You may or may not know that I review for an online magazine, called Plank.
Last night I saw Grace Symmetry, a collaborative performance between Ballet BC and Turning Point Ensemble. This snippet of conversation from drinks after the show sums up the experience pretty well:
“This ballet feels so primal, it’s like the material by-passed my brain, reached into my guts and stirred things about.”
“Yes! Not needing words they instead go: That thing you’re feeling? It looks something like this...“
I'd much prefer you went to see it for yourself (I heard a rumour they've opened up some more seats, might even be discounted on the day-of.) but it's only at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Feb 20 - 22, so if you can't, at least read my review. I have a feeling I will carry the memory of this performance with me for the rest of my life.
Read more at:
So the Vancouver International Fringe Festival is over for this year. I'm sad, but it's given me a lot to think about. There were some amazing (and some misused) voices this fringe. Here are some of my observations and tips from the last few weeks:
Voice is a huge part of character development. In "regular theatre" where an actor is only playing one role it's not so obvious, but in Fringe, where very often actors are playing multiple characters, it becomes increasingly important. I'm not talking about accents or funny voices, I'm talking about physically internalizing the character. It's essential. When actors use external indicators like costume to differentiate between characters it can be helpful to the audience, but if the actor doesn't believe the change, the characters all blend together despite the best intentioned visual cues.
The other thing is articulation. Young and inexperienced actors excited about singing or doing accents can forget about diction in their enthusiasm. All that energy is wasted if I can't work out what you're saying.
I have to mention Kitt and Jane by SNAFU Dance Theatre. Aside from the fact that I think this show was beyond awesome in a million other ways, it's pretty awesome vocally too. Ingrid Hansen is inspiring as the plucky Kitt and has a gorgeous(!) singing voice, but what really impressed me was Rod Peter Jr. as Jane. His thin, bright character voice was so solid that I was not expecting such a rich and resonant one when he opened his mouth after curtain call. Such an intelligent and healthy choice, directing his voice through his cheekbones and facial mask adding a thin, "weedy" quality without loosing any of his projective range. They could hear him in the back just fine even though it felt psychologically like his voice would disappear into himself at any second. Coupled with his introverted posture, the voice completely sealed the illusion. And by altering the direction of his voice instead of up-pitching, and keeping the breath deep and connected, there's no damage done so he can keep doing it night after night! I was very impressed. Might steal that trick myself some day. . .
Some great examples of multiple characters done really well were Paul Cosentino in Bad Connections? (also an AWESOME script by the way, written by Michael Levesque) and Andrew Bailey in The Adversary (which he also wrote, fit him like a glove). There were a LOT of shows in the Fringe and I didn't even see half of them, so this isn't a definitive list, just a sample of what impressed me on a purely vocal level.
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That's right! It's Fringe time again in Vancouver and as per usual I am part of the Plank Magazine review team covering the festival. You can read all of the reviews at www.plankmagazine.com
Shows I highly recommend so far (for a variety of reasons):
Kit and Jane
Come Cuddle Me
The Chronicles of Johnny Tomorrow
And finally my jealousy of all my friends I have seen posting about the Edinburgh Fringe for the whole of August is (mostly) assuaged.
If you see a show you love (or hate) at the Vancouver Fringe this year, you are invited to comment either here or at www.plankamagzine.com :)
I've been avoiding blogging. I've been telling myself I don't have the time. But I've been writing drafts, just not finishing or publishing them, so that's obviously not true.
I've been avoiding blogging because I'm afraid of owning my opinions. I've been reviewing a lot recently and something I struggle with is this idea of creating a "balanced" review. I don't have a problem with the fact that my review will be subjective, but within that subjectivity of my experience there is so much I have to say, so many arguments to make that just choosing what to focus on is a very big decision, it can completely skew the data. And is that bad? How do you know when you're focussing on the right thing? What if someone takes my criticism to heart? What if they think that one tick was all I saw of their entire performance? I can't comment on the entirety of even one person's performance, never mind encapsulate a show! I can only get specific with one or two things, how can I honestly say what's at the forefront of my mind while still representing the whole?
A conversation with a friend at the theatre tonight (I owe my friends so much, they remind me of who I am and what's important in life and inspire my dreams) made me think I'd really like to start a critical column somewhere. Not reviews, I do that already. Specific acting and voice tips based on my experiences, based on performances I see, that kind of thing and I was wondering how on earth I could do that. And then I realized I have a blog! That's what this is for! I should use it.
So this is a recommitment to myself. And to you, whoever reads this, to be brave and honest. To own my opinions and to be wrong. (Wow I am just reminded of a promise I made myself at the last mini-intensive with David Smukler. I said I'd find my courage. Amazing how quickly we forget the big stuff.)
Courage and blogging. And here we go. . .
I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the high quality of performances at the Vancouver International Fringe Festival this year. I know the main Fringe is based on a lottery system (not the BYOVs though) so perhaps we just got lucky this year, but still, for Fringe, I saw a LOT of great theatre.
Not only were there a lot of high quality shows, but there were a vast number of 1 and 2 woman productions. Given that there are SOOO many more female performers than male performers out there, and that there are so many more roles for men than for women, it's heartening to see female performers even out the odds by making their own work. I am so proud and inspired.
I didn't see that many shows this year, but the ones I did see that were of exceptional quality were (in alphabetical order)
Little Lady (1 woman)
Loon (1 woman)
Opera for Heathens (1 man)
Plasticity Now (2 women)
Recess (1 woman)
Where's My Flying Car (1 woman)
I was also part of the Plank Magazine review team this year, so if you want to read a review (or submit your own thoughts on a performance) please check out www.plankmagazine.com
I am absolutely humbled by some of the talent I have seen on stage this past week. It makes me want to crawl into a hole and never try to act again. Paradoxically it also makes me REALLY want to get my own show in the Fringe next year. I'm going to go home and dig up my most recent draft and see what I can rewrite while I'm still buzzing with inspiration...
Danielle Benzon coaches entrepreneurs and performing artists in voice, acting and audition technique. She is also certified to teach the Meisner Approach through the True Acting Institute. Danielle is based in Vancouver, Canada.