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Calgary Theatre

Winners and Losers play is sparking conversation

By SILVIA PIKAL

In Winners and Losers, on stage at Arts Commons from November 15-25, two friends and performers debate on stage over whether certain topics are winners or losers. The random topics run the gamut from Robin Williams to Meghan Markle, and camping to private schools. Is Meghan Markle a winner or a loser? That depends on which person you ask, because the two friends are each shaped by their different life experiences. 

Courtesy Chromatic Theatre.

“The two women are different races, different ages, different generations, and they bring a variety of different opinions to the table — and they might not always be the ones you expect,” says Jenna Rodgers, the founder and artistic director for Chromatic Theatre, which develops and supports culturally diverse voices in Calgary’s theatre community. Winners and Losers is a Calgary adaptation of an original play co-written and performed by Canadian theatre artists and friends Marcus Youssef and James Long. 

One Yellow Rabbit hosted the show’s run in Calgary in 2017 as part of the High Performance Rodeo, but it’s going to be new to audiences here, even if you’ve seen it before, since Rodgers and the two performers, Makambe K. Simamba and Valerie Planche, have re-written and re-cast the performance with an all-female team. 

“Gender is a construct, but we all know what society tells us about gender is that men and women fight differently — so what is at the core of our fighting?” Rodgers says. “How do you achieve similar effects when you flip the gender? Does gender matter at the core of the play? Can we get people talking the same way they were able to get conversation started with their work?”

The production premiered at Toronto’s SummerWorks Performance Festival in August, and Rodgers says the audience was keen to jump up and ask questions — or protest if they didn’t agree with the way the conversation was going. The play is scripted but the performers do ask for talking points from the audience, so don’t hesitate to bring your own ideas. 

“It’s a play that’s going to encourage you to have a conversation,” Rodgers says. “Bring a friend who you like having long, passionate talks over a drink with, or a friend you wish you could have a long, passionate talk over a drink with, because there will be plenty of fodder for conversation and thinking about your worldview afterwards.”

Theatre Calgary play tells a universal tale

By SILVIA PIKAL 

Film and television star Michelle Thrush is directing Honour Beat. Photo courtesy Theatre Calgary.

A play in which two grown sisters face off over their mother’s deathbed. A set design that almost becomes its own character. A story that takes place in a palliative hospital room and inspires deep emotion, yet also makes you laugh. That’s what you should expect from Honour Beat, according to film and television star Michelle Thrush, who is directing the play, and Stafford Arima, artistic director of Theatre Calgary. Thrush says the play is ultimately a human story.

“It’s a story anyone can relate to,” Thrush says. “It’s about family, love, death and betrayal.” She describes the relationship between the sisters as genuine, raw and beautiful.

“I’m an only child so I’m so intrigued by sibling relationships,” Thrush says. “I watch my daughters who are teenagers, and it blows my mind when I watch them argue. I didn’t grow up with that so I always wonder, do I get in there? Or do I let them figure it out because it’s building people skills?”

When Arima went to a reading of Honour Beat last year, while it was part of a new play development program at Theatre Calgary, he instantly fell in love with the story. He lost his own mother 10 years ago, and the play’s exploration of family relationships deeply impacted him.

“I think this story connected with me on a very personal level because on some level it’s a story about family, it’s a story about forgiveness, it’s a story about awakenings and transformations,” Arima says. “I connected with it on that level, and what I found so interesting about the piece was that it also made me laugh.”

He describes it as a family drama that lets you laugh and cry at the same time, and since it explores family relationships and goes to the core of human behaviour, it will also make you think and feel.

Both Arima and Thrush are excited by the voice of Canadian playwright Tara Beagan, who wrote a universal story focusing on the significance of family, with an Indigenous family at its core.

Thrush says the production features a full Indigenous cast, and many on the creative team are Indigenous, which she hopes will further open the doors in the Calgary theatre community for Indigenous artists to tell their own stories.

She says the momentum started with Making Treaty 7, a Calgary theatre production that explores the historical signing of Treaty 7 through the Indigenous perspective. This year her one–woman show, Inner Elder, returns to the stage and takes audiences on a comedic journey through her life as she transforms from young to old using Indigenous clowning.

“I’ve been working in the industry for 30 years now,” Thrush says. “The progression that’s taken place as Indigenous people step forward in the arts community is an absolute revolution.”

Her ultimate hope is that Calgarians will connect with Honour Beat’s universality.

“I think it’s so important right now that for the place we’re in as Indigenous artists that we’re seen as human beings,” Thrush says. “If we have people coming in through the audience watching the show and they can relate to it as a human story, then I’ve done my job. I hope they walk away with an understanding that there’s not as many barriers between us as human beings as sometimes is portrayed — that we all grieve, we all love, we all share kindness and jokes.”

Beware the Jabberwock! All about the latest Old Trout Puppet Workshop show

By SILVIA PIKAL

Calgary’s own Old Trout Puppet Workshop has a new show in town. Jabberwocky follows a young male hare on a quest to slay the Jabberwock—and the emotional struggles that come with such a perilous destiny.

The show comes on the heels of Twelfth Night, an Old Trout partnership with Theatre Calgary, which brings a fresh take on the classic Shakespeare play through jaw-dropping and imaginative props, sets and costuming.

What is Jabberwocky? 

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15 things to do in Calgary in February

By SILVIA PIKAL and MICHAELA RITCHIE

Photo by Andrée Lanthier/Courtesy Theatre Calgary.

Twelfth Night at Max Bell Theatre 

Calgary’s own Old Trout Puppet Workshop offers a fresh take on Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy Twelfth Night through this innovative production filled with inventive props and costuming. Follow along the journey of the shipwreck that separates and strands twins Viola and Sebastian in the mysterious land of Illyria. Playing at the Max Bell Theatre from January 30 to February 24. (more…)

Q+A: Backstage at the High Performance Rodeo with Kelly Reay

Kelly Reay is currently the festival producer for One Yellow Rabbit, but a decades-long career has seen him travel across many of Calgary’s renowned stages. (Photo courtesy of the High Performance Rodeo.)

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Like so many performing artists before him, Kelly Reay, festival producer for One Yellow Rabbit, was obsessed with storytelling from a young age. He dreamt of following his passion right to Hollywood’s doorstep, and first began working in Calgary’s theatre scene in hopes that the experience would make a perfect stepping stone to the silver screen. But an unexpected lesson learned early on later made it impossible for him to leave the stage behind.

“There is a richness and a uniqueness in this medium that you can’t achieve in any other, in film or TV,” he says. “Theatre is very much a communal experience—you’re there with this group of strangers, collecting shared experiences, and that rawness is ultimately one of the big things that drew me to theatre and made me stay. That idea of how visceral seeing a live performance is, and sharing that specific performance, on that night, with whosoever is in the audience.” (more…)

High Performance Rodeo: 6 Shows You Have to See

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Onegin will play at the Max Bell Theatre in Calgary from Jan 5-7 and 9-13. (Photo by David Cooper.)

Looking to get out and experience the best of what Calgary’s other rodeo has to offer? Check out these high-impact performances at the High Performance Rodeo, which stampedes into town January 3-28. (more…)

Q+A: Calgary actress Erin Carter talks silver screen success

By BRIAN FRENCH

When kids dream of being a movie star, they usually have no idea how much hard work and sacrifice it will take to realize their dream. Like becoming a fireman or an astronaut, such dreams usually fade with adolescence, giving way to more conventional career goals. For Calgary’s Erin Carter, the ambition never faded, the hard work and sacrifice endured, and the dream was realized.

After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, and studying at the Canadian Film Centre’s prestigious Actors Conservatory, Erin has begun making quite a name for herself in the film industry as an actor, as a writer, and as a producer. Erin was in Calgary recently promoting her newest feature film, Suck It Up—set in Calgary and Invermere—which premiered at the closing gala of the 2017 Calgary International Film Festival. We had a chance to catch up with Erin and ask a few questions. (more…)

6 things to do in Calgary this week: Dec 18 – 24

By SILVIA PIKAL

Photo by Silvia Pikal.

A LIFE-SIZE GINGERBREAD HOUSE 

If you’ve been hoping to see what a giant gingerbread house looks like, you’re in luck. The Fairmont Palliser is displaying a life-size one in its main lobby. You can even step inside the house with a cash or non-perishable food donation, benefiting the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and Calgary Food Bank. The giant donation box was so full of non-perishable goods last weekend, it had to be emptied! Help Fairmont Palliser fill it up again until January 2.

Main Lobby, Fairmont Palliser, 133 – 9 Ave SW, Fairmont.com/Palliser-Calgary (more…)

25 Things To Do in Calgary in December

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

A Tribe Called Red will bring their revolutionary sound to The Palace Theatre Dec. 1. (Photo by Matt Barnes.)

For some of you, Christmas has been top of mind for the past several months—but now that we’re just weeks away, the rest of us can no longer deny: ’tis the season! To help get you and yours’ in a festive mood, here are 25 of our favourite local celebrations and holiday traditions that you can take part in to count down the days until Christmas!

(If Christmas just isn’t your cup of holiday cheer, never fear! We threw in a couple of chilly activities, sans festivities, down below for getting out around town and making the most of our city at this jolly time of year—so keep scrolling, and get ready to bundle up!) (more…)

Q+A: Welcome to Calgary, Stafford Arima

By MICHAELA RITCHIE

Acclaimed Broadway director Stafford Arima became Theatre Calgary’s new artistic director on April 3, 2017. (Photo by Abigail Alcala.)

In April 2017, Theatre Calgary welcomed a new artistic director into their ranks—acclaimed Broadway director Stafford Arima. Originally from Toronto, Arima flourished as a director both in New York and abroad for the past two decades, with credits like Allegiance, Ragtime, Altar Boyz and Carrie under his belt. Arima has returned home to Canada just in time to oversee Theatre Calgary’s 50th season.

Although he’s still pretty new to Calgary, Arima is no stranger to city living. Six months into his new role, we caught up with Arima to see how he’s settling in here, why he left New York for Calgary and where to go for the best Alberta beef in town. (more…)

20 Things To Do in Calgary in November

By MICHAELA RITCHIE and SILVIA PIKAL

Corb Lund comes to Calgary on Nov. 2. (Photo courtesy of Corb Lund.)

Just because the weather is quickly taking a turn for the worst here in Calgary, doesn’t mean you and yours have to be stuck inside this month! Here’s our recommendations for getting out around town and making the most of what Calgary has to offer in November: (more…)

Review: Dangerous Corner at Vertigo Mystery Theatre

Image courtesy of VertigoTheatre.com

Last night’s performance of J.B. Priestley’s “Dangerous Corner” kicked off the 35th season of Vertigo Mystery Theatre. The audience plays detective as characters reveal key points about themselves, slowly unfolding the tale of what really happened a year ago when their friend Martin allegedly committed suicide.

Each of the characters delivered a few good one-liners to give the audience a moment to breathe (and laugh!) before diving back into the sustained tension of the plot. The intimate space combined with the sense that everyone there was in on the joke, made it feel more like watching a performance in the living room of a good friend.

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