Kim Crosby in Strange Sisters.
It's been six years since Buddies in Bad Times hosted an evening of Strange Sisters, a celebration of the work of queer women in performance that first appeared in 1990.
As part of its 35th anniversary, the company revives the one-night festival, curated by Kim Crosby and Gein Wong, with the help of Jade Lee Hoy. The organizers have added trans artists to the mix of creators.
It's a typically eclectic program featuring the work of artists from across North America: performance, spoken word, burlesque, dance, music and cross-disciplinary works.
Among the highlights are an interactive work by Donna Michelle St. Bernard that uses Skype as a performance platform, Alvis Parsley's mimed interpretation of a dominatrix, pole dancing and aerial performance by India Davis, a sex work confessional by Juliet November, a "right of passage" ritual for intersex people by Cassandra Walker and an anthem for femme identity by Catherine "Legs" Hernandez.
There's also a collective video performance by Masti Khor and visual art by Fonna Seidu and Sun Sun.
Friday (October 25). See listing.
There's more queer activity at Buddies on Sunday (October 27), when the always political Wrecking Ball, 15th in the series, presents a response to the Russian government's anti-gay policies.
For Russia With (Gay) Love was inspired by a similar presentation by Zee Zee Theatre, Vancouver's foremost queer company, run by former Toronto theatre artists Dave Deveau and Cameron Mackenzie. That West Coast show, running the same night, is called NYET: A Cabaret Of Concerned Canadians.
The all-Canadian list of writers for the Toronto presentation includes Ronnie Burkett, Deveau, Catherine Hernandez, Daniel MacIvor, Sonja Mills, George F. Walker and Marcus Youssef.
Pwyc for the 8 pm show, but it'll likely be sold out soon after tickets go on sale at 12:30 that afternoon.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: celebrate the talent of Lucille Ball and tap into the tremendous nostalgia for I Love Lucy, arguably the most popular American TV sitcom ever.
The result, I Love Lucy: Live On Stage, features a clever concept by adaptors Kim Flagg and Rick Sparks, the latter also the show's director. Viewers become the audience at a 50s taping of two I Love Lucy episodes, and not only do we watch the filming but we also get live pop music and song-and-dance versions of the period commercials, from Brylcreem and Alka-Seltzer to Chevrolet and Halo Shampoo.
But what the audience comes for are the laughs with Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred, in a set that features the familiar Ricardo apartment and the Tropicana Nightclub where Ricky is bandmaster and featured act. The performances are broad, just like the TV show, but not nearly as funny as the original black-and-white TV episodes, one of which deals with a tone-deaf Lucy's insatiable desire to sing at a benefit evening and the other her attempt to audition for a Broadway producer.
If you close your eyes and listen to Sirena Irwin (Lucy), Bill Mendieta (Ricky) and Joanna Daniels (Ethel), they're not a bad imitation of Ball, Desi Arnaz and Vivian Vance; Kevin Remington's Fred isn't in their league.
With the addition of tacky jokes, lots of actor plants in the house, audience participation and a revved-up pace that's manic rather than entertaining, the evening has the feel of a show aimed at tired tourists looking for an easy night of entertainment, its content recognizable but slightly tacky even for those who really do love Lucy.
The annual Global Cabaret Festival at the Young Centre always offers a dozen or so shows that will keep you running from one venue to another.
Look for songbook shows dedicated to the music of Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Canadian musical greats including Joni Mitchell and the McGarrigles. There'll be a re-imagined version of Purcell's Dido And Aeneas, filtered through the sounds of bluegrass, Cape Breton fiddling and South Indian classical music.
Musicians include Jackie Richardson, Micah Barnes, Molly Johnson, Sophie Milman and Sharron Matthews.
As for theatre, Ins Choi performs Subway Stations Of The Cross, in which a homeless man finds his way into the heart of God. Spoon River Cabaret, drawing on the current members of the Soulpepper Academy, is a musical interpretation of Edgar Lee Masters's collection of poems that uses the epitaphs in a graveyard to explore the voices of the people buried there.
Whirl, a dance cabaret produced by Roberto Campanella, showcases the work of Soulpepper Dance Award nominees, with awards presented at the end of the evening.
Dancing the Story
Movement rather than text is the driving force in A Story Before Time, a collaboration between playwright Drew Hayden Taylor and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Aimed at young viewers, it tells a native creation story.
Narrated by Semiah Kaha:wi Smith, the tale begins in Skyworld, where we meet a variety of immortal beings. Soon Sky Woman descends from there to a watery Earthworld and is taken by geese to a turtle's back, which is transformed into Turtle Island (in Onkwehonwe tales, the continent of North America). Company artistic director Santee Smith choreographs the piece and also plays Sky Woman.
Though things start slowly, the school-age audience finds fun in the interplay between Sky Woman and her daughter, Hanging Flower (Emily Law), and the animals. Among the latter are a raccoon, a deer, a muskrat and otters; the otters, with skateboards on their stomachs to allow them to glide quickly across the stage, generate lots of giggles.
The stronger parts of the story are those with a joyful or playful tone, like the animal episodes and an emotionally strong dance for Sky Woman and Hanging Flower. Lyrical moments don't work as well.
The story also deals with balance and duality in life, notably the conflict between twin brothers Holder of the Heavens (Zhenya Cerneacov) and The Bent One (Louis Laberge-Côté). In terms of character work, Laberge-Côté makes a great impression as the pettish, squabbling sibling.
Some of our favourite actors are spending their first summer at Stratford this year, joining others returning to the 2014 festival.
Maev Beaty and Liisa Repo-Martell play Goneril and Regan opposite Colm Feore's King Lear, with Sarah Farb as their more forthright sister, Cordelia, while Geraint Wyn Davies and Yanna McIntosh play the title characters in Antony And Cleopatra.
Look for two versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, neither of them traditional. Director and recent Siminovitch Prize winner Chris Abraham, whose Othello was one of this past summer's memorable shows, leads a version in which Evan Buliung and Jonathan Goad share the roles of Oberon and Titania; Buliung's already done drag onstage, in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine. Tara Rosling, who's been a Shaw regular, plays the male role of Lysander, with Chick Reid as Puck and Stephen Ouimette as Bottom.
Peter Sellars, best known as an opera director (Tristan Und Isolde with the COC last season and Hercules this spring), leads a four-actor version of the Dream, with Trish Lindström, Dion Johnstone, Mike Nadajewski and Sarah Afful in the cast.
James Reaney's adaptation of Alice In Wonderland, directed by Jillian Keiley, features Lindström as the title character. Man Of La Mancha stars Tom Rooney as the valorous but misguided Don Quixote, Steve Ross as Sancho Panza and Chilina Kennedy as Aldonza. Seana McKenna tackles the epic Mother Courage in Brecht's sprawling story about war and family, and Jenny Young plays the young ruler in Michel Marc Bouchard's Christina, The Girl King, about Sweden's freethinking monarch.
In a galaxy far, far away...
We know that classic 50s sci-fi film Forbidden Planet has parallels to the plot of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but there's probably never been a blend of the Bard and the future like William Shakespeare's Star Wars, by Ian Doescher.
Driftwood Theatre gives a fundraising reading of the script Monday (October 28), which imagines what Star Wars would have been like if Shakespeare had written it.
The cast includes Richard Alan Campbell as the Chorus, RH Thomson as Obi Wan Kenobi, Oliver Dennis as C3PO, Michael Therriault as R2D2, Dion Johnstone as Han Solo, Michael Hanrahan as Darth Vader and Sarah Wilson as Princess Leia.
Should be lots of fun.
A boatful of Love
Kyle Golemba and Adam White launch a recording of their all-Canadian musical theatre revue, Making Love In A Canoe, Monday (October 28) at Buddies.
Part of the launch is a performance of the show, which features the work of 15 Canadian writers including Nancy White, Leslie Arden and Jonathan Monro as well as Golemba and White. Thom Allison is the evening's guest star, along with current members and graduates of the Sheridan College Music Theatre Program.