Antony and Cleopatra and the Mosquitoes

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antony and cleopatra shakespeare in the ruinsI’m a huge Shakespeare in the Ruins fans and can still remember almost every play I’ve seen by the talented company.  I’ve been going to their performances for years. I loved their presentation of The Tempest, their Romeo and Juliet in a parking garage and their production of Amid Summer Night’s Dream in a downtown park. Last year’s Comedy of Errors was a complete delight.  We took visitors from Hong Kong and they were so impressed. 

shakespeare in the ruinsI have to say that this year’s Antony and Cleopatra might be my least favorite of all their productions. For me having the characters wear First Nations costumes and setting the play in pre-confederation Canada just didn’t work. The story of how the indigenous people of Canada were robbed of sovereignty of their own land is of vital importance and needs to be told; but aligning that story with the story of Antony and…

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Ten Things I’ll Remember About the Ballet Going Home Star

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Going Home Star- Royal Winnipeg BalletGoing Home StarRoyal Winnipeg Ballet

1. The sound of the rain stick accompanying the orchestra.

2. The huge arching whale bones that were part of the set.

3. The fact that Asian dancers were cast in aboriginal roles.

4. The glowing turtle shell.

5. The hymns I recognized in the music score.

6. The priests’ sinister costumes.

Photo Winnipeg Free PressPhoto Winnipeg Free Press

7. The way the stars twinkled through the birch bark trees.

8. The voice overs that described how the first immigrants to Canada would never have survived without their First Nations neighbors. 

9. The way Gordon, the main character, had a model of a residential school on his back, and it kept weighing him down to the floor, and Annie, the woman trying to help him, kept lifting the school off his back, but each time it pushed him back down.

10. The cast and production crew…

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Winnipeg and Mennonites in Gone Girl Movie

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Gone-Girl-2014-film-posterThere weren’t too many surprises for me in the movie Gone Girl which we saw on Friday night.   I had read the book so I knew what was coming plot wise.  There were however two surprising lines of dialogue that caught my attention.  

Rosamund Pike plays Amy Dunne in Gone GirlRosamund Pike plays Amy Dunne in Gone Girl

The first was the mention of Winnipeg.  The movie’s heroine Amy played by Rosamund Pike gets in trouble and calls a former boyfriend Desi played by Neil Patrick Harris to come and rescue her.  They rendezvous at a casino.  A man bumps into Desi and Amy at the casino bar and says he is sure he recognizes Amy.

Neal Patrick Harris plays Amy Dunne's old boyfriend Desi CollingsNeal Patrick Harris plays Amy Dunne’s old boyfriend Desi Collings

 It is important that Amy remain incognito so Desi tries to throw the man off by lying and assuring the fellow there is no way he can know Amy…

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Why I’m Looking Forward to October 1

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andre lewis director royal winnipeg ballet“I have two children and I can’t imagine having them taken away from me like that.” Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director Andre Lewis is talking about how First Nations children were sent to residential schools across Canada. That experience is the focus of the ballet company’s new work  Going Home Star. going home star royal winnipeg balletThe work was inspired by local aboriginal activist and politician Mary Richard who passed away in 2010. According to Lewis it brings together not only the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community in our country but a group of incredibly talented Canadians.  I have tickets for opening night.  I went to hear Andre Lewis give a talk about Going Home Star at the Millenium Library last week and here’s five reasons I’m really excited about the performance

tina keeper1. I was a North of 60 fan and its star Tina Keeper is one of the producers of Going Home Star.

orenda2. I…

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Food From the Land and Shakespeare in the Ruins

marylou and meenaOur friends Meena and Anil are visiting us from Hong Kong and we took them out to the Peasant Cookery, a favorite Exchange District restaurant of ours.window ledge peasant cookery The window ledges are decorated with artistic fowl sculptures in wood or ceramics and jars of canned fruits and vegetables.interior peasant cookery winnipegThe Peasant Cookery boasts that it offers ‘real food from the land’ and we knew from our past visits that the food would be excellent and the service friendly. 

dave and anilWe decided to order five different dishes from the eclectic menu and share them all.  meal at peasant cookeryOur meal was first rate. beet salad peasant cookery

A beet salad with toasted seeds, goat cheese, arugula and a  caramelized honey vinaigrette dressing

tourtierre at peasant cookery winnipeg Tourtiere- a French meat pie with thick cut  fries

gnocchi at peasant cookery winnipeg

aged cheddar gnocchi  with sun dried tomato, spinach, red onion, piquillo peppers and basil oilmahi mahi at peasant cookeryLightly breaded mahi, mahi with fresh vegetablesbread pudding at peasant cookery

and bread pudding with Guinness ice-cream and a caramel sauce for dessert.waiter peasant cookeryDespite his look of concern in this photo our waiter was attentive and very pleasant and earned extra bonus marks from us when my husband asked him who his favorite Winnipeg band was and he replied, “Royal Canoe,” the band our son plays in. trappist monastery shakespeare in the ruinsAfter dinner we were off to the Trappist Monastery in St. Norbert to see this years’ Shakespeare in the Ruins production of The Comedy of Errors. anil and daveIt was a near perfect night. The rain held off and it was just cool and windy enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We had warm blankets provided by the theatre troupe. audience shakespeare in the ruinsWe moved around the monastery grounds to see the different scenes from the play. It was done in such an entertaining fashion, the humor bawdy and the acting a bit ‘over the top’ in a good way.  comedy of errors shakespeare in the ruinsThe actors made it so easy to follow the rather complicated plot of mistaken identity that near the end of the play when it was revealed that identical twins had been mixed up throughout the drama, a little boy about three or four years old in the audience blurted out, “Why there’s two of them.”  Even he understood the plot resolution. marylou and meenaThe Peasant Cookery staff and Shakespeare in the Ruins company helped us show off our city to our Hong Kong friends in first class style. 

Other related posts……

Shakespeare in the Ruins- 2012

Are You Speaking English

Devour the District

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Kim’s Convenience

kim's convenience posterI laughed. I cried. I know that’s a cliché but it’s what happened yesterday when we attended the play Kim’s Convenience at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Kim is a Korean teacher who immigrated to Canada as a young married man to make a better life for his family. He buys a convenience store in a Toronto neighbourhood and spends his life behind the counter.

kim's convenienceBut Kim knows the store is not what his life is all about. “This store is not my story,” he says to his children. “You are my story.” That was one of the lines that brought tears to my eyes.

Mr. Kim and His Daughter- Photo Winnipeg Free Press

Mr. Kim and His Daughter- Photo Winnipeg Free Press

Kim’s children’s stories have not turned out as he hoped. His son ends up in trouble with the law, has a fight with his father, and runs away from home with all the money from the store safe. Now married with a son of his own and working at a dead-end job in the car rental business he has maintained his relationship with his mother but he and his Dad are estranged. Kim’s daughter is 30, a professional photographer who can’t afford to live on her own and isn’t married.

One morning a real estate developer offers Kim a bundle for his convenience store. Should he sell it and retire or is there still a chance one of his children will want the business? As the family goes through the day we are treated to a window on their lives.

The Kim Family

The Kim Family

I think the reason the audience laughs so often, and becomes so engaged with the play is because as they observe the family’s interactions they see their own family.  Whether they are of Korean, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish or Mennonite origin they recognize characteristics of their own families in the Kims. They see their own grandfathers and fathers in Mr. Kim’s old-fashioned ways and pride in the ‘old country.’ They see their own kids in the Kim children who are having trouble deciding what they want in life and their mothers and grandmothers in Mrs. Kim’s steadfast love and loyalty to her family.

The play is only on for a few more days. Go and see it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry.

Other posts about plays………

Confessions of A Fairy’s Daughter

Winnipeg Fringe Festival

A Mid Summer Night’s Dream on a Mid Summer Afternoon


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Discovering St. Cecilia

st. cecilia by Giuseppe Puglia 1630I’ve been getting to know St. Cecilia. We have this great painting of her at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It is by Giuseppe Puglia and was painted in 1630.  St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music and in this painting she has turned from her violin to talk to the cherub beside her holding some sheet music. happy birthday ben love cecilia

Then on November 22 we went to hear the Winnipeg Singers in a concert called Happy Birthday Ben! Love Cecilia.  It featured four pieces of music written in honor of St. Cecilia by composer Benjamin Britten. Turns out Benjamin and the patron saint of music were both born on November 22 although Cecilia was born in the second century and Benjamin Britten in 1913. 

winnipeg singers ben and ceciliaLots of other composers besides Benjamin Britten have written music celebrating St. Cecilia and the Winnipeg Singers performed some of their pieces too including works by Purcell, Gounod and Victor Mio as well as a special Hymn to St. Cecilia composed by Michael McKay just for the Winnipeg Singers concert. 

The Ectasy of St. Cecilia by Raphael

St. Cecilia Altar Piece by Raphael

A verse in the Hymn to St. Cecilia composed by Benjamin Britten with words by W. H. Auden celebrates the role the venerated woman plays in musicians’ lives. 

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions 
To all musicians, appear and inspire: 
Translated Daughter, come down and startle 
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

Other posts about art and music………

Landscapes for the End of Time

The Forty Part Motet

Other posts about the Winnipeg Singers

A Handel Meat Pie

Categories: Culture, Winnipeg Art Gallery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Nathan Rogers at The West End Cultural Centre

nathan-rogersThis month I went to hear Winnipeg musician Nathan Rogers give a concert featuring the songs of his famous father Stan Rogers at the West End Culutral Centre. It was a great show!  I did a post on my blog What Next about it called Nathan Rogers: A Family Story That Tugs at Your Heart Strings.  Why not check it out? 

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Thoughts On Seeing The Handmaid’s Tale- Royal Winnipeg Ballet

hand maid's tale ad1.The message of this work is important- just how easy it would be for women to lose all the freedoms and legal rights they have worked so hard to win in the last fifty years.Seeing the ballet reminded me how tenuous the independence woman have now might be. It is especially scary that in The Handmaid’s Tale the loss of women’s rights comes as a result of religious conservatism. There are many places in the world where the subjugation of women is justified for religious reasons. 

2. The main character in the ballet is Offred.  She is called that because she is the property of a man named Fred. She doesn’t have her own identity. She is just ‘of Fred.’   In my mother’s generation women were known in a similar way. My mother for example was often referred to publicly as Mrs. Paul Peters or my mother-in-law as Mrs. Cornie Driedger. Their husband’s first and last names were used as if their own female names didn’t matter or weren’t important.

3. Ballet tells a story in such a different and unique way from other genres.  Scenes are drawn out and explored in-depth. This can make it slow-moving. It can also make it more thought-provoking.

hand maid's tale book4. Would I have followed the story if I hadn’t read the book and seen the movie? Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale on which the ballet was based is a favorite of mine. I have read it many times and just read it again before the ballet, so I knew what was happening in every scene. I’m not sure however that someone who hadn’t read the book would have followed along. Perhaps though my perception of this is a result of the fact that have seen very few ballets in my lifetime and am not as adept at following a story told through dance as more regular ballet viewers would be.

5. In The Handmaid’s Tale society is completely controlled by men.  When my grandmothers were first married they were still considered their husbands’ property here in Canada and didn’t have the right to vote.

6.  I wondered if a ballet is designed like a film frame by frame. There were many beautiful ‘frames’ in this ballet- moments that would have made stunning photographs.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

7.  I love what Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood said in the Free Press after seeing the ballet. She was commenting on the way the dancers’ whole bodies were involved in telling the story. “Totalitarianism is very much about bodies: Who gets to control whose body, and how free you are to express yourself. And what kind of constraint it puts on the body to be un-free. People hold themselves differently.”

 8. As I re-read the book before the ballet and watched the ballet, I was reminded of how important a ‘balance of power’ is between men and women. In the story ( in the ballet  the woman’s past is shown in flashback video that plays on a screen on stage) the main character had a loving family relationship prior to being a slave/handmaid. At one point the government takes away women’s jobs so they can no longer work. Almost immediately the main character notices a subtle shift in her relationship with her partner even though they love each other, because he now has more financial/ cultural/ social power than she does.

commander and offred handmaid's tale9. I marvel at the dedication of ballet dancers, the  hours of practice they must invest, the personal sacrifices they must make  and the physical stamina they require.

10. The score for the ballet was a compilation of very appropriately chosen musical pieces performed by outstanding musicians from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I did wonder however what an original score for the ballet would have sounded like if someone had written one.

Other posts that might be of interest…….

Gender Inequity at the Wailing Wall

Hot Wives and Christian Leaders

The Famous Five

Why No Golden Girl

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Brundibar- More Than It Seems

“The children’s opera Brundibar was performed in the Terezin concentration camp no fewer than 55 times. It was a useful propaganda tool for the Nazis to show the world how ‘well’ they were treating its inmates but…….. the world was unaware that the cast had to be replenished constantly as virtually all the children who performed in the opera were exterminated shortly after they did so.”

-excerpt from the program notes for the Winnipeg Brundibar performance

Cast of Brundibar-Terezin Concentration Camp- Jewish Museum of Prague

Cast of Brundibar-Terezin Concentration Camp- Jewish Museum of Prague

On Tuesday night I saw the children’s opera Brundibar performed at the Westminster United Church by the members of the Pembina Trails Voices and the Winnipeg Chamber Orchestra. Brundibar was written by Czech composer Hans Krasa who died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. The musical tells a simple story with an underlying message of freedom from a tyrant. 

My daughter-in-law is the assistant director of one of the choirs that make up the Pembina Trails Voices organization and she invited me to the Winnipeg performance of Brundibar.  The story has been retold in a colorful picture book by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner.

Brundibar by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner

Brundibar by Maurice Sendak and Tony Kushner

 It is about a young boy and girl singing as buskers in the street to try and earn money to buy milk for their sick mother. Their efforts are thwarted by an evil organ grinder named Brundibar who claims he is the only one who can busk on his street. With the help of some kind animals and a large group of friendly children the brother and sister manage to drown out Brundibar’s music and collect the money they need to buy milk for their mother.

Brundibar at the Chicago Opera Theatre- photo by Liz Lauren

Brundibar at the Chicago Opera Theatre- photo by Liz Lauren

The Winnipeg performance was excellent and even when there were some sound system problems the accomplished young actors and singers continued the show with confidence and poise. The girl who played the part of the sister  had a powerful voice inside her tiny frame. The children looked like they were having a good time. 

I read  in a Philadelphia Inquirer article that as many as 15,000 children came through the concentration camp at Terezin, and only 100 survived. Brundibar has a happy ending. However the sad fate of its intial performers’  as well as the murder of its composer adds a somber tone to any performance of Brundibar.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like………

Steinway Pianos

Sarah’s Key- Personal Connections

Slaughter of the Innocents


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