Here’s a little bit of self promotion …
If you haven’t heard, I put together a podcast once a week for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts and the Go Live Toronto campaign. Each week I give listeners an overview of the shows opening in Toronto in the coming week.
Check it out and let me know what you think … always looking for feedback to make it better! 🙂
Friday night, a group of 5 of us took a seat on the hillside at the Dream in High Park around 6pm. It’s important to get there early in order to stake out a place to sit and make sure you have enough space for the people in your group. This is a summer tradition I hadn’t done in quite a few years – I used to go all the time when I was in high school and earlier … but the summer’s had always passed by lately without a wander to The Canadian Stage’s Dream in High Park.
We spread the blanket down, third row centre and brought out the various salads and pastas and chips and dips which made up the picnic we were going to eat for the next two hours before the show began. A nice box of French Rabbit wine made the evening’s feast complete. It was a bit windy that evening and the sand storm that came from the path lead a bit to be desired, but overall, it was a beautiful night for a picnic.
This year’s Shakespeare selection was the ever classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve seen this play a gazillion times, studied it in school, acted in it etc. but I never seem to tire of it. When done properly or with an interesting twist, this can be a hilarious comedy. This year’s production achieves ‘hilarity” status.
Director ahdri zhina mandiela set the Bard’s comedy in a modern day, urban Athen. The Athenian costumes were understated but effective while the faeries garb was anything but.
Puck was punk complete with tattoos from head to toe. Titania’s 3 faerie servants were dressed in magnificent colours – a sort of updated modern take on the 80’s (what the 80’s would look like if we dressed like that today).
But the most striking of all were the faerie King and Queen themselves. Titania, played by the ever amazing Karen Robinson (if you haven’t seen this woman on stage, you must – she is a force on stage to be reckon with) strolled onto the stage in a patch-quilt dress of oranges, greens and white followed by these amazing circular bouncing wings that looked like coils from a train conductors watch. As playful as Titania’s costume was, Oberon’s was equally proud and larger than life. Outfitted in a blue tuxedo-type jacket, there were enormous leaves like peacock feathers protruding from his back, sticking straight up a good 10 feet into the air. Watching these two celestial figures walk on stage definitely gave the audience the impression that these characters were larger than life.
The Mechanicals – always the scene stealer – hammed it up and had me in stitches with their rendition of Pyramus and Thisbe at the end of the play. But when you have actors such as Steven Gallagher (last seen in CanStage’s The Rocky Horror Show) as Peter Quince and Andrew Kushnir (Hair) as Flute in the mix, you are sure to be in for a laugh. Everyone in the Mechanical ensemble was perfectly cast. Matthew Brown as Snout, Sarah Dodd playing a bitterly funny Starveling, Emberly Doherty as the shy Snug, and Matthew Kabwe as the know-it-all Bottom were all fantastic in their roles.
The Lovers, Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander, were also very well cast. I have to say that Maev Beatty stole the show out of the four of them with her brilliant comic timing and embodiment of Helena’s awkwardness and longing for Demetrius’ love. Lysander, played by Antonio Cayonne was very well acted including some wonderful rapping using the text provided. Holly Lewis and Richard Harte also performed exceptionally well in their role as Hermia and Demetrius respectively. Sarah Dodd, who doubled as Egeus, played this role perfectly as the executive suburban female constantly on the phone and full of contempt for practically everything. I do have to say though, it seems that she has worn the same skirt in the past three shows I’ve seen her in (the other two being Marion Bridge and A Whistle In The Dark).
The three ladies playing Titania’s faeries were a funny, energetic, mischievous trio of singers. Most of their text were sung with beautiful harmonies. And the master of mischief, Puck, played by Colin Heath, did a most excellent job in the role. His acrobatics alone really gave the character that faerie-like quality intended for the role. He seemed to fly through the air at parts or blend in to the scenery only to pop out later on.
There are times when watching Shakespeare can be tedious and tiring, and even in a comedy such as this, the play can drag. But thanks to the amazing direction from Ms. mandiela there is never a dull moment, never a lag. The almost 2 and a half hour show seems to whiz by and leaves you with a huge smile on your face. It really did seem magical that evening.
My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would suggest to anyone looking for a really enjoyable evening to check out this production. Bring some snacks, a blanket and get there early. It is one of the summers traditions in Toronto that is definitely worth checking out.
The Dream In High Park is on until September 2.
I, for one, am very excited.
Yesterday I was invited to the press launch of DanCap Productions – the new commercial theatre producer in Toronto. It was quite the event, let me tell you. No expense was spared. Held at the gorgeous Elgin Theatre at Yonge and Queen, DanCap wooed attendees with champagne, valet parking, Clores Leachman (as the “voice” of DanCap), musical numbers from their upcoming season with singers from New York and London in attendance, and lots of nibblies.
It was an event, and a great way to make a splash on the theatre scene here. Most of the media in the past few years have said that theatre is dying or in serious trouble in Toronto … which is not true. Sure, there haven’t been tons of commerical productions other than what Mirvish has brought us (this certainly isn’t the mid 90’s when Livent was around), but the mid-size to smaller theatres have been doing amazing work on our stages consistently with new companies cropping up every year, new and innovative work being produced in non-traditional stages, and a wealth of talent being used to showcase it all.
But – it’s the halo effect that we’ve been missing since the 90’s. When Livent was around, when Phantom was running for what seemed like forever, when Showboat and Sunset Boulevard and Ragtime were around, that’s when theatre was in the conciousness of the public – that’s when Torontonians went to the theatre because we were known as a “theatre town”. As such, the smaller venues and companies reaped the benefits of the theatre-going public. It was something we did rather than a special night out or an “event”. Mind you, we spent our time differently. Since the mid 90’s and the rise of the internet, we spend our time in a completely different way. There isn’t more of it, but we certainly spend the same amount doing more things. But I digress …
With the launch of DanCap, I think we’re going to see a revitalized commercial theatre sector, which can only help the rest of the industry – eventually.
I’ve heard some rumblings from insiders about the lack of Canadian content in the innaugural season – all the shows are tours being brought in from the States (or London’s West End). And yes, it would be great to have the premiere of a new Canadian work in the first season, but let’s be realistic here for a moment. Audiences in Toronto are conservative. They won’t necessarily go see something that hasn’t been proven elsewhere (and this is the average citizen, not the savvy arts-goer). I believe it’s a smart move for DanCap to bring in big names and then, as they said last night, eventually move towards creating new Canadian work and taking it to Broadway and the West End.
Their first seasons consists of:
Not a bad line-up at all. Most of these are Tony Award winners and have been very successful on Broadway. I’m very excited to see the return of The Drowsy Chaperone – a homegrown success which started in the back of the Rivoli as a wedding gift. It really is an extraordinary story and can’t wait to see it again!
Theatre never died in Toronto … the marketplace changed. And it’s changing again, for the better.
Everyone has a Pokeroo in their lives (someone or something that always seems to elude them no matter how hard they try to find it/see it) – or a Snuffleupagus for our American friends …
The Overcoat adapted by Morris Panych currently playing at CanStage (Bluma Appel Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre) has been my Pokeroo since 2000. I remember hearing about when it first premiered in Toronto and thinking “Wow, this sounds like something I’d like to see!” But I missed it then … and then in 2002 when it came back … but now, after years of travelling around the world and mesmerizing audiences internationally it has returned to Toronto and you can be sure that I was not going to miss it this time.
You can imagine my excitement when my invitation to the opening night arrived in the mail – I was on the phone right away to reserve my seats.
This play does not disappoint. I suggest everyone buy a ticket and see some great performances. The play centers around a man who’s life is pretty standard – nothing exceptional. His co-workers bug him because he’s a bit of a “loser”. His landlady continually throws herself at him, but he’s not interested. His life is rather plain – as is his overcoat. But one day – after his coat becomes not much more than a rag hanging off him, he finds a taylor who designs him his very own overcoat – fitted and everything. This is one of the best parts of the play – watching the taylor and the sewers work tirelessly to create this amazing overcoat.
It’s love at first sight. Our protagonist is thrilled with his new coat and so is everyone else. He finally becomes noticed by everyone and is invited to drink and dine with the socialites of the town.
Unfortunately, fame has its price as he soon finds out and the second act takes a decidedly darker turn. While The Overcoat doesn’t end up on the happiest note, it is a wonderful story. One of the things I liked most about this show is the fact that the entire thing is done sans text. It is completely told through movement and music. It’s not a musical, there are no ballads, and it’s not dance per say. The staging of it is incredible, the set is beautiful, lighting superb, the music is fantastic … and the acting is brilliant! I can’t say enough about this show. I love shows that don’t rely on text to tell the story, and this show delivers.
I highly suggest you check it out. You can buy tickets through CanStage or T.O.TIX if you want to try and get some discount tickets – www.totix.ca.
CHAOS COLLECTIVE PRESENTS…
Reliving the Exquisite Corpse
Created and Performed by Dmitry Chepovetsky, Jenn Griffin, Liesl Lafferty, Heidi Waters
BLIND SUBMISSION is a theatrical creation inspired by the parlor game fashioned by Surrealist Poets called “Exquisite Corpse”. In the game, each person scratches a few words onto a paper without having seen what the last person wrote. The result is a poem that represents the collective unconscious of the group. The name is derived from a phrase when the game was first played in 1925, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.)
For the theatre, the Chaos Collective has adapted the game with a postmodern, deconstructivist twist, creating their own form of Surreality Theatre.
For 28 days, three playwrights, in three different cities, wrote three separate plays. Without a previously determined theme and without having seen each other’s words, the playwrights blindly submitted their contributions to the dramaturge. The dramaturge has collaged the pieces together ignoring constricting rules of modernism including “form follows function” to create theatre that is beautiful and vulnerable.
Surreality Theatre does not only require blind submission from the artists. The Chaos Collective recognizes the audience is also submitting blindly. Therfore, the Chaos Collective is offering 6 “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
worth” performances of BLIND SUBMISSION, February 6 – 8 at 8pm and February 11, 18 and 25 at 4pm. All other performances are $20.
Together for the first time in Toronto, the playwrights will become the actors and the dramaturge will become the director and after two weeks of rehearsal, the audience is invited to witness the extravaganza that is BLIND SUBMISSION!
CHAOS COLLECTIVE PRESENT
Reliving the Exquisite Corpse
Created and Performed by Dmitry Chepovetsky – Toronto-based Playwright/Actor,
Jenn Griffin – Vancouver-based Playwright/Actor, Liesl Lafferty – Winnipeg-based Dramaturge/Director, Heidi Waters – Montreal-based Playwright/Actor
Choreographed by Patrick Tubajon – Designed by Steve Marsh – Stage Managed by Shauna Japp
The Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen Street West, 416.538.0988
February 6 to February 25, 2007
Previews February 6 – 8 @ 8pm, “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
Opening Night: Friday, February 9, 2007 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday – Saturday 8pm, all tickets $20 (cash only)
Sunday @ 4pm, “pay-what-you-think-it-is-
For more information visit http://www.liesllafferty.ca
2006 was the year of Creativity in Toronto as declared by Mayor Miller – and with that came the launch of the Live With Culture campaign which – in my opinion – was a lack-luster attempt to get Torontonians involved in the artistic fabric of the city. The only event that really sparked any interest was Nuit Blanche – and that was a resounding success!
2006 was also a busy year for the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA). The arts service organziation which is “the voice of theatre, dance and opera in Toronto”, produces the Dora Mavor Moore Awards (the annual performing arts awards in Toronto), and owns and operates T.O.TIX (see post beneath), launched its own city-wide arts marketing campaign called Go Live Toronto.
This marketing campaign is a call to action for the citizens of Toronto and the tourists visiting the city to step outside the box and try something different be it an independent production at the Theatre Centre, a modern dance piece at the Toronto Dance Theatre, or listen to the beauty of Baroque opera with Opera Atelier. There are several calls to actions in the campaign to check out:
- goliveto.ca – the digital hub of the campaign, this website offers an online listing of upcoming shows in all genres and allows visitors to search by any field to find out what’s playing in the city (and there’s always something going on). It also links to T.O.TIX so you can purchase your tickets through the online box office.
- hipTIX – this is a great new initiative for all students! hipTIX allows any student in high school or post secondary (up to the age of 25) with a valid ID (ISIC too!) to purchase $5 tickets to select shows through T.O.TIX! This is a fantastic way for students to see some great shows. You can buy them in-person at T.O.TIX at Yonge-Dundas Square or online at totix.ca.
- 5 Star Experience – If you’re looking for a really neat experience, you have to check out these discount theatre packages! They are pretty amazing and incredibly well priced. The 5 Star Experience offers buyers these amazing packages:
- Barrel of Laughs: a beer tasting and tour of Steamwhistle Brewery, dinner at The Red Tomato, and tickets to The Second City
- Fusion: choose a show from each of these amazing companies – CanStage, Tarragon Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
- Kidding Around: if you have kids, this is a great package – tickets to the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and a trip up the CN Tower
- Stepping Out: A chance to see some fantastic dance shows at Harbourfront Centre, access to The Power Plant Contemorary Art Gallery, and dinner at Il Fornello.
- NEWorld: If you want to enhance your visit to Harbourfront’s New World Stage Festival, check out this package which gets you into select New World Festival shows, access to The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, and dinner at Il Fornello.
- The Theatre Guide – this is published every two months and distributed throughout the City at various hotels and attractions – pick one up if you see it as there is a theatre map (also found online here) and listings of upcoming shows.
- Write On! – If you’ve ever wanted to play your hand at being a journalist, now’s your chance. If you see a show and feel like telling the world about it, you can post your comments on this bulletin board and help spread the word about a show you’ve seen.
This is a fantastic marketing campaign that is still in its infant stage and will surely grow as the year continues on so best to check back for updated information, new packages and new initiatives!