News From Around the Barrio

I posted the 2009 Vancouver Jessie Award Nominations and the 2009 Edmonton Sterling Nominations without a commentary because I hadn’t seen enough of the shows in Vancouver and Edmonton in order to fairly weigh in about the nominations or to speculate on the winners (which I don’t like to do anyway). My opinions, I think, are at best predictable (or dull, depending on your opinion!). Ron Pederson’s portrayal of Carmen Ghia last summer in The Producers at The Arts Club in Vancouver stole that show with exorbitant panache. His performance as James in Extinction Song at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton this winter blew my mind via a short promotional video that was posted on the Citadel’s website. Ron Jenkins’ writing and direction was fifty percent responsible for said blown mind. Thom Allison is an incredible performer who continually throws 110% of his extraordinary talent into every part he plays. I am sure his portrayal of Adolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Arts Club was pure bliss. I heard Jay Brazeau’s Man in Chair rivalled that of Bob Martin. Stewart Lemoine’s new 2008 Fringe play Happy Toes was the epitome of what theatre should be for me. In both cases, the Jessies and the Sterlings, it was nice to see the best of what I had seen in these two cities being so well represented- regardless of whether my opinions are predictable or not!

In Toronto, however, I do feel qualified to speak at farther length about the 2009 Dora Nominations that were announced today, as I was lucky enough to have seen most of the productions that received nominations and a fine array of shows that did not. There are very few nominees that I overtly disagree with. Still, the list appeared a bit lacklustre to me. I suppose since this was the first year that I had seen almost every theatrical production produced in a city in a year, I was struck for the first time how even when a slew of deserving artists and productions are nominated for awards, there are so many equally as deserving who are not. I found myself noticing the absences more than I noticed the nominees. I appreciate how difficult it must be to choose. I keep going over the list: Chris Abraham’s fantastic direction of I, Claudia; Diego Matamoros in Travesties, Abena Malika in A Raisin in the Sun, Richard Lee and Ron Jenkins’ work in The Forbidden Phoenix, Nicola Lipman in Another Home Invasion, the entire production of The Company Theatre’s Festen, Raven Dauda in general, the Jersey Boys… Certainly this list represents the best of 2009 theatre in Toronto. It just isn’t half as conclusive as I would want it to be.

It’s a good thing that I have my own Canadian Theatre Awards (The 1st Annual TWISI Awards!) so I can add a few names to that list! I hope that you’ll join me by voting for the Canadian theatre artists you feel most deserving of an extra special honour! Email before June 21st 2009 to have your vote counted!

Speaking of The Drowsy Chaperone and Bob Martin—guess who is going to be at Bread and Circus on Monday Night!? Here’s a little bit of “That sounds too good to be true!” for all of you in Toronto. Monday June 8th, 2009 is the reunion show of the Alumni Café, a long form Improv show that used to play at the Tim Sim’s Playhouse (apparently, I don’t know what that is, but it sure sounds impressive!).
Starring: Bob Martin (Broadway Star and Tony winner for writing The Drowsy Chaperone)
Paul O’Sullivan (best known for playing Franz in Mirvish’s production of The Producers)
Linda Kash (Waiting for Guffman)
Lisa Merchant (Canadian Comedy Award Winner for Best Female Improviser)
Janet van der Graaf (YES!!! That Janet van der Graaf! And you thought she was made up!!)
Teresa Pavlinek (The Jane Show. Women Fully Clothed)
Music by the Jazz Dogs led by Tony Award winner Greg Morrison who wrote the music for The Drowsy Chaperone.
According to the press release, and according to me, this is nor-to-be-missed- one night only Improvaganza AND it is PAY WHAT YOU CAN and the proceeds are going to a charity that the audience votes on!! What could be better than that? Bread and Circus (299 Augusta Street, Kensington Market: 8:55pm-11:55pm).

Have you ever heard of Monkey Toast?! Sounds strangely appetizing, doesn’t it!? It is a live, improvised talk show in Toronto! I recently watched a hilarious video from one of the past shows which featured both Colin Mochrie and Deb McGrath! You just never know who is going to show up in the Toronto comedy world! Here are the details:
Monkey Toast: The Improvised Talk Show. David Shore and The Gladstone Hotel present the biweekly improv comedy inspired by guest interviews. This week with special guests, author, Sheryl Steinberg, from Maclean’s, Andrew Coyne and more, interviewed by Shore. This show’s improvisers: Lisa Merchant, Jan Caruana, Scott Montgomery, Naomi Snieckus, Herbie Barnes, and more.
Sunday, June 14th.
Doors: 7:30pm
Show: 8pm
PAY WHAT YOU THINK (after the show, pay what you think it’s worth)
The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom
1214 Queen St. West
Sounds delicious to me! Don’t be a maroon and miss it!

The Canadian Stage Company is certainly leading the way in offering amazing audience and artist enrichment projects. (Thank you Natasha Mytnowych). I am so jealous that I am not in Toronto to catch their Festival of Ideas and Creation I could just spit! I highly, highly, recommend you visit this website to read all about the amazing opportunities that are being offered for you to take part in between June 8th, 2009 and June 27th, 2009. There will also be musical performances by the incomparable duo of Steven Gallagher and Thom Allison. Here is what you NEED to know NOW:
The Canadian Stage Company Festival of Ideas and Creation runs from June 8th to 27th at The Berkeley Street Theatre, focusing on artistic process and exchange. It offers professional development opportunities for local and national artists to present new works and evolve their creative processes while offering the general public the opportunity to explore art behind the scenes and participate in the development of new work. First established in 2006, the festival is slated to become an annual event with a dynamic line-up of public, youth, artist and industry programming.
Festival Highlights
· Open readings and rehearsals of exciting new theatrical works by senior and emerging artists from across Canada such as two-time Governor General’s Award-winner Judith Thompson & Tony-award winner William Finn;
· In Conversation Series with stalwarts in the world of live theatre such as Siminovitch Prize-winner Daniel MacIvor;
· Industry explorations, master classes, forums and conferences
· Book launches, Backstage tours, Youth programming and more!
I am overwhelmed and anxious just typing about it! Please go, so that I can live vicariously through you all.

The Los Angeles Improv Festival is currently in full swing in Hollywood and amid performances from such comedy legends as Sarah Silverman, Drew Carey, Angela Kinsey and Kate Flannery is IMPROMPTU SPLENDOR! Okay, so maybe they are on the Second Stage, but still (!), the National Theatre of the World (Matt Baram, Naomi Snieckus, Ron Pederson) represent Canada (albeit the world!) tonight Wednesday June 3rd, 2009 at 10:30pm at the Andy Dick Experimental Black Box Theatre (really, they named a theatre after him. I don’t know why). 63366 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California. If you’re in Los Angeles, hop in your Porsche and zip on over for a hilariously famous brand new Canadian/American one-act play! Impromptu Splendor. Mondays. 9pm. Comedy Bar. 945 Bloor Street. Toronto. Plays That Make You Laugh With Your Heart.*

Finally, I wish to officially proclaim across the country, towards Edmonton, to Teatro la Quindicina (tay-at-tro la quin-de-scene-na): Happy June 3rd! Have a perfectly winsome day!!

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