2020 Umbrella Blues

Over the past year by TOpoet.ca following blog grew from 363 to 445! That’s over 80 new followers without me going out of my way beyond blogging regularly. The WordPress map show my hits have come from some 85 countries around the world. India still tops the list is interest but that Italy & Japan are in the top 10 is a surprise. Kenya still in the top 20 – but Malawi! Still no hits from North Korea 😦

The 2020 post that got the most hits was https://topoet.ca/2020/06/10/catholic-girls/ but a post from 2014 made a surprise showing too https://topoet.ca/2014/01/24/born-to-be-blown/. The post with the most all-time hits is also from 2014: https://topoet.ca/2014/06/06/there-was-the-word/. My Tumblr is at 295. It would be much higher but I frequently block follows for buxom babes, porn slam (shooting up crystal meth) sites. Twitter 229 followers.

Picture Perfect is moving along nicely with 48 sections, just over 73,000 words posted so far with about 116,000 words to be edited & then posted. Editing it is fun &though I recollect most of the plot I am getting to expand somethings & fill in others. I need a cheat sheet of names at all times though.

In this has been the year of the pandemic, I never expected to be living in a scifi movie. The threat is real but the stress comes from not knowing when or if it might strike me. I take all the precautions, masks, hand washing & social distancing – which have all proved to be enough so far. Zoom has become one of my best friends 🙂

Getting to AA meetings is simple & no having to deal with winter wear has been an additional plus. Members there frequently mention how they miss all the face-to-face contact but you know I’m indifferent to it. I have never been one for social gathering , of any sort, of more than four or five people. Another bonus is this lack of social contact has resulted in no colds or flu, so far, this winter. I’ve quickly embraced face masks & have amassed a nice collection with fun patterns. a few solid colours, that allow me to feel less medical when I put one on. One way of making masks work is to make them fashion. But I’m not enjoying the realization that going to the store for a loaf of bread is actually playing Russian roulette without knowing who is holding the gun.

My 2020 plans for Capturing Fire in Washington never materialized & I doubt if I’ll be visiting the US, or anywhere else, even in Canada, until 2022. With the travel industry decimated even in country travel will be a challenge. No boats, trains, buses or airplanes to the Maritimes  might bring back the car 🙂 It isn’t clear what will happen with the Stratford Festive, they have planned a season but social distancing requirements may scuttle it even if the vaccine roll out goes well. Maybe one will need a proof of vaccine to get in to see a show? Maybe a return to classical Greek theatre style where all the performers wore masks?

Umbrella Blues

that rain is wet

comes as no surprise

it’s just that sometimes

I’m bored of the rain

tired of its endless fall

the sound of the drop

the feel of it on my skin 

by rain

I mean life

<>

not that life is wet

but it’s just that sometimes

I’m weary of it all

even more so these covid days

<>

so far

I’ve dodged that bullet 

as the numbers of infected

go up & up 

I’m not yet in that number

I say a prayer of gratitude

but I’m tired of dodging that bullet

to go the the store

to walk down the street

<>

peeved by walking into on coming traffic

to create social distance

between me and others

on sidewalks narrowed by patios

I’m weary of the worry

of the avoidance

of the feel survivor’s guilt

<>

have you seen my umbrella

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

Stratford photos taken a day trip earlier in 2020.

Stratford July Day Trip

sky over 401 as we set out
tarts galore at The Shakespeare Pie Shop
sky over The Shakespeare Pie Shop
dining a la fresco at Features
new Tom Patterson
other side of the new Tom Patterson
another view of the new Tom Patterson
paddleboats on the Avon

for more about the trip & more photos see Stratford Protocol  https://topoet.ca/2020/07/24/stratford-protocol/ 

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

Stratford Protocol

Earlier this week we took a day trip to Stratford. This is the first summer in decades I haven’t seen show there, & the first time since the 50’s my partner hasn’t seen a show there. Neither have never been there when they wasn’t a show running. Unlike out usual visits there we didn’t have to pack as much in the way of snacks & fluids 🙂

With most of the province inching into phase 3 I was curious to see just what that meant outside of the golden horseshoe. We left later than usual, no rush to get there for 2 pm curtain. The weather was perfect. The traffic was the usual with slowdowns outside of Kitchener. Our first stop was the Tim’s at the edge of Cambridge. 

Masks on & in we went. No seating but washrooms were open, on request, one person at a time. Follow the arrows to the exit please. Staff masked & gloved. Coffee up to their standards. From there we took the New Dundee Road though New Dundee, Haysville & on to Shakespeare, This was the only major slowdown for highway work being done on the intersection there. 30 mins while road-plows plowed the road. It seems university guys aren’t doing construction this year to pay their tuition 😦

It was worth the wait for our next stop: the Pie Shop. There we bought chicken pot pies, lemon tarts & other nutritious snacks. On to Stratford for lunch at Features.

Yes Features was open for ‘take-out’ only. But they had patio tables set up & brought your order to your table. The town had more people than expected wandering in & out of the fudge stores. But the Festival theatres were all shut down even the gift shops. With so little tourist traffic the town opted not to do any gardening along sidewalks etc.

We did drive around to see the new Theatre. The rush for opening has allowed them to take their time with landscaping. The lots was fenced off so I didn’t get any real close up photos. People in paddle boats on the Avon was out matinee performance 🙂

Drive home was good. Road workers on lunch break as we passed through Shakespeare. One last stop at the Pork Shop for their excellent pulled pork. Home by 4:30. exhausted by all that sitting, taking photos & enjoying the scenery? Maybe we’ll hit Niagara-on-the-Lake for an August day trip. A big maybe because there isn’t even a favorite restaurant we miss there.  

Ghosts Toronto Stratford



Bus Terminal Family Restaurant – at Danforth/Coxwell
one of the several incarnations of the diner – now empty
garage at Gerrard E/Main now gone – I loved the colours
ample parking for using the washrooms 🙂
curved awning at the garage – garage now replaced by modern box
once a fixture on Albert St. in Stratford, we often parked in front of it when having lunch at Features & even shopped there, now moved to Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre – where we will never park
Canada Tire Express Danforth/Gough – it has been various pop-up stores & presently some Fitness studio that may become a covid ghost
another Danforth ghost – I don’t remember what it used to be – Gems Co is still on the 2nd Floor
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to continue ghost hunting & to defray blog fees – thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

“I danced for the Devil”

Does this sound familiar: rabid anti-gay rights activist caught making pass at a man in washroom – admits he is gay. The accuser being guilty of what he accuses others of – this is a part of the many layers of guilt in The Crucible. Guilty of one crime you are guilty of all crimes. Accusation = guilt. Being innocent doesn’t undo the stain of the accusation. The Crucible functions on many levels – the use of authority is more important that justice, the denial of guilt is really an admission of guilt.

My last theatre day trip to Stratford was to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play about witches in October – what a concept 🙂 The production was intense, riveting & the political allegory hasn’t dated a bit. Except these days many don’t care about guilt if the guilty are rich enough – a president can admit to ‘grabbing pussy’ (underage beauty contestants should be flattered he grabbed their privates) & is still in power. But I digress.

The simple set with side pieces of tall trees moves silently & easily to accommodate several locations. The ambient sound before the play starts create a a sense of forest. Once the plays starts with the ‘possessed’ child (nice nod here to ‘The Exorcist’) it moves with constant intent & mounting emotional & physical intensity.

The performances were strong for a cast who clearly enjoyed these characters, had dug deep into the text itself, & gave unexpectedly raw performances. Tim Campbell as John Proctor & Scott Wentworth as Reverend Parris gave amazing performances – perhaps the best I’ve seen by Scott Wentworth. I was drawn into the dense emotional mire both men were feeling on opposite sides of the conflict.

Shannon Taylor as Elizabeth Proctor was strong – her moment of ‘truth’ brought gasps from the audience. The tempted ‘girls’ lead by Katelyn McCulloch as Abigail Williams were given great dramatic moments of demonic possession. Katelyn was good but was more saucy than vengeful. They were women not girls or children, as they were referred to on the text.

I had seat in 4th row orchestra so had a very close view of the superb costumes plus I was impressed by the meticulous wig work. This is an excellent production, perhaps the best I’ve seen this season & one of the most compelling I’ve seen of stage in some time. Jonathan Goad’s direction brought performances that were deeply effective & made a challenging text engaging & challenging at the same time. 

“I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book.” Arthur Miller

other 2019 reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vQ

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vW 

Our Father Issues  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3CB

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Gj

Mae Brecht’s Sex https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3ND

Plant Food For Thought https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Oo


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & 2020 theatre tickets. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

“Abject Object”

Over the years I have seen nearly all Shakespeare’s plays. Thankfully Stratford Festival presents one of the infrequently produced ones every year or so. This year it is Henry VIII, which we saw at the intimate Studio Theatre. A play with the largest cast list done in the smallest theatre presented a challenge for director Martha Henry, which she met with ease.

This was a preview production but most of the performances were excellent. Irene Poole as Queen Katherine was strong, her death scene was compelling – cutting the appearance of the spirit apparitions allowed the scene even greater emotional resonance. Kim Horsman as Duchess of Norfolk was great fun. Jonathan Goad as Henry was boyish, regal and made the king so appealing one almost forgives his treatment of women. The supporting players were good, Scott Wentworth as the Duke of Norfolk was particularly strong.

Thanks to the series The Tudors I was able to sort out the political web that was being spun for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure how anyone unfamiliar with the actual history would have fared with the religious & political intrigues that run though the play. But the play is also an emotional look at the disintegration of a marriage regardless of the political context.

The staging was simple, the costumes were detailed, though there were more sequins than one would have expected at that time 🙂 The ending bows were cleverly  choreographed. Highly recommended.

 

My only quibble is with an audience member, in my row, two seats to my right who felt it was perfectly fine to use his smartphone to check messages & text replies two different times, while the show was in progress. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t start a whispered conversation on it. 

 

 

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Sneak Peek February 2019 

A quick look back before the peek – my TOpoet.ca following is up to 305 maybe I’ll get to 350 by the end of the year. Also the jump in WordPress hits has remained consistent when I stopped the auto link to Tumblr & replaced it with Google+. India now takes the lead in the number of hits, with US, Canada, Ireland, South Africa (!) rounding out the top five.

Twitter is up to 212 followers thanks to more self-publishing entrepreneurs following me :-). Tumblr up 217 – even with their community standards I’m still getting hetero porn sites trying to follow me. Some are moaning about the ‘death’ of Tumblr merely because it is no longer a convenient site for uploading erotic to explicit sex pics. I see are fewer of such pics but they are still there.

So far, no such issues with WordPress. The serialization of Coal Dusters continues with 76,600 words, 40 chapters, so far; with at least 51,000 words (not chapters) to go. I say at least because as I edit things expand. I’m into the second nanowrimo portion & as I work on it I see where I left space for bridging scenes. So I’ve been creating whole new text to connect things. I like what is happening. I’ve also made a PDF file of Book 1 – $1.99 for anyone who wants to have the the first half in one piece (paypal.me/TOpoet). At this place I might have it done by summer.

 

WordPress photos are now Mondays: suitcases – I want to travel more & one way of getting that energy out there is with suitcases, right? Wednesday is texture – fabric, brick, shingles, wood – the feel of life; Thursday will continue to be random pairs; Fridays is doors – even cast-off doors are openings to a future.

 

Otherwise February is a routine month – no spoke-word shows to anticipate, no plays on the horizon though we’ll be ordering some tickets soon. Looking forward to Little Shop of Horrors at Stratford & Mae West’s Sex at the Shaw Festival this summer. Good news for my visit to Cape Breton: not only dot hey have a well-organize {Pride week they also have a Starbucks!

Stay In Bed

it seemed like a good idea 

at the time everyone was gung-ho

until they realized

they would have to do something 

to make it happen

 

expecting me to do it all

was part of their plan

not mine

sure I thought it was a great idea

but I’m not a one man show

as much as I’d like to be

and as much I as I know

I would be better person

for being willing to do it all by by myself

I’m not going to even try

 

when that become clear

the energy began to wane

the idea didn’t seem so wonderful

getting active

making things happen

isn’t such fun after all

 

why can’t someone else 

do all the work for us

while we sit back

and enjoy the results 

the rewards should be ours 

for the thinking

thanks to your doing

thanks to someone being 

consistant and eager

to take each demanding task 

and fulfilling them 

to our specification

faced with having

to do it ourselves 

we grow diffident 

disinterested

disenchanted 

while looking for the right person

to blame 

to save face

 

picking up the rake the shovel 

is such a bore

makes us want to just stay in bed

for another half hour 

maybe this’ll blow over 

maybe the next fast flash of inspiration

will require even less than thinking

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6


http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday 2019


June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Paradise Staged

Before seeing the Festival production of Paradise Lost we stopped into the costume warehouse sale to see what was on sale but more to see what was stored there. It was day 2 of the sale & all the ‘good’ stuff had been sold in the first few hours of day 1. I did buy a shirt though just to say I have a piece of Festival history. 

There were plenty of fun cloaks, sequinned dresses & few props. I found out that there are regular tours of the warehouse so one will be planned for next season. I did get some fun photos though which was my real reason for going there.

Paradise Lost was excellent. I wasn’t sure how the endless, blank verse poem would be staged. Doing spoken word frequently I know the struggle there can be in lifting words of the page. Adapter Erin Shields, director Jackie Maxwell & Lucy Peacock (as Satan) did an amazing job at making the text engaging & often much funnier than I’m sure John Milton intended it to be.

Centre stage at the Studio Theatre is a pile of shirts (going from dark at the bottom to white at the top) reaching to the ceiling, around it are hung black shirts. Lights out & we hear the dark shirts drop to the stage: the fallen angels. As Satan Lucy Peacock commands the stage whenever she appears. The interaction between the ‘good’ host of angels reflects their pecking order.

The supporting cast was all good. I particularly liked Sarah Dodd as as sort of east coast slutty Sin & as Zephon, who was eager to perform as Satan in the play-within-a-play. Perhaps because he was mainly naked I did enjoy Qasim Khan as Adam. His comic timing was excellent. Both he & Amelia Sargisson, as Eve, played the naivety of their characters to perfection. 

The play-within-a-play mystery play telling of the war that lead to fall was hilarious & ti was clear the supporting cast was having great fun with it. The rhyming couples were a nice sonic break from the blank verse too. This is a brilliant piece of theatre that rivalled Coriolanus for theatricality without relying on tech-magic to do so.

The other shows I saw this season:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e

Rocky Horror: “I Feel Sexy” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-38u

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

Stratford Costume Warehouse pics:

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179316578048/ 

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179385874798/

http://topoet.tumblr.com/post/179469551438/

 

I Feel Sexy

I’ve seen Rocky Horror a few times now – both on stage & of course the movie. I remember a photo of Tim Curry in Time magazine, when the film was being made. He was in the classic corset costume & I was amazed & aroused. I’ve never been fan of lingerie on a man except for this one. Panty Papi isn’t for me. 

I was working for Famous Players in Sydney, Cape Breton (not Australia) when the film was released & the opening lips mesmerized me. The plot had everything I was already into: spooky houses, crazed scientists, goth butlers, bisexuality, silly scifi plots & hilarious songs. Tim Curry was amazing too. The man could sing. His drag was not fem, a bit campy &  still remains cutting edge.

The stage productions I have seen have all been good fun but director Donna Feore’s Stratford take is the best I’ve seen. Dan Chameroy as Frank N. Furter is a powerhouse. He makes this role his own without initiating Curry at any point. Totally committed & he makes this imaginary character feel like a real person.

The show doesn’t let up for a minute from when one sits down to face the distressed velvet curtain to when that curtain reluctantly falls as the end after encores of Time Warp. The band was amazing & I love the sax playing of Ian Harper. The ensemble cast is like clockwork – they all sing & dance with energy plus it was clear that they really really loved these songs & the various bits of stage business they had to deal with.

Steve Ross as the narrator handled audience hecklers with aplomb without stepping of of character – plus his singing was excellent – too and he never got a song of his own. Sayer Roberts as Brad was great as well – it’s too easy to down play Brad as a minor player but Sayer holds his own, in undies for much of the play, & when he gets his song, Once in a While proves he can sing as well as looking good in fishnets & heels.

The women in the show are good but the sound mix resulted in them sounding like shrill Betty Boops. In fact the sound mix often made the lyrics indistinguishable to my friends who came to see the show with me. Regardless this is a dynamic production of a musical that remains edgy in its sexuality. Five out of five. It has been extended to the end of November so see it while you can.

My last show of the season will be Paradise Lost in October.

Other recent reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e 

https://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/hot-damn-its-a-queer-slam-feat-janice-lee/

http://www.queerslam.com

every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up

https://www.facebook.com/TorontoGratitudeRoundup/

October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet

 

Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 

 

I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y 

Like my pictures? I post lots on Tumblr

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/topoet