour.

I did manage to get a few things done at work, though I left off from starting the big evaluation report that is due soon.  In general, we are still somewhat basking in the glow of getting a long, detailed report approved by the Board, and it will be posted to the public website next week.  It has been a lot of effort getting this ready.

I did take a bit of a break when I got home, but had to find some time in the late evening to put the last side of the border on the quilt, since I had set a time to drop off the quilt on Sunday.  Saturday really wasn't an option, since there was a massive street party that lasted all day.  In any event, I did finish it.  You can see about 2/3rds of it here, with the bottom part sort of tucked under.


Sat. morning we got up and swept the sidewalks and the street and waited for the bouncy castles to arrive.


It was a long, long day.  There were all kinds of games, including a few for adults, though I didn't play any of them.  I took a few turns watching the bouncy castles and had some food.  I didn't really chat that much with people I didn't know, which I guess is part of the point of a street party.


But it was a good event, if somewhat overwhelming.  What other street party has a master chef and a DJ right out in the front yards?


I'm fairly sure both of our kids had a good time, perhaps despite themselves.  This year I actually hung out for a while at the after party, which is just for the core families on the street.

However, I did have to wake up early on Sunday and press the quilt one last time.  Then I went and got the ZipCar for the drive out to Mississauga (not Etobicoke as I had thought).  The drive really wasn't that bad, but it still was more driving than I am used to at that hour.  I went over the various options with the long-arm quilter.  She thinks it will be done in about 3 weeks, and best of all, she will mail it back to me, so I don't have to make another trip.

I did the grocery shopping, and I helped the kids with homework.  I did a bit more prep work for the play reading coming up this Tuesday.  I probably should have gone to the gym, but instead, I crashed for a fairly long nap in the afternoon.  I'm actually still tired, but I guess I'm ready to face the week.  As ready as I'm going to be, I suppose.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Nostalgia trip

On Sat. I went to the Danforth Music Hall for the first time.  It was pretty good, though I am somewhat surprised how far back the balcony area is from the stage.  I guess it's better than Lee's Palace, however, which maybe sorta has upstairs seating but not with a clear view of the stage.  In terms of distance to the stage, it is definitely worse than Metro (in Chicago) where the balcony wasn't that far away, but the seats are vastly better.  (At Metro you usually ended up standing up all night in the balcony, which sort of defeated the purpose.)  I guess because everyone that expects to stand up and dance is on the main floor most people in the balcony stayed in their seats until the end of the concert.  In fact one guy who was more than a little obnoxious about trying to get people dancing in their seats was finally escorted out!

Anyway, after missing out on a couple of previous mini-tours, I managed to catch The Lowest of the Low at the Danforth Music Hall.  It was actually a sold out show, so there is definitely pent-up demand to see this group, now that they have reformed and been touring (basically only Ontario and Buffalo, though they are supporting 54-40 in Vancouver -- more on that later).


The crowd was definitely older -- mostly 45+.  In other words, people who had been around for the band's first incarnation in the late 80s into the early 90s.  As it happens, I didn't go see a lot of live music when I was in Toronto in the early 90s, though I did manage to see The Waltons and then one memorable Christmas concert, Sara McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies (and a bunch of other acts I don't recall).  I didn't venture over to Lee's Palace or The Horseshoe or any of those other venues, which was certainly my loss.

I wouldn't say I am making up for lost time exactly, but I am occasionally trying to get over to some of these venues when there is a band I'm somewhat interested in seeing, so I have made it to Lee's Palace twice now (once for a very good Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker concert).  I see that 54-40 is going to be at the Horseshoe Tavern, so I think I'll go catch them.  Ron Hawkins (leader of The Lowest of the Low) said that they would be playing the Horseshoe soon, but there wasn't anything on the website.  I suspect since they are opening for 54-40 in Vancouver, they will also be opening for them at the Horseshoe (though perhaps not for the entire string of shows).  It's a "gamble," but I think I'll take it.

It's sort of weird having nostalgia for something that didn't happen to you.  The Lowest of the Low in particular is such a Toronto-based band, with many songs derived directly from Toronto places, particularly in the east end.  There is actually a piece in Now on this very topic.  So I have a bit of nostalgia for hearing them on the radio, but it wasn't like I grew up here and did all the things that kids growing up in the city did (sneaking in to bars with loose carding policies etc.).  One of my co-workers did all that (and my wife did a fair bit of that in Chicago though it was more clubbing than bar hopping).  I kind of missed out on that, though I did check out the bar scene in Ann Arbor when I got to university.

Anyway, what makes this slightly less sad and desperate is that The Lowest of the Low have a new album out -- Do the Right Now.  (Granted 2 or 3 songs are dusted off from their glory days and rerecorded, but actually several of the new songs are quite good.  "Powerlines" is really growing on me.  Here is a link to the video, and I also liked "California Gothic," which closes the album.)  It turns out this was the CD release party.  I didn't get the CD, but it was amusing hearing Hawkins ask the crowd who still liked CDs and vinyl and who wanted their music on a USB stick.  Given the collective age of the audience, CDs and vinyl were the big winners, but that wouldn't be the case if you asked a bunch of 20 something club kids...

I didn't make a true set list, but this is what I can recall.

From Do the Right Now, they played "Powerlines," "Gerona Train,"  "Do the Right Now," "Something to Believe In," "Immortal" and "California Gothic."

From Shakespeare My Butt, they played "So Long Bernie," "Salesmen, Cheats and Liars," "Rosy and Grey," "For the Hand of Magdelena," "Bleed a Little While Tonight," and "Gossip Talkin' Blues."  I've fairly sure they played "Subversives" as the first song in the encore.  I'm relatively sure they played "Just About 'The Only' Blues" and "Eternal Fatalist" and they may have played "4 O'Clock Stop," but I'm not completely sure.  Some of the songs sound different live, and I am clearly not a hard-core fan like most of the crowd, who could sing long stretches of the songs, not just the choruses.  Anyway, it was a bit of a surprise that they didn't play "Under the Carlaw Bridge," given that they were on the east end, nor did they play "Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes," which I think was their biggest radio hit.

From Hallucigenia, they played "City Full of Cowards" and "Gamble." I think they played "That Song About Trees & Kites," but am not entirely sure.  I sort of expected them to play "Pistol," but they didn't.  (This may not ever have been part of their live set.)

There is a relatively unknown Lowest of the Low album called Sordid Fiction, and they played "The Last Recidivist" off of that.  Hoopla has this album, so I'll try to listen to it soon.

I honestly am not sure whether they played "The Kids are All Wrong," which was a single they were pushing a couple of years ago.  It does have a fair bit of harmonica on it, and one guy in the band did play harmonica from time to time, so perhaps they did play this one.  I wasn't tuned in enough to this song to recognize it during the show.

It was a good show, even if it did make me feel a bit old (understandably so).  I won't be chasing The Lowest of the Low around the city or around Ontario (or Buffalo, where they also have a bit of a following), but I'd go and see them again under the right circumstances.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Staged Reading - Sept 19

As I alluded to in the previous post, I am having a staged reading of 6 short plays (nearly all of which were performed at Sing-for-Your-Supper over the past 2 years) coming up soon.  Even more exciting is that many of the stars of SFYS will be reading the various parts: Jamie Johnson, David Straus, Jane E. Smythe, Chris Peterson, Carina Cojeen and Elizabeth Rose Morriss.

This will be Tues. Sept. 19 at Red Sandcastle, starting at 7:00 pm.  One night only!  The event is briefly mentioned on the Red Sandcastle website.

The postcard is below.


See you there!

Fall has arrived

We had felt a bit of chill a week or so ago, and I having generally been wearing fleece when biking to work, at least in the morning, but yesterday evening was quite nippy. I was at a meeting about the upcoming street party, and most people had to keep going back inside to get more layers on!

The kids seem to be adjusting fairly well to school.  It was probably a wise idea to keep drilling them a bit on math and a bit of French here and there.  I wonder about putting my son in STEM camp next summer.  I'll have to look into it more seriously next spring.

Work has been quite overwhelming, though I didn't have it as bad as the two guys that were laying out the transportation plan in In Design.  They stayed past midnight.  I had a fair bit of work (and perhaps next week will be worse for me), which in turn made it hard for me to focus on finishing the last edits for the reading.  It is official now -- it will be Tues. Sept. 19 at Red Sandcastle!  Some details here, and I'll post separately about this.  I also missed the deadline to get something in for Sing-for-Your-Supper, though to be fair, some of the delay was due to not having a particularly good ending for my skit about college mascots.

News wasn't all bad, however.  It appears that, while almost 1/3 of Americans were involved in the Equifax data theft, we weren't impacted.  (This is going to be a huge fiasco and will be so painful for those impacted -- I just wish the federal government was functioning properly so some kind of response could be managed, like reissuing SINs en masse, but that won't happen in today's climate.)  Probably we lucked out because we haven't tried to buy a house in the U.S. in over 10 years, and also I had some kind of credit watch on my file, which made it hard to get credit cards issued in my name.  Also, there was another big data theft recently (I think just emails and passwords), and I avoided that one.  Though I did have my credit card skimmed recently, so a new one had to be reissued and it was enough of a pain, but I didn't have to rebuild my life.  Actually, some people are saying the move to biometrics is deeply misguided, since if it gets hacked and/or the data stolen, then you will never be able to recover.

Also, I made a lot of progress on the quilt, and in fact the top is finished!  Or rather I still need to put on a border and press the quilt, but it will be done after that.  I might be done as soon as Monday/Tuesday, though I do need to spend more time on my writing.  I did reach out to someone in Etobicoke who finishes quilts, and I probably can drop it off next weekend.  So exciting!  I haven't decided if I will start right in on the one for my son (or take a long break).  Overall, I think it will go faster, but some of the squares will need to be turned, so there is actually a fair bit of seam ripping involved, and it won't be quite as fast as I had hoped.  The quilt is really a bit too large to display in one piece, so I "stitched" together two photos and, even then, the last corner square (of snowmen) got cut off.


This is an approximation of what it will look like with the border attached.  I've read up on mitred corners and will try that for the next quilt.  I would just prefer to get this one done at this point.


Overall, it came together well, though there are always some quirky details when pieces are joined up.  Here is a deer looking like something out of the Magical Mystery Tour.


And here are some creepy hands reaching out of the quilt, maybe a Stephen King homage?


Thinking ahead to fall projects, I will defer some of them to next year, but others I will start working on soon.  I should trim up the bushes and probably reseed the grass, since it is looking terrible.  I should also try to schedule an appointment with the roofers, though I have been waiting on my tax refund (it seems very late this year!).  I probably will hold off until next year on sanding and restaining the bottom deck and hitting the fence with some anti-mildew stain.  I haven't decided about replacing a few parts of the fence where the wood has split.  I really ought to do it this year, but I am feeling lazy (certainly this weekend).  Perhaps in the end I will get it done before it gets really cold.

I have to run now, but I'll post more details about the reading later today.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Long weekend - Day 3

I should have mentioned that apparently there was an Air show going on over Toronto.  It was far more noticeable yesterday, but there were still a few noisy fly-bys this afternoon.  I spent a reasonable amount of time outside, reading all these various policy papers.  (It was good that I got that fresh air, since it is raining now.)  Now I just need to type up my notes.  I didn't get very far on the creative writing, but I guess there is still the evening, though I also promised I would do some cooking for tomorrow's meal.

I'm still kind of annoyed over missing out on the Rushdie reading (and I am definitely not standing in line to see if I can squeak in), but I did order a signed copy of one of his books, and I might order one more.  I think that will basically make up for missing out.

Now back to work (and then later to cooking).