April 27, 2012

Sarasvati Productions' Eden (preview)

Kevin Gabel and Andrea Del Campo in Eden (photo credit Janet Shum)

After 9/11, local playwright Hope McIntyre says she found herself living in fear.

Not a new found fear of terrorism; she’d already become acquainted with other, larger scale atrocities through her work with Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. What scared her more was how quickly western nations were willing to abandon their celebrated human rights in the name of defense and revenge.

“What scared me more so out of 9/11,” McIntyre says, “was how the US responded; that sense of ‘you’re either with us or against us.’ That sense of ‘anyone who even could possibly be a terrorist deserves to have every human right taken away from them until we find out for sure if they are a terrorist.’ That sort of response made me frightened.”

That fear is the spark behind her new play Eden, opening soon for McIntyre’s local theatre company Sarasvati Productions. The play is set in a dystopian future which McIntyre considers a logical extension of the War on Terror, where members of the youngest generation are struggling to sort facts from fiction in their inherited worldviews.

“In the play we get two sides of a conflict and one of the larger questions asked is ‘if people have two completely different worldviews, how can they come together?’”

If you’re worried this sounds less like a play and more like a speechifying, intellectual quagmire, relax. McIntyre is quick to point out that while the play asks some big questions, it’s geared to grab millenials’ attentions.

“There’s a love story, video segments, an Aboriginal cultural influence in the play – there’s so many elements that yes, there’s lots to think about, but there’s also lots of engagement. The director (Sharon Bajer) has said that every scene will have at least one laugh – that’s her goal. Because even characters in a horrible situation find a way to laugh. Otherwise you can’t survive.”

As well as referencing playwrights like Caryl Churchill and Harold Pinter, McIntyre says the play parallels pop culture sources like Keifer Sutherland’s hit show 24 – both for questioning some nations’ rationalizing torture and for having a compressed time line.

“The play begins with a really, really busy day when everything goes to hell and everyone’s trying to cope with it. Which usually makes for a good play – if you can find a way to start with all shit breaking loose.”

Eden runs April 27 to May 13 at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. Tickets are $18 ($12 for students) and the run includes three Pay What You Can performances. More details at  sarasvati.ca

April 17, 2012

Cat People

So things are very busy now and I'm reduced to posting others' creative content.
But what creative content! If you're a cat person, you'll get this. Oh lord, will you get this.

April 10, 2012

A Ghost of Radio Future

My independent professional project for Creative Communications has been approved. Now I have the summer off to dream, connive and lay plans for my arts-driven radio show.

But I wanted to give you a little taste. Hopefully we can look forward to this together...

April 9, 2012

She and I

May I present the most wonderful person in the world - now in convenient montage format.
And this is when she's sick. Sick! Can you imagine the energy/cute-factor when she's healthy???

April 6, 2012

Dionysus in Stony Mountain | Review

Ross McMillan and Sarah Constible in Dionysus in Stony Mountain (photo credit Leif Norman)

Plays don’t often get more ambitious than Dionysus in Stony Mountain, the final show of Theatre Projects Manitoba’s current season. With two actors, a modest set and just two hours of stage time, the play sets out to tackle Canada’s penal system, modern liberal values, environmentalism, mental health, intergenerational strife, capitalism, Christianity and Nietzsche.

Make no mistake: this writing is thick with thought, particularly the first act when up-for-parole James (Ross McMillan) explains to prison psychiatrist Heidi Prober (Sarah Constible) why he’s traded his lithium for Nietzsche (McMillan returns in the second act as Uncle Eric, dispatched by Heidi’s distant parents to investigate why their daughter has quit her job and dropped off the map).

It’s not always possible to keep up with the play’s philosophical arguments; not with a writer as subtle and well-read as Steve Ratzlaff. The words come fast and furious (often furious), not just leaping from subject to subject, but pirouetting through the air.

But that’s fine; you don’t need catch everything. It’s not necessary to get every Nietzschian skewering of Winnipeg, penitentiaries and small-L liberalism (though a quick glance at Nietzsche's Wikipedia page before you attend won't hurt). The only point you need to grab onto is that Nietzsche proposes a world free of moral baggage. If the weak get crushed by the strong, hey, that’s only natural.

How desperately, gut-wrenchingly attractive that mindset is for anyone trying to escape guilt – guilt at being unable to repair a broken world.

And that, ultimately, is what Dionysus in Stony Mountain is about: how we use institutions, philosophies and religions to cope with the ‘dark nights’ of human existence. And how, when those systems fail, what we’re left with is each other.

It’s a moving, compassionate play about pain that succeeds if you can hang in when something goes over your head (it did many times for me during the night). Constible and McMillan handle the denser material with speed and style, but it’s in the moments of open, honest vulnerability that the actors really shine. While there are times in the evening when Bill Kerr’s direction strays from the relationship between these two actors - McMillan’s speeches directly addressed to the audience stand out - wait a moment and the play gets back on track.

Is deep, philosophical writing an act of intellectual snobbery? No. It’s an invitation to think about meaningful, resonant issues, both specific to Manitoba and universal to human life. Now that’s an ambitious play.

Dionysus in Stony Mountain (by Steve Ratzlaff) runs until Sunday, April 8 at Theatre Projects Manitoba.