HERE LIES HENRY by Daniel MacIvor and Daniel Brooks, directed by Brooks, performed by MacIvor. Presented by da da kamera and Buddies at Buddies Mainspace (12 Alexander). Previews Tuesday (September 19), opens Wednesday (September 20) and runs to October 15, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, October 8 and 15 at 7 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $20-$35, Sunday pwyc. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNNN
What producer Sherrie Johnson really loves to do, by her own admission over an early morning cup of coffee, is put people together and let them cook artistically.
She's been doing that with lots of theatre and, more recently, film folk since she moved to Canada from the States in 1990.
Possibly her most important link is with da da kamera, the company founded by Daniel MacIvor, with whom she's worked since 1993.
This is da da kamera's 20th anniversary, and, surprisingly, it's celebrating by closing its doors.
But not before a year-long event that includes presentations of a trio of MacIvor's standout solo shows, Here Lies Henry, Monster and House. The productions anchor this season at Buddies, where MacIvor has presented In On It, Cul-de-Sac and A Beautiful View.
"Buddies is our Toronto home," notes Johnson, taking some time between screenings and workshops at the Toronto International Film Festival, "and Buddies founder Sky Gilbert was the person who took a chance on Daniel back in 1986 by giving seed money to his first show here, See Bob Run.
"It's inevitable, I guess, that we wanted to present our 20th season at Buddies."
Here Lies Henry, which starts performances Tuesday (September 19), features a bravura performance by MacIvor, directed by co-creator Daniel Brooks, in which an inveterate liar tells us something about himself and his life. He makes a theatrical meal of salad bars, house fires, love, dancing and death. Oh yeah, and along the way he talks about the truth. At least a little.
"We're opening the Buddies season with Here Lies Henry because it's the first show we developed together," reminisces Johnson, who in the early days was involved in setting up each performance and running lights.
"I think of it as our baby."
The company's shutting up shop, adds the producer, not because of any problems but because MacIvor and Johnson have done what they wanted to do. She hopes its success and working methods inspire other artist companies.
Da da kamera has been unusual in English Canadian theatre in not concluding a work's development until it's been presented in various communities in this country and beyond.
"When Daniel talks about something that will take shape over time, I start working on a schedule that becomes the development tour. That forces us to begin creating."
Touring both taking Canadian shows abroad and introducing local audiences to groups from around the country has always been important to Johnson. She estimates that she's been involved in giving international life to nearly 200 Canadian productions.
"That's how our artists can grow and develop, by showing their craft to audiences abroad and learning from artists they come in contact with."
She was central in the now-defunct Six Stages festival and has turned her larger focus to the national Magnetic North Festival and to Push, a multidisciplinary, international Vancouver-based festival.
"I wish there were something like Push in Toronto," she sighs, "but government funders decided that they couldn't give money both to Harbourfront Centre's World Stage and to another festival at the same time."
Too bad. Johnson, who's moved into film producing as well ("My artists wanted to make films, and I find that I love the challenge"), has made connections with companies all over Canada and the world, groups who welcome and help develop shows just as fine as da da kamera's.
"Buddies is one of those groups; the people are some of my favourite working partners. In the end, you want to go where you're loved and wanted."