Terrence Bryant’s autobiographical Farts And Whispers is a must-see.
LAB CAB FESTIVAL: PARKDALE, an outdoor and indoor arts festival (Lab Cab). Mostly along Queen West from Dufferin to Roncesvalles. Saturday and Sunday (July 26 and 27), 2-8 pm. Free. labcab.ca.
Aviva Armour-Ostroff wants people out on the streets and visiting the buildings of Parkdale this weekend to take in the local art.
The artistic director started Lab Cab 13 years ago to allow artists in various disciplines to develop work in a stress-free environment. By 2006 the evening had become a two-day festival at Factory Theatre, and last year she and artistic producer André du Toit moved Lab Cab to Parkdale, turning it into a summer event.
"It was a huge undertaking," recalls Armour-Ostroff, "since we doubled the number of performers and went from one building with multiple performance spaces to a playing area that took in 65 venues and covered over 2 kilometres.
"But that new location also gave us a chance to grow audiences, which last year numbered about 5,000. People who came to see the shows were sometimes just wandering by, lived down the street or found something interesting happening in their neighbourhood pub. One of the most important aspects of Lab Cab, I think, is drawing in people who aren't usually arts patrons."
You can expect everything from theatre, comedy and dance to storytelling and poetry reading, from visual arts and film to music and kids' workshops, all of it free, including a daily barbecue lunch. Most performances last from two to 25 minutes; the exception is Brad Hart's hour-long Fringe show Oh God - The Drums.
One of the highlights is sure to be Terrence Bryant's Farts And Whispers, drawn from a show he developed at Soulo Theatre and performed at the Fringe a few years ago. An engaging storyteller, Bryant recounts his experiences growing up gay in small-town Ontario, before pride was part of a queer lifestyle.
Other performances include Falen Johnson's Two Indians, set in an alley, where two women discuss what it means to be indigenous; Toni Ellwand's The Conversation, in which a woman and her uncle share laughs and tears in the PARC healing room; Perfect, a clown show by Diana Kolpak; and Christopher Sawchyn's Coward In The Middle, about Noel Coward.
"One of my favourite aspects of the festival is that I get to offer artists I love and respect a chance to develop, both as creators and with specific pieces," says Armour-Ostroff.
"Last year Sébastien Heins stepped in at the last minute to help when someone dropped out, and this year he's back with What I'd Do, a dance-theatre work he co-created for Lab Cab with Vanessa Smythe," she says. "His only request was that they perform it in a church. Claire Burns, who's volunteered for Lab Cab in the past, takes over clothing store Shopgirls with Samantha Madely, devising a work about fashion and investigative reporting."
You can even catch segments of upcoming SummerWorks productions Half Girl/Half Face and Maracatu You! Maybe these and other first productions will go on to be hits, which is what happened with the Lab Cab-premiered Yichud and Morro And Jasp: Go Bake Yourself.
"Surprises happen all the time," smiles the artistic director. "Last year Christian Lloyd went into Sun Fa Restaurant to do a show; he considered the local drinkers kind of rough, and who knows what they thought of this theatre guy invading their space.
"After the first performance, one of the men gave Christian notes about his work. Christian thought they were pretty accurate. By the last performance, everyone in the audience was taken with the show, and this year the restaurant can't wait to be a Lab Cab venue."