Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why is there peace?

The Decline of Violence

'In 16th century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted on a stage and was slowly lowered into a fire. According to the historian Norman Davies, "the spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized."'


Office Hours was my first play done at Bishop's University where we could actually develop the script and the characters, rather like the usual festivals of New Plays and Theatre Activ, in which you are given the script, given an inordinate short amount of time to learn your lines, and then you are quickly booted on stage with a shaky and stumbling "go!" The set could fall over at anytime, you've only practised lighting the candle twice, if that, and your fellow actor jumped over a third of the script during dress rehearsal. Lights, sound, get on stage and don't screw it up!

Bam, crash, and lights! That's the feeling and energy of Theatre Activ; everyone is running around: painting and building sets, scrambling together props, learning their lines, and making their lighting design. Everything happens in the flash of fifteen days, and then BAM, the festival opens!
Somewhere in there, you actually have to block the play and develop your characters. Somehow, it usually all comes together; costumes are completed, families and friends come, and the performances are generally well received. Sometimes, things don't work out as hoped, but that is precisely why these festivals exist: to experiment, to triumph, to fail. And somehow, somewhere, there is always the time to party.

But I digress. Office Hours', albeit our set and lighting was put together à la Theatre Activ, claim to fame were the extremely strong and well developed performances. We put on four shows, and our very last show on Saturday night completely sold out. We weren't charging for our performance, only asking for donations, so I guess we didn't so much sell out as completely pack the hall. It is worth noting that Office Hours was entirely directed, produced, marketed, and performed by students. Our director personally went around town, asking people to come and see his show. We all did our part; we assembled our own costumes, helped with lighting, contributed props and makeup, and told as many people as we could about the show. It went better than I could have ever hoped for; we were all very happy with the outcome.

The wrench thrown into this wonderfully executed show? Even though community members, shopkeepers, parents, and friends came to see us, not even one drama professor bothered to grace us with their presence. The two top drama professors were personally invited by one of our actors, and they declined, saying that they were busy the nights of the performances. It is a valid excuse, but only insofar as being actually busy is. The problem was that other students had talked to the professors about our show, and the top two professors said Office Hours conflicted with Theatre Activ (which it didn't), and that we shouldn't be doing such a show anyway, as it had nothing to do with Bishop's Drama Department. They, in turn, decided not to support us.

Now, I think this lack of support is absolutely appalling. It seems as though the professors were acting extremely childish. It shouldn't matter whether this had anything to do with the Drama Department or not -- we put on a play, and that is what should matter. If anything, they should be swelling with pride if a student at their university decided to put on a play on his own initiative! Not only that, but isn't their teaching supposed to teach us to do exactly what we did? Aren't they giving us skills to help us out in the real world? Isn't this exactly what we should be doing? Aren't we showing creativity, initiative, and ambition?

At the end of the show, though, it didn't matter anymore. What had mattered was all the people who had decided to support us. Other professors had come, many community members had come, as well as a pile of friends and family. People knew it was a stellar show, and when something is good, people talk about it. I am sure word got to the top two drama professors... but now, the show is over, even Theatre Activ is done for another year, so all we are left with are the pictures and memories.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm not apologizing; I'm not even going to make up some excuses. I haven't written in over a month now, and there is no place nor time to expatiate on my lack of entries. What is important is that I feel guilty and ashamed at myself for not writing.

Words haven't been spewing out with such gentle ease as they normally do; I feel a little constipated in my writing: idea and thought after thought but no smooth ease nor capability, it seems, to write them down. It all seems forced, like a sticky jam jar that won't open or like getting Andrea eating her vegetables. Forced. Constipated. Maybe there is an underlying, tragic loss of unbridled imagination. One shouldn't think such thoughts.

I came back to Bishop's University on the fifth of January, along with Alex and Andrea. I had an intensive rehearsal schedule for Norm Foster's Office Hours, which I am acting in. We spent much time in hot and sticky Bandeen Hall before opening on Tuesday, the 9th. Opening was fantastic, but I dare say that the other two shows after that were even stronger! I realize this is an extremely rare occurrence, as most shows tend to have a less good second run. Perhaps this is true in some cases, but the two scenes that I am in have only been improving with each show, getting more and more laughs. I haven't been in a real comedy like this since I was in grade 9, and man, does it ever feel good to get on stage, perform your shtick, and have people laugh at what you say. Truth be told, I had forgotten how funny this play is. Having an audience adds an incredible amount of energy to the play. Actors feed off of this energy, and it results in an even better show.

Also, even though I have had a rather awkward and embarrassing dream about my two male actors, I can honestly say that I have never felt more comfortable being on stage. I was acting alongside stupendous actors. Every other production I have been in, I have been worried for someone else screwing up their lines or messing up a prop or a movement. This time, we just dove right in and gave it to the audience. We had great fun with it. Nothing could have been better. I never thought that being a Jewish mother fretting over her son's homosexuality could be such a barrel of laughs.