Westward bound and packing some history

As I sit in an airport in Ottawa waiting to board a flight to Seattle, inside my bag is arguably one of the most valuable and unique archival items I’ve ever had the good fortune to discover through research – EVER! Indiana Jones himself could swipe the item itself from my bag and yell “It belongs in a museum!” and he wouldn’t be exaggerating.

I’m headed to Seattle to take part in a three-day script workshop of DAISY at ACT Theatre. The workshop will be led by ACT’s artistic-director-in-waiting John Langs (original director of RE:UNION), and it’s the last step before we can confirm that there will be an international co-production of DAISY between ACT Theatre and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre in Summer 2016.

DAISY is the true story of the creation of the most infamous political television commercial ever produced, the “Daisy Girl” ad. It was the centerpiece of the 1964 U.S. Presidential election. The ad literally changed – some say for the worse – the way that political ads are created and even experienced. The world of political communications was never again the same after the creation of this spot.

DAISY has been the most thoroughly researched projects I’ve ever created. The access I’ve had has been unprecedented. Today, I’m traveling with a reel of tape created by advertising genius Tony Schwartz that is literally labeled “Johnson Bomb Mix – Three Versions”. It’s an original tape containing three separate versions of what is widely known as one of the most famous soundtracks in modern media history.

And I’ve never played it. I’m hoping to do so in Seattle for the first time.

Stay tuned.

These tapes represent the 'B-side' alternate recordings of the most infamous political ad ever. It's astonishing that they're in my possession.

These tapes represent the ‘B-side’ alternate recordings of the most infamous political ad ever. It’s astonishing that they’re in my possession.

Inside the box. Delicate 1/4 inch tape that I haven't even listened to yet! But it's as rare and valuable as unwitnessed history.

Inside the box. Delicate 1/4 inch tape that I haven’t even listened to yet! But it’s as rare and valuable as unwitnessed history.

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So long Mag North and RE:UNION

And so it goes…Years of preparation. Months of labor. Weeks of sleeplessness. For brief days, nights and moments of joyful execution. RE:UNION has come and gone, and we’re all so grateful for the contributions of so many for having made it such a worthwhile and enjoyable endeavor.

A big thank you to our hosts at Magnetic North Theatre Festival for having brought our show to this great event. Brenda Leadlay, Jennifer Fornelli, Jackie Young, Rachel Savard, Kristen Holfeuer, Owen Schellenberger, Thea Klinger and the numerous volunteers put in a lot of work to keep this great event going.

Thanks to Kevin Ryan at the NAC and Jonathan Lockhart at Academic Hall for making sure the right machines go in the right places.

Thanks to HHG Theatre publicist / associate producer Nancy Kenny and outreach coordinator Megan Piercey Monafu for their behind-the-scenes work.

A HUGE thanks to our ridiculously hard-working and resourceful production team of Lois Dawson, Kyle Ahluwalia, Jess Preece, and John Doucet.

And we could not have done this show without the talents and passions of our creative team: director / playwright / producer Sean Devine, director John Langs, cast Alexa Devine, Andrew Wheeler and Brad Long, and designers John Webber, Jason H. Thompson, Noah Drew, Flo Barrett and Vanessa Imeson.

And finally, we are very happy with how much the City of Ottawa and its artistic community has welcomed Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre. We’re loving our new home, and we look forward to bringing you more great theatre in the months / years / decades to come.

Until next time!

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Mag North Theatre Festival Delegates!

From June 5 – 9, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre’s production of RE:UNION is part of the mainstage program of the 2015 Magnetic North Theatre Festival. We look forward to hosting Ottawa’s theatre-going community, but also the national and international assembly of theatre presenters, producers and artists participating in the Festival’s Industry Series.


Please come and experience RE:UNION, with our three remaining performances:

  • Sunday June 7 @ 4pm
  • Monday June 8 @ 8pm
  • Tuesday June 9 @ 8pm

We’ve prepared a brochure with touring / project information about RE:UNION, as well as abot two other HHG Theatre projects: DAISY and THE ICELAND PROJECT. Please review a PDF of our HHG Theatre Project Info or ask for a hard copy from HHG Theatre co-artistic director Sean Devine in person or via email at sean@horseshoesandhandgrenades.ca

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RE:UNION at Magnetic North June 5 – 9

“The world doesn’t need a lot of martyrs…but it needs a few.”

On November 2, 1965, an American Quaker named Norman Morrison drives to the Pentagon with his infant daughter, a jug of kerosene and a box of matches. With Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara looking on, the young Quaker carries out a final act of witness against the horrors of the Vietnam War. Thirty-six years later, in the wake of 9/11, his daughter returns to confront the aging McNamara, the memory of her father, and the costly legacy of sacrifice.

It’s taken almost 4 years, but we’re just about there. The long-awaited (at least on our part) remount of RE:UNION, which we first produced back in Vancouver in 2011.

We’re absolutely thrilled to bring this production to Ottawa, and to the audience of national and international presenters that make up the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.

Check out the great preview article from The Ottawa Citizen about RE:UNION and Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre’s aim to bring its brand of socially-and-politically activist theatre to Ottawa.

For festival info and to buy tickets, click here.

“Without the inspired act, no generation resumes the search for love.”




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Help bring RE:UNION to Mag North

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre is extremely proud to be able to bring our production of RE:UNION to the very important Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Ottawa this June. We’ve spent the past 4 years since our first production of RE:UNION in 2011 preparing for this opportunity, and now we get to show RE:UNION to the world! Our audience this June 5 – 9 will consists of theatre presenters and producers from all across Canada and the world, as they come to the festival seeking productions which they can bring back to their own theatres!

We’ve just launched our first-ever crowdfunding campaign, and we hope that you can make a contribution. As you know, it’s been very rare over our more-than-ten-years of history that we reach out to our community for their financial support…and now we are.

Please check out our recently launched Indiegogo campaign and make a donation. We need to raise $6,000 to reach our goals, and your support will help us get there. We’ve got a lot of interesting and one-of-a-kind perks to offer you, so go check it out.



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To Peek Inside Where Looking is Forbidden

This year’s World Theatre Day message comes from Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski.

“…Most often I turn to prose for guidance.  Day in and day out I find myself thinking about writers who nearly one hundred years ago described prophetically but also restrainedly the decline of the European gods, the twilight that plunged our civilization into a darkness that has yet to be illumined…Their common sense of the inevitable end of the world—not of the planet but of the model of human relations—and of social order and upheaval, is poignantly current for us here and now. For us who live after the end of the world. Who live in the face of crimes and conflicts that daily flare in new places faster even than the ubiquitous media can keep up. These fires quickly grow boring and vanish from the press reports, never to return. And we feel helpless, horrified and hemmed in…We no longer have the strength to try and glimpse what lies beyond the gate, behind the wall. And that’s exactly why theater should exist and where it should seek its strength. To peek inside where looking is forbidden.”

Over the decade that we’ve been creating theatre, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades has sought to define ourselves, as all of our peers do, through the well-penned phrases that encapsulate our purpose, our values, our mission. For us, these have been to “embrace boldness”, or to “reveal the vulnerable heart and champion the brave idea”, or “to shine light into darkness”. Over the history of our many works, from 4.48 Psychosis, to Palace of the End, to Re:Union, to Except in the Unlikely Event of War and This Stays in the Room, and to what’s coming down the pike, we believe that we’ve held true to our ideals. We’re proud to say that we’re trying to peek inside where looking is forbidden.

On this specific occasion, on World Theatre Day 2015, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre is spread out far and wide. In Vancouver, co-artistic director Mindy Parfitt and associate artist Amber Funk Barton continue to work on their new collective creation RUN, a dance / theatre piece which explores the undefined space between opposing ideas. In Ottawa, associate artist Kyle Ahluwalia just wrapped production of Suit Up, a short piece about the diseased effects of capitalism on the third world, for the subDevision Festival. Meanwhile, co-artistic director Alexa Devine (Ottawa), and associate artists Andrew Wheeler (Vancouver), Brad Long (Ottawa), Noah Drew (Montreal), John Webber (Vancouver), Jason Thompson (Los Angeles), Vanessa Imeson (Ottawa) and Lois Dawson (Vancouver) prepare for Re:Union, the true story of a father’s sacrifice in the face of national injustice, at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. In Seattle, associate artist John Langs (and Associate Artistic Director of ACT Theatre) prepares for a workshop of Daisy, a new play about the birth of negative advertising, by co-artistic director Sean Devine. And in Reykjavik, Sean Devine finishes up a research trip to Iceland and Greenland in preparation for Hans Island / Tartupaluk, being created with associate artist Emily Pearlman, a new project about the elusive search for Utopia and the corruptive forces that prevent us from finding it.

As I sit and write this message from Reykjavik, I’m directly across the street from the Althing, Iceland’s Parliament building. In 2009, this was the site of the mass protests that turfed out a corrupt government and set in motion one of recent history’s most inspiring citizen-led actions for change. Although the Icelanders haven’t yet got the change they’re after, the world sat up and took notice.

Althing 2009


On this day when we at HHG Theatre are so inspired by the world unfolding around us, we reach out to our community of citizens to continue supporting theatre that matters, theatre that seeks to inspire action and change, theatre that doesn’t worship exclusively at the altars of form and process, theatre that reaches in and pulls your guts out, theatre that dares you to peek inside where looking is forbidden.


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