This week it certainly feels like love is in the air – but then again, so is art. It doesn’t matter if you’re madly in love, loving being single or somewhere in between, there’s no better time to have an infatuation with all things creative. Check it out in this week’s Round Up.

Everyday Beauty Takes the Stage

It doesn’t really look like my bedroom. Lora Brovold, Coralie Cairns, Dave Brindle, Mikaela Cochrane and Declan O’Reilly star in Circle Mirror Transformation running this week at Sage Theatre.
Photo by Amy Jo Espetveidt, Quadrophonic Image

One of the hottest playwrights around is Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Baker. With her plays receiving all sorts of accolades, captivating voice and moving, realistic characterizations, it’s no wonder why.

And one of her pieces, the Obie Award winning comedy Circle Mirror Transformation, is currently hitting the stage with Sage Theatre, making it one you won’t want to miss.

A co-production with Edmonton’s Shadow Theatre, the play centres around a group of four New Englanders and their instructor, Marty, as they embark on a six-week drama class at the local community centre. Using a backdrop of theatre games – the very real characters learn more about themselves and their hearts with each passing class.

“Calgarians will see pieces of themselves, their neighbours, friends and family, reflected in these engagingly funny and accessible characters,” says Sage Artistic Director Jason Mehmel. “Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation is about average, relatable people as they experience life — its hardships and its humour—propelling them to grow and change in subtle or significant ways. And we have a front-row seat to laugh and sympathize and experience those transformations with them, and to perhaps be transformed ourselves.”

The piece boasts a strong cast, among them fresh-faced local actor Mikaela Cochrane who plays Lauren.

“It’s very exciting for me. This is my first, I guess, professional theatre gig in a while and my first legit feeling one,” she explains. I’ve seen many plays in this space. I’ve seen many Sage plays, many Vertigo plays, so it’s kind of surreal for me as a young actor to have this being kind of my professional debut.”

Fellow Calgarian Declan O’Reilly is equally excited to be part of this production. After taking a recent acting hiatus, Declan has returned to Alberta and picked up a few notable roles as of late including Schultz in Circle Mirror Transformation.

“Very excited to perform in this space,” he says. “Like Mikaela, I’ve seen a lot of great shows in this particular building. So it’s nice to come back and very excited to do it in front of a Calgary crowd. A lot of us have friends and family and other colleagues that are chomping at the bit to see our work.”

And because the actors feel such an affinity with the piece, the characters they are portraying feel even more real. Like you’re eavesdropping on a real class full of real people with real problems making it uniquely vulnerable and moving.

“It’s funny because the first day of rehearsal, John Hudson, our wonderful director, made a comment and he said this play is N.A.R – No Acting Required,” jokes Declan. “It’s so well written and it’s such a personal piece. I think John’s done such a wonderful job in casting everybody that we’ve all kind of had that affinity with our characters. It’s very close to home. I think it’s quite wonderful to play it. It’s exciting and it’s scary too. You’re really showing a lot of your weak spots. The characters really open up and become quite vulnerable.”

“It’s not so much the theatrical elements that are close to home but the humanity,” continues Mikaela. “You’re playing real people and time and time again those real people are you or someone you know and they’re real experiences, real feelings you’ve had or are experiences now. That’s part of it is what’s close to home and it’s the theatre games that bring those personal pieces out that you wouldn’t necessarily share.”

Circle Mirror Transformation runs until February 14 at the Studio in Vertigo Theatre (161 – 115, 9 Avenue SE).

Set the Mood with Spark and Sizzle

Spark and Sizzle are ready to spice up your Valentines Day with their remount of Best of Venue winner at the 2014 Calgary International Fringe Festival –The Sama Kutra.
Photo courtesy of Dead Pigeon Productions

Clowns and sex. Sex and clowns. Throw in a heart shaped bed, some kinky toys and well…

They don’t exactly go together like peas in a pod but trust me; you’re in for a laugh riot with the subversive, naughty and, oh so funny, production of The Sama Kutra.

After years of marriage Sizzle and Spark Fandango are desperate to infuse some passion into their wilting relationship. When a mysterious and ancient book – The Sama Kutra – appears, the two blunder their way through a night of ridiculous erotic antics and kinky desires all in the attempt to rekindle their passions.

“It’s 50 Shades of Grey meets Cirque Du Soleil,” jokes co-creator Jacqueline Russell.

After a hugely successful run at the Calgary International Fringe Fest last summer, Jacqueline and Jed Tomlinson are ready to slap on the greasepaint and get naughty once again with this remount just in time for Valentines Day.

“It’s so much fun to be working together again. We are planning to tour the show across the country next summer, so this has been a great opportunity to get it back on it’s feet and fix things that we didn’t have time to during the whirlwind of last summer,” she says. “We just did a three show run in Okotoks and audiences there loved it. So I think our next move is to figure out how to tour it to small towns in Alberta.”

And if you see a bit of infamous and seminal clown duo Mump and Smoot in Jacqueline and Jed’s personas of Spark and Sizzle, well, that’s no coincidence.

“Jed and I took a clown duo workshop together in the summer of 2013 at the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance. It was taught by John Turner and Michael Kennard (Mump and Smoot),” explains Jacqueline. “After our initial 10 minute piece we realized that we have great on stage chemistry together and that we wanted to create a full length show. Having Mike Kennard come on board to direct was an incredible gift, because he pushed us to face our fears and create a really honest show.”

The show, with its bedroom antics, sidesplitting audience participation and a sweet, but still naughty, side makes it a perfect match for Valentines Day.

“We figured it was a good tie in. The show is great for anybody on a date or couples who have been married for a long time. But it is equally good for the lonely hearts of the world. It’s a celebration of love in all it’s forms really,” she says.

And if you were lucky enough to catch it at one of the Fringe festivals last year, check it out again.

“We are clowns, so no two shows are ever exactly the same. We feed so much off of the conversation with the audience. And the show changes a little bit every time we do it.”

The Sama Kutra runs February 11 to 14 at the Lunchbox Theatre (160 – 115 9 Avenue SE).

Back by Popular demand: Cry Havoc Returns

Get ready for a night filled with swords flying and fists crunching as you flinch and gasp and laugh out loud. Scorpio Theatre presents Cry Havoc 3 – a balls to the wall theatre experience unlike any other – opening this Friday, February 13 at the Pumphouse.
Photo by Citrus Photography courtesy of Scorpio Theatre

Now if you’re not so much into the lovey-dovey side of Valentines but the thought of tightly choreographed, adrenaline pumping, chill inducing fight scenes gets your attention, Scorpio Theatre has the ticket for you.

Cry Havoc 3 makes its stage debut this week and regardless of if you saw the first two installments of Cry Havoc, the vignettes filled with choreography tighter than any dance sequence, will have you at the edge of your seats. The audience, although perfectly safe, will be within arm’s reach of something very dangerous and very awesome.

“The first Cry Havoc debuted in 2008 and was something of an accident,” explains Scorpio Theatre’s Artistic Director  Aaron Conrad. “We had been on a waiting list to get a performance slot in the Pumphouse. We had a show already in active rehearsal for another theatre when we got a call from the Pumphouse telling us that they had a slot open. We could either take the slot, or it would go to the next company on the list and who knows when another one would become available.

“Facing the prospect of losing our shot at the prestigious slot we set about the very daunting task of trying to stage two productions at the same time which would run opposite each other,” he continues. “Thus Cry Havoc was born. We had one weekend to grab a few actors, raid the company armoury and set about writing some shorts scripts that we could throw together into a showcase style show. At the time I think it was really just a placeholder to secure the slot. We didn’t want to completely phone it in and we knew that Cry Havoc was going make a great audience experience but I don’t anyone, not even myself, was prepared for the kind of reactions we got. People absolutely loved it.”

After three years of being asked when they were going to do another, they set about making Cry Havoc 2 – albeit with a bit more refinement, a director and auctions. And again the response was overwhelming.

“As Scorpio has really come of age in the last few years I couldn’t think of a better way to highlight that growth and maturity than by mounting the third installment of Cry Havoc to show everyone exactly what we’ve got,” says Aaron. “This show is by far the most ambitious of the three. The fighters went through months of intense training before rehearsals even began. There are more scenes, crafted by our own in house writer’ room, bigger, more exciting fights with weapons both exotic and familiar. We’ve brought in guest directors and choreographers to ensure that the fights and the scenes each hold their own and don’t repeat each other. Our hope is that this will be the biggest and best Cry Havoc yet and that it will really demonstrate just how far the company has come.”

So, now old fans of the franchise can expect to see everything they’ve loved previously with a bit of added heat explains Aaron.

“Bigger, faster, harder. That’s kind of become our motto in the studio. There are even a few throwbacks that loyal fans will recognize from previous iterations,” he says. “For people who are new to the franchise, there is plenty to offer as well. The stories are self-contained and whether the premise is comedic, dramatic or downright strange you can be sure to see something happen on stage that you’ve never encountered before.

“I think anyone who has ever attended live theatre will be thrilled by the demonstration of exactly what’s possible in this field. Stage combat is an evolving art and we’re really striving to show the state of that art as it exists today trying to compete with the standard audience expectations that have been developed by film and television action. The two can be a lot more comparable than most people recognize.”

And as for those unsure of a night at the theatre, Aaron says come out and see an experience you’ll never find anywhere else.

“This is high octane, action based entertainment which is a genre that is so rarely expressed in live performance and we’re truly hopeful that people will look at what we’ve done and say theatre can be like that. It doesn’t have to always be dry and harrowing and esoteric the way my high school English teachers presented it,” he says. “You’re in the room while swords fly and fists crunch sharing an incredible experience with an audience full of people who will flinch and gasp and laugh out loud with you. Whether it’s your first live performance or your hundredth I can promise you’ll walk out of the theatre asking yourself, What will they think of next?”

Cry Havoc 3 runs February 13 to 21 at Pumphouse Theatres (2140 Pumphouse Ave SW).

Arts Out and About

Find something that tickles your fancy? No. Well, there’s more…

More laughs are being served up with The Late Late Breakfast Show and their presentation of Glazed & Confused: A Sketch Comedy Show.

This week join the sketch comedy troupe as they bring forth their Valentines’ musical comedy filled with both scripted and improvised elements that can end up being sweet, saucy, and yes, sometimes gross. Cast members include Ayla Stephen, Dan Perry, Patrick Quinn, Meg Farhall, Jenny Kost, Amos Altman, Mat Glessing, Justin Michael Carriere and Cari Russell.

Glazed & Confused runs nightly at 8pm from February 12 to 14 with an additional 10:30pm late show on Friday, February 13. It all happens at Birds & Stone Theatre (204 16 Ave NW) and tickets are only $15. Details here.

If you are in the mood for some classical romance then you need to check out the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and their presentation of Mozart and Schumann.

Mozart’s elegant Sinfonia Concertante, Schumann’s romantic Third Symphony and Chaminade’s sumptuous Flute Concertino are weaved together by esteemed CPO alumnus, conductor Hans Graf presides, for a concert celebrating the sparkling talents of five CPO Principal soloists.

Performances take place at 8pm on Friday, February 13 and Saturday, February 14 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. Details here.

Photo lovers also have a bunch of goodies to choose from with the continuation of the Exposure Photography Festival.

But perhaps one of the hottest tickets of the week is a very special In Conversation with award-winning photographer Geoffrey James on February 13 at the Glenbow Museum.

James will be discussing his exhibition, Inside Kingston Penitentiary – opening February 14 at Glenbow as part of the Exposure Photography Festival – and will be joined by author and former Kingston Penitentiary inmate Stephen Reid.

A reception and exhibition viewing will follow the presentation.

In Conversation takes place this Friday, February 13 at 7pm at the Glenbow Theatre. Tickets are $10 for members or $12 general. Details here.

And you also might want to check out the opening of Blind Spot at Alberta College of Art + Design’s Main Mall (1407 – 14 Avenue NW).

This group exhibition is presented by the Photography Students and showcases wide array of practices, styles and material experimentation

Blind Spot opens this Friday, February 13 from 5pm to 9pm and runs until February 20. Details here.

For film fans, Calgary Cinematheque continues their Contemporary World Cinema series with The Tribe.

One of the year’s most provocative films, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s feature debut is truly original, illuminating the world of the deaf without the use of dialogue or subtitles.

The Tribe shows this Thursday, February 12 at 7pm at The Plaza Theatre. Tickets are $12 general, $10 for members, students and seniors. Details here.

And last, but certainly not least, the City of Calgary Public Art Program wants to hear from you about the Seton Recreation Facility.

Specifically, they want to know about birds.

The City of Calgary Public Art Program and the Community Services and Protective Services Department have commissioned artist Donald Lipski to create artwork for the new southeast Seton recreation facility (18150 56 St SE), is scheduled to open in 2018.

Donald wants to bring nature indoors in a fanciful way and wants to learn more about what your choice of species should be portrayed. So he’s set up a survey and he really wants to hear from you.

“I’ve been to Calgary several times in the last few years, and see it as a wonderful, dynamic city. I’ll be thrilled to play a small role in your cultural landscape,” he explains in a statement. “What you are building here at Seton is fantastic. It is truly a facility for everybody—from toddlers to seniors, from beginners to accomplished athletes. It will be a place to play, to learn, to exercise, to socialize, to watch a play or event, to just have fun. I’m sure it will become a hub of the community. Your building will be wonderful—light, open, readable, intuitive. The facilities will be amazing. It’s so comprehensive. There will be a strong, open relationship between sports, recreation and culture. I can’t wait to get started.”

Head here for all the details and a link for the survey.

Do you have something awesome coming up and want to be part of the Calgary Arts Round Up? Drop me a line at amy @ calgaryisawesome.com!

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