Monday, August 06, 2007

SOUL FOOD: Van Stralen, Bard on Beach and Bandstand, Sojourners, etc.

1 Van Stralen cartoon in danger – write now!
3 Honours for Pacific Theatre folks
4 Bard On The Beach
5 New Sojourners CD
6 Soul Food Movies
7 Other blogs


Georgia Straight cuts Van Stralen?!

Many of you know Dirk Van Stralen as a core company member at Pacific Theatre – CARIBOO MAGI, VOICE OF THE PRAIRIE, THE FOREIGNER, PRIVATE EYES and so many others. This coming season you’ll see him twice, in A MAN FOR ALL SEAONS and in the lead role of THE WOODSMAN.

You may also know that Dirk’s single-panel cartoon Van Stralen has run for more than a decade and a half as a weekly feature in the Georgia Straight. So you’ll be as unhappy as I am to read this email from Julia Mackey (another beloved PT actor);
Dear Friends,

After 17 years of weekly cartoons in the Georgia Straight, Dirk has been let go due to a change in vision by, Matt McLeod, who is the current Vice-President of Operations at the Georgia Straight.

Dirk's last cartoon is scheduled to run sometime this month. Charlie Smith, the editor of the GS, gave Dirk the news. He said it was a decision based solely on Matt wanting to change things up, not a reflection of Dirk's work.

If you have enjoyed Dirk's cartoon over the years and wish to see it continue, please write to Matt McLeod ( and Charlie Smith ( to tell them so. We are accepting the possibility that this may not do anything to persuade them, but we've got to try none the less. As well, If you know anyone else who you feel would be willing to write to the Georgia Straight, please forward this email to them.

Thanks very much,

Well, I’ve sent off my email to Matt and Charlie, and encourage you to do the same. Support our artists!


No, that’s not a rabble-rousing political slogan. It’s a reminder that Shakespeare’s most seasonally appropriate play can be seen in a most geographically appropriate setting for a most budgetally appropriate cost. Frank Nickel, Kerry Norris and Stephen Elcheshen have all graced the Pacific Theatre stage over the past years – most recently, Kerry was Louisa MacDonald in A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR. Well, they’ve joined forces for a theatrical romp in the park, an outdoor staging of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at the bandshell of Queen’s Park, New Westminster. It runs every Saturday at 2pm and every Sunday at 11am through August 12. For more info, and all the players, visit the Shadows & Dreams website

Honours for PT Peeps

This past year PT had our second-ever playwriting apprentice (Lucia Frangione was our first, back in 1990). Several of Tina Teeninga’s one-acts were showcased on our stage in Stones Throw projects through the year, and Tina was memorable as the garrulous Max Becker and the not-so-garrulous work camp boss in REMNANTS.

As part of her apprenticeship, Tina also drafted her first full length script, LUDDITES, which was read as part of our Rosedale On Robson Writers Week back in February, where it met with extremely favourable response. Latest news, Tina was awarded a full all-expenses scholarship (plus a separate grant for her airfare!) to continue developing the play under veteran playwright Mark St. Germain at the Glen Workshop, which concluded yesterday in New Mexico. We’ll make sure you get a chance to hear – or maybe even see? – that one before too long.

And while we’re celebrating apprenti, congrats to Kirsty Provan (Joseph in REMNANTS) who was accepted into two of Vancouver’s top actor training programs, and begins Studio 58 in September! Joining a long line of PT actors who’ve won their spurs at the studio; Erla Faye Forsyth, Anthony Ingram, Francis Boyle, Kyle Jesperson, Evangela Dueck and plenty more. (And by the way, director Jeremy Tow has just cast Evangela Dueck as Margaret in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, a guest production which runs at Pacific Theatre next January. Also cast are Dirk Van Stralen, Julia Mackey, Adam Bergquist, Damon Calderwood, Dan Amos, William Samples and Yours Truly.)

Speaking of Yours Truly, I got nominated for the Siminovitch Prize in Theatre for 2007, a $100,000 award that rotates annually between designers, playwrights and directors. I’m not spending any of those bucks just yet – there are 25 other directors nominated all across the country, including some pretty impressive names – but it certainly feels great to get the nom, a glow in which I can bask until October, when the winner is announced. An important element of the award is an emphasis on mentorship of emerging artists, and winners pass along $25,000 of their prize to a protégé of their choice.

And we don’t just get nominated for stuff around Pacific Theatre! The Rosedale On Robson Suite Hotel has received national honours, the winner of this year’s Globe and Mail Business for the Arts Award for Best Arts/Entrepeneur Partnership. It really is an innovative partnership they have with our company, providing accommodations for out-of-town artists, sponsorship of the aforementioned Writers Week (involving playwrights from Toronto, New York, Delaware, Portland Oregon, Seattle and, of course, Vancouver), as well as promotion and direct financial support.

Bard On The Beach

Whoa! I’m way overdue noising abroad a terrific Bard On The Beach line-up, with lots and lots of PT actors treading the beachfront boards. I was really affected by Katrina Dunn’s (PRODIGAL SON) understated staging of JULIUS CAESAR, putting all the emphasis on relationships, foregrounding Brutus as a man of integrity in moral crisis, and drawing out themes of fate, choice and perhaps providence with deft emphasis on the stars and the heavens (and subtle resonances with Galileo). Craig Erickson (GRACE, PRODIGAL SON, GOD’S MAN IN TEXAS) was Jessie-nominated for his Mark Antony last year: here he revisits the role with an even more effective approach. Tom Pickett (DRIVING MISS DAISY, MASTER HAROLD, TENT MEETING) and Parnelli Parnes (CARIBOO MAGI) play several roles. Stephen Bulat (TALLEY’S FOLLY, NAVY WIFE, WARDROBE) sound design. I’m still anticipating my chance to see Tom, Craig and Parnelli in the rarely-staged TIMON OF ATHENS (which will leave me but six of the canonical 37 left to go, and PERICLES scheduled for Ashland next summer – hey Chris, ever thought of doing Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 in rep?).

Bob Frazer (PRODIGAL SON, GLASS MENAGERIE) is terrific as a man-with-no-name-inspired Petrucchio in Bard’s spaghetti western take on TAMING OF THE SHREW – juxtaposing the fun Clint Eastwood posturings with simple, heartful soliloquies that add empathy and complexity. Kyle Rideout (HALO, FARNDALE CHRISTMAS CAROL, BEGGARS) is funny as Lucentio, Chris Weddell (DREAMS OF KINGS & CARPENTERS) is Curtis.

Kyle also plays one of the title roles (I’ll let you guess which one) in ROMEO & JULIET – which I’ve not yet seen, but in which my daughters assure me he is absolutely wonderful, as is the entirety of this effectively lean staging by Dean Paul Gibson (LETTICE & LOVAGE). Bob Frazer Mercutio, Duncan Fraser (GRACE) Capulet, Christopher Apothecary. Kevin McAllister (CARIBOO, TENT MEETING, WARDROBE, REMNANT, etc, etc, etc) designed SHREW and R&J.

HOLD ON – New Sojourners CD

My favourite cd last summer was Jim Byrnes’ glorious “House Of Refuge,” which launched the amazing gospel trio The Sojourners. Producer Steve Dawson has played several of the Pacific Theatre’s trademark music-and-readings anthology shows, so we ended up with Messrs Byrnes, Mosely, Sanders and Small on our stage for one memorable night of CHRISTMAS PRESENCE last December. Hope that didn’t make opening for the Blind Boys Of Alabama an anticlimax in this year’s jazz festival....

Well, the Sojourners have just released their own recording, and it’s the musical thrill of Summer ‘07. You can order yourself a copy from Black Hen Music, where you can also hear three of the tunes; Eyes On The Prize, Run On, Children Go Where I Send Thee.

If that’s not enough Sojourners, and you just can’t wait to get your CD in the mail, check out their web page for more free online samples (Eyes On The Prize, Children Go Where I Send Thee, People Get Ready, Old Ship Of Zion), as well as a rundown of upcoming performances like the Edmonton Folk Festival and the Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival.


To commemorate Mozart’s 250th birthday, Vienna commissioned six films from directors all around the world. The movies don’t deal directly with Mozart (or even chocolate! How un-Austrian...), but instead celebrate the “themes of magic and transformation, truth and reconciliation, and ceremonies for the dead that inform Mozart’s last three great works.” The New Crowned Hope film we really want to see is called DRY SEASON: more on that and other very cool items from the July Sight & Sound (SILENT LIGHT!) will show up on the Soul Food Movies blog over the next while. But for now, two films from the New Crowned Hope series play VanCity from August 10 to 16: SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY and I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE.

If the spiritual transformation-reconciliation themes in those two prove a tad esoteric for some tastes, or the Mozart tribute a bit too elliptical, I’ll also be posting a review of AMADEUS in the next couple of days, as well as something on the recent COPYING BEETHOVEN which owes much to that film. Both are now rentable at Videomatica, as is locally-lensed EVE & THE FIRE HORSE, recently raved by IMAGE Journal.

Returning our attention to big screen Soul Food, there’s lots of “let there be light” in Danny Boyle’s brand new sci-fi SUNSHINE about a space mission to kick start a dying sun. Emphasizing character and cinematography rather than outer space adventure, Film Comment compares it to SOLARIS and 2001, “drawing on the frequent SF conflict between (and yet conflation of) scientific empiricism and spiritual ecstasy.” And EVAN ALMIGHTY is still afloat (barely) at the Empire Granville 7 and satellite theatres.

No specific Soul Food content, but of interest to movie lovers anyhow: Charles Burnett’s much-celebrated, rarely-seen KILLER OF SHEEP plays the VanCity Aug 3-6, 8-9; latest Pixar RATATOUILLE is apparently the most delectable dish on this summer’s cinematic steam table, scaly-tailed rodents notwithstanding; RESCUE DAWN’s the new, mainstream Herzog; PARIS JE T’AIME continues at the Fifth Avenue, with audience responses as varied as the 20 short films by renowned international directors which comprise the portmanteau picture – including SF-certified Tom Tykwer, Alexander Payne and les freres Coen (whose NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is my second-most-anticipated release of the fall, just behind Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE).

But as usual there’s tons of Soul Food on video store shelves (or at least, Videomatica shelves), like so many pickling jars full of cinematic spirituality preserved from the bounty of fall and winter to see us through the long movie-winter of cineplex summer. At the blog I’ll post a list of stuff I saw on sale cheap at HMV. And speaking of Le Blogge, I’ve just finished an overhaul! All the Soul Foodish movies are indexed down the right side of the page, links all working – and I’ve even started adding pictures! Oooh. Aaah. I’ve been writing like mad on my Soul Food Movies book, mostly at the front end of the alphabet, and posting entries as I go: check out July jottings on 49th PARALLEL, ABOUT A BOY, ABOUT SCHMIDT, ADAM’S APPLES, THE ADDICTION, AFTER LIFE, AGNES OF GOD, AND GOD SPOKE, ANDREI RUBLEV, ANGEL-A, BECKET, BLACK SNAKE MOAN, BLADE RUNNER, BOOK OF LIFE, BREACH, BROTHER SUN SISTER MOON, BULL DURHAM, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY and lots more! (Fun way to spend a summer, eh?)

Reminder about the other blogs...

Sometimes it takes me a while to get round to sending out a full-on Soul Food email. But you needn’t be slave to such vicissitudes! Just check out the Soul Food Vancouver blog for up-to-date postings on arts events around town that may have a particular spiritual flavour. Heck, as well as all the stuff you’ve just read, you’ll also find recent postings about a job opening, a book launch, the new Sinnead O’Connor recording, free stuff at Regent College and the opportunity to house one of Pacific Theatre’s incoming not-so-angry men!

I also keep a Pacific Theatre blog, “backstage notes from the artistic director.” Recently, news about a new Judith Thompson play in L.A., inspiration from an Iranian filmmaker, news about an upcoming Katharine Venour show, a brand new pope play in London’s West End, and... Oh, the opportunity to house one of Pacific Theatre’s incoming not-so-angry men!

And then there’s Oblations, where I post non-movie stuff that I write, and (mostly) cool things other people write; lately, Abbas Kiarostami, William Kennedy, Tim Anderson, G.K. Chesterton, Booth Tarkington, Jack Nicholson, W.H. Auden and Anton Chekhov.

And if you want to receive the Soul Food Email in your very own email box, just fire off a note to

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