Can't get enough of red-nosed clowns and their extended family, some of whom are miles from the stereotypical circus performer?
You'll be in your element at the second Toronto Festival of Clowns , a four-day hotbed of various types of clowning in the North American and European traditions.
"When I started studying clown in 2003, the only regular outlet for performances was Mump and Smoot's Space Night," recalls Sarah Buski , who's organized the festival with Adam Lazarus and Dave McKay . "Several other similar venues appeared over the years, and I realized there was a broad base of performers doing all sorts of clown, people who inspire and feed each other."
The festival offers a chance to catch some of this cross-pollination and see longer pieces than can fit on a cabaret bill.
"Birthday and circus clowns are great, but the dozens of clowns in our festival are theatrical and evocative," adds Buski, who clowns as Ponzo and also has a bouffon character, Filthy.
There'll be shows for the family and also more adult-oriented pieces, as well as an outdoor barbecue with roving clowns and the return of the Clownification Station , where you can get your face painted and learn some clown basics.
Among the performers in the international festival are Dave Tomlinson , Diana Kolpak , Erin Bouvey , Helen Donnelly , Mark Andrada and Stephanie Lalor .
And the acts? How about Hanging With Jesus , created and performed by Andrada, Sandra Battaglini and Bruce Horak , about the two miscreants dangling on either side of Christ, or Joe: The Perfect Man , Rachelle Elie 's piece about a loser who auditions for a one-man version of Macbeth. There's also a nostalgic Space Night , a Lunacy Cabaret featuring clown and circus acts and a mock panel called Deconstructing Horror Clowns .
"We also have the Illmatix Dance Crew , a Toronto-based troupe performing Krump , a sort of urban hiphop dance with an element of clown," says Buski. "It's high-energy and intricate, and there'll be a Q&A workshop after the performance so the audience can learn some of the moves.
"We want to show the broad range of emotions and experiences that are part of clowning. Clowns aren't just silly or fun; some are dark, sad or pensive, and their work explores the boundaries of performance."
We haven't heard what talented theatre artist Ned Vukovic has been doing for the past few years and recently learned that he's dealing with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.
Vukovic's friends and associates are holding a benefit evening for him, Night For Ned , to raise money to help with his care.
Currently teaching theatre at the University of Victoria -- which organized its own fundraiser last spring -- actor, director and dialect coach Vukovic worked with various companies in Toronto, including Solar Stage , Horizontal Eight and a troupe he founded, Lovers and Madmen .
Among the performers at a Night For Ned are Allegra Fulton , David Gale , Thea Gill , Janet Laine Green , Lenore Zann and Jack Nicholsen , with host Donald Carrier .
Appropriately, June is also ALS Awareness Month .
The funder on Sunday (June 24) includes a silent auction and post-show celebration.
Gender wears well
The Gender Players , the product of the Pride & Prejudice program coordinated by LeeAndra Miller at Central Toronto Youth Services, performed their kick-ass production, GenderWear: Is It Fashionable To Be Me Yet? , for two nights at the Steelworkers Hall on Cecil.
The show, based on writings by the players themselves, developed with Anna Camilleri and dramaturged expertly by Tristan Whiston , probed gender issues in funny and moving ways. Props to Kathleen Rea for her choreography and especially for her creative use of props made out of artfully constructed collages on cardboard.
Remember the names of performers Reiley and Denise Dunn . This isn't the last you'll hear of them -- guaranteed.
You might be attracted to the current stage version of Back Burner 's The Sorcerer's Apprentice by memories of Fantasia, but don't expect a conjuring Mickey Mouse.
Still, there are touches of magic in this family-oriented show that offset problems in other areas.
This version of the story, which has its roots in antiquity, doesn't have the apprentice punished for stepping into his master's shoes but rather turns him into orphaned peasant hero Robin ( Jordan Kennedy ), who saves a princess ( Melissa Rei ) from the clutches of an evil sorcerer ( Eric Hopkins ).
Based on the book by Robin Muller and adapted by director Guy Doucette , the work relies on shadow puppetry for much of its pleasure, with characters alternating between being front and centre and behind a rear-lit scrim that presents them in silhouette.
Though there's no clear reason why they move from one space to the other, we get some striking moments in shadow world, especially in the creation of a riddling door created by shadow play involving the hands of three puppeteers and the bodies of two of them. Some of Robin's nightmares are also stylishly presented, as are the magical transformations at the end of the show.
But we gain little by having a fairy narrator named Paige Turner ( Katrina Carey ), who's mostly an extraneous presence onstage. More disturbing is Doucette's limited range of lighting, probably due to budget constraints. The actors' legs are better lit than their faces, which are often hard to see; a pair of kneecaps or the lower half of a robe aren't terribly expressive onstage.