THE MOLLY MURDERS written and directed by Anthony Furey. Presented by Frontal Lobe at the Tarragon Mainspace. July 7 at 6:30 pm, July 8 at 5:30 pm, July 9 at 3:30 pm, July 12 at 8 pm, July 14 at 12:30 pm, July 16 at 9:45 pm, July 17 at 1:30 pm. 416-967-1528.
THE ZOO-KEEPER'S LOVE SONG written and directed by Johnnie Walker. Presented by Nobody's Business at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse . July 8 at 7 pm, July 10 at 4:30 pm, July 11 at 10:30 pm, July 13 at 1:45 pm, July 14 at 9:15 pm, July 15 at 3:30 pm, July 17 at 5:15 pm. 416-967-1528.
Though I know to check out Fringe pieces by established artists, it's the fresh young talent that really blows me away.
Packing inventiveness, audacity and intensity into their one-hour shows, up-and-comers Anthony Furey and Johnnie Walker make their first Fringe appearances with, respectively, The Molly Murders and The Zoo-Keeper's Love Song.
And not only have the two written their shows, but they're directing them as well. Talk about leaping into the double-threat category.
Furey's play, inspired by events surrounding the death of Toronto youth Holly Jones a few years ago, looks at a grieving mother unwittingly lured into helping the cause of an unscrupulous politician.
Walker's fantasy-filled tale centres on siblings, a young woman who falls for imaginary characters and her brother, stalked by a movie star whose big-screen image doesn't match her off-screen personality.
The two writers, both finishing up degrees at the U of T, have another connection as well - the Tarragon's Paprika Festival, which stages the work of theatre artists under the age of 21.
Furey founded the fest and ran it for three years, while Walker's show was the most entertaining production in last spring's Paprika.
"It was only 25 minutes then, cut down from the hour-long version I'd written with the help of dramaturge Stephen Collela and director Eda Holmes," says Walker over a lunchtime sandwich. "But for the Fringe I've added lots of new sections rather than use the older script."
Watching the short Paprika show, Walker knew he wanted to create scenes involving the acting turns of Hollywood fave Jennifer Michelle Parker, the star of various bridal-themed horror films. You won't have to look hard for comparisons to several three-named women from TV-land, including Sarah Michelle Gellar. Walker recalls, as a Buffy devotee when he was in grade seven, believing that he and Gellar would make a perfect couple.
The writer also wove musician Josh Wynn into the tale as a singing narrator who functions both inside and outside the story.
Walker admits being inspired by an eclectic group of artists, including David Lynch, David Bowie (the red-headed Walker's wearing a Bowie button and a guitar pin), Jim Henson, Djanet Sears, Edward Albee and Don McKellar.
There's a lightness to his script, even with its serious theme of the dangers of falling in love with someone's image rather than the actual person. Furey's piece is more sombre.
With several workshopped scripts, a screenplay and directing experience on his resumé, Furey here tackles the deceptions that fill our everyday lives.
"I know that something's going on in our country, something about our befuddled democracy, that hasn't yet been addressed by serious artistic endeavour," offers the playwright. "I feel passionately about the issue and am trying to articulate its complexities through art. I think art does come out of a burning need to express something.
"We wear veils everywhere we go, veils that allow us to opt out of social responsibility," he continues. "This play seeks, without being a polemic, to strip away those veils."
How does the Fringe offer the two budding writers a chance to hone their craft?
"While you can catch a show that's the worst version of Pericles you've ever seen, the festival also has great potential," notes Furey. "There's no one to say, 'No, you can't do that. '"
"Anthony's right - you can catch some shit, but mixed in with it is some amazing stuff," adds Walker.
"I love the fact that you can do whatever you want on the Fringe stage. Anyplace else would give you restrictions of one sort or another.
"And the festival is such a great place for young theatre artists to start. How else would I have gotten The Zoo-Keeper on? I couldn't just call up CanStage and ask them to produce it."
THE FRINGE: TORONTO’S THEATRE FESTIVAL
Featuring local, national and international companies. Runs to July 17. $10 or less, $2 surcharge on advance tickets, discount passes. Advance tickets sold up to three hours before showtime by phone, online or in person at the Fringe Club (292 Brunswick); also by fax at least one day before show. At least half of all tickets for each performance are on sale one hour before showtime at thevenue; first show of the day and KidsVenue tickets available half-hour before showtime. No latecomers. Fringe hotline 416-966-1062, advance 416-967-1528, fax 416-966-5072, www.fringetoronto.com.
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