Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 31 Soul Food: REMNANTS, IDIOTS, Hart and Soul Food Movies

REMNANTS (A FABLE) at Pacific Theatre
Must close June 9
The problem with putting your heart and soul into creating a piece of theatre is that there may not be enough of either left over to also get around to letting people know about the darn thing! As you may have noticed, Soul Food has been quiet lately while the head chef was off in pre-Holocaust Poland and Depression-era Canada, deep in rehearsals for REMNANTS (A FABLE) which runs this week and next at Pacific Theatre. Very proud of this epic story that brilliantly interweaves the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers with Canada's little-known history of anti-Semitism in what is ultimately the journey of a human soul toward hard-won reconciliation.
I've posted further details (and excerpts from a glowing Vancouver Sun review) at the Soul Food Vancouver blog, and over at the Pacific Theatre blog you'll find a Langley Times profile of a couple of our Emerging Artists. I'll likely add more bits and pieces over the next week or so.
(Oh, and did you know? Pacific Theatre led the Small Theatre category in 2007 with eight Jessie Richardson Award nominations, including a heap for GRACE.)

Jun 1-16
I always think of Abbotsford's Gallery 7 Theatre as something of a community theatre counterpart to Pacific Theatre. This weekend they open a show that's sort of a comic counterpart to PT's production of REMNANTS (minus the Joseph part): both works are by acclaimed Canadian playwrights, and deal with the persecution of Jews in eastern Europe in the early part of the 20th century. (But REMNANTS closes a week earlier, so you know which one you need to see first....) Details here.

Jun 9: Nanaimo
Jul 19: Regent College (with Spencer Capier)
Upcoming opportunities to hear Michael, as well as a free downloadable instrumental mp3: details here.

Pacific Cinematheque brings us three certified Soul Food Movie masterpieces as part of their retrospective on arthouse distributor Janus Films: SEVENTH SEAL, DAY OF WRATH and WILD STRAWBERRIES are neatly clustered from June 15-18, details here. There's not a lot on regular screens right now with a distintly spiritual flavour, but I've got some tips at the Soul Food Movies blog about a handful of other films that are worth seeing, in amongst the requisite summer blockbusters and sequels of sequels.

June 1-16: Village Of Idiots at Gallery 7

Gallery 7 Theatre & Performing Arts Society presents
Village of Idiots
by John Lazarus

June 1 & 2, 7–9, 14–16 @ 7:30 PM
Discount Matinees: June 2 & 9 @ 2:00 PM

MEI Secondary School Theatre
4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford

Tickets - House of James: 604-852-3701

Journey to the Village of Idiots for a Theatrical Adventure

Which is better – to have all the street smarts in the world or to love with all the innocence of a child? Such is the unique question raised in Gallery 7’s final production of the 2006/2007 theatre season, Village of Idiots, written by Canadian playwright, John Lazarus.

A witty and charming theatre experience suitable for the entire family, Village of Idiots tells the story of a young Russian Army deserter named Yosef who stumbles into the Polish town of Chelm, also known as the legendary Village of Idiots. Concerned that the hamlet will be run-over by Russian invaders if the townsfolk don’t wise up to the ways of the outside world, Yosef attempts to help the seemingly apathetic village prepare for the worst.

Old habits are hard to break, however, and Yosef soon discovers that the inhabitants of Chelm operate at a completely different social and intellectual level, one that appears inherently backwards and infinitely ridiculous. The villagers, possessing a passionate but child-like vision of the cosmos, seem more concerned with local municipal matters such as how not to walk on the first snow of winter, how to protect the synagogue collection box from thieves by hanging it from the ceiling and how to sell borscht to the next door village by dumping it in to the river upstream.

While overseeing the rebuilding the town synagogue, Yosef rubs shoulders with an eclectic and colorful community of people. He meets the local woman’s firefighting auxiliary team, a strange traveler who arrived from another, but strangely similar town of Chelm and a husband and wife team who earn a living by selling Schnapps to each other. Only after spending nearly a year in town does Yosef begin to discover that the villagers’ outward appearance of ignorance and backwards wisdom actually reveals a deeper truth regarding the value of a loving and caring community and the importance of child-like innocence and simplicity.

Village of Idiots was first commissioned by the Young People’s Theatre of Ontario and received its first production in 1985. Since then, the play has been performed on numerous professional, college and community stages through-out the country. The play is based on a beloved tradition of Jewish story-telling as found in such books as The Wise Men of Helm and their Merry Tales by Solomon Simon and other anthologies.

Playing the role of the deserting Russian soldier, Yosef, is J.D. Dueckman, whose previous performances include Beau Jest for Gallery 7 and The Taming of the Shrew for UCFV Theatre. Caszie Schoeber, who last appeared on the Gallery 7 stage in Little Women, plays the skeptical yet empathetic Miriam. Rounding out the cast is a talented crew of both new and veteran Gallery 7 performers including Andrew Abrahams, Julie Brooks, John Dawson, Quentin Flokstra, Patrick Jolicoeur, Heather Muth, Dave Peters, Richard Toots and Stephanie Roukema.

Directing Village of Idiots is Gallery 7 newcomer, Robyn Roukema. Roukema recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a degree in drama and is supported by an equally talented team of designers. Set design for Village of Idiots is by UCFV Theatre Department wardrobe manager, Heather Robertson. Costume design is by Dani Rebain, lighting design is by Lora-Lynne Frewing and sound design is by Rick Havinga. Stage management is provided by Jenn Wittrup.

For more information about Gallery 7 Theatre, please visit their website

Jun 9 / Jul 19: Michael Hart concerts - Nanaimo, Regent College

Michael Hart is well-known to all of us Soul Food types: he's a mainstay at Pacific Theatre's CHRISTMAS PRESENCE, as well as other of our anthology evenings like PASSION, TESTIMONY and CONFESSIONS. And lots of us are fans of the string of celebrated recordings he's crafted over the years - the title track of his most recent, "Desire," is one of the most memorable new tunes I've heard in recent years, a gorgeous piece of writing, with maybe a tip of the musical hat to Neil Young tune like "Harvest Moon"? Just beautiful. That cd was recently named "independent album of the year" in England's "Never For Nothing" webzine, and the title track nominated Best Folk Roots Song at the annual Gospel Music Association awards.

There are a couple chances to hear Michael live in the next couple months. He'll be playing a house concert in Nanaimo June 9 - admission is $12, phone 250 751-0805 or email for information or to reserve yourself some of the limited seats at this very intimate event.

And then there's a free outdoor lunchtime concert at Regent College Thursday July 19, where Michael will be joined by Spencer Capier on violin, mandolin, and who knows what other array of intsruments - anything with strings on it, Spencer can make music! 224-3245 for more information.

But if you don't live in Nanaimo, and can't wait a month and a half for the Regent gig, here's something to tide you over. Michal has posted a free mp3 of a gorgeous instrumental track on his website - just go to the Biography page and click on the "Instrumental Medley" link just below "House Concerts" in the middle of the page.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

June 9: REMNANTS Closes At Pacific Theatre!

I got so engrossed in REMNANTS rehearsals (I directed) that I completely neglected all my blogs, emails... The whole international Soul Food conglomerate came crashing to a halt! I'm surprised civilization itself didn't collapse.

Anyhow, the show's up, I've had a week and a half to recuperate, and I'm firing up the old computer once again to get back in the swing.

What a fascinating show! Spanning three decades, Jason Sherman interweaves three of the Great Stories into a compelling epic tale, transposing the Joseph story from Genesis to pre-Holocaust Poland and Canada in the Great Depression. In the months leading up to rehearsal, I marvelled at Sherman's brilliance, the sheer cleverness and invention involved in combining these three elements to shed new light on each. It wasn't until we were deep into rehearsal that we found the story's heart: Sherman finds in Joseph's journey the challenge of forgiveness, the choice between the harsh judgment of his father and some other, harder way. What a deeply moving story it ends up becoming!

I'll post more on the Pacific Theatre blog when I can steal the time, but for now let me give you the vitals, and pass along bits from Peter Birnie's glowing review.

by Jason Sherman
Closes June 9
Wed-Sat 8pm
Sat matinee 2pm
Tickets 731-5518 or purchase online
More information at the Pacific Theatre website


And here's Mr Birnie...

Play shines through excellent staging, dedication of Trinity Western cast
Peter Birnie, Vancouver Sun
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Jason Sherman's innovative take on the Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers makes an interesting piece of theatre... an engaging transference of the tale from ancient times to Canada's recent past. For its annual showcase of emerging artists, Pacific Theatre joins forces with the theatre department at Trinity Western University. The result is a student production of Remnants that offers excellent staging and solid ensemble work from the young cast.

In his 1998 play Patience, Sherman used the Biblical story of Job in a fairly tangential way. Remnants, by contrast, parallels Joseph's journey from start to finish. Sherman's cleverness comes in the many ways he has found to transfer old to new.
In 1925, Joseph's jealous brothers drive him from their Polish village, forcing him on to a ship to America. Instead he disembarks at Halifax, and his Canadian adventures come, by 1932, to include an interpretation of a dream that brings him to the attention of Mackenzie King.

That infamously clairvoyance-obsessed politician is between gigs. Ousted as prime minister in 1930, he'll be back in power in 1935 thanks to the prophecies of his young Polish aide. King's rabid anti-Semitism leaves Joseph unable to admit he's Jewish. Yet the lad is now in charge of deciding the fate of a boatload of European refugees, including the 10 brothers who gave him the boot.

Ron Reed has done a terrific job of dealing with a big cast in a small space. The play is filled with shifts in time and mood and place, but Reed's steady direction of this epic keeps confusion to a minimum. In what is perhaps a mark of the growing bonds between Jews and Christians, Reed and his crowd of Christian students also embrace the play's many specific references to Jewish religious rites and mores.

Stancil Campbell's set is similarly clear-cut, with wooden platforms and benches easily adapted for the play's many settings. This stage is framed by two big windows built with subtle design references delineating one as Old World Jewish and the other as Canadian Presbyterian.

...everyone's work (is) good, especially Kirsty Provan's engaging performance as Joseph. The palpable sincerity of everyone's effort to make this production of Remnants a memorable one has me hankering for the same dedication from a professional troupe willing to tackle this fascinating fable.

Sun Theatre Critic

Jun 15-18: Soul Food Classics in Janus Film Series

Fabulous chance to see many of the great films on the big screen, most in pristine new 35mm prints, as Pacific Cinematheque does a retrospective of Janus films, the acclaimed distributor of cinephile specialties. First a list of what's showing, followed by detail on the specifically "soul food" titles.
The 400 Blows
Jules and Jim
Antoine and Colette + Zéro de conduite
Cléo from 5 to 7
Summer with Monika
The Earrings of Madame de…
Death of a Cyclist
Cría Cuervos
The Seventh Seal
Day of Wrath
Wild Strawberries
Fires on the Plain
The Organizer
The Lady Vanishes
High and Low
The Cranes Are Flying
Ballad of a Soldier
W.R. - Mysteries of the Organism

The Seventh Seal
Friday, June 15 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 16 – 9:30 pm
Sunday, June 17 – 7:30 pm
Sweden 1957. Director: Ingmar Bergman. A very modern meditation on the absence of God, presented in the guise of a medieval morality play, The Seventh Seal cemented Ingmar Bergman's reputation as a Serious Artist, and remains one of cinema's most famous (and most parodied) works. Max von Sydow stars as Antonius Blok, a battle-weary knight who returns from the Crusades to find his native Sweden ravaged by plague. Observing the horrors around him – disease-ridden peasants dying gruesome deaths, religious zealots parading in orgies of self-flagellation, fear-crazed vigilantes burning “witches” at the stake – the once-pious knight begins to doubt the existence of a God who would permit such suffering. When the white-faced, black-robed figure of Death finally comes for him also, Blok gains a brief reprieve by challenging the spectre to a game of chess he must inevitably lose. The Seventh Seal has achieved iconographic status in the popular imagination, and contains some of film's most unforgettable images. It was also something of a milestone in “intellectual” or “serious” cinema, and was instrumental in creating the art house vogue for Bergman's work. “Bergman's most ambitious film” (Georges Sadoul). B&W, 35mm, in Swedish with English subtitles. 95 mins.

Day of Wrath
Friday, June 15 – 9:20 pm
Saturday, June 16 – 7:30 pm
Monday, June 18 – 9:20 pm
Denmark 1943. Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer. Perhaps the greatest film ever made by one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived” (2006 New York Film Festival), this 1943 drama, made during the darkest days of Denmark's Nazi occupation, exemplifies the deliberate, intense, beautifully austere style for which Dreyer's films are celebrated – a style Paul Schrader famously described, with that of Ozu and Bresson, as “transcendental.” In a small Danish village in the early 17th-century, an aging pastor has an elderly woman burned at the stake as a witch, and is cursed by her as she dies. The pastor's young wife is unhappy Anne (Lisbeth Movin, in an extraordinary performance), daughter of an accused witch he once spared. When Martin, the pastor's son by a previous marriage, returns from sea, Anne falls in love with him – and finds herself accused of witchcraft. Many of Dreyer's key concerns here find expression: questions of faith, problems of good and evil, suffering and martyrdom, the psychology of victimized women. (Dreyer's own mother died a horrible death after an unsuccessful abortion). “The masterpiece of a genius of cinema ... The use of extended silences and ambiguity, the portrayal of states of being, and the poetic inflections of the whole presage the modern cinema and set it a standard of excellence seldom surpassed” (Amos Vogel). B&W, 35mm, in Danish with English sub-titles. 105 mins.

Wild Strawberries
Sunday, June 17 – 9:20 pm
Monday, June 18 – 7:30 pm
Sweden 1957. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1958, and now often cited as one of Bergman's greatest films, Wild Strawberries is an intensely moving, lyrical work of affirmation and reconciliation. Victor Sjöström, Sweden's pre-eminent director before Bergman, gives “the finest performance in any Bergman film” (James Monaco) as Isak Borg, an aging, eminent professor travelling by car from Stockholm to Lund, where he is to receive an honorary degree. Accompanying him is daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), whose marriage to Borg's son Evald (Gunnar Björnstrand) is deeply troubled. A flood of memories, daydreams, and nightmares assails the elderly protagonist along the way, forcing him to take stock of his life, re-evaluate his relationships, confront his shortcomings, and accept his mortality. The drama unfolds over a 24-hour period; the dream sequences are amongst the most memorable in the Bergman canon, while the single-shot transitions, from present to past and back again, are impressive. “In every respect a great film ... a profoundly modern work of art” (Eugene Archer). “The best Bergman film of the Fifties, much closer to a true philosophical tragedy than his more ambitious The Seventh Seal ” (Georges Sadoul). B&W, 35mm, in Swedish with English subtitles. 94 mins.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jessie Richardson Awards 2007

Pretty proud of our Pacific Theatre artists, for all the kudos this year. GRACE has been nominated not only as outstanding production and Angela Konrad for her direction, but all four members of the cast for actor Jessies! - Craig Erickson, Alexa Devine, Kerry van der Griend and Duncan Fraser. Most remarkable. Nicole Bach was nominated for her costumes for A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, and Kevin McAllister for his set design on CARIBOO MAGI - remember the boat that turned into a camel, then became a gold rush stage? (All of these in the "Small Theatre" category.)

Congratulations also to PT artists who've been honoured for their work on other stages. Craig Erickson was nominated for his performance in PEER GYNT for Blackbird Theatre (that company, a very welcome recent additon to the Vancouver theatre community, garnered a remarkable [b]11[/b] nominations for their productions this past season, which I believe is only their second in operation): Anthony Ingram was nominated in the same category for his memorable performance in THE BIRTHDAY PARTY. Kerry van der Griend has another chance at a Jessie (Significant Artistic Achievement) as part of the Ensemble Chorus for the Pangaea Arts production of THE GULL. And how gratifying that the first production of Anthony Ingram's new company Tempus Theatre garnered a Jessie nomination, Teryl Rothery for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, in A DELICATE BALANCE.

You can check out all the nominees at the Jessie Richardson site: here's a rundown of the PT-related nods.


Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role, Small Theatre
Craig Erickson, Grace, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role, Small Theatre
Alexa Devine, Grace, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Small Theatre
Duncan Fraser, Grace, Pacific Theatre
Kerry Van Der Griend, Grace, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Set Design, Small Theatre
Kevin McAllister, Cariboo Magi, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design, Small Theatre
Nicole Bach, A Bright Particular Star, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Direction, Small Theatre
Angela Konrad, Grace, Pacific Theatre

Outstanding Production, Small Theatre
Grace, Pacific Theatre


Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role, Large Theatre
Craig Erickson, Peer Gynt, Blackbird Theatre
Anthony F. Ingram, The Birthday Party, Blackbird Theatre

Significant Artistic Achievements, Large Theatre
Richard Emmert, Ari Solomon, Michael Robinson, Kerry Van Der Griend, Minoru Yamamoto;
Ensemble Chorus, The Gull, Pangaea Arts