Awesome Covers: My Body is a Cage

I have listened to this song so many times that I have almost forgotten that its a cover. Its haunting and moving, and so different from the original song (by Arcade Fire). Peter Gabriel’s album “Scratch my back”, covering some of his favourite songs with a full orchestra, is a can’t miss, and one you should check out if you haven’t already.

Awesome Covers: Take on Me

If you know me, you probably know how much I love a good cover song. And what makes a good cover? When a band takes a previously recorded song and makes it their own, that’s just the best. So, I’m going to start sharing some of my favourite cover songs.

First up: Reel Big Fish’s cover of A-ha’s Take on Me. A-ha’s signature song has been covered many times, but Reel Big Fish’s ska flavoured cover is one of the best. They take the 80s classic and rock it up, yet still retain the best of the classic song.

Writing my new solo play: the mall Santa

You can check out the first part of series on writing my new play here.

I’ve known from pretty early on that there was going to be a mall Santa in this play. It seemed like such a perfect way to quickly get to what the story is about. But I didn’t want to just write what I thought being a mall Santa would be like, so I did some research.

There are some articles you can find on being a mall Santa online. For example, The Ultimate Guide to Working as a Professional Santa Claus, How Do You Become Santa Claus, and We Talked to a Former Mall Santa About What It Takes to Be a Mall Santa; all three are really good articles.

But those articles, as good as they were, didn’t offer quite enough information. So, I found a documentary called “I am Santa Claus“, which features WWE wrestler, Mick Foley, who wants to learn to be a Santa. In addition to Mick, there are a bunch of other Santa’s that are profiled. Some of them are just delightful, and a couple are kind of unpleasant, but it definintely gives a sense of what the Santa gig requires.

So, given that this play involves Yule monsters like Krampus, Perchta, Grýla, and Belsnickel. So what does a mall Santa have to do with that? Consider that all of the Yule monsters (with the exception of maybe Grýla and the Yule cat) have been enslaved by Saint Nicholas and made lesser. So here’s a mall Santa, embodying the person of Saint Nicholas, and what if he accidentally sets them free of their servitude? What then? What would he do? And what could make him go so far? What would make him do something so terrible?

Well, it would take an extremely terrible child….

Writing my as yet untitled November solo play

I had an idea. And the idea was really just that: the barest hint of an idea. But it was enough to start something, to start the wheels spinning in my head. I’ve talked about this before, about writing the poem that inspired me to dig deeper and research more. And I’ve talked about the process, and filling a notebook and then seeing what I’ve got. Now I’d like to talk about putting it together. Because I’d filled a notebook, and I transcribed what I had and learned about the themes I was looking at. I’d done some research and learned more about the Yule monsters and the companions of Saint Nicholas. I learned about more than just Krampus, but of Perchta with her knife and her thread, about Pere Froutard and Belsnickel, and about the Yule Lads, Gryla and the Yule Cat. And more.

So how to put all that into a play? Could that become a play? These were ideas, and they certainly interested me, but were they enough to make a play with? I wasn’t sure. I still needed a starting place. And I found it in what became my thesis, and this idea formed the backbone of everything else I wrote. The idea, went like this:

Christmas is a lie. The whole peace and joy, goodwill to men thing; Christmas Joy, Santa Claus, elves; these are things added to sanitize the season, a salve to soothe the fear, to cover the danger. But it is still there. You can hear it in the howl of the wind, the crunch of the snow, the bay of the wolf. And you can feel it in your heart. You know its there. We all do. Deep down, we feel it. That’s why we cling so desperately to the idea of Christmas joy, Santa, elves, and goodwill to men. Because without those, we’d have to give in to fear. Because the truth is, the season itself…it wants to eat us alive.

 Is that going to be how the play starts? I don’t know yet. I know its an important part, but whether I actually need to have those words in the script is still up in the air.

What else have I learned about the play from transcribing what I put in that notebook? Well, for one thing, I know there’s a mall Santa.

More on that next time.

There’s Audience Enough for Everyone

A number of years ago, I was at the Montreal Fringe with Keystone Theatre. On our first day, we attended a seminar by solo performer Cameron Moore about how best to promote your show at Fringe. Cameron gave some great advice, but one thing that she said stood out for me. She said: There’s enough audience for everyone. And for me, that one sentence was transformative, not just in the way that i look at Fringe promotion, but in the way I look at promoting theatre in general. See, I believe that this concept, the idea that there’s enough audience for everyone applies to all theatre. Because the people who are inclined to see something that I am producing, are (in my opinion) likely to be inclined to see something that you are producing. They just have to know about it.

Sometimes, in theatre, and especially in indie theatre, we’re a little precious with our audiences. Its almost like we treat our audience like little birds, and if we open the little cage we keep them in, they’ll fly away and never come back. But I think that this is completely wrong. I think that an audience member who sees the work of one artist, will be hungry for the work of other artists. This doesn’t diminish the work of the first artist. It helps everyone grow.

I’ve approached a lot of what I do theatrically with this phrase in my mind: there’s audience enough for everyone. I’m always happy to talk about other people’s productions, even if I have my own in production. And I’m going to continue to do this. Its one of the reasons I started Stageworthy Podcast. Because I want to expose the work of many artists to as wide an audience as possible.

There’s enough audience for everyone.

So that’s my challenge to everyone this week: share the work of another artist or company this week. Talk about someone who’s work you have enjoyed.

this is the text of my Stageworthy Podcast opening thought from the episode published March 21, 2017