Orange you glad you voted?

(I was present at the Calgary epicentre of the NDP on election night: what follows are notes from what it was like to be there, and what it seemed to mean. I’m not going into policies and mandates in this post… this about basking in the afterglow.)

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Being in the Calgary NDP celebration felt historic; I watched people who’ve been fighting the good fight without hope of victory for decades become increasingly convinced that something was going to happen.

Everything was happening in the Arrata Opera Centre, an old converted church downtown. The main hall, usually used for opera rehearsals, had a projection screen showing results, with a gigantic pipe organ behind. Along with the domed ceiling and the old wood, this was a beautiful place to celebrate.

I saw a women wander away from the crowd watching the results, shaking her head with a hand over her mouth, in shock. She couldn’t believe it. She slowly wandered back, with a tiny smile she was slowly peeling open into something bigger.

I saw another woman who couldn’t help but jump up and down… she’d pause, see the results, and go again, like a pogo-stick version of a whirling dervish, overcome and expressing it physically.

It was an amazing night.

(more…)

I’m directing for Sage Theatre!

A Beautiful View, By Daniel MacIvor, NOVEMBER 7-15

This is my first show directing for Sage Theatre’s mainstage! Normally, whenever I’m doing a show I post it here on the blog, so here we go. I also have to praise Rare Results… this poster design is fantastic.

And I’ve been blessed with an amazing team. My designers are inventive and passionate, and my actors are a perfect mix of fearless and questioning. We’ll try anything, but we’ll always ask questions to make sure it works. And my crew knows what needs to be done before anyone else realizes it.

Show synopsis and information below:

A quirky, comic tale from Canadian theatre stalwart Daniel MacIvor, A Beautiful View intimately examines the relationship between two contemporary women. From beginning to end, awkward introductions and random meetings turn into tentative romance. Mistakes are made as our brave heroines strive for connection. Each moment becomes an examination in trying to better understand their relationship. Oh, and did we mention the bear?

Directed by Jason Mehmel
Set and Lighting Design by Kathryn Smith
Costume Design by Kathryn Smith
Sound Design by Aidan Lytton

https://tickets.vertigotheatre.com/TheatreManager/1/login&event=0

 

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Nerd Culture Invades Sports Church

Recently I was at the Red & White Comic Expo, put on by Phoenix Comics. Named so for the event hall, called the Red & White club. It overlooks a football field, and this club is where the wealthier patrons will often dine.

It’s not lost on us that a gathering of nerdy pop-culture invades a sports-church. The demographics involved don’t often overlap.

I was selling copies of my books, FIGHT COMICS, sharing the area with friends and collaborators. It was a good day, but the best part was probably wandering to all the creators tables and buying their books. Not the prints, or comics from their own collections, but their own comics. The ones they made themselves.

I’m a sucker for indie comics. You can find some amazing stuff, and it’s so unfiltered. There’s no publishing wall to break through; if you’ve made the book and you’re at the table, you’ve broken in.

The voices of the stories can be amazing as well. Sometimes it’s an artist that has some amazing visuals in their head, and they’re building a story just so they can get it out in front of people. The dialogue might ring a little hollow, or the characterizations won’t make complete sense, but you don’t care because you can see that vision they’re trying to show you.

Other times, you’re holding in your hands a book that they have thought through extensively. Each page has been carefully considered and developed. Nothing is just thrown out for fun; in fact, the fun was in building the details and making sure everything held together flawlessly. Even if the story doesn’t work for me, I turn each page with deep respect.

There’s also many creators who having so much fun that you can’t help but smile as they turn out joke after joke in each story. I don’t write a lot of humor, so I’m pretty jealous…

I love a lot of comics, and I enjoy stuff published by the majors, don’t get me wrong. But nothing quite has the excitement of bringing home a stack of books that I have exactly zero preconceptions on. I have no idea what I’m in for.

So I buckle up, and turn the page.

Some personal favorites from the show are below. They’re both examples of the kind of work I wouldn’t find anywhere else, which proves the importance of these comic shows.

Jillian Fleck
http://jillianfleck.tumblr.com/

Emily Chu and Christian Frederiksen
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1280999284/hymn-graphic-novels-nocturnal-the-last-city

I’ve Reached my Cynical Melting Point (ALS Ice Bucket Challenge)

The way this spread across the social media (and physical space) is amazing. It spreads like a benevolent fungus, and but the transmission method is purely through relationships, boosted through social media.

(Interestingly, this same challenge could have been a more unknown trend twenty years ago, even with the same amount of spread among the population, since you wouldn’t be detecting the ambient splashes of your neighbors and friends as easily…)

It’s success has a lot to do with its positive narrative (donation to a worthy cause) and its inherent spectacle. Watching someone do this is automatic drama: what will happen next? How will they react? On top of this, it’s easy to do… an ice-cube tray and an ice-cream bucket was all I used.

People are against it, which is a natural response whenever something like this reaches a critical mass consciousness. I’m pretty cynical, but I have to say there’s not a lot of weak points in this sort of event. Even if people are doing it for the ‘wrong reasons’, such as gaining attention or following a trend, or if there are more deadly or widespread diseases to fight (thereby making ALS the ‘wrong disease’) it doesn’t take away that millions have been raised, and are still being raised, through this philanthropy virus that you catch from your friends.

The act of pouring ice-cold water over your head is an intense experience. Knowing that you’re doing it as part of a cultural event makes it almost like a rite of passage. (Or less charitably, a hazing ritual.) You will not anticipate exactly how cold that water is until you do it, and having done it, you will have passed through a liminal state, not unlike the freezing point of water. Maybe your resolve will harden, or your cynicism will melt, depending on which way you want to take the metaphor.

I’ve been seeing a lot of people online who seem to define themselves through negatives, through what they hate or oppose. There is something inherently optimistic about defining yourself as being part of something, especially something that isn’t complicated. And having participated in something thousands or even millions of others have done makes me feel like I’m truly participating in humanity, both locally and long-range. When I see friends, celebrities, and strangers participate, I feel like we’re all in the same club, without a lot of the baggage that these memberships often claim.

Directing a play about Nikola Tesla…

A SPARK EXTINGUISHED by Steven Evanik

Tesla, Twain and Morgan meet in death to revisit the events surrounding the Wardenclyffe Tower project in 1901. The inventor’s tower promises to advance mankind a century, but threatens the banker’s societal ideals of order and control. A writer carefully tries to convey the truth while keeping two bitter foes at bay.

Come see a show that transforms Purgatory, with Tesla’s own invention (the Tesla coil) making a cameo on stage.

Thursday June 19 – 10:00 pm
Friday June 20 – 8:45 pm
Saturday June 21 – 3:15 pm

Tickets available at: https://tickets.vertigotheatre.com/
Cast:

Alan Edward Johnson: Mark Twain
Greg Wilson: John Peirpont Morgan
Jonathan Molinski: Nikola Tesla

Directed by: Jason Mehmel

CREW:

Ashley White: Stage Manager
Kathryn Smith: Designer / Assistant Director
Aidan Lytton: Sound Design
Tyler Longmire: Projection Design

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No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre at the Endeavor Art Gallery

So, the blog has been fairly slow lately, but I haven’t been! After joining the Sage team I went on to intern with Verb Theatre as part of their devised creation: Of Fighting Age. (Which premeired at the Glenbow Museum as part of the High Performance Rodeo!)

That took us through to Christmas, and directly afterwards I jumped into co-producing and directing No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre. This is exciting for me; it’s the first show with a company that I’m starting up specifically with the focus of presenting some of the classic works to Calgary audiences.

You know, I wrote a press release specifically to inform people about the show, so maybe I’ll just leave that here…

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VIA THEATRE AND THEATRE BSMT TRANSFORM AN ART GALLERY INTO A CLASSIC VISION OF HELL

NO EXIT – Dates for the show are Feb 14 -22, PWYC previews on Feb 12 & 13 – click here for tickets.

Theatre BSMT presents the second show of its season, Jean-Paul Sartre’s classic play, No Exit. Co-produced by VIA Theatre (VIA’s first show) and with the Endeavor Arts Gallery, this production will transform the art gallery into a performance space and will feature some of Calgary’s skilled performers.

The play suggests a drawing room with “Second Empire” furnishings, contrasting the expected image of Hell with an opulent, aesthetically pleasing space. VIA Theatre provides that contrast by presenting the story in the Endeavor Arts Gallery. VIA’s focus is on presenting classic and contemporary plays from the theatre canon and producing these shows in unique spaces that contribute to the story and themes.

Three people are brought by a valet into an opulent drawing room, which, apparently, is situated in Hell. Cradeau, a journalist and deserter from the War; Inez, a secretary with a passion for manipulating others; and Estelle, a high-society woman who denies her reasons for being there. Over the course of the play, the characters replace their practised lies with brutal honesty. They prod each other; they switch between looking for understanding and salvation (and failing), to simply looking to spread some of their pain around.

Endeavor Arts is an excellent home for our production. Endeavor is owned by Maria Elena Hoover and Shannon Hoover, who were both in Avenue’s 2013 class of Top 40 Under 40. The venue has a long history as a music and nightclub scene, but has been many things in its history, and was built by theatre owners in 1908.

Our cast collects excellent Calgary talent:

Joel Cochrane, playing newspaperman Cradeau, is a talented, established voice in Calgary theatre. He has performed with The Shakespeare Company and Downstage, as well as with Ground Zero Theatre. He has been seen in such plays as Sequence, Titus Andronicus, and A Steady Rain. Jennifer Roberts plays socialite Estelle. This talented actress has been a part of the Swallow-a-Bicycle iRobot experience, most recently as part of the Beakerhead city-wide event. She has also won awards for playwriting and poetry, and brings sharp artistic instincts to the production. Tara Marlena Laberge, as middle-class Inez, performs and teaches in Calgary. Recently she performed with Fire Exit Theatre in The Savannah Disputation. She’s also a director, educator, and vocal director. She has worked with such organizations as Minnesota Opera, Saint Paul Conservatory, and StoryBook Theatre. Newcomer DJ Gellatly is a recent graduate from the University of Lethbridge, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. We’re happy to be presenting him to the Calgary theatre community! Theatre BSMT’s mandate to showcase emerging artists is boosted by giving DJ the chance to draw on the combined experience of the No Exit cast and crew.

The show is co-produced and directed by Jason Mehmel. For Theatre BSMT, he last directed Pink Sugar: A Dark Tale of Love, Betrayal and Stolen Body Parts, with sold-out performances. He also participated in Ghost River Theatre’s three-week 2013 Devised Creation Intensive, creating End of the Line with the intensive ensemble. Jason developed VIA Theatre with a core team of collaborators.

No Exit is mentored, as part of Theatre BSMT’s mandate, by the acclaimed Calgary director Kevin McKendrick. His specific experience with classic and contemporary theatre texts informs and deepens our our production. Shane Anderson develops the stage design for this production. He is also the Technical Director for VIA Theatre. He and Jason have collaborated on numerous occasions. Another long-term collaborator, Vanessa Oakley, is the Costume Designer.

For more information, please contact Jason Mehmel: 403-889-7961 | jmehmel@gmail.com or visit theatrebsmt.ca or viatheatre.ca

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Joining the Sage Theatre Community!

I’m excited to announce that I’ve joined Sage Theatre as the Associate Artistic Director!

Taking part in Sage Theatre’s Ignite! Festival in 2005 was one of my first projects after leaving the Department of Drama at the University of Calgary, and I’ve been compelled by Sage’s work ever since. It’s an honour to join the company and help contribute to the work they do!

This announcement is actually late; I’ve been working with Sage since September, and it was announced by them in their October newsletter. I’ve been pretty busy lately; now I’ve made the time to share the news!

I couldn’t be more thankful to Kelly Reay and to Sage Theatre for welcoming me to the Sage community.

Our next show is Hedwig and the Angry Inch! You can get tickets here!

Later in the year, I’ll work with Kelly as an Assistant Director on Michel and Ti-Jean, by George Rideout. More about that soon!