“I can’t expose a human weakness on the stage unless I know it through having it myself,” wrote Tennessee Williams.
Busted. On stage and off! And even though I was a late bloomer — not having seen a play until I was 20 — theatre opened up my eyes to a window outside of my soul.
Not so coincidentally, Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire was one of my first. “I don’t want realism. I want magic!” its lead character says. London has provided me with both magic and realism, as an actor, producer and reviewer over the past two decades.
I’ve seen hundreds of local professional and amateur shows over the past five years alone. I plan on covering both, but I feel amateur theatre is London’s best-kept secret. Well, not for long, if I can help it.
Take the much-anticipated production of Metamorphosis (Palace Theatre, September 19–28) for instance. Get this: the entire play takes place in a pool of water!
Director John Gerry addresses his current project and passion for theatre better than I ever could when he states, “a show represents all that is magical about theatre. The ability to tell stories that are eternal and that will speak to the soul.”
Gerry is very particular in his choices. When asked by the Palace what show he had always wanted to direct, he replied that Metamorphosis was a show he would give up his birthday in Spain for. What show could inspire such zeal? Mary Zimmerman’s Tony-winning play conjures the forces of Ovid’s myths into gorgeous imagery, provocative moments and breathtaking story telling — all in a pool that is 10 by 16 by 2 feet deep.
Set designer David Long adds, “The Palace Theatre was built with a concrete foundation — poured concrete with concrete supports — so that it can take the weight of the pool.” With the help of Moore’s Water Gardens, Long has built the pool like a stage (with a lid) on top of the existing stage.
The Old East Village theatre is certainly opening its busy doors in ways it’s never done before. As if the pool wasn’t enough, The Palace hosted a touring cat show after the installation. No reports of soggy moggies. I should know — you think I’d miss a show featuring fifteen rescued pussies, two chickens and a ground hog?
Adjacent to the Palace, in a relatively new space, the Procunier Hall, All Aboard hits the stage September 10 through 14.
“All Aboard portrays an integral part of the history of Black Canada,” according to its playwright, Dr. Colin Forbes. The author and subject is the last surviving CPR porter and this play recounts his experience with racial prejudice in the ’40s, as well as the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is also the story of a determined young man who eventually becomes a pediatrician and spends the rest of his professional life teaching and practicing in Africa. On his return to Canada, he establishes the first medical clinic on an isolated First Nations Reserve.
Speaking of Canadian history, I spoke to playwright, Norm Foster, about Elgin Theatre Guild’s remounting here in London of their recent critical and commercial hit Old Love at The ARTS Project September 19–21.
“Why does this particular play resonate with audiences, Norm?” I asked.
“Old Love?” Foster pondered. “The older I get, the older my characters get. This play was written with people my age in mind. People still looking for love long after most of us have found it. That’s why the play remains one of my favourites.”
I’m not looking for love and it still resonated with me. Maybe ‘cause I fit in with the “old” part. I told Foster I believe it is one of his best works. I state that even though some of my personal best roles were in his other plays!
A role I always wanted but never landed was in Little Shop of Horrors. Take your pick: Dentist, Seymour — heck, I would have settled for a patient! Nevertheless, I’m really looking forward to Iglesias Productions version at McManus Studio, October 13–26.
Director John Iglesias continues the passion theme stating, “I’m just following my heart. I’m a fan of the underdog love stories.” With several successful productions under his belt, this is the first show Iglesias says he has put, “other people in charge to shine. I can’t do it all myself anymore!” Sounds like a great theatre motto!
Finally, thirty years after my first Tennessee Williams experience, Theatre Soup mounts Suddenly Last Summer, October 7–19 at the ARTS Project. Psycho-surgeons, lobotomies, homosexuality, oh my! Can’t wait to see how director Lesleigh Turner handles this stark, dare I say it, “psycho-drama”?
Back to my quote at the outset. I should know. Anyway, can’t wait to expose more weaknesses on stage figuratively and literally. More on that in my next column. See you in November!
Donald D’Haene is Editor of donaldsdish.ca. He has been cast in Fuse Productions’ The Full Monty, playing The Palace Theatre February 7–16. Twitter @TheDonaldNorth and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.