This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

There is a play and a movie to review this week. Sean Cisterna’s Boy City, which was shot in Orillia, had a first look test screening at Creative Nomad Studios Wednesday night.

That means there are still some tweaks which will likely be made before it gets distributed to audiences. In many respects it looks like a made for TV movie because of choices made with the look.

It’s a bit of a mockumentary about 5 middle aged men who have a boy band and their struggle to make it. It’s not exactly Spinal Tap, but the comparison gives you more information than another paragraphs of words will do.

When shooting these days it’s possible to make video footage look like film. The big giveaway of the director’s intent is how much of each scene is in focus from the front of the set to the back. When it’s all in focus you’re looking at TV quality shooting aesthetics. When only the subject is in focus and the background is blurry the aim is for a film/movie look.

Lighting also plays an important role. You may have noticed these days the lighting on subjects in many movies is pretty low and almost non-existent on the set in the scene – even for daytime / day lit scenes.  When everything is evenly lit, again the effect is traditional video/TV.

Most of Boy City is going for the TV look, which fits with the documentary spoof model. In contrast the low-mood evening scenes (shot on the rooftop garden of the Swinton Building) looks as you’d expect of a movie. It is and obvious break from a TV look. The Orillia skyline, such as it is (Opera House, Library), looks very good as the background for those scenes.

I might have gone for more of a movie look throughout, rather than a TV look, but it’s not my movie.

The band (as is the case with the genre, they are not musicians playing instruments) is pathetically funny, as intended. They can sing, kind of, they can’t dance very well, and their assessment of their own talent is confident, but not objective.

They lose their drive and chance for success at the hands of a record label executive who bluntly lays it on the line they have no talent as a group. They go their separate ways, until one of them makes a connection with someone who has deep pockets and no taste, and is willing to back them to record their songs and market them.

It turns out that person owes the mob, the Swedish Mafia, a favour and his continued existence. I’m still not sure what the lure is for the mob to involve themselves in a make or break situation with an over the hill boy band, but it leads to an unexpected dramatic conclusion.

The audience of about 60 people generally liked the movie. There are a number of laughs to enjoy, and they think there is a bright future for this movie.

Valerie Thornton and Kathryn Heins in Steel Magnolias

The play, Steel Magnolias, opened Thursday night at the Opera House. This is a Mariposa Arts Theatre production directed by Stevie Baker. Baker, and all of the cast except for Valerie Thornton (Truvy) had their first performance with MAT.

I think the biggest correctable issue this play has is projection. This is not new to this production only. I’ve noticed lately many productions suffered from actors forgetting how much space they have to fill with their unamplified voices. That could be because many of the actors have likely worked in productions where microphones were used and have a false sense of how they are doing.

The clear indicator is people sitting nearest the stage laughed a lot more often than people sitting further back. Many times those sitting closest to me weren’t laughing with others down front because we didn’t get the funny line

If your memory is hazy about this play, which was also a movie and even though Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Olympia Dukakis were all nominated for various awards as supporting actresses, you won’t be surprised Dolly Parton was also in this movie when the light comes up and you see Thornton costumed and a bit over the top wigged up as a nod to Dolly.

The set looks like it was ripped out of the 80s (the play premiered in 1987). The colour combinations, tones and shades, and style of furniture all gave the impression of the most tasteless decade of my lifetime. So, congrats to the set designer and builder and to the art director for their period observance.

There is one decision with the set that is working against the actors. It’s set in a hairstyle shop and there are two chairs and carts right at front stage center. They serve to block the view of the actors behind them, particularly when there is action happening in the seating area at the back wall of the set.

At one point the actors were stacked three deep and the one with the lines was completely blocked from view. At one point I wasn’t sure who was talking until I glanced at everyone else to see their lips weren’t moving to figure out who was speaking.

It seems to me the chairs and carts could be moved stage right and closer together without a lot of trouble and greatly improve the sightlines.

If your memory is hazy about this play, which was also a movie, and even though Shirley MacLaine, Sally field, Julia Roberts and Olympia Dukakis were all nominated for various awards as supporting actresses, you won’t be surprised Dolly Parton was also in the movie when the light comes up and you see Thornton costumed and a bit over the top wigged up as a nod to Dolly.

The cast has had some challenges lately related to pandemic measures which affected their dress rehearsal and may have had a bearing on the performance I saw, so I’ll not discuss individual performances and hopefully they’ll settle in with the remaining dates. Steel Magnolias runs to April 30 with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays, plus a matinee this Saturday. You can get tickets online.

Gospel and Blues, One More Thing

I got a note from Lance Anderson about last week’s review. It was specifically about the tune he wrote, What If It Was Your Child. I said it his response to what was happening in Ukraine and he did mention the point. However, as he pointed out, and I forgot, his primary motivator was how he perceived some public reaction and comment about the Residential School issue.

lance anderson
Lance Anderson at the 2019 Gospel and Blues concert.

In particular, comments like, “Why don’t they just move on.” “It happened in the past,” or “Can’t they just let it go,” and “Get over it,” are enough to move many artists to use their talent to answer those kinds of comments.

Lance said in his note it was his fault in how he introduced the song the impression it was all about Ukraine, but I think he’s being diplomatic or hard on himself because when I read the note I went full Italian and slapped my forehead for forgetting he did say it was about the Residential Schools. My prompted recall is Lance did have a lot to say about the inspiration being the schools. That detail just got lost in my struggle to remember everything else about the concert. As he said, it’s written in such a way it could apply to other cases, like Ukraine, but the record here should be it is our own tragedy he is addressing.

It sounds like he is going to record it, and that is good.

Are You Ready?

Tonight at 7 p.m. Craig Mainprize will take the stage at St. Paul’s Centre and the Roots North Music Festival will be on for the remainder of the weekend.

Craig Mainprize

It really has what in retail is known as a soft opening right now at Alleycats Music where an open mic is in progress. If you are seeing this in time Meredith Moon is playing at Eclectic Café at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m.  Steph Dunn is playing at Lott 88 and Grady Kelneck will be at Rustica.

Come to think of it, the softer opening was last night with Alex Andrews and Michael Martyn at Picnic and Lindy Vopnfjörd at Lot 88.

Following Craig at St. Paul’s is Terra Lightfoot and Steve Poltz. After 10 p.m. when the main stage shenanigans are done, Scott Olgard will be at Kensington and there will be an open jam at the Hog N’ Penny.

You can go to any of the gigs not happening at St. Paul’s. They are free. St. Paul’s is sold out (tomorrow too).

Alleycats Music will leave their mic up overnight and it will be back in use all day Saturday. Beginning at 10 a.m. Dray Tony will be at Mark IV Brothers, and hourly after that these gigs are happening: the Orillia Music Center is hosting Music for Young Children at St. Paul’s; Jack Nicolle and Dan McBride are at Apple Annie’s; Dray Tony will be at Lone Wolf Café (12:30 p.m.); the Tunes to Tweet podcast recording is still happening but the venue owner and participants have decided to not record as a public event (when it’s online, I’ll let you know); and Ellwood Hammond will be at Hibernation Arts, Sam Johnston at Picnic and Chris LeMay at Lot 88 – all at 2 p.m.

The main stage has in order of appearance, Lydia Persaud, Logan Staats and the Good Lovelies. When that wraps, you’ll want to see Taylor Knox at Picnic ($10 cover), Run With the Kittens at Couchiching Craft Brewing ($10 cover), the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band at Brewery Bay, Michael Costantini at Kensington, or take in the open jam at the Hog N’ Penny – all start at 10 p.m. and the latter three are free. Some tough choices will have to be made.

Sunday, Alleycats will continue the open mic, Jaedon Daly will be at Bakes By The Lake at noon, Sean Patrick at Picnic at 2 p.m. and Jamie Drake at the Hog N’ Penny at 4:30 p.m.

I know we’ve all been itching to go out and do something different. Some people have had opportunities the past couple weeks to see the world beyond their front door, and many people are taking their liberty without caution and acting like it’s Fleet Week in NYC and wandering about without a care or masks, but having just looked at reports and seen some anecdotal comments online, the pandemic didn’t get the interoffice memo it’s over, so be the model of rational prudence and bring your mask.

The Shorts

  • National Youth Week is from May 1 to 7 and the Orillia Youth Centre will celebrate with a fundraising concert May 6 at the youth center. The performers are Zain Campbell, Mitch Sleeman and a new band called Crabrat. All the proceeds will go toward the bursary funds named in honour of Nelson Bell and Jake Beers. You can get ticket, or make a donation here.
  • There is going to be a Simcoe County Theatre Festival in June at Barrie’s Five Points Theatre. Stacy Schat is directing one of 5 plays being presented. They are auditioning for all 5 plays right now. You can get more details how to do that online.
  • Liz Anderson is performing in the Acoustic Floyd show at the Bracebridge Hall May 14 (tickets)… The Straight Goods (Matt James, Nate Robertson, Peter Sanderson and Steve Parkes) are playing a benefit called Music for Cats 2 at the Moose Lodge May 7; Ronnie Douglas is a special guest for this fundraiser for the Comfie Cat Shelter; get tickets ($15) at Plum Loco… The Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … The Opera House has a great schedule of concerts happening and tickets for summer theater are on sale; see all of it here.
  • Danny Webster has new music out; he’s going by the name Livers now and the song is called Anyone, the full album is out next week and I’ll have more about it then… Glen Robertson has another new tune, Crimes and Dimes on his Soundcloud channel, it’s really good, great production, great bass line and singing, in the right places should be a hit; while you’re there click on his photo and listen to the playlist, lots of good music there… Skye Wallace, has a new tune, Everything Is Fine. Listen to it here, you can see her other new videos there too… Ayden Miller’s band, New Friends has a new tune,Right Here… Aaron Mangoff has a new EP you can listen to – and buy – here.
  •  OMAH has a really short, three day exhibit, from April 21 to 23 called Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Pop-Up Exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Soldiers’ wing of the hospital. Then on April 23 the 25th the Annual International Women’s Day Art Show starts, and another exhibit Dying Matters: Reflections Of Growth Through Grief is a fundraiser for Hospice Orillia… Peter Street Fine Arts has Bob Broom’s art on display as the gallery’s guest this month; Bob also has CDs of music he’s written for sale…  Hibernation Arts monthly show is a group one called Springing. The gallery also has new pieces by Jon Oelrichs, the Bayside Artists, and Tammy Henry Johnson to see.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Mike Beresford/MAT) Main: Valerie Thornton, Jo-Ann Buckley and Kathryn Heins in Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Steel Magnolias now playing at the Opera House

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