High on Hughes
Caught the coloUred girls' collective workshop of The Langston Hughes Project last weekend, and have rarely seen so much group talent packed into less than an hour. Made up of several works-in-progress inspired by the poetry of black American poet Hughes, the show's highlights included Nicole Stamp and Ryan Field 's sultry, sexy singing of two numbers composed by Kelly Purvis Stronach , and a piece about a woman rejected by the man she loves, performed by Patrice Goodman and author Pasha Mckenley . Tying together the different segments was a reading - actually, more of a spoken-word performance - of poems by Hughes, presented with dramatic flair by Sarah Michelle Brown . It's exciting that this company, which has produced Ntozake Shange 's for colored girls... , is also creating its own works, based on its members exploring new definitions of the black experience. The company's planning a week-long February event and is also looking for input about directions the group can pursue.
With this troupe, Maya Theatre , fu-GEN Theatre and others staging shows during the past few months, it looks like the Toronto theatre scene is finally beginning to seriously reflect the city's diverse population.
Fringe for all
It's time to think about summer theatre again, even though the snow has started falling. The Toronto Fringe , gearing up for its 17th year, runs July 6 to 17. Applications are now available for the indoor (60-minute and 90-minute), Kidsvenue and Bring Your Own Venue slots. The application fee is $600 plus GST ($550 plus GST for Kidsvenue spots). Deadline for applications is January 31 at 6 pm; participants will be chosen by lottery. For more info, call 416-966-1062 or e-mail the org at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lights this weekend
The Kensington Market Festival of Lights , celebrated on the solstice, is an annual December pleasure shared by all who attend. As in previous years, you can make your own lantern to carry in the December 21 parade. The final workshop is set for this Saturday (December 18) from 1 pm. It takes from one to four hours to build a lantern; children must be accompanied by a caregiver. Cost is $6 per lantern, and workshop space is limited. For more info, check out www.redpepperspectaclearts.ca or call 416-598-3729.
Write From The Hip, Nightwood Theatre's novice playwrighting group, is looking for submissions for its sixth annual initiative. If you're a woman between 18 and 29 and want to develop a play with the mentorship of senior artists, send an application that includes three or four pages of something you've written (not necessarily for the theatre). Include, on a separate sheet, your name, phone and address, and also a statement about why you want to be involved. Those chosen will have their pieces workshopped, dramaturged and presented as part of Nightwood's play development series Groundswell. Previous theatre experience isn't needed. Deadline is January 10. Send material to Nightwood Theatre, Write From The Hip Submission, Attn: Lisa Codrington, 55 Mill, suite 301, Case Goods Building, Toronto M5A 3C4. For more info, call Codrington at 416-944-1740 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
It wasn't a big hit at its 1965 premiere even with Liza Minnelli in the title role, but Flora The Red Menace has some winning moments. The first collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret), it chronicles a young woman's political and romantic awakening during the Great Depression of the dirty 30s. The U of T's Graduate Centre for Study of Drama recently made a rare foray into musical comedy with the show, directed by Laura MacDonald and using the 1987 book rewritten by David Thompson. There's some low-key charm in the show, in which the frame of a make-work WPA production allows for its small-scale quality. Some of the material is slight, but there are some nicely written characters and tunes. The cast was filled with youthful enthusiasm, which suited the characters they played. Standouts included Tim Vant 's aspiring singer/dancer Kenny; Laura Caswell 's determined and dynamic Charlotte, a man-eater who could do the work of a whole Communist cell all on her own; and Daniel Krolik as the love interest and political mentor of Flora ( Cheryl Cline ).