This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Mariposa Arts Theatre is doing The Gin Game at their Brammer Drive hall until June 19. This play is a character study about a couple of people (Jim Dwyer and Cheryl Tulloch) stuck in a retirement home.

Neither of them is there by choice. We learn because of a series of misfortune and bad choices they have nowhere else to go. At one point Tulloch’s character, Fonsia, mentions she is 71-years-old. My first thought was, who the heck has to live in a retirement home at 71? Then I remembered this play is written by an American, Donald Coburn, and from his perspective it wouldn’t seem odd someone so young with no outward appearance of illness would end up in a home. Which might be an unintended insight to how life is south of the border – creating a character of that age and placing them in a home is perfectly natural and audiences would accept that.

As the story opens they don’t know each other, but Dwyer’s character, Weller, introduced first, is bumbling about trying to interest himself in anything and then Fonsia walks in. Like a moth to a light he’s onto her for companionship. The hook is a game of gin rummy.

What makes plays, and movies and books work is creating characters audiences can identify with whether from personal experience or observed experience. Weller is old school as it comes. He’s the lead, he’s got the all the answers, he provides the direction, he’s the man, and he’s right. Those are also the flaws that landed him in the home.

Fonsia is typical too. Almost a wallflower, acquiescing to others needs, no opinions to share until forced to have one – and then the domineering personality rises (which is why she’s alone in a home, everyone has abandoned her) – church-going, no booze, no swearing, no anything, wears a mask all day, every day (she is helpless by choice).

Weller thinks he’s a card sharp. If the story was built around a broken lawnmower he’d be the mechanical genius. As such, he’s in the driver’s seat, commanding her to play (each and every time they do). He also can’t take losing, especially to a woman. He loses every game they play but the last. Each loss is an affront to his perception of mastery and dominance, and with each loss he becomes meaner.

Part way through the second act I wondered how this story was going to have a happy ending. This play is classic Americana and the golden rule is no matter what, the play ends on a happy note. Of course it’s from the mid 70s and at that time writers and directors wee smashing norms to smithereens. I just couldn’t see that happening. I also have not seen the play or the movie (both with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy), so I didn’t know the outcome. It’s not happy.

With plays like this, observers with a little understanding of how plays work get a lesson on the importance of casting. Weller is a puffed up balloon on a blustery day through most of it. The actor has to be able to turn on a dime when the pin is introduced, and Dwyer handles both extremes believably. Fonsia has to be proper at all times, even when she is not being proper – just like a southern grandma telling you exactly what she thinks with a big fat smile and making you believe her advice, given with love and wisdom, is in your best interest. Then she has to be convincingly crushed, almost to the point of breaking.

So you aren’t going to go see this as a spirit lifter, unless seeing someone else’s misery makes you happy you aren’t in their shoes. You are going to see this play to see two actors at work doing a fantastic job with the material they are given. Go and appreciate how they make these characters come to life in a most convincing way.

You can get tickets online and there are matinees both Sundays of the run.

Concerts Ahead

Sunday evening Concerts in the Park are returning to the Aquatheater starting June 26 with the Orillia Concert Band.

Orillia Concert Band Summer 2019

This time around the concerts are every other weekend instead of weekly. The Orillia Silver Band plays July 10, the Barrie Concert Band July 24, The Skyliners Big Band August 14 and the Simcoe County Band August 28. They start at 6:30 p.m., bring a lawn chair.

Thirty days from now the final main stage show will be starting at the Mariposa Folk Festival. The festival lineup is pretty good, in that there are always acts I’ve not come across yet – the bulk of them really, but I have come to trust the folks at Mariposa for picking musicians I,
and audiences are going to like. 

On the Friday and Saturday of the weekend they will have a stage downtown and most of the performers will be those who were chosen at the audition concert in May. I am happy to say Kayla Mahomed will be playing that stage at 11 a.m. Saturday (Shane Cloutier will close it out at 3 p.m.). What is really remarkable for Kayla is she’s on the pub stage Sunday night in the middle of a run of great performers starting with one of the most popular of Mariposa finds Reuben and the Dark. Following her are two other audition concert acts, Aleksi Campagne and Red Fox – both of whom I am told gave great audition performances.

Lance Anderson is doing something completely different. Instead of closing out the festival as he did with Matchedash Parish the last two times, he’s opening the festival on the main stage with his 60 in 60 set.

That’s a tall order, packing in 60 tunes in one hour, but as he said to me more than a month ago, doing only ten tunes wasn’t going to cut it because, “some of the most iconic music of the last 60 years was first performed at Mariposa.”

He’s put together a great band including Matt Weidinger and Quisha Wint from Matchedash Parish, Selena Evangeline (who was in the Gospel and Blues band last April), Bucky Berger, Wayne Deadder, and Mike Daley. Do not be surprised if some last minute addition/cameos from other festival performers occur.

That happens at 5:05 p.m. on Friday evening, so don’t be tardy. One thing they are also doing different this year is they have a schedule for the quick appearances between main acts. They used to call them Tweeners because the performers would get a piece of the a corner of the stage and a mic or two to sing 3, maybe 4 tunes while the stage crew was turning over the rest of the stage for the next act. Usually those were picked kind of on the fly. Gordon Lightfoot did one of these a few years ago.

The headliner Friday is Lennon Stella. Saturday we’ll see Mavis Staples, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Irish Mythen before the Strumbellas close out the night. Serena Ryder and David and Marla Celia will be onstage ahead of Blue Rodeo on Sunday night.

The full schedule of performances is available online. If you intend to get tickets, you better do so right after you finish reading this column because the Festival is almost sold out. Get them online here.

Leacock Is Open
Mary Pickford Exhibit at the Leacock Museum

I was in to see the Mary Pickford exhibit this week. It’s pretty cool, they have some restored footage from some her movies and from other events, some clips with Charlie Chaplin in them. It’s amazing the restoration work gives the footage a look like it was recorded sometime during modern times. Pickford was a silent screen star and as you might know movies back then were shot at 16 frames per second, and often replayed at 24 frames resulting like everyone was on crack jumping about or walking like they have full loads in their pants. The footage at the museum doesn’t have that quality.

I also took a look at the restaurant (Fare) reno in the Swanmore Hall part of the other building and they have done an amazing job transforming it from a meeting room to a restaurant.

And if you’ve been waiting, polishing up your helmet and looking for your steel-toed boots in anticipation of registration opening for the Leacock Horseshoe Club you can do so now online.

Orillia Concert Band
Susan Rudoler, Guest Artist At Hibernation Arts This Month

When I screw up, it’s spectacular. Saturday I was all set for the Orillia Concert Band gig at St. Paul’s Centre in the evening. I was out earlier in the afternoon to checkout Susan Rudoler’s art at Hibernation Art (her stuff is up all month), got home, putzed around a bit and realized I had a few hours at hand. Not wanting to start any task on my list because I wouldn’t be able to finish before heading out and already having had along day I decided to take a siesta.

I figured I’d only be out for an hour. Step one, set alarm. Step two, turn up volume. Simple two step process.

Here’s the thing, I forgot to do step two. I woke up at 9:15 and immediately had a panic. I rushed to the computer, edited Jim Foster’s column, got it online, linked it over to Facebook, and then realized it was not Sunday morning. Why did I do this 13 hours ahead of time? It’s too bad I don’t have a computer camera running because I’m sure it would have been an informative bit of video seeing how colour can drain from a face as I realized it was still Saturday night and I should be at St. Paul’s at that moment.

By then there was no way I was going to make it for what was left of the concert. Resigned I had really screwed up, I decided to watch a Youtube video or dozen. Imagine my surprise to see a link to the Orillia Concert Band’s simulcast of the concert.

I have this other bad habit, I sometimes stop reading emails when I get to the point I’ve seen all the information I need at the moment, which on occasion means I miss reading information I wasn’t seeking, but nevertheless is relevant to what I’m looking up.

So, I was surprised I was still going to get to see the concert, almost as it happened, but wondered how I didn’t know this information already. It turns out the info on the simulcast was below the signature in one of the emails I got about the gig.

Here’s the news flash, if you too missed the show, you can watch it here. I’m not going to do any sort of real review because it’s not the same as being there; other than to say, overall the band sounded good.

A word of explanation, there is a moment about two thirds of the way through when someone wanders in off the street and causes a bit of a commotion.  You don’t see it, but you hear it.  Fortunately the concert was a fundraiser for Information Orillia (they raised $2,000 and still counting) and several people in the audience from Info Orillia have training to deal with people and situations like this, so the disrupter was turned around and taken outside and the concert resumed pretty quickly. The only reason I bring this up is because I couldn’t really tell what was happening (cameras didn’t capture it) and knowing the details will help you understand what occurred.

You can still make a donation to Info Orillia in support of the OCB fundraiser here. (Make sure you type OCB in the message box so your donation gets credited to the band’s fundraiser.)

The Shorts

  • Students at Orillia Secondary School are doing Guys and Dolls at the school. There is a matinee Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 / $5 for students.
  • The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture has brought back their popular Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories event. It is free to attend and takes place tomorrow at the Rama Community Hall. Speakers lined up are Norma Dunning, Lisa Bird-Wilson, Drew Hayden Taylor, Waub Rice, Shanika MacEachern, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, Sid Bobb, Sherry Lawson and Brenda Wastasecoot. Sherry Lawson and Fred Addis put the program together. See the complete schedule here.
  • Staff of the Orillia Public Library have organized a couple of events for Pride Month. Saturday at 10:30 a.m. has Drag Queen Storytime with guest Auntie Plum. It’s a family oriented literacy program. Registration is not required, but space is limited. The 7:30 p.m. afterhours 19+ event with Plum Vicious is sold out.
  • I had a chat with Bill Dunlop, Wilverine on 89.1 Max FM, and he told me Couchiching Craft Brewing Company is having a weekly vinyl night in their second floor room. If you haven’t seen it, I think it’s going to end up being a great venue for music. Lots of room for people and bands. Bill is spinning the records and you get to bring your own for him to play. The publicity blurb says there will be information about the music being played, which I take to mean if Bill doesn’t know, you will have an opportunity to share what you know. Vinyl Night starts June 16 at 7 p.m. And, Chris Robinson and Will Davis are playing Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
The artists with art on the The Stack gallery wall at the Orillia Recreation Centre: Wendy Cooper-Parkinson (front), Jon Oelrichs, Jimi McKee, Carol Deimling and Dani Magder.
  •  The Stack gallery wall at the Orillia Recreation Centre has new stuff hanging around. The exhibit opening Thursday afternoon was well attended.
  • Creative Nomad Studios has some new programs for kids. They are about how to be safe and responsible while home alone, learning how to babysit, and small business for kids (i.e. operate your own lemonade stand, etc.). Register for these and other classes here. And, ODAC is having their annual general meeting June 15 at Creative Nomad Studios at 5 p.m.
  • The Park Street Collegiate reunion the  weekend of July 16 is getting better all the time with new musicians added to the Saturday night dance at the Barnfield Recreation Centre (Even Steven, Liz Anderson, Mark Stewart’s band and Pete Sanderson’s band) a Hockey team reunion at Quayle’s Brewery in the afternoon, and a restaurant tour (see the food?, Yup. Ok, on to the next). Find out more details and how to get tickets at the reunion website.
  • The Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest is open to everyone and there are substantial win, place and show cash prizes in elementary, student and adult classes. The entry fee is $25 per poem for adults, $10 for students and elementary kids are free to enter. The contest closes June 30 and July 17 prizes are awarded and readings by winners on hand will happen at the museum. Find links to entry forms here.
  • Zachary Lucky shared news his latest album Songs For Hard Times has been streamed 50,000 times on Spotify. He’ll in Europe (The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany specifically) to do a bunch of gigs in July. I’m going to send you to his Bandcamp page instead where you can listen to the album and buy it in all the formats – plus he gets a bigger share of the revenue than all the other platforms pay.
  • Aaron Mangoff has a new album called Never Wake Up. He’s adopted a project name, Summer Birds For this one. Aaron has been known to fly some things not under his own name. I gave it a listen, enjoyed it and you can too on his Bandcamp page… Tangents has a Bandcamp page too. On it you’ll find one of the tunes from their new EP and links to all their other music.
  • Roger Harvey is returning to Orillia to do two fundraising concerts for the Orillia Youth Centre’s Nelson Bell and Jake Beers Bursaries. The first is June 30 at Eclectic Café. Sammy is opening and you can get tickets here. The other one is July 1 at Farmfest in Sebright. Opening that one is Kayla Mahomed and Alex and you can get tickets here.
  • Steven Henry plays Saturday night at the Hog N’ Penny starting at 8 p.m. … Jakob Pearce has some gigs lined up; the next couple on his calendar are 2 p.m., June 12 at Picnic and June 17 at Ktchn… if you had tickets for Ashley MacIsaac’s cancelled March 2020 concert at St. Paul’s Centre, it’s been rescheduled to June 18. Didn’t have tickets? Find them here… the Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Jim Dwyer and Cheryl Tulloch in Mariposa Arts Theatre’s The Gin Game

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