Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Unfortunately, our performance in the UK have had to be cancelled due to unforseen reasons of health. We are all fine, and health issues are on the mend, though we still had to sit this one out.
We are in talks about the 2012 DaDa Festival.
Stay tuned, as we are hard at work putting together an upcoming Ontario Tour.
With love and warm wishes for the upcoming cold season
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
It is the Tuesday after our workshop.
There are a number of things that I've wanted to communicate over the course of this time--because, in all honesty, the workshop was very HARD. Sarah and I burnt out half-way through, which left us with no choice but to work on fumes. The Friday before beginning our time in St.Catherines, Kazumi had to back out of the performance--which was very sad for us--but his prior commitment to a documentary he was working on had to take priority. We understood. Kazumi's been a huge part of this workshop and The Book of Judith. He brings a lot of intelligence and experience into the room, not to mention generousity and he's a great performer. But we trekked on ... as we continue to.
The next day, Saturday, we presented the Choir with the latest draft (completed the evening before). We did a work-through in the space ... which was hard. Very Hard. At the end of the work through, the choir, and everyone else (myself included) just wanted to get the hell out of there, back to Toronto--back to safety. Something was not right. Something was not fun.
1. Gywn 2. Lesley
On the ride home, Sarah, Mariah, Wanda and I all spoke about the piece--trying to understand where the holes were. In the car, I started to look through the script ... why was it so hard? Why was it not fun anymore?
And then I get a call from Judith Snow.
"Michael" she says. "I have a fever. I'm in bed sick. I don't think I can come tomorrow".
The next morning she confirms. Judith Snow cannot be in the workshop presentation.
Ok. Breath. Deep breaths. We'll work this out. After all, its not the FIRST time Judith couldn't make it.
And so, we had on our hands a new draft of the play that was NOT FUN, and we no longer had JUDITH SNOW. I looked over at Sarah, and she had her head in her hands. I could almost hear the moans coming from her brain/body. What the hell were we going to do.
"We'll be okay. We always will."
I give her a hug, and we determine that I'll take a look at the script, and try and fix it.
1. Sarah 2. Michael & Mariah
I get in the house, and I stumble across an earlier quote that we used of Judith's. Something like: "Now, the only thing left to do, is to figure out how to do the play without me".
It was like she was speaking to me through my own play.
I will admit that I was also quite tired, and feeling sick and possibly a touch delusional. But whatever the excuse for this visitation, it seemed to do the trick.
I spent the next three hours writing a final draft that helped us find the play of the play. The choir went for being disdainful and aggressive to full-on-cheerleaders ... for the play ... for Judith Snow. Rocky Horris Picture Snow. The choir is the life-blood of the work ... and they are also the representative for Judith Snow in her absence ... and perhaps always have been. Judith tried to tell us, but we've noticed that we have a hard time always hearing Judith Snow. Surprise, Surprise. ARTLIFESHUTUP.
But, as she has before, as she has now, and as she will continue to ... once again, the answer came from her.
The next day in St. Catherines, the Choir communed by around 2:00. We used the next three hours to work through the new draft. An hour to eat--and then the audience came.
And there it was. The play was back. It was not all there, of course, as I was still on book, and there's still some work to be done on the script ... but we've found the play and made it stronger.
And something happened at the end of the performance. Something very profound and more poignant than we could have ever expected. And it could not have happened any other way ... we could not have planned it ... though, it seems like we did ... like John Locke (LOST) says, faith. faith. faith.
Those who know me, know i am not a man of faith ... but those who also know me know that everything I do seems to be an attempt to find/contradict/embrace it.
It was possibly the most poignant experiences in the theatre of my life.
I'd like to tell you what it was. If you were there, you know. If you weren't, we are going to keep it for ourselves ... because we do not want to spoil it ... and we hope it will happen again. It may not, but if it does, we hope you will not see it coming, as we hadn't.
And so. There you go. The Book of Judith is alive once more. It continues to transform us, and audiences.
A few comments from the audience that night were:
"It speaks to the soul and to what is really important in this life."
"Beautiful, beautiful program!"
I’m assuming that Matthew will have his script memorized – very important (this one made me laugh)
The show continues to be as strange, confusing, frustrating, moving, beautiful and exciting. In just over a months time, we take it to the U.K. to continue on.
What happens next is a mystery.
But we are sure of one thing.
It will always be a surprise.
With love and tenderness.
1. Emily 2. Irena
Shots during the performance taken by Jason Cadieux (ECT)
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Ladies and Gentleman, we are thrilled to announce that the Book of Judith has begun its second life. We have received two excellent pieces of news. The first was an invite from the DaDaFest in the U.K. We will be performing the show twice. Once in Glasgow on Wednesday, November 17th at the Hamilton Townhouse and on Sunday, November 21st at the Sefton Palm House in Liverpool.
We've also received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for an Ontario Tour of the show--and will be doing a workshop presentation of the newest incarnation of The Book of Judith on Sunday, October 3rd in St.Catherines, Ontario at the Market Square start at 6:00 (see press release below)
Sarah Garton Stanley and I recently travelled to London, England, where we joined forces with Alex Bulmer and did three days of script workshop together in preparation for a continued workshop back in Toronto.
We've been workshopping the piece with some invited members of the original choir back to help us in this next step, as well as Composer, Andrew Penner and Musical Director, Nick Carpenter (from Montreal!) and Wanda Fitzgerald stepping into the role of Pippa (formerly Alex) for this workshop. We're all very excited, and the show has gotten even stronger than it was before.... with some changes to the music, and some changes in the Book!
left to right: Andrew, Steve, Frank, Mark, Kazumi, Emily
left to right: Frank, Mark, Kazumi, Emily, Gwyn, Irena
left to right: Gwyn, Irena, Lesley, Erin, Nick
Stay tuned for more info as it comes our and your way ... because more is coming ... oh yes oh yes.
For Immediate Release: September 20, 2010
For more info contact: email@example.com
The Self Conscious Theatre Company, in association with The Theatre Centre and The Essential Collective Theatre present a workshop presentation of: THE BOOK OF JUDITH
September 20, 2010 – After a sold-out two-week run in downtown Toronto in May 2009, the acclaimed production, The Book of Judith, is preparing an upcoming tour of Ontario and the U.K. Self Conscious Theatre Company, in association with The Theatre Centre and Essential Collective Theatre, are pleased to present a workshop presentation of this very exciting piece of theatre.
“This is not the world I would have designed” – Judith Snow
Performed in St. Catharines’ Market Square, The Book of Judith, created by Michael Rubenfeld and Sarah Garton Stanley, is a musical play about a self-annointed preacher man who is passionately driven to change the lives of others. After a chance meeting with a quadriplegic woman named Judith Snow, theatre artist Matthew Goldberg (Michael Rubenfeld) believes he has “seen the light”. With the help of his director, Shauna Coupland (Sarah Garton Stanley), and her best friend, disabled artist, Pippa McLaren (Wanda Fitzgerald), Matthew has managed to coral a fully integrated group of choristers with and without disability, to help him tell, for the first time, his inspirational, maniacal and deeply suspect tale of Judith Snow. The Book of Judith takes us from innocence to ignorance and through to the other side – a truer place of transformation.
The Book of Judith
Created by Michael Rubenfeld and Sarah Garton Stanley
Directed by Sarah Garton Stanley
Music Composed by Andrew Penner
Musical Direction by Nick Carpenter
Performed by Michael Rubenfeld, Sarah Garton Stanley, Wanda Fitzgerald, The Book of Judith Choir (Gwyneth Baillie, Erin Brandenburg, Mark Brose, Lesley Dowey, Frank G. Hull, Irena Kagansky, Emily Scheer, Steve Schwabl, and Kazumi Tsuruoka) and featuring Judith Snow.
Sunday, October 3rd. 6:00 pm
St. Catharines Market Square (corner of King & James)
For tickets: RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
* This is a FREE workshop presentation of the work.
For more info: www.bookofjudithplay.blogspot.com
Friday, June 12, 2009
Theatre Centre – Michael Rubenfeld’s The Book of Judith
reviewed by Paula Citron
The Book of Judith
Theatre Centre, Absit Omen & Die In Debt
Written by Michael Rubenfeld (with Sarah G. Stanley)
Directed by Sarah G. Stanley
Starring Michael Rubenfeld (with choir)
At the tent on the CAMH grounds
Sadly, the run of The Book of Judith is over, but it was a fascinating theatrical experience. It took place in a tent on the grounds of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health so that it would be completely disabled-friendly. The format of the play was an old-fashioned revival camp meeting. Audiences were given missals which contained the prayers and the hymns composed by Andrew Penner. There was an on-stage choir of eleven mostly disabled singers.
Playwright, librettist and performer Michael Rubenfeld is one of Toronto’s most interesting men of theatre. The genesis of the play was Rubenfeld’s encounter with quadriplegic, activist and visual artist Judith Snow, and the initial starting point was, “How do you find a lover for a quadriplegic?”
The plot is basically the history of Rubenfeld writing the play with co-writer and director Sarah G. Stanley, but it is also much more than that. It is the story of a remarkable woman called Judith Snow told through wit, humour and passion.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
This has been the wildest ride of my life.
There has been a lot of encouragement for a tour, from many different sources, and and so we're currently just wrapping our head around how to make this happen.
There are a great many people, especially within the disability community, who have been quite explicit about their feelings that everyone should see this play and that it needs to tour. This has been very encouraging. What works about this play, I think, is that it is not about disability at all. It is about me. It is about my relationship to a woman named Judith Snow who I saw at first as a quadriplegic, and then saw as Judith Snow, and now see as my friend who I love. Its that simple, but within that simplicity holds the sort of complexity we are faced whenever we meet anybody for the first time, and the hurdles we face whenever we try to move beyond assumption to get to something authentic with another human being. This is the story that my relationship to Judith was able to help me tell, and her quadriplegia was the key to unlocking questions that we don't particularily like to ask ... mainly : What is standing in the way of love?
The answer to that question usually has way more to do with ourselves, and what it is that we don't see about ourselves.
And that was the play for me. My ignornance. My prejudice. My foolishness. My boundaries. My desire to move beyond myself to become a "better" self.
It is a real blessing that for many, it seems these things became also very personal.
So. Amazing, yes?
At the centre, perhaps, we really do all want the same things? Perhaps? Perhaps?
I think so.
Not everyone will agree with me. That's fine. But hopefully, if you didn't like the play, you at least REALLY HATED IT. I would be much happier about that. That was never the intent, of course, but if you HATE it, then perhaps we were doing something right in there.
I am proud that we were able to tell this story surrounding questions of love within the context of disability, and have it put me, a "non-disabled" person at the centre of the story. I thought we would piss more people off than we did. It is miraculous that it has been embraced as much as it has.
The houses were very good, though not as amazing as we had though based on the reaction to the play. We had a couple of reviewers who didn't seem to understand the play, which was fine, though I do wonder what goes on in a reviewers mind when an audience gives a standing ovation to a piece that they do not like. I wonder if they ever question their own ability to grasp the work. Or, perhaps they think the audience is somehow below them or not as aware or doesn't understand theatre the way they do. This is an interesting question, because the piece really is asking the audience to question their own relationship to their own ego ... and of course, when one's job is to publically flex their ego, and determine that their opinion is quite important, this piece would likely be quite complicated to connect to. I understood, for the first time, the complication in the role of being a reviewer. To enter into a show preparing to review the work already instantly seperates the them from the work, as how can one review a piece of work that is asking the audience to include themselves in it? In any case, I do feel compassion for the role of the reviewer, as it must be very complicated to exist in the context of always being feared rather than loved.
IT IS HARD TO LOVE.
It is also easy.
But to get to easy, it seems so important to recognize that it is equally very hard.
Thank-you to Sarah Stanley, for being as brilliant an artist as she is as compassionate a human.
Thank-you to Andrew Penner for the humbling and beautiful music.
Thank-you to Franco Boni and the Theatre Centre for creating space for this show to happen, and for continuing to be a leader in this city for developing alternative creation based work.
Thank-you to Alex Bulmer for leading us in the choir with her vision.
Thank-you to Nick Carpenter for helping the music live!
Thank-you to Andrea Lundy for making everything a reality.
Thank-you to the Tanya Greves and her unborn child for keeping things alive.
Thank-you to Beth Kates for making us beautiful, and for constantly offering her love.
Thank-you to Stéphane Monnet for giving the show image.
Thank-you to the choir for helping this piece move from a play to a crusade.
Thank-you for Caleb and Tara for being a part of this from the beginning, and for being a part of it now, and for loving me and letting me love you (and exploit you).
And thank-you to Judith for staying true to yourself, whether people like it or not. Without you, this would not have happened ... and thank-you for knowing that.
I leave you with words from Judith that I've taken from her personal blog to re-post here.
Well, I am deeply immersed in the play: “The Book of Judith.” I wouldn’t have thought that the play and World Peace through Inclusion were related a mere three weeks ago. Now I understand that they truly are and so I am reporting on the play and my experience of it in this blog. Anyone who might have a chance to come and see the play in Toronto will really, really get something out of it, so don’t miss your chance!
“The Book of Judith” has mainly been created by Michael Rubenfeld and Sarah Stanley. A subtext of the play is about my part in their co-creation, a part which seemed to end about April of 2008. It was at this point that I got sick and tired the advocacy flavour of the piece. I was also beginning to have serious thoughts about taking on World Peace through Inclusion as my main focus at that time, although it was several months before I would meet Gabor and we begin serious consideration about taking off for six months.
Some of you know how deeply I struggle with the concept of advocacy even though I am often thought of as an advocate. The root of the idea is to speak for someone else. It contains within it the ever present idea that people who are considered to be disabled require other people’s help in order to function as human beings. It is not so much that we need advocates, as we need listeners, since even those who have no voice are very good at communicating and even better at contributing. Given that, it is no great task to discover what their dreams are and to create ways for them to contribute even more fully in society. We do not need to advocate; we need to pay attention.
So I was burnt out, disgusted, and unwillingly to spend the time and energy it would take – or at least, so it seemed – to shift Michael and Sarah’s focus. In this play Michael reads the email where I clearly told him and Sarah that I was out of the picture.
Last January, when I had to come back to Toronto so that issues around the funding of my personal assistance could be resolved, I went to a reading of the play which at that time had minimal structure and was being formed as a musical with Alex Bulmar as choir leader and Andrew Penner as composer. It was evident that Michael, and no doubt along with him Sarah, had taken a major shift in focus, and that in fact Michael was prepared to express a vulnerable and moving shift in his understanding of me personally and the life experience of people who get excluded by being labeled.
Those who get to know this play will understand that I was conflicted at that moment. On the one hand it would require me to allow myself to be exposed and in some ways, deified, so that the play could be formed. In other words, every view that other people have of me would become fully expressed in public – odd, inspirational, wrongheaded, bullheaded, artistic, curtly articulate, and more. It was no small struggle to agree to have these images boldly displayed.
At the same time, Michael himself takes a personal beating in terms of his ego and reputation. I realized that he is not putting me through this wringer as some kind of sacrificial lamb to a great cause, but he and Sarah have uncovered a brilliant format to create the context that could blow all the stereotypes to the wind.
I agreed with some reluctance to participate in “The Book of Judith” and justified it to myself as necessary to make up for the fact that I had abandoned Michael and Sarah at a critical stage in their process and that I owed it to them, particularly Michael who had put so much of himself into creating our group in the first place. I came to the rehearsals with that attitude.
Two or three days into the rehearsals I began to realize the genius of the structure of the play. A few more days and I awakened to the brilliance of having it be a musical with a choir made up of volunteer men and women, many of them people with disability labels themselves. They are at times my voice and at times Michael’s voice and very much the voice of people whose voice and social presence is erased by the societal oppression we call disability. At times there are some very humourous moments where the choir affirms the amazing possibilities that lie within the personal experience of being someone whose abilities are considered “wrong”.
And so now I am having a bit of fun with the whole thing. I have also had a wonderful opportunity to meet many of the choir members on a personal level and have some moments of deep reflection on our common journey.
Perhaps the greatest learning for me has been how much I was, and probably still am, caught up in the mirage of disability. This play could never have come to be being if I had not thought that my current singleness was the “fault” of my being quadriplegic. I started and fuelled the entire cascade of errors and events by believing that it is my stillness that places an obstacle between myself and potential lovers, and not just the reality of my being busy, somewhat solitary, and Britishly inhibited! It’s an amazing thing to have a play open your eyes to your own foolishness.
But back to World Peace through Inclusion. “The Book of Judith” is an on-the-ground (or on-the-stage) exposition of the contributions that people can make when they are included. It is also a full exploration of the journey that it takes for people to go from seeing each other as strangers to having collegial and intimate relationships. It’s a full expression of how peace is created when people take on the struggle to work from diversity instead of from sameness. I will never have a better example of what I have been talking about than this play.
We are very much hoping to tour the show. Anybody who has some ideas about this, please let me know.
By the way it has been a long time since I told anybody how to get in touch with us and/or the World Peace through Inclusion Foundation. My email is: email@example.com and my phone # is: 647-232-9344. Gabor Podor is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Videos and information about “The Book of Judith” can be found at: www.bookofjudithplay.blogspot.com. Enjoy!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
416.534.9261 to PRE-BOOK. or Just SHOW UP AT THE TENT!
Today at 2:30 and 8:30. Tomorrow at 11:00am.
Last night was a special night. We were almost sold out, and the rain made the show really magical. A very overwhelming standing ovation, and an unbelievable amount of generousity from the audience. There were a bunch of people in the audience who have known Judith, and a few with who shared stories of Judith working with their own children who have/had disabilities. Another woman shared her story about wanting to make theatre, but didn't know how. The show inspired her own questions, and she is now going to begin her own pursuit of answering her very large, complex questions.
I love this show. Love it. I love that others are loving it so much. I love that it is both moving people and inspiring people.
I hope to see you at the theatre sometime today or tomorrow.
Know the anxious, wearing feeling you get when you really want to do something outside your usual comfort zone, but this little gnawing voice inside you keeps whispering, in that tiny, tinny, maliciously-snickery way, "you can't... you can't... " ? You know that going through with whatever task it is will, in some way, be an important step in terms of development, but there’s that constant voice - mocking, questioning, criticizing –making you question your judgment and motivation, making you weight the outcomes, blowing the putrid stench of fear all over your best intentions. It doesn’t matter whether the task is big or small; usually those tasks, for everyone, involve a display of vulnerability.
Vulnerability is scary. It implies openness. And within that openness, a willingness to go forwards, into the unknown. The best kind of creativity –and certainly, my favourite sort of live performance –involves artists confronting their own vulnerability. With performance, the fact this quest is done within a public sphere makes the journey all the more thrilling, involving, and yes, important. We need to see that bravery, so we can embrace it in ourselves and go forwards.
The Book of Judith is Michael Rubenfeld's attempt to wrap his head around his relationship with disabled advocate Judith Snow. As he told me when I interviewed him about the work on Take 5 recently, he met Snow through a friend who was working as her personal assistant. Snow has no qualms about displaying her vulnerability for all the world to see; then again, she doesn’t have much of a choice. She is a quadriplegic. She depends on others for her survival. She has had to make peace with her vulnerability being a fact –publicly and privately –for all of her fifty-plus years.
Rubenfeld was inspired to write a work around her when he was asked if he knew anyone who might want to be her lover. The Book Of Judith is his personal odyssey to create a work around Snow related to this most distinct of inquiries - but in so doing, he finds something much greater, something I suspect he hadn’t thought he’d find when he first started out. He finds the lines between "able" and "unable" dissolving; he finds definitions of “normal” and “abnormal” fading, and perhaps most importantly, he find a whole new way to embrace his own vulnerability –thus allowing us to embrace ours. Several times through the play, we’re asked to make eye contact with our fellow audience members, share food, sing, clap, cheer, and relate not just to what’s unfolding before us, but to what is being revealed within us.
I’ve always had mixed feelings around personal memoir-style theatre; much of it tends to fall into the gutter of self-indulgent preaching, and here, Rubenfeld walks a fine line; while he claims knowing Snow made him “a less arrogant prick,” he displays a stunning male bravado, full of ferocious cheerleading and sloganeering. That all falls away, however, when he realizes Snow had, in fact, wanted him as a lover. The fervent gospel-style preaching he’d indulged in earlier morphs into guilt, angst-ridden justifying, fervent bargaining, self-loathing, and finally, the kind of vulnerability that might make more staid audiences shift uncomfortably. Yup, he gets his kit off. The fact he so willingly uses his own body as a palette on which the audience may paint their own prejudices, sketch their own fears, and project their own vulnerabilities, is remarkable –it’s a brave choice, but it’s also the right one.
The Book Of Judith is a good reminder of the healing effects of connection, one of those being the community created through art. Judith Snow has written that “living in this way challenges and extends our courage, our love, our empathy for others and our creativity. We see and hear what others miss entirely.” That’s a good metaphor for artists. And Snow is her own kind of artist –the kind who accepts and in fact, loves her vulnerability. The voice we hear saying “you can’t” is one she’s turned into “I have… and I am.” Hallelujah. Praise be.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Last night was a remarkable night. It was unbelievably damp in the tent, and both myself and Alex (choir master) were quite sick. Alex was in fact, fluish. We thought the tent would be empty because of the weather.
WE WERE WRONG.
The tent was more than 3/4 full! A very nice surprise.
Because of the weather, I handed out blankets to everyone. It was a great opportunity to connect with people in the tent before-hand ... and a reminder the the piece is very truly an attempt to connect and communicate, but more importantly, and exploration on just how complex and complicated that desire is, despite its universal appeal. It is quite interesting to see how much an audience's experience in dependent on the specific audience. I don't think people are used to coming to the theatre, and asked to be a part of what is happening. This show literally only works if we are all working together.
Yesterday was magical, because despite being a bit bummed because of weather and illness, we somehow managed to pull together one of our most unique shows of the run. So unique, in fact, that at one point, a friendly resident from CAMH popped her head in and sang us a full song. She then said "bye" and calmly left the tent. It felt shockingly natural. Amazing. Strange. Very Strange. But equally beautiful. Perfect in fact.
Another generous standing ovation from the audience, and in a bit of beautiful irony, a member of a granting body revealed his desire to help the piece continue to live and tour the country. Amazing. Truly.
Thank again all for the continued outpour of response to the piece.
Every night continues to excite and surprise both us and audiences. We're so happy that slowly people are professing their desire to help the show tour. We think it should, and now, we think it will.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Sometimes I think maybe it would be fun to go to an evangelical church service. Not like Billy Graham evangelical or televangelism, more like the fictional evangelical stuff that you see sometimes, like in Blues Brothers where the late James Brown is the preacher, he’s in a room full of people with a band and a choir on a beautiful summer’s day, and everyone is so into the sermon they randomly jump out of their pews to shout, sing, and dance.
The Book of Judith, a play currently being staged in a tent on the CAMH grounds on Queen West in Toronto, tries hard to invoke that setting, but is not really like that sort of revival meeting. In fact, it’s not a show about religion at all; at it’s heart it’s a one-man play about the protagonist’s struggle first to overcome his discomfort and uneasiness upon meeting a quadriplegic woman named Judith Snow, then his struggle to create and perform a play about her, then his struggle to deal with his own complex feelings towards her. But it’s not really a one-man play either, as there’s about 20 people on stage with playwright/actor Michael Rubenfeld throughout, and it’s staged as though Rubenfeld were a pastor preaching the gospel of Judith Snow. He’s backed by a large choir made up primarily of people with varying disabilities singing a musical score written by Andrew Penner of Panic Manual favourites (I love writing that) The Sunparlour Players. If you look closely, you can see Penner in the photo above, sitting in with the choir on this night; he’s the second person visible from the left in the back row.
So, have you got all that? It’s a bit complicated, but it does pay off in a fun, uplifting show.
The story, as Rubenfeld tells it, is that he met Judith Snow when his best friend asked him a very strange question: do you know anyone who would be willing to make love to a quadriplegic woman? He answered the way I think most people would: no, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t do it. Would you?
But Rubenfeld was intrigued enough by the question to meet Judith Snow. By all accounts, Snow is a very impressive person; she was the first person to successfully fight for individualized funding from the Government of Ontario to help her to live the way she wanted, in her own home. But to call her a support system trailblazer for people with disabilities in Ontario seems inadequate. For more than 30 years she’s helped develop programs across North America and in Europe that’ve helped thousands of people with disabilities get jobs, homes, training, and support to help them live their lives the way they want to, without hiding in assisted living homes or being ashamed of who they are. As the play goes on, Rubenfeld preaches more than narrates the plot in twelve parts, starting with the story of meeting Judith and the creation of his first play with her, where she appeared naked on stage to a mix of rave reviews and disgusted reactions. Along the way, his girlfriend and collaborator left him, he met director Sarah Stanley, things very nearly fell apart many times, and he finds himself feeling uplifted, aggravated, inspired, and betrayed by Judith. And while he tells his story, he sings, climbs up on chairs, tells audience members he loves them, and even strips naked at one point.
The course of the plot didn’t quite work for me; despite Rubenfeld’s frequent assertions that meeting Snow changed his life and made him a better, less self-centred person, well, I’m not sure I saw it. At times it veers close to being self-indulgent, but after all, it is a play written and performed by Rubenfeld where he preaches to an audience about how his life was changed by a woman he met and tells the story of how it happened, so maybe that it comes across as only a little self-indulgent is actually an accomplishment. In the hands of a lesser performer, Rubenfeld’s “preaching” might all end up seeming pretty silly. But while you can pick at some of the details of his abilities (for one, his singing voice sounds only good, not great, but that might be partly because of how great the choir sounds), overall he’s a terrific performer and, maybe because he’s also the playwright, he really loses himself in the material.
Rubenfeld’s passionate performance is the biggest reason The Book of Judith works so well, but it’s really the choir, led by Alex Bulmer, that makes it exceptional. Like James Brown’s choir in Blues Brothers, they shouted affirmations when the “preacher” moves them to and enthusiastically sang some great Andrew Penner-penned tunes. Honestly, when I first read the show’s press release, the choir made up of disabled people sounded like a gimmick, but the choir is well-directed by Bulmer and they put in a joyful, exuberant performance.
Unlike James Brown’s congregation in Blues Brothers, no one in the crowd was leaping from their seats to clap along. It’s the kind of show that would be best to see with a raucous, sold-out crowd that the performers can draw energy from, and the audience on a rainy Tuesday night tried wasn’t quite up to the task. If you go, bring some friends to help pack the house.
The Book of Judith runs nightly until Saturday, May 30th at 8 PM, with a Saturday matinee at 2:30 PM and it’s current run ends with an 11 AM performance on May 31st. Click here for box office info.
Another amazing night last night, capped by a Standing Ovation!
We were amazed at how many people came out despite the awful weather. Hoping for the same thing tonight, despite our unco-operative skies.
Am very charged by the continued, constant overwhelming outpour of response to the work. It is so great that there are as many people who recognize the uniqueness of the work.
This truly is something I am very proud of, and it been amazing to have as many theatre artists come to the piece and say things like "I wish all theatre was like this". We do too. We are proud of this show because it is unabashedly full of heart with an equal amount of irony and smarts.
Its been quite amazing to see the response to the show. Its the most diverse reaction to a piece of theatre I've ever been involved with ... and to be quite honest, I am shocked at how positive the response has been. It has been an incredible affirmation that Toronto does, in fact, have an interest in this type of work.
There are 5 more performances, including ONE TONIGHT!! The phone has been ringing OFF THE HOOK, so we are expecting nice houses for the rest of the run. We hope you can catch this show before its gone! Its unlike most theatre in this town, and for that reason alone, I urge you to receive our play.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
We had a pretty nice sized house also. Almost 3/4 full. Word is definitely getting out.
This morning, Judith and I were on CBC METRO MORNING. Matt Galloway interviewed us and gave the listeners a head's up to the blog. SO. If you heard us CBC this morning, and this is your first visit.
And if you want to buy tickets to one of our remaining 6 performances, call 416.534.9261 to reserve. Or just show up at the tent before 8:00 Wed-Saturday. We also have 2 matinees on the weekend. 2:30 on Saturday and 11:00am on Sunday.
A very big thank-you to friends at the CBC for your amazing support. And thank-you again to everyone who has come to see the show and who continue to offer your words and stories. Its all very whelming, but really powerful and appreciated and you're all amazing.
A friend was kind enough to record the CBC interview! Very exciting. Listen below!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Playwright Mike McPhaden, after seeing Sunday's performance said: "It's ironic that theatre happening in a revival tent can restore my faith in theatre. But it does."
It was a wonderful afternoon to do the show, though I was sweating buckets by the end. The tent was 3/4 full, which was really great for everyone. We've had a couple choir members out for a couple shows, but hopefully they will be back today ... WE MISS YOU IRENA!
I am going to be on METRO MORNING on CBC RADIO Tomorrow morning at around 7:45. I will likely be on with Judith, and we are going to be talking a bit the history of the show, and likely a bit about our relationship. I'm pretty nervous about this, because I'm not sure what Judith would have to say ... but either way, I'm sure its going to be a compelling interview. TUNE IN!
I don't have any photos to post today, which is a shame. I will try and take some today. Also, we have a couple NEW choir members joining us today: Erin and Caleb. Very excited for this newness.
I continue to be blown away by the response to the show, and I feel very loved by you all.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Hi. Hi. Hi.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
What a BIG day. Doing the show twice was really something. I've done two show days before, but man, oh man, this show really takes something out of me. Yesterday felt like a week in one day. Seriously. Epic. Quite amazing and beautiful, but also very exhausting. But what a gift this show is.
Alright. A couple things to say.
Today was a big day. A really big day. It was a big day for some people in the audience, like Nicole, for example. I had not met Nicole before, but after the show, she came up on stage, and she told me that seeing the show has helped her understand something about what she has to do next in her life. Now, this is not the first time this has happened. I got this feedback last night also from Lisa. And there have been smatterings of this sort of thing in the air a lot. In T.A.N. (coffee shop across the street) somebody has written on the bathroom chalk board: "The Book of Judith playing across the street will change your life." So. What does this all mean? Too be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure. But I am amazed. Thank-you to the many many people who have stayed and shared thoughts and feelings with me, and thank-you also to the many who have written. It all means a lot. Really.
I do want share a few quotes from some of the emails I've gotten from people who have seen the show. They will remain nameless, as the messages are quite personal.
"I think I feel revived. I'm stuttering only because it's not quite what I imagined being revived would feel like. It's not a perishing of all your fears. Or euphoria. It's more like being a little more awake. Awake past what you think is awake. Feeling the poppy seeds in your teeth. Seeing more. Or at the very least, seeing your fear of seeing. I felt very vulnerable tonight. And grateful. And pushed around. And looked after. I felt community. I felt that I should be braver."
"I was - in this order - thoroughly engaged, amused and entertained, mildly uncomfortable and, finally, very moved. I was too moved, in fact, to stick around, and I had myself a cathartic, tearful walk home. (I still can't say why I was so moved.)"
"It was very profound, touching. It went into the head, but through the heart. Your voice, gestures, dance and eye contact, and the choir's spirit and rhythm, made it very powerful, something you can't just WATCH. But something you need to let in."
"I haven't seen such brave, compelling, precise, passionate, inventive, committed and most of all inspiring story telling in a long long time."
I want to also send some love out to Liana and Frank (from the choir) today. Yesterday was a big, hard day for both of them. You're both wonderful and doing amazing jobs and we're so happy to have you in our choir.
The whole choir is going to have a hang this afternoon after the matinee, and I'm pretty excited about that. Am excited also to have a day off. MY VOICE IS TIRED! Who ever thought that being in a musical would be so tough on your voice!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
WE WERE ON THE NATIONAL LAST NIGHT!!!!!!!!
It was actually a pretty great spot!
Here's the link! http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/arts/the_book_of_judith.html
The show was great. We had a larger house than the last coupe nights, which really helped fuse the show. My DAD being in the choir was also pretty amazing. It was really nice having him up there with everyone.
Here's a photo of the two of us during warm up.
All in all, a pretty special night. I will try and nab some photo from my step-mother's camera and post them online.
ZENO also went wild again and ran up to me during the show! AMAZING! I LOVE THAT DOG!
And lastly, here is a photo of our ugly railings that the city put up.
I was very happy with last night's show.
Matinee today. Hope people show up!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Yes. MY DAD.
He's in town from Winnipeg. He saw the show on Wednesday. He loved it so much that he asked me if he could sing in the choir.
Who am I to exclude MY DAD?
And so ... he's in!
Third performance. It was quite something. We showed up, and our set had been invaded by two large, ugly railings for our very modest ramp. An inspector from the city came by and decided that, in order to make our set "safe", they would have to put railings on the ramp. Insane. So now, the sightlines for the show have been compromised.
The response continues to be amazing. Tonight, also, there is going to be a piece on the show on THE NATIONAL on CBC. This is very exciting, and hopefully will help pick up audiences. Unfortunately, neither the Globe and Mail, nor The Toronto Star, have come to review the show, which has been a surprise and disapointment.
It is truly amazing to us to see that a show that is looking a questions of inclusion, is being entirely excluded by two major newspapers. The irony is actually pretty heart-breaking.
I guess this is a bit of a bummer blog.
On a lighter note, Ross Manson (Volcano Theatre) called the piece "Virtuosic" and Liana's (Choir Member) Dog got so excited last night on stage, that he ran right up to me during the show! It was amazing. We love ZENO!
A part of me is excited about how I can use the railings tonight. I did have fun smacking them around during the show.
Also, an audience member who was at the show last night blogged about it last night. This is what he said:
"This is a provocative and creative production that invites, or perhaps I should say forces, the audience to reflect on the role of disabled people in the world, and to overcome the tendency to de-subjectify people who have disabilities. No doubt my description makes it sound preachy -- texts, sermons, revival tent, overcoming and reflecting -- but I didn'r really feel preached at. The Book of Judith is an intelligent and challenging encounter with the very notion of disability."
And here's a reminder of the AMAZING quote from Byron Laviolette from EYE Magazine.
"All shows need an audience to activate them, the The Book of Judith more so than most. It is a socially minded, soul-mending public spectacle of the stand-up-and-shout variety and, at the risk of sounding more of a cheerleader than critic, I encourage you to see this and to lend to its charming crusade your own energy. You never know: miracles happen every day."
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Labeled as a “healing crusade,” Michael Rubenfeld’s The Book of Judith is one-fourth public service announcement, one-fourth choir-fueled, faux-Christian church service, and one-fourth personal exorcism — of Rubenfeld’s own inner difficulty in facing another individual’s disabilities head on. That leaves one fourth remaining, but we’ll get to that later.
Co-produced by director Sarah Stanley’s Die in Debt Theatre, Rubenfeld’s own Absit Omen Theatre and The Theatre Centre (almost next door neighbor to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health on whose grounds the tent for this piece is pitched), the work centers on Rubenfeld’s experiences with Judith Snow, an advocate for the respect of those who live with disabilities and for their right to decide their own fates.
The missal that accompanies the show is full of Snow’s own wonderings about her life as a quadriplegic. Read from frequently, as if it’s scripture, her words of wisdom speak to those who would judge anyone based on their physical abilities alone. Set alongside the lyrics to the dozen or so songs composed for the play by Sunparlour Players’ frontman Andrew Penner (infused with his distinctive, half-moaning, half-mournful sound), this literal book of Judith is, then, the map to Rubenfeld’s redemption.
The tent-cum-temple suits the piece well, offering an intimate but well-illuminated environment. Matched with the sweet smells from the CAMH’s front gardens and the smoky scents wafting off the various candles lit around the space, the event feels immediate, which helps to make it inspiring.
What works most about The Book of Judith is the personal energy Rubenfeld gives it. It is really his story, and he is the one who is to be healed by it. As a whole, however, the performance is still strongly focused outwards, and while there are few moments of unearned intensity, the work never loses sight of its one very clear goal — to commune with its congregation.
The plot — if there is one — is perhaps too unbelievably unbelievable to hold much water, but the passion of Rubenfeld and the choir (itself comprised of 12 individuals of mixed physical abilities) drive the evening forward regardless. What seems to be absent, however, is the ever-building intensity required to usher in the reconciliation at the piece’s close.
And that’s where the missing one-fourth comes in. All shows need an audience to activate them, the The Book of Judith more so than most. It is a socially minded, soul-mending public spectacle of the stand-up-and-shout variety and, at the risk of sounding more of a cheerleader than critic, I encourage you to see this and to lend to its charming crusade your own energy. You never know: miracles happen every day.
BYRON LAVOILETTE, EYE WEEKLY
Tonight's show was quite wonderful. I started off feeling a bit shaky at the start, but the spirit of Judith pulled me through. We had our second straight standing ovation, and once the show ended, people literally came right up on to the stage to speak to us, and the juice and cookies were really great to have. People stuck around for a long time tonight!
OH YAH. WE HAVE JUICE AND COOKIES AFTER EACH SHOW!
There was a lot of love in the tent, a lot of smiles, and some more tears ... and yes, a few more hoots and hollers.
Tonight's performance was pretty different, mostly because we went from a 100 seat audience to 30, which was pretty fascinating. Still a great, great experience, but it felt quite different. Still, it was amazing to look out and see people swaying and smiling and laughing and just making some noise.
We had two, count em, TWO tent crashers tonight. Two of the lovely residents from CAMH decided to join the show. One came in, sat down, stayed for a while, got up, did a bow and said a prayer to herself before calmly leaving the tent. The second stood in the aisle for a while, watching the show, and then, he also left respectfully. We're hoping to get a LOT more crashers over the course of the run.
WE WANT EVERYONE TO COME AND BE HEALED!!!
The response has been pretty amazing to the show. People are responding and reacting. We had one person walk out today and I'm pretty sure we've upset at least one or two people out there ... or, at least, we hope so! Healing is NOT an easy thing.
And so the question I wonder is: Are You Brave Enough To Be Healed By Judith Snow?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. What an opening night. I am so very very very proud of everything and everyone, the audience included. What an unbelievable night. I have never before experienced such remarkable energy in a ... TENT.
Last night was awesome. Just awesome. We got an incredible standing ovation, and three curtain calls, and people whooped and hollered DURING THE SHOW!
There were a lot of tears and amazement in the audience--from MYSELF included. An incredible affirmation of the power of ... well ... bravery, risk and love. Seriously. Every single person in that audience and on stage was amazing and brave and beautiful.
And as an added bonus, there were cameras from the CBC there doing a piece on the show for THE NATIONAL! It is supposed to air on Friday. VERY COOL. And there have been smatterings of press here and there, including this piece on the National Post Blog that went up today: http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/theampersand/archive/2009/05/20/andrew-penner-talks-about-the-book-of-judith.aspx
I feel like there is so much more to say, but Anne Hardcastle, from Queen's University, said it perfectly. "I have no words for what I just experienced". And I feel a bit the same. All I can say is come. come. come. Come early, because I think we may sell out in the second week, but we need audiences for this week.
I'd love to post little clips from the show, but of course, I wasn't able to film myself. But I did make this video during our opening-day rehearsal with the choir.
Pretty beautiful little thing I think.
To book tickets, call the Theatre Centre BOX OFFICE: 416. 534.9261.
OR JUST SHOW UP.
Show starts at 8:00 every night this week, with 2:30 matinees this weekend. (Sat. and Sun.)
Love to all who were there on opening, and all who plan to come, and all who can use a bit more love in their lives.
The Book of Judith has been unleashed!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Last night was our invited dress. It was cold in that tent but HOT on the stage! It was a very good first audience. The was a lot of very intense listening, excitement and love kicking around.
And, as you all know. TONIGHT IS OPENING NIGHT.
What an incredible journey. Tonight is the beginning of the next chapter. Thank-you to everyone involved, especially Sarah, Andrew, Alex, Nick, Franco, Andrea, Tanya, Beth, Cam, Cathy ... and last, but not least ...
You are my guide.
You are my wisdom.
You are my strength.
And now, a message from ME!
With love, gratitude, and excitement!
Monday, May 18, 2009
We ran the show on Saturday night!!!! What a night! WE HAVE A SHOW EVERYBODY!
Now, as long as I remember all my lines, I think we're all going to be great. It was actually pretty amazing to run the show on such a cold night. I could see my breath! But amazing, I was never cold because the show was really cookin'.
We are all VERY excited to be sharing this play. The tent is REALLY starting to buzz--so much so that some pretty exciting press has caught word of the show. Not going to mention it yet, but its preeettttyyyy awesome.
Here's an interview (with tons of wind!) that I did with Andrew today. He's not just a genius, he's also pretty sweet too.
And here are a couple photos of Sarah and Lesley horsing around.
What's that you ask? What are these fine ladies wearing?
Why... ROBES OF COURSE
THE CHOIR HAS THEIR ROBES. (because one can't have a choir without robes)
At first, I was a bit perturbed when I saw them, as I you can see in the following video.
Nahhhhh. Just kidding. I love them and I love the choir. They are the best choir ever. Not that i know a TON of choirs, but if I did, they would still be my favourite.
And I leave you with two more images from the past couple of days.
Here is NICK (music director) looking very serious and determined (which he has been).
Nick has truly been a gift from the Gods.
I am amazed at how much he has been able to make the music live over the past week. There is no way we'd be getting such beautiful sounds without Nick. We're going to really miss him when he's gone. Yesterday, after the run, he came up and said that he felt very proud to be a part of this show. And we are proud to have him also.
Thank-you Nick, for everything
This is my favourite picture of the day, mostly because of the Steve (in the middle of Sarah and Andrew). I can't tell what the heck is going on in his head in this photo, but I love the look on his face. I also really love Steve, who has also been really wonderful. He is a fantastic bass, and, in general, just a really warm, friendly, positive energy in the choir.
I also do love how "directorly" Sarah and Andrew both look. THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS FOLKS!
Until tomorrow, my lovelies.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
We've been getting a TON OF TRAFFIC coming by the tent. Its amazing how comfortable the residents at CAMH feel just waltzing into the TENT. I've noticed that its one of the only places in Toronto where people will actually say hello to you, look you in the eye, and try to carry on a conversation.
Here is one of the various friends we made. Notice her fancy coat!
Today was a really long day, but another great day. We managed to work through half of the show with the choir, and today was really the first time we got a sense as to what the show is really going to feel like. WOW. I sometimes feel like I actually have to pinch myself a bit.
I'm going to take a moment now to introduce you to a few members of the choir.
Kazumi may possibly be the most joyous person I've ever met. His ability to love things (like our new fancy ramp) helps me love things that I didn't even realize I could love (like a ramp!). Kazumi is a tenor.
Frank and Mark
Frank is our resident trouble maker with a mean tenor voice. He is also, possibly, the heart of the choir, as he may be the most outwardly emotional person I've ever met! (and I say that with love). He also likes to show up an hour early for choir rehearsal so that he can nail the harmonies. Amazing devotion. (he also told me that he thinks that I'm cute, which I always a bonus from my perspective!)
Mark is, I would say, the coolest member of the choir. I don't know why I think that, but he just always seems to have everything under control because he's just THAT cool. When I first met Mark, I knew that I really wanted him in the choir. He is an amazingly sturdy energy that is a great glue for the tenors, and is as positive as he is cool. (I mean that with love too, Mark)
More to come! More to come!
I leave you with a couple of videos from some of our PERFECT production team.
This is Andrea (Lighting Designer/Production) and Cam (Tech God)!
BETH and TANYA
ALSO! If you're planning on seeing the show, we could really use some audience early in the run. So if its all the same to you, we'd love you to come the first week.
Book your tickets at: 416.534.9261