Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review: (Stratford / Theatre) Mother Courage

(photo by David Hou)
The Art of Alienation
By pushing us away, Mother Courage draws us in
by Stuart Munro

This review contains spoilers.

Written in 1939 (but not published until 1950 after several revisions), Bertolt Brecht’s seminal play, Mother Courage and Her Children, is considered by many to be the greatest anti-war play of all time, and possibly the greatest play of the 20th century. At its core, like so many of Brecht’s other works, is the idea of Verfremdungseffect, or “alientation.” Realism is eschewed, and the audience is constantly reminded that what they are seeing is, in fact, a play. The goal is to distance the audience from the characters in an effort to create a more rational, rather than emotional, response to the proceedings. Whether the Stratford Festival’s new production succeeds in this will be up to the individual watching. For my part, I was overwhelmed and appropriately unsettled. Mother Courage is, I imagine, a play I’ll be thinking about for some time.

creating a/broad, May 31, 2014

Keeping up Appearances
by Cameryn Moore

I went to a promo appearance on Tuesday here in London, at the venue where I am going to be performing Phone Whore next Tuesday. It was an open mic night at a well-known queer bar. I got there early for the sign-up, hardly anyone was there, but I was still nervous walking in. Every time I do a promo appearance like this, I worry about the same thing: Do people feel attracted to me? 

I don’t mean, do they want to jump my bones. I mean, are they drawn to me? Do they like the way I look? Do I feel approachable, if they have questions or if they want to get a card? Is it clear, hopefully from the host’s intro or at least from my own intro, why I am even there? Will they like me?

It’s like the worst parts of a networking event and a talent audition and moving to a new high school, all rolled up into one dimly lit room with no tech and lots of booze.

It’s a bit agonizing, in other words, and not much in my control at all. But I can’t not do these things, when I come to a new town. I can’t just hide out in my billet all the time, as much as I want to, and hope that word of mouth will keep going on its own. I can’t expect individual producers or venue managers to have done everything possible to get the word out about my show. No. If I am only making income from box office, then I need to be hauling ass the whole way, in all the ways I can think of. Sometimes that’s Sidewalk Smut (damn I wish the England summer would clear up). And sometimes that’s just spending the money for tube fare and going down to a historic queer bar to rock that mic in whatever way possible.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: (Stratford / Theatre) Man of La Mancha

(photo by Michael Cooper)

Caught In The Lies We Tell
Stratford’s Man of  La Mancha suffers from something of an identity crisis
by Stuart Munro

There was a definite shift about two-thirds of the way through act one of Stratford’s new production of Man of la Mancha, which opened last night at the Avon Theatre. Up to that point, I’d had a very hard time understanding exactly what sort of show I was watching. The script and score seemed to suggest a more introspective drama, but the direction and performances were pushing heavily on the light and comic. The two weren’t meshing very well, and I couldn’t help but feel something more poignant was being sacrificed the harder the company pushed for the jokes. But almost as soon as Matt Armet lovingly crooned out the first verse of “Little Bird, Little Bird,” the tone began to change, and by the time Don Quixote had been dubbed the “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” the change was (happily) permanent.

Review: (Toronto / Dance)

(photo by Negwhua Anderson)
Dancing For Your Life
by Jessica Yen created by Lua Shayenne and Company is an energetic and thoughtful production, blending African and contemporary dance aesthetics. This fusion of styles is well suited towards the themes Lua Shayenne has chosen to explore. The first piece, entitled LAND-ED IM.MI.GRANT  depicts a new immigrant, trying to make her way through an intimidating immigration process. Canada is embodied in the form of two sinister looking masked dancers who taunt and tease the prospective immigrant. Shayenne explores both the dark and the light, offering lots of humour within the piece. One of the most memorable moments of the evening was when each dancer - standing in queue with a number taped to their stomach - would go in one by one for an 'interview', where they would each dance for their lives for a chance to stay in Canada.

The Best of CharPo's Real Theatre! (Fringe edition)

A Fly On The Wall, May 30, 2014

Fringe is Coming
by Jim Murchison 

Well the Fringe Festival is almost upon us. I am going to soon be too busy to write much of anything but Fringe reviews, but next week June 3-5 at the Arts Court I will finally get a chance to see the full length version of my favourite production from last year’s Fringe, 6 Guitars and just enjoy the show. 

6 Guitars is far more than a terrific one man show. It is a play! Written by Chase Padgett and Jay Hopkins who also directs the story it is certainly a tour de force for Padgett’s musical and acting talent, but beyond that it makes sense as a  piece of theatre. It is probably the only multiple character solo show that I believe would be a weaker play with more actors. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: (Stratford / Theatre) King John

(photo by Don Dixon)
At Hand is War-Like John
The rarely performed King John is poised to become the triumphant dark horse of the season
by Stuart Munro and Dave Ross

Though King John enjoyed wild popularity in the 19th century, it has been rarely performed in the 20th and 21st – the Stratford Festival, for its part, has produced the play four times in the 60 years of the festival. The announcement of this new production, number five, was met with confusion by some – why on earth would the festival want to stage this dusty old piece many of us had never heard of? Our questions were answered with one of the most graceful productions ever to land itself on the Tom Patterson stage.

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Built to Last (FTA)

(photo by Julian Roder)
The Current destiny of our Community
by Chad Dembski

There is a moment with most shows where you feel, thank you, that was great and you wish it would just end there. Some shows it’s because of the ‘false ending’, a tease of the creators to make it seem like the piece is ending but really there is more. Sometimes, like with Built to Last the piece contains so many ideas that you’re not sure where it begins and ends. There is of course the obvious lights up and down, but with this piece from Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods, it was difficult to gauge where it all begins and ends. 

Picture of The Week, May 29, 2014

This Allison Burns shot of Brian Abbott for The Elephant in a Room (coming to Montreal and Toronto) has everything we are looking for in a Fringe promo photo: it's fast and dirty without being...well...too fast and too dirty; it's got more than a lick of humour; it's a riot of textures that are not just an eyesore; and something very basic (which most companies have not figured out for their Fringe photos), it's well-framed.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: (Stratford) Crazy For You

(photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
Who Could Ask For Anything More?! 
Stratford has a surefire crowd-pleaser on their hands
by Stuart Munro and Dave Ross

The week of Stratford openings continued last night with The Gershwins and Ken Ludwig’s Crazy For You. Often styled “the new Gershwin musical comedy,” Crazy For You is loosely based on the 1930 Gershwin show Girl Crazy. But rather than merely updating the original, Ludwig has crafted a new and clever story with multiple subplots and some of the funniest one-liners to be uttered on stage. This new Stratford Festival production hits all the right notes, giving the audience a thrilling evening, and more than enough reason to stand and cheer.

Review: (Montreal / Theatre) Culture, Administration and Trembling

(photo: Stephen Thompson, Dominique Petrin)
It's Not About Seeing
by Chad Dembski

I haven’t been to church in a really long time.  My parents used to take me every Sunday until I was 13 and had confirmation. (a bizarre ritual where you discuss the ultra-repressive Catholic religion with other kids all hitting puberty). Once confirmed I was told I could decide if I wanted to keep going to church; I decided that I never wanted to go again. Apart from one or two Christmas services I haven’t been back and can’t say I miss the Catholic church but miss the ritual, communion and the room full of strangers looking for transcendence. Last night at Agora de la danse I was reminded of the transformative power of performance, the ability of the live experience to provide a jolt of unexpected pleasure and confusion that offers to take you to a new place.  I felt I was brought into a new church, a place where transformation is not only possible but permitted as well.

News: (Calgary) Calgary Theatre Critics' Awards (Critter) Nominations announced (Press release)

News: (Toronto) Soulpepper announces summer programming (press release)

News: (Toronto) Factory Announces 45th Anniversary season (press release)

In a Word... Kiyoshi Nagata and Charles Hong on collaboration

Understanding Drum Language
Nagata and Hong discuss their upcoming performance at Harbourfront and the challenge of collaborating across different musical styles. 
by Kallee Lins

Kiyoshi Nagata, the ensemble’s artistic director, is Canada’s preeminent taiko soloist who has been performing in a career that spans three decades. His principal studies were with Daihachi Oguchi (as artistic director and performer of the Toronto-based, Suwa Daiko from 1982 to 1992) and with Kodo (as an apprentice from 1993 to 1994). With the assistance of a Chalmers Performing Arts Training Grant in 1999, Kiyoshi studied classical percussion with Paul Houle at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Since 1998 Kiyoshi has taught a credit course in taiko at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. In September 2003, he began teaching a public course at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. For eight years, he instructed two community groups, Isshin Daiko in Toronto and Do-Kon Daiko in Burlington, which he helped establish in 1995. Kiyoshi is also regularly invited by universities and taiko groups to conduct workshops and present lectures. In 1994, Kiyoshi founded the cross-cultural percussion ensemble, Humdrum, whose debut Toronto performance was ranked fourth in Now Magazine’s “Top Ten Concerts of 1995. He has composed and performed taiko music for dance, theatre, film and radio and continues to collaborate with artists from all genres of music including traditional Japanese instrumentalists.

Charles Hong, the Artistic Director of Jeng Yi, has been drumming and dancing since 1990. From 1992 to 1996, he apprenticed under Kim Duk Soo, master drummer and leader of the world-renowned group SamulNori. Charles Hong returned to Toronto in 1996 and soon after founded Jeng Yi. He has also studied with Dong-Won Kim, a specialist in the music of Dodang Kut, a shaman ritual practiced in the central region of the Korean peninsula. Besides his work with Jeng Yi, Charles Hong has also worked in dance, music, and theatre productions. He has performed at the Guelph Jazz Festival, Canada Dance Festival, and the McMaster University Concert Series. He received the 2008 Dora award for Outstanding Sound Design/Composition in the dance category for his musical work on Soojung Kwon's original choreography Choonengmu, a dance work performed at the 2008 CanAsian Dance Festival. He is also an instructor of Korean drumming at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and at York University, Department of Music.

CHARPO: Is this the first time you’ve collaborated on a show?

NAGATA: We’ve known each other since university and we’ve played together on a handful of occasions, but this is the first time our groups are coming together. 

CHARPO: You work in two different styles—Japanese taiko and Korean drumming, respectively—what is it like to create together?

NAGATA: I think the greatest challenge, but also the greatest joy, is kind of understanding each other’s drum language. A lot of people might assume that Korean music and Japanese drum music might be quite similar because they're both part of East Asian culture, but actually, our cultural drum history is quite different from each other. So, it’s about trying to find the common ground to explore how our rhythms work together. 

HONG: I find that even when there are similar time signatures we might work with, there are slight nuances in the swing, or in the feel, or even in the accented beats that provide a challenge, but also material to work with. 

CHARPO: Has there been a particular structure to your collaboration for this show?

NAGATA: We’re trying to work on about four group pieces. Basically, it’s been half-half where Charles has introduced rhythms or pieces from their repertoire, he’s played it for us and we use that for the basis of a new composition, or vice versa.  

CHARPO: It sounds like it’s been a really organic creation process.

HONG:  Ya, and I think that’s the way both groups work with our own ensembles. With any kind of new composition it’s quite organic and there’s a lot of improvisation.  The best ideas kind of float to the surface and then you make it into a cohesive piece. 

NAGATA: And we don’t notate any of it, so it’s just kind of playing around and recording our sessions and then, after Charles and I have met, we both go back to own groups and teach them the rhythms we’ve been working on. Fairly soon our groups will come together and we’ll start putting all the pieces together. 

Video of The Week, May 28, 2014

Hard to get more exciting about the return of Soulpepper's phenomenal Angels in America...but we're going to try to sell you all over again on this Critics' Award-winning beauty. First, there's this gem of a video from the company. Now, read what our reviewer said about the initial run. Oh...and go.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: (Stratford / Theatre) King Lear

(photo: David Hou)
Old Before it is Wise
Stratford’s Lear is somehow less than the sum of its parts
by Dave Ross and Stuart Munro

The Stratford Festival’s 62nd season opened last night with a new production of King Lear. Starring Colm Feore, and directed by festival Artistic Director, Antoni Cimolino. This Lear boasts some stellar performances and wonderful design elements. Yet despite this, something fell flat.

Dave Ross: There are many pieces to King Lear – betrayal, rivalry, madness – but none of them seem to ever really come together. It lacks a cohesiveness of narrative, feeling instead like a number of different stories moving in parallel and with only glancing blows as they rub up against once another. I can’t fault the performers though – this was a solid cast across the board.

Stuart Munro: I have to agree. This is one of the strongest ensemble casts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in a long time. Everyone had a moment to shine – no one made me wish they’d been cast differently. The descent of Feore’s Lear into madness was clearly crafted and heartbreaking, and Scott Wentworth’s Gloucester was equally as captivating and moving. My difficulty came from my lack of familiarity with the play itself. There are so many threads in Lear that, if you’re not prepared for them, will slip away before you’ve had a chance to grasp them. This becomes a problem in the production’s second half when the plots and intrigues are changing almost as fast as they’re being revealed. I simply couldn’t keep up with the brisk pacing.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Who's Your Daddy?

(photo by Nancy Savan)
The Joyous Tale
by Jason Booker

Warm fluorescent lighting reveals a man hunched up on a papier maché rock: an oddly placid opening to an exuberant piece. But that juxtaposition typifies Who’s Your Daddy, being performed as part of the East End Performance Crawl, a collection of solo shows performed in strange new places in a lead-up to Crow’s Theatre opening their new space.
Mostly performer/writer Johnny O’Callaghan wows with his storytelling. But is that because he – to invoke his own stereotypes – is an outgoing Irish actor, performing chunks of his own life, in a story that he knows ends joyously? Is that because, as an openly bisexual man, he is performing a show about his adoption of a Ugandan orphan show in LGBTQ-friendly Toronto? Is that just because he knows this story so well and has told it so often or because he is an outstanding actor? Or do those all roll into one and become negligible while watching?

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Art

(photo by Julie Le Gar)
More Than Meets the Eye
by Sonia Fine

Is French playwright Yasmina Reza's goal to trick you into believing that her play is all about what is on that plain white canvas?

What happens when three friends who have known each other for 15 years start to grow apart? What happens when the leader of the pack comes to realize he is no longer the top dog and has fallen off the proverbial pedestal? 

After Dark, May 27, 2014

And The Action Plan?
Never has it seemed so important.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Times are rough. That didn't need to be said, obviously, but what does need to be said is that they are rough in a new way. This is a time when - theoretically at least - coming together and doing something besides holding-hands-swaying-and-singing-We-Are-The-World should be easy. We are in an age of networking like has never existed in history.

But from my view, the arts have never been so Balkanized. 

We go onto Facebook, Twitter, wherever, and post links to horrific articles about cuts to the NFB, the CBC, to arts; about companies going under (especially in opera); about our government working to change the country in the worst possible way - a way that will no longer include any arts. Yup, we post those links and get the shares and likes and Amens and then crowd mentality takes over. Nothing is done because we all assume someone else will do it. We don't assume...we believe someone else will do it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Question... Nicolas Cantin on Klumzy (FTA)

Painted With Fingers
by Estelle Rosen

Trained in clowning and mask work, Nicolas Cantin hovers on the edge of artistic boundaries and genres, cobbling together pieces that he strips to their bare bones in order to present the very core. Like a lab technician very curious about his research subject, he captures life in all its simplicity, dissecting it by stretching out time to the very edge of ennui. In each piece he zeroes in on intimacy, on what is most secret. Whether it charms or repels, his discourse hits home. With the somber and radical Mygale (FTA, 2012), he ventured into the troubled zones of emotional handicap previously staged in Belle manière and Grand singe. With a trilogy collectively entitled Trois romances, this French artist has made his mark in Montreal. In 2005 he established his dance reputation with Jachère, a solo by Christiane Bourget that led to a Paula Citron Dance Award in Toronto. He then settled in Montreal where he appeared in Glass House and Falaise, and later danced for Frédérick Gravel (Tout se pète la gueule, chérie, FTA, 2010). Co- choreographer of the circus solo Patinoire, presented by 7 doigts de la main, Nicolas also teaches at Montreal’s National Circus School and at the National Theatre School of Canada. He is the sound designer for each of his works, and is currently artist in residence at L'L (Brussels), at Montevideo (Marseille) and at Usine C in Montreal where last year with CHEESE he began his work on memory, further developed in Klumzy.

CHARPO: It seems like you've gone a step further from your training in clowning and mask work. What is the process from Cheese (which began your work on memory) to Klumzy, and is it a natural evolution from your earlier works where you basically stripped pieces to the bare bones to present the core; to get to the root of intimacy. (cont'd)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Feature - Ted Strauss on Iredea (Fringe / Dance)

Dance, Sci-Fi and the Search For Humanity in The Wasteland
by Ted Strauss

Ted Strauss is the artistic director of IREDEA. He is one half of Woo me myth, a Montreal company that creates Dance Rock Operas. Ted Strauss has been a musician his whole life, and often collaborates with theatre, dance, and visual artists. In 2010 he stepped into a directorial role to create the Duck Wife with choreographer Jenn Doan and a big team of collaborators. Ted Strauss draws from his experience as a social science researcher and a technologist to conceive of and create performances. 

It is the not too distant future. We meet a man who works for the superstructure, a bureaucracy that wields absolute power over the decaying planet. The superstructure controls all resources and surveils the population's every move as they scramble to survive the planet's climatic  and economic disasters unfolding in slow motion around them. The man works within the system to try to help people. But when he learns that he is being manipulated and controlled for awful ends, his mind unravels. He goes mad. Using his privileged access to the computer networks that control the planet, he devises a plan to start a chain reaction of events that causes nuclear detonations on every corner of the globe. Boom. Most people are killed. The dust settles. Silence. Time passes. A twisted figure crawls out from a deep hole. It begins to orient itself to the new smouldering reality.

This is the beginning of IREDEA. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

creating a/broad, May 24, 2014

Can I stay flexible?
by Cameryn Moore

Over here I have caught myself, with embarrassing frequency, describing the Canadian Fringe circuit, with the intent of favourably contrasting it to the ways in which UK Fringes are run. This is called 'making an invidious comparison' and, I decided early on in my stay here, doing this is no way to endear myself to my producers or the local populace—it makes me sound like a whiney little baby—so I’m trying to keep from doing it.

But it’s really haaaaarrrrrrd!

Because, except for Edinburgh, the venues at these Fringes usually offer artists short runs of shows—I mean, like, one show, maybe as many as four, WHOA—over three weeks or a month of the festival, so there is not built-in proximity to foster community among the artists. And the Fringes, as a whole, are not as strongly invested in bringing potential audiences together at things like, say, a public-access beer tent. And these Fringes are happening in places where there’s really not a whole lot of street action, again, except for Edinburgh, so… 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Dance) SKIN / Quicksand

L to R Roney Lewis, Sze Yang Ade Lam, Hiroshi Miyamoto, Paul Charbonneau and Matthew Montgomery (photo by Andrew Ribner)

The SKIN We’re In
Hari Krishnan’s double header asks the tough questions about who we are and where we come from
by Stuart Munro

Opening last night at Buddies in Bad Times, Hari Krishnan’s double header of SKIN & Quicksand is a powerful examination of lust, love, and cultural appropriation in a global community. Krishnan’s stunning choreography combined with Niraj Chag’s wonderful music and sound design combine to create a thought-provoking and highly engaging evening.

SKIN, the first half of the evening, is divided into three smaller sections – “Apollo,” “Narcissus,” and “Eros.” Far from being three independent works, each section follows on the other, with the titular narcissist of the second part being the voyeur of the NSA tryst in the first, while all three point us (literally) to the married couple of “Eros.” Choreographer Krishnan quickly establishes a clear physical vocabulary in “Apollo” that highlights the power struggle between the newly-met lovers (Paul Charbonneau and Roney Lewis), using distinct shapes and gestures created by their hands and fingers. As each man struggles for dominance, their hands are always fighting each other – never in synch. This provided a remarkable contrast to the “married-in-real-life couple” of “Eros” (Jelani and Sze-Yang Ade-Lam). Ostensibly little more than two persons engaged in an act of passionate kissing, “Eros” finds simple beauty in the intricate motions of the couple’s hands, which always acted in harmony with each other. Only “Narcissus,” impressively performed by Gerry King, seemed out of place in this trio of numbers.

News: (Toronto) Theatre Centre appoints Aislinn Rose GM (press release)

News: (Ottawa) Gladstone announces 2014-15 season (press release)

CharPo's Real Theatre, May 23, 2014

A Fly On The Wall, May 23, 2014

A Second Look
by Jim Murchison

A few weeks back I wrote a review of Seeds where I said I don't think I like documentary theatre. After seeing Oil and Water which is essentially documentary theatre about the crashing of the Truxtun in St Lawrence, Newfoundland, I guess I really do like documentary theatre.

Most critics seemed enthralled by Seeds whereas I was somewhat underwhelmed so I started to ask myself why. Oil and Water had this tremendous story of how a single event changed a man's life. The man was Lanier Phillips, the first black man to literally hit the shores of St Lawrence. The production was lean, intimate and theatrical at the same time. It was made more personal by the actors' voices and the manner in the way they manipulated the props and the set. These are things I love about the theatre and why big productions often leave me cold. For me the flash sometimes gets in the way of the substance.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Dance) Looking For Elvis and The Man in Black

Looking For Elvis (photo by John Lauener)

Presley 'n' Cash
by Beat Rice

Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie presented two different works that both pay homage to two of America’s legends, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. The evening’s program was switched - The Man In Black was performed before Looking for Elvis. Although inspired by guitar playing and crooning American men, the two dance pieces are quite different and will be commented on separately.

James Kudelka’s The Man in Black first premiered in 2010. Created for three male dancers, (Luke Garwood, Tyler Gledhill, Daniel McArthur) and one female (Christianne Ullmark), the piece is danced to five songs sung by Johnny Cash. All five dances contained heavy influences of country western style dance. Imagine a modern and more flexible take on line/square dancing with lots of lifts and kicks, and always in 4/4 time.

Kudelka often has the dancers tell the story of the songs by physicalizing the lyrics in a somewhat literal, but always clear way. I tend to think that sign language dancing comes across as a bit corny but for this piece it was honest and it worked with the music. It also made for some very funny moments, although the crowd did not seem to laugh out loud too much.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Watching Glory Die

(photo by Wendy D.)
A story of isolation, desperation, and confinement where no one is left untouched. 
by Keely Kwok

Judith Thompson’s Watching Glory Die is a wake up call shouting to its viewers: do you see? Do you even know? 

The play was inspired by events surrounding the death of Ashley Smith, a 19-year-old girl who asphyxiated herself while her prison guards stood, waited, and watched. Thompson plays a young girl named Glory (based on Ashley), her adoptive mother Rosellen, and a correctional officer named Gail. As the sole actress in the show, Thompson swiftly flits in and out of these three women and delivers three distinctly different powerful performances. 

Glory is the most alienating to watch. She has been an inmate for five years, ever since a minor offence of throwing crab apples at the mailman saw her sent to a correctional facility at 14 years old. Video of Glory protesting, pleading, just pulsing, is projected onto the walls of her sterile white isolation cell. Thompson moves about the space, folding herself into the corner, rolling around on the ground, and flipping off the camera like a caged animal. The worst is when she mimes being seized by the straightjacket and helmet they make her wear so she can’t even move her head. Thompson layers Glory with an exasperating sense of desperation and loss of innocence alongside and in between a fierce, youthful rebelliousness. Glory is more than just an inmate. She is a person. 

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) Dreaming of Rob Ford

Daisey’s Tragic Fool 
by Ramya Jegatheesan

Is Toronto in need of a fool? American monologist Mike Daisey seems to think so. 

Our mayor is an easy punchline and an easier punching bag. On slow news days, he fills the vacuum with a reality show-esque wildness: tantrums, meltdowns, and an angry hulking presence that is easy to mythologize and dehumanize. It is hard to turn away.

Daisey’s one-man show Dreaming of Rob Ford is not what you might expect. The jokes come: they come hard, and they come fast. And they are funny. Even incisive. But they are not so much Ford jokes as they are jokes about Canadians, the media, and our dark fascination with the walking wrecks that populate our world. Schadenfreude, Daisey tells us, is when you derive pleasure from the miseries of others. Our Ford fixation, he’s convinced, is a case of this. 

News: Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards Announced (Press release)

Press release: 2014 Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards announced

We are pleased to announce the winners of the fourth annual edition of the Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards.

The TTCAs were established in 2011 to honour the best in Toronto theatre. This year, they were decided upon by critics representing The Globe and Mail (J. Kelly Nestruck), The Grid (Martin Morrow), National Post (Robert Cushman), NOW Magazine (Glenn Sumi) and Toronto Star (Richard Ouzounian). 

Productions that opened from June 2013 to May 16, 2014 were eligible for consideration. In addition, theTTCA voters decided to give a special citation to VideoCabaret. The TTCAs will be given out at the Spoke Club on June 2. See below for the full list of winners.

Picture of the Week, May 22, 2014 (Fringe)

When a company touring the Fringes (in this case Montreal and Toronto) revs up its PR machine months in advance, is coming from New York, and is sending out photos like this one by Hunter Canning, you bet we'll pay attention. Canning offers all the spookiness that Real Dead Ghosts promises while also offering an image that lets the eye drink.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

News: ImageNATIVE Script Development Lab recipients announced (press release)

In a Word... Adam Lazarus on the Toronto Festival of Clowns

You Don't Know Clowns!
We have enormous variety at the festival and none of it is for kids.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Adam Lazarus is an award winning actor, director and acting instructor. He is faculty at The National Theatre School of Canada and the Artistic Director of the Toronto Festival of Clowns. Notable credits include: [boxhead] (Crow’s Theatre/Mamalian Diving Reflex); Wonderland (QuipTake); Appetite (Volcano/Theatre Passe Muraille/Exchange Rate Collective); The Lupe Trilogy (QuipTake); Le Fain de Partie (Waves festival/Luminato); Tyumen, Then (Groundwater Productions); and Terminus (Outside The March). Mr. Lazarus is a graduate of L’École Phillipe Gaulier. Next, his The Art of Building a Bunker will open the Factory Theatre 2014/15 season.

CHARPO: When clowning first began to appear in mainstream theatre (as a new way of approaching a play, say) it was considered fascinating and clever. (I saw The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine where it was brilliantly used.) Then it became, especially during Fringe festivals, a bit of a cliché. (I also saw a production of Cowboy Mouth where it just sat there stinking up the joint.) What do the festival and your work do to reclaim clowning and its various forms from the dilettantes?

LAZARUS:  HAHA!  I hear you.  There’s the ever-present possibility of brilliance and catastrophe with clowning. And more so than with other forms of theatre: if you see a stinker of a comedy play, you don’t dismiss comedies. Yet if you see a stinker of a clown show, you may dismiss all clowns.  With the clown fest, we’re trying to broaden the definition of clown. We include very little red nose in the festival.  It is there, but clown permeates into character, bouffon, mask, vaudeville, physical theatre, dance, puppetry, and even some standard plays. Like any in form, every artist is different and brings their own stamp of experience to their work. We have enormous variety at the festival and none of it is for kids. We hate kids clowning. You think you know clown? Think again.

Video of the Week, May 21, 2014

A gem of a teaser - style, substance and fun - for Citadel's Make Mine Love.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

After Dark, May 20, 2014

A mini-rant
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I was just going to ignore something, but now, weeks later, it is still bothering me.

I will not name names, because the central figure of this tale is, quite simply, an idiot who does not merit another iota of attention. He is (was) a well-respected actor and, it seems, writer. A few weeks ago - when a play of his did not appear in a theatre company's announced season - he did the dumbest thing anyone can do: he forgot to think twice. He subsequently mass-emailed members of the press (at least) berating the company for not doing his play and then naming other playwrights as turning out work not as worthy as his own. One playwright he referred to as a "House Negro" - so managing to offend more than just the people he was aiming at.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Question... Choreographer Tedd Robinson on Room With Sticks (FTA)

What Zen Is
by Estelle Rosen
Tedd Robinson is a Canadian choreographer, performer and educator, best known for his idiosyncratic solo works, including the Chalmers’ award-winning Rokudo: six destinies in three steps. After graduating with a BFA from York University and studying at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and with eminent British visual theatre artist Lindsay Kemp, his career trajectory first took him to Winnipeg, where he created highly theatrical ensemble works as artistic director of Contemporary Dancers from 1984-1990. Having returned to Ottawa in 1990 to study with Peter Boneham and pursue a solo career, his critically acclaimed works soon won him a multitude of commissions and an international schedule of teaching and touring. In 1998, he formed 10 Gates Dancing Inc. to promote the development and performance of contemporary dance creations. As artistic director, he has created repertoire for some of the most renowned dance artists in Canada alongside establishing choreographic consulting services for the milieu that have benefitted over 40 choreographers. From 2005-2012, Robinson took up residence in the Pontiac Region of Quebec, where he created La B.A.R.N., a rural venue for creation, residencies and performance. In 2013, he established Centre Q: A Centre for Questioning, a research space for dance and music in Canada’s national capital region. His collaborations have included creation with dance artists Louise Lecavalier, Margie Gillis, Ame Henderson, and composer/performer Charles Quevillon. Tedd Robinson is a founding member of Projet bk and an Associate Dance Artist of Canada’s National Arts Centre. His work is influenced by his six years of study as a monk in the Hakukaze soto zen monastery in Ottawa.
CHARPO:  How much did studying in a Zen monastery influence the creation of Room With Sticks, tell us about the process and challenges to presenting the Zen poem Room With Sticks.

ROBINSON: Experience has taught me that sometimes everything we do is the cumulative effect of what we have already done. (cont'd)
(photo by Rod MacIvor) 

ROBINSON (cont'd): The effect on how I view things is influenced by my experiences studying zen. Does it have anything to do with this work, Room with Sticks? I would say about as much as anything else I have done in my life. If this work had anything directly to do with zen then it would be a lie and yet it is everything to do with zen and it is not a lie. I balance sticks on the heads of a few Buddhist statues that I had around my house. Is that zen? Is anything slow … zen? What is zen? It is bantered around these days like some corporate logo, a catchall word for “serenity” or “something to do with energy or house decor”. Yoga, another corporate logo is sometimes interchangeable with zen, except the logo for zen is more crisp and spare. It has become a noun when it is in fact a practice, an active opening to who and what you are, a life living, the sky breathing.

I actually don’t really know what “zen” is … and I am quite satisfied with that not knowing.

Room with Sticks actually came out of 2 summers, 2 explorations. I saw some conjunctions in the 2 works and we are presenting some of the ideas from both works as a new work. This new work changes with each new space. Espace Libre is the smallest space we have encountered so far.

Room with Sticks, for me, works with elements of space, the senses, balance, activities that require time, joy, wood, paper, sound, now.

A zen poem is most of the time thought of as a haiku. I won’t write one for you although maybe that is what was expected. I am not a poet who uses words.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Feature: Judith Thompson on Watching Glory Die

Dread, Dreams or a Train to The Yukon
by Judith Thompson

A highly esteemed Canadian playwright, Judith Thompson is the author of 20 published and produced plays - many of which have been produced all over the world in many languages - including The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog, I Am Yours, Lion in the Streets, Sled, Perfect Pie, Habitat, Capture Me, Enoch Arden, Palace of the End, Such Creatures, The Thrill and Watching Glory Die, as well as adaptations of Hedda Gabler and Elektra. Elektra in Bosnia was performed in Hydra and Athens, Greece as part of the 2012 international Women & War Project. She has also authored two feature films, Perfect Pie and Lost and Delirious, as well as several made-for-TV movies including Life With Billy and numerous radio plays. She is the director/creator of the verbatim theatre pieces body and soul, Sick, Rare and is currently in rehearsals for Borne. She is the recipient of two Governor General's Literary Awards, is an Officer in the Order of Canada and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 2007, she was awarded the prestigious Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts and in 2008, The Susan Smith Blackburn Award and Dora Mavor Moore Outstanding New Play Award for Palace of the End, which also garnered her the 2009 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award. She has been a professor of theatre at the University of Guelph since 1992. She lives in Toronto with her husband, two dogs, two cats and a shifting number of her five children.

Woke up this morning feeling pure dread—now these are moments I generally never admit to in public, but there it was: absolute dread of returning to the stage in my newest play Watching Glory Die, on Thursday, May 15 at Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs. 

Why? The premiere in Vancouver at the beautiful Cultch in late April—first time onstage in 35 years—was a dream, even though we had a bit of a rocky start. Almost no time for tech and opening night was only about the miracle of me remembering all my own lines—but, after I became comfortable with the lines and the 26 transitions, I actually was able to bring in sub-text, and layers and beautiful complications, and I got to a point about three days in where I really looked forward to entering the world of Glory, her mother Rosellen, and Gail, Glory’s guard—a world created so brilliantly by me, directors Ken Gass and Nicky Guadagni, designer Astrid Jansen, and projections designer Cam David and sound designer Deb Sinha. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: (Ottawa / Theatre) Oil and Water

Alison Woolridge, Ryan Allen, Mike Payette (photo by Peter Bromley)
Warmth on a Cold Rock
by Jim Murchison

(Originally, I wanted to send another writer to review this production. My principal reason was that I have auditioned for the director, so there might be a perception of conflict. An unfortunate medical emergency required me to write at the last minute.)
Playwright Robert Chafe tells the true story of the disaster in Newfoundland where the Truxtun, an American ship carrying 156 passengers went down in 1942. Only 46 survived. The central character in the play Lanier Phillips' life was transformed by that experience having only known bigotry prior to being rescued. Chafe alternates between Boston school riots in 1974 and the Truxtun disaster allowing the real people to do the storytelling. It is an effective device in showing how an act of humanity can change a life.

creating a/broad, May 17, 2014

Does My Work Translate?
by Cameryn Moore

It has taken me a little while to find my Fringe legs at the beginning of my tour, Fringe in the UK being nothing like Fringe in North America. Here in Brighton there are too many venues, too spread out. There are no queues to flyer, no publicly accessible beer gardens to troll, no late-night Fringe cabarets that everyone attends to wind down from the day and/or pick people up. This is not how Fringe happens over here, and I forgot that, or didn’t know it, didn’t know that possibly every other Fringe in the UK feels pretty much like Edinburgh, on a much smaller scale.

Excuse me, I need to get my tea.

Ahhhhhh. I forgot that I actually do all right with tea for my morning wake-up drink (two tea bags brewed long, one sugar, lots of milk). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) The Speedy (World Stage)

(photo by Chris Hanratty and Shira Leuchter)

by Greg Bunker

Combining curation, correspondence, comedy, and contemplation, UnSpun Theatre’s The Speedy is as remarkable for its true story as it is for the ways it unfolds. The Speedy was a schooner that left the port of Muddy York (present-day Toronto) in 1804, and sunk on its way to Newcastle with all aboard. Commissioned in 2012 by Harbourfront Centre to celebrate 40 years of theatre at the waterfront, The Speedy distills years of research and development into poignant vignettes of the ship, its forced departure, its ill-fated passengers, the serious historical and political consequences of this sinking, and the process of researching and developing the work itself. This even included which parts weren’t produced and why – that was a nice touch. 

CharPo's Real Theatre! May 16, 2014

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: (Vancouver / Theatre) Spamalot

(photo by David Cooper)
Mixing a classic farce with Broadway makes quite a spectacle
A mixed bag of hilarious sketches and dated humour
by Chris Lane

Spamalot is completely ridiculous, over-the-top and makes very little sense, but fortunately, that’s the whole point.

The musical is based off Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with some other Python references and Broadway spoofing thrown in. It’s a glammed-up, Broadway-style farce, full of British wit.

There are many, many laughs in the show, although a lot of the jokes drag on longer than they should. The comedy relies on a lot of easy jokes, often dependent on stereotypes that toe the line between funny or just plain offensive – sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. But each scene is vastly different from the next, so the occasional disappointing scenes are often saved by hilarious antics moments later. The energy level is high throughout the evening; it’s a true spectacle.

Review: (Toronto / Theatre) we are not afraid of the dark

Photo by Elj van Riel

Lost in Translation
by Beat Rice

If one reads the Artistic Director’s notes in the program before a performance, they will find themselves moved and humbled by Franco Boni’s deeply personal and truthful message. Unfortunately the performance of we are not afraid of the dark, does not capture any of the complicated or life changing emotions humans experience when dealing with mortality. Having recently dealt with tragedy and loss, I was mentally preparing myself for an emotional experience in the theatre. It turns out I did not need to. 

The Abominable Showman, May 15, 2014

Kamen Chanev and Galina Shesterneva

A  Day in the Life
The Charlebois Post goes backstage to preview L’Opera de Montreal’s international All-Star production of Puccini’s classic Turandot
by Richard Burnett (rehearsal photos by Richard Burnett)

Two of the most demanding and best-loved roles in the history of opera are Princess Turandot and Prince Calaf in Giacomo Puccini’s final opera, Turandot, which premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in April 1926.

Opera Australia’s current production of Turandot has been travelling the world for years, and arrives in Montreal with New Zealand-born former ballet dancer, choreographer and director Graeme Murphy at the helm.

“In the early days Turandot used to come with her own eye make-up and her own wigs, and sometimes her own costumes,” Murphy told me last week at an OdeM rehearsal for Turandot. “Every new Calaf and Turandot – these opera singers have careers playing these two roles around the world, it’s one of those roles that is quite demanding, and they may get stuck in the role. So my job is to make them feel fresh. Sometimes I make drastic changes, although this production is [also very] specific.”

For this Opera Australia production of Turandot, L’Opera de Montreal has hired two renowned singers to portray Princess Turandot and Prince Calaf: Russian-born soprano Galina Shesterneva and Bulgarian tenor Kamen Chanev. The international cast is rounded out by Japanese soprano (and Montreal favourite) Hiromi Omura as Liù.

Shesterneva is known for her Turandot, but it was another Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly, that inspired her to be an opera singer.

Picture of the Week, May 15, 2014

Okay...stand back...we're going to let our inner Gay fly: This is fab...u...lous! We like it because it captures the diva-nity that is actor Cynthia Dale, it also captures the utter craftsmanship that is the Stratford costume department, and photographer Cylla von Tiedemann just lets the hundred shades of red flow. Something tells us that the production of James Reaney's adaptation of Alice Through The Looking Glass ain't going to be just for the kiddies.