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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!

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Recall

3 Jul

06-02-2017-174128-9050Your name: Madryn McCabe

Your production: Recall

Your role: Performer. I play Charlotte, the administrator of a mysterious agency that “recalls” young teenagers.

Tell me about your show.

Recall takes us to a grim, sci-fi world in which crimes might be prevented before they occur. Lucy makes people uncomfortable. There’s something about her eyes. There’s something about the way her mother’s boyfriends keep disappearing. And there’s something about the government agents on her trail. Radically imaginative and achingly plain, this razor-sharp thriller explores our need to feel connected, understood, and loved. No matter the damage, no matter the cost.

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

Recall? Great show. Great cast. Bigly talented. If I ran the Recall, there would be no more violent scenarios at all! Shame the government doesn’t do more!

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

I’ve been following Clare Blackwood’s progress on developing Welcome to the Bunker! for a while now, and I can’t wait to see it. Clare has an infectious energy, so I know that the audiences will be game for just about anything that pops up while they wait out the zombie apocalypse.

I’d also really like to see Rough Magic, which is being performed and produced by Theatre Arcturus. They have such a unique, physical way of performing Shakespeare. They combine aerial acrobatics and Shakespeare’s text to create new interpretations of characters, and it’s so beautiful and powerful.

 

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?

That’s so tough to answer, because we already have elite squads of theatre artists all over the world, trying to make change for the better. We just saw a company in New York performing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a 400 old play, staged to reflect current American politics, interrupted, protested, mocked, and have its funding withdrawn because it was “too violent” and “not reflective of American values”. The dialogue wasn’t changed, nothing that isn’t in the original text was added, and yet people were so uncomfortable having the current administration reflected onstage that they couldn’t even stop and listen to the actual message of the play. It’s frustrating and frightening sometimes, but theatre artists have been protested since theatre began, and we’re all still here, and we’ll always be here. It also just occurs to me that you only asked “what would their mission be?” and I automatically starting talking about change for the better. I just assumed that would be the mission, because I think for every theatre artist, that IS the mission. We want to make the world a more beautiful place, have audiences think about what’s going on in the world, and what they want to do about it. Theatre has always been a place of ideas and growth, and that’s what the mission is.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

3 Jul

Your name: Rebecca Ostroff

Your production: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Your role: Assistant Director

Tell me about your show.

In “Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons”, the government imposes a Quietude Bill, limiting people’s speech to 140 words per day. The play follows Oliver, played by James Graham, and Bernadette, played by Ruth Goodwin; a couple desperately trying to navigate communication in this new world, rediscover themselves within it, and above all, hang on to each other. Under Harveen Sandhu’s beautiful direction, our production explores the resentment, hope and heartbreak when the political becomes very personal.

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

People are saying the Quietude Bill has been good in Norway. A Fake News Joke!

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

So many! To name a few: “The Food Project”, “The Seat Next to the King”, “Alex The Artist”, “Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of your Cremains”, and “Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party”.

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?

Space. Just to see if we could hear them from here.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Macbeth’s Head

3 Jul

04-17-2017-184510-2208Your name: Kyle McDonald

Your production: Macbeth’s Head

Your role: Show creator. Writer, director, producer, performer.

Tell me about your show.

The Scottish play, an ancient curse, and a disembodied head on a dessert trolley out for revenge – MACBETH’S HEAD – a new play (half in prose and half in original verse) is the story of actors Tim and Rupert who activate an ancient curse and awaken Macbeth’s severed head, who’s athirst for revenge on William Shakespeare for ruining his life. The Head, using his arcane powers, enslaves Tim and Rupert, and then brings Space Pirate Cleopatra, gender bending Richard III, and Hip Hop Hamlet to life to help in his insidious designs. It’s up to Tim and Rupert to stop the maniacal Head lest Shakespeare’s works are obliterated from the face of the earth forever!

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

This head guy…he’s on top of it. We’re going to be good friends.

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

The Life Henry by Adam Bailey, Bendy Sign Tavern by Sex T-Rex, Hands Down by Warren P. Sonoda.

 

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 them in Parliament on a -50’C day to convince them to let Turks and Caicos join Canada by filling the house with sand and then distributing fruity cocktails.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Miserable Worm

3 Jul

04-26-2017-202111-2338Your name: Justine Christensen

Your production: The Miserable Worm

Your role: Adapter-Writer, Performer, Producer

Tell me about your show.

Platonov will be shot tonight– but, by who? And why? Anton Chekhov’s first, title-less play about the downfall of the smarmy intellectual-playboy Platonov has been adapted many times since the script was discovered in a bank vault in the 1920’s. Our version, The Miserable Worm, reduces Chekhov’s original six-hour melodrama into a 55 minute rapid-fire tragi-farce, focusing in on eight characters. Gender-bending casting, an original score, and much laughter can all be expected from this brand-new adaptation of a Russian classic, set in a Rosedale mansion on a hot summer night.

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

Gender-bent tragi-farce The Miserable Worm is an adaptation of Chekhov’s peculiar “untitled play” about sex, death, and nostalgia. #exciting

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

Monsters by Nature: A collectively-created new work produced and performed by a group of kick-ass women, The Kindling Collective. Happy Birthday Benjamin Holloway: Three George Brown peers created a show together– they’re excellent performers with tons of comedic chops. MEANT: A brand-new Greek-inspired musical, composed by and staring Worm’s musical director, Lucas Penner. Plague: a sic love story: Two Sudburian talents perform a play by Sudburian playwright Matthew Heiti. Edgy Canadian work! Rise/Fall: Site-specific, politically on-the-pulse, charged and challenging– looking forward to the experience.

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?

Jon was cared so much about the theatre community in this city that he made it a point to have a Q&A with the second year actors at George Brown every year. During my class’ season, Jon attended several of our plays and reviewed them for NOW, providing us with an introduction into the theatre ecology of this city. I feel very lucky to have met him, particularly at a time in my training when I was experiencing doubt. When I asked him, “Why make theatre?”, he replied that he always loved theatre because plays taught him new things, or reminded him of things he had forgotten. A truly kind person who cared deeply about the work.

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?

This is general, but I think it’s true: if the team of Nightwood could access young women in the third world, the result would be a a ton of rightful empowerment.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

3 Jul

05-01-2017-223631-2688Your name: Chris Wilson

Your production: A Peter N’ Chris-tmas Carol

Your role: playwright / performer

Tell me about your show.

ITS CHRISTMAS IN JULY! Why would we do this, you ask? Why not! 3x Canadian Comedy Award winning duo Peter N’ Chris (Just for Laughs) present a hilarious send up of the classic Dickens’ Christmas story. Grumpy Chris, Busy ghosts and dangerous snowmen! This show has it all. Please wear appropriate Christmas attire, thanks.

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

Tremendous Show. Tremendous. It will sell out and not everyone will get to see it. SAD!

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

Weaksauce, Templeton Philharmonic, Bendy Sign by Sex T Rex, and In Search of Cruise Control.

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?

Drop them anywhere to make people laugh!

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Seat Next to the King

3 Jul

04-27-2017-051849-3711Your name: Tanisha Taitt

Your production: The Seat Next to the King

Your role: Director

Tell me about your show.

It is September of 1964 and behind the doors of a public washroom in a Washington D.C. park, two lives linked to two of America’s most important figures collide when a white man seeking sex meets a black male stranger. Steven Elliott Jackson has written a bold and affecting play — one that explores race, sexuality and masculinity — and the cost of reconciling these things to two very different human beings with a shared innate need.

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

It is not September 1964! It is 2017! FAKE NEWS! Also — SEX in Washington D.C. I have a lot of this.

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

I definitely want to support the work of fellow female creators who are talented friends of mine. I’m looking forward to Welcome To The Bunker, Bad Baby, This Is Not She, and Nourishment. Really hoping to see them all — unfortunately I’m working fulltime during Fringe so hopefully I can make the calendar work.

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 miss Jon so, so much and it breaks my heart that he isn’t here to see this show. I really hoped that he would make it. Jon was incredibly kind, passionate and ever-encouraging. We had the loveliest conversations. He was so supportive of my first play, and interviewed me for a preview piece in NOW when no one else would have considered me enough of a “name” to do that. I especially loved Jon’s intense respect for TYA, and always enjoyed running into him and sharing hugs at YPT. He saw children and youth as critical audiences, which so many adult theatre artists still fail to understand. It will be so strange to not see Jon making his way around the festival. It will be so strange to never see him again. I adored him. He made our artistic community more reflective and more loving. An absolute gem of a human.

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?

That is a next to impossible question. I could choose one place, but then I couldn’t justify it over somewhere else. Art isn’t needed one place more than another; it is a universal imperative. I also think that elite theatre artists already exist in just about every nation on earth. I would never presume that I could give any nation artists that could do for their societies more than there own creators could. Not the sexiest answer, but my honest one.

2017 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Welcome to the Bunker!

3 Jul

04-25-2017-223841-1788Your name: Clare Blackwood

Your production: Welcome to the Bunker!

Your role: Writer/Actor/Producer

Tell me about your show.

Welcome to the Bunker! is an immersive zombie apocalypse comedy set in a bunker deep below Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Katie, a young zombie rights activist, and Todd, an antisocial doomsday prepper, will give you and your fellow survivors an orientation into bunker living that could just save your lives- if everything goes according to their half-assed, yet optimistic, plan. Feelings Circles! Obsessive rationing! Nearly fully figured out chemical toilets! Just ignore that scratching coming from the walls, won’t you?

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

Canadians hiding from zombies in bunkers? Not surprised! Isn’t pot legal up there? Sad! #brainless

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

Definitely Sex T-Rex’s Bendy Sign Tavern at the Paddock Tavern; Peter N’ Chris’s Chris’tmas Carol; Dear Uncle Wish by Theatre Enthused; The Coincidence Men Presents Shakespeare’s Ghostbusters; and Everything There is to Know by Musicals Canada.

 

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?

How did you find out about the Initiative?! I have to go make some untraceable calls now….