True Blood’s ‘Pam’ shows fangirl fangs

It’s one thing to earn millions of views, but the success of HBO’s True Blood is better measured by the lively, semi-religious devotion of its fans.

Not satisfied with watching the vampire drama alone, true “fangbangers” orchestrate screening parties, make webisodes of their favourite characters, write fan fiction or dissect series creator Alan Ball’s “anti-brunette agenda” online.

Canadian-made video games recognized at Fan Expo

From coast to coast, Canada punches above its weight in cutting-edge video games.

“We’re the third largest superpower for developing them in the world,” explains Victor Lucas, creator and host of the television show Electric Playground. “Canada has a tenth of the population of the United States, but we’re not far off in cultural output within this sector.”

Director puts mentorship in focus

Tuning into the Oscars last week, you may have asked: where are all the women directors?

Filmmaker Tracy D. Smith asked herself the same question. Zero women were nominated for directing awards this year, and Smith says their absence leads to a glut of shallow, uncompelling female characters on the silver screen.

“It’s never two women talking about their own experience, only ‘what do you think about what he said or did?’ and so on,” she says of the widespread “male gaze” in Hollywood. “It’s very common and very frustrating.”

Tasting makes drams come true

Before I knew what a dram was, I’d already sat down to share one with local scotch educator Darryl Lamb.

“It’s funny, dram is a term the Scots use for a drink of whisky, but there’s no formal amount,” says Lamb, also the general manager of Legacy Liquor Store in False Creek.

“You can have as many fingers as you want.”

Drag phenom Taylor Mac reclaims his image

It is possibly the first and only drag show born out of lazy journalism.

With sequin-encrusted eyes and a sharp tongue, PuSh Festival veteran Taylor Mac brings a unique musical mash-up to the Performance Works stage this weekend, called Comparison is Violence or The Ziggy Stardust Meets Tiny Tim Songbook.

The mouthful of a title arises from repeat descriptions of Mac’s larger-than-life persona. When Mac toured The Be(A) st of Taylor Mac – a solo piece he brought to Vancouver in 2009 – theatre writers across the globe seemed to be of one mind.

Looking for a Missing Employee

What do you do when a man from Beirut’s ministry of finance disappears with a suitcase full of cash? Lebanese visual artist and performer Rabih Mroué decided to follow the paper trail—the newspaper trail, that is.

“I play the role of a detective who looks for a missing employee, but with a special trajectory,” explains Mroué, reached by phone from a performance festival in Minneapolis. “I only follow the newspapers. I don’t go to other sources.”

Paint, sweat and tears make Red

Kim Collier has a hectic few days ahead of her. When the Vancouver-based director wraps her latest production at the Queen Elizabeth on Saturday, she’ll kick off another performance at the Playhouse at the same time.

“I had to give my brain a shake to even think about Red,” Collier says. “This week coming is extraordinarily busy.”

Collier has already poured gallons of paint, sweat and tears into Red: John Logan’s play about abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. The Tony award-winning script chronicles a tumultuous few days inside Rothko’s New York studio as the painter struggles with a famous commission.

All in the Family

On the heels of the holidays, theatre director Kim Collier has reunited with her Electric Company kin. Best known for genre-bending works of multimedia spectacle, Collier’s latest work is a stripped-down familial affair.

“In this production we’ve brought together a family, literally,” Collier says of All the Way Home, her company’s intimate reimagining of Tad Mosel’s Pulitzer-winning script.

Close-knit is an understatement. Collier is married to cast member Jonathon Young, while Young’s father George plays the part of his dad. Lead actors Meg Roe and Allesandro Juliani are offstage life partners, while young brothers Jordan and Aidan Wessels round out the cast.

Damian Moppett’s lessons in art history

On the floor of the cavernous exhibition space in Bob Rennie’s private Chinatown gallery, Vancouver-based visual artist Damian Moppett is assembling his latest work.

Red aluminum pipes and plates lie arranged in rows, while cables hang from the gallery’s 12-metre ceiling.

The massive site-specific piece makes a nod to art history — a hallmark of Moppett’s work.

Local filmmaker takes run at Wall Street

Filmmaker Desiree Lim isn’t one to stay within the confines of traditional narrative cinema.

The Vancouverite’s body of work includes campy behind-thescenes critique of a male-dominated porn industry, the untold plight of Burmese migrants, and many boundary-pushing dramas in between.

At this year’s Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Lim is poised to defy a new set of genre norms with The House: a ghost story that blends personal drama with pointed anti-Wall Street sentiment.

Office Space actor makes compelling directorial debut

Known for comedic roles—most recently a spot on the HBO series Bored to Death—Ajay Naidu flexes his writing, directing and lead acting muscles in Ashes.

Audiences may recall his photocopier-smashing slapstick as Samir in Office Space, but Naidu’s latest indie film role is far from familiar.

Ashes is a dark and edgy portrait of two Indian-American brothers set in New York City’s underbelly. Tackling topics of organized crime and mental illness, Naidu says much of the story draws on his experience growing up “between cultures” in Chicago.

VIFF: Dragons & Tigers make noise on the big screen

They’re big. They’re blazing. They’re films from across the Pacific.

With 45 features and 16 shorts, the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Dragons & Tigers series is the largest Asian film program outside Asia.

“That’s true,” confirms Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian film scholar living in Beijing who selected half of the 2011 titles. “The only bigger program looking at Asian cinema is Busan’s festival in South Korea.”

REVIEWS: Performers coax laughs from love and death

It’s no surprise to last year’s Fringegoers: Martin Dockery is neurotic and hilarious.

Following his Pick of the Fringe win for the monologue Wanderlust, Dockery delivers a new barroom tale of travel, relationships, and the occasional experiment with hallucinogenic drugs. This time he’s adventuring through the ancient Cambodian temple Angkor Wat with his German girlfriend, and visiting his stiff but successful father in Vietnam.

Like a true Brooklynite, Dockery quavers with anxiety, flaps his hands wildly and raises his voice in excited crescendo as he delivers each morsel of acute observation. Dockery is searching for meaning in every sentence – giving the impression he’s conquering inner turmoil in real time.

REVIEWS: Houdini story unshackled at Fringe

Monster Theatre’s latest biographical production recounts the life of the King of Vaudeville. Equal parts illusions, melodrama and gags, Houdini’s Last Escape reveals that behind every great man is a great woman—not to mention some seriously awkward mommy issues.

Tara Travis plays Houdini’s loving wife Bess, along with a dozen or more cartoonish side characters. Travis steals the show and gets the crowd roaring with well-placed eye rolls, while Christopher Bange tries out his cache of card tricks as the show’s protagonist. Written and directed by Fringe favourite Ryan Gladstone, the script is dense and surprisingly dark.

REVIEW: Giant Invisible Robot

Occasionally Jayson McDonald takes a moment to breathe, but it’s pretty rare.

In his imaginative one-man show Giant Invisible Robot, McDonald seamlessly weaves through an arsenal of fun-to-watch characters, beginning with a neglected kid named Russell.

Russell’s BFF is the play’s namesake—an oversized tin can of destruction, capable of flattening Chicago during a particularly boring afternoon. McDonald jumps forward and backward in time and across storylines to build up their lifelong relationship.

REVIEW: Little Orange Man

“OMG let’s go ride BIKES!”

It’s a familiar refrain for anyone who has grown up with Attention Deficit Disorder. Performer and co-writer Ingrid Hansen makes it an actual ukulele-accompanied chorus in the inventive tragicomedy Little Orange Man.

Hansen plays Kitt, an over-stimulated schoolyard loner with a wild imagination. Having won over a team of impressionable “kinders” with grampa’s gory fairytales, Kitt is poised to take on the dream world (with a little help from her audience).

REVIEWS: Adventurous acts get site-specific at the Fringe Festival

A crash-landed spaceman and beached whale named Martha make sensible companions under the glow of golden Christmas lights.

This oddball participatory comedy crafted by Seth Soulstein is a two-hander, although the crane makes three.

Clad in silver spandex, a wide-eyed Soulstein proves his improvising chops. Never does he break character—even when a wayward space egg nicks a nearby car. (In the universe of public drama, one has to be prepared for anything).

REVIEWS: Have a cigar with Sigmund Freud’s psyche at the Fringe Festival

Ryan Gladstone is Sigmund Freud, and so is his co-star Bruce Horak.

The pair of local Fringe vets are flawlessly synched as Self and Ego in a lively journey through the subconscious mind of the cigar-chewing father of modern psychology. With only an hour left to live, Freud and his embodied id embark on a hilarious quest of self-analysis . . .

Eastside crawling with culture

When Robert Pickton first made headlines, Jane Wolsak was in court, drawing a solemn expression on the now-convicted serial killer’s face.

Wolsak is a courtroom illustrator and an accomplished still life painter. This weekend, the Eastside Culture Crawl will offer a rare window into the world of working artists like Wolsak. She is just one personality among hundreds of talented artists featured in this year’s festival beginning Friday.