The Yearning To Be Seen: a Review of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Deeply touched by the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.  Veda Hille and Bill Richardson have written a non-linear musical that uses actual Craigslist ads for its lyrics.  Craigslist, in case you’ve been in a hole, is an online one-stop-shopping for finding whatever it is you want— from someone you saw on the train that day, to an old trumpet, to homes for your cats.  It’s a pared down, non-glitzy site—just text–where you have to use words to sell what it is you want to sell, or get what you want. Ads are quirky.  I think with the number of them, people have to come up with newer and more outlandish ways to make their ad stand out.  It’s not a Tumblr site so there’s no pics in your subject line to make you stand out–just a line of text.  What is Craigslist anyway?

The musical is episodic, going from ad to ad, occasionally reverberating or repeating a motif in another ad, enough to make it stick together well.  There are a number of “characters” who have very specific and ludicrous (sometimes even strange) desires and wants.  It would be easy just to laugh at all of them–and we do.  Audience tonight was having a great time laughing it up at the woman trying to sell her 300 stuffed penguins, singing an alphabetical list of the different species of penguins and hoping to find a special child who might want them all.  Or the man who wants someone to sit in his bathtub of cooked noodles…  Or the wanderers who keep missing each other–though having a brief moment with someone they fall for.

It would be easy to laugh, except Hille and Richardson don’t let us off that easy.  They have found a way to make that search poignant, a statement on 21st Century technology becoming the medium for expressing our desires.  There’s a song though that Hille sings in the middle–a quite surprising song about Noah and the doves he sends out into the world to find land.  And this becomes the central metaphor that pulls the show together in a quite exposing, vulnerable, emotional way— that Craigslist is a collection of those doves, sent out–with no replies, really.  “No one learns how the story ends.  Did they find each other?  We don’t know,” Hille says in the Artist talkback tonight.  There are only beginning moments–story starters, if you will–but we don’t know if any of the missed connections actually connect.

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CBC’s DNTO to air my story on Coming Out to My Church for “Lost Causes”

Definitely Not the Opera, (DNTO) a CBC Radio One program devoted to the art of storytelling in Canada, asked me to tell my story of coming out to my church for their Nov 3 show “Lost Causes”.

I had pitched the idea to them last year for a different show called “Making Enemies” but withdrew the pitch because a) I don’t think I meant to make enemies, nor do I think I have made enemies; and 2) because I didn’t want to restir a pot that has finally calmed down.

But they remembered my pitch.  And they sought me out.  Which is humbling, and cool.  We recorded on Friday morning and they are editing my lengthy story to 3-4 minutes.  I appreciate Andrew Friesen’s belief that my story was important and needed to be told.  I feel like the story is more appropriate under “Lost Causes” because trying to reason with people who don’t want to listen to you, or discuss with you–and believing that you alone have to spark change–well, it can feel like a “Lost Cause”.  But in the end–and the end hasn’t come yet–who knows if the cause is lost?  I think every person who says the church must look at the evidence, must consider the Christian testimonies of LGBT folks in the discussion, is a step towards change.  We need more people who realize how many people have fallen away from the faith, have decided against Christ, have been repelled from the church, and who, sometimes when there is no hope left, taken their own lives, all because the Church has historically refused to consider the scriptures in an accepting light–and this causes their members to refuse to accept their children in an accepting light.  This splits familes.  My God and my Christ are not what I encounter when I come into a Baptist Church anymore.  I daresay they wouldn’t recognize it.  Churches are not all one defined Mass though–as many churches are beginning to change their minds about LGBT people.  Episcopals, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Church of Canada–all have begun seeing that this is just the next issue the church has to rethink.  As it did slavery, race, and its treatment of Women.  And divorce.  Change comes when people inside churches decide they can’t hold false doctrine anymore.  Christianity and Faith are not the problem.  Interpretation is.

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Writing Faith Workshop begins, Feb 10, 5-8pm, Whitehorse United Church

  How do you write about your “faith”?  How do you describe the indescribable, the ineffable, the otherworldly? the grief or joy or miracle or peace or disappointment that you have because of your faith?  Everyone can argue about the value or lack of value in “religion”–and it’s an easy connect-the-dots to create your own pictures of what organized religion has done in the world.  It’s harder to write about personal faith or your personal interactions with religion–what keeps you going, what happened to you that you know no one would believe, about the anguish of trying to live in a real, faulty, fragile world, when others ask you to strive for peace, patience, happiness, even joy.

This writing workshop will explore how people write about these very personal experiences, or their thoughts about faith and religion and its very real presence in their lives, or the lives of those around them.  We’ve had students write about their relationships with their parents, their children, their grandchildren, experiences in nature, in confronting others who aren’t on the same page.  We have had students who are believers, non-believers, unsure, people of various faiths.  All faiths are welcome–come with what’s important to you, open to what is important to others. This isn’t a dogma class.  It’s not a class to teach you from the top down.  It’s for you to teach us from the ground up through your experiences, your writing.

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My short piece in Geez Magazine #24, “Privilege” issue, on coming out

Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine.  I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them.  But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”.  I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church.  I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.

The church has to change.  It has to.  It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further.  It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.

Not all churches–no.  (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards inclusion, social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights.  You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the monolithic Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut.  One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.  You will convince other churches that focusing on discrimination is not the answer.)

Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24.  If this brings you to Talking Dog, welcome.  There’s lots there, I hope, that will spark conversation.  If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez.  There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well.  It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen.  It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.

I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.

*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.

The Guild’s Boston Marriage witty, fun, screamin’ good

Last Friday night I was banned from the Guild’s front row if I wear red and come to a comedy.  I couldn’t control myself.  The play is way too funny for me, and so I was laughing–and I plead my case to Artsnet.  Sometimes, laughing is uncontrollable. What is controllable, I’ll admit, is the color I’m wearing and where I sit.  But I was running late, and the front row has fantastic leg room.  I had no idea that I might be distracting to the actresses pulling off this coup of a play.  I certainly couldn’t tell; they were very professional at hiding their laughter.

Let me back up:
Photo by Cathie Archbould

Friday evening, through with a long string of shows at YAC, I got to go on a mini-vacation.  I went to Boston Marriage at the Guild.  You’d think you’d be “show”ed out, with all the cool things happening in Whitehorse, but Boston Marriage doesn’t feel as if you’ve gone to a show.  It feels like someone snuck you into someone else’s living room to watch.  And it’s refreshing and touching and funny.

The Guild, after a few plays where characters yell at each other, comes up with a love story, where the leads may bicker at each other a bit, but who resoundly care for each other at their heart–and their sniping isn’t just regular sniping.  It’s David Mamet sniping.  That’s like the Caviar of sniping.  Okay, for comparison, Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf was hot salsa sniping. Sharp, angled, hook-like and a bit cruel.  Mamet’s language is so rich and perfect–it tastes way too expensive for your mouth (which is why hearing it from Katherine McCallum and Moira Sauer makes it even funnier–they know how to wrap their tongues around every word-morsel).

So I laughed, and laughed and laughed…(cringing) and couldn’t stop.  I was surprised that they didn’t stop the play to let me finish.  But they couldn’t–and when they went on, well, it compounded the laughter–and now I was laughing at new stuff, on top of the previous funny lines, and my laughter got worse.  I was very lucky I didn’t pass out, though I think Moira and Katherine both probably would have liked it if I lost just a teensy bit of oxgyen along the way.  Not that I ever covered up a line.  Not that I ever was so loud others couldn’t hear the jokes.  In fact, in FACT, others were laughing just as much as I was.  (But, they weren’t wearing red and they were sitting farther away–hence a more acceptable laughter.)  The whole room shook like puppies in Christmas box.

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Dancing Bears on Main Street, Whitehorse: Sarah MacDougall, The Greatest Ones Alive

So, I’ve always wanted to be a bear.  Sarah MacDougall’s album, The Greatest Ones Alive, is being released at the Yukon Arts Centre on Saturday, Nov 12, and Erin and I decided to promote the album by being the dancing bears on the cover of her album.

Costumes rented, we danced up and down Main Street.  We had a great time.  Sarah MacDougall was there, and captured us in a video and put us dancing to her beautiful song, “Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Win.”

I already love her CD.  And I was already looking forward to seeing her live in concert.  Now I feel deeply honoured to be part of her VIDEO!!  And I get to be the bear I always wanted to be. I think I was born to be a mascot–what do you think??

Tickets are still available (667-8574, box office).

I would go on and on about a) her music, and b) the existential moment of being a bear, but I’ll let you watch the video instead.

 

Find Sarah MacDougall’s CD, The Greatest Ones Alive here.

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Raven Ordering McDonald’s Drive-Thru: the Yukon has Smart Wildlife

Raven ordering McDonald's Drive-thru, photo by Jerome Stueart

Check out this photo taken yesterday, October 21, outside of the Whitehorse McDonald’s.  Ravens are getting so smart they’re ordering through the drive-thru. The Yukon has very smart wildlife. 

Of course, I’m not sure what this says about McDonald’s food considering what ravens eat. 

Check out this guy’s expression as he realizes what the raven is doing…

Gross Heart: Much to Love about Mump and Smoot

Canadian clowns, Mump and Smoot (with Thug), were in Whitehorse tonight in a revival of their first show together, Something.  I was led to believe it was going to be scary, or disturbing--but these were not scary clowns.  While there are some grotesque moments, there’s a charming show beneath the grossness.  It stems from the deep friendship between characters Mump and Smoot, developed more than twenty years ago by John Turner and Micheal Kennard.

On stage, there is a sense that Mump, a bit rule-bound and dictatorial, is trying to be a mentor to Smoot, or a father-figure.  Smoot, on the other hand, is young, innocent, full of whim, silly even, more uncontrollable–like a child.  His voice even sounds a bit like Elmo from Sesame Street, though he can easily scowl at the audience and berate them just as much as Mump.  But the two clowns cry together, miss each other, play together, and are true friends–even if they play doctor and (unintentionally) hurt each other.  It’s not Laurel and Hardy I think of but Abbot and Costello.  Or even George and Gracie.

Our audience was completely charmed by these two–and I laughed through the whole thing—there’s really only a few moments that you can stop laughing.  Sometimes you are laughing at what the clowns are doing to other members of the audience.  The Audience serves as the fourth member of the show, and completely unpredictable.  John and Mike, afterwards in the talkback, referred to what the Audience does at their shows, as “gifts.”  They don’t know how the audience will react, but they take whatever the audience does and uses it in the show.  This is why the show is different every night.  Sure there are several “acts” they go through–but the audience determines paths they will take in the act.

Yes, there are some grotesque moments, but comedy and the grotesque have often gone together.  Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein comes to mind as comedy exploring inside Horror.  We all still laugh–in fact fear makes us want to laugh all the more.  Movies that play with death, or that use a dead body as a running gag, or that find humor in zombies (see Sean of the Dead). Saturday Night Live’s spoof on Julia Child severing her own finger while doing a live cooking show–this is what they mean by grotesque, or even horror.  Mump and Smoot really don’t go beyond that barrier towards horror.  There is nothing so realistic that it makes you gag.  Thug, played by Candice, is perhaps the scariest of the three, and she doesn’t say a thing–which is why she’s kinda scary.  She’s completely unpredictable.

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There Are Stories You’ve Never Heard, Brilliantly Told: a review of The River

I went Saturday night to The River, a Nakai production, with Michael Greyeyes directing a play written by David Skelton, Judith Rudakoff and Joseph Tisiga.  To be frank, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in what I thought would be a sermon on homelessness.  I just didn’t want the guilt.  (And yes, I’m ashamed I actually said that—but I’m human and honest, and homelessness seems so much larger than I can comprehend–and I don’t know how to react “properly” or have any effect on the problem.  I suspect avoiding the issue is part of that problem–and yet, it’s the easiest thing to do.)

But local playwright David Skelton co-wrote the play, and I’m a huge fan of David and Nakai.  So I went.

I was blown away.   It wasn’t a sermon.  It wasn’t a guilt trip.  It was eye-opening, and it was riveting, and it was brilliant.  

For more of my review of The River at What’s Up Yukon

In a nutshell, brilliant writing, directing and acting take you into the vulnerable world of the homeless in Whitehorse.  Inspired by first person stories, collected by the writers through interviews over several years, that interviewing technique gives this play a realistic quality you won’t find in stories about homeless people.  You want to catch this play fast.  It’s here for a limited time, limited seating.  You won’t be disappointed.  I predict a long life for this play, and many, many performances across Canada.

(For more stunning photos of The River by photographer Richard Legner, visit this page.)

My Year of Canadian Reading: what stories are you made of?

As I’m approaching an inevitable embrace of Canada (oh, sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you!) I’m aware that I have very little knowledge of Canadian literature.  A poor citizen is one who does not know his country’s stories. It is how we speak to one another–a cultural physiography and language that connects Canadians together.  How can I become a citizen without learning this cultural language?  Sure I could take a class, I suppose, from a Canadian university online, do some papers, etc.  But I thought a more creative way would be for Yukoners to suggest Canadian books that meant something to them–then it would be more personal.

So I went on CBC with Dave White and we came up with a plan for book suggestions–a reading list of sorts–so that I could become more literate about Canada.  We are getting great results, but please call in to Dave and suggest more books.  I’d like to build a canon, of sorts, of Yukon-suggested Canadian literature.  Right now I’m looking mostly for fiction, poetry and drama—but I have decided that a few creative nonfiction pieces are a must, a Pierre Berton, a Farley Mowat, even a Kevin Chong (go, KC!).  I built a blog to read and discuss this literature.  It’s called “A Year of Canadian Reading” and you can follow the link to see what I’m reading, what I’m up to, and what I thought about books you suggested.  Follow along if you like.  Read them with me.  I want to get an idea about Canada from its literature.  I want to understand you through your stories.  I think when we understand a culture through its stories, we are more able to speak to and hear from its citizens, and as citizens we’re more able to understand each other.

I don’t have any intention of stopping reading after the Year is over—but an actual year is a start.  I’ve read some Canadian Literature.  I came in with knowing only three authors: Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.  But I’m aiming for the depth and breadth of Canadian Literature, even the heart of our warm, warm country.

Let me know if you want to play.  Follow these links if you want to:  SUGGEST A BOOK FOR ME, or find out WHAT I’M GOING TO READ.