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SummerWorks 2018 Pick: A Girl Lives Alone

14 Aug

A Girl Lives Alone

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

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

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

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

SummerWorks 2018 Pick: Winners and Losers

11 Aug

Winners and Losers

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

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

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

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

9 Aug

Your name: Rouvan Silogix

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

Your role: Producer + Performer

Tell me about your show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Negroes Are Congregating

8 Aug

Your name: Natasha Adiyana Morris

Your production: The Negroes Are Congregating

Your role: Playwright & Director

Tell me about your show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: Body So Fluorescent

7 Aug

Your name: Amanda Cordner

Your production: Body So Fluorescent

Your role: Co-Creator and Performer

Tell me about your show.

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

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

​Love Me, Kimmy J: The Musical

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Aug

Your name: Graham Isador

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

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

Tell me about your show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: The Red Horse is Leaving

5 Aug

Your name: Erika Batdorf

Your production: The Red Horse is Leaving

Your role: Playwright/Performer

Tell me about your show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music by The Monarchs, directed by David Suzuki.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 SummerWorks Preview Questionnaire: A Girl Lives Alone

5 Aug

Your name: Jessica Moss

Your production: A Girl Lives Alone

Your role: Writer/Performer

Tell me about your show.

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

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

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

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

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

I’d like to see less:

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

I’d like to see more:

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

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

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

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

The Extinction of Hong Kongers looks wicked.

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

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

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?