Archive for the ‘Performance’ Category

It is finished

October 10, 2007

Saturday, October 6, 2007

It is finished.

Okay. That’s slightly over-dramatic if you catch the analogy.

It was a great day. A great send-off. We had two full houses. Two very receptive audiences. Two fine shows. I don’t think we were terribly reverend about the show coming to its close. In the end, it didn’t turn out to be that kind of theatre-making or that kind of company, though I so wanted that. (Just look back at my little prayer on the first day of rehearsal!) The desire for this to be special to everyone is a personal longing, I realise that. And a little naive, most likely. The most important thing is that it was special to the people who came to see it, particularly the people in Ottawa. It was a “hot ticket”. Something not to miss. 

In between shows I went to the Byward Market with young Jenny. A chance to touch base with the person I was closest to through the entire proceedings. We had sushi, and a good chat about what had passed, and what was to come. Finding the perspective to move forward as we wrap things up. I think Jenny Young is the cat’s ass. There. I said it. 

The market was also winding down to its close at five o’clock as we busied through the stalls to find a few items for our respective Thanksgiving dinners. It had been a crazy day for the vendors, I’m sure. And then Jenny went to the hotel, and I went to the actors’ quiet room, each for our little naps before the evening show. 

It was a fine way to send it off. And also a reminder that anything can happen. Somehow, the cable that moves the trap over the pond got tangled, and when Lisa went to close the trap with a great dramatic gesture… nothing happened. You gotta love those egg-on-the-face moments. For Jade and I it was waiting in the vom for a cue light that wasn’t coming. So out we went onto the stage to see the pond still open. The cast covered reasonably well, I guess. Katie Vine later said she was about to stop the show, when miraculously the panel began to slide, Penny hung on, and the scene progressed as normal. So it wasn’t perfect, but it was grand.

We had a little champagne toast in the hall after the show. Corrine had friends that had flown all the way from Penticton to see the show. Michael Green, from One Yellow Rabbit, came from Calgary. David Latham from Stratford. Caroline from the British Council was there, along with some girls from Grenville College in Cornerbrook. A national and international audience. Josette phoned from Sweden to congratulate us. And we had a good little send off from the NAC with a few off the cuff, heartfelt thanks given from Peter Hinton, and Andy Lunney, and from Moj on behalf of the company. 

Then we marched over to Carmello’s, a little Italian restaurant across from the hotel. They were extremely accommodating, and we had a great meal with lots of laughter and conversation. 

As is my wont, I was one of the first to go. And I just started weeping. I’m not ashamed. And I’m not self-conscious when I cry. I just go for it. I’m sensitive, and I cry when I’m sad. And it has been such an enormous experience for me personally. So I hugged and gave my love to all with the tears a-streaming. And very kindly, Moj called for a toast to me… as the “heart” of the company. And I am proud to wear that label, and to have the respect of my colleagues. My integrity as an actor is so important to me. And that was that. I drove off to the suburbs.

My brother and his family return from the cottage at midday and we will prepare Thanksgiving dinner. This gives me a little time for reflection, though I know that there will be plenty of time for that in the weeks to come. 

For anyone who is still reading… I will submit a prologue and an epilogue within the next week. And then that will be that. We will say goodbye. And thank-you for caring about the theatre. As for me, I would certainly not still be writing if I didn’t care with all my heart. 

A Change is upon us

October 5, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

We had a great show last night. A great house, full of energy, which makes the show so easy to play. Did I sense a tenderness from the cast? Or was that just me. The penultimate day. 

Most of us went to the Chateau Laurier for a drink after the show. Some dressed up, some as they were, but it was nice to sit around in the piano bar as a group and enjoy these last moments together. I gabbed and laughed with Michael Cryne for much of the time. Many photos were taken. Moments to remember. 

And I feel the same energy that I had when we were leaving Stratford, only there is no Marks and Spencers! So this time it’s not food that I’m trying to hold onto, but souvenirs. What can I get signed by the cast? Why didn’t I get a poster from the RSC? Will I have enough of a tangible record of this group of people? Suddenly I feel that I haven’t got nearly enough pictures of people. I’ve been taking pictures all along for the blog, but people don’t want their photos plastered all over the web, so I’ve avoided pics with my compadres in them. So I was snapping away at the bar last night, too. The ways that humans try to hang on. Linger. Savour. 

As I’ve already told you, I write the morning after. And this morning… the morning of the last day… the rain has come. It is bleary and considerably cooler. The pine needles and golden birch leaves are blanketing the garden where yesterday I was soaking up the sun. A change is upon us. 

And tomorrow will be another day. 

A Nebulous Time

October 4, 2007

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Okay. This is the first day where I feel like I have nothing new to say! I feel a bit in limbo really. I have seen most of what I want to see in the Ottawa area, so tourism is not a high  priority. I’ve done all the shopping I need to do. So it comes down to reading and writing, and getting a few things set up for the return home. 

The show… is the show now. It is almost a creature apart from all of us. It delivers its punches, and its caresses regardless of our little ups and downs. That in itself is interesting, I suppose. 

I’m at that awkward point that I was at the end of the run in Stratford: trying to let go, and to hold on at the same time. It’s a nebulous time. 

Another glorious day

October 3, 2007

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another glorious day in Ottawa. I kept warning the girls that the weather would turn… but it has decidedly made a liar out of me. 

A good show. A little slow. The slowest one we’ve done in a while, but just knowing that will perk us up for tomorrow night’s show. Still. Fun.penelopiad_prod_12.jpg
Members of the Company, The Penelopiad, photo Ellie Kurttz

I’m having such a good time with Sarah these days. The rapport that we have on stage between both our Maids, and the Odysseus/Eurycleia relationship, has evolved substantially in the process of playing. It is a real touchstone for me for the entire piece. We are playful, and sly, and I find our internal story very moving. I’m sure the audience only gets little tastes of that, but as an actor it is something that keeps me focussed as the days go on, and the shows blur one into the next. It is this kind of detail that keeps the spark alive. 

And as for the old repetitive strain injuries (Corrine has strained her groin, and I am hobbling along on my sore Achilles tendons), they slow us down, and perhaps Eurycleia’s limp looks a little more convincing, but nothing that anyone would notice. The ice-packs keep the worst of it at bay, and it is amazing how a little adrenaline keeps the body moving! 

The wind has calmed. Like a suspense before the ultimate climax. The resolution is inevitable. 

Things are back to normal.

October 2, 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Things are back to normal. Pippa has recovered from her bug. Corrine’s sniffles (the culprit behind the toilet paper) have subsided, and we went on to do a really solid show for a full house, with a standing ovation. It is so gratifying to see the response of people to this show. Such a lot of hard work, and it comes to this fruition.

Friends of Corrine took some of the girls up to Meech Lake for a picnic in the glorious autumn weather that we continue to enjoy. Penny and Pauline were thrilled, because they got to go swimming in a lake! I’m sure the locals must think them mad, dunking themselves in the October waters, but it is an event for them. And Penny came back talking about buying real estate. I can certainly understand that. It is idyllic scenery, and this time of year is particularly calming. It is something in the air.

It is appropriate as our project ebbs, that the summer also begins to fade. The wind blows. The leaves fall. And change is in the air. It brings a certain melancholy and introspection. And interesting that at the end of our run… comes Thanksgiving. Funny how things work out.

One of those nights in the theatre

October 1, 2007

Monday, October 1, 2007

October. Amazing.

Pauline, Jade, Sarah, and Moj had an fantastic time in Montreal. They just loved it. Loved the shopping, loved the culture, and Pauline and Jade certainly loved the men! Andy, the percussionist, and Mike, both went to Toronto, and also had a great time. It’s such a treat to have people from abroad discover your country. Somehow it makes my own love of this multi-faceted land more credible. Such a Canadian thing, to need reassurance from the outsider. Ah well. I hope it makes us charming.

We had one of those nights in the theatre. The nights that keep you on your toes! It started off at the end of the first group scene, when Corrine left stepped forward as Icarius to say her final line, and left a long piece of toilet paper in her wake. The rest of us are standing upstage in a “vase-painting” line, and our eyes bugged out of our heads. I nearly howled. God love Jenny, because on the exit line she meandered downstage and picked up the offending tissue. I was in hysterics backstage. There is nothing so funny to me as a trail of toilet paper on the stage. This is an insight into my true nature.

Little did we know that was just the beginning. Pippa has picked up another stomach bug, and after her first scene as the Naiad Mother she started throwing up into buckets in the wings. So she wasn’t on for the next couple of scenes, and there was a lot of running around backstage, as she was trying to decide what she could do, and what she simply could not do. Corrine then threw up in sympathy. And poor Penny, who basically never leaves the stage, has to keep going through it all, with Pippa in some scenes, and not in others, and not knowing who Pippa’s lines might be coming from. At one point, as we were singing, Corrine came over to me, and under her breath asked who was going to take Pippa’s line in the coming scene, and I under my breath whispered back, “Jade”… and all this behind smiles and intention, so the audience was completely oblivious to all of it. Kind of a riot.

And then…

Okay. What is it with me and my bleeding toe?! Yes. Ladies and gentlemen. I slashed my toe up again. Same toe. Different place. But once again, at a point in the show that is impossible for me to get bandaged. So I was leaving tracks of blood behind me onstage, and the hem of my costume is spotted with proof of my sacrifice. And it’s very hard not to think of the mess you’re making, and that you may be distracting people with your bright red foot. But the great thing is… nobody notices. It just makes my limping even more focussed and effective!

This whole show was a testament to technique and camaraderie. The story was told seamlessly regardless of all the other goings on. And I know that for a fact, for wouldn’t you know that there were a whole bunch of actors who had come up from Stratford, Ontario to see the show on their day off, and also a number of actors, including Lucy Peacock and Diane D’Aquila, who are in The Ark here at the NAC, and my dear friend Sherry Bie, the Principal of the English Section of the National Theatre School. They had no idea what was going on, and were genuinely thrilled with the production. You gotta love that! The show must go on.

And not to negate Pippa’s suffering. She was sick five times during the show! What a trooper. And then after she finished the second Naiad Mother scene, she went home to bed. God, Pip. I hope you feel better tomorrow.

Friends in the House

September 29, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two shows today. Both really solid. And both GREAT houses. We are still full to the rafters, which is so great for the English Theatre. The ovations are varied, but we can feel the enjoyment of the crowds. 

For the first time, I had some friends in the house. Both shows. Friends who have see me do lots of theatre. Friends I respect and trust with my heart. I was so chuffed that both sets of friends thought the show was terrific. A really entertaining visual spectacle from start to finish. And so impressed with the instantaneous transitions that we make from one character to another, from male to female, from comedy to tragedy. Impressed with how we create entire worlds out of character and action on a bare, black stage. Impressed with the music, the singing, the movement. And really impressed with Penny and her ability to surf the story, guiding our audience through the laughter, the horror, and the empathy. Really impressed. 

How happy am I?!

The Amazing Women of the Penelope Circle

September 28, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

A good show tonight. The women of the Penelope Circle were in, and we met for a champagne and strawberries reception at the end of the show. These women constitute a circle of financial support for this project, specifically because of its focus on the creative achievements of Canadian women. Each of the women in the Penelope Circle has chosen a protégé to work with them on the philanthropy that they are giving to this project. How grateful can we be for people like this. And it is not some anonymous donation. Let me stress how much these amazing women have given us by being at the play, some of them four and five times, and really expressing our achievements with their voices and their response to our work. What a special opportunity it is to establish a real relationship with the patronesses of our art. A very heartfelt thanks to them.

It’s always interesting to hear about the changes in the show since we opened in Stratford fifteen years ago. (Oh. No. It wasn’t fifteen years ago. It was in fact only eight weeks ago. How time flies!) Leslie Gales was saying she really felt the story of Penelope was much more focussed and clear. That is really good news. Margaret Atwood thought that as well. I think it is so important for people to know that theatre is a living and breathing art, and that a new play, even in a single production, and even within eight weeks time, will grow and change, and improve. We’re like good wine or whisky. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll probably say it again… we need time to make art.

A Very attentive house

September 27, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not much to report on Oz, I’m afraid, so it can’t have been that exciting. It was great to have a free day today. What with rehearsals, and opening, and events, and family, and matinees, this was my first chance to get a sleep-in. Whew. I am so grateful for that. So it was a day to catch up on emails, and do laundry, and begin to focus on life after the Penelopiad. It’s always a bit of a drag when you get to this point. You can see the end coming. And that means a lot of conflicted feelings: on the one hand it will be great to be home, to see my cat, to live in my home, to show my face in Toronto again. On the other hand, this has been such a vital chapter in my life, so full of challenges and triumphs, that sitting in my sun-room, reading Harry Potter, and waiting for the phone to ring will take some adjustment. And so… as with all things, I will adjust.

We had a good show last night. A very attentive house. We are still having some issues with the singing, which is a real drag. It has to do with the fact that the band is not onstage. In both the Swan and the Northern Stage, we had the support of the acoustic music coming from a balcony onstage above us. But the proscenium arch at the NAC is lower than both of those theatres, and we couldn’t put in a “third floor”. So the band is backstage and the instruments are all on microphone, then mixed into the sound through speakers in the house. We’re having difficulty synching up with the band for many complicated reasons. But it is frustrating not to give Warren’s music its due. God bless Fred and Denis, the sound guys, and good old Mike Crynne. They keep working on making things better for us onstage. We’re not giving up yet.

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Peter Hinton, photo Laird Mackintosh

We were invited to Peter Hinton’s for drinks and nibblies after the show. Peter is such a generous soul. It was a real treat to be in his beautiful home in the Byward Market, and to see some of his beautiful art. He is such a great support. And Paula Danckert, an Associate Artist at the NAC, has offered her apartment in Montreal to the English and Irish women, who are going to make a little field trip on Sunday and Monday. That should be a real treat for them! I’m sure Montreal is spectacular at this time of year. There should be lots to report after the weekend.

So much going on

September 26, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

kate-hennig-as-eurycleia-in-the-penelopiad-photo-ellie-kurttz2.jpg
Kate Hennig as Eurycleia in The Penelopiad, Photo Ellie Kurttz

Two shows today. We had a really good matinee with students and seniors. It was an excellent balance, and they brought out the best in each other. How completely different these students were than the group on Monday. It’s so unfortunate when a few loud mouthed schnooks spoil the rapport, and confiscate the relationship we are trying to establish. Ah well. That did not happen today. And the talk-back after the show really reflected it: there were at least a hundred students and about fifty or more seniors who stayed. And the questions were intelligent and entertaining. It is so rewarding to make that kind of contact with young people in the theatre. Excellent.

 

It’s great to be at the National Arts Centre. There is so much going on. My brother and sister-in-law took my niece to hear Vadim Repin play the Beethoven Violin Concerto in Southam Hall, Ted Dystra opened in An Evening With Glenn Gould in the Studio, and we continue playing to sold-out houses in the Theatre. Cool.

 

We had another talk-back after the evening show. It is so gratifying to hear the questions of the audience. There is always an interest in the cross-gender work, and an interest in the cross-cultural creation of this piece. And almost always someone who is an Atwood fan, who has strong feelings about the transition from book to stage. This time the woman who was particularly interested in those changes was extremely supportive, and very pleased with the integrity of the staging of the work. That’s satisfying. For Margaret, too, I hope.

 

I must confess that I have not been very social since we have come to Ottawa. I am so pooped. By the time the show comes down, the idea of going to the bar is simply not appealing. So I am basically sticking to the scheduled social events, and the rest of the time I am heading to my brother Paul’s home, and having a glass of wine and a visit with his wife, Deb, and him. The other’s, I know, went to a bar called Oz tonight. I will tell you tomorrow if they had any fun!