As I’m writing this, 70 grade 6-8 students at the Raha Arts Centre in Abu Dhabi are stepping onstage to perform Benorix Hur: A Race for Freedom. I was fortunate enough to Skype with them, and their amazing teacher/Director of Performing Arts, Mr.Stephen, this morning. It was 9:15am my time, 5:15pm their time. Even though they were on the other side of the world- I could feel the energy buzzing from them as they geared up for the final performance.
They asked me questions about the writing process, the inspiration, the characters, etc. Lots of great questions- my two favourites being:
1. “Is it hard to write play?”- yes, yes it is. Mainly because I stare at the blank page for a looooong time, wondering how I’m going to fill it. Then I think of Steve Martin, “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”
2. “Who is your favourite character in the play”- I gave them the classic “All the characters are special”…then told the honest truth that if I could play one, it would be Sly- the bad guy. I love playing the villain.
Here’s to the kids of Benorix Hur! I hope they have a blast onstage and make ’em laugh!
I have just completed my first year at the University of Windsor in the School of Dramatic Art. I’m teaching the Drama in Education and Community students. What has impressed me the most about my students is their willingness to dive into the unknown.
I was inspired by a unit I had at Dell’Arte; Mask and the Plastic Space. We built larval masks and brought them to life. These masks force you to communicate with your body- you no longer have the option of communicating story through dialogue. How do you show love? How do you show anger? How do you tell a story to an audience? My students were challenged in that they could no longer rely on words or indicating everything via gestures. They had to show, not tell.
Instructions were as such:
We’re nearing the end of our run of Journey of a Lifetime at Heritage Park. The show is a collaboration between Heritage Park and Quest Theatre Society.
I was cast to play a part in Winn Bray’s beautifully crafted play on immigration to Canada. I got to work with the imaginative and inspiring director, Kevin McKendrick. And now I get to share the Canmore Opera House with some incredible folks- bringing to life the Colonist train that took courageous and hopeful immigrants across Canada.
This show is going to tour across Canada- from Halifax to Vancouver, starting in September. How many times in our lives do we get to travel across our country? The last time I did, I was 22, or 23? I was living in a van and doing 5 fringe festivals. The trip was four months. We slept in parking lots and bathed in lakes. It was a great way to see the country. I’ll never forget the time we took out our set (which was a table and a couple of chairs) used it for fine dining on the side of the road; in one of those truck driver turn outs. We made soup on a Coleman stove and drank wine out of the bottle as trucks passed us on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Living the dream. Or a dream.
It’s great when a Dell’Arte Famiglia member asks you to make them a custom mask. You know it’s going be used to create outrageous art.Here’s the new Dottore mask I made for Dustin Allen!
I’ve been directing The Underneath by Kelleen Conway Blanchard for the past few week… it opens next week, as the season opening show for Theatre BSMT.
Here’s a pretty sweet preview:
I’ve decided to spend the summer working on a new show. A solo show that has shadow puppetry and I’m doing it in both official languages, oh and I’m gonna play live music. No. Big. Deal. I have no idea why I do this to myself. I get an idea for a show, apply for the grant, then when I get the grant I’m both ecstatic and terrified. Who the hell do I think I am to pull this off? Pressure makes diamond…. or hard shit.
The show: Animal Farm Treatment. Yup, good ol’ George Orwell’s classic animal allegory. However, I’m doing an adaptation, bringing the animal farm metaphor into our current economy of the have and have nots. About inequality, neoliberalism and globalization. The hope is to bring the show to high schools, get students inspired to vote and question authority.
I didn’t read Animal Farm in High School. I read it about a year ago when my Dad handed me a copy, “I think you’ll like this Al”. He was right. For the study guide to go along with the adaptation, I’m learning about George Orwell. He died at 46. Of TB. But before he left this world, he had an extraordinary life. He was a police officer in Burma, joined an antifascist movement in Spain, got shot in the throat, lived as a poor writer in Paris and London, and published several books on all these experiences. When he wrote Animal Farm, it was turned down by four publishers (mainly because British firms, sometimes on government advice, declined to offend the country’s Soviet allies).
I often wondering why I do shows with social or political messages. I mean, of course I know; I’m passionate about fighting for change. I’m pissed off about injustice and this is the way I want to raise awareness. But I wonder sometimes, because I’ll look out and see 5 people in the audience. Why am I not doing more commercial work? I’d have a better shot at getting an audience (and making a buck) if I just did the original Animal Farm. From reading about Orwell, I am in awe of his ability to stay true to himself. And to tell the truth.
New goal for the show- be more like Orwell. Truthful and brave.