It's always fascinating to be part of Tapestry New Opera's public workshop series, Opera Briefs. You're presented with a dozen or so seeds of new works, short scenes that have the potential to grow into full-length pieces.
This year's Briefs, which concluded last Sunday, September 23, were earlier generated in what the company calls its LibLab, a kind of operatic speed-dating involving a group of librettists and composers. Over 10 days, a librettist is paired with a composer and given 16 hours to write text and music; they then switch partners and begin again.
By coincidence, this year's LibLab drew together four female librettists (Liza Balkan, Katherine Koller, Amy Lee Lavoie and Hannah Moscovitch) and four male composers (Ivan Barbotin, Lembit Beecher, Benjamin Pesetsky and Benton Roark).
The pairings must have felt like a real dating game.
We caught the final performance of Opera Briefs, featuring singers Allison Cecilia Arends, Andrea Ludwig, Keith Klassen and Geoffrey Sirett, working with director Michael Mori and musical directors Christopher Foley and Jennifer Tung.
One of the best episodes was Moscovitch and Pesetsky's Love Redux, a look at Helen of Troy and Paris some time into their relationship, when her ardour doesn't quite match his; it was helped, as were other excerpts, by the acting talents of Ludwig and Tapestry regular Klassen. The performers also sparked Balkan and Roark's emotionally rich Ice Cream, a mostly spoken encounter between a memory-challenged mother and her concerned son.
Other highlights included Moscovitch and Beecher's George Is Heartbroken, a series of variations on a relationship exchange that was sometimes bitchy, sometimes endearing, with Ludwig and Sirett, and Balkan and Barbotin's (What Rhymes With) Azimuth. In the latter, set in the Distillery District, a woman (Ludwig) focuses down on her notebook while a man (Sirett) turns his attention up to the sky. Their eyes and their lives cross, if only briefly, leading to a tender duet of connection.
Sometimes scenes were part of larger works and didn't suit this kind of excerpt format; even an introductory set-up didn't allow us to follow the action easily. An exception was Moscovitch and Barbotin's The Rape Of Artemisia, about the 17th-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi and her instructor/seducer, a theatrically full confrontation even divorced from its larger context.
Want to catch some new queer theatre?
Gay Play Day, a new festival of short works by LGBT playwrights, runs this weekend.
On the bill is a reading of Sky Gilbert's new one-act, Hamilton Bus Stop, as well as short pieces by Bruce Harrott (Intervention), Tina McCulloch (The Object Of Her Attraction), Durango Miller (Stupid Bitch) and Darren Stewart-Jones (Ramblings Of A Middle Aged Drag Queen). Stewart-Jones is the author of The Judy Monologues, which played at the 2012 Fringe.
Among the performers are Elley-Ray Hennessy, Nick Green, Philip Cairns, David Bateman, Ryan Anning and Julie Burris.
Dramatic Nuit Blanche
You'd never be able to catch everything in Nuit Blanche, even if - as some people do - you stay out all night.
In addition to other NOW coverage, here are some theatre and dance pieces to consider.
Emergency Exit's Sean MacMahon and Kevin Rees present a durational performance installation entitled the evening news (small craft warnings) in Berczy Park, west of the Flatiron Building, between Front and Wellington.
Small Wooden Shoe collaborates with the Royal Conservatory to "read difficult plays and sing simple songs" in Koerner Hall; look for some Gertrude Stein, a few tunes and visuals that light up a dark room. The readers include Frank Cox-O'Connell, Liz Peterson, Sean Dixon, Christine Brubaker, Evan Webber and Gregory Prest, with musicians Laura Barrett, Scott Maynard and the 3Penny Choir.
Ariel Len of Zoey's Projects offers a multimedia dance project in tribute to writer Hilda Doolittle, fantasizing what it would be like if Doolittle were secretly a Dadaist. Curated by Thom Sokoloski, the piece runs in the Distillery District.
At the other end of town, in the Artscape Wychwood Barns, you can catch a variety of pieces collectively called Small Audiences; there'll be storytelling, Shakespeare, sound art, puppetry, opera and more. Every hour throughout the night, a 12-person audience will be treated to a short performance.
Among the works on tap: in this moment, an examination of the communion between performer and spectator, written by Norman Yeung and performed by Cara Gee; several thematic explorations of Shakespeare with Rebecca Singh, Jonathan Heppner and Kimberly Purtell; vocal paintings by singer Neema Bickersteth; and a 5 am piece called Dim Sum Lose Some, by Marjorie Chan with Colin Doyle, Derek Kwan, Jasmine Chen and Neha Ross, in which friends come together in the very early morning for dim sum.
Shaw and Shah
Why Not Theatre launches its fall season with Beyond Bollywood, a theatre and film festival featuring Bollywood stars Naseeruddin Shah and his wife, Ratna Pathak Shah. The two are featured in a production of Jerome Kilty's play Dear Liar, about the relationship between George Bernard Shaw and one of his favourite actors, Mrs. Patrick Campbell (September 28 to 30).
That performance in English is followed by Ismat Apa Ke Naam, based on stories by feminist writer Ismat Chughtai. The two actors' daughter Heeba Shah joins them for presentations in Urdu/Hindi, with English surtitles (October 5 to 7).
Both events are at the newly launched Regent Park Arts and Cultural Centre (585 Dundas East).
Why Not also teams up with TIFF to present a conversation with Naseeruddin Shah, October 4 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West).