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Theatre Passe Muraille announces 2018/19 Season

12 May

Toronto’s home for independent theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, has just announced their highly-collaborative 2018/19 season and there is plenty to look forward to including a semi-autobiographical piece by the bold and intriguing Adam Paolozza and a refreshingly relevant and contemporary operatic co-production with the always adventurous Tapestry Opera.

What is certain to be a highlight is Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua which wowed audiences at last year’s Summerworks festival, garnering the audience choice award in the process. Given how much of the impact of the show relied on the intimacy generated between Pearle (the sublime drag creation of performer Justin Miller) and the audience, it will be interesting to see how the production translates to a more spacious venue like TPM. Nevertheless, it is certain to be a must-see of the season.

For more details about Theatre Passe Muraille’s upcoming season, the full press release is included below.


Theatre Passe Muraille is committed to telling diverse Canadian stories. The term diverse, for us, has taken on a lot of different meanings. Diverse voices. Diverse forms. Diverse audiences. As a company we aim to accommodate. Our goal is always to promote the art and the conversations that art facilitates.

As the company celebrates its fiftieth year we’ve been thinking about that facilitation. Some questions we’ve been asking: what are the best ways to put art/artists in direct conversation with our city? How can we make the most out of the resources we have? What role do we want to have in our community?

The simple answer: more collaboration. We’re going to champion more creators. We want to support from the foundation up, offering resources (financial, administrative, artistic, developmental, physical, etc.) appropriate to each presentation. We want to help artists tell their stories. As best we can.

Last season we co-produced with sister company Buddies in Bad Times on two plays while providing support to indie companies on another four shows. Joining forces was rewarding on a variety of levels. We were able to engage audiences from inside and outside the theatre community. We sold out runs and added extensions. We started conversations and we listened.

Looking ahead to 2018/2019 we’ve decided to take collaboration a step further, working with companies from across the country and beyond to bring you a variety of shows that speak to the values of Passe Muraille. Next season we’ll be covering issues of identity, reconciliation, migration, togetherness, and our relationship to the natural world. We’ll host shows examining the shifting relationships between performer and audience. And – of course – we’ll continue our effort to make sure these stories are as accessible as possible through our commitment to access programs (including Relaxed Performances, Audio Description, and ASL Interpretation).

Below is a list of projects and our involvement with those projects:

Sound of the Beast
September 28 & 29, 2018

A Theatre Passe Muraille Presentation
Writer/Performer: DM St. Bernard
Directors & Dramaturges: Andy McKim and Jiv Parasram

In Sound of the Beast emcee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard (AKA Belladonna the Blest) speaks truth to power with hip-hop, spoken word, and storytelling. Returning for a limited engagement at Theatre Passe Muraille before touring across the country, the show blends the personal and the political, with a bold and brutally honest take about policing in black communities.

Chautauqua
October 11 – 27, 2018

Theatre Passe Muraille and Pearle Harbour present Chautauqua
Creator/Performer: by Justin Miller

TPM’s prodigal drag daughter – Pearle Harbour – returns to her home base with her smash hit, Chautauqua (Audience Choice Award, SummerWorks 2017). Come gather together, under the milky folds of Pearle’s beautiful Tent, to catch your breath, speak your truth, and feel the people power, you betcha! The world may be falling apart, but Pearle will remind you there’s more that unites us than divides us.

Will You Be My Friend
October/November 2018

A Green Light Arts [Kitchener] Production with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille
Creator/Performer: Janice Jo Lee
Director: Matt White

Will You Be My Friend is multidisciplinary folk artist, Janice Jo Lee’s, interactive musical satire about the limits someone will go to for companionship. The show is a funny, provocative, and personal exploration of navigating life as a Korean-Canadian woman in dominant white Canadian culture.

The Runner
November 25 – December 9, 2018

A Human Cargo Production with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille
Playwright: Christopher Morris
Director: Daniel Brooks
Starring: Gord Rand as Jacob

ZAKA is an Orthodox Jewish volunteer force in Israel. They collect the remains of Jews killed in accidents. This one-person play follows Jacob – a ZAKA volunteer – as he grapples with the political and moral fall out of saving a woman’s life.

Hook Up
January 29 – February 9, 2019

A Tapestry Opera Production in partnership with Theatre Passe Muraille
Composer: Chris Thornborrow
Librettist: Julie Tepperman
Director/Dramaturg: Richard Greenblatt
Performers: Nathan Carroll, Jeff Lillico, Alicia Ault
Music Director: Marketa Ornova
Set and Costume Designer: Kelly Wolf
Video Designer: Monty Martin

Three friends hit university – no parents, new friends, new rules, and a new normal. Hook Up raises questions of consent, shame, and power in the lives of young adults navigating uncharted waters, on their own for the first time. Freedom is complicated.

Paolozzapedia
February 16 – March 3, 2019

A Bad New Days Production with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille
Playwright/Director/Performer: Adam Paolozza

In Paolozzapedia Adam Paolozza blends his signature potent theatricality, contemporary carnivalesque commedia dell’arte aesthetic, storytelling, and family anecdotes, to create a funny and deeply personal show about the creative nature of memory through the fragmenting act of immigration.

CHICHO
March 7 – 24, 2019

A Theatre Passe Muraille and Pencil Kit Presentation
Playwright/Performer: Augusto Bitter
Director: Claren Grosz

Chicho, an ashamed-queer-Catholic-man-boy from Venezuela, hilariously attempts to feel beautiful despite his warring identity politics. In this wildly entertaining exploration of a diasporic experience, CHICHO meticulously presents the disparity between his own Queer-ibbean coming-of-age journey in Canada and the worsening socio economic crisis in Venezuela.

Crying Hands: Deaf People in Hitler’s Germany
March 2019

A Theatre Passe Muraille Presentation of Theatre Manu [Norway]

Crying Hands tells the tale of Hans, who was born deaf and grew up in Berlin before the war broke out in 1939. The production follows Hans’s fate as a deaf political prisoner in Sachsenhausen, and later we witness his struggle to survive the Auschwitz concentration camp. Created by Theatre Manu (Norway) this docu-drama is performed through a series of interconnected scenes accompanied by storytelling and projections.

The Chemical Valley Project
April 4 – 21, 2019

A Theatre Passe Muraille and Broadleaf Theatre Presentation
Playwright/Performer/Creator/Concept: Kevin Matthew Wong
Production Design/Creator: Julia Howman
Dramaturgy and Advisement: Vanessa Gray and Lindsay Beze Gray

Through an innovative blend of projection design, object puppetry, and solo-performance, Kevin Matthew Wong (Honourable Mention for Theatre Centre’s Emerging Artist Award, SummerWorks 2017), performs this documentary theatre work on environmental racism and reconciliation amidst the backdrop of Canada’s petrochemical industry and the vital activism of Aamjiwnaang Water Protectors and siblings Vanessa Gray and Lindsay Beze Gray. The Chemical Valley Project seeks to spark conversations on Canadian environmental policy, treaty rights and Indigenous relations, as well as the current nature of Canadian identity/values.

The Things I Carry
April 2019

A Theatre Passe Muraille Presentation of Battery Opera Performance [Vancouver]
Created/Performed by Lee Su-Feh
(Site-specific)

Developed as a part of the Migrant Bodies Project – an E.U. sponsored choreographic program aimed at opening civic and artistic reflections on migration – The Things I Carry is a performance/storytelling hybrid about what happens as people spread across our planet, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Part ceremony. Part conference. Part confessional.

Tarragon Theatre Announces 2018/19 Season

24 Apr

Tarragon Theatre has just announced their 2018/19 season, and it appears as though there is a lot to look forward to with names like Daniel MacIvor and Jason Sherman making appearances in the lineup, as well as the intriguing Kiviuq Returns: An Inuit Epic from The Qaggiq Collective.

The biggest news though is that Hannah Moscovitch’s foray into musical theatre (in collaboration with Ben Caplan and Christian Barry) Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story – which has been making waves off-Broadway and recently garnered six Drama Desk nominations – will be capping off their season. It will no doubt be a hot ticket.

For more details about Tarragon’s upcoming season, the full press release is included below.


February 22, 2018, TORONTO – Artistic Director Richard Rose and Managing Director Andrea Vagianos today announced Tarragon Theatre’s 2018-19 season: a nine-month calendar of seven distinct plays from far-ranging, genre-mixing and award-winning Canadian playwrights including two musical productions, two world premieres and two Toronto premieres.

“As we pursue our goal of telling stories that reflect, enlighten and inspire Canadians, the breadth of voices we are sharing this season is very exciting for me, Tarragon’s staff, and I’m convinced our audiences will feel the same.” said Rose. “We will present a culturally rich season of plays that reflects our country’s history, engages with contemporary Canada and looks to our future.” 

Tarragon is thrilled to introduce its audience to exciting new homegrown theatre creators as well as national collaborations between artists with unique influences and cultural backgrounds.

The season opens in September in the Mainspace with Harlem Duet from Governor General’s Literary Award-winner Djanet Sears. This rhapsodic blues riff is a prequel to Shakespeare’s Othello and whisks the tale off to Harlem, where a college professor leaves his grad student wife for a white colleague. An iconic work that packs as powerful a punch now as it did when it debuted over twenty years ago.  Directed by Djanet Sears.

The Extraspace season opens with Theory, a play from the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition winner Norman Yeung. Theory is a hot button play for our times. Isabelle, a young tenure-track professor, tests the limits of free speech by encouraging her students to contribute to an unmoderated discussion group. When an anonymous student posts offensive comments and videos, Isabelle must decide whether to intervene or to let the social experiment play out. Directed by Esther Jun.

Following in the Mainspace is the world premiere from Tarragon’s Bill Glassco Playwright-in-Residence and Governor General’s Literary Award-winner Jason Sherman. Sherman’s play The Message looks at the life of Canada’s internationally renowned professor-turned-prophet Marshall McLuhan whose observations on the effects of technology were cut short by a stroke that robbed him of his ability to speak. What it couldn’t do, though, was stop this deeply religious man from trying to finish his magnum opus: a last desperate attempt to save our souls — and his own. Directed by Richard Rose.

2019 at Tarragon opens in the Mainspace with a contemporary retelling of Inuit hero legend Kiviuq, in The Qaggiq Collective’s production of Kiviuq Returns: An Inuit Epic. Journeying across the vast expanse of the Arctic, beset by treacherous creatures wreaking havoc on his world, Kiviuq gathers strength from his ancestors and spirit guides as he defends his people and fights his way home. Music, drumming, dance and storytelling combine in this thrillingly modern evocation of ancient legends previously banned by missionaries and the Canadian government. An Inuit Odyssey, performed in Inuktitut with English surtitles.

Later in the Mainspace is the Toronto premiere of New Magic Valley Fun Town, a co-production with Prairie Theatre Exchange written by Siminovitch Prize-winner and Governor General’s Literary Award-winner for Drama, Daniel MacIvor. Cape Bretoner Dougie hasn’t seen his best childhood pal Allan in 25 years, so it’s no surprise their reunion is a boisterous night of memories, laughter, drinking and dancing. But as evening becomes day, as the smiles begin to fade and the bottles sit empty, the old friends revisit other memories, uncomfortable ones that force them to confront the realities of who — and what — they really are. With premieres at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg, Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and Neptune Theatre in Halifax. Directed by Richard Rose.

Up next in the Extraspace is Guarded Girls, a world premiere from Governor General’s Literary Award-nominee Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and presented in association with Green Light Arts. The psychological destruction brought on by solitary confinement is at the heart of this wrenching and powerful new play. When 19-year-old Sid is transferred to a new prison, she finds friendship with Britt — but also forms a complicated relationship with the guard who seems to be watching their every move. Soon, it’s the guard who’s being watched, as this playful, theatrical, mysterious work heads toward a shocking conclusion. Directed by Richard Rose. After Toronto performances, Guarded Girls is presented by Green Light Arts at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener.

Rounding out the season in the Mainspace is 2b theatre company’s high-energy, music-theatre hybrid concert written by Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Hannah Moscovitch with songs by Klezmer-folk sensation Ben Caplan and Christian Barry. Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is inspired by the real life story of Moscovitch’s Romanian-Jewish great-grandparents who immigrated to Canada in 1908 seeking a second chance in the New World. Narrated by The Wanderer — part showman, part rabbi — this genre-bending concert won numerous awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival including the Herald Angel Award, The Scotsman Fringe First Award and was cited as one of The Guardian’s Top Recommended shows. Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story visits Tarragon after performances in Halifax, Ottawa, Edmonton and New York. Directed by Christian Barry.

In addition to its work on the stage, Tarragon continues to foster a home for playwrights to create and develop their work. The theatre remains dedicated to growing its extensive youth programs and continues its collaboration with Scarborough Arts, three Scarborough secondary schools and the University of Toronto Scarborough for a third year. Tarragon continues to develop the country’s most successful new play development program, as well as its Beyond the Stage programming which includes Talkback Weeks, Lecture-Conversations and Tarragon Tasting Nights. The Workspace program continues to offer free development and performance space, as well as administrative support, to emerging artists and companies in the community. The theatre also continues to grow its initiatives to welcome underserved communities into the theatre, including subsidized student matinees and its First Preview program offering complimentary tickets to community partners. As well, Tarragon offers a Rush Ticket policy of $20 a ticket for almost every performance throughout the season.

The 2018-19 season is generously sponsored by BMO Financial Group.
AIMIA is Tarragon’s Mainspace sponsor. Laura Dinner and Richard Rooney are Tarragon’s Extraspace sponsor.
Tarragon Theatre 2018-19 Season Details

Harlem Duet
Written & Directed by Djanet Sears
September 18 – October 28, 2018
Mainspace

The return of a Canadian theatre milestone! Djanet Sears’ rhapsodic blues riff on Othello whisks the tale off to Harlem, where a college professor leaves his grad student wife for a white colleague. The stinging abandonment leads to profound questions about love, loss, loyalty and race, played out over two centuries in a wide range of settings. An iconic work that packs as powerful a punch now as it did when it debuted over twenty years ago.

Harlem Duet is the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award and four Dora Mavor Moore Awards (Outstanding New Play, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Production and Outstanding Performance by a Female).

Theory
Written by Norman Yeung
Directed by Esther Jun
October 16 – November 25, 2018
Extraspace

A hot button play for our times! Isabelle, a young tenure-track professor, tests the limits of free speech by encouraging her students to contribute to an unmoderated discussion group. When an anonymous student posts offensive comments and videos, Isabelle must decide whether to intervene or to let the social experiment play out. Soon, the posts turn abusive and threatening, leading Isabelle and her unknown tormentor to engage in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that not only have Isabelle questioning her beliefs, but fearing for her life.

Norman Yeung is the winner of the Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition.

The Message
World premiere
Written by Jason Sherman
Directed by Richard Rose
November 7 – December 16, 2018
Mainspace

“Whatcha doin’, Marshall McLuhan?” That’s what the world wanted to know back in the 1960s, when Canada’s internationally renowned professor-turned-prophet started to sound the alarm on the effects of technology on the human body and spirit. But after a lifetime of warning us all about the hazards of modern life, McLuhan suffered a stroke that robbed him of his ability to speak. What it couldn’t do, though, was stop this deeply religious man from trying to finish his magnum opus: a last desperate attempt to save our souls — and his own.

Jason Sherman is Tarragon’s Bill Glassco Playwright-in-Residence and is the winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award winner for Drama.

Kiviuq Returns: An Inuit Epic
Created by The Qaggiq Collective
December 30, 2018 – January 20, 2019
Mainspace

Journeying across the vast expanse of the Arctic, beset by treacherous creatures wreaking havoc on his world, Kiviuq gathers strength from his ancestors and spirit guides as he defends his people and fights his way home. Music, drumming, dance and storytelling combine in this thrillingly modern evocation of the legendary figure of Kiviuq: hero, seeker, wanderer. An Inuit Odyssey, performed in Inuktitut with English surtitles.

“Performed by a corps of unique performers with talents you won’t find south of the Arctic Circle, it has that strong sense of larger purpose often absent from theatre.” – Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail

New Magic Valley Fun Town
Co-produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange and Tarragon Theatre
Toronto premiere
Written by Daniel MacIvor
Directed by Richard Rose
February 20 – March 31, 2019
Mainspace

Cape Bretoner Dougie hasn’t seen his best childhood pal Allan in 25 years, so it’s no surprise their reunion is a boisterous night of memories, laughter, drinking and dancing. But as evening becomes day, as the smiles begin to fade and the bottles sit empty, the old friends revisit other memories, uncomfortable ones that force them to confront the realities of who — and what — they really are.

Daniel MacIvor is the winner of The Siminovitch Prize and The Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama.

Guarded Girls
In association with Green Light Arts
Written by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman
World premiere
Directed by Richard Rose
March 26 – May 5, 2019
Extraspace

The psychological destruction brought on by solitary confinement is at the heart of this wrenching and powerful new play. When 19-year-old Sid is transferred to a new prison, she finds friendship with Britt — but also forms a complicated relationship with the guard who seems to be watching their every move. Soon, it’s the guard who’s being watched, as this playful, theatrical, mysterious work heads toward a shocking conclusion.

Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman is a nominee of The Governor General’s Literary Award and a Dora Mavor Moore Award.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story
A 2b theatre company production
Toronto premiere
Written by Hannah Moscovitch with songs by Ben Caplan & Christian Barry
Directed by Christian Barry
April 16 – May 26, 2019
Mainspace

Halifax, 1908: two Romanian Jews stand in line at Pier 21 in Halifax, would-be immigrants to an unknown country. Chaim’s entire family was murdered in a pogrom; Chaya lost her husband to fever and starvation. But the New World is giving them a second chance and they embrace it to the fullest. Narrated by The Wanderer — part showman, part rabbi — this genre-bending music-theatre hybrid stars Klezmer-folk sensation Ben Caplan and is inspired by the real-life story of Moscovitch’s great-grandparents.

Hannah Moscovitch is the winner of the Governor General’s Award and the prestigious Yale University Windham-Campbell Prize

“Emotionally engaging, visually stunning and at 80 minutes leaves us still wanting more.” ★★★★★ – Musical Theatre Review

“A hugely engaging experience” – The Guardian

The Guardian’s Top Recommended Shows (2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
***

HOW TO GET TICKETS TO TARRAGON SHOWS:

Subscriptions and tickets can be purchased online at www.tarragontheatre.com, by phone at 416-531-1827 or in person at the Tarragon Theatre Box Office at 30 Bridgman Avenue.

SUBSCRIPTIONS: Tarragon Theatre continues to offer the most flexible subscription packages in the city, allowing patrons to choose their productions and change their dates free of charge and offering many different price points to suit all schedules and budgets.

2018-19 Earlybird Subscriptions
7 and 5-Play subscriptions are currently on sale starting at just $22/ticket (a savings of 43%). 4-ticket flex packages will be available as of April 1, 2018. Earlybird pricing ends on May 31, 2018.

2018-19 Single Tickets
Single tickets will go on sale May 31, 2018.

ABOUT TARRAGON THEATRE
Tarragon Theatre is Canada’s home for groundbreaking contemporary playwriting. For over 48 years, Tarragon Theatre has created, developed and produced new plays by home-grown artists as well as significant works from the world stage, vitally contributing to the important legacy of a Canadian culture. Tarragon assists 30+ emerging and established playwrights each year through residencies, grants, dramaturgical support and training programs. Patrons of all ages attend lectures, workshops, talkback weeks, play readings and other events designed to engage audiences with new work. Since its founding, over 190 works have premiered at Tarragon and over 500 scripts have been created and workshopped, receiving 34 nominations and 11 wins for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Richard Rose has been the Artistic Director since 2002. For more information visit www.tarragontheatre.com.

Twitter: @tarragontheatre
Facebook: /TarragonTheatre

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.

2017 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Someone Between

31 Jul

SomeoneBetween-860x573Your name: Chantria Tram

Your production: Someone Between

Your role: Writer/Performer/Producer

Tell me about your show.

Fresh off its run at the Hamilton Fringe Festival, Apsara Theatre Company in association with Dreamwalker Dance Company is proud to present Someone Between at the Summerworks Performance Festival. Written and performed by Chantria Tram, this solo show is a complex and humorous personal investigation into cultural identity and belonging, exploring the culture she inherited and the culture she lives in.

Triggered by a terrible event, Chantria hangs in the balance between traditional and modern values, family and individuality, past and future as she seeks her Khmer (Cambodian) roots and a deeper understanding of her family’s journey to Canada. Infused with Western pop culture, Khmer (Cambodian) music and movement-driven storytelling, the play looks at what it means to be ‘someone between’.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

The failing Summerworks is showcasing a disaster of a one woman show SOMEONE BETWEEN. There’s not ANY nudity. Total disaster!

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

So many!! THE PRINCIPLE OF PLEASURE, MOTHER SEA / MANMAN LA MER, ROOTLESS, PERFECTION and THE CHEMICAL VALLEY PROJECT.

2017 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Explosions for the 21st Century

27 Jul

Explosionsforthe21stCentury-860x573Your name: Graham Isador

Your production: Explosions for the 21st Century

Your role: Director

Tell me about your show.

Christopher Ross-Ewart (MFA Yale School of Drama) is using sound design to explore his anxiety towards contemporary culture. The result is a performance that blends sound installation, with confessional stand up, and an existential crisis.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

@chrisrodstewart makes fart noises while he lectures and whines. Not funny or informative. Def not a play. Sad.

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

My figurative brothers in Pandemic Theatre (Jiv Parasram and Tom Arthur Davis) have teamed with Dm. St Bernard for The Only Good Indian. New performer each night talking about the degradation of their cultures. It’s going to piss some people off and I’m excited for it.

Kevin Wong has put together an amazing lecture/performance piece hybrid called The Chemical Valley Project. The piece lets audiences know about some of the environmental struggles that are happening close to home in a way that never feels preachy while at the same time remaining highly theatrical and entertaining. He’s the type of talent that is going to be running a big company in another ten years. Seeing him do this now is going to be like catching a band in a club act before they go on to play arenas.

Justin Miller has been working on his Perale Harbour character for years. I’ve always really admired Miller’s work and while I found his Harbour character quite funny, I never quite connected with it in the way I wanted to. Still I could tell Miller was getting closer and closer to something really special. I feel like with Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua he might have hit it.

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

I’m a chronically shy person. Over time I’ve learned how to work this out in public, but it takes me a lot of effort for me to feel comfortable around people, particular people in any position of perceived authority.  This means that I have a hard time with critics, particularly critics in a theatre scene as small as Toronto.

Last year I was in the audience for a show at the Storefront and Kaplan came up and introduced himself to me. He said that he hadn’t seen my work yet, but had heard about my Summerworks show and was excited that I’d be included in Next Stage. He said he’d heard good things and couldn’t wait to see for himself.

It was this huge weight off the shoulders. Kaplan made it clear that he was a person who wanted to help this community, myself included, move forward. His role was to highlight voices he enjoyed and he seemed to take such pleasure in that. I didn’t know him, not really, but our brief interactions spoke volumes about how he viewed his role and his continuing willingness to support a scene he loved. It meant a lot. Still does.

Later when I took the job as Producer for Marketing at Theatre Passe Muraille he phoned me up to say congrats and gave me his personal phone number if I needed anything. I didn’t feel shy around him. He made me feel at ease and I’m extremely grateful for that.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I’d drop a skilled group of extremely intelligent 18 year olds in a medical school. They’d do a ten-year immersive piece at the school where they learn to be doctors, followed by thirty year residency where they help sick people. The piece would be called: do something that actually helps people dear god we don’t need more people in theatre.

2017 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 3

16 Jul

A couple of late highlights from this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!

04-27-2017-194154-5322Delirium / Moonlight after Midnight

One would not typically lump the reviews of more than one show together, but this writer had the pleasure of seeing Fringe regular Martin Dockery’s two entries in this year’s festival almost literally back to back, making for a unique and compelling experience greater than the sum of the parts.

The first of the two, Delirium, is Dockery’s solo storytelling show, composed of three pieces; one about being separated from his then-girlfriend at the customs gate of Pearson airport, one about his short-lived experience as a restauranteur at the legendary Burning Man festival, and one about the migration of the Monarch butterfly. On paper they are seemingly disparate topics, but there is a thoughtful and bittersweet connective tissue that becomes more and more evident as he delves into each one in his unique and crackling motor-mouthed manner.

05-26-2017-143748-9265The second is Moonlight after Midnight, which he performs with his real-life wife Vanessa Quesnelle. Set in an ocean-front hotel room on a starry night, this enigmatic story about the meeting of two strangers (or are they?) shifts effortlessly through multiple layers of reality, leaving the audience in a delightful haze. Dockery (in a more restrained performative state than in Delirium) and Quesnelle, perhaps not surprisingly, play off each other wonderfully; they are in perfect sync as the emotional and power dynamics between their two characters ebbs and flows.

To talk about how these two works overlap thematically would potentially be lessen the emotional impact of either one and spoil the experience. Suffice to say, both are powerful and moving works that remind one of how fortunate we all are to be alive.

2017 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 2

11 Jul

More highlights from this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!

04-28-2017-032446-490732 Short Sketches About Bees

This goofy and brisk-paced sketch revue is a delightful mish-mash of high-concept dad humour and abstract comedic thinking. From an tight and talented ensemble comprised of members of past Fringe hit-makers, Dame Judy Dench and other notable faces from the Toronto sketch comedy scene, 32 Short Sketches About Bees includes everything from scenes about literal bees to more open interpretations of the subject, such as recurring bit about a Bea Arthur’s tenure as Shopper’s Drug Mart’s sexually-charged spokesperson or a concise but clever scene about mishearing the phrase “Her bees”. The self-imposed concept is stretched to its creative limits, but there is still a cohesive feel to the whole. Although perhaps a contradiction in terms, 32 Short Sketches about Bees is good dumb smart fun.

 

05-01-2017-223631-2688A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

After last year’s meta-theatrical Peter Vs. Chris, this dynamic duo of comedy (Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson) return to classic form, taking on the tropes and familiar stories of the holiday season with zeal. Don’t let the title fool you; the Dickens classic is a jumping off point for the show, but there is nothing formulaic or predictable about the story they weave (other than the fact that – like all of their shows – it’s about two best friends). What always impresses is how equally adept they are at both verbal banter and physical comedy; their dissection of the lyrics of a familiar Christmas ditty and a brilliant bit involving a mug are only two of many examples. Peter N’ Chris have been one of the most reliably hilarious acts to grace the Fringe circuit, and this show only serves to cement that reputation.

 

06-08-2017-191938-6304About Time

This high-brow production from the Templeton Philharmonic (Briana Templeton and Gwynne Phillips) sits comfortably between the genres of sketch revue and theatrical vignette. In either case, it’s a smart and occasionally ribald take on the passage of time and human history. Templeton and Phillips have excellent chemistry which results in tight and calculated performances. Their writing is equally strong; some scenes, such as one in which two refined ladies share tea while speaking almost entire in double-entendres, blend silliness and propriety in a way that invites comparisons to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, while other scenes, such as one about two entertainment correspondents reporting on the lives and fashion trends of various historical monarchies, are surprisingly informative. Rather than rely on blackout music, the scenes are cleverly tied together by a sonorous narrator with a seemingly endless supply of ridiculous analogies about the nature of time that helps to elevate the concept.

 

06-12-2017-141758-7707Bendy Sign Tavern

Sex-T-Rex have established a well-deserved reputation for consistently producing must-see Fringe productions; their past theatro-cinematic takes on the action movie, the western, the swashbuckler, and the post-apocalyptic thriller have all been highly physical and imagination-driven epics. That is why their latest production, Bendy Sign Tavern – a self-aware puppet show about the staff and patrons of a downtown pub (set in the physically limited space of the Paddock at Queen and Bathurst), looks, on paper, like such a departure. In reality, this production is as richly detailed as, and lacks none of the ambition of their previous work. The sheer number of characters and puppets that emerge from every nook and cranny of the space is remarkable; there are people, animals, a literal barfly, talking food, and more. One of them even doubles as an actual server, delivering drinks and food to the audience during the show.

The story and writing feels like a CBC or TVO kid’s show from the 80s or 90s that has been elevated for adult audiences, albeit without the acid cynicism of obvious comparison, Avenue Q; there is no shortage of heart in this show. The behind-the-puppet performers are uniformly hilarious and attack the multitude of roles with zeal, and the jokes and gags, both visual and verbal are all top notch. Non-puppet piano player Elliott Loran contributes both a pleasant background music, as well as a handful of toe-tapping original spotlight numbers that will have you singing along.

Bendy Sign Tavern is a magical experience that will leave your inner child beaming.

 

05-26-2017-194513-1390MacBeth Muet

There are few shows that manage to elicit laughter and delight as well as genuine visceral cringing with equal efficacy, but Montreal-based company La Fille Du Laitier’s MacBeth Muet does exactly that. This wordless (save for a few helpful title cards) retelling of The Scottish Play is a highly imaginative and fast-paced delight that sees household objects imbued with symbolism and whimsically transformed into Shakespeare’s characters to great effect. Director and sound designer Jon Lachlan Stewart artfully blends traditional performance and puppetry, with an expertly curated soundtrack that sets the tone and pace for the bite-sized scenes. Performers Clara Prévost and Jérémie Francoeur are captivating to watch as they bridge the worlds of tragedy and comedy, human and object.

MacBeth Muet is a perfect example of the power of independent theatre and how so much can be done with so little.

 

04-27-2017-051849-3711The Seat Next to the King

This New Play Contest winner from Steven Elliott Jackson delivers an impactful punch, telling the story of two gay men – one white, one black – who meet in a public washroom in 1964 Washington DC. Jackson’s script is pointed and tender in equal measure and manages to address an impressive number of socio-political facets that speak to both the past and present. Director Tanisha Taitt smartly avoids an unnecessarily complicated staging, instead allowing the characters and their forthright dialogue to flourish. Kwaku Okyere and Conor Ling deliver powerful nuanced performances and navigate the emotionally wide reaching material with grace.

 

Brief Shout Out

06-05-2017-150645-2061 bThe Teeny Tiny Music Show: Vivacious and eccentric performer Hayley Pace’s site-specific tale of love and heartbreak is a charming and earnest entry in this year’s festival. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the concept, but suffice to say that the title is more than a little misleading and anyone with an appetite for music would get their fill.

2017 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 1

8 Jul

Here are some of our highlights from the first few days of this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!

05-24-2017-221616-6721In Search of Cruise Control

Affable solo performer James Gangl returns to the Toronto Fringe with what can aptly called a follow-up to his previous fringe hit Sex, Religion, & Other Hang-Ups. In this work, Gangl uses the the anecdote of him being roped into giving his teenage nephew “the talk”, and his determination to make it the best “talk” ever, as a point of departure for stories and insights into his own complicated family history and equally complicated relationship with sex. While this show stands on its own, those who were fortunate enough to see Sex, Religion, and Other Hang-Ups will undoubtedly find themselves coming out of the theatre with even more profound and nuanced insight into Gangl’s personal journey.

It may sound like heavy material (and there are a handful of very sober moments) but Gangl is a natural comedic talent whose blend of energetic confidence and self-effacing humour draw the audience in. Gangl is quick to insert ad-libs, break the fourth wall without compromising the flow of his performance, and, despite his assertion otherwise, engages with the audience to great effect.

With minimalistic solo shows such as these, it can be difficult to discern where to divide credit between performer and director, but in this case director/dramaturge (and former Fringe regular audience favourite) Chris Gibbs has clearly helped hone the work into a finely tuned yet organic presentation.

Funny and bold, In Search of Cruise Control is a meaningful and highly entertaining entry in this year’s festival.

 

04-28-2017-040948-1297Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

No, it’s not a typo; it’s the newest production from The Howland Company (in conjunction with Slow Blue Lions), the same company behind the previous Fringe smash hit, 52 Pickup. It’s no surprise that this young but immensely talented ensemble of artists would successfully deliver another high-grade and high-concept offering.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, by playwright Sam Steiner, gives the initial impression of being a familiar relationship two-hander, but artfully evolves into a deeper examination of communication in the digital age, censorship, and power structures – all without ever being sanctimonious or losing sight of the story of the couple at the heart of the piece.

Performers Ruth Goodwin and James Graham both deliver strong performances and make the frequent tonal, contextual, and physical transitions look effortless. Director Harveen Sandhu deserves equal praise; there is a distinct “before and after” element to the work which she slowly unwraps to great effect. Jareth Li supports the concept with his subtle yet beautiful lighting design – no small feat when dealing with the technical constraints of a Fringe venue.

Smart, thought-provoking, and highly polished, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is well worth seeing.

 

04-26-2017-202111-2338The Miserable Worm

Adapted by Justine Christensen, this quasi-contemporary and gender-bending take on Chekov’s first play, Platonov, will perhaps not be to every Fringe-goers taste but is nevertheless a lively success. The story is set in and around the birthday party of the young and attractive university lecturer, Platonov (also played by Christensen); as her guests succumb to the power of vodka, complicated love quadrangles are revealed, and pleasant philosophical banter quickly devolves into a cynical mess of sex, jealousy, and rage.

Christensen has done a remarkable job of distilling Chekov’s elephantine work into a tight and manageable package. While the script maintains the essence of its 19th century Russian roots, it is also refreshingly modern with words like “fuck” and “asshole” being tossed in organically and offsetting the stuffy source material. Christensen’s wisest choice is to inject the work with self-awareness; most of the characters are insufferable pricks – and demonstrate that self-pitying navel gazing was popular among young intellectuals long before the Millennials came along – but the cheeky expositional narration largely delivered by Platonov’s brother Triletsky (played with whimsy by Michael Ruderman), creates an emotional distance between the audience and characters, that, in this case, is very welcome. Also, anyone familiar with the concept of Chekov’s gun will find themselves chuckling more than once.

Director Patrick Horan continually keeps the energy high, the pacing brisk, and the staging in motion. His choice to break up scenes by including live musical elements performed by the cast is not only a great bit of thematic underscoring, but also enhances the theatrical self-awareness already established in the script. The ensemble cast, largely composed of recent graduates of the George Brown theatre program, are uniformly strong and cohesive.

 
Brief Shout Outs

05-01-2017-111522-2380Special Constables: This 2013 production from Circle Snake is brought back to life with some returning cast members and some fresh faces. It’s a smart satire of the transit system we all know and love/loathe that admirably avoids most of the obvious jokes we have all heard before. Those familiar with director Alec Toller’s work with Sex-T-Rex will appreciate the similarly physical and imagination-driven storytelling. Conor Bradbury and Mikaela Dyke steal their scenes in their respective roles as a brutish punch-happy constable and a child-like henchman.

06-08-2017-153628-1484Caitlin and Eric are Broken Up: Performers Caitlin Robson and Eric Miinch draw from their own real-life dating pasts to create an engaging and hilarious series of scenes painting an uncomfortably relatable warts-and-all picture of young love. Robson and Miinch play off each other beautifully; it is particularly rewarding to see the typically frenetically funnyman Miinch have a chance to chew on some more emotionally substantial material.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party

8 Jul

05-01-2017-042957-9142Your name: Erica Peck

Your production: Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party

Your role: Collaborative Artist, Performer

Tell me about your show.

It’s Maddie’s 25th birthday party but something’s not right – the guest of honour hasn’t shown up yet! Join five of Maddie’s best friends as they try to sort out where the birthday girl is at while they fight to keep the party’s spirits high (and struggle to keep their own dark secrets hidden). This intimate, interactive story unfolds over a series of hilarious and heart-breaking original Karaoke-style songs in a party environment where the audience are fellow guests.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Talent, heart, and funnier than my twitter account. Much better than that Meryl Streep.

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

I’m really looking forward to seeing “No Place” by Jillian Welsh, she’s a bold performer who really knows how to take control of a room. Same goes for Life Records: Part 2 by Rhiannon Archer. I’ve done storytelling nights with her, and she’s got that incredible power to make you laugh, then make your heart feel the feels. I also can’t wait to hear Anthony Bastianon’s music in “Jay and Shilo’s Sibling Rivalry.” He and his wife Denise Oucharek are two of my favorite people in the Canadian entertainment industry.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Any artist’s mission, no matter where they are, should be to make people see an interesting or difficult situation from another angle or point of view. And if you can work some laughs and a little inspiration in there, then all the better.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Jay & Shilo’s Sibling Revelry

8 Jul

05-01-2017-082217-8520Your name: Justin Bott

Your production: Jay & Shilo’s Sibling Revelry

Your role: I’m lucky enough to be onstage playing the Narrator.

Tell me about your show.

Jay and Shilo’s Sibling Revelry is a fun, music-filled romp for the whole family revolving around siblings Jay and Shilo; two kids who live in a theatre populated by magical and musical creatures. Drawing on their creativity, the brother and sister duo use their strengths to help their friend Tallulah the fairy find her bravery and take centre stage.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

These two kids… KIDS! Are on their own in a theatre and you think I’m not fit for the presidency???? Fake news! #buildawall #iloverussia

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

Uhm….geez! Off the top of my head, the cast and creative team behind Maddie’s Karaoke is pretty stacked. Barbara Johnston is brilliant. And lets not forget that Kelly Holiff, Erica Peck and Jeigh Madjus only have one speed: BROADWAY!

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Place: Any Refugee Camp
Mission: to bring joy & hope to every man, woman and child.
That or…
The Oval Office to retrieve all of the Presidents DRAFT Tweets. There has got to be enough material there for 5 plays, 3 musicals and his impeachment. No?

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: James & Jamesy in The Dark

3 Jul

04-27-2017-212315-2858Your name: James & Jamesy

Your production: James & Jamesy in The Dark

Your role: The Playwrights & Players

Tell me about your show.

James & Jamesy in the Dark begins in blackness. Soon, two chaps, who each believe they are alone in existence, happen upon each other. The encounter launches them into a series of physical and philosophical discoveries, overflowing with intricately layered wordplay. As they navigate this inky limbo, they conjure an adventure around creation itself. The visually spectacular show is a painting come to life; a rich, raw encounter that blends the playfulness of Pixar with the existential ponderings of Beckett.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

Theatre in the dark? What were they thinking? STUPID! SAD!

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

Multiple Organism (by Mind of a Snail); Interstellar Elder (SNAFU)

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

To refugee camps. Their mission: To help people enjoy a moment of joy. (emergencycircus.com)

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Hands Down

3 Jul

04-28-2017-185544-4092Your name: Stephanie Jung

Your production: Hands Down

Your role: Co-Producer

Tell me about your show.

From Warren P. Sonoda, director of Trailer Park Boys, This Hour has 22 Minutes, & Coopers’ Camera comes his first play since… 1992 high school English class. HANDS DOWN is a twisted comedy about ambition, endurance, and finding out what really matters… after holding onto a car for 100 hours. As four contestants hunker down to win a vehicle, truths, secrets and an occasional supernatural power are revealed that jeopardize each of them from winning. Everyone has a limit, but sometimes you don’t know it until you’ve crossed it. Like writing a new play after 25 years.

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

The BIGGEST car contest in history? I’ll be the winner! Everyone else is a loser. Covfefe

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

Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun, Soaring in Liquid Skies, Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains, 13 Ways the World Ends, Dear Uncle Wish, Roommate Agreements

This year we lost the great Jon Kaplan who was a incomparable supporter of independent theatre and a ubiquitous presence at the Fringe. Are there any thoughts, stories, or memories of Jon you’d like to share?

Oh Jon. I have so many stories but one of the top ones involves the Fringe. I used to House Manage at a Fringe venue and Jon was on my media list. I knew about Jon Kaplan before we even officially met. When he came to pick up his media ticket, I was grinning like a fool and we started chatting about theatre and life. When Jon came to my venue again the next day to catch a show, we started chatting again. I mentioned that I was hoping I would have a chance soon to grab some food as I was starving, but my venue was pretty busy. Without missing a beat, Jon offered my half his sandwich. I declined but I remember thinking that this man barely knows me but he just offered me some of his lunch! I miss his twinkling smile.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

Oh….the options….I would drop them into any major Canadian city and ask them to create a show with a diverse team of artists and no stereotypes in the plot. The world is in transition outside of Canada but let’s explore the problems we have here and talk about them. Let all artist constantly ask questions about the world we live in.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert

3 Jul

04-28-2017-033834-1650Your name: Dana Puddicombe

Your production: The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert

Your role: Director/co-creator

Tell me about your show.

A musical duo come to Toronto to find fame and fortune at the Fringe Festival. Can their love survive the temptations and pressures of the Fringe?

Now again in the style of a tweet by Donald Trump.

The Diddlin’ Bibbles are the Sonny and Cher of this generation. Fact.

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

I’m a first time fringer and I understand how hard it is to get the word out! There are a bunch of shows on my list that are on everyone’s list but I have some close to my heart for a few different reasons: Dear Uncle Wish and Earth Tourist are productions by fellow Newfoundlanders who I love and hope they get a great go of it; and I’ve got so many Improv and Comedy pals that are pushing the limits but if I had to pick just three, I’m excited to see Welcome to the Bunker!, Franco Nguyens first one man show and my improv brother Ross (fellow player in Abra Cadaver) has a new play The Resurrectionists.

The world is becoming an increasingly crazy and volatile place. If you could air-drop an elite squad of theatre artists any place in the world, where would you drop them and what would their mission be?

I think I’d drop them in schools. Any school, any where. If kids learn early on that they have a means to express themselves, it makes them more empathetic adults. I’d send them to all the schools… Like, a tour. All of the schools!