TRANSFERS by Lucy Rose Coren (SummerWorks). On the Sherbourne Bus. August 13 at noon. $15-$35. See listing. Rating: NNNN
You’ll have a whole new appreciation for TTC bus and streetcar drivers – and the experience of being on public transit itself – after Transfers, Lucy Rose Coren’s fascinating “show” that takes place on the actual 75 Sherbourne bus.
Having downloaded an app (you’ll need a smart phone, obviously), you board the bus along with “regular” people and listen to a pre-recorded program, preceded by some catchy bus-related tunes. The whole trip, Coren says, should take about an hour, including the journey down to Queens Quay and back up; Coren even suggests places where the bus driver may idle.
Most of the audio consists of testimonials from TTC operators across the city. There are stories of fare evaders and angry passengers. One driver repeats his dad jokes, while another discusses how he used his driving to meet dates. We learn how to de-escalate potential passenger problems. Some stories are unforgettable. One involves a sort of pay-it-forward lesson about generosity and privilege, while a couple of others are about violence and suicide.
Coren occasionally chimes in to get us to do certain things. How does it feel to change seats in the middle of a ride? Do people look at you differently?
Every performance of Transfers will be different, of course. The afternoon I took part, a fire prevented us from going south to Queens Quay, and because of the hydro outage, it was fascinating to watch the driver negotiate some intersections with no functioning traffic lights. For some reason, the driver also dropped us off at the northernmost part of the route in Rosedale; he claimed he had to wait there for 13 minutes, and another bus would pick us up before then. (He lied; after he dropped us off, he took off – who knows where).
But while different each time out, the ride gives you a good sense of the economic disparity in the city; Moss Park seems miles away from Rosedale estates. And since it comes near the end, Coren likely intended us to hear the tragic story of a woman from Forest Hill as we ride through Rosedale, a comparably comfortable neighbourhood.
Part of the festival’s Lab series, Transfers is that rare piece of art; after you’ve experienced it, it will make you look at the world a little bit differently.