HYSTERIA a multidisciplinary showcase of work by women. Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Opens today (Thursday, October 25) and runs to November 3. Day pass $15, festival pass $50, some events free. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNNNN
A multidisciplinary showcase of work by women. the creative estrogen's in over drive for the next 10 days at Buddies. Hysteria returns after a year's hiatus.
In the three previous fests, Hysteria showcased the work of more than 200 female artists. Festival director Moynan King promises another hundred women will take part in this year's multidisciplinary celebration, the largest in North America.
That includes participants in visual art displays, performance installations, theatre, dance, film, music and spoken word, as well as the return of the lesbian evening Strange Sisters.
You can participate, too, in public workshops with British multidisciplinary performance artist Anita Ponton , dancer Eryn Dace Trudell , breakdancer K8 Alsterlund and Montreal artists Les Walkyries (who'll provide training in gumboot dance and body percussion).
Want something more erotic? New York performance artist Felice Shayes leads a sex workshop called Brutal Affection , which teaches "fierce, passionate methods of slam, slap and thud."
And while the performers include returnees like Teresa Pavlinek , Montreal's Nathalie Claude , Edwige Jean-Pierre and Marjorie Chan , there's always room for new blood, says King.
"I don't see anything wrong with developing the work of established artists, but it's important that we provide opportunity for newcomers.
"That's why the submission process for Hysteria is so important. I could curate the festival without it, but when I read through the entries - this year there were 300 - I always find a couple of unknown names who promise exciting work."
One newcomer is Meghan Swaby , a young performer/writer and recent university grad who's developing a class project, Who The Hell Is Eleanor?, as part of 3 Short Plays & 3 Short Films (October 28).
Inspired by the life of jazz great Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, the piece, directed by Joan Kivanda , splits Holiday into two characters, Billie and the more flamboyant Lady Day.
"Lady is brash and loud but lovable," offers Swaby, "honest about most things but not herself. She uses a lot of defence mechanisms, including the music she loves, to keep herself hidden."
"Billie, on the other hand, has to face what Lady Day hides. She confronts the demons that Lady masks with drugs, the microphone and the stories she spins."
Swaby even gets to sing bits of Holiday songs like My Man and I Cover The Waterfront, though she laughs that she was initially resistant to singing at all.
Just as it's important for King to include new talent in Hysteria, she's intent on including national and international performers. She's been to similar festivals around Canada, such as Femfest in Winnipeg, and last year toured some previous Hysteria participants to Montreal's Edgy Women Festival.
In the 2005 fest, King highlighted Montreal performers. This year it's New York's turn, with former Big Apple artist Jess Dobkin as host (November 2).
The headliner is Jennifer Miller , Circus Amok's fire-eating, sword-swallowing bearded lady. She's on a bill that includes spoken-word activist Staceyann Chin and video by performance artist Patty Chang .
Another important part of Hysteria is a focus on young artists.
"Working with young women like those in Theatre Revolve (October 27) is a real tonic that keeps our juices flowing," King smiles. "They're the reason we embrace the unjaded."