Artists to watch

With nearly 150 shows at the Fringe,.


With nearly 150 shows at the Fringe, you never know which ones will get people lined up around the block. But these 10 artists – many of them Fringe vets – guarantee some major buzz. See reviews, features and complete listings at nowtoronto.com/fringe.

Esther Jun

WHAT: Director of Bremen Rock City, a mashup of the Grimm Brothers’ Bremen Town Musicians and a story about young music-makers wanting to become rock stars.

WHY: Best known as a director (Cowboy Mouth, Yellow Face, Sex Tape Project), Jun’s also a performer and originated the role of Janet, the daughter, in Kim’s Convenience. There’s a sense of musicality in her directing work, so she should have a firm handle on this Fringe family show about a troupe of misfit barnyard animals who band together as The Strays. Kids might be rockin’ in the aisles.


artisttowatch2_large.jpg

Louis Laberge-Côté

WHAT: Performer in MSM [Men Seeking Men], Indrit Kasapi’s dance theatre piece inspired by actual online convos of guys seeking guys.

WHY: One of the most versatile contemporary dancers around (NOW once named him the “MVP of the Toronto dance scene”), Laberge-Côté has a muscular, graceful and electric stage presence that should add plenty of heat to this piece about male-male cyber-sex and dating. With co-stars like Cole Alvis and Ryan G. Hinds, count on lots of sparks.


artisttowatch3_large.jpg

Laura Anne Harris

WHAT: Writer/performer of The Homemaker, based on Harris’s great aunt, a 1960s woman who explores her devotion both to her husband and to alcohol through a series of cabaret acts staged in her kitchen.

WHY: As she demonstrated in her fine Fringe show Pitch Blond, about actor Judy Holliday, Harris is expert at getting to the heart of a character through text and physicality. She’ll bring that same attention to detail to this tale of a seemingly ordinary housewife, revealed through song, dance and puppetry. It won’t hurt that the talented Morgan Norwich directs.


artisttowatch4_large.jpg

Bruce Horak

WHAT: Writer/performer in Assassinating Thomson, a multimedia show examining the mysterious murder of Tom Thomson.

WHY: An inspired improviser and actor, Horak, who’s got 9 per cent vision and is legally blind, paints a portrait of the audience as he delivers what’s bound to be an imaginative trip through history and art. Pre-fest buzz is incredible, and it’s no surprise: Horak and Monster Theatre are responsible for some of the gems of the Fringe circuit, like The Canada Show: The Complete History of Canada In One Hour.


artisttowatch5_large.jpg

Jacklyn Francis

WHAT: Actor in Mo And Jess Kill Susie, in which two native women kidnap a policewoman and hold her hostage as part of an edgy confrontation between protesters and armed police.

WHY: Last seen at the Fringe in Short Story Long, Francis isn’t on Toronto stages nearly enough, though later this summer she’s part of Shakespeare in the Ruff’s Richard III. Equally memorable in classics and contemporary works, she has a new challenge during the first part of Mo And Jess: she plays the entire segment bound and gagged. Watch how Francis’s Susie later develops a relationship with her captors and tries to change their plans.


artisttowatch6_large.jpg

Teodoro Dragonieri

WHAT: Director of Honest Aesop’s Fables, in which Aesop’s characters take over his tales, and mask-maker for Solo: A Boy’s Journey, about a pair of troubled teens on a rite of passage in the wilderness.

WHY: With previous clown-based Fringe hits such as The Travelling Salesman And His Magical Suitcase Of Desires and A Funeral For Clowns, Dragonieri has proven he can reveal aspects of human nature with a light touch, which he’s sure to use in the Aesop show. In Solo, he turns his creative skills to making the animals encountered by the humans. We think they’ll be a little more menacing than anything he’d devise for a young audience.


artisttowatch7_large.jpg

Kat Sandler

WHAT: Writer/director, We Are The Bomb, about a group of revolutionaries who take over their favourite watering hole to declare it a sovereign nation.

WHY: Sandler, the prolific writer/director and Fringe mainstay (she won the Fringe’s Best New Play contest for last year’s Help Yourself), has a great eye and ear for what’s current, and her dialogue always crackles with humour. Count on lots of dramatic fireworks, and maybe you’ll be able to join in the revolutionary spirit by ordering a drink or three at the site-specific venue, the Paddock.


artisttowatch8_large.jpg

Seth Drabinsky

WHAT: Actor/singer in Love Is A Poverty You Can Sell 2: Kisses For A Pfennig, Justin Haigh’s sequel, set again in a decadent cabaret in 1920s Berlin.

WHY: Electric musical theatre performer Drabinsky blew the roof off the Drake in his staggering performance in the title role of Hedwig And The Angry Inch (which he just reprised for two shows at Pride), and he was also effective in a quieter role in Alistair Newton’s touching Loving The Stranger. Look for lots of nuance as he joins the talented ensemble of this cabaret, and count on him (or someone else) to play on the venue’s suggestive name, Bite.


artisttowatch9_large.jpg

Bruce Pitkin

WHAT: Director of I Hired A Contract Killer, about a despondent civil servant who hires a hit man to kill him and then, changing his mind, hopes he can stop what he’s set in motion.

WHY: An instructor at the Randolph Academy, Pitkin directs students in their final year at the school and gives them a showcase at the Fringe. Last year he scored a success with a sharp, emotionally taut production of The House Of Bernarda Alba. This year his script, based on the 90s cult film of the same name, explores the humour and tragedy in an ordinary man’s life. Experienced as actor and director, Pitkin should bring a resonant poignancy to a tale that will be more than a suspenseful thriller.


artisttowatch10_large.jpg

Paula Wolfson

WHAT: Ensemble in The Musical Of Musicals: The Musical!, a show that retells the same story in the style of five musical theatre legends: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander and Ebb.

WHY: The sassy, brassy Wolfson has awesome pipes, and is as good an actor (and comic) as she is a singer. Lately she’s been doing a lot of cabaret, so it’ll be great to see her exercising her musical theatre muscles along with vets Mark Cassius, Adrian Marchuk and recent Sheridan grad Dana Jean Phoenix.

Brand Voices

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *