Want to meet some of the country's best playwrights? They're gathering tonight (Thursday, January 25) and reading from their works, recently published by Playwrights Canada Press.
The writers - both established and up-and-comers - include David Craig, Rosa Laborde, Brad Fraser, Sky Gilbert, Lisa Codrington, trey anthony, Shawn Postoff, Judith Thompson and Joseph Jomo Pierre.
Hey, you can even get them to autograph their new books for you.
The free event is in the NOW Lounge. For details, see One-Nighters, page 68.
Hard-working troupe the Sketchersons had no problem packing the Diesel Playhouse mainstage on Sunday, January 21, the new venue for their weekly Sunday Night Live show. In nearly three years, they've amassed a huge, young fan base - lots of theatres would kill for this loyal crowd - and chairs had to be added to seat everyone.
Too bad the show was disappointing. Especially odd, since it was the troupe's Best Of 2006 edition of highlights from the previous year.
More than ever, the crew seem to be gunning for Lorne Michaels's attention. They've even created a slick, high-energy cast member video intro, complete with blurrily photographed Toronto landmarks and titles in that familiar sans serif SNL font.
Homage, rip-off or ass-kiss? It's not clear, which makes the intro painful to watch, especially when much of the writing is subpar.
A few sketches worked, including a jokey bit about relationships featuring an ongoing visual gag about spilled coffees and another about a group of geeks pretending they're battling dragons at a campsite. One sketch about a woman (Inessa Frantowski) who sees an annoying ghost (Craig Brown), much to the disbelief of her boyfriend (Fraser Young), is so inventive it could become a recurring bit, although the finale needed work.
The cast/writers - I counted 18 in all - remain strong performers. Some are so intense and focused (Holly Prazoff) or wildly over-the-top (Pat Thornton) that they add energy to even the lamest line. The new cast members shone in a handful of scenes, so that's promising, too.
But the lows were unbearable. At least two puerile homophobic sequences bombed - calling them scenes is too generous. And, yeah, it was the first show at a new venue, but dozens of technical glitches? The joke wore out quickly.
The 19th Weesageechak Begins To Dance festival, presenting new plays and dance pieces by aboriginal artists, looks backward and forward.
"Most of the shows are about overcoming our histories and getting on with it," says Native Earth artistic director Yvette Nolan of the latest fest, which begins tonight (Thursday, January 25).
The four-day event includes plays by Drew Hayden Taylor, Spy Dénommé-Welsh and Young Voices members Amy White, Clifford Cardinal, Falen Johnson, Lena Recollet and Candace Brunette.
Contributing choreographers are Waawaate Fobister, Christine Friday-O'Leary, Nadine Jackson and Gaétan Gingras, while an urban troupe called Rhymekeepers performs hiphop numbers.
"Another theme of the festival is fathers," adds Nolan. "For better or worse, they're a part of many of the pieces, whether the focus is on absent or abusive fathers or stories that we've received from our fathers."
The new works follow last week's performance of Uqquaq: The Shelter, a co-pro between Native Earth and the Theatre Centre. The site-specific piece, showcasing the talents of Quebec choreographer Geneviève Pepin and Nunavut video artist Laurentio Q. Arnatsiaq, was a fascinating look at the contrast between two cultures and their eventual union in dance.
For Weesageechak performances, see Opening, page 68.
In like Flynn
Caught last week's brief run by Muckheap Theatre, a double bill of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Will Eno's Lady Grey (In Ever-Lower Light), both directed by Philip McKee.
The Beckett piece, about a man recalling his missed opportunities with the help of tape recordings, is only partly successful, since Andrew Musselman's too young an actor to play the septuagenarian character. Only in the last few minutes of the piece does he capture Krapp's sadness.
But there are levels galore in Lady Grey, a monologue performed by Megan Flynn. It has similarities to another of Eno's works, Thom Pain (Based On Nothing), staged by the Tarragon last fall; in both, a single figure confronts - that's not too strong a word - the audience and tells a possibly autobiographical story.
Eno taps into the audience's nervousness as he plays with language, with the character sending up viewers just as much as she jokes about herself. Flynn, a member of One Reed Theatre, has a strong presence and knows just how to push the role's brazen quality and when to reel in the text's implicit threats.
Key here is the school exercise of show and tell, and Flynn knows just what to show - and when - and how much to tell about her character. Alternately revealing and concealing layers of this fascinating woman, she gives a mesmerizing performance.
Time to start planning for the summer festivals. The Fringe had its lottery draw last week, and the juried SummerWorks fest has a call out for its 2007 run. Under the leadership of artistic producer Keira Loughran, the festival runs from August 2 to 12.
The fest features 39 in-house shows, offsite performances and the second year of the SummerWorks Canadian Pavilion, showcasing indie productions from around the country.
Submission forms and more information are available online at www.summerworks.ca.
Deadline for submissions is February 1.
Speaking of the Fringe, for its 19th festival the Toronto Fringe is looking for an image to spearhead its marketing materials, including posters and the cover of the Fringe program. For the first time, they're seeking submissions for the image, and the selected artist gets a $500 prize as well as a VIP unlimited pass for the 2007 Fringe.
For more info and an application form, check out www.fringetoronto. com or call 416-966-1062. Deadline is February 23.
Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan is full of arch, clever wit, but the playwright also offers a sharp social commentary on the double standards of Victorian society and the care a woman had to take of her reputation.
The young, moralistic title character believes that her husband is cheating on her with Mrs. Erlynne, an older woman, and, heartbroken, makes a hasty decision to find comfort in the arms of the attentive Lord Darlington.
Not everyone in the large Alumnae Theatr production, directed by Barbara Larose, gives life to the potentially melodramatic characters. Tennille Read is sometimes stiff, not investing the naive Lady Windermere with an emotional fullness, while Conor O'Hegarty suggests little of Darlington's passion and seductiveness. There's more richness in Patrick Brown's Lord Windermere, while Tricia Brioux and Stephen Flett handle the verbal comedy with skill.
The most memorable performance is that of Dinah Watts, who gives Mrs. Erlynne the wit, drive and charm to make her the most appealing of characters, a woman who wins over the audience just as she wins over the society that initially snubs her. It's not surprising that Read's best moments are with Watts, who know how to juggle the role's cynicism and unexpected heart.
See Continuing, page 69.
One of the city's newest companies, Theatre Best/Before, aims to showcase sometimes forgotten works by established playwrights through the medium of public play-readings. That way, they argue, the focus is on the text rather than production elements.
The series begins Saturday (January 27) with John Patrick Shanley's the dreamer examines his pillow, directed by Cole J. Alvis and featuring Jesse Hughes, Lada Darewych and Bill Poulin. Its three scenes introduce us to a pair of former lovers who still have a yen for each other and later to the woman's combative father.
Coming up, the company plans to offer readings of Neil Labute's Autobahn, George Bernard Shaw's Don Juan In Hell, Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey and Wendy Lill's The Glace Bay Miners' Museum.
See One-Nighters, page 68.