The talent of Canadian lesbian playwrights and the diversity of the stories they have to tell are on display in Lesbian Plays: Coming Of Age In Canada , the first collection of its type. Chosen and edited by Rosalind Kerr , who teaches drama at the University of Alberta, the book covers a variety of coming-out stories, both comic and sad, and looks at lesbian lives in earlier periods as well as today's sensory-bombarding world.
Many of the scripts - including Alec Butler 's Black Friday , NOW entertainment editor Susan G. Cole 's A Fertile Imagination , Kathleen Oliver 's Swollen Tongues , Diane Flacks 's Random Acts , Alex Bulmer 's Smudge and Corrina Hodgson 's Privilege - have played Toronto.
You can revisit the shows in book form and also attend the anthology's launch Friday (June 23) in the NOW Lounge, where Butler, Cole, Hodgson, Natalie Meisner and Lisa Walter will read from their works. See One-Nighters, page 96.
Nights at the opera house
From the outside, it doesn't look like much, but people won't be going to the new opera/ballet house - i.e., the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - for the exterior. It's the acoustics and sightlines that count, and here the building gets top marks. We got to check out the new home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet at June 14's inaugural gala concert and a celebratory concert June 16.
The hall is so intimate and the sound so good that when singers are onstage it seems like they're warbling just for you. One of the gala's spine-tingling moments came during the final notes of Va pensiero from Verdi 's Nabucco , with the COC chorus fading away to a pianissimo. You could literally hear a pin drop.
You could also hear coughs and candy wrappers. Sound travels so well that we heard the staticky noise from a camera operator's earpiece half a dozen times.
Thankfully, the music won out. The program was a mix of classical and romantic repertoire, heavy on Wagner and Verdi. Highlights included tenor Ben Heppner 's radiant interpretation of an aria from Der Freischutz , Brett Polegato 's personable reading of Figaro's Largo al factotum and the dramatic conclusion to Tchaikovsky 's Eugene Onegin sung by Adrianne Pieczonka and Gerald Finley .
Too bad there wasn't a nod to Canadian music on the program, and that there weren't more interesting groupings. Why not a sextet or a quartet?
Friday's concert featured Pieczonka again - this time closing the recital with Lohengrin 's Dich, teure Halle, an appropriate greeting to a hall - and several past and present members of the COC Ensemble Studio. Highlights included the warm-voiced Frédérique Vézina in an aria from Thais, a ringing Pearl Fishers duet sung by Michael Colvin and Peter McGillivray , and Roger Honeywell 's impassioned aria from The Girl Of The Golden West.
This week, the National Ballet fills out the space (see Dance Listings, page 96) and the COC holds an open house (see Opening, page 96). Let's hope by the fall, when the COC presents its full Ring Cycle, there are lights installed on the aisle stairs. They might have prevented a woman from tripping on a stair and cutting her head on opening night. But as one patron said afterwards, "That won't be the last time blood is shed at the opera."
Fire needs heat
The third annual Cooking Fire Theatre Festival in Dufferin Grove Park, which closed Sunday (June 18), offered good food as well as theatre that still needs simmering. While there were strong visuals and intriguing poetic sections in three of the four pieces, the storytelling element wasn't as involving as it should be in an outdoor venue where a large part of the audience is under 15.
Zuppa Circus Theatre 's Open Theatre Kitchen drew us in with its percussive sounds and some text, as well as great physical work by Ben Stone as the son of two cooks who's possessed by an onion. But too much philosophical argument dulled the work's theatricality.
Visiting New York troupe Drama of Works brought On The Backs Of Fishes , based on a Japanese text, but their tale was hard to hear over playground sounds, and the narrative was often muddy. Still, the company charmingly manipulated pieces of fabric that represented the various characters.
T.O.-based Stranger Theatre 's show, based on the life and work of German artist Käthe Kollwitz, had a delightful venue - a tent with a woven latticework roof. Puppetry, projections and cut-outs were the production's materials, but at this point the piece was too short to bring us emotionally into Kollwitz's personal and artistic world.
Best piece of the evening was the revival of Sean Dixon 's nouveau western Billy Nothin', presented by Victoria's Theatre SKAM . Here the storytelling was nuanced and sophisticated - storytelling is also a theme of the show, along with unrequited love and the power of language - and the cast sang, danced and told that tale with wit and compassion.
A shortened version of the festival - featuring dinner, a piece by neighbourhood children and performances by Zuppa Circus and Stranger Theatre - runs Saturday (June 24) at MacGregor Park . See One-Nighters, page 96.
Saw the final performance of Helen Donnelly 's Posey's Wig , a show we reviewed when it first appeared in 2005. It's wonderful to see how this Cinderella tale of a mistreated maid who gets revenge on her nasty opera singer employer has blossomed. Billed as a clown gibberish musical, it's richer visually, in the design by Lindsay Anne Black , Michelle Ramsay and Maggie Beltran-Gomez .
But it's Donnelly who really shines, with sharper satire, brighter characters and a delightfully wicked way of handling disruptive latecomers. She gave one tardy patron a condensed version of the action, and when two others arrived 15 minutes later she had an audience member get up and recite the action. And on top of her comic skills, Donnelly has a great singing voice.
Donnelly's off to Montreal to work on a new show with Cirque du Soleil , but we hope Posey's Wig won't be put on a closet shelf for too long. It's far too much fun.