News from Around the Barrio

Hello everyone! I am very pleased to be writing to you all from beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia and my own computer (my laptop crashed a few weeks ago, which led to most of my blogs being hastily typed up between 1am-4am at the fine libraries of the University of Toronto). It’s nice to be home, and Meghan is excited to be sending in her first blog from Toronto very soon! Exciting theatrical happenings abound and there is no rest from the success of Canadian theatre artists so I thought that I would do a little roundup of some of the stories that have caught my eye in the past little while that can be summarized neatly into tidy paragraphs.


First of all, as I’m sure you have all heard, the American Tony Award Nominations were announced shortly before I left Toronto. You can read the list here. I have found that the Tony Awards have lost a lot of their former excitement for me. The Economic Crisis has certainly had an impact on this season of productions which can be seen as a conglomeration of safe, “sure-fire hits.” Even the heart-warming Billy Elliot is a musical based on a film, and a British transfer to Broadway (after it won nine Laurence Olivier Awards is there any surprise that it has been nominated for fifteen Tonys?). My concern is that even before the recession, a few years ago it seemed that Broadway all of a sudden became saturated with musicals based on popular films, Jukebox musicals/revues, and Disney musical adaptations. While I have no problem with any of these three genres individually, I am disheartened at the thought of their power to completely dominate the Great White Way entirely for economic purposes. How will the future Rodgers and Hammersteins, Kander and Ebbs, Lerner and Loewes, Sondheims and Princes, Fosses and Fiersteins, Schwartzes and even Larsons emerge to create art in such an artistic climate? I guess there is always off-Broadway and Fringe.

Broadway legend, comic genius and television superstar Carol Burnett is coming to Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon (slightly random!?) this June!! Her show Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett is an evening of live, impromptu, banter with her audience. The audience is encouraged to ask questions which will no doubt spiral into hilarious stories and theatrical bliss. Burnett is most well-known for her smash-hit televised variety show The Carol Burnett Show (1967-78) but she also has a slew of other stage, film and television credits to her name. She will be at Massey Hall in Toronto June 12th, 2009, Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall (Winnipeg) June 10th, 2009, Conexus Arts Centre (Regina) June 14th, 2009 and TLU Place (Saskatoon) June 16th, 2009. All shows are at 7:30pm. Carol Burnett does not seem to have an official website, which I think is unfortunate, so for tickets you’re going to have to search the events individually via http://www.ticketmaster.ca/.

Artistic Director of Buddies in Bad Times, David Oiye announced his resignation May 7th after a ten year tenure with the company. Oiye, who is also a playwright and a theatre director, says that his decision to step down will give him the opportunity to focus on his own artistic endeavours as well as the chance to “shake things up within the company.” Buddies has faced some recent economic hardship but has been met by fantastic support from the Queer Community and the theatre community and its fundraising efforts from earlier this year apparently exceeded the company’s initial projections. According to xtra.ca (where Queer’s conspire) “during his tenure Oiye presented over thirty-five queer productions, including twenty Toronto premieres of queer Canadian work, as well as oodles of short works as part of Buddies’ nine Rhubarb and four Hysteria festivals. Oiye’s administration also led Buddies productions through 18 Dora Mavor Moore Award nominations, winning six.” Buddies has also recently released its 2009-10 Season, which reflects not only the company’s economic stability and optimism but also a new direction for Buddies, as all of the mainstage shows have been created by women. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to David Oiye for all his hard work and artistic vision for the past ten years. I wish him all the best in his future theatrical ventures and I know that his work will continue to be at the forefront of Canadian queer theatre.
You can see the delightfully charming singer Brad Hampton and his fierce (and always stunning) accompanist Patti Loach at Sharron’s Party on May 29th, 2009 at 8:00pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. For tickets call 416 975-8555. First; however, check out this promotional video. It’s all the rage.

What do Peggy Baker, Jill Barber, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Laila Biali, Kristin Booth, Melanie Doane, Rosemary Dunsmore, Karina Gauvin, Geri Hall, Evelyn Hart, Christine Horne, Arsinee Khanjian, Dawn Langstroth, Ann Marie MacDonald, Seana McKenna, Alisa Palmer, Louise Pitre, Roxanne Potvin, Sonia Rodriguez, Sarah Slean, Dione Taylor, Kristen Thomson, Theresa Tova, Kate Trotter and Sook Yin Lee all have in common? Well, they are all fabulously talented female Canadian artists, but they also all wear clothes designed by the supremely creative, posh-yet spunky- fashion designer Rosemarie Umetsu. These women are all part of Iconic Beauty, which was founded by Umetsu in 2008, as an “ongoing project to celebrate the individual style and art of the Canadian Female Artist through the medium of Fashion Photography.” Each year twenty-four female artists are chosen from across Canada, styled and dressed by Umetsu, and then photographed (this year by Caitlin Cronenberg). Each photograph is interpreted by a visual artist, through a “spectrum of genres that vary every year.” The photographs are exhibited in association with CONTACT, North America’s largest Photography Festival (May 6-31st 2009) R.U studios. 96 Avenue Road. Thursday-Saturday 11am-5pm. Or by appointment. 416 924-7575.
Proceeds from the net sale of the paintings and photographs will be donated to Learning Through the Arts. Established in 1994 in Toronto, the LTTA encourages, fosters and promotes children to be creative thinkers and leaders.

Patricia Zentilli, the first lady of the Canadian musical theatre, is currently in Edmonton, Alberta playing Christine Colgate in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Mayfield Dinner Theatre. She received this glowing review from Liz Nicholls of the Edmonton Journal: “Patricia Zentilli, who knows everything there is to know about delivering a musical theatre ballad like Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True, plays their mark, soap queen Christine Colgate, wholesome, blond, American and loaded. She knows how to move those goody two-shoes of hers. Delish.” Delish indeed.


The National Theatre of the World has announced that Impromptu Splendor has been accepted into the Los Angeles Improv Festival! After proving to be “the real winners of the weekend” at the Chicago Improv Festival last month, which garnered Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus and Kayla Lorette this praise from Time Out Chicago, “Equal parts funny and tragic, and aided with the help of improv legend Joe Flaherty, these guys proved themselves to be brave, brainy and incredibly agile,” Baram, Snieckus and (Ron) Pederson will take on Hollywood the first week of June! I wish them the very best for this new adventure; the National Theatre of the World is swiftly becoming a real bright feather in Canada’s cap! I wish that Carol Burnett’s appearance in Toronto preceded the LA Improv Festival because I think Impromptu Splendor and the Carnegie Hall Show would be right up Burnett’s alley. She would also be an incredibly fun guest star… maybe when they hit New York?

Finally, it has come to my attention that Tony Award winning Broadway star Idina Menzel and her husband Taye Diggs are expecting their first child later this year. I want to wish them every happiness and joy for what I know will be an amazing adventure. Congratulations! (Read the Amanda-Idina Interview here!)

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