Fun for the Whole Family: Interactive Theatre with 6th Man Collective’s Monday Nights

Monday Nights is an interactive theatre experience that is one part choose-your-own-adventure, one part private detective role play, one part choreography, one part gym class and many parts fun.

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The first thing that you need to know about Monday Nights is that it’s not just on Monday nights.  The play is a production by 6th Man Collective at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West.  It runs nightly (excluding Tuesday) until Sunday, July 26th.  Click here to find tickets.

Members of the audience begin the night by going into the theatre and rifling through the players’ gym bags.  The bags contain clues about the personalities of the four players, and you choose your team for the evening based on what resonates with you among the things you find.  You then sit in the section that corresponds to the team you choose, and put on headphones that hang on the back of each chair.  The play begins with the audience observing choreographed basketball drills and skills while listening to information about their player from the three other players.  Then the four actors lead their teams in games and challenges, and the teams compete for points.  You do not have to participate at all, if you don’t want to, or you can participate by helping to keep score or by competing in a variety of basketball drills.  (Tip: if you are a good player, wait until the end to volunteer, as the skill level required for each drill gradually increases.) The actor who leads the team with the lowest number of points has to do the costume laundry that night!

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My kids (boys, 10 and 7) had a blast.  They both play basketball, so I knew that the premise would interest them, but I wasn’t prepared for how much they loved being involved.  Even my more reserved child put his hand up to be a “volunteammate” several times.  They chose different sections to sit in, which was easy to facilitate because the theatre is small enough that I could see the child I was not sitting with easily.  I sat with Youngest, who wanted to volunteer for every single possible opportunity to hold the ball.  (Your team gets an extra point for getting new volunteers for each drill, so when he got to go up a second time, it cost the team a point!  Luckily he’s really good at sinking baskets and made up for it with points scored!)  Youngest got lots of cheers and support from our section, and he basked in the applause and high fives.  I was certainly not the loudest one cheering him on.

This play has been a highlight of our summer entertainment so far, and I can recommend it highly for a night out with kids.  For an added dimension of fun, go with a group and sit in separate sections and compete against each other.  It was a novel experience, and I had a smile on my face the whole night.  I had fun observing my kids’ enjoyment, and cheering my kids on when they went up to play, but I also really enjoyed taking in all the aspects of character development, props, script and choreography.

I love that the city has such a great range of arts experiences to take in during the Pan Am Games.  Monday Nights fits right in with the offerings at Panamania, and it harnesses all of that cheering, sports fan energy.

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Theme Week: A History of Our Families, Through Objects

One of my abiding delights of late is to listen to podcasts while I take my long walks.  Beth-Anne has mentioned our obsession with NPR’s wildly popular and record-breaking Serial, and her love of the comic Grownups Read Stuff They Wrote as Kids.  I get my science fix with the Quirks and Quarks podcast from the CBC, and I am so enamoured of interviews with authors that I have exhausted the archives of Eleanor Wachtel’s Writers and Company, as well as all of the archived episodes of the Guardian’s books podcasts and the BBC’s World Book Club.

A-History-of-the-World-in-100-ObjectsWhat I love about all of these podcasts is their standard of excellence, and you really cannot do better than Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects for podcast excellence.  (You can download it here.)  In this series, MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, tells a history of the world through 100 of the objects housed there.  I have not only listened to all 100 episodes, I have read the book that accompanies the podcast and gone back to listen to some episodes for a second time.  In each episode, he considers one object, and that object becomes a prism through which to explore past worlds and the men and women who lived in them.  The stories are, truly, mind-bending; I was so often startled by what I learned.  It is so difficult to choose an illustrative example, because I really did love them all, but in the episode on the Gold Cape found in Mold, in north Wales, for instance, my sense of the isolation of the British Isles was thoroughly upturned.  The cape, made in 1900-1600 BC, is a beautifully intricate object made of gold, extremely sophisticated in its execution, and it was buried with amber and bronze objects that point to a web of trade and exchange that reached not only from Wales to Scandinavia, but even as far as the Mediterranean.  Nearly 2000 years before the common era, artisans were making and trading at levels of sophistication I knew nothing about.

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MacGregor’s approach is decidedly not that of the Guns, Germs and Steel variety, in which history is told as a series of conflicts and conquests.  Rather, his approach is to examine the globe’s common history, to look at synchronicity in the history of the world, to examine our commonalities.  In his introduction to the series, MacGregor describes the “necessary poetry of things”:

It is, as we know, the victors who write the history, especially when only the victors know how to write.  Those who are on the losing side, those whose societies are conquered or destroyed, often have only their things to tell their stories.  The Caribbean Taino, the Australian Aboriginals, the African people of Benin and the Incas, all of whom appear in this book, can speak to us now of their past achievements most powerfully through the objects they made: a history told through things gives them back a voice.

Taking in our cue from MacGregor’s poetry of things, this week at 4Mothers, we will be telling a piece of our family history through a single object.  We hope you will enjoy them.

In the mean time, be a podcast addict’s enabler!  What are your favourite podcasts? 

Potted Potter: A Great Dose of Fun

potted-potterOur posts for January are about health, and if laughter is the best medicine, you can get yourself a great dose of fun by going along to see Potted Potter.  You will have to hurry, though; the show is in its last week for its run in Toronto.

Beth-Anne, Carol and I took our boys to see the show in December, and I have to tell you that it was one of the highlights of my lead-up to Christmas.  “Attend” is my word of the year for 2015, but of course, I had had the word in mind for a while before writing about it for the blog.  Writing this blog has brought us many wonderful things, including friendships for which I am eternally grateful, but another thing I’m grateful for is Opportunity.  We are invited to interesting events and occasions, and I will be honest and tell you that I weigh each and every invitation very carefully.  It takes a lot to get me out of my routine and my happy place (pajamas, bed, book).  When the opportunity came to see Potted Potter smack dab in the middle of the chaos that characterizes the weeks in mid-December, I thought long and hard about accepting; I think we all did.  Like you, we all had a lot on our plates, but I wanted to get an early start on my word of the year, and I chose to attend.

I’m so glad I did.  It was such a gift to witness not only my nine year old’s belly laughs, but Carol’s and Beth-Anne’s too!  We all had a hoot, and you really do not have to be a Harry Potter expert to enjoy the show.

The premise of the show is that two actors act out all seven books in the Harry Potter series in 70 minutes.  It’s a fast-paced physical comedy that brings into play humour both broad and subtle.  There’s a straight man and a funny man, there is a wild and wacky frenzy as the two attempt to act out as many of the major roles as possible.  Unexpected costumes, props and choreography add much to the fun.  There are jokes pitched high and low, and the actors appeared to improvise references to everything from Frozen to Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade and disastrous Mayor Ford.  The jokes come at you a mile a minute, and while the kids are still laughing at the ones pitched to them, the adults are laughing at the subsequent allusions pitched to them.  There is even audience participation, as members of the audience are invited to participate in a Quidditch game, while two kids get invited up onto the stage.

Before the show, you can order a butter beer from the bar (the recipe is secret, but they will alert you to possible allergens).  The lobby and the sidewalk outside the Panasonic Theatre are quite small, and it felt very crowded very quickly, so you’d be well advised to arrive and take your seats early.   It’s just steps from the subway, so getting there and home was a breeze for those of us on the TTC.  Parking was not easy to find, so, again, arrive early to give yourself wiggle room.

I had one very special night with Middlest, and we went out for dinner after the show, just the two of us, and it felt like just the right way to kick off the winter holiday.  It would also be a great way to kick off the new year.  Here’s to attending!

Potted Potter is at the Panasonic Theater, 651 Yonge Street.  It runs until January 11, 2015.

You can get tickets here.