I’m very excited to share the news of my upcoming sci-fi musical comedy, “Gee Willikers, SPACE!”. It’s an original production that’s full of laughs, and great, catchy songs! I hope you can help make it a smashing success by coming out to see it during its May 6-11 run here in Vancouver!
The tone is “Mad Magazine meets Star Trek”, a tongue-in-cheek take on classic 50′s B-Movie sci-fi. Considering this is a low-budget production, the writer-producers, Katherine Stadel and Toni Maggio, have harboured some high-powered talent to bring their vision to life. Some fantastic sets and costumes are being prepared that will transport the audience into a fantastic world of retro-futuristic fantasy!
The show is being performed at Renegade Studios, a hidden gem comprising dozens of rehearsal studios and three large theatre production studios, one of which is where GWS will be presented.
Map to Renegade Studios. Note that entrance to the show is from the alley – there will also be signs to guide you.
It’s an unfortunate truism that the older one gets, the less remarkable becomes the news of the death of a well-known public figure. Still, hearing of the passing of Roger Ebert struck me with far more sadness than usual. He was one of those people for whom I had a true fondness and respect. I shared his love of movies, of course. But he and Gene Siskel were probably my first real introduction to the art of movie reviewing and analysis, and helped in part with the development of my own critical thinking on the subject.
My appreciation for Ebert went all the way back to “Sneak Previews”. I recall fondly watching this, their first nationally broadcast show. Each week, there was the jaunty whistling theme, the montage of movie marquees and a bustling old-fashioned ticket booth, and then Roger and Gene debating the merits of the week’s releases. It was a weekly ritual that I always looked forward to and rarely missed. It was also, at the time, one of the few places to see clips of the new releases, so it felt extra-special.
Ebert himself presented an affable figure, a more easygoing persona in contrast to his TV partner (and newspaper arch-rival) Siskel, who had a more acerbic and less-forgiving approach. (I did always feel that Ebert was the one went a little too easy on a lot of films, but in retrospect I think I share his more forgiving approach to criticism.) The contrast was perfectly matched, both in temperament and physical appearance, and it made for great entertainment.
As Siskel and Ebert gained more and more success, they also seemed to move on to new distributors and newly-titled versions of their show. Each time they did, I noticed that the show they left behind always continued with other hosts, so by the time they’d gone from “Sneak Previews” to “At the Movies” to the somewhat oddly-titled “Siskel and Ebert and the Movies”, they’d left a trail of movie-review shows in their wake. And why not – it was a great format. But the originators were always the best, and the only ones I watched faithfully week in and week out.
Thinking of those years now, they seem so long ago, and I’m reminded yet again of the impermanence of life, and that the most vital and immediate pleasures can all too soon become wistful memories.
It already felt like the end of an era with Gene Siskel’s passing a few years ago, and Ebert himself undergoing a startling physical transformation due to his own battles with illness. But he was also an inspiration, as he refused to let those barriers keep him from doing what he loved – writing about movies, and increasingly as he inhabited the blogosphere, other topics as well. He seemed to defy his physical limitations as he maintained his presence as a writer, commentator, and even the host of Ebertfest, an annual film festival.
That determination and energy he continued to show online made it even more of a shock than it should have been to learn of his death. Only two days before, he’d posted his “leave of presence“, telling of the discovery of a new cancer and his reducing his workload for a while – and yet, he accompanied this news with so many plans for the future that the net effect was remarkably positive. But a mere two days later, it became his final blog post.
So, like so many others, I will truly miss Roger Ebert and his unique, well-considered opinions. My only slight consolation is that there are so many of his past reviews and writing I have yet to enjoy. There’s his many books, one of which I’ve already enjoyed and many more still to read. And thanks to RogerEbert.com website, newly revised and relaunched, I’ll be able to continue to read his reviews for a long time to come. Plus, the fan site SiskelAndEbert.org has archived videos of the old shows – going back to the first one. It’s a great, if melancholy, trip down memory lane.
So, thanks to all of that, the balcony will in some sense remain open for a long time to come.
For about six years now on and off, I’ve attended Shea Hampton’s acting class here in Vancouver. And while everyone’s experience and preferences are of course different, I’ve come to believe that she truly is the best acting coach in the city.
I can certainly compare her methods to at least a few other approaches I’ve seen, going back to the days when I’d first branched out from my community chorus to do some community theatre at the Burnaby Village Museum. I soon realized that I’d better get some kind of formal training, as winging it the way I’d done to that point simply wasn’t going to cut it!
I signed up at the William Davis Centre, where I was exposed to a cross-section of instructors and techniques. At that point, simply studying acting in a formal way brought many revelations. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the process of “studying” acting was, essentially, inseparable from studying life. And becoming a better actor was about becoming a better listener and communicator – skills that obviously are of great value beyond the stage.
But – along with some wonderful teachers and techniques – I also found some approaches that very much rubbed me the wrong way. Without naming anyone, I can just say that a process whereby one was to throw oneself into imaginings of own most deeply traumatic experiences, or imagining them, and where one commenced preparation by staring straight into one’s partner’s eyes to the point of discomfort, had me feeling resentful and almost misused.
Eventually I moved on to work with Michael Bean, whose improv-based approach was an eye-opener. Still, the time came when it was apparent that what he offered wasn’t quite right for my needs at the time. He recommended Shea Hampton.
It was the best suggestion I’ve ever been given.
I found Shea’s approach to be a perfect combination of on the one hand, a common-sense practicality, tuned to the needs and requirements of film acting, and on the other hand an almost intuitive insight into the blocks and evasions – manifesting themselves as physical or vocal tics or patterns – that are preventing her students from reaching their full potential.
She zeroes in on the simple essentials – to listen and to feel and react honestly. Simple in theory, yes, but not so simple to achieve in practice. But with Shea focusing in on you, sensing what’s going on under the surface as you play out a scene with your partner, sometimes barking out a relevant direction right in the middle of it, occasionally even marching right up behind you and adjusting your posture to relieve you of physical blocks – gradually, you get closer and closer to achieving that “simple” goal.
While her approach follows a strict framework or approach, and she rightly demands an atmosphere of respect for the process and one’s fellow actors, there is no shortage of laughter and levity in a typical evening’s class. Her slightly barbed British wit is readily applied both to her students and herself. The end result is an atmosphere of genuine affection and camaraderie.
I’ve seen for myself how effective this process can be, with many of her students moving miles ahead in their skills. And booking work!
For myself, having returned to Shea’s class after a two-year hiatus (ending just before Max was born), I’m getting wonderful feedback that I’m stronger than I ever was before, more calm, more focused and just better all around. And even though these advances seemed to happen while I was away from class, I’m sure that it’s a matter of my having simply continued to move forward on the path that Shea set out for me.
So, if you’re just starting out on the actor’s path, or you’re looking for someone to help hone and refine your skills, I firmly believe you should at least audit one of Shea Hampton’s classes. But first, if you like, have a look at her new website, where you can read in more depth about her approach, and also check out some glowing testimonials from some very successful names in the entertainment world. And once you’ve seen her in person, I think you’ll agree with me that she truly provides the best acting lessons in Vancouver.
Since discovering the Vancouver Ukulele Circle last December, I’ve looked forward with anticipation and a little trepidation to stepping up and performing there myself. I could tell that if I was ever going to do it, this was the place – the atmosphere was so welcoming, and beginners alternated with more seasoned players. So, in February, up I went. I picked a song that was simple to play but that I felt would be a funny surprise, and which I could wrap a good anecdote around by way of introducing it. Yes, I’m talking about the theme from Max’s favourite Netflix show, “Mighty Machines”. It would be half stand-up and half song, really. And it went very well! The comedy opening got the crowd with me right away. Musically, there was a moment of tuning trouble, and one mangled chord, but then I hit my stride and it was smooth sailing from there on in.
It helped knowing that, at the VUC, first-time performers are always given a standing ovation!
With that, I was hooked. So this month, I stepped up again, this time with a witty new wave classic I’ve always loved – “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” by Joe Jackson. More just a song than a monologue this time. And again, it seemed to go over really well – I didn’t expect so much enthusiastic singing along!
Oh, and this time I was rockin’ the red herringbone vintage sport jacket – for which I received many compliments. Not sure if they were meant ironically.
I plan to keep performing as long as they’ll keep letting me, so if you want to check it out, come on down to Our Town Café the third Tuesday of the month. (But be warned, early arrival is essential if you want to get a seat!)
Folks may grumble about Hollywood repeating itself, but here’s one sequel you’re bound to enjoy! A year in the filming, weeks in the editing, a brisk 15 or so minutes in the watching… it’s a carefully-crafted compendium of our little guy’s most memorable, meaningful – and mirthful – moments as he made the journey from baby to toddling, talking toddler. Most of it is never-before-seen footage. Hope you like it!
Hi all! As you may have heard, I got cast in Rock Theatre Co.’s upcoming production of “Gee Willikers, SPACE!” – an original and hilarious musical sci-fi adventure. Naturally, I hope you’ll be able to come and enjoy the hilarity when it hits the stage May 6-12.
Don’t let the word “invest” worry you, I’m not asking for Daddy Warbucks-type amounts here. I’m just hoping to get, say, ten people to pitch $10 in… that means an additional $1000 to help in construction of sets and to offset costs of space rental. That’s right, both a convincing outer space and an affordable theatre space will both be helped by a successful fundraising effort!
Note that there are some great perks associated with the various levels of donation: ranging from your name in the program (thus verifiable status as a “Patron of the Arts”) all the way up to signed posters, free drinks, tickets, and even an Associate Producer credit for the most very generous.
So, I humbly ask you to dig deep into your space-wallets and help make “GWS” the best, shiniest, most financially solvent show it can be!
In closing I should say that this will be my only direct pitch for funds, there’s no pressure, and no need to even reply if you can’t contribute. Though I still hope to see you in May, of course, as Captains Kybosh and Salvo explore the galaxy in search of the miracle space-mineral, MAGNORIOUS!