Want to catch some talented young artists? You can do no better than checking out the offerings at the sixth annual Paprika Theatre Festival , created and presented entirely by people under 21.
"The festival provides a unique opportunity for young artists to produce their own material while collaborating with professional mentors," says artistic director Natasha Mytnowych , who retires from Paprika after a three-year run. "It also emphasizes the long-term development of theatre pieces, which artists in the early stage of their careers don't usually think about."
Mytnowych's contributions to the festival include the introduction of a training program, a series of workshops with such established theatre practitioners as Ruth Madoc-Jones, Djanet Sears , Nina Lee Aquino , Daniel MacIvor and Chris Abraham .
This year she's also organized young women to work as associate producers, helping them develop leadership and production skills they can carry to other projects. Another new initiative is a workspace program for those who may not have written a play or even seen a lot of theatre but who are interested in the art form. Participants write short pieces to be staged as part of the festival.
The works of playwrights Richie Guzman , Kanika Ambrose and Anna Standish are the focus of this year's performances. Guzman's The Como Suena Sound Presents You Can Find It Here follows two Mexican teens in a pickup truck heading toward what they think of as the American dream.
For My Umm Hmm , Ambrose has been working with Lisa Codrington on a solo show that covers three generations of women concerned with beauty and hair. Standish, previously involved with Paprika and the Tarragon Theatre, draws on the Irish legend of the Selkie for her show, Go Deo .
Ties of Steel
Andrew Zadel 's Steel is a Fringe show with legs. It's already played at two Fringes, in Montreal and London, and works well outside the festival context.
Linking its three characters -- a young unemployed Haida man, a happily married guy with Central European roots and a poet who speaks in image-filled sentences and can't seem to get a good break -- is the railroad, either as a means of travel or an occupation. James Murray plays all three characters with real energy, and he's one of the key reasons to see the Praxis Theatre production, directed by Michael Wheeler .
George, the married man, is the most fleshed-out character, and his stories of his Sarajevo-born great-grandfather Dusan's experiences coming to Canada around 1910 and being forced to work on the rail line are the script's freshest sections. There's humour and tragedy in these tales, and they could probably be expanded into a play of their own.
While Zadel distinguishes the three figures through their language, the narrative ties -- the strength and malleability of railroad steel is one of the play's underlying images -- become forced by the end of the 50-minute piece.
4 u 2 c
There's hardly a household where someone isn't surfing the Net, text messaging or taking part in a chat room conversation. Theatre Gargantua took that electronic world into the theatre in 2005 with e-DENTITY , a fine piece of theatre that Mirvish Productions is now introducing to a larger - and arguably less hip - audience.
"But that idea of a conservative audience isn't necessarily true," says playwright Michael Spence . "While the Mirvish subscription base isn't our typical demographic, there's no doubt that this show, with its emphasis on the Internet, communication and what's happened to human interaction, speaks to every group we can think of.
"I remember at a workshop presentation largely for students, a 70-year-old woman told us that she got the piece."
"We're hoping that e-DENTITY will open up a new audience for the kind of visual, non-traditional narrative theatre we do," adds director Jacquie P.A. Thomas . "Our tools are what most theatregoers are used to seeing -- song, movement, text -- but in different arrangements."
Spence has expanded the 70-minute piece into a two-act version, a new concept for Theatre Gargantua. The company's also developing a new work called A Fibber's Fable , about the benevolent nature of lying.
"I've written four new scenes and a new story arc for e-DENTITY, though the whole piece has an intentionally fragmented narrative that mimics the Internet experience, where you interact with people or read items in snippets, even if you're online for hours."
He's also expanded Chad, a digital figure who has his own narrative, especially in terms of the links between Internet evolution and human evolution.
"We're all more savvy than we were two years ago," he smiles. "I don't know why the Internet thing scared us so much in the past, but I know that the first time I went into a chat room to research this show, I was totally intimidated, though I was alone with my computer. I was fearful to go into that imaginary room."
Here's an unusual chance to see the collaboration of a pair of Franco-Canadian theatre big shots - in French with English surtitles.
The latest production by Théâtre Français de Toronto , Grace & Gloria , is Michel Tremblay 's translation of a piece by American writer Tom Ziegler . Set in the mountains of Virginia, it deals with Grace, an elderly woman hoping to live her last days quietly, and Gloria, a former career woman who's left the city and becomes Grace's volunteer caregiver.
Despite different backgrounds, the pair eventually discover the connections that allow them to become strong friends.
Tremblay (Les Belles Soeurs, Albertine In Five Times) sure knows how to write about the nuanced relationships between women, and here his words are brought to life by Viola Léger , the celebrated Acadian author/performer of La Sagouine. Danielle Grégoire plays Gloria to Léger's Grace.
The French production gets English surtitles for the March 22, 28 and 31 performances.
Blowing her Horne
It's great to watch a young performer grow in her craft. We caught Christine Horne last week in the Wordsmyth/Rogue and Peasant production of The Seagull, and her Nina was one of the highlights of the show. Shy, passionate and intentionally tentative in the first acts, ironic and verging on tragedy in the last, she created a rounded, fascinating character.
Horne's demonstrated her talents before, most recently as an ensemble member in the Thistle Project's Gorey Story; she and Matthew Romantini are the company's artistic co-directors. But even a few years ago, the York grad impressed us in Where's My Money? (Column 13 Actors Company) and Summit Conference (Umbrella Projects).
There's film as well as theatre on Horne's resumé. She plays the young Hagar Shipley in director Kari Skogland's adaptation of Margaret Laurence 's Canadian classic The Stone Angel. Her older counterpart? The impressive Ellen Burstyn.
Don't know when the film will be released locally, but a good guess is that it'll premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Looking for something to do with the kids these last days of March break? The Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People offers two shows, one that’ll entertain those in grade school (and even their parents, given the quality of the production) and a second piece that can introduce younger viewers to the magic of theatre.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People’s production of Comet In Moominland, adapted by Graham Whitehead from Tove Jansson’s children’s book, has been delighting audiences since 1989. It’s as strong on a second viewing as it was about a decade ago when it first played Toronto.
This tale about the Finn Family Moomintroll gets a theatre-in-the-round production. Here, though, it’s not the audience that encircles the performers but rather the other way around. Viewers sit inside a tent on the Lorraine Kimsa stage, watching the action move around them from one table to another.
Doll-like puppets portray the adventures of Moomin and Sniff (the former resembles a hippo, the latter a mouse), trying to save the world from an approaching flaming comet. There’s suspense, but there’s just as much excitement in the William Chesney’s sets. Mountains, sea grottoes, various sorts of not-too-scary monsters and surprising transformations keep even adult audiences happy here, and actors Jennifer Lyon and David Warburton give the multitude of characters strong individual personalities.
Co-created by Chesney, Whitehead and Leslee Silverman, Comet In Moominland’s a captivating show, one that evokes a special theatrical world. It’s aimed at children from five to nine.
If your kids are younger, say three to six, try George And Martha, adapted by Linda A. Carson, Terry Judd and director Kim Selody from the books by James Marshall. The title characters are a pair of hippos – fine puppets by Shawn Kettner – who share a sometimes quirky friendship.
The scenes are quite brief, often little more than 1-minute vignettes, which suits those with short attention spans; there’s a fair amount of clowning and easy laughs for the young audience.
Carson and Judd manipulate the hippo figures and also play another set of friends, Betty and Bob, whose disagreements and reconciliations mirror those of George and Martha. Lori Hickling’s bright pastel design and live music by Michele Jacot nicely supplement the actors’ work.
Parents might find a little of this show goes a long way, but the preschool audience giggle with delight at the characters’ antics, and maybe pick up on the show’s message, which is that good friends can’t stay cross with each other for too long.
See Continuing on the theatre listings page.
Small Wooden Shoe just keeps tapping to the beat of revolutions.
The ingenious theatre troupe, taking a postmodern theatrical tour of the various revolutions that have shaped our lives, has come to the third section of its seven-part Dedicated To The Revolutions, the Gutenberg revolution and the influence of the printing press. (They’ve already covered the industrial and information revolutions and have four more in the works.)
This time the dramatics are channelled into a venerable form of theatre, the debate. Called Reasonable People, Reasonably Disagreeing, the show – part of Harbourfront Centre’s Hatch series last Sunday (March 11) – had Misha Glouberman moderating an evening that had pro and con sides considering the proposition that there is nothing more for the printing press to do. Implicit in that idea – and a thought that was soon made explicit – is the concept that books inhibit the development of a different sort of culture, one based on the internet.
Each team (Evalyn Parry and Dustin Harvey, Ame Henderson and Evan Webber) offered opening speeches, asked and answered questions (the audience threw in a few queries, too) and made closing speeches. The audience, balancing the validity of each speaker’s style and the substance of his or her arguments, chose the winning team.
Director Jacob Zimmer made the whole thing even trickier by having the teams switch sides, affirmative and opposing, halfway through the show. Speakers arguing initially for the values of the press quickly had to marshal arguments on the other side of the question, and vice versa.
Lots of witty ideas here, with speakers relying on their quick wits as much as their scripts. The affirmative side won, and the evening ended with a tongue-in-cheek song in celebration of Johannes Gutenberg; its chorus was “Movable type, movable type, he was the one who got it right.”
If Reasonable People, Reasonably Disagreeing wasn’t as theatrical as some of the company’s earlier works, it never lacked cleverness.
Our favourite line of the evening? “You can’t get carpal-tunnel syndrome from a book. And books don’t break.”