HYSTERIA a festival of work by women, at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). Opens tonight (Thursday, October 27) and runs to November 5. $15, festival pass $50. 416-975-8555.
Hysteria is on the rise, and if you ask Moynan King, she'd say that's a good thing. But then again, she'd be referring to the festival of works by women at Buddies in Bad Times that she's been involved with since its inception in 2003.
This year's includes just under 100 performers and groups from across North America. There have been other Canadian festivals like this, but they've either disappeared or are specifically theatre-oriented. One event that parallels Hysteria is Montreal's Edgy Women fest, which has been running for over a decade.
"I'm from Montreal and know its performing arts community," says King, who's just directed The Monster Trilogy at Buddies. "The building of a Montreal connection is important for me, and several Montreal groups are taking part in Hysteria (including Le Boudoir, November 4).
"I see it as a baby step toward having more touring in Canada, since three groups from Hysteria will also be going to next spring's Edgy Women fest."
King is full of ideas about Hysteria, always looking for ways to allow it to grow. This year she's used a selection committee of eight from across the disciplines, who read over 400 submissions.
King wants the festival to be as diverse and cross-pollinating as possible, with artists learning from each other and also attracting wider audiences, whose members might come for one act and be turned on by another.
Many events are cabaret evenings in which dancers work alongside comics and theatre artists.
Just as importantly, notes King, the women involved are starting to expand their own individual projects, combining, for example, a theatre monologue with a live musician or a video element.
"This year we're also adding an all-music night called Megalomania (October 28)," she smiles, acknowledging that the title recognizes the rock-star quality of all musicians. "Music is a different style of performance, and you can't put a band onstage after a short theatre piece. People's ears just wouldn't adjust."
The evening's lineup includes Kinnie Starr and NYC queer hiphop group God-Des and She, along with the Boychoir of Lesbos and Ina Unt Ina.
There'll be play readings, too, such as Patti Flather's West Edmonton Mall (November 3), presented by Whitehorse's Nakai Theatre, and Jennifer Griffin's Into The Waves (November 5), a feminist piece about five women from different generations.
You can also check out this year's workshops: breakdancing (with K8 Alsterlund), boxing (with Savoy Howe) and belly dancing (with Malika). The breakdancer and boxer groups perform at the end of the festival.
Always looking for new collaborators, King has joined forces with Kathleen M. Smith of the Moving Pictures Festival to present Stripped (October 30), an evening of dance-related film and live performance.
"Hysteria is the kind of festival that has to represent the entire female artistic community. Just as importantly, its inclusivity encourages audiences to get involved and not just sit back and watch," says King.
"This year we're having an ongoing interactive installation called The Beauty Salon, where people can transform themselves have their nails done, get a massage, apply a moustache for the night.
"The Salon is part of loosening the divide between viewer and performer. You can also get involved in 100 People Performance (October 29), in which Shannon Cochrane teaches skills to the audience and then everyone performs together.
"It's a form of arts activism. Not all art has to be predetermined; it can also be created on the spot and involve whoever's present."