Category Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Review: Kid Gloves at Firehall Arts Centre

It is out great pleasure to share our first guest review from Vancouver arts journalist Jo Ledingham. Jo has an MA in Dramatic Literature (UBC) and reviews regularly for The Courier.   It came as a shock to hear that the RCMP did not begin hiring women until 1974 (and, disgracefully, appears to have been harassing them ever since). As early as 1912, on the other hand, The Vancouver Police Department swore in Canada’s first two women constables – Lurancy Harris and Minnie Miller. Their mandate, apparently influenced by the church, wasn’t to handle the usual cops and robbers stuff but to deal with the “female morality question” – in other words, to shut down prostitution on the mean streets of Vancouver, population 100,000. Playwright Sally Stubbs has done her homework but there wasn’t a lot of documentation to go on. What is true is that Harris and Miller were condemned to wear the ankle-length skirts of the day and that they ran up against a good deal of condescension if not the outright hostility of their male colleagues. Kid Gloves, therefore, is a fictionalized account and Stubbs and director Donna Spencer have run with it, beginning with large projected b/w archival photos of the city. “Fingers” Jeff McMahan tickles the ivories of a battered old upright. It feels like an old silent movie, even incorporating a vaudeville act with charming Irish-Canadian lawbreaker Conor O’Rourke (Scott Bellis) and hooker/dance hall gal Mai Ji (Marlene Ginader) doing a takeoff on a Charlie Chaplin routine – bowler hat, cane, little mustache and all. Colleen Wheeler, as Lurancy is a tough cookie rookie, striding in a most un-ladylike manner around the precinct, the street and The Hive, the local saloon/brothel. Dawn Petten is Minnie, a seemingly frail, nervous creature whose mouse like quality might be the reason she’s called Squeak by her uncle Alderman Daniel Crane (Patrick Keating). We like these women, we’re rooting for these two Cagney and Lacey forerunners. And herein lies a problem with Kid Gloves. So successfully has the playwright been in endearing Lurancy and Minnie to us, we want her to get on with it. The vaudeville scenes – set stage right on a raised ‘stage’ complete with curtains, interrupt the flow of the story. Sure, they’re fun and it was great to hear a song my mother used to sing while doing the dishes – “Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee”. But the two long-ish Hive scenes could just hint at what was going on there and then get back to Minnie and Lurancy hot on the trail of corruption. The ending is very abrupt and while leaving a door open – or, in this case, opening a door – is often a provocative idea, nothing in the style of Kid Gloves prepares us for this conclusion. Stubbs has, however, created very interesting characters and Spencer pulls it together with a stellar cast. The opportunity to see Wheeler and Petten together on stage is worth the price of admission. Scott Bellis – marvelous in whatever role he takes on – is a thoroughly charming bad guy and Patrick Keating shines in another mealy-mouthed, weasely role. Ginader does her best with what is, perhaps, the least interesting character. But it’s Deborah Williams as big, burly Bella Boychuk – who can bend bars of steel and threatens to break a few bones – who steals the show. “Sing. Sing now!” she bawls in a thick eastern European accent while giving us the evil eye. Better believe it: we sing. Half of the show happens on a Francesca Albertazzi’s shabby grey set with a prison cell stage left; the rest of it is at The Hive with an elevated, rumpled bedroom where Mai Ji plies her trade. McMahan, in a straw boater hat, plays a lively rag and honkytonk piano where we can see him, far stage right. Produced by the Firehall Arts Centre, this is a world premiere. The ongoing investigations into the RCMP’s treatment of women make Kid Gloves timely in that plus ça change way; tightening the focus on Minnie and Lurancy would make it a stronger play. Kid Gloves is on stage until December 1 at the Firehall Arts Centre.   Tickets & info at:

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Guest Post: Dance Seen – Berlin 2011

We’re delighted to be sharing LMPR’s first guest-post written by Stephen White, Producer of Dance Victoria.   Stephen never intended to have a career in dance. In fact, he studied to be an actor and spent many years working in the theatre as a performer, director, and playwright. Along the way, he has enjoyed working as a Festival Producer, a Grants Officer at the BC Arts Council, a waiter, and a writer. His current gig stands out on top, in part because it puts him in contact with amazing dance artists. He finds nothing more satisfying than standing at the back of the Royal Theatre in Victoria as the audience erupts into applause following a fantastic performance.   The email came in late July. “Call me. I have something that may interest you.” It was from uber-arts consultant Judy Harquail. Harquail lives in Toronto but her sandbox is Canada. You don’t mess with Judy. When she has something on the go, she’s like a dog with a bone. Her fingerprints are on everything to do with the development of dance in this country. She oversees a software programming tool used by most presenters in Ontario that helps identify those artists and companies for whom there is multiple interest, and then she swoops in and puts together a provincial tour. She has a special group of eight or ten presenters that are part of a five-year project to increase their knowledge and understanding of dance. She leads workshops for independent dance artists. She’s constantly at a roundtable somewhere. Left alone for two minutes, Judy has checked her email, deleted ten, sent two text messages, and is phoning a dance presenter with whom she must have a conversation now. She is definitely a force in our milieu. And she doesn’t take no.   I phoned her. She phoned back. And so it went for a few days. A couple of brief emails between phone calls (Judy doesn’t do comprehensive correspondence – her emails are more like scratches on concrete, there’s never time to spell check). A picture began to emerge. Judy wanted me to join two other Canadian presenters and go to Berlin for an intense week of meetings and performances. We were to be hosted by Gabriele Naumann-Maerten, a cultural attaché at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. We were part of a five-year project that hadn’t really been developed yet, but “Never mind – we’ll talk about the strategy later.”  And then, “You owe me you realize. For the next five years you’ll be my emissary and you’ll be expected to make presentations at conference events.” Judy is no older than me, in fact she’s probably a couple years younger, but as I agreed to the proposal I felt like a kid.   Berlin. Oh my. My partner Bill and I had been to Berlin the year previous so, lucky for me (but not so true of my two presenter companions) I felt no tug towards the Brandenburg Gate or the Berliner Dom or the Jewish Museum. I was focused.   Our tour leader, Gabriele, is a remarkable woman. At one time she ran a major festival in Hamburg, but for the past ten years she has been working at the Embassy. She constructed a dense eight- day schedule of meetings. The purpose of the trip was to immerse ourselves in the whole of the dance scene in Berlin – a scene by the way that is currently crackling with vitality. We met major players like the former Producer of the € 60 million Saltsburg Festival, now in Berlin to take on the production of 12 major annual festivals under one roof at the Berliner Festspiele. We also talked with independent dance artists hungry for their next small grant to kick-start a project. We buzzed around the city in taxis and toured newly-developed facilities. And in the evening, we attended performances at the world famous Tanz im August (Dance in August) festival. It was a whirlwind, but it was rich. Smart, in depth conversations about how policies and programs shape or feed a culture.   And the facilities! Uferstudios is a collection of 11 dance studios in what were once bus barns in East Berlin. There is another gorgeous 500-seat facility with studios in a former pump house. Hamburg, Kampnagel, built in a former warehouse and factory, has multiple performance venues, dance studios and its own choreographic centre. There was a facility in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin, built in the former headquarters of the secret police. Renowned for the residencies it offers dance companies, this centre has lodging for 12, a huge kitchen, studios, a performance space, and best of all – it is situated on a lake. On those hot summer days, when they have been working on choreography all day the dancers bust out of the studios, toss off their clothes and jump into the lake for a swim.   For me, what I took away from the experience (aside from the embarrassment I suffered when meeting our Ambassador not knowing who he was and saying “Hey, how’s it goin’ Brian? Nice to meet ya.”) was the commitment, the energy, the excitement in a sector where money is a huge issue, but despite the challenges there is a belief in possibility. Berlin is reputed to have a thousand or more practicing independent dance artists. That’s not counting the ballet companies at the big opera houses.   I returned to Victoria filled with new ideas about how Dance Victoria can best serve our local and national dance community. The experience was timely as we get ready to build a performance lab in Studio Two here at Dance Victoria Studios.   And Judy? The cryptic emails have started again. Last weekend she had me sit on a panel at a national conference in Calgary. Who knows where she’ll put me next. But there’s something very special about our Judy Harquail. She has incredible instincts. Knowing Dance Victoria was planning … Continue reading

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