Tag Archives: theatre

Digital transience and the importance of purging our fear

January has undone me and not in a good way. It was like a guest that shows up to find you just stepped out of the shower. I wasn’t ready. It took me along in a sea of to-do’s not listening to my early morning groans from beneath the covers. I’ve valiantly fought my way back into the normal flow of day-to-day but made a silent oath to myself to see more theatre, music, and hear poets and storytellers–live and in person in 2014.

Aristotle said that purging an audience of pity and fear is in essence a critical duty of the theatre to keep a society civil. What he meant was, purge the big emotions in the theatre and they’re less likely to be re-enacted out in the streets.  I agree with him but add that it is not only a functional purpose but a spiritual one. Not in the sense of religion but in the sense of one’s soul, nourishment of one’s own silent place, contemplative moment, solace. In a world of digital transience, it is important we don’t lose touch with literature, theatre and music performed in real-time in front of us. Sometimes these things are more work to attend. We might have to put on our coats and buy tickets, pay for parking and find a seat and pay attention–wait for it–without checking our iPhones for several hours.

We have to listen.

I saw a lovely production on Saturday of Chekhov’s The Seagull put on by the UBC Theatre and throughout the performance I was struck at the words and the timelessness of the messages subtly woven into the play. Great artists tap into universal truths that never really go away. In a world moving as fast as it is, listening to a piano concerto or seeing a play sharpens our senses, ignites our imaginations and demands we stop our own inner daily chatter and open ourselves up to the artists’ story world. Therein we are changed.

This is a unique experience I think specific to the performing arts. Cherish your performing arts in your community;  I truly believe they are even more important now then when Aristotle lived.



Filed under Non-fiction

The Next Big Thing

The title of this blog award has big shoes to fill so I’m kind of awed that my friend Tess Wixted nominated me for it. But happy and also grateful to be thought of by her (thank you Tess!).

Here are my responses to the questions that come with accepting this award.

What is the working title of your next book?

Mrs. Everett

  1. Where did the idea come from for the book?

It started percolating when I saw a picture from the 60’s of this chic woman sitting in first class in an old Boeing 747 looking out the window about 3 years ago. It just hit me, the whole storyworld of Mrs. Everett. And I became obsessed with telling her story. The story often wakes me up to be told in the middle of the night. I’ve never had a story so insistent on being expressed. So, mostly I just try to make time to listen to it.

  1. What genre does your book fall under?

It will be a Transmedia experience which means there will be a main ‘spine’ of prose as a stand-alone book with co-existing narratives in various forms including text (as in iPhone text messages), audio (as in a phonographic story), poetry (an entire poetry book written ‘floor by floor’ for every room Mrs. Everett stays in over the course of a year), Twitter (as in, a year of tweets), Facebook, same, and Pinterest with a board for every ‘Escape’ (ie destination) that Mrs. Everett visits. The idea is to make it more and more collaborative with hosts in cities/destinations creating content and adding continually to the breadth and depth of the story. As more people sign up for Postcards from Prue (her letters to her pen pals), I think a better online community can grow around the story. So, please sign up.:)

  1. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Well, since Prue Everett loves Grace Kelly that would be my first choice. My second would be Marion Cotillard. For Mr. Everett I would choose Ewan McGregor without question because I think he can play a complex man very well. For the role of Violet, I would choose Scarlett Johansson. For the driver, Ted, I would choose Willem Dafoe.  For her estranged younger cousin Mary, I would choose Zooey Deschanel. There will be other characters but I can’t talk about them yet without compromising the story.

  1. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

That is a challenging question. Okay here goes:

Mrs. Everett is the story of a woman who escapes the seemingly prison-like confines of her privileged life with her husband and goes on the lam by traveling around the world and in the process of discovering destinations comes to see herself and the world in an entirely radical new way.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If there were a publisher with the cojones to publish this I’d be pretty impressed but at this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll be putting together an e-book that will include all of the digital media forms in one intensely amazing experience.

  1. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m writing it right now and it will be completed December 2013. If I were honest, I could be writing this all day every day but have to try to carve time to pay some bills so I jam it in and around ‘regular’ life. Transmedia is not for the faint of heart, it’s a mind-bending amount of work to run multiple-narratives over time. A regular novel will feel like a cake-walk after this.

  1. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 

There are none. Which is why I’m writing it. I have been in the Transmedia space for some time and a much of what I was seeing I couldn’t really relate to. I was seeing a lot of cyborgs and aliens and games where people are killed and pirates and mystical places and  space tales and large ‘Hollywood’ style productions with budgets of millions of dollars.  I respect it all, I know how hard they’ve worked on these projects and I feel a part of that tribe but I wanted to find my own voice in Transmedia and create a story that didn’t rely on special effects, a big budget, or non-human species. Also, I love (and work in) tourism and hotels and travel and I wanted to show how destinations could look at Transmedia and see how it might work for them. To me, it’s a no-brainer to use a Transmedia approach to any and all destination development and marketing but I realized I had to do a proper case study to show my clients to win them over. Also, I wanted to explore a single narrative Transmedia story. A more intimate, one-to-one experience versus the typical Transmedia production which shoots for mass consumption as the ultimate benchmark of its success. I want to encourage people to get involved in the story, and change where Mrs.Everett goes and be a part of the narrative with me. I want the readers to be collaborators. I want it to be participatory and immersive. It’s way more fun that way.

  1. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A few things. That initial picture I talked about earlier and the idea I wanted to tell a different kind of Transmedia story. But if I can be candid, characters appear quite fully-formed for me and Mrs. Everett (Prue) did just that.Magically showed up on my doorstep. I then usually have to fumble around in the fog chasing my characters to where they pull me along to. I try my best to serve the characters and relate their storyworld to those behind me reading. It’s hard, I feel I never provide the true experience of their story but I’m trying, I’m trying! Some of the plot and other characters have been inspired by the relationships and past experiences over the last two years of my life and the travel part is fueled by my many years in the tourism and hospitality industry. I am blessed to have a lot of contacts around the world to help me with the story. Another inspiration was the Orient Express company, who still value old-world traditions and a style of travel long-forgotten by many. I like their idea of a travel world, where the unforgettable experience is the ultimate goal and money is no object. That is how Prue travels. At the beginning.:)

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Beyond the interesting fact the book is told across multiple platforms and has a living, breathing social media experience, there is the core narrative of a woman who discovers the life that she has been leading for 20 years is an illusion. As she peels back the layers of the illusion, she comes to find the horrors of the reality she has been numb to for decades and in her discovery, she has to face her own demons and her own complicity in it. It is an exploration of the lies we tell in our relationships, the pain we inflict on the ones we love, the often savage degrees we will go to to protect these illusions, and yes, the dirty little secrets of what appears to be a ‘perfect’ marriage. Blackmail, death, wealth, corruption, power, intrigue, luxury travel, glamour, spirituality, awakening, self-love. It will all be in there. I hope you’ll be friends with Prue along the way. She needs your support!

Like Tess Wixted, who nominated me, I want to support just one writer by nominating them. He doesn’t have a website yet (we’re working on it) and I did interview him but we’ve decided to do it over as we didn’t like the results. First time podcasters so we’re going to get that interview up and posted this week so please circle back here to find out about Zero Lee, an extraordinary writer who is working on a book that we will be talking about and sharing some insights on in our chat. He is also my writing partner for a Transmedia play we are working on that will be completed this spring and go into production in Vancouver next fall. Stay tuned for that, it’s going to be killer.


Filed under Non-fiction, Transmedia

Last Curtain

The late, great William Hutt (from Vancouver Sun)

My mom started taking me to see plays by the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre company when I was four. I remember distinctly sitting before my father and mother in our kitchen, with my mother very solemnly asking me if I could sit still and listen for several hours and that I had to be very quiet and not speak when the actors were speaking. I felt a tremble go through me because I knew this was something big. And special. And required a serious answer.

Yes. I nodded. Yes.

I can’t remember the play, but remember the pooling blue lights, the actors words as they echoed round the space and I wanted to stay forever in that cocoon of perfume, rustling programs, clearing of throats, and the feeling that something very important was happening to all of us. We were not the same people when we left as when we entered the theatre.

This was the very serious thing I realized my mother was trusting me with.

I went to every show the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre company produced with my mother until I left for university. We always dressed up, with my mother spritzing me with some Chanel No. 5 to my giggling self, excited to escape the everyday mob of my brothers into the rarefied air shared with magnificent actors like William Hutt, who under the tenure of Walter Learning, became like a surrogate father figure to me that I longed to hear and see disappear into his characters. Few nights will ever top his performance in A Man for All Seasons, where you could literally hear the entire audience weeping in tandem with his powerful, deeply commanding voice. So many wickedly talented Canadian actors that shone soared across that stage like comets in productions like Glass Menagerie, Amadeus, A Doll’s House, The Dresser, I’m Not Rappaport–just to name a few that I can distinctly remember caused my mother and I to drive home in utter silence, still spellbound by the performances and much-deserved standing ovations.

Between shows, I obsessively wanted to put on plays, and harangued my neighbours, Neil and John Ingram, into attempts at ‘great theatre’. I also regularly recruited my niece and remember distinctly saying to her when she was five: If you want to be a professional, you have to memorize your lines.

I was nine.

It was no wonder I volunteered in theatre in my teenage years then went on to study with the Phoenix Theatre at UVic, and continued to work on many shows in Victoria, Vancouver, and San Diego. I was at home in the darkness of backstage and never grew tired of standing beside actors, whispering quietly, settling their nerves before their entrance, or hanging by a harness reading a lighting plan and adjusting lights nearly as big as me, or sitting in a booth, looking out at the audience as they settled into the story. Theatre and the performative arts has never lost its magic for me and I am always searching and seeking to re-create that moment I had when I was a young child, and feel strongly that if I can tell stories half as well as that company did I could die with some pride in my work.

Hearing that the Vancouver Playhouse company is closing after 49 years of storytelling is, well, breaking my heart. I will treasure more than ever the memories of my mother and I racing along Richards street, rushing into the theatre on cold rainy nights to escape into the capable storyworlds of those great directors, designers, stage managers, and actors.

I hope they all know they changed lives, every night.


Filed under Memoir, Non-fiction

Circus tents, goodbye, and the yellow brick road

I flew out of Victoria last week with a mind teeming with thoughts of digital media, heartbreak, hope, and a thread, dropped, but still there, of  childlike belief in somewhere over the rainbow.

I drove through the beautiful Okanagan, playing the new Sarah Slean, with an expanse of time to think for the first time in weeks. I thought about how it might be better to imagine that it is my own self waiting for me at the end of the rainbow, and not in fact, a soul mate, or husband, or steadfast boyfriend. Now, don’t get all pitying me or we’ll have an incident–what I’m really trying to get at here is the danger of a trusting mind. I know, all the self-help gurus will tell you, trust and you shall set yourself free. Well, they don’t trust like I do, I can promise you that.

When I was little, I either wanted to make a fort, or put on a play. One of the two. I loved to feel we were all in, totally committed to this idea, to this thing we were doing. I loved the sense that we would die building that damn fort or creating that show for the waiting living room audience of five. I found this same feeling in theatre as an adult, and often now in the work I do in digital media and even more so in my writing.

I just don’t get it when people don’t go all in with love and open up their chests to reveal all the delicious gold that is there. I like to do this as a kid would cannonball off a dock on a hot summer’s day. Maybe I’m an exhibitionist. Or maybe, worse, I trust like a performative fool in front of a really great ‘all in’ kind of Judy Garland audience. The key, I realized, while driving past empty farmland and silent snow, with nothing but the CBC to cling to, is to turn the lights on. Maybe, just maybe, the audience isn’t exactly what I thought it was, full of old pals and loving, clapping hearts.

Oh. That feeling, when the lights come on is like no other. It’s kind of like when the circus leaves, isn’t it?

No bother, the circus tent can always get packed up again. It was fun and then it wasn’t. So, this time, I’ll remember, just before you head out on the yellow brick road, pack your own self. That is all you’ll really need.


Filed under Relationships

Getting to the truth of the matter

I create in the digital workplace and so I use a lot of social platforms, yada yada, and I’ve noticed there seems to be this race to get the newest, the most viral, the most influential tool possible so ‘I can have a lot of friends and have a great Klout score and show all of this off to everyone in the whole wide world!’ Indeed, there has crept into everyday conversation a sort of sick measurement stick that I am not at all down with.

In fact, I’m writing a Transmedia Code of Ethics for myself and those I collaborate with because as I begin to work on larger Transmedia projects, I am realizing how idealist I really am. I keep wanting my experience with people to be like it was when I worked in the theatre, where we all sat around a table, read a script, and began to craft and shape the vision of the playwright. We would move from the table to the stage, incessantly talking to one another, from lighting to props, sound designer to actor, director to stage manager, and then, finally,  all of us collectively to the audience. Then people clapped and gave us money.


What I love best about the theatre was our absolute dependency on each other. If I did not put a certain prop at the right time in the right actor’s hand, and the lighting cue was missed, the show would fall apart. At every moment, the show depended upon, was entirely reliant upon, all of us as a moving entity, working seamlessly in the dark with watchful eyes.

What came after opening night was an euphoria that only this kind of intense collaboration can bring. The pranks offstage to mess with the actors (I was never guilty of this of course), shenanigans’ of the actors purposely missing lines, booze smuggled backstage, last-minute frenzy of costume changes, and then the moment when the lights come on and you realize you made it through! Followed by the stern reality of the Director’s ‘notes’. But woven into the experience was always this sense of family, because we needed one another in order to get to the vision of the storyworld we’d created.

This is what I’m trying to create and this is what I’m up against: people talking about themselves versus the art, people preening about their ‘followers’, people eyeing your client list like hyenas, people wanting to use you to line their own back pockets. It’s disheartening. Actually, its total bullshit.

I think this is the ugly side of digital. This incessant desire to blow up personal brands like great ego-driven helium balloons that hover and vie for attention, crowding out the notion of creativity and collaboration and shared vision. I wonder, is it possible to get back to that table of theatre, where I can sit around with a group of talented people, and feel like family? Trusting implicitly that it is the art, not the commerce, not our personal brands, not our number of followers or likes, not our goddamn personal agendas, but rather, the exhilaration and devotion to the craft that is at stake? That together we are only able to create this art and must depend on trust to reach that place.

Is it too utopian? Too naive? Perhaps. Perhaps.

But I believe, as John Keats famously wrote that ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’. I won’t settle for less.


Filed under Non-fiction