Saturday, September 23, 2006

CONFESSIONS: Submissions? Ideas?

Three weeks hence (Oct 12-14), I'll be doing CONFESSIONS at Pacific Theatre. (No, I'm not a priest...) (Or a Catholic...) Three evenings of readings interspersed with songs, very loose. Like CHRISTMAS PRESENCE, but without the Christmas. Like PASSION, a couple years ago, or TESTIMONY this spring.

This year's theme, any sort of connotation to CONFESSIONS that comes to mind. Confessions of sin, weakness, embarassment, secrets, failure, flaw, humanity or any other sort of crime. Or confessions of faith. Or about the confessional. Or whatever. God stuff's good. Doesn't necessarily have to be. A few years ago, I wrote my (per)version of the "Paul Is Dead" hoax, something along the lines of "John Is Born Again" - documents his conversion through the lyrics of various Beatles songs, how he evangelized other members of the band: I want to sandwich it in between a gospel-tinged "Let It Be" (a la Aretha Franklin), follow it up with "The Word," something like that. So you can see, the theme ain't all that narrow.

Anybody got anything I could read? Essay, story, novel excerpt, play scene, poetry, joke, you name it. Something you've written, or are going to write? Or something you've read that somebody else wrote? Or seen in a movie or play? Even just a short, memorable quote to do with confession. Anything jazzy in St Augustine? Email me your ideas:

I'm thinking some Anne Lamott, though I haven't thought about what specific piece yet. Frederick Buechner's sure to have stuff. I've got a couple pieces marked in Joyful Noise, Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke's fabulous collection of essays. Oh, there's a great monologue in "A Thousand Clowns" about this guy going down the street apologizing to total strangers - that would fit! Wouldn't Woody Allen have something self-deprecating in one of his books or films? That ring a bell with anybody?

Let me know if anything comes to mind. And don't be shy about offering your own pieces.

Do my work for me.


Sep 29: "Theatre & Sin," Peg Peters, TWU

This year at TWU the theatre department (or is it all the arts-related departments? I oughta know this stuff...) is (or are...) presenting a series of pretty groovy public lectures and discussions. Okay, the title - "Integration Forum" - sounds more like a university course than a wild and crazy way to spend your lunch hour, but... Don't judge a book by its... title. (And hey, some of us like university courses, okay!!!?)

Here's the bumf...

Integration Forum
Theatre & Sin
with Peg Peters

Fri Sep 29, noon to 1pm
Freedom Hall, TWU Campus

Angela Konrad writes; Friday, September 29 we have a guest speaker – Peg Peters – on the topic Theatre and Sin. Part of the reason I asked Peg to do this is that he has a really effective way of helping students understand that the usual view of “sinful art” is a gnostic, not Christian, idea. He also has a fabulous exegesis of the verse most often thrown in our faces when the work we do is provocative – “whatever is good, whatever is pure, whatever is holy...”
It is open to the whole campus. Freedom Hall, noon Friday.

Word is, the first IF was quite full, so don't worry, if you're not a budding thesp or art student, you won't stand out like a sore... non-student.

Yours cliche-free,


P.S. "Theatre & Sin with Peg Peters." Hm... Wonder if a title change would get more people out? "Sin With Peg Peters." I oughta suggest that to Angela, maybe it's not too late...

P.P.S. "Hm" is a recognized spelling of the word "Hmm", and is playable in the game SCRABBLE. "Hmmm," however, is not.

P.P.S."Krazy", neither.

Friday, September 22, 2006

PT SECOND STAGE: Confessions, Oct 12-14

Oct 12-14
731-5518 /

Almost Sold Out!

A cornucopia of stories and songs from some of Pacific Theatre's most beloved artists. In the tradition of PASSION and TESTIMONY. Think CHRISTMAS PRESENCE, without the Christmas...


Two original one act plays about life after the fall

“all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”
Oct 26–28

Pacific Theatre and Stone’s Throw Productions proudly present the world premiere of two original one act plays written by Tina Teeninga, with direction by Kerri Norris and Tina Teeninga, playing October 26 to 28th at Pacific Theatre.

BROKEN THINGS is a tale in which human brutality threatens to overwhelm Soeur Marie’s faith in God and hope in humanity. Set in France during World War Two, this thoughtful, visceral piece of theatre asks: in the face of suffering and trauma, do values truly guide a person? Caught between the tangible, human desire for justice and the religious plea for mercy, BROKEN THINGS illuminates one woman’s struggle with authentic belief. As a precursor to BROKEN THINGS, NORMAL is the fragile, poetic story of a young girl clinging to her last threads of sanity. Is she strong enough to maintain normalcy, or will it disintegrate before her eyes?

Boldly directed by Kerri Norris (A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, Pacific Theatre) with stunning lighting design by Nigel Brooke, BROKEN THINGS is a compelling drama with a stellar cast: Elizabeth Pennington (DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, Oral Roberts University), Daniel Amos (HAMLET, HALO, A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, THE QUARREL), Bill Amos (HAMLET, Stone’s Throw Productions/Pacific Theatre) and Lori Kokotailo (HUNGRY SEASON, A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, LESS ADO ABOUT NOTHING).

NORMAL features the formidable young talent, Kirsty Provan (HAMLET, LESS ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Stones Throw Productions/Pacific Theatre) with direction from playwright Tina Teeninga (A NIGHT FOR WASABI-24 HR THEATRE, Stone’s Throw Productions/Pacific Theatre).

Written by playwriting apprentice Tina Teeninga, and featuring acting apprentices Elizabeth Pennington and Kirsty Provan, this two part evening, BROKEN, is part of the dynamic trio’s artistic work at Pacific Theatre. Not only does Pacific Theatre’s apprenticeship program afford actors the chance to perform on a professional stage, but it also provides artists the opportunity to produce original work from “the ground up”. Stay tuned for two more original plays by Tina Teeninga in March: Elizabeth Pennington will perform in the one woman show, RIVER BOTTOM BABY and Kirsty Provan will take the lead in EXPECTATIONS.

Details: BROKEN: Two original one act plays about life after the fall. Written by Tina Teeninga, Direction by Kerri Norris.
When: October 26-28. Thursday – Saturday, 8 pm.
Where: Pacific Theatre. 420 West 12th Ave at Hemlock St., Vancouver, BC.
Tickets: Pay-What-You-Can. No reservations necessary.


That's the official press release. Here's something less official, from Tina's email to me this morning; "I had a terrific time directing Kirsty yesterday, so much so that I woke up this morning at 3:30 am thinking of ideas for NORMAL and dreaming about future projects." I love our apprenti!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BC Arts Council

At lunch today Julie Sutherland and I sat in on the Alliance For Arts and Culture presentation to the provincial government's Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. (A superb presentation - clear, professional, positive, convincing - from Heather Redfern of the Alliance for Arts and Culture, Adrienne Wong of neworld theatre, and Richard Prokopanko of Alcan, whose substantial annual arts grants have made a tremendous impact in our province). The arts community is advocating for a significant increase to the current government's support of the arts in the 2007-2009 provincial budgets.

Some rather striking facts and figures came forward today, particularly in the context of all I've been hearing and reading in the news about British Columbia's booming economy. BC ranks seventh or eight among all Canadian provinces in its funding of the arts, and dead last in its support for the performing arts.

More specifically, Quebec performing companies receive an average of 26% of their annual budget from provincial government sources, the national average is 13%, and BC companies receive an average of only 7% of their annual budget from provincial government sources. (Provincial funding for Pacific Theatre's current season amounts to 4.6% of our budget.)


Pacific Theatre presents
a one-woman-show by Libby Skala
Sep 22 – Oct 7
previews Sep 18 & 19
731-5518 /

The story of Lilia Skala, star of the Austrian stage forced to flee the rise of Nazism because of her Jewish heritage – told by her grand-daughter, New York actress Libby Skala.

Ian Farthing recommended this piece to me after working with Libby at a Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. He loved the show, thought it would be perfect for Pacific Theatre, and raved the actress's performance. I read the script and had to agree that it would be wonderful on our stage, a love-letter to the world of theatre and a quiet testimony to the power of faith in the face of trial and tragedy. But it was the reviews that clinched it – raves from Robert Enright at the CBC, Bruce Weber at the New York Times, Jonathan Wilson at The Scotsman, and so on, and so on.

I'll say no more, but let the reviews speak for themselves.


Robert Enright, Arts and Entertainment Critic

"The real winner for me was this play called LILIA! by Libby Skala about her grandmother, the woman who [was nominated for] the Academy Award for Lilies of the Field. This is probably one of the best performances I've seen at the Fringe. Absolutely dazzling acting. Her ability to transform herself from her ninety-year-old grandmother into herself as a child, and as a young child moving right through being a mature woman is absolutely magical and alchemical. I really can't believe that she does it with no props. She simply does it by shifting her weight and her face almost changes from being that old woman to a young girl.

"It is a riveting performance and she's only got one left. You've got to go and see that. If you have any other play that you're seeing today, don't bother seeing it. Go and see this one. It's an opportunity that you won't get often. Brilliant play!"


New York Times
Enter One Actor, Cloaked in Magic

Ms. Skala (Libby, that is) does a marvelous rendition, in an
evocative Middle European patois, of her grandmother's velveteen,
old world charm that sheaths a steel will. … because they are true to life, they ring especially true tribute to her grandmother
and poignant. Over all an adoring portrait is created here: Lilia Skala comes across as a singular and interesting woman. Libby Skala is a composed actress who handles the tiny stage floor at the Abingdon with great comfort, and she is magnetic in a part that clearly means the world to her.


Summer Productions Shine
Libby Skala channels her grandmother in 'Lilia'


…The high bar of performing excellence is more than met by Libby Skala, who, in "Lilia!," enacts her own grandmother, Viennese actress Lilia Skala, with an uncanny blend of transformative force and ravishing charm that is nothing less than uncanny.

On a bare stage, the actress creates her grandmother's entire world through the chimerical power of her voice and facial expressions. The audience, mere inches away from her in the tiny space, is enthralled.

She delightfully evokes the rich mannerisms and irresistible coquettishness of other Viennese legends like Elisabeth Bergner and Luise Rainer;. When I mentioned this to her, Skala confessed she had never seen either of these actresses, both of whom knew her grandmother. Talk about acting as pure channeling!


Jonathan Wilson

Lilia! by Libby Skala
Rating: 4 stars (out of 4)

This is a unique and often spellbinding production. Even, if you have never heard of Lilia Skala, you need not worry, you'll know her well at the end of this riveting play. The story sweeps across the dramatic events which shaped Lilia Skala's life, and uses the intimate conversations between grandmother and granddaughter to reveal how experience forges the mind. Lilia Skala, an accomplished actress, was forced to flee Austria under Nazi rule. She arrived in the US with no spoken English and re-established her career, culminating in Oscar recognition, despite years as an impoverished factory worker.

The play is remarkable because it is unthinkable that any other actor could play the role. The happy coincidence of an uncannily accurate impersonation, and the unsentimental eyewitness accuracy of the playwright/actress, have created a play of tremendous candour which is at once appealing and a privilege to view. Libby Skala flits between a range of characters with rock-solid technique and we are somehow better off for the intense focus of this single player, rather than an ensemble cast. The interplay of characters is often painful and intimate. Somehow, I feel grateful for the experience and not a little inclined to marvel at the diminutive lead's exhausting concentration.


And the full text of 25 more rave reviews over here

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sep 22: Panic Squad opens Gallery 7 season

Gallery 7 is the community theatre counterpart to Pacific Theatre, an Abbotsford company offering a full season of plays now in their sixteenth (!) season. Congrats!

Here's what they sent us about their season opener;

Panic Squad to Open Gallery 7 Theatre’s 16th Annual Season!
Get ready to laugh as the Panic Squad comedy improv team shakes up a storm with their unique brand of family-friendly, super-human, super-funny comedy improv. Using little more than suggestions from the audience, the Panic Squad leaps into action, creating zany, yet hilarious scenes right out of thin air! This is a perfect evening out for f the care-group or youth group, friends or family so be sure to pull some people together and get your tickets today!
One Night Only: September 22, 2006 @ 7:30 PM
MEI Secondary School Auditorium
4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford.
Call the House of James at 604-852-3701 to purchase tickets. Group rates available!

And here's what they've got lined up for the rest of the season;

J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, September 08, 2006

Soul Food at the Fringe: Sep 7-17

Fringe fare that involves PT folk is posted over at the Pacific Theatre blog; THE DIARY OF ADAM AND EVE, CAUGHT IN THE ACT, MOXIE, 64 AND NO MORE LIES. Here are some other titles which may (or may not!) supplement up your RDA of soul food. Check the Fringe website for actual performance times (when not given below).

by Andrew Bailey
Best Solo Show, Victoria Fringe Festival 2005. "It's more than pretty good, it's pretty good plus one." -- TJ Dawe. A comic drama about religious obsession which has "the power to make modern audiences squirm -- squirming that is brilliantly relieved by Bailey's witty, funny performance." -- Victoria News. A play about keeping your faith without losing your mind.
Venue: Studio 16
Sep 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, 17
A friend emailed me: "Just saw SCRUPULOSITY at the Fringe. I think it's excellent. Very funny, moving at times, and a smart exploration of faith."

Eastside Story Guild
Venue: Grandview Calvary Baptist Church (1803 E 1st Ave)
An intergenerational cast of dozens presents the life of King David in operatic spectacle. Special feature: authentic Yaqui dancing that evokes the spirit of God. Eight scenes include the toppling of Dagon, the slaying of Goliath, and David's pursuit of Bathsheba. Eastside Story Guild has been going for eight years. If Cecil B. DeMille could have a stage in East Vancouver, this is what you'd get!
Sat Sep 9 @ 2:30
Fri Sep 15 @ 7:30
Sat Sep 16 @ 2:30

Celebrating his twentieth-year at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, Jacques Lalonde's new play celebrates Moms, Magic and Miracles.
Carousel Theatre Studio, 1411 Cartwright Street on Granville Island.
Directed by Jack Paterson.
Friday Sept 8 7:00 pm
Saturday Sept 9 9:30 pm
Sunday Sept 10 9:30 pm
Tuesday Sept 12 8:30 pm
Wednesday Sept 13 8:30 pm
Friday Sept 15 8:30 pm
Saturday Sept 16 6:00 pm
Sunday Sept 17 7:45 pm

by Barry Smith
A disillusioned dishwasher from Aspen, Colorado, thinks he has overcome his fundamentalist upbringing, until he discovers Jesus has returned – and is living in Montana! He quits his job, packs his bags and hitchhikes to meet this Jesus guy, eventually joining the small cult. A true story! This autobiographical, multi-media comedy won Outstanding Solo Show at the 2005 NY Fringe Festival!
Venue: Waterfront Theatre
Sep 10, 11, 14, 16, 17

The Gospel according to Monster Theatre! Ever wonder what Jesus was up to in between the ages of 13 and 30? Or how Jesus reacted when told – “Joseph isn’t your real father!” Find out in JESUS CHRIST: The Lost Years - a divinely inspired comedy. From the creators of ‘Confessions of a Class Clown’, ‘FRINGE SHOW: A Love Story’, ‘THE BIG ROCK SHOW’ and ‘THE CANADA SHOW’ “Hilarious! Brilliant! Don’t Miss it!”
Venue: Arts Club Granville Island
Sep 9, 12, 13, 15, 16

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New York Times: "Plays That Make A Difference"

The Culture Project and Plays That Make a Difference
by Charles Isherwood, The New York Times, September 3 2006

The world is in a fractious state. News reports grimly tally the daily death tolls in Iraq. Polls reveal a pronounced lack of confidence in the American powers that be. The clatter of chatter about potential terrorist attacks floods the airwaves.

Can art save the day? More specifically, can theater rouse the populace from a sense of numbed anxiety? Can a stage play change minds, or help channel passive beliefs into active commitment?

Short-term answer: a resounding “Nope.” Long-term answer: a less resounding if hardly less dispiriting “Probably not, alas.”

The history of world drama offers plenty of examples of theatrical events that caused rippling responses in political and social spheres. Patriotic speeches from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” rallied British soldiers to battle even in World War II. Clifford Odets’s “Waiting for Lefty” became a powerful persuader in support of the burgeoning labor movement. A fateful performance of a comedy called “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater can be said to have changed the course of American history. But plays do not regularly stop or start wars or social causes, win or lose national elections.

And as theater’s foothold in American culture has steadily shrunk over the last 50 years or so, the chance that a play could have any significant influence on social or political discourse has also waned. To be influential a playwright’s voice has to be heard, and it’s become harder to hear the lonely cry of the outraged playwright as the media landscape has been monopolized by more profitable and more easily mass-marketed forms of entertainment.

But you can’t blame the Culture Project for trying, can you? The determined little nonprofit theater at the corner of Bleecker and Lafayette in the East Village, under the artistic direction of Allan Buchman, is spearheading a new “citywide arts festival focusing on human rights, social justice and political action,” beginning on Sept. 12 and running through Oct. 22. The festival’s very title, Impact, is a one-word salvo hurled in the teeth of those who would argue that art can never be an effective tool of social or political progress.

The Culture Project’s central contribution to the festival could be seen as a prime piece of supporting evidence in favor of art’s ability to stir activism, an argument for the possibility of real impact. It’s the premiere of a new play by Eve Ensler called “The Treatment,” about an encounter between a psychologist and a traumatized American military interrogator involved in torture.

No one could reasonably argue Ms. Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” was a socially insignificant or politically ineffectual work. Her collage of testimonials about the culture of silence surrounding sexual violence against women is probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade, at least if we measure a play’s impact in quantifiable terms. It has been produced in 90 countries, and the annual “V-Day” benefits it inspired have raised more than $40 million for local charities.

Still, “The Vagina Monologues” is an exception to the general rule that politically minded theater is not wildly popular, that there is a limited audience for drama that seeks to awaken our consciousness to contemporary ills or probe thorny political topics. After all, it took a year and a half for the only “major” play specifically about the American invasion of Iraq, David Hare’s “Stuff Happens,” to arrive in New York, despite the city’s large theater culture and famed liberalism. First produced at the National Theater in London in September 2004, it opened last spring in New York. And it was not produced on Broadway, the usual New York home for Sir David’s plays, and for acclaimed work from the National Theater. It opened off Broadway, at the Public Theater, to a healthy if not spectacular run. (Hoping to enlarge the audience, the Public is sponsoring a free reading of the play in Central Park on Wednesday.)

The reasons for audiences’ resistance to this kind of theater are not hard to discover. Look into your own heart, regular theatergoer. I’ll admit that I sometimes approach the genre with wariness or a sense of duty, as if lining up for a vaccination against apathy to social or political causes. Publicly avowing an interest in the latest piece of earnest theatrical journalism, but privately deciding that you’re not really in the mood just tonight, is hardly unnatural. (I still haven’t seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” by the way. Anyone know if it’s still playing?)

For most of us — virtually all of us — theaters are, above all, places of entertainment. It would be a perverse person indeed who would trip with glee into a theater presenting a play with the word “Guantánamo” in the title, overjoyed at an opportunity to relish the spectacle of human suffering and reckon with troubling questions of injustice.

That quasi-journalistic aspect of much contemporary political theater doesn’t help either. If asked, most theatergoers would say they don’t want to go to the theater to be told what they already know, or can acquire elsewhere. But for the socially conscious theatergoer (and who would lay claim to being a socially unconscious one?), the medicinal element in this genre can be more of a draw than a drawback.

It gives us the pleasant sensation of having received a moral booster-shot or undergone a cleansing fast that flushes out all the cultural toxins we ingest when we scoot off to guilty-pleasure movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” or obsessively watch “Project Runway.”

In recent seasons, the Culture Project has presented long runs of “Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom” and “The Exonerated,” about wrongly convicted prisoners saved from death row: neither a joyous topic. Other recent successes in the genre include Heather Raffo’s solo show “Nine Parts of Desire,” about the plight of women in Iraq, and “In the Continuum,” Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter’s docudrama about women and AIDS in the United States and Zimbabwe.

Yet aside from making us feel virtuous, political theater can be a source of real solace too. Reading the newspaper or scanning headlines on the Internet is a solitary activity, as is much television watching. When cruelty and violence pervade the newspapers to an unusual degree, as they have lately, our sense of alienation can be magnified. You think: Is this my species?

If I may indulge in a Hallmark card-ish image, going to see plays that tackle some of the same issues can be like reading the paper while holding someone’s hand. The cold touch of the truth isn’t mitigated, but the accompanying sensation, of comfort in companionship, alters the experience.

Seeing politically engaged theater can give us a sense of fellow-feeling that is elusive in these much-polarized political times, and it can also reconnect us to our sense of impassioned outrage that can fade quickly after you’ve put down the morning papers. It’s easier to be apathetic when you’re alone. (Ever given a standing ovation in your living room?)

Much enduring theater art — from Aeschylus to Shakespeare to Ibsen — is a collective form of bearing witness to human suffering. As part of a live audience you are a more active participant in the airing of the problem or the exposure of suffering. The exchange of information is not mediated by video or print. It’s human to human, and when the subject is of immediate political significance it can be harder to dismiss as propaganda or dry journalism.

The theater critic Eric Bentley has discussed politically engaged theater in more than one essay. Writing in 1966 about a controversial production of the Rolf Hochhuth play “The Deputy” in “The Theater of Commitment,” he noted that theatrical presentation transforms the material at hand. “Theater is sur-real,” he wrote. “The little ritual of performance, given just a modicum of competence, can lend to the events represented another dimension, a more urgent reality.”

Mr. Bentley went on to note the similarities between propagandistic theater and the rituals of church, touching on another reason for the appeal of theater. “Preaching to the converted” is the dismissive epithet easily hurled at plays that air a social ill in front of audiences predisposed to share the playwright’s view. But why shouldn’t theatergoers draw the same kind of sustenance from the collective experience of theater that congregants do from sermons at church? We all have spiritual lives of some kind, beliefs that are articles of faith more than reason. And they are nurtured by a sense of common feeling, the knowledge that we are not alone in our perceptions, whether they consist of general religious tenets or specific moral stances on social or political issues.

Does this mean that theater has a perceptible or quantifiable impact on the issues raised? As I suggested earlier, not necessarily, or not much. I haven’t rushed to the barricades, hand in hand with the fellow in seat G102, any time recently. But I have left the theater with a more vivid sense of the painful human cost of public policy or a deeper knowledge of the gritty specifics of a specific historical event.

Art can inculcate empathy, and empathy directed not at a generalized humanity but a specific person or persons keeps healthy and intact our alertness to immediate evils, not general ones. It reminds us that history doesn’t happen in newspapers but to people.

This is despite the fact that most political theater does not really rise to the level of enduring art. Nuanced perspective, structural elegance and imaginative scope are sometimes sacrificed to immediacy and polemics. “Stuff Happens,” written as a fresh response to historical events, felt dated by the time it arrived in New York, while Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” which did not appear until the end of the 1980’s, the decade it examined, retained its power when it was filmed for HBO several years after its premiere. Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage,” revived by the Public Theater this summer, retains its potency because Brecht’s polemics about the connections between warfare and capitalism dissolve into a complex and even contradictory vision of human suffering and endurance.

Which isn’t to suggest we all sit on the sidelines and wait for the first bona fide masterwork contemplating the war in Iraq or the political ferment in the country at the moment. In the essay I mentioned above, Mr. Bentley concluded, “Any dent that any theater can make in the world is no doubt small, but theater people who on that account give up the effort as hopeless are generally agreeing to make no dent at all.”

I would add that theatergoers who neglect to support those efforts are generally agreeing to let the art form degenerate into the pervasive vacuousness of the cultural atmosphere, the fog of uncaring and unmeaning that cuts us off from a sometimes painful but necessary knowledge of the world as it is, right now.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sep 4: "Cinema Salon," Bramwell Tovey presents "Delius" film

Cinema Salon
Vancouver International Film Centre

Mon Sep 4, 7:30 - Bramwell Tovey presents ELGAR and

Mon Nov 6, 7:30 - Christopher Gaze presents LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Less than a year old, The Vancouver International Film Centre is emerging as a noteworthy contributor to the cinematic and cultural ecology of our city. Which being interpreted means, the new kids on the block are swell, they show good movies.

One innovative program is their Cinema Salon, where they invite one of Vancouver's cultural luminaries to screen their favourite film, chat and chow following. If I was luminous or cultural enough (I'm not bitter), I'd pick TENDER MERCIES, but given that I'm not and I can't (what, a church basement drama group isn't good enough for these people!), we'll just have to settle for the likes of Bramwell Tovey and Christopher Gaze. (Maybe if we did more plays by dead people. Maybe a concert series. Where's Brian Mix's number...)

Next up, the VSO baton-wielder picks two flicks by bad-boy helmer Ken Russell, ELGAR and DELIUS: SONG OF SUMMER. The latter's blurb sets my soul food sensors atingle: "SONG OF SUMMER covers the last five years of composer Delius' life, as seen through the eyes of his amanuensis, Eric Fenby. Blind, paralysed and riddled with syphilis, the once virile composer is trapped inside his useless body but with a mind still full of music he wishes to set down. In spite of a shaky start to their relationship, Delius' inability to rid Fenby of his “great Christian blinders” and an exceptionally dysfunctional household, the relationship was a successful one until Delius' death in 1934." I think I might like this Fenby guy, great Christian blinders and all.

The Bard Boss went with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Ooh, tempting opportunity to see all those sandy vistas on a nice big screen: methinks I might hie me thither at the appointed time... (Important note: the date in the printed program guide is wrong - The Chris & Larry Show will be Nov 6, not Nov 3 as printed.)

Book: "Father Joe," by Tony Hendra

I'm doing some fall cleaning, purging my backlogs of email and such to start the new season fresh (and attend to any important long-overdue matters, of course. But mostly it's DELETE DELETE DELETE, a trick I learned from Bob Smyth). Found an issue of IMAGE Update that I'd set aside a couple Septembers ago because of this intriguing book review;

by Tony Hendra

One of the more interesting sub-genres of memoir these days is the “coming home” story: personal narratives written by individuals who abandoned their childhood religious faith in search of liberation and fulfillment, but who have returned after many years and vicissitudes. An early entry in this genre was Dan Wakefield’s Returning. More recently, we’ve been treated to Kathleen Norris’s Dakota. Given the fact that many of these writers are Boomers who got caught up in the sixties and seventies, there will undoubtedly be more volumes to come. They are to be celebrated, especially by those of us who may suffer from the “older brother of the prodigal” syndrome. A convert—or even a re-vert, to coin a word—brings a wealth of experience, suffering, and searching back into the community of faith.

Another distinguished contribution to this category is Father Joe by Tony Hendra. His resume makes Hendra an unlikely presence in the realm of spiritual biography. He acted with John Cleese and Graham Chapman in the Cambridge Footlights troupe, a precursor to Monty Python; he was a founding editor of National Lampoon and helped establish its brand of no-holds-barred satire; he even did a turn as an actor (as “Ian Faith,” manager of the band in the hilarious mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap).

But as a boy he became deeply entranced by the Benedictine Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight in England. There he met a living saint, Dom Joseph Warrilow, or whom Hendra writes: “Gentleness and goodness come off him like aftershave.” After his youthful infatuation with the church and monasticism, Hendra went off into the wild and wooly world of satire, sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll. But throughout those years there were letters from Father Joe and occasional visits to Quarr Abbey. In the end, Hendra did come home. While this book is a memoir, it is also a funny, tender, moving tribute to one of those rare creatures: the living saint.

(There's a full review by Image editor Gregory Wolfe at First Things, and over at the NPR site there's interview with Tony Hendra)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sep 1-27: 2006 Kieslowski Retrospective

Pacific Cinematheque & Vancouver International Film Centre present
Sep 1-27

Check out soulfoodmovies for details on this major retrospective. THE DECALOGUE is a series of one-hour television films relating to the Ten Commandments, and is a fixture on the Arts & Faith 100 poll of spiritually significant films along with BLUE, the first installment in his celebrated THREE COLOURS trilogy. The retrospective also offers the opportunity to see HEAVEN on the big screen, Tom Tykwer's filming of the first of the HEAVEN-HELL-PURGATORY trilogy Kieslowski was working on with collaboarator Krzysztof Piesiewicz at the time of Kieslowski's death.

HELD OVER TO SEP 22: "Scarcity & Abundance," Bellevue Gallery

I viewed this very moving, visually striking show yesterday afternoon, and recommend it. And I learned that the show doesn't actually come down until Saturday, so today's not actually your last day to view these potent, immediate images of Africa and its people. Friday Sep 22 is now also open for viewing. Powerful.

Sep 7-21
Bellevue Gallery, 2475 Bellevue Avenue, W Van

Rory and Lisa Holland are Pacific Theatre folks with big hearts for Africa. Rory's the president of our board who's also been involved in tons of other ways - he was in TEN NOVEMBER and THE DISAPPEARING, has done acting classes and the mask workshop, and he and Lisa hosted our three memorable Valentines Concerts; the first with Carolyn Arends (and Spencers Capier and Welch), another a jazz/gospel evening with Leora Cashe and Tom Picket, and a celtic evening with Julee Glaub.

Anyhow, they're part of a gallery exhibit on the North Shore, an oblation of sorts, offering up (with several others) the experience of a memorable trip this spring to Rwanda, Uganda and Congo. Here's what the gallery website has to say about the exhibition; "A photo journey of the shared experiences of Paddy Ducklow, Sharon Ferriss, Tim Hardy, Lisa Holland, Rory Holland, Janet Laver, Richard Osler and Deborah Woodley in Central Africa. In the midst of poverty, displacement and violence they discovered grace, dignity and a spirit of hope."


Also worth noting: the show following SCARCITY AND ABUNDANCE at the Goodlooking Gal (an approximate translation of the original French), featuring the work of Wayne Eastcott, a frequent exhibitor at Regent College's Lookout! Gallery. (What ever happened to plans to supplement Regent's upstairs Lookout! gallery with something on the main floor? The Lookout Below!... I'm just asking.)

Sep 28th - Oct 29
A printmaking collaboration between Wayne Eastcott and Michiko Suzuki. After much creative thinking these master printmakers combined toner etching, a very handmade image with photo work and ink jet printing; just one of the interconnection themes running through this series.