Saturday, January 25, 2014

To the Barricades

As soon as we got off the plane, returning from our week away in Mexico over the New Year, we stepped into a January that we knew was going to be rather full.  The month hasn't disappointed us, dishing out a full meal of daytime and nighttime adventures that have been both decadently tasty and intensely interesting.

Dylan, Ben and I have been immersed in rehearsals for Les Mis, moving into blocking rehearsals two days after getting off the plane.  We are three weeks away from opening the show and we have run the whole thing three times now.  Today will make a fourth and possibly a fifth trips through acts one and two.

As with the other productions I've been involved with over the last few years (The Farnsworth Invention and Hometown...The Musical!) a blog series is chronicling the journey.  "To the Barricades" is up to Volume 13 already and is being widely read by cast and crew members, their family and friends, and a few others.  For me, it's a great creative outlet and an excellent way to share an experience that is largely foreign to most people.

Dylan and Ben are loving being a part of the show, even more so than I ever could have imagined.  Dylan, on the one hand, is Mr. Social.  He can often be seen laughing in the wings, commiserating with Tanner, Samson or Kyle, frolicking in the fellowship of an extraordinary shared experience.

Ben, on the other hand, is more serious.  He is always thinking ahead to what's coming up next, following along with the scene, and often mouthing the words to whatever is being sung.  Early on in the process, he seemed to know every single lyric in this long musical. 

Interestingly, I'm a conglomeration of the two, or they are a divergent product of me.  I love the social aspects of the experience, but only during breaks.  When someone is working, even if it's not me, I'm focused in the wings, thinking of my next entrance and following along.

"Why are you shaking so much in 'The Bargain' scene?" Ben asked me the other day, sounding a little concerned that I might be showing signs of early onset Parkinson's.

He made me stop and think, because Claude (the director) had noticed that during one particular scene my right hand was busy shaking through the whole song.  

"I think that's acting," I said.  "But, it's not something that I'm aware that I am doing."

When I cross that invisible line between offstage and on, I walk into the physical body of someone else.  I don't think about it. It's not calculated nor contrived.  It just happens.

With the show completely blocked and everybody off book, we are now into adding layers, details that elevate the story and create the magic that over 5,000 patrons will enjoy starting on our preview performance on February 13th.  The next 20 days will include the addition of costumes, make up, large set pieces, and lights.  

Heather has been very patient with us through a month that has seen us gone on many evenings and through much of the weekends. It helps that Claude and Tiffany are staying with us, on several levels.  They have grown into our dearest friends in the world, and having them around just feels good.  It also helps that Claude not only loves to cook, he is an outstanding chef, and the food we get when he is around is off the charts amazing.

Just returned from being in Edmonton for about three days, Heather did a series of meditation recordings that she is going to market online.  With the help of another good friend, Pat Marchand, an audio engineer, it sounds like it worked out brilliantly.  Soon you'll be able to download soothing and soul enhancing meditations featuring Heather's marvellous voice.  

Arts Council Wood Buffalo, the Premier's Council on Culture, ConvergenceYMM, Social Prosperity, Strategy Road Map, and Nexus North are all keeping me activated and engaged outside of rehearsals.  They are all titles of organizations, projects or events, but the individual words tell a story of where my focus is this days, the first word being the fulcrum.  When I said after losing the election that "where a door closes, a window opens"; that window is wide open and opportunities are in abundance.

After an idyllic and Arctic December, with the perfect mix of bitter cold and magical snow, January has proven to be rather bizarre and unpredictable.  We have had days when the temperature has vaulted into the positive single digits, unheard of for January in the north, and days when it dived back down into the minus 30 range.  One night we experienced an unparalleled 30-degree swing in temperature and wind in excess of 120 km/hr. Tree limbs were popping off trees like nobody's business and just walking to the car proved to be a proposition fraught with challenge.  

"Sunrise," screamed Ben from the study the other night.  I grabbed my boots and iPhone and ran outside in my t-shirt and caught it.  A million dollar sunset if I've ever seen one, another produce of our bizarre January weather.

I posted on Facebook recently that our reality of being so geographically separated from friends and family is something that we accept and embrace, but a reality that really sucks when we're doing something like Les Mis and wish we could more readily share it with all of you.  In the absence of being able to make a spontaneous trip to Fort McMurray in February, I encourage you to follow along   by reading the "To the Barricades" blog series found at  You may not be able to see the show, but you'll get a comprehensive behind-the-scenes narrative of the process.

Happy New Year!

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