On a night when it would have otherwise been dark, many of us in the extended PuSh family gathered at the Club last night to share in a Sunday roast. This roast, as host Sara Bynoe reminded us, was not the kind that would be accompanied by mashed potatoes and gravy and yorkshire pudding. Rather, it would come with comedic barbs, ego-deflating put-downs, general lewdness, and mild offense in the service of what and whom we love the most. A version, in other words, of the classic Friars Club Roasts of Hollywood celebrities or, more recently, Comedy Central's somewhat more vicious and vulgar revival of the genre for our media-saturated age.
The roasters included playwright, reviewer, and teacher Kathleen Oliver; lawyer and first PuSh Board President Ken Manning; writer, performer, and scholar Alex Ferguson; Theatre Replacement Co-Artistic Director James Long; and singer-songwriter Thom Jones (of Woody Sed rather than hip-swiveling, panty-catching fame). The primary roastee was, inevitably, our beloved Artistic and Executive Director Norman Armour, who sat at a table all his own adjacent the stage and soaked it all in (and also gave a bit back) with warmth and good humour. The jibes ranged from riffs on Norman's challenges with typography (Oliver) to the opacity (Jones) and geographical exclusivity (Long) of some of his programming to his legendary prolixity (everyone). Noting that all roasts seemed to require a preponderance of penis jokes, Ferguson built his contribution around the "staircase" in Norman's pants--a rich and ribald allegory of past PuSh shows that one had to hear to believe.
Of course there were other targets for the satire emanating from the stage. Most prominent in this respect were DK, our Production Manager (who I don't think was even in attendance), and Minna Schendlinger, our dear departing Managing Director, who took to the microphone herself at the end of the festivities to serenade Norman with a song that, in true backhanded fashion, was all about how much she has meant to him over the past eight years. Truer words were never uttered.
Week 2 of the Festival promises to be just as jam-packed with unmissable shows as the first: Tim Etchells' Sight is the Sense that Dying People Tend to Lose First at the newly renovated Fox Cabaret on Main Street tonight; Phil Soltanoff's LA Party/An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk at SFU Woodward's Studio T starting on Tuesday; Port Parole's Seeds at UBC's Freddy Wood starting on Wednesday; amazing acts at the Club. And so much more.