The Shaw Festival – Alice in Wonderland REVIEW

I remember my first play vividly: The Lion King. I must have only been five or six at the time, but the intricate costumes, catchy songs,  the animals from one of my favourite films brought to life, right in front of my eyes. I caught the bug- any opportunity there was, I took. I think I saw The Lion King three times in the next few years. Then, was Mamma Mia. A gift to my mom for her birthday, if I recall correctly and she brought me along. I sang the songs for months afterwards-Wicked followed  a few years later. Fast forward a few years, and in addition to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I was given the opportunity to see Alice in Wonderland at the Shaw Festival this past weekend.

Adapted for the stage by Peter Hinton, The Shaw’s take on Alice in Wonderland was fresh, imaginative and visually stunning. The many challenges that Lewis Carroll’s whimsical story were all met with innovative and creative solutions: putting the ‘wonder’ in wonderland, if I may, for adults and children alike.

This version of the classic tale began with a dreamy story by a family friend whilst on a boat ride in the English countryside about a girl named Alice, which captivates the real, curious ten-year-old Alice (TARA ROSLING). You did read that correctly, a boat ride. A combination of lighting, audio, video technology and a seemingly-magical boat that glides along the stage floor sets the scene for an extraordinary adventure.

Throughout the play, technology is intelligently used- bringing the smirking cheshire cat to life with all of its mischievous disappearing and reappearing, allowing Alice to shrink down to no more than three inches and most spectacularly, allowing her to fall down the rabbit hole.

The stellar orchestra, consisting of Anna Redekop, Alex Grant, Jeewon Kim, Joseph Tritt, Shawn Moody and Tom Skublics, were able to bring to life this whimsical world created, and truly sold the original songs as a part of the world of Wonderland.

Costume designer William Schmuck shines; with the marriage of human and animal forms for the majority of the characters – vibrant colours and unusual textures melted together to create whimsical characters with stunning silhouettes from the gryphon on stilts, the frog footmen and maids, the lobsters… Each creature offers its own wondrous look. In addition, Alice’s costume, a grey-like blue, manages to be both traditional and modern simultaneously – a stunning feat.

However, arguably one of the most significant contribution to Alice in Wonderland’s success is the extremely talented cast, far too numerous to name individually, especially with all the roles each took on: bringing to life the songs, the characters and the comedy of the play.

The Shaw Festival’s Alice in Wonderland, which plays at the Festival Theatre until October 16th, 2016 is a must see for families and adult lovers of the original story alike. It promises a funny, whimsical journey that will captive the inner child in all of us.

A special thanks to fellow blogger, Maple Mouse Mama for the tickets. Be sure to check out her blog here!

 

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Why You Can Leave the Dunbarton Stabbings out of Your Homeschooling and Gun Control Arguments

In light of the recent incident at Pickering’s Dunbarton  High School, I can help, while scrolling through the trending posts, notice how this incident has been manipulated by those who know very little about the situation. I don’t know much more than the average person. I have a little bit of inside info from my brother, a ninth grade student at the school. He witnessed the panic during the attack, he heard the screaming and he saw the horror on the victims faces as they held their neck in pain. He also bumped into one of the heroes of the day, Mr. Blair, who tackled the suspect.

Eight people were injured in the attack- 2 staff members and 6 students. Thankfully no one sustained life threatening injuries. In the wake of this terrifying act, I can’t help but feel disgusted over the way it has been used. This is me setting the record straight. Dunbarton is not an excuse to home school your children. Dunbarton is not proof that Canada should get on board with America’s laissez-faire gun control laws.

I do understand the impulse to protect your children. I would do anything to protect my family and friends as well. Random, non-routine tragedies should not dictate your choices. This attack was a one-off. Nothing like this has happened at Dunbarton or surrounding schools in decades. Regardless of the media’s tendency to overemphasize violence, this act was not a reflection of today’s youth becoming more violent. More than likely this act was a product of circumstance, mental illness an bullying. The answer to the problem posed is better mental health resources and support and additional bullying initiatives. Mental illness does not equal violence. Desperation, loneliness, resentment of others due to bullying, which are often side effects of mental illness cause violence. Not convinced yet?

Consider the fact that two of the staff had already apprehended the suspect before police arrived on scene. Hint: when the suspect is apprehended, additional students can’t get hurt. The teachers at Dunbarton High School diffused the situation in roughly 8 minutes. They risked their own lives to end a greater threat and put the students before themselves. You can doubt a school is safe all you want, but when it comes down to it a teacher tackled an armed suspect to protect the students at Dunbarton High School and I couldn’t imagine being safer anywhere else. Another teacher reportedly continued to warn the students of impending danger while being slashed herself (her name is unknown to me at this time, if you have any information, please comment and I would love to give her credit for her bravery). The likelihood of this situation and a home invasion are roughly the same, so you might as well put your child somewhere where there are people who can, when push comes to shove, will protect them.

Okay, that solves one problem. Now for the gun aficionados.

I will be blunt with you. Guns are not the answer. If this had taken place in America, the suspect would have injured dozens more and likely killed some. It is much easier to fight off and apprehend someone wielding a knife than a gun. With a knife, you have to be in close range to do any damage; throwing it at someone 20ft away isn’t likely to do anything. Shooting someone, however, from 20ft away will definitely do damage. So, why would it be better for the suspect to have a gun? She could have done more damage to more students from a greater distance. It would have been a bloodbath. Same deal if other students were allowed guns to protect themselves. For inexperienced gun-shooters to fire at a moving, sporadic target in a school full of people is likely to get even more people killed. in the confusion, you would just have people shooting each other.

Besides, we’ve seen time and time again what happens when you put a gun in the hand of someone who has the unlikely combination of traits- mentally ill and violent, angry or desperate. October 24, 2014 at Marysville Pilchuck High in Marysville, Washington; December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; April 20, 1999 at Columbine High in Columbine, Colorado. That’s just to name  a few. Before you look at Dunbarton’s stabbings an say “Canada needs guns”, look at the recent history of shootings in America and tell me how the fact that no one died from this incident and hundreds of people die from mass shootings that this situation needed guns.

The one thing you should take from this incident is the need for greater mental illness and bullying education. We need to offer alternatives for people who are feeling desperate. We need to create safe spaces where people can say things, express their feelings and be themselves without feeling judged. We need to help these people feel like part of the community, not further isolate them, eliminate the circumstances that cause people to become violent and lash out. That is what you should take from this situation.

 

Book Review – How Music Works (By: David Byrne)

How Music Works

Written by David Byrne

Published by McSweeney’s Books in San Francisco, 2012.

One of the most fascinating things about discovering, or rediscovering the music of past generations is learning and immersing yourself in the history and politics of the time (and place). I have long been enticed and excited by the punk, post-punk and new wave scenes, particularly in the New York area in the ’70s and ’80s. The tales of the disgusting bathrooms and general dicey atmosphere of CBGB do nothing in the way of derailing my dream of cruising a time machine down to an early Ramones, Blondie, or Talking Heads show.

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