Outdoor Clay & Paper Theatre is off to the races in Horse Feathers.
The latest by Clay and Puppet Theatre, Horse Feathers, may not be a totally winning ticket, but it's certainly - in horse-racing terms - a good bet to place.
The outdoor show focuses on the Dufferin Racetrack, which until 1955 occupied the site west of the Dufferin Grove Park performance space; in that year, developers bought the land and started building the Dufferin Mall.
The script by director David Anderson and Krista Dalby uses a commedia dell'arte performance style: the actors wear half-masks and make large gestures to communicate emotions to the audience. The live performers also work puppets of various sizes, and the show's narrator is a stilt-walking blue horse.
The show is a tale of dreams and enticements, from winning at the track to the material goods people are sold as a prime source of happiness.
The energetic actors - Caitlin Driscoll, Fraser Elsdon, Simon Esler, Aaron Rothermund and Beth Warrian - keep the audience involved for the hour-long show, which includes a wheelbarrowful of jockeys and prancing horses, a huge-headed racetrack owner and a quartet of horses whose bickering and broadly comic dialogue is the production's most entertaining writing.
The design by Mac Hillier and Holly Lloyd, painted by Liudmila Lipovskaya, is a plus, as is the live music by Chris Wilson, Jeff Wilson and Anderson, which holds its mostly young audience despite the park's usual summer distractions of pedestrians, bikers and basketball players.
And while we're in agreement with the call to return to Mother Nature at the play's end, we're bewildered about how the sentiment ties in to the preceding action.
Canadian Stage takes a new route to choose a director for next summer's Dream in High Park.
Directors are invited to submit proposals for a show they'd like to direct in the outdoor space. It's a great chance for emerging and mid-career theatre professionals to work on a large-scale production; applicants must be Canadian citizens, permanent residents or landed immigrants.
The suggested script must be by Shakespeare, appropriate for family audiences and staged under two hours without intermission.
Send the proposal on a single-sided page and include play description, the director's vision and the collaborative artistic team. Additional pages should include bios for the director and collaborators and the director's contact information.
Drop the package in person or by snail mail to CanStage TD Dream In High Park 2009: Proposals from Directors, The Canadian Stage Company, 26 Berkeley, Toronto M5A 2W3.
Deadline is 5 pm, August 15. For more information, contact Natasha Mytnowych at 416-367-8243, ext 277, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On your way to Stratford and want some Elizabethan social history along with your Shakespeare?
The fest has erected a new outdoor pavilion across from the Festival Theatre and opened it with director Peter Hinton's Shakespeare's Universe (Her Infinite Variety), a look at the role of women in Shakespeare's time. Using bits from the Bard and other writers - dramatists, pamphleteers, churchmen - as well as music and dance, Hinton's concocted an entertaining 75 minutes that displays the period's contradictory attitudes toward the female sex.
He's got a great cast, too, including Peggy Coffey, Laura Condlln, Matthew MacFadzean, Karen Robinson, Michael Spencer-Davis and Dayna Tekatch, who take on multiple roles but also portray archetypes such as the shrew, the poet and the puritan.
Favourite bits? MacFadzean as pamphleteer Joseph Swetnam, railing against women; Tekatch as a clever daughter fooling her father (Spencer-Davis) but getting a strict lesson from her mother (Robinson) in the little-known play The Two Angry Women Of Abingdon, and the forceful Condlln as a barmaid giving a macho braggart (Spencer-Davis) his comeuppance in another popular script, The Fair Maid Of The West.
Most engrossing, though, is the chilling scene from The Witch Of Edmonton, where Robinson personifies a female outsider - unwed, old, sneered at by her neighbours - who's left little choice but to turn to demonic powers (MacFadzean as her dog/familiar) in a society that won't accept a woman who tries to stand on her own. The play's based on a contemporary pamphlet that claims its events are true.
You might recall that, back in 1993, Hinton staged a memorable production of The Witch Of Edmonton for Equity Showcase. It featured a largely all-female cast, with Greg Kramer as the devil dog that helps seduce the title character to her doom.
Only problem with the Stratford show is the performing space. Great to have an open-air production, staged under a leafy tree that the company incorporates into the action. But there's no cover for anyone, so at one performance we were rained out, and at the return performance the lunchtime show got awfully hot, with no shade available for viewers.
Hey, Stratford, if you're going to use the venue next year, provide some cover for actors and audience.
Performances are at 11:30 am and 5:30 pm, so you can catch Shakespeare's Universe and then see either a matinee or an evening show.
Carlos Bulosan Theatre (CBT), which examines social issues that affect the Filipino and larger society while developing artists in the Filipino-Canadian community, has put out a call for its novice play-creation unit.
From September through January, participants investigate different approaches to making theatre through workshops and sessions with professional theatre artists. Each member creates a short piece to be presented at CBT's annual showcase of new works, Tales From The Flipside, next February.
To apply for the unit, send a letter of interest explaining why you'd like to be a member and an idea you'd like to develop into a theatre piece. In addition, send a one- or two-page example of any form of creative writing.
Deadline is August 5. Submit to email@example.com or to Carlos Bulosan Theatre, 167 Augusta, Toronto M5T 2L4.
Buddies in Bad Times's annual Rhubarb Festival will sprout next February, and the company's put out a call for submissions for the curated fest.
New this year are international shows being showcased alongside Canadian works.
Submissions should be no longer than 25 minutes, new and not previously produced. Send detailed information as hard copy - no fax or e-mail - accompanied by a 2009 Rhubarb application form, available at artsexy.ca.
Deadline is 5 pm, August 15.
Mail or drop submissions off to Erika Hennebury, Rhubarb Festival Director, Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander, Toronto M4Y 1B4. For more info, contact Hennebury at 416-975-9130, ext 40 or firstname.lastname@example.org.