Last week I went to Calgary, Alberta, for six performances of my solo show, Angry Conversations With God, at the Fire Exit Theater. (Thank you, Marianne Savell, for recommending me!) Fire Exit’s artistic director, Val Lieske, says their goal is to produce innovative art that feeds the soul and sparks dialog, no matter what the audience’s faith or walk of life. Don’t count on a stage adaptation of Facing The Giants. They do some ballsy work, like Sunny Side Up, about three fertilized human embryos, awaiting implantation or oblivion, which Val wrote. Val is super boss; she has badass shoes and introduced me to Fluevogs. More on Fluevogs later.
Calgary is a lot like Denver; a high-prairie city just east of the Rockies, with farms and cowboys. Canadians speak the same language, except for pronouncing about as “aboot” and ya know as “eh?” But Canada is different. They’ve got only one tenth the population stretched over more land mass. Maybe that’s why they’re less stressed. They don’t try to cut you off in traffic. And they say ‘sorry’ as often as we shout expletives. Canada is mild-mannered socialist: they don’t have a problem with paying more taxes to assure roads are repaired and everyone has health care.
These are the kinds of comments I heard most days: We like Americans as individuals, but as a group you’re terrifying… Why don’t you want health care for everyone? What’s with the racism and mass shootings? We have guns, but we use them on elk, not people. And your election, are you kidding?! I’ve got a line in my show, “I believed in a lot of myths as a child: Santa Claus, the tooth fairy… the triumph of American democracy.” That got a long and embarrassing laugh every performance. To them, we look like a nation gone mad. Maybe because we have.
Religious Canadians share the same trepidation over the idea of being angry with God. My show drew only 50 to 75% of their normal numbers. Val thought my show’s title scared some people off. On Friday night, we had a great turnout, but Val noticed a large number of senior citizens, and she worried they might be put off by my frank talk about sex, alcoholism and eating disorders. But when it was over, guess who lined up to buy my book? The seniors! I think that while younger people might appreciate the taboo topics, older people relate to the deeper issue at the root of the show: disillusionment and the Dark Night Of The Soul you can only experience after you’ve been this planet a while. A number of people came up to me afterward to share their own dark nights: lifelong dreams shattered, children struggling to find their way in life, or a wordless squeeze of a hand that said it all. You don’t get rich doing theater. But you do get some amazing internal rewards. Plus, I got to see my brother-in-law’s cousin. And my director, Matthew Corozine, has two old friends in Calgary who came.
Monday they drove me to Banff. I had fond memories of visiting as a child and staying at the Banff Springs Hotel. Sadly, the Fairmont bought the property and ‘upgraded’ away all of the Victorian charm. It looks like every other pricey hotel in any other part of the world. Boo! Still beautiful from the outside, though. There’s a terrific Arts center in Banff, too. Writers, artists and musicians can come and do a residency for a few weeks. Those crazy socialists, caring about things like art.
About Val’s badass shoes. “Fluevogs,” She said. She insisted we walk past the Fluevog store on our way to dinner between Saturday matinee and evening. Fine, I thought. I really don’t care about s
hoes. Carrie Bradshaw’s obsession with Jimmy Choos was enough to spell the end of America. A pair of Clarks from Marshalls is as fancy as I get.
But then we walked past the store. Kay, wow. Some Canadian named John Fluevog (Gotta be Norwegian, my people) started making unique, funky shoes in 1970s and he hasn’t stopped. He’s a favorite with artists and musicians. My Canadian friend Clare tells me she owns pairs that she’s worn for decades. So I don’t feel totally guilty that I caved. Yes, a pair in the window called out to me, Circe’s sirens or the Holy Spirit, not sure. I did
pray about it mull it over for a day. But Sunday when the shows were over, I took my Canadian cash and forked it over. Hey, it was going to lose a third of its value when I took it to the bank to change for greenbacks. Don’t judge me!
I’ve always been happy to be an American citizen. But with the way this country has been going, I may need a safe house. I told Val I may be crossing over the border come January 20 and will need a sponsor. Maybe my Fluevogs will help me pass as a Canuck.