Top 10 Picks from around AB: Dec 9th-13th


Theatres around the province are celebrating the spirit of the season. Here are my Top 10 Picks you can’t afford to miss this weekend!

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




the cast of The Citadel’s A Christmas Carol

So, right off the bat, I’m cheating a little bit. My number one show to see this weekend is A Christmas Carol, which is enjoying productions in both of AB’s big cities, so there’s no excuse not to see this quintessential Dickensian Christmas classic, folks!

Both The Citadel (Maclab, Edmonton) and Theatre Calgary (Max Bell Theatre, Calgary) productions run until Christmas Eve.

Read The Citadel’s review in the Edmonton Journal

Read Theatre Calgary’s review in the Calgary Herald

TONIGHT ONLY There is an extra special Solo performance at Calgary’s Lougheed House where you can enjoy the story as told by a single actor within the atmospheric setting of this historic house. This is a SHORT RUN with only one performance TONIGHT Dec 9th



Theatre Network’s Burning Bluebeard @ The Roxy on Gateway, Edmonton: CLOSES DECEMBER 13th

I thoroughly enjoyed this semi-festive production at Theatre Network’s new home The Roxy on Gateway. Inspired by a true story, six singed clowns emerge from the burnt remains of a theatre to perform their spectacular Christmas Pantomime.

Read the AB Theatre Guide Review here



Alberta Theatre Projects’ Legend Has it @ The Martha Cohen Theatre, Calgary:

Step into a Comedia dell’arte inspired world of fantasy and magic in this charmingly playful family friendly show. It’s a new story every time as one audience member is chosen each night to help our characters on their adventure.

 Read the Calgary Herald Interview



Walterdale Theatre’s W;t @ The Walterdale Theatre, Edmonton: CLOSES DECEMBER 12TH

For those of you not in the mood for a glittering winter pageant, W;t is Pulitzer Prize winning play about one woman’s efforts to quantify her life as a scholar of John Donne’s poetry as she shares her final days battling cancer. It is beautifully written, sensitively directed and full of strength and hope.

Read the AB Theatre Guide review here



Fort Edmonton Park’s Jack & the Bean Stalk @ The Capitol Theatre, Edmonton: OPENING DECEMBER 11th

I can’t wait to see this one! A traditional British Panto bursting with music and laughs to delight the whole family. Written by local gem Jocelyn Alf especially for the unique Fort location, this production is packed with local jokes every Edmontonian will love.



Grindstone Theatre’s 11 O’Clock Number @ Holy Trinity Church 8pm & The Backstage Theatre 11pm, Edmonton:

Company director Byron Martin and his talented team of musical improvisors give us not one, but TWO shows created just for us on the spot! Join the fun on this special two show night for the early show at 8pm (Holy Trinity Church) or swing by for a late night giggle at 11pm at The 11 O’Clock Number’s usual home, The Backstage Theatre. This is definitely down on my calendar for the essential Friday night frolic to ring in the weekend with loads of laugh guaranteed!



Teatro la Quindicina’s Nutcracker Unhinged @ The Backstage Theatre, Edmonton: SHORT RUN December 10th-12th ONLY

After four years of this well-loved zany Christmas classic, Teatro’s performers take to the stage on last time to deliver the final performance of Stewart Lamoine’s locally set festive romp which sees Tchaikovsky’s ballet characters set loose in Old Strathcona.



Vertigo Theatre’s The Mousetrap @ Vertigo Theatre’s The Playhouse, Calgary: CLOSES DECEMBER 13th

Agatha Christie’s unstoppably thrilling murder mystery has been one of the longest running plays on the London stage and has enjoyed am equally fantastic run with Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre. This irresistible “whodunnit” wraps up this weekend.

 Read the Calgary Herald’s Review



Rosebud Theatre’s The Wind in the Willows @ Rosebud Theatre:

A tradition for many Alberta families, enjoy delicious food in the charming and historic town of Rosebud before joining some of literature’s favourite friends in this delightful musical take on Kenneth Grahame’s classic.



Lunchbox Theatre’s Epiphany @Lunchbox Theatre, Calgary:

Dave Kelly’s one man show about families at Christmas is sure to have you rolling your eyes with laughter as you recall your own disastrous family celebrations. A short and sweet theatrical treat to get you ready for this year’s imminent family Christmas!

Read the Calgary Herald Review

Burning Bluebeard- Edmonton Actor’s Theatre- Edmonton

Fairy_Eddie-e1441226946381Written  by Jay Torrence

Directed by Dave Horak

Playing at the Roxy on Gateway from December 3rd-13th

When the Roxy Theatre was gutted by what CBC called “a tough ol’ fire” last winter, the entire Edmonton theatre community felt the devastating effects of losing the long-treasured bijoux theatre, a local landmark and home to Theatre Network’s trailblazing artistic team.

Now, nearly one year later, Edmonton Actor’s Theatre offers catharsis for the theatre community at the new digs, The Roxy on Gateway. Based on the true story of the Iroquois Theatre which burnt down in Chicago in 1903, claiming the lives of some 600 audience members, Burning Bluebeard is a veritable advent calendar of theatrical delights as 6 clowns emerge from the smouldering wreckage to share their Christmas Pantomime with their (living!) audience.

Within the slightly indulgent metatheatrical device of “a play about a play within a play”, our clowns (one of whom is really a stage manager, but a natural clown nonetheless) wake from their ash-dusted slumber to reenact the Christmas Panto they were all so desperate to share with the Iroquois Theatre Audience. They hope that,with the help of The Faery Queen, everyone in the building will live to share the happy ending their story was meant to have.

Showmanship is at the heart of this energetic and muscular production which takes full advantage of a cast whose talents in classic vaudeville and physical comedy litter the action. Directed by the ever-surprising Dave Horak, the impactful visual and atmospheric effects of the production pair perfectly with the paradoxical journey of the characters as, in true clown fashion, they poke fun at the event which has obviously traumatized them.

It’s difficult to describe a linear plot line as we see snippets of each clown’s character and interweave the story of Bluebeard with the story of the fire, but that’s the beauty of this engagingly haphazard way of storytelling. Its variety-show style jumps from joke to joke, “bit” to satisfying “bit”, taking us on a zany emotional rollercoaster and encouraging us to laugh at some particularly gruesome puns and begging the question- why do we do that, and is it an acceptable  form of healing to indulge our twisted sense of humour in retrospect?

Anyone from the theatre community will enjoy the “in-jokes” that all theatre-folk instantly recognize. I’ve heard whisperings that a reclaimed wall from the old Roxy is embedded in the set; a heartening nod to the creativity that will continue, whatever the obstacles,  to challenge and delight performers and audiences alike wherever the new home may be.

The play opens with a heart-felt homage to the empty theatre space- a building where words saturate the very walls, the seats, the floors, and makes the air thick with stories of long ago and those yet to be told. There was a palpable sense of phoenix-like determination as the audience silently shared our memories of the past and hopes for the future of our own artistic community.

Those who aren’t necessarily as “thespy”as the audience was on opening night will find this delightful and captivating romp just as enjoyable. The cast are genuine in their desire to make us laugh and cry with them, to share in a wonderful evening of theatre that’s a bit different (and a lot more fun) than your average Christmas story. My advice would be sit in the middle if you can (sight lines from the sides can be obstructed at times by the choreography) and just enjoy this enchanting, sweet, hilarious show.

Burning Bluebeard runs at The Roxy on Gateway from December 3rd to 13th, tickets online at or on the door. 

Alberta Theatre This Weekend: Dec 3rd-6th

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. Reviews can be found in BOLD

More listings can be found on Theatre Alberta’s Playbill


St Albert


  • Calgary Young People’s Theatre’s Atlantis @ The West Village Theatre, Calgary: A shipwrecked warden and prisoner land on the mythical island of Atlantis
  • Morpheus Theatre’s The Sleeping Beauty @ The Pumphouse Theatre, Calgary: A topsy turvy take on this classic pantomime story
  • Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol @ The Max Bell Theatre, Calgary: A seasonal classic not to be missed, Read the Calgary Herald Review
  • U of C School of Creative & Performing Arts’ Inside @ Reeve, Theatre, Calgary: Explore the meaning of connection through the interactions of urban individuals from diverse backgrounds, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th
  • Vertigo Theatre’s The Mousetrap @ Vertigo Theatre’s The Playhouse, Calgary: Agatha Christie’s unstoppably thrilling murder mystery has us all asking “Whodunnit”, Read the Calgary Herald’s Review
  • Vertigo Theatre’s Listen to Me Vertigo Theatre’s The Studio, Calgary: A father and daughter learn to listen to each other after a disagreement on what makes great music, for ages 3-8 yrs SHORT RUN, 3 SHOWS ONLY
  • Lunchbox Theatre’s Epiphany @Lunchbox Theatre, Calgary: Dave Kelly’s one man show about families at Christmas, Read the Calgary Herald Review
  • Storybook Theatre’s A Christmas Story: The Musical @ Beddington Heights Theatre, Calgary: Everyone’s favourite Christmas movie comes to life on stage, with music!
  • Alberta Theatre Projects’ Legend Has it @ Martha Cohen Theatre, Calgary: Heart-warming fantasy adventure for ages 6 yrs and up


  • Rosebud Theatre’s The Wind in the Willows @ Rosebud Theatre: A magical evening of song and story with some of literature’s favourite friends

Medicine Hat

  • Medicine Hat Musical Theatre’s Captain Hook’s Revenge @1221 10th Avenue, Medicine Hat: A reimagining of the classic struggle between Pirate and Boy in the style of a classic pantomime, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th


  • Bashaw Community Theatre’s Shrek: The Musical @  Bashaw Community Theatre, Bashaw: Your favourite characters sing and dance through their adventures in this stage production based on the hit film, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th

Red Deer

  • Red Deer College Theatre Performance & Creation Program’s Shrek The Musical @RDC MainStage, Red Deer: Your favourite characters sing and dance through their adventures in this stage production based on the hit film, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th, Read the Red Deer Advocate’s Review


  • Kaleidoscope Theatre’s The Game’s Afoot @  Community Theatre, Drumheller: A thrilling and funny detective story for all ages, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th


  • Peak Theatre Player’s Calendar Girls @ 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, CLOSES DECEMBER 5th

Grande Prairie

  • Grande Prairie Live Theatre’s Hit Tunes Spectacular @ 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 @ Ponoka United Church, Ponoka: A classic musical about love, family and the power of your imagination to delight all ages

W;t- The Walterdale Theatre-Edmonton

witWritten by Margaret Edson

Directed by Anne-Marie Szucs

Playing at The Walterdale Theatre from December 2nd-12th

Death be not proud, though some have called thee/ Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so/…One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,/
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.   -from
Holy Sonnet X, John Donne

Upon opening the program for The Walterdale’s production of W;t, my emotional defences were instantly levelled long before the lights went down and a be-smocked cancer patient walked out on stage. In Anne-Marie Szucs directors notes, she bravely shares her intimate personal connection to the play; her notes were written at the bedside of her husband “in his last days of battling brain cancer. The sun is shining on us, and he is sleeping peacefully. Simple. Love”.

It’s safe to state with confidence that we have all known someone who has been diagnosed with a cancer, so many of us might ask ourselves why we would want to expose ourselves to a play that deals with such a devastating illness  when it already casts such an enduring shadow over our daily lives?

The shining courage of Szuc and her cast inspires us to forsake these hesitations to join their journey through this Pulitzer Prize winning play. Their resolve shows us the true purpose behind why we write, perform and participate in theatre that explores such emotionally demanding material. Each of us has a personal connection with grief and hardship and by sharing in someone else’s story, we can confront our fears and grief together, finding laughter, catharsis, redemption, healing, freedom and ultimately truth.

 So I urge you to gather your courage, my friends, for this poignant play, performed with equal measures of strength and tenderness, is about a person, not about Cancer. Capital C.

Vivian Bearing is an ardent scholar and a meticulous professor of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, a collection of 17th century metaphysical poetry that explores some of humanity’s most daunting questions about God and death, existence and its cessation. Vivian is wedded to her work, to her words and the words of her hero poet. Her students and work colleagues are her sole human relationships; she has no next of kin, no family or friends to accompany her on her journey through the gruelling treatment she is receiving for her stage 4 metastatic ovarian cancer.

We the audience become her sounding board, her ex-students, her solace. In the format of a pseudo-one-woman show, Vivian walks us through her  memories and contemplations as her body slowly deteriorates from her debilitating treatment. Though acknowledging the inescapable disease and the side effects of her treatments, Vivian focuses her efforts on quantifying her life as she approaches death, a paradox she has studied rigorously in her years as a scholar of Donne.

“It has always been my custom to treat words with respect. I can recall the time – the very hour of the very day – when I knew words would be my life’s work”.

Actress Mary-Ellen Perley has a deft and exuberant command over Vivian’s challenging dialogue, which makes up the majority of this 100 minute play. The character’s mind is sharp and precise; not just any word will do. Her fastidiousness becomes particularly crucial to her emotional and mental well-being as her physical faculties deteriorate, fighting against being reduced to “just the specimen jar, just the dust jacket, just the white piece of paper that bears the little black marks”.

We live in a culture where words are not necessarily chosen with care. We naturally speak in simple terms to ensure we are understood, to make sure we “fit in”. Though this kind of plainness is no serious transgression, it does mean that many words have lost their precise meaning and we have therefore lost our connection to them and consequently ourselves. Our ability to communicate our exact intent, our complex inner feelings, has become rather stunted. So has our ability to comprehend the gravity of words like cancer.

Words and their significance are never lost on Vivian, and Perley is thorough in her efforts to make certain the audience follows her characters’ complex vernacular. She immediately draws parallels between words she is familiar with, like insidious, which she is stunned to discover has quite different literal and medical definitions. She vows to become as well versed in the medical terms assigned to her illness as she is with Donne’s metaphysical vocabulary.

Vivian has spent her life deliberating over such exactitudes as the implications of an errant semi-colon or a deliberate comma in Donne’s Holy Sonnet X, and whether or not Death deserves a capital D. Pedantic as this quandaries may sound, they are at the heart of her journey as she discovers emotional truth and deep personal connection to the consequential effects of both punctuational possibilities.

Her interpretation of the poetry morphs with these differing interpretations to fit her personal circumstances, shining light on our own unique experiences and connections as we react to the poetry on stage before us.

Szuc’s direction is effortlessly sensitive and valiantly honest, and with an understated but sturdy supporting cast, Perley looks us in the eye and boldly leads us on this voyage with spunk, stirring vulnerability, and dare I say, wit.

Our stage is in constant shift from classroom to hospital (we’re only ever let in to Vivian’s domestic life in a short n’ sweet scene with her at age 5 reading with her stern but loving father). The stark design allows us to focus on the story; a few well-chosen bits of hospital paraphernalia and the typical blue smocks and scrubs suffice. Hospitals, after all, are quite drab places. Plus, I could swear they cleaned the theatre with hospital grade cleaner- it smelled just like the ICU wing my mum worked on as a nurse.

Though some of the song choices littered through the action might be a tad trite for some, the final moments are musically delivered with delicacy and grace to match Perley’s performance.

As Vivian nears the end of her battle, she finds herself searching for her steadfast words to guide her, but none can capture or convey her thoughts now; “Now is not the time for verbal swordplay, for unlikely flights of imaginations and wildly shifting perspectives, for metaphysical conceit, for wit…Now is a time for simplicity. Now is a time for, dare I say, kindness.”

In a dreamlike sequence, an old professor of hers appears; Vivian’s first and only visitor, stopping by on her way to her great-grandsons birthday party. Her first thought is to recite a metaphysical favourite for the now near-vegetative patient, but instead takes Vivian in her arms and, rocking her gently, reads to her from a children’s story book sending her softly to sleep. Simple. Love.

The riches of this masterfully written play are not squandered on this sensitive company. Audiences are sure to leave the theatre with a deeper appreciation for their loved ones and a desire to find the perfect words to express their renewed courage in the face of all life’s trials.

Why I don’t write “Bad Reviews”



It is better to create something that others criticize than to create nothing and criticize others -Ricky Gervais

Working Title: The Only Opinion Piece I may Ever Post; An Essay on the State of Theatre in Alberta

Alright folks. Grab a cuppa tea- better yet a glass of wine, and settle in.

I’ve been writing reviews for a long time, usually on a freelance basis for different publications. When a friend suggested I share my unpublished, uncut reviews in a blog of some kind, I decided to endeavour to broaden the scope of  how my personal and professional point of view could have a positive impact on how we think about, participate in, and create theatre.

My mission, if you can call it that, is to provide positive, informative reviews and listings to support theatre companies across Alberta and encourage Albertans to engage with their arts communities both locally and further afield. Without being too conceited, it’s safe to say that a well-written review can increase audience numbers, contribute to a theatre company’s continuing growth and prosperity, and provide actors with material they can use going forward in their careers as they pursue their next theatre gig.

In order to help our province appreciate the theatre on offer to us, and ensure theatre can continue to survive in this difficult cultural environment, I have made a conscious decision not to post any negative reviews.

I have written many bad reviews in my time, and we’ve certainly all read them; we voyeuristically enjoy their snide remarks, delighting in the sharp and witty retorts to laughably poor performances, wildly misguided direction, noises that could hardly count for music, translations that are downright insulting to the original playwrights, an aesthetic so uninspired it could only be improved by shutting ones eyes, etc.

Living vicariously through a colourfully cruel depiction of a theatrical flop, like watching videos of unwittingly sadistic toddlers whacking the groins of grown men with piñata bats, allows us the safety and privacy to indulge our fetish for Schadenfreude: taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It’s as natural to us as breathing.

After all, we’re all built with the natural capacity to judge situations based on personal preference. It is our critical thinking that allows us to develop informed personal opinions that will shape our outlook in life and influence our decisions, our tastes.

It is natural too that we have a tendency, both within ourselves and within society, to focus on the negative over the positive.  Just as it is easier to brood over an insult than a compliment, so is it infinitely easier to write an unnecessarily scathing review for a mediocre performance than to write a fair review for a lacklustre production with redeeming features.

This well-documented trend illustrates our twisted desire to punish ourselves and others for committing the menial sin of “failing”.

The process of creativity demands that we constantly overcome what we perceive to be failure in order to eventually arrive at something which we perceive to be success. We then set our work and, whether we like it or not, ourselves on the chopping block to be judged as either a “failure” or “success” by the perceptions of others.

In art as in life, failure is a crucial catalyst for growth, learning, invention and reinvention, and success can be found in the smallest achievement. However the definitions of these terms have been so strangled and warped by the bias of subjective ideas of failure and success, they have lost both meaning and worth.

Creativity suffers when the fear of failure prevents us from taking risks, and the pursuit of success all too often becomes an obsessive quest for personal validation.

Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how far one can go  -TS Eliot

Some of you will have picked up on a double standard here and may ask “Is not a bad review akin to failure? Therefore if failure is a useful tool for creative development, is not a bad review an equally useful tool?”

To that canny insight I say touché, and I agree wholeheartedly. However it is how we deal with subjective perceptions of “failure” that is the root of the matter for theatre in Alberta.

Why should my perception of failure be relevant to others? What gives any one person the authority to tar any production with the bad review brush? How do we develop the maturity to deal with those subjective verdicts and use them to our advantage, to better our process of creation and shape our professional theatrical practice?

I am convinced that positive, constructive reviews are what Albertan audiences, theatre companies, and actors need at present to support a healthier, more informed theatre community.

HOWEVER , I have absolutely no intention of mollycoddling artists or awarding inconsequential and patronizing gold stars for participation; “an A for Effort” never did make sense to me. So though my reviews will be positive, this is the part where I unleash my usually bridled personal opinion. I assure you it comes from a desire to be constructive, not damning.

WARNING: sweeping generalized statements may upset some readers.

In the theatre industry, we understand that the judgement of our work and ourselves is inevitable and necessary. The nature of art must naturally elicit a response. So being able to decipher what is personal and what is professional, what most call growing a thick skin, is essential to our ability to accept the opinions of others, opinions over which we have no control, as opportunities.

 In most thriving theatre communities around the globe, professionals can put forward their creations, receive less than favourable press, and continue to thrive in their craft because of how they and their well-informed audiences use negative reviews as opportunities for growth, as feedback rather than condemnation.

It is my subjective opinion, I’m afraid, that the theatre climate of Alberta does not support a professional industry robust enough to withstand batterings from unfavourable critical opinions, be they informed or ignorant, for two primary reasons.

First hurdle; our audiences are sorely lacking in variety. NOT ALL, but many Albertan audience members are not seasoned theatre goers. Very few of us opt to leave the comfort of our homes to see a live show that interests us; it doesn’t seem to be in our culture. Look around you at any given performance and you will see mostly friends and family there to support the theatre habit of their “artsy” friend, son, daughter, etc. Many of them will only ever attend a show when they know someone in the cast. They give flowers or cards after opening night, gush over how impressed they are with their loved ones incomprehensible ability to memorize all those lines, and eventually retire to The Olive Garden to go through the program, pointing out who they did and did not like.

I know. I’ve been there. Many times. I’ve been there, I’ve eaten the pasta, I’ve received the ridiculous bouquets given to me simply for doing my job, I’ve asked my family repeatedly to quit treating my cast mates like the gladiatorial contestants they boo or cheer for as they sit on their couches at home watching “The Voice”. It’s embarrassingly unprofessional.

I certainly do not intend to patronize these supportive audience members. The encouragement many young performers receive from their family and friends is vital to building their self-confidence. However I cannot stress enough how extremely detrimental it is to the integrity of our audiences, how we experience, participate in and think about theatre, when we continue to ignore the merit of the work as a whole, forgoing how the story has impacted us rather to judge which of the actors we did or did not like as if every theatre event were “America’s Got Talent”.

It is equally damaging when we as performers forget that the audience of a professional production will be filled with strangers who have no emotional obligation to pat us on the back for a job well (or not so well) done.

Theatre is made for everyone, not just theatre-lovers, and we need to encourage everyone to participate in theatre, not just because they know someone in the cast.

Second hurdle: we do not equip our young performers to deal with negative press. The system most performers go through in Alberta, despite the efforts of many wonderful mentors, fails to give them essential professional tools and rather perpetuates an attitude that the arts are a vehicle for personal acceptance, a fun way to overcome struggles with social confidence, a handy outlet for the zany antics of the artistically inclined, a way to make new friends, a way to express ourselves once we leave drama school, once we’ve gotten it out of our systems.

There is nothing wrong with using the arts for this purpose, however every professional actor knows that your job is to express the story, your characters journey, not use theatre as your own personal form of therapy.

Before I continue in this vein, I want you to please forget about the stigma around the word “amateur”. Shake off its negative connotation and just focus on what the word actually means. An amateur actor is someone who participates in what we have come to call “community theatre” and does not choose theatre as their profession. They contribute to the arts in an equally important but very different way to professionals.

When there is no clear distinction drawn between the amateur and the professional, a certain attitude about actors impedes and demeans those who would pursue a serious vocation in the arts. This attitude threatens to plaster all actors with the ignorant label of drama queens who have yet to outgrow their vice for attention.

Sadly, this attitude tends to spring from trusted sources. Those very family members who support our performances, albeit with embarrassing flair, are often the ones reinforcing the idea that once you’ve gotten your “artistic phase” out of your system, you can nurture it as a hobby, make new friends with similar interests, and go on to apply the skills you’ve learned to your “real job”. These ideas (perhaps) unwittingly contribute to the dangerous and wildly inaccurate notion that pursuing a career in the arts is self-indulgent and irresponsible.

As a result of this vote of non confidence, our theatre world is flooded with performers who have been bullied into forsaking the arts as their main vocation and only a fortunate few can afford to appease their love of the arts with the odd performance here or there.

This completely warps how we value performing and everything that goes into it as “work” and participating in theatre becomes a community activity to pacify suppressed creativity met with substandard expectations rather than a respected profession.

It is therefore completely pointless for any reviewer to go out into the theatres of Alberta and rip to shreds the actors, directors, and theatre folk who have already endured so much discrimination for their choices, artists who have not been given the proper professional support needed to develop the wherewithal to believe in themselves as professionals. Many of them are fragile and they need constructive support, not scrutiny.

So it is my belief that the best way to bolster our Albertan theatre culture is to encourage higher volumes of informed audience members and recognize the productions that deserve them.

Despite the quality of the work, it is a far far better thing to encourage further work, continued growth, and it is my fear that the climate of Alberta’s theatre community is so fragile that an honestly bad review would further discourage already shy audience members from attending their local theatre events and cut short the already ephemeral artistic journeys of many young theatre-makers.

So although I have seen three plays this week and had hopes to post reviews for all of them here, I will not be sharing any new reviews yet. Some of these may be in desperate need of a bad review in order to improve their skills and check their overblown egos, but I cannot be so selective and must stick to my rule.

I would much rather leave productions to enjoy their remaining performances. After all, the majority of productions here have but fleeting runs of 4 to 14 days, an unfortunate side effect of our unhealthy theatrical system. Companies work on ridiculously drawn out timelines, rehearse for unnaturally long periods, usually on evenings and weekends to accommodate their actors’ “real jobs”, accumulate huge space-rental expenses, only to allow the work to struggle towards a brief existence as a living breathing thing over a handful of performances… I suppose that will be my second opinion piece.

As you can tell from my long-winded ramblings, it is frustrating for anyone in the arts to be muzzled from expressing their honest opinion. Art is meant to provoke us, to encourage critical thinking and move us to discuss our thoughts with each other.

After speaking to audience members, directors, actors, stage managers, sponsors, many varieties of theatre-folk, it is clear to me that our theatre community here in Alberta is desperately seeking support. They want to build more honest, competent work. Those productions that I may perceive as failures need to be given the support to continue failing, continue creating and growing, and eventually we may overcome the desire to win popular validation and find the strength to forsake our dreaded “Will they like me” complex in favour of more stimulating professional risks.

 I will continue to write reviews that encourage audiences to step out of their comfort zones and enjoy the real experiences our artists are desperate to share. I hope this will enable us to grow together toward a healthier, more vibrant, more professional artistic culture which focusses on stories that get us all talking.