Looks like the rains are over, giving audiences a chance to get out to see more SummerWorks shows without the problem of having to run for cover. (In fact, it's hard to do that at Factory Theatre; at least there's an accessible lobby for those attending shows at Theatre Passe Muraille.)
Last weekend I caught Byron Abalos's piece about his grandmother, Lola Lita, which is one of the three SummerWalks presentations new to this year's festival.
Leaving from Factory, actor/writer Abalos takes us on the journey his Philippine-born grandmother took for nearly three decades: her church across the street, the elementary school where she taught, the several nearby homes in which she lived and the theatre itself, where she's seen her grandson perform.
The 75-minute walk covers almost 90 years of Abalos's family history, and we don't just have to take his word(s) for it. He brings along a family photo album that presents five generations of that family, many of them vivid characters whose stories could easily have been staged.
He also includes a history of the area itself and the buildings we pass, as well as a look at Philippines history, both during World War II and the People Power Revolution of the 80s.
Abalos has included lots of entertaining details. Lola Lita and her family arrived in 1975 in wool suits, for surely - they thought - Canada was always a land of ice and cold; they discovered the truth when they got off the plane in July. Other points are less comical, and one of the winning aspects of the walk is that the narrator himself is clearly touched when he presents some of the material; the story he's telling is an emotional one.
Not surprisingly, children provide the focus of the tale and many of its links; we're aware of Lola Lita's concern not only for her own kids but also for those she taught.
But there's also the link to community, and one of the joys of this tour is the way we get to connect with members of the neighbourhood as we walk around it, some just by the serendipity of their being outside as we make a stop here and there on the route.
As I walked the route that Lola Lita took for years, I had the feeling that Abalos and the rest of us were on a kind of secular pilgrimage. As we repeated her steps, there was something of walking in her shoes and seeing her history. It's a rich trip.
Lola Lita runs this weekend (August 15 and 16) at 1:30 and 3:30 pm. If you have a chance to do a second walk, you can also catch Dana Puddicombe's Love Letters To Queen West (at 1 and 3 pm) and A Length of Chain, by Bruce Beaton and his daughter Molly McGregor (at 1:15 and 3:15 pm). All the walks leave from the Factory Theatre courtyard (125 Bathurst); Love Letters and Lola Lita end at Factory, while Chain deposits its audience at another SummerWorks venue, the Theatre Centre.[rssbreak]