September catch-up

September 25, 2011

I wrote a bunch of things this month that I didn’t tell you about because I spent this whole past week at a cottage without any connection to the modern world and absolutely no news sources besides the Parry Sound North Star, which mainly reports on euchre results. (Also, a local boy won the national arm wrestling championship, and the town’s third graders aren’t testing very well.) It is a stellar publication, I urge you to pick it up if you are in the area.

First, on a chilly and dampish day in early September, I single-handedly summoned back summer weather by putting on my swimsuit to go paddleboarding in the Beaches.

Also, I wrote my first book review in seven years, of Wendy and the Lost Boys, an incredibly insightful biography of my favourite playwright.

Then I went comic book shopping with documentarian Morgan Spurlock, who was very excited that I am a member of a graphic novel book club.

AND I saw Contagion, which did not turn me into a germaphobe as anticipated.

Now we’re all caught up.


Winging it

September 5, 2011

I’ve interviewed a lot of comedians in the past couple of weeks. Comedians and also Hercules, who phoned me and left a message that I annoyed/delighted several friends with for a week afterwards.

Then I went for lunch with the new Second City kids at Wayne Gretzky’s and we spent a lot of time talking about chicken wings. For the record, I enjoy the wings at Sneaky Dee’s and Kilgour’s – at Kilgour’s, the blue cheese dipping sauce is particularly good. I have never, however, enjoyed the television program Wings.

Love me, love my Winnipeg

September 1, 2011

Back in May, I took a trip to Winnipeg. This is not unusual, as I tend to find myself in Winnipeg once a year or so. But this trip was provided by Tourism Manitoba, as I was writing a couple of travel stories about the ‘Peg and its surroundings. For one of the stories, my dear pal Fred Penner gave me a tour of his hometown. There’s also this round-up of nifty things to do in and around Winnipeg. (Please ignore my geographical error – I know Manitoba isn’t land-locked. It just FEELS land-locked.)

What I wasn’t able to mention in either story was that on my first night in Winnipeg, where I was a guest on the Gold Floor of the Fairmont, I arrived back at my room to this creatively patriotic bedtime snack:

Nothing says "welcome to the Prairies" like a voyageur diorama made of cookies.

Yes, that is a cookie canoe containing macarons, and, further back, a little cookie man standing next to a cookie inukshuk. Oh Canada.

In all my years of being dragged/going willingly to Winnipeg, I had never actually the local delicacy known as a Jeanne’s Cake. So my lovely Auntie Della finally bought me one:

I was deprived of Jeanne cakes throughout my childhood because my mother can't stand them, even though most ex-Winnipeggers buy frozen cakes to take home for nostalgia's sake.

As it turns out, I wasn’t missing too much. But I had a really nice afternoon with my auntie Della.

I did more in Winnipeg than eat sweets, but who cares, right?

I didn’t actually get to fly for story for my Standing Engagement column in the National Post, but I did get to sit in a tiny plane and fiddle with pedals and steering wheel and wander around on the tarmac inhaling the sweet scent of jet fuel.


July 27, 2011

I interviewed the capslock-loving (and stupendously talented) Alice Ripley last week about the devastating Next to Normal (also, rollercoasters). If you don’t know who Alice Ripley is, you should watch this immediately:

She’s the twin on the right, with the slightly crazier eyes. She’s wonderful. She doesn’t play a twin in Next to Normal, though. So if you’re looking for conjoined twins, that is the wrong musical for you.

And I already mentioned all the sugar I ate at Cake Pop class, but here’s the story. (And another photo, for those of you who can’t get enough pictures of mini cake on a stick.)

Last week I saw the new Woody Allen movie and blabbed about how I wish I’d come of age in the 1920s so I kind of loved it even though it’s actually pretty terrible and Owen Wilson is basically the worst unless he’s animated but anyway I just really like when famous people get dressed up to look like other famous people and here’s the Popcorn Panel we wrote about it.

Remember in Everyone Says I Love You that party where everyone is the Marx Brothers? I’m always hoping that every party I go to will be that party and I’m always disappointed when it isn’t.

I’ve been teaching a kids’ playwriting workshop the past few weeks and yesterday my teaching partner couldn’t be there so I had the class all to myself, which is potentially terrifying, except that I’ve somehow been granted the seven most amazing children on the planet and they are funny and creative little genius angels who listen well and just really want to write plays. So even though the venue where we teach was overrun with noisy actors (they were holding auditions in another room) and also the ceiling was leaking and we ended up in a room that had a prop sword lying around, my kids were focused and well-behaved and one of them even suggested a class activity that went over so well that I am going to use it every single time I teach anything ever again. (It’s called “High/Low”, and it’s basically a group check-in – you go around the circle and everyone shares a high from their week and a low.)

I’ve also been working on the second draft of a play, which means I’ve had a headache for the past month. I’ve been frustrated and cranky and trying to force it out.

And yesterday in class, while everyone was scribbling away in their playwriting notebooks, 8-year-old R. looks up at me and says “I’m having so much fun writing this!”

So today I finally finished my damn second draft and then went and had an ice cream sundae. There’s more than one way to make writing fun, you know!

Ride it out

March 19, 2011

I was supposed to go for a journalistic bike ride with the awesome Evalyn Parry last week, but the weather was gross, so we ate sushi and talked about bike rides instead.

I saw her lovely show Spin on Wednesday, and you should go see it too because you will learn about the intrinsic connection between bicycle and feminism and also this one guy plays a bike like a drum and it is amazing, and also you will just want to jump on your bike immediately and go for a ride and then every time you hop on your bike this spring this lovely song will float through your head.

St. Popcorn of the Main

February 4, 2011

In this week’s Popcorn Panel, some tech nerds and I belatedly talk about the overrated but still very entertaining The Social Network (I’m getting caught up on Oscar nominees I missed the first time around). I still like Aaron Sorkin’s writing quite a lot and will quite happily watch almost anything he’s written, but you do have to psyche yourself up to tolerate his smugness. It all went down much easier on Sports Night, when he wasn’t important enough not to get jerked around by ABC.

And in The Toronto Star, I interviewed Peter Hinton and Eo Sharp, director and designer of Canadian Stage’s new production of Michel Tremblay’s St. Carmen of the Main.

In other news, there is nine pounds of pork butt in my refrigerator.

Something Wild

January 27, 2011

I wrote this story in the Toronto Star this week about “reality-based” theatre, of which there’s a bunch in Toronto lately. I had a great conversation with Judith Thompson about the privilege of watching teenagers onstage (she recently did a show at the Next Stage Festival that featured several teens playing themselves, which was fascinating to watch) and a nice long chat with Andrew Kushnir about verbatim theatre (unfortunately, I only had room in the story for a fraction of what we talked about). Finally, I interviewed the Italian director Pippo Delbono. Well, sort of. He was filming a movie in Brazil and the publicist couldn’t get a hold of him, so I e-mailed over some questions and he answered them in Italian, and then we scrambled to find a translator and then my washing machine broke and I had to wring out all my clothes and finally I got the translated interview back and I finished my story.

I went to see Delbono’s Questo Buio Feroce (The Wild Darkness, but everything sounds better in Italian) last night at Harbourfront, and even after reading up on Delbono, and interviewing him, and writing a story about his work, and seeing the show, I still have no idea what the hell I watched last night. It was awesome. There was a fashion show in the middle of the piece and a woman wore a crinoline around her neck. There were the lyrics of My Way translated into Italian and spoken as a poem, which is a goofy conceit that I never get tired of. There was an unexplained rendition of Cinderella which featured four women in beautiful dresses running around the stage and screaming. And then at the end, the company took at least a dozen bows. As a meditation of death and illness, only a few moments really worked for me, and the whole piece never quite gelled, but it was nutty and unusual and so much fun to watch.