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.

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