Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pacific Theatre Announces New General Manager, John Sutherland

Pacific Theatre Announces John Sutherland as New General Manager

Pacific Theatre is pleased to announce the appointment of its new general manager, John Sutherland.

Mr. Sutherland brings with him an extensive array of marketing and strategic management experience in the non-profit industry. Born and raised in Ontario, he moved to BC in 1978 to begin his career as business professor at Trinity Western University, where he would become Dean of Business and Economics, a post he held for sixteen years. Other experience includes long-term service on the Abbotsford School Board, work as a non-profit consultant and even as a radio talk-show host. He is widely published, particularly in the areas of business ethics and labour relations. He holds an MBA from Queen’s University.

“I have watched with interest and admiration the growth of Pacific Theatre from Ron Reed's dream to its creative and powerful reality,” says Sutherland. “To now participate in its 25th anniversary as the new General Manager is a dream of my own come true.”

John will begin his duties in September, as several key personnel begin phasing out to pursue other opportunities. The board of directors and staff, including Founding Artistic Director Ron Reed, are delighted to have him aboard:

“The last few years have been instrumental in the artistic growth of our company. I am so pleased with the achievements we’ve been able to make in the debut of exciting new plays, our collaboration with other companies, and the development of our emerging artist program. John’s addition to our team marks a key turning point in Pacific Theatre’s organizational development. He is an impassioned leader with a heart for our mandate and the business smarts to take us to a new level.”

John’s commencement coincides with the launch of Pacific Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season and pre-production of Emil Sher’s Mourning Dove, opening October 17.

Soul Food: Sad Girls, Curtain Calls

A quick note to alert you that two intriguing shows launch this week, Tina Teeninga's one-woman-show THE SADDEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (Aug 26-30 at Carousel on Granville Island) and Betty Spackman's art installation CURTAIN CALLS which opens Aug 27 (at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley).  

There's not much of a specifically Soul Food nature on big screens just now, but the shelves at Videomatica are loaded with nourishing, tasty-fresh New Arrivals.  Excitement's starting for PT's season opener MOURNING DOVE, but first up - my trip to New York to see REFUGE OF LIES open Off-Broadway! Where I'll also check out the competition, just a block down 42nd Street - Frank Langella in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

And as always, lots of other good stuff for you to browse over at the Soul Food Vancouver blog and its cyber-buddy, Soul Food Movies.

August 26-30: Tina Teeninga's THE SADDEST GIRL IN THE WORLD

It's here! Tina Teeninga's one-woman-show has been really well received on its Fringe Festival tour, and now it's playing Vancouver in the time leading up to our Fringe Festival here. (Just to be clear, it' won't be running in Vancouver's Fest, so this week is your chance.)

You'll remember the shows Tina penned during her apprenticeship at Pacific Theatre: Broken Things, Normal, and River Bottom Baby all played on our stage as apprentice showcase / Stones Throw productions. She's also at work on a full length play that she first presented as part of our Rosedale Writers Week, and you saw her as Max and the work camp boss in REMNANTS (A FABLE).

Move fast; opening night is already sold out, and Wednesday is darn near full!

by Tina Teeninga

Separated from everyone she knows. Haunted by a bloody past. Natya believes Canada is the beginning of a new life. Canada harbours dirty secrets of its own, however, and Natya must face personal demons in a fight to survive. Natya’s one possible ally is Ava: an innocent woman she has never met, whose dreams of jewels glimmer with hope.

When: August 26-30th, Tuesday – Saturday at 8 pm. Sat mat at 2 pm
Where: Carousel Theatre’s Studio Space, 1411 Cartwright Street
Tickets: $10 (GST incl). To reserve call 604-269-0763, or visit saddestgirl.com

“««««! Teeninga accomplishes an impressive feat…she holds our attention with her talent alone” (Winnipeg Free Press)
“««««! A journey worth taking” (Winnipeg Sun)
“Don't miss it!" (Cory Wreggitt)

Tina Teeninga | Otherwise Productions
The Saddest Girl in the World

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Note from Emil Sher, MOURNING DOVE playwright

Admittedly, it's a long time now since the predominant stance toward Pacific Theatre (and our faith-related mandate) was suspicion, skepticism or even antagonism: the culture has changed, and certainly our place in the cultural community has shifted as people have gotten to know us and our work, and their misgivings and fears about the company have diminished as they come to understand what we're actually about. But I'll also admit that it still surprises me from time to time to read the degree of understanding and affirmation in this email sent to me by playwright Emil Sher, whose MOURNING DOVE will open our 25th anniversary season...
Hi, Ron,

Your collective commitment to the play is palpable and inspiring, and I'm delighted you'll be acting in it. I was also heartened to learn that Angela teaches at TWU and will bring the very same sensibilities that Pacific embodies. I'm Jewish and love the idea that you use theatre to serve Christ. For that matter, I'm inspired by anyone whose actions are grounded in their faith (the assumption being that that faith is a loving one and not one shaped by extremism or dogma). That you, Angela and your colleagues will explore the text of Mourning Dove on a deep level and interpret it in the context of the theological questions you bring to the table is gratifying beyond words.

I look forward to the road ahead...



Monday, August 18, 2008

January 1-4: Poetry Retreat, Rivendell, Bowen Island

This just in from poet Richard Osler...

Hi All:

I am organizing a four day retreat with Patrick Lane for January 1st through 4th at Rivendell Retreat Centre here on Bowen Island. The theme will be Poetry of Praise. Patrick willl be the retreat leader and lead all of the sessions except one which I will facilitate.

Patrick is not only one of most celebrated Canadian poets he is also a generous and accomplished teacher. Patrick constructs challenging writing exercises for his retreats which encourage participants to explore new levels of their craft. Whether you are a new or accomplished poet you will feel welcomed and and inspired by this extraordinary poet and teacher.

The cost for the retreat will be $535 all inclusive of tuition, room and meals. To register please send a deposit of $100 made out to Richard Osler, Box U57, Bowen Island, BC, V0N 1G0.

The retreat is filling up quickly and space is limited to 17 participants.

All the best,

Richard Osler
604 836 7875


Here's an interview I did for the REFUGE OF LIES publicist in New York...

How did you come up with the name of the play.

The play was originally titled "Flesh And Blood," because of the communion element in the story, the emphasis on family connections, and because of the one Jewish school of thought that says you can only be forgiven by the person who's been wronged, "or by their flesh and blood."

But a local playwright and theatre critic had a play out at that time also called Flesh And Blood, so I asked him, and he preferred I change the title. I had about three days to find a new title, started looking through Shakespeare and the Bible for cool-sounding pertinent quotes, and when I found the passage in Isaiah I was very taken with the resonances not only with deception and retribution, but also the connection with the "hiding place" involved in the play, and therefore other well-known Dutch holocaust stories such as "The Hiding Place" and "The Diary Of Anne Frank." And certainly the complex idea of our sins being "hid in Christ."

The structure is unusual. Can you comment on that?

I got the idea of the Jewish man's initial mysterious appearance (the incident of stopping at the stoplight / seeing the man at the bus stop) when that I had exactly that experience while preparing to write the play. (I was in something of an altered state after viewing an extraordinary production of A LIE OF THE MIND). So I played the story through, alternating between escalating scenes with this mysterious man and scenes without him, only coming to realize in the course of writing that his presence related the increasing threat experienced by Rudi from "the real world," as the accusations and court case materialize. The more extreme "dream occurrances" weren't really pre-planned, but came out during the writing of the first draft during a 24-hour playwriting competition at what was then called The New Play Centre in Vancouver: I think I was practically in a dream state myself while writing them, no exaggeration. I would fall asleep sitting at the computer, and wake up to find three pages of "j" or "x" or... Or the climactic scene of the play.

A couple years ago I watched Peter Weir's THE LAST WAVE, which I'd seen 20 or 25 years ago and which made a huge impact on me at the time, though I could remember few details – another "altered state" theatrical experience. Revisiting the film some years after completing the initial version of REFUGE OF LIES, I was astonished to see the escalating appearances of the aboriginal man outside the house, at the door, inside the house, etc., and to re-encounter the idea of "dream time." I had completely forgotten about both aspects of the film, but clearly see how they worked themselves into my play.

I wove in the Paraguay flashback scenes and some present-time Simon scenes in the next phase of script development, when Stuart Scadron-Wattles commissioned the piece for its premiere at Theatre & Company in Kitchener, Ontario – a really fine production that featured Ted Follows in the role of Rudi. Revisiting the play now, for the Firebones production in New York, I fleshed out the role of Rachel with Libby Skala in mind.

What character or cultural background creates the language style?

When I moved from Calgary to Vancouver in 1978 I found myself in a community church founded by a bunch of people who had left the Mennonite denomination to start their own little fellowship in a college cafeteria. So I kind of picked up their culture by osmosis – foods, scraps of Low German, all those Wiebes and Reimers and Neufelds. I'd also known some Dutch people here and there, so there's a blending of the two cultures, as there would be in Rudi's marriage. Since initially creating the play, my family and I have ended up at a Mennonite Brethren church – it's not just the pacifism: damn, those Mennonites can make music! – and I've been able to nuance some of the details in my revisions for this production.

Also in those ensuing years, I got to know a couple who are subscribers to Pacific Theatre (my company in Vancouver), and when I began this round of rewrites it dawned on me that they may have known Jacob Luitjens, whose case precipitated the writing of my play. It turns out that in fact they'd served on the ministerial team at the church where he was a member! I invited them to the round-table develompment readings this spring, and their comments further informed several details.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NYC: A Man For All Seasons

Guess what show has its first preview the night REFUGE OF LIES opens? On 42nd Street, two blocks from The Lion? Roundabout Theatre Company's production of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, with Frank Langella as Thomas More! I saw Langella as Richard Nixon in FROST/NIXON last year, and it was one of the best stage performances I've ever seen. Apparently I wasn't alone in that opinion: he won the Tony for it.  (Wonder if he needs any tips?)

NYC: Prayer, by Jonathan Kravetz

Scanning New York theatre pages to decide what to see on my trip there in September, this one caught my eye. It's in the NYC Fringe, so I won't be able to see it, but I wonder if I can track down the script?

by Jonathan Kravetz
"You believe what they tell you to believe. That's sad for a grown man." In a world of religious fundamentalism, Jacob Bergson finds himself wrongfully imprisoned. His only hope is Sophia, his strangely absent wife. Prayer will challenge your ideas about the nature of morality through one man's search for justice and redemption. Prayer is the new drama by Jonathan Kravetz. Directed by Joseph Beuerlein. It will appear in the New York City Fringe this coming August!

Aug 27: Betty Spackman, "Curtain Calls"

Betty Spackman is an artist friend of mine whose work, curiously enough, I've not yet seen. Fortunately that's about to change.  

Artist Statement: Betty Spackman
“Curtain Calls”

Creating with found objects is something I have always done, even as a child. I love the surprise element of material combinations and the creative process of transforming those materials into something new. I enjoy the search for eclectic ‘recyclables’, and the ‘magic’ of juxtaposition. It is also a way of purging my own material life by sharing objects I have collected in my personal journey. In so doing I invite the viewer to see slivers of my personality, to peek into my soul.

As an installation artist I have always been interested in ideas about space, about psychology and architecture such as those in Gaston Bachelard’s book, “The Poetics of Space”. But researching issues of popular culture in my own book, “A Profound Weakness. Christians and Kitsch” also put my attention toward the phenomena of spaces we enter through the imagination such as the gigantic in theme parks, and the worlds of miniatures. Many of these particular pieces utilize the essence of the miniature, which allows the viewer to enter with the imagination as well as the eyes into places that might be fun or foreboding.

My early solo exhibitions in Europe were installations of tents. Temporary housing units continue to be a theme of both my personal and my art life. Curtains, those ‘tent flaps’ of fabric or psychological fabrications that conceal/reveal, protect and divide personal space, started appearing in my drawings and paintings many years ago and I have pulled them out again for this show. Each opening is a tear in a wall, a peek into an interior space, a covering of a secret, an entrance to a story.

Assemblage work has been for me a kind of visual poetry – finding the right object that will work with the one before it, the one after it. The process for Curtain Calls was discovering one-act plays that had different characters and props. For some of these small ‘stage sets’ the play – in both senses of the word - came easily and finding a ‘script’ was a pleasurable game. Others I struggled with. There were divas that wanted to change their lines, stubborn, difficult dialogue with foreign accents, lighting problems and actors who ignored their cues. But I have decided to let them all perform in their awkward honesty and if called upon to even take a bow.

Betty Spackman

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sep 12-28: REFUGE OF LIES Off-Broadway!

Sep 12 - 28
The Lion Theatre, Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York
produced by Firebone Theatre
tickets available here

Well, I'll be flying into New York on September 11 to see my Off-Broadway debut! Very excited.

I did three rounds of script revision in June and July, have one last scene to touch up just a bit, but the play is about as good as I can make it. Several friends from various parts of my life will be converging on NYC, I've got tickets to see ballgames in the final seasons at both Shea and Yankee Stadia, and plans to revisit the painting that caught my attention a year and a half ago at the Frick.

I'm just now figuring out what shows to see when I'm in New York. Considering THE QUARREL, though - quite seriously - I don't expect it to measure up to the exquisite Midnight Theatre Collective production that was my favourite show in PT's 2006-2007 season. A friend and NYC afficionado who'll be joining me there mentioned THE SEAGULL and ALL MY SONS, which are both favourite plays of mine.  Unfortunately the National Theatre of Scotland production of THE BLACK WATCH won't have opened by the time I head back home.  

Any tips, anyone? 

Ken Myers on browsing

A few summers ago I hit up some folks at my church for money to buy the back catalog of Mars Hill Audio for our library, then immersed myself in those recordings while I puttered around the house. Ken Myers, the head Martian, has recently posted a thoughtful, thought-provoking response to Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" which makes me keen to go out and buy a copy. Here's where he starts...

That's why they call them browsers
by Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio

Lately, a lot of what I'm reading has been concerned with how I'm reading, with whether other people are reading, and with how reading influences our inner lives, both our brains and our souls. Nicholas Carr's Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" (July/August 2008) is an elegant exploration of some of the themes explored by media ecologists. Carr has the feeling, he confesses, that the way he thinks has been changing. It's increasingly hard for him to concentrate on extended arguments presented in books for any sustained period. "I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text." He reports that many friends and colleagues report the same sensation, and he's convinced that the cause behind this effect is all the time he spends online.

As Carr describes it, the way knowledge is organized and acquired online encourages certain mental habits while discouraging others....

Read the entire Myers article here, and the Carr essay here

Oh, Mars Hill is also offering a conversation with Eugene Peterson related to his series of five books on spiritual theology. All the right people hang out on that darn hill...