Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Performing Siddhartha: The Journey Home

September 22nd, 2011 No comments

In December of 2010, I met Zamir Dhanji as participants in the Legacies workshop through Urban Ink.  In March, I met Jesai Jayhmes when I began apprenticing with the Vancouver Playback Theatre Troupe.  As a result of these two acquaintances and my determination to be part of the production, I became stage manager/assistant director for Siddhartha in late July.  By the third rehearsal, I was invited to be a dancer with the ensemble by the choreographer and the director.  While I love to dance, it was initially a difficult decision, since I was very much interested in direction and production, and I was not sure I would enjoy this butoh inspired type of movement.  In 4 weeks and 76 rehearsal hours, we grew and learned beyond our own expectations. By our third show, I had come to look forward to the cool gravel under my bare feet.

There were great challenges every step of the way and while I had moments doubt in the beginning, I am so happy that I stayed long enough to find out why I wanted to stick with it.  The experience affirmed my belief in theatre’s vital role in gathering community and my blissful enjoyment of expressing story through dance and movement.  Our audiences consistently responded with deep emotional connection and appreciation for the unique theatrical experience.  Each performance required a great deal of energy and focus which all came back to rejuvenate us through the generous audiences.  Here are a few images…

We received a Vancouver Fringe Festival award for the “most talked about” show.  We sold out all 3 shows two weeks before opening and had an extended show date for an invitation only audience.  To raise funds for remounting the show, we are having a fundraiser event on Sunday, October 2nd at Prana Yoga Centre.  Write me or comment to receive more details.  Thank you!

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My Kingdom for Feminine Influence

August 31st, 2011 No comments

After spending the last four weeks as the only woman on a production team, I have learned a fundamental lesson about the importance of influence.  Influence is not the same as giving direction or having authority. The title of director, manager or producer come with the ability to influence and lead a group, only if those individuals are willing to be led by that person. It has been my experience in working with masculine-dominated teams, that if you want something done, give the idea to the one that all the other males respect and follow. And by give I mean, find a way to allow that person to take ownership of the idea/solution that you offer and detach from any need to take credit for it, voice it or be rewarded for your contribution in any way.  Why?  Because unless that male is more evolved and enlightened than the vast majority, a woman is unlikely to get the credit that she deserves.  The fundamental difference between the gracious woman and the immature version of her: the gracious woman is not bothered by the male taking credit for her idea because the reward is in knowing her truth, not in what others think.  The reward for her is in self-mastery and the calm of humility that is much deeper than a pat on the back or peer recognition.  While it is nice to be given tribute for one’s ideas, and it’s fair and reasonable to want that; there was a great deal of satisfaction in my experience when someone else aligned himself to my desire and made it his own.  And because of the level of respect the males had for him, the suggestion was embraced. How do I know that it would not have been taken in the same way if it had been me who spoke?  Because that strategy had already failed me on several attempts.  In fact, I might go so far as to say, that strategy has failed me most of my life.

The discovery of how a quiet one-to-one dialogue can yield the exact result I wanted with the larger group, was a surprise and a great relief.  No longer do I think that I need to be the one to directly speak to a problem.   In fact, I’ve learned that sometimes, it really is counter-productive (with some people!) to take a direct approach.  My preference is to be direct but I don’t control how people do with that, so I am learning to adapt with what IS, not how I would like behaviours to be.

Releasing attachment to “being right” and to “getting credit for my work” felt like I stepped more firmly into the wisdom of feminine influence.  A truly satisfying step.

Fringe Siddhartha

August 16th, 2011 No comments

Less than a month ago I attended a musical “enchanted evening” at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Gardens with a fellow actor from the Vancouver Playback Theatre troupe to listen to some very talented musicians. He tells  me that he is directing a production for the Fringe Festival, based on the story of Herman Hess’ novel, Siddhartha.  I tell him I want to get more directing and producing experience.  By the end of the evening, I had become part of the ultra-talented team that is producing an amazing journey for Vancouver audiences.

The rehearsals are well underway and it’s exciting to see the choreography and actors develop so quickly.  I hope I can keep up, as it is my first time stage managing, along with some light assistant director duties. Today we had a production design meeting and from that, I was totally inspired and excited about the costumes!  The music, I should mention, is also gorgeous; featuring locals such as Buckman Coe and Pepe Danza!  Held in a beautiful urban oasis where East meets West, it will be a unique and moving experience for all.

There is a limit of 70 seats per show so definitely buy tickets in advance!  It’s expected to sell out.

Find out how to get tickets here.


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Apprenticing in Playback

April 26th, 2011 No comments

Over the last couple of months, I have spent a few evenings playing with troupe members of Vancouver Playback Theatre, and I was just invited to be an apprentice with the troupe, with intention to become an official member.  It is a form of theatre that is highly improvised and driven by lived experiences within our communities.  I originally studied Playback Theatre with its Founder, Jonathan Fox, when I was practicing drama therapy at NYU.  VPT has different forms from what I originally trained in so before I become a full member, I’ll have a period of apprenticeship to learn the new forms.  The only other place that I have practiced Playback Theatre outside of Vancouver and New York City is in rehearsal with a troupe in London, UK.  Similar to Tai Chi, it is a discipline that has found many practitioners & students around the world!

Recently, I performed with VPT as a guest artist at a volunteer appreciation event celebrating those who give of themselves to help newcomers to Canada adapt and thrive.  It was fun and rewarding to meet a vast array of people from many different cultures, all committed to important and meaningful work.

I’ll post upcoming Playback performances on the events page.  Thanks for visiting!

Categories: Learning, Performing Arts, Theatre Tags:

Why Theatre? Revisited, II of II

February 25th, 2011 No comments

I’ve explored corners of an emerging field (applied theatre/drama) that in highschool, one couldn’t even imagine would exist. That is just three years before I would be a student of it.  Like pioneers to a new land, it has been an arduous process of studying and cultivating the rugged terrain as an applied theatre practitioner.  A process probably made more difficult by my stubbornness, insecurities and expectations (a.k.a. impatience); all very limiting to a process of cultivating a creative style, learning to teach while honouring my own unique voice amongst the expert opinions.  This privileged challenge of navigating unchartered career waters has been made possible by my having participated in drama, acting, musical theatre, recreational dance, and music/band classes in my teen years, when forming a sense of self is the only thing that is of any true significance.

The arts activities that engage and develop the right-brained abilities such as harmony, aesthetic, metaphor, story, and design, are traditionally considered to be fringe benefits in the schools referred to, in this cleverly animated talk.  Now, we are in the dawn of an era that demands more of the right-brain aptitudes, demonstrated in the highest grossing industries such as culinary arts, cosmetics and fashion, but mostly by the degree of problem-solving our world requires for our survival!  I agree that the ARTS professions, and therefore our civilizations, have not been served by the industrial era’s school system in a manner that is sustainable.  Seems obvious now that we also recognize that the industrialization of production and consumption are no longer sustainable.  I feel so passionate about opening up the creative channels in our schools and workplaces that I could probably obsess about it for years to come!  So for the sake of getting through this blog post, I’ll curb my enthusiasm here to introduce you to the third inspiring video of my day that re-affirms why I choose theatre and dramatic arts over and over, wherever I end up, doing whatever it is I do.

Sir Ken Robinson, a visionary on education and creativity follows his 2006 TED talk with this witty talk about a learning revolution; the waves of which, led me to study drama therapy at New York University in 1999.

What Sir Robinson refers to is a revolution that has been a few decades already underway, beginning with a few enlightened masters; their efforts often ignored, resisted and belittled by many.  The movement to change how we teach children persists in as many ways as are needed to serve the diversity of the many ways that humans learn.  I hope you enjoyed these videos as much as I have enjoyed reflecting upon them and posting here.

A deeply heartfelt-appreciating hug to all my teachers who inspired me to question, seek, express and grow!  And thanks for visiting my online playground!

Scene + Heard in the Snow

February 25th, 2011 No comments

When I arrived at Vancouver Island’s Swartz Bay Tuesday evening, I was greeted with bone chilling wind and millions of big fluffy snowflakes.  I took the public transit bus into town which takes an hour of meandering through the countryside of Sidney before getting close to Saanich, where I stay when I visit.  By the time I had arrived at the house, the snowflakes were teeny tiny and not nearly as flurious as they were an hour before.  I expected any signs of snow would be gone in the morning.

To my delight, I woke up to find beautiful snow blanketing the tree branches outside the bedroom window, and more was on its way!  I love snow; I think more now than ever, since we rarely get any in Victoria that stays for longer than a few hours.  The rain usually follows quickly and washes it all away.  All my activities were canceled that day due to the snow.   Because I grew up in Kitimat where snow could pile up to 4 feet overnight and we’d still be expected to show up for school on time, I don’t understand this business of canceling and shutting down over a foot of snow.

So it is particularly noteworthy when people show up to attend our dress rehearsal while most would use the weather as an excuse not to.  What a splendid way to spend a cold snowy night; tucked into a comfy chair in a warm dimly lit theatre being wrapped in stories and music.  Join us this Friday night at 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm or Sunday 8pm.  Tickets can be purchased at Lyle’s Place in advance or at the door 30 minutes before show times.  Metro Theatre is on the corner of Johnson and Quadra, next to the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Why Theatre? Revisited, I of II

February 1st, 2011 No comments

Today, through my facebook news feed, the question was posted, “Why do theatre?”  To people who have yet to experience the joy of analyzing the great many benefits for human development and cognition that theatre offers, I can appreciate that the answer to that question is not obvious.  At a time when much of the world is habitually turning to screens of all sizes for their information and communication needs for convenience, novelty or cost-effectiveness, it seems far easier to list reasons of why not to do theatre.

Theatre, in the most common of professional forms, is costly to produce, promote and limited for reproducing beyond the run of live shows, thereby limited for potential revenue.  And so came film.  I get it.  Why, indeed?  Sometimes, I am persuaded to focus on other forms of “work” by their mere practicality in the current economic climate.  Then comes along a day like today when I come across this question, “Why Theatre?”, followed by lunch with a friend and three different, but related videos.  The first one below started my morning after breakfast; posted by a theatre colleague, it had me laughing out loud!

Can you relate?  I could!   And not because I identify as having a disorder or being of the elderly demographic, but because in particular states of mind, I have experienced this unstoppable stream of linked, but seemingly disorganized thoughts and impulses that I act upon, taking me from one incomplete task to start another activity that is interrupted by a thought which brings me into another frame of focus, and so on.  Sometimes, I do return back to my initial activity, but it is highly problematic for productivity in the workforce, when I don’t.  And it seems that many many people, often creatives and innovators are often misplaced, misunderstood and highly undervalued in most workplaces and schools.  What is interesting is that others who have shared a similar experience also exhibit a great tendency – nay, an insuppressible drive for artistic expression that is as strong as the “ADD” behaviour.   Perhaps they are connected to, or inform each other.   I’m not of the opinion, however, that they are exclusive to each other, nor do I buy the claim that there is an epidemic.  If you keep reading and watch the second video in this post, you may further understand why I go on to say here that it is the larger societal structures ie. schools, laws, medicine, that are not evolving, or tranforming, at a rate which supports the human response to what is current and true.

After watching that video in the morning, I spent most of the afternoon becoming re-acquainted with a friend who is on her way towards a medical residency in plastic surgery. We had a delicious meal of Peruvian and South American delights at El Inka Latin Deli in Burnaby.   She shared her stories of a new romance and I, my recurring considerations on taking up filmmaking courses. With the fear of abandoning the riches of my formal training in applied drama and theatre, despite little monetary riches to show for it, I have been reluctant to pursue any further training that diverges from the applied theatre path.

Insightfully, Brandi points out that documentary filmmaking, the genre to which I currently feel drawn, would be bringing together all the previous training I’ve had and incorporate other pleasures of researching, writing, and collaborating with a diversity of people.  I go home with a very satisfied tummy and a full head of questions: Maybe I can still practice theatre and develop my film-making skills in a parallel and complimentary way?  It’s another art form, can I pay the bills with it?  Is it the accessibility of the medium that is my block, or my own internal maze of questions that lead to inaction?  Perhaps what my artistic voice is trying to manifest is a hybrid of these mediums.  Hybridity.  It’s how I’m made! No surprise I would fuse play with work, live performance with digital.  And my friends often check-in with the curious, “Janice, what are you up to now?” It seems adventurous, I suppose, to the observer, but it has largely been frustrating because it’s taken me yeeears, a full decade after finishing 7 years of higher education, to realize the fuller scope of my heart’s desires.  What did I expect?  Well, I’m impatient.