Archive | August, 2018

SummerWorks 2018 Pick: A Girl Lives Alone

14 Aug

A Girl Lives Alone

This auditorily-rich production from writer-director (and cast member) Jessica Moss artfully weaves elements of old and new like pre-television radio dramas and digital podcasts, Hitchcockian psychological thrillers and modern-day cop procedurals, as well as themes of solitude and self-imposed insulation into an intriguing and atmospheric spectacle.

After a Grace, a young actress (Tiffany Deobald), is gruesomely murdered in a low-rise apartment building, the diverse tenants all start eyeing each other with a little more suspicion. Marion (Samantha Madely), the newest tenant – and something of a loner – begins to suspect the building’s most eccentric resident, a professional foley artist (Andrew Musselman), of having been involved, leading her to strike up a bizarre friendship with the enigmatic sound-maker under the guise of “investigation”.

Not only does the foley artist play a part in the narrative, but also transparently provides ongoing sound effect accompaniment to the action on stage. It’s a quirky but effective choice that draws attention to itself in such a way that it invites one to briefly close one’s eyes and experience the story through sound alone – a sort of choose-your-own sensory experience.

Innovative direction, charismatic performances, and a script rife with red herrings (and a few charming pop culture references), make for a memorable show.

SummerWorks 2018 Pick: Winners and Losers

11 Aug

Winners and Losers

Sometimes the simplest of concepts and presentations can also be the most impactful and effective. Such is the case with Chromatic Theatre’s presentation of Winners and Losers – a work originally devised by Marcus Yousseff and James Long, and adapted for this incarnation by Valerie Planche, Makambe K. Simamba, and director Jenna Rodgers.

In Winners and Losers, there is no set, no complex blocking, no elaborate lighting, no evocative sounds cues – just two performers (Planche and Simamba) at a table who toss out whatever subject – whether it be person, place, concept, or thing – that seemingly happens to come to mind and then debate if it’s a “Winner” or a “Loser”. If you think that alone can’t sustain a 75 minute show, you’d be sorely mistaken. The back and forth opens up the opportunity for creative and organic discourse on any and all topics at the forefront of today’s society; race, feminism, politics, history, celebrity culture – the list goes on. The fact that each subject has to be argued from both sides – no matter how obvious the answer might seem – means that Winners and Losers is a challenging work in the literal sense of the term and is effectively structurally incapable of preaching to the choir, which is a criticism often applied to theatre (and often with some degree of merit). There are certain motifs which are revisited, each time with more emotional depth. It is these heightened moments that takes what is already a dense and intriguing show, and elevates it to something even more special.

Because of its minimalist nature, much of Winners and Losers’ success rests on the shoulders of Planche and Simamba. The two are disparate in terms of age, race, and cultural upbringing, but they share a remarkable chemistry and kinship which gives any elements of antagonism a playful edge. They are both sharp performers who know how to manipulate the audience and each other, and who are able to blend the impromptu and scripted elements of the show seamlessly.

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Private Life of the Master Race

9 Aug

Your name: Rouvan Silogix

Your production: The Private Life of the Master Race (a cabaret)

Your role: Producer + Performer

Tell me about your show.

Join us for a night at Das Kabarett as we explore a new adaptation of a Brecht classic. Delve into the deepest secrets and naughty desires of a numb population.

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

“History Doesn’t Repeat Itself; But It Does Rhyme”. A Surrealist Epic Musical encompassing times and events eerily similar to others, that bind and tie us– ultimately asking are we just born “human” or can we choose to define what it means to be “human”.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

I think there are a lot of soft-positive initiatives for artists marginalized and drastically-underrepresented; but it’s just that. “Soft.” I think if we want to create the change we claim to want– we have to do things like Frances McDormand suggested upon winning her oscar– (I.e. she will not sign onto a film without a diversity rider). That and I’d love for there to be more Artistic Directors of venued companies in Toronto that are POCs, and indeed female POC. (Toronto sadly currently only has the 1).

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

Looking forward to seeing “The Negroes Are Congregating” and “Swim Team”!

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Negroes Are Congregating

8 Aug

Your name: Natasha Adiyana Morris

Your production: The Negroes Are Congregating

Your role: Playwright & Director

Tell me about your show.

The Negroes Are Congregating is a personal and contemporary piece delving into the psyche of generational internalized racism. Delivered through a fusion of spoken word, satire, and soulful dialect, audiences will enter a realm of private truths and leave with an understanding of what it means to be Black, proud, and ready.

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

It’s called ZAMN: The Muscial.
Politically we’re in a sh*thole but ain’t nothing new under the sun, son. It can get worse but it can get better. ZAMN captures the unyielding heartbeat amidst chaos. Some call it blissful ignorance we can it survival.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

I believe there are too little spaces owned AND operated by people who do not identify of being of European descent. Specifically facilities and venues. Do the research, it’s dismal.
I think there’s too much pretending. Pretending to champion diverse programming as long as it doesn’t rock the boat and fills funding quotas. Pretending to, beyond stumbling through a sheet of paper copied and pasted from the internet, acknowledge we’re on Indigenous land yet 99% of us have no idea about the tribes and/or histories we’re referencing (do the work before acting ‘woke’).

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

ZAYO by Esie Mensah – saw an excerpt a few months ago and would love to see the growth.
Third World by Diana Reyes.
The Red Horse is Leaving by Erika Batdorf.
I plan on watching at least 5 different productions.

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Body So Fluorescent

7 Aug

Your name: Amanda Cordner

Your production: Body So Fluorescent

Your role: Co-Creator and Performer

Tell me about your show.

​What happened last night on the dance floor? Two friends retrace their steps from the night before to figure out how it all ended in an explosive fight. In their effort to figure out last night’s facts, both friends shift from self to alter-ego, and along the way, are met with stunning revelations. BODY SO FLUORESCENT is an inviting, racy, and outrageous solo-show: asking difficult questions about Blackness, otherness, and oppression.

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

​Love Me, Kimmy J: The Musical

An old man falls in love with the dictator of another country. When the old man becomes president of his country, he is forced to choose between love or leadership.  A story of passion, betrayal and intrigue.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

Too many attempts to just educate.
Too little attempts to entertain (AND educate).

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

The Negroes are Congregating
Winners and Losers
…And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: …And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next

7 Aug

Your name: Graham Isador

Your production: …And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next

Your role: I wrote the thing and I’m performing it.

Tell me about your show.

The original intention for the piece was to make a greatest hits collection of stories I’ve performed/written for other places. Some of the content in the show has previously appeared at VICE, where I work occasionally. Others have been performed for the radio or on podcasts.

As my director Jiv Parasram and I started looking for a through line to the play we asked ourselves why some stories get told and others don’t. Why some stuff works. Why other stuff doesn’t. What gets popular?

What we noticed is that there are trends to the type of work I’ve done. The stuff that’s hit over 100k views/listens has usually been deeply personal and borderline maudlin. This show takes a look at why that is. It’s a comedy about how we document tragedy and how online culture exasperated that.

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

It’s a Philip Glass adaptation of The Lottery played through four hundred different phones that have been thrown out but still work fine.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

I think there is too much irony and too few earnest conversations about what they believe. I most people have all chosen sides and those who haven’t find the whole exchange of ideas inaccessible or annoying.

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

Amanda Cordner is a joy to watch. I think she’s going to be a big deal in this community and I expect this Summerworks is when people figure that out. Also a huge shoutout to everyone doing a relaxed performance. Putting together those performances isn’t that hard if you’re committed to it and it’s huge for people who could benefit from that environment.

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Red Horse is Leaving

5 Aug

Your name: Erika Batdorf

Your production: The Red Horse is Leaving

Your role: Playwright/Performer

Tell me about your show.

It’s a portrait of my mother, Thaya Whitten, a painter who toured Canada in the 60’s doing controversial performance art. Through the use of biosensors, this interactive theatrical two-hander explores the meeting point of madness and creativity.

I play a painter, in her studio struggling to paint. She struggles with mental illness and has hallucinations. One of them is a Gargoyle played by Zoe Sweet wearing a costume that has a spine that lights up based on my (the painters) heart beat and breathing. I am a bit of a cyborg; I wear some technology that you cannot see put together by an amazing team of art/scientists.

It’s a wild show, the audience gets to paint if they want and things go flying (if you come, you should duck).

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

A super cheesy musical called MILKWEED about the demise of civilization while secretly a butterfly population grows a whole new society; new rules, new laws, justice it’s main goal.

In the triumphant ending, concrete in Toronto is overtaken by grassy, flower lined mini butterfly sized bike lanes and butterflies take over the city, chasing the humans out to the suburbs.

Music by The Monarchs, directed by David Suzuki.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

-A city that puts a ten year plan into place for arts audience development, so that the artists can spend more time making good art and less time marketing their own work.

-Too much fast art, I like well crafted work with levels and depth. How do we fund that? Risk works really well with knowledge, skill and experience, but that takes time.

-Too few Mom’s making art. I want to hear those voices. Artists are paid less than child care costs.

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

The Negro’s are Congregating… very excited to see this!

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: A Girl Lives Alone

5 Aug

Your name: Jessica Moss

Your production: A Girl Lives Alone

Your role: Writer/Performer

Tell me about your show.

Marion moves to New York in the wake of a break-up and a murder takes place in her walk-up apartment building. As her life starts to feel like she’s trapped in a Hitchcock movie, or maybe a TV show where young girls get killed every week, Marion can’t stop listening to the old-timey suspense podcasts her ex made; and the lives of the other tenants, particularly the foley artist who lives upstairs, start to push in on her walls, making the dangers of being a girl living alone seem more and more prevalent. Does living close to others keep us safe, or put us in danger? And can you keep it down up there? An ensemble comedy and a mash-up of Hitchcock, radio horror, and Law and Order SVU about murder, fear, and how well you really know your neighbours.

You’ve been commissioned to write a musical about the events of 2018 so far. What is it called, and what’s your elevator pitch?

It’s called ‘Way Up Here’, and it’s about a gay scientist and an under-achieving girl whose mum just died. They team up to build a machine that can contact aliens in Sudbury, Ontario and hijack the city’s money to do so.

This is actually just the musical I’ve been trying to write for the past little bit. Maybe it has nothing to with 2018, but I think we need to see more shows that talk about things like loving each other, understanding people who are different, how hard it is to listen, how scary the world is, in particularly dark times: and I believe we are in particularly, terribly dark times. There’s something really subversive about radical entertainment out for a good time, and narratives that focus on kindness and truth right now.

We live in ever-changing times (for better and for worse). What, in the artistic community, do you currently feel there is too much of, and too little of?

I’d like to see less:

Training that focuses on ‘breaking people down’ without ever getting around to ‘building them back up’.
Desire to appease subscribers.
People working with the same people on the same kind of plays.
Mandate driven theatres
Letter grading of plays (please buzz off)
Dramaturgy that’s about ‘fixing’ plays or turning them into things that more closely resemble plays we have already seen
Sets that revolve around couches
Acceptance of cruelty as something we need to make work better
Writing that depends on characters being dumb
People who have never written plays being on juries that determine what plays get money and which plays are the good plays
Four hander plays being the ‘big cast’ play
Political theatre that doesn’t say anything controversial and lets us think that we have done a good thing just by going and agreeing with the play, even though the play said nothing

I’d like to see more:

Empathy
Risk
Truth
TRUTH
Like a completely radical and surprising commitment to truth, actual truth, not what you THINK is true, what actually is true.
Rehearsal time
Affordable and adequate rehearsal spaces – seriously, what are we going to do about this? If I host a meeting about this, will people come?
Women and people of colour in leadership positions in established theatres
Term limits for artistic directors (8 years seems sufficient)
Long-form responses to plays instead of critiques
Comedies that are actually funny
Free tickets offered to playwrights and artists
Free tickets offered to everybody
Direct social engagement from theatres in terms of audiences and also community outreach
Dancing from people who have been told they can’t dance
Singing in groups
Diversity on stages, including body diversity
Women of colour directing plays
Support for playwrights to find their voices, not become new versions of pre-existing playwrights
Drinking alcohol in theatres
Child care for theatre workers with small children and support for pregnant women and women with young children
Roles written for women over 50, especially roles that let them tell jokes, have sex, set things on fire, make mistakes, be angry, and have the last word
Comfortable theatre lobbies that let people come work there without buying things, but that also have cookies and beverages available for purchase
Established professionals and critics from major newspapers going to fringe shows
Inclusion
And there’s not enough safety in most rehearsal rooms, and not enough danger on most stages.

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

I have watched every video that Rock Bottom Movement has on their website, and I think I am their biggest fan, so fantasylover. Seriously, Alyssa Martin is a genius.

Daniel Krolik and Hume Baugh are two of the best actors in Toronto, and they are in an amazing cast of similarly gifted humans in Box 4901 (including Michael Hughes, who I really want to write for).

The Extinction of Hong Kongers looks wicked.

Shira Leuchter is a treasure, so ‘Lost Together’.

I think Esther Jun is so smart, and I always love a Brecht play, so ‘The Private Life of the Master Race’.