News From Around the Barrio

It has been a horrendously difficult time to be away from Toronto due to the sheer amount of awesomeness that has been emanating from that city as of late. With that in mind, how exciting for all of you who *are* in Toronto! I’m sorry I have been neglecting my blog duties, I am currently swamped under the weight of (originally four now) three papers that need to be finished in order for me to hope to graduate in November as a Master of Drama Studies. That being said, let’s do a fun recap and see what exciting, fantastic things have been rocking the socks off the Canadian theatre community!

First of all, of course, the Luminato Festival dominated the theatre scene, between June 5th-14th, making my heart ache with all the innovative, amazing, Canadian new work that was being showcased and that I was missing. The buzz I heard from Halifax was on Catalyst Theatre’s production of Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. “Hot on the heels of its June debut at Ottawa’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival came the Toronto premiere of a uniquely compelling theatrical experience. Delightfully dark and heartbreakingly comic, this amazing new creation by Edmonton’s award-winning Catalyst Theatre is a musical-gothic fairy tale for adults, an irreverent and affectionate homage to an iconic literary misfit.” Sounds amazing, huh? All I can say is that I wholeheartedly hope that this show will find another home in Toronto for a longer run, and soon, because it sounds like a theatrical experience not to be missed! Also, keep in mind that Catalyst Theatre’s production of Frankenstein will play at the Canadian Stage Company from May 3-29th, 2010. This winner of eight Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards stars the world premiere cast: Nick Green, Andrew Kushnir, Tim Machin, Sarah Machin Gale, Nancy McAlear, Tracy Penner and George Szilagyi.

The buzz was also on the North American premiere of Robert Lepage’s newest epic Lipsynch also at Luminato. Fresh from critically acclaimed presentations in London, Madrid and Sydney, Australia, this nine-hour multimedia extravaganza that weaves together the stories of nine interconnected lives over the span of seventy years, proved to be one of the theatrical events of the year. Co-written by Frédéike Bédard, Carlos Belda, Rebecca Blankenship, Lise Castonguay, John Cobb, Nuria Garcia, Marie Gignac, Sarah Kemp, Robert Lepage, Rick Miller, and Hans Piesbergen, Lipsynch was presented by Ex Machina/ Théâtre Sans Frontières. For such a gigantic, theatrical epic, Lipsynch only ran for five performers in Toronto, so one would hope that this is not the last we have seen of such a once in a lifetime epic from Canadian legend Robert Lepage. Especially since, I have yet to see a Robert Lepage show, and this is something I feel must be rectified as soon as humanly possible.
The Canadian Stage Company’s Festival of New Ideas and Creation that I mentioned before is finishing up its second and final week at the Berkeley Street Theatre. I hope that you have been able to catch some of the incredible opportunities that have been offered through this exciting venture. Again, it hurts my soul that I have been missing it, it sounds like an incredible experience. Here are some events that are still coming up as part of the festival!
Investigation: Dance / Theatre in Practice
Free Public Forum: Friday, June 19 at 3 p.m.
Dubbed a ‘contrived collaboration’ led by theatre director Weyni Mengesha (‘da Kink In My Hair, blood.claat) and choreographer Kate Alton (The Four Horsemen Project, Appetite), this investigative workshop pairs two acclaimed artists together with a selected group of performers from various disciplines to explore some of the ways in which dance and theatre can intersect. Using a performance laboratory model, the group will spend three days developing and expanding a practice that aims to integrate these forms in hybrid creation work evolving out of questions posed and ideas put forth by Mengesha and Alton. On the final day findings will be shared with artists and the public.
Forum: Right Here, Right Now: an Un-Conference on The Future(s) of Toronto Performance
Facilitated by Misha Glouberman
In partnership with Small Wooden Shoe and Dancemakers
Saturday June 20, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., reception to follow
$10 (includes lunch)
A one day meeting of Toronto’s groundbreaking professional artists, arts workers and arts leaders to talk about the future(s) of performance practice and our city’s stages. Facilitated by Trampoline Hall’s Misha Glouberman using techniques drawing from open-space technology and world cafes (the “Un-” denotes a conference with no panels, guest-speakers or pre-determined outcomes), the agenda is crafted by participants and the issues on the table are the ones of most relevant as they most specifically impact practice and craft. All who have stake in the evolution of performance are encouraged to attend to strategize, explore and identify what we can do right now to address our most challenging and exciting opportunities RSVP at: http://unconference.eventbrite.com/
101 Series:
Video Editing with Blair Francey
Thursday June 18, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., $15
Video is playing a greater role in both how we create for the stage, as well as how we share our creative process with our audiences through the web. This workshop will cover the basics of using video as creative and communication tool. The session will take participants through the process of how to get from your camera phone to YouTube, with topics covered to include essential gear, software, hardware, what to consider before you begin shooting (ie. theme, message, how it will be distributed), and various ways of distributing the video across the net.

One of the most exciting events, in my opinion, is a co-production between The Canadian Stage Company and the Festival of New Ideas and Creation and Acting Up Stage Theatre Company which brings Tony Award winning composer William Finn (Elegies, A New Brain, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos) to Toronto! On Monday June 22nd at 7pm, William Finn will sit down at the Berkeley Street Theatre with Richard Ouzounian and talk about his life and his work, as well as hear performances by Thom Allison, Barbara Barsky, Steven Gallagher and Eliza-Jane Scott accompanied by Wayne Gwillim. Tickets are $25.00 or $50.00 and available by calling 416 368-3110. There are discounts available for CAEA members and 2 for 1 deals for students.
Also, check this out! Thom Allison, Maja Ardal, Damien Atkins, Maev Beaty, Christine Brubaker, Marjorie Chan, Benjamin Clost, Sasha Cole, Melissa D’Agostino, Julian DeZotti, Diana Donnelly, Monica Dottor, Rosemary Dunsmore, Paul Fateaux, Tracey Ferencz, Cara Gee, Michele George, Dean Gilmour, Allan Gillespie, Maggie Huculak, Tanja Jacobs, Melody Johnson, Daniel Karasik, Rob Kempson, Andrew Kushnir, Rosa Laborde, Richard Lee, Trish Lindstrom, Matthew MacFadzean, Jordi Mand, Richard McMillan, Jeff Meadows, Andrew Moodie, Natalia Naranjo, Sarena Parmar, Jordan Pettle, Michelle Polak, Gregory Prest, Philip Riccio, Brenda Robins, Anusree Roy, Sarah Sherman, Erin Shields, Michele Smith, Birgitte Solem, Chy Ryan Spain, Jamie Spillchick, RH Thomson, Severn Thompson, Adam Underwood, Nigel Shawn Williams, Sarah Wilson, d’bi.young anitafrika and members of The Canadian Stage Company Young Company. Holy Hannica! What are all these Toronto theatre stars doing tonight and tomorrow night, you ask? Well, the answer is that they are all appearing in a part of a staged reading of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia which started last night with Voyage, but continues tonight (Thursday) at 7pm and tomorrow (Friday) at 7pm at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Each play tells a complete story, so it is possible to attend just one evening. The trilogy has been called Stoppard’s “crowning achievement,” which speaks volumes since Stoppard has written a number of remarkable plays. The Coast of Utopia made Tony Award history when it won nine of the awards in 2007. Tickets are $15.00 and can be reserved by calling 416 368-3110. Sounds like another event not to be missed!
Here’s some news from Monkey Toast! 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, Gladstone bartender, Nathan Stevens, and author/musician, Dave Bidini. This show’s improvisers: Colin Mochrie, Jan Caruana, Paul Constable and Herbie Barnes. Music by Kevin Baker. Sunday, June 28th. 9pm. PAY WHAT YOU THINK. The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom 1214 Queen St. West. And, if you’re toasting for more monkeys—there is a NEW SHOW! Check this out! The Panel Show! Monkey Toast presents a new show featuring a panel discussion on current events with real guests and improvisers portraying famous people. This week’s panellists are: Andrew Coyne (Maclean’s), Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (aka, Sam Kalilieh), Mrs. Karlheinz Schreiber (aka, Jan Caruana) and more. Hosted and moderated by David Shore. Thursday, June 25. 8pm. $5. The Comedy Bar. 945 Bloor St. West.

Speaking of monkeys on toast, Matt Baram recently sent me a Facebook invite to a new Canadian film that he’s a part of called Baby Formula. It is being screened starting tomorrow at the AMC at Yonge and Dundas. It stars Angela Vint, Megan Fahlenbock and Rosemary Dunsmore. It plays Friday through Sunday at 12:35pm, 2:45pm, 5:00pm, 7:25pm, 9:50pm and Monday through Thursday 2:45pm, 5;00pm, 7:25pm, 9:50pm. In the words of the ever-quoteable Meghan Hubley, “movies are fun because you can sit still and eat!”
So, by now your schedule may look a little heavier, and your wallet may feel a little lighter, but people, you can’t make plans for Saturday night unless they include the LAST EVER (FOR REALS) SHARRON’S PARTY. SHARRON’S BIG GAY PARTY is going to be so epic it deserves CAPITAL LETTERS! It’s pride, people, and there is no more fun to be had than at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre with Sharron Matthews celebrating the exuberance that was 4 years of the very best in Cabaret. You laughed. You cried. You spittaked. You sang. You choked. You got breast milk squirted at you. Really, what could be better! You need to go out and support Sharron, because you KNOW she’s going to go out with a bang and a really hot dress. Saturday, June 20th. 8pm. Buddies. Jeigh Madjus. Thom Allison. 416 976-8666. Tickets= $20.00. This show= Priceless.
Check out this amazing video! This is the very stuff of champions. Wow
Vancouver’s Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards were announced at the Commodore Ballroom on June 15th. You can check out the list of winners here!

Hold on to your guns, Edmonton! Rapid Fire Theatre’s Improvaganza has begun! Since yesterday and for the next nine days, sketch, Improv and stand-up acts from around the world will grace the stages of the Varscona Theatre and B-scene Studios. Tickets are as low as $10.00 and feature amazing comedy acts such as Picnicface, Impromptu Splendor, Pete & Pat, That’s So Weird Cast, 4Track, La Gata from Colombia, Bansai Twins from Japan/Belgium, The Crumbs, Upfront Theatre, General Fools, Vancouver Theatre Sports League, Hawkmail and great local acts from Edmonton, plus live music! You can get more information on their website, and even if you won’t be in Edmonton this week, you should still check out all the cool things that Rapid Fire Theatre has to offer, including CHiMPROV and THEATRESPORTS. Also, there are cool cool people involved with Rapid Fire including Mark Meer and Chris Craddock! But it won’t let me click on their pictures to read more about them on their website. Dear Rapid Fire Theatre, Please look into this, I’d love to see who else is involved with your company and I bet countless other people would too! Love, Amanda.
Lastly, but certainly not leastly, I hope that you all have plans to vote for the 1st Annual TWISI Awards! Votes are due June 21st, 2009. All the information you need to vote is at http://mt-champion.livejournal.com/. Thanks in advance!
*If you would like your theatrical event to be posted on The Way I See It’s “News From Around the Barrio”- throw me an email at twisi.theatre.blog@gmail.com and I’ll see what I can do!*

Spelling Bee Worth the Buzz

justin keyes, katie boren, andrew keenan-bolger, vanessa ray, eric roediger & dana steingold

It was bittersweet to sit in the Elgin Theatre tonight watching Dancap host the American touring cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee after digesting the saddening news about the “reorganization” of the Canadian Stage Company a few days ago. It is a privilege to be able to invite artists from the United States to Toronto and have them perform for us. There is something so charming and communal about this experience of welcoming and being welcomed- of sharing and receiving. Music has the ability to transcend language and culture, and musical theatre can be the light at the end of the tunnel after a long day of February. Under the skilled direction of James Lapine this show is set up to be especially interactive, as several audience members are featured onstage with the actors for a considerable length of the show. Here a sort of collective is created, and it is dynamic and fraught with fun possibilities every night.

On its own William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a delightful show centered on the young contestants of a Spelling Bee, each of whom dreams of being the best, the brightest and placing first. Finn’s music is fun and whimsical, while his lyrics are continually hilarious and compliment the wonderfully kooky characters that populate the stage. It is these characters, with special emphasis on the seven Spelling Bee contestants, that will insure an evening of laughter and joy while utterly endearing themselves, despite their rather eccentric first impressions.
The cast of nine actors were all magnificently well suited to their roles and brought such enthusiasm and child-like energy to the stage. Katie Boren played the exhausted overachiever Marcy Park with the perfect mix of comedy and angst, especially when brilliantly showcasing her plethora of hidden talents (including playing part of the piano for her own song!) as well as her hilariously liberating breakdown. Andrew Keenan-Bolger was utterly charming as tender, earnest Leaf Coneybear, who sees flashes of light and spells words he’s never heard of before. It’s worth the ticket price of the show just to watch Keenan-Bolger swallow several mouthfuls of bubbles moments before having to sing. Justin Keyes’ Chip Tolentino perfectly dramatizes the many perils of being a young teenaged boy keen to be the best and be noticed. His hysterical rendition of “Chip’s Lament” draws the audience into the world of Putnam County in a way that very few musicals are able to accomplish. Dana Steingold shines as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the little high-strung daughter of two stage dads with a gigantic speech impediment. Steingold is every inch a nine year in this role, her energy is boundless, she has astute sense of comic timing, her smile is utterly enchanting and her rendition of “Woe Is Me (Reprise)” is heart wrenching. Eric Roediger makes his professional debut in this show, but judging by his fantastic performance as William Barfeé you would never believe it. His entire presence is a joy to watch and his Magic Foot dancing is a definite highlight of the show. Vanessa Ray gives a beautiful heartfelt performance as Olive Ostrovsky, the sweet forgotten girl looking for someone to care about her. Her goregous voice and detailed characterization insures that Olive’s innate goodness roots the audience firmly in the story.
All in all, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is as enchanting a night a theatre as I could ask for, and I am so thrilled that we are able to bring such inspiring, talented young artists to Toronto to perform for us. At the same time, however, I am acutely aware of the masses of musical theatre artists indigenous to Canada who have not been provided with sufficient opportunities to perform in these sorts of musicals on such a grandiose scale (or otherwise) for audiences here in Toronto and across the country. As Canadian citizens, I firmly believe that we should show support to our many talented actors by refusing to sit idly by and watch Producers lacking national artistic vision shut Canadians out of their own theatre community by focusing solely on bringing in theatre from elsewhere. There is no reason that a Toronto production of this show could not be just as fantastic as the performance I witnessed at the Elgin tonight. It is my hope that someday soon, when we welcome the touring players from America, we can proudly show off our Canadian musical theatre productions, and the two will happily co-exist in theatres side by side (by Sondheim).
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs at the Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street) until February 10th, 2008. For tickets visit the Dancap website at http://www.dancaptickets.com/ or call 416 872-5555