Saturday, 20 July 2013

My mistress

I realised that Stratford Festival in particular, theatre in general, is my mistress. I'm ok with that.  Stratford makes me think, makes me prioritize, puts my heart on my sleeve to rediscover what has been hidden for so long. Stratford gives me a hug when I need it. It kicks me in the gut when I need it, too. It never disappoints me and fills my heart with hope.

There are far worse things I could be doing far worse things with my life. Plus, I almost always have one of my kids with me. It's not as if I am abandoning them while I am off cavorting. I think I have only been to Stratford twice this summer alone. One was for Romeo and Juliet. The other was Tommy.

Plus, the youngest had their play, The Grunch, until just before school ended. This week, 3/4 kids volunteered for Driftwood Theatre's Bard's Bus Tour. They were ushers, greeters, and helped Steven at the concession stand. Oh, Cordelia loved helping and being around someone who let her be her, and let her help out. She had a blast.

It is a great season so far at Stratford. The boy who played Charlie Bucket last year in their production of Willy Wonka plays one of the 10 year old Tommy's. Luke played his dad last year. I still need to take the kids to see him. I had to see it first. With a molestation scene, and 10 year old Tommy being brought to a prostitute by his dad, I had to make sure they'd be ok with seeing Josh up there. It's pretty benign, those scenes. I still need to bring them. Dakota was on stage with Josh, too, in The Music Man.

Tommy itself is quite the spectacle (don't see it if you have a concussion). The singing is extraordinary. Jeremy Kushnier has a most incredible voice. Well, all of the cast does. Paul Nolan, who played Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, plays Cousin Kevin is fantastic. He is quite versatile. Kira Kuloien as Mrs Walker has the poise of a mother of that time. She's hopeful and gentle with Tommy (Josh). I adore her. And wow - is she beautiful! And, of course, there is Lee Siegel. We love Lee.

Romeo and Juliet has grown on me. Cordelia had tweeted Antoni Cimolino last year requesting Stratford to do it this season. Coincidence? She takes all the credit. We saw the show May 1 in all her glory. Jonathan Goad is perfection as Mercutio. Sara Topham is adorable and heartbreaking as Juliet. Daniel Briere is a wonderful Romeo (and quite the rock star at the stage door - great hair cut). Kate Hennig plays The Nurse in all her daftness incredibly well. Antoine Yared`s Paris is fantastic. I always thought of Paris as a bit of a priss, but he doesn`t play him like that at all. Tyrone Savage plays Tybalt. I don`t think there are many actors at Stratford with his swagger and projection. I love watching him onstage.

I`ve seen this play 2 more times since May. The third time I was struck dumb. I don`t know what changed, but it became magical on that stage. It`s like fairy dust from Queen Mab was sprinkled over it. It has more finesse, but also much more heart. It captivated me like I didn't expect.

The Three Musketeers is good fun. it starts off with the sound of a sword fight. In my family, that demands attention and begs to be seen multiple times. Luke Humphrey knocked my socks off as D'Artangnan. It's a great show for children of all ages, like the circus, except here, it's costumes and swords and love - not clowns (thank goodness). It's great to see Mike Shara on stage again. Cordelia really to a liking to him in The Matchmaker last year.

Going back to my childhood, Blithe Spirit was one of the first plays I saw with my mom. It is the show I was most looking forward to this season. It certainly did not disappoint. Seana McKenna can do no wrong. As Madame Arcati - wow. I will only ever see her in the role from now on. Michelle Giroux (possibly distant relative because my maiden name is Giroux - she's also Graham Abbey's wife) was out of this world (no pun intended). The command she has of her voice, the tones of her voice, lead me along like a puppy after treats. Sara Topham (young Juliet in R&J) transformed herself into an angry and controlling wife by play's end. I want to steal her costumes. Well, the patterns of her costumes. It was also funny seeing Ben Carlson be picked on by 2 very strong female characters. I want to go back.

I want to go back to Blithe, but I need (read NEEEED) to go back to Waiting for Godot. I won tickets and took Luke, who is almost 12. It was his turn to go since his siblings had already been this season. I had trepidation bringing him to a Samuel Beckett play, but I am very glad I did. Godot is a master class in acting. It got my heart racing (Randy Hughson). Made me cry (my favourite from last year as Pistol, the Swooney Tom Rooney). Made me raging mad (Brian Dennehy). Made me wince and feel melancholy (Steven Ouimette).  And my Luke? He got it. He understood the play.

I've been going to theatre my entire life, except for maybe the first 5 or 6 years. This is by far, the best production I have seen. I wish I was a wordsmith. I knew by the cast that it was going to be a remarkable production, but in my imagination (and I have a large and healthy imagination), I could not have envisioned anything close to this. When can I go back?

A note about our trips to stage doors. Actors and actress at Stratford are kind, patient, and very loving to the kids when I bring them to the doors (I never go by myself). I see it that the kids need to understand that they actors aren't their characters (important for Cordelia last year after 42nd Street and Sean Arbuckle). The kids can ask questions, which sounds pretty basic. But, if you are a child, or a shy teenager, speaking to the stars of show takes courage, takes them out of their safety zone. While I may be the one who starts the conversation with the actor/actress, they always turn the conversation to the kids, without fail. I love them for that. Sure, I get my own questions in and make small talk, too, but the focus is on the kids and them. It teaches them that actors or actresses really are just regular people with high profile jobs. They encourage the kids to keep up their acting (Tom Rooney made sure to get Luke talking about doing Shakespeare) and they encourage me to keep bringing the kids.

Theatre teaches so many things about life, important lessons that people would be hard pressed to learn in more singular professions. Teamwork (cast AND crew), trust, learning about others you work with, or on the pages of the plays, being ready and available, reliability, fun...the list goes on. We have never met anyone who has not been patient, even if they were in a rush. The kids learn that they are important to people. That people will listen and take the time to get to know them. And thank them for coming.  The kids will remember that feeling more than anything, I would wager. They have their favourites - all of them.

I'm off to play a board game with the eldest boys and my mom. We are going to play crokinole. That is a blast from the past. I don't think I've played since I was 12. This should be fun. Next post will be about Driftwood Theatre and what we are doing in Kids4Bard this year. We are having a BLAST!

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