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November 8, 2018
 
You have Dominique Morisseau’s permission to make appreciative noises during her plays. 
1.   HOW TO BEHAVE (OR NOT) IN THE THEATRE
 
In Time Out New York, Amanda Duarte has some helpful—tart—advice for theatregoers. Her headings include: “Sit the fuck down”, “Shut the fuck up”, and “Sit the fuck still.”
 
I particularly like: “Do not eat or drink. This isn’t the movies. This isn’t a restaurant. This isn’t your living room. This is live theater being performed and witnessed by live human beings. For the love of Elaine Stritch, you can make it through a 1.5–2 hour window of time without shoving snack foods into your maw. If you have a life-threatening blood sugar problem, a food addiction or a severe oral fixation, the Great Creators of Theatre have intelligently designed most plays to have an intermission, during which time it is appropriate for you to feed your beast and drink your juice, Shelby. 

“And yes, I know they sell food and drink at the theater. They also sell heroin in Washington Square Park. The availability of a product for sale does not compel one to buy it.”

In The Stage, Howard Sherman takes a different tack: he doesn’t want elitists to shut anybody down—or shut anybody out. 

Sherman cites playwright Dominique Morisseau’s essay Why I Almost Slapped a Fellow Theatre Patron, in which she recounts how a white audience member repeatedly told Morisseau, who’s black, what she should and shouldn’t do during the performance—including telling her to suppress her laughter and clapping. 
 
When Morisseau’s play Pipeline was playing at Lincoln Center, she included a short note in the program. In it, she said, “My work requires a few ‘um hmmms’ and ‘unh unhnnns’ should you need to use them…This can be church for some of us, and testifying is allowed.”
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Mike Birbiglia lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter—and he’s using it all in his work.(Photo: Andrew White for The New York Times)
2.   HOW TO GET TO YOUR PLAY
      TO BROADWAY

 
Mike Birbiglia describes his fourth solo show, The New One, as “a comedy about how no one should ever have children, and how, after my wife and I had a child, I learned that I was right!”
 
The New One is heading to Broadway. Birbiglia isn’t sure how that happened but he’s willing to dish out advice anyway. In The New York Times, he offers 6 Tips for Getting Your Solo Play to Broadway. They’re all worth paying attention to. 
 
I particularly like number 1: “WRITE IN A JOURNAL. Document your life. The good stuff. The bad stuff. But mostly the bad stuff. What’s wrong with you is more interesting than what’s right. I’ve always felt like we go to solo theater to be told secrets. When I was developing The New One I was writing in my journal all of these secret feelings I had about being a new dad. Feeling like everything I did was a mistake. One day I wrote, ‘My wife and daughter love each other so much … and I’m there too.’ In the margin I wrote, ‘This could be something!’
 
“I shared it with my wife, Jen, who’s a poet, and she encouraged me to say it onstage. That line ended up forming the foundation of the whole play.”
 
+ You might also want to read Mike Birbiglia’s 6 Tips for Making It Small in Hollywood Or Anywhere. Seriously solid recommendations. 
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Think you’re funny? Ken Ludwig advises you not to overplay your hand. 

3.   HOW TO PLAY COMEDY
 
While we’re being instructive, Ken Ludwig, who wrote the immortal farce Lend Me a Tenor, has some practical advice about playing comedy: Never try to be funny, keep the energy up, and play for the really high stakes. 
 
Above all, never try to be funny.  
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María Irene Fornés inspired loyalty in her students and fans. (Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times.)
4.   HOW TO BE MISSED

Cuban-American playwright María Irene Fornés died on October 30. She was 88, had Alzheimer’s, and had lived in care facilities for 12 years. 
 
She also changed playwriting in North America with her poetic style and insistence on the centrality of the writer. 
 
In this obituary in The New York Times, Bruce Weber writes: “A favourite of many critics, theatre scholars and fellow playwrights, who often declared that her achievements outstripped her fame, Ms. Fornés came to playwriting relatively late—her first artistic pursuit was painting—and never earned the popular regard of contemporaries like Edward Albee, Sam Shepard, John Guare and Lanford Wilson. 

“Her plays earned eight Obie awards, the off-Broadway equivalent of the Tonys, and she was given an Obie for lifetime achievement in 1982.”

Fornés's best-known work is Fefu and Her Friends (1977). 

She is survived by 17 nieces and nephews. Her former romantic partners include Susan Sontag
 
This heartfelt tribute by friend and former student Luis Alfaro gives insight into her personality and teaching style. 
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One of David Petersen's signature achievements is his performance in the 1977 movie Skip Tracer. Here is that film in its entirety. (In this image, Petersen is on the left, John Lazarus is on the right.)
Vancouver actor David Petersen died from bone cancer this Friday, November 2, at 5:20 a.m. in St. John Hospice at UBC. He was 71. Actor Nicola Lipman, his partner of seven years, was with him. 
 
Petersen was active in the early days of Tamahnous Theatre, one of Vancouver’s foundational companies, and he worked extensively with the Caravan Farm Theatre in Armstrong. His most significant film role was the lead in Skip Tracer in 1977, in which he played opposite John Lazarus. He also appeared in the movies The Grey Fox and Big Meat Eater. For the latter, he wrote song lyrics along with Barbara Williams—here’s a link to title track—and he performed in a number of TV series, including The BeachcombersDa Vinci’s Inquest, Cold Squad, and The X Files.  
 
Loved ones say that generosity was among Petersen’s most important gifts. Talking to me by phone, Lipman said, “He was this huge person with no ego. He had an enormous effect on people but, ultimately, he was somebody without an ego and I think that that’s what drew people to him, young and old. He always said yes. He said yes to any offer.”
 
Reached at his Vancouver home, Petersen’s close friend actor Peter Hall filled in that picture. “With me, he was so accepting,” Hall began. “In my tribulations, whether they were physical or psychological or social or whatever, he was always empathetic.”
 
“I had cancer six years ago,” Hall went on, “and I went through a seven-week radiation thing. David wrote me a series of postcards. Sometimes he’d write two or three together and he’d parcel them out so that I’d get them throughout my treatment.”
 
Hall excused himself to find his glasses and retrieve a favourite example. Petersen wrote this card, Hall explained, after his granddaughter Charlie’s first birthday: “Why doesn’t time make our hair stream out behind us? It seems to be passing that fast.”
 
Petersen is survived by Lipman, his children Wyatt and Nadja, Nadja’s daughters Charlie and Margaux, his siblings Steven Petersen, Barb Petersen-Bruce, and Karen Petersen, his former partner Gillian Cran, and many friends. 
 
There will be a celebration of David Petersen’s life at the Performing Arts Lodge on November 25. The time has yet to be finalized. 
 
Petersen requested cremation. His clown nose will be in his pocket. 
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Thematically and theatrically, The Believers Are But Brothers is packed full. (Photo by The Other Richard)
5.   SEEING THINGS

Red Birds   Watching Red Birds, I got the impression that playwright Aaron Bushkowsky was making things up—for no apparent reason. The situation, which involves three generations of women, one man, and a hetero love triangle, strains credulity and the guy is no prize, so why should we care? The subject of adoption is raised but goes largely unexplored. And plot points, including a significant betrayal, are arbitrary. France Perras and Gili Roskies are charming as a mother and daughter, and Gerry MacKay does an excellent job of mining Bushkowsky’s absurd humour, which is his strong suit. 
 
Here’s my full review. Here’s where to get ticketsRed Birds was produced by Western Gold Theatre in association with Solo Collective. It runs at the PAL Theatre until November 18. 
 
 
The Believers Are But Brothers  Very dense. Very good. In The Believers Are But Brothers, writer and solo performer Javaad Alipoor, examines the intersection of maleness, violence, and the internet. Two of the young male characters he has created (based on guys he met online) are British Muslims who go to Syria, but neither fits the jihadist stereotype. And the third is a Californian who gets sucked into the alt. right. This complicates the “dangerous Muslim” narrative and invites consideration of the ways the internet may be affecting our thinking. Alipoor is a charming performer and—hey!—you get to use your phones during the show. 
 
You can read my full review right here and get your tickets here. The Believers Are But Brothers is produced by Luke Emery. This run, which is presented by The Cultch and Diwali in BC, runs at the Vancity Culture Lab until November 10. 
 
 
Sex With Strangers   In real life, sex with strangers can certainly be boring but, in the theatre, we hope for a bit more…engagement, right? Loretta Walsh and Markian Tarasiuk both act the stuffing out of Laura Eason’s script—they’re both very, very good—but this play about battling and romantically enmeshed writers is superficial: the plot clicks along but the story never feels real or important. And its investigation of the contrasts between digital and print publication feels better suited to an essay.
 
Here’s my full review. Here’s where to get tickets. This show from Mitch & Murray Productions runs at Studio 16 until November 10. 
 
 
Wolves   (Guest review by David Johnston) Members of a girls' soccer team stretch, warm up, and rip each other apart. It's a simple premise, but Pacific Theatre finds a lot of depth in this freewheeling drama about trauma, fame, sports, and finding your tribe. The acting is stunning, even when the narrative structure makes some disconcerting choices.
 
Here’s David’s full review. Get your tickets here. This Pacific Theatre production runs at Pacific Theatre until November 10. 
 
 
+ For next-day reviews of shows this week, check out my blog. Later today, I will post my review of the Belgian show SmallWaR at The Cultch. Tomorrow, I will post my take on Amiel Gladstone’s Three Winters. And, on Saturday, you can read my review of Bacio Rosso, the cabaret circus in Queen Elizabeth Park. 
 
This kind of coverage takes time and you, dear readers, are our only means of support. So please consider making a pledge to my PATREON CAMPAIGN, the fundraising initiative that allows me—and my associates—to keep writing about theatre. 
 
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