Archive | August, 2017

2017 SummerWorks Picks: Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua

11 Aug

PearleHarboursChautauqua-860x573Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua

Set in a genuine revival-style canvas tent nested inside the Pia Bouman Studio, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua is a charming blend of wholesome vintage entertainment and secular-spiritual sermon that attempts to assuage the anxiety, fear, and uncertainty that so heavily colours 21st century living – with a  good dash of folk music to boot.

Hosted by drag persona extraordinaire and 1940’s bombshell Pearle Harbour (the warm yet steely creation of performer Justin Miller), Chautaqua uses the early 20th century adult education movement of the same name (the Wikipedia article is worth a read) as a loose contextual framework to explore the “us and them” mentality through monologue and storytelling.

While Harbour is always in commanding control of the proceedings, the heart of the performance is in her impeccably effortless interaction with the audience (as a whole and with individual members) that sees her weave truthful and intimate moments around seemingly uninspired topics such as popsicle brand preference.

Miller is masterful to watch; Harbour is so organic and richly defined that one gets the impression she is more of a second skin to Miller than a mere character. Director Byron Laviolette’s is to be commended for the small but important details that define the show, and especially for artfully shaping the emotional beats of the performance that crest and fall like waves and keep the proceedings from ever feeling languid.

2017 SummerWorks Picks: Nashville Stories

7 Aug

NashvilleStories-573x860Nashville Stories

One part concert, one part parable about fame, one part acid trip, David Bernstein and Jake Vanderham’s Nashville Stories is a gloriously wonky voyage through the world of 90s country music. Simply everyone is there; Garth, Trisha, Shania, grand dame Dolly, along with friends Ryan Seacrest and boy-toy Tony Robbins, a live band, and spandex-clad backup dancers. Interestingly, the soundtrack is filled with nostalgic 90s hits, but virtually no actual country music (call that a plus or minus according to taste).

The story (and the term is used loosely) centres on Garth Brook’s search for himself in the wake of his recent divorce. If you think you’re going to actually learn much about the real Garth Brooks or his life though, look elsewhere; the premise is a framework for alt-versions of pop figures that only tangentially correspond to their real-life counterparts to play in surreal and circus-esque scenes that are more dream-like than reality. This isn’t to say the production is nonsensical or pure chaos; there is a frenetic, albeit smart and highly calculated quality to the writing which is dotted with non-sequitors and whimsical details (who knew Shania had such a thing for houseboats and hot tubs?).

Similarly, Bernstein’s direction is a reflection of his and Vanderham’s writing – constantly in motion, but far from aimless. The cast are a talented bunch – both theatrically and vocally – and hold the Lynchian production together with the cohesion and uniformity of their performances.

Admittedly, Nashville Stories is almost certainly polarizing fare – you may love the ridiculous audacity of it, or you may dismiss it as an hour of sound and colour amounting to little, but a conventional theatrical experience it is not.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Reality Theatre

4 Aug

RealityTheatreYour name: Julia Lederer

Your production: Reality Theatre

Your role: Playwright

Tell me about your show.

It’s 8 short plays and 4 storylines in 1 hour. 

It’s a completed whole, with extractable parts. Think All in the Timing meets BlackMirror.

Many of the pieces within the collection have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Leeds, but this is the first time they will have been performed as a whole.The plays include a man who sells his soul for eternal youth and a woman who is typecast as a spoon in Beauty and the Beast. The internet evaporates. People stare at each other for entertainment while eating snacks.

So all the regular Canadian theatre themes.

It’s about people who feel stuck as the world changes rapidly around them.

What other shows or artists are you looking forward to seeing?

Lots!  Pearle Habour’s Chautaqua, Let’s Try This Standing, Rootless, Divine, What Linda Said, Are We Not Horses (I’m a sucker for robot content)..  ETC.