Soul Circle Mentors

Soul Circle Mentors: Is making friends with wealthy people part of being a theatre artist?

Check out my article on Praxis Theatre blog about, as Michael Wheeler put: “why Soulpepper has more money than you”.

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My Eat the Street Article on Praxis

Darren O'Donnell filming at one of the Eat the Street restaurants

Darren O'Donnell filming at Addis Ababa during Eat the Street

I forgot to put a link to my Eat the Street awards ceremony article published last month on the Praxis Theatre blog.  So, here it is: http://praxistheatre.com/2009/05/eat-the-street-is-it-theatre/

I especially love that both Darren O’Donnell and Michael Wheeler (Co-Artistic Director of Praxis Theatre) commented on it.

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Scorched

Scorched at the Tarragon

Scorched at the Tarragon

A steady stream of sand falls from the ceiling, lit by a beam of light overhead.  As we sit in our chairs and wait for the story to begin, the pile of sand grows.  Like the one side of an hourglass, time goes by as we wait – just as those in the story wait for the truth of time gone by.

I had wanted to see Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad when the English-language version premiered at the Tarragon Theatre in 2007.  I had hear so many splendid things about the production, but never got the chance.  As I sat in the Tarragon audience on Tuesday night, I understood the praise.

Scorched is a story of truth, time, history, struggle and strength.  It is a story of a twin boy and girl, who are given a task at the reading of their mother’s will, which leads them to discover the horrors their mother grew up in and the strength she held to get through it all.  Told through jumps between the past and the present, Scorched tells of civil war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, the people who suffered, who tortured, who survived and who ultimately ended the silence.

Directed by Richard Rose, the honesty and belief of the cast as a collective is breathtaking.  Each one supports and carries the other through the production.  Janick Hebert’s eyes are piercing and full of innocence, love, pain and strength as Nawal (the twin’s mother) from age 14-19.  Alon Nashman’s comedic timing, with his mixed up sayings and never ending babble, as the solicitor, is a welcome relief in the intensity.  Sophie Goulet as the twin sister shows so much growth from one who only believes in the absolutes of mathematics, to one who sees the absolutes of love and family.

The set and lighting designed by Graeme S. Thomson and the costumes designed by Teresa Przybylski transport us into a land that is not our own, but could be.  From the imagery of the water and blood sprayed on the wall, to the symbolism of the blue scarf, to the realism of the guns and tools of torture – it all forces us to listen to the tale.

Three hours was too long for the piece, and despite the intensely disturbing moments like delving into the insanity of the snipper as he encounters the photographer, or the beauty of young love, it did drag on slightly.  And the climax was a bit too much for me.  Although I might be insensitive by saying this, because I’m sure it has happened, I found it almost too melodramatic to be believable.

Despite this, Scorched has left me forever changed – a haunting image in my mind that will stay with me as I read the news of all the horrors that continue to happen around the world each day.  The history, the passion, the pain and the strength are brought to life with such honesty and clarity that it forces us, we who are privileged enough to live in a country of relative peace, to look face-to-face with the atrocities of war and how far their effects reach.

But what this play and production are ultimately about is the people and their suffering and their strength to keep going when it feels like all is futile.  As Wajdi Mouawad wrote in a programme note in October 2006 at Theatre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal: “what would quicken my heart would be to know that this show will remain, in your eyes, anchored above all else by poetry, detached from its political context and instead anchored in the politic of human suffering, the poetry which unites us all.”

Scorched runs at the Tarragon Theatre until June 27, 2009.

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The role of the critic…

This Peter Brook quote was posted today on one of my idol’s blogs: Alison Croggan’s theatre notes.  The 21 comments to her post are worth a read.

“The more a critic becomes an insider, the better. I see nothing but good in a critic plunging into our lives, meeting actors, talking, discussing, watching, intervening. I would welcome his putting his hands on the medium and attempting to work it himself. Certainly, there is a tiny social problem – how does a critic talk to someone he has just damned in print? Momentary awkwardnesses may arise – but it is ludicrous to think that it is largely this that deprives some critics of a vital contact with the work of which they are a part. The embarrassment on his side and ours can easily be lived down and certainly a closer relation with the work will in no way put the critic into the position of connivance with the people he has got to know. The criticism that theatre people make of one another is usually of devastating severity – but absolutely precise. The critic who no longer enjoys the theatre is obviously a deadly critic, the critic who loves the theatre but is not critically clear what this means is also a deadly critic: the vital critic is the critic who has clearly formulated for himself what the theatre could be – and who is bold enough to throw this formula into jeopardy each time he participates in a theatrical event.”

Peter Brook, The Empty Space

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Eat the Street: Addis Ababa

 

Eat the Street Poster

Eat the Street Poster

Ethiopian cuisine, a jury of opinionated pre-teens and what EyeWeekly refers to as an “eccentric mastermind behind some of Toronto’s, and the world’s, most innovative performance art” (in an article which Darren O’Donnell hates, claiming it tried to make him look like “a fucken pedophile”).  Welcome to Parkdale Public School vs. Queen Street West 2: Eat the Street, where Darren O’Donnell and Mammalian Diving Reflex take a group of students from Parkdale to review eleven restaurants in the Queen Street West area, over a month and a half, culminating in an awards ceremony on May 11 at the Gladstone Hotel.  This is restaurant number nine: Addis Ababa.

My friends and I just returned home from the evening dining with the jury of youngsters, tummies full of yummy food, giggling like children.  It reminded us of being that age, of what we were like then, and who we are now.  We remember what it’s like to doodle on paper, get bored and want to explore outside, be shy talking to strangers (or overly loud depending on the kid), not want to use the same spoon a boy did because he has ‘cooties’.  

We sat beside a few of the kids, listened to what they thought of the food, the toilets, the art on the walls.  We talked to them about where they are from and how long they have lived in Toronto.  We stuck our hands into the plates of Ethiopian food and shared platters of “injera”, the traditional sourdough spongy bread, which is broken and dipped into the numerous dishes atop it.  The ritual of sharing signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship (according to ethiopianrestaurant.com).  We talked to them about the traditional coffee ceremony and let them try a taste of the strong brew.  We made friends.

As we were leaving I said goodbye to the group and thanked them for dining with us.  The girls waved happily.  One of the older boys made fun of the way I said goodbye.  My friends and I reacted differently to this – I was oblivious, happy to have met them, no idea that I was being made fun of;  my one friend laughed at me and pointed her finger, joining in with the teasing; my other friend ran away mortified and embarassed for me.  And thus our nonstop giggling conversation on the way home started.  We haven’t changed.  We are still the same as we were when we were 13 years old – the independent geek, the cool girl, and the shy one.  

I realize that perhaps that is what this is all about.  Like many other of Mammalian Diving Reflex’s social interactive experiments, there are many levels to what is learned.  Yes, the children are getting a chance to have their opinion count and experience different foods and restaurants.  But it is also about how we as adults interact with the kids.  How we as a society rarely give children the power.  Like Haircuts by Children (where youth are taught to cut hair and then give out free haircuts to willing adults) the power is given to the youth.  And here, my friends and I have not only had a lovely night out, enjoyed a great meal, and had some fun chats, we also came away from the experience having learned a little bit about ourselves and that we are not that much different from the Parkdale Eat the Street jury.

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Welcome to my head…

I will begin by posting my bio.  Hopefully my history with and love of theatre (and of course my undeniable wit and charm) will win over the masses…

Lindsay Schwietz is a theatreholic. She became obsessed with theatre while committing far too many hours than one teenager should be allowed with her high school theatre company. Although her social life might have suffered slightly, her love of theatre did not. Lindsay completed her Honours Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at York University in Toronto in 2003, spending her final year working on an independent study with Professor Don Rubin in Theatre Criticism. From 2003 to 2008, Lindsay lived in Brighton England, Vancouver, Burlington (to save money with her parents), and Melbourne Australia, gaining “life experience”. Her time in Melbourne included completing a Graduate Diploma in Journalism at La Trobe University and an internship with the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Lindsay has just recently returned to Toronto and is working for the Toronto Youth Theatre part-time. Lindsay hopes to see and comment on as much theatre in the Toronto area as she possibly can.

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