Vancouver Theatre: Ensemble Theatre Company presents The Farnsworth Invention at Jericho Arts Centre

The Farnsworth Invention opened at the Jericho Arts Centre in Vancouver on Friday, July 19th. Ensemble Theatre Company‘s production of Aaron Sorkin‘s play tells the story of the invention of television — a story that turns out to be more rich and complicated than I ever thought. The play introduces us to Philo T. Farnsworth, who was struck with the idea of transmitting images electronically when he was just twelve years old, standing in a potato farm in Idaho. The play plunges us into a world in which the idea of television was considered impossible, and even insane, while scientists all over the world raced to develop a working prototype.

 

Yurij Kis and Michael Smith in the Farnsworth Invention.

Yurij Kis and Michael Smith in the Farnsworth Invention.

 

The dream of television is ringed by hope, fear, greed, doubt, warring patent claims and business interests poised to pounce upon what promised to be a radical, world-changing invention — if it ever became a reality, that is. In the centre of this landscape driven by  power, politics and profit is the artless Farnsworth, whose love of electrons and glass tubes is delightful and contagious. His work made electronically transmitted images a reality. In other words, his invention changed the world so fundamentally it’s hard to imagine what we’d be without it. Which makes you wonder why Farnsworth remains such an obscure figure today (even for a scientist).

The play goes far to answer that question — showing us that getting credit for inventions isn’t as straightforward as one might think, especially when men with means and much to lose with the Farnsworth invention intercede. The play is as much of an introduction to Farnsworth as it is to David Sarnoff, leader of the Radio Corporation of America, and broadcast communications visionary.

 

Michael Smith and Yurij Kis in The Farnsworth Intervention.

 

Ensemble‘s production makes us intimately acquainted with these giants of history, who address each other and the audience like old friends. The Farnsworth Invention is warm, funny and engaging throughout. The design is refreshingly simple — it keeps the story and strong script front and centre. And production really makes you feel like you’re immersed sometime in the 20′s and 30′s.

Thanks to director Matthew Bissett for this wonderful production. The Farnsworth Invention stars Michael Smith (Philo T. Farnsworth), Yurij Kis (David Sarnoff), Rebecca Walters (Pem Farnsworth) and nine other talented cast members in the Canadian premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s play.

The Farnsworth Invention plays 8 PM nightly July 25, 28 31, and August 3, 6, and 9, with a 2 PM matinee on Saturday July 27th at the Jericho Arts Centre, Vancouver, BC.

Never Shoot A Stampede Queen – Win Vancouver Tickets

I am not sure about the rest of you, but one of my favourite side effects of travelling is taking the time to read.  And a favourite author of mine, that I tend to place at the tops of the holiday reads priority pile, is Mark Leiren-Young.  I still have yet to read Mark’s latest book, Free Magic Secrets Revealed, that has only just hit bookstores in the past few weeks, but up until now, my favourite read of Mark’s has been Never Shoot a Stampede Queen.  And I don’t think I am alone in it being a favourite, as Mark won a Leacock Medal for humour for this novel.

Never Shoot a Stampede Queen - the novel

For those of you that have yet to read Never Shoot A Stampede Queen, it is a humourous account of Mark’s early 20′s, as a young reporter in Williams Lake.  And funny it is!

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, as it happens, Mark is also a playwright, and Never Shoot a Stamped Queen is hitting the stage for the first time  … well … first time in Vancouver, as it is currently making its rounds in Kamloops and Duncan, BC with a great audience response.

The playbill for the Show?
Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, on Stage in Vancouver

Zachary Stevenson (the Arts Club’s Buddy Holly) stars in the stage adaptation of Mark Leiren-Young’s Never Shoot A Stampede Queen — winner of the Leacock Medal for humour. This all-new solo show follows the adventures of a big city (Vancouver) boy who arrives in the crime capital of BC (Williams Lake) and discovers stranger news, quirkier characters, and better friends than he ever could have imagined. Directed and dramaturged by TJ Dawe (hot off his acclaimed solo show Medicine), and adapted for the stage by Leiren-Young (known to Arts Club audiences for Easy Money and The Year in Revue). For more info visit http://stampedequeen.ca/.

 

So … !!!  Mark has given me a pair of tickets to giveaway to the Preview Night in Vancouver, Thursday May 9th, 2013 at 8 pm on the Granville Island Stage in Vancouver, BC.

To enter to win, simply comment below with a favourite author or genre of books that you love to read while travelling, by Sunday May 5th at midnight. I will randomly pull the name of a winner from the entries Monday morning, May 6th.

For a second, third and fourth entry into the contest, share this contest on twitter, facebook, and google+ by sharing something like:

Win tickets to Thursday’s Preview of #StampedeQueen in #Vancouver on @Roamancing  ~ http://ht.ly/kGlPG

Main thing for the social media entries to be valid, you must hashtag #StampedeQueen, include the link to this post, and use our handle to link us into the conversation (so that we see your entry).

Looking forward to your responses!  This should be a fun Show!

Kisses,

Emme  xoxo

PS And if you don’t win our tickets, you can still catch the Show on the Granville Island Stage from May 9th – 25th.  I’ll be sure to tell you all about it on my personal site, as soon as I see it.

 

 

Travel and Charity in Pacific Theatre’s Mother Teresa is Dead

Some people travel to visit friends or family. Some people travel to see the world. And some travel to escape. Such is the case of Jane, a character in Pacific Theatre’s latest show, Mother Teresa is Dead. Jane has travelled from England to India because she wants to help. She is overwhelmed by the poverty and injustice she sees in the world and feels an irrepressible need to help the less fortunate. But she has also left England to escape the life with her husband and young son that she sees as shallow and meaningless and seems to be drowning within.

 

Kayvon Kelly and Julie McIsaac as Srinivas and Jane. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

When the play begins, Jane’s husband, Mark, has just arrived in India. Jane has been missing for seven weeks and Mark has only just tracked her down to the house of a British expat, Frances. Frances has kindly taken Jane in, but is unable to shed any light as to why Jane left Mark and their son without a word. When Mark learns that Jane has been working at a shelter helping children, he is livid that Jane would leave their child to help other children. There are explosive confrontations between husband and wife, as well as with Srinivas, the owner of the shelter who also arrives looking for Jane.

 

Sebastian Kroon and Julie McIsaac as Mark and Jane. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead made me think about travelling and why we travel. As someone who loves travelling and travels as much as possible, Mother Teresa is Dead made me think, why do we travel? Why do I travel? I know that I, as the traveller, learn so much. I learn about other countries and cultures. I try new things and have new experiences. I learn what I like and don’t like, and what I am capable of. I come home feeling enriched. But what about everyone else? How do my travels affect other people? It is clear Jane’s journey to India has affected so many lives, from her family in England, to locals like Srinivas and the children of the shelter, to the good Samaritan Frances. By travelling to India, does Jane really what she sought to do – help the less fortunate – or does she instead bring a world of trouble into Frances’ home?

 

Julie McIsaac and Katharine Venour as Jane and Frances. Photo by Ron Reed.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead is a play that asks a lot big questions, but leaves them unanswered. Can one live a guilt-free life when so many people in the world are suffering? Do we do more harm than good when we try to help? Are charities designed just to ease the guilt of comfortable Westerners? In this way, Mother Teresa is Dead is neither preachy or apologetic; it just makes you think. As I was leaving the theatre I found I was asking my own big questions about travel and the motivations for travelling that I could not find the answers for.

Congratulations to Kayvon Kelly (Srinivas), Sebastian Kroon (Mark), Julie McIsaac (Jane), and Katharine Venour (Frances) for their superb performances and to Director Evan Frayne for a truly thought-provoking and enjoyable show.

 

Mother Teresa is Dead
When: March 1st – 23rd, 2013, Wednesday to Saturday nights at 8pm, with Saturday matinees at 2 pm
Where: Pacific Theatre, 1440 W. 12th Ave, Vancouver
Tickets: Buy online

Rent! in Vancouver with Fighting Chance Production

The full cast! (Photo Credit: Jennifer Kuhl)

 

Last Thursday, I had the privilege of seeing Fighting Chance Production’s rendition of Rent performed on stage at the Waterfront Theatre. It was the first time I’d seen the musical on stage. My previous exposure was in the heat of my awkward teenage years (which are taking their sweet time leaving the nest), when my mother took me to see the film adaptation; we love going to the movies together and this was one of the many we’ve gone to see. I don’t remember why we chose this one, but I loved it. I bought the DVD when it came out, and I had the soundtrack. By the time I hit my second year of high school though, the shine wore off a bit and though I tend to retain a fondness for everything I liked when I was in middle school, I didn’t really think much about Rent apart from having some of the songs blaring in my mind every once in a while.

 

The disgruntled homeless. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Kuhl)

 

It was definitely a very different experience on stage! Ultimately, it was delightful, though it took me some time to stop visualizing the film and appreciate the stage production for what it was. I saw the show with Emme and when we were talking afterwardS she told me she didn’t like the film version of the show; I can’t say I think the same, since I did enjoy the film very much. The stage version is the source material for the film, but it was decently adapted and at least worked for me when I was younger. I saw a bit of it again to refresh my memory recently, and though it has its patchy bits, it mostly holds up well.

 

Brilliant view of the set. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Kuhl)

 

However, as it must have been for fans of the stage when the film came into being, I couldn’t really help but make comparisons. Mind you, the first thing that sparked comparison in my mind was the opening scene, and the stage version brought a lighthearted charm to the story’s opening scene that the film didn’t even attempt to capture. The film had the luxury of simply showing two of the central characters, Mark and Roger, living in their loft without having to give them a scene where they point out the amenities of the place, such as their illegal wood-burning stove, and describe the place in such a way that I believe they were trying to mockingly present it as one would a palace. Especially seeing as the set was rather minimalistic compared with the sets and location shooting options available to the film version, it helped bring the setting for much of the first act to life and, along with the little voice mail numbers that were either modified or did not make it into the film at all, brought a touch of sillyness to the show that I truly loved. The film (which, unlike the version of the stage incarnation I saw, actually opens with Seasons of Love and then segues into “Rent” right away) made use of Mark’s accumulating footage throughout the film and a spectacle out of the “Rent” number by having the performers burn up their eviction notices and let them fall gently from their windows; these were things I missed from the adaptation, though the flaming eviction notices possibly didn’t carry over because it could cause a major fire hazard. I would assume.

 

Chelsea Tucker as Maureen. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Kulh)

 

One thing I found worked better on stage than in the film was Maureen’s protest, a sort of Hey Diddle Diddle inspired allegory protesting her performance space being taken away to be transformed into a ‘cyber café’. This sequence was possibly the least beloved for me when I saw it on film, but on stage it somehow came off as… charming in its hokeyness. Part of it could have been Chelsea Tucker’s masterful rendering of the character; she nailed her almost comical primadonna attitude, in my opinion, and it was a joy to see her character on stage every time. But the stripped-down nature of the stage production and the different atmosphere made it a bit less unbearable than the larger-than-life treatment the performance gets in the film, complete with Maureen biking into the performance.

 

Emily Canavan as Mimi. She was sublime. (Photo credit: Jennifer Kuhl)

 

This brings me to part of the reason I was interested in seeing the show at all: I was curious to see how it would differ from the film and how it would be the same, what the adaptation changed and what it left out altogether. I would have been a little disappointed if everything was the same, really. At the heart of it, the story was the same and the messages, patchy on their own right or not depending on what came through strongest … I love the Rent’s core theme of treasuring your life and living with as much hope as possible even if your days are numbered, not so wild on the glorification of the ‘starving artist’ lifestyle. I almost cried at the end, as I did watching the film! (I rarely cry for real, so almost crying is as good as actually shedding tears as far as I’m concerned.) I can’t say which I enjoyed more, since they both had their ups and downs, but either way I had a good time at the show!

You can catch Fighting Chance Production’s version of Rent on stage at Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver Tuesday to Sunday nights at 8 pm, now until August 18th, 2012 with matinees at 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Get your tickets here.

 

Souvenirs from a wonderful night.

Vancouver Theatre Giveaway: Victor Victoria at the Metro Theatre

Oh to be in Vancouver this Saturday, and to be whisked away in my mind to Paris, France in the 1930′s with a prime seat for the entertainment in the Clubs, in just the right spot in the room to eavesdrop on all the shenanigans going on around me, because you know as a writer that is what we absolutely love to do (or at least what I personally absolutely love to do, and then concoct a tale of the people’s lives that I am eavesdropping upon).

 

Victor Victoria at Vancouver's Metro Theatre, March 17th - April 7th, 2012

 

So what exactly am I rambling on about?  Victor Victoria at the Metro Theatre in Vancouver.  Saturday night is Opening Night of the Musical in Vancouver and I often feel like when I am in the theatre, that I am being whisked away to another part of the World, eavesdropping on conversations, only where I’m validated for my speculations and where no one gives me looks of disgust when they catch me in the act of listening in.  Now for those of you that are familiar with the story of Victor Victoria, you’ll know that this will be one juicy conversation to eavesdrop on, as we’ve got a woman that pretends to be a man playing a woman to land a role …  now say that 5x fast … and becomes the bed ‘fellow’ of a gangster that knows she’s a woman, but must hide this from his associates, in order not to be perceived as a homosexual in a macho, gun wielding line of work.  Yes, if I were actually in a Club in Paris listening to this, I am sure I’d be caught in the act of eavesdropping, as this would have just been too juicy not to want to keep edging myself closer, until I was practically sitting in someone’s lap, and then I’d probably end up getting roughed up by the gangsters, and I haven’t taken Ian Mallory’s travel defence training yet, so it’s good thing this is in a theatre, where eavesdropping is allowed.

Sadly I won’t be there, however, as I’m in Ontario this week.  The theatre has kindly extended our tickets to you our readers, so we are hosting a contest here and on Being Emme, giving a pair of tickets away on each site to one lucky reader to attend the Musical on April 4th.

To make this even juicier, I haven’t mentioned who is playing the leading fellow yet, have I?  None other than Jeff Hyslop, the quintessential Phantom of the Opera from the travelling Canadian Production and Jeff the mannequin in the children’s show Today’s Special, will be playing the role of Toddy, Victor/Victoria’s middle-aged gay confidant.  Oh to be able to see Jeff Hyslop on stage in a musical in the intimacy of the Metro Theatre!  No wonder, I’ve been looking green when I eye myself up in the bathroom mirror.  Begrudging missing this one.  Jeff will be complimented on stage by Sylvia Zaradic, as Victor/Victoria.

 

Victor/Victoria and Toddy will be played by Sylvia Zaradic and Jeff Hyslop

 

So how do you win the tickets?  As I mentioned, we have a pair of tickets to giveaway here and a pair to giveaway on Being Emme  for the April 4th Show.  To enter:

  • Comment below with a memorable conversation you once eavesdropped on;
  • The Deadline to enter is Wednesday March 21st, 2012 at midnight PST.

To be entered a second, third and fourth time:

  • Tweet this post with @Roamancing and #VancouverTheatre somewhere in the tweet, so I see the tweet;
  • Share this post on facebook and include @Roamancing in the text when you post it (this should link our facebook page, so I’ll see the post); and/or
  • Share this post on G+ and include @Roamancing in the text when you post it (this should alert me on G+ of your post).

I shall pull the name of one lucky winner from commenters, tweeters, facebookers and G+ers, and announce the winner on Thursday March 22nd.  Very much looking forward to making somebody happy!

Oh, and if sadly you don’t win, the play is running at the Metro Theatre in Vancouver from March 17th – April 7, 2012, with performances on Wednesdays to Saturdays at 8pm and two Sunday Matinees on March 25 & April 1 at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Kisses,

Emme xoxo