A sure sign for Toronto theatregoers that it's August is the summer's final stage fest, SummerWorks.
Now in its 22nd year, the festival has added the word "Performance" to its title, a demonstration that this year's presentations include not only theatre but also music, a new Live Art series (curated by associate artistic producer, Deborah Pearson), performance, the return of the Performance Bar (with performances curated by Erin Brubacher) and various other events that blend discussion, performance and a look at the audience-performer relationship.
The national and local theatre productions number 41 this year, and the venues move further west than in previous years: to the Scotiabank Studio Theatre in the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement, just west of Dufferin. Theatre Passe Muraille and Factory Theatre again anchor the eastern end of the festival, which stretches across Queen West in theatres and other venues.
The music series, curated by Julie Fowler, has some exciting theatre-music collaborations in addition to the ongoing musical works in concert performances, the latter curated by Tracy Michaelidis. All music events are at the Theatre Centre.
The two musical works in concert offer workshops of Through The Gates and Blood Ties. The first, based on the Buddha's youth, deals with a king who hides his aging and suffering from his son. Composed by Scott Christian, with book and lyrics by Daniel Cummings, it's directed by Adam Brazier and features Ma-Anne Dionisio, Sterling Jarvis, Evan Alexander Smith and Jonathan Tan (Monday, August 13).
Blood Ties, based on a true story about four friends cleaning up after a suicide, is by the Performing Arts Collective and features book, music and lyrics by talented up-and-comers Anika Johnson and Barbara Johnston. In the cast are Eliza-Jane Scott, Gordon Miller, Justin Bott, Megan Nutall and Scott Walker, with musical direction by Jeff Newberry (Tuesday, August 14).
Leading off the music series is The Magic With Ark Analog, billed as a space disco dance CD release party for The Magic's debut LP, Ragged Gold. Opening band is Ark Analog, with DJ Craig Dunsmuir also part of the program. One exciting thing here is the collaboration of the musicians with theatre artist Jordan Tannahill, whose company Suburban Beast performed in SummerWorks two years ago (Friday, August 10).
One of the bigger buzzes around the festival involves another partnership, that between musician Hawksley Workman and stage director Christian Barry, who are working on The God That Comes. Barry is co-artistic director of Halifax's 2b theatre, whose company is represented in SummerWorks's theatre productions with Anthony Black's When It Rains (see here - the link to artists to watch hasn't yet been made). The one-man-band cabaret-rock show draws on the story of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus (or Bacchus, as he's known in Roman myth), and uses as its main narrative source Euripides' powerful play The Bacchae, in which the rational and the irrational war with each other (Saturday, August 11).
And while it's not being billed as a multidisciplinary event, you can expect something unusual from musician Buck 65, working on his SummerWorks show with dancer-choreographer-performer Ame Henderson, whose Public Recordings is known for its choreographic experimentation (August 15).
A few changes have been made to the printed program. Nina Arsenault's live art presentation 40 Days And 40 Nights is available for viewing from 9 pm to 5 am nightly, instead of 7 am to 11 pm.
There's an added free event, too, called Border Crossing. Danish playwright Astrid Salbaach, whose play Pietà is part of the festival, and American playwright Alice Tuan, represented by her script Ajax (por nobody), are in conversation Monday (August 13), 1 pm, at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Hannah Moscovitch, several of whose works have been premiered at SummerWorks, moderates the discussion.
NOW will be reviewing all the theatre productions in the festival, both online and in print. Check back regularly at nowtoronto.com/summerworks for reviews, posts and related SummerWorks coverage - you can also write your own reviews there - as well as regular updates at twitter.com/nowstage and twitter.com/glennsumi.