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Some of the coolest people in the biz are currently adding sizzle to August's annual stage blowout. Here's who they are and why you need to see their shows.
This Is How We Got Here (Factory Mainspace)
Drakeford is one of the MVPs of the local theatre scene, bringing intelligence, warmth and a rich inner life to her often chatty characters: Mrs. Cratchett in Soulpepper’s biannual A Christmas Carol, the depressed Irish mom in Moment and the manipulative and lustful woman trying to seduce a maid in Boston Marriage. In Keith Barker‘s new play, she and Martin Julien play parents dealing with the aftermath of a son’s suicide. The script is non-linear, but count on Drakeford and Julien, as directed by Eli Ham, to help make dramatic connections to the story.
Broken Lines (Theatre Centre Incubator)
Bhattacharya is used to creating unique dance works, having blended classical Indian Bharatanatyam with contemporary movement in a series of solos and duets like Isolated Incidents and her multi-Dora Award-nominated collaboration with Louis Laberge-Côté, Akshongay. Her latest duet pairs dancers Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy in a playful and competitive work that draws on classical and modern, light and dark, and the ideas of division and transformation. Broken Lines will have people lined up to watch.
bug and Two Indians (both at Factory Studio)
Native artist Bonnell broke out big time last spring in Judith Thompson’s The Crackwalker, offering a nuanced portrayal of a character who wants to please and be accepted. SummerWorks will reveal other sides of Bonnell, first as a performer in Falen Johnson‘s dark comedy Two Indians, playing one of two Mohawk cousins – one lives on the rez and the other in the city – who meet in an alleyway to recreate a childhood ceremony and in the process examine what it means to be Indigenous today. She also workshops her solo show bug, directed by Cole Alvis, a blend of poetry and physical theatre in which a young native woman faces past and present addictions and traumas.
Trompe-La-Mort, Or Goriot In The 21st Century (Factory Studio)
You’ll know MacMahon best as an actor. He appeared in This Lime Tree Bower and Port Authority, and the graduate of the Soulpepper Academy was part of its fine ensemble in Spoon River. Also for Soulpepper, he adapted James Joyce’s short story The Dead and wrote the text for the cabaret The Voyager Golden Records. His history with SummerWorks includes having written Wild Dogs On The Moscow Trains and The Frenzy Of Queen Maeve. His script for the current fest is Trompe-La-Mort, Or Goriot In The 21st Century, described as a digital-age thriller, a blend of Balzac and contemporary political economics. Expect the unexpected, since his director is the outside-the-box thinker Ted Witzel.
Sara Does A Solo (Scotiabank Studio Theatre)
Eclectic dancer and choreographer Porter is perfect for a festival like SummerWorks, which celebrates a variety of performance styles. Inspired by a chance encounter with equally eclectic musician Mary Margaret O’Hara, Sara Does A Solo employs storytelling, fact and fiction, movement and even stand-up comedy. Expect to learn about how Porter dealt with her physical ailments while raising three boys and what she did during a six-year period when she didn’t dance at all. She’s already done the piece in Montreal, New York City and San Francisco. It’s about time Toronto dance fans found out what Porter’s been up to.
Lessons In Temperament (secret venue)
Smith is a busy guy. Currently the music director/composer/sound designer for Our Town and The Dance Of Death at the Shaw Festival, he recently won a Toronto Theatre Critics Awards and Dora Awards for Red One Theatre/Storefront’s The Chasse-Galerie, which returns next year. And he was musical director of the most ambitious musical in recent history, Brantwood. Expect something quieter for Lessons In Temperament, in which he will travel to various public and private spaces to tune pianos and reflect on the mental illnesses of his three older brothers: OCD, autism and schizophrenia. Expect truthful tales that should resonate with anyone.
Mr. Shi And His Lover (Theatre Centre Mainspace)
Mr. Shi And His Lover is making history it’s the first Chinese-language production in SummerWorks’s 26-year history. But composer Kong is a known commodity, having delighted fest audiences with his comic operas Knotty Together and La Señorita Mundo, and written the dramatic score for last season’s Tarragon hit Infinity, by Hannah Moscovitch, which returns next season. Mr. Shi is his collaboration with Macau playwright Wong Teng Chi and tells the real-life story of a Chinese opera performer who disguised himself as a woman and, in his affair with a French diplomat, created an international espionage scandal. If that sounds familiar, it also formed the basis of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly. The musical language is drawn from East and West, and surtitles will help those who don’t speak Mandarin.
Extremophiles (Theatre Centre Incubator)
Writer, director and performer Beaty is a member of Architect Theatre, the collective that’s created memorable pieces reflecting Canadian history and current events including Like There’s No Tomorrow and Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show. She’s also shone as an actor in Cliff Cardinal’s Stitch. Her latest as writer and performer is Extremophiles, a futuristic tale in which, during a pregnancy epidemic, only one woman gives birth. Because her offspring is unusual, mother and daughter are quarantined in the Far North and visited by an enthusiastic anthropologist. Program notes suggest this will be a striking look at climate change.
Bleeders (Theatre Centre Mainspace) and d’bi. & The 333 Live Concert (Scotiabank Studio Theatre)
We’ve known for years about the talents of Watah Theatre’s mesmerizing d’bi.young anitafrika, but some of the thrill of her productions comes from her excellent choice of collaborators. One of the key people is Sudanese composer and musician Abdulhamid, a regular and always a treat in Soulpepper cabarets. He’s written melodies and is musical director for Bleeder, anitafrika’s futuristic dub-opera that concludes her Orisha Trilogy. He also composes, plays bass, music directs and offers support vocals for d’bi & The 333 Live Concert, a one-off that takes protest music in a new direction, one of love, action and healing.
Daughter (Factory Studio)
Lazarus, an expert clown and bouffon, has had a hand in various dark, funny pieces, including [boxhead], Wonderland, Appetite, Lupe, Undone and his last piece at SummerWorks, The Art Of Building A Bunker. A sharp thinker with an engaging onstage presence, he returns to the festival with Daughter, a solo show that focuses on a man who realizes his testosterone-filled life of “man things” has to change now that he has a daughter. With collaborators like Jiv Parasram, Melissa D’Agostino and director Ann-Marie Kerr, expect a penetrating show with more than a few uncomfortable laughs.
Get more SummerWorks 2016 here.
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