Lab Cab goes boo
While it's not Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory, Factory Theatre turns into the site of a large artistic experiment this weekend (October 31 to November 1) for the fourth annual Lab Cab. Appropriately, many of the shows pick up on the Halloween theme.
Curated by Aviva Armour-Ostroff and André du Toit, the free, multidisciplinary arts festival of short works takes over all the spaces in the cavernous Factory building. Look for presentations not just on stages but also in hallways, washrooms, lobbies and staircases.
"A lot of people believe the building is haunted," says Armour-Ostroff. "John Mulvey, the builder, owned a lot of property in the area. His home is the older section of Factory, but it's the newer area, the theatre itself, that's reputedly visited by the ghost of Mulvey's wife.
"Even those who aren't superstitious and don't believe in spirits have had eerie feelings in the building."
Capitalizing on a good thing, the curators have invited Haley McGee to design a haunted house tour, set to run three times close to the witching hour on Saturday.
Other holiday-related presentations? Cryptozoology Playground (aka Zita Nyarady) creates The Darkness Chapter, which uses dance, theatre and stilts to look at why we're afraid of the dark. Chris Remerowski's film Disappeared explores Blair Witch Project territory, while Eden Hertzog offers a set of dark melodies in Even A Vampire Can Sing A Love Song.
Ulysses Castellanos and Cathy Gordon use the tool shed in the courtyard for multimedia installation Haunted Shed. Lost Souls, by rad (random acts of dance), turns zombie-like figures loose on the audience. Why Not Theatre and TheatreRUN present an imagistic version of Poe's The Raven.
The carpentry shop, which has always had a creepy feel, is the site for Daniel Briere and Marcus Jamin's Morsel, a puppet show about a gravedigger who isn't as alone as he thinks. Daniel Sadavoy's Through The Cracks In The Walls features a character trying to get promoted as he deals with the building's various ghosts.
But not all the shows reflect the season.
"When I asked participants to get involved, I didn't want to confine them to developing new work or force them into a specific thematic presentation," notes Armour-Ostroff. "Lab Cab is about showing new work to an audience and getting a response. About a quarter of the works aren't dark-themed."
Lab Cab also stages the third and final segment of Red Machine, following Fringe and SummerWorks presentations of the first two parts.
Saturday events between 1 and 6 pm are intentionally kid-friendly. Families can enjoy face painting, pumpkin soup making, a costume parade, Catherine Hernandez's puppet show Eating With Lola and Armour-Ostroff's film Trick Or Treat: The Motion Picture, which looks at the door-knocking tradition from the viewpoint of the trick-or-treater.
"I hope children will come and be entertained by the shows and then go off to trick-or-treat. Adults can stay around until 1 in the morning for scarier pieces."
The Sunday event is a return to the original monthly form of Lab Cab: 10 pieces, from various disciplines and running 10 minutes each, are set for the Factory Studio.
"I think of the Sunday show as a recovery afternoon - from Saturday's late night and also a way of recovering Lab Cab's past."
See listings or labcab.ca.
Since it's autumn, it's also time for Playwrights Canada Press's fall launch party, at the Rivoli Monday (November 2).
Reading from their newly published works are Stephen Massicotte (The Clockmaker), Don Hannah (While We're Young), Daniel David Moses (Almighty Voice And His Wife), Sunil Kuruvilla (Rice Boy) and David Ferry (Reaney Days In The West Room).
One of the plays being launched, The Drowning Girls, is currently playing at the Tarragon. Two of its authors and performers, Daniela Vlaskalic and Beth Graham, are joined by Natascha Girgis in an excerpt from the play. It's published along with Comrades, another piece by Graham and Vlaskalic.
The free evening, including refreshments, is hosted by Jon Kaplan and Susan G. Cole.
How do you squeeze 60 concerts into a long weekend? You program the second annual Canwest Cabaret Festival, which takes over five venues at the Young Centre beginning tonight (Thursday, October 29).
The range of performers is awesome: Molly Johnson, Patricia O'Callaghan, David Buchbinder, Sharron Matthews, d'bi.young, Brent Carver, Elizabeth Shepherd, Jackie Richardson, Waleed Abdulhamid, david sereda, Melanie Doane, John Alcorn and Maryem Tollar, among others.
And that's just the solo acts. There's a Stevie Wonder Songbook, a Joni Mitchell Songbook, a concert with Patricia Cano and Tomson Highway, a Rogers and Hart Songbook, the Polka Dogs and a Tribute To Danny Kaye.
You can also count on some clowning around featuring the nine members of the Soulpepper Academy: seven performers, a director and a designer, all of whom don red noses.
"We've worked with director Leah Cherniak to create the piece," says actor Brendan Wall, "and the first thing we learned is that clown doesn't live until it's in front of an audience.
"Because it's part of a cabaret event, our through-line is that this group of clowns is putting on a show. I think of my character as a country-gentleman farmer who makes himself cry by singing old tunes like Danny Boy."
How did they find their individual clowns? A quick trip to Value Village, confides Wall.
The Soulpepper troupe also presents (re)birth: e.e. cummings in song, a series of musical pieces based on the poetry of the capital-letter-challenged poet.
"It's a half-concert, half-theatre piece," offers Wall, "a crazy, eclectic mix of the most traditional-sounding sweet melodies with avant-garde, crazy, dissonant tunes. There's shadow play and choral work, too."
In this case, the nine collaborated with musical director Mike Ross, a graduate of the Academy, who's "nurtured a sense of listening and musicianship, even for those who don't have a background in music."
Even those who do have a background find themselves picking up new instruments. Percussionist and bass player Ins Choi here plays a mandolin, and clarinettist Gregory Prest tries his skill with a bass.
"We've found that cummings's humorous, open exploration of language is a perfect fit for our investigations," notes the actor. "Unbelievably prolific, he wrote over 2,000 poems. One piece looks like letters on a page, while another is almost a perfect sonnet.
"His skills are as multifarious as what the nine of us can come up with as a group."