Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Walls of our choosing, or built by someone else?

Say what you will, but I went to Stratford without my family knowing on Friday. It wasn't really that I meant it as a secret. The eldest were at a dance in Brampton and the younglings were being taken care of at home. I was in London (Ontario) for a 4 day birth and breastfeeding conference (another tale for a different blog) and had a great night to myself.

As per usual, and I know most moms would agree, all hell broke loose at home the first night of the conference. Why do families do that to those who are out of the home? I'm sure it isn't on purpose, but what is a mom to do 100 kms away, run home to fix it?!

Theatre therapy couldn't have come at a better moment for me.

The show of choice was Wanderlust. http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16136&prodid=41239 I loved it, thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm sure if it didn't kick me so hard in the gut, I would be singing its praise even louder. There are only 2 shows left. I'm kind of glad I only saw it once.

Leaving my personal reasoning behind, this show is exceptionally well done - from the men AND women singing, to the gorgeous costumes, lighting design (I love the flying bird and the snow), and choreography - it was damn near perfect. Hmmm I'm not quite sure what would have made it perfect. More Lucy Peacock perhaps?  I don't know...

It probably was perfect...

To get it out now - at one point, there were 7 men singing on stage. Happy Snoopy Dance...

Then, there was Robin Hutton (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16287&prodid=41239&id2=6367) and Lucy Peacock . They have distinctly different voices. Robin, and perhaps it was just because of her character, sings like an angel. Lucy Peacock sings like she should be singing the really good old jazz - singing from her soul. I think she stole the show. She was sexy, provocative, made a great drunk, and SINGS! I know I've posted this link before, but here is a quick mix of the songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbnmMB_LUwc  These 2 incredibly talented women are why I don't want a woman to sing to me on my birthday next year. I'm far too jealous.

Tom Rooney made me swoon...maybe I'll nickname him Swooney Rooney? [bad joke, sorry]

Now, the part of the story I want to talk about, the one that kicked me in the gut, was a scene between Lou and Robert. Their discussion was whether living in a 'cage' is palatable since if it was chosen by the person, compared to having someone else build one for you. Lou was deciding on whom to marry, fully understanding the consequences of it.

This made me reflect on an article written by Kevin Yee (Linus in Charlie Brown, and in the male chorus, I guess you could say, in Wanderlust).

Before I go further, read this article Kevin wrote: Boy, band, bust. My heart broke/breaks when I read this article, mostly this part:

But music was not the main concern for the group’s management; marketability was, and I was their main target. One day our manager walked me into the offices of our record label for a closed-door meeting with the head executives. I was told that if I wanted to be a star I would have to do a few things. Translation: change everything.

“You’re coming off gay. It’s okay if you are, but we’re selling this band to teenaged girls. They’re the ones spending money. The success of this group is contingent on these girls having a crush on you, so you have to act like you like them.” What does it mean to act more straight? “Well, let’s start with the way you walk. You walk very gay, and we need to fix that.” So the lessons began. We would walk up and down the aisles of a grocery store practising my “straight walk.” Said “straight walk” is best described as a slow lurching limp, a far cry from my superb balletic posture.

“We need to make you look . . . well . . . not so . . .  you.” With that I was sent off to get my hair spiked and bleached white. A few piercings and a fake tan and I no longer looked like me; I looked like a rebellious sea monkey.

Kevin was 15 when this happened. FIFTEEN! What a horrendous thing to say to a child, to a teenager who just by being a teen boy means feeling ill-equipped to fit into an ever changing body and mentality. Add to that, being a 15 year old gay teenager, who had to look like a 'rebellious sea monkey" to be in the band.

How does one begin to wrap their head around that?

What I was thinking was whether it was Kevin's choice to be okay to 'straight walk' in order to be in the band (his walls), or it was it the record company's force which built the walls? I know I'm harping on his age (I have a 15 year old son), but can a 15 year old boy really understand the consequences? Either way, it must have been horrible to act as someone/something you are not.

It was deplorable of the record company to demand such a life change of Kevin.

As a straight female I can say Kevin Yee was a sexy beast on stage in Wanderlust. Learning to "act straight" paid off for him here, but at what consequence to those years between 15 and 18?

The day he came out must have been the most liberating moments of his life. He said:

When the band ended three years later, the first thing I did was come out of the closet. I was sick of pretending to be someone else and wanted to be happy. I gave up on the music industry. If they couldn’t appreciate who I was, then I wasn’t interested.

As for me, I have walls, a full cage, built up around me - but not of my own choosing, at first. It wiggled, and slithered around me over the past 15 or so years until it started to choke the life, my inner-voice, the essence of 'me', out of me. There have been parts of me locked away. I know that I have agreed to a wall or two in order to keep the peace, but others were slowly built around me like slow-drying cement (if there is such a thing).

I've worked hard over the past couple of years to be heard. The cage, once sound proof and double locked, now has dozens of holes which were kicked, punched, and head-butted out by me. Plus, I found the keys. These breathing holes mean the world to me.

What made these holes? Stratford, my kids' theatre productions, Art of Time Ensemble, art galleries, the Barenaked Ladies cruise, old time jazz, counselling, prayer...

It took Wanderlust to smack me in the head and yell, "WAKE UP, STUPID!"

Although I'm not dealing with homosexuality, I'm dealing with the constraints of a life where patience and hope have been demanded and expected of me. I have done things, agreed to some things, not to others, which some people have told me to do to keep status quo to allow others time to heal. I'm at the point in my life where I know this must stop. I want to be happy with my choices, like Kevin was/is with his.

And if I will still have walls, they will be built by me.  Good luck to whoever tries to break them down.

I've been thinking about this seriously for the past 2 or 3 months, a much shorter time than others may think.

Hearing Lou and Robert speak of her decision, about agreeing and therefore being in control of her own borders, or about relinquishing and giving the control to others - even though the physical outcome may be the same was hard for me to swallow. What she says is so true. The decision to speak up for your own heart  comes at a cost...but what a pay-off!

Going against your intuition is self-defeating.

Time to burst out of my cage.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Happiness is....

I've been ruminating about this post for a while. Not that today was fully planned, but because of what this time of year represents. Maybe I'll go back in time, and glaze over what has happened in the 12 months (longer than that, but 12 will do). I think with this backstory, you will be able to understand what today meant to my Braeden.  I am not looking for sympathy. I'm not asking for pity. It's part of the fabric of our lives. Probably a seminal event in our lives. I've re-written the beginning of this blog more than any other.

To start:

Happy birthday, Braeden!  He turns 15 today, September 15.

I don't remember last year's birthday too well. We were still working out back to school routines. The younglings and I went for walks along the river/creek in Waterford. I took LOTS of pictures.

It's not one of my best, but it is a beautiful pond in Waterford. We love that place.

The younglings had just finished "Star Wars." Luke was Luke Skywalker and Cordelia was R2-D2. Around this time last year, the ever wonderful Artistic Director of Town Hall Kids Claire Senko wrote to ask if they would like to come back and to a couple of shows for the local schools. They were quite excited to relive the experience.

There was a member of Jeff's family who was on the waiting list for hospice care. Out of respect for his family, I won't delve into details. It was a painful time for everyone.

There were also mental health issues, but again, I won't go into details. To say we were living off adrenaline and prayers would be accurate.

On a gorgeous September 28th morning, with fall starting to show and fragrant the air, my status that morning was a line from Bon Jovi's Lost Highway CD; a song called `Whole Lot of Leaving,` ... It`s pretty cool for late September. The autumn wind is creeping in. The summer sun packed up, it`s long gone. There`s a whole lot of leaving going on.`

On September 28, our lives changed due to a house fire. We lost 99% of what we owned - clothes, furniture, appliances, toys, books, you name it. Luckily, our neighbour across the street was a retired firefighter. He broke in and saved our bunny and dog.  That night, Stratfest posted a pic of a rainbow for us on their twitter account (I was supposed to see Twelfth Night 2 days from then, and let them know I had to give my tickets away).

I know we gained more from the fire than we lost. I cried more from the compassion people showed us than anything. What we lost, mostly, are just physical, tangible objects which would trigger memories. Those memories are always with us...we just need to dig deeper to find them now. Everyone was able to save at least 1 important item, maybe 2, from the house (me: Christopher Plummer book inscribed to Cordelia, but mouldy and smoky, plus a treasure box from out west).

What Cordelia worried about, after her bunny, was her shoes. I said we would buy more. She said, "NO! Not my R2-D2 shoes!" My little girl who lost all her stuffies (and have been replaced and them some by the kindness of friends, neighbours, co-workers, strangers) was worried that the show, her part of the show, wouldn't go on because her R2D2 shoes were gone. She told Firefighter Scott about her feelings. Firefighter Scott had a hard time keeping himself together, probably as much as we all did.

You see, Firefighter Scott has been in the kids' school as long as they have been there for fire safety week. Firefighter Scott is also Claire Senko's husband. He really knew our younglings. [He gave Cordelia a big stuffy bear, with whom Cordelia is still sleeping every night.]

I don't want to dwell here - just know that we were taken care of by angels - physical, actual angels, whether we felt worthy or not. I don't know who all were praying for us to be 'ok' and be taken care of, but thank you. Your prayers were answered.  We were blessed 10-fold compared to what we lost. I am ever grateful, and will never be able to repay the donations, the hugs, the smiles, the...the love and compassion was beyond anything I have ever experienced. To this day, I cry more over this than anything else.

A certain passage kept coming into my head in the days after. I learned it in grade 9 english. It's from A Merchant of Venice: "The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest. It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes."

Takes. I hadn't had much experience in the 'taking' side of the equation before. My mom, then my dad, gave hours and hours, years really, of volunteer service. I try my best to follow in their footsteps.

You don't know how deep a thank you goes until you see, and take, love in various forms after an incident like this. I understood what saying, "thank you from the bottom of my heart" meant - because I was truly "at" the bottom of my heart. They were the ones who filled my heart back up. And, I thank you. Nya:weh. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the donations (including money, the house to sleep in/eat in/find comfort and love in, food to eat, clothes to wear, favourite stuffies as gifts, furniture, appliances...) thank you for filling my heart, and eventually my home, up again.

You're a good man...and woman...(there's a reason I use this line, so forgive me for not using plurals)

It's funny how after the worst day of your life, an "ok" day seems like heaven, an "ok" mood is fantastic! Never take an ok or an off day for granted.  Be happy and excited for life, because it could be ever so much worse.

Focusing on the Star Wars play was what the kids needed. Theatre really is family. We found shoes acceptable for Cordelia to wear, and a new Jedi costume for Luke. Walmart had given the kids new toys - the boys received light-up polycarbonate lightsabers - which looked AWESOME on stage for the play. And they work great as nightlights, too.

Then, there was Stratford. After hearing about the fire, they offered tickets for a show to us. We chose Camelot. It was perfect - it helped us escape our (if possible) worst week, the first week of October.

If you have read my blog before, you'll know that I find solace in theatre. That night, my kids all learned the same lesson. Camelot brought us out of our suffering, and our "oh, YOU'RE the family who had the fire". We went to Stratford and no one knew us. We could just be us again. I don't remember any fighting. [It was a first date for Dakota and Amanda, seeing as we found ourselves with a spare ticket.]

I cried so much during that show. I needed to get out the emotions, yes. But it wasn't that at all.  It was seeing my children's faces light up, their eyes actually light up with happiness again. The magic of theatre and Camelot changed them before my own eyes. I didn't think I'd see them like that again for a long, long time.

Lisa arranged for us to meet a cast member at the stage door. We were quite excited! Not only did we meet Sir Lancelot (the wonderful human being named Jonathan Winsby) but we were given a backstage tour of the Festival Theatre, too. I nearly passed out - I never dreamed of ever getting backstage there in my life. Dakota will never be able to surpass this first date. Ever.

That night was a turning point for us. I think we all purged our negativity because of our friend, our new friend, and the magic of theatre. It bonded us, gave us hope, and made us feel loved.

A few weeks later, a dear friend, who was like a sister to me (and that's saying something because I don't have a sister), died suddenly from sepsis. Three hours later, Jeff's dad finally was able to enter the next life, pain-free at last. Our new place flooded. Twice. And, we had to buy a new car. Last autumn was tough.

But, the kids and I had Camelot to escape to. It was our happy place. We could dig in our brains, and hearts, and remember a time when we felt no pain, even if for a few hours. I changed my twitter avatar pic to the lights along the sidewalk of the Festival Theatre.  It still is.

And people ask me why I go to Stratford....

Sitting here typing, I see Luke, Luke in Star Wars play and I hear Princess Leia say, "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi. You're our only hope." Sir Alec Guinness as Obi Wan...Alec Guinness at Richard III - opening season of Stratford...back to 2012.

That's what he wore in Richard III.

Life is one big circle, isn't it?

The night I started this blog was September 15, 2012. Braeden's 15th birthday. We hadn't ordered a cake, so I made my secret recipe, from scratch, vanilla chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast.

After his pan-birthday cake, we left for Stratford. It's funny - Braeden turned 15, on the 15th, and tickets for Charlie Brown were $15. The stars lined up for us today, I guess.

When Dakota and I were at Hirsch, Ken James Stewart sat in the row in front of us. He plays Charlie Brown (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232&id2=16449). I, of course being the ...ummmm outgoing (some may say annoying) person that I am, talked with him about how much we loved the show and Stratford. I mentioned that Braeden picked Charlie Brown as a birthday gift, and asked if we could see him at the stage door after. He was kind enough to say yes. I also wrote the most excellent Kevin Yee, who plays Linus (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232&id2=16462) to ask if he wouldn't mind meeting us, too. He said yes.

Before the show, we went to the Stratford Exhibition. I've mentioned before how much I love this place, right? Being a history major and lover of all things Stratfest, this place is heaven for me. All I need is a baby to deliver or a mom to help breastfeed, and it would be perfect. [There was birth and breastfeeding in Grapes of Wrath....]

We had a fantastic new tour guide, Marlene. She told us the Stratfest story in a whole new light. I learned so much! She was great with the kids, and the adults...just a wealth of knowledge. We all loved it.

That's the birthday boy, ready to audition for Elder Price in the Book of Mormon. Look at those eyes! They are just popping-out blue! This is the son who loves swords. And writes in Elvish. He's very cool like that.

We meandered through the Exhibits, learning and relearning stories of the past and future. I hope the future of theatre does not include the doing-away of the maquettes. That would be a crime.

Dakota, who has taken drama and been in a few productions in his high school, finally decided what he wants to learn about - the tech side, lighting especially. I guess it's time for me to meet some of them now and get Dakota informed.

We had incredible talks with Dr. Francesca Marini, the Archives Director. I love her! And there was an incredible man we spoke to, but I failed to get his name. Someone please let me know? He was in the band "X" in the 80's. He was quite amazing. Plus, he knows someone from Lord of the Rings... I thought that would make Braeden's day, but no. I even had a surprise...

We ran into dear, wonderful Bruce at the Avon Theatre Store. He makes the store such a happy place. We didn't get a chance to speak long, but it was nice while it lasted.

Cordelia finally was given a Shakespeare finger puppet. So, while waiting for the doors to open, she put on a show for the birthday boy:

I also love these pictures of Dakota and Luke:

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was even better this time around. I don't know how actors do it, keep improving a show. That's why they are the actors and I am in the seats, I suppose. But I like it! That's my new philosophy. [< a song from the show]

I wish Stratford would let me take pictures of the kids during a show. I'll be good, I promise! [I know it won't happen lol] The looks on their faces - that extra brightness in their eyes... It was like Camelot all over again. Maybe we should just nickname Stratford Camelot?

I cried in my usual places (little red headed girl, Happiness is...) plus, opening number. That was new. I can't recall the line right now, though...very near the beginning, said by Charlie Brown.

Snoopy, Stephen Patterson (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232&id2=6378) and "Suppertime" still steals the show. Holy moly! I know a few kids read this, but dang - who knew Snoopy could be sexy? I'm probably old enough to almost be most of the cast's mother (or aunt?), but .... wait for it .... I love a man who can sing! sigh...  Stephen Patterson is a very nice man, too. We have spoken with him before. He and his wife make a beautiful couple (and can she SING, too!)

[By the way, I'm serious - I would love a man to sing to me on my birthday in April. A man, because hearing a woman sing would make me far too jealous of her talent.  Last year, I had to settle for youtubing my favourite male singers, including Stratford people. Singing over the phone is quite acceptable. Or facetiming. Song is your choice :-)]

After the show, we made our way to the stage door:

Aren't they beautiful? I'm kind of biased...

It was pure joy to finally meet Kevin Yee. He is someone to follow on twitter, or facebook, or youtube. He puts a smile on my face. He was so sweet to the padawans and younglings and me.  He didn't call me annoying. Yay!  Or is he that good of an actor? Uh oh...

When Ken James Stewart came out, Braeden was in for a big surprise: The cast signed a programme for him!  LOOK!!!

I had mentioned to both Kevin and Ken that Braeden was the boy in the kids REact video who says "fantazmazing". Have you seen it? Kids REact Video Braeden loves suits. He wears them every Friday to school. His principal had to borrow his tie for the yearbook photo.

Honestly, Braeden's eyes were as if he touched a LoTR sword. He is still ecstatic. Nya:weh to Ken for thinking of doing this and following it through with the rest of the cast. I owe ya!

The other man in the picture is Andrew Broderick, who plays an excellent Schroeder (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232&id2=16408). Braeden is so happy. What a gorgeous bunch of boys!
I do believe Braeden was hugged by a woman, too, if I remember correctly. The incredibly talented Erica Peck, who plays Lucy (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232). When she spoke to him, she said, "Oh, you're the birthday boy!"  Even if she didn't hug him, a 15 year old boy having a woman know his birthday is pretty awesome.
Sally also said happy birthday. I heard this woman sing in Pirates and was completely floored by her voice: Amy Wallis (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16333&prodid=41232&id2=16452). Wow, can she sing as Mabel in Pirates.
And here's Stephen Patterson:
It was a wonderful 15th birthday for Braeden. He said it was his best ever! We are getting the programme framed as a reminder of the constant love and kindness of Stratford.
Because of the magic of theatre and the good people who share their gifts and hearts with us.
Happiness is feeling loved and of worth, and hearing my kids sing Charlie Brown when going to sleep...and seeing compassion...having an ok day...going to Stratford...
What is happiness to you? 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Day with Dak - Hirsch

I'm going to post fresh tonight. No time to get my words 'just right'. The clock is running - I have no idea where the cord is for this computer.

The best part of my spring/summer/winter the past 2 years has been the benefits of being in the Stratford twitter club. I would not be seeing this many shows without being a part of this awe-inspiring organization. Nya:weh.

Tonight's show, Hirsch (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16142&prodid=41251), was a surprise given to me last week. I regret not seeing it before tonight.

Dakota was the right child of mine to bring with me. He was born an old soul - even to the looking like an old man (skinny and wrinkly). He loathed being a child and doing childish things, except Lego. And Star Wars. But adults still like those, right?

We hit the bookstore across the street from the Studio Theatre. GO! It reminded me of the Hogwarts' library....and just as magical. I could spend hours and hundreds of dollars in that store. Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted a library in my house. It would look just like that!

I took the mandatory Child in Stratford pictures. My boy, 17, is growing up...how can he be in grade 12...

I've talked with the kids a lot of religious tolerance, racism, being accepting of people without regard for creed, nationality or sexual preference. Who would have known all those themes were in Hirsch?

It began with Alon Nashman (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16215&prodid=41251&id2=16427) relating his own 9/11 experience from 11 years ago. It was brilliant parenting. He picked his kids up from school and drove them to a conservation land north of Toronto. He said that he wanted them to have a beautiful memory of that day in their minds. They have kept up that tradition. Inspiring. A wonderful tribute to 9/11 for his children, and for sharing with us.

John Hirsch was the only family survivor of the holocaust. He saw his grandfather get shot. He was an orphan at 13. He ... my thoughts are all over the place...

What rings in my ears are the barely audible yet silent screams Alon lets out. They are stark. They force you to listen, to question what the pain was from...what your, my, silent screams are about...I realised I have my own screams that need to be given a voice.

This was my 2nd one-person play (A Word or Two being first). The acting was equally compelling, but this resonated on a completely different level than Mr. P. A Word or Two brought me family memories. Hirsch brought me to my place in this world of our's. It made me face (not talk with quite yet) my inner tempests.  I will say my heart jumped specifically at one point - he says "Cordelia" on stage. That was a first for me...it thrilled me.

My best friend in middle school, Tara - her family escaped Russia during WWII. I wish I listened to their stories more.

The play was well written, brilliantly acted - and could be studied for its use of lighting as much as for acting or script writing.

Another magificent flag draped the stage.

Hirsch could also be studied as a piece of world history, as well.
How the heck can people deny the Holocaust ever happen. Why do people hate other people. Why would a director be so mean. (my question marks aren`t working and I`ve no time to correct.)

I feel this blog is very clinky tonight. I know it`s because I haven`t processed the play in my head yet.

My raw emotion from Hirsch is sadness. It`s respect. It`s inspiring. It`s heartbroken. It`s gratitude. It`s begging for forgiveness. It`s happiness I could share this with my son.

His generation was raised knowing about 9/11 because of all the anniversary events on tv. But 17 year olds don`t know. Dak doesn`t remember being scared in Toronto, when he was 6, driving past the CN Tower, stopped on the road. The clouds were moving behind the Tower. He and Braeden started to cry because they thought the CN Tower was coming down, too. They have lived in a fear of Bin Laden and jihadists.

My generation was raised in the Cold War. The fact that, instead of music tonight, Dakota and I discussed Marxism and Communism and human failures amuses and surprises me, considering what we were about to experience.  I took a Critical Theory class in my 4th year at Trent taught by my favourite Prof - Professor Kulchisky (eek - been too long, I hope I spelled it right). He was a Marxist. I adored him. As a cocky 21 year old, I wrote a paper, to a Marxist prof, that there were Christian fundamentals in Marxist ideology. I got a good grade, too. Whodda thunk it...

My dad`s generation - they lived through a very mediated television, radio, newspaper version of the world. There was no instant news back then. How long were the atrocities going on in Europe before it really became news in North America...

Hirsch has 2 shows left. Go see it. I hope they release the script. I would hold it dear to my heart. I would read it to my children. Kids4Bard would even devise some way of putting it on..

Hirsch`s life story needs to be taught. Only real stories can get to the heart of the injustices in the world. Hearing about millions of people dying - yes, it makes an impact. But almost participating, as a boy watches his grandfather get shot just for being Jewish...that...that takes your heart out and stomps on it.

Yet, you remember.

As 9/11 should be a holiday, there should be a Holocaust remembrance day that closes banks, and government....we should honour those who have lost their lives just because they were the wrong religion, the wrong gender or sexual orientation, the wrong nation, the wrong colour...

Please, go see this...ask Stratford to make it available. He, and their story, must be heard....and never silenced...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

I enjoy being a girl, part 2

On Tuesday...let me back up...last week, I asked my mom if she wanted to see a play in Stratford while she was visiting the grandchildren (I know my place). She said yes to one play, The Matchmaker, but I couldn't quite talk her into 42nd Street....until roughly an hour after she and my dad arrived.

Maybe I should back up some more for any newbie readers: my mom brought me up in the arts. Not to say that we read Shakespeare to each other, or attended art class together, but she brought me to as many artsy things which she could. There were free concerts galore in Windsor way back when (I haven't lived there in a long time, so correct me if I'm wrong). Big band was my favourite.  That was probably my dad's only 'arts' inspiration to me. He was born in 1930 and loved music of the 30's and 40's.

She also took me to plays. Lots and lots of plays. So many plays, that I do not remember what was my first play. It was never Shakespeare (I didn't see Shakespeare performed until I was in my late 30's, a, ahem, few years ago - Ben Carlson's Hamlet). I know she loved Shakespeare, but I don't remember having any of his works in the house.

Then, there was Windsor Light Opera. I won't go through our full history of that great organization - you will have to peruse my blog to find the story.  [What a great word...peruse....have you ever said that into a fan? Try it!]

My mom did make-up and backstage work for WLO for years. I don't know when she started. It always seemed to be there - it was my mom's night out. And, it became my first volunteer experiences as a child.

Now, back to this week...

When mom and dad arrived, I showed her pictures from Cordelia's & my day in Stratford....then coyly asked her if she wanted to see 42nd Street in 3 hours. Okay, I admit it - that was an underhanded move on my part. I had to see it again...but with my mom along for the ride.

My mom and I - well, I've been a teenager and a know it all at the same time (aren't we all?). Our relationship has had its ups and downs. Down right rocky at times, but we love each other. A lot of who I am today as a person is attributed to my mom and her example.

So, I saw this chance as not only to see S....42nd Street & The Matchmaker again (such a coincidence that they were the same 2 plays my daughter and I saw), and to bring my mom and I closer together - as mom/daughter, using theatre as our jumping off point.  Jumping off...maybe flying up from the hanger point.

We didn't listen to the radio or ipod on the way, as is my usual 'thing' (whichever child I bring to Stratford that day gets full control of the music - but I maintain control of the volume, thank you). We talked. We talked and talked and talked.

It was great, just the 2 of us. We didn't have to watch our words (I remember saying 'damn' in front of her and felt terrible - and that that thought was terribly funny). We didn't have to make eye contact - sounds bad, but it isn't.  We could just say whatever we wanted, no holds barred.

Waiting for the show to start, my mom perused (dang - a great word) the programme for 42nd. She looked at the cast, the crew...looked up bios....does this sound familiar to anyone? I taught Luke, and Braeden, and Dakota, and Cordelia to do the same thing. Here I was, thinking it was my great idea. Nope - it was my mommy's.

Sigh...42nd Street was even more spectacular the 3rd time. I will never tire of it. I wish to see it every performance, but alas, I need to make a living. I discovered that my mom has the same...let's just name it 'passion' for men who can sing, as I do.  Sean Arbuckle and Kyle Blair did not disappoint. I need to see Pirates again...

I will be the first to admit that I have not given the women in this production their due. I have been neglectful. Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Peggy Sawyer - how to describe her? Beautiful (love those dimples). A triple threat, most definitely. I don't understand how someone with her enormous talent was in the chorus for Jesus Christ Superstar and Camelot last year. Honestly - if that is the 'supporting cast'...it's mind-boggling. Jennifer was PERFECT for the role of chorus girl-to-star. Her talent is awe-inspiring. I bow at her feet (actually, I rise to my feet - but that was for the entire cast). (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=6383)

Cynthia Dale was a surprise. Again, my apologies. She's sexy and has a most incredible singing voice. I feel like I was the last one to know. I didn't know until she was announced last season that she had been at Stratford before - many times - 11 (ELEVEN) seasons! (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=16413).

My other favourite was Gabrielle Jones (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=17204). I want to sing like her...so powerful!! I love her - and love and appreciate her more each time I go (oh, may I please see it ONE more time before closing). I can't imagine anyone else playing her role.

See? I love women who can sing, too!

My mom hadn't been to the Stratford Festival since high school (in Waterford - where my oldest is graduating in June - my mom didn`t graduate from there, but that`s another tangent). We didn`t know what year that was...our answer was waiting at the Exhibition.

My mom was amazed at 42nd Street - the talent, the costumes, seats, the music (her feet didn`t stop dancing the whole show), the Festival Theatre...She remembered where she sat when she saw Christopher Plummer in Romeo & Juliet. She told me that the cast had messed up a scene that day, and they came back to the stage after the play was finished and re-did that scene, then took a Q&A from the high schoolers there that day (wow - my mom did a q&a with Stratford before I did, but I don`t think she actually asked a question). hehehe That`s actually funny, if you knew how many q&a`s the kids and I have done this year on Stratford`s facebook.

I realized the 42nd Street head piece Cordelia wore (picture in a previous blog) may have been worn by Miss Peggy Sawyer, herself. Awesome! Thank you Marilou and Cara! If you go onto Stratford's home page, you can see it there.

We ate at York Street Kitchen, again, wanting their delicious food to fill my tummy - and hoping to point out local cast to mom. But, no one came by that day. The food more than made up for it. Their soups are deeeeelicious.

We had a great talk during dinner. It`s always so nice to have someone to speak with after a show. I have been to too many plays where there was no discussion about what we saw. It`s sad - as if you look at a Matisse, shrug, and pass it by without a word. After A Word or Two, I understand how being alone with your thoughts after a play can be satisfying, but when there are 2 people together...it just doesn`t seem right. Granted, there are times and moments when no words can express, or no words have to be said.  But, they are far and few between, for me.

As my mom was paying for dinner (thank you mom), I began a conversation with the lovely retired couple from New York behind us. They were delightful. They had been coming to Stratford for many seasons. They had so much knowledge...they were a joy to speak with.  As I stood up and pushed my seat in, I found this. If it wasn`t an important moment in the play (the play itself, and the ugly cries it gave me during the play), I would have left it for our waitress:

It`s a Canadian dime. I want to get it framed. Is that weird? The gentleman from Verona, I mean NY, told me I had to dance in order to keep it. I indulged a wee bit, but said I was hoping Kyle or Sean would show up and sing to me instead. Again, is that weird?

I took my mom to the Exhibition next. Why is it I hear so little about this wondrous place? It being my 4th time through, and the staff busy with other tours, I gave my mom the tour. [My mom and I used to be museum guides - at the same museum - 8 years apart.] When I did have unanswered questions (my own or my mom's) I asked Laura at the desk (I really hope I have her correct name). She gave me my first 2 tours. There was another woman working that night whose name I did not get (sorry, but I am bad with names). She told the story of the hockey jersey - go to the Exhibition and find out! Great story with William Hutt.

Thanks to this most excellent tourist-trap-for-a-history-major-and-Stratfest-lover, we uncovered when my mom was last in Stratford. It was 1960 - Bruno Gerussi was Romeo. Mr. P was Mercutio (one of the best parts ever written by Shakespeare) and Kate Reid was the Nurse. There was a picture on the wall of Mr. Gerussi, I believe - or was it Mr. P?  I think there are more pictures up of him than anyone else. But, it settled that puzzle piece down for us. 1960. Mom was .... oh nevermind. She'd kill me if I said her age! Come to think of it, I don't think I've given my age...

We strolled through the Theatre Store at the Festival Theatre (because the Avon was closed - who knew it closed on a week night). I wanted to show her the architectural drawings of the Avon, and the pictures of the river which runs underneath it. Something to do next season, I suppose. She must come back and see Romeo & Juliet, at any rate.

I tried to take a picture of her and I together, but was saved by a woman who offered to take it for us.  As we were talking, I mentioned the last time my mom was here - and as strange as it sounds - they, too, were here in 1960, and it sounded like the same performance. AND, they have relatives in Waterford.  Wow. Small world.

We settled in for The Matchmaker, again reading our programmes (and me tweeting about our great day). Three minutes to opening and my heart dropped - so many empty seats, they moved an entire section over. I heard ticket sales were slow, but that was ridiculous.

My mom was a great seamstress. Her favourite (and mine - qu'ell surprise) is the early 1890's - the same as The Matchmaker. My mom, as she told Cara Ricketts later, used to sew these great outfits, and wear them to work, when she worked for the Deputy Prime Minster, Herb Gray. I think I wrote about him in a previous blog...

The Matchmaker was superb. I truly think if one watched it everyday, it would count as crunches caused by all the laughing. Mike Shara and Josh Epstein are so frigging funny! Maybe it's because I have only seen them do Shakespeare (Titus to begin last year, and Cymbeline this year), but they are hysterical. Good looking, too.

I must divert from the 'we' story to an 'I' story. My mom, who says she has bad eyesight, spotted a man the row behind us and down a bit, and asked if he was the 'cowboy' in 42nd Street. It wasn't him...there...he was sitting down the row a few more seats. He is one of the most talented actors Stratford has, an equally nice man, and quite dashing, Steve Ross (http://www.stratfordfestival.ca/OnStage/productions.aspx?id=16148&prodid=41220&id2=907).

Secret may be out (hahahaha) but I don't make it a habit to talk to actors or actresses on my own. I feel out-of-place, and geeky. But, Steve Ross did such a great q&a on facebook, I had to thank him for answering my kids questions. He was great to talk with, and remembered my kids questions (honestly - how many little girl Cordelias are there - or Kids4Bards). I mentioned to him that I brought Dakota (who was 15 at the time) to Grapes of Wrath last year, and that it was his first 'titty' show. If you have read the book, or seen the play, you will know what I'm talking about.  [And it just so happened that Chilina Kennedy (Rose of Sharon, and Mary from JCS) was just a few seats down from us, but I didn't mention THAT to her. I did tell her that after Luke saw JCS, he said he wanted to be an actor, and I thanked her for inspiring him. And, another by-the-way - she's tiny...where did her singing voice come from? wow]

When Steve and I spoke about Grapes of Wrath...he got that look - the same look Cara Ricketts had with with Cordelia. He is so in love with what he does...it was an honour to speak with him, and see that look...I wonder if I look like that when I tell my favourite birth or breastfeeding stories? I wonder...I hope I do. He was the first actor I have spoken with (not just Stratford actors) who knew the play, Boing Boing. He understood what I was talking about when I mentioned they had the same clockwork timing.

Now, I just need to find someone who knows the musical, "Fanny."

I had tweeted Cara earlier in the night to mention my mom wanted to say hi. I had told my mom what Cara had done for Cordelia, so mom wanted to meet her.

While we waited patiently for Ms. Ricketts, I finally, after too long a time, officially met Josh Epstein. He (I really need to buy a thesaurus) was great to speak with, and very handsome. He remembered Cordelia (then me). We talked about the timing in The Matchmaker and asked him if he had seen "Boing Boing" he said he had, then asked me if I had seen it in New York. I'm afraid I giggled outright at the thought of me seeing it in New York. (I now feel quite rude about laughing 'at' him. I'll make it up - what is your favourite chocolate - anyone else know?) But, before I laughed, he asked me a profound question.

I had said that I saw Boing Boing when I was about Cordelia's age (he also knew the play) He then asked me if that was my first play....

I couldn't answer that. I don't know what my first play was that I saw. Theatre was always there. I have no before or after....isn't that wonderful? Thank you, Josh - for helping me to appreciate what my mom has given me...and during a mom/daughter day, too. Nya:weh.

Cara came out and oh, what a meeting that was! Stories came out from all of us - when WLO put on Yoeman of the Guard, my mom did makeup - and gave herself a beard - and ordered pizza with it on (apparently I refused to go into the pizzaria with her when she did so - I have no recollection of that - just the official picture they took that night of her in her Yoeman guard outfit, with beard). Cara is a wonderful woman.

I think Cordelia may love Cara more than I. She had me take this picture, saying she wanted to be Cara:

Cara made it her twitter profile picture, which made Cordelia absolutely speechless (an amazing feat by itself).

The ride home with mom was probably even better than the ride to Stratford. As I type, I wonder why. I think it was theatre magic - the magic of our experience.

You see, theatre, as I have said before, gives us a safe place to be, to feel, to act, to love, to hate...The most important word there is "safe." I asked my mom questions on the way home I have NEVER felt safe to ask. The same thing happened with her. It was as if the theatre gave us a magic safety zone. We told each other things that we probably swore we would never say.  Strange, that...strange that it took a trip to a double bill at Stratford for us to open our hearts to each other like we haven't done...probably ever. It is sad it took so long. It is a great thing to have finally happen.

There were questions which weren't answered. I don't know if we will ever get there again, at least get there anytime soon. Phone calls are too cold, in many ways. You can't just call someone and have a 'safe' zone in which to speak. At least, I can't.

Mother/daughter day in reverse was a huge success. As it brought Cordelia and I closer, it also brought my mom and I closer, in ways I didn't think could ever happen, to be honest. Every performance, every cast member, every crew member, every Stratford-ian, every tourist we spoke with added to that day. Perhaps I was inspired, egged on by a higher force to take mom out that day - for the whole day. Maybe it wasn't my incessant desire for...music...or costumes...or dancing.

If culture is the magic of our experience, play on....