Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Parades, Elves, Street Performers, and Films - interPLAY 2011, Day One

Well, people, I'm writing this bright and early after spending the entire day yesterday at interPLAY 2011. And what a day it was!

I began my day by herding my daughter and niece into the car and straight to Starbucks for some desperately needed coffee. I drove over to Keyano and found the perfect parking spot, and while I am reluctant to tell you I will because it's just so good. The Bob Lamb parking lot costs $2 for the entire day, is within easy walking distance of King Street, and was virtually empty yesterday. Now that I've told you I fear I won't find a parking spot there today, but just remember who to thank and I'll forgive you, okay?

So, we headed into the new interPLAY grounds and found a bustling beehive of activity. The girls immediately began to explore the grounds and I headed for the box office to pick up my tickets for the day. I was delighted to see a small line at the box office and lots of interPLAY Passport buttons - that means people are getting into the spirit, and therefore I don't really mind waiting in line.

The plan was for me to take in a couple of plays while the girls took in the street performers, marketplace, and food (reporting back to me in their role of "intrepid junior bloggers"). I had just gotten to the front of the box office line when a lady I didn't know, overhearing which plays I was requesting, handed me tickets for them as she had extras she could not use. People, that was a great start to the day - that kind of neighbourly generosity is what makes a community. So, to her, if she happens to read this - thank you! That small act started my day on such a bright note, and made me feel that community spirit is alive and well at interPLAY this year. While at the box office I also picked up tickets for the interPLAY Film Festival last night. As expected the Passport made all this a breeze, and I am so impressed with the concept.

The girls headed for the street performances and I headed for my first play. It was a play I had considered not going to see as it seemed a rather serious one to start the day, but in the end I am forever grateful I went. "Waiting For The Parade" is a hands-down, no-questions-about-it, interPLAY must see. There were only 4 of us in the audience (being early on Friday I was expecting that) but what we lacked in size I think we made up for in enthusiasm. Beautifully acted, and beautifully directed, this play actually moved me to the brink of tears on occasion. I won't spoil the entire plot but just to give you an idea it's about five women in an Albertan town during World War II. One character in particular, the German seamstress, resonated with me deeply and profoundly, as I am the product of German-Canadian parents and grandparents who lived through the war years in rural Saskatchewan. I have heard the stories of the discrimination they faced during those years simply due to their ties with Germany, and the experience of the character "Marta" moved me beyond words as it connected on a very personal level. Look, I cannot say enough good things about this play, so I will say this : go see "Waiting For The Parade". I guarantee you will not be sorry. To the director and performers of this play - bravo! You made this writer forget the outside world for an entire ninety minutes, and that is not an easy feat, so you have my admiration!

After the play finished I went to find the girls. They were nowhere in sight, having discovered the free laser tag. I finally found them and they told me they had seen several street performers at that point. I needed to head home for a few minutes, so I asked if they were done and would like to head home where I could drop them off before returning for my next play. They looked at me like I was nuts and said there was no way they were leaving, and off they went again.

When I returned back to interPLAY (and my super-secret parking spot that you now all know about) I headed into the next play, "The Santaland Diaries". This is an amusing little play all about the experience of being an elf at Santaland in the Macy's department store. If you've ever had an absolutely ridiculous and absurd job then you will relate to this play (and haven't we all had one of those at some point?). There were some rough spots but the acting was genuine and fresh, and I thought the cast pulled it off extremely well. If you want a good fun hour-long romp then go see "The Santaland Diaries". I guarantee you will laugh, and probably quite a bit (again, not giving anything away, but I've been at "Oh My God" corner at more than one Santaland with my kid).

Then last night I returned to Keyano for the opening night of the inaugural interPLAY Film Festival and I have two words : blown away. Okay, there were some initial technical glitches, but I expect that at any new venture so it didn't worry me. Once those glitches were sorted out and the films began I could not believe the calibre and quality of the films that this event attracted. Some of them were funny little cartoon bits that still make me laugh when I think about them - and some were so deeply profound that I can't get them out of my head (a short called "Reproduction" will probably have me thinking for some time to come as it was just amazing both in concept and creation). There was lots of local talent, too, which so impressed me, like "Steve & Derek : Puppy Love" by Zachery L. Barrett and Alex Rushdy (incidentally actors I recognized from "The Santaland Diaries"), and "Social" by Eric R. Janvier. I was also delighted that YMMPodcast's own Tito Guillen had some of his short films in the festival (and while he didn't want to be "that guy" by having his own films in the festival I'll just say that I am so glad he did as I was so pleased to have the opportunity to see them). The other films came from places like Russia, Ireland, the USA, and all over Canada. Some of them, like "The Debt Collector", which closed the night, "The Silent City" , and "Le Jeu Des Soldats", were just so incredible that I will never forget them. So, in short, there are two more nights of the interPLAY Film Festival. I can't say this quite strongly enough, people - go get tickets now and see the films. I am deeply grateful to YMMPodcast and Events Wood Buffalo for organizing this film festival because I will be very honest and admit that it has been years since I have seen this many independent films - and that was likely three of the best hours I've spent in a very long time.

As for the reports from my "intrepid junior bloggers" - well, they had a complete blast. Laser tag was highly rated by both (and they returned there several times over the day). They took in street performances by the Aerial Angels, Pyro Kabaret, Jason Escape, Vinyl Burns, and Sheldon Cassavant. All of these performers received rave reviews from the girls, and they would have stayed for second (and third, and fourth) shows from each performer if they could have (as it was I had to drag them away). Highest kudos from the girls went to the Aerial Angels, and they both gave the Angels all the money they had left from what they had been given to spend during the day (which by the way is cool with me as I think street performers deserve very nice tips - keep that in mind, okay?).

So, that's my day one review, people. By the time I got home last night I was pretty much exhausted but very, very pleased. Today is a new day, and another full agenda for me, including "One Man Macbeth", "The Aerial Angels Naughty No-No Show" (a burlesque acrobatic contortionist act with whips and fire - can it get any more intriguing?), and the band "Fozzy" tonight. I'm running on about 4 hours of sleep, but that's totally okay - because interPLAY comes once a year, and I can sleep on Monday. I do so hope to see ya there, Fort Mac - because I have three words for this year's event : Best. interPLAY. Ever!


  1. Looks like I'll have to add "Waiting for the Parade" to my list of plays to see - looking forward to your further reviews!

  2. Thanks for a great post capturing so much of the magic of interPLAY!

  3. makes me wish i was there!!!!! sounds like interPLAY has come a long way - i remember when i was young and did acting camps which ended in an interPLAY performance - such a major event from my years growing up in fort mac! so it is great to hear about the growth and success....