Sunday, August 30, 2009

West Side Story, Forum, and Zastrozzi

I should really do a post on each one, but my time is limited and well, I wanted to talk about them all.

For those who haven't been following, I've been at the Stratford Festival this weekend. Saw three wonderful shows, ate mostly great food, including a wonderful dinner at Down the Street, a great lunch at Fellini's and unfortunately, the worst eggs Benedict it has been my misfortune to eat at a restuarant I will not name because they cook everything else well. Their hollandaise sauce looked like they hadn't bothered putting in egg and tasted worse. Blech!

Enough about that, though. On with the plays:

I cannot say enough good things about this production. Absolutely amazing, Great dancing, great singing, well-staged and excellent fight choreography. The actors were vibrant and drove the plot forward. Extra points to the girl playing Maria for letting herself be that vulnerable on stage. Amazing.

My one quibble was the inclusion of a boy as an observer type. He also sang "A Place for Us" in Act 2. Now, I don't know if this was part of the original show, or if it was something the director pasted on. Either way, didn't work. The boy playing the part carried himself quite well, but the concept didn't work.

Interestingly, the songs "Officer Krupky" and "Cool" are reversed in the play from where they were in the movie. This is a change they made for the film, and was very effective, as "Officer Krupky" seems out of place in the grimness of act 2.

Overall, brilliant.

This was done exactly as it was meant to be: stupid fun. Lots of gags, lots of laughs, lot of cheap jokes, and I am pretty sure that the actors were working hard to crack each other up as well as the audience. In other words, comedy at it's best.

The woman who played Maria played Philea in Forum. She was brilliantly funny. This was some of the best comic staging I have seen in a good while. The actors were given great direction, and they ran with it.

What can you say about Zastrozzi? I have done this play. And watching them doing this play, I can say that they did a very good job with it. Because Zastrozzi is a very hard play to do right. There's something about it that doesn't ring true, and too often it is done by earnest young actors finding deep meaning in it (I was one of them). It's a fun play, with sword fights and sex and laughs and brutal violence. But it isn't an easy play.

A friend of mine heard me ruminating about this piece and did some research on it. Apparently it is based on a novel written by Percy B. Shelley when he was a teenager. Explains a lot about the angst in the piece, but doesn't explain what George F. Walker did with it. In his notes, George F. Walker does mention that he only had the time to do two drafts of the piece. It shows. Unfortunately, Zastrozzi became an iconic piece of Canadian Theatre before he had time to do a third draft. Too bad.

The actors took the parts and ran with. All of them did great jobs on a hard piece. Good work.

And now I am home, and back to editing. It was a good weekend.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Billy Bishop Goes to War

I'm here at Stratford, slightly drunk and happily stuffed, having just finished a wonderful dinner at Down the Street, after spending the afternoon watching West Side Story, which I will rave about tomorrow, because tonight I want to talk about a magnificent performance I saw on Tuesday: Billy Bishop Goes to War, featuring Eric Peterson and John Gray in the roles they originated 30 years ago.

My God, Eric Peterson can act, and the dynamic between John Gray and him on stage is incredible. They've been friends for 30 years, and it shows. John Gray's music and lyrics are as powerful now as when they were first written, and Eric Peterson has the ability to grab an audiences attention and hold it in a way that few actors can manage. Even when a cel phone went off in the audience, which can be a killer for a one man show, he managed to keep his cool, gently scold the audience member and get everyone else in the audience to check to make sure their phones were off, all without being mean, without losing his dignity, and without ever losing his hold on the audience.

Soulpepper has "Talkback Tuesdays," where the actors stay and talk to audience members who wish to ask questions. Wonderful idea - a great way to learn more about the show, the performers, and the concept behind it.

An interesting thing that was raised in the talkback, and that one saw in the performance, was the change of the nature of the show for the actors. When they were younger, it was a play about coming of age, and the horrors of war. Now, as both actors are the age Billy Bishop was when he died, the play for them has changed, taken on a new meaning as a story of survival.

Great play.

Tomorrow, I will rave about West Side Story. Tonight, I'm going to sleep.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Little Night Music

A great bit of fun from Old Man Luedecke, whose album Proof of Love won the Juno for best Roots album this year.

The man plays a mean banjo, and has a great turn of phrase in his lyrics. Enjoy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More on Social Media

This time, talking about websites, and I want to take a moment to say I am very annoyed at my inability to find a webs designer willing to take on the job of rebuilding my website for free.

Sigh. I'll just have to pay someone, then.

Anyway, and interesting article from SEOwizardy on the importance of making your website ready for social media. Very much sales oriented, so if you aren't selling things from your website, you probably won't be interested. On the other hand, if you're an author...

Anyway, enjoy. I'm going back to editing for the last 15 minutes before I go to bed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Social Media - A Cool Video

Think social media is a fad?

Socialnomics doesn't, and they've put together a cool video to convince you that social media is the next social revolution. Here it is:

Courtesy of my boss, who sent it around work.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Dinner with... well... Near Neil Gaiman

It was like having dinner with Neil Gaiman! Only he was sitting two tables away and talking to someone and I could only sit and watch casually because I didn't want to stare or do something crass like going over to interrupt him to start gushing about his work.

French-Canadian food. Great little restaurant and as soon as I remember the name, I'll put it in here.

But it was cool to see him! Wish I'd gotten to his signing, but I was running around like a mad creature pushing books and doing panels. Too bad. He seems like a neat guy, though he has a strange fascination with bees and bell jars.

So this is my six-day late-WorldCon wrap-up piece. Work has been busy as all get out and I've been too tired to do anything except edit a little bit and get to bed. Today, however, the house is mine, and I wanted to post about what an excellent time I had hanging out and going to panels and doing panels. It was all cool.

I spent a great deal of the convention hanging out at the Hades Publications table. Met Brian and Anita Hades, and had good talks with them. Excellent folks who run a fine publishing house (and I don't just say that because the publish Small Magics through their Dragon Moon Press imprint).

Also got to hang out with my soon-to-be editor Gabrielle Harbowy, who will be doing the edits on Cold Magics in the near future. Good woman, excellent editor, and fun to hang out with. She was also present during my dinner with near Neil Gaiman and can attest to the fact that he was two tables away and we didn't go over and act like idiots in front of him.

I didn't make it to any of the parties except the Tesseract book launch because exhaustion had its way with me. Work has been long and busy and home has been the same. Plus there's the writing which I need to finish ASAP.

The panels I attended were fun, and the ones that I was on were more so.

Panels I Attended: The Function of a Cover (sell books), Podcasting (get professional help), Elizabethans and fairies (didn't talk about fairies much, but lots about Elizabethans and magic).

Panels I was On:
Research and Writing (with Aliette de Bodard, Darlene Marshall, Mindy Klasky, S.M. Stirling -- ever feel like you're outclassed?). This was a great panel. The other panelists were extremely well-versed in the topic, and very well spoken. I discovered I was the moderator when I walked in the room, but managed to pull myself together to ask intelligent questions of the panelists and answer some of the audience questions fairly intelligently myself. Cannot say enough good things about this group and the audience we had. Thanks to everyone.

Also, met a woman from the audience who was the spitting image of someone with whom I went to high school. No relation at all, but a professor down in the USA (If you happen to read this, send me the name of your book [it was an academic study of on science fiction] I want to get a copy).

Martial Arts Primer for Writers (with Sean McMullen and Walter Jon Williams -- remember that outclassed thing I mentioned before? Here it is again!). This one was a hoot. Nothing like putting three martial artists on a panel and letting them go. Got put in an armbar by Sean, got to demonstrate some cloak and dagger fighting with help from an audience member's cloak, talked a whole bunch of martial arts and even managed to be occasionally on topic. Lots of fun.

I did two other panels: The Morning Workout with Birgit Houston on Saturday to which no one attended but myself and Birgit, who is a lovely woman and an excellent martial artist. And Fitness for Geeks with Nancy Louise Freeman (whose name I kept geting wrong. Sorry, Nancy!) which was all right, but under attended. Nancy was a great co-panelist and excellent to work with.

I was supposed to do another panel, but had to get on the highway instead.

And that's my time at Anticipation/WorldCon 2009. Great fun and maybe I'll get back to Anticipation next year, if I've got something to show (like a new book!)

UPDATE: The restuarant was the Restaurant Vallier. Great food. Try the halibut BLT (Yes, halibut. Welcome to Quebec). Thanks, Gabrielle!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday at WorldCon

Four things to carry when running in a strange city:
  1. Map
  2. Water
  3. Camera
  4. Taxi Money
Four things Erik didn't take with him while running this morning.
  1. Map
  2. Water
  3. Camera
  4. Taxi Money
Got to the promenade at Mt. Royal and saw the 7 a.m. light shining over the city. The river was flowing with white light, and the windows of the cars going over the bridge flashed silver as they headed into the city.

I tried to figure out where I was going from there, but couldn't and headed down the mountain. then I saw an interesting road. So I took it.

Erik's rule of running in a strange city: Never fall for the voice in your head that says "hey, what's over there?"

I fell for it. I ended up going through the McGill campus and then the restaurants of the student quarter. Saw nineteenth century tenements huddled together, their fantastical rooflines -- turrets and crenellations-- facing down the bland squareness of the 1970's high-rise apartments across the road. I saw the beautiful Parc de la Fontaine (if misspelled, I am sorry) and discovered I'd run about 4 km further than I intended and had to backtrack, get back, shave, shower, and rush rush rush to my 9 a.m. panel --- to which no one came.

Obviously I missed blogging on Friday. I was completely exhausted. But during the day I went to interesting panels on the importance of covers and podcasting SF/F, and ate shish tauk for lunch and went to the launch party for Tesseract 13 and heard six of the authors to read their stories. They are all amazing, I bought it, and I am adding it to the "must read" stack.

There were a dozen parties happening Friday night, and a hundred good restaurants near the convention. And I went back to my room, dumped my stuff, got pizza and a salad from the restaurant in the food court near my hotel read most of Sojourn by Jana G. Oliver which I cannot say enough good things about, and went to sleep early.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

And I'm here!

At WorldCon, having a blast. Went by the Hades publishing table (who publish Edge, Dragon Moon and Tesseract) signed three copies of my book that were sold while I was there, and met the folks in charge.

Going to be going to bed soon. Will post pictures tomorrow, if I can manage to download them, and will wax eloquent about how wonderful the signings for Small Magics went. I have two of them. One in the autographs area in the morning, one at the Hades Publishing table in the afternoon.

--Oh yeah, and I'm doing an interview for a podcast tomorrow!

Talk to you later!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Truer words were never spoken...

From Tate Hallaway at Wyrdsmiths:

You know what I hate about being a writer? Writing.

Good Tips of Being on a Panel

Five days until I arrive at Anticipation (AKA WorldCon 2009), and I am prepping for my panels and getting my materials together. I'm getting all sorts of excited, first because it's WorldCon, which is going to be huge and great fun, but because it's Montreal, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada.

Meanwhile, my friend and editor-in-chief, Gabrielle Harbowy, is writing clever things on her blog about what to do as a panelist at a convention. It's a good little list and one that I will try to remember and no doubt forget and I wander around, enjoying the whole thing.

Look forward to seeing folks there. Now, I'm going to go do some of that editing on Cold Magics that I'm so far behind on.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Language Lessons....

I have to admit to never wondering about why the "i" in the word "I" is capitalized. It was just something that one does. Over at the New York Times, however, someone has wondered and written a whole article explaining things right here.

It's an interesting read, for those interested in such things, which includes me.

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