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undercurrents 2013… LAUNCHED!

November 16, 2012

I have a great job: traveling around the country, seeing great theatre, and bringing my favourites back home to Ottawa to share (also, sometimes there is free food and beer). Not to mention, of course, Ottawa’s own thriving independent theatre scene, which keeps me firmly glued to theatre seats across the city week after week.

Now, after weeks of keeping secrets it was great to officially launch the 2013 edition of undercurrents: theatre below the mainstream in the Fritzi Gallery last night (thanks for coming, everyone!).

As in past years, undercurrents brings together the best in local independent theatre, as well as indie artists from across Canada. Complete festival programming is available on our website (of course), but I wanted to share with you why I’m excited about each of the six shows undercurrents will be presenting this year…

Hip Hop Shakespeare LIVE Music Videos
411 Dramaturgy Co (Ottawa, ON)
The show combined two things I know nothing about (Hip Hop and Shakespeare), and was one of the best things I saw all year. If you haven’t seen Titus Andronicus sung to Eminem’s “Kill You”, you haven’t lived.

Ladies of the Lake
Skeleton Key Theatre (Ottawa, ON)
A World Premiere from GCTC’s 2012 company-in-residence, Skeleton Key’s newest work has been in development (with support from GCTC) for just over a year. This piece is highly physical, creating an imagined origin for the Arthurian Lady of the Lake.

Little Iliad
Evan Webber & Frank Cox-O’Connell and Harbourfront Centre (Toronto, ON), in association with the Cork Midsummer Festival and the Banff Centre
I’ve been trying to program this show for years, and in 2013 I finally got my wish! Unlike every other show in the festival, Little Iliad only seats 30 people per performance (the others all seat 70). Why so fewer seats? As audience, you listen to the show on headphones. I love when art and technology mix, and this show does it better than any I’ve seen.

Little Orange Man
SNAFU Dance Theatre (Victoria, BC)
The show won Outstanding Overall Production at the 2012 Ottawa Fringe – and deservedly so. It’s funny, heartwarming, and immeasurably charming. Also: there are lunch puppets. (Not sure what that means? See the show and find out!)

The Public Servant
Theatre Columbus (Toronto, ON)
Toronto’s Theatre Columbus has been producing indie theatre for 28 years, and their newest peice is a collaboration between Toronto and Ottawa artists. And what better place than Ottawa to present a play about the public service? And rumour has it there may be some actual civil servants joining them on stage…

Deluxe Hot Sauce (Ottawa, ON)
Another World Premiere at the 2013 festival, SKIN is inspired by the Selkie legend (creatures that live as seals in the sea and shed their skins to become human on land), and will feature music composed by using the skin signatures (freckles, moles, scars) of each performer. Very cool.

And finally, there’s Bread, an interactive participation project staged in the lobby. Performed before and between other festival shows, this 20 minute piece will have its audience making bread, which will bake and rise as you go off to catch other productions. At the end of the evening, you’ll have your very own loaf of fresh bread to take home with you. You get to make some theatre and eat it too!

Excited yet? In 2013 undercurrents runs from February 5-17, in the Studio Theatre. See you there!


This post originally appeared at



July 9, 2012

I’m not the most disciplined. I’m not the most disciplined writer. The most disciplined reader. The most disciplined email responder. The most disciplined housekeeper. The most disciplined at sitting down and getting some fucking work done.

I’m easily distracted. Not a “look-at-all-the-shiny-things” sort of distraction (though it happens, from time to time), but an “I’ll-just-check-Facebook-for-two-minutes” or “what’s-new-on-iTunes-today” or “I’ll just read this one article before I get back to work” sort of distraction. Really, most of my distraction just comes from the Internet.

So you see, it’s not my fault. Completely. But I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to achieve more discipline. I’m trying to write. I’m trying to read. I’m trying to sit down and get some fucking work done.

This is where this comes in (and if you’re still reading, Bravo, because this is some major closet cleaning I am undertaking here right now). I’m going to write. Every day, I’m going to sit down and write for two hours. It doesn’t have to be long (I’m hoping for 500 words), it doesn’t have to adhere to a particular form or particular topic (it might be a play or a story or a rant or instructions on how to properly install a do-it-yourself closet – though the last one is less likely), and it doesn’t have to be to be good (though I would prefer it was).

And since I have recently become a Big Fan of the summer project (and by what may be a coincidence, my summer project fandom had coincided with my summer under-employment) this summer I will be writing. This summer I will be taking two hours from my day to write. This summer I will be sitting down in front of my computer to get some fucking work done. My writing muscles (ie. my brain) have atrophied, and my summer project is get toned again.

So in the spirit of “if I put it on the Internet maybe I will force myself to be accountable to someone” (or at the very least, accountable to myself and the robots) my summer project is:

  • write every day (every week day, anyway)
  • read every day (every every day)
  • post to my blog twice a week
  • read 8 books in 8 weeks
  • go to the library twice a month

(and yes, they’re all fairly closely related, which make this a pretty good “all or nothing” project, of sorts. I’ll also try and use fewer parentheses, but I make no promises on how successful that will be…)

I’m also renovating my home. Which, as summer progresses, I’m sure you’ll also hear all about.

What I Learned at the Cottage this Weekend (or, How to Survive 40 hours without electricity)

July 21, 2011

I am an urbanite.  I appreciate the conveniences of downtown living.  I might even say I depend on them.

However, when Good Friends John and Lisa (I’ve chosen to use their real names to rob them of anonymity) invited KS and myself to their cottage for a couple of days last week, we jumped at the chance.  While I’m not much of a camper, cottages represent a nice middle ground – all the beauty of nature with the added advantages of running water and sleeping indoors.  The agenda for our just-under-48-hour visit was reading, swimming, napping, eating, drinking, more napping, and Carcassonne.

Leaving on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the 90 minute drive had us pulling into the narrow tree-lined driveway about 6:30 pm, where John and Lisa had that night’s dinner about ready to go (because they are awesome).  Moments after our arrival, however, the sun – shining since we left Ottawa – was cloud covered.  Thunder rumbled in the distance.  Rain spat intermittently.

Inside, lights flickered as dinner was prepped and clouds darkened further.  “We might lose power,” John or Lisa mentioned, casually, “but it usually doesn’t stay out longer than a couple of hours.  At worst it will come back in the morning.”  The urbanite inside me had a panic moment, I’ll admit, when I thought about the cheese and mayo in the fridge.

Then, less than twenty minutes after our arrival, The Storm hit.  For various reasons (panic, mostly) I don’t remember many details.  The lake, only metres from the back door, was no longer visible.  Rain poured in through the open windows and screen doors (all of them), a canoe flew off the dock, and our hosts were drenched trying to suddenly save what remained of the dock furniture (I was given the task of closing the back door, and could barely keep it shut against the wind. It was a comedy scene, I’m sure).  After all this, not unexpectedly, the lights went out.

Our loss of power was, at first glance, not terribly inconvenient or troubling.  It should only last “a couple of hours,” after all.  It would have been surprising had the power stayed on.

But as quickly as the storm had arrived, it dispersed, revealing what was a surprise: a fallen tree and the power line it took down with it.  With the power line down it would be longer than “a couple of hours” before the power came back on.  It would, in fact, be at least 40 hours, since power had not been restored by Tuesday afternoon when KS and I returned to Ottawa (and for all I know they may still be without, since cell phones had died and Hydro Quebec unheard from before we left).

Again, my inner urbanite started to panic.  What would we do?  What about all the food?  Will I have to go to the bathroom outside? Would there be enough light to play Carcassonne?  Our loss of power – while incredibly inconvenient – did not ruin the weekend.  We still read, swam, napped, ate, drank, napped some more, and played Carcassonne (by candlelight).

Instead, having no power for a couple of days taught me a thing or four.

1. You can BBQ anything (except coffee)
As a vegetarian, I don’t use a BBQ for much more than veggie burgers/dogs and grilling vegetables.  And while we did all that, we also managed to make two breakfasts (toast, scrambled eggs, and crustini’s with melted cheese), roasted potatoes, zucchini, peppers, and anything else we wanted to eat hot.  I plan to do the remainder of my summer cooking – at cottage or at home – on the BBQ.

The only failure?  Trying to make coffee.  Though I’m sure there’s a workaround somewhere.

2. I take access to running water for granted
Nothing puts water usage into perspective like having to go down and up a hill with a heavy bucket of it every time you want to flush the toilet.

3. Analog technology is more reliable than a smartphone
We had intermittent 3G network connectivity to check the internet for news and updates, and were happy to share the info with our neighbours.  Our neighbours, however, didn’t need our information thanks to their wind-up radio, giving them access to more up-to-date info that we could have hoped to have had, especially after my iPhone battery died.  Nothing is quite as deflating as thinking you have helpful news, only to be told you do not.

4. Food won’t spoil as fast as you (or me, at least) think
If you keep your fridge/freezer/cooler closed, it will stay cool in there for quite a while.  And the next morning two bags of ice – one for the cooler and one for the fridge – kept all the food that really needed to be cold, cold.  What wouldn’t keep was eaten quickly or cooked and stored in the cooler.  We made sure to drink the beer and wine as fast as possible, though, to prevent spoilage (some times you just need to sacrifice, I guess).

And the cheese and mayo?  Totally fine.  Also: delicious.

Thank you, John and Lisa.  KS and I had a great time.  It was just like camping, with the added advantage of sleeping indoors.

8 Books in 8 Weeks

July 4, 2011

I don’t read.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I read all the the time – news, articles, comic books, plays, books on directing and theatre – but I haven’t sat down and read a book book (either fiction or non) since probably last summer, when I read the fantastic Pictures at a Revolution.  This is something that should be corrected, and seeing that I have a, uh, relaxed schedule this summer, I decided it was time that I caught up on some reading.  Because while I don’t have much time to read books, I sure do buy a lot of them.  My goal is eight books in eight weeks, with week one starting Monday, July 4.

So far, my list consists of:

  1. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
  2. In Praise of Slow (Carl Honore)
  3. Havana Nocturne (TJ English)

The reasons: I have a huge crush on Tina Fey.  I read In Praise of Slow five or six years ago and it’s due for a re-read.  Havana Nocturne has been sitting next to my bed for months.

I need five more books.  However, there are some rules to this.  One of the remaining four books has to be something on my shelf I haven’t read before.  One needs to come from my Amazon Wish List.  One needs to be a “classic” I have never read and another has to be an e-book (Bossypants was going to be the e-book, but then I thought it was something I would want to share, so I nixed that). And one needs to be a suggestion from friends.  Which is where you come in.

If you could recommend one book (and only one) that I should read, what would it be?

An interview with… me

April 19, 2011

My play 8 Words That Ruined My Relationship has been recorded and will be released by Montreal-based C’est La Vie Theatre on April 26.

I can hear you asking: recorded? Produced? What do you mean?  I understand you may be confused, but a look at CLV’s mandate should clear things up a bit:

C’est La Vie Theatre is dynamic new theatre on the go. We are creating a podcast series of independent plays to brig emerging artists to busy people. We use social media to make theatre more accessible, and to open up a dialog between artist and audiences.

Since I write a lot of plays and listen to a lot of podcasts, I think this is a great idea.  And when approached by CLV Artistic Director Sarah Mahoney asking me if I was interested in having one of my plays produced, I was immediately on board.

In advance of the play’s release (or maybe “opening”?) next week, Sarah conducted a short interview with me.  In the spirit of Shameless Self Promotion, here’s an excerpt from the interview:

What inspired this play?

When I was completing my MFA in Vancouver I took Playwriting as part of my course work, and we were assigned a 15-20 minute piece as our major assignment for the first semester.  I had no idea where I was going to start (at the time everything I was working on was to be too long), and one night when I was trolling craigslist looking for furniture for my apartment I came across a post titled “Eight Rubber Ducks That Ruined My Relationship.”

The idea of the end of a relationship having a trigger event really interested me, and I started writing, using the title of the post as the play’s title (and even using the ducks).  Eventually through the writing process the ducks went away and the play became more about the fallout from the end of the relationship than the event that triggered it.

The whole interview can be found here, and I encourage you to check out the other play recently produced by CLV, fellow Ottawa playwright Sterling Lynch’s Prisoner’s Dilemma.  You can also subscribe to CLV on iTunes.


April 4, 2011

I am not very good at coming up with titles.  Or, I am really very good at coming up with titles.  With me and titles, there is no in between. I have a notebook full of titles that might one day be somethings.  I have a hard drive full of somethings that need titles.  Though unfortunately, none of them match up at present.

To be fair, I’m not very good at naming anything (I fear for any future children I may have).  I agonized over the name of my (late) cat, naming her a week after I got her, subsequent to her having sneezed on my face to wake me up.  I decided on naming her Sneezy as I washed cat boogers off my face.  This bipolar title disorder shouldn’t affect my day to day living, but somehow it has managed to.

I have been paralyzed with writer’s block – unable to even begin to think about writing anything – if I don’t have a title when I start out.  I have also gone into a writing trance – not stopping to eat or drink or sleep or wash – after coming up with a good (great) title.

A title either is the first thing I write and it remains unchanged from conception, or I write and write and write and hope that the title will divinely reveal itself to me.  I’m always satisfied with my title when it comes first, I’m never happy with it when it does not.  I’m nearing the end of two plays for Parks Canada that are both currently titleless, and have been titleless for weeks now, and there is no title in sight.

Stealing a title from another source?  Good idea, but ethically dubious.

A line of dialogue from the play?  Nothing works.

Puns?  Tried ‘em.

Now my deadline is approaching and I have one play called To Be Determined and another named Title Goes Here. Not very inspiring, and I can’t very well submit two plays titled Untitled, can I?

So here I am, writing for all the Internet to see, and I don’t have a title for my blog either.  I’ve been wanting to – needing to – start writing regularly again for months but haven’t started.  Because I didn’t have a title.

It’s partly about suitability (it has to set the tone); it’s partly about identification (it has to stand out); it’s partly about being direct (it has to tell you what it’s about); and it’s partly about aesthetics (it has to look good in the header, after all).

But I’ve decided to just write, not worrying about titles.  And like a burst of cat mucous at 6:00 am, hope that the title finds me.

Of course, I was able to find the title of this post quite easily…

Stay Tuned.

March 25, 2011

Something will begin here shortly.  Oh the suspense!