Monday, 22 May 2017

Another Short Tikkun Olam Story From The Streets of Toronto

Another short post about the Tikkun Olam happening every day on the streets close to my home.

This past weekend we were privileged to celebrate with good friends on the occasion of a milestone birthday. As a kibbitz, the hostess gifted us all with scratch-off lottery tickets that we played together at the dinner table. It should be noted that I am not a regular lottery ticket buyer and I have never before played a scratch-off. After some discussion as to the methodology so as not to accidentally void a possible winner, we all began scraping at our tickets with coins. A friend across the table was elated when he won $10.00, but my highlight came on the final rub of my ticket when I was stunned to find a $50.00 winner. After ascertaining from everybody at the table that I had indeed been a fortunate soul, I began to plot and plan what to do with my free money. I mean, really? How often does something like that occur?



The Husband had been talking for a couple of weeks about going to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Coincidentally, the cost of the tickets was exactly $50.00. We decided that since today is a holiday, we would make our way over to the AGO to view the work of one of my all-time favourite artists. 

But as it happens, my plans were slightly waylaid by a story I saw on last evening's newscast. It seems that there is a good soul of a local chef named Jagger Gordon who has set up a soup and sandwich bar in a retrofitted shipping container in a nearby neighbourhood.  It is a pay-what-you-can enterprise that is an outgrowth of his Feed It Forward program designed to collect discounted food from local sources and feed it to those less fortunate. Chef Gordon is passionate about food waste and he is even more so about making sure nobody goes hungry. I was enthralled by the story and said to The Husband that I really wanted to stop in to check out his work on our way to the AGO this morning.

Jagger is an extremely affable man. He carefully explained his project to us and when The Husband offered him some cash to offset his costs, he told us that our small donation would feed about eight other people. He made sure that we added our poker chips to the jar so that those eight would eventually have their soup and sandwiches. 


I certainly am not trying to tout our altruism. That is not at all the point of this piece. Yes, it is true that some of my free money went to support this project, but I simply want to highlight the good work going on in our neighbourhoods, sometimes right under our noses. We hear so much shit about people today that every so often it is really wonderful to remember the decency and morality of humankind. If you happen to be in the Dundas/Bathurst Street area of downtown Toronto over the next couple of months, I urge you to stop in and chat with Chef Jagger Gordon and contribute to his little bit of Tikkun Olam, the reparation of our little corner of the world. 

And...The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the AGO is absolutely worth the price of admission. A lovely way to spend a holiday Monday.

Monday, 15 May 2017

My Weekend on Broadway

Last December, The Husband gifted me with Hamilton on Broadway tickets for my birthday. As he knows his wife is a very public and self-proclaimed Broadway musical savant/nerd, his gift couldn't have been more on point or more personal. The date finally arrived this past Friday and while I have been sitting and marinating my emotions for the several intervening days from then until now, there is no question that witnessing that show was one of the most profound and emotional experiences I have ever had in the audience over decades of watching musical theatre. I don't really want to rehash what dozens of critics and theatre-goers have already written about this brilliant musical. That would truly be an unworthy exercise in mental masturbation, but I will give a few answers to some very basic queries some of you have asked about the evening.

Yes. The Husband did pay an ungodly sum for our tickets. I won't embarrass either one of us by publishing the actual number, but I do know that he felt his largesse was truly vindicated by the performance. This was the first time in over thirty years of dragging him to musicals whereby he said that he really wants to see this one again because he feels that he hasn't fully processed it. I have to admit that he stunned me with that admission.

Yes. The cast we saw was excellent. Were they as good as the original? I can't answer that because I never had the good fortune to see that award-winning group, but this cast of actors was off the charts brilliant and incredibly talented. Their voices were strong and the acting impressive as hell. This young ensemble made my Hamilton experience singular and I was engrossed from note one.

Yes. I was terribly concerned that the hype was overplayed and that I would be disappointed. The Husband kept asking me if I was excited and I kept downplaying my emotions. It seemed impossible that anything could live up to the reviews and massive media reports. I won't say that it surpassed the hype, (honestly..how could it?) but it was certainly a unique and singularly impressive theatre experience.

Yes. I believe that this show is one of those rare experiences that moves the needle for the Broadway musical. Every so often, a show comes along that changes the definition of the artform. It started way back with Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927. Show Boat was a radical departure from the trivial burlesque and "follies" that had preceded it as it married musical spectacle with serious drama. Those watershed Broadway musicals moments are few but important. Porgy and Bess gave us the first American operetta. Oklahoma! gifted us with the book musical and fully integrated choreography into the storytelling. West Side Story allowed it's lead characters to die and not have a happy ending. Hair integrated modern themes and explored rock and roll for the first time within the confines of the musical theatre stage. Cats demonstrated that a series of independent stories strung together could act in cohesive harmony. Rent allowed for the exploration of modern alienation. And finally, Hamilton has continued the work Mr. Miranda began in In the Heights where he married the beats and rhymes of hip-hop with the elegance of jazz, r&b, and traditional Broadway belting. The simplicity of the choreography belies the complexity of the source material. The historicity he imparts to the audience is poetic and he takes great care to present his subject matter without fear or favour. Hamilton is a watershed moment in the history of Broadway musical theatre and I do believe it carries a mark of brilliance.

Yes. I do want to see it again. Like The Husband said, it is impossible to digest it all in just one sitting.

No. Hearing and memorizing the soundtrack isn't nearly enough to get the full picture of the true brilliance of this particular piece. I have had the music playing almost non-stop for close to two years and I still wasn't prepared for what I saw.

Yes. You should pony up for whatever it costs when this show comes to your city. Even if you think it isn't in your musical "wheelhouse", you should see it anyway. I do believe it is that important a work of art. It is kind of like saying that you won't see a Picasso exhibit because blue isn't your favourite colour.

***As a quick footnote to our weekend on Broadway, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other two plays we saw. Sweat is a brilliant and difficult dissertation on working class alienation. It is the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is nominated for several Tony awards. And of course...there was the Divine Miss M. Never before has a role so perfectly suited an actress. Bette Midler was born to play Dolly Levi. She is "of age" and frankly her voice is showing some wear and tear, but it really worked in the part and she happily moved about the stage with the flamboyance that the role dictates. David Hyde-Pierce is her perfect foil as Horace and was every bit her equal. Hello Dolly! is an old-fashioned, rip-roaring, over-the-top Broadway crowd-pleaser and it succeeds on every level.

Broadway is my happy place but it is even more so when I get to witness history.