THE FRINGE: TORONTO'S THEATRE FESTIVAL Featuring 105 companies from Toronto, Canada and the world. Opens tonight (Thursday, July 5) and runs to July 15
The Fringe, Toronto's cutting-edge performance festival, is the biggest ever -- 105 productions over 11 days, with 90-minute presentations now mixed in with the usual hour-long shows, lots of Bring Your Own Venue works, family pieces and the nightly 10 x 10 @ 10 Cabarets. It all starts tonight (Thursday, July 5) at venues around town. NOW's preview spotlights the hot shows and offers tips on the artists to look out for.
CHRISTIAN VALUES by Bobby Del Rio, directed by Nicole Stamp, with Scott McCord, Keira Loughran, Sandra Forsell and Nicholas Carella. Presented by Filthy Mexican Productions at the Helen Gardiner Phelan. July 6 at 9:30 pm, July 8 at 10 pm, July 9 at 2:30 pm, July 10 at 4 pm, July 12 at 6:30 pm, July 13 at 8:30 pm, July 14 at 2 pm.
a couple of weeks ago, nicole Stamp and Bobby Del Rio graduated from university. To hell with the diplomas. The two ambitious upstarts have already made a mark on the local scene, and they're about to get hotter with their show Christian Values.The eagerly anticipated show -- featuring a fine cast that includes Scott McCord and Keira Loughran -- was inspired by Del Rio's two-day stint as a Web site salesperson.
"It was death, it was hell," he says about the experience.
"I wanted to be doing something creative. My boss told me stories about how he used to play the guitar. I made up this whole scenario in my head, quit and began writing the play."
Despite the play's title, religion isn't a big theme.
"The play is more about morality," says Stamp. "It's about passion, fidelity, the promises you make to others and to yourself."
It's also about following your heart and soul instead of your wallet, a choice that's crucial for any young artist, including Del Rio, who sold newspapers door-to-door for two years, and Stamp, who briefly telemarketed for a credit card company.
"You can convince yourself that you're only doing something so you can make that short film or start that theatre company," argues Stamp. "But at the same time, you could probably get by if you did work that was more related to your field. You owe it to yourself to do that."
In fact, I first met Stamp when she was a juggling front-of-house manager at one of the summer fests. Her confidence, enthusiasm and dramatic flair (witness the juggling) were also evident in her production of Del Rio's When Children Fall at last year's SummerWorks.
"I learned that the value of my input was more than pretty pictures," she says about that play. "That's why I like directing new work. You can affect the product."
Neither of them wants to play the ethnic card -- they're both mixed race and have lots to say about limited opportunities, but now is not the time or place to rant, they agree.
Nor does Stamp want to hear only praise for her work.
"I'd rather people ask me why I made certain choices, or why we're doing something," she says. "Theatre is a collaboration, not just with the people working on the show but with the audience, too. Praise is great, but if you're not sensitive to the audience, you're basically wanking."
SPLICE devised and performed by Peter Bramley, Carolyn Cohagan, Lucy Egger and Ann-Marie Kerr. Presented by Blue Inc. at the Factory Studio. July 6 at 2:30 pm, July 7 at 9:30 pm, July 9 at 5:30 pm, July 11 and 15 at 8 pm, July 12 at noon, July 14 at 3 pm.
toronto theatre artist ann-Marie Kerr and her three cohorts, Brit Peter Bramley, New Yorker Carolyn Cohagan and Aussie Lucy Egger, are having breakfast with Darth Vader and R2D2 when I call them in Blind River, six hours north of Toronto.The quartet are devouring videos, rehearsing and getting inspiration for Splice, their one-hour take on a century of cinema.
From early silent films to a Hitchcock montage, a Spielberg medley and an eight-minute Star Wars trilogy, Splice races through favourite images of pop-cult films.
"We think of it as a theatrical ode rather than a history of movies," says Kerr, who met her fellow physical-theatre performers when they all studied in Paris with the venerated Jacques Lecoq during the last year of his life.
"We're not trying to do impersonations, but, rather, to catch the spirit and atmosphere of the films."
They have to be economic in how they tell a story -- Spielberg is all about light, a Godfather sequence uses masks and dance -- in order to give a suggestive whiff of their sources.
"The biggest challenge is Hitchcock, how to extract perspective and camera angles and put them onstage," adds Kerr, who's performed with Shakespeare in the Rough and coached movement for Soulpepper. "For instance, we're doing the bell tower scene in Vertigo with a series of broom handles. That's the kind of creative leap we've had to make.
"We're hoping not to be precious, not to spoof the material nor turn the show into a sentimental tribute. Lecoq was big on not doing parody, and we hear his voice loudly in our heads."
Dolls and dolls
THE DICK'S A DAME by Jane Moffat and Cheryl McNamara, directed by Sue Miner, with Mark Brownell, Ron Kennell, McNamara, Moffat and Stephen Reich. Presented by Femme Fatale Productions at the Factory Mainspace. July 6 at 10 pm, July 7 at 5 pm, July 8 at 7 pm, July 11 at 3 pm, July 12 at 11 pm, July 14 at noon, July 15 at 4:30 pm.
dose dolls cheryl mcnamara an' Jane Moffat, dey know just how ta send up all dose goon-based dick flicks. An' dey do it wid moxie in The Dick's A Dame.Enough of the 40s big-palooka-speak. The duo's film noir send-up, set in 1946 Toronto, revolves around a female detective sorting out a complex tale of blackmail, murder, gambling and Commies.
Add another element: their hero, Addie Clark, is sexually drawn to almost every woman in the play.
"But we know that the censorship board of the period disliked even straight sexuality, so we're dealing with lots of innuendo," says McNamara, who plays the flirtatious, estranged daughter of a steel baron.
"The word "lesbian" is never used, and although it's clear that the women are attracted to each other, the men never get it.
"When we researched the periodical index of the time, we found no mention of gays or lesbians. Our challenge was to counter the 40s and 50s view that lesbianism was wrong, evil, weird. And what happens when the femme fatale -- traditionally a spider who eats men alive -- rubs up against a different kind of detective?"
Both author/performers -- Moffat plays Addie -- are 40s freaks, but they acknowledge that they couldn't have pulled off the show without the help of more experienced associates like director Sue Miner and actors Mark Brownell and Ron Kennell.
"For us first-time playwrights, that support's invaluable," says Moffat. "Rehearsals are a collaborative family effort. Sue's done 10 Fringe shows and Mark has done eight. And of course we have the detective and movie material that's so rich, stylized and easy to send up."
"What the audience gets is film-noir-meets-Mel Brooks," concludes McNamara.JK
DA KINK IN MY HAIR by Trey Anthony, directed by Anthony and Weyni Mengesha, with Debbie Young, Diane Daniel, Miranda Edwards, Charlene Edwards, Rachael-Lea Rickards, Ngozi Paul and Anthony. Presented by Plaitform Entertainment at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 5 and 14 at 7:30 pm, July 7 at noon, July 8 at 5 pm, July 9 at 6:30 pm, July 12 at 4:30 pm, July 15 at 3 pm.
when trey anthony ended a seven-year relationship, she changed her hairstyle and saw The Vagina Monologues in New York. Little did she know that these experiences would kick-start her play Da Kink In My Hair."Suddenly, I wanted to reinvent myself," she says. "I realized that black women have lots of drama going on. I wanted to tell their stories. Our stories."
Her first attempts at writing were dark. "At the time, I was bitter, so the play was bitter, too." But soon her comedy background -- she's cracked up audiences at Yuk Yuk's and Second City -- emerged and the play clicked.
Anthony plays Novelette, a gossipy West Indian hairdresser who's a lot like her comedic alter ego, Carleen the Dance Hall Queen.
As the play progresses, various black women drop by the salon and tell their stories. They include a high-powered stockbroker who's working in an otherwise all-white office, a mother grieving the death of her shot-by-police teenage son, a girl who's an incest victim and a lesbian who talks about discrimination in the black community.
As a producer at the Women's Television Network and a part-time counsellor at a shelter for battered and homeless women, Anthony has heard lots of stories, good and bad.
But would these make interesting theatre for a diverse audience?
"A couple of months ago we held readings from the play, and women and men of all races and ages came up to me and told me how much they could relate," says Anthony.
"There's a section about being treated differently because you're dark- or light-skinned. Lots of people responded to that, including a white woman who said she was treated differently because she was brunette and her sisters were blond.
"Colour lines get erased. It brings everyone together."GS
FINDERS KEEPERS written, directed and performed by Larry Smith. Presented by Teatro Berdache at the Glen Morris. July 6 at 6 pm, July 7 at 11:30 pm, July 10 at 1 pm, July 12 at 8:30 pm, July 13 at midnight, July 14 at 2 pm, July 15 at 6:30 pm.
larry smith lives out his com-pany's name, Teatro Berdache, in performing his play Finders Keepers.Berdache, Smith explains, is a native word for "two-spirited people," a third-gender blend of male and female in a single person.
In Finders Keepers, Smith -- a Calgary performer and director recently settled in Toronto -- plays six characters, among them a native teenage hustler, a world-weary drag performance artist, his well-intentioned female roommate, a passionate but secretive social worker and a born-again Christian with his own demons.
"The show began with the drag figure, whom I created as part of the One Yellow Rabbit intensive course," recalls Smith, who's performed in Calgary for the Rabbits and Sage Theatre. "I decided to add several other monologues based on people I'd met -- a student I taught on North Vancouver Island, a weird pedophile I met in Toronto in the 80s and," he adds with a laugh, "a lot of social workers I've known over the years.
"Then the challenge was how to stage it, how to do it as scenes and not a series of monologues. What I've come up with is a simple physical vocabulary, vocal stylizations and a trio of ladders to delineate each figure. It was difficult at first -- my tendency was to act them all fully. I realized I couldn't do that and still tell the story clearly."
A hit at last year's Calgary Fringe, the show deals with how the characters look for love in different ways, focusing on the growing but unexpected relationship between the hustler and the performance artist. It's both comic and something of a mystery -- the plot doesn't twist the way you expect it will.
"It became a lot easier for me to perform when I made the characters more precise," notes Smith. "At times, I forget I'm up there by myself. I can hear all of them in my head, see where they are and what they look like."JK
THE HOPE SLIDE by Joan MacLeod, directed by Nicole Arends, with Mary Krohnert and Siobhan Power. Presented by Slide Productions at the Tarragon Extra Space. July 6 at 4:30 pm, July 7 at 6 pm, July 8 at 9:30 pm, July 10 at 11 pm, July 11 at 3 pm, July 13 at 8 pm, July 15 at noon.
joan macleod has a way with words and emotions that few Canadian playwrights can match. Her Chalmers Award-winning script The Hope Slide works at several narrative and theatrical levels to offer thoughts on death, rebellion, community and spirituality.That potent package drew director Nicole Arends to mount the show for the Fringe. Arends, artistic coordinator at YPT and assistant director on their show Ghost Train, has re-envisioned the tale of Irene Dickson, an actor touring a one-woman show about the Doukhobors, a Russian sect transplanted to western Canada who placed their own ideals above government demands.
In the original, one performer played Irene at 15 and at 37; Arends splits the figure between two actors and adds a strong movement component.
"I believe we are all part of one collective consciousness," offers the director, "and that each of us contains many voices. So the person Irene is at 15 isn't the same as Irene at 37.
The two "people" help each other, until by the end there's a sense of a mutual rescuing."
The piece touches on the meaning of hope, for both the passionate teenage truant Irene and the discontented adult Irene, who's dealing with a friend's AIDS-related death. MacLeod adds to the mix the Hope Slide, a 1965 mudslide disaster that buried a BC highway and killed four motorists, including a Doukhobor.
"The challenge in the piece is to express a "now' that has no dialogue," Arends explains. "Because so much of the play is like an interior dialogue with someone who never replies, our task is to provide the audience with a sense of theatrical give-and-take."JK
$8 or less, children $5 for kids' shows, some discounts, $2 surcharge on advance tickets. 416-966-1062, advance sales 416-862-2222. .
Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman)
Poor Alex Theatre (296 Brunswick)
Glen Morris Studio (4 Glen Morris)
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse (79A St. George)
Robert Gill Theatre (214 College)
Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst)
Palmerston Library Theatre (560 Palmerston)
and various bring-your-own-venues