Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson started working at the Free Press in 2003 as a copy editor for the entertainment section.

She came to the paper in a roundabout way: after graduating from the University of Winnipeg with a bachelor’s degree in psychology — as all good journalists should — she worked as an editor at the university’s music magazine, Stylus, before being hired at the Winnipeg Sun as a music reporter.

One year of interviewing terrible bands and navigating inebriated crowds at classic rock festivals made it clear the job was not for her, charming as it was to be encouraged to “take off your top” by groups of young men wearing Coors Light boxes as hats.

Her stint at the Sun was followed by a year as a medical receptionist — the highlight of which was seeing a live roundworm in a Zip-loc bag — and three years as a copy editor at Winnipeg’s weekly street paper, Uptown.

After 15 years at the Free Press, during which time she has edited the Tab, Detour and Uptown sections of the paper, she has joined the Arts & Life section as a reporter covering everything from food to films.

As a lifelong lover of Winnipeg’s arts and cultural scene, it’s a natural fit, and she enjoys talking to people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s growing microgreens or cooking the perfect ramen.

Jill was a member of the inaugural jury for the Polaris Prize, Canada’s national music award. She is the winner of a Silver Medal and two Awards of Merit from the North American Travel Journalists Association and received an Award of Excellence in the American Copy Editors Society’s National Headline Contest.

She loves travelling — anywhere and everywhere — and tries to drink a beer and buy a book in every city she visits.

A passionate devotee of all matters grammatical and style-related, she wants you to know that “begs the question” doesn’t mean “raises the question.”

Recent articles of Jill Wilson

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

Winnipeg Beer FestivalSaturday, Aug. 13, 5 p.m.-midnightFort Gibraltar, 866 Rue St. JosephTickets from $17.35, wpgbeerfestival.com

With weekend temperatures set to soar, there’s no better spot to grab a cold one in Winnipeg this Saturday than within the wooden walls of Fort Gibraltar.

The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13, with 23 producers of beer (of course), wine, cider, mead, spirits and more set to pour their wares to help thirsty locals beat the heat.

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022

FREE PRESS FILES
The fifth annual Winnipeg Beer Festival returns to St. Boniface on Aug. 13.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Movie night at the Lyric TheatreFriday, Aug. 5, 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.Lyric Theatre, Assiniboine ParkFree admission

Assiniboine Park’s weekly summer movie night returns to the Lyric Theatre this Friday with a lineup heavy on big-budget, mainly family-friendly flicks.

The free double bill kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of Sing 2, the 2021 animated musical comedy featuring the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and many more. This time around, the gang must convince Clay Calloway, an aging rock star lion (voiced by Bono), to leave his reclusive life and come out of retirement. Clay and the gang must face their fears in a production that could make or break their careers.

Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022

Marvel Studios Kumail Nanjiani (from left), Lia McHugh, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie and Don Lee in a scene from Eternals.

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 3 minute read Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

Winnipeg Comedy ShowcaseJuly 31, 8 p.m. (doors at 7 p.m.)Park TheatreTickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door

When the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase made its debut in January 2014, comedian and showcase host/producer Jared Story figured it might be a one-off.

He was (happily) proven (very) wrong: Sunday night’s show at the Park Theatre will be the 30th edition of the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase — a nice, round number that illustrates just how important the showcase has been for emerging and established local comics alike. When comedians are cutting their teeth, it’s often while being ignored at an open-mic night at a bar; the Winnipeg Comedy Showcase, meanwhile, offers comics the chance to audience-test bits and hone their tight fives in a theatre.

Featured funny people on Sunday night’s bill include Andy Noble, Emmanuel Lomuro, Karlee Liljegren, Abby Falvo, Matt Kay and Carson Košik. Advance tickets are available via Ticketweb, Eventbrite or from the comics on the bill.

Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2022

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 4 minute read Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022

Workman, fireworks to light up the DownsJuly 1, 1-11 p.m.Assiniboia Downs Gaming & Event Centre, 1975 Portage Ave.$10 admission (ages five and under free), $5 parking

If you’re jonesing for your fireworks fix this Canada Day, go west. Assiniboia Downs Gaming and Event Centre is hosting a Canada Day festival that starts at 1 p.m. and will include those thrilling aerial pops, bangs and flashes via CanFire Pyrotechnics at 11 p.m.

Prior to the fireworks, there will be plenty to see and do for all ages. The day’s events include a range of activities for kids, over 100 local artisans and makers offering up their wares, a beer garden and all manner of food trucks.

Live music kicks off right at 1 p.m. with a lineup headlined by Hawksley Workman and including Space Case, Cassidy Mann, Madeleine Roger, Justin Lacroix Band, the Incredibly Hip and Sassy Mellows.

Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES
Hawksley Workman

What’s Up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Preview

What’s Up

Eva Wasney and Alan Small and Jen Zoratti and Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 6 minute read Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

Comedian Nate Bargatze brings Raincheck Tour to WinnipegJune 16, 7 p.m.

Burton Cummings Theatre

Tickets $63-$108 at Ticketmaster

You could say that comedian Nate Bargatze was born into the funny business.

Thursday, Jun. 16, 2022

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files

Wonka, clever theatrical tricks make up for wonky acting

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

Wonka, clever theatrical tricks make up for wonky acting

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Thursday, Jun. 9, 2022

When it comes to candy, there are two kinds of confection: a hand-crafted bon bon made from the finest ingredients and meant to be savoured; and an artificially flavoured concoction in a bright wrapper that’s meant to satisfy a sweet tooth.

The national touring production of Broadway’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the latter. It’s a Pop Rocks of a musical — noisy, garish, fizzy and designed to melt away without a trace.

It’s not that Pop Rocks can’t be fun — cheap, cheerful candy has its place — and the lavish musical (two hours and 35 minutes with a 20-minute intermission) has loads of charming tricks up its sleeve. But the relentlessly shrill tone, bombastic score and too many actors who yell rather than projecting can make a sugar high turn into a headache very quickly.

The story, based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 book of the same name, follows poor Charlie Bucket (played by on opening night by William Goldsman), a pure-of-heart child who lives with his four grandparents and his mother in a shack without electricity. He loves chocolate but his family can only afford one bar a year, on his birthday.

Thursday, Jun. 9, 2022

SUPPLIED
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a Pop Rocks of a musical — noisy, garish, fizzy and designed to melt away without a trace.

Musical takes iconic tale, mixes it with love, makes it taste good

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

Musical takes iconic tale, mixes it with love, makes it taste good

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

For director Matt Lenz, the touring production of Broadway musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is much like one of Willy Wonka’s famous Everlasting Gobstoppers: it’s always changing colours.

Lenz — whose work was last seen onstage here in the touring production of The Sound of Music in 2018 — declines to take a cookie-cutter approach with the show, choosing to let it develop its own flavour as it plays out on stages across North America.

“When we first went on tour in 2018, we did a lot of changes then, a lot of tweaking,” says Lenz, who was the associate director for the Broadway show. “And then this current tour has continued to evolve, even in terms of the scenery and the ways we’re transitioning from scene to scene. It’s gotten tighter and more relevant; we’ve realized elements of the story that we want to bump up.

“And also we’ve just continued to learn about it. As a director, every time I come back to this one, it’s not about saying, ‘Let’s make sure we’re doing it the way we were doing it…’ Sometimes it means tweaking a line or two or changing the staging, and sometimes it’s just where we put our emotional and philosophical focus.

Saturday, Jun. 4, 2022

Jeremy Daniel photo
The cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A less scary, but just as magical, trip to Wonderland

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

A less scary, but just as magical, trip to Wonderland

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Monday, May. 9, 2022

When you first step into Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s production of Alice in Wonderland, you may feel confused and a bit concerned.

The unadorned stage is filled with desks, a chalkboard and some wooden frames on casters. It hardly looks like something that could bring to life Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole in the trippy, surreal world of author Lewis Carroll’s creation.

Never fear: This exuberant musical is filled with so much vibrant action and let’s-put-on-a-show energy, so much ingenious staging and lighting, you’ll leave imagining you’ve visited Wonderland.

This adaptation by Toronto’s Bad Hats Theatre — the same folks who brought Peter Pan to MTYP in 2019 — tweaks Carroll’s classic to deliver a message about not rushing to become an adult, and continuing to question the rules. The familiar scenes where Alice grows alarmingly tall are a nod to that in-between time when children are stuck between wanting to grow up and wanting to stay a kid.

Monday, May. 9, 2022

Alice in Wonderland stars Colleen Furlan, left, and Matt Pilipiak as the White Rabbit. (LEIF NORMAN PHOTO)

Klosterman’s musings on the 1990s sure to, like, incite debate

Reviewed by Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

Klosterman’s musings on the 1990s sure to, like, incite debate

Reviewed by Jill Wilson 4 minute read Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Chuck Klosterman is quick to acknowledge his biases. On page 8 of The Nineties, his new non-fiction tome, the American author and pop-culture critic dedicates a lengthy, amusing footnote to his “service as a demographic cliché”: Born in North Dakota in 1972, he is a white heterosexual cis male “whose experience across the ’90s was comically in line with the media caricature of generation X…” backwards baseball caps, cardigans and all.

If you’re a reader whose experiences also slot you into that demo, The Nineties will make you feel seen in a way that is uncommon for those in the overlooked cohort of people born between 1965 and 1980: this is your book.

That’s not to say Klosterman’s freewheeling journey through the last decade to have a monolithic mainstream culture (before the internet splintered it irrevocably) can’t be enjoyed by anyone. It’s erudite and funny and pulls together theories using a dazzling array of cultural references, but it will certainly be appreciated best by those who were in their 20s when Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit came along, readers who twig that there’s a chapter named for a Ben Folds song.

It is impossible to encompass all the ways, both meaningful and trite, our world changed between 1990 and 2000 (or thereabouts — Klosterman has his theories about the bookends), but the Fargo Rock City author sure gives it the old college try, and it’s largely a delight to parse his arguments.

Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Castle Rock Entertainment / The Associated Press files
In this 1998 episode of Seinfeld, Kramer (left), played by Michael Richards, shows Jerry Seinfeld his ‘Fusilli Jerry.’ According to Chuck Klosterman, ‘90s viewers were OK with missing TV shows.

The Rez Sisters resurrected

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

The Rez Sisters resurrected

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Saturday, May. 7, 2022

On opening night of Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s The Rez Sisters, it was announced that director Tracey Nepinak would be stepping into the role of Philomina Moosetail, replacing Stacy Da Silva.

Audiences never want to hear they’ll be seeing an understudy, but in this case, it’s hard to imagine the role being played by anyone else. Nepinak — who this theatre season appeared in The War Being Waged at Prairie Theatre Exchange and co-directed Frozen River at Manitoba Theatre for Young People — is always a welcome presence onstage, but she’s also no stranger to Philomena, having played the character in the Stratford Festival’s 2021 outdoor production.

Her warmth and wit anchor the season-ending production of Manitoba playwright Tomson Highway’s drama (about two hours with intermission) about seven women who, despite their squabbles and grievances, embark on a road trip to play bingo.

Though it’s almost 40 years old, the two-act play — a female companion piece to his Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing — still has the capacity to shock and surprise. It’s raw and tender, funny and terribly sad, with a deep understanding of the holds home and family have on us, whatever their flaws.

Saturday, May. 7, 2022

Dylan Hewlett photo
Watching over the women on this road trip is Nanabush (Jera Wolfe), a trickster and spirit of Indigenous legend.

What’s up

Eva Wasney, Alan Small, Jen Zoratti, Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

What’s up

Eva Wasney, Alan Small, Jen Zoratti, Ben Sigurdson and Jill Wilson 5 minute read Thursday, May. 5, 2022

Manitoba Metalfest rages onWhen: May 13-14, doors at 6 p.m.Where: Park TheatreTickets: $30 cover or $50 for a two-day pass

Manitoba Metalfest — the annual celebration of loud, heavy and hardcore music — returns to the Park Theatre next weekend after a two-year hiatus amid the pandemic. The two-day festival features a mostly Canadian and largely local lineup.

Headlining Friday night is thrash metal band Razor, from Guelph, Ont. Also joining the bill is Exciter, Striker and Outre-Tombe; as well as Winnipeg’s Zombie Assault, Entity and Regurgitated Guts.

Montreal’s Juno Award-winning group Kataklysm will headline Saturday, along with Cryptopsy, Sunless (from Minneapolis) and local acts Inhumed, Murder Capital, Perlocution and Hopscotchbattlescars.

Thursday, May. 5, 2022

The Runner makes audience think, less successful in making it feel

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

The Runner makes audience think, less successful in making it feel

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Friday, Apr. 1, 2022

The Runner, the season-closing drama at the Tom Hendry Warehouse, grabs the audience’s senses before it even begins. A haze of theatrical smoke gives the room a post-disaster air and the stage is forebodingly shrouded in darkness.

When the lights go up, it’s to spotlight a solitary bearded man wearing a yarmulke and a fluorescent hazard vest, high above the floor. In the blackness, it takes a moment to realize the platform he’s on is a long treadmill; he slips out of the small pool of light as it moves him ever backward.

The man, Jacob (played by The Runner’s author, Toronto’s Christopher Morris), is a volunteer for ZAKA, the Orthodox Jewish first-responder organization (the full name is ZAKA, Identification, Extraction, Rescue — True Kindness) in Jerusalem. Its members rush to the scenes of terrorist attacks, bombings, disasters or accidents to provide first aid, but also to collect the viscera of Jewish bodies — every drop of blood, every scrap of skin — in order that they may be buried whole.

The “true kindness” element of the moniker refers to the fact that ensuring a proper burial for the dead is the ultimate mitzvah, a good deed for which it is impossible to be thanked by the recipient.

Friday, Apr. 1, 2022

Christopher Morris wrote and stars in The Runner. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Calpurnia can’t quite resolve its provocative premises

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

Calpurnia can’t quite resolve its provocative premises

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Friday, Mar. 25, 2022

Audrey Dwyer’s Calpurnia decisively opens up several cans of worms — race, class, gender and privilege among them — guaranteed to send theatre-goers into the night buzzing with more questions than answers.

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre mainstage production is provocative and bold, but too many of the worms in those open cans wriggle away without proper examination.

Calpurnia opens on Julie Gordon (Emerjade Simms) at the dining room of her family’s well-appointed home, laptop open. A novice screenwriter, she’s penning a script that flips Harper Lee’s venerated 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird to reflect the perspective of the Finches’ Black family maid, Calpurnia.

She’s received notes from her agent informing her rewrites are necessary, as she hasn’t captured the voice of the character.

Friday, Mar. 25, 2022

Dylan Hewlett photo Kwaku Adu-Poku and Emerjade Simms in Calpurnia.

RMTC's inclusive, diverse playbill aims to inspire and engage

Jill Wilson 8 minute read Preview

RMTC's inclusive, diverse playbill aims to inspire and engage

Jill Wilson 8 minute read Friday, Mar. 11, 2022

Kelly Thornton wants to have a conversation with Winnipeggers.

And if the new season from the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director is any indication, that conversation will be wide-ranging, poignant, pointed, funny, boisterous, relevant, hopeful and entertaining, with a playbill that includes modern classics, new Canadian works, Manitoba playwrights, intimate one-person shows and massive musicals.

“When I came to MTC I talked a lot about our responsibility in the 21st century to be instigating vital conversations with our audience and to be Manitoba Theatre Centre representing all of Manitoba and Manitobans,” Thornton says the day before her new season is announced.

“It’s really important for me to create a very inclusive playbill and inspire curiosity in my audience for the prismatic perspective of the people of Manitoba.

Friday, Mar. 11, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
RMTC’s Camilla Holland, executive director (left), and Kelly Thornton, artistic director; the company has announced the cancellation of its upcoming show, The Lifespan of a Fact.

Tale of broken promises breaks a few of its own

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

Tale of broken promises breaks a few of its own

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022

It’s a couple of years late, thanks to the pandemic, but Manitoba Theatre for Young People is finally celebrating Manitoba 150 with the world première of Frozen River or nîwatin sîpiy.

Despite the two-year delay, the drama — co-written by Joelle Peters, Carrie Costello and Michaela Washburn — remains very timely. Set at the ancient traditional meeting place where the theatre is located, now known as The Forks, it explores ideas of broken promises, reconciliation and connection via a story that spans centuries.

Our benevolent narrator is Grandmother Moon, who, as personified by Krystle Pederson (The Post Mistress), emanates warmth and kindness. She tells us about our protagonists and guides us through their pasts, while gracefully introducing Swampy Cree terms.

Calgary’s Andrew Moro — who was behind the stunning design of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s The War Being Waged last year — does similarly effective work here, if on a less grand scale. The set is dominated by a giant circular framed screen symbolizing the moon, upon which scenes are projected, either illustrations that tell a story or images — leaves, cracked ice — that set the scene.

Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2022

It’s a couple of years late, thanks to the pandemic, but Manitoba Theatre for Young People is finally celebrating Manitoba 150 with the world première of Frozen River or nîwatin sîpiy.

Despite the two-year delay, the drama — co-written by Joelle Peters, Carrie Costello and Michaela Washburn — remains very timely. Set at the ancient traditional meeting place where the theatre is located, now known as The Forks, it explores ideas of broken promises, reconciliation and connection via a story that spans centuries.

Our benevolent narrator is Grandmother Moon, who, as personified by Krystle Pederson (The Post Mistress), emanates warmth and kindness. She tells us about our protagonists and guides us through their pasts, while gracefully introducing Swampy Cree terms.

Calgary’s Andrew Moro — who was behind the stunning design of Prairie Theatre Exchange’s The War Being Waged last year — does similarly effective work here, if on a less grand scale. The set is dominated by a giant circular framed screen symbolizing the moon, upon which scenes are projected, either illustrations that tell a story or images — leaves, cracked ice — that set the scene.

Serious look at settlers’ conquest wraps with levity, optimism

Jill Wilson 7 minute read Preview

Serious look at settlers’ conquest wraps with levity, optimism

Jill Wilson 7 minute read Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022

Kathleen MacLean pumps her fist in the air excitedly.

“That’s the first time I’ve done it from memory,” she explains.

It’s 10 days before the première of Frozen River and MacLean isn’t relying on her script as she reads with her fellow actors, Robyn Slade and Krystle Pederson.

On the half-assembled set in the high-ceilinged rehearsal hall, she and Slade run through the scene again, a light-hearted but possibly pivotal interaction between Wâpam (MacLean) and Eilidh (Slade is the understudy for Mallory James), two friends, one Indigenous and one Scottish, who are bonding as they learn each other’s language.

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022

Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press
Kathleen MacLean as Okânawâpacikêw (left), Krystle Pederson as Grandmother Moon, and Mallory James as Eilidh play a key moment in the dress rehearsal of Frozen River. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Return to live with new play of ideas on brand new stage

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

Return to live with new play of ideas on brand new stage

Jill Wilson 4 minute read Friday, Feb. 11, 2022

They say there’s never a right time to have a baby. That probably goes for giving birth to a creative venture too; sometimes you just have to go for it.

However, opening a theatre in the midst of a pandemic must give even the most optimistic entrepreneur pause, especially a venue dedicated to new and/or experimental works.

If opening night of Sonja and Richard is anything to go by, Andrew Davidson, the proud papa of the Gargoyle Theatre on Ellice Avenue, can sleep easy.

The talky two-act two-hander by Winnipeg playwright Steven Ratzlaff and directed by Bill Kerr played to what appeared to be a full house (or technically half-full, according to public health restrictions) on Wednesday.

Friday, Feb. 11, 2022

Rebecca Driedger photo
Even without the novelty of the new Gargoyle Theatre, Sonja and Richard provides the audience with plenty to talk about.

How the arts community is rebounding, adapting as the pandemic drags on

Alan Small, Ben Sigurdson, Eva Wasney, Jen Zoratti and Jill Wilson 15 minute read Preview

How the arts community is rebounding, adapting as the pandemic drags on

Alan Small, Ben Sigurdson, Eva Wasney, Jen Zoratti and Jill Wilson 15 minute read Friday, Dec. 17, 2021

Call it a window of entertainment opportunity.

Earlier in December, before the Omicron variant of COVID-19 became the latest hot topic during the pandemic, Free Press entertainment journalists, armed with vaccination cards and curiosity, ventured out to nightclubs, theatres and concert venues to learn, and to learn again, what a night on the town was like.

For many, an evening of music, acting, comedy or dance proved to be an escape — for a couple of hours, at least — from the pandemic that has affected every part of our lives since its appearance in Manitoba in March 2020.

Vaccination cards and IDs were shown at the doors, but mask use was as varied as the entertainment on offer. For some, letting their hair down meant taking their masks off too, while for others, the masks stayed on until they walked outside again.

Friday, Dec. 17, 2021

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A sign saying a July Talk concert is postponed is photographed at the Burton Cummings Theatre on December 14, 2021. The show was cancelled earlier in the day due to a COVID case.

Inventive, immersive In Time truly engages the senses

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

Inventive, immersive In Time truly engages the senses

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Friday, Dec. 3, 2021

It’s not often you can say a smell contributes to your enjoyment of theatre.

But In Time, a production by End of the West Collective presented by Theatre Projects, is a strange and marvellous creature that, over the course of an unusual hour-long performance held at Prairie Theatre Exchange, takes its audience into three worlds, each with its own esthetic, perspective and yes, even smell.

Each tells a different iteration of the same story: Janus, the two-faced god of doorways — one face looking to the past, the other to the future — has been charged by Destiny with creating a Universal Opening.

A traveller (you) interrupts his work — startled, he shows you the fears of the past in an attempt to scare you off.

Friday, Dec. 3, 2021

Dylan Hewlett photo
An audience member observes Eric Blais and Victoria Emilie Hill as Janus in In Time.

By itself, Orlando’s plot is uninspiring, but outstanding production, excellent cast wonderful to witness

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

By itself, Orlando’s plot is uninspiring, but outstanding production, excellent cast wonderful to witness

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Friday, Nov. 26, 2021

Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando is a strange bird. Ostensibly the biography of a young noble — a would-be poet who is brought into the court of Queen Elizabeth I and who, partway through a vibrant five-century life, becomes a woman — is actually a tribute to the author’s lover, fellow writer Vita Sackville-West, whom Orlando personifies.

American playwright Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation is an equally strange bird. Eschewing the more conventional “loosely based” approach taken by Sally Potter’s 1992 film, Ruhl uses narration, not dialogue, relying mostly on Woolf’s own words to convey the story almost exactly as written.

The reason we read Orlando still is because of Woolf’s language, imagery and ideas, not because it’s a gripping tale. Though it thrums with passion, the character at its centre is oddly hollow, an allegorical vessel.

Without her extended musings on nature and the nature of time, on writing, on death, the “plot” of Woolf’s novel is not particularly engaging, as trenchant as its observations about gender remain.

Friday, Nov. 26, 2021

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Em Siobhan McCourt as Orlando with the chorus (from left) Simon Bracken, Simon Miron, Breton Lalama, and Ivy Charles, during the dress rehearsal.

Ferris’ sad-sack protagonist searches for purpose in new novel

Reviewed by Jill Wilson 4 minute read Preview

Ferris’ sad-sack protagonist searches for purpose in new novel

Reviewed by Jill Wilson 4 minute read Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021

Joshua Ferris is best known for his debut novel, the mordant workplace comedy Then We Came to the End, an almost-too-close-for-comfort portrayal of office life.

With his latest book, A Calling for Charlie Barnes, Ferris again dips his toe into the ideas of work and worth, but at once goes wider, to tackle the rot at the heart of the American Dream, and narrower, to focus on one man’s struggles to assign himself a purpose, and wider again, taking on the role fiction has in our lives (in both the literary and the lying sense).

Charlie Barnes, 68, is a striver, a dreamer, a chaser of success with no patience for middling accomplishments.

He’s also, as he’s admitting to himself at the novel’s start, a fraud and a failure. He enumerates a list of his shortcomings in his dingy basement home office: “Failure No. 1, as far as he was concerned: no college degree. Failure No. 2.: all the times he lied about having a college degree. Failure No. 3: ah, screw this. (Failure No. 3 was his reluctance to look back for too long.).”

Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021

Peter Aaron photo
Author Joshua Ferris likes to toy with narrative style — here the perspective starts to slide, morphing from a kind of bemused, arch distance to something more emotional and involved.

Mamme’s the word in funny, big-hearted WJT production

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

Mamme’s the word in funny, big-hearted WJT production

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021

Q: What’s the difference between Jewish mothers and Italian mothers?

A: An Italian mother says, “Eat your dinner, or I’ll kill you.” A Jewish mother says, “Eat your dinner, or I’ll kill myself.”

The Catskills comedians of the ‘50s and ‘60s popularized jokes like this, but there have probably been Jewish mother jokes as long as there have been Jewish mothers. And at the core of these long-standing stereotypes of the overbearing matriarch — those nagging, neurotic, over-protective, supreme queens of guilt-tripping — is some kernel of truth.

Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s season opener, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, delivers plenty of punchlines, but it’s also out to divine what makes Jewish motherhood distinctive… and what makes it universal.

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021

Diane Flacks (right) with her mother Lily Flacks. (Tommie-Amber Pirie)

The War Being Waged a welcome live return for PTE

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Preview

The War Being Waged a welcome live return for PTE

Jill Wilson 3 minute read Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

The War Being Waged is the first play Prairie Theatre Exchange has presented to a live audience in 20 months.

The return to the stage after a pandemic-ravaged season is an emotionally freighted occasion, one that Manitoba playwright Darla Contois’s experimental and personal drama does not squander.

Her three-part work (one hour, no intermission) blends monologue, poetry and dance into a stirring, if uneven, production, aided by Andy Moro’s absolutely stunning set, light and projection design, and composer/sound designer MJ Dandenau’s immersive soundscape.

The War Being Waged tells the story of three generations of women and the varying ways they approach the internal and external conflicts inherent in being Indigenous in a colonial system.

Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021

Tracey Nepinak, left, and Emily Solstice Tait in The War Being Waged at Prairie Theatre Exchange. (Joey Senft photo)

Series takes hard look at AIDS, gay life in ’90s

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Preview

Series takes hard look at AIDS, gay life in ’90s

Jill Wilson 5 minute read Thursday, Mar. 18, 2021

The title of this Amazon Prime series gives viewers a hint to the emotional highs and lows to come.

It’s a Sin shares a name with the 1987 hit by the Pet Shop Boys, which combined dancefloor-ready synth-pop with lyrics that talked about guilt: “When I look back upon my life / it’s always with a sense of shame / I’ve always been the one to blame / For everything I long to do / no matter when or where or who / has one thing in common too / it’s a sin.”

That combination of giddy freedom and self-reproach is at the heart of this five-part British series (originally on the U.K.’s Channel 4) that focuses on how the AIDS epidemic affects a group of friends living in London in the ’80s and early ’90s.

For Ritchie Tozer (Olly Alexander in a beautiful performance), moving to the city from his isolated community on the Isle of Wight is liberating is many ways — he can leave behind the stifling home life he shares with his loving but overbearing mother, disapproving father and sullen sister, and shed the weight of their expectations for his future. He can become an actor and he can also come out, and he throws himself enthusiastically into London’s gay club scene.

Thursday, Mar. 18, 2021

Channel 4
From left, Nathaniel Curtis, Callum Scott Howells, Omari Douglas, Lydia West and Olly Alexander in It’s a Sin.