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Review: Oleanna by Bleeding Heart Theatre & Xua Xua Productions

Fifteen minutes after the show, I found myself in argument with a complete stranger.   Oleanna will have that effect.   Written in 1992 by the inimitable David Mamet, the incisive two-hander follows a churning, dynamic power struggle between a university professor and a female student who accuses him of sexual harassment. It is classic Mamet: neither character is quite likeable, neither is quite right, morality exists in shades of grey, and lines unspoken are as telling as those said aloud. In short, it is incredible fodder for reflection and debate.   Director Evan Frayne stages the work in one of Vancouver’s most intimate venues: the backspace at Havana Restaurant. Entering the room, there is an immediate confrontational quality, with the audience sitting around four sides of a raised square platform, not entirely unlike a boxing ring. Carolyn Rapanos’ set design accentuates this adversarial quality, with chairs facing one another head on and open sight lines that showcase the combatants in profile.   A side note: It would be interesting to learn whether those audience members who sat directly behind John or Carol felt greater sympathy or support for their argument, given that Frayne has placed them “in their corner.” One suspects it might be the case.   Anthony F. Ingram’s John is full of pretence and pompous bluster, but not entirely without charm. Ingram possesses an ability to bring great earnestness to even the most cynical roles, which he puts to use here. It’s not enough to fully redeem the character, but it certainly makes him more pitiable as his carefully constructed world begins to crumble. We find ourselves conflicted, feeling terrible that he can not understand why this is happening to him, yet disliking him for the self same reason.   Susie Coodin brings intriguing, confounding complexity to Carol. The source of my post-show debate involved whether she had laid a trap at the onset, with her lack of comprehension and self-deprecation, or whether her latter dogmatic certainty was something gained over the course of the production. Regardless of origin, it is an impressive transformation to watch, growing from meek supplicant to empirical avenger.   More than two decades after its premiere, Oleanna remains a relevant and provoking catalyzer of discourse. While this may not bode well for society and gender relations as a whole, it is good news for those who prefer their theatre to have a little edge. Go see it with someone you love. And then fight with them.   Oleanna runs until May 17 at Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive.   Tickets are $15 at  

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“LMPR has made an invaluable contribution to the Vancouver Recital Society, helping us get to know our family of patrons even better, helping us revamp our offerings to maximize value for our subscribers, and helping us create our vibrant new identity, values and mission. We learned a lot about who we are and what we stand for through the process. All of these initiatives taken together constitute an extraordinary contribution to the Vancouver Recital Society and we are all extremely grateful!” Sean Bickerton, Executive Director Vancouver Recital Society

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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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