Category Archives: Theatre

5 Things I Liked About The Rez Sisters

Yesterday I saw the matinee performance of the current Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production The Rez Sisters by playwright Tomson Highway. Here are five things I liked about it.

1. I thought the set was absolutely stunning. That round orange circle in the back with a prairie grass image in it became a place to showcase various actors and scenes. In one scene a woman hangs her wash on a line strung across the circle. In another, the trickster spirit Nanabush does a haunting silhouetted dance in the circle and in still another, the circle fills with stars to escort a character into the next life.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

2. The cast of seven main female characters each had such interesting and unique personalities. Whether it was a sense of humour, a palpable vulnerability, an optimistic attitude, a busy- body nature, an appreciation for the little things in life, a quick temper or an acceptance of the inevitable, each woman stood out from the rest and endeared herself to the audience in a different way.

3. My favourite scene was when the women are participating in various fundraising activities to earn money to make a trip to Toronto to play the biggest bingo game in the world. They did a highly choreographed sequence of activities that reminded me of an intricate dance as they made items for bake sales, babysat, took in laundry, carried out a bottle drive, did home repairs, washed windows, picked and sold blueberries and performed music in order to earn the funds they needed. It must have taken endless hours of practice to get that scene to flow so effortlessly and engagingly.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

4. I really liked the props in the play too. They weren’t real and many were two dimensional. They were so artistically created out of cardboard and other materials. I’d love to learn more about how they were designed and made.

The cast of The Rez Sisters. Set, Prop & Lighting Designer: Andy Moro, Costume Designer: Jeff Chief. Photo by Dylan Hewlett.

5. I liked the way we slowly found out about each woman’s unique personal back story as the play proceeded. Each story was unbearably sad but learning about their pasts helped us to understand each woman better in the present and empathize with her.

I really enjoyed The Rez Sisters as did the friend who attended the performance with me.

Other posts…………

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

Three Strong Women

Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

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Remote and Without Universal Appeal

We are avid Manitoba Theatre Centre fans and have been since our university days nearly half a century ago when we volunteered as ushers at MTC because that was the only way we could afford to see the plays. We’ve had seasons tickets for decades.

MTC is almost right in our backyard

During the pandemic, we donated our season ticket money back to the theatre because it was important to us that MTC survive. The theatre is actually our neighbor. We can see it from the rooftop of our Exchange District condo.

Image from the MTC program

So you can imagine how excited we were to be going back to attend our first play in almost two years last week. But……….. I’m afraid we were quite disappointed. Yes, the current production Orlando is a feast for the eyes, is wonderfully staged, delightfully costumed, and performed by excellent actors. But where was a story to even remotely engage the audience?

Photo by Dylan Hewlett from the media gallery on the MTC website.

The couple who accompanied us to the play was much better prepared than we were. They had waded online through the plot details beforehand but even with all their studying, these two highly-educated friends had a hard time understanding the storyline or explaining it clearly to us. The Free Press reviewer dubbed the plot of the play “remote and without universal appeal.” I would agree.

Photo by Dylan Hewlett from the media gallery on the MTC website.

I understand that the play addresses important current issues but there are plays that concern themselves with important issues and still tell a relatable story or at the very least offer some lines of meaningful and interesting dialogue.

Over our many years of attending MTC, there have been other plays that we didn’t like. As a regular theatre-goer, you know and accept there are times that will happen. But I admit it was hard for me to do that last week.

This is after all the holiday season when we all want so desperately to be happy and forget about the challenging times we are living through. We are feeling nostalgic about the way things were prior to the pandemic. And… this is the first MTC play we have seen in person in nearly two years. So perhaps it wasn’t the best time to stage a drama the Free Press reviewer so aptly called “a strange bird.

I will continue to support MTC and look forward to future productions, but this season’s debut just wasn’t the right play at the right time in my humble opinion.

Other posts……..

Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

The Godfather of Winnipeg Theatre

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Winnipeg’s Palace Theatre

I took this photo of the theatre in 2013

I go by the Palace Theatre every week when I go down Selkirk Avenue to volunteer at a thrift shop. The theatre building is all boarded up but it looks like it was a grand place once. 

palace theaterI 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 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. 

exterior palace theater selkirk avenue

Detailed design on the theatre’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 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.

the-green-hornet-serialJack 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 apparently a haunt of the Dew Drop gang who liked to run a variety of scams to avoid paying for their movie tickets. Sidney Katz talks about Winnipeg’s Dew Drop gang in his 1950s Macleans article It’s a Tough Time to Be a Kid. 

Photo of the Palace Theatre I took September 15, 2020

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.

Currently, the building is owned by the University of Manitoba and a July CTV news article claims there is interest from the North End Renewal Corporation in buying it and turning it into a community arts performance space.  Perhaps the old Palace Theatre has a chance of coming back to life again. 

Other posts ………

The Beatles As A Sound Track For Life

I’m a Shop Girl and I Love It

5 T0-Do List Alternatives

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Filed under History, Theatre, Winnipeg

The Beatles As a Soundtrack For Life

Last month we watched the highly entertaining version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. I was intrigued with the way they had woven tunes by The Beatles into the storyline of the script. It got me thinking about the possibility of linking lines from Beatles’ songs to events and stories from my own life.

Drinking snake wine with my sister-in-law Shirley on a boat in the Li River in China

Picture yourself in a boat on a river.

My son holding my hand in a family photo

I wanna hold your hand.

My son with his grandma

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Kissing my husband on the Great Wall of China

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you

My husband at the John Lennon Wall in Prague

You say you want to change the world

Celebrating Christmas with good friends

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Snorkelling in the tropical waters of Fiji with my sister

I’d like to be, under the sea.

My parents with their family in 2008

All you need is love.

My husband and friend walking in Gross Morn National Park Newfoundland

It’s a long and winding road

With my first son

You were only waiting for this moment to arrive

What photos from your life might go with a Beatles song?

Other posts………..

Crossing Abbey Road

Words of Wisdom on a Wine Bottle

Seeing the Movie Yesterday

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Ten Reasons Why I Loved Christmas at Pemberly!

Delightful and charming!  Those are just two of the adjectives I would use to describe the current Manitoba Theatre Production of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly. I am a huge Jane Austen fan but that isn’t the only reason I enjoyed the play. My husband wanted to know why I had liked it so much.  Here are ten reasons.

1) Mary Bennet, the heroine of the play is admired by her suitor not for her looks or money but…… for her brains. Arthur de Bourgh is enchanted with Mary’s ability to engage in interesting conversations about all manner of things whether it be history, science, geography, literature or the meaning of words.
2) I liked the idea of a minor character in a famous book being plucked from its pages and put centre stage so we can get to know her in a whole new way. Mary Bennet has a very secondary role in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. 

Photo Winnipeg Free Press

3) They played handbells. I was at the Canadian Mennonite University Christmas concert last Saturday and one of the things I enjoyed most was the talented handbell choir directed by Verna Wiebe. So it was lovely to see the handbells being played on the Manitoba Theatre stage during a carol singing scene. 

Photo- Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

4) There is a real bond between the sisters in the play. Even though they sometimes make each other angry and frustrated they stick together as siblings no matter what life brings their way.
5) The set is beautiful and has many small details that caught my eye as the play proceeded. The windows outside were often the scene of a gentle snowfall.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

6) I learned that even though a Christmas tree is an important prop in the story of Christmas at Pemberly it was considered something unique during the time period in which the play is set. Christmas trees were not popular in England till some fifty years after Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.

Photo – Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre

7) There is real chemistry between Mary and Arthur the couple at the heart of the play’s romance. Arthur proposes to Mary by giving her a map of the world as a symbol of the adventures he plans for them to have together. How romantic is that? 
8) I thought the dresses the different Bennet sisters wore really suited their personalities and I loved them.
9) The play has some genuinely funny scenes and dialogue that had me laughing out loud. 
10) One question in the script that got me thinking was- “Can you live large in your mind alone?” 

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly runs till December 21, so you still have time to see it.

Other posts………

Jane Austen Overload

Why Do We Still Like Dickens A Christmas Carol? 

High Drama At the Christmas Family Gathering


Filed under Theatre

The Color Purple- God in Every Living Thing

God not some gloomy old man like the pictures you’ve seen of him.
God, not a man at all.
God is inside you and everyone else
That was or ever will be.
We come into this world with God.
But only them who look inside find it.
God is the flowers and everything else
That was or ever will be.
And when you feel the truth so real,
And when you love the way you feel, you’ve found it
Just as sure as moonlight bless the night.
Like a blade of corn,
Like a honeybee,
Like a waterfall,
All a part of me.
Like the color purple,
Where does it come from?
Open up your eyes,
Look what God has done.

We saw the musical The Color Purple at the Manitoba Theatre Centre on Wednesday night.  The signature song The Color Purple brought tears to my eyes and as soon as I got home I looked up the words and purchased the music. Then I scrolled through photos I’d taken to find the color purple in nature. 

I keep thinking what a different world it would be if we all believed as the song says that God is in us, in other human beings and in every living thing. 

Other posts………

Two Poets on Prayer

Go To The Park

Living Beings Just Like Us?


Filed under Religion, Theatre

What a Fun Night!

I had so much fun last night at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. My husband Dave was working as a volunteer so I decided to strike out on my own. The first play I chose was Juliet’s Revenge at the Kings Head Pub. Luckily I’d headed over early to get my ticket because it quickly sold out. When I walked in the door I was surprised to see my cousin Lynne and her husband Rod were also in attendance. I sat with them, and Rod, the consummate gentleman that he is, quickly bought me a glass of white wine and then invited me to help them eat a delicious plate of nachos. So I was in a pretty good mood before the play even started!
But oh my word Juliet’s Revenge was so funny and entertaining. My cousin and I were laughing out loud. Have you ever wondered why William Shakespeare killed off so many of his female heroines by having them commit suicide? Cleopatra, Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Ophelia? Well, the Shakespearean women are out to get revenge on the bard and rewrite their stories with different endings and they do so in the most comedic and delightful way!! Actress Carly Pokoradi was astounding as she jumped back and forth between the no-nonsense persona of Lady Macbeth, the sweet flighty Ophelia, and the regal Cleopatra.

Pippa Mackie played Juliet and her face during the bedroom scene with Romeo told a whole story in itself without her uttering a word. Lady Macbeth and Juliet mimed rowing a boat together as they tried to save Ophelia from drowning and we sat in awe at their physical comedic abilities. They got the audience involved at a couple points too.  When the women were chasing around the theatre looking for William Shakespeare I suddenly heard Lady Macbeth’s Scottish brogue in my ear asking me if I knew where he had gone. I pointed to the stage where William was brandishing his book of plays.

If you get a chance to see Juliet’s Revenge by all means go.  It’s great!

The second play I saw which also sold out was I Lost on Jeopardy.  I had read the article in the Winnipeg Free Press about George Buri the Winnipeg history professor who against all odds made it on to the game show and then lost on the Final Jeopardy question. George has written a one-man show in which he describes his Jeopardy experience in an interesting and entertaining fashion. One of my favorite parts was where he demonstrates how he practiced quick action on the Jeopardy buzzer using a toilet paper roll dispenser. 

George wraps up his performance by telling us a little bit about his fellow contestants and sharing the important life lessons he gleaned from his failure to win on Jeopardy.  I Lost on Jeopardy was a solid hour of entertainment. George Buri, history professor turned actor, lets you know that putting on a Fringe play, like being on Jeopardy, is one of the risks he’s taken to make his life hope-filled and meaningful.   His play encourages us to follow suit. 

I had a fabulous Sunday night at The Fringe and look forward to seeing more great plays during the coming week. 

Other posts…………

A Dedicated Fringe Volunteer

Oh To Be A Kid At The Fringe Festival

Take It Easy But Take It


Filed under Theatre, Winnipeg


This mural used to be on the south wall of what is now The Palomino Club on Main Street.  Painted by Tom Andrich in 2006  its illustrations give life to one of the most memorable events in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919.  In May of that year, some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities for World War I veterans. Union organizers had been passionately advocating for an eight-hour workday, collective bargaining and the need for employers to pay a living wage. Mural artist Tom Andrich chose to highlight nine of the strike leaders. The woman right in front is Helen Armstrong. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto and married to a carpenter named George she moved to Winnipeg with him in 1905 where Helen became the leader of the Women’s Labor League. Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. During the Winnipeg Strike Helen organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strikebreakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men who were on strike. She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strikebreakers. 

Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and some were deported. The majority of the strikers, however, were British. toppled street car winnipeg strikeOn June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labour leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labour movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strikebreakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire.  

The federal government had sent out the Royal North-Westz Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the streetcar was overturned. They began to fire their weapons. 

June 21, 1919, became known as Bloody Saturday because the North West Mounties killed two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. Tom Andrich’s mural on Main Street had a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski. Almost nothing is known of Mike Sokolowiski beyond the few often contradictory details recounted by Winnipeg newspapers reporting on his death. After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th. I took these photos of Tom Andrich’s strike mural on September 15, 2012.  I captured the artwork just in time because later that same month a wicked rain and wind storm ripped the vinyl mural from the wall and damaged it beyond repair.  

Note: Tom Andrich the artist of the Winnipeg Strike mural died in 2018.  You can read more about him on The Murals of Winnipeg site. 

Other posts……….

The Winnipeg Strike- Fact and Fiction

Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot

Celebrating Our Marriage History in a Historical Building


Filed under Art, History, Theatre, Winnipeg

A Lesson From It’s A Wonderful Life

Yesterday we saw  It’s A Wonderful Life at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.  The play based on the movie of the same name, tells the story of George Bailey, the owner of a small town money lending institution who believes his life has been a failure. As a young man he had big plans to get a university degree, be a world-class engineer or architect and travel the globe, but because he put his responsibilities to others first , this never happened. 

george thinks about suicide

George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie version of It’s a Wonderful Life considers suicide on Christmas Eve.

Desperate business circumstances cause him to consider suicide during the Christmas season. 

henry travers as clarence

A guardian angel named Clarence is played by Henry Travers in the movie.

His guardian angel Clarence turns up and shows George what the world would be like if George had never been born. George realizes he has positively impacted his family and community in many more ways than he realized. 

last scene its a wondeful life

George Bailey with his friends and his wife Mary played by Donna Reed in the movie.

It’s A Wonderful Life is a story about how an ordinary person who faithfully fulfills obligations to friends, family and community can make a difference in the world. George isn’t famous or wealthy but at the end of the movie when all George’s neighbors and relatives  rally round to offer help and support, George’s younger brother Harry, proposes a toast to George calling him, “the richest man in town.” 

George isn’t financially wealthy but he is people wealthy. In a world filled with lonely people the richness that is added to our lives by human relationships should never be taken for granted. 

During one scene in It’s  Wonderful Life, a woman named Violet, who has experienced George’s kindness and help says to him, “I’m so glad I know you.” Hopefully there are many people who can say that about us. 

Other posts…………

Three Lessons From the Movie Arrival

Lessons From the Sydney Opera House

Lessons From Leonard


Filed under Theatre

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

At a bar called The Batch discussing Come From Away after the show.

After we saw the musical Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto my husband and I went to a nearby pub to talk about it.  We both loved the instrumentalists whose Celtic music accompanied the show. We thought the story telling was superb.  Sometimes in a musical all the singing detracts from the story.  In Come From Away it certainly does not.  For those of my readers who aren’t familiar with the story of Come From Away it is based on the true experiences of the residents of Gander Newfoundland and what happened when some 7000 airplane passengers were stranded in their town during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.  

The people of that small community literally opened their homes and hearts and public spaces to all these strangers from around the world feeding them, entertaining them, caring for them and building relationships with them. The musical shows us what a diverse group of people emerged from the 38 planes stranded in Gander.  There were folks from many different countries, who spoke many different languages, followed many different religions and were of different races.  There were people from different social classes and different income levels and different sexual orientations.  Somehow they all managed to become friends and care for one another and support each other in a time of crisis. 

We are at a point in history when the ruling political party in the United States wants to build a wall and shut their doors to people who are in a desperate situation, when racial discrimination and anti-Semitism seem to be rearing their ugly heads once again, when the American president issues edicts to ban Muslims from his country and stop transexual people from serving in the military.  At a time like that it is refreshing and inspiring to see a musical where differences between people are celebrated and seen as strengths, where doors are opened and not closed to those in need.

Waiting for the play to start at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto

There’s a scene near the end of a play when a woman from New York and a woman from Gander who have become friends are talking on the phone.  They like to share jokes.  The woman from Gander says…… “Want to hear a Newfie joke?”  The woman from New York familiar with the routine says,  “Knock, knock” and the woman from Newfoundland says “Come on in. The door’s open.”    

That’s the essence of the play.  All these strangers in need knocked on the door in Gander and the local people there said, “Come on in.”  Wouldn’t it be great if our world worked like that?

The musical Come From Away sells out wherever it is staged in Toronto, New York, Winnipeg and in 2019 its going to be in Dublin, London and Sydney. I bought our tickets four months ago and there were only a few seats still available  that long before the performance.

My husband and I decided a big reason why Come From Away has become so popular is because even though the events in the drama happened nearly two decades ago they provide a message of hope for our time and inspire kindness.  It portrays our world the way so many of us wish it could be. 

Other posts………

A Musical Mural in Toronto

Marc Chagall and Fiddler on the Roof

Jersey Boys

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Filed under Music, Theatre, Toronto