Ever think about the theatrical link between the characters of Anton Chekhov and Judith Thompson?
Sitting in on rehearsals of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya last spring, Staged and Confused artistic director Michael Murphy was constantly reminded of Thompson's The Crackwalker.
It was the award-winning Thompson's first success, a look at five people isolated on the edge of Kingston, Ontario, society in the late 70s.
"Watching László Marton direct Vanya," recalls Murphy, whose production of The Crackwalker begins this week, "I thought about how Chekhovian The Crackwalker is. Just like Chekhov, Judith drops into significant moments in her characters' lives and observes how they all try to conceal their shame, lie about their hidden defeats."
Murphy, like Thompson, went to Queen's University and understands the play's characters and atmosphere.
Several of the characters are mentally challenged, and all are caught up in a world of alcohol, sex and denial. Its intense narrative is made more powerful by Thompson's uniquely rough and visceral language.
"It's that language we're working especially hard to capture, the shift from everyday talk to uncensored, heightened dialogue and sometimes a babble that drifts into psychosis," says the director, whose recent directing gigs include Rumours Of Our Death and Domestic.
But it's the play's four monologues that bring the audience into its world.
"During those four speeches, we become allies with the characters as a result of glimpsing them as open, honest people. There are no pretensions in the monologues, no attempts to block the truth.
"There's a nightmare quality to their world that we're trying to convey, an unrelenting anxiety that they can't escape. The characters all yearn for something else, to move to Calgary or reach a better place in life.
"Again, they're like Chekhov's figures - except that it's not Moscow they dream of."
Ariza visits Aluna
Wonder what theatre is like in a country where human rights aren't a given?
Colombian feminist theatre artist Patricia Ariza is the guest of Aluna Theatre tonight (Thursday, September 11). She'll talk about making theatre in that country and what the art form can do for those displaced by violence.
Ariza, a child refugee from Bolivia, later became a student activist and in 1966 co-founded Colombia's first alternative theatre, Teatro La Candelaria. Last year she received the Prince Claus Award for her work to empower the disadvantaged through culture.
The talk, in English and Spanish, looks at Ariza's approach to theatre, one that promotes social interaction and reduces conflict. Her method involves testimony, re-enactment and the development of a script based on the issues in the lives of the participants, whether they're women displaced by violence, the elderly or market vendors.
Connecting at QueerCab
Are you queer-identified youth between 15 and 25? You'll find lots of empowerment at QueerCab, part of the fifth Queer Youth Arts Program at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
A monthly open mic for queer youth, the Wednesday (September 17) cabaret launches this year's program. Its theme is "fierce," and its host is Chyra Spanx. You can sign up at 7:30 pm to strut your stuff in a five-minute slot for the 8 pm show.
It's also a chance to meet the program's new coordinator, Chy Spain, and learn about its various elements, including PrideCab, a youth-created show performed at Pride next summer, and a young creators unit, which involves artistic mentorship for a group of up-and-coming performance artists.
For more on Buddies' programs for young artists, see artsexy.ca/youth.cfm.
For info on the pwyc September 17 QueerCab, see One-Nighters.
Want to take part in some other programs aimed at young artists?
The Paprika Festival of original short works created by artists 21 and under seeks applicants for its eighth annual outing next March.
Artistic producer Tessa King has split the fest into three programs: productions, a creators unit and a designers and producers unit.
The first is for those who already have a script and a team of collaborators; they'll be mentored by a senior artist and their work presented in the festival. The second, focusing on development and collaboration, is for people of diverse artistic backgrounds who have an idea for a show and want to work with both young and established artists. The third is for those who want to work behind the scenes in anything from design to stage management.
A selection committee will choose participants based on applications and interviews; no previous experience is needed. Submission deadline is September 25, and the program begins in the fall. For more info and application forms, see paprikafestival.com.
Yes you CanStage
And over at Canadian Stage, the company offers a ticket program for those under 24 called the CheapTHRILLS Youth Access Pass. Members can buy $5 tickets for most of the company's productions and be part of workshops, backstage tours and discussions with artists.
The company also introduces a quartet of training programs for young people interested in various aspects of theatre; no experience is required. The free year-long sessions, which involve work with theatre professions, run after school at the Berkeley Street Theatre.
Participants are selected through an application and interview process. The program facilitators are Natasha Mytnowych and Ravi Jain, with other leaders drawn from artists and professionals associated with the company's season.
The four programs are for a young company (to develop acting and leadership skills), an innovators creation program (in which young women develop performance skills and a new work through a multidisciplinary approach), an emerging writers program called Lines and a production and design program (focusing on lights, sound, costume and set design).
The first three are aimed at people from 16 to 21, while the last is for budding artists from 16 to 24.