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Leora Morris’s wordless farce Engaged looks at marriage and money.
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Shaista Latif’s one-woman show, Graceful Rebellions, is a coming-out event.
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Adam Paolozza makes Shostakovitch, Or Three Days In Red a silent drama.
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.
To February 24, 8 pm
"Love" and "marriage" are words that often go together, but these days director Leora Morris is thinking more along the lines of money and marriage.
Tinkering with Engaged, an 1877 farce by W.S. Gilbert (of Gilbert and Sullivan), Morris explores the always intimate connection between romance and finance.
"Though on the surface the play's about relationships, at base it's about money," she says. "Nor is this a dated concept. There's a notion now that since a marriage isn't a business transaction - women earn their own salaries and have financial stability - people now look at it as an elevated romance divorced from day-to-day practicalities.
"That's simply not so, and I wonder how our idealized notions of romance set us up to fail in our relationships."
Engaged brings several sets of couples together, people who change partners over the course of the play. But don't look for Victorian dialogue here, since Morris and her talented cast of 10 working with pianist Scott Christian explore its ideas in the style of a silent film.
"It's the wordiest farce with the most intricate of narrative twists," laughs the director, whose previous work includes Horse. "We're aiming for a distilled look at what drives people, using the simplicity of vaudeville and early movies.
"The characters pursue their desires in an overt way, and there's a cartoon logic in loving someone and then suddenly being smitten by another without concern for hurting the first person."
But the show's inspirations aren't all old-fashioned. Morris cites Pac-Man as one of the workshop's visual sources, since "the supersaturated colours of that video game world speak to the tone of the play's universe."
She's also drawing on Beyoncé's image to add a touch of contemporary rock glam. After all, doesn't everyone want to be at the centre of their own music video on their wedding day?
To February 24, 6:30 pm
Shaista Latif has finally gotten beyond the fear of saying she's a queer artist.
Her solo show, Graceful Rebellions, is one of four works by members of this year's Buddies' Young Creators Unit at Rhubarb.
The act of writing the three monologues that comprise the piece has been important for the Afghan theatre creator.
But "to be part of the unit and perform my own writing onstage will be my big coming out," she says. "For years, only a few friends knew I was gay - and I am gay - and I never mentioned my sexuality in any of my theatrical work. I hope that this process, both being out there and writing something that gives a voice to gay women of colour, may provide others with an idea or a little fire to come out and express themselves."
The first monologue, spoken by Zenat, a young Canadian woman from a traditional Afghan family who's not allowed to express herself, echoes Latif's own story. By its end, the character understands her link to voiceless, struggling women back home.
She also recognizes some of herself in the other two figures, the playful, optimistic Leili and the quick-thinking Wazma, who does what's necessary to protect her family.
"All three are people of power, courageous and strong in their own ways."
While she's sure to feel some nervousness doing a one-woman show, the young theatre artist has been well trained, having studied storytelling with artists in New York and in Toronto with solo creator Tracey Erin Smith. At Buddies her mentor and director is Evalyn Parry, known for her own one-person works.
"Now that Graceful Rebellions is being presented at Rhubarb, I know I can't go back to my previous life. In lots of ways, I'm on a public stage."
Shostakovich, Or Three Days In Red
February 27-March 3, 8:30 pm
Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich spent a nerve-racking weekend in 1961 waiting to be arrested by the Soviet police, his bags packed and waiting at the front door.
That situation inspired Adam Paolozza's Shostakovich, Or Three Days In Red, a wordless music-and-movement piece underscored by the composer's eighth string quartet.
"I appreciate the concentration and size of chamber music," offers Paolozza, creator of The Double and currently performing in Spent. "Given the small number of instruments, you can see the contour of the music. Somehow, its size suggests dance and movement to me."
At the time Shostakovich was considering the quartet, he'd had enough of the Soviet regime and, in part because of health problems, was thinking about suicide. He completed the work in three days, and its writing exorcised thoughts of death.
The characters in the Rhubarb piece are the composer and his wife, but four different performers - including co-creator and musician Sam Sholdice - appear as Shostakovich.
They'll incarnate various-sized versions of the man, which suits Paolozza's intention to work with gestures and movement on several scales, from small to large.
"The play stems partly from my Lecoq studies in Paris. One exercise was to arrive at the boss's office to hear some important news. We were asked to take each physicalized emotional gesture - fear, waiting, hesitation, whatever - and push it to the limit. The result was a weird kind of dance.
"In this Rhubarb piece, which I think of as a silent drama, I want to play not just with bodies of different sizes but also with the elasticity of gesture. It's like taking a theme and working it through different instruments and keys."
And remember Shostakovich's threatened arrest? The man who warned him Friday that it would happen Monday was himself taken into custody, so the axe never fell on the composer.