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Save me a seat
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Save me a seat

Last week, I chatted with Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director Kelly Thornton about her upcoming season which includes a full slate of plays at both the John Hirsch mainstage (six) and the Tom Hendry Warehouse theatre (four), plus a touring regional show.

Among the programming highlights — Broadway hit Network, Sondheim musical Into the Woods, Hannah Moscovitch’s Governor General’s Award-winning Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes — was some other good news.

“We plan on reseating everybody in their traditional seats,” Thornton said of season-ticket holders who were spread out in unfamiliar areas owing to physical distancing requirements in the theatre. “Some of them have had those seats for decades, so I understand how they’ve felt displaced. And the pandemic in general has psychically displaced us.”

It’s strange, isn’t it, how much a small thing, like sitting in your usual chair, next to your usual familiar stranger, can take on such significance, even when there are much bigger problems to grapple with. We’re territorial by nature; we like to stake out a space and stick with it.

The loss of assigned spots feels disruptive and disorienting. (Alex Lupal / Free Press files)

When we talk about a return to normal, it’s not necessarily a maskless or restrictionless future I look forward to; certain pandemic habits are likely destined to become permanently normalized, at least for a cautious person like myself.

We’ve talked a lot about the loss of “weak tie” friendships during the pandemic, and while I’ve missed those peripheral people acutely too, it’s also the loss of my regular haunts, my assigned spots, that feels disruptive and disorienting.

At the gym I attend, “my” locker has long been unavailable, sealed up to enforce distancing in the locker room. Even though the one next to it is identical, I look forward to the day when I can claim No. 68 again. When that happens, I just might celebrate with a beer at my local pub, in my favourite seat at the bar.

Last week I wrote about how some TV shows are unnecessarily dragging out stories. Lots of readers wrote in (and let me just say how much I enjoy hearing from people who love television as much as me) with series they just can’t quit, from long-running soap The Young and the Restless to now-classic animated series The Simpsons (“I have thoroughly enjoyed watching every episode for over 30 years,” Janice S. writes, who says she and her husband even enjoy the reruns. “The cultural references range from the obvious to the sublime.”)

Apparently six seasons of funereal family drama Six Feet Under were just not enough for many readers, and the Mob bosses of The Sopranos are fondly remembered.

Six seasons of Six Feet Under were just not enough for many readers. (HBO)

Then there were the gone-too-soon favourites: Firefly (one season for Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi western) and Dead Like Me (two seasons for the comedy-drama following a group of grim reapers).

Linda R. adored Sons of Anarchy (“Who wouldn't watch Jax Teller [Charlie Hunnam] forever?” she asked) and serial-killer drama Dexter (at least until THAT ending ruined everything), while Donna L. shares my affection for All Creatures Great and Small on PBS. Cynthia K. held off on watching Season 5 of masterful Baltimore crime drama The Wire for five years, “because I knew I would watch two at a time, maybe three, and before I knew it it would be done and the end of that experience was something I did not look forward to.”

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson

What’s up this week

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so you could always just find a local pub and toast the patron saint of Ireland, but if you’re looking for more structure and less chance of a hangover, here are a few options.

The Snowed In Comedy Tour delivers four comedians to the Burton Cummings Theatre tonight at 8 p.m. On the bill are Just for Laughs winner Dan Quinn, Great Canadian Laugh Off winner, Paul Myrehaug, five-time Canadian Comedian of the year nominee Pete Zedlacher and Video on Trial’s Debra DiGiovanni. Tix are $58.50 at Ticketmaster.

This weekend’s Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Pops concerts (March 18-20) celebrate Broadway’s golden years with My Favourite Things: The Best of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Donna Fletcher (mezzo soprano), Andriana Chuchman (soprano), Aaron Hutton (tenor) and Gregory Dahl (baritone) perform beloved songs from The Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific and more under the baton of maestro Julian Pellicano. Tickets start at $25 at

The Rady JCC’s Music ‘N’ Mavens concert series presents Indian City on Tuesday, March 22. It’s the musical collective’s second performance since the unexpected death of founder Vince Fontaine, so it’s sure to be an emotional experience. The show is at 2 p.m.; tickets are available here.



Godspeed! You Black Emperor at the Park Theatre tonight is sold out, but there are tickets available for Friday night’s 7 p.m. Evening for Peace concert, with all proceeds going to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Featured performers include Mariachi Ghost’s Jorge Requena, Zrada, Sierra Noble, Sofia Bilozor, Melos Folk Ensemble, Members of the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble, Myron Schultz of Finjan and others. Tickets are $15.



Podcasts: I’ve been so utterly charmed by Jeff Hiller’s performance in the Crave series Somebody Somewhere that I was immediately on board when I found out he has a podcast called Laughter Through Tears Is Our Favorite Emotion. It’s a low-key, two-guys-talking affair in which he and his friend, Mark Sam Rosenthal, chat about death — specifically the death of his mother and Rosenthal’s father. As the title indicates, it’s surprisingly — or perhaps not so surprisingly — funny, refracting grief through the prism of time, with the added bonus of southern accents. (I also follow Hiller’s cat Beverly on Instagram @daily_beverly because when I do an obsession, I am all in.)

Books: If you’ve read Lauren Groff’s earlier work, such as Arcadia or Fates and Furies, her latest may come as a surprise, but likely a welcome one. Matrix is the fictional biography of Marie de France, a 12th-century mystic, who is banished from Eleanor of Aqutiane’s court to become the prioress of a destitute abbey. I have the audiobook (my first — my colleague Leesa Dahl is such a fan, I’ve finally been convinced to try one) out from the library and it is masterfully read by British actress Adjoa Andoh, who brings the rich period world Groff has created to full life.

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