Rave review for “Mature Young Adults”!

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A rave review from Mike Anderson over at Mooney on Theatre:

“Walking into Mature Young Adults is, itself, an experience. Videofag has been transformed into an urban forest…”

 “… punches you square in the gut.”

“Colford does fine work, including some excruciatingly (and delightfully) awkward moments, but Haché steals almost everything from him, delicately underplaying a role which could easily get away from a less talented actress. The script calls for her Caitlin to be both vulnerable and assured, upstanding and spineless, and she executes these contortions masterfully.”

“Director Alexander Offord also leaves a distinctive fingerprint. As he recognizes in his director’s notes, this show needs a light touch, a soft focus, an emphasis on gentle suggestion and easing-in, since the alternative would involve beating the audience over the head. (“LOVE THESE CHARACTERS! AREN’T THEY CUTE!”) He delivers exactly that–something far more challenging than many of us realize, but every bit as successful as it was in his earlier Hystericon.”

“…a sound basis for future work both on this show in particular and by this company.”

Still five shows left! Get your tickets at TOTix!

  • Friday Nov. 22 @ 8:00PM
  • Saturday Nov. 23 @ 4:00PM
  • Saturday Nov. 23 @ 8:00PM
  • Sunday Nov. 24 @ 4:00PM
  • Sunday Nov. 24 @ 8:00PM

“DESH,” dance, & the virtues of theatre beyond language

In the opening minutes of Akram Khan’s solo show DESH (now on Canadian Stage), Khan stands down stage of Tim Yip’s sparsely lit set, dwarfed by the Bluma Appel’s cavernous embrace, picks up a sledgehammer & whacks with extreme prejudice a small metallic mound built into the stage’s floor. At the mound’s apex is some sort of plant which will undergo all kinds of contortions over the show’s 83-minutes of magic, the sledgehammer being the least of its worries. With each strike, a dull, hollow boom blankets the theatre, just ever-so-perfectly too loud for the audience’s comfort. For a show billed as a “dance” piece, it’s a brave opening, since we’ve come (at least some of us) for the feats of kathak-cum-Bauschian physical pyrotechnics Khan’s famous for, & he presents us with a moment that – but for the sonic black hole of the hammer’s thud – is eerily still, utterly quiet.

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A Riposte (of sorts) to Sarah Garton Stanley

Though probably I surrender some amount of high ground by doing so, I must begin this post with a bashful mea culpa. In her latest, rather moving & impressive article for SpiderWebShow’s #CdnCult Times, National Arts Centre English Theatre A.D. Sarah Garton Stanley calls me out on a rhetorical snafu by citing my previous post:

[Offord] goes on to say: “The fact of the matter is, we Canadians are deeply insecure about most things, & our theatre scene (I’m being hugely Toronto-centric in this, note; Toronto’s all I know, really), … has an inferiority complex for which “Napoleonic” is putting it mildly.

The use of the word “fact” is incredible here and so too is the use of a “we”, or “our”, all of which leads to paradox of the “us”. How interesting.

Yeah, I deserved that one. I should probably avoid making sweeping, nationality-based generalizations while at the same time attacking the substantive value of both nations & generalization. Garton Stanley’s barbed acumen on this point & others (“intermittently accurate” is such a great phrase I may have to steal it) is matched only by the very touching account she gives of her teenage years, inveigled by Levesque’s particular brand of acid-sharp PQ separatism, & the lasting effect this had on her patriotic father. It’s a lovely passage, & apropos; we can forget all too easily that these questions do not dwell just in the suburbs of academic discussion (I almost used the word “discourse” there – without irony – which perhaps says a lot about me). These issues matter.

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W(h)ither a National Theatre? (corrected below)

The impetus for this post comes from Michael Wheeler (Artistic Director of the politically minded Praxis Theatre Company), whose new project is called SpiderWebShow, described as “A theatrical space where Canada, the Internet and performance minds intersect” (the absent Oxford comma is, I assure you, thoroughly sic). Both Mr. Wheeler & Praxis are rare creatures of at least the Torontonian theatre scene that I know, in that they are interested not just in the creation of performances, but in seriously pursuing the “Why” of theatre in Canada. Practitioners too often leave these questions to academics – Holger Syme, for example – & adopt a sort of “See No Evil” attitude which ultimately manifests in the work. Not to say the work is bad, per se; merely that a lot of times it seems disconnected from a public discourse about theatrical teleology. Even in the way plays are marketed (& reviewed) they adopt the qualities of commercial products, of things which are bought & sold but not necessarily important, vital, or immediate.

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The time has come, my little friends…

“The time has come, my little friends, to talk of many things – of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; of whether the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings…”

So as it turns out, a daily news post was a tad ambitious. Not to say that nobody read it (but then, what do I know about who reads this thing of mine), but to say that I have to eat and live and sometimes sleep, and working a full-time job whilst doing theatre stuff on my off hours has had a deleterious effect on my ability to regurgitate news media, I’m sorry to say, I know you miss it (no I don’t). I’m going to try to do my best to post a weekly round-up every Saturday or Sunday, which’ll sort of curate the week’s bizness into digestible chunks, for your reading displeasure.

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“Mature Young Adults” in Halifax

Well, my latest project, Aim for the Tangent‘s Mature Young Adults (which I directed & had no small hand in dramaturging) is now just over halfway through it’s run at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. From all reports, it’s doing very well. We’ve had some nice reviews:

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& some not-so-nice ones, the burden of linking to which is no longer mine, since the URL no longer seems to be working. I put this down to a karma, or something like it; perhaps the CSEC.

Wesley Colford, who wrote & is acting in the thing, tells me that houses are small but that audiences are enthusiastic. I guess this is the nature of Atlantic Fringe. No disrespect to my compatriots in the Maritimes, but a beacon of theatre culture Nova Scotia is not. Thanks be to Indiegogo! My actors’ plane fare has been crowdsourced. The only one losing out is me – my scotch fund depends on Fringe dividends.

In other news, my partner, Nicole Wilson, & I have begun serious work on our next project, a show about the slaughter/meat-processing industry. Big, big stuff. I’ll report more when I have more.

Stick it in the fridge, kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wesley Colford, MYA

Today was officially the last day of rehearsal for my current project, Aim for the Tangent’s Mature Young Adults, written by Wesley J. Colford, starring same & Hystericon alumnus Renee Hache (imagine, if you will, the appropriate accent marks; it’s 11:17PM & I simply haven’t the strength of will), directed by yours truly. The show’s in good shape, notwithstanding various technical snafus which simply can’t be avoided, given the hugely unhelpful Halifax Fringe staff (all of whom work unpaid, so I don’t entirely blame them), & the cast leave for Nova Scotia on Monday.

If you’re so inclined & are interested in perhaps accruing some karma, I give you this: the Mature Young Adults Indiegogo Campaign, featuring a hugely weird video of us looking like bonafide psychos.  Your donation will help us gogo.

Moreover, there is also this, an interview with Wesley by the Cape Breton Post, talking theatre, Fringe, Rehtaeh Parsons &c. A certain someone is curiously un-name-dropped. Interviewers never care about directors…Ah well. The cast are excited.

See?

Long overdue, an interview, &c.

Well folks, I know this post is long overdue. The brisance of Toronto Fringe Festival has given way to a kind of post-apocalyptic scrambling for resources, which has enjoined me in spending vast numbers of consecutive hours either writing stuff up for clients (including a children’s educational book on communication inventions for Crabtree Publishing, more on that to come), or trying, desperately trying, to get a play written for the Tarragon Theatre’s RBC Emerging Playwright Contest. Attaching a $3000.00 price tag to any contest is ipso facto motivation for donating the sum of one’s creative energies, but beyond that, I’m just using it as a deadline, an anchor, something which will force me to do the actual physical labour of writing. As Dorothy Parker once put it, “I hate writing; I love having written.”

The new script (the name of which I can’t mention, lest I poison the integrity of the contest’s “blind panelist”) is almost finished (it should be, it’s due on Monday) & I have just begun to phase myself into my next creative project: directing Wesley J. Colford’s play Mature Young Adults for its upcoming run at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. Produced by the wonderful Aim for the Tangent, whose previous productions The Wakwoski Brothers (Best of Fringe 2012), & Genesis and Other Stories have earned them considerable critical acclaim & sold-out runs, MYA is a bit of an experiment in that I’ve never done the Atlantic Fringe (which is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia) before. Indeed, seemingly no one has. Aside from the fairly tortuous time we’ve had extracting information from the AF people w/r/t the actual dimensions & character of our venue, the publicity apparatus of the Halifax theatre community leaves much to be desired. Well, praise the Lord & pass the ammunition.

The production stars the playwright himself, as well as the lovely & talented Renée Haché, who performed in my play The Hystericon last month. A kind of contemporary response to David French’s Salt-Water Moon, the play explores the evolution (or devolution) of a young teenage couple in small-town Nova Scotia, as they struggle with sexual awakening, gossip, & the rigours of finding love in a thoroughly cynical world. At the behest of the Aim for the Tangent, I did a little Q &A, which should give you a nice idea of what the thing’s about:

Aim for the Tangent: What interests you about Mature Young Adults and what drew you to the project?
Alexander Offord: If you're any kind of consumer of culture at all, there are certain trends or evolutions in form that you've necessarily been saturated with, particularly in the last twenty years or so. Almost of all of these trends or forms reduce to what we might call "irony," which is to say the kind of  self-conscious, wink-wink-nudge-nudge-ing that one sees in TV programs like HBO's Girls, where day-to-day tragedy & self-reproach & inner turmoil are removed from the characters' experience & replaced with a carapace of dramatic self-awareness that is both a) the inevitable consequence of a generation of hyper-educated, internet-fed young people suddenly being driven to create art, & b) dangerously seductive in terms of being accessible& entertaining to watch. It also happens, at least in my opinion, to be at times seriously abrasive to the soul. The American critic Lewish Hyde once wrote, in an essay called Alcohol and Poetry: "Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage."
Mature Young Adults appealed to me because it is about unhip, uncool, unsexy subject matter. It is about the day-to-day experience of human beings who, above all else, feel. It is about two young people who are in love, old-school love, before whole notion was reduced to eye rolling and a misting of A10 cells with dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. If there is going to be another major aesthetic movement in the coming years, I suspect it might be a return to themes or characters that are easily written off as "sentimental." It will be a second-coming of characters who don't need to be admired, only loved.
To Wesley's credit, it's also one of a very small minority of plays which I read & didn't just see the playwright trying to convince the audience how smart he is.
Were there any challenges that come to mind (either working with a new script or working on a show about Nova Scotia or not getting to go to Halifax to see the end result...)?
AO: This depends on what is meant by "challenges." I try to excise difficulty from my creative process by working with people more talented than I. Yes, there were serious cuts made to the script; yes, there are always sticky points in rehearsal, but in truth, the biggest challenge in working with Wes & Renee is resisting the temptation to dick around too much. 
That being said, the venue itelf is causing me a certain amount of psychic pain, but to an extent that's the nature of Fringe. My kingdom for @#$%ing gobo... 
What's the best and worst thing about working in Fringe?
 AO: I have a whole rant I could do about this but I don't know of how much interest it would be to your readers. My only experiences thus far have been with the Toronto Fringe, so I can really only speak to that. I guess I would say that conceptually the Fringe is possibly the most important theatre festival in the country, in that it provides basically the only venue for emerging artists to not only a) produce their work on a budget, but b) actually get people to see the stuff. The Canadian theatre scene is so hellaciously underfunded that there is a real hostility to young artists from a lot (though not all) of the establishment. Fringe to certain extent obviates some of this restriction. 
The worst thing about Fringe really doesn't come from either its patrons or staff/volunteers, but from the reviewers. A sad reality is that far too many people decide to see shows based solely on the arbitrary tastes of a particular journalist. Which, whatever, critics are just doing their job & everyone has to eat & live. But the notion that the worth or existential merit of a work can be reduced to how many fucking "N's" it gets is pretty dispiriting. 
What's something you learned from your first relationship?
AO: That all grievances, no matter how small, must be aired. Fighting, or at least bickering, is very healthy in a relationship.
If you could ask a past girlfriend one thing, what would it be
AO: I have nothing whatsoever to say to any past girlfriend. Which should tell you a great deal. 
Why should people see MYA over other options in the Fringe?
AO: Because in ten years when Wesley's Artistic Director of the Tarragon Theatre, and Renee's been forced to hire servants just for the task of polishing her Doras, you'll want to be able to say that you saw them act in a shitty art gallery in Halifax for ten bucks. If you remember my name at all, it'll most likely be in some formulation of, "Oh yes, I saw his production of 'Aladdin' at the Norfolk County Theatre. It was a little slow, I thought.'"

 

 

The reviews are in for “The Hystericon”

From Mooney On Theatre:

 “…the ladies who inhabit The Hystericon blew my mind. They’ve taken a genre positively filled with hoary old tropes and predictable dullness, and they’ve somehow cobbled together a fresh, innovative, interesting and utterly worthwhile play.”

 

“…an outstanding script, well-researched without being encyclopedic; funny without being comic; serious without being melodramatic. Everything in this writing is just so: aimed, balanced and spun perfectly.”

Thanks to everyone who came to opening night – and to those of you who are coming within the next week!

And a special thanks to Mike Anderson, for his amazing review.