Q&A: Jesse Tanaka

Digital Coordinator Jesse Tanaka is LMPR’s newest member of the team. With a background in independent music and a special skill set in online marketing, Jesse looks forward to combining his passions and working with LMPR’s broad range of clients.    Tell us about yourself & how you got into arts marketing.   I grew up around both visual and performing arts, my father was a potter and had his studio set-up in our basement so I’ve been working with clay since I was a toddler. My sisters and I would help out around the studio and at craft sales, but it seemed like a really hard way to make a living, so I was never really interested in the arts as a career initially.   After spending a few years in construction out of high school, I wanted something completely different with a different mix of people and ended up on the other end of the spectrum studying arts management at Capilano College. I was still a little unclear about what to specialize in and one of my big sisters mentioned all the weird ideas I constantly have running through my brain would be good for marketing, so I guess that’s where it began. Where is the best place you have travelled & why?   I’ve never really had the chance to do much travelling, all of my money has kind of gotten funnelled into education. I think I’ll probably be the first and last person ever to say Edmonton, but our family holidays growing up were always heading out on road trips to their folk fest.   We’d load up our Suburban with my sisters and I tightly packed in beside a load of my dad’s pottery to sell on the way. At the time, I took all of the musicians I got to see for granted, but looking back I’m glad I got to travel there, instead of Disneyland like the other kids. It was definitely a big part of my upbringing.   What was the first show you remember seeing as a child?   I was taken to concerts and music festivals starting at a really young age, but I think the first I actually remember was Jian Ghomeshi’s band Moxy Früvous at the Salmar Theatre in Salmon Arm. They toured through Salmon Arm a few times in the mid 90s and their tape was probably my favourite as a kid. I never have gotten to meet Jian, though maybe one day.   If you could grab a coffee with one artist – living or dead – who would it be and why?    I’ve never really gotten a thrill out of meeting famous people, but I’d probably go with Neil Young. We could talk music, hockey and I find all of the environmental causes he’s been fighting for lately really interesting. He could probably use some marketing for his new music player, so there’s that as well.    What are you most looking forward to in your new role at LMPR?   I’m excited to work with LMPR’s great roster of clients and get more experience working with such a diverse range of artists. I think many arts organizations are underutilizing many online tools, so introducing the possibilities should be a lot of fun.   Lighting Round!   Morning person or night owl? Night owl   Drink of choice? Phillips Blue Buck   Truth or dare? Dare   Favourite book? James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (really high level, I know)   Best Movie? Fargo   Power of Flight or Invisibility? Flight for sure  

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Review: To Wear a Heart So White by Leaky Heaven

It is a strange thing, the way programming can echo around a city. In the past year we’ve had two Measure for Measure‘s, two Odd Couples, and now- running concurrently- two edgy re-interpretations of Macbeth. Where Theatre UBC’s Ubu Roi (reviewed earlier this week) is an absurd retelling however, Leaky Heaven’s usage is not so direct.   At its core, To Wear a Heart So White is an invitation to reflect on colonialism as it pertains to the Pacific Northwest. It is an atmospheric and quasi-linear exploration that does not offer up a central commentary or conclusion. Rather, audiences must meditate on its various threads to distil their own meaning from an (occasionally quite bizarre) series of scenes and vignettes.     The story of Macbeth, or more specifically- it’s first three acts- form the most cohesive and continuous arc of the hour-long work, with alternate content woven into and around Shakespeare’s words. Before we even get to the Bard however, we arrive at the space by lighting a candle at the shrine of such explorers as Cook, Vancouver, and Strathcona. Once all are seated, there is a procession, followed by a welcoming and invocation. This ceremony would seem to possess a two-fold meaning that touches on theatre’s ritualistic origins, as well as the role that proscribed Christianity played in colonialism.   The invocation, inspired by the various exchanges between Macbeth‘s Weird Sisters, seems to work – as the incantation sunders the room with thunder and lightning. At this point we are introduced to one of the show’s most spectacular elements: massive projections that, in this instance, shoot scenes from Shakespeare films onto four of the venue’s walls (later projections include breathtaking forests, dizzying geometric patterns, the deck of an aircraft carrier, and more). As the film runs, a voiceover describes the dissemination of Shakespeare’s work throughout the world, setting it up an analogous to colonialism.   This leads into the first actual scene from Macbeth- where he and Banquo meet the Weird Sisters on the heath (familiarity with the play is definitely an asset). This transitions into a sing-along of Jerusalem, followed by the Macbeths hatching their plot, followed by a group of birds discussing the Coquitlam Day Parade around a campfire, followed by the audience undergoing hypnosis, and so on.   These scenes are driven by a central trio of actors: Lois Anderson, Alex Ferguson, and Sean Marshall Jr. with support from a retinue of actors, singers, and children.   Presented in the round, in the Russian Hall, director Steven Hill’s staging is beautiful to behold but its stated theme is rarely immediately forthcoming. Instead, we the audience must craft our own conclusions out of the information presented.   For example: the narrative of Macbeth stops at the feast, right before things begin falling apart for the usurping king. One might interpret this as a statement that colonialism has provided all of the benefits of the Macbeths’ violent coup, but none of the downfall.   This and any interpretation however, could easily be debated (there is an almost David Lynchian quality to the work in this way). Having seen many familiar faces in the hall, I look forward to many such exchanges in the near-future.   To Wear a Heart So White runs until March 30 at the Russian Hall.   Click Here for tickets & information.    

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Review: Ubu Roi by Theatre UBC

Suffice to say: you’ve never seen anything quite like Ubu Roi.   The bizarre work was penned by Alfred Jaffy in 1896 as an absurd, grotesque critique of civilization: nailing humanity to the wall for its greed, arrogance, and short-sightedness. Its narrative is a ridiculous retelling of Macbeth, following the misadventures of vile, cartoonish Pere Ubu and his wife, Mere Ubu, as they overthrow and supplant the king of Poland, rule tyrannically, and haplessly defend the kingdom against an avenging son and the Russian army.   Naomi Vogt as Pere Ubu   In the house program, director Ryan Gladstone tells us that the very first word- Merdre (Shitter) – provoked outrage and dissent that could not be quelled for a full 20 minutes at the 1896 premiere (and resumed with each of the 33 utterances throughout the play).   The work’s themes of corruption and social failure may actually be more relevant today than at the time of writing (see the recent NASA-funded study, which identifies elitism as a cause for looming societal collapse); the shock factor that would have accompanied it however, has somewhat dulled through the decades.   To keep the play fresh and engaging, Gladstone has taken a novel and rather brilliant approach: presenting it as a play within a play. Therefore, rather than watching the corpulent Ubu stumble through a perverse realm, we watch the graduating class of The Jarry School for Wayward Girls mount as tossed-together staging as a final act of social commentary.   The choice removes alienation and disorientation, while infusing structure and allowing for greater engagement. While this may not be entirely faithful to original intent, it does not blunt the social commentary and creates a wealth of silly and splendid theatrical moments.   Ghazal Azarbad and Naomi Vogt The haphazard set-up is reflected in the wonderful detritus pile that is Sarah Melo’s set, Lynn Burton’s cobbled-together props, and the hodgepodge costumes of Amelia Ross. The playful creativity that follows from their design is some of the most inventive staging I have ever experienced: from epic battles conducted with flowers, plastic balls, and whisks (the latter of which Ubu identifies as ‘The Shitter Hook’) to distant journeys traversed via scenery on sticks to a truly unforgettable two-woman bear costume.   The meta-theatricality also means each cast member develops her own schoolgirl persona and has her moment to shine. Particularly memorable are Mercedes de la Zerda’s frustration over her constant, repeated deaths, Charlotte Wright’s beaming self-satisfaction at picking the right song to underscore a scene, and Catherine Fergusson’s ebullient and over-eager turn as Prince Bougrelas (pronounced Boogerless).   As the heart of the play, Naomi Vogt’s Pere Ubu is a delight to watch. She is reticent to don Ubu’s fat suit and self-consciously stumbles through scenes at the onset, but a gradual transformation occurs that ultimately ignites her performance with fanatic intensity.   Ubu Roi was a work ahead of its time- the seed from which almost absurd theatre sprung- and for this reason alone, any production merits experiencing. UBC’s staging is more than a theatre history lesson however, it is a colourful, insightful, and creative vision that heaps humour and entertainment on top of existing worth.   Ubu Roi runs until April 5, 2014 at the Frederic Wood Theatre.   Click here for tickets & information.  

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Review: Lowest Common Denominator by Zee Zee Theatre

Zee Zee Theatre is a company that exists to tell stories in the lives of the marginalized. It is perhaps no surprise then that their latest work, Lowest Common Denominator, touches on any number of broad society truisms- mother knows best, age is just a number, true love is blind- and utterly ravages them.   Playwright Dave Deveau crafts a world very much like our own: one where right and wrong are not absolutes, but matters of perspective, opinion, and outcome (although in his world, people are much more clever, witty, and hilarious). Into this palette of greys he paints three characters whose lives become quickly entangled: Harmony- a middle-aged divorcee, her 17 year-old song Trevor- who accidentally comes out in the play’s opening moments, and her insurance agent Peter.   The work’s catalytic event is a nervous, boozy dinner between Harmony and Peter that the former believes to be a date. The misconception is addressed when she invites the insurance agent home and he informs Harmony that he is, in fact, gay. Perhaps due to the awkwardness, the duo escalate consumption and return to Harmony’s home to spite-drink a few of her ex-husband’s expensive bottles. A tipsy Trevor returns home, one thing leads to another, and Harmony ultimately discovers a 47 year old insurance agent making out with her teenage son. Chaos, romance, and war ensue.   Deborah Williams gives a tour de force performance as Harmony. She wholly embodies a complex character who flits between middle-age insecurity and neediness, motherly nurturing, and elemental fury.   As her son, Dallas Sauer is coy, sensual, and almost feline in manner. He seems remarkably mature for 17, a sentiment Deveau has Peter express at the exact moment it will occur to most audiences. The maturity is a facade however, which Sauer occasionally drops to expose the uncertainty and over-eagerness in Trevor’s teenage heart.   Shawn Macdonald brings a similarly nuanced approach to Peter. In the presence of Harmony he is a bundle of fidgety nerves, which we might assume to be his nature until a calm, confident personality emerges when alone with Trevor. While he makes his choices and stands by them, a sense of discomfort and compromise remains present in Macdonald’s deep, soulful eyes.   Praise must also be given to the cast for their performances in the boozy first act. ‘Acting drunk’ is truly one of the hardest things to do on stage, but each actor managed to avoid the pitfalls and achieve verisimilitude.   Director Cameron Mackenzie has the trio working together as an intimate, cohesive unit, driving the play forward with crackling, kinetic energy. While the script is full of blistering, caustic humour, it is also full heavy, ponderous themes that could slow the momentum. To break this tension and maintain the bubbling pace, Mackenzie transitions from scene to scene by having the cast break character in cheeky, stylized vignettes and slightly silly dance numbers.   The culmination of it all is a work that will have you laughing loudly and constantly while in the house (indeed, I was concerned for the health of fellow theatre-goers at certain points) and questioning your values the moment you step outside.   Lowest Common Denominator runs until March 30 at PAL Studio Theatre.   Click here for tickets & information.  

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