Other Arts

Catherine Thompson's "The Kiss"

Ensemble Studio's Marathon 2001--Series C
by Paul Camillus

About the Artist

Catherine Thompson is a Toronto-based composer, musician, visual and material artist.

"The Kiss," which illustrates this month's poetry feature, was drawn in 1991 using a bunch of magazine cutouts as reference, fooling around with an idea of putting together some kind of collage. The collage was never finished and ended up as this cheeky little drawing instead. It accompanied an article on kissing that year in Quota Magazine, a now defunct Toronto bi-weekly. Catherine also did an illustration for an article on Wendo in the same paper that year.

Born in Montreal and raised in and around Toronto, she has been a visual artist since childhood and for many years this was her primary form of creative expression. In high school her interests evolved to include music and working with textiles, taking her well into the present applying those early influences to her work today. She works extensively with computers, finding a fascination with the combination of traditional concepts and techniques within the seemingly limitless possibilities of the digital world.

She has had a long involvement in traditional Irish music both as an instrumentalist and vocalist. During the summer of 2000, she took part in Irish language and singing (séan-nos) workshops at Oideas Gael in Co. Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. She is planning a return in the summer of 2002.

This interest in Irish music over the years has led her to many different places musically, often quite radically different from the roots of that tradition. Over the last five years, she has become increasingly involved in composition and performance with a number of contemporary dance creators, and this has become a major focus in her musical life.

Catherine is presently creating the music for "The King and Queen of Ruins." A new piece choreographed by Sasha Ivanochko, the dance is a duet for Sasha and Elija Brown and runs in Toronto this month, August 15,17 and 18, as part of the Composer's Choice program at fFida (fringe Festival of Independent Dance Artists) at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. The score is a mixture of found and created sounds with lyrical threads, to describe an aural landscape that is both urban and primordial. The King and Queen of Ruins is Catherine's tenth major music/dance collaboration.

She will be working with Susan Lee in September on an as yet untitled piece to be presented in Toronto in November and will be spending the month of October beginning a collaboration with Susanna Hood on a long anticipated collaboration that will continue throughout the year in four seasonal sections.

Catherine is an avid outdoors enthusiast, who travels up north to Killarney, Ontario to walk the wild hills, swim in the clear waters and walk on the frozen lakes as often as she can. She also has a passion for Kendo and Iaido (Japanese fencing) and practises regularly at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto.

A new endeavour for Catherine is web creation and she has created a web presence for Susanna Hood's hum (ed. http://www.humprojects.org), Centrecenter Productions' Breaking Ground (ed. http://www.centrecenter.com), and the JCCC Kendo & Iaido club (ed. http://www.jccckendo.com).

She can be reached in the wide wide world at www.fiain.com (ed. http://www.fiain.com)

Other Arts: Theatre

Ensemble Studio's Marathon 2001--Series C
by Paul Camillus

Series C, the last section of Ensemble Studio Theatre's Spring one-act festival, has a theme. In three of the four plays, somebody's husband has died and there is much ado about the meaning of all this.

But the third play of the evening, David Reidy's Last Night In The Women's Restroom Of The Jungle Bar, departs from this motif and doles out lots of levity as its spicy cake rises, icing and all, with a rich dough full of sweet and sour surprises. I'm not much of a cook (can you tell?), but I hope I know a good play when I see one. And this is a real good one. Three twenty-to-thirty-something women dash in and out of the bathroom of a singles bar (funny in itself and credited to Warren Karp), discussing pointedly their plans for the evening. Maybe this doesn't sound like a recipe for a great evening, but as the laughs fall away, we find a nourishing feast tucked just inside.

The direction is by Eileen Myers, whose husband, Kevin Shinick, makes a fine cameo turn as the loyal but confused husband of Haley (Melinda Page Hamilton), a runaway wife. Ms. Myers provides guidance as witty and wise as the play is. And playwright Reidy, in his program bio, graciously thanks the actors of a previous production for their help in making the play go.

The three women are terrific: special kudos to Diana LaMar as the tough cookie, Bridget, who wants to run the show and keep the others out of harm's way; and Jen Drohan as Karen, a tall comic find, who changes before us like a duckling from gawky to gorgeous by play's end—and the change is not external. This trio is looking for love in all the wrong places, as the song goes, but their perseverance, along with the play's insights, provides for a delightful evening of lust, laughs and tears (the tears are ours).

That excellent writer, Craig Lucas, starts off the evening with his play, Grief, about the mourning of a widow and her two sons for their warped husband/father. Delphi Harrington, as the mother, is not sympathetic enough for me. Maybe she's not meant to be, but as a result we don't really care about her as much as we could. Christopher Orr, and especially Neal Huff, as the younger son, have substance and keep us involved. Mr. Lucas, a favorite of this critic, needs no help from me, but this effort was not my cup of tea.

The second play, EST regular Edward Allan Baker's Larry's Charm, also has fine performances, with Maria Gabriele pulling off a solid Austrian accent to go with her stoic performance. North Dakota native, Tessa Ghylin, a newcomer here, is the ditzy teenager. Ms. Ghylin has a grace and presence beyond her years—look out world. Lynn Cohen is the rock around which it all turns. But again, we don't feel much for her plight, thus undermining the proceedings somewhat.

The final play, Invitation To A Funeral, directed by the veteran, Obie-winning actress, Deborah Hedwall, doesn't really go anywhere. But the actors Susan Pellegrino and Kathleen Doyle are quite good as Ms. Hedwall keeps them deftly in tune.

I could have done without the 'death' theme of the evening. Just giving us good material is theme enough. Ensemble's one-act festivals still provide unsurpassed production values—a doff of the creative beret to artistic director Curt Dempster for this, his 24th annual Marathon. And as two audience members said to me in the elevator afterwards, "We liked the whole thing." That says it.

[The Ensemble Studio Theatre, founded and directed by Curt Dempster, is located at 549 West 52nd Street in Manhattan. The not-for-profit organization has a Summer home in the Catskills, Lexington (Greene County). www.ensemblestudiotheatre.org. Paul Camillus's review of the Broadway production, Proof, appeared in the July issue of the magazine. Ed.]