RHUBARB FESTIVAL presented by Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander), at Buddies and other locations. Runs through March 3, Wednesday-Sunday, various times. Evening passes $20, One-To-One Performance Series, Young Creators Unit shows and The Faroe Islands pwyc, mobile events free. 416-975-8555, buddiesinbadtimes.com. See listings.
What makes a good Rhubarb show?
For festival director Laura Nanni, it's works in development that are "unapologetic and outspoken, that have an adventurous spirit. I'm attracted to bold experiments and projects that aren't sure where they may end up.
"Part of the Rhubarb experience is going into that unknown territory, and which shows are chosen only partly has to do with content, whether it be political or whatever."
In its 34th year, Rhubarb offers everything from theatre and dance to installation and music-focused works, at Buddies' Alexander Street home and at various spaces across the city, including its streets. Participating artists include the well-known (among them Nicolas Billon, Nina Arsenault, Andrew Zealley, Michael Rubenfeld and Sook-Yin Lee) along with newcomers set to make their mark in the arts community.
"If there's a theme this year, it's ritual," offers Nanni. "That encompasses everyday ritual, social ritual and performance ritual: eating dinner, getting dressed up and going to the theatre, meeting with friends on a regular basis, as well as all sorts of rites of passage.
"There's a definite comfort and familiarity in many rituals - I think of community as being built on ritual actions, some learned and some invented - but there's also a transgressive and transformative side of ritual, and Rhubarb fits into that aspect, too."
She says Buddies has been staging Rhubarb for decades, and in that time the festival itself has become a well-known ritual for its audience.
"But I want to look at the transgressive nature of the festival, play with people's expectations of what going to a performance is and with the form of the festival itself."
Look for One-To-One performances - just one spectator/participant meeting with one artist - as well as mobile works designed for public spaces, not only the streets but also places like Glad Day Books and Fabarnak at the 519.
"I'm always looking for people proposing big ideas that they feel are necessary to present at this moment in time. Performance is, after all, timely and ephemeral."
Rhubarb has a history of letting artists try out what they want, and makes a point of asking that critics not review works.
"It really excites when me someone goes out on a limb with their work, work that might scare the shit out of them and that probably can't happen anywhere except in the context of a festival like this."