As part of V-Day -- the global movement aimed at stopping violence against girls and women -- Big Soul Productions and Native Earth stage a benefit reading of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, directed by Jani Lauzon. Couldn't ask for better talent, with performers including Michelle St. John, Jennifer Podemski, Kristen Thomson, Six Nations Chief Roberta Jamieson and others. There's also a pre-show silent auction and music by Tamara Podemski, Fides Krucker and Lauzon.
Proceeds from the show fund Nekenaan Second Stage Housing and Nellie's. This year, 10 per cent of V-Day's worldwide proceeds go to aboriginal women's organizations. See listings, page 72, for details.
Caught three of the productions at Madness And Arts 2003, an international fest that examines the connection between creativity and mental illness. The most striking was Ryuzanji & Company's Educating Mad Persons, a stylized piece by Shuji Terayama in which an eccentric Japanese family tries to find and kill its one mad member in order to maintain family honour. A blend of traditional and postmodern theatre, it features not only the six family members but also six black-clad puppeteers who physically manipulate them. In the hands of a disciplined acrobatic troupe the result was marvellously theatrical.
Mental health is a difficult topic to broach with many people, but it's even harder to discuss with youngsters. Nicola Baldwin's Cracked, presented by London's Y Touring Company, tried to cram too much narrative content into an hour-long piece about a teenager dealing with depression and a similarly troubled rock star she idolizes.
Better was Gayle Grass's Iris The Dragon, a piece by Workman Theatre Project directed by Patricia Vanstone, in which a worried, fearful boy (Darren Flynn) "whose brain is ill" gets support and advice from an otter (Colin Doyle) and a swamp dragon (Ellen-Ray Hennessy). In green, gold and red and dragging a 20-pound scaly tail, Hennessy charmed the young audience with her energy and heart. The festival continues with other productions; see listings, page 72, for details.