Rhinos and rainbows

Unknown.jpegLast night I went to see Rhinoceros at the Bader Centre for the Arts.  I knew several friends who were in it but had no idea what it was about.   I was a bit disoriented at first, not sure where it all was heading or why.  Tied together by the notion that there were a few rhinoceroses seen about town and they presented both curiosity and perhaps even threat, the rest of the night was a series of vignettes – monologues and poems and dance and music – that were largely written and performed by local people.

As the evening wore on I could better understand the thread.  Basically it was a comment on diversity in our community and on our streets and, in the long run, we are all unique and in some way a rhinoceros to others.   We need to be tolerant and open in seeing new people or people that differ from us in whatever way.

Now this sounds a bit preachy but that was not how it came across. It was a bit of a grab bag and some of the performances were a bit awkward but all were heartfelt. I was not bored for a minute.  There were so many ideas and thoughts coming at me that at times I felt I needed a bit more time to reflect on what I had just heard.

My friend and I talked about it for an hour after the show and today I ruminated on the theme several times.   This is a great credit to the production.  Theatre can both entertain and cause reflection.  This one did both.

Dave and rhinos 2.jpgAs the actors called out that they had spotted a rhinoceros on the street,  I was reminded of a trip to Uganda in 2013 with my friend, Dave Kay.  We went to a rhino sanctuary where we were out with a guide looking for a few of the (huge) rhinos that lived in the forest there.  We came across a few.  Dave was more brave than I was to get a look at them.  I hung back with my camera – if the rhino charged it would get Dave first.  And our instructions were, if the animal charged to climb a tree.   Can you imagine me scrambling up an acacia with a rhino snorting down on me?  The guide said that when they charged it was usually a false charge and they would stop short.  Usually was the operative word in that sentence for me.   We survived.

Pride 3And to fit the diversity theme, this happens to be Pride weekend in Kingston. Today there was a parade down Princess Street with lots of colour and gaiety in the old sense of the word.

I remembered the first summer I lived in Kingston, there was an article in the Whig Standard with a photo of a same sex kiss-in on the steps of City Hall.  This was seen to be provocative and somewhat astounding.

One report of this incident reads: “Although the ceremony itself lasted only fifteen minutes, it attracted over 400 onlookers and was described as “a kiss that reverberated throughout Kingston.” The public’s responses to the kiss ran the gamut from curiosity to outrage. Most of the crowd applauded, but some showed their disapproval by booing.”

Today there were hundreds of brightly clothed celebrants of diversity in the parade down our main street.  Kids, families, soldiers, church groups, members of parliament.

The rainbow seems to have replaced the rhinoceros.

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Docks Part 3 – closer to home – Ontario

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Winter  – Kingston Harbour

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Dock by the Delta Hotel – Kingston

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Confederation Basin, Kingston – early Spring

 

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Eagle Lake dock

 

 

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Cousins on the dock – Ontario cottage country

 

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Wolfe Island dock

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Three minutes from my home – Kingston harbour

We have had a delicious smorgasbord of summer theatre in Kingston

It has been a very rich summer for theatre in Kingston with literally hundreds of presentations happening in the downtown core. SFF-2016-Poster-webThe Storefront Festival converted empty spaces into unique venues that offered a wide range of productions over about 10 days.  My favourite was Cul de Sac, a Daniel MacIvor play.  In this one woman show, Anne Marie Bergman, under the direction of Will Britton, presented an engaging story told by several memorable characters. And they were characters indeed.
Blue Canoe, with their usual enthusiasm and energy, presented Chicago at the Baby Grand. This show kept my toe tapping and face in a steady grin throughout.   On a balmy Wednesday night in Market Square behind City Hall,  I enjoyed an evening of Shakespeare – Driftwood Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew.  Outdoor theatre-in-the-round always seems to be the perfect venue for Shakespeare.

AmbroseFor a few weeks,  I worked with a group of Kingston theatre friends on a Single Thread production of Ambrose – Re-imagined.  I  loved this unique theatre experience last year when it was presented for the first time so I was delighted when creator Liam Karry asked me to join the cast for this newly re-imagined  version.  Liam likes to surprise audiences and have them experience theatre in non-traditional settings.   In this show, audience members made a journey through many hidden areas of the Grand Theatre to meet up with characters who have had some connection to the mysterious Ambrose Small.  Ambrose was an Ontario Theatre magnate who disappeared on December 2, 1919 the day after receiving a million dollars for the sale of the many theatres in Ontario that he owned, including Kingston’s Grand.  His spirit is known to haunt the theatre with many people over the years,  actors and employees, having had a ghostly experience in the Grand. The mystery of his disappearance was never solved.

 

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No two audience members at Ambrose had the same experience, ever.  Their exploration of the Ambrose Small history was their own.  Liam told me that he likes the idea that the audience participants are invited to play with us with this material. People who expected to sit and snooze and be entertained may have been a bit overwhelmed  but most of our audience members were wildly enthusiastic.  When they let go and engaged in the process it was delightful and unique – and a lot of fun.   Fun, too for the actors who never knew exactly what was coming next.

 

14047343_1084090548304687_4608973864294042412_oIn mid August  I also took in a Single Thread production of Salt Water Moon that was “staged” on the steps of the University Club, outdoors on a sultry summer evening.  This is a great little play and was wonderfully presented.  The setting was absolutely perfect for this piece.

Kingston has a vibrant theatre community all year around. It takes no summer break. In fact, this summer it ramped up to provide audiences a wonderful selection of productions in a variety of settings.  Thanks to everyone who entertained us so well.

Hip and tragic at the same time

Last night was a remarkable evening in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The Tragically Hip – a home-town band that gained national popularity and became a Canadian treasure had a nationally televised concert will likely be their last.   Lead singer, Gord Downie,  diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, led the band on a sort of “last stand” tour across Canada that culminated in the final concert in Kingston on August 20.

The arena was full and the downtown core in Kingston was packed – really packed – with people from far and wide who watched and sang and danced to the concert streamed live on a large screen in Market Square.   Similar gatherings were held across the country.  This was a big deal for Canadians.

Three things stood out for me about this event.

Pano2Firstly, this had the potential to be a huge security risk.  Over 25,000 people jammed into a market square and flowing into the neighbouring streets and the Prime Minister glad-handing people in the street would not only be a terrorist’s dream in some places but the potential for a few drunk yahoo’s to disrupt it was almost unavoidable.   But it didn’t happen.  The crowd was orderly and … Canadian.   Yes there was the occasional, or not so occasional, waft of marijuana.  But that only led to more singing and dancing and air-guitaring.  There was security around but not that evident. No guns on display.  People checking bags at the entry points to the venue were wearing t-shirts, not uniforms.  Everyone was polite. The energy was all celebratory.

PMSecondly, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau,  an acknowledged Hip fan was there to celebrate with us.  He walked through the mob in Market Square just before the concert and shook hands and took selfies and smiled in his jean jacket and Tragic
ally Hip T-shirt.  His visage only appeared once on the TV screen during the concert when Downie acknowledged him.  And the grip Trudeau has on Downie’s shoulder in the photo of them hugging before the concert was real.

Enlight1Last, but not least, was the courage and determination and resolution that Gord Downie showed in not wallowing in his sorrow and illness but living life to the fullest despite a dismal prognosis.  I was tired from standing the three hours for the concert in the square., How exhausted must he have been after dancing and singing his way through the concert, the last of several this month, despite his recent surgery, radiation and chemo treatments for his cancer.  This, to me, was really something incredible and an example to all of us not to give in to our troubles, but to live every moment fiercely.  We are all dying at some point.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”  Buddha

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Spring reflections in photos -Pt 2

Yesterday I posted some spring photos. Several of the pictures I took had interesting reflection in the smooth lake so I have grouped them together here.  Part 2.  You can see yesterday’s other photos here if you missed them. It delights me that I have been able to take all these photos within about 10 minutes of my home in beautiful downtown Kingston, Ontario.

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March 6, 2016

Today seemed like we were on the brink of spring – a clear, sunny, cold day in early March that promises springtime but hangs on to the vestiges of winter.   Lake Ontario had been made smooth by the partial melting of the surface ice in the sunshine.  Students couldn’t resist walking or skating or skimming over the frozen lake with ice boats.

Pictures always worth 1000 words.

My  friends in Africa won’t quite comprehend how the lake could be like this.

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Bubbles II…an answer perhaps?

As a result of my last blog entry, friends have responded with information about a local organization that is working to help Syrian refugees come to Canada – Kingston area in particular.

The group recommended by two of my friends is the Four Rivers Presbytery at Seeley’s Bay.

Lori Rand reports:

A small group of us here in Kingston are mobilizing.  We are partnering with a local organization that has brought one family to Kingston in July, and are in the process of getting ready to receive another family at the end of September.  They are currently in a bunker in Lebanon.  Learn more about who they are and their story here.

This incredible work has been done by Dawn Clarke, a Minster at the Perth Road United Church, and a team from the Four Rivers Presbytery in Seeley’s Bay, and the Kingston Islamic Society.  They still need $25,000 to make this happen – to sustain the financial one-year commitment to the current family, and have the funds for the second family.  The hard work of receiving approval from Citizenship and Immigration Canada is already done, but missing link is the financial resources.

Here’s where you can donate.  This money goes directly to getting this family to Kingston and supporting the family that just arrived.  If you are more comfortable writing a cheque, information can be found here in the left hand column. 

Rick Cairns adds this information:

John, I can assure you that aside from the cost of printing some pamphlets and setting up a website, this group is putting every single dollar raised toward sponsoring and settling these families.
An overpaid CEO, you ask? In fact, Save A Family From Syria is a 100% volunteer group.
As far as having “a concrete plan in place to actually bring a refugee family or families to Canada”, you’ll be pleased to know that one family is here, with children starting school next week, and another family (with 4 children) will be arriving in the last week of September.
It is the intention of this group to continue to sponsor more families in the future.

I have reviewed all this and made a donation to this group.  I will await other responses to see if there are more local groups doing something similar.  I encourage you to look into this one, however, and open your hearts and your wallet to help them achieve their goals. It’s the Canadian way, is it not?

 Once again – Here’s a quick link where you can donate right now using a credit card to a local group actively sponsoring Syrian refugee families to come to Kingston area. Tax receipts are issued for donations to this cause.

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As the crisis in Syria enters its fourth year, the Aljalim family needs your help.

A Kick and Push Grand Slam

The lead line in the Kingston Kick and Push Festival programme booklet says “This will be no ordinary theatre festival…”  They were right! I was excited earlier this year to see that Kingston was to host a summer festival of five theatre pieces scattered I both time and venue around the downtown core.  I vowed to see them all and this weekend I fulfilled my goal.

All of the theatrical events (not quite right to call them all plays) had interesting production features and all told stories in varied ways.

A Chorus Line is a fairly typical Broadway-type musical that lends itself well to be presented by young aspiring singers and dancers.  I have always enjoyed the productions mounted by Blue Canoe, the company that put this show on at the Grand Theatre in mid-July and this was no exception.  Lots of enthusiastic talented young folks giving a polished set of personal vignettes as they audition for a dancing role in a show.  A most enjoyable evening.

Jacob James and Sophia Fabiili in a scene from Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.

Jacob James and Sophia Fabiili in a scene from Shipwrecked! An Entertainment.

Shipwrecked is a three-actor tall-tale about an adventurous life on the high seas.  I really liked the imaginative presentation that immersed the audience in the story.  The audience was literally washed over by a huge wave,  flooded with ping-pong ball pearls, taken to meet south seas natives and introduced to a very friendly dog named Hugo.  Kudos to Brett Christopher who directed this show for his creativity and to the small cast that included my friend Jacob James who returned home to Kingston for this show. A delight.

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Zahshanne Malik, Audrey Sturino and Zachary Arndt in a scene from Totally Nana’s Ride – one of the Autoshow playlets.

Autoshow was a series of ten minute short plays that happened in and around cars in Market Square.  I particularly like the one called Totally Nana’s Ride that happened by an old Dodge parked beside the Bank of Montreal.  Some of these playlets were better written than others. Three of them ended with death, which was a bit of a downer.  The street noise sometimes made it hard to hear the dialogue sometimes.  Some of the plays actually had one or two people get right into the car where the action was happening.   At one point a homeless woman passing across the square wandered into the middle of the action and for a couple of minutes actually joined our small audience  group to peer into the back of the car where the action was happening.  This, of course, added to the whole presentation, rather than take from it.

IMG_8008Tall Ghosts and Bad Weather is a play with some historical background and was presented after dark outside in the graveyard beside St Paul’s Church on Queen Street – the same graveyard where Molly Brant is buried.  It was a curious mix of modern day and a hundred years ago, all intricately entwined as actors from both vintages came in and out of the mix, sometimes almost bumping into each other as they moved past one another, seemingly oblivious to the presence of each other.  The atmosphere was great and the actors did a good job of presenting the story.  A particular credit to them was that, despite three of them being in Autoshow, which I had seen an hour earlier, I did not recognize them in their transformed characters in the graveyard.  The Stone Cellar group that produced this play is a local troupe that specializes in historical dramas.  Will look for more from them.

My favorite, however, was Ambrose, a personal journey through nooks and crannies inside and outside the Grand Theatre, once again with a series of vignettes all revolving around the theatre magnate Ambrose Small, who disappeared mysteriously in 1919.  His ghost, it is said, still haunts the theatres he owned, one of them being the Kingston Grand.  In this theatre adventure, audience was taken one at a time through one of two tracks of stories.  I spent ten minutes alone with a psychiatrist, lying on a couch and answering questions about my deepest secrets, had a drink at an abandoned bar in the lobby with a sexy distraught woman who managed the theatre, read love letters with one of Ambrose Small’s showgirl paramours, watched as a young masked woman talked with me about taking risks then proceeded to scale part of the wall inside the theatre, huddled under a blanket with a slightly crazy recluse in a creepy dark machine room, and got tied up by three young phantoms after climbing down a fire escape into the  alleyway outside the theatre.   Could you ask for more in an interactive theatrical production?  I understand that some folks actually bailed out at some points, finding the personal involvement too intense.  But if you were willing to immerse yourself in the improv nature of this show it became just so much fun.

Earlier in the summer I also enjoyed the Salon Theatre’s Walking in John A’s Footsteps that runs twice daily downtown throughout the summer.

I was disappointed to see  the audiences for these many fine productions so small despite the most expensive ticket being $25.   How can we expect to have this wonderful, creative, immersive theatre in our community if we don’t support it.  I didn’t see anyone I knew in the audience any of the five nights I attended the different shows. Where were you?

With photos shamelessly lifted from the Kick and Push Facebook page!

Summer day by the lakeshore.

The long weekend at the first of August had perfect summery weather here in Kingston although it seems that some of Ontario experienced severe thunderstorms.  I spent a few hours yesterday by the lake taking about 300 photos of folks enjoying the day.  I won’t drop them all on you but hope this few gives you a taste of the day.

 
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