Month: April 2020

Stay the Fuck Home Guest Post by Cate McKim Theatre Edition

It’s been heartbreaking to see all the cancellations of live theatre performances—not to mention devastating for theatre companies, festivals and artists—with seasons being cut short or delayed indefinitely, and productions and festivals cancelled during the COVID-19 crisis. But there are still ways you can support companies and artists, and stay connected with theatre while we wait for the doors to open again.

Theatre artists and companies are going online, and even on the phone, to deliver livestream readings, live performances and filmed productions to a device near you! And there are also a number of resources you can tap into for up-to-date info and connection with theatre—and ways to support companies, festivals and artists. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to add to it in the Comments. 

THEATRE ONLINE

Canadian Opera Company #OperaAtHome posts a clip every day at 11:00 a.m. on Twitter https://twitter.com/CanadianOpera

Convergence Theatre’s (http://www.convergencetheatre.com/) over-the-phone presentation The Corona Variations http://www.convergencetheatre.com/corona-variations has new dates coming up in May

Outside the March’s production of Rosamund Small’s Vitals is up on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/102824358

They’re also presenting an interactive theatre experience, over the phone, The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries https://outsidethemarch.ca/the-ministry-of-mundane-mysteries-an-faq/?preview=true

The Social Distancing Festival (https://www.socialdistancingfestival.com/), launched by Canadian actor/playwright Nick Green, is an online artist’s community that showcases talent from around the world, and connects the work with audiences through livestream performances and social posts.

Soulpepper presents Fresh Ink, livestream script readings, on their website: next one is on Fri, May 1 at 4:00 p.m., featuring works by Beverley Cooper, Judith Thompson and Carole Fréchette. https://www.soulpepper.ca/online/live-events

Spontaneous Theatre Canada (https://www.spontaneoustheatre.ca/) has been presenting Blind Date livestream performances on YouTube on Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST (with Rebecca Northan as Mimi and a featured guest actor date every week) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpJc-n4bx1XWHCqBXBbl01w (you can also catch up on previous Mimi dates). On Fri, May 1, Mimi will be joined by actor/improviser/comedian Andrew Phung (who many of you will know as Kimchee on Kim’s Convenience).

SpiderWebShow (https://spiderwebshow.ca/) is hosting FoLDA (Festival of Live Digital Art) June 10-13 https://www.folda.ca/

Stratford Festival presents streaming performances with StratFest@Home https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AtHome

Also: Follow theatre companies, festivals and artists on social media, and visit their websites to get news/updates on one-time only livestream readings/events.

PODCASTS

PlayME by Expect Theatre: Listen to radio drama-style podcasts of Canadian plays http://www.playmepodcast.com/

Stageworthy podcast: Host Phil Rickaby interviews folks in and about theatre https://stageworthypodcast.com/

RESOURCES

Follow Toronto theatre producer and corporate/entertainment lawyer Derrick Chua (aka the King of Toronto Fringe) on Twitter; Derrick is in the know and a great resource for what’s happening in the arts all over: https://twitter.com/d_chua

Recently launched, GhostLight Canada (https://www.ghostlight.ca/) provides an online platform for theatrical mentorship, collaboration and experimentation, as well as audience/artist connection through their Friday Night at the GhostLight conversations on YouTube (first one, Margaret Atwood in conversation with Adrienne Clarkson, is May 8 at 8:00 p.m.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dajResBwffY

Hye’s Musings https://www.facebook.com/HyeMusings/

Intermission Magazine https://www.intermissionmagazine.ca/

Globe & Mail theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck’s theatre newsletter https://www.theglobeandmail.com/newsletters/?utm_source=Globe%20Life&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=2020-4-21_16&utm_content=GlobeLife&utm_term=newsletter_signup#newsletter-group-5

Toronto Theatre Zone Facebook group for theatre folks https://www.facebook.com/groups/TorontoTheatreZone/

HOW YOU CAN HELP 

Consider making a donation to The AFC, which provides emergency financial aid to support the health and well-being of Canada’s entertainment professionals: https://afchelps.ca/

The good folks at CBC Arts posted this great list of supports for Canadian artists/freelancers, which arts supporters can check out and donate to: https://www.cbc.ca/arts/here-s-where-canadian-artists-and-freelancers-can-find-help-during-covid-19-shutdowns-1.5503360

Have tickets to a show that’s been cancelled? Instead of requesting a refund, consider donating the price of that ticket back to the theatre.

Donate to local theatre companies and festivals. 

Support theatre companies, festivals and artists by following them on social media, and broadcast boosting their online performances over your social media accounts—and telling your friends!

Cate McKim is a multidisciplinary storyteller, an accidental freelance copy editor/proofreader, and an arts/culture lover and supporter. Her blog life with more cowbell (https://lifewithmorecowbell.com/)—once featuring reviews and interviews of and about Toronto’s arts scene, with a focus on theatre—is gradually returning after an extended hiatus, in an ongoing, emerging new direction.

Stay The Fuck Home Do You Believe in UFOs Edition

I have always believed that there is other life out in our great big, vast Universe. I think it rather self-centred to think we are the only living organisms. Some will be far more advanced than us and some much more primitive, but they are out there.

I myself have had a few experiences with flying objects that I cannot explain. One was when a bunch of us were ‘camping’ in a friends backyard. We were 12 or 13 years old. Several of us experienced this event. There was a object, quite high up and over what is called The Georgian Triangle. (in Georgian Bay). It was jutting back and forth very quickly, then very quickly accelerated straight up and then vanished. We weren’t the only ones who saw it that night. The sighing buzzed around town for a few days. There have been many other sightings over Georgian Bay.

Another instance was when I was younger. It was a hot summer night and I was walking home from a friend’s house when a very bright, low flying, silent and massive object flew over me. When I got home a few moments later, one of my younger brothers was in the front yard freaking out and crying. My mom was trying to get everyone back into the house. My dad called the local airport and they said they knew of nothing that had flown over at that moment. Again, several others witnessed it.

These are just two of my own stories, so many other people also have their own. In the last few days, The Pentagon has released footage of instances where Navy pilots witnessed UFO’s. Their timing is interesting. A way to distract the US from COVID? Who knows, but I’m glad they released it.

I often wonder if the fact that that I do believe was the reason I read so many non-fiction books about UFO’s as a teen and even into my twenties or why I love watching 1950s scifi or why I keep hoping a UFO would land here and we could have an actual conversation with a being from another planet. At one point I read several books on Roswell, Travis Walton, Betty and Barney Hill, other alien abductions and of course The X-Files. Though fictionalized Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Plan 9 From Outer Space are still my all time favourite movies.

Another one of my all time favourite UFO movies is The Day The Earth Stood Still. I would hope humanity would react differently now.

If you want to entertain yourself with a 1950s B-movie give A Visitor From Space a try.

Have you seen a UFO? Share your story in the comments.

Stay The Fuck Home Guest Post by John Oughton! IMPROVING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

The ubiquity of cameras in smartphones has made just about everyone a photographer. However, not all the resulting images are good or interesting.  Many are snapshots of friends, pets, landmarks and the like.  Nothing wrong with them, but to give them value not just as records, but as strong images, here are a few things I’ve learned from too many decades of fiddling around with cameras.

Number 1
It’s more about what you see than your equipment. Camera phones, cheap digital or analog cameras, even a pinhole camera (essentially a box taped shut with a small hole in one end and a sheet of photo paper inside the other) can all produce good photos.  There are certain situations where advanced and expensive equipment is necessary to get good results — low light, faraway things like birds or the moon, very fast-moving things, extreme macro close-ups, for example.  But for the average shot of something or someone well lit and not too far away, almost any camera will work.

So, how do you see like a photographer?

First, recognize that most of the visual stimuli available to us goes unnoticed.  We tend to look for certain aspects, and ignore everything else. Spend a little time, for example around a favourite building or landscape. Ignore the main things and look for the subtleties – reflections, shadows, interesting details, rhythm, patterns and contrasts in colour and texture. Is there graffiti or damage that’s intriguing? Everyone agrees that sunsets are beautiful.  But instead of just capturing the sunset, what about its reflections in one of those all-glass buildings facing it? Or on a lake or pond?  Everyone also agrees that newly-opened flowers are attractive. Where is the beauty in a dead or dried one? “Liminal,” the photo below, was taken fairly close up and looking straight down at a wave washing over wet sand: not a big impressive wave, just an interesting combination of colours and textures may people wouldn’t consider as a subject.

Second, change the point of view.  We naturally take most pictures at eye-level when standing or sitting. What happens if you hold the camera at arm’s length above your head, or at foot level? Of course, it is difficult to see the screen when doing this, especially on a phone, so you may have to go by guess and by gosh.  But sometimes the results will surprise you. One of my first digital cameras was a Sony with a clever flip-out viewing screen that rotated so I could actually see images from these odd perspectives.  Also, we instinctively hold the camera aligned with the horizon (landscape orientation) or at a right angle to it (portrait).  What happens, especially with landscapes or architecture, if you tilt it to a diagonal?

Finally, you want to hold the camera still most of the time.  But moving it around in low light can produce some fascinating blur and surprises.  One of my favourite tricks is to find Christmas lights at night, and then wave my camera around, which allows for a long exposure, due to low light, and fascinating solid or dotted lines of colour.

Number 2
Avoid visual clutter, unless you want an overall impression of density and variety. If you want a good shot of something specific, get as close as you can with your camera, and adjust the framing until that one thing is pretty much filling the screen.  It will have more impact.  The one exception is a portrait of someone’s face.  They won’t react well to your shoving a camera at them, so use a mild zoom lens to stand back a bit. I spent half a year in Japan, and the “less-is-more aesthetic” in much of their visual art influenced me. One tree with a plain background is going to be more powerful, generally, than three trees with a lot going on behind and around them.

Number 3
Play around with composition – the things you include in the photo, and the angle from which they’re seen. One common approach to framing photos well is the “rule of thirds.”  Of course, any rule or guideline can be broken effectively, but generally: avoid compositions that are too static or balanced.  Imagine taking a shot of a lake with an interesting sky over it.  Where do you place the horizon line? If it’s exactly half-way up the image, that won’t be as striking as 2/3rds sky, 1/3rd  water, or vice-versa. If you’re taking a full-length shot of a model, have the person stand in the left or right third of the frame, and compare it with one of them standing right in the middle.

Number 4
Play around with timing.  Another influential theory is that of the great French photographer Cartier-Bresson.  He said that in many images there is a “decisive moment” where a tension exists.  A famous shot of his is an everyday scene – a close-up of a man’s legs as he navigates planks to cross a large puddle.  Cartier-Bresson waited until his model launched a leap between planks… and that was the picture. Also, I’ve found with portraits that the best results are not often the one in which the model is staring at the camera and offering his or her “photo smile”.  Wait until they’re occupied with something, distracted, or bored with posing.  Then take the image that shows their less guarded self.

Number 5
Learn from the greats. Look at work by accomplished or famous photographers and adapt their approaches to develop your own “eye.”  You may not have the equipment or technical know-how yet to duplicate their results, but consider the choices they make in composition, lighting, and timing. Here are a few of my favourites: Diane Arbus, Annie Liebovitz, Tina Modotti, Margaret Bourke-White, Minor White, Man Ray, Bill Brandt, Edward Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Ralph Eugene Meatyard … the list could go on. You could do worse than pick up some of the old Time-Life photo books at a lawn or library sale and leaf through them. When you find a photo you really like, look for more of that artist’s work online.

Number 6
Here’s an exercise to develop your photo skills.  Pick a common, simple object… an egg or rock, for example.  Shoot it as many different ways as you can imagine.  Try it outside in “magic hour” lighting… when the sun is low after dawn or before twilight, and then at full noon.  Try it inside with one directional light, general light, etc.  Try it on a complex background, and  none at all (for example, against a black cloth or paper).  Have a model hold it. What works best and why? Apply what you’ve learned to shooting other things. And my last suggestion: go for regular walks, especially in areas you don’t usually visit, and take your camera.  Get at least one good image from each walk.

I hope this is of some help to you.  Of course, taking courses, learning a photo-manipulating program like Photoshop or Lightroom, joining an online photographers’ group and asking for critiques, getting a better camera, will help too. But start off by applying some of my advice to the camera you already have, and see what happens.

 ___


John Oughton is also a writer and guitar player.  You can view a sampling of his photos at https://joughton.wixsite.com/imagenery

Stay The Fuck Home Learn How To Crochet Edition

I have a little bit of a confession. I didn’t learn how to crochet at the same time I learned how to knit because I thought it was too complicated and I refused to learn how. Then one day I said what the fuck! (I actually said that) and bought a crochet hook, and then put on a YouTube video. This was right when YouTube started, so 2005/2006 ish and the video was about ten minutes long and really shitty quality, but… I learned the basics of how to crochet and I haven’t looked back. So… if I can learn from a crappy video back in 2005/2006, you definitely have a huge advantage learning in 2020.

Just like knitting, I still use YouTube to learn new stitches and techniques. I also have a bunch of books on stitches on my bookshelf.

Below are some of my favourite beginner videos for crochet as well as some pattern sites and book suggestions.

How to Crochet

Books

It’s always good to have a book or two on how to crochet along with some stitch guides. Also, another of my favourites is the Stitch ‘n Bitch book on how to crochet.

Free Patterns

https://www.allfreecrochet.com/Miscellaneous-Crochet/Free-Crochet-Patterns

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/crochet-patterns-for-every-level-978749

https://mymodernmet.com/free-crochet-patterns-diy/

https://freevintagecrochet.com/

Stay The Fuck Home Learn How To Knit Edition

Remember those many balls of yarn and those knitting needles you bought and had every intention of learning how to knit… but you couldn’t figure out how to cast on, so you threw them into a closet or drawer and forgot about them. Go did them out. You’ve got time now! Also, there are so many resources out there that are free and accessible 24/7 to help you learn! Even I refer to them sometimes when I need to learn a new stitch or technique and I’ve been knitting since I was 10. I know, shut up bragger! Anyhooooo…. check out some of the videos below and get knitting! I expect to see a sweater when we are done this pandemic!

How To Knit

There are a lot of how to knit videos out there, these are some of the best.

Knitting for Beginners

How to Cast On

Garter Stitch

Stockinette Stitch aka knit stitch

Books

If you like to have reference books in your library, I strongly suggest you buy a few books on knitting stitches. I have several on my shelf. Additionally, I have all of the books from the Stitch’n Bitch series. Not only are they fun, they are beginner friendly.

Free Patterns

There are lots of websites out there with free knitting patterns or get onto your Pinterest account and do a search. I’ve listed a few links below.

https://www.allfreeknitting.com/
https://freevintageknitting.com/
https://www.marymaxim.ca/books-patterns/free-patterns.html

Once you are up and knitting, check out Ravelry for knitting inspiration and if you want to get sassy and upgrade your skills, check out Poison Grrls.

Stay The Fuck Home It’s Ok To Be Kind To Yourself Edition

During times like what we are currently going through, we are all trying to put on a brave face. We keep saying we are ok, even when we probably aren’t. You know what, it’s ok to not to put on a brave face all of the time. It’s ok to feel anxious, sad, confused or depressed right now. When this whole thing started, I was ok. I felt good. I already work from home and had a routine. Most people aren’t used to this. On top of my routine, I decided to give myself a more structured schedule. Get up, do yoga, blog or draw, allow myself some time on social, COVID-19 updates, admin stuff, lunch, sew a bit, write, dinner…. etc. There were days that I didn’t feel like doing anything at all, but… I told myself, you need to keep to this schedule. Then…whammo, last week, depression. This week I effed up my neck. (I hold stress in my upper back and neck)

Yup… this girl suffers from depression and anxiety. What brings depression on? A number of things, but one of the biggies…. the news. I cannot read, watch or listen to the news because it brings on anxiety and depression, yet… EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DAY I WAS LISTENING TO IT. I needed to stop, but I needed to be informed, so I found a summary newsletter that comes out everyday from CBC. When it hits my inbox, I can scan it, read it all or delete it without opening it. On social I’ve muted anyone who is constantly posting conspiracy stuff or angry news stuff. Yes, you can mute people. Do it!

Most of what is making me anxious right now is going outside and grocery shopping. I need to go out for daily walks for my health and am worried that there will be hordes of people out there too. There hasn’t been and those who are out are courteous. But grocery shopping…. eeeeeeee. The last few times my husband has been going in for the most part. Last week was especially tough for me. I now have several masks. I know they won’t stop me from catching it, but wearing them does help with anxiety. It’s ok to feel this way.

You know what else is ok. If you have a day when you feel like doing nothing or you want to binge watch Netflix all day, or read all day or stare out window all day, just fucking do it! After… what ever week this is, I’ve stopped having my overly structured schedule. I’m back to my old routine and it feels better. I’m also not beating myself up for not being productive. Mind you, that has nothing to do with Pandemic Guilt as I call it. (Will get to that in a moment.) I’ve always been that way. Keep busy, don’t be lazy, accomplish stuff. I’ve given myself permission to be a lazy fuck once in a while.

Pandemic Guilt (as I’m calling it) is feeling like you should be doing something all the time. You see all of your friends sewing masks. You see friends working out like fiends. You see friends doing, doing, doing, doing. Ahhhhhhhh! You may also have people trying to guilt you into doing one or all of those activities. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. If you do it and it will fuck up your mental health. DON’T DO IT. Also, feel free to tell people to back the fuck up (it’s ok to be nice about this) if they are harassing you about it. It’s ok to not participate!

Do something kind for yourself during these times. Watch movies, read a book, take three hour bathes, order a dozen donuts, eat pizza… order a dozen donuts. I swear we didn’t eat them all in one sitting. Shut up! But seriously, do something that makes you happy, even if that something is doing nothing. No one is the boss of you and the only one who truly knows what makes you happy is you!

Stay The Fuck Home Sewing Tutorials Part Deux Edition

I am incredibly lucky to have so many creative and talented friends and of those friends several are sewists who do sewing tutorials or give examples of dressmaking tips via Instagram stories. You should follow them all! Now get sewing!

Ask Sarah www.asksarah.com.au

A Vintage Vanity https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJnOck4zrUzFllmzvX7Rhzg

Kirsten Ronald (fashion designer at Lila & June) https://www.instagram.com/kmakesthings/ and lilaandjune.com

Liz Von Villas https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC00iQfZSTRjr0qP8SaytQQA

Sewcial Dee and sewcialdee.com