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About "James Reaney"

James Reaney has covered everything from operas to Neil Young concerts to baseball's World Series in more than 30 years at The London Free Press. Now, he concentrates on London entertainment in his Saturday Today section column and Forest City lore in Thursday 's My London column on Page A2. He is the host of two weekly video. lfpress .com , features, Reaney's Pick, an online platform for London performers, and It's On, a guide to the best of the local scene. James is a passionate supporter of the Jack Richardson Music Awards, which host an annual gala and other free events in London's only not-for-profit recognition of our musical excellence. He is also on the board of the King's University College Centre for Creativity and an active member of the London & Middlesex Historical Society.

Bernard Hopkins: Grand Theatre, Stratford Festival farewells

- October 24th, 2014


Bernard Hopkins David Hou photo


Bernard Hopkins, left, as The Fool and Brian Bedford as Lear in the 2007 Stratford Festival production of King Lear . . . David Hou photo courtesy of the Stratford Festival 

JBNBlog’s thoughts & prayers are with the family & friends of the great Londoner Bernard Hopkins. The actor was born in Liverpool and later starred at Stratford, was the artistic director of the Grand Theatre & inspired the London theatre community whose members were part of his extended family during his time here.

Bernard Hopkins was in the cast of the 1965 production of my late father’s play The Killdeer at Glasgow. The production was the chief contribution to  the Commonwealth Arts Festival by the Citizens’ Theatre Company. JBNBlog is hoping to find more material about this production via the Scottish Theatre Archives.

The Stratford Festival and Grand Theatre both sent out moving tributes to Bernard Hopkins on Thursday . . . here are the words from the Grand:

London, Ontario, October 23, 2014 - The Grand Theatre is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Artistic Director, Bernard Hopkins.  Mr. Hopkins served as Artistic Director from 1980 – 1983 during thetheatre’s tenure as Theatre London.

We mourn the loss of this dedicated artist – actor, director, teacher, mentor and artistic director.  He will be missed, but his legacy lives on in the many actors, directors, teachers and audiences whom he taught, directed, mentored and inspired.

While serving as Artistic Director, Mr. Hopkins was responsible for 23 productions including A Christmas Carol, Gypsy, and Equus.  Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.

. . . & here is the Stratford release:

Festival mourns the loss of Bernard Hopkins

October 23, 2014… The Stratford Festival was saddened to learn of the passing on Wednesday, October 22, of Bernard Hopkins, whose theatre career spanned half a century, including 24 seasons as a beloved member of the Festival company.

“Bernard began as a child performer, and even after a lifetime on stage he never lost the childlike sparkle in his eye for the magic of the theatre,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. “He was an accomplished actor and director, but perhaps his greatest strength lay in teaching. His kindness, his keen mind and his insights into the craft of acting made him a much-loved mentor to several generations of Canadian actors.

“Yet despite his erudition and passion for the classical canon in drama and opera, Bernard never lost touch with that poor child whose sheer talent, intelligence and vast imagination opened up for himself a life in the magic of the stage.”

Born on March 4, 1937, in Liverpool, England, Mr. Hopkins appeared with Joan Littlewood’s company in London while studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Leaving RADA to accept a television role, he went on to play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice – productions starring Sir Ralph Richardson that toured South America and the capitals of Europe.

After appearing in the U.K. première of Canadian dramatist James Reaney’s The Killdeer, he was invited by the Manitoba Theatre Centre to play Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors. He played that same role – along with that of Speed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona – in his first season at the Stratford Festival in 1975.

Mr. Hopkins’s many other Shakespearean roles at Stratford included Touchstone in As You Like It (1977), Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well (1988), Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet (1992) and Gonzalo in The Tempest (2005). He was a memorable Robert Cecil in Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex, both in its stage première at the Festival in 2000 and in the subsequent film version. His Festival season was in 2007, when he played Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice and an acclaimed Fool in Brian Bedford’s King Lear.

Festival productions that he directed include Love’s Labour’s Lost (1989), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1990), Twelfth Night and The Knight of the Burning Pestle (both 1991). He also served three terms as an Associate Artist of the Festival.

From 1980 to 1983, Mr. Hopkins was Artistic Director of the Grand Theatre in London; then, in 1984, he became Head of Drama at the Banff School for the Arts, a post he held until 1987. He also taught at other schools across Canada and the United States, including Bishop’s University, the University of Alberta, the National Theatre School, Florida State University and Carnegie-Mellon University.

He was Director of the Festival’s Young Company from 1989 to 1992, and in more recent years he taught in its Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Training, helping to hone the talents of Canada’s next generation of leading classical players.






More good words on Words fest

- October 23rd, 2014

Joe Sacco Somme

 Maltese-American cartoonist and journalist Joe Sacco poses at the Thiepval WWI Memorial, northern France, on June 6, 2014. For Joe Sacco, a recognized master of the war reportage or documentary cartoon, whose success goes back to his work exposing very subtle and deep human realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (“Palestine”) and Bosnian conflict (“Gorazde”), the WWI centenary was an opportunity to address a clash of titanic dimensions. He did with his latest and unconventional book “La Grande Guerre, Le premier jour de la Bataille de la Somme” (The Great War), which folds out to form a 24-foot-long panorama. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN

 Working on the theory you can never have too many good words on something as great at the first Words fest, JBNBlog is happy to pass along  this fine lookahead from Western’s media relations aces . . . the AFP photo of Joe Sacco, one of the distinguished guests, is a bow to his admirers including ace graphics novelist Diana Tamblyn. Sacco is one of may icons in London for the fest weekend.

O ver to the media release:

From the page to the stage, Words takes over the Forest City this weekend. London’s inaugural literary and creative arts festival is set to bring the community together for a celebration of creative ideas, artistic expression, and cultural diversity.

During the three-day event, visitors will experience a spectrum of artistic forms including poetry, fiction and nonfiction, film, drama, children’s literature, new media, spoken word performance, graphic novels, storytelling, video games, and much more.

Giller Prize-winning author Vincent Lam kicks-off the festival on Friday, October 24 with a public reading at Western University at 2:30 pm, followed by the opening night reception at 7 pm at Museum London.

Saturday features family-friendly activities at Central Library and the Covent Garden Market, and a stellar literary line-up at Museum London including such names as Guy Vanderhaeghe, Joan Barfoot, Mark Kingwell, Joe Sacco and James Bartleman. Guerrilla poetry, Mad Libs, book-making, a Twitter bot, and a pop-up speakeasy are just a few of the other ways to immerse oneself in Words throughout the day.

Words continues on Sunday, October 26th at 2 pm with Stories of Illness and Health at Wolf Performance Hall, and wraps-up at Museum London with #PoetryLab at 5:30 pm, featuring 2014 CBC Poetry Prize finalist Laurie D. Graham, and London’s poet laureate, Penn Kemp.

All events are free and open to everyone, with the exception of the opening night reception at Museum London. Tickets for the opening night event are $20 and can be purchased in advance through www.wordsfest.ca or at the door.


Words, London’s inaugural festival of creativity through the written and spoken word, features emerging as well as established artists and creative thinkers from London, Canada, and beyond, showcasing new works and world-leading ideas to spark debate and ignite the imagination.

For more information and a complete schedule of events visit: www.wordsfest.ca

Ace poet Tanis MacDonald @King’s on Monday

- October 23rd, 2014


Tanis MacDonald,Tanis(AuthPhoto,RueThDay)

Undated image of Tanis MacDonald, courtesy of canadianpoetries.com

One of JBNBlog’s most enjoyable involvements is being part of the group helming the King’s centre for creativity. That keeps me in touch with things King . . . & in the wider community.

King’s prof Ian Rae, a colleague in the group, has sent along the following … which is a good reminder that poets & other great voices will be heard in #ldnont even as the first Words fest (which is gathering so many of them) winds up on the weekend.

The poet Tanis MacDonald will be reading at King’s on Monday, Oct. 27th, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in Labatt Hall 105A. It’s on the King’s University College campus at 266 Epworth Ave.

The centre is combining forces with the King’s modern languages department in sponsoring the reading.

Here’s a Tanis MacDonald poem & details about her via canadianpoetries.com

After Borges

A woman who lets the chickens into the garden, as Alice Walker wishes.

She who is grateful for an hour of silence.

She who takes pleasure in tracing a dress pattern and running it up on the machine.

Two waitresses playing, in a cafe downtown, a grinning game of gin.

The baker of tarts, adding raspberries to crust.

The poet who reads this page with generosity, though it may not please her.

A woman and a man, who read all of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

She who strokes a sheet smooth while wearing a polyester uniform.

She who speaks calmly about a wrong done her.

She who is grateful for the existence of Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson.

She who sees when others are right and sees when she is.

These women, wide awake, are saving the world.


Tanis MacDonald

Tanis MacDonald’s poetry has appeared in many journals, including Prairie Fire, Grain, PRISM International, The Malahat Review, Event, The Fiddlehead, Contemporary Verse 2, The New Quarterly, Dandelion, Henry Street, Room, Arc, The Weary Blues, and more. Her three books of poetry and three chapbooks include Rue the Day (Turnstone, 2008), Fortune (Turnstone, 2003), Holding Ground (Seraphim, 2000), and This Speaking Plant (Unfinished Monument, 1997).

She won the Bliss Carman Poetry Prize in 2003 and the Mayor’s Poetry City Challenge for the City of Waterloo in 2012. Her scholarly publications include articles on poetry, film, graphic novels, memory, mourning, pedagogy, the national imaginary and literary canonicity, and she is well-known as a personal essayist and speaker.

She is also the author of a groundbreaking study in Canadian elegiac literature, The Daughter’s Way: Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012) and the co-ordinator of the Elegy Roadshow. After living in Toronto, Winnipeg and Victoria, she now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with too many books and a mad genius. She is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.



Alain Trudel & Gene DiNovi: #ldnont jazz concert of year

- October 22nd, 2014

Alain Trudel Serenata


The magnificent Alain Trudel quartet with Gene DiNovi, left, Trudel, centre forward, Neil Swainson & Ted Warren . . . in the Serenata 2014-2015 series opener at the LPL’s Wolf Performance Hall on Oct. 18, 2014. Taken w/ trusty BlackBerry

The #ldnont jazz concert of the year — unless Sonny Rollins drops by with Santa Claus — was at the Wolf Performance Hall on Saturday night … the most-often classical Serenata series, helmed by Renee Silberman, invited Alain Trudel to bring his trombone &  jazz friends to the Wolf . It was terrific. Any time Alain Trudel plays trombone is an occasion — even by his world-class standards, this was splendid.

Trudel and pianist Gene DiNovi are good friends & the setlist choices had such DiNovi gems as Have A Heart and I Can Hear The Music   . . they signed off after standing ovations with Goodbye by Gordon Jenkins.

Bassist Neil Swainson had ace solos & drummer Ted Warren was deft on the ballads and drove the faster tunes … what a band … probably the only time you’ll hear a quartet with someone who worked with Artie Shaw (DiNovi) & Woody Shaw (Swainson).

As for Artie Shaw, one of their showstoppers was a tribute to the Shaw version of Stardust (or Star Dust as it was back in the 1940s) with Trudel playing Artie Shaw’s clarinet solo on the trombone (!)  & visiting the famous trombone solo . . . DiNovi & Trudel had done this with Orchestra London when Trudel was music director … in my LFP advance for the Serenata show, their Shaw  hit then & now was (mis)identified as Begin The Beguine. Which it wasn’t (though that would be fine indeed) . . . it was Stardust all along.




Alexis Gordon in Carousel at 2015 Stratford Festival

- October 21st, 2014

Alexis Gordon

Alexis Gordon . . . undated image courtesy of The Talent House

JBNBlog’s excitemen this week t over local heroes who will be at the 2015 Stratford Festival mentioned Anita Krause, Stephen Ouimette and Deborah Hay … thanks to the good words of Wufoo at lfpress.com here’s at least one name that was missed — Alexis Gordon who will be Julie Jordan in Carousel … anyone know of any other names we should have on the list … if so, more details gratefully received …

now over to Wufoo & congratulations to Alexis Gordon . . .

Recent entertainment piece on the new casting announced for the Stratford Festival – piece by James Reaney – listed Anita Krause, Stephen Guimette and Deborah Hay as home town heroes – you missed one. Alexis Gordon was born and raised in London – sang for 5 years with Amabile, 3 years with Original Kids, attended Medway High School- got her acting degree in 2012 at the University of Windsor and has just landed the lead role of Julie Jordan in Carousel at Stratford, at the tender age of 24 – two years out of acting school-  no mention of her being from London or that London is her hometown ?? She was last seen in London, in Edges – the OKTC alumni show – during the summer. Not sure what more you have to do than being born and raised in a city to call it their hometown.

over to The Talent House for more on Alexis Gordon . . .

THEATRE (Selected)
OBEAH OPERA Chorus Nightwood Theatre/ Weyni Mangesha
RECURRING JOHN John’s Mother SummerWorks Festival/ Jeff Madden
CANADA SINGS Vocalist Victoria Petrolia Playhouse/ David Hogan
EDGES Woman 2 Original Kids Theatre Company Alumni/ C. Carver
…OF BERNICE TRIMBLE Iris Factory Theatre/ Obsidian Theatre Co./ Philip Akin
PARADISES LOST Chorus SummerWorks Festival/ Liza Balkan
CANADA’S NEXT TOP TOKEN Herself Acting Up Stage/ Elenna Mosoff
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Titania/ Hippolyta Driftwood Theatre Group/ Jeremy Smith
GODSPELL “Learn Your Lessons Well” Victoria Petrolia Playhouse/ David Hogan
SOME GIRL(S) Lindsay University of Windsor/ Brian Taylor
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Hero University Players/ Brian Taylor
HAIRSPRAY Dynamite Theatre Alive/ Brian Raisbeck
LION IN THE STREETS Joanne/ Christine University of Windsor/ Brian Taylor
THE 25th ANNUAL … SPELLING BEE Rona Lisa Peretti Original Kids Theatre Co/ London Fringe Fest/ Dale Hirelehey
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Ronette Musical Theatre Productions/ Angela Southern
MOTIVES & MURDERS Principal Cineflix/Discovery ID/ Mark Mainguy
THE WORST THING I EVER DID Principal Entertainment One/ Discovery ID
[TITLE OF CABARET] Creator/ Director Green Bean Café/ Carner & Gregor
… OUR SHOULDERS Playwright/ Actor Studio Theatre/ Uni. of Windsor/ with Aisha Bentham
BANKS PRIZE FOR EMERGING ARTISTS 2012-2013 Acting Up Stage/ Mitchell Marcus
ROB WELLAN SCHOLARSHIP FUND 2009 The Grand Theatre/ Susan Ferley
EDUCATION University of Windsor: Bachelor of Fine Arts- Acting
INTENSIVES NYC’s CAP21 Summer Professional Musical Theatre Training Program;
Shakespeare Stratford Academy; One Song Glory; The Grand Academy;
The Shakespeare School
ACTING Lee Wilson, Brian Rintoul, Lionel Walsh, Larry Arancio, Jim Warren
SINGING Marie Baron, Dr. Christopher Roselli, Dr. Pamela S. Phillips, Steven Henrikson,
Jennifer Fagan, Brenda Zadorsky, Susan Eichhorn Young
DANCE Marilyn D’Honau, Michael Raine, Amy Wright
MUSIC THEATRE Aimee Francis, Bill Daugherty, Thom Allison, Randy Graff, Lily Ling
SHAKESPEARE Ian Watson, Michael Keating
VOICE Michael Keating, Janine Pearson, Ann Skinner
ON CAMERA Lynne Cormack, Bruce Gooch, Brian Taylor
MOVEMENT Gina Lori Riley, Meaghen Quinn, Ellen Lauren & J. Ed Araiza of SITI Company
Soprano (F3-C6), Dialects (RP, Cockney, Southern), Ukulele, Basic Piano, Jazz & Contemporary Dance, Contact Improv, Viewpoints, Suzuki Training,
Period Movement, G2 License
HEIGHT: 5’7”
HAIR: Black
EYES: Brown