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.

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