Marking by day, monologues by night

(Left to right) Olivia Jon (Ophelia) and Rob Glen (Polonius) in Hamlet at Kew Gardens.

(Left to right) Olivia Jon (Ophelia) and Rob Glen (Polonius) in Hamlet at Kew Gardens.

It isn’t often that the english teacher who helps you analyze Shakespeare’s soliloquies in class is also reciting them to an audience the same night.

Weston Collegiate’s IB english and philosophy teacher, Rob Glen plays Polonius, a chief counsellor to the Danish royalty of Elsinore, in Shakespeare’s well known tragedy Hamlet. While delivering philosophical spiels about tabula rasa at the chalkboard, he can undoubtedly deliver powerful soliloquies at center stage.

Glen is a member of two theatre companies; Stage Centre Productions and Bard in the Park, a volunteer-based company whose Shakespeare adaptations are performed every summer along the Toronto Beaches.

Bard in the Park is currently showing a condensed two-hour version of Hamlet, as the tragedy’s five acts typically runs for four hours. The company will be performing at the Kew Gardens with evening shows at 7 PM from Tuesday to Saturday (June 16 – 20), and matinée shows running during the weekends at 2 PM (June 20 – 21). All shows are pay what you can.

Polonius exposing Hamlet of his sappy love letters: the Shakespearean equivalent of your parents reading your texts.

Yet, our Polonius had only joined the company quite recently. His acting career began after receiving numerous comments on his animated and comical behavior (which certainly sneaks itself into our philosophy lectures). When he wasn’t marking essays on Al Purdy’s poetic techniques, Glen enrolled himself in a few professional acting classes and began auditioning around various Toronto theatre companies.

Five years ago, he scored his first role, and one of his favourites, with Stage Centre Productions as Freddy in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

From then on, his thespian opportunities skyrocketed. Taking an immediate liking to his skill, Garth Allen, the artistic director at the time, offered Glen more roles despite him being novice. With Allen, he played Gerald in JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, and Father March in Little Women. 

With a new artistic director, Michael Burgess (to which he adds, “not the singer, the other guy,”), Glen continued with Stage Centre Productions to play Bo Dekker in Bus Stop, an ageing detective-wannabee in The Game’s Afoot, and a German violinist with Nazi affiliations in Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides. The same year, Taking Sides was remounted at Al Green Theatre in honor of Holocaust Awareness Week. In Stage Centre Production’s most recent show, Glen played Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic and Lace. His next role will be in Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, a comedy involving cross-dressing and conning for money, coming March 2016.

Joining Bard in the Park just two years ago, the company invited Glen back to embody Polonius after playing Lodovico in their previous production of Othello. Preparation for Hamlet began in January, where the cast of ten rehearsed two days a week for two and a half hours.

“It’s interesting how different Shakespeare is. It’s all about finding the character in the language,” says Glen on his role as Polonius. “With other types of more modern art, you kind of develop ideas on your own and bring that into the language. But the more I have a feel of the words I’m saying, the more I start doing the things that perhaps my character is supposed to do… Hopefully I’ll get a few laughs.”

(Left to right) Hom Bradwell (Claudius) and Rob Glen (Polonius) probably discussing how to figure out Hamlet’s level of sanity.

While playing the loving father of Ophelia and Laertes, there’s a weasel-esque essence to Polonius that, if exhibited appropriately, can provide a comic relief to the play’s dark overtones. To see their interpretation of Polonius and celebrate an end to exams, I attended one of the evening shows at Kew Gardens. Sprawled over the park’s lawn on burlap sacks, we watched as Mr. Glen read aloud Hamlet’s teenage-sap-ridden love letter and plotted his conniving plans. His portrayal of the fishmonger and worm-like Polonius did indeed invoke laughter.

“At first, I was excited about just seeing the play, but later I was excited that I got to see a different Mr. Glen,” says Heeho Ryu, a philosophy student. “Before we only knew him as the well-dressed, humorous teacher, but now I know that he can be Polonius.”

Another student, David de Vries, recalls, “It was really cool to see that he can put aside the philosophy and do a really great job at playing a Shakespeare character. It reminded me that all of our teachers are super talented individuals.”

One might assume that balancing teaching two separate subjects whilst acting in two separate companies is difficult. But Mr. Glen thinks otherwise: “It’s kind of like when you come back from a hard day at work, so you go out dancing. Then you discover you have this hidden reserve for special types of energy.

“Teaching is acting. There’s even an entrance – everyday you come through a door. And even though it’s very informal and a lot of the time you’re not the center of attention, there is something performance-y about it. I feel like [acting is] helping my teaching.”

Be sure to catch Rob Glen in Bard in the Park’s production of Hamlet this weekend, and Leading Ladies with Stage Centre Productions next March.



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Events this week

Frontlines will be having its first-ever Catering Careers program open-house next Thursday starting at 6.

Open House at Frontlines


The Weston Village Residents’ Association is hosting the 11th annual Neighbours’ Night Out next Friday, June 26.

The NNO is always a blast, with lots of kids running around, cheap food, and entertainment. This year, there will be a movie.

The party starts at 5:45 at Elm Park.


2015NNO poster



Brazen thieves at work in Weston

Beware of two brazen thieves in a white pickup, the Artists to Artists Foundation says in an open email.

Last week several items were stolen from our property located at 1 Victoria Avenue West. Also, several homes in the immediate neighbourhood had the same experience. On one occasion the individuals stole a filing cabinet from inside our neighbour’s property in the middle of the day.

The following morning around 8 AM [the two thieves] were seen entering our property and removing items. One of our neighbours chased them away. The intruders are becoming more brazen and even informed our neighbor that the police are not able to do anything….

The individuals are one male and a female of Caucasian background. The male is missing some front teeth and the female has blonde hair sometime pulled back in a pony tail. They are moving around the neighbourhood in a white pickup van.


Mark Moore sentenced

The murderer of four men, two of whom lived in Weston, has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Moore killed Mike James and Courthney Facey in 2010 in an alleyway near Weston Road, possibly in an attempt to boost his reputation on the streets. He himself had been shot in the face years before when he lived in the apartment building across the street.

He did not admit any responsibility or regret

The judge said

“The unimaginable triviality of the motive for at least three of the murders, the offender’s determination to show himself to be an authentic gangster who shakes the streets bespeaks a man who is so morally depraved and so utterly lacking in humanity, that the 25-year minimum for parole eligibility is far more than justified,”

Had Moore committed the murders today, he would likely not be ever eligible for parole. The federal government made changes to allow judges to extend the pre-parole period in the case of multiple murders. Moore murdered his victims before the new laws were passed, however.

Annual June Fair is another huge success

Intense potato sack races at Weston Memorial’s annual June Fair. Victors and losers are bound to be immortalized over recess gossip the next school day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015 – Weston Memorial’s annual June Fair ran beautifully on an equally beautiful Thursday evening. The warm weather allowed perfect conditions for the jumping castles, potato sack races, and laughter to carry through the night without interruption.

Although mainly an opportunity for younger members of the community to enjoy themselves over hamburgers and mini golf, the loud excitement and homely smell of a smoking grill hailed many more to the scene.

Activities this year included potato sack racing, various field activities, and four jumping castles which were perpetually teeming with small children. Booths were stationed throughout the east schoolyard with many multicultural games to play. Samosas, bifanas, Portuguese chicken, and pizza were also available, appropriate to this year’s theme, ‘Weston Around the World’.

Tables towered with delicious baked goods, showy raffle prizes, and baskets to be sold anchored the blacktop. Behind them, a stereo played jaunty songs against a brick of wall of students’ artwork. Some feathered and furry guests paid a visit as well, courtesy of Hands on Exotics.

The money raised from the June Fair will go towards purchasing various new equipment, and funding Weston Memorial’s many school activities, such as paying for school busses on field trips, bringing in technological equipment into classrooms, and inviting educational guest speakers for the students. Other events, like their Skate Night and Welcome Back BBQ will also benefit from the June Fair’s profits.

Ran on the first Thursday of June each year, preparation for the event began January. A committee of parents from the school, commandeered by Christine Ramos, worked collaboratively (and with unfaltering effort) to host another amazingly successful June Fair. Volunteers for the fair included about fifty parent volunteers and thirty student volunteers, namely from Weston Collegiate.

The many months devoted to their intense work were undeniably evident in the evening’s smooth success.

Be sure to come out for next year’s June Fair and support Weston Memorial!

A special thanks to Marjorie Richards for supplying me with details, and for her impressive involvement in organizing the June Fair.

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Weston Farmers’ Market kicks off with official grand opening – for a thirty sixth year

IMG_2745 A walk underneath the dainty lights that hang across the flanking John Street buildings will lead you to the Weston Farmers’ Market, a weekly gathering of various venders and local businesses that not only offer a wide range of products, but a warm, contagious sense of community.

To launch their 36th year of running, they held their grand opening this Saturday.

Nestled in the Green P parking lot at John and Weston, the market has been running annually from May to in October, and is a well known tradition in the Weston community. Every Saturday, from 8 A.M. to 2 P.M, the lot flourishes with handmade goods, warm pastries, endless baskets of fresh produce, often with the accompaniment of live entertainment.

Left to right: Ira Quinsey (mandolin), Jeff Mayville (banjo), and Nathan Rae (guitar).

This week, an ensemble of a mandolin, guitar, violin, upright bass, and two banjos, named Big Monday, offered a live show of bluegrass tunes. Taking impromptu requests between their smooth triple harmonies, their upbeat melodies had shoppers tapping their feet as they browsed products.

The market includes several produce vendors whose fruits and vegetables, grown from Ontario and US farms, stretched across tables in a multitude of bright colours. Businesses specialized in maple syrup and apple-based products can be found selling various ‘apple butter’ spreads and sugary maple goods. Rows of potted flowers, garden plants, and herbs, can also be purchased at incredibly low prices.

Bakeries and dessert businesses, like CC’s Creations, sold homemade pies, cheesecakes, danishes, cinnamon buns, and much more. Huge loaves of bread filled wicker baskets alongside dried meats, for about $5 a loaf. Homemade jewellery and antique knick knacks glittered on the tables, drawing in scattered ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s from shoppers.

(I didn’t get the chance to get her name, or the name of her business. Perhaps I was too caught up in my pineapple mango smoothie. If anyone could send her info, I would be glad to credit her properly!)

To curb your hunger pains, Grandpa Ken‘s is your go-to. Scarfing down a legendary back-bacon burger on kaiser buns, sold for $4.50, are mandatory (unless you’re vegetarian). Grab a thick fruit smoothie made, conveniently adjacent to Grandpa Ken’s food cart, to wash down the delicious grease.

Many familiar businesses and organizations were also present. Speakers on behalf of the new Art Hub were present, along with an Urban Arts table. Peter Piper’s Pastry Shoppe, a resident of the Weston area, also made his regular appearance with superb cannolis and biscotti, among other baked goods. Humber Community Senior’s Services came down from Eglinton and Weston, selling an assortment of perennials and annuals (with a shocking two for $1 deal) to fund their programs, namely Meals on Wheels.

The warm smiles and immediate sense of community that comes from the farmer’s market give Weston a unique, lively flair – a nice contrast from the vacant lots and ‘For Lease’ signs that cover empty buildings.

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