The Kids (and I) are Alright by Jessie Thompson, director of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
This year, thanks to HG, I helped out a bit with the HG kids theater camp, and now am directing ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, a story about a particularly intense and struggling kid who happily does find her place in the world. There is also a fun and feisty group of school kids in this show who play Anne's friends and contemporaries. For me, working with kids is mostly new. It has not been perfect. The classes I led at the kids camp this summer had their successful moments, but not all my lesson plans went over as fantastically as I imagined. Sometimes at rehearsals for ANNE OF GREEN GABLES I think, "Should I know more about working with kids to be doing this?" I didn't raise any kids, nor have I really spent much time with them in general. Do I really know what I am doing?
But when I look around, it seems like we are doing alright. There are smiles and a healthy amount goofing off and giggling. I remind myself that I was, in fact, a kid myself, once upon a time, so I know plenty. This kid has been around the block, and she was also lots of fun. Back in the day I would happily spend all day at the theater rehearsing a show, sniggering with my show-friends, and loving being onstage, and I think these kids are having a good time too. They will wow you with their beautiful voices and the creative approaches they are taking with their roles.
Scene by scene, I encourage them to add more layers to their characters. Last week we went around the circle and talked about each character's personality - we've got a "class clown", a "hopeless romantic" a "bully" a "know-it-all, some "mean girls" a girl with "something to prove", a "gossip" and many other personas. We are playing with the dynamics of how they interact with each other, and coming up with both fun and funny moments, as well as some truly moving ones.
It is very satisfying to see how it is all coming together - and that we are all getting along just fine - despite my lack of kidsperience. I can't say at this point that I've found my calling, but the kids and I are perfectly alright. Don't miss their wonderful performances!
And the adults in this show? Well they are quite spectacular too...including the talented musicians offering pre-show Celtic music!
Seasons of Love by Dawn McLelland
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of “MYSELFING.”
I joined Hamilton-Gibson on their annual pilgrimage to Stratford, Ontario for the world-renowned Stratford Festival. This entire experience did not disappoint. A morning person, I am not, however I always seem to put my positive pants on...waking up at an hour I would rather be sleeping. Bags packed. Passport packed. Coffee in hand. Love in my heart. A five (plus) hour bus ride, to do what?!?? …read a book, take a nap, chat with friends?!
Ok! The excitement upon arrival was thick…what does our hotel look like? Where should we eat? Make a reservation now! New geography to explore! When and where to meet? Make new connections!
The three shows on the menu were enough to feed my soul, however the culinary options did not disappoint…but yes…make a reservation. Two nights, three days, watching three fantastic shows from seats that you want to watch from. Sunshine and rain during a walk along the Avon. Just amazing.
But, perhaps, the best part of this trip is the aftermath. One of the shows we were fortunate enough to watch was RENT. I was aware of RENT, and in fact, it was on my list of “I need to see.” The only song I knew beforehand was “Seasons of Love”…it affected me before, and so it seems, it affects me still.
Seasons of Love.
I am currently facing that deadline of 525,600 minutes, a day my life changed forever. A sad day for me and the ones I love most. Seasons of Love.
Loss has a way of making you feel...well...lost. It can leave you bitter, angry, sad, and just not wanting to care a whole lot about the things you always cared about. So, I am fortunate, in my travels to Stratford, to be reminded of my 525,600 minutes, and just how many seasons of love I may have. I can choose love.
The Stratford Experience by Barbara Biddison
We left on the Benedict's bus Friday morning, heading for two days of theatre in Stratford, Ontario. Even the bus ride is a treat. Got there in time to check in to the hotel and for a few to see an unscheduled 2 o'clock show. All made, or had made before leaving home, reservations for an evening meal that would allow time to get to 8pm RENT in the Festival Theatre. This is a rock musical that first appeared on Broadway 25 years ago in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. I knew that much, but I was not prepared to be hit so hard as it began and throughout the first act. Intermission discussion helped me regain my balance, and I was ready for the second act. I've seen a lot of plays and musicals in my theatre life, many of them works that I had not seen or read before. This was a first for me in terms of wishing I had done more advance exploration. It would still be hard-hitting emotionally, but having heard the music and the lyrics before would have helped me jump right into the struggle and the emotional pain.
Back to the hotel for a quiet room and a night's sleep. And a morning free to walk about town and (one of my favorites) buy boxes of Rheo Thompson chocolates for myself as well as for hard-to-buy-for family members. Then off to the 2PM Shakespeare tragedy KING LEAR. I've seen this one before about an old king and his ill-treatment of his daughters. Of course, nobody ends up happy in this play, but we've satisfied the Shakespeare expectation for this trip to Stratford and we're ready for a bit of food.
Then to the 8PM Avon Theatre and MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT. What a treat! What a wonderful show! Great, full appreciative audience! Second and third row seats! Laughs and entertainment at its best!! Our travelers' handout sheet calls it "a hefty share of irreverence in a hilarious spoof of the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they go in search of the Holy Grail." When we got home our adult sons wanted to hear more and more about this show that we "got to see"!!!!
So, this was HG's 22nd trip to Canada's Stratford Festival. And it was wonderful. Larry Biddison "sorta retired" from the organizing and planning and all that goes into such a trip. And Thomas Putnam could not stand the idea of not going anymore, so he took over all that. And he did a wonderful job, so he's probably got it now. Of course, the Biddisons went on the trip and the only thing Larry wanted back was the microphone on the bus! He cannot get to Stratford without describing where we are as he asks the bus driver to drive around the Festival Theatre campus.
Here's to next year and another rich and rewarding trip!
[Registration for the 2024 trip will be available soon. Let us know if you are interested.]
A Choir, a Tenor, an Upright Bass...and One Thing After Another by Barbara Biddison
A warm sunny early October afternoon. The beautiful St. Paul's Episcopal Church. An Autumn Chorale with Treble Choir and guest tenor soloist. And Director Putnam has already noted in an earlier blog what was planned to be, and all of that happened. Of course, he couldn't describe in advance the audience participation, the "Join us in singing" parts such as "The Moose Song" and "The Fruit Song." I'm going to guess that at least half the audience members were related to, or close friends of, the singers. So, everybody sang. At the end of the concert, we heard songs from next year's HG musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And then we went out again into the warm sunny afternoon with hearts full of music. We're told that there are openings in both choirs now as they learn new music.
What's next? Auditions for Women's Project which will include Holiday letters and three short plays that center on the holidays. (See below for audition times.) And in November a musical Anne of Green Gables (which is now cast and in rehearsal). Jessie Thompson is directing this one. Those who saw and/or were in WOODPECKER LIPS will remember this Jessie Thompson, this Anne director, as the one who envisioned the idea and produced the whole woodpecker series. Then after all of this comes December with its Dickens and its choirs and its Christmas Carol and its MESSIAH Community Sing. But more of all that another time. It's early October now, and it's time to admire the changing leaves and to walk around town without worry about icy patches.
Details for Women's Project auditions: Oct. 14, 1-3pm; Oct. 15, 2-4pm; Oct. 16, 6-8pm. Lots of juicy roles for women, and some for men too (including a guy wanting to play a large dog. who writes a letter). Y'all come!
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