You never know where you’ll go in your dream world, which is just fine with the Scandelles.
Buddies’ presentation of Who’s Your Dada?, the latest by the burlesque-based Scandelles, uses as its springboard the surreal, anarchistic art of the 1910s and 20s Dada movement and the later Fluxus movement of the 60s and 70s. No surprise that the show comes complete with fur teacups, a Salvador Dali figure and a touch of Yoko Ono.
“We’re exploring dream logic by using a cabaret style of theatre,” explains director/performer Kitty Neptune, who created the show with Sasha Van Bon Bon. “I love the cheekiness of the original anti-art Dadaists, and we’re anti-establishment anyway. Why not present ourselves as Dadaists of today, even if it’s really hard to shock contemporary audiences the way Dada initially did?”
But the Scandelles play with sex and gender far more than the original Dadaists did, so look for a range of sexualities on the stage.
“There’s a trickster quality in the Dadas and the Fluxists; they were real mischief makers, and we also turn things on their side, look at them in a skewed way,” says Neptune. “The work is far more joyous that way, which fits well with our idea of theatre that welcomes and includes the audience.
“We live in a war-obsessed culture, as did those who created the two movements. When you’re in that situation, you can either deal with it in a heavy-handed fashion or find a quirkiness in it – see the hypocrisy in it all.”
Expect sketches that poke fun at today’s Mommy Militia, complete with SUV strollers, and also at a child’s discovery of The Joy Of Sex.
In the latter, Neptune and Shane Mackinnon play the book’s illustrations, complete with touches of 70s camp.
Anne of Green Gables and multiple versions of Daniel MacIvor also figure in the action.
“We don’t just make fun of our culture. As a group of sex workers, nudists and exhibitionists, we’re quite happy skewering ourselves as well.”
It’s not only the entertainers who get to be inventive. Part of the evening includes an on-site, private Blue Box, where individual audience members can become Scandelles for a few minutes.
“They can put together their own erotic video or even porn if they want, giving them a chance to explore, with the help of hostesses the Blue Stews, a private do-it-yourself fantasy. They close the door and no one will know about what happens inside. It’s a little piece of Dada they can take home, burned on a DVD.”
Did you apply for next summer’s Fringe Festival? The free lottery draw and party happens Monday (January 28) at the Tranzac Club.
You’ll also be able to meet the Fringe’s newly appointed executive director, Gideon Arthurs, who’ll oversee the operation of the festival’s 20th season, which starts July 2. As artistic producer of Groundwater Productions, Arthurs has been involved in such festival and indie hits as The Unfortunate Misdventures Of Masha Galinski, Ubu Roi (Massacred), A Thought In Three Parts and Goblin Market.
Black History Month kicks off a day early with the premiere of a double bill by Peterborough playwright/actor Beau Dixon, Once A Flame and From Here To Africville.
Linking the two one-acts, presented by C Theatre Works, are their narratives, both drawn from little-known pages of Canadian history, and the fires that sweep through both stories.
Once A Flame tells of Marie Joseph Angélique, a black slave accused of setting fire to Montreal in 1734. From Here To Africville follows the fortunes of a young black street kid whose history is linked to Africville, the black community in Halifax that white politicians worked to eradicate in the 1950s and 60s. The latter play began when Dixon was touring a school show and realized that its topic, the Underground Railroad, didn’t speak immediately to young viewers.
“I wanted them to see a piece that was contemporary enough for them to latch onto,” he recalls, “and the company’s artistic director challenged me to write a piece that did so.
“Dixon is a popular name in the Maritimes, where my family is from, and I was curious if the black prizefighter George Dixon was a relative. That led me to look into my ancestral roots, and what I came up with was a fictional character, Dewey Dixon, who wonders about a similar connection.”
In trouble with the law, the young Dewey is taken under the wing of a reverend who inspires him with the resonant history of Africville, settled by black slaves who fled the States, and also with the story of boxer Dixon; motivated by the two tales, Dewey himself becomes a boxer.
Initially Dewey helps to reconstruct buildings burned down in Africville; an uncontrollable heat also inflames Once A Flame’s Marie Joseph.
“The fire she’s accused of starting represents an internal explosion,” says the passionate Dixon, a musician as well as a theatre artist. “Thought to be unintelligent because she’s both black and female, she must establish her own independence. Presumed guilty until she proves her innocence, the stubborn and tenacious Marie Joseph lashes out at a white community that considers her less than human.”
Both plays deal with a part of Canadian history that most don’t know. Focused on racism, urban renewal and the callous attitude of the majority toward minority groups, the scripts look toward the power of community and the possibility of a better, respected life through that power.
“These characters found me; their stories about dignity and self-worth had to be told. The tales don’t resonate just during Black History Month but every day of the year.”
Want an insight into one of our best playwrights? Bravo presents a one-hour documentary on Morris Panych that’s candid, funny and insightful about the stresses that beset a successful writer.
Part bio and part analysis, the show works best when Panych and other artists are talking about making the work; things go a little flat when academics and critics expound on what they think the playwright’s trying to do. The documentary focuses on an unusually busy period in Panych’s life last winter, when his play What Lies Before Us premiered in Toronto and he himself was performing in Vigil, an earlier work, in Vancouver.
That neurosis-making situation is nicely captured, with Panych and his long-term life and work partner Ken MacDonald honest about the unknowns of trying to have a hand in shows staged thousands of miles apart. As Panych notes, the possibility of dropping the ball is very real; his moods over the course of the documentary are believably up and down.
The pressure leading up to the productions was so great, the playwright wryly laughs, that he and MacDonald mistakenly returned to Toronto to start working on Soulpepper’s Blithe Spirit a year too early.
There are scenes from rehearsals for both shows - Jim Millan helms the Toronto production, a Canadian Stage/Crow’s co-pro – and some fascinating thoughts on what goes on in artists’ minds as they create.
The bio’s biggest problem? Bravo decides to bleep Panych’s frequent use of “fuck.”
C’mon, Bravo, you’re an arts station with an intelligent, grown-up audience that’s heard the word before.
If you feel you have to do something, run a language disclaimer before you televise the show. It’s abhorrent that you censor Panych’s speech, deciding what we can and can’t listen to.
Panych Plays! airs Wednesday (January 30) at 9 pm on Bravo.