It's A Wonderful Life - A Vancouver TraditionThursday, November 27, 2008
Last night I attended the Arts Club Theatre production of It's A Wonderful Life directed gleefully by Dean Paul Gibson, left. I wrote about this last year here. Seeing it for a second time did not diminish my enjoyment as I saw it not with my wife Rosemary but with my daughter Hilary (Rebecca and Lauren's mother). Hilary sees very little theatre because I take Rebecca to as many theatre performanes as I can. Hilary's first comment at the intermission was, "This is not at all like the high school productions I used to attend as a teenager! This is professional." But what really made the play such a pleasure for Hilary has to be what I think is really a Vancouver tradition in the performing arts. Let me explain.
Many years ago when Hilary's older sister Ale was around 12 I took her to an Andrés Segovia guitar recital at the Orpheum. At the time Ale was taking guitar lessons at the Vancouver School of Music. A very taciturn Segovia walked into the stage and sat down without any explanation. He silently left after his virtuoso performance. I told Ale, "Go to that side door and wait. Knock and somebody will let you in. Perhaps Segovia will autograph your program." Ale did just that and I saw her disappear behind the side door. When she came back, with a big smile on her face, she told me, "Andrés (he asked me to call him that), picked me up and gave me a hug. Since I spoke in Spanish to him he told me in his Castilian, Alejandra, I did not say anything during the performance because I lost my voice in the airplane from Spain." Ale has not forgotten Segovia's warm welcome and warm (if diminished) voice.
Since then I have managed to go back stage (without much problem) at theatre performances, the ballet, modern dance, the Vancouver Symphony, the Vancouver Opera, musical performances at the UBC School of Music, the Chan, the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. One of the many highlights has been able to go back stage at Ballet BC rehearsals and watch the action from there. During rehearsals of the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra its former director Juan Castelao used to allow Rebecca and I to sit a meer three or four ft behind him. And of course after performances of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra or of famous luminaries of the baroque world in Early Music Vancouver concerts I have mingled and shared thoughts with, the likes of Monica Huggett and Andrew Manze both violinists that can only be compared with our very own Marc Destrubé.
But the best of all was my being multiply kissed in the cheek by cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich backstage at the Orpheum after a VSO performance.
It is this Vancouver tradition of opening rapport between performers and the audience and making it so accessible that amazed my daughter Hilary last night at the Arts Club Granville Island Stage. We talked to the actors and had a warm chat with director Dean Paul Gibson (above, left) . Hilary wanted to congratulate actor Bernard Cuffling who played the not quite winged Clarence the angel. I took my opportunity to tell him that I missed his motorcycle. He winked at me as he understood my reference to his wonderful performance in the recent Arts Club Theatre production of The History Boys.
You learn quickly and for the better that Ballet BC dancers, modern dancers, musicians, conductors, directors are not gods. You learn that they put their pants on one leg at a time and that they sometimes have to eat Kraft Dinners like we sometimes do. But you also learn and admire their passion, skill and determination to avoid and transcend the mediocrity that is taking over our lives. You learn that while there is not much interdisciplinary cooperation in Vancouver amongst the performance organizations there is a sense that every once in a while one has to circle the wagons and save the troops. Bill Millerd in his usual little warm talk before last night's It's A Wonderful Life said, "Let's all go out there and buy tickets to the Nutcracker. Let's save Ballet BC." Yes!
It's a Wonderful Life runs until January 2, 2009