Alberta Theatre This Weekend: Nov 27th-29th


Wherever you are in Alberta, celebrate the arts at a theatre near you this weekend! Here’s a quick look at what’s on.

*Click on a production for more details such as show times, dates, ticket prices. More listings can be found on Theatre Alberta’s Playbill


  • Grindstone Theatre’s The 11 O’Clock Number @ 8pm, Holy Trinity Church Basement, Edmonton & @11pm, Backstage Theatre, EdmontonThis well-loved group of improvisors entertain you with a brand new musical production every Friday night *The 11 O’Clock number regularly plays at The Backstage Theatre every Friday @11pm
  • Workshop Wests’ Café Daughter @ 7:30pm, The Backstage Theatre, Edmonton: The true story of a young girl’s changing relationship with her Cree heritage
  • The Citadel’s A Christmas Carol @ 7:30pm, The Maclab Theatre, Edmonton: A seasonal classic not to be missed
  • Foote in the Door’s She Loves Me @7:30pm, Campus St. Jean Auditorium, Edmonton: A warmhearted and charming 1930’s style musical about finding love in unexpected places
  • U of A BFA program’s Iphigenia at Aulis @ 7:30pm, U of A Studio Theatre, Edmonton: Euripides’ classic tale of logic and sacrifice in times of war, translated by Don Taylor

St Albert

  • St Albert’s Children’s Theatre’s Big: The Musical @7:30pm, The Arden Theatre, St Albert: This classic film about friendship, acceptance and growing pains is brought to life on stage with music


  • Calgary Opera’s Lakmé @8pm, Southern Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary: A story of star-crossed lovers in British India, hindu priestess Lakmé falls in love with a British officer against her father’s wishes
  • Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol @7:30pm, The Max Bell Theatre, Calgary: A seasonal classic not to be missed
  • STO Union’s What Happened to the Seeker @ 8pm, Theatre Junction Grand, Calgary: Unconventional story telling marries art, sound, and performance to explore a North American woman’s search for a lost truth.
  • U of C School of Creative & Performing Arts’ Inside @ 7:30pm, Reeve, Theatre, Calgary: Explore the meaning of connection through the interactions of urban individuals from diverse backgrounds
  • Vertigo Theatre’s The Mousetrap @ 7:30pm, The Vertigo Theatre’s The Playhouse, Calgary: Agatha Christie’s unstoppably thrilling murder mystery has us all asking “Whodunnit”

Medicine Hat

  • Firehall Theatre’s Mary Poppins @ 7:30pm, Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre, Medicine Hat: A classic musical about love, family and the power of your imagination to delight all ages
  • Medicine Hat Musical Theatre’s Captain Hook’s Revenge @ 7:30pm, 1221 10th Avenue, Medicine Hat: A reimagining of the classic struggle between Pirate and Boy in the style of a classic pantomime.


  • U of L’s Carrie: The Musical @ 7:30pm, University Theatre Stage, Lethbridge: Sure to be a bloody good time

Fort McMurray

  • Firehall Arts Centre’s Chelsea Hotel: The Songs of Leonard Cohen @ 8pm, Keyano Theatre, Fort McMurray: A group of actor/musicians explore the life of a struggling writer in NYC through the immortal songs of one of Canada’s most beloved poets. *Chelsea Hotel is set to come to Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre on January 13th


  • Bashaw Community Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical @ 7pm, Bashaw Community Theatre, Bashaw: Your favourite characters sing and dance through their adventures in this stage production based on the hit film

Red Deer

  • Red Deer College Theatre Performance & Creation Program’s Shrek The Musical @ 7pm, RDC MainStage, Red Deer: Your favourite characters sing and dance through their adventures in this stage production based on the hit film


  • Kaleidoscope Theatre’s The Game’s Afoot @ 7:30pm, Community Theatre, Drumheller: A thrilling and funny detective story for all ages


  • Peak Theatre Player’s Calendar Girls @ 8pm, Sundre Arts Centre, Sundre: In keeping with this true story of a community coming together to raise funds for their local hospital, the Peak Theatre Players present this heart-warming fundraiser for Sundre Palliative Care Association

Grande Prairie

  • Grande Prairie Live Theatre’s Hit Tunes Spectacular @ 7:30pm, Second Street Theatre, Grande Prairie: A musical revue of unforgettable hits from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s


  • Klaglahachie Fine Art’s Player’s Mary Poppins @ 7:30pm, Ponoka United Church, Ponoka: A classic musical about love, family and the power of your imagination to delight all ages


Romeo & Juliet-The Shakespeare Company- Calgary


Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Ron Jenkins

Playing at the Vertigo Studio Theatre October 1st-17th


The timeless tragedy of Romeo & Juliet has ignited the imaginations of storytellers throughout the ages. Though I had first seen the ballet version when I was young, it was a racy introduction to Fair Verona in Zeffirelli’s 1968 film which stands out as my maiden voyage on Queen Mab’s dream chariot. Whether your first memory is of John McEnery’s stirring battle to the death in the bone-dry courtyard of Zeffirelli’s sounds stage, or Claire and Leo’s fated glimpse through the fish tank in Baz Luhrmann’s vibrant and visceral Venice Beach tale, or the menacing snaps of the Jets through the streets of New York in West Side Story, all of us have grown up with this tragic tale of youth, love, loyalty and consequence.

It has been told through page, stage and screen interpretations spanning more genres than any of Shakespeare’s other works. Though many chime in with “tired, dull and over-done”, this wide variety of retellings proves that the journey of these characters is so universal that it can be told in a hundred different ways, each connecting with a diverse audience. So whether your Romeo wears ballet tights, Hawaiian shirts, or combs his hair like Elvis, there are always new characters to discover in every production. Calgary’s The Shakespeare Company breaths new life into each and every role with vigor and passion in their production of this very popular, always gripping tale.

One of Shakespeare’s earliest romances, R&J is based on an Italian novella and was as popular for Elizabethan audiences in the late 16th century as it is for us today. The families Capulet and Montague have long been at war in the streets of Verona, a city where you wear your allegiance proudly on your sleeve. As the only child of Lord Capulet, Juliet is a marital pawn for her family and knows she must submit to her father’s will. However, a chance meeting with the heir of her family’s sworn enemy, Romeo Montague, tests her young hearts loyalty and she finds that her only love has sprung from her only hate. Romeo, whose name means always in and out of love, is a young romantic who has been sowing his wild oats and causing (mostly) harmless mischief with his spirited friends Mercutio and Benvolio. He soon discovers just how much he is willing to sacrifice to be with Juliet and his actions, though rooted in love and devotion, have deadly consequences.

Director Ron Jenkin’s visual interpretation of Verona brings our star-crossed lovers into a quasai-modern setting- Moroccan style lanterns, plush fabrics and arched doorways give us just enough of the exotic to present Verona as an undetermined distant land, and though street duels are still fought with rapiers, our brawlers wear leather and denim instead of doublet and hose. Cross-casting Amy Burks as Romeo’s devoted and fun-loving cousin Benvolio and Elizabeth Stepkowski-Tarrhan as the Prince of Verona (she also plays the delightfully bawdy Nurse) are welcome gender swaps that encourage us to realise that both men and women fight equally for their allegiances here. Modern music firmly establishes the story as one contemporary audiences can relate to.

Once again, The Shakespeare Company must be commended for their commitment to telling the story through the natural voices of their actors rather than hiding behind a put on “Shakespeare Voice”. It is a brave choice when most productions, for some unfathomable reason, favour a stuffy tradition of forcing their actors into a strangely skewed semi-British accent “because it’s Shakespeare, dahling”! By trusting the actors to convey Shakespeare’s text in their natural voices, our players are free to explore a deeper connection with their characters and a stronger understanding of the story. The audience truly benefits from this seemingly simple choice, and we are welcomed into a story that is for everyone, not just the elite and well-to-do.

Lesser productions often mask the well-known fact that R&J as characters are very young (Nurse tells us Juliet is not yet 14 years old), perhaps to avoid a perceived social awkwardness around teenage sexuality. Allison Lynch plays an appropriately youthful Juliet, endeavouring to explore the characters arduous emotional and hormonal journey, though perhaps only dipping a toe into the sea of possibilities. Her lightness of spirit early on allows us to feel every gut-wrenching moment as she descends into darkness and despair, her emotional strength battered not only by her personal circumstances, but by her struggles to understand and undertake her daunting transition from maid to woman to widow.

Eric Wigston plays a magnetic, romantic, but ultimately conflicted Romeo whose constant inner battle is intimately shared with us. His sensitive delivery of the text shows mastery well beyond his years, the true mark of a great Shakespearean actor. Rather than relying on the popular trap of flat tragic-romantic hero clichés, Wigston’s brave portrayal of an intelligent, charming but fallible young man at odds with his situation and his own heart gives us a multi-facetted, truly human Romeo and the stand out performance of the production.

The Shakespeare Company’s production has championed more young talent such as Amy Burks (Benvolio) and Ahad Mir (Tybalt), whose spirited and honest performances flesh out a truthful and believable world alongside seasoned actors like Elizabeth Stepkowski-Tarhan who brings the much-loved Nurse to life with warmth, love and tangible heartbreak. With some great acting, edge-of-your-seat fights, and interesting conceptual presentation, the entire creative team at The Shakespeare Company gives us yet another delightfully heart-wrenching theatre experience.

Romeo & Juliet runs at Vertigo’s Studio Theatre downtown Calgary from October 1st to 17th at 7pm with 2:30pm matinées on the 3rd, 4th, 11th, and 17th. Tickets can be purchased online at or on the door

The Tempest- Shakespeare by the Bow- Theatre Calgary



Written by William Shakespeare

Adapted by Andrew Joseph Richardson

Directed by Diane D’Aquila

Playing in Prince’s Island Park from June 23rd to August 16th.

This is a FREE  performance.


Crossing the Bow River on a beautiful summer’s day into Prince’s Island Park, the shadows of the sky scrapers diminish and we step into the dreamworld of The Tempest the while bathing in glorious late-afternoon sunshine. What better way to enjoy what many regard as Shakespeare’s love letter, and fond farewell, to the theatre world; his last great work as a solo playwright.

You immediately feel like the stuff that dreams are made on as you descend the grassy hill, spreading a blanket, and stretching out before the simple scene amongst the trees. Our players are plainly dressed in smocks from an old trunk surrounded by mountains of books piled up pell-mell, and their laughter encourages us to leave our world behind and follow them into a Narnia-like wonderland of strange creatures, powerful sorcerers, beautiful maidens, and shipwrecked sailors.

Diane D’Aquila’s sensitive and playful direction supports and engenders equally sensitive performances throughout this enchanting ninety minute journey around a magical island in the sea. Ariel, played by the spritely and energetic Charlie Gould, tells us how she has orchestrated the shipwreck of Ferdinand’s father’s vessel as she dunks an antique toy ship in a tub of water, squealing with delight as she recounts to her mistress Prospera (Bobbi Goddard) that not a soul perished and all have found their way safely dotted around the island. Everything is going perfectly to plan and when her toil is through, Ariel has been promised her freedom.

The choice to play Propero, a Duke exhiled to this island for his obsessive magical dabblings, as female Prospera is not a new one, but Goddard lives up to the standard set by Meryl Streep in Julie Taymor’s 2010 film, the most recent and recognizable `example of a woman in this male role. As much as the action focusses on his redemption from being wrongly cast out of his dukedom, the real fulcrum of Prospero’s story is the legacy he leaves his daughter Miranda (Tiffany Deobald).

It is for the sake of her happiness that he shipwrecks Ferdinand and brings him ashore as a pre-approved suitor for his daughter, and it is for her that he ultimately sacrifices his supernatural powers. So looking at the role as that of a parent, the gender swap allows us to explore a single mother’s struggle to build a life for her and her daughter away from a volitile patriarchy that has condemned her thirst for knowledge and power. Cast out of society, she builds her own on the island in hopes of someday giving her daughter what she considers to be the best chance at happiness.

Goddard has the larger than life presence necessary to bring this strong-willed and complex character to life as she storms around her island with her magical staff in hand, an impressive cloak fashioned of book pages billowing behind her. Her slave Caliban (Ahad Mir) is the only true native of the island, as Ariel is a sprite belonging only to the ether, and he appears in long tentacle-like shackles that obscure and be-monster his appearance. He has not been kindly used by his mistress and he appeals to the audience that she came ashore and stole the island from him, killing his sorceress mother Sycorax. Upon meeting our delightfully drunk clown-like sailors Trincula (Christina Muldoon) and Stephano (Andrew Merrigan), who he perceives to be gods, Caliban vows to make them rulers of the island if they can strike down Prospera and aid his revenge. Muldoon and Merrigan are obviously not up to any violent ovethrow as they bumble around the island with charming comedic ability.

The spare use of props such as Ariel’s splendid bubble machine, Prospera’s magical staff and voluminous book page cloak, and Trincula and Stephano’s flasks of booze give us just enough to allow our imaginations to open up and fill the entire glade. This unencumbered approach to minimize theatre “stuff” is a very welcome change from the innumerable over produced, over priced, over stimulating shows which try to lure us in with shiny props, pretty costumes, mammoth sets and other unecessaries that all too often take away from the story rather than contribute to its telling. Here, in the park, we are able to focus on our players and the story they’re welcoming us to share with them.

I call them players rather than actors, not only because that is Shakespeare’s word, but because they were masters at doing just that- playing! Beautiful, funny, and touching performances sprung from their combined energies playing with one another, with the text, and most importantly with us the audience. This is the highest accolade I could give any group of young performers because it takes skill, openness, incredible creative sensitivity and boundless trust in yourself and your fellow players to yeild the best possible experience for those in the audience and onstage each and every performance.

And I would be amiss if I failed to mention that the entire cast are recent graduates from around the province. They all have different levels of experience, but most of them are quite young and already they have a mature understanding of Shakespeare and theatre craft that eclipses many if not all of the professional productions I have seen in Alberta this year.

The Tempest is an extrarodinarily special play for Shakespeareans, for all theatre folk. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condel, compiled The First Folio of 1623 years after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and The Tempest was the first work they set down, believing it to be vital in conserving Shakespeare’s legacy. Both Heminges and Condell had worked with Shakespeare in the theatre and their work on The Folio was obviously a labour of love. The Tempest is the first entry and therefore the most accurate- copying foul and fair papers, aka Shakespeare’s illegible scribblings, can get tiring so as one goes through the folio, works become a bit sloppier. This particular play was obviously deeply loved by Shakespeare, and his colleagues moving tribute allows us to feel the power of this incredible work.

Indeed, as the performance came to an emotional close, the actors seemed overcome with the power of Prospero’s famous speech- “ These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air”. Our clue from Shakespeare regarding his retirment comes a few lines later- “the great globe itself, Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve”, which may refer to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre where his time with the King’s Men was drawing to a close after a long career together.

It is in these lines, more than any other play in the canon, where we can hear Shakespeare’s voice ringing true as a bell through the mists of time and straight to our hearts; not masked by his characters or his subject or which monarch he is writing to please, but rather his honest and bare soul being offered to us the best way he knew how.

When you hear his voice come through these young players, the erie warmth of that connection to The Bard is deeply cherished by those fortunate enough to speak them, and we are equally rich receiving them. Their poignance has not failed to move these players or their audiences and we all stood there on the grass as if waking from the most beautiful shared dream.

The performance is free- I urge you to see it as soon as you can. Bring as many people with you as possible, and donate generously to this incredible show.

The Tempest runs in Prince’s Island Park from June 23rd to August 16th. This is a FREE  performance.

Coriolanus- The Freewill Shakespeare Festival- Edmonton


Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Jim Guedo

Playing in Hawrelak Park from June 23rd to July 19th

Coriolanus is notoriously known as one of the most difficult Jacobean plays to present to a contemporary audience. A late play from Shakespeare exploring themes such as honour, legacy, integrity, betrayal, and politics in Rome, the many hurdles it throws up before actors and directors alike leads to its unpopular reputation as one of the least performed plays of Shakespeare’s canon.

This undeserved “ye be wary” sign has cast the play into darkness, from which it has been slowly emerging in recent years with returns to the British stage in The Barbican’s production, which was also screened for cinema audiences around the world, and forays into popular film with a modern and particularly bloody interpretation starring Ralph Fiennes. However, the transition to the North American stage can present very different teething problems, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this production of Coriolanus was to pair with As You Like It to make up The Freewill Shakespeare Festival’s first season back on the Hawrelak Park stage.

A rare chance to witness this ostracized play, I was resolved to see the production come hell or high water and ended up taking two young actors and theatre lovers with me on a road trip from Red Deer. On the road, I was asked to elaborate on the aforementioned difficulties of the play as neither of the recently graduated drama students had been exposed to it. I digress to this narrative because of the dramatic change I saw in these two as audience members.

Now, very few audiences want to go to a play and get a history lesson; even fewer (if indeed any!) find it enjoyable to go to a play and not understand what’s going on because they missed the history lesson required beforehand, and must resort to skimming through the director’s notes frantically before the lights go down. This is a major problem with Coriolanus. Set in Rome, the world of our eponymous hero has a very different set of moral values than  we are accustomed to and therefore our ability to empathise with his struggle to maintain honour as a man and a warrior of Rome is disadvantaged from the get go.

In plays like Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra, Shakespeare shows his deep understanding of the values of this society; in the Golden Age of Rome, the hub of a global empire, teetering between the democratic and republican, the policies of the senate correlated directly with military affairs and a delicate balance of power had to be maintained in a complex, often conspiratorial, hierarchical pyramid. The struggle of “The People”, appearing in Shakespeare’s play as a sort of Greek chorus, is especially difficult to interpret as they toss on the waves of the puffed-up politicos and war-wounded heroes questing for power, and/or honour (you decide).

Much of our car journey was spent discussing the challenges of approaching this world as an actor or director, the pressures of presenting that work before a contemporary audience, and why it’s such a bold and commendable choice to do so.

The first hurdle, we posited, is surely the language. Why else do audiences shirk from seeing Shakespeare other than the greatly relied upon “I don’t understand what they’re saying”? The second, battle sequences. How does a director broach the vital physical confrontations of Coriolanus and his enemies convincingly without employing a veritable army of actors to play them out to their fullest? After all, it is in the fires of battle that Coriolanus forges his character and their significance to the action of the play is inescapable. And thirdly, Rome herself; a deeply intrinsic, highly sophisticated ancient civilisation that exists for many of us only in dusty, neglected books of Senecan philosophy, and unlearned Latin mantras (insert toga party joke here). Rome, aside from the olive oil and wine of course, is a world and a concept so foreign to us nowadays that it’s difficult even to draw a modern comparison through which we can begin to understand its cogs.

We walked under the tent at Hawrelak Park and took our seats amongst the other audience members, a near full house of people who’s knowledge of the play I can only guestimate. This group of theatregoers embarked together on a formidable journey where their personal introspective experience of the story merged with the collective; we became an extension of the Roman mob, soldiers, enemy forces, and were privy to the intimate hallway whispers of the senators, bringing us right into the heart of the action.

Jim Guedo’s direction of this production showed bravery beyond my expectation, and above all trust in his actors and his audience. Caius Martius, newly named Coriolanus for his efforts in battle (played aptly by John Ullyatt who doubles as Monsieur Le Beau in As You Like It), returns to Rome with the long, confident strides of a victor returning to give homage to his city. We watched him wince as he was brought out of his war-time comfort zone and offered up as a political consul for the people of Rome, for whom he has nothing but contempt. We saw his pride wane as his fiery Roman mother, played by a vehemently maternal Belinda Cornish, encouraged him to enter the corrupt milieu of Roman politician, pushing him to forsake his military office, the while praising his injuries as valiant personal offerings to Rome. We also were witness to his downfall as his disgust with the common people of Rome rose to a fever pitch, exploding with vile accusations and climaxing to his banishment from Rome.

True to the Greek-chorus style of Shakespeare’s mob, The People of Rome are volatile, changeable, and easily manipulated by libellous slander strategies put in motion by jealous “suit types”, tribunes Sicinius (Farren Timoteo) and Brutus (Ryan Parker). The ensemble fluidly transitions from Roman mob to Volscan soldiers and they invite the audience to engage with them in order to beef up their numbers, so that together we all provide the backdrop against which Caius Coriolanus is starkly silhouetted. He looks to us, the audience, for support as his highly structured world begins to crumble around him, but does he see us or the vindictive Roman mob?

It is at this point in the plot when the audience is truly let in to the complex and seemingly intolerant nature of Coriolanus- his is a very difficult viewpoint for us to accept. Ullyatt works painstaking and without prejudice  through his characters journey from warrior by trade to hero by recognition to un-willing political figure to repudiated traitor. Although this is an arduous journey for any performer, Ullyat, under the deft direction of Gould and with the support of his fellow cast members, brings to light a personal struggle with the nature of integrity that a North American audience can relate to and explore within their own realms.

If nothing else, we begin to recognise the difficulties faced by anyone in the public eye and how the nature of truth and self-respect can become skewed and warped when we are pressured to live up to popular expectations under the cultural microscope.

To come back to my two young friends; it was an illuminating experience for them to experience a Shakespearean work with which they were not already familiar. This allowed them to be swept away with the story, rather than waiting for their favourite expected bits, and revealed to them a whole new aspect to Shakespeare’s writing as a savvy storyteller exploring the dawn of democracy, and a savant of what has or hasn’t changed from Ancient Rome to Elizabethan England to present day governmental and societal flux. After all, at the time when this play premiered, King James had just succeeded Queen Elizabeth’s monumental reign and was constantly under the glare of the highly fickle public eye in an imperial country reliant on a delicate balance of power between monarchy, parliament, aristocracy and military puissance(s). Despite this difficult ancient setting, Shakespeare is careful to tell the story through the relationships between people, how our circumstances influence our actions and in turn the nature of those relationships.

The language was anything but a barrier; it was rather the only way that could possibly befit the situation of our characters, the most honest and true way for them to tell us their story. The fight scenes were innovative and highly stylized, allowing our imaginations to fill the battalions of Romans and Volscans. And Rome- She was glorious, gaudy, gossip-riddled and thoroughly unfettered in her relevance to present day society.

On this occasion, two young students at an underperformed Shakespearean play surrounded by other captive audience members, from all walks of life no doubt, came away with a deeper passion and greater understanding of theatre, which delighted this writer to no end. I often hear audiences remarking “Who knew a 400 and some year old play could present such modern issues”, and I could go on at length about the electric conversations we volleyed back and forth apropos military politics mirrored by the play, but that would be both subjective and indulgent.

I’m sure they would agree it was a transformative and eye-opening experience that will motivate them on their journeys as actors and audience members to push themselves past their comfort zones and into many bounteous new experiences in theatre. For what is theatre if not an opportunity to expose ourselves to and learn from the stories of different people from around the globe, from different times, who have colourful stories to delight and encourage us to reflect on the world we all share.

A hearty kudos to everyone at the Freewill Festival for such a brave, visceral, engaging offering- truly a rare treat for audiences.

Coriolanus and As You Like It play in tandem at The Freewill Shakespeare Festival in Hawrelak Park from June 23rd to July 19th. Tickets can be purchased online at or on the door.

We Are The Body- Burnt Thicket- Red Deer

burnt thicket

Written by Andrew Kooman

Directed by Stephen Waldschmidt

World Premier Tour

“Growing up in the relative freedom of western democracy”, begins director Stephen Waldschmidt, “How do I imagine the anguish forced on entire populations”? These are the thoughts the audience is encouraged to approach from the comfort of their seats before entering the harsh, freedom-less world of We Are The Body.

Red Deer native Andrew Kooman’s bravely written work delves into the lives of three individuals living behind the iron curtain in 1940’s Romania, all of whom are imprisoned in subterranean solitary confinement for their religious beliefs.

These characters are Christians who have been arrested on the allegations of holding forbidden meetings and smuggling illegal bibles into communist-controlled Romania. They endure stifling conditions and brutal atrocities- beatings, brain washing, rape, complete sensory deprivation and utter isolation- and at the mercy of humiliating guards in this desolate place, they cling to their beliefs and reach out to find solace in each other.

At first glance, one might say that We Are The Body selectively appeals to Christian values. Although this might be an advantage in a country where approximately 78% of the population count themselves as Christians (stats Canada census 2001), and can therefore instantly empathize with characters they can recognize and relate to, it also runs the risk of alienating those with non-christian backgrounds and beliefs, like myself.

However, non-Christian audiences would be cheating themselves by giving in to the defensive knee-jerk reaction of “I don’t want to sit through some religious propaganda”. If the religious subject matter bothers you, I urge you look past the secular speak and open up to the universal human truths so thoughtfully put before us.

Ultimately, this is a story of guiltless individuals suffering for their basic human rights, a cruel epidemic of intolerance that has reverberated through every country, race, and belief on the planet. The three individuals whose hardships we witness on stage could easily represent any color, race, religion, or gender. The point isn’t necessarily what they believe in or why, but that they do believe and continue to hold fast to those beliefs for which the are unjustly persecuted, that they are human, and that they go on a journey which leads them to ask the same questions we all harbour in our hearts.

From within their dense cell walls, here represented by claustrophobic circles of broken light cast onto the stage floor, three prisoners crave companionship and reach out to each other by tapping out covert conversations in Morse code. Throughout the play, these tappings softly transition into rain on window panes, knocks at the door, approaching footsteps, and the lit circles become porous as we step beyond their boundaries and into living rooms and bedrooms, memories true and imagined, meetings between the isolated individuals as if they were in a coffee shop discussing theology and their personal spiritual journeys.

This fluid, non-linear structure is perfectly paired with gracefully poetic, and at times stream-of-consciousness language, combining seamlessly to mimic how ones mind might jump from one thought to another, from one true memory to an imagined one, whilst struggling to grip onto sanity in unending darkness and the limitless mental boundaries of solitary confinement. Where time and self looses all relevance, something bigger must fill the void.

The character of Richard, a persistent sermon-izer played with humour and tenderness by Tim Bratton, is dedicated to the memory of real-life detainee Minister Richard Wurmbrand, who wrote about his experiences when imprisoned for his beliefs in communist Romania. He reveals that he had at one point considered becoming a hermit and spending his days in placid solitude and thought- now, in a cruel and ironic twist, he has exactly that. Through Richard, the father figure of the play, we witness the arduous ups and downs of a senior inmate trying desperately to encourage other prisoners (and himself) to be steadfast in the face of unimaginable cruelty.

Micah is a younger, less acquiescent inmate and an archetypal little brother. John McIver’s depiction of this apprehensive soul in search of reason and truth in life is remarkably easy to empathize with as he becomes jaded and falls away from his firm beliefs. A very raw side of faith is shown through his journey, exploring deep seated doubt, guilt and regret, almost as if from a child’s perspective.

But it is Elsie, played with exquisite sensitivity by Heather Pattengale, who captures the audience and draws us into this harsh reality. At times, she sits onstage just listening to Richard and Micah as, through tapping, they discuss, console, confess and pray, and through this simple device, we the audience become a fourth character, sat in a fourth cell, contemplating the same fathomless conundrums of human existence.

In her pre-communist world, Elsie is a young artist and budding photographer with a boundless imagination, hungry for the little delights of the world around her. Hers is a harrowing story, and one of the most touchingly vulnerable confessions of true belief- “After the horror of the war, the regret of the war, in the silence from the front…The war made me long for, need for there to be good”.

It is an intrinsic pattern of the human condition to crave something greater than ourselves, something to lift the burdens of life and vouchsafe our higher purpose. The flickering memories and encounters of our three very different characters are relentlessly charged with both fear and joy, and always provoking deep personal reflection.

How much is one human life worth? What brings a person to the brink of not fearing but rather wishing for death? How do we learn to fully appreciate the infinitesimal joys that are the unsung building blocks of happiness -the written letters, the feel of arms around you, the tone and texture of a human voice, the sound of rain- precious moments which connect us all in our search for love and purpose in this life?

Witnessing something so deeply troubling may not be everyone’s idea of a great night at the theatre, but We Are The Body is rewarding, moving, and at times delightful too. Although the physical brutality is viscerally upsetting, it is the plays scrutiny of the depths of personal loneliness and our innate impulse to cry out for companionship which leads to enlightening and uplifting realizations.

We Are The Body tours the prairies at the following locations: May 5-9 at Red Deer’s Scott Block Theatre, May 13-23 at Calgary’s Pump House Theatre, and May 26-31 at Saskatoon’s Studio 914 Theatre. The show runs at 2 hours including intermission with a 7:30pm curtain for evening shows and 2pm for matinees. Tickets can be purchased online at

As You Like It- The Shakespeare Company- Calgary


Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Mark Bellamy

Playing at The Vertigo Studio Theatre April 30th– May 9th

In the summer of 1599, William Shakespeare took a much needed country holiday. Elizabeth the First had been on the throne of England for 40 years, and the intense politics of the period pervaded every aspect of Elizabethan life- the theatre was no exception. Shakespeare had spent the winter waxing political, writing and premiering such historical heavy-weights as Henry V and Julius Caesar. But as the damp gloom of winter gave way to the ripening summer, it was time for some fresh country air and a flush of fun and romance to bring new life to the London stage.

Shakespeare’s family were living the simple life on the boundaries of the ancient Forest of Arden, far from the sweltering stench of noisy, over-populated London streets. These bucolic summer surroundings set the scene for an enchanting celebration of love; his sister Joan’s wedding. Shakespeare would undoubtedly have been inspired by the secrets of these ancient woods and the mischievous antics of the giddy wedding guests; a perfect setting for his new romantic comedy.

As You Like It would go on to become one of the most popular plays in Shakespeare’s canon, delighting audiences around the world with its twisting tales of love and laughter, and gifting us with one of the best-loved female heroines of the stage- the courageous and quick-witted Rosalind.

Ringing in the merry month of May, Calgary’s The Shakespeare Company brings their own playful production of As You Like It to Vertigo’s Studio Theatre, conveniently located in the heart of down-town.

The Shakespeare Company has been charming audiences since 1996 with works by The Bard himself as well as new Shakespeare-inspired pieces. They further inspire local young people with their hugely successful high school tours and run a program called DiVerseCity, an effort to showcase actors from all ethnic and social backgrounds.

For this springtime romp-in-the-woods, they welcome acclaimed Canadian director Mark Bellamy (long-time Artistic Director of Vertigo Mystery Theatre, Artistic Producer of Lunchbox Theatre). “It was an easy decision”, remarks The Shakespeare Company’s artistic producer Haysam Kadri, “This comedy was right in Mark’s wheelhouse”! With years of experience on the Alberta theatre scene and such accolades as the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to Calgary theatre, we are in capable hands.

“Another big factor for programming As You Like It,” continues Kadri,” was the strong female roles”. The majority of Elizabethan plays are heavily weighted with male roles, normally averaging at six to one. All of Shakespeare’s actors were male, so boys impersonated the great Ladies of the stage. “Parts for woman in Shakespeare, as you know, are slim. In this case you have a strong female character running the motor of the show and Julie Orton agreeing to play the part of Rosalind solidified our decision”.

Entering the 130 seat black box style theatre nestled beneath The Calgary Tower, one would never expect to be transported to Shakespeare’s sun-dappled, leafy-canopied Forest of Arden, but that is exactly what our players encourage the audience to explore.

In the corrupt court of her uncle, Rosalind and her cousin Celia (Julie Orton and Myla Southward respectively) do their best to enrich each others lives with laughter and friendship. When a young gentleman is challenged to a wrestling match at court, Rosalind falls head over heels in love with the champion, Orlando (Joe Perry).

Despite his victory, Orlando finds himself on the run from his ambitious brother and seeks shelter in the nearby Forest of Arden. Rosalind, too, has been banished from her jealous uncle’s court upon pain of death. Disguising herself as a man, Rosalind also flees into the woods along with her constant companion Celia and their faithful fool, Touchstone (Mattie Overall).

Once in the safety of the mysterious forest, our incognito heroine and her companions discover poems pinned to every tree singing the virtues of the beautiful Rosalind, and they soon come across the love-struck author- our vagabond wrestler Orlando.

Finding the freedom to test Orlando’s love for her from within the safety of her disguise, Rosalind convinces him that she can provide a cure for this terrible love-sickness. Orlando must come to her every day and woo her as if she was his Rosalind. Keep in mind that Orlando thinks Rosalind is a boy, pretending to be his Rosalind-so she is a girl pretending to be a boy pretending to be a girl. Remember as well that in Shakespeare’s time, the actor playing Rosalind would actually have been a boy playing a female character who was pretending to be a boy who was pretending to be a girl…. You still with me?

The cast do a wonderful job communicating the intricate twists and turns of gender-reversals and love matches as we journey through the forest. The clear story-telling ensures that the audience is never in doubt of what’s going on amidst the hijinks.

Elsewhere in the forest, we meet another band of banished courtly men, headed up by Rosalind’s own father, Duke Senior (Nathan Schmidt). Exiled by his usurping younger brother, Duke Senior and his troupe find solace and beauty in woodland life, and none so much as the ever melancholy Jaques (Roger LeBlanc).

As The Bard’s most infamously morose creation, Jaques shares with us his musings on mortality-the seven ages of man. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, he tells us, transitioning through each phase of life until the inevitable end- “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”.

We’ve all read this popular speech before, but a very special communion takes place between the audience and the words when they are spoken aloud in a theatre. We experience a powerful connection to these deep musings. They resonate from within the mysterious forest, which seems so far from society yet so close to a truer meaning of life. It is an inspiring moment of truly human theatre, and that is Shakespeare’s genius.

Enchantingly accompanied by the charming voices and guitar strummings of our minstrels (Evan Hall and Adam Sanders), the audience are treated to a forest frolic with timeless lovers in this delightful production. So engaged by the stories of these merry characters, we whistled and whooped as romantic courtships were teasingly played out, and laughter ran riot throughout the theatre. Shakespeare’s characters are so thoughtfully crafted, so genuinely human, that we cannot help but cheer on our adored lovers and pranksters. And as Rosalind says, “I’ll begin with the women”.

As a woman myself, and a woman of the theatre, I find that the world presented to us onstage is often disappointing in its depiction of the female experience. This play, therefore, although written over 400 years ago, is a breath of fresh air as Julie Orton brings us an honest, funny, endearing portrayal of a courageous woman seeking the freedom to live and love on her own terms.

Her cousin and bosom-buddy Celia, played by the enchanting Myla Southward, is just as plucky and spirited, and special mention must go to Sarah Wheeldon for her hilariously flirtatious and gutsy Phebe, an alluringly strong-minded shepherdess who mistakenly falls in love with Rosalind’s boyish disguise. As the slightly simpler goat herder Audrey, Christina Muldoon’s wide-eyed love affair with the clown Touchstone, played here by Mattie overall, has us in constant titters and giggles.

It is clear that Shakespeare loved strong women and that they inspired him to immortalize enduring female courage and flair in this beloved comedy. If Queen Elizabeth the First did see As You Like It, I’m certain she could identify with Rosalind’s bold adoption of man-like qualities and would have applauded the bravery of our love-struck heroine. Both Bard newcomers and long-time Shakespeare lovers alike are sure to do the same.

The Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It runs at The Vertigo Studio Theatre, located next to The Calgary Tower, from now until May 9th. Tickets are $30, $25 for students and seniors, and can be purchased through their website, where you can also read about past shows and upcoming projects. Group bookings can be made by contacting Ayla Stephen at