Archives for September 2012

Discipline your fantasies

How many types of warrior do you need?

Sometimes when you’re writing—especially if you’re writing fantasy material—the sheer pleasure of invention can become seductive and you start making up all sorts of groovy stuff: there are 18 ranks in the Air Command; your hero travels to an alternate universe.

Cool. Generate as much material as you like. But, when you review that material, make sure that it serves your story. Are all 18 levels of the Air Command necessary? Only retain the elements that have a direct impact on your plot.

And think your conventions through. If your hero travels to an alternative universe, what’s the portal? How does she get there and how does she get back? How does she explain her absences from her ordinary world?

Fantasy is fun—but only if it makes sense.

The many colours of Blind Date

Rebecca Northan unleashes Mimi in Blind Date

Two of the last three nights, I’ve been at Rebecca Northan’s Blind Date at the Cultch. That’s how good it is.

In the show, Northan’s red-nosed clown character, Mimi, picks a guy from the audience. In the ensuing improvised performance, they go on a date together.

Northan is a fantastically agile improviser. I thought that both of the guys I saw her work with were pretty challenging. I’m not knockin’ ’em but both were wary. Ultimately, thanks to Northan’s frankness and support, they both came through big time. But I’d love to see a show in which the guy gave himself more readily.

In the performance I missed, Northan picked a shy 20-year-old. Apparently, as the evening unfolded, it became clear that he had never been on a date before and had never kissed a woman. So he had his first kiss in front of 200 people—and he got a story that he can tell for the rest of his life. Ai yi yi.

Because it varies so much every night, I can easily imagine seeing this show again and again.

And I’ll have a chance to do just that; the show runs until October 7. For my complete review in the Georgia Straight, go here:


For the love of a dog

I saw John Grady’s solo show, Fear Factor: Canine Edition at the Fringe last night and loved it. There’s only one performance left: Saturday, September 15 at 7:20 pm in the Waterfront. I highly recommend that you catch it. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.

In Fear Factor, Grady introduces us to his Bernese Mountain Dog, Abby, who lived to be 13. The show is called Fear Factor because, at least in part, it’s about Grady’s fear of facing the death of his companion, the only creature, he says, he’s ever been in love with.

On-stage, Grady cuts a dapper, idiosyncratic figure. With his elegantly trim and long-limbed body clothed in a well-cut grey suit, he looks conservatively urbane. And that makes for some interesting spin. The restraint of Grady’s look—and his delivery—saves his openhearted material from becoming sentimental, which makes it even more moving. And, in the gap between the suit and the dog, Grady creates a space in which loneliness is both identified and assuaged.

The former ballet dancer also has a wonderfully eccentric way with rhythm. He’ll go quiet for long enough to have you thinking, “What the hell?” and then come out of the little ditch he has created with a surprising—and often hilarious—change of direction.

In Fear Factor: Canine Edition, Grady touched my heart. He also impressed me.

Strong Fringe Festival with Weak Sauce

Jayson McDonald is surprised to find himself transformed into William S. Burroughs

So far, I’ve seen 19 shows that are playing the Vancouver Fringe Festival. (I saw ten of ’em in Victoria.) Kathleen Oliver, my pal and colleague at the Straight, also saw 10 in Victoria and she has seen another five here.

KO’s top pick so far is Bookworm. I’m a big fan of Underbelly (Jayson McDonald’s show inspired by BEat writer William S. Burroughs), The Bike Trip (Martin Dockery’s LSD adventure), Fishbowl (Mark Shyzer’s four-character monologue about loneliness and hidden connections), and Travis Bernhardt’s skillful magic show, Lies.

I also want to talk up Sam S. Mullins’s Weak Sauce, which I saw last night at the Havana, where it’s playing as part of the Fringe.

Weak Sauce is a straight guy’s coming-of-age story. God know there are a lot of those around, but this one is particularly tender and funny. In fact, it strikes me that Fringe artists like Mullins and his pals Peter ‘n Chris (Peter ‘n Chris Explore Their Bodies and The Furious Angry Fun Hour—the latter also features Mullins) are helping to redefine maleness. I totally dig the new version; it’s raucous and physical, but it’s also affectionate, vulnerable, and NOT homophobic. Hooray for these guys!

The core narrative in Weak Sauce is about how Mullins lost his virginity, so the stakes are high. He’s a charmingly unassuming—and witty—storyteller. And, most importantly, his show has a big heart and strong narrative arc. Let’s hear it for young artists, the New Guys, and the well-structured monologue!

Remaining performances on September 12 (6:00 p.m.), 13 (7:45 p.m.), 15 (7:00 pm.), and 16 (1:00 p.m.).

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