Dave working hard at the back alley venue at the Manitoba Theatre Centre to tally up ticket sales at this year’s Fringe
The Winnipeg Fringe Festival ended yesterday. If the number of people packing our Exchange District neighborhood has been any indication the 30th annual festival has been a great success despite downtown construction and a couple of nights of pouring rain. The Fringe features some 180 different shows each playing multiple times over a twelve day period. The reason our city can stage this kind of theatre extravaganza is because of a crew of some 800 volunteers who faithfully turn up to sell tickets, usher, do clean up, help performers and entertain kids.
Dave working at the Fringe in 2015
One of those volunteers is my husband. Dave is a theatre aficionado who has been a fringe volunteer since the summer of 2012 when we first moved to Winnipeg. This year he was in charge of ticket sales and operations at three different fringe venues. I love hearing his stories about the interesting people he works with and his encounters with all kinds of unique patrons.
Dave volunteered at the Fringe in 2013 despite having just had hip surgery. He managed to see twenty plays as well.
Dave’s had a busy time of it the last ten days or so trying to keep up with this commitments to playing baseball, his three different regular golf groups, his part-time job as a professional driver and his fringe volunteering…. never mind trying to fit in seeing some plays himself.
Dave volunteering at the Cinematheque Venue at the Fringe Festival in 2012
I just love the excitement and fun and positive aura the Fringe Festival brings to my downtown neighborhood.But I realize that only happens because of hundreds of people like Dave invest their time and energy giving back to their community.
Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival
Stories From the Fringe
Fringing Time Four
I’ve made it to four fringe plays at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. I decided to look for one or two valuable insights or ideas from each play.
My husband and I when we had just started dating
How My Light Is Spent
Relationships are what keeps us truly alive and visible in this world. Work hard to maintain your current relationships and don’t be afraid to foster new ones.
With my two brothers at an Easter family gathering in 2010
The Merkle Sisters
Your siblings are a great gift to appreciate.
Zip Lining in Costa Rica- I was pretty terrified.
The quality of the last third of your life is in many ways dependent on your attitude and your willingness to take risks, try new things and deal positively with health problems that come your way.
Marching in the Pride Parade in Steinbach. Photo credit- Grant Burr
Hot Thespian Action
It is a good idea to clean your purse regularly. Don’t be duped into buying things and services you really don’t need. Think carefully about what social justice issues you will support. You can’t support them all.
Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival
A Roof With A View
Lessons from Leonard
Note: I wrote this review right after we saw the play Morning After Grace on the weekend and had scheduled it to be published this morning but serendipitously Dave called me on his way to the Jets game last night with some additional exciting news. “Guess who I just met in the elevator of our building?” he asked me. Turns out it was the star of Morning After Grace Fiona Reid . Dave was able to chat with her and tell her how much we had enjoyed the play!
Free Press reviewer Randall King gave the current Royal Manitoba Theatre production Morning After Grace a less than enthusiastic review. I enjoyed the play throughly. And so did the audience. Many in the Saturday afternoon matinée crowd which I was a part of, gave it a standing ovation.
Photo by Dylan Hewlett
King described the set design as ‘chilly’. I was intrigued by it. I liked the driftwood pieces on the walls, the lovely backyard you could see through the floor to ceiling windows, the interesting light fixtures and the functional but classic kitchen that was the site of several key scenes.
Photo by Dylan Hewlett
King found the comedy ‘calculated.’ I am not sure what he meant by that. Good comedy has to be ‘calculated’ the timing impeccable to pull it off. And I thought the cast did just that.
King seems to think the pot smoking scene wasn’t necessary and served only to showcase actress Fiona Reid’s prowess at using a bong. Playwright Carey Crim is based in Michigan but here in Canada where marijuana use is about to become legal in just a couple of months the possibilities that raises are being discussed at social gatherings I attend by people of all ages. They’ve even had a panel discussion about it at my father’s church. I think it is a surprisingly relevant scene to have included in a play on a Winnipeg stage.
Photo by Dylan Hewlett
Morning After Grace was perhaps primarily a situation comedy as King suggests but it also gave us things to think about. Is it best to always tell the whole truth or are their times when it is just better to leave things be? How much do we really know about the people in our lives? What is the state of our own relationships? If a family member died suddenly would we have regrets about the way we have treated them? What is a healthy way to grieve?
Looking at Randall King’s photo in the Free Press he seems to be a baby boomer like me and the many audience members who loved the play. But King is writing his reviews for a wider aged audience and perhaps as he considered them he chose to give the play only a decided measure of approval.
I beg to differ with his evaluation. I loved the play!
The Godfather of Winnipeg Theatre
Stealing the Play’s A Thing
Why Do We Still Like Dickens A Christmas Carol?
I’d heard very different reports about the play The Humans at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre before I went to see it last Saturday. One person told me it was depressing and I certainly wouldn’t leave the theater feeling upbeat. Another person wondered whether it had really been worth the price of admission. They said the actors were hard to hear. Another said it had to be a good play because it won four Tony awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
It’s a sad play, no doubt about that. As a family gathers for Thanksgiving in the New York apartment of their youngest daughter Brigid and her new boyfriend Richard, we find out Brigid works as a bartender because her hopes of becoming a music composer have been dashed. Her boyfriend struggles with depression. Brigid’s Dad Erik has just lost his job as a janitor. Deidre, Brigid’s mother has a dead end job and is trying to lose weight for health reasons. Brigid’s older sister Amie, a lawyer, recently broke up with her long time lover and suffers from colitis. Finally there is Grandma who is in a wheel chair and in the throes of full blown dementia. Not a very upbeat cast ensemble to be sure but……………as the play progresses you realize despite their many problems these family members care about one another, they love each other, they have traditions they hold dear and they help each other out.
As I’d been told, sometimes it was hard to hear all the actors’ words. Of course we don’t understand everything Grandma says because she has dementia and rants and raves often in an unintelligble way. Deidre frequently spouts critical asides, saying things under her breath and we don’t need to know exactly what she is saying just that she has an alternate opinion. I admit sometimes the talking was fast and furious and later reading some reviews I realized there were details I had missed. But…………. I still think the play was thought provoking and well worth the price of admission.
And…….. I think I know why the play won so many awards. It encapsulates in one family dinner all the realities that many Americans are struggling with. All the main characters are challenged at work, with their health, with their financial situations and as the play progresses we learn the 9/11 tragedy still haunts the family pscyhe.
I enjoyed The Humans more than I thought I would given what I was told about it ahead of time. As we walked home I said the family in the play had been dysfunctional but still endearing. My husband disagreed. “Think a bit MaryLou, they weren’t really dysfunctional.” And my husband was right. In many ways this family was functioning as a family should, supporting, caring and interacting despite having all kinds of challenges and problems and differences, just like most families do.
Winnipeg’s Palace Theater
Stealing The Play’s A Thing
A Play to Think About
I go by the Palace Theatre every time I walk down Selkirk Avenue to do my volunteer work at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand place once and I wanted to know more about it.
I found out the Palace was designed by Max Zev Blankstein a Jewish architect trained in Odessa, Russia who emigrated to Canada in 1904. He drew up plans for a number of Winnipeg theatres. The theatre was built by Jacob Miles whose family would become one of the biggest movie theatre operators in Manitoba.
The Palace Theatre in 1930- photo by Jim Fustey from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck
The Palace opened in 1912 and was initially a venue for vaudeville performances. According to Russ Gourluck the author of Silver Screens on the Prairie it was also used for meetings of the Ukrainian community as well as the viewing of motion pictures.
Detailed design on the theater’s exterior
An addition was built in 1927 adding a balcony and increasing the capacity of the theatre to 800.
Michael Koster in the Palace Theatre -photo by Raymond Koster- from Silver Screens on the Prairie by Russ Gourluck
Michael Koster worked in the projection room and it was sometimes so hot in the room that he wore only underwear, socks and shoes.
Jack Baturin a North End resident recalls kids attended Saturday shows that began at 10:00 am and many kids sat twice through the cowboy movies, mysteries, serials and cartoons bringing lunches that consisted of chunks of bread and kubasa sausage from home. The Green Hornet was a favorite serial.
The theatre was a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets.
The Palace Theatre closed in 1964 and was in turn an auction house, furniture warehouse and bargain store. Now it stands empty- a reminder of a time when the North End of Winnipeg was a very different place.
Other posts about the North End………
I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It
We saw the sumptuous production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre this week. As I left the theatre I thought about why people are still so attracted to Dickens’ story in 2017.
One reason may be because it gives us hope the world can change. Just as the rich man Scrooge in the Dickens play becomes more empathetic we like to think the current wealthy and elite one percent of the population can become less selfish and become more empathetic and generous. This goes against the body of research that shows wealth reduces compassion. But in a time when the disparity between the haves and have-nots of this world is widening and when our American neighbours are legislating a tax bill to make the rich even richer, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol gives us hope people can change and realize they might actually feel better and happier if they share their wealth and use it to improve the lives of others.
In A Christmas Carol a very wealthy man learns that all of his wealth can’t make him happy. It is relationships that provide well-being. Scrooge is positively giddy with happiness when he starts reaching out to others. In a time when research shows that loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions in our society A Christmas Carol reminds us we need to build relationships with others, care for others and help others if we want to have happier lives.
A Christmas Carol may have been written nearly 175 years ago but it speaks to concerns that are still very relevant in 2017.
Getting Out of Our Holy Huddles
Make New Friends But Keep the Old
Stealing the Play’s A Thing
The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission
Filed under Books, Theatre
I just saw Shakespeare in Love at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and can highly recommend it as a smartly staged and beautifully costumed drama that will engage your attention completely. One thing the play depicts very well is how prevalent manuscript stealing was in Shakespeare’s day. There is one scene during an attempted heist where the manuscript for Romeo and Juliet is tossed back and forth across the stage in a cleverly choreographed frenzy before the thief takes off with it. We find out later one of the actors has replaced the real manuscript with a fake one so the play robber didn’t actually get away with the theft.
I used to do a Shakespeare unit with my grade four classes. We’d learn about William Shakespeare’s life, study different versions of The Tempest and act out the play together. I also read my students the book The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. In the novel a young boy named Widge is sent to The Globe Theatre to steal the manuscript for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Both The Shakespeare Stealer and Shakespeare in Love describe the problems 16th century playwrights faced as they tried to protect their work.
Copyright protection is a huge concern in our modern-day. Music lyrics, poetry, artwork, novel excerpts and ideas are shared freely on the internet often without giving credit to the actual person who did the creative work.
It is interesting to realize that the theft of creative work isn’t just a problem we face in the modern technological age. It was happening already more than 500 years ago in Shakespeare’s time.
My Movie Debut
A Literary Walk
Are You Speaking English?
Filed under Media, Theatre