Feb 21, 2009

Playing With Dinos

There's something about dinosaurs that stirs human imagination. Over at my Myspace blog, I explore the connection via running into three different dino-related sites online this past week.

It's interesting, particularly in light of a conversation I had lastnight with a performer around ideas of so-called "low" art and "high" art -what constitutes each? And are these lines vanishing? I, for one, hope so. It's all about play, after all.

Feb 18, 2009

Has Oprah Seen This?

Here's a great example of what I meant by "play" a few posts back:

Feb 16, 2009

Just 'Cause

A few items of interest presented themselves today.

The first is a fantastic piece courtesy of the New York Times' video site detailing a new theatre piece that involves the use of mobile phones and computers. I confess, I initially had a few doubts about this, but seeing the participants' reactions, thinking about the intimacy being created (especially via modern technology), well... I'm a believer. Check it out.

Still with the Times is a video covering the recent art show in Baghdad called The Art Of Reinvention (along with a written article). Fascinating for the way politics is so deeply interwoven with art -art's taken on a whole different significance for the people of Iraq. To quote the article,
“Isn’t it pessimistic?” a person in the crowd of visitors asked the exhibition’s curator, Asad al-Sagheer, as he described an unsettling composition of death masks, painted in thick strokes of red and blue. The artist, Halim Qassim, found inspiration in Baghdad’s central morgue, near his home in Babalmuabhm, a place once overflowing with corpses.

“He thinks there’s beauty in the faces,” Mr. Sagheer said, “even after they’ve been killed.”


Closer to home, people are getting the role arts and culture plays in daily life. Apparently the National Endowment for the Arts is getting additional funding as part of President Obama's stimulus package, and artist Chuck Close thinks there's no better time than tough times -now -to be an artist, despite his opinion that the Depression didn't produce especially good art.
"When we've had major times of financial distress in this country.. .a lot of people argue that some of the best work was made. I don't think it was America's greatest hour; art... the best period for me in American art was the 50s and early 60s... That could be seen as a time when America opened its arms to ... immigrants, and we became a beacon as a free and open society, and attracted some of the best and brightest from all over the world."

Feb 15, 2009

Take 5 Interviews -Linky Goodness

I'm still searching for a way to get my Take 5 interviews into some kind of widget, so I can stick a nice little player on the side of this blog, as well as my blog over at Myspace, but in the meantime, here's a link to interviews I've done recently with Erin Karpluk, Emm Gryner, Bill Nowlin, and George Stroumboulopoulos. You don't have to listen to all of them; just choose which file you want from the list.

More to come soon.

Feb 12, 2009

Feb 11, 2009

Toronto The Good... ?

So, there I was, writing about how I wasn't going to be covering theatre so much anymore... and I went and saw an awesome work lastnight I felt compelled to write about. Naturally!

The formal review of Andrew Moodie's Toronto The Good will be posted at New Theatre Review tomorrow, but in the meantime, I can tell you... I loved it. Why? Fully fleshed-out characters, strong dialogue, an involving story about important themes. But it was never preachy, never judgmental, never pretentious. Nothing turns me off faster than going to the theatre and getting a finger wagged at me. That isn't helpful, not is it dramatically involving.

Northrop Frye said you should always describe what is there... so? Toronto The Good is smart, funny, sad, thoughtful, and really well-acted and staged. And deeply relevant to the times and conditions we're living in. That's huge for me, and, I suspect, for a lot of other people that might find theatre to be a bit too... uh, thee-uh-tah-ish. Toronto the Good brings all the issues of modern, urban living up close and in your face -and there's a rap scene too (how often does this happen in the theatre?). You'll find yourself thinking, more than once, "I've seen that" or "I've done that" or "I know someone like that" or even "Oh Gawd, that's me..." Such is the power of Moodie's writing; he manages to raise some really important issues around ideas of race, ambition, opportunity and modern relating, but at the same time, keeps the personal touch that makes good drama so appealing.

Kudos to everyone. Bravo.

Feb 10, 2009

Welcome To Youtube

My first on-camera interview, with director/producer/actor Garry Marshall, is now up at my Myspace blog.

Feb 7, 2009

You Can Go With This...

Busy times.

The past two weeks alone, I've interviewed a variety of neat and interesting people (on radio morning show Take 5 in Toronto) about a myriad of topics: Erin Karpluk spoke to me about the CBC TV show she's on (Being Erica), Emm Gryner chatted about her new album Goddess, Rounder Records co-founder Bill Nowlin talked about his company's five-time Grammy-nominated album Raising Sand, and George Stroumboulopoulos spoke with me about One Million Acts of Green. I also did an on-camera interview with Garry Marshall about the newly-opened Happy Days musical (I'll put a link up as soon as the video's ready, so be patient!), which was very exciting.

Regular readers to this blog will also know I interviewed actor David Jansen about the collectively-created theatre piece Ubuntu, as well as director Simon Rice about Toronto-based Praxis Theatre Company's adaptation of Albert Camus' Stranger. Next week, expect chats with director/actor/playwright Andrew Moodie, actor Kevin Hanchard, and Sarah Forbes-Roberts, co-owner of Toronto sex shop Come As You Are (Sarah's the woman behind next weekend's Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair -perfect timing for Valentine's Day, methinks...).

Anyway, some of you will have noticed my moving away from theatre writing and reporting. There's a reason -and it has everything to do with my inherent curiosity about the world around me. I'm branching out to explore stories that run the gamut from environmental-meets-social media (like One Million Acts of Green) to pop culture (ie -television, film, and music) to the just plain fun (like Ms. Forbes-Roberts and her fantastic fair). So in the coming days and weeks, expect to read more about my thoughts on all this stuff, and less on the performing arts. I still love 'em (deeply -I saw the COC production of Fidelio today, in fact -beautiful) but I love a lot of other things, too. The topics I pursue still have a distinctly arts-and-culture bent, as befits my own interests, but this feels like a natural progression in terms of range and breadth.

"Play" doesn't just refer to what happens in theatres; the term also encompasses what we do in childhood, the very thing we forget moving into adulthood. It's also the thing we all want to re-embrace, and what artists -of any discipline do (bravely) embrace. If the "play" really is "the thing," to quote Hamlet, then Play Anon is about just that -playing, in a lot of different areas, free from the shackles of "should."

As someone once told me (speaking about themselves) many years ago, "I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I am one of the most curious." That describes me too. Here's to a new day, and a new Play Anon.