October 2022 Recap

My October hits have come from  24 countries around the world. Mauritius & Romania in the top 10! Kenya there as well. The most popular posts were Hurt People Hurt People & Election Fever. Yes, I did vote in the recent municipal election lol.

not so happy

Watched an amazing Japanese movie written & directed by Kurosawa ‘I Live In Fear’ 1955 – starring Toshiro Mifune, in perhaps the most emotionally complex role I’ve ever seen him. Set in the early 1950’s, clearly made after the American occupation ended – it deals with the emotional fallout of the H-bombs dropped on Japan. Mifune’s character is suffering from severe ptsd. A chilling performance in a movie unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Highly recommended.

American Horror Story is back for a new season – set in New York in 1981 & focused on gay murders with a particular emphasis on the leather, s&m, community. As always, an excellent cast, stunning photography, handsome young men, spot on acting but why is it, so far, boring? The best moments have been the majestic Patti Luponte singing in a steam bath. Joe Mantello & Russell Tovey as the leads give excellent performances making the most of the repetitious domestic arguments they are saddled  with. 

The police indifference to violence directed at the gay community is tired, the cop in two closets (or is it three) is boring. Two serial killers or is it three? The s&m is exploitive & almost laughable in its attempt to be shocking – but the brain pills in the last series that made gifted people super smart & turned the not-so-gifted into zombies, were truly shocking. The fact that AHS has stepped back from endless explicit gore is fine by me but we already have ample police procedurals so I hope this season become less pedestrian as it has been in the first four episodes. Episode Five really steps up, for me, with great interaction between Bernhardt & Luponte. My hopes are now higher for the rest of the season.

Read: The Color of Summer – Reinaldo Arenas – this a phantasmagorical tour de force overloaded with wild sexual images & blistering political satire that would makes James Joyce jealous with its use of drama, poetry, diary entries & letters as Reinaldo tells us, of amongst other things, having to rewrite this novel as every draft gets seized & destroyed for being subversive. Breathtaking.

Stratford 2023 season has announced & I can’t wait to see Spamalot (sadly they aren’t doing it as a mash up with Hamlet). 

Hurt People Hurt People

Election Fever

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Stratford Day Trips

pull up a chair

My day trips to Stratford always start the night before by getting my fluids ready – a travel mug with my personal mix of cranberry juice, coffee, & water – for drinking on the way there. For the drive home – A water bottle that is about 1/3 cranberry juice & the rest is water – plus a couple of snacks: a granola bar & a banana. I pick out a cd to listen to in the car – something that’ll amuse me & my partner. Last trip it was a compilation of Eartha Kitt, Ella Fitzgerald etc. 

motorcycles that buzzed beside us for an hour or so on the highway – like a pair of affectionate puppies

Before we leave in the morning around 9 a.m. I’ve already had breakfast, checked my email, meditated some, showered. We’ve taken the same route for decades – up the DonValley into the 401. Some days there are so many big rigs we can’t see the overhead signs :-(. Around 10:20 I’ll start in on my travel mug special. 

For the last many years that has been a constant expansion of the 401 so traffic often gets funnelled into fewer lanes & there is always a bottle neck just past the airport, & another one as we approach Kitchener/Waterloo. We make our first stop at a Tim Ho’s by the Conestoga Doon Campus – ballers are ready to be emptied to make room for Tim’s. I like their RedEye.

We take the New Dundee Road from there turning to a country road that takes us through Haysville, to another road through Shakespeare – where we stop at the Shakespeare Pie Shoppe for – pies! they made great seasons fruit pies & also excellent meat pies. Next stop lunch Stratford. We usually arrived by 11:30.

Most often we lunch at Features – good, unspectacular, reasonably priced food. Bacon & eggs are my go to there. This past year they changed location by a couple of blocks to bigger, brighter space. Once a season we go to Bentley’s. They do a great grilled cheese. 

If there’s time a stroll & a visit to the remaining bookstore before re-parking near the theatre of the day. Usually a visit to the gift shop, where, to be supported, I often force myself to buy a t-shirt lol. The drive home is usually twice as long for the same distance 😦 Traffic getting to Toronto is terrible. Made worse by big rigs that block overhead sign. That’s when the cd of the day does its soothing work. 

I usually take lots of photos with my camera & also cell pics to send to friends. They always envy the Pie shop shots. 

tarts galore at The Shakespeare Pie Shop

We’re already planning our shows for the Stratford 2023 season. Spamalot for sure, Richard II – a Shakespeare I’ve never seen, at least one of the other  Shakespeare & maybe Frankenstein. I feel a tingle in my bolts just thinking about it:-) 

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a short piece inspired by Haysville

The Petition

We had driven through Haysville many times on our way to Stratford. It was one of those small towns with little for tourists to do except maybe stop at the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. There wasn’t even a service-station with a Tim Horton’s.

The village became a bit of a joke because of the  ‘Children of Haysville’ sign on the edge of town: 

In the years we’ve driven through we’d never seen a child, or an adult for that matter. Never seen anyone go in or out of the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant. The only car we ever saw in either direction was our own. Once I did notice some clothes drying on the line. All white, gently undulating in the afternoon sun.

We joked that if we stopped we’d never leave. We always stuck to the child-suggested speed limit then floored it when we got past the village limits.

This time there were yellow plastic streamers wrapped around the trees on either side of the road. We drove slower than usual.

Stapled to a plywood board tied to one 

of the trees by the Happy Pie Shop and Family Restaurant was a large piece of paper. 

We stopped and got out of the car to see what it was.

It was a petition to halt an expansion of the highway to allow for larger trucks. A widening to extend the road on either side that would result in destroying the many hundred-year-old trees which had been marked with yellow.

We signed the petition. The Happy Pie Shop was closed for the day, so we got back in our car. 

The car wouldn’t start.

September 2022 Recap

The WP map shows my hits have come from 23 countries all around the world. From the tiny island of Mauritius to the expanse of Russia. Ghana returns to the top ten!  Now that I’ve put Picture Perfect to bed, for the time being, I’ll be posting random events & thoughts on Talky Tuesdays. Post any questions for me in comments here & I’ll try to answer them on Talky Tuesdays.

This year autumn showed up overnight with unexpected single digit temperatures – so sudden the trees hadn’t had time to develop their reds & oranges. I don’t mind cooler days & my garden appreciates it as well. 

All’s Well

Saw two excellent shows at the Stratford Festive. All’s Well That Ends Well and Hamlet-911. Driving for both was pleasant enough but getting back into Toronto is stressful & tiring. The drive to the Festival takes us about 2 hours, the drive home can take up to 4 hours. A Lotto Max  win probably means helicopters – I wonder if Stratford has a helipad?

altar decoration

The other ‘event’ I went to was Toronto Pagan Pride Day, held in Dufferin Grove Park. Well organized, inviting & focused (unlike the Witches’ Night I went to a few months ago that had absolutely nothing to do with witches). I even bought few things.

David Bowie tribute?

Watched an amazing Japanese epic – the three part ‘Samurai’ starring the stunning Toshiro Mifune.  Set in the early 1600’s – the plot wraps around the 3-fold path to becoming a true Samurai. Exceptional colour work, spectacular costumes – even the peasants clothing were full of pattern & colour. Of course Mifuni’s character had one of those ‘magic’ sword that kill you just by looking at it lol.

Watching the latest TV version of The Midwich Cuckoos which stretches the story out to nine episodes. Based on the novel by Wyndham Lewis that was made into the film Village of the Damned. In this take all the tension is in the music. The children have been saddled with distracting wigs. All the performances consist of staring intently. Occasionally adults wrinkle their brows. It makes me wish for an American Horror Story version. 

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Stratford Pearls Before Me

wearing my dress boots for the first in two years

I loved Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Hamlet-911, directed by Alisia Palmer on the Studio Theatre stage as the Stratford Festival. Even the steady rain this past Tuesday didn’t dampen our pleasure for this fast-paced, socially-conscious, deconstruction of Hamlet. I knew we were in for a theatrical roller-coaster with the initial ‘catcall’ as one of the cast started to warn the ladies and gentlemen to turn off their phones – the catcall was that not everyone in the audiences identifies as either & then the sincerity of the land acknowledgement was questioned by another ‘catcall.’ 

rain couldn’t dampen our enjoyment of the show

The ‘plot’ of the play & the play within the play, the dream within the play – are all irrelevant to the powerful messages about masculinity, alienation, suicide, electronic social isolation & sobriety that were delivered with humour & inventive staging.

Mike Shara as Guinness Menzies, playing Hamlet conveyed the smug entitlement of a popular TV actor cast as Hamlet – a production that casts his wife as his mother in the play – a clever reflection of the incestuous undertone of Hamlet & his mother. Confused? As 911 plays out on stage everything is logical & understandable.

Scott Wentworth as Rex Menzies, Guinness’s father, also the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father – gets a juicy monologue as he rages about the political-correctedness of colour & gender blind casting, amongst other things, while he lauds the founding of the festival in tents. He parodies the very sort of pompous Shakespearean actor he might be himself, off stage. Hilarious.

theatre too dark for a clear pic 😦

Equally as hilarious, but given too late stage time, was Sarah Dodd as Guinness’s mother. Her ‘he’s back, he’s gone’ was pitch perfect & also set us up for Guinness’s misunderstanding the she tells him ‘he’s gone’ when Rex dies.

Gordon Patrick White as the ghost of poor Yorick, echoed both the ghost of Christmas past & Lear’s Fool – he also seems to be the spirit of the Festival itself. Like the spirits in Christmas Carol he leads Guinness though events in his past to a moment of self-realization.

drama in the sky on our way home

The four, or is it five, minute fast-forward version of Hamlet was astounding & nearly brought the audience to its feet with applause. Brilliant piece of staging. Though it might help if one had seen a full performance of Hamlet before. But even if one hadn’t, the humour of this play is enough to entertain any audience.

The sheer joy of Hamlet-911’s theatricality was energizing & refreshing. The production was as much about ‘how to put on a play’ as it was about the plot & characters. It operated on so many layers of plot, stage craft, & the inability to communicate either f2f or online that I was amazed & delighted.

reviews of shows I’ve seen this past season:

Richard III

Dull In Denmark 

The Mister 

Rocky Horror 

All’s Well That Ends Well 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & see more shows
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A Meditation on Virginity

I very much enjoyed the Stratford Festival production of All’s Well That Ends Well at the Tom Patterson Theatre under the direction of Scott Wentworth. Curiously it was the third production we saw at the Festival this year that begins with a grave (Richard III & Hamlet) – a subtext?

In All’s Well it is the grave of Helen’s (Jessica B. Hill) father who has left her in the care of Countess of Rossillion (Seana McKenna). The Countess sees Helen as her own daughter to such a degree that she insists Helen call her mother – which might explain why her son Bertram (Jordin Hall) is repulsed at the thought of marrying his sister. The main plot of the play is how Helen manipulates Bertram into consummating & accepting their marriage.

The cast handles Shakespeare’s witty dialogue very well. The scenes between Seana & her sexton, André Sills crackle with playful energy & subtle sexual tension. It is their ‘relationship’ that, for me, holds the play together. In fact all of André’s scenes were great fun as he gave the sexton a real sexual magnetism that was a pointed contrast to Jordin’s nearly total lack of sexual energy – what did Helen find so appealing about him? I did feel a little sympathy for him as he surrendered to Helen’s manipulations. 

There was also great crackle in Parolles (Rylan Wilkie) meditation-on-virginity scenes with Helen & his exchanges with Lafew (Wayne Best). Parolles is this play’s Mavolio. A man who sees himself in a different light than anyone else sees him. Rylan plays him well & Parolles’ comeuppance is perhaps the play’s most comic scene. Even in defeat his ‘redemption’ shows him unbowed.

The staging was simple, effective & the cast rolled pedestals, beds & baggage trollies on & off stage without disrupting the flow of the play. I particularly loved the military costumes with their gaudy epaulets, elaborate strings of gold & rows of shiny medals. Of course Parolles’ uniform had the most fringe. Smoke billowing out of suitcases was a fun dramatic visual. Highly recommended.

reviews of shows I’ve seen this past season:

Richard III

Dull In Denmark 

The Mister 

Rocky Horror 

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & see more shows
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

On The Road To Stratford

Some photos on the road on a recent day trip to Stratford. Starting on The New Dundee Road & ending as we leave the pie shop is Shakespeare. All, except the ‘pie under the sky’ shot, where taken though the window of a moving car – so a little blurred.

New Dundee Road

crossroads
clearly not an air b’n’b
band shell
cemetery New Dundee
one of dozens of barns
another of dozens of barns – spot the horse?
Pie under sky
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Don’t Skip The Miser

 

To commemorate Molière’s 400th birthday the Stratford Festival presented The Miser in a new modern version by Ranjit Bolt directed by Antoni Cimolino with Colm Feore as Harper, & Lucy Peacock as Fay (the matchmaker). 

Life imitated art at this production of The Miser on Tues Aug 16 – the house ambient sound was of a thunderstorm – when I exited the Festival Theatre after the show, there was a real thunderstorm. The show itself was excellent in this new adaptation of the Molière. It has been updated to today – full of texting & references to ghosting, memes, FBI raids & Toronto centric shops, Skip The Dishes delivery, the dismay of living in Scarborough.

The rather knotty plot of coincidence, misunderstandings & deliberate misinformation is well delineated – no one, but the characters, is confused by the various threads of subplots & withheld information. It also answers that burning question of what to do if your windowed father is determined to marry the girl he doesn’t know you want to marry.

One key to the play, that I didn’t fully recognize until after the performance, was the influence of Commedia dell’arte on Molière that echoed through this production with the older wealthy man, perky maid (or matchmaker), high-class hopeless lovers etc. Harper’s 2nd act lavender silk top & tails with bellbottoms quickly turn him into a Pierrot . You’ll have to see this excellent production to track down all the Commedia parallels.

The show moves quickly, the cast is energized by the wordplay of the text & Colm seems happy to step out of Richard III into someone lighter. Lucy Peacock relished the opportunity to wear slutty modern wear & her glittery heels deserved a bow of their own. An actress friend of mine once told me she didn’t really feel a character until she had the right shoes. Lucy had the right shoes for sure.

They text is amusing, has several laughs but it isn’t punchline laughter & makes fun of serious theatre, greed, & endlessly big reveal denouements of the ‘Luke I am your Father’ type. I also appreciated an ending in which the principle character doesn’t learn any important life lessons as he is reunited happily with the love of his life – a suitcase full of cash. Highly recommend.

Richard III

Dull In Denmark 

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Recap June 2022

Most popular post in June was Wentworth Perk Perks Up Sydney, that I originally posted in 2012 & reposted the link & boom! over 150 hits – making it the most popular post of the year so far. On some Fridays I have been going back into my archives to ten years ago to resurrect these old post. https://topoet.ca/…/25/wentworth-perk-perks-up-sydney-2/ 

Picture Perfect:  123 sections, about 174,000 words posted so far with at least 12,000 to be edited then posted. I say ‘at least’ as I am nearing the end & discovered that I merely made notes for the next two climactic scenes so there could easily be another 20,000 words yet, much of them being ‘fresh’ writing.

Started a new Wednesday format, giving the monks a rest for the summer. It’ll be called Summer Reflections 2022 where I post about my old clothes, recovery memories, Wicca, & whatever comes to mind.

Watched a slew of forgettable movies & a couple more memorable ones – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967). Wow! I can’t recall when I saw this last but wow what a fabulous film with a vibrant performance by Robert Morse, who starred in the Broadway original. The set & costume work is spot on perfection in candy colours. The songs are fun, I love ‘I Believe In You.’ Fossey-esque choreography. Recent revival had Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, another Nick Jonas.

Equally memorable is Chinese Roulette directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Vivid colours in this turgid, painfully artificial & seemingly endless psychological drama that had me snickering at everything from the hairstyles, makeup, set up & particularly the soundtrack music. It also features an amazing performance by Andrea Schobe as the ultimate manipulative child. 

In June I re-read ‘Loving Man: A Photographic Guide to Gay Male Lovemaking – Mark Freedman Ph.D., Harvey Mayes – 1976 – 1st Edition’ Hardcover. I bought this book while I was still living in Sydney. I think I got it via The Playboy Book Club, as it was considered porn by customs & couldn’t be sold in Canada. It made my decision to escape Cape Breton very easy.

Reading it now I love the innocence of it – pre-HIV, pre-WWW, pre-apps – it reflects how things have changed & how they haven’t changed. Back in the day we used ‘looking for connections’ ad sections in gay magazines to meet outside of noisy smokey bars. Street cruising is now done with apps. Our current era of acceptance is still as fraught with prejudice & ignorance. Rainbow flags appear on businesses not because of inclusivity or to show support but to invite our gay dollars. 

from a past production

The less said about Hamlet the better – the best part was the amazing weather for the drive there & back lol. (Dull In Denmark https://topoet.ca/2022/06/24/dull-in-denmark/ )

Upcoming reviews: Rocky Horror Show (Stirling Summer Theatre! – yes Rocky is now safe for small town Ontario); Stratford: The Miser, All’s Well That Ends Well, Hamlet 911.

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Dull In Denmark

 

Took another Stratford day-trip Wednesday to see Hamlet. First the good news – we had lunch at the re-located Features & were happy with the bright, spacious location. Same menu (on new a menu folder). Same staff. Best part, the washrooms are no longer down a slippery flight of rickety stairs into a dark low-ceilinged basement.

Now for the bad news, something was dull in the state of Denmark & it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps it was the long pandemic delay that gave them too much time to simmer this production – a simmer that turned it into flavourless Hamlet.

The opening was promising with funeral organ music & the dead king in a glass coffin already on stage. Guards were contemporized into a dark suited security detail – earplug communicators etc. The ghost work was nicely handled. But after Hamlet ‘swears,’ I got sleepy & missed some things, including the To Be soliloquy. A sure sign of how dull the performances & staging where. I perked up when the travelling players finally arrived. 

from a past production

Overall it was, to me, an uninspired production, though the staging had some good elements. The use of the balcony mirrors & projections was interesting, as was hidden body mic on Ophelia. The costumes were street wear – as if the cast had arrived late & rushed on stage without changing out of their street clothes. I can’t even remember what Hamlet wore. Costumes should help define the characters & so everyone here was defined as nobodies. Laertes in sweatpants? How regal.

from a past production

Amaka Umeh in the lead works hard, saws the air at every possible moment but never found a character. The King lacked any sense of threat. Ophelia lacked wispiness & seemed more peeved than heart-broken. None of the principles felt that invested in their characters, none of them seemed to be enjoying being on stage.

In the end we were left with a dull silence.

Hey! You can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & see more shows
sweet, eh? paypal.me/TOpoet