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RHUBARB FESTIVAL presented by Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander), at Buddies and other locations. Runs through February 23, Wednesday-Sunday, various times. Week one mainstage projects $10, week two evening passes $20, open space projects and artist talks free (donations accepted), Young Creators Unit events pwyc. 416-975-8555. buddiesinbadtimes.com. See listing.
There's no reason, argues Small Wooden Shoe's Jacob Zimmer, that radio can't be a satisfying live theatrical experience.
During Rhubarb, he and other artists are staging several episodes of The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show, both at Buddies and the Monarch Tavern.
"I grew up in a household that had a radio on in every room, so you could walk around and maintain your perfect connection to the CBC. What I was drawn to was talk radio, and that's now grown, with newer media, into my listening to podcasts with a headset wherever I am in the city."
That led Zimmer to think about how to link podcasts and theatre, the latter having "distribution only in the historical moment. But radio and the related podcasts reach beyond those who sit in an auditorium watching a show. I wanted to be able to share a theatrical work with more people while still giving those in the theatre the excitement of seeing something live."
Many of Small Wooden Shoe's productions, including the fascinating Dedicated To The Revolutions cycle, involve talking into mikes. Zimmer develops a show not with a written script, but rather by taping a rehearsal and revising the material from the audio. In Story Dance Radio, written for Dancemakers, he included actor Chris Stanton as a DJ framing the action.
In the Fun Palace presentations, he's forefronted the verbal and audio aspect of his work, so that a performance will be like watching the taping of a radio show, with actors doing foley and aware that we're watching them create sounds.
Each show will be different, with episodes of Brendan Gall's sci-fi drama The Scarlet Death, based on a 1912 Jack London story, and Evan Webber's "call-in radio show" The Toy Expert, involving wind-up toys, copyright and Samuel Beckett.
The Monarch Tavern evening features music by Felicity Williams, material from John Southworth and Maggie MacDonald's No One Receiving, also part of the Rhubarb lineup, and a story by Jessica Moss.
The show at Buddies includes music by Thom Gill and Stewart Leger, a story by Mel Hague and VideoCab News, which channels a 90s Cameron House event by Deanne Taylor.
You can check out podcasts of earlier shows at funpalace.org.
The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show runs February 18 at 7 pm, Monarch Tavern (12 Clinton) and February 23 at 6:30 pm, Cabaret.
Playwright and filmmaker Hope Thompson admits to a long-term fascination with movies of the 1940s and 50s.
"Often there are undertones and subplots that just beg to be mined, especially those that have characters who carry some sexual baggage they can't talk about," says the author of Trapped! The play's about a married female couple and their doctor, also a woman.
"I see this especially in noir films, where repression defines some of the most fascinating people. It's led me to create works of art that appear to be from another time but actually come from a contemporary point of view. In other words, I'm using the styles of past eras that seem like artifacts but in fact aren't."
Set in the 50s, Trapped! follows the not-always honest relationship between the rich and ill Claire (Carolyn Taylor) and her new wife and former secretary, Anne (Kat Letwin), who has more than a passing interest in Claire's doctor, Dianne (Sarah Joy Bennett).
"It has the feel of a film like Rebecca, a melodrama with a touch of pulp fiction. There's comedy here, too, that comes in part from the familiarity we have with this kind of set-up: rich spouses, hidden affairs, the possibility of double indemnity to secure what one wants.
"There's humour for viewers in knowing that you're going down a familiar road but not being aware of all the twists that the path will take. Director Morgan Norwich has found a lot of comedy that I hadn't anticipated when I was writing the play."
This is the fourth time that Thompson's taken part in Rhubarb. Her initial festival show and first play was Green (2004). She's also the author of Stiff, Fringe hit Tyrolia and the film Trailing Arbutus.
"It's exciting to be part of a curated festival where you're supported throughout the process by the crew at Buddies. It's a great opportunity to experiment, especially since the audiences are so encouraging."
Trapped! runs February 19-23 at 9 pm, Cabaret.
Some people think that performance art is a joke.
Viktor Lukawski plans to have a laugh at the experimental form's expense, but he's approaching his Rhubarb show, Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo, with total seriousness.
Start with that seemingly absurd title, which is a grammatically correct English sentence (see Wikipedia) that plays with a trio of meanings: the animal, the nearby city and the verb meaning "to intimidate."
"The idea for the show began when I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe and found myself completely disappointed with the shows I saw that billed themselves as experimental or performance art. Since then, I've been thinking about what makes a work of art significant."
In Buffalo (x8), devised by ZOU Theatre, he and co-creators Nicolas Di Gaetano and Deanna Jones explore performance art onstage.
"We want to subvert what is admittedly a difficult genre, to create satire, but take the work solemnly as we develop it. Our characters hope to come up with the ultimate piece of experimental theatre - so they tell themselves - but their shortcomings become quite obvious along the way and the send-up shines through."
This is where the three rely on their clown and bouffon training, says Lukawski, who's appeared in The Double and Old Trout Puppet Workshop's Ignorance.
"The clown thinks the creation is the most amazing work of art, ‘a beautiful piece about meaning,' even though the set is falling apart and the lighting malfunctions. There's often a thin line between a train wreck and a successful piece of theatre."
The two 30-minute shows are homages to the history of experimental performance, using microphones, projections, nudity and marathon moments of stillness or self-harm. Look for nods to Robert Wilson's slow movement and the work of Marina Abramovic and Ulay, especially a performance in which the duo alternately slap each other across the face.
In the first evening's performance, Lukawski collaborates with Jones to explore the female/male collaboration in performance art; in the second, he and Di Gaetano will look at the experimental male duo onstage.
They might even sit in the audience at some point, watching the viewers and thereby transforming them into performers for a minute.
"That way we can criticize them as an audience, see how good they are that evening. It's the kind of playfulness we're aiming for in Buffalo (x8)."
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo runs February 21-22 at 10 pm, Chamber.