Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Playing Sweeney Todd

Tonight I'm playing Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and reading Stephen Soundheim's lyrics. Act One is just over and I've leapt to my feet.
I can say I've always loved Broadway show tunes. I heard them at home as a boy. Dad had joined the Columbia Record Club, or one like it, and the Rogers and Hammerstein sang out from our mahogany living room in Herbert.
Musical theatre as an art form, however, didn't sink in until I got hooked on Mary Poppins at Globe Theatre two years ago, when I was retiring from Luther, launching Hillsdale Book, and writing A Round for Fifty Years: a History of Regina's Globe Theatre. Working on the book during the rehearsal period of the show, I became so inspired by the excellence of cast and crew that I built in a Mary Poppins diary into the book, making of point of finishing the first draft of the complete text on opening night.
Something like that happened again during the recent run of The Little Mermaid at Globe, for which I was hired to do a live audio commentary, delivered via mic and earphones to vision-impaired patrons. I felt as if I had a small stake in the delivery of the show. But more than that, I fell in love with the cast--the brilliance of their work as singers and dancers and actors, the genial hand of Stephanie Graham as Choreographer and Director.
Here's the kicker: I was deeply moved by these performances. As in, to tears. Such shows are products of the Disney musical theatre machine but high-end products, artfully composed, that sent me trembling into the night, wondering where I'd been.
So I've decided to write a musical. I might as well say it. It will take a long time. Lots of time to listen and study and write. 
Hence my viewing of Newsies (Broadway hit, 2011, also a Disney product) on film at the Cineplex last Saturday. Original Broadway cast. It was stunning. Think Brando, think Baryshnikov. And they could sing.
And kicker of kickers, tonight I played Act One of Sweeney Todd, with Len Cariou as the barber and Angela Lansbury as his co-conspirator. (Spoiler: he slits their throats upstairs, she serves them in pies downstairs.) Unfuckinbelievably good, this show. 
I'm trying to learn why all these shows--and a shout out to Kinky Boots, which I saw in Toronto on '15--move me so. I'm teaching myself. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Day After

I wonder how a writing moment full of motion is like any in a game you're playing. Hockey or ball, I mean. Waiting for the fly ball to come down. Or a split second from crashing with boards, puck, and back-checker who may or may not be taking a run at you, at the same time. ("If it feels so good, it ain't ever going to lie," I heard just now in a song lyric on CBC, but that's not what I'm saying.) 
The word time doesn't quite apply to any of those moments. So why use it. Ok, deleted. 
Hitched as it is to the past, now has no meaning except more of it. 
I think that's what athletes love about play-offs. They get pure, the players do. Beyond language, my cue to end this entry. 
There's nothing I need add about the Maple Leafs. They're out. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Sight of Day

        Can’t stand the sight of day is a claim I cannot make. At any gas station along the Trans-Canada or highway 3 west of Medicine Hat, “half-decent out there” / “gettin’ there” is conversation anyone can do. Not even the light industrial landscape of southern Alberta, with its canals and irrigation rigs and wires, can take away a day like this, +15 at times, highway dry.
Dry as a bone, I’d thought, pulling into the graveyard in my home town four hours ago. I have a photo from there, three sisters around the grave of a fourth, baby Jennifer Donna, as the headstone says. She’s buried near a pine tree up the south slope. Up on the flat, the newer graves—Jennifer died in 57—spread east as if about to re-occupy the town.
What I remember of the day she was buried is not being allowed to go out to the burial. The kids don’t need to be there, is the kind of thing dad would say. I don’t remember grief, just the pantlegs of the adults back at our house afterwards.
Beyond the graveyard and the CP mainline next to it, the old #1 highway crumbles along east-west, what pavement looks like left for forty years. Readers of that text called “To Be Opened In the Event of My Death” will know that I’ve asked for my ashes to be scattered along that stretch of ex-highway through Herbert forty years ago replaced by the four-lane south of town.
Well I’ve changed my mind. Plant me on the flat above Jennifer Donna. And come on out and say hello some March 15th years from now, there by the tracks and highway, when winter shows signs of letting go.
















Friday, 10 March 2017

Nelson, BC

I lived in Nelson in '81-82, a student at David Thompson University Centre (DTUC), where my first three creative writing teachers were Fred Wah, Tom Wayman, and Dave McFadden. I felt lucky to be learning from them, and have remained so ever since. It's not much of a stretch to say that everything I do as a writer carries a grain of what I learned. Not just individually, Wah-Wayman-McFadden as a group made for a vital blend of approaches to pretty much everything. 
So, in Nelson on March 17 I plan to read poems from my first and last books (a span of thirty years) which shimmy with residue of my first three teachers. 
More on this later.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Anecdote of Feeling Miffed

“Please give us your Birthday so we can give you a present,” said the gateway to wifi at Broken Rack, 3806 Albert Street, Golden Mile Shopping Centre.

I asked the server if she was a manager. No, but she could take a message. Thanks, I’ll send a note, I said.

(I was on the verge: leave for a movie or stay to watch curling.
By the time Howard was left a double-raise double in the 2nd which he didn’t come close to making, leaving Jacobs a draw for three,
I was staying. Wing Special and Caesar salad didn’t hurt.)

So this is the note to the Broken Rack, 3806 Albert Street,
Golden Mile Shopping Centre:

I know you want the best for your customers of Wifi Hotspot
and did not become successful by giving away your services but  
do you not see the moral stakes in withholding your gift of internet connection until we give something to you?

Nevertheless, I stayed, 3-1 Jacobs in the fourth, 4-1 through five.

We have choices. In other bars, wifi comes without condition. Are we to take our business elsewhere?

One Rebellion Amber on, my complaint would be finished if not for its righteousness, as Howard was finished, down 6-2 after seven
without hammer.

I was down to my last sentence: Just give.


Monday, 27 February 2017

Remembering St. Peter's Abbey

I notice a dead spot when I meet a face known so intensely years ago. The windmill at St. Pete’s, the crossroads and grid, god-damned chickadees massed like avengers over the graveyard path. Back and to the right, the junkyard, sweet enough for me in ’98 or so, my outdoor office there.












By dead I mean I mean looked-out (maybe lucked out)--something so burned into perception that I shy away from more of it.










Idea attributed to F.G. Lorca, who pinned
a version to his door:

book a sheet of curling 
for those who had never curled,
never split the house,
never hit.  









Lorca showed up in time to join
old-timers hockey in Leroy
Tuesday and Friday mornings in Leroy
10:00 for an hour and half
because the ice here’s no good.
Everybody behaves himself?
Oh, you betcha.
We all know each other.











Where I walked, I'd walked before. 


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Watching the Scotties

Homan makes an in-off double for 3 in the second, and the Scotties crowd, mostly Ontario homers, goes nuts.
By the time Homan hits another double to leave Englot a draw for only 1 in the third, it looks uphill for the Manitobans, though Englot's confident draw to the heart of the rings makes a powerful statement.
Manitoba has to take over somehow. They're in it but behind after four.
Englot's steal of 1 in the fifth gives them new life. And she steals another in the seventh for a 4-3 lead.
Honan looked good to take her deuce with last rock in the eighth. After the four tricky skips' shots, a deuce it is.
As action in the ninth builds, both teams demand challenging shots from the other. Englot is left with a difficult pick for 1 but she racks on a guard. Steal of 1 for Ontario and a 6-4 lead.
With last rock in the tenth, Englot has her 3 set up. But by making a much-needed double, Honan leaves Englot a draw for 2 only. On to the extra end.
Englot fights to the end. Honan has to make her last shot--a simple raise take-out to leave the winning point.
Big smiles from everyone, both teams curling so well.