Saturday, June 22, 2013

News: (Toronto) SummerWorks launch

Michael Rubenfeld

Guns, Magic, Space, Elvis
SummerWorks 2013 excites
by Gregory Bunker

“…Sounds of the sea,” were the words that ended a poem spontaneously composed by Four Words, an interactive experiment where party guests joined Sook-Yin Lee, Adam Litovitz, and Max Chandler in creating poetry, four words at a time. It was one of many interactive art pieces meant to entertain and intrigue the patrons at last night’s fundraiser bash in Toronto’s historic Campbell House. This 23rd season of the SummerWorks Festival will showcase over 70 original pieces of theatre, live art, and music from August 8th to the 18th in venues across the city. SummerWorks is the largest juried performance festival in the country, featuring boundary-pushers from Canada and beyond. Here’s a quick look at some of what’s to come.

One of the “and beyond” pieces creating buzz is Schützen by Danish performance artist Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt and German Matthias Meppelink, making its way from Berlin for its North American premiere at the festival. Schützen is a trilogy about the human ability to kill and its effects on the body. It is based on the artists’ interviews of American drone pilots, Israeli troops, and Berliners at a shooting range. Last night audio clips of these interviews were available for listening, as were clips of seriously slowed down shots from an AK-47. The former was raw interview material with the odd skip and cut; the latter sounded less like a gun and more like a spaceship taking off. What kind of marriage will these clips make?

Backed by a spacey keyboard score, the ski-goggle-wearing librettist was convinced that the journey should continue...

And there are plenty of domestic thrills to anticipate. How Can I Forget? is a multimedia piece by SummerWorks’ artists-in-residence Sook-Yin Lee and Benjamin Kamino (with Adam Litovitz) about “the tension between remembering and forgetting” in the context of distraught relationships. Jani Lauzon was busy making Native Dreamcatchers to promote her play A Side of Dreams, a story about a single mother who awakens a Dreamcatcher while searching for her cultural identity and finds that meeting her ancestors was not exactly what she expected. Joe Culpepper worked the room with his magic tricks, pulling red carnations from nowhere that ended up in hair-dos, on lapels, and in pockets everywhere. Culpepper is one of the performers in Show and Tell Alexander Bell, a drama of love and alienation inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s wish to help his deaf wife to hear through invention. The most impressive plug came from those behind Paradises Lost, an Ursula Le Guin-inspired opera about the starship Discovery on its 200-year journey to colonize a new planet—a journey that comes into question as an emerging religion raises the notion that everyone should instead stay on the spaceship forever. Backed by a spacey keyboard score, the ski-goggle-wearing librettist was convinced that the journey should continue, but his friend tried to convince him that those virtual reality goggles revealing new Earth were deceiving. It was a good, short show: a perfect teaser.

After a few words from SummerWorks’ Artistic Producer Michael Rubenfeld, Adam Lazarus led a hilarious auction that saw tickets, meals, hotel stays, and even dances—with both him and the enterprising Sook-Yin Lee—go for the benefit of the festival. Lazarus has a show in the festival as well, The Art of Building a Bunker or Paddling the Canoe of My Self Down the River of Inclusivity and into the Ass of the World, which, if last night is any indication, should be hysterical. It’s about a typical guy, Elvis, who has a pretty normal life…except for what’s happening in the basement.

My four words? Guns, magic, space, Elvis. Go!

SummerWorks Festival runs from August 8 – 18.

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