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2018 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 3

13 Jul

With the final weekend of the Toronto Fringe Festival upon us, here are a few more brief recommendations!

Dead for a Ducat: A deliciously clever and earnest film noir adaptation of Hamlet, with all the parts smartly performed by only two talented and hard working actors. It can be risky to mess with the classics, but Dead for a Ducat pulls it off with aplomb.

Harvey and the Extraordinary: This touching site-specific piece situated in a back-alley garage uses the premise of an eight year-old aspiring mime performing a show for her neighbours as the vehicle for a far more profound and moving story that is told almost exclusively in between the lines. Performer/creator Eliza Martin uses the intimacy of the space to great effect; her subtle twitches and the brief flashes of sadness in her eyes communicate so very much that would be lost in a larger venue.

Hooked: Looking for a bit of variety in your Fringe diet? Consider checking out one of the many worthy dance shows in this year’s festival. One excellent candidate is Kristen Pepper’s Hooked; it offers an emotionally effective premise, a clear narrative arc, and elegant choreography.

Life in a Box: Who would have expected a stoner buddy comedy to be so sharp, vibrant, and imaginatively staged? Not only does this dank time travel adventure feature palpably noteworthy chemistry between writer/performers Landon Doak and Matthew Finlan, but also some damn catchy musical interludes that invite comparisons to the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Police Cops in Space: Very much in the same vein as Sex-T-Rex, The Pretend Men are able to weave a tale of justice, revenge, and friendship – in space no less – that is in equal measure hilarious and cinematic using only goofy costumes, cheap props, and a whole lot of theatrical magic.

2018 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 2

10 Jul

More excellent shows from this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!

 

Anywhere

When Liz (Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster), a tourism conference attendee returns home to her Air B&B late one night, she finds Joy (Cass Van Wyck), her host is still up and in the mood to talk. What starts as a friendly conversation takes on more ominous tones and pits the two women against each other in a situation with far more than just a good Air B&B review at stake.

This taught two-hander drama from playwright Michael Ross Albert is not only a shining example of the art of dramatic escalation, but is elevated by the fact that it relies and comments on larger ideas about class and the realities of our socio-economic system to work. His dialogue walks the fine line between precision and naturalism, making for a seamless but punchy back and forth.

Lancaster and Van Wyck are both superb in their respective roles as the slightly uptight Liz, and the deceptively unsophisticated Joy. Casting is not often critically recognized as a part of the creative process, but in this case it is worth highlighting given just how well the two performers play off of and contrast each other while still finding ample common ground.

Director David Lafontaine guides the piece with a deft hand; the pacing, blocking, and emotional progression are all calculated but organic, never drawing the audience out of what is an engaging experience.

 

The Preposterous Predicament of Polly Peel (Act 1)

Disregard the whimsically alliterative title if you think you’re in for a Fringe Kids show; Kevin Wong (music and lyrics), Julie Tepperman (book), and Aaron Willis’ (director) highly polished musical does indeed have Polly Peel (rising star Hannah Levinson), a confident and precocious child-scientist as its protagonist, but the the themes of loss and grief the production dissects are done so with nuance and sensitivity.

While audience members should be aware that due to the time constraints of the Fringe Festival, only act one of the full-length musical is being presented, it is still a thoroughly fulfilling experience and only leaves one that much hungry for more (fingers crossed there are some savvy producers and ADs in the audience).

Wong’s music and lyrics are plucky, sophisticated and gentle, and truly serve to support, communicate, and enhance Tepperman’s narrative – which cannot be said about lesser musical works. Willis’ direction is imaginative and imbues the production with just the right amount of Broadway bravado to be fun, without overshadowing the touching human story at the core of the production.

The cast are all a treat to watch; Levinson is charming in the titular role, and Jessica Sherman and Troy Adams both endear as Polly’s parents.

 

Shadow Kingdom

This imaginative shadow puppet show from the Mochinosha Puppet Company (Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai) is a treat for children and adults alike. Wishes and Yanai have elevated shadow puppetry to a truly cinematic art form that offers no end of charming and innovative surprises.

In Shadow Kingdom they weave the tale of Minerva, a young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep but rather stay up and play on her phone all night. When she and her phone are magically transported to the Shadow Kingdom – the realm of sleep – she finds herself caught up in an adventure that invites comparisons to the empowered-child stories at the heart of Hayao Miyazaki’s and Roald Dahl’s work.

Goofy humour, motley and memorable characters, and impressive technical artistry are just three of the reasons not to miss this show. Equally worthy of note are the touching original songs written for the show by composer Elliott Loran.

Also worth mentioning is that the company has a second show in the Fringe; Space Hippo. This reviewer saw it performed in late 2017 and it is just as delightful and fun as Shadow Kingdom. #LizarrrdMaaaaaaan

 

The Merkin Sisters

Creators/performers Ingrid Hansen and Stephanie Morin-Robert are a couple of weirdos, wonderful fearless weirdos. Thank god we have festivals like the Fringe to give them the platform they deserve – because you sure as hell aren’t going to see this delightfully wacky shit as part of any Mirvish season.

The Merkin Sisters is structured as a series of loosely interconnected abstract vignettes featuring the titular characters; a pair of rivalrous oddball siblings clad in 80s print bathing suits and, for lack of a better term, hair muumuus. Sweater vaginas, a cannibalistic wig, and miniature doppelganger puppets are just some of the physical comedy setpieces making up the show.

It’s not strangeness for strangeness’ sake though; motherhood, the nature of art, and body image – among other ideas – are all fodder for their completely unpredictable theatrical whims. In the hands of lesser talent, the concepts could fall flat as awkward head scratchers, but Hansen and Morin-Robert have impeccable comedic instincts and timing.

Beautifully bawdy, gleefully grotesque, and scintillatingly surreal, The Merkin Sisters is a welcome departure from reality.

 

Morro and Jasp: Save the Date

If there is such a thing as Fringe royalty, Morro and Jasp (Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee) are it. This marks their (along with director/dramaturg Byron Laviolette) tenth Toronto Fringe, and they haven’t laid an egg yet.

In this iteration, the beloved clown sisters are preparing themselves for Jasp’s fast-approaching nuptials – and by extension the first time the two siblings will be living apart. It’s new emotional territory that they are forced to confront in the midst of all the other brouhaha that comes with planning a wedding. It is that brouhaha in which they mine the brilliant comedy they are known for; in this case dress fittings, cake tastings, and a superb visual gag involving a longer-than-average veil all illicit howls of delight from the audience.

Annis and Lee have always elevated their productions above mere entertainment (as entertaining as they are) by placing their loving and well-defined relationship at the centre of their stories, and this one might just be the most touching yet.

 

Entrances and Exits

The Howland Company (52 Pickup, Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, Punk Rock) in partnership with Bad Dog Theatre is trying something a little different this time around – improv comedy. With an innovative premise, a talented cast, and some stellar guest performers (including the much beloved Colin Mochrie) the results are no less impressive than their previous offerings.

Entrances and Exits parodies the classic British living room farces of the 60s with a clever two-act structure that sees the same story played out twice, but each time showing what is happening in different adjacent rooms. It would be ambitious enough for a scripted show, but is even more so when the pieces are fit together on the fly.

 

We’ll Be Better Tomorrow

This bold, honest (and dare I say it, brave) two-hander sketch revue from performers Stacey McGunnigle and Jason DeRosse, and director Rob Baker is just as hilarious, contemporary, painfully truthful, and surprisingly heartfelt as their 2016 hit Tonight’s Cancelled.

Although on paper the two Second City veterans tackle material that has been the subject of countless sketches before (relationships, parenthood, sex, etc), they do so in a way that is both insightful and captures the zeitgeist, making the hour-long show feel fresh and topical. Their writing is strong and their characters are admirably well-defined and three-dimensional; not always the case in lesser sketch revues.

2018 Toronto Fringe Picks: Part 1

7 Jul

Here are some of the shows from the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival we’ve loved so far!

Inescapable

You’re going to have to forgive the vagaries of this write up; I would rather be obtuse about Fringe staple Martin Dockery’s deceptively simple and intensely clever two-hander than to give too much away.

What we can say is that what is ostensibly a conversation between two old friends who have stepped away from the hubbub of a holiday party and discover a cryptic object in a closet, is the framework for a high-concept bit of theatrical fun that is testament to Dockery’s talent as both a writer and performer. Those who enjoyed last year’s Moonlight after Midnight will appreciate the same one-two punch of human story and meta-structure that also defines Inescapable.

Dockery’s stagemate Jon Paterson is equally impressive to watch; the work’s concept and brisk pacing demand effortless performances to pull off, which Dockery and Paterson both deliver.

Because of the relatively simple staging, it would be easy to overlook Director Vanessa Quesnelle’s contribution, but she especially deserves credit for giving the performance a well defined arc – which is more of a challenge than one might assume.

Inescapable is a fast-paced slow burn, and an early highlight of this year’s festival.

Also worth noting: Martin Dockery has a second surprise show in this year’s fringe, The Bike Trip, which is also excellent. A one man storytelling show about Dockery’s trip to Basel, Switzerland to recreate the first literal LSD trip, laced (pun very much intended) with his philosophical reflections on love and life.

 

D&D Live!

Fringe regulars will know Sex-T-Rex for their hilarious and cinematic takes on various tropes and genres (Swordplay: A Play of Swords, Wasteland, among others), and while that also serves to describe D&D Live! (Dungeons and Dragons for the uninitiated), the difference this year is that there’s no script – it’s completely improvised with the assistance of the audience. Using a satirical version of Toronto by way of JRR Tolkien as the backdrop for the story, the players weave a tale that is both true to the Dungeons and Dragons experience and comedically accessible to the local audience.

The results, while not surprisingly less polished than their scripted shows (it wouldn’t be improv otherwise), are no less hilarious and imaginative. Sean Murray acts as the Dungeon Master, giving structure and guidance to the motley core group of mythical heroes (Chris Wilson, Kyah Green, Sean Tabares, and Conor Bradbury) who, like in a true game of Dungeons and Dragons, must on occasion roll a soccer ball-sized 20-sided die to determine the outcome of their quest.

Each performance features a special guest performer; at the performance this reviewer attended, it was the always top-notch Mark Little who played a mystical curator with a propensity for mischievously challenging the conventions of the format to great comedic effect.

Sex-T-Rex have earned their reputation as Fringe greats, and D&D Live! Is only further proof.

 

Featherweight

Tom McGee should be familiar to Fringe audiences as a key member of Theatre Brouhaha and the dramaturg of many if not all of Kat Sandler’s numerous fringe hits, as well as the creative force behind Shakey-Shake, the equally successful series of child-friendly Shakespearean adaptations performed by puppets. Featherweight, which McGee wrote and directed, is a departure from both those previous projects – although it is no less smart and entertaining.

Set in the Paddock Tavern (host to previous Fringe hits, We Are the Bomb and Bendy Sign Tavern), Featherweight gives the audience a glimpse into the afterlife – well, the administrative part right before the afterlife that is. Jeff (Michael Musi) a beige 30-something, finds himself in the hall of judgement, which looks suspiciously like his favourite bar, where he encounters Egyptian god Anubis (Amanda Cordner) and his/her assistant, Toth (Kat Letwin) who are tasked with processing his soul by weighing the deeds of his life against a feather. It being a well-stocked bar though, the liquor doth flow and the procedure takes a few left turns.

McGee’s writing is often delightfully nerdy, but never sacrifices the truth of the characters or story for the sake of a reference or joke. The dialogue is quick, the arguments nuanced, and the cast all do a fantastic job of bringing it all to life – although Kat Letwin does often steal the show as the oft-hapless servant.

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: One Left Hour – The Life and Work of Daniil Kharms

5 Jul

Your name: Alexander Offord

Your production: One Left Hour: The Life and Work of Daniil Kharms

Your role: Performer/Dramaturg

Tell me about your show.

“One Left Hour” is a multimedia theatrical pageant that uses music, puppetry, choreography, free association, improvisation, clown, and performance art to stage and interrogate the life and work of the Stalinist-era surrealist writer, Daniil Kharms. The show charts the trajectory of his life from birth, to the founder of an avant-garde performance collective, to this eventual death by starvation in a a Soviet insane asylum. Along the way, we ask some probing questions about how we make meaning of art – and how we make meaning of life.

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

“America is Great Again”

Lin-Manuel has been tasked by the revolutionary government to compose music to celebrate the execution via guillotine of Donald Trump, but his muse has left him! When a slick-talking former Canadian Prime Minister with perfectly coiffed hair shows up at his door and presents Lin-Manuel with an offer he can’t refuse, the composer isn’t sure if it’s a Trudeau he’s dealing with or the devil himself! Throw in a trans antifa love interest who may or may not be the revolution’s secret leader, and what you’ve got is a fun-filled romp through the end of late-stage capitalism!

It’s not “ha ha” funny.

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

So many to name, and we will almost certainly leave some amazing ones out, but off the top of our heads in no particular order:

“The Makeover Show,” by Avalonstorm
“Flooded” by North America
“Final Exam” by Holy Cow Entertainment
“Featherweight” by Theatre Brouhaha
“First Dates” by Clutch Performance Theatre Co.
“Rage Against the Inferno” by Theatre ARTaud and Filament Incubator
“Carmilla” by Pointed Cap Playhose

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: THE PREPOSTEROUS PREDICAMENT OF POLLY PEEL (ACT 1)

3 Jul

Your name: Kevin Wong, Julie Tepperman, Aaron Willis

Your production: THE PREPOSTEROUS PREDICAMENT OF POLLY PEEL (ACT 1)

Your role: Composer/ Lyricist (Kevin), Playwright / Bookwriter (Julie), Director / Dramaturg (Aaron)

Tell me about your show.

‘… Polly Peel (Act 1)’ explores a family grappling with death through the eyes and imagination of a biology-obsessed eleven-year-old girl. Originally inspired by acclaimed Canadian painter Paul Peel’s ‘The Young Biologist’, an early incarnation was presented in 2016 at the AGO as part of The Musical Stage Company’s ‘Reframed’.

Featuring a moving story, a funny and poignant musical score, and some of Canada’s top musical theatre talent, ‘… Polly Peel (Act 1)’ showcases a rare in-development look at a new Canadian musical. Frogs. Family. Forgiveness. RIBBIT! Winner of the 2018 Paul O’Sullivan Prize for Musical Theatre.

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

Kevin: “Covfefe’s Darkest Timeline: The Musical?” – A site specific piece set in an ever darkening room in which voices all around you sing you into numbness.

Julie:  “Since When Is It Okay To Separate Parents And Children?: the musical” – A site-specific piece set in an ever darkening room in which voices all around you SCREAM you into numbness.

Aaron: COLLUSION: THE MUSICAL – A crew of plucky, tap dancing FBI agents reveal all the secrets we’ve ever wanted to know through the sheer power of their song.

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

Kevin: THE LAST PARTY – A fantastic creative team and cast all around. Cannot wait! ONE SMALL STEP – Anika Johnson and Barb Johnston write amazing earworms, and the cast features the incredible Kelsey Verzotti and Georgia Bennett!

Julie: Morro and Jasp!!!

Aaron:  HOW TO BE FEARLESS WITH ROXY ROBERTS. Written by and starring the amazing Ali Joy Richardson!

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Lighters in the Air

3 Jul

Your name: Victoria Laberge

Your production: Lighters in the Air

Your role: Publicist

Tell me about your show.

Lighters In The Air is a new indie rock musical running at the Monarch Tavern, featuring special guest performers every night. A musician named Leo returns to his former hangout, The Empty, a dive bar where the mic is always open. With the help of old friends, a lost love, and The Empty’s newest off-beat barflies, Leo rediscovers his passion for the music he left behind.

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

What Now? 2018 has thrown us some curveballs. How can we use art to change the world and create a better future?

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

Sex T-Rex are always hilarious (in my completely biased opinion, since I do their publicity too) – don’t miss their improvised D&D Live! We’re also really looking forward to The Climb by Duane Forrest, who joins us at the Monarch for our guest spot on July 14th; and The Princess of the Tower at Fringe Kidsfest, stage managed by Lighters SM extraordinaire Laura Moniz!

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Ties That Bind And Gag

3 Jul

Your name: Juliet Paperny

Your production: The Ties That Bind and Gag

Your role: Director/Producer

Tell me about your show.

Three generations of a tight-knit family cram into a rental car to drive to a funeral. Neuroses collide, emotions run high, grievances are aired and over-shared, traffic laws are broken.

Buckle up and spend some claustrophobic quality time on a guilt-trip road trip with your nearest and dearest – the people you love and can’t stand or just can’t understand. The ensuing drama’s funny because it’s true and hilarious because it’s heartbreaking.

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

This year has been bleak to say the least. Our creative vision at Poor Life Choices Productions is to intercut the tough times in life with complete absurdity. It is for this reason that I would propose Sweeney RBG: The Saviour Barber of DC. It features the one and only Ruth Bader Ginsberg, taking down all the miscreants that have wronged her and the rest of the world. Would obviously star Helena Bonham Carter. I can’t say Trump, Pence or Coulter would be that tasty in a pie but Donald Jr. on the other hand….

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

Entrances and Exits – can’t miss a Bad Dog Comedy Theatre performance. Also performing at Factory Theatre so do a back-to-back performance with ours and this one.  The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome – Site specific performance about artists in a small gallery on Queen St. West. Great cast and a fellow dark comedy. Sex T-Rex’s D&D Live: It’s improv and an opportunity to completely nerd out, and Sex T-Rex never disappoints. Need I say more?

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Anywhere

3 Jul

Your name: Michael Ross Albert

Your production: Anywhere and The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome

Your role: Playwright (and co-producer of Anywhere)

Tell me about your show.

Anywhere is a new drama that begins when a young businesswoman returns to her AirBnB to find that her host, a vodka-toting single mom, is waiting up for her. What starts as a cordial relationship between two strangers steadily escalates into a tense, life-altering confrontation.

The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome is a play that premiered in the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, and is included in “Best American Short Plays 2014-2015.” It’s a comedy about a group of struggling visual artists at a struggling art gallery, wrestling with creative frustrations, identity crises, sexual entanglements, and general urban millennial ennui.

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

The musical is called Jared and Ivanka Sit Shiva. It’s an absurdist comedy about a very wealthy couple observing traditional Jewish mourning customs for a deceased megalomaniac family patriarch. As the couple sits shiva with their extended family at a golf course in Florida, they are forced to face their own complicity in the dead man’s wrongdoings– actions that have led to large scale unhappiness and unrest. Over the course of the week, secrets are revealed, songs are sung, marriages disintegrate, families are reunited, and we, the audience, will collectively mourn the loss of society’s sanity, while looking forward hopefully to a time of healing.

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

I have a very long list of shows that I want to see, and really hope I can make it out to all of them. They are: Prank by Daniel Pagett; Cheri, which stars the formidable Theresa Tova; Enjoy the Hostilities created by Robin Black and Graham Isador; The Howland Company and Bad Dog Theatre’s Entrances and Exits; Ciaran Meyers’ Hamburger; Wes Berger’s First Dates; Rachel Ganz’s The Queen’s Eulogy; Crave by Sarah Kane, featuring the great Wayne Burns; Police Cops in Space; Space Hippo; Briana Brown’s Robert; Natalie Frijia’s Bikeface; and Theatre Brouhaha’s Featherweight by Tom McGee

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: PRTNR

3 Jul

Credit: Dahlia Katz

Your name: Natalie Kulesza

Your production: PRTNR

Your role: Co-Creator & Performer (along side David Rowan!)

Tell me about your show.

Basically it is a sketch com show about Partnership in all it’s different forms… So, you know, it’s gonna be GOOD (because who doesn’t love putting things under a microscope and seeing what wild ideas you can come with)

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

Keep Your Hands to Yourself and while you’re at it Clean Up my Water. A romp through Patriarchy and the right to clean drinking water…. all in one show (Dance numbers & free protest signs included!)

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

Great question! I’m just getting started on my planning!… Text me in 48 hrs and I will let you know… (GAWD. So many talented & creative peeps in the GD city…!!!) (Though, first that cross my mind are Robert & We the Men)

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: Prank

2 Jul

Credit: Matthew Sarookanian

Your name: Christel Bartelse

Your production: Prank

Your role: Performer and Producer

Tell me about your show.

Prank is the new dark comedy from playwright and director Danny Pagett (Cloud, Homewrecker). Two daughters of internet celebrities struggle with the legacy left from them, running both towards- and away from from their own turn in the spotlight. It is loosely based on the true story of DaddyOfFive- a real life youtuber who had their children taken away last year when people who had seen their videos accused them of child abuse. Prank explores the dangers of desperately seeking fame at any cost, and how over the top online behavior can be downfall. Starring Christel Bartelse and Cydney Penner, and produced by Thundermind Theatre and DutchGirl Productions (ONEymoon, Chaotica, All KIDding Aside)

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

DON’T Come From Away – the remarkable true story about the Trump administration

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

So much to see. I’m a huge Michael Ross Albert fan, so looking forward to “The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome” and “Anywhere” Also have yet to see The Merkin Sisters which I hear is fabulous and big Rob Gee fan who is a brilliant Brit. We’re also part of #fringefriends so seeing all those shows on that list “Robert”, “Josephine” “One Small Step” “Upstream Downtown” “PRTNR” and “How to be Fearless!”

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: The Grass Is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome

2 Jul

Your name: Lauren MacKinlay

Your production: The Grass Is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome

Your role: Performer/Producer

Tell me about your show.

When a painter tears the artwork off the walls of a struggling independent gallery, the relationships between a group of emerging artists are also torn apart. In the chaotic aftermath that ensues, the underachieving artists grapple with their insecurities, infidelities, and their innate jealousy of one another.

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

We’re living in depressing times, so I’d be inclined to put forward a much needed respite from the madness and melodic ray of sunshine in the form of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion: The Musical.” Ideally, all the music in the show would be Cyndi Lauper tunes. I should actually find some way of copyrighting this idea…

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

Lark and Whimsy’s “Robert” – they’re an incredible team and I’ll never pass up a bagpipe. Also, our playwright Michael Ross Albert has another show in the Fringe: “Anywhere.” As a huge fan of his writing, that one’s unmissable for me.

2018 Toronto Fringe Preview Questionnaire: BikeFace

2 Jul

Credit: Hayley Andoff

Your name: Clare Blackwood

Your production: BikeFace

Your role: Performer

Tell me about your show.

During the Victorian era bicycle craze, doctors warned women riders they would undoubtedly cultivate “bicycle faces”: becoming over-exerted, wild-eyed, un-sexed vulgarities, when faced with nothing before them but the wide, open road. A hundred years later, the story of BikeFace takes off. It’s a one-woman whirlwind retracing a real-life bicycle adventure across Canada, challenging the outdated gender stereotype. Filled with strange-but-true tales of Wild West proprietors, haunted graveyards, and secrets only fit for strangers, BikeFace will tickle your funnybone but, above all else, will ignite your thirst for adventure! (5 STARS -Vue Weekly; 4 STARS -Global News).

On a personal note: I ride a bike in a hoodie for a large portion of the show, so if you’ve ever wanted to see how sweaty a human being can possibly get while onstage, YOU’RE IN LUCK, FRIEND.

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

Yup, We’re Doomed: An Immersive Journey

Picture this, if you will: the curtain rises to the sound of wailing. Just, like, from everyone. The actors, the techs, the director, the stage manager, and, because they have been politely prompted to by the program’s Director’s Note, the audience. Everyone is sobbing and screaming and beating their chests and throwing things and it is VERY DRAMATIC. Somewhere in the distance, and we’re not entirely sure where they’ll come from yet, there are sirens. This will form the majority of the musical’s soundtrack. Where’s the subtlety, we can already hear you asking? ASK 2018, WHY DON’T YOU.

A white man dressed as an actual cheeto steps onto the stage and begins a carefully-curated PowerPoint presentation on how White Privilege is a Fake News Liberal Myth, and then will try to steal audience member’s children away from them until he is chased off the stage and symbolically murdered by a group of multicultural interpretive dancers. There is an excessive use of red streamers in this last part, probably, if it’s in the budget. Audiences love streamers.

The rest of the show is a non-stop barrage of the actors screaming real headlines from news outlets that have aired this year (this can be updated daily, to keep the musical topical), and occasionally we’ll throw in a song or two set to the most depressing instrumental accompaniment our composer has managed to throw together after his nightly whiskey binges. The band will consist of an oboe and fifteen cellos.

Basically it’s probably going to be the Come From Away of 2018.

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

SO MANY. Filament’s Rage Against Trilogy, TallBoyz II Men’s A 6IX NNNNNN Review, Ashley With a “Y”, Featherweight, Generally Hospital, Moonstruck, Prank- and, in a completely predictable turn of events if you’ve literally ever spoken to me before in your entire life, Sex T-Rex’s D&D Live! It combines my favourite things ever: Sex T-Rex, Dungeons & Dragons, and improv. WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT WITH YOUR LIFE.

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.