Archive | August, 2014

Summerworks Picks 2014: Part 3

15 Aug

The 2014 SummerWorks Festival is entering its final weekend and there is no shortage of good shows to choose from! Here are some more highlights of the festival:

HERO-Juni-Bimm1-Caterwaul-small-620x500 Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Written by Erin Fleck, directed by Maya Rabinovitch, with puppets by Fleck and Sarah Fairlie, and set design by Roxanne Ignatius, Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales is a delightfully immersive and multidisciplinary theatrical work. Fleck’s handful of whimsical stories are delivered by gentle-voiced narrators with a team of shadow puppeteers providing the visuals. With the style of presentation and puppetry varying between each one, the format never gets stale.

Some of the puppet creations are truly impressive, such as a female specter composed of layers of materials of varying opacity which results in a beautiful three dimensional effect on screen. Ignatius’ set design, which transforms the usually sparse Lower Ossington Studio into a grand and cozy pillow fort guaranteed to evoke memories of slumber parties from one’s youth, is another highlight.

shadowps_08-CopyThe Water Thief

An atmospheric and dream-like creation from Amy Siegel and Sean Frey (and a host of collaborators), The Water Thief blends film, music, and live performance to great effect. There’s no narrative in the traditional sense of the word, but filmed images of an old man tending to an abandoned maritime community and a water thief (a type of water-powered mechanical clock) evokes some pensive themes. The real magic happens when the all the layers of the production (both figuratively and literally) are slowly and deliberately revealed, enhanced by a hauntingly melodic and repetitive musical landscape. The whole experience is deceptively simple and meditative, yet still incredibly powerful.

UnknownSoldier-AlejandroSantiago-300DPI-3701-Copy-500x500Unknown Soldier

Writer/director Jonathan Seinen’s semi-documentary work about a thinly-veiled analogue of Chelsea Manning, the former US military data analyst who leaked sensitive and embarrassing classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks, is a fascinating portrait of a courageous individual enraged by the status quo and simultaneously struggling with gender identity. It’s not your typical one-two punch of themes, but reality is funny that way. The script includes text from the transcripts of Manning’s pre-trial hearings, court martial proceedings, public statements, and online chats, which adds a thick sheen of authenticity to the well-honed work.

A huge deal of credit for the success of this production lands squarely on the shoulders of lone performer Jeff Ho who delivers a powerhouse performance. Ho holds nothing back; his moments of joyful naivety, justice-fueled rebellion, and sorrowful realization are all piercingly honest.

 

Summerworks Picks 2014: Part 2

12 Aug

Some more fine productions now on stage at the 2014 SummerWorks festival!

HERO-LBaker_Perv_Face_300dpi-small-620x500Fuck You! You Fucking Perv!

Created and performed by powder blue-haired Leslie Baker, Fuck You! You Fucking Perv! bridges theatre with performance art while skirting some very dark and heavy sexual material in a delightfully manic way. Baker and her creative team make fantastic use of lighting blackouts and confrontational sound design, fragmenting her only loosely narrative and mood-swinging diatribe with ever-changing tableaus and cringe-inducing noises – with a little electro-swing thrown in for fun. Baker herself is a force of nature, often careening around the stage, wild-eyed and seemingly perpetually on the verge of a total meltdown. To call the piece “enjoyable” would not be accurate, but “daring” and “impressive” suit it just fine.

HERO-The-Good-Story-2-small-620x500The Good Story

This quiet and thoughtful work from playwright Alexa Gilker tells the story of Alex (Pippa Leslie), a mature and well-meaning young Christian missionary who, after unrooting herself and travelling to Mexico, Albania, and India to do good and spread the good word, discovers that the harsh realities of the world often trump good intentions. It’s a nuanced work that stays clear of melodrama while still being impactful. The story could use a little more room to breathe, especially with regards to Alex’s formative experiences in Mexico and Albania, both of which are passed over comparatively briefly.

Director Sandi Barrett keeps things simple and focused, and her talented young cast deliver solid performances. Leslie deserves mention for so aptly capturing Alex’s youthful determination, and a nod goes to Sehar Bhojani for her colourful portrayal of a pragmatic orphanage manager.

HERO-Recurring-John-option-2without-credits-small-620x500Recurring John

Part of the Musical Works in Concert Series, Kevin Wong’s Recurring John is a charming and ear-pleasing song cycle with a twist. The songs are performed by a series of characters, each of whom offers a glimpse into their own existence, but also – via references to their connection with or relationship to the titular character – collectively paint a narrative of his life. Most intriguing is that ‘John’ never actually appears before the audience, making it a sort of musical biography created out of negative space.

Wong’s compositions range from quiet and touching to brassy and toe-tapping, with lyrics that are elegant without being overly-precious. His orchestration is a real highlight, drawing a warm, rich, and plucky sound from his string-heavy ensemble. With a spectacular cast of performers and impressive direction (considering the limitations of the presentation) from Jeff Madden, it’s a shame that the work only gets two same-day performances. Here’s hoping for a full production to appear on stage some day soon!

 

Summerworks Picks 2014: Part 1

9 Aug

The 2014 edition of SummerWorks is only barrelling into its first weekend, and we’ve already caught some remarkable shows! The highlight so far:

He Left Quietly

HERO-HLQ-crop-2-small-620x500Based on the true story and testimony of Duma Kumalo, a black South African who, under the Apartheid regime, was falsely convicted of murder and sentenced to death, He Left Quietly packs a powerful and heart-wrenching punch. Playwright Yaël Farber, herself a loosely-veiled character in the play, at one point expresses how little she really knew about the true nature of the Apartheid criminal justice system until hearing Duma’s story – a thought which no doubt resonated with many an audience member. That Duma was sent to death row for having simply been in the vicinity of a protest that eventually turned violent – an outcome made possible by the Apartheid laws which were Draconian and Orwellian in equal measure – is only the tip of the iceberg of revelations that emerge from the piece.

The Canadian team responsible for this production do a remarkable job with the material. Anchoring the work is Conrad Coates who, in his skilful turn as the former prisoner, conveys a quiet dignity and tangible struggle for inner peace. Director Leora Morris makes some very apt choices, such as to leave the elder Duma literally sitting front and centre for the vast majority of the show, allowing his weighty words to be unencumbered, and handing over the dramatic elements to talented performers Tawiah M’Carthy (Young Duma) and Aviva Armour-Ostroff (Woman).

A haunting and beautiful work.

 

Summerworks Preview: Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show

8 Aug

AnimalPharmacy_ShowImage_HighRes-Copy-500x500Your Show: Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show

Your Name:  Greg Janssen

Your Role: Writer/Songwriter/Producer

Tell me about your SummerWorks show:

Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show is a musical satire of the pharmaceutical industry in the style of an old-time medicine show. It follows snake oil impresario Doc Holiday as he cons wealthy heiress Mildred Milligram into appointing him CEO of her company, RX Pharmaceutical Corporation, in order to unleash his Miracle Cure on a sad and unsuspecting world. Along the way we meet rock star burnout Dean Codeine, a burlesque Nurse, and a mime named Billy. Oh … and hilarity ensues.

Now do it as a Haiku:

What’s a haiku? Just kidding! But seriously … what’s a haiku?

What else are you looking forward to at the festival this year?

Finally sleeping … after it’s done.

The best thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

I’m new to the scene, actually. Up till now I’ve been more of an indie music guy, but everyone I’ve met in the theatre scene so far (mostly the cast, crew, and creative of the show) have been incredibly supportive, nice, and wonderful. So that’s the best thing so far.

The worst thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

No complaints so far.

A Hypothetical: A week before the municipal election, a strange parasite contaminates the Toronto drinking water system, turning the vast majority of citizens into narrow-minded zombie-boobs with a pathological hatred of streetcars, and Rob Ford is shockingly re-elected for another four year term. What is your artistic response?

God help us all if that should happen. Artist response? Pray hard for the rapture. So … maybe write and sing some gospel tunes to help bring it on.

 

Summerworks Preview: romanceship

8 Aug

rsz_hero_dbi_black_beauty_by_wade_hudson_high_res-620x500Your Show: romanceship

Your Name:  Cliff Cardinal

Your Role: Poet

Tell me about your SummerWorks show:

When Dave, the drug and sex addicted fraudster & Madly, the bulimic and klepto chef break up (and get back together) Madly dubiously announces she’s pregnant. Dave careens into Rochelle, the transgender crack addict, and the two begin the most enveloping love affair since cocaine met baking soda.

What else are you looking forward to at the festival this year?

Esther Jun has another show- And Now, The End. I’m gonna check that out.

The best thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

Does Daniel McIvor still live here?

The worst thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

Nothing, you guys are great. Please hire me?

A Hypothetical: A week before the municipal election, a strange parasite contaminates the Toronto drinking water system, turning the vast majority of citizens into narrow-minded zombie-boobs with a pathological hatred of streetcars, and Rob Ford is shockingly re-elected for another four year term. What is your artistic response?

I’m going to kidnap sean dixon and lock him in my basement until he agrees to write a play with me. Have you seen Misery? It’s going to be like that but with more weird sex stuff.

 

Summerworks Preview: SEA FOAM BLUE 3

8 Aug

HERO-WIVES-Photo-6-620x500Your Show: SEA FOAM BLUE 3

Your Name: Leah Fay Goldstein of WIVES

Your Role: Co-creator/performer/real-life mermaid

Tell me about your SummerWorks show:

SEA FOAM BLUE 3 features the live art antics of Toronto/Montreal based ballsy feminist performance threesome WIVES. Task-based actions, some light guided meditation and whimsical DIY lighting techniques (mostly overhead and slide projectors) illuminate a story about loneliness, ocean fetishism, seduction, love and the commodification of women’s bodies. Our lonely-real-life mermaid searches for a mate underwater, on land, at the public swimming pool and in the depths of okCupid, revealing a cast of potential lovers that are at times hilarious and at other times just plain gross. Whatever you’re looking for be it true love, an answer, sexual satisfaction or the meaning of life, SEA FOAM BLUE 3 will rock you into existential peace.

Now do it as a Haiku:

Come see the siren
She is waiting for you here
1-1-1-5 Queen

What else are you looking forward to at the festival this year?

I can’t wait to see Regina of Light Fires in “Do I Have To Do Everything My Fucking Self?” at the Lower Ossington. I play in a band (called “July Talk”) so her and I are always running into each other but have never seen one another perform anything other than plain old rock and roll.

The best thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

Venues and spaces for weird, experimental and interdisciplinary voices like SummerWorks, the Rhubarb Festival, the Theatre Centre and Buddies in Badtimes! And Mill Street sponsorships.

The worst thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

People who piss on toilet seats and don’t laugh when something’s funny.

A Hypothetical: A week before the municipal election, a strange parasite contaminates the Toronto drinking water system, turning the vast majority of citizens into narrow-minded zombie-boobs with a pathological hatred of streetcars, and Rob Ford is shockingly re-elected for another four year term. What is your artistic response?

We’ve talked about this a lot. We’re learning to breath underwater so we can relocate to the bottom of Lake Ontario if such a thing happens. I also have a Rob Ford mask at home so we could always just kidnap the guy and parade around as him. (Have a pride flag to match it.)

 

Summerworks Preview: I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You

8 Aug

IWTYEWITOY_ZeesyPowers_300dpi-small-620x500Your Show: I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You

Your Name: Zeesy Powers

Your Role: Performer

Tell me about your SummerWorks show:

I will tell you exactly what I think of you in front of a live audience while a remote audience watches on the internet.

Now do it as a Haiku:

You want to know how
You appear to a stranger
Or, someone you know

What else are you looking forward to at the festival this year?

Common Fate, my other production for four dancers.

The best thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

The audience.

The worst thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

How hard it is to find.

A Hypothetical: A week before the municipal election, a strange parasite contaminates the Toronto drinking water system, turning the vast majority of citizens into narrow-minded zombie-boobs with a pathological hatred of streetcars, and Rob Ford is shockingly re-elected for another four year term. What is your artistic response?

A series of reality-TV show pitches to the mayor’s office, including Rob and Justin: Roommates, where Rob Ford and Justin Trudeau share a basement bachelor apartment, and Who Runs This Show?, where Rob Ford and Sarah Thompson get married and run this city Bill and Hilary Clinton-style.

 

Summerworks Preview: Young Drones

8 Aug

9519426951_17ed6d8fd5_o-620x500Your Show: Young Drones

Your Name: Dana Snell

Your Role: Performer

Tell me about your SummerWorks show:

Meet the spectacular new products of military intelligence: two highly advanced drones who will serve and protect mankind (well, protect the oil anyway). Be present at their historic unveiling! Watch while they use their top-of-the line programming to…fall in love? Feel empathy? No, the experiment has gone out of control! The drones must be captured before they escape beyond our reach. Time to search and destroy.

Now do it as a Haiku:

Made to protect oil
We now are learning to love
Man is not ready

What else are you looking forward to at the festival this year?

Weaves Through Time, Do I Have to Do Everything My Fucking Self?

The best thing about the Toronto theatre scene?

Maggie MacDonald

A Hypothetical: A week before the municipal election, a strange parasite contaminates the Toronto drinking water system, turning the vast majority of citizens into narrow-minded zombie-boobs with a pathological hatred of streetcars, and Rob Ford is shockingly re-elected for another four year term. What is your artistic response?

Self-immolation