Friday 14 November 2014

Corpus: Quebec premiere of provocative play on the Holocaust is a real winner

Teesri Duniya Theatre has a real winner on its hands with the Quebec premiere of  Corpus, the award winning play with  a unique storyline related to the Holocaust.

Corpus continues at the cozy MAI (Montreal Arts Interculturels) in the McGill Ghetto   (3680 Jeanne Mance) through November 30. Playwright Darrah Teitel, who penned the script while she was studying at the National Theatre School in Montreal, was at the November 13 opening I attended and will stay her through the weekend and participate in some panel discussions.
Chiazzese and Paulson. (Photos by Mateo H. Cassis)

While Teitel notes this is not based on a true story, such a scenario could have very easily occurred.  The MAI stage is divided into the present and the past. We see Megan (Holly Gauthier-Frankel), a brilliant Canadian genocide scholar who obsessively collects the stories of war crimes through the internet. She stumbles across an unlikely relationship between a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz and the wife of a Nazi officer. That plays out on the other side of the stage and behind a draped backdrop. The music used is effective and so are the video projections which constantly flash across the screen. This all works really well for in no time at all the audience is wrapped up into the compelling relationship between Eli (a very effective Davide Chiazzese) and his forbidden romance with Eva (Melissa Paulson).

We are also introduced to present-day Eva (Susan Bain), Megan’s thesis advisor Homer (Gilles Plouffe) and her online  lover and Eva’s grandson  Heinrich (Ian  Geldart). Artistic Director Rahul Varma, whom I got the chance to meet for the first time, did  a top-notch job selecting the cast with director Liz Valdez and their team. The flashback scenes are well played out and Chiazzese, an Italian boy from East End Montreal whom I just saw in Billy (The Days of Howling), is clearly a true talent. His roles in Billy and Corpus are completely different which well illustrates his versatility. Gauthier-Frankel is a ball of fire and showcases so much energy in her role that one gets really attached to the character and the significant challenges she faces towards the ends of the story –not to mention a surprise revelation.

Geldart and Gauthier-Frankel.

There are Q & A talkbacks after each Friday evening performance and panel discussions after each Sunday performance. Varma and General Manager Linda Levesque told me that they really want to develop a pedagogical exercise around this play. In keeping with that, some matinee shows will be attended by high school students. I brought my colleague  Tino Bordonaro, the social studies consultant at the English Montreal School Board and he was quite impressed with what he saw. See their teachers guide.

As for the panel discussion, the one slated for after the November 16 show  will feature an artist’s panel answering the question of  What sort of responsibility does an artist undertake when creating or participating in a piece of art involving war? What needs to be taken into account when recounting events through art that have had such long-lasting effects on a community? It will be moderated by CBC’s Sudha Krishnan and include as  panelists Geldart, Bain, playwright  Teitel,  director Valdez, Myrna Selkirk (Professor). On November 23 the question of Where do we Draw the Line?  will be dealt with. As much as we attempt to do so, we cannot enter into the past or view it through a transparent window. Do you think it is a help or a hindrance to historical memory to apply personal stories in modern day research? Where do we draw the line between personal stories and academic work? Again, Krishnan will moderate and her panelists will be Sarah-Jane Kerrlapsly from the Canadian Jewish Association, Bob McBryde of Amnesty International and Jacqueline Celemencki  from the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. Finally, on November 30, the focus will be on Digitizing the Past. We are now living in a society that has access to technology that was not available to the previous generations. With this in mind, do you think it is this generation’s responsibility to continue interpreting the events of the Holocaust and other historical atrocities? What barriers does technology break down, and what drawbacks does it create? The moderator will be Meghan Pearson and two professors as panelists: Stacey Zembrzyckia and Ted Little.  

Two shows  are already sold out and tickets for others in this 139 seat venue are going quickly. Wednesday to Saturday all shows are at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m. Tickets are   $25 for adults; $20 for students/seniors; and $15 for groups (10 or more). There are also group specials. For more information call  514-982-3386 or visit

Here are some clips from the show and interviews with the director and the actors.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Cat Spencer to mark 30 years on radio

Congratulations to one of the nicest guys in radio, The Beat  925 FM morning man Cat Spencer. On Thursday, November 13 he will mark an incredible 30 years in radio.

Cat, whose co-host is the adorable and charismatic Sarah Bartok, has been with The Beat for four years now. He came aboard just as they were about to launch the new name and format to replace Q 92.  In fact, he had been named the successor to Aaron Rand several months earlier but because he was still under contract to Virgin Radio at the time he had to stay home and wait for a certain period of time to expire.
Cat has called Montreal home for decades,  but  he was born in Saskatoon. He got his first job at the age of 17 in Fort Frances, Ontario. From there, it was on to the bright lights of Moose Jaw, Edmonton, Toronto and, of course, Montreal. Cat often brags that for the first 18 years of his career he never missed a day of work! Now that streak is over: he has two young kids who bring home germs from school so he calls in sick all the time!  

For those who listen to the show, you will know that Cat has tremendous chemistry with Bartok and news/traffic reporter Natasha Hall and their cast of many others. He always good for a few gags each morning, notably his hilarious prank phone calls for which he comes clean at the end.

Good luck Cat!!

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Yeh! Yogurt introduces grilled cheese to its menus

I dropped by the Quartier Cavendish location of Yeh! Yogurt today just before lunch time and was pleasantly surprised to see that grilled cheese had been added to the menu at the special introductory price of $2.99.

Yeh! stores boast a self-serve format offering over 60 revolving flavours of frozen yogurt.  At Yeh! the customer can choose from a wide variety of healthy and sweet toppings in an attractive and hip “urban cool” funky pink setting  –pink being the official colour. The debut of grilled cheese shows that this place is a lot more than just yogurt.  At most locations you can purchase healthy shakes, both sweet and savory crepes, premium coffee, iced coffee and waffle cones or bowls.  There are even soups at some locales.

Ariel showcases a grilled cheese sandwich and chocolate shake.
Ariel, the shift manager when I visited, said that the grilled cheese sandwiches are catching on. At the Cavendish location they should become popular with students from the nearby schools in particular. Mimi Cohen (no relation), the marketing director for Yeh! Yogurt, said that the company has developed  "a secret signature grilled cheese recipe that makes ours so mouth watering delish."

Asked to elaborate, Mimi said: "We have  a unique grilling technique using our Waffle-Irons. The extreme heat emitted from the iron combined with the perfect level of pressure carmelizes the butter and adds a crispiness to the bread. The result is a unique flavour and a mouth watering grilled cheese experience like none other out there!"

Having taken the taste test today, I must agree. It was one of the better grilled cheese sandwiches I have had in some time. 

Owners Jon and Marvin Gurman are looking at worldwide expansion for Yeh!Yogurt, with destinations as far as Lebanon and China about to join the family.