Archive | July, 2016

Summerworks Preview Questionnaire: Plucked

30 Jul

Plucked-400x600Your Name: Rachel Ganz

Your Production: Plucked

Your Role: Writer

Tell me a bit about your show: Plucked is about a farm where women turn to chickens and men farm their eggs. It experiments with comedic absurdities and music balanced with a dramatic narrative riddled with truths, weaving in the audience’s involvement while keeping them a little afraid. The show questions the female relationship to fear as it toys with our minds, bodies and family lives.

What else are you excited to see at this year’s festival? 4 1/2 ignoble truths by Thomas Mchecknie and Adam Lazarus’ Daughter are my two must sees.

One of the great challenges of the independent performing arts is arguably to reach and engage the general public. If logistics and budget weren’t a consideration, what would be the craziest scheme you could think of to attract new theatre-goers?

I’d use social media to write a play throughout the city, implementing various institutions as site specific destinations for “events” or shows. It’d almost be like Pokemon Go but it’d be the entire city implemented in a fictional drama, carried by Facebook personalities. I’ve written a small Facebook play once before (Engaged, September 2015) but I often fantasize about making it bigger, drawing in young crowds who are implemented off site beforehand.

Summerworks pieces are often socially and politically minded. If you had to write a musical about Donald Trump but could not include any part of his name in the title, what would it be called?

This Ending Won’t End

Summerworks Preview Questionnaire: Situational Anarchy

29 Jul

SituationalAnarchy-400x267Your Name: Graham Isador

Your Production: Situational Anarchy

Your Role: Writer/Performer

Tell me a bit about your show: Situational Anarchy is a storytelling show about why punk rock is the most important thing in the world. It is also a show about why punk rock is the dumbest thing in the world. The show chronicles my personal history with the band Against Me, who were an anarcho political act that abandoned their morals for a major label recording contract.

What else are you excited to see at this year’s festival? I am looking forward to seeing Adam Lazarus’ Daughter that should be a funny and mind bending piece. I am looking forward to Thea Fitz-James’ Naked Ladies, we’ve been some shows together and she’s a really quick witted writer and a warm performer. No Fun, the Iggy Pop dance piece, also looks…fun.

One of the great challenges of the independent performing arts is arguably to reach and engage the general public. If logistics and budget weren’t a consideration, what would be the craziest scheme you could think of to attract new theatre-goers?

I don’t think it’s about budget, I think it’s about most people’s inability or unwillingness engage and create community. You want more people to come to your show? Give them something they can see themselves in, make it affordable, and let them drink a beer while they’re watching it. Make yourself accessible to talk afterwards, and let them know you appreciated them coming out. We’re entertainers, and there are a bunch of different ways you can entertain people. You can make them laugh, make them cry, make them think, whatever. But if you lose sight that what you’re doing is entertainment than you deserve those empty seats.

Summerworks pieces are often socially and politically minded. If you had to write a musical about Donald Trump but could not include any part of his name in the title, what would it be called?

Springtime for Hitler

Summerworks Preview Questionnaire: Trompe La Mort, or Goriot in the 21st Century

29 Jul

Trompe-La-MortorGoriotinthe21stCentury-400x600Your Name: Anthony MacMahon

Your Production: Trompe La Mort, or Goriot in the 21st Century

Your Role: Writer

Tell me a bit about your show: An anarchist holds the world’s secrets on a hard drive. Developers try and disrupt stagnant markets, missed connections, and freedom of speech. A venture capitalist finds his profit in the rubble. Trompe La Mort is a digital age thriller that explores what happens when your work life, relationships, and ideas are reduced to data processed in an app. It’s a visual extravaganza. It’s an auditory feast. It’s a debate for and about the end of history. The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.

What else are you excited to see at this year’s festival? 4 1/2 ignoble truths, Osia, Naked Ladies, Plucked, The Unbelievers. And more that I’m sure I forgot. When it comes to seeing Summerworks shows, I’ll attend a Chua’s dozen.

One of the great challenges of the independent performing arts is arguably to reach and engage the general public. If logistics and budget weren’t a consideration, what would be the craziest scheme you could think of to attract new theatre-goers?

It’s a three part marketing strategy, inspired by the show. 1) Mine the metadata of thousands of Torontonians to see which of them would be most interested in the show. 2) Send an Uber to potential audience members. 3) Fill the Factory theatre with Pokemon lures. (That’s how Pokemon go works, right?)

Summerworks pieces are often socially and politically minded. If you had to write a musical about Donald Trump but could not include any part of his name in the title, what would it be called?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House. There’s a patter song called China. There’s an aria called The Art of the Deal. And the first act finisher is called Build The Wall.

Fringe Picks 2016 – Part 2

9 Jul

It’s the final weekend of the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival! Here are a few more productions that left us impressed:

orson_welles_shylock-mattchiorinidrewgripevincentrandazzolexibedore

Credit: Joe Della Posta

Orson Welles / Shylock
This polished production written and directed by Matt Chiorini, and performed by Chiorini, Drew Gripe, Brittany Fayle, and Vincent Randazzo is a true Fringe gem. It recounts the colourful life of film and theatre legend Orson Welles, capturing and illuminating both his larger-than-life persona and ego in vivid detail. Using his obsession with the Merchant of Venice, and more specifically the classic “outsider” character of Shylock, as a thematic framework, the production manages to create a cohesive through-line that ties the brisk 70 minutes together in elegant and meaningful fashion. Both the staging and performances are expertly done, with each of the performers taking on the titular role at different at points of his life to create a particularly three-dimensional portrait of the mercurial legend.

 

peter_cannot_quite_reach_parisRomeo and Juliet Chainsaw Massacre
This send-up of the Shakespeare classic may be goofy and gruesome good fun, but there is nothing amateurish or half-hearted about this production. Writer/Director Matt Bernard does a great job of blending the familiar story with the tropes of the slasher-horror genre, and manages to highlight some of the original work’s logical fallacies to great comedic effect – especially that of a scene-stealing illiterate servant. The sizeable and stellar cast is a who’s-who of comedic talent who deliver hilariously overcooked performances. Kudos also goes to the production team for some surprisingly vivid and detailed costume reveals.

 

fullsizerender_1Tonight’s Cancelled
Second City and Canadian show-biz veterans Jason DeRosse and Stacey McGunnigle’s hilarious sketch revue is not only tight, smart, and performed with impressive energy, but also surprisingly heartfelt. Their choice to eschew traditional transitions and black-out gags in favour of mini-monologues that paint the not always rosy reality of working in the performing arts adds a layer of meaning to the work that elevates it as a whole. Many of their characters and sketches also share this tinge of melancholy, such as a brilliant bit about two new parents who cannot help but feel guilty for having brought a white male into the world.

Fringe Picks 2016!

6 Jul

Here are a selection of the best shows we’ve seen at the 2016 Toronto Fringe Festival so far! Due to the personal time constraints of ArtsVox’s editor, this year’s capsule reviews will be particularly concise in order to be able to post them in a timely manner. It should be noted that the brevity of the reviews themselves is not a reflection of the quality and effort evident in these remarkable shows.

Credit: John Gundy

Credit: John Gundy

Bright Lights
Fringe fixture, prolific hit-machine, and recent Dora Award winner Kat Sandler is back with Bright Lights, an insightful and darkly funny look at the ideas of belief and trust through the lens of a motley support group of alien abduction survivors. In classic Sandler fashion, things aren’t always as they first appear and the mood doesn’t stay copacetic for long. Sandler has assembled an all-star cast including the members of Peter n’ Chris and Morro and Jasp, and Colin Munch; it’s a pleasure to watch them stretch their dramatic legs – especially Peter Carlone whose stern and straight-faced character is such a departure from his usual stage persona. The only caveat is that Sandler has crafted a story with multiple and significant character arcs and a 60 minute Fringe slot makes the emotional journeys feel slightly shoe-horned. Here’s hoping for an extended director’s cut.

bizcardPeter Vs. Chris
If you haven’t seen a Peter n’ Chris show yet – what have you been doing with your life? Not enjoying it to the fullest, clearly. This pair have been together for eight years and have evolved into one of the great comedy duos whose instincts and chemistry are impeccable. Rather than offer up another pal-based narrative, the pair play off their status as stalwarts by cranking up the rivalry and offering up a very meta-contest as to which one is funnier. As with most of their shows, the lines between improv and scripted material, and performer and audience are blurred to remarkable effect. Kudos to them for continuing to stay fresh, innovative, and just as funny as ever.

Credit: Dahlia Katz

Credit: Dahlia Katz

Cam Baby
This ‘Best New Play Winner’ from indie darling Jessica Moss uses a very 21st century premise – that of an Airbnb apartment secretly rigged with hidden cameras to broadcast the intimate moments of the women who rent the rooms – to put the modern concepts of intimacy, privacy, and the sharing of information under the microscope. Despite the ostensibly salacious premise, the work – smartly and energetically directed by Charlotte Gowdy – is full of heart and manages to navigate the subject matter’s grey areas thoughtfully. Ashley Botting, who many will remember from her time as a Second City mainstage player – gives a standout performance as Clara, one of the women under surveillance; easily vacillating between convincing vulnerability and strength. Beau Dixon is also memorable for his turn as Ezra, an intimidating and socially awkward suitor who embodies the role of our digital society’s “invisible man”.

Credit: Hayley Andoff

Credit: Hayley Andoff

Everything Else is Sold Out
Sketch troupe Dame Judy Dench, who had a sleeper hit with last year’s That’s Just Five Kids in a Trench Coat, return with another smart and quirky revue, this one directed by Paul Bates. There’s a well-balanced blend of conventional comedy (like a modern take on the Witches of MacBeth) and odd-ball comedy (like a bit about a swinging bachelor with terrible taste in music who is definitely not a vampire) which makes for a an engaging and very funny 60 minutes. Often what elevates their best scenes from good to great are little surreal touches that aren’t central to the premise but makes their fictional world just that much more vivid.

Credit: Sharon Murray

Credit: Sharon Murray

Wasteland
Remember what we said about Peter ‘n Chris and not enjoying life to the fullest? Same applies to Sex-T-Rex. This remarkable physical theatre / comedy troupe have established themselves as the purveyors of must-see spectacles that wow and elicit big laughs in equal measure. Their latest offering, Wasteland, is no exception – skewering the post-apocalyptic genre figuratively and an endless stream of baddies more literally. As with all their shows, they are able to paint vivid and epic scenes using nothing more than hardware store scraps and artfully homemade costumes. Oh, and their soundtrack is pretty damn sweet too.