Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Word or Two...

Two years after reading, "In Spite of Myself" for the first time, three months after reading it the second time, part way through my 3rd time, and six months after purchasing my ticket, I saw "A Word or Two" at Stratford.

I had a day alone in Stratford (nice change, but left alone with my thoughts, no one to bounce things off of). Thanks to excellent timing by a client (who had the baby a few days early - she was due the day of the play), I was able to take the whole day off. I saw Henry V for the 3rd time at their matinee. I am finally starting to believe that Henry does love Kate. It took me long enough.

I love Tom Rooney and Lucy Peacock. I mean, I truly do love and admire them. I first saw Lucy perform at Art of Time in Toronto (same production that introduced me to Cara Ricketts). She can ACT.  And, even though Andrew Borashko said that night he hired someone who wasn't primarily known for singing, she can SING (

These 2 are in Henry V - Pistol and Nell. They are divine in their roles. Perfect casting by Mr. McAnuff. This show also has a LOT of swords, and a few pretty dresses, and 1 naked lady (I guess that makes up for the Shirtless Wonders in Cymbeline?). Fair enough. The use of flags in this production is awesome. A funny thing happened at the end of this particular show during the curtain call. I won't give away the surprise, but it made for juvenile, inappropriate jokes that I had to share right away (thanks, Lisa).

After the show, I ate at York Street Kitchen (not on York Street). I saw Tom McCamus ride by on his bike, Julius Sermonia walk his bike past, and one of my favourites, John Vickery picking up his order - all in about 5 minutes. But, for the 1st time, no Kevin Yee was seen (I adore Kevin). The conversations at the tables around me were all related to the current plays, or the theatres themselves (everyone loves the Tom Patterson). Stratford is a great town (or city, depending with whom you are speaking).

I'd say it felt like home - but it was visitors to Stratford that made me feel that way: I was asked 3 times that day for directions to places. I guess I'm feeling more comfortable in the town and it shows?

I walked to the Stratford Exhibition. It was my 3rd time there. Traci recognized me from the Martha Henry presentation. Well, let's be honest - she asked me if I was "that girl in the pink dress - Cordelia's" mom. That's ok. She told me Cordelia was very well behaved. I enjoyed hearing that. All the staff at the Exhibition are wonderful - I learn new things from each one. I love the maquettes and hearing the stories about the designers. One day, I want to go and just listen to all the videos they have there. I think I've only seen Frank the Monkey the entire length. Great pictures of William Peterson (aka Grisholm from CSI) when he was in Streetcar Named Desire. Woohoo!

I walked through the Festival store a wee bit and talked to Bruce. Now, Bruce is my favourite Theatre Store employee. One day, when I brought Luke to see Charlie Brown at the Avon, Bruce practically gave Luke a private tour through the store. He was as excited as a kid in a toy store - let me say that I meant to have said BOTH of them were as excited as a kid in a toy store. Excellent service.

A dear friend had given us money in January with which we had to spoil ourselves - bill payments not allowed. Everyone in the family purchased their treats that month, but my treat was a ticket to A Word or Two for this August. I would like to say I was patient, but that would be a lie. Knowing Mr. Plummer's age (3 weeks older than my dad) I was getting nervous that ... well.. that the show might not go on. When I heard about his book signings being cancelled, I became more anxious.

But, alas, my night arrived. I had purchased a box seat (I fell in love with them when I saw Phantom as a girl). My seatmates were fantastic! They were a mom and daughter team. Mom lived in London. The daughter lived in Ajax. The daughter and I both did nothing with our history degrees and both got into the medical field. Me - midwifery and breastfeeding. She - EMS dispatch. She got her love of the theatre from her mom, too. They were perfect for me.

The set on stage was fantastic: simple, elegant, and refined. From our seats, we couldn`t see the birch trees on stage left, but no matter.

Looking back on the show (today is August 30, show was August 22), I wonder if I had built it up to some grandiose heights. I thought I would cry more. I thought he`d cry more.

It`s not that I didn`t cry, but the show (even after me obsessing about it and reading practically every review) was not what I envisioned it to be, thank goodness. It was better.

Maybe it was his candour. Perhaps it was the language. Perhaps it was my seatmates. I don`t know what it was....but I felt, from the beginning, that I was being enveloped in a favourite blanket by a fire and being told stories by ... well, my dad, or a favourite uncle.  Give my uncles some beer and they could go on for hours! I miss those uncles. I miss being surrounded by French and not knowing what they were saying. I just felt loved.

There were direct quotes from his book (I`ve read parts enough to recognize, I guess). He was very easy-going - no conceit seen. He even seemed to not like the clapping which continued when he walked on stage.

When he began, I found myself easily leaning onto the railing of our box to sink into his words and stories. I didn`t feel like I had to act stiff, or stay still, or sit pretty. I leaned on the railing, and just relaxed.  I can honestly say that was the only show in which I felt that particular feeling of relaxation. I loved it.

One of my favourite moments was a French song (if you have been reading me for a while, you would know that my dad is French Canadian). That song, of which I will write phonetically, `fe doe doe` blah blah blah blah doe. Fe doe doe..blah blaheee`. My dad sang me that song. My dad sang that song to my cousin we fostered when I was 8. My dad sang that to all my babies (well, maybe not Luke since we were in BC for most of his infancy). Now, Mr. Plummer was singing it to blanket wrapped around me tighter...but I didn`t cry. Why was that? I saw myself in baby pictures, all the babies he sang that to...and yet I didn't cry. Misty-eyed, maybe...

Isn't it funny that what I got out of the play most was the memory of my dad...

[To skip ahead in this story's vein - I told my dad about the song when they were visiting this week. I said that Mr. P sang the same song - and I sang it to him just as I wrote it up above - and my dad sang it back to me, in perfect French. Yep - same wonderful French song.]

It is sad, I must say, that it took me seeing this play to understand exactly how much of a talented actor he really is. I know - weird.  I feel so full, knowing that I have seen him in person play Cyrano (I love that play - thank you Ms. Coady - my OAC English teacher who also helped me love A Midsummer Night's Dream)  We saw him play many wonderful roles that night. I had never heard him in such a New York or southern accent before. It was thrilling!

Intermission was so funny - about 3 seconds long.

Just like Shakespeare, I learned more about the authors Mr. P wrote about in his book. Mr P's intonation, his accents, his joie de vivre (I had to put some actual French in here), made the language, the words, seem alive - like the Festival Theatre stage Ms. Henry spoke of)! Leacock's writings are still as funny today. Shaw (my first playwright at Stratford which I saw - how ironic) became real.

By my rules, during the school year, we turn off all electronics (tv, video games, ipods, phones - well, I keep mine in case a client texts me) between 6 and 8. This year, if the padawans and younglings (padawans are 17 and almost 15; younglings are 8 & 11) have no homework, we will work on the Kids4Bard, or MORE.  All the children would love Leacock!! Why did it take me so long to discover him?

Like I've said many times in my blogs, that I read Mr. P's book because it has expanded MY mind and my literary purchases. On Monday, I bought a collection of Ibsen plays, Thoreau writings, and The Life of Pi. I guess this shows how far behind and shallow my reading has been - maybe. I still read Shakespeare for fun.

When I walked out of the Avon that night, I couldn't go straight home. The play is short (honestly, my only complaint). I drove to the Festival Theatre, parked and sat by the River.

To say I felt emotionally drained would be inaccurate. To say the play perked me up, again, would be inaccurate. I wasn't 'full' of emotions, either. Full of thoughts, yes. I thought about how far I have come in the last year...the past couple of years. I was in counselling for part of those years. Therapy should be a starting point, not the end result. The end result is .... I'm not sure...feeling safe in yourself, your decisions, your place in life...but there really is no end. Good counselling will keep you progressing throughout  your life. I am of the opinion that everyone should have a mental health check in with a counsellor once a year. Wouldn't that be great?

When the Stratford season began, I fell into it heart first - it is my other form of therapy. I have friends, acquaintances, who do not understand that.

I'll say this: throughout the winter, I listened incessantly to Kevin Spacey's Nancy Hanks Lecture over and over again ( It brings me peace. He describes the power of the arts in ways I felt, but could not explain (especially in regards to the Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln).

In these past few weeks with my trips to Stratford, I haven't needed to listen to him as often. The Stratford Festival plays have helped me purge negativity, increase my patience, enlarge my thoughts, helped me be a more patient mother, a more grateful daughter, a fuller human being. I don't have the eloquence of Kevin Spacey, nor the wordsmithing of Shakespeare...but what I speak and write come from my heart.

My thoughts and language will catch a word or two.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

"I enjoy being a girl"

I didn't have a sister, but I have a daughter. While I love my boys to tears, it is fun having a fellow female in the house. It`s not that she doesn`t love swords, but she`d rather dress up than sword fight - unless she can swordfight IN her pink, girly clothes.

I wasn`t a girly-girl. I am still not one - not the lace and bows-type anyway. I honestly did not wear any pink until I after I had Cordelia (2004). She brought colour to my world in many ways, not just clothing. I hate clothes shopping. She loves it. When we went to Value Village the other day to buy me some new, smaller, dress pants (yay), she was so patient making suggestions, and not taking offence when I didn`t agree with her choices. She`ll be great in retail when she grows up.

But, before I go into this Girl`s Day, let me tell you about Henry V, 2 days prior. It was a long day for the younglings. They had to get up at 5 to go with Jeff to London to drop off the older boys at the Youth Leadership Camp at Western.

We had some extra money that particular day, so we spent some at the Theatre Store, after bills were paid, of course. Other than the `Stratford Behind the Scenes`book, my favourite item was the magnet I am holding. The day Luke was born (July 23, 2001), a meteorite flew overhead in Ontario, and landed in Pennsylvania. I`m not kidding.

We were so lucky to have a quick meet & greet with my favourite Stratfest actress, the incredibly talented, Claire Lautier.  We all enjoyed meeting her, even if for a few moments.  The kids were so tired (Cordelia fell asleep in the 2nd half of Henry V and missed the kissing scene - only girly part of the entire play), so they didn`t talk too much. But now, they feel they have 2 Claires in their lives - Claire Senko (their director and great friend), and Claire Lautier (Stratford Claire). They are both equally wonderful in our books.

Back to Girl`s Day:

Cordelia won tickets to Stratford Festival`s `The Matchmaker.`She had me submit a picture of us at the same age, explaining why we are the perfect match.
 Yep - kind of similar.

We don`t just look alike. She doesn`t have a sister. No chance one is coming her way, either. So, we are both stuck in a testosterone-filled house. Lovely.

Cordelia has taken dance the past couple of years (acro, then ballet) and she was unsure of what to take this coming year. I thought taking her to see 42nd Street on the matinee could lean her to my side (I favoured jazz).

So, with this in mind, I planned a Girl`s Day in Stratford. Just us.

The day started with a trip to the Stratford`s Exhibition (my 2nd time through). The legendary Martha Henry was presenting an hour long discussion about her career, including her history with Stratfest. She had played Cordelia - I was sad I had forgotten that, and didn`t introduce my Cordelia to her.

Ms Henry told us many stories. The one which resonated the most with me happened during her first season (I believe) at Stratford. A fellow actor (who had acted at Stratfest for seasons prior to her arrival and whose name I forget - oops) brought her to the permanent, original Festival stage. She and he sat there in the seats, looking at the stage, then relaxed. After a few moments, she said she could see the stage breathing, ever so slightly - it was as if it had been distrubed by their presence at first, then when it realized all was well, came back to life. I can still see her hands slowly moving up and down of the stage`s breathing motion - probably as much as she still remembers watching it happen. I`ll never forget it.

We were very blessed all day, starting with hearing her speak. Sitting beside us (on original under-the-tent-chairs), a woman had made room for Cordelia and I (Cordelia sat on my lap). No problem - she`s still little. We made small talk with the woman beside us who was so kind. She was FULL of information about the festival. Ms Henry had given this woman a bag of what turned out to be Stratford Festival season programmes from each season Ms. Henry had worked.  (And, we also got an early peak at Mr. Sean Arbuckle, who snuck in last minute to the presentation. Stratford people are awesome - Learn! Learn! Learn!)

Our new friend turned out to be Ann Stuart, current Stage Manager for Cymbeline, but who has worked on over 70 productions. She also works with Ms. Henry at the Birmingham Conservatory.  There was no air, no ego - here, beside us, helping Cordelia feel welcomed and safe, was a piece of Stratfest history itself. I could have talked with her forever, but she told me, and I quote, "I have to get to a little something called Cymbeline."

We walked around the Exhibition after it cleared, sadly for Cordelia, not finding any Cordelia clothes (only Regan's). By the time I found a picture of A Cordelia (Ms. Henry), Cordelia was engrossed in the lighting set. Aren't all kids?

Cordelia did find an interesting piece that I missed - a maquette there also had paper dolls, just like we do at Kids4Bard. Good find!

We had packed a lunch and set off to find a lunch spot, which would have been impossible, had I not had the Aveo that day. It is about half the length of the van. We ate, not on the river (yet) but near the playground. That was a sad temptation for Cordelia, at which I should have denied eating. She was so pretty and pink that day. I wanted her to stay that way for at least one show!

We made our way to the Festival Theatre for a preshow by performers in "Wanderlust." (thinking back now, it may have been prior to The Matchmaker...sorry) Wow - I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love men who can sing. Tom Rooney made me swoon - dang what a voice (ahem, he is Pistol in Henry V, too)! A few lines into his song, Cordelia touched my arm and asked, "momma - do you have goosebumps yet?" I didn't at that point, but didn't take long. Go see this show - I'm trying to find room in my calendar to go. The songs are beautiful, at times funny, but always from the heart. I need to go. Here is a sample:

We found our seats and waited for 42nd Street to start. I'll say here that for the past 2 hours, I had heard how beautiful Cordelia was, how well behaved and how wonderfully dressed she was for the theatre. Yes, we dress to impress (well, she does at any rate).


42nd Street was even better the second time. Say it with me now, "I love men who can sing!" Goosebumps galore. It was not the awesome storyline which made me cry at the end of the first half - it's the pure talent. I cried - like Oprah says, "ugly cry." It was even worse this day because I turned to my daughter to see her eyes - her eyes - they shined, they glowed, they danced along with those on stage...her eyes were like when a mom looks at her baby for the first time (I'm a midwife, I've seen that look; I know that look). Ugly cry commenced...

To sum up second half, Cordelia decided to take tap dance this year (jazz, but louder?). She thought Julian Marsh was quite mean. She loved the costumes, loved everything about the entire production (glitz, shiny, sparkly) swords. Wow, what a difference.

Stratford has a Q & A almost every week with a member of the cast or crew. We made sure we always put in a question or 2. During the q&a with Sean Arbuckle (who played the mean Julian Marsh), the lightbulb moment which became Kids4Bard was born. Nya:weh! Cordelia wanted to show Sean our sets and paper dolls for Dream. (bio for Sean:

He was so sweet and kind to her. He sat down and really looked and asked her questions about them. Cordelia loved talking with him about what we had done as a group. I was very glad she was able to talk with 'him' because she really didn't like Mr. Marsh. Sean was very kind. We also talked about Titus and swords (I can't stay away from them). Quickly, I told him about the birthday present I have planned for Braeden (I will not reveal it here). Sean knows the person with whom it is arranged. Cordelia asked what it was, but I told her she was no good with secrets!

I loved Sean Arbuckle in Titus Andronicus last year. He makes quite a sexy Pirate King this season. Costumes are gorgeous, too (steampunk). Fabulous, fabulous production.

In Sean's left hand are pictures which Cordelia coloured just for him, to thank him for taking the time to talk with us. He said he'd put them on his fridge. She wants to check...[On Cordelia's head is her mask which we bought prior to Henry V a couple days earlier. She didn't take it off. Note her blue bracelets, too. There's a story coming up about them.] I would go into more detail about this particular time but I fear I would come across as too schoolgirlish. It was heavenly. Nya:weh, Sean (and Christi for help setting this up)!

As we were going back to buy some food at the Festival Theatre (I finally had a good parking spot), I saw someone and stopped walking. I found Cordelia's hand and brought her back with me.

"Bruce (Dow)?" "Yes, do I know you?" I said that I was Cordelia's mom, from HIS q&a (earlier than Sean's). He remembered her (everyone remembers at least her name). He was as wonderful as I thought he would be. I said to Lisa M. once that Bruce is one guy I would love just to sit and talk with over coffee (I don't drink coffee but that's besides the point). He told me a few times how 'gorgeous' Cordelia was and how pretty she looked. We talked about the show and he told me how good of a job as a mom I was doing having my children involved in theatre (he even remembered the question from Dakota on his q&a about The Laramie Project).Thank you, Bruce! They were off for a quick dinner and I forgot to take a picture. I hope I get a chance for coffee one day. And get a picture. Bruce, by the way, was Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar last year. My first introduction to him was in The Tempest - he took the time to chat up the audience during a taping - he was hot and we were freezing. Here he is as King Herod on Broadway: Yowza!

We bought a fruit salad and a pop and headed to the river for a picnic. My brilliant daughter even remembered to pack a game for us to play between plays. That's "Guess Who" in front of her.

I took lots of pictures - some pretty good ones, too. But my favourites are Cordelia dancing her heart out. Oh, to be young and not care what people think....

But here's one of my nature-favourites
Keep in mind, it is now almost 8:00. We arrived in Stratford at 10:30. It was a full day, just us two. She was still in a good mood! Impressive feat for an 8 year old girl.

The Matchmaker was so funny! It had clockwork timing. It reminded me of, "Boing Boing" (someone please tell me they have seen that play - and mean it). Cara Ricketts was incredible - her body language difference between Cymbeline's Innogen and this comedic role was amazing. Mike Shara (who I have only seen in Shakespearean plays - Titus and Cymbeline) was hilarious. The whole cast was perfect. It was a blast! The costumes were so pretty (hat shop, ladies). This was my first comedy on stage since Boing Boing, probably (back when I was Cordelia's age). What a wonderful change from tragedies and war. No singing, but it didn't matter. We all laughed until our bellies hurt.  There are lines that ring true, though - so pay attention when you go. Chick Reid - I love her, and Tom McCamus...and Seana McKenna (ashamed to say, my first play with her in it -WAIT - I may have seen her as Lady Macbeth - I feel better now), Geraint Wyn Davies (Claire Lautier's husband)...Take a look at the cast.. wonderful, all of them.

I had asked Ms Cara Ricketts if she wouldn't mind meeting Cordelia by the stage door to look at our sets, too. She was wonderful to Luke and I after Cymbeline, so I was quite happy to talk with her again.

My favourite part of the night (outside that look in Cordelia's eyes) was when we were in between the stage doors. Cordelia was on the floor sorting out the dolls and putting up the bristol board sets, other cast members walking by and commenting. I asked Cordelia if she could remember the 2 lines from A Midsummer Night's Dream, "Set your heart at rest:/The fairy land buys not the child of me." Then as if from a dream, beside me, Cara continued, "His mother was a votaress of my order:/And, in the spiced Indian air, by night..." I know my mouth fell wasn't only that she knew and remembered the lines (she said she played the part a few times), but it was her heart that was in the words as she spoke with Ms. Henry's story and Cordelia's eyes, I will never forget that moment. THAT gave me goosebumps.

Cara was as sweet (or sweeter, if possible) with Cordelia as she was with Luke. She brought Cordelia (and me as her tag-along) backstage. Oh my goodness! We met up with her dresser - and Master Tailor - Marilou who gave us a quick rundown of how the wardrobe department switches the wardrobe of the 4 shows at that Theatre (Matchmaker, Henry V, 42nd Street, and Much Ado). We learned COOL facts (like it takes 16 hours to get the costumes ready for 42nd Street after a performance, there are 20-40 costume items that need to be fixed after each show, and that one of the shirts with chainmail from Henry V weighs 25 pounds). The artistic people behind the scenes are as much stars as those on the stage, in my opinion. The acting is just the final aspect we, as the audience, sees. I'll put up 2 pictures.

This is from 42nd Street. The debate is: Is this taller than her or heavier than her? It is exquisite. Marilou talked about how hard the show is on the costumes because of the vibrations, and it made it tricky to balance these out.

The stars themselves - Marilou, Cara, and Cordelia.  Look at Cordelia's bracelets. Now, look at Cara's. The night before our Girl's Day, we went to the mall. Cordelia wanted to buy something for Cara to thank her for taking her time to talk with her. She asked me to buy 2 - so they would match.

My first annual Girl's Day in Stratford was more than I could have daydreamed. TWO, sorry THREE men who sing and 'do' Shakespeare (and as I was talking to Cara, put 'abs' on my Trifecta list due to the Shirtless Wonders in Cymbeline and Titus.

Cordelia lasted about 7 minutes in the car, then she passed right out.

When I drive home with sleeping children after a day in Stratford, I sing, or daydream, or listen to music. But this night, like I said, there was nothing left to daydream.  We met Sean and Bruce (I love men who can sing). I heard from a few people that it was a "great!" thing I was doing, having the kids involved in theatre & Kids4Bard. My soul was filled beyond capacity watching the utter pure, unrelenting talent I saw on stage - and saw the birth of a dream in my daughter. We got backstage, saw the Festival Theatre stage from the other side (oh, I forgot to talk about Cara's eyes when she pointed it to the stage...her tone even changed. It became more hushed and soft - she truly reveres that stage). Cordelia got to wear a HAT from a real SHOW. In all honesty - there was nothing else that could have made that one day more perfect.

But, my favourite, favourite part - was spending the day with my daughter, enjoying theatre with her - not forcing it on her. It changed her this day. I know it did. I think it changed me, too. It solidified the choices I have made about making the arts a priority for the children. (I'll blog more about that later). I spent the day with my daughter, sharing something that is my 'safe' spot - my theatre therapy. My daughter and I became closer that day because of it.

I wasn't a girly-girl. My Darling Cordelia is bringing it out in me (that being said, I love ball gowns - but where does one have a chance to wear them). What would I be if I didn't give birth to a girl in 2004? Would last Saturday have happened? I doubt it, and my life would be less than what it is today - not just because it was 'Stratford,' but because it was my daughter and me, intertwining our hearts in the love of girlhood (and theatre) in Stratford.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Makers of Miracles

Let's just say, I won't be finishing Mr. P's book prior to Wednesday. I'm about 350 pages away. And I've been distracted. But, let me go back in time a wee bit first...

I think June is a good time to begin.

It was a loverly June morning for Luke and I. With the other kids on the bus, Luke and I started our trip to Stratford. I had taken him to the Island to see The Bench (picture above).  But, Luke found something far more exciting than a bench. 
(6 weeks later, when I took Luke back to see Henry V, he pointed out Tom Patterson Island. That night, we didn't have time to stop. He also pointed out Tom Patterson Theatre.)

The reason for our early trip to Stratford, was because 2 other moms and I were asked to be a part of an interview of sorts about how to have our children be involved, take part, in the theatre, and about the wonders of Stratford itself. I wished I could have lived out this day prior to the interview, because this was quite possibly, the best day I have had to date in Stratford.

For about an hour, Lisa D-C, Mara S, and myself, along with Lisa M from Stratfest (and the attending cameramen) discussed theatre. What a glorious hour it was! I felt uplifted, inspired. What an absolute joy it was to share that time discussing 2 of my favourite parts of my life - my children, and the magic of theatre, Stratford Festival specifically. We laughed until our sides hurt. I wish I could see the blooper real. One part about taking my teenage son to his first "titty show" [Grapes of Wrath - read the book] was my favourite. I wondered why Dakota took to that show so much.

If interested (and you should be, if you have children, or love theatre, and Stratford): The videos are a great watch. Have fun - let me know what you think. I noticed I have trouble speaking in complete sentences.

After the interview, we ate at Boomers Fries who make gourmet fries/poutine. Amazing, and I don't eat fries, usually, but I made an exception to my rule.  It was worth it. SO good.

We saw, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" again, and again, I cried. I think that play speaks to the innocence of childhood - something that was lost long ago. Parts of growing up sucks.

We spent 90 minutes (not even close to enough time) in the Exhibition, learning about Stratfest's history (and me being a history major was enthralled): costumes, sets, a was awesome. I must go back, by myself, and ask the other 80% of the questions that were in my head. We sat on original Stratford Festival seats! 
We drove down to the Festival Theatre and more tree climbing...and ducks. Lots of baby ducks. I discovered Luke has a great eye for photography. There were some photos I still am not sure if he took them, or I did. Either way, they are good!

Luke also had the trees. I dare say, Luke would go to Stratford just to climb the trees along the Avon. I know he would. We walked (and climbed) up and down the river for close to 3 hours. I don't know how many trees that included, but I can say that Luke 1) didn't fall and 2) his clothes came home with no rips, tears, nor grass stains.  He's a pro.

We met a wonderful couple to retired to Stratford 3 years ago. I wish I could remember their names. They had come down to the river to hear the music on the barge. I had not heard of this barge before. They played big band!! It was heavenly. The 3 of us talked about Stratfest, our histories with theatre, big band music (they could cut a rug!), midwifery, and how great it was to bring Luke to the Festival while so young. Another hour discussing theatre...such a great day - but still not the highlight.

The highlight started when Cymbeline began. Luke sat up in his seat. His ears perked up. He was entranced. Did he understand the show? Not entirely.

He invented a genius way to ask me questions without bothering other patrons around us. He rolled up the programme, put one end to my ear, and asked his questions in the other end.  It worked very well.

Cymbeline is magical. It is brilliant. It has the best fight scene I have ever seen. It had shirtless men. Yes, the perfect show.  Luke sat still the entire 3 hour performance. He loved every minute of it. So did I. As much as I loved the show (and I still have to see it again), watching Luke watch his first Shakespeare play and be so enveloped in it...that was my favourite part. The swords helped, too. And the bows and arrows.

I took Luke to the stage door when the show was done. Wow. I didn't expect what happened next.

That is Luke. Holding a severed head and a bloody sword, with Graham Abbey (Posthumous, and one of the Shirtless Wonders). This wonderful man, at the suggestion of a friend of his at the stage door, brough Luke (and I) backstage. I was in awe. Luke? I'm not sure if they have a name for the emotion he had right then. He was shy but so polite, my son. When Graham told him he started at Stratfest when he was Luke's age, I'm pretty sure something clicked in Luke's soul.  He has a dream...

We saw the scenery be taken down, crew in the back grabbing clothes for the laundry, Jupiter's ride (go see the show and you will know what I'm taking about). Luke also became a Roman soldier:

As we walked out the stage door, I saw John Vickery (one of my favourites at Stratfest). He was very kind (he was in Titus last year, along with a local Simcoe boy who played Lucius). We saw and spoke with Ms. Cara Ricketts last. She was so incredible with Luke. We had a great talk about him being in Willy Wonka...and worms. (We won't talk about worms here)

If Tom Paterson was the Maker of Miracles, these fine actors are keeping that dream alive. I thank them for that.

On the list of top days of my life, this day is included. I couldn't have asked for anything more. I don't think I could have felt anything more. My cup was full. Luke's was full. His adrenaline from holding the swords lasted until about 20 minutes into our drive. I think I still feel mine.

Since that time, I started a Kids4Bard group. We are taking a Shakespeare play and breaking it down. We started with A Midsummer Nights Dream. We did costume study. We designed sets. Our group has grown to 10 kids and adults. The kids are having fun. One of the midwives I work with brought 2 of her girls (5 and 20-something, Emily and Amanda). Amanda graduated from Emily Carr out in BC. I was so grateful she came to share her talents with us. Sharon (her mom) has great talent, too. I would not have known if it were not for Kids4Bard.

Braeden had his day in Stratford seeing Henry V. But, that is another story for another blog. As is Henry V that we saw this week. And my new book.

Tomorrow, Cordelia and I are having a Girl Day - no swords shall be mentioned. But, if I do not get to sleep soon, I will be grumpy .... No, not a chance. Tomorrow will be making more dreams come true.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

17 Days until A Word or Two

What I've learned about Mr P on a personal level? He was (is?) shy, yet over confident. Loved his drink. Seems to always have held the Stratford Festival in highest regard, even if he was blacklisted for 3 seasons from it. He doesn't think velvet (or the over-use of velvet) should be used as costumes or for large hats. And, dressing rooms should always be above water level.

He had a respect for early tv; relatively none for it now. Listen to this:

        pp 121 Those were the early warning signs that this explosive new invention was about to get out of hand and go too far, that one day soon it would tell us how to eat [I have to say it - formula and other junk food], how to dress, how to live. Drunk with power it could dictate policy, bring down corporations, swings elections, toppel governments. Newscasters were turned into opinionated superstars. Nothing would be sacred anymore, neither the dignityof high office nore the sanctity of the ruling classes. All would become an open book - what was caviar to the general was not popcorn for the masses. Today we have become quite accustomed to being fed intravenously with thirdrate dogma; like some insidious germ warfare it all seems painstakingly planned, carefully calculated. Oh, sometiems something fine comes along to momentarily redeem it, but not enough.
                     In the early fifties, however, television promised everything. There was nowhere it couldn├Ęt go; its horizons were limitless. It was also wonderfully brave, young, fresh, even innocent.

Profound.  Mr. P is a seer! Or at his age, 20/20 vision is in perfect focus.

Reading this book for the 3rd time, it astounds me what I missed my first rounds. First - the word "lugubrious" is a delicious-sounding word.

Christopher Plummer writes in the Queen's English. Yes, the "u's" make a difference!

There doesn't seem to be many Old Hollywood types with whom he did not act. The names are familiar to me because my dad would tell me about them, too. He'd tell me about the movies he would see when he was young. Seeing as my dad is only 3 weeks younger than Mr. P, it only makes sense. Perhaps that is why I find some refuge reading this book? If you're a new reader, you should also know that my dad is also French Canadian, but raised in a French neighbourhood, outside of Windsor, Ontario. He had school and church in French. I miss hearing him speak the language to his sisters. I miss him trying to help me read it. I was always a good French student because I wanted to make my dad proud. I sorely regret not keeping it. I can read it ok - which is helpful in this book because I can understand the bits of French Mr. P sneaks in.

Some of, well actually, a lot of Mr. P's break out came from him acting for a year down in Bermuda. He met people who would change his life: Edward Everett Horton and Ruth Chatterton. Mr. Horton gave him a job touring after Bermuda finished, and Ms. Chatterton connected him with the who's who in New York and, most importantly, Jane Broder - his first agent.

Mr. Broder bailed him out of trouble more times than I think even he admits in this book. He not only found him jobs. She paid debts, found him a place to stay - was a Mother Hen to him. It didn't seem she ever made a bad choice for him. My favourite quote of her by him is, "If Jane had ever looked Sin straight in the eye, Sin would have just wilted away, riddled with remorse."  The times I have read this book, I always cry when she passes away. His writing makes us love her, too.

He meets lifelong friend, Roddy McDowall, who Mr. P grew up admiring as a child. At the inaugural season of the American Shakespeare Festival with Jerry Stiller, Jack Palance, and Raymond Massey. Jerry Stiller doing Shakespeare. With my generation growing up with him on Seinfeld, who woulda thunk it?

Pages 161 - 169 is the beginning of our mecca of Canadian Theatre - the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The town truly rallied behind the dream of Tom Patterson's, "The little maker of miracles."  We are also introduced to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who left a mark on Stratford (set and costume design). Her stage was set under a circus tent (yes, even built by Skip Manley from Barnum and Bailey Circus) who even kept working to finish the tent when they ran out of money, as did other construction crew members. The Chicago Tribune said, "The Stratford Festival of Canada has been born with a silver spoon in its mouth. The New York Times said, "This is the sort of stage that lovers of Shakespeare have often dreamed about and seldom seen." Not bad for a first season!

For me, Mr. Patterson' vision is what brought me hear, on a magic carpet. If my mom hadn't seen Mr. P in Romeo & Juliet at Stratford while she was in high school, would I be searching out literature for my heart now? Would I be introducing my little ones (8-17) to Shakespeare? Kids4Bard is a success so far. Why? Because most of my children can explain A Midsummer Night's Dream in just a few minutes, longer if you let them use their paper dolls. They can explain Athenian clothes, why Lysander has brighter clothes than Demetrius, why Puck is a silly goofball, and steals the show. Not too bad. Thank you to Lisa and Christi at Stratford for forwarding our questions to Stratford cast members who do Q&A's on facebook. They are helping us immensely!

I decided after we 'finish' a Shakespeare play, we will pull out a book from A Word or Two to read, starting with Steven Leacock. My kids, especially the older ones, will love that!

The question is, I guess, how will this section get me ready for A Word or Two? It is the first time that I heard of Ibsen, Medea. He mentions authors I know (qu'elle suprise - TS Eliot, Tennessee Williams) and many I don't (list too long lol). It goes to prove my original thought for using this book as a text for books to read. My mom filled my heads with Brontes, Montgomery, a respect of Shakespeare  of course, but never read it to/with me.

School gave me Shakespeare, Richler, Rostand, and Atwood. But never an Ibsen, nor the many playwrites still to be named. I feel so out of place, like my life is on another place where, though my imagination is good, my love of language was blocked. Can you love language if you only read Rostand or Shakespeare? Yes, but it's also like loving chocolate after only eating an Aero Bar - when there's double chocolate cheesecake to savour. Mr. Plummer is giving me, and my kids - some other plane of thoughts. I'm so excited for us!

Thanks, Mr. P!