Our toes started suffering from frostbite toward the end of bluemouth inc.'s Death By Water. Blame it on spending an hour outdoors in a makeshift, barely heated hut, floorboards covering a foot of snow. But we wouldn't have missed last weekend's production.
Feeling like polar explorers, we trudged alongside a makeshift rickshaw pedalled by a top-hatted Artful Dodger type into the depths of Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Bags of votive candles lit our path. Against a background of white we watched two dark, silhouette-like figures -- a well-bundled Stephen O'Connell and Lucy Simic -- reciting a fantastical, poetic text about loss and discovery, climbing a tree, falling down slopes and performing moves that seemed to combine Asian dance steps, stalking techniques and the frug.
Through headsets, six of us at a time heard the miked performers and a fascinating soundscape by Richard Windeyer and others. But not all the watchers were human. A dog or two barked a challenge from the top of the hill, not quite understanding what these humans were doing jumping around in the snow.
Paprika is clearly the spice of young theatre artists. Last year artistic producer Anthony Furey founded the Paprika Festival at the Tarragon, and one of its presentations -- Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman and Emily Sugerman's The End of Pretending -- went on to sell out at SummerWorks.
This year's fest of new works created and produced by artists under 21 offers a trio of pieces by Maureen Gualtieri, Mitchell Cushman and David Rendall, chosen from more than 25 submissions.
"There are youth projects at Soulpepper, Buddies and even here at the Tarragon, but nothing has Paprika's kind of atmosphere," says Furey, who graduated from high school in January.
The works deal with a range of topics, including a nine-year-old's imaginary friend, a Rubik's cube, a six-toed sloth and a chance subway meeting between former childhood friends.
"All have to do with change over time, though the characters might not make that connection," adds Furey. "The theme plays nicely into the idea of a youth festival, whose participants are changing as they grow artistically."
Sample Paprika and you might catch the next Jason Sherman or Judith Thompson. See listings for details.