Friday, October 21, 2011


Orlando, Montreal, London, Regina, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria, Vancouver. Have I left anything out there? No. Nine festivals, three shows (including my part in Rupert Wates wonderful musical revue). Almost six months on the road.

The new cabaret piece - '33, (a kabarett) was a challenge to perform. My pitch line finally for it distilled down to 'Imagine Stephen Harper orders the Homeland Security forces to shoot the cast of Glee through the back of the head. Well, my job is to come on stage, clear up the bodies and sing songs about them.' Only, of course, this event is set (more or less) in 1933 and it really did happen that way.

I was delighted with the response. It was a challenge to mount such a dark show at the Fringe, where comedy kills, and I was inspired by the audiences who came along for the ride.

It wasn't an easy ride - I played to crowds of 3 and 4 at the Montreal Fringe, and at each festival I would enter with small crowds and then watch it slowly build. But at the last festival, the show sold out most of it's performances in a huge venue at the Edmonton Fringe. It was honestly humbling to perform the work for all these people.

'33 was inspired by a single song. 'Unsrer Shtetle Brent', by Mordecai Geburtig. The song was written to commemorate the destruction of a village in Poland. Mordecai Geburtig was killed several years later when he refused to leave his village. He wrote that he wanted that song to become a song of universal resistance to oppression and injustice, not just a song about that particular incident. When I wrote the show I thought about what my 'village' was, and the stage and the people on it came to the fore. So the show is about a man mourning his friends fate and determining to carry on regardless.

I also remounted my old show 'Whiskey Bars', a show built around the songs of Kurt Weill, and took that to three festivals.

I've been playing that show for almost 10 years now in various forms and it was great to see how well it works. We sold out 8 shows in a row at the Winnipeg Festival, and got a 'Best of Fest' award there, and again at the Victoria Festival.

I think though that this might be it's last time out in this format. It's time to shake it up. So I think it's next emergence into the world will involve a reworking and rethinking of the show.

The rethink is partly inspired by a vast screw up on my part. On opening night in Vancouver, with a sold out show, and with 15 minutes to go before the show, I realized I had forgotten my costume (formal tuxedo with tailcoat). And the show is basically built around me getting dressing into said Tuxedo. I freaked out and while I was running around panicking a good friend rushed into the performers green room and asked if anyone had any kind of formal wear.

A wonderful Australian performer (who goes by the name of The Birdmann) handed over his ancient tux coat and the skinny black jeans he wears on stage. They made it to me with enough time to be laid out on stage before the audience arrived. So I went on stage with a costume that I had never tried on. And that might have been one of the best shows of the summer. The ancient threadbare costume inspired comments afterwards from patrons who read a whole story into their quality and my 'inspired choice' in wearing that outfit....

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