SummerWorks Performance Festival 2016!

I just wrapped up my third year volunteering for the Summerworks Performance Festival.
(Sorry for the weird spacing in this post! I keep editing it with proper spacing, but WordPress doesn’t want to co-operate).
SummerWorks started 26 years ago as a theatre festival and has grown over the years into a “Performance Festival” that also presents music, dance, and live art.
If any of you are in Toronto this weekend, I would highly recommend going. It’s cheap ($15 a person or less) and what I saw so far was excellent.
Shows I recommend:
1)  Naked Ladies by Thea Fitz-James. A one-woman show about female nakedness in art and performance as well as women’s body issues. Provocative, interesting, and brave (the performer is nude for much of the show and she incorporates a lot of deeply personal stories into it). The personal stories are nicely balanced with projected illustrations and dialogue about nudes in art and performance – artists like Yoko Ono and Josephine Baker are discussed, as well as Freud’s theories and scary old anatomical drawings of a woman’s reproductive organs (see here for a good example by Leonardo DaVinci).
NAKEDLADIES
2)  Bleeders by d’bi.young anitafrika. This is described as a”Jamaican dub opera.” It is a futuristic fable about what happens after the Pickering Nuclear Plant explodes, told through music, with an all-Black cast. I got the feeling that this type of group storytelling is common in Jamaica so I was glad that I had the chance to see it in Toronto. The play speaks to a lot of modern issues, including our relationship to the environment and to each other. Highly recommended ! !
Bleeders
3)  Mr. Shi and His Lover by Macau Experimental Theatre/Music Picnic is a modern retelling of the Madame Butterfly story. A Chinese diplomat falls in love with an opera singing spy and claims that he didn’t know that his lover was male (traditionally, female Chinese opera roles were performed by men). This is based on a true story that happened in the 1980s! Sung in Mandarin with English subtitles. All music is performed live. Simple, classy, and beautiful.
Mr.ShiandHisLoverMusicTheatre
4)  I’m Not Here by Composite Theatre Company.  What happens to a person when their modern day-to-day life is deeply unfulfilling? Unique staging (in the round, in a small room, not a theatre) is what makes this show special. The costumes, set, props, and lighting are all a great example of how to do a lot with a little. The set is basically a dining room table with audience members seated around it. The main performer actually stands in an opening in the middle of the table (her dress becomes part of the tablecloth). The audience is served tea and cupcakes while the three performers act out the story and cue the music, lights, etc, often in unison. A familiar story told in an inventive way.
ImNotHere
Summerworks has a total of 69 shows and continues throughout Sunday (August 14th).
Tickets can be bought in advance at http://summerworks.ca/2016/ or at the door beginning one hour before showtime. Summerworks reserves 25% of tickets for door sales, so if you arrive an hour or more before the show, you will definitely get a seat!
Stay tuned!
Show photos and information about the Festival were found at http://summerworks.ca/2016/

The Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival!

For those of you who may not know, a Fringe Festival is an “indie theatre festival…about celebrating under-represented voices and those on the margins of the performing arts world. It’s a festival where anyone can put on any show, without having to pass through a jury – where theatre students can mount their first production outside of school, where emerging artists can get their big break, and where established artists can test out new work.

 

 

It’s a festival where audiences come for the adventure and the community as much as for the plays themselves.”

You do not have to know a lot about theatre or have a lot of money to spend on tickets in order to go to a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe festivals are accessible to everyone. Tickets for the Toronto Fringe range from $8 to $12 apiece, and you can literally wander up to a venue 10 minutes before a show and see something great and unexpected.

I have been involved with Fringe for many years as a volunteer and audience member, but this year I had my first opportunity to review Fringe shows and have them published on a popular Toronto theatre website – Mooney on Theatre! I was so excited! I imagined schmoozing with the stars, press tents with tons of free booze and platters towering with artfully arranged fruit and desserts, and possibly being bribed with suitcases full of money (or maybe just Canadian Tire money, since it’s a Fringe festival).

 

 

That was what I imagined, not what I expected. What I actually expected (and experienced) was a lot more humble – rushing from one venue to another in order not to miss my assigned shows, late nights at home banging out reviews on my computer, and editors asking me to “please change one more thing” at 3am.

Despite those realities, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a member of the press (which I have been told is now called “media” – I think I have watched this movie one too many times) – and I really hope I will get the chance to do it again in the near future!

On to my reviews!

I reviewed five shows with Mooney on Theatre this year. Here are my top three:

 

My personal number one favourite this year is for the record.

Poster for For the Record

This show, by company the night kitchen, was was a one-of-a-kind immersive theatre experience that I will be thinking about for a long time. Interestingly, it did not take place in a theatre at all, but in Kops Records on Bloor Street. The store is roomy, yet the setup makes it feel intimate – a perfect setting for a live performance. This expertly-written story about the relationship between a mother and daughter is told with tons of humour lots of heart. And, of course, music plays a huge role in the story – as it does in our memories. Read my full review here (just click on the word “here”).

 

My runner-up is Adam Bailey is On Fire by company Still Your Friend.

Adam Bailey is On Fire poster

Performer and writer Adam Bailey is the gay son of an evangelical Christian minister. How to navigate these seemingly disparate realities? This coming-of-age story for the modern world is both uproarious and heartwarming. It also features some very clever and hilarious audience participation bits. I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’ve ever wanted the chance to drink out of a truly communal communion cup…well, maybe you haven’t. But trust me – this is a show that is impossible to forget. My full review can be found here.

 

And, my third place winner goes to… Best Picture.

Photo of Jon Paterson and Kurt Fitzpatrick

This show, by company RibbitRePublic, manages to explain all 88 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards (the “Oscars”) in a mere 60 minutes….with a cast of only three people. The actors cleverly distill the movies using famous lines, summing up of plots, and re-enactments of famous scenes. The entire show is hilarious and perfect for any film lover (or self-proclaimed know-it-all) like me. Read my full review here.

 

If you want to read my other reviews, or to view them all at once, click here:

http://www.mooneyontheatre.com/author/nicole/

 

These shows are ALL STILL PLAYING at the Toronto Fringe until July 10th! But if you can’t come this time around, I would encourage everyone to “Fringe” sometime soon! Besides Toronto, there are Fringe festivals in many cities across Ontario (Hamilton, London, Guelph, Windsor, and Ottawa), across Canada (Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, and many more) and across the world (the Edinburgh Fringe being the biggest and most famous).

As I said before, you do not have to be a seasoned theatregoer or be carrying around briefcases full of money in order to attend a Fringe show. That’s the beauty of it – Fringe is accessible to everyone. The only requirement is to expect the unexpected!

See you there!

 

Stay tuned!

Sources/Credits:

The Toronto Fringe Festival

The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals

The 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Photo of Fringe banner courtesy of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Press tent photo: http://www.freyafarrington.com/2015/05/the-press-tent-manchester-blogger-meet.html

for the record photo provided by the company (the night kitchen)

Photo of Adam Bailey by Hugh Problyn

Best Picture photo by Richard Gilmore

 

 

 

Live Art (right now!) at Summerworks Festival !

First of all, I am sorry it has been such a long time since I wrote anything! I have been busier this summer than I have EVER been…in my lifetime! I have been working two jobs (soon to be three once the Toronto International Film Festival begins again), including working like crazy at one of the Panamania venues. I have also been volunteering at both the Toronto Fringe (theatre festival) and at the Summerworks Performance Festival (theatre, dance, live art, music, etc).

Additionally, I have also been trying to watch as many Panamania concerts that I can! I managed to see badbadnotgood, Death From Above 1979, Tanya Tagaq (my favourite performer), The Roots, The Glorious Sons, Austra, and A Tribe Called Red within the last month. I also visited the Aboriginal Pavillion at Fort York, went to the Planet Indigenus festival at Harbourfront Centre, the FIGMENT event on Toronto Island (see a future blog post for more on that), the Gatsby Garden Party at Spadina House, and managed to squeeze in a few days of beach-going, kayaking, and (of course) visiting friends!

So….on to today’s blog!

Summerworks!

In case you didn’t read last year’s post on the topic (see https://hotaruchan20.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/summerworks-performance-festival/ ), I will tell you that Summerworks is a low-cost performance festival taking place right now – August 6 to 16th this year. Performances are $15 and there is something for everyone.

Tonight I saw a very unique show. It was called “A Wake For Lost Time.” It was not a play, but rather “live art.” What does that mean? In this case, it meant that the actors performed a series of scenes based around the themes of memory and time. It contained songs, monologues, dance, music, and even a (frequently hilarious) demonstration at the end (using found objects and small toys) of the history of time as we know it.

Ok….so…? What’s so special about it….??

In addition to the talented performers and the wonderful ideas coming through in the piece, the show is TWENTY FOUR HOURS in duration.

No, it is not a 24 hour show performed once. It is the SAME show repeated over and over again in two and a half hour increments. I watched the first show of the night, which started at sundown – 8:23pm, and continued until 10:53pm. The actors then started the show all over again at 10:54pm. This will continue until 8:23pm (sundown) TOMORROW night (Saturday).

Why are they performing it for 24 hours? The show write-up describes it as “a chance to explore and meditate on not only the loss of time, but [on] how we know time. The performance loop, when viewed in isolation, tells one story, but when witnessed in its recurrence begins to speak to itself, evolving (or eroding) alongside the performers for the duration of the piece.

When the performance loop can be looped no longer, the wake for lost time begins…but what the wake is…well, in all sincerity, we won’t know until we get there.”

AWakeforLostTime

The audience is invited to arrive, leave, and re-enter at any time.

What I saw required a bit of patience at first, but I was soon drawn into something resonant and beautiful.

If you are free for any two hour period (or longer) between now and 8:23pm tomorrow night, head to 14 Markham Street (“The Hub” – off Queen, west of Bathurst) to see a truly unique performance.

If you can’t get there, the company is live streaming the performance. Of course seeing it in person is the hands-down best way to experience it, but if you can’t get there, you can watch it here:

http://www.twitch.tv/elephantscollective

Stay with it for a while. It takes a few minutes to warm up to it, but it’s totally worth it.

If you do happen to be in town this weekend, check out one of the many other performances at Summerworks!

http://summerworks.ca/2015/

P.S. They are also having a FREE 25th anniversary block party tomorrow night at Dovercourt and Queen. Actually, it’s called the 25th Anniversary Birthday Outdoor Concert Extravaganza. It starts at 4pm and goes ’till 11pm. Hope to see you there!

http://summerworks.ca/2015/workshops/25th-anniversary-party/

Stay tuned!