If you want a festival with bite, Rhubarb should do the trick. The showcase of new work is now packed into two compact weeks and features a couple of new initiatives, including a focus on reimagining Toronto and a free series called Mobile Works that takes you out of the theatre and into the streets. Much of it is the brainchild of incoming fest director Laura Nanni, whose past works have proved she's a master of multidisciplinary multi-tasking. See listing.
This is your first year as Rhubarb's director. How do you ensure it's not your last?
I'm taking plenty of vitamins.
You're known as an interdisciplinary artist. For the layperson, what does that mean?
I mash up different methods and materials when I create. Interdisciplinary art is a synthesis of different art forms, often in combination with methods of other disciplines, too. In my own work, I meld techniques of theatre and visual art with those of cartography and geography.
What are some of your favourite interdisciplinary pieces from the past year?
Daniel Lanois's Later That Night At The Drive-In, which transformed Nathan Phillips Square sonically and spatially during Nuit Blanche 2010, and Dance Marathon, an interactive performance and endurance piece by bluemouth inc.
One of Rhubarb's new features is the free series Mobile Works. Some of it's outdoors. In the dead of winter. WTF?
Yup. Artists are taking to the streets, sidewalks and underground, playing with our expectations of what's possible in public space. The work is as much for regular festival-goers as it is for an accidental audience: commuters, shoppers, pedestrians. A lot of it you can even catch on the way to the theatre. It will change the way you see and engage with the city.
Favourite past Rhubarb experience?
I'll always remember my first time. I was in high school. It was a late-night event featuring one-minute pieces. I saw drag, live music and a Shakespeare sonnet performed back to back within my first three minutes. The room was packed, and the audience was boisterous. There was an energy that made me feel so welcome and that anything was possible.
Rob Ford's office calls to see something. What do you recommend?
Upper Toronto - Community Consultation, by Small Wooden Shoe, is a science fiction design presentation that asks citizens for input on a plan to build a new Toronto over the current one. I also think he'd get a kick out of On Livingston's Method, by Henry Adam Svec, which features folk songs written by CFL players in the 70s.
It's February 16, the fest's opening night. What's going through your mind?
"I'm looking forward to this, and has Rob Ford RSVP'd yet?"
Last summer the Toronto Sun criticized the show Homegrown at SummerWorks. Anything that might offend them at Rhubarb?
Could someone be upset by a play about Canadian Eugenia "Jim" Watts, communist, activist and director during the Great Depression? Would they be more bothered by a cultural dissection of Lady Gaga? How about a performance exploring Muslim and Jewish queer identity? Maybe, maybe not. When work is complex or boundary-pushing, there's always a chance it may shock or offend. We want to create a platform where work like this can exist and a space where people can talk about the issues and ideas it raises.