Soulpepper and the House of Lancaster

Just got back from a whirlwind trip - first to Halifax to see my brother get married to his wonderful bride - a beautiful relaxed wedding with lots of family, great food and dancing. Then a few days in Antigonish with my family - Turkey, Lobster, Television, Sleeping in - all great stuff. So good to be home - my last trip to NS was in 2009, so I was definitely overdue. Afterward, I spent a couple days in Toronto. It was a treat to belatedly celebrate my friend Cecile's birthday, with food (weird patés on bread at a new restaurant - tasty, but we both agreed, not something we often crave) and drink and chocolate cake.

On Saturday I had the privilege of watching the dress rehearsal of Double Bill: (re)Birth: ee cummings in Song & Window on Toronto at Soulpepper. (re)Birth is a lovely show, containing all my favourite kinds of theatre magic - woven collaborative whimsical orchestral music, using traditional instruments, children's toys, suitcases, neat use of fabric, light, an overhead projector...each poem is presented in a different way, and the transitions between them are smooth and fascinating. The performers are so specific. And the whole cast is intimidatingly talented, playing multiple instruments, and many of them singing with beautiful resonant voices. The sound is also really cool - they seem to be using just one microphone on stage which sometimes serves to highlight just one voice or instrument, and sometimes picks up the ambient sound with an eerie, slight reverb.

Window on Toronto is a lesson in hilarious clowning. We meet tons of nutty characters (the backstage area must be an impressive example of organized chaos), speedily passing by the window of a hot dog vendor. It's fast and furious, but every now and then, just when the shtick of it all is about to get old, the pace slows, dancing, masks, puppets come out, beautiful songs, and a baby is born or a violin comes to life...a moment of magic happens...and then back to the madness. Great.

I then went into a meeting with the other Soulpepper Academy members (that's my big news, which I'm told I can share - I've been accepted into the 2011/12 Academy), and AD Albert Schultz and Producer Claire Sakaki, and -- WOW. They told us a bit about what our year is going to look like and...I can't believe the gift they're giving us, the people we're going to get to learn from, work with, the care they have taken in putting this together. I feel like I've won the lottery. I think all of us felt like that...a constant state of 'pinch me!'

Ms. Sakaki was kind enough to squeeze me into a sold out 'Our Town' that evening. I'd never seen Our Town before, a show about the great drama that is every day life, the details that we so often miss in the day-to-day. And the magic of small towns, of family, and the heartbreak too, of the everyday. Having just come from home, from my brother's wedding, from my small little Nova Scotia town that I left, and see too infrequently, from the old rattling farmhouse I grew up in, and my parents... The show is gentle, elegant, and works on you slowly. The actors beautifully weave together the simple stories of these lives, but by the end I felt absolutely heartbroken. In a bittersweet sense, because it was also a reminder that life, growing up, growing old is tragic, and beautiful, and it happens to all of us, right under our noses. It was like a goodbye hug - warm and wonderful, but painful, because someone's leaving. I was a weepy mess at the end. Mr. Schultz was kind enough to come out and introduce me to some of the actors, and I said something like. "That was great. Loved it. Can't talk about it, will cry." Fortunately, I think he understood.

Anyway. Can't end this post without including the definite highlight of my trip, discovering: The House of Lancaster. Guess I know where I can find employment if this acting thing doesn't work out. No, I didn't go inside!