Pick of the Day: Medea

 

This play, which is being presented by the University of Regina Theatre Department from March 10-13, is based on Euripedes’ ancient Greek tragedy, but it’s an adaptation by American philosopher and writer Robinson Jeffers. It was written in the early 1940s, and became a Broadway hit starring Dame Judith Anderson. Jeffers was a definite character. D.H. Lawrence, the Englishman who authored such classics of erotic fiction like Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Sons and Lovers, was a close friend. He lived in a stone house in Carmel, Calif that he built himself and named Tor House and Hawk Tower. He was an outdoorsman extraordinaire.

With Medea, Jeffers had a great story to work with. Most people are probably familiar with the story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. Well, when Jason returns home to his wife Medea after being away for years, he quickly dumps her and takes up with King Creon’s daughter Glauce. Pissed, Medea proceeds to exact revenge.

To get the juice of ancient Greek legends flowing for this four-day run of Jeffers’ play here’s the trailer for the classic 1963 adventure flick Jason & the Argonauts with stop-motion special effects by Ray Harreyhausen. (YouTube)

Also at the university tonight there’s the 2010 Stapleford Lecture. It’s in the Rex Schneider Auditorium at Luther College. Speaking at 7:30 p.m. is Dr. Anne Doig, president of the Canadian Medical Association. The title of her talk is Quality Care For Patients, Above All. It’s related to an initiative the CMA has undertaken to develop a Patient Quality Charter to promote  patient-centred care.

And at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the first night of the Sakewewak Storytellers’ Festival kicks off with a world music concert produced by Ramses Calderon and featuring musicians Sam Minevich, Michel Medrano and Carter Powley. The Festival switches to the Performing Arts Centre then. March 11 it’s Stories From St. Laurent by Yvonne Chartrand and Marie Clements. March 12: Urban Poetz, an aboriginal hip hop showcase. Both start at 8 p.m. Finally, March 13 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. there’s a forum on traditional knowledge.

Pick of the Day: Queen … It’s a Kinda Magic

Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Can you do the fandango?

This thing called love, I just can’t handle it.

Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he’s dead.

I could continue. Queen has many memorable songs. I never had the chance to see them live. But I do have a DVD of the band performing sold-out concerts at the Montreal Forum in 1981 and at Live Aid in London in 1985.

This show at Conexus Arts Centre tonight is what it is, I guess. There was only one Freddie Mercury. If you go, all that I ask is that you treat it as theatre, not music.

 And for a shot of the real deal, here’s Queen performing “Somebody to Love” from the Forum gig. (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: Armchair Cynics

 

As far as band names go, Armchair Cynics is pretty cool. There’s a lot out there too. Armchair cynics, I mean. People who sit on their ass a lot and bitch about how shitty/lame/boring stuff is. Ain’t it the truth? And by sitting there bitching you’re helping improve the situation … how? Oh right, you’re just sitting on your ass.

Mind you, I suppose it could be worse. You could be one of those insufferable Facebook “activists” who’s out to change the world one mouse click at a time (and yes, those were sneer quotes back there, in case you were wondering). Both of you are pretty disengaged, but at least with you we don’t get much in the way of sanctimonious attitude.

So, anyway. Armchair Cynics are a Victoria-based rock band. They first came to my attention with their 2005 EP Killing the Romance. Disc was 25 min. 32 sec. long, had seven pretty rockin’ tunes, was co-produced by Chad Kroeger, but we won’t get into that now.  In October 2009, they released their first full-length Starting Today. Tonight, they’re at the Exchange with another band called We Are Maurice. Here’s video of the former doing their song “Ablaze” (YouTube).

 And for anyone who’s not an armchair cynic, today’s International Women’s Day. If you feel like celebrating there’s a gathering at the Institute Francais Theatre at the University of Regina from 8:45 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Coca-Cola Case

March 11 at 4 p.m., the National Film Board documentary The Coca-Cola Case is being screened at the University of Regina in the new theatre in the Lab Building. Written and produced by German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia, the film serves as a devastating indictment of the Atlanta-based multi-national for its union-busting activities in Columbia, and Guatemala that includes the funding of para-military groups in those countries who intimidate and even assassinate union leaders. According to the filmmakers, since 2002 over 470 labour activists have been brutally murdered. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: Ribs of Sky, Ribs of Stone

We’ll have more on this exhibition by Joan Scaglione in a later issue. But it’s definitely worth a visit to the MacKenzie Art Gallery to see. It consists of 18 cedar canoes — some simple ribbed structures without hulls, others resembling fully functioning vessels, although I wouldn’t trust any of them on the open water.

Consistent with the historical role they played in the life of First Nations and Metis people, along with early European fur-traders and explorers, Scaglione elected to portage her canoes into the gallery. The day she did (January 7), the mercury plunged to minus 37.5 degrees C, and the windchill was around minus 50.

If you missed media coverage of the portage, there’s video included in the show. It probably wasn’t her intention to do it on such a bitch of a day, but the fact the portage was undertaken in the dead of winter does lend an intriguing interpretive slant to Ribs of Sky, Ribs of Stone that I elaborate on in my review.

The stone, by the way, is a reference to the half-ton of black slate that’s also part of the installation. As far a metaphors go, it’s a pretty potent one for the harsh and unforgiving nature of Canada’s wilderness landscape.

Ribs of Sky, Ribs of Stone is on at the MacKenzie until April 11.

Pick Of The Day: Mixed Bag

There’s a pile of stuff happening tonight. At the Lazy Owl out at the University of Regina there’s a drag show fundraiser for the student queer organization GBLUR. Just down the hall at Riddell Centre in the Shu-Box Theatre there’s a concert of experimental music and immersive soundscapes called Sounding Landscapes. Both events start at 8 p.m. At the Exchange, rising Saskatoon alt-country band Deep Dark Woods is playing a gig. Here’s a link to a post James Brotheridge did on the band last week. And “Foghat” is at the Casino. Those aren’t meant as sneer quotes, by the way, just an effort on my part to dramatize that the band that hits the stage tonight is pretty much Foghat in name only. I checked on Wikipedia, and two of the original members are dead — one expired from kidney cancer in 2000, the other of a heart attack in 2005. And since this blues-rock group got going in the U.K. in 1970, it looks like a whole shitload of musicians have played for them. But I think the drummer is still an original member. There’s also a big International Women’s Day celebration at Queensbury Centre with guest-speaker Buffy Sainte-Marie (pictured), and Telemiracle XXXIV kicks off tonight at Conexus Arts Centre.

University News

You got any plans for next Tuesday? If not, and even if you do, consider dropping by the Multi-Purpose Room at Riddell Centre between 7-9 p.m. as the University of Regina kicks off a process to develop a new Campus Master Plan that will guide development at the university for the next five years and beyond.

In a press release, U of R president Vianne Timmons (pictured) said “As part of the community, the University of Regina always welcomes comments from the public. The reason for doing a Campus Master Plan is so the university can meet the changing needs of students, staff, faculty and the larger community in the years to come.”

Accessibility and sustainability are only two of many issues that will be looked at. The target for completing the plan is December 2010, with implementation to begin in 2011. For more info see: www.uregina.ca/physplnt/masterplan

Pick of the Day: Charity Concerts

There’s two charitable type concerts happening tonight. At the Exchange, several local bands, including Rah Rah, Geronimo and Tinsel Trees are putting on a benefit to raise money for earthquake ravaged Haiti. Meanwhile, at O’Hanlon’s Pub, the Edmonton rock groups The Falklands (pictured) are playing a benefit in support of Solidarity Rock with local groups ASSX3 and The Czar, The Kaiser and The King. I spoke briefly over the phone with Lee Klippenstein of the Falklands and he said that Solidarity Rock was geared to raising money to help indie musicians in Cuba get new gear to replace the decades old stuff they’ve been forced to use. To learn more, check out www.solidarityrock.com

 Those are two great causes. So if you get a chance, check one (or both) of the concerts out.

Pick of the Day: Chic Gamine

Polished, yet waifish. Stylish, yet urchinish. Okay, I don’t think “urchinish” is actually a word. But “urchin” is. And it, along with “waif”, are two definitions of the French word “gamine”. As for “polish” and “style”, well, that’s “chic” for you. Put them together, and you get the name of this vocal quintet with roots (pun very definitely intended) in Montreal and Winnipeg.

In town to perform as part of the Regina Folk Festival Concert Series, Chic Gamine were last here in August when they performed on the main stage on the final day of the 2009 Regina Folk Festival. That gig was in Victoria Park. Tonight’s is at the Exchange.

Composed of four female singers (Ariane Jean, Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks and Annick Bremault), along with percussionist Sacha Daoud, Chic Gamine has been together since 1997. Mixing a pile of different influences from gospel and soul to r ‘n’ b and doo-wop, the group captured the Best Roots/Traditional Album Award at the 2009 Junos. Here’s video of them performing their song “100 Years”. (YouTube)

Opening for Chic Gamine will be Saskatchewan singer Alexis Normand.

Extras Wanted

If you’ve got some free time on Friday afternoon, and you count yourself a fan of indie Canadian rock/punk music, you might want to drop by the Distrikt (1326 Hamilton). Between 2-5 p.m. legendary Hard Core Logo director Bruce McDonald will be shooting a concert scene for his sequel Hard Core Logo II. Reginans who want to be part of the shoot are encouraged to show up with their best rock fan attitudes and apparel (but no clothes with brands, bands or logos on them).

Performing will be the punk rock band Die Mannequin. Plotwise, apparently the group’s lead singer Care Failure claims to be channeling the spirit of Joe Dick and McDonald arrives on the scene to document the goings-on.

To further set the scene, here’s video of Die Mannequin performing their song  “Bad Medicine”  (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: Merle Haggard

I can’t really count myself as a fan of Merle Haggard. It’s not that I dislike him. More that I’ve never really listened to him much. The song I know him best for is “Okie From Muskogee”. I probably first heard it when I was in high school, and he more or less lost me with the first line.

I’ve lived in Saskatchewan all my life. And I must say, it hasn’t been easy. Am I proud to be from, to quote Haggard, a “place where even squares can have a ball”? Not really, no. I’m not a big flag waver either. And couldn’t ever envision myself submitting to being drafted by my government to fight in a war I didn’t believe in.

 I can’t speak to Haggard’s original intention when he wrote “Okie From Muskogee” back at the height of counter-culture insurgency in the late ‘60s when Richard Nixon was in the Whitehouse and the U.S. was fighting a major war in Vietnam and homosexuality was illegal and racism and sexism were legally sanctioned and … well, you get the idea. But after what we’ve been through in the last forty years it totally reads as satire for me.

 Satire on a bunch of narrow-minded people who are having trouble coping with modernity, and are wanting desperately to revert back to a time when life, for them anyway, was a whole lot simpler. With some things we have to deal with now, like Walmart Death Stars and other mega-big box stores, and outsourcing of virtually every job imaginable to low-wage jurisdictions with no leverage to enforce quality environmental standards, I can’t say I’m entirely unsympathetic. But overall I’d much rather see things move forward a hell of a lot faster than they currently are. And the “Okie” segment of our society is definitely holding things back.

 If I had the cash, and tix were available, and it wasn’t at the Casino, I’d totally check this show out. Haggard plays there again tomorrow night too. Here’s video from 1997 of him performing “Today I started Loving You Again” (YouTube)

Have We Got a Deal For You?

Through the creative work they do, it’s often been said, society owes a debt to artists. In turn, it now seems that society is going to offer artists an opportunity to owe a debt to it. Today, we received word from the Saskatchewan Arts Board that, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture & Sport, it was launching the Creative Industries Flexible Loan Program.

More information, including loan applications, can be found on the SAB’s website at www.artsboard.sk.ca under the Creative Industries tab. According to the SAB press release, $1.15 million is being allocated to the program, which is designed to enhance the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of artists and arts organizations by providing them with short-term, low-interest loans of up to $25,000.

Overall, this is pretty consistent with the direction the Saskatchewan government has taken since the 2007 election in focussing on the development of marketing opportunities for artists. That is definitely one way to enhance the financial well-being of the arts sector. But its also true that for years now, public investment in the arts has been stagnant. From the early 90s on, while the number of artists and arts organizations in Saskatchewan mushroomed, and more and more attention was paid to the idea of creativity as an important economic driver in the province, the amount of money that was allocated to the Arts Board to fund the arts remained flat with the consequent result that the “pie” was relentlessly cut into smaller and smaller pieces.

Is a loan program the answer? For a segment of the arts community that already operates in a quasi-business mode, it should help. I’m thinking of craft producers, organizations that are involved in the production of popular theatre and music events, perhaps some commercial cinema. But market viability, which is implicitly required to pay off a loan (with interest), creates a pretty slippery slope that ultimately could dead-end a lot truly innovative and creative work that’s being done by artists and arts organizations in the province that doesn’t find a ready market.

Pick of the Day: Jane’s Walk

This isn’t an actual event, although it will be down the road. But recently I received an email from the organizers of last spring’s Jane Jacobs Walking Tour inviting interested Reginans to consider volunteering to host a tour or help out in some other way at the 2010 event which will be held May 1-2.

Named after the late urban planning expert Jane Jacobs, the walking tours began in Toronto in 2007, and have since spread to dozens of cities, including New York, Vancouver, New Orleans and Calgary. In such books as The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) Jacobs championed the idea of making cities pedestrian-friendly and not whole-heartedly embracing car culture and the endless expansion of suburban sprawl.

At last year’s event, say organizers, over 400 people participated in 12 tours of different Regina neighbourhoods. Walks can relate to all manner of themes, from architecture and culture to history and business. For more information on the Jane’s Walk concept, visit www.janeswalk.net. To contact local organizers about participating in the 2010 event, send an email to janeswalkregina@gmail.com.

Pick of the Day: The Wooden Sky

If you check out our Feb. 25 issue, you’ll find a preview of this gig by Emily Zimmerman. I saw the Wooden Sky at a house concert in the Cathedral Area in early August just after the Regina Folk Festival. It was pretty cool. I even wrote about it in a subsequent issue. If our on-line archive was up and running, I could link you to it. But since it isn’t yet, you’ll have to settle for this link to an old Dog Blog post Carey Shaw did showing photos she took at the concert.

The Wooden Sky were originally supposed to play O’Hanlon’s in early February. But the alt-country Toronto septet ended up rescheduling to play two sold-out gigs in Calgary, and since then they’ve been performing throughout Alberta and B.C., including some shows at the Olympics. On their way home to Toronto for Canadian Music Week, I imagine, the Wooden Sky play the Exchange tonight.

As far as Mondays go, not too shabby.

Pick of the Day

As of today — the final day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics — I’ve watched a grand total of three hours of TV coverage. Feb. 18, I was over at a friend’s and saw the last two periods of the Canada vs Switzerland Mens Ice Hockey game, plus some of the stumblebums in the lower tiers of the Men’s Figure Skating (when did they bring in those extended sleeve-glove things anyway? They look gross).

While I haven’t been watching the Olympics, I have been following them a bit. I lament the amount of trash-talking that goes on in sports these days. Good sportsmanship is hard to find in players, fans, coaches and management. So I was never a fan of the “Own the Podium” smack that some Canadian officials and athletes were talking in the run up to the Olympics.

It’s fine to be enthusiastic. But to pull a Joe Namath and guarantee victory … well, that’s pretty brash. And as host country, a tad ill-mannered. Then when our athletes got off to such a brutal start, it made us look pretty foolish in the world’s eyes. Our climate gives us a natural advantage in the Winter Olympics, sure. But we’re still only a nation of 34 million. And there’s some pretty big countries out there that compete and do well in winter sports.

The low point for the Canadian contingent probably came on Feb. 21 when the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team lost to the U.S. 5-3. Since then, Canada has performed tremendously. As I write this, Canada sits third in the medal count at 13 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze, ahead of countries like Russia, Norway, Korea, France and China, and behind only the United States (9 gold-14 silver-13 bronze) and Germany (10-12-7).

And after getting off to a shaky start due to the tragic death of a Georgian luger in a training run, technical glitches at the opening ceremony, some unseasonably warm weather and early street protests against all the political and economic bullshit that unfortunately accompanies the Olympics now, Vancouver and the rest of Canada have drawn rave reviews for the party we’ve hosted.

That leaves one more bit of unfinished business. It won’t be an easy task. But since getting beat by the U.S. on Feb. 21 the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team has looked pretty strong. But the Americans, after squeaking by a tenacious Swiss squad 2-0 in the quarter-final, have also looked impressive. In Friday’s semi-final, they spanked Finland 6-1. If U.S. goalie Ryan Miller stands on his head, as he’s perfectly capable of doing, the U.S. will be tough to beat. If Canada can get to him, though, the gold should be theirs.

Game time is 2 p.m.

Review of WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers

Interactivity is a tough nut for a critic to crack. Generally, within the limits of our subjectivity, we strive to be neutral observers. When we check something out, we can’t help but to see it through our own eyes. Sit ten critics of diverse backgrounds (age, gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, etc) down in front of an art work, and guaranteed the analysis and interpretation that they offer will have unique aspects to it. Occasionally, you might even wonder if they’d seen the same painting, play, movie, or whatever.

Sometimes, the insight the critic provides is valuable. Other times, they totally miss the boat. Regardless, it’s a cardinal rule of criticism that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, a critic never interferes with the art. I could go all quatum physics here and talk about Schrodinger’s famous thought-experiment of putting a cat in a sealed box with a flask of poison. If an atom decays, the cat dies, if one doesn’t, the cat remains alive.

Under quatum mechanics, the statistical probability of both outcomes is the same. Therefore, the cat is regarded as being both dead and alive. The only way that the paradox can be solved is through direct observation. Copenhagen model, many-worlds interpretation, yada-yada. Bottom line is that by acting to look in the box the observer becomes “entangled” with the cat.

Say I’m a theatre critic. I go to a play, and half-way through I start chucking golf balls at the actors. That would kind of taint the review I subsequently wrote, wouldn’t it?

That’s an extreme example. But with a performance that’s designed to be interactive a critic — normally a neutral observer — is afforded an opportunity to impact on what happens. Impact too much, and at what point does a critic cross the line and become a co-creator? And if there’s a second cardinal rule of criticism, it’s that it’s impossible for a critic to critically engage with their own work.

I entered the space tonight the same as everyone else. Standing in line in the hallway outside the Globe’s main stage where Tuesdays With Morrie was playing. We were let in in small groups, where we got a brief welcome to acquaint us with the ground rules … dark a lot of the time, if one of the performers directs you a bit do as they say, and don’t fall off the riser in the corner. Otherwise, feel free to do what you want.

I immediately separated myself from everyone else and sought throughout to be as detached as possible. In the program, the performers Johanna Bundon, Lee Henderson and Barbara Pallomina speak collectively of a childhood memory, pre-PowerPoint, of being enlisted by the teacher in class to run the film-strip projector.

Operating the projector, they observed, the student became “a functionary of the machine. To advance the story for the rest of us. To respond when the machine requested advancement.”

Not exactly a positive take on technology. Yet without technology, what would WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers have been like? It didn’t start until 8 p.m. At this time of the year, as we are painfully aware, the Sun has set by then. Without electric light, the darkness would have been unrelenting.

Some of the lights used in the space, along with most of the furniture, was vintage technology. There was even an old record player spinning an LP. Yet the sound board that was as futuristic as they come. So overall, there did seem to be a bit of a love-hate relationship with technology.

Most of us can probably relate. And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. That’s a concern because, biologically, there’s no way that we can evolve fast enough to cope. We live in a nuclear age. But we have Stone Age brains. Not a good combination. Are we masters of technology. Or is technology our master? We hope the former, but fear the latter.

 That’s kind of the vibe I got watching the performance, anyway. And while the performers did do a reasonable job of utilizing the space, and of shepherding the audience around, the 25 or so people who were there were still very much that — an audience.

 At one point, an old fashioned dial phone began ringing in the corner. After a few rings, it might have been nice if someone had shown the initiative to walk over and answer it. As it was, Pallamino finally directed a woman to do so.

 So many rules in our society. So many taboos.

Pick of the Day

 

Final night of the Mid-Winter Blues Festival. Tonight’s gig at Casino Regina features headliner Omar & the Howlers. If you’re looking for a bit of background, you can check out a preview in the Feb. 25 on-line version of Planet S.

Also on tonight are gigs by Royal Red Brigade at the Club (see James Brotheridge’s preview in the Feb. 25 print and on-line versions of prairie dog), plus a heavy metal blow-out with Shadows Fall (pictured), Bison bc, Goatwhore and Baptized By Blood at the Distrikt. Brotheridge also did a preview of in our Feb. 25 issue of Bison BC if you feel like checking it out.. Finally, at Gabbo’s tonight there’s another instalment in the new Comedy Grind series hosted by Shaun Hall.

Pick of the Day

 

So, I’m off to see WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers at the Globe Theatre tonight. It’s previewed, in somewhat amorphous terms, in our Feb. 25 print and on-line editions. I use the word amorphous because when I spoke with two of the three participating artists (Johanna Bundon and Lee Henderson) they were still in the early stages of putting the finishing touches on the performance. Plus, as I note in the preview, WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers has a component of structured improv to it, with the artists (Barbara Pallamino is the third performer) drawing inspiration from the audience. Each night, the audience is different. So each night, the performance is different. I’ll post a short review of the piece tomorrow.

Also on tonight is the second evening of the Mid-Winter Blues Festival. Tonight’s gig is at the Royal Sask Museum, and features headliner Sonny Landreth. For info on him check out pp. 18 of the Feb. 25 Planet S on our website. Also on tonight, the Winnipeg ska/punk band Subcity is at O’Hanlon’s Pub.

Pick of the Day

            There’s a ton of things happening today actually. First, it’s the opening night of WhyRobotsMakeBetterLovers, the latest offering in the Globe Theatre’s Sandbox Series. It’s previewed in our Feb. 25 issue, and I’ll have a short review on the Friday production on Saturday.

            Also tonight, the three-day Mid-Winter Blues Festival kicks off with a show at the Exchange. Check our music listings for line-up and venue info. And there’s an interesting talk at the George Bothwell Library at 7 p.m. by U of R English prof Jean Hillabold on Erotica & Censorship as part of Freedom to Read Week.

            At nearby Chapters, U of R Geography prof Julia Siemer discusses the challenges of modern demography as part of Coffeehouse Controversies. And U of R History prof Bill Brennan gives a potentially controversial talk on the Regina Riot and the On-to-Ottawa Trek at the RCMP Heritage Centre.

            Do-It-With-Class Young Peoples Theatre has the second night of its musical The Wiz at Conexus Arts Centre. Rik Emmett, Pavlo and Oscar Lopez are at the Casino. Mix Improv is doing a show at Aegean Coast Tea & Coffee. And dope Regina rapper Def 3, recently returned from a series of showcase performances at the Vancouver Olympics, is at O’Hanlon’s Pub.