Jack’s Walk

Here’s Jack to remind us that winter doesn’t last forever, even if it feels like it does. ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today you get just the photo of Jack, no story. That’s because I’m off on a bus trip to the big city of Toronto to see the play, Anastasia. I’m going with my friend Jane who took me to Russia in 2017. We toured the royal palaces when we were in St. Petersburg and saw many original dresses and suits from the period, so we’re both looking forward to seeing the sets and costumes. We also visited the graves of the Romanov family, and we’re both pretty curious to see how the story of the Russian Revolution and the execution of the entire Romanov family are handled in musical theatre. I  hope there aren’t too many dirges. Neither of us has seen the 20th Century Fox animated version of Anastasia, so we have no preconceived notions about what to expect.

I’ll let you know all about it tomorrow. In the meantime, Jack is home with his daddy, probably sitting in front of the fire and totally not contemplating political anarchy, revolution, nor the slaughter of an entire dynastic royal family.

Theatre Project, part 3 – Stonemasonry Heritage

This is the last part of Nightjar’s series on her work with a local theatre company’s most recent play. I’ve enjoyed this series immensely. Nightjar has carefully chosen photographs that bring the play to life even for those of us who were not able to attend and her processing in antique tones lends an authentic feel to the material. I think she’s done an outstanding job helping to bring the script to life and I have no doubt that the troupe will call on her again. Thank you so much for sharing, Nightjar.

In the last part of the series Nightjar has focused in closely on the beautiful details of life that we see, but don’t see, everyday. I’ll let Nightjar explain.


photo 1, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

For the last part of this series I selected another of my favourite scenes. This may actually be my favourite part of the whole play. The audience is just strolling along one of the main streets in the center of the village when suddenly they hear the sound of a handbell. That makes them stop and notice it’s coming from the door of an old abandoned house. Sure enough, there’s someone in there.


Photo 2, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

It’s a stonemason, carrying his set of tools. He has questions. What’s a window? Could it be more than just a hole in the wall to let air and light in?


Photo 3, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

We are a limestone region and stonemasonry is an old tradition. That doorjamb you see in the first photo was sculpted with these tools. There’s a diary in the tool basket, the diary of a stonemason. He picks it up and goes inside the house, leaving the tools near the audience.

Photo 4, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

The audience’s attention is drawn to the house’s first floor and to its beautifully crafted window. That’s the work of a talented stonemason without a doubt. The man reads a piece of his diary from there. He has a few thoughts to share on what windows mean to him.

A lot of people later admitted to us that they had never looked up to notice that window. And that the answer to the question they started with (see Part 1) was indeed “yes”: this place could still surprise and move them.

And that’s it for now. I enjoyed this exercise in non-nature photography a lot more than I expected.

Outdoor Theatre Project, part 2 – Streets, Houses, Families

I really like the idea of outdoor theatre where the audience moves from scene to scene and becomes a part of the play itself. In part 2 of the series, Nightjar’s photos are done in black, white and sepia tones and have an antiquated feel to them in keeping with the play. I’ll let Nightjar explain the artistic choices behind each photo:


Photo 1, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

This is one of the most dynamic and beautiful scenes and took place in an old and narrow street filled with props, although the public can’t see everything right away because of all the hanged clothes blocking their vision.


photo 2, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

White clothes and wooden clothespins gave the street a properly antique look. Plastic just wouldn’t have worked.


photo 3, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Not an actor and not part of the crew. Originally. I took this photo before one of the rehearsals, and I was convinced the public would scare the cats away. That was not the case. They even showed up in my recording of this scene, running along in front of the actress. Well, the scene is about houses and streets, I guess the cats concluded it could be about them as well.


photo 4, ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

Near the end of the street things get a bit more personal as you can see. Families are remembered and everyone gets a good laugh when we get to a list of family nicknames. Me, I am somehow still from the “pinenuts” family. I do not however belong to the “vinegars”, “onions” or “garlics”, definitely not to the “howevers”, “glories” or “fourteens”. I will admit to a bit of “turnip” blood and the “mouths” are still my distant cousins. I think for most of these silly nicknames no one has any idea how they came about, just that they have passed from generation to generation and when put together whole sentences can be made out of them.


An Invitation to Walk and Dance

Nightjar was recently responsible for taking the photographs of a play put on by a local theatre group. The pictures are a departure from Nightjar’s usual style of photography and I think they’re fabulous. They’re storytelling photos that give a real sense of the mood and setting for the play. We’ll be sharing them over the next 3 days and I know you’ll enjoy them, too. I’ll let Nightjar take it from here:

As you may know I was recently responsible for the photography of a theatre play created by the local amateur theatre group. I will not be sharing photos of the actors, but I’ve selected 12 other photos to give you all a taste of what it was like! I divided them in three parts and added some context. I hope you enjoy!


Part 1 – An Invite to Walk and to Dance

The play starts in the village’s fountain with a short scene where the public is invited to walk along streets they walk along everyday. The actress is barefoot through most of the scene and walks the shoes you see here with her hands. She introduces five guides and tells the audience which one to follow. Each group will walk down a different path, but they will all see the same scenes (just in a different order). Before leaving the public is left with a question… can this familiar place still surprise or move us?

(photo 1)  ©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Opening Night

The Silver Streaks in The Dusty Disco Ball by Kim Watson

Two years ago I joined a senior acting troupe called The Silver Streaks. It’s a small group connected to a local theater and we put on 2 or 3 plays a year. I did local theater when I was young, but had quite forgotten how difficult it can be. Acting looks so easy. Learn your lines and away you go, but there’s so much more to it. You need to create a character that people can connect with and then you need to sell that character to an audience. You don’t just learn your own lines, you have to learn everyone else’s too, because someone will inevitably forget something and you need to be able to cue or pick up the missing bit. Timing is critical and requires hours of practice. You need to know where your marks are on stage and how and when to get there. You need to remember to always keep one foot facing forward and to project your voice. Regular volume just won’t work. You need to know how to improvise if a prop is out of place or missing. Most of all you need to know how to connect to your audience and make them feel a part of what’s happening.

Our current play is called The Dusty Disco Ball and last night was opening night. I play an aging Disco Queen who haunts a woman’s dreams and it’s a fun play with lots of physical comedy and quick timing. Our audience was small last night and there were a few lost lines and prop failures. Our bed fell apart and I tripped on it, music cues came too early and our choreography didn’t quite come together. Oh well, that’s life as an actor. The trick is to make it look like all of it was planned and I think we managed to pull that off. The audience was with us all the way and there was lots of laughter. Tonight will likely be smoother, but if not we’ll find a way to make it work.

That photo is of all the actors. Missing is our writer/director and backstage crew of two. For now, I’m going to let you guess which one is me, but I promise I’ll give you the answer soon.

Faust 3: The Turd Coming, or The Fart of the Deal.

Aidan O’Shea, Regina Strayhorn, Ayun Halliday, and Ben Watts in Faust 3: The Turd Coming, or The Fart of the Deal (all photos by Jonathan Slaff).

We do not live in a time of subtlety. If you need evidence, take a look at the news. Shaded, nuanced criticism of President Donald Trump would sound like a whisper next to a tornado. It was refreshing, then, to see a play that dispenses with elegant critique of the president in favor of a gloves-off battery. Faust 3: The Turd Coming, or The Fart of the Deal combats Trump’s logorrhea of vulgarities with its own. Trump is never actually named in the script, but the title alone tells you who it’s about, and the text gives plenty of indications. It is replete with scatological jokes; the story tells of a society that makes a Faustian pact to choose a king who will supposedly better their lives, but then shits on all of his subjects. Having made this deal, the citizens are forced not only to live under the shitty reign (and rain) of this despot, but also to pretend they love it, even as the king ends the world in nuclear war. To describe this play as a scathing satire of Trump would be putting it mildly.


In addition to adopting the rhetorical position of Biblical prophecy, it also plays with Biblical material in clever ways. Jesus’s lines from the Gospels are articulated as ironically inverted versions that resemble Trump’s likely misinterpretations of them, such as: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall save it, and whosoever shall lose his life is a loser and deserves it.”


The piece is not subtle, and that’s probably fitting. When the president of the United States of America has condoned sexual assault, has publicly said that he would date his own daughter were they not related, has boasted about the size of his penis during a debate, and has both said and tweet-spewed other horrors too numerous to name here (I won’t even go into policy), comparing him to Caligula and Nero doesn’t seem so far-fetched. A play like this would have been too heavy-handed if it were directed at any other recent president, but these days, the rules of public discourse seem to have been thrown out. Now is not the time for art to play nice.

Performances of Faust 3: The Turd Coming, or The Fart of the Deal continue through June 26 at Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, Greenwich Village, Manhattan).

John Sherer’s full review is at Hyperallergic, and well worth reading.