Curiosity is terminal

Monday, 30 April 2018

Closing Night

Yesterday was the 20th and closing performance for our last MainStage play of the season.  We presented The Best Brothers by Daniel McIvor.

I loved this play.  It is about two very different  men, brothers, dealing with the aftermath of the death of their mother in a freak accident.  It doesn't sound like it should be funny, but it is. Life is funny and there are funny moments and things to laugh at, even in death.  One of the brothers, Hamilton, is quite straight-laced; an architect, married, he has very little sense of humour or play and his relationship with his mother is strained. He carries a lot of hurt and frustration and he takes it out on his brother.  Kyle is openly gay, a realtor with an ebullient light-hearted character. His relationship with his mother is easy, accepting and his ability to "let her go," as he advises Hamilton in one scene is not hampered by unexpressed needs or wishes.

In the first act, the men learn separately (but in the same scene) of their mother's death, and then are together to write her obituary (yes, it would be wrong to put your business website in the obituary), plan a visitation (blue fancy sandwiches are not fancy, they are weird), host the visitation (where Kyle and Hamilton's grief are never more starkly contrasted) and then eulogize her at the funeral (where all of Hamilton's regrets and frustrations are finally made known, and publicly).  These scenes are separated by each actor donning Mother's Hat, becoming Mother and illuminating the past. Mother is neither watching nor commenting on the current goings on.

There are two actors in this play, but there are four characters.  Each actor plays a brother, but also the mother. And while the fourth character is central, he does not appear: he is the mother's dog.  The dog is hinted at in the obituary scene and then mentioned and discussed in all other scenes, including Mother's scenes. The dog becomes pivotal at the end of the funeral and is then the subject of the play in Act 2.  Hamilton and Kyle come together again to compose thanks to the people who sent grief (and wishes and prayers), and to read the will. Mother has two more appearances, and Hamilton has a long monologue.  The second act has fewer funny moments than the first, but more growth and catharsis.  We are left feeling hopeful, and maybe, somewhat transformed?

Between the scenes, the lights dim and music plays and the actors themselves move the set around. I think these moments are kind of brilliant; the actors have slight, but telling interactions, and these are the places where their body language says so much.

While I admire all theatre actors to start with, I was astounded by these two men. Hamilton was played by Toronto actor Aidan DeSalaiz and Kyle by Winnipeg actor Ryan James Miller. Watching DeSalaiz work through Hamilton's grief and anger and frustration and hurt, and then to find some release was truly a journey, every single night.  Miller, in the more comic role of Kyle is flamboyantly expressive and  has wonderful timing. He  was hilarious and exasperating, especially when viewed through Hamilton's eyes, but heartbreakingly poignant in gestures, facial expressions and posture.   This was a play, acted by two men from different parts of the country who had not met before the company came together to rehearse. But night after night they were brothers, united in their love for an interesting, adventurous and loving mother, and working through their feelings for her and each other in conversations and monologues. I never once caught a whiff of "acting."  They were saying the things that came to their minds and responding to one another.  That I watched them do it, night after night, and deliver perfect long monologues every performance awed me over and over. I am trying to figure out how to afford to just follow these actors around the country to see everything they do, because I am sure I have only seen the tip of the iceberg that is their immense talent.  

I was their tech, and I am almost old enough to be their mother, and I have to say (though it is not my place) I was proud of them every single performance.  For the first three productions this year, I knit in the booth between cues, but I didn't bother for this one - I wanted to catch every word, every gesture, every time.

The Best Brothers was a co-production with Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops, where it debuted and ran back in September. The production (and the actors, with their wonderful stage manager, Christine) is heading back to Kamloops for 4 performances May 3-5  at the Pavillion Theatre and then on to Vancouver to the Kay Meek Theatre for 14 performances from May 8 to 19.  If you are nearby these venues, go.  And if you get a chance, say hello from karen.  Tell them I miss them.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Caturday Thomas

Thomas joined our family in the spring of 2007.  He was the last of a litter of stray kittens hanging around a house where a bunch of The Offspring's friends lived. The friends all moved out and the mom cat and other kittens had found homes, but Thomas was still at the house when it became empty.  So the kid made me go and get him.  He was adorable and playful and loved us all, especially The Offspring.  He loved the dogs too, and Kodi the shepherd/rottweiler became his adoptive mom.  I don't seem to have a picture of this but it was common to find Thomas sleeping between Kodi's front paws. Bandit, on the other hand was afraid of Thomas and Thomas used to like to sneak up on Bandit and hide around corners and ambush the poor dog. Thomas did like Bandit, despite Bandit's terror, and tried to treat him affectionately sometimes. He would often wind around the dog's front legs and rub under their chests affectionately. Kodi liked this display quite well, but the look of abject fear on poor Bandit's face while Thomas did this was pretty sad.  

Thomas is a pretty easy going cat. He is not overly demanding, except when a door cannot be left open all the time for him.  In his younger days he was more snuggly, but he is mad at us for getting all these other cats and he is less affectionate.  Years ago, if you were sitting at the table reading, and you put your arms out in a circle, he would climb into the circle and lay down and purr.  He hasn't done that for a long time.  

Thomas was bereft when The Offspring moved out the first time, and he has never entirely forgiven her. Shorty after she moved out, my first partner and I broke up and he moved out. He worked away for a few months after that and so the dogs stayed with me and Thomas, but eventually even the dogs moved out. Thomas seemed quite lonesome. In The fall of 2013, we decided to get him a kitten.  I think that kitten (Meili, in fact) would have been fine, except that we made the decision to adopt the kitten's mom, Maggie at the same time. Meili was about 8 weeks old when we brought them home and Thomas was curious, but respectful of her, and they were getting to know one another after a few days of different rooms, when Meili's mom realized there was another cat sniffing her baby. Maggie attacked Thomas and from then on they could not be in the same room.  Thomas found places to hide until spring and in the spring he moved into the greenhouse.  He stayed outside all summer in 2014, coming in only briefly to eat a few times a day.

We found another home for Maggie, but Thomas has never entirely trusted Meili, try though she might to make friends.  

Thomas found the move from the little old house to our new house four blocks away very unhappy. Most advice tells you to keep a cat inside a new home for three weeks. Thomas paced and yowled for a week before we gave in and took him outside. He gave us the slip as soon as it was dark, and we found him at the old house the next day. We brought him home, and this was the routine for three months: Thomas would mope and yowl for days, we would let him out, and he would go to the old house.  The neighbours all knew him and would let us know when he was back.  We took to leaving him there for a few days at a time to see if he would come home on his own. He never did. We would go and get him and he would eat and sleep at the new house and then leave again as soon as he could.  The house sat unsold for a month after we left, and then the new owners let it sit for another month after that, so the greenhouse was still there for shelter and there were raspberry bushes and bishop's weed and other shrubs to hide in. Once the new owners took over, they tore down the greenhouse and ripped up everything green but the two trees and a lilac. Thomas left us the evening that all of that had happened, and was back before it was light out, calling under the bedroom window to be let in. It was the first time he had come home on his own, and the last time he ever left.  

He seldom gets on a lap anymore, but he will snuggle up if we lay down for a nap or go to bed.  He will occasionally go and get Beloved and tell him it is time for a nap. 

Thomas hates winter, has a foul mouth and likes to put his toys in the water dish. I often think he should have his own blog.  

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Tree Time Machine

The buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees here in Atmon, but show they do, which means spring is coming.  There will be days when I am not working 12 hours and all of the daylight, and when they come, I will venture forth with a camera and get some current pictures. 

Fall was quite pretty here, as it mostly is when it is a sunny one.  I have mountain ash trees in my back yard and I am so glad I took this photo on October 30.

I was heading to work and I realized that the yard seemed bathed in golden light. I turned and saw the sun in the leaves of this tree.  It was kind of breathtaking.  

And then, the very next morning, I went out to this:

I don't remember hearing a thump in the night, but surely there must have been one.  

There is still snow around the tree, although the patio is clear now and the swing is accessible. The garden behind the swing has about a foot and a half of snow in it. At it's height, I think we had nearly four feet of snow just lying in the yard.  If it had snowed one more time this winter I don't know where I would have put the snow I shovelled off the driveway, the shovelled pile was about six feet high.  

But the buds are just barely beginning to show on the trees. It will be spring. 

Sunday, 8 April 2018

And So Begins Tech Week

(Which is a terrible excuse for missing Caturday yet again, but there you are.)

Performance number 4 this season is a travelling show.  It comes with a pre-constructed set and dressings and all we have to do is install and focus the lights and set up the stage. It is a pretty simple set. 

The curtains at the back are tied up to wash and paint the stage, and there will be some furniture once all the painting and light focus is done.  

Tech week is hell.  The lights get hung and focussed, which we have to do from scaffold and extension ladder, and then the sound and lights all have to be programmed. Then there are rehearsals in which the lights and sounds have to be synced to the action and dialogue of the play. Then there are rehearsals with full sound and lights and then full sound, lights and costume.  There are two rehearsals a day and all kinds of miscellaneous bits and pieces and details to take care of between rehearsals. Because I am the carpenter and the light and sound tech, I have to be there to run sound and lights with the actors, but have to do the bits and pieces during the actors' breaks. The days are 10 to 12 hours long.   Saturday is day one of tech week for me. We will not go to performance schedule until next Saturday.  

The lights are absolutely my least favourite thing to install.  Big modern theatres have light bars on hydraulics that can be dropped to a height where the lights can be installed from the floor.  Our theatre was carved on the cheap out of an old bakery and its light bars (called LX) are chained to the trusses.  If we are lucky, we get a preliminary light plan before the set is built and the lights can be installed by scaffold. If not, we have to monkey around with ladders on the set and it is precarious and scary. That is our shaky scaffold in the back. It is my least favourite kind of scaffold because it is always shaky, even with all of its proper pieces installed properly.  So I get 15 feet in the air, drop a rope, pull up a light, and then clamp it to an LX.  Then it had to be panned (turned) and tilted to face whatever it is going to illuminate. Then it needs to plugged into one of the many power cables I have brought along via the scaffold from the roof at far stage left.  These cables need to be secured to the LX as we go. We use a ton of electrical tape.  

I love the effect of lights. I love what light does in a show. But man, I hate putting lights up and focussing them. 

This post has been brought to you by anxiety and stress. Thanks for listening.  There will be better days (and posts!) ahead.