This year SummerWorks, headed by artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld, establishes itself at a new hub in the west end, devotes a chunk of its programming to Live Art presentations and hosts 33 mainstage productions.
The quality of the talent in this juried festival is always high. In addition to the 11 shows in the live art series (several of them outdoors and site-specific), there are six presentations in the music series (to be announced soon), four in the national series, three musical works in concert and several other productions.
The hub for this year's fest, which runs from August 7 to 17, is the recently opened Theatre Centre, with other venues including Theatre Passe Muraille, the Lower Ossington Theatre and the Scotiabank Studio Theatre.
The 2014 artists in residence are pop/rock band The Bicycles, who will collaborate with Maggie Macdonald and Amy Siegel. Inspired by their work in the 2013 SummerWorks music series, the band will release an album that's evolved from that creative period and will also continue developing an indie-rock opera called Young Drones. The latter will involve live performance art animation by Siegel.
The four shows in the national series move the audience outside of the conventional theatrical box. Against Gravity is a shadow puppet show that blends visual arts, clown and live music. Council Of Community Conveyors uses the audience to help map out a community by collecting and passing messages from one neighbour to another.
The other two shows are partly choreography-based. In Écoute Pour Voi, audience members wear headphones to follow a series of solo dances scattered through space and performed simultaneously; viewers can wander around to watch what they wish. Thus Spoke..., part text, part music and part dance, explodes the conventions of dance and theatre.
There's lots to look forward to in the mainstage series. Here's a tantalizing selection:
Blindsided, a blend of live and filmed performance, features Sabrina Reeves (remember her from bluemouth inc?) as a cyclist who revisits a moment in her past when she's struck by a car.
Leora Morris directs Yael Farber's He Left Quietly, about the relationship between Farber and Duma Kumalo, a young black man wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to die. After spending four years on death row and 15 hours before his hanging, Kumalo was given a stay of execution.
In A Quiet Sip Of Coffee (Or, This Is Not The Play We've Written), "gay/straight best friend duo" Anthony Johnston and Nathan Schwartz relive the gay conversation therapy they underwent in rural British Columbia.
Anne Carson's Antigonick offers a new spin on Sophocles' Antigone, re-examining moral responsibility and the fallout caused by an illegal act of mourning.
Michael Miller's comedy Chicken Grease Is Nasty Business looks at an African-American mother, famed for frying the best chicken in the South, plotting to bring her sons back home.
You'll be moving to Latin beats in El Jinete (The Rider), a mariachi opera featuring Los Dorados. A tale of love, vengeance and the supernatural, the show is inspired by the golden age of black-and-white Mexican cinema.
Kafka's Ape, adapted from the Kafka story A Report To An Academy, in which a captured simian becomes a human mercenary soldier, marks the Toronto return of director Guy Sprung.
Shaista Latif debuted a version of Graceful Rebellions in Rhubarb a few years ago. She returns to her view of what it means to be a queer Afghan woman in a moving piece that blends myth, history and revolution.
Jonathan Seinen looks at personal integrity, resistance and privacy in Unknown Soldier, a look at the life and actions of whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
Also look for performances by young actors, including The Devil You Know, which was an entry in the Sears Ontario Drama Festival, and The AMY Project's Transfusions.
The musical works in concert include Greg Janssen's Animal Pharmacy: A Medicine Show, Kevin Wong's Recurring John and Daniel Green and Lezlie Wade's The Remarkable Journey Of Prince Jen.
Among the participants in the live art series are Philip McKee, Rose Plotek, Linnea Swan, Zeesy Powers, Evalyn Parry and members of the fine troupe DLT Teatro, experts at devising audience-immersive theatre.
For more info, see summerworks.ca.