Toronto showed L.A.-based comic James Adomian lots of love last week when he stopped by the Comedy Bar for a weekend of sold-out shows demonstrating his versatility in improv, stand-up and sketch.
Friday, January 10, we caught Naughtyham, an improvised show built around the Sheriff of Nottingham, Adomian's outrageously campy gay stereotype of the Robin Hood character featured in one of his most famous stand-up bits. Outfitted with a curly Captain Morgan wig, a tunic, black leather gloves, a pair of pants featuring an enormous bulge and a sword he brandished with sadomasochistic glee, Adomian channelled a sneering Alan Rickman (from the movie) in a plot that, thanks to audience suggestions, touched on the polar vortex, sex with hamsters and, um, a bulge-measuring contest.
Yes, there was audience participation.
Some of the best improvisers in the city - heck, the country - joined in on the fun. Second City alums Alastair Forbes and Nigel Downer played an ectomorphic Robin Hood and his mysterious sidekick Azeem, getting laughs at times from some awkward racial stereotyping, while Jan Caruana made her Marian into a sexually frustrated maid obsessed with sheathed swords, potatoes getting mashed and codpieces.
Caruana and Mike "Nug" Nahrgang - as a Friar Tuck with a penchant for knitting - were the most focused in their improv, providing fresh and funny lines with clarity and confidence.
Stand-up David Dineen-Porter, not known for his improv, more than kept up with the rest as a John Lennon-esque troubadour-turned-rodent who got into some very tight situations with the Sheriff.
And director Darryl Pring kept a tight rein on the narrative's arc, resulting in a comic bull's-eye.
The next night we caught the first of two Adomian stand-up sets. A little unfocused at first (his impersonation of New Yawkers working at Disneyland wasn't as sharp as it could be), he found his footing in his send-up of homophobic Super Bowl ads, his parodies of ultra-masculine celebs Jesse Ventura and Sam Elliott and his fail-safe impersonation of moviedom's gay villains.
Adomian's got lots of audience appeal and impeccable timing, but his material is smart and political without being dogmatic. A great combination.
Host DJ Demers was on fire - his bit talking about "his partner" got one of the biggest laughs of the night - while Amanda Brooke-Perrin and Jeff Elliott had solid sets.
Both shows got our comedy year off to a great start.
Not so funny
Great Canadian clowns Mump and Smoot (Michael Kennard and John Turner) didn't have the happiest of New Year's.
During the first weekend of 2014, Turner's house on Manitoulin Island was destroyed by fire, which took not only his family's possessions but also the Mump and Smoot archives, press material as well as costumes and props. Turner, his wife Julia Winder and their dog all escaped safely.
They've received immediate support from the locals, but now clown communities across the country are organizing fundraisers for Turner and his family as well as the Manitoulin Conservatory for Creation and Performance (formerly the Clown Farm), run by Turner during the summer months.
You can also donate directly to the MCCP, a not-for-profit, charitable organization. See manitoulinconservatory.com for details.
Producer Shelley Switzer of the Edmonton Street Festival has started to collect Mump and Smoot archival material. If you have any information, you can email her at email@example.com. She'll present what she gathers to Kennard and Turner when they open their new show in Edmonton in April.
We'll let you know when a funder is planned for Toronto.
Want more experience as a director and to share ideas and growth with fellow practitioners working in other areas?
Directors Lab North, founded by alumni of the Lincoln Center Theatre Directors Lab, is entering its fourth year and looking for practising directors who have a passion for their work and are willing to branch out, experiment and explore new pathways. The program works best, say organizers, when it encourages growth in a director's artistic sensibilities.
This year's lab runs June 4 to 8 at the Tarragon Theatre; deadline for applications is February 7. For more info, see website.
Yes, it's the middle of winter, but summer will be here before you know it.
And so will SummerWorks, which still has open applications for its Live Art series and Musical Works In Concert.
The former is to be filled by creations from all artistic genres, the only requirement being that "the work must encapsulate a form of live performance in a non-traditional space and must consider the presence of the audience in relation to the work."
It also has to be presented within the festival's geographic area, which stretches from Spadina to Noble along Queen West. While organizers are interested in artists creating a project specifically for the festival, existing works are also welcome.
Deadline is January 31.
The Musical Works In Concert series helps develop and present original works of music theatre. Since 2010, 11 shows have been staged in concert versions during SummerWorks; they include new pieces that use both traditional and non-traditional musical theatre models.
Deadline is February 7.
Apply to both series online only; see their website.
Would you like to work with some of Toronto's most exciting theatre artists, even if you're not a professional actor or lack any previous experience?
Convergence Theatre and Outside the March, two of our best indie troupes, are planning a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, adapted by Convergence's Julie Tepperman and directed by that company's Aaron Willis and Outside the March's Mitchell Cushman and Simon Bloom. Choreographer is OTM's Amy Keating.
The show is a benefit production for the two companies.
Before you say you don't have the chops to be in a production written by the Bard, know that a key part of the activity for those involved is an eight-week Shakespeare performance class taught by Tepperman and Willis. It includes work in voice, movement, character development and text analysis.
There's a $600 enrollment fee, which covers the cost of the class and the rehearsal process.
The class, eight Wednesday evenings, runs from February 12 to April 2, with Sunday and Wednesday evening rehearsals beginning in September. The performances will be December 11 to 14 in a professional Toronto theatre.
Auditions are Sunday (January 19); alternate auditions times are possible.
For more info and to request an audition, email firstname.lastname@example.org.