Here and There

"Alas, 'tis true I have gone here and there
And made myself a motley to the view"

Sonnet CX


One of the great aspects of being an "artist-run" organization is that SIR is able to regularly benefit Winnipeg's wonderful theatre community by "lending out" members of  our Ensemble to work on their shows. 


(I place the expression "artist-run" in quotations because I believe, in a general sense, ALL theatres are run by artists: that's why we call them Artistic Directors.  The distinction in SIR's case is that we have a GROUP of artists [performers, directors, designers, playwrights] in charge of of our programming: the SIR Artistic Ensemble.  For further clarification, click on the "About" icon above and explore.  I place "lending out" in quotation marks because the preceding introductory sentence is intended, perhaps obviously, not to be taken too seriously.  Having said that, I am inclined to believe that any organization with the good taste to put our Ensemble members to work does so to their organization's benefit.)


Beyond their duties toward SIR, the Ensemble is once again keeping plenty busy for this year's exciting new theatre season, and this page seems to me an appropriate forum in which to tell you all about their various activities!  This is not intended specifically as an endorsement for the projects herein described, except to the extent of SIR's standing policy that you should ALWAYS attend ALL THE LIVE THEATRE YOU CAN!  (And if you find yourself forced to make choices, you may as well do so armed with the knowledge of which choices will afford you the opportunity to enjoy the work of our intrepid SIR Artistic Ensemble Members.)


Eric Bossé is already knee-deep in his second season as MTYP's House Technician.  He will also be contributing his expertise to Theatre Incarnate's  production of Lilith – A Cautionary Tale, part of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre's Neurotica festival.


Michelle Boulet will  be returning for a third tour of duty as director of SIR's Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet fall tour, and in December she will be part of Theatre Projects Manitoba's In The Chamber Holiday Special as "Co-Duumviratrix" of the Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir.


Andrew Cecon will be performing in Theatre Projects Manitoba's The Three Sisters, a co-production with zone41.  After that, he will grace the John Hirsch Theatre stage in the Manitoba Theatre Centre's Romeo and Juliet, followed by his participation in The Smell of Dead Mums, a new creation from Echo Theatre.


Sarah Constible has been preparing for her role in Theatre By The River's Generous, and will then join her Fu Fu Chi Chi Choir "Co-Duumviratrix" Michelle in  Theatre Projects Manitoba's In The Chamber Holiday Special.  In the new year, she'll pay a visit to Suffragette City in The Fighting Days, at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.  Sarah will then return to TPM to perform in Dionysus in Stony Mountain.


Kevin Klassen (your humble blogsmith) will also make a brief appearance in Theatre By The River's Generous, and will also be in Manitoba Theatre Centre's Romeo and Juliet.  He will then hit the trail in MTC's regional tour of The Melville Boys.  Not long after that, he will join Prairie Theatre Exchange's production of 'Til It Hurts.


Arne MacPherson will once again be directing Prairie Theatre Exchange's annual Munsch tour (this year: The Three Munschketeers), and will also perform in Mrs. Warren's Profession and August: Osage County for the  Manitoba Theatre Centre.


Debbie Patterson has begun another tenure as Artistic Associate for Prairie Theatre Exchange, and as adapater/playwright/sound designer/composer for The Three Munschketeers.   She continues to develop her play Sargent and Victor after a "stunning and triumphant" premiere in Reykjavik at the Lokal International Theatre Festival, and will present it with Núna (now) in the spring.  Debbie will be the Carol Shields Writer in Residence at the Uof W from January to May, during which she will work on a new piece called Tuktoyaktuk and Me.  In the meantime, she will also be singing in the Rainbow Harmony Project Choir just for fun.


Wow!  All that, and they manage to keep SIR thriving and surviving as well!  What a wonderful, dedicated group of Winnipeg theatre artists!


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Three Good Friends

"He that wants money, means, and content is without three good friends."

As You Like It

ACT III Scene 2.


Well, it's that time of year again…


The time when arts organizations all over the country are furiously preparing grant applications, donor request letters, sponsorship proposals… all with the same goal: to drum up enough income to bring the year in with a balanced budget.


It's a depressing fact, but the ticket buying public accounts, at the best of times, for a bare fraction of the financing required to keep a professional theatre company in business.


As I may have mentioned previously, our most recent Main Stage show King Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2, for (no doubt) a myriad of reasons (none of which entirely satisfy me) was the lowest attended show we've had in quite some time, and this has left us with an intimidating shortfall of cash, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $15,000.


Recognizing that regularly asking people for money (while on some personal level, through conditioning and genetics, makes me want to bury my head in a bucket of pudding) is a natural part of producing theatre, I hereby, on behalf of Shakespeare in the Ruins, request your financial assistance.


To find out how, please CLICK HERE to visit our donation page.


To find out where your money will go, I encourage you to explore this website.


Thanks for your consideration.



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In My Mind’s Eye



In memory of Donald George Klassen.


Begging your indulgence, I'd like to spend a moment telling you a little bit about my father.


Today would have been his 67th birthday, had he not, on July 21st, died of cancer.  I mention this not solely because I believe he deserves a tribute (and I just happen to have a forum in which to do it), but because ever since it became an intrinsic part of my life, Shakespeare in the Ruins had been an intrinsic part of my father's life.


Up until it became my life's calling, my father was not what one would call a "theatre-goer", and certainly was not a fan of Shakespeare.  He went to see plays if I was in them, or if there was a crew of family and friends heading into the city to see whatever was happening at Rainbow Stage.  In his final few years, he and my mother were regular subscribers to the Manitoba Theatre Centre, and had seen (with the exception of a couple of Stripped-Down shows in which I wasn't involved) every SIR production since 2002.


Appropriately, my father also turned into a reader of Shakespeare.  Each year, once he had learned from me which play we were going to be putting on, he would find a copy of that play in the library, along with the Cole's notes version, and prepare himself for what he would be seeing and hearing.  He became very interested in forwards and footnotes, particularly how the historical/political context in which he existed influenced Shakespeare's writing.


He was also very interested in the lives of the people involved in SIR, keeping track of the Ensemble members' work outside of the company, fixing the odd refrigerator or dishwasher (he made a living as an appliance repairman), and generally involving himself wherever and whenever it was appropriate for him to do so.  He recognized that these people are part of my extended family, and considered them as such.  He was always willing to donate his time to help tear down, load up, or haul away props or set pieces, occasionally showing up out of the blue.  He and my mother were, of course, generous annual donors.


My father's involvement with SIR fittingly reached its apex with our 2010 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, the last SIR show he was able to attend.  The show (which marked my SIR directorial debut) had a fair bit of audience participation, and for each performance 2 male audience members were selected to portray the young boys whom Master Slender and Doctor Caius are tricked into marrying.  On this particular night (unbeknownst to me until his actual entrance), Sarah had tapped my dad to come on as the "great lubberly boy" whom Slender (Andrew) has mistaken for Anne Page.  He even had a line of dialogue: "Budget!" (which he delivered in a strange, high-pitched voice which I have never in my entire life heard come out of his mouth before or since).  I can't now recall whether I was laughing out loud or stunned into admiring silence, but it's a moment in my life for which I will be forever grateful.


On the evening of the day he was first diagnosed with bladder cancer, my father attended a public performance of Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet.  In a weird bit of universal symmetry, on the evening on which he died I had that afternoon finished a performance of Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.  The last conversation I had with my father was on the phone, three days prior.  It was brief, and consisted of my asking how he was holding up, and him asking how the show had been going.  I told him that I was a little disappointed with the media coverage so far, and how the box office had been a little low, and how I'd wished that we'd had better show times, and he said "Well that's all right, but how's the show going?" 


I realized that what he was really asking was: "Are you happy?". 


I told him the show was going very well.





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As You Like It, or: What Will You?

August 24, 2011


As hard as it is to believe, SIR will be celebrating its 2oth Anniversary in 2013, less than two years from now.  It's a rather impressive feat (if I do say so myself), given the adventurous and challenging nature of the way in which we continue to go about the business of creating adventurous and challenging theatre.


Plans to celebrate this milestone are already underway, and as I sit here in the office reflecting on the ever twisting and turning trajectory of our collective history, a question ocurrs:


How do YOU think we should celebrate…?


Is there a particular Shakespearean title which you've long yearned to have us perform?  Have you found yourself visiting some place and thinking: "this would make an ideal location for an SIR production…!"?  Do you have fond memories of a previous production, and wonder how wonderful it might be were we to revisit the same play in a different way?


Well, please consider this a personal request to share those ideas with us now.  As in all things, the final programming decisions for our 2013 season will boil down to the consensual will of the Artistic Ensemble and the cold, hard reality of our financial limitations, so we can't make any promises.


However, our respect and commitment to you, our audience is such that it would be negligent if we didn't, at the very least, ask.


Please e-mail your suggestions with the subject line:

"How To Celebrate 20 Years"



If nothing else, we certainly insist on your attendance…






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Save The Words!

August 12, 2011


Two days ago, we received a tweet from Lana Gay proclaiming that: "90% of what we write is communicated by only 7000 words", with a link to a website called:


"Save The Words"


This website, sponsored by the Oxford English Dictionary is dedicated to the preservation of words in danger of becoming extinct as a result of being underused.  The concept is wonderfully simple: you register with the "Save The Words" campaign, select a word from their endangered list (or have them randomly select a word for you), and agree that you will assume stewardship over this word, and help to ensure its survival by making regular use of it on a daily basis.


After a quick scan through their list, I was astonished to come across the word "impudent", and immediately selected  it to be SIR's foster-word.  The on-line OED offers the following background information:





not showing due respect for another person; impertinent

"he could have strangled this impudent upstart"

I was astonished, not to learn that there are unusual and valuable English words that risk extinction, but that the word "impudent" should be one of them.  It seems like a pretty regular word to me.  Having gone through the adoption process, my dismay at the deterioration of modern society's verbal and textual (that is text as in "written", NOT  electronic text-messaging) communicative skills was tempered a little by my delight at the existence of such a website, and by the sense of pride which, I'm told, is often shared by those who adopt (or create) human offspring.


Merely one day later, that feeling of dismay was restored to its normal (heightened) level by the news that Winnipeg's self-proclaimed "Cultural City Hall", Aqua Books and the Eat! Bistro will soon be closing its doors.  Although, to my regret, I have found myself in recent days largely without the time or means to purchase literature, eat in restaurants, or attend the majority of the events held there, the few times in which I did have the pleasure made me proud to be part of a community in which such an enterprise could (as far I knew) thrive, and made me appreciate brave entrepreneurial souls like Kelly Hughes, who are willing to gamble on a great idea which, clearly, contributed more to the people who were able to advantage of it than it did to his finances.  I lament that I didn't/couldn't offer more support.


In a larger sense, I lament what I can't help but view as the latest casualty in the gradual decline of the written and spoken word.  So, at the risk of sounding impudent:










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All’s Well That Ends

August 4th, 2011


Well.  The Winnipeg Fringe Festival has officially come and gone, and with it: Shakespeare in the Ruins' Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet (coming next: Shakespeare in the Ruins' Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet).


The experience of producing SIRSDR&J at this year's fringe could be characterized as mixed.  It was incredibly gratifying and satisfying to see (for the most part) a brand new audience so thoroughly enjoying this unbelievably entertaining adaptation, and so obviously appreciating the amazing work of the actors.


As the motivation behind this production was to expose the fine work being done here at SIR to the fringe demographic and help raise a few bucks in the process, the 340-some tickets sold (420 in overall attendance) was, while by no means a disaster, rather disappointing, particularly following the inexplicably under-attended Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2.  


They always say that word of mouth is the best way to succeed at the fringe, but I firmly believe that advance word of mouth is more specifically accurate, and that can only come from one source: the media.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, SIRSDR&J did not receive the advance media buzz I assumed it would.


Here are some links to the media attention we did receive:


Al Rae, CBC


Alison Mayes, Free Press


John Cunningham, Winnipeg Review


Lisa Campbell, Jenny Revue


Terry Moor, UMFM


Speaking of the media (and at the risk of flogging an unkillable horse), I must add that, having entered into this endeavor with the spirit of SIR's mandate to promote, celebrate, and make universally accessible the works of Shakespeare, I found the attempt by Al Rae (a self-described "big fan of SIR in the park") to characterize as phony anyone who demonstrably claims to enjoy Shakespeare's comedy galling, enraging, and ultimately depressing. 


With fans like that, who needs enemas?


All of that having now been expelled from my gullet, it's time to get excited about the impending touring production of Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet!  With Michelle Boulet back in the wagoner's seat and casting finalized, it's sure to please everyone who sees it.  (If you're lucky, we might even hold a public performance just for you!)


Here's the cast:


Derek Leenhouts as Abram, Romeo, Lady Capulet

Ariel Levine as Mercutio, Juliet

Rob McLaughlin as Tybalt, Paris, Nurse, Apothecary

Glen Thompson as Benvolio, Capulet, Friar Lawrence

Daniel Thau-Eleff as Prince, Friar John


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Trained Seals at Big Top Fringe


For the record, I am happily willing to concede that I am prone to outrage.


There are very few things in this day & age which shock me, but I still find myself outraged pretty much on a daily basis (often several times a day): off-leash dogs; TV ads; TV shows; newspaper headlines; willful stupidity; sexism; racism; classism; intolerance (including, especially, my own)…


Having said that, any of you who follow SIR’s twitter feed will have noticed that I’ve become a bit obsessed with a review of “Shakepseare in the Ruins’ Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet” written by professional comedian Al Rae.


In Al’s review, and in his subsequent clarifying comments, he asserts that Shakespeare never wrote anything that was funny, and that anyone who laughs out loud at a Shakespeare comedy is pretending to enjoy his or self in order to appear more… (what? cultured?intelligent? cool?!) than they actually are.  He claims that audiences who laugh out loud at Shakespeare have merely been “trained” to do so “like rather dim seals”. 


Pretentious, dim, trained seals.  


(To read Al’s review and comments in their entirety, go to the CBC Website, find their fringe coverage and click on our show title.)


So here’s another thing that fills me with outrage: a professional comic who uses his forum as a fringe theatre reviewer to make sweeping, insulting generalizations about millions of people in order to show everyone how much cleverer he or she is than everybody else.


As a fan of ironic discrepancies (arguably a junkie), I delightfully point it out once more:


Al’s attempt here is to show the world how much cleverer he is than they by claiming that, for over 400 years, theatre audiences have been PRETENDING to like Shakespeare’s comedy in order to show the world how clever they are.


Again, this does not shock me.  To be shocked by a professional comic’s use of a sweeping, insulting generalization in order to make him or herself seem clever would be akin to feigning shock over the Conservative government’s efforts to eliminate the CBC’s public funding: it’s simply part of what they do (and it’s an easy, lazy way to win over the majority).


It does, however, strike me as a bit outrageous.







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We open tomorrow night…

Producing for the Fringe Festival is a more or less all-consuming endeavour.  Little spare time for blogging.  Nevertheless: here I am!


As most of you will know (because you've purchased your tickets in advance, right?) we open tomorrow night at 10:15pm.  The past week and a half has been nuts, and I can't say enough good things about the cast: hard-working, easy to work with, and exceptionally talented.  (They seem to trust me, too, which could end up going either way.)


Having performed twice previously in this production (once as Romeo/Lady Capulet, once as Juliet/Mercutio), it has been a unique pleasure to be able to sit in the audience and watch it unfolding this time around.  In all honesty, and with very little credit to myself, this is one of the most entertaining shows you will ever see.  (Much credit to Michelle Boulet, who originally adapted R&J to the Stripped-Down format and directed the first 2 productions.  Not to mention Maureen Petkau, who designed and built the gorgeous costumes.  And Rob Borges, who choreographed the sword fights.) 


There's something about Romeo and Juliet that particularly lends itself to the stripped-down treatment.  For one thing, it is very much a comedy for the first three acts, so the laughs we earn through hysterically quick costume changes & boys in dresses feel like part of the story being told, rather than being obstacles, or appearing to take the piss out of the thing.  The commitment of the actors' performances takes it beyond the realm of parody.


Also, the PACE at which the events of the play transpire, and the energy with which the characters all seem to go about their business ("too like the lightning which doth cease to be ere one can say 'it lightens'…'') are inherent to the play as a whole, so that trimming it down to a 60 minute running time (giver or take), in watching it, seems like the most natural thing in the world. 


Even at  60 minutes, you still get 5 sword fights, a dance, and some of the world's most famous and memorable depictions of youth, in all its hormonally euphoric and tormented glory.  Not to mention the several portraits of adults, in all their foolishness and wisdom, struggling to be good parents to their children (biological parents, like the Capulets, and adoptive or community parents like the Nurse and the Friar).


The fellas are coming over in about 20 minutes for a backyard stumble-through, I'll stop in my tale against the hare (I would else have made my tale large, and if you don't understand that reference, come see the show and you'll remember it for as long as you have memory).


Please do yourself a favour, and come see this show!



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The final week played out beautifully…

Well, as my dad says: "It's all over but the crying…".


The final week played out beautifully, weather-wise, show-wise, house-wise and otherwise, much to our relief.  All in all Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 was a criminally under-attended production, and this Tuesday's Board & Ensemble meetings will no doubt be occasions for soul-searching, hand-wringing and head-scratching.  Those who did attend were (from the majority of reports) well entertained and well pleased, including our school matinees (which actually managed to exceed projected attendance).  The introduction of "What-You-Will Wednesdays" proved extremely popular, as did our Saturday matinees, so perhaps things have simply become financially tighter among the theatre-going public.


Whatever the case, I'm extremely proud of what we accomplished with this production, and grateful to all involved.  Particular congratulations are due once more to Sarah Constible for the outstanding job she did of combining the two plays into one cohesive, coherent, and extremely engaging story.


Next up: SIR at the Fringe! 


Yep, I've gone ahead and taken personal responsibility (with the blessing of the Board, the Ensemble and management) for bringing Shakespeare in the Ruins' Stripped-Down Romeo & Juliet to the Winnipeg Fringe Festival!  The name of the show: "Shakespeare in the Ruins' Stripped Down Romeo & Juliet".  The name of the producing company is Will & DeSIRe.


The cast will be coming over for a read-through and some table work this Wednesday evening, rehearsals begin a week from today, and we'll open the following week!  It's going to be a whirlwind process, and it's going to be a whirlwind show!  For anyone who hasn't seen it, this is an all-male, four-(and a half) actor version of R&J performed in traditional Elizabethan costumes in one hour or less!  It's one of three shockingly entertaining touring productions that SIR has been touring to high schools for the past six years, and (in my opinion) it's about time it was introduced to a wider audience.


The exciting cast includes Andrew Cecon, Tommy Keenan, Ray Strachan and Glen Thompson (with a few cameo appearances from stage manager), with yours truly directing.


You can actually buy your tickets RIGHT NOW by visiting the FRINGE WEBSITE!  Hope to see you there!



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Second blog in 3 days?! What’s going on?

Well, I've decided that it's high time to pay high tribute to our dear friend Jack Falstaff, and his contemporary, earthly incarnation: David Warburton.


For the past two years, SIR and (in my humble opinion) the City of Winnipeg have been given an incredible gift: the opportunity to witness (in the opinion of many less humble than myself) Shakespeare's finest creation in the living flesh, inhabited by an actor for whom the role might have been written (all things Shakespearean existing, after all, on a cosmic plane indifferent to the restrictions of time and space).


I had the incredible good fortune of directing David in last year's The Merry Wives of Windsor, and the moment at which I was assured that he would, indeed, like to be my Falstaff, I knew that my relatively inexperienced ass had for the most part been covered. 


It's not so much that David is Falstaff, though they share a great many traits (and when, on the battlefield, Falstaff demands "Give me life!", it's David that I hear).  It seems to me that the role of fat Jack has been specifically tailored by Shakespeare to suit David's strengths and depth as an actor: a keenly intelligent sense of mischief, a vernacular of poetically bombastic aggression fueled by a genuinely tragic insecurity – a fear of growing old and dying.  To see him tackling this role (which in our case incorporates Falstaff's greatest moments from both parts of Henry IV)  is to witness a date with destiny.   David's work is so fine that, when I watch him, I actually forget Orson Welles in Chimes At Midnight (which, if you've seen it, you will recognize is a feat).


It could easily be another fifty years before Winnipeg audiences have another opportunity to see the great Sir John Falstaff on stage, and it's unlikely ever to be performed as adroitly, as thoroughly, as deeply, and (you should pardon the expression) as ROUNDLY again.  





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