My First Fringe

My first experience with a fringe festival was growing up in Victoria.  As a poor student, I didn't have the opportunity to go to tons of theatre unless my parents paid (which they often did).  Also, Victoria was (is) a small-ish town and there wasn't always tons going on.  So I loved the Victoria Fringe Festival, where I could buy a relatively inexpensive pass and skip from show to show to show.  I spent hours flipping through the Fringe guide, plotting and planning the shows to see.    Some of the shows were fantastic.  Some were transformative.  Some were god-awful.  But that "pick-n-mix" aspect of Fringe was liberating, inspiring, exhilarating.

This year is my first Fringe as an artist.  I am performing in a new musical work called CAPS LOCK, which is a modern office romance, appearing on the main stage at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th) during the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.  We've been working hard all summer on this show - hence my relative silence here on this blog - and tonight was our opening.

What I never realized before is that the sheer volume of shows put on by Fringe, in a limited number of venues, means: a) very little time in your actual venue to rehearse; and b) a mere 15 minutes at the top and tail of each show to get in costume, get your set ready, and post-show, strike the set and get the hell outta dodge so the next show goes up in time.  YOWZA.  For a theatrical control-freak like me, today - our tech day in our venue and also our opening, within 2 hours - was the epitome of stressful.

The CAPS LOCK team had its first look at the venue in which we'd be performing at noon today, with our opening scheduled for 5 pm.  This means that at 12, our production team first laid eyes on the stage it now had to dress, the lighting board it now had to program, and the screen where we wanted to project various slides during the show (oooh, fancy!).  It meant we had to figure out where to squeeze the 7 piece orchestra.  Just how far apart we could place the characters' desks in the "office."  Where we had to stand for lighting cues.  Whether our choreography was going to fit on the stage we had.  Whether the technical effects were going to be timed properly with our performance.  Whether the sound cues would happen on time.  You know.  No big deal.

Well, actually, very big deal.  The screen wasn't high enough for the audience to see.  There wasn't enough room for the cello.  Was the double-bass going to be able to see our music director/composer?  If I stood here would I still be in the light?  By 2:30 p.m. we had just finished setting props.  There was no time to do an actual run in the space - we'd have to just rehearse particular cues, do as much of a stop-and-start of problem areas as we could, and then hope for the best for our opening at 5:00 p.m.   So that was it.  We were going to go on, in front of an audience, having not fully rehearsed the show in our venue.  I was literally sweating bullets from anxiety. 

At 3:15 p.m., when we were firmly shown the exit by a Fringe official, some of us went for a very subdued bite to eat before we had to be back at the theatre for 4:30 p.m.  I could barely eat, I felt so sick with nerves.  Not for my performance - that I could control - but for how everything else was going to somehow come together in time.  As I got into costume and make-up, I could hear a buzz of arriving audience members outside the dressing room.  I peeked out to see that there were audience members lined up out the door of the venue.  My hands started to shake.  What have I gotten myself into?

As it turned out - it turned out.  The audience laughed.  They applauded.  No one forgot to sing.  Nothing fell apart.  There were a few technical glitches, but in the end, it was a show, and an entertaining one, too.   And I have never felt so exhilarated after a performance in my life.  The stress and urgency of the earlier part of the day, the anxiety at the lack of rehearsal time in the venue - it all melted away and I felt just a tremendous sense of pride and relief that we had made it happen.  And no one had killed (or even maimed) anyone else in the process!

One of the additional perks of being a Fringe Artist is the Fringe rush pass - I have access to as many shows as I can possibly cram into my already incredibly-busy schedule (surprisingly - ha - Fringe doesn't pay enough for me to leave the practice of law). 

My fellow cast member (and Danielle), Danielle St. Pierre, and I, have always joked about her propensity to look for the silver lining in every show, always finding something good to say, whilst I tend to be overly critical.  "We should write a theatre review blog called 'Good Danielle, Bad Danielle'," I said one day, jokingly.

Well, we've decided to do just that - although, truth be told, sometimes I'm Good Danielle and she's Bad Danielle (you won't even know which - sneaky!).  But we've set ourselves an ambitious schedule between now and the end of Fringe on September 16, and plan to say something on this blog about each of them.

In case you're in Vancouver and interested in checking out CAPS LOCK, or seeing another one of the shows with Good Danielle, Bad Danielle, here's our schedule:

Saturday, September 8

12:50 - Chlamydia dell'Arte - Performance Works, Granville Island

2:30 pm - Underbelly - Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island

4:30 pm -  Burnt at the Steak - Peformance Works, Granville Island

9:30 - Romance, CBC Studios (Hamilton & Georgia)

Monday, September 10

6:30 p.m. - Fishbowl,  Performance Works, Granville Island

9:45 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

Tuesday, September 11

1:00 p.m. - Zanna, Don't!,  CBC Studios (Hamilton & Georgia)

5:00 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

 7:45 p.m. - Loon, Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island (after our show)

Wednesday, September 12

5:30 p.m. - Saints of British Rock, Firehall Arts Centre (Main and Cordova)

7:15 p.m. - Riverview High, Firehall Arts Centre (Main and Cordova)

10:00 p.m. - My Aim is True, Revue Stage, Granville Island

Thursday, September 13

6:00 - Intrusion, Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

8:30 p.m. - Welcome to My Wake (Site-Specific, Granville Island Parking Garage)

Friday, September 14

12:30 p.m. -  RIOT - Woodwards Atrium, Gastown

5:00 p.m. - The Histories, Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

8:40 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

Saturday, September 15


5:20 p.m. - The Best. Man - Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

Happy Fringing, everyone.  It's the best time of the year.

Behold, the Mighty Zoku!

So, for my birthday my brother and sister-in-law got me the weirdest, coolest toy ever:

the Zoku

.  It makes popsicles on your counter.  In like, 5 minutes.  

Wacky, right?  But so totally cool.  They also got me the official Zoku popsicle cookbook.  I opened it and immediately shouted "I sense a new blog project coming on!"

That's right people.  It's popsicle blog time.

I started on Saturday night.  The first I made were the easiest, I think: peach pops.  Some of my own home-canned peaches, a little yogurt, agave and lime juice.  I mixed the ingredients together, and then poured them into the Zoku mould, which had been chilling in the freezer for 24 hours.  I filled it up to the "fill line," placed a stick in carefully, and waited, staring dubiously at the little thing as it sat on my counter.  6 minutes later - voila.  I pulled out a perfect pop!  I gave Andrew the first one and he said, "Mmm.  Peachy."  "Good peachy or bad peachy?" "Good."  And they were.

The Zoku's trial run.  I must admit, I was dubious.  I should never have doubted you Zoku.

Peachy pop!

Next up was the "Summer Morning" pop - honeydew melon (we used chinese honeydew, which are slightly different in colour and texture), fresh basil, and lime juice - and then sanded with sugar.  They were very tart, very basil-y, and I couldn't really taste the honeydew.  But they were certainly refreshing.  

Summer Morning pop.  Very strong, tart flavour.

I could tell after just a few tries that Zoku and I were going to become good friends.  So much so, in fact, that I made a trip to Williams-Sonoma today to buy some Zoko accessories: the "fruit wand" (which allows you to artfully place pieces of fruit in the mould), and the fruit stencils (starts and hearts), and the special "pour cups."  I opted not to get the Zoku storage case (my freezer is too tiny), but did not with interest that you can get a BIGGER Zoku, with 3 moulds - think how many more popsicles I could make!

I already have little jars of leftover peach mix and Summer morning mix in the fridge, and I've just made a mix for Chai Pops that I am dying to try.   I'll make do with my lil' red Zoku for now - but I'm envisioning an entire gourmet popsicle empire...

On Donuts.

So you may recall my

earlier post

on local donut celebrity

Cartems Donuterie

.  My adorable friend Louisa has a food vlog where she talks about all things yummy - here's her latest, on Cartems:

Speaking of Cartems, yesterday amazing corporate food delivery service


delivered my a half-dozen of these babies at work, free!  Thanks for the free donuts, Food.ee!

Free Cartems!  Thanks, Food.ee!

Food.ee is a free service that takes care of everything from staff birthday cakes, to team lunches to casual beers.  Their staff (who hand delivered my donuts yesterday) were oh-so-friendly and full of suggestions of great places to eat...give them a try if you're ordering for your workplace or a large crowd.

The Shop Around the Corner: La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

It's probably old news that

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop

has the best tacos in Vancouver.   Its two locations, Cambie & Broadway, and Hastings Street (near Victory Square), are always packed, and I'm always happy to wait for their delicious little tacos.  "Pinche tacos" are Mexican street tacos - smaller than the giant tacos we normally see here in Canada, served on corn tortillas.  La Taqueria uses local, organic and sustainable products where possible, and I have yet to be disappointed by any experience there.

I have a few standbys when it comes to choosing a taco.  I love the De Picadillo - which is ground tofu in a "secret sauce," and the traditional Frijoles Charros con Queso - refried beans with cheese.  I also enjoy the Pollo con Mole, when I'm in a meat-y mood (which is not very often, but sometimes) - that's chicken in chocolate mole sauce.

My tacos: two Pollo con Mole, one De Picadillo, and one Frijoles Charro con Queso.

Unbelievably, Andrew had never been to La Taqueria, so we stopped by last night for a late dinner.  Ignacio, who co-owns the Cambie location, was working at Hastings last night and Andrew asked him to pick the four "best" tacos for him to try - he got a nice selection of various cow parts, which anyone who knows Andrew (this man constantly complains that there aren't enough "meat flavoured drinks" in the world) can tell you was a very good choice on Ignacio's part.

As for me, I got my "usual", as listed above, and Ignacio asked me if I wanted him to make them up "his way" - in terms of the various hot sauces and pickles that La Taqueria has on offer.  I said sure, and it was amazing how the different sauces Ignacio chose changed the flavours so much!  They were delicious - although Ignacio was worried that he had made them too spicy and kept asking me if they were OK and to let him know if they weren't OK and he'd make new ones for me.  He also very helpfully wrote down the name of a friend's hotel in Tulum when I mentioned that my friends and I are off on our now-annual Mexican adventure in August.  The staff is friendly, and so are the customers - whenever I've been at La Taqueria, I've always had a good conversation with someone, either waiting in line, or fighting for space at one of the counters.

Andrew is much happier with his tacos than he looks in this photo.

La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop is open Monday to Saturday, 11:00 - 9:30, at both locations.  Stand in line, it's worth it.

Strawberry Mango Oat Bars

Feeling a bit under the weather tonight and as such I'm choosing to have a quiet night in.  "Quiet nights in" always involve baking.  Tonight, I had some strawberries and mangos that were getting dangerously ripe, so, voila - Strawberry Mango Oat Bars!  I promised my friend Louise I would post this recipe if they turned out.


1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup margarine (I used Earth Balance, suppose you could use butter if you were so inclined)

2 ripe mangos, mushed

3 cups ripe strawberries, casually chopped

2 packets Splenda (OK, go ahead and use real sugar if you must - that'll be about 1 tbsp)

1 tbsp cornstarch

Squirt of lemon juice


1.  Throw the flour, rolled oats, sugar and margarine in a bowl and mix (with your fingers preferably) well until the ingredients are fine and crumbly.

2.  Reserve 1 cup of crumbly stuff and then press the rest into a greased 8 x 8 baking pan so it forms a hard crust.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 F.

3.  Mix the mango, strawberries, cornstarch, Splenda and lemon juice.

Mixing the fruit.

4.  Pour on top of the baked crumbly crust and then sprinkle the reserved cup of crumbly stuff on top.

Ready to go in the oven!

5.  Bake for 45 minutes at 350 F.

My sous-chef wasn't willing to wait.

6.  Wait until cool to slice.  Makes 8 bars.

Et voila!  Think these might be good with a little coconut "ice cream."

NT Live: Frankenstein

Note: This blog post contains spoilers.  If you have not read Frankenstein, or intend to see this production and do not wish to know what happens, do not read further.

One of the things I miss most about living in London is the access to wonderful, world-class theatre.  Now, before all of my theatre compatriots in Vancouver get their knickers in a knot, don't get me wrong - I love what we are producing here - but we have to admit we don't have access to the star power or budgets available in a city like London.  Only in London could the National Theatre put on a Danny Boyle-directed version of


and double-cast the show with leads like Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternating the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster each night.  I was pained to have missed this production - not least because I'm not sure how supportive it will look to my future husband, Benedict Cumberbatch if he finds out I


go - and so I was delighted when NT Live made both versions available for broadcast at local cinemas.

Audiences love to compare and contrast actors playing the same role.  Who's your favourite Sherlock Holmes? Who's your favourite Bond?  It's a fun game to play.  It's incredibly rare, however, to get to see two actors play the same parts, with the same cast, in the same production, and then play them

opposite each other.  

Caitlin and I saw


 last week with Benedict Cumberbatch as the Creature and Jonny Lee Miller as Victor.  We had deliberately chosen to see this over the Miller version, as we thought it would be fascinating to see BC, who plays such controlled characters like Sherlock, and Peter in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, play, well, a monster.  

We loved it, although BC's creature went through a painful "birth," finding his legs, literally, in a scene that went on for far too many uncomfortable minutes.  His Creature was never childlike, more like an purely animal being at first, but quickly becoming sharp as a tack, learning the ways of man at monumental speed.  His exploration of himself and his surroundings was mostly internal, cerebral, and BC managed to convey the Creature's astonishing intelligence, confined within the most basic of physical trappings given to him by Frankenstein, his creator, extremely convincingly.  His gradual disenchantment with humanity and descent into cruelty seemed inevitable rather than tragic, like something he expected, while wishing he might have been wrong.  He seemed more of an alien visitor in a hostile world, who grows weary of his surroundings and yearns for home, than a human following the path from innocence to experience.

Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature.

Jonny Lee Miller's Victor was an intense, mirthless man.  You got a sense that Dr. Frankenstein was a deeply unhappy man, unsatisfied with his existence, way before his "animation" of the Creature made his life a misery.  Miller could barely control his disdain for his own invention.  While you could see moments of grudging admiration for all the Creature learns and accomplishes in his brief existence, the disgust and disdain for his "slave" was palpable.   At no times did Miller's Frankenstein seem unhinged, or the stereotypical "mad scientist" who might shriek "It's alliiiiiiiiiive."

Jonny Lee Miller as Victor, with Naomie Harris as Elizabeth.

Tonight I went back and saw the production in reverse, with Darling Husband as Dr. Frankenstein and Miller as the Creature.  I hadn't intended to see both, but after the first viewing I found I couldn't resist.  I wanted to see the two men play the opposite roles, yes, but I also wanted to see how the other members of the cast's performances changed with the switcher-oo.  Would there be more chemistry between BC and Naomie Harris, for example, than JLM and NH?  Would certain scenes that were funny be un-funny, and vice-versa?  

Miller's Creature was much more of a child being born into the world, rather than some wary interloper.  His Creature stalked about the stage like a toddler learning to walk, and laughed, smiled and drooled with a childlike openness.   In the opening scenes, where the Creature meets Delacey, the kind old blind man that teaches him to speak, and read, Miller seemed full of hope and optimism.  He bowed to Delacey, and to Delacey's children, who reject him, with a courtly elegance and willingness to love and be loved that is touching and endearing.  But in Miller's Creature, as the love is close to the surface, so is the darkness, which makes the Creature's menace all too more chilling.

In the scene where Elizabeth meets and befriends the Creature, who has promised her safety, only to be informed that he "lied," before being raped and murdered by him, you get the sense in Miller's performance that the Creature knows perfectly well that what he is doing is evil.  And that he chooses, and has come to relish, the evil, that the hurt he has suffered in his brief life is so profound that only revenge can soothe the ache.  He cannot rationalize his pain.  In BC's Creature, this same violent scene seems a foregone conclusion - that the Creature is actually amoral and doing only what he knows.  After all, Frankenstein promised him a wife and then took her away; why should not the Creature do the same?  As the Creature himself says, he is expert at "the art of assimilation." These subtle differences in how each actor played this scene, and others, were absolutely fascinating to me.

Miller as the Creature, Cumberbatch as Victor.

I had desperately wanted Darling Husband to excel in the role of the Creature more than in the role of Dr. Frankenstein.  The role of a brilliant scientist just seemed too close to home, already well-worn ground in


  But while he may have excelled as the Creature, he absolutely shone as Victor, the brilliant scientist.  And  Victor was nothing like our dear Mr. Holmes, despite what could be seen as obvious similarities in temperament.  In this Victor we had a man who is consumed by ego and by intellect, so devoted to his work that he cannot destroy it, even after it has destroyed him and those he loves.  He only lights up when discussing his work, or his hopes for science and medicine.  While he is disgusted at the sight of the Creature, he is also all too willing to admire his own handiwork and to gloat at the complexity of what he has wrought, to his own (and his loved ones') peril. 

My future husband (as Victor).

An interesting dimension that Darling Husband brought more to light in his Victor than Miller was Victor's incapacity to love (or perhaps, this was made more apparent thanks to Miller's all-emotion, all-feeling Creature, I don't know).  There is a scene where, in making a companion for the Creature, Victor quizzes the monster on what it feels to love.  The Creature responds eloquently and sincerely that it feels like he can do anything.   Victori neatly replies that he was just "testing" the Creature, but you can see, just in a flicker across BC's face, that he cannot empathize.  He has never felt this love that the Creature has already felt, in an instant, for his new companion.  In the final scenes, Victor confirms this - saying, "I don't know what it is to love."  And it's true.  Of all of the consequences of Victor's experiments, this is the one that is most soul-destroying to him: that the Creature he has brought into existence through electricity and alchemy has more capacity to love than his own, human creator.  

Miller was an exquisite Creature.  He was at turns hilarious (when his Creature learned to speak and read he also learned sarcasm and humour), heartbreaking in his willingness to love his master unconditionally, and always menacing, ready to turn in an instant on those who betrayed him with unbridled rage and violence.  While I loved the first production, I think this combination, with Miller as the Creature and Darling Husband as Victor, was the most rich and resonant, for me at least. 

I was disappointed in how consistent the rest of the cast's performances were - sadly I have nothing to report on how vastly different the supporting roles were played opposite these two very different actors (damn professionals).  

Boyle's whole experiment in alternate casting is just so interesting.  To have the Creator become the Created, and vice-versa - over and over again - it speaks to humanity's endless struggle to relate to its origins, whatever they may be, and to the world we are forced into, and the endless love-hate cycle of existence.  Just brilliant.

You can still check out NT Live's 


at Cineplex.  Click


for more information.  One final note: While I applaud these initiatives for bringing new audiences to theatre, I'd also like to remind all you readers that we have wonderful artists making excellent theatre right here in Vancouver.  So if you buy a ticket for


 please do also buy a ticket to see something right here in your hometown.  We appreciate your support.