LAB CAB FESTIVAL a two-day multidisciplinary festival (Aviva Armour-Ostroff and André du Toit). At Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst). Saturday-Sunday (September 8-9), noon to 7 pm. Free. www.labcab.ca. Rating: NNNNN
The Lab Cab Festival blows the roof off Factory Theatre - metaphorically, and in a good way.
This is Lab Cab's second annual outing as a free, family-friendly festival. Again co-produced by theatre artist/photographer Aviva Armour-Ostroff and playwright/director/designer Andre du Toit, it features everything from film, theatre and comedy to poetry, dance, photography and storytelling.
"I've been inspired by the building that houses Factory Theatre," explains programmer Armour-Ostroff, who shifted Lab Cab from a monthly to a once-a-year event last September.
"It's a huge, glorious space, full of weird and wonderful areas. Just as we did last year, we're working in the building's nooks and crannies to showcase the talents of some 65 individuals and groups."
Expect to be entertained in the traditional theatre spaces as well as stairwells, the parking lot, green rooms and even the washrooms.
"We've added some new performing areas, too. There's a secret garden behind Factory - it was probably an alleyway before a new building went up - that we've turned into an intimate space where Sean Dixon will read children's stories."
Armour-Ostroff's also giving the festival an added focus involving at-risk youth as participants as well as audience members.
"There's such a push for multiculturalism in theatre these days, just as affirmative action was emphasized in the 80s. I think it's as vital to get young people involved in the artistic process, giving kids a chance not only to witness but also to be engaged creators.
"For this year's Lab Cab, we've asked seven young groups and individuals to work alongside professional artists, so audiences will see pieces by established as well as emerging talents.
"I hope," adds Armour-Ostroff with a smile, "that these kids become addicted and stay around, both as artists and as audience members."
Among the newbies are the AMY (Artists Mentoring Youth) ensemble, directed by Claire Calnan and Weyni Mengesha, who'll perform an excerpt from I Am Her, about rival girl gangs; a section of Theatre Revolve's SummerWorks hit I Think Of You, Erendira; photography by Leave Our Violence; and a live mic and music segment with hosts KB and Stripez.
The use of the building's various spaces has inspired at least one seasoned participant, writer/director Rosa Laborde, for her collectively created piece, Dish.
"I remember being here as an audience member last year and experiencing a different kind of creative energy about the performances," says Laborde, a writer in residence at the Tarragon and soon to perform in a new season of History Bites.
"There was none of the 'now we're going to sit in a theatre and watch a show' feel, which causes pressure for both audience and actors."
Laborde's show, co-created with its eight performers (including Dmitry Chepovetsky, Anand Rajaram, Guillermo Verdecchia and Jean Yoon), looks at food and what it means to each of the artists.
"I spoke with them about food and family history, and from that created fictional pieces inspired by their stories. The result is eight short pieces in which the actors prepare a dish - matzoh-ball soup, Chinese dumplings or caviar on blinis - and share it with the audience."
You'll find some other striking theatre pieces at this year's fest, including Rebecca Northan's monologue set in the men's washroom; a trio of tragicomic works about the secret lives of critics, performed by Maev Beaty; and Brendan Gall's take on the first act of Chekhov's The Seagull, which places the audience in the middle of the action.
Armour-Ostroff had the enviable job of curating the fest, and she's involved everyone from a Grade 7 friend who's recently gone into digital photography to her own Vancouver-based mother, with whom she's been exchanging photos for the past year, and musician Richard Underhill.
"I've admired saxophone-player Richard Underhill since I first saw him at the Bamboo," she says with pleasure. "I found him on MySpace and invited him to participate. It blows my mind that he said yes."
Additional Interview Audio Clips
The Audience for Lab Cab