Toronto Fringe Festival 2017 Review Round Up

The annual Toronto Fringe Festival ended yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, Toronto Fringe is Canada’s largest theatre festival. It showcases new artists and new shows as well as shows by professional companies. There’s 160 shows at 35+ venues over 12 days. I saw 9 of these shows in 2 days. I’ve known about Fringe Toronto for a few years but this was the first time I’d actually attended. I attended as a patron and a volunteer.With Fringe having 160 shows, me working full time hours, and me not actually living in Toronto, there were three shows that I wanted to see but didn’t get to (2 of them sold out once word got out that they were really good and one of them wasn’t playing on the days I was volunteering and I couldn’t make the trip back to see it). So I went into Fringe without much of a plan other than 1) see as many shows as possible and 2) only plan around the timing since no latecomers are admitted and the theatres are all over downtown Toronto. I liked it that way though. I got to see some really interesting shows. These are the shows I saw and just some brief thoughts about them.

MEANT (7/10) – This show was a musical about fate and whether you or the universe decide your destiny. In this case, two people get married and have a child but they were never supposed to end up together according to The Fates. I thought this show had a really interesting concept and I liked that fate was characterized as The Three Fates but I thought the writing was a little weak. If it was me, I would take the idea of fate and apply it to a different situation. Overall, I liked the story, though I think the music could have contributed more to advancing the plot, and the entire cast was super talented, especially given the fact that they’re all recent post-secondary grads. Everything also flowed really nicely and coherently.

Life Records 2: Side B (8/10) – This one-woman show was put on by Rhiannon Archer, two time Canadian comedy award nominee. This was about songs that relate to major events in her life. It was funny, it was sweet, and it made you say “aww”. This was less of a theatre show and more of a comedic storytelling event in a smallish theatre but it was fun nonetheless.

Diddlin’ Bibbles (6/10) – This was a musical duo who told the story of a married couple who did performances and how the celebrity status of Toronto Fringe Artist got to their heads a little bit. It was a fun show. I liked that they tailored the show specifically for the Toronto Fringe Fest. However, I wish they would’ve delved a little deeper into the characters and explained why Toronto Fringe was such a big deal.

Rise/Fall (7.5/10) – This was a political drama commentating on Trump’s wall and the problems it can cause. This show was performed outside and the set was a physical wall, which separated two groups of actors. What was interesting about this show was that you sat on one side of the wall. You didn’t know what was going on on the other side. You could hear bits and pieces of dialogue from the other side so you kind of knew what was going on but not a lot. You almost needed to see the show twice – once on each side of the wall – to fully understand the show but it was enjoyable nonetheless. This show was really unique and it was certainly an interesting way to address politics.

White Wedding (8/10) – This show was really well done. It was about what happens at weddings when you’re still in love with your friends even though they’ve moved on to other people and other parts of their life. I found the show really funny because I think it portrayed the reality of weddings. Weddings seem like all fun and happy but no one ever sees what goes on outside of the church and the reception hall unless you are part of it. The entire cast was wonderful and they created really likeable and relatable characters. You could easily pick out who you would be if that was your friends’ wedding. The only thing I didn’t like that is that it was performed in a hallway. I understand why it was, but it made it squishy and a little hard to see. I think it would have been better in an actual theatre.

Moonlight after Midnight (9/10) – This show was incredible. It was a non-linear story about how two people met and got married and sort of their story. It was dark, it was romantic, and it was really good theatre. Normally, I don’t like non-linear stories because I find them hard to follow but this one made sense and was starting to clean things up by about 2/3 of the way through the show. The script was also smart and repetitive, which kept things connected. The acting was amazing, the plot was intriguing, and the actress, who sang a couple songs, has an amazing voice. There are only two performers, a guy and a girl, and they have really great chemistry on stage.

Who, Me (6/10) – This show targeted a very very very niche audience – theatre and drama nerds who are also Doctor Who nerds, there’s not many of them around. But I happen to be one of them. This was a one-man comedy show by Rob Lloyd about putting the show Doctor Who on trial for ruining his life. This show kind of flip-flopped between that story and personal anecdotes about, which I found kind of confusing. I think it would have been better sticking to one or the other. But I did appreciate the Doctor Who jokes and overall nerdiness of the show.

The “F” Word (9.5/10) – Anyone who says that dance can’t tell stories can literally fight me. This was by far my favourite show I saw at Fringe. This show was about feminism. But rather than telling the audience about feminist issues through dialogue, they told the audience about feminist issues through dance. It was kind of like a dance recital, and all the dancers were amazing, but there was some dialogue and explanations thrown in throughout and the music also helped tell the stories. However, even if the speaking parts had not been included, their message would have come across loud and clear.

Kara Sevda (7/10) – I liked this show. The plot was simple and the acting was great. Two strangers sit on the same bench, waiting for a lottery to see if they will be chosen to go on the last train from Paris to Rome. Throughout the show, there were a series of short monologues from each character about how they ended up on that bench. Again, this show had only two characters, one male and one female, so it was a little predictable that they were going to fall in love at the end but this show still made me feel all the feelings.

While I really enjoyed all the shows I saw, the coolest part of Fringe was just the overall environment and atmosphere in downtown Toronto. People of all ages from small children to grandparents talking about theatre. Getting excited about theatre. Even just waiting in line for shows and talking to people about what shows they’ve seen at Fringe, what they liked, and how they got to be involved with theatre and Fringe was pretty interesting. I’m so grateful that theatre has the power to bring people together the way it does.

If there’s one thing I really took away from attending Fringe Toronto, it’s this: Theatre is more than Broadway plays and musicals. 

Theatre is risky.

Theatre is innovative.

Theatre is experimental.

Theatre is music.

Theatre is acting.

Theatre is comedy.

Theatre is dance.

Theatre is storytelling.

Theatre is fun.

Seeing new theatre being created by artists that are so passionate about their craft was so inspiring and really made my heart happy and excited for the future of theatre.

What’s a new show that you’ve seen and enjoyed recently? Let me know in the comments!

Women in the Arts and Media

Representation is important.

Women representation is important. POC representation is important. LGBT+ representation is important.

As a straight, white woman living in Canada, I am fully aware of the privileges I have and this might not be my place to make comments. However, as a straight, white woman who so badly wants work in the arts and entertainment industry, which is currently dominated by men, I feel that it is my place to comment on this. However, I will not look at the POC and LGBTQ+ stats, at least not today.

After doing some very unscientific research on women in film and women in theatre via Wikipedia, I have never been more disheartened and discouraged by the results I found. I looked at Oscar and Tony nominees and winners from 2000-2017 for more of the creative roles like Best Book, Best Director, Best Score, Best Editing, and Best Design. By no means is this a comprehensive list, this are just some of the non-acting categories I looked at.

Women in Theatre (Tony Awards Stats)

Since 2000, there have been:

  • Best Book – 10 female nominees (out of 73 nominees total); 2 female winners
  • Best Music – 11 female nominees (out of 70 nominees total); 3 female winners
  • Best Lyrics – 9 female nominees (out of 72 nominees total); 2 female winners
  • Best Director (for both plays and musicals combined) –  23 female nominees (out of 116 nominees total); 8 female winners (2 for musicals, 6 for plays)
  • Best Play – 10 female nominees (out of 55 nominees total); 2 female winnersScreen Shot 2017-07-09 at 9.27.49 PM

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What’s upsetting about this is the pure percentages of women writers and directors who get recognized. Seeing that only 11% of Tonys in four writing categories the past 17 years have been won by women makes me sad. This is especially discouraging to people like me who want to write and create things for the theatre. The directing is a little bit better, but not much. Women are creative. Women have visions of creative work. I mean, look at Lynn Nottage. She’s won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama TWICE but if her shows don’t win any Tonys on Broadway, they close. Meanwhile, the shows that won awards are directed by men and get to remain open, regardless of the content. I suppose that’s just the business of Broadway but that’s still not fair.

Women in Film (Academy Awards Stats)

Since 2000, there have been:

  • Best Director – 2 female nominees (out of 70 nominees total); 1 female winner
  • Best Editing – 9 female nominees (out of 87 nominees total); 3 female winners
  • Best Score – 2 female nominees (out of 70 nominees total); 0 female winners
  • Best Cinematography – 0 female nominees (out of 70 nominees total); 0 female winners
  • Best Production Design – 65 female nominees (out of 141 nominees total); 14 female winners
  • Best Original Screenplay – 13 female nominees (out of 113 nominees total); 3 female winners

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If you read my bucket list post, you’ll know that one of the things on that list was to have my name in a major blockbuster movie, preferably for writing (I dunno I really want to write a play or a musical or a screenplay). For a long time, I really wanted to go to film school and I’m still really interested in movies and I love watching behind the scenes stuff. But again, the statistics I found were really discouraging. Men are given the majority of the creative jobs on a movie set – the main females involved are the actresses. Why can’t a woman have a chance to bring her creative vision to life through either directing or cinematography. Women can do these technical yet creative jobs, not just sewing and designing costumes (and fashion is stereotypically a “female” thing). The fact that Wonder Woman was a story about a woman directed by woman made it a really good movie, because let’s face it, men can’t tell women’s stories the same way women can.

While these are some of the most depressing statistics about women in the arts, there’s something ironic about the whole thing. Growing up, I find boys tend to be discouraged from pursuing careers in the arts. Oh, you want to be a dancer? Dancing’s for girls. You want to write music? That’s okay as a hobby, but not a career. You like drama class? You’re a sissy. Boys are expected to go into careers like business or trades or engineering. Yet somehow, all the boys who do get into careers in the arts, get all the recognition. Girls on the other hand are somehow more encouraged to pursue arts than STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers. Girls train 8+ hours a day 6 days a week to be ballerinas and they won’t be recognized for it. Girls are encouraged to be a stay at home mom and do writing or visual arts on the side as a hobby. But if one of those “hobbies” becomes public and becomes something they do for a living, it’s not recognized and it gets scoffed at –  “Oh, it’s just art.” My point is, if we a society are encouraging women to pursue art as a viable career, WHY AREN’T WE RECOGNIZING THEM FOR IT? Is it because men are breaking gender norms to some extent and thus we are rewarding them? Is it because women’s work honestly just isn’t as good?

Women are creative. 

Women have incredible stories to tell. 

Women deserve to be recognized for their work. 

I’m interested to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below.

This week on my Mixtapes page, you can find a playlist full of strong, feminist songs.

150 Reasons I’m Proud to be Canadian

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

I have always been super proud to be Canadian. I think this country is wonderful and beautiful and has so much offer and so much potential. In the 19 years I’ve been alive, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to live somewhere else – travel/visit, yes, but live, no. So to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, I wanted to do something special so I decided to make a list of 150 reasons of why I’m so proud to be Canadian. (PS – coolbeans4 also made a list of 150 reasons she loves Canada, so check it out and see how our lists compare)

  1. Our Prime Minister is not insane
  2. We’ve had a female Prime Minister before
  3. Our actual confederation was relatively uneventful – quiet, peaceful, a couple of guys in a room signing a piece of paper – which I think explains a lot about us as a country
  4. I’m not afraid of going outside and getting shot because there are NO GUNS (we’ve only had 13 mass shootings since 1965)
  5. Overall, Canada’s a pretty safe country
  6. And we’re a peaceful country; we don’t like conflict
  7. And our peacekeepers do a great job making sure it stays safe and peaceful
  8. Same sex marriage has been legal country-wide since 2005
  9. Maple syrup
  10. No one stereotypes Canada more than Canadians and we pride ourselves on that
  11. The “nicest people” stereotype is 100% true and that one makes me super proud
  12. The musical Come From Away is a really nice story about Canadians written by Canadians, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and now it’s on Broadway sharing it’s beautiful message to audiences from around the world.
  13. The Canadian music scene is SO underrated – we’ve got Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Hedley, Marianas Trench, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Bryan Adams, Michael Buble, Drake, Leonard Cohen, The Arkells, City and Colour, The Tragically Hip
  14. And the Juno Awards celebrate Canadian bands/singers/musicians
  15. The Canadian acting scene is also SO underrated – we’ve got Ryan Gosling, Ellen Page, Cobie Smulders, Sandra Oh, Nina Dobrev, Tatiana Maslany, Ryan Reynolds, Jim Carey, Nathan Fillion, Patrick J. Adams
  16. The Group of Seven is a group of Canadian artists and they made some pretty nice art
  17. Cirque du Soleil is incredible
  18. We use the metric system (which makes SENSE)
  19. And we use celsius (which also makes SENSE)
  20. We usually get white Christmases (I say usually because CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL)
  21. Skiing skiing skiing is amazing (if you can get out of Northern Ontario where most of my skiing happens)
  22. Lacrosse is our national sport but we care way more about hockey, there’s even a whole night of TV dedicated to hockey on CBC (Hockey Night in Canada)
  23. On the subject of Hockey Night in Canada, have you seen Don Cherry’s suits? Yep, he’s all ours.
  24. I guess you could say we’re pretty good at hockey, it’s not like we have two Olympic gold medals in it or anything like that (and we beat the USA to get them)
  25. There’s even this song about hockey that was written by a Canadian
  26. Actually, we’re pretty good at most winter sports
  27. Summer sports, not so much (though our Swim team ft. 16-year old Penny Oleksiak might be making a come back stay tuned to find out)
  28. The (sometimes annoying) quote “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” came from Canadian Hockey Player Wayne Gretzky
  29. Reading The Hockey Sweater every winter in elementary school
  30. Canada’s Wonderland is supposed to be pretty fun (I’ve never been since I don’t like roller coasters)
  31. There’s also a mall in Edmonton with an indoor amusement park
  32. We have a fun little song to remember the provinces and territories (not that it’s very difficult considering there’s only 10 provinces and 3 territories)
  33. I mostly understand how our government system works, it’s not too complicated like the USA
  34. EVERYONE has free healthcare
  35. Our flag is really nice and unique
  36. We are home to some of the best universities in the world (and I’m lucky enough to go to one of them)
  37. Canada covers 6 time zones
  38. And for some reason Newfoundland decided that its time zone would be 30 minutes different from Atlantic time
  39. Our money is fun and colourful
  41. Our milk comes in bags
  42. The drinking age is 19 (18 in Quebec)
  43. Speaking of drinking, Canadians (I don’t really because I’m not a huge fan of beer) make and consume a lot of beer (plus it’s stronger than American beer)
  44. How I Met Your Mother has blessed us with this GIFanigif_enhanced-4344-1445523594-2
  45. #BellLetsTalk mental health campaign every January
  46. Tim Horton’s
  47. Roll Up the Rim (to lose) – the one time of year I’ll actually get drinks at Tim’s
  48. Our National Parks and Provincial Parks are gorgeous
  49. Mountains
  50. Beaches
  51. Plains
  52. Forests and trees (Evan Hansen would love it here)
  53. Cities
  54. We have an abundance of fresh water thanks to the Great Lakes #Grateful
  55. And we have a lot of little lakes too; “going to the lake” is probably the most common phrase you’ll hear on weekends in July and August
  56. Travelling on a Canadian passport is a powerful thing
  57. There’s a highway that runs across the entire country
  58. And a railway too
  59. Our patriotism is quiet but strong
  60. We have two official languages (English and French) but New Brunswick is the only official bilingual province (Quebec is still considered monolingual but the language is French)
  61. The better side of Niagara Falls is on the Canadian side of the border
  62. When singers, bands, and Broadway musicals go on tour, they usually come to a city in Canada
  63. We have a beautiful mix of old and new
  64. Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is pretty rad
  65. We invented basketball but Canada only has one NBA team?
  66. We also invented insulin, the telephone, and the light bulb
  67. We have actual Smarties (the candy coated chocolate) and ketchup chips and we have Rockets, which are what Americans call Smarties
  68. We’ve hosted the Olympics 3 times – Montreal Summer 1976; Calgary Winter 1988; Vancouver Winter 2010
  69. Our education system is actually pretty okay
  70. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Toronto Raptors are “Canada’s” teams – yes there’s other Canadian NHL teams but for some reason the Leafs are Canada’s team, maybe it’s the maple leaf logo I dunno
  71. Poutine
  73. Toronto’s got a pretty good theatre scene. I mean, it’s not NYC but I guess I can’t complain too much. I still think Canada should adopt NYC as its 11th province.
  74. Speaking of theatre, Toronto Fringe Festival is the largest Fringe Festival in North America
  75. Canada’s freaking huge man – it takes 8 hours to fly from Halifax to Vancouver; it takes 6 hours to fly from Toronto to London, England and that’s over an ocean!
  76. There’s been some pretty decent Canadian TV shows over the years plus all these kid’s shows 
  77. Lots of movies and TV shows are filmed in Canada
  78. Free the Children (now WE) is a charity that I will support ’til my dying day was founded by Craig Kielburger in Thornhill, Ontario when he was only 12 and does amazing work around the world
  79. We actually have a lot of amazing charities that do amazing things
  80. We have a National Ballet Company (National Ballet of Canada)
  81. Our national animal is a beaver and beavers are pretty dang cute
  82. We also have moose and beluga whales and polar bears and Canada geese (which are terrifying might I add)
  83. The red sand beaches in P.E.I.
  84. Speaking of the east coast, they make pretty good seafood out there
  85. Ontario strawberries are the best strawberries you’ll ever eat
  86. Some of the best wine comes from the Niagara escarpment
  87. Lots of other good produce comes from the Niagara escarpment too
  88. The iconic maple leaf
  89. Northern Ontario (cottage country/Muskoka) in the summer is so serene and peaceful and beautiful
  90. My hometown is known for Blackberry
  91. My hometown is also known for Oktoberfest, one of the only places that has a major Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany so that’s pretty cool
  92. Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta is one of the most beautiful sites you’ll ever see
  93. Roots clothing brand aka the most comfortable sweatpants and hoodies ever
  94. Our historical contributions in world conflicts like Vimy Ridge in World War I
  95. The Calgary Stampede’s supposed to be pretty fun if you’re into cowboys and rodeos and all that jazz
  96. Participating in Terry Fox runs that take place across the country in September
  97. Montreal style bagels
  98. Building snow forts at recess in elementary school
  99. The CN Tower in Toronto used to be the tallest building in the world
  100. My favoUrite coloUr is Maple Leaf Blue where it is honoUred at the Air Canada CentRE
  101. “zed” not “zee”
  102. East Side Mario’s is one of the best restaurants (especially their bread and caesar salad)
  103. We have our own version of American Girl dolls called Maplelea Girls
  104. We are hilarious! And by that I mean we have a lot of great comedians (including me jk)
  105. Rick Mercer Report Rants
  106. We don’t have a $1 bill, we have a $1 coin called a loonie b/c there’s a loon on it
  107. And our $2 coin is called a toonie b/c why not?
  108. FanExpo and Toronto Comic Con
  109. Mounties
  110. Ottawa’s a really nice capital city
  111. Canada backwards is Adanac
  112. We still get American movies, music, and TV shows
  113. Anne of Green Gables
  114. The highway 401 is the busiest highway in North America though I’m not sure that’s a good thing
  115. But the OnRoute roadside stops along the 401 are alright if you’re going on a road trip
  116. Remember when Rob Ford, Toronto’s Mayor, was involved in a drug scandal? That was exciting
  117. Netflix Canada isn’t that bad
  118. Sunsets over the lake
  119. Lots of trails for hiking and biking
  120. We are surrounded by 3 out of 4 oceans (and have annoying neighbours to the south)
  121. Polar Bears!
  122. Victoria is the capital of BC, not Vancouver but Victoria is on Vancouver Island and Vancouver is on mainland BC just to confuse everyone!
  123. Iqaluit is pronounced ee-kal-oo-it
  124. We have a lot of islands
  125. Hearing O Canada every morning from JK to grade 12; just a reminder of how lucky we are to live where we do.
  126. Manners are important! Please, thank you, apologies (maybe too many apologies), etc.
  127. Chris Hadfield, the astronaut who was the first Canadian to walk in space, did a mission at the International Space Station and sang Space Oddity by David Bowie in space (video here)
  128. We also made the Canadarm, which is pretty cool
  129. Weber’s Hamburgers on highway 11 going towards northern Ontario are THE BEST FREAKING HAMBURGERS you will ever eat and I will fight you on that
  130. Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy, is Canadian
  131. The Stratford Festival is also pretty fun. Stratford’s such a cute little town.
  132. Snowdays
  133. The Queen of England has an honorary place in our government
  134. Our Thanksgiving is in October
  135. Laura Secord, the person
  136. Laura Secord, the chocolate company, named after Laura Secord the person
  137. The First Nations’ Totem Poles in BC are really cool
  138. Canadian bacon (called back bacon) is delicious
  139. Apparently Santa Claus is Canadian and you can send him a letter with the postal code HOH OHO
  140. Hawaiian pizza was invented in Canada
  141. Not a lot of natural disasters happen here
  142. We’ve got lots of cool, mostly normal wildlife (that isn’t poisonous or dangerous)
  143. We grow and export A LOT of grain. Thanks Manitoba and Saskatchewan!
  144. Our economy doesn’t completely suck
  145. Sometimes you can see the Northern Lights (way more often if you live up in the territories)
  146. We’ve admitted the mistakes we’ve made in the past
  147. We are working hard to be better to our Indigenous People to POC to women to the LGBTQ+ community and that makes me happy – we aren’t perfect but we’re trying to be better
  148. It’s not the USA
  149. It’s my home
  150. It’s a pretty great country “eh?”

Canada has a lot to be proud of as a country and it’s a pretty cool place to live. I’m very very lucky to live in a country where I feel safe and where I can be a tourist in my own country since there’s so much to see and do. Here’s to more accomplishments and amazing things that happen to Canada in the next 150 years!

I hope everyone enjoys the Canada 150 festivities and takes a few minutes to remember to look around, look around at how lucky you are to be alive right now and living in the greatest country in the world.

What makes you proud to be Canadian? Let me know in the comments!

This week I’ve compiled a playlist of Canadian music so be sure to click on the MIXTAPES tab at the top (or click here) to check it out!

Movie of the Month: Wonder Woman

If you know anything about me, you’ll know I love superhero movies. DC has made some rough movies *coughmanofsteelcough* but Wonder Woman was an exception to this. This was by far the best DC movie. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) was raised on a hidden island by her mother Hippolyta. Little does she know that she is a demigoddess. As she grows up, she is trained to be a warrior along with the other Amazon women. Diana’s life is turned upside down when American Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) arrives on the island and reveals that World War I is happening outside the island. Diana wants to go and fight and make the world a better place. She believes that fighting can be used to create peace. This movie really shows women can be fierce fighters, loyal friends, and empathetic.

Going into this movie, I knew absolutely nothing about Wonder Woman so I really appreciated that the first 20 minutes or so was focused on her backstory and how she became who she is. This was crucial for her future character development since so much of who we grow up to be is a reflection of how we were raised. Diana was raised on an island of women training to be warriors for a war against Ares but she was also trained and raised to be kind and gentle and to use her powers and training for good. I loved Diana and her character from the very beginning because I knew that she would be a strong female character.

I also loved the general plot of this movie. I found it really interesting that Diana and Steve were fighting two different wars – the war against Ares and World War I – but the stories were convergent. While Steve and the other mortals were confused about what Diana was talking about when she talked about the was against Ares, they never really questioned it because her war was helping them win their war. Diana believes Ludendorff (the bad guy), who is experimenting with making a stronger version of mustard gas, is Ares so naturally she wants to kill him. Steve also wants to kill Ludendorff because he is experimenting with mustard gas so it seems like killing him would be a win-win situation for both worlds. But of course the bad guy is never who you think it is so when Ares is revealed it is a shock and a bit of a plot twist.

This was also such a good, strong feminist movie, directed by a female might I add. While there was a little bit of romance between Steve and Diana it was never a major plot point and the other men in the movie ogled Diana for approximately 0.2 seconds before they realized that she was an important part of their mission to protect the greater good. This movie also showed that women can kick ass and be strong, especially when they are fighting for something they believe in. It’s not the desire for war the drives Diana to fight, it’s her desire to help Steve in his war and help fight for peace and that’s really powerful. I also loved that Diana was not relying on Steve in any way, she had her own way of doing things and she was not going to let a man stop her or tell her what to do. Diana’s powerful independence is what made her character so good!

This movie had a compelling plot, badass female characters, and some amazing action and visual sequences. If any of those sound like something you would like then you should see this movie. Hopefully, this movie set the tone for future DC movies (if not, their TV shows are pretty good). This movie inspires girls to be strong, kind, and compassionate at the same time as well as fighting for what you believe in. In the future, I would like to see more female directed movies telling stories with strong female characters.

Did you see Wonder Woman? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

This week I made a playlist of feminist jams – make sure to click on the MIXTAPES tab at the top to take a listen!

Strictly Ballroom Review

Strictly Ballroom is a new musical based on an Australian movie of the same name. It premiered in Sydney, Australia in 2014, had a run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, England, and is now doing a run in Toronto, Canada until June 25. Baz Luhrmann directed the movie and created and wrote the book for the musical.

The plot of this musical is very simple, which is one of the things I like about this musical. Competitive ballroom dancer, Scott Hastings (Sam Lips), runs into trouble at a major competition because he wants to dance to the beat of his heart and not the beat of the music. This causes his long time partner, Elizabeth Holt (Lauren Stroud), to leave him for a new partner. Thankfully, Fran, Just Fran (Gemma Sutton), who works at Scott’s dance studio, Kendall’s, tells him that she wants to be his new partner. Fran is just a beginner ballroom dancer but she knows he needs a partner and says she is willing to learn and wants to do it. Scott is desperate and needs a partner for the biggest competition in Australia that is only three weeks away and reluctantly agrees. And the rest is history. It’s a classic story of follow the rules or follow your heart, do what you want to do or do what your parents want you to do, and what lengths would you go to win. What really is “winning” anyways?

This show was a heck of a lot of fun to be at. The music was such a bop! There was some ballroom type music (like tango and salsa put to lyrics), some traditional Broadway style songs, and since Fran is Spanish some songs had a Spanish flare. The sets and costumes were also so extravagant. There were sparkles and sequins everywhere and every colour was the brightest you could possibly imagine. Like highlighter pink and bright turquoise. They were beautiful and so detailed and I really thought they captured the world of competitive dance really well. In the world of competitive dance, there are a lot of sparkles, sequins, and extravagant costumes. The set was also really cool. It was like one piece that got moved around and opened and closed and served as many locations from Kendall’s dance studio to Scott’s home to Fran’s home to the dance hall and it was really cool.

Because this is a musical about ballroom dancing, this musical is obviously very dance heavy. This musical made me fall back in love with dance. I mean Newsies did a good job of that too but this is different. This made me fall in love with the art of dance and what it means to be a dancer. I grew up doing ballet, modern, and jazz 3-5 days a week. Scott Hastings has a really beautiful solo early in the show (and Sam Lips is a gorgeous dancer) and it just made me re-realize that dance is a beautiful art form and I wish I had half the talent of everyone in the cast. Dance is powerful. It’s about expressing yourself and there’s a certain freedom to it that non-dancers can’t understand. I think this mentality was something that Scott was struggling with throughout the show and it was just super relatable to someone who is a dancer.

Overall, I enjoyed this show. It wasn’t my favourite show ever, but it was alright. It was not super elaborate or deep and meaningful, it was just a fun afternoon. I liked this show because I think some people forget that musical theatre is about more than just singing an acting. There’s a heck of a lot of dancing involved in it too, especially if you’re in the ensemble. Most musicals have an ensemble doing all kinds of dance elements but I think they are often overlooked because people are paying more attention to the principal actors, which I guess is kind of the point. But still, dance is a powerful storyteller and deserves more recognition in the musical theatre world. If you’re looking for something fun to do for a few hours in the next week or so, go see this show, tickets are cheap and it is a fun show.

Which “triple-threat” activity would you like to do? Sing? Act? Dance? Let me know in the comments!

This week, I made a playlist called Blue (I think I named it that since there’s blue on all the album covers) but it’s just a compilation of songs that I think go really well together. Check out my Mixtapes page and enjoy!

Award Show Season Part 3: The Tonys

 “Don’t waste any time trying to be anyone but yourself. The things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” – Ben Platt

The Tonys are Broadway’s biggest night and last night was no exception! After such an incredible 2016/2017 season, it’s no surprise that The Tonys officially ended the season in an incredible way!

The 2016/2017 season was filled with incredible musicals, both new and revivals. I love that there were performances from all the nominees for Best Musical and Best Revival. It gave a little taste of what happens during these shows, even bringing in the sets that are used in the show to make it feel authentic, which I think is pretty cool. How they get all those sets and set up in Radio City Music Hall is beyond me though. My favourite performance of the night was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. I loved how they made the more traditional stage at Radio City like their immersive staging at the Imperial Theatre and I loved how they did a mashup of songs from the show. Great Comet has such diverse styles of music so the mashup made sense and it worked beautifully. A+ music arranger! Their ensemble is also amazing and it made the performance really enjoyable to watch. The cast of Dear Evan Hansen (or should I say Ben Platt) performed Waving Through a Window. I thought it was really good but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t You Will Be Found. I just think that’s an incredibly powerful song with an important message that should be shared on live television and everyone in the cast has a role in the song. I love Ben Platt and think he’s super talented but I think the rest of the cast was overlooked by just having them singing the background harmonies. Because I’m Canadian, I feel obligated to say that I loved Come From Away’s Performance, which is 100% true. They performed the opening number Welcome to the Rock. I’d hoped they’d perform Screech In, but since this musical is mostly sung through and there’s no overture, Welcome to the Rock gives a good overview and feel for the show, which is great. Falsettos’s performance was also super fun and super cute (Anthony Rosenthal is the cutest human on Broadway). I have to say though, I’m disappointed that Hello, Dolly! did a performance without Dolly (aka Bette Midler). I was really looking forward to seeing her perform. All the performances were amazing and it’s amazing that they can do that for 2.5 hours (not just one song) 8 times a week!

One thing that I really liked about this year’s awards was that there was a lot of love given to plays and playwrights. I don’t know why, but plays always seem to take a back seat to musicals. Writing a play and getting it produced on Broadway is just as impressive as writing a musical and getting it produced on Broadway. However, plays can’t really do “performances” of a song like musicals can. So I appreciated the fact that each of the playwrights for the nominees for Best Play were given the chance to give a brief synopsis and talk about the themes in their play.

With 38 new shows opening on Broadway in the 2016/2017 season, there was bound to be some tough competition for the actual awards. The Best Featured Actress category was one of the toughest I’ve ever seen:

  • Jenn Colella (Come From Away)
  • Rachel Bay Jones (Dear Evan Hansen)
  • Stephanie J. Block (Falsettos)
  • Kate Baldwin (Hello, Dolly!)
  • Mary Beth Piel (Anastasia)

I thought this category would be between Jenn and Stephanie and to be honest, I never thought Rachel had a chance in hell of winning, but yet she did. Not that Rachel didn’t deserve to win (all these women deserved to win), I just really thought that Jenn Colella should’ve won because her performance in Come From Away is just one of the best performances of any actress that I’ve ever seen. On stage, she makes me laugh, she makes me cry, and off stage, she is one of the kindest, humblest human beings.

One of the things I dislike about the Tonys in general is that the “creative” categories like Scenic Design, Choreography, Orchestrations, and Lighting Design are not televised. These artists winning these awards deserve to be recognized just as much as anyone else involved in a production. They matter too. If it weren’t for these people the show would not have the same level of pizazz and impressiveness as they currently do. I was really happy that Alex Lacamoire won Best Orchestrations for Dear Evan Hansen because his strings arrangements just make me sob. That makes back to back Tony wins for Lac after winning last year for Hamilton. Andy Blankenbuehler also collected back to back Tony wins for Best Choreography, again after winning for Hamilton last year. But this year Andy both directed and choreographed Bandstand. From the one number that I’ve seen (called Nobody), I love the choreography and I would love to see this show. For me, it’s definitely a bucket list item to take a dance class from Andy Blankenbuehler. Great Comet obviously won Scenic Design of a musical. This was predictable because of the immersive nature of the show and how they’ve designed the Imperial Theatre. I don’t know about you, but I would happily watch an extra hour of the Tonys if it meant I got to see these people win their awards and their acceptance speeches.

Of course, the big award of the night is Best Musical and this year it so deservingly went to Dear Evan Hansen. I really thought Come From Away might give DEH a run for its money at the Tonys but apparently I was wrong and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed. As soon as Benj Pasek and Justin Paul won for Best Original Score and Steven Levenson won for Best Book, I knew that Dear Evan Hansen had Best Musical locked up, since well the book and the score are what make a musical. The Tony for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical was Ben Platt’s to lose (there was no real competition) and he 10000% earned this award. He puts his heart and soul and emotions into this show 8 times a week and does a beautiful job. I can’t believe he’s only 23! He’s such a talent and will go so far. I haven’t seen DEH but I’ve been listening to the cast album since it came out and it truly is a beautiful story that has such a fitting place in the 21st century and I really do love it. “You have been seen. You matter. You will be found.”

Overall, I have to say, the show itself was severely mediocre. Kevin Spacey was a fine host.The jokes and the food bit were fine.  The awards themselves were fine, if not a little disappointing. I really thought Come From Away deserved more than just Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley (which was so well deserved). I really thought they should’ve had Best Book, even though it’s mostly sung through and Best Featured Actress for Jenn Colella. Come From Away took home 1 out of 7 nominations, Dear Evan Hansen took home 6 out of 9 nominations, Great Comet took home 2 out of 12 nominations, and Hello, Dolly! took home 4 out of 10 nominations. In terms of plays, there was no clear “winner” but several different shows took home a Tony, which is wonderful.

I just want to say, thank you, Broadway for being a light in the darkness, for giving me things to obsess over, for giving me new stories and music to fall in love with, and reminding me to keep dreaming big and believe in something magical. How lucky I am to love something like the theatre.

This week, to celebrate the theatre, I’ve made a playlist of the best of Broadway past and present on my Mixtapes page. Enjoy!

What were your favourite moments of the Tonys and the overall 2017/2018 Broadway season? Let me know in the comments!


The Power of Music

Music has had a profound impact on my life in so many ways and I know that it’s something that everyone enjoys and can relate to at least a little bit on some level. Everyone likes different music and just to be clear, you are not above anyone else because of your taste in so called “good” music. Just let everyone enjoy their music.

My parents always played music around the house when I was younger. I remember them playing All Star by Smashmouth, My Own Worst Enemy by Lit, If I had $1000000 by the Barenaked Ladies, and there was always U2 on and stuff similar to that. I think that largely shaped my music tastes that I have today. I would describe my taste in music as everything from Classic Rock (The Beatles, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Queen) to Alternative (Of Monsters & Men, Imagine Dragons, Halsey) to pop (Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Adele) to Broadway show tunes and everything in between. One of my favourite things sharing music with other people. I always find it really cool to find out what kind of music people listen to because music really says so much about a person. That’s why I really like sites like 8tracks and Spotify because you can share your playlists if you want or you can listen to other people’s and discover new music.

Concerts are one of my favourite things in the world. I absolutely love live performances of any kind but concerts are especially fun. Concerts are so much fun because they bring together people who all share a common interest – the particular band/artist. It’s also just a lot of fun to see your favourite artists live and maybe if you’re lucky enough to meet them either through VIP tickets or after the show. The best moment of concerts is when the performer stops singing but the audience keeps singing. That is an absolutely magical feeling.

I’ve done a fair bit of travelling over my life and one of the coolest things about music is that it’s kind of a universal language. Different countries have different genres and different artists and some even have a style their known for but wherever there’s music playing, there is always people singing, dancing, smiling, or just clapping along. I think it’s really neat how music can bring people people together to have a good time whether it’s at a concert in Toronto or a beach party in Mexico. If you ever take any history courses in your life, there’s no doubt that there will be a section on arts, culture, and music in the textbook. Music has been around forever and it’s become a global thing that everyone partakes in in one way or another whether it’s through learning an instrument or listening to an album on your cell phone.

Fun fact about me, I can also play music! I will be forever grateful that my parents signed me up for piano lessons when I was little. I played piano for about 5 years and did my Grade 1 Royal Conservatory of Music exam (yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like much but it taught me so much). I also played the clarinet in school from grade 7-10 and sang in choir for most of my school life, which was pretty fun. Learning these instruments taught me so much about being able to read music (which I think is a pretty cool skill) a little bit about math, perseverance and concentration, and creativity. Because of this, I can pick up a piece of sheet music and learn it on the piano in a short amount of time (if I practice). I also taught myself how to play the ukulele, which was easier because of my background in music. Because I understand how to make music, I feel like I get so much more out of listening to music because I can hear the different instruments and all the little background sounds, the pitch, tempo, etc. Learning music was hands down one of the most valuable things I’ve ever learned in my life and it has truly shaped who I am today.

So, because I love sharing music and discovering new music, starting this week, every week (at least for now, I might go to every second week but we’ll see how things go) I will be releasing a new Spotify playlist on the ‘Mixtapes’ link at the top of my blog. I love making playlists and mixes of songs that sound good together so I thought this would be fun. Here you will find songs that I’m currently enjoying or songs I think go well together. Some playlists might have a theme or relate to the week’s post or it might be just something random. Either way, I hope you find some new music that you enjoy!

This week’s playlist is called, I’m Going to Be Okay and needs no explanation but I recommend listening to it in order.’

What are some of your favourite songs and artists? Let me know in the comments and let’s get this sharing thing going!