Friday, November 20, 2020

acts of faith

Pictured: Natasha Mumba; Photo by Dahlia Katz (all photos by Dahlia Katz)

program synopsis;

From the African Copperbelt to the back woods of Muskoka, acts of faith tells a story about the power of belief, the disillusionment of youth and the eternal struggle between good and evil. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a revered religious leader attempts to take advantage of her plight, she begins using her ‘gift’ to right wrongs and punish the wicked. As her spiritual notoriety grows, her own faith gradually erodes, driving her away from her home and the church in a quest for justice. Part Passion narrative, part modern retelling of David and Goliath, acts of faith is an action-adventure in the skin of a catechism. Far from home, Faith will come up against the ultimate test of her convictions in a final confrontation between sin and sainthood, morality and godliness.

for cast, crew, and production details see;

David Yee's 75 minute tour de force, for a single actor, is a compelling collection of vignette-like monologues linked by one young woman's experience as she walks the fine line between the miraculous being and the socially conscious activist whose own life traumas allow her to reach out and ultimately help others to escape from forms of victimization that can occur when power dynamics become unwieldy and profoundly abusive.

What could appear at first glance to be a scathing critique of [poorly] organized religion, becomes, by the end, a delicate and powerful balance of stories and almost punch-line-like beginnings to a series of memories that all start with a parable of sorts. This gives the script a strong layered effect, allowing the performer to deliver, with mesmerizing focus, intricate ways of seeing the grey areas between religious experience and the harsh challenges of daily life  - the boundaries that move us in and out of personal spirituality toward a realization of how sacred and how profane the world can be.

Natasha Mumba gives an extraordinary performance, beginning with relatively subdued, storytelling qualities, always tightly focused on her online audience, and framed exquisitely by the work of impeccable costume, lighting, and set designers. There is an elegant background,  a sea of beige'ish folds and sharp-edged walls and windows, that portray a simultaneously open yet cloistered environment - a room the performer/character is confined yet somehow liberated by as she tells her story.

About 45 minutes in - marked seamlessly by subtle shades lifting into pink-ish overtones - the lighting sharply shifts to a strong red hue that enhances the moment and moves us toward a climactic end. Nina Lee Aquino's direction shows an outstanding attention to what is needed in this new era of pandemic - live yet distanced - constrained yet vast - productions. Mumba never falters as the blocking and facial expression is tightly deployed, giving each spectator a front row centre seat to be moved and engaged within.

The script embraces a global geography, yet frequently frames it all within a specifically Southern Ontarian, decidedly colonialist  context that is both critical and enduring - at times indirectly illustrating the particular ways in which mythic national identity-mongering creates faulty iconic truths out of national mythology.

References to Etobicoke, Toronto in general, and the Muskoka Lakes area, give the overall piece an engaging and fascinating topical tone - by the end haunting - that conjures images of the iconic places some audience members may perceive - through David Yee's articulate and poetic narrative gaze - as simultaneously bountiful, beautiful, and banal. 

Acts of Faith is a timely season opening during these very challenging and frightening times, as we witness the journey of a young woman both embraced by and resistant towards a world she struggles to have some control of - despite the ongoing overwhelming forces that confront her. Forces that both belittle and worship her as a harbinger of spirit, wisdom, and a need to tell a story that may help those who find themselves within similar positions.

Admission is free of charge, however audiences will have to register in advance on Factory Theatre's website to secure a spot for their preferred performance night ( Information on how to access the live streamed performance will be sent out to registered audience members via email 24 hrs before the performance. acts of faith will be performed for six nights - NOVEMBER 19, 20, 21 & 26, 27, 28 at 7:30PM. Each show is performed live and will be streamed to registered audience members watching from home via Factory Theatre's website.

David Yee

David Yee is a mixed race actor and playwright, born and raised in Toronto. He is the co-founding Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company, Canada’s premiere professional Asian Canadian theatre company. A Dora Mavor Moore Award nominated actor and playwright, his work has been produced internationally and at home. He is a two-time Governor General’s Literary Award nominee for his plays lady in the red dress and carried away on the crest of a wave, which won the award in 2015 along with the Carol Bolt Award in 2013. He has worked extensively in the Asian Canadian community as an artist and an advocate. He has been called many things, but prefers ‘outlaw poet’ to them all.

Friday, March 6, 2020

BOX 4901

directed + co-created by ROB KEMPSON
lighting design COSETTE PIN
producer STACEY NORTONassociate producer CURTIS TE BRINKE
stage management LUCY MCPHEEproduction manager KATHERINE SMITHcommunications KATIE SAUNORIS

As co-creator and director of Box 4901, Rob Kempson gives a simple and engaging script a vibrant elegance that shines throughout this enthralling 75 minute tour de force. Brandon Kleiman's set is a glaringly effective and creatively arranged space for the men to move within and energetically amble through their tightly choreographed moments within just over a dozen skilfully performed short monologues.

Writer Brian Francis stands at a basic white lectern and comments on the action, integrating his autobiographical presence into a form of creative non-fiction that draws in viewers from start to finish.

Too numerous to mention, the ensemble is impeccable, with standout performances by Chy Ryan Spain, Keith Cole, and Hume Baugh.Placing Cole near the middle of this 13 actor cast and Baugh at the end, gives diverse rhythm and balance, with Chy Ryan Spain adding an energetic 'intergenerational' narrative touch to the proceedings. Cole presents an irresistible character in his well managed interpretation of the character Snuggles, while Baugh ends the piece with a lovely and layered young man in pursuit of all the fame and good fortune that money and self-perceived looks can buy. 

Basically, the playwright's response to long forgotten personal ads brings a wonderful kind on historical continuum to a play that speaks to past and present gay 'lifestyle' in a detailed and eloquent manner. Francis's 'narration' and responses to each of these long lost near attachments takes on a kind of David Sedaris quality - as both charming and cutting reminiscences via superb storytelling surface throughout. Chy Ryan Spain's older character, while sensational through Francis' somewhat scathing response, reveals an amazing generational gap that is both sculpted dearly and critiqued with much less endearment. 

But such is life and deeply felt memory in Box 4901, sold-out for the run, with only three more performances. So call the box office, or show up, maybe someone will cancel and you'll have the chance to see this nostalgic and surprisingly current look at the past the present and the future of being queer in a world of ever evolving sex management, mayhem, glory,  and casual hookups based in a fabulous form of call and response theatre at its most engaging.

Monday, February 10, 2020

RHUBARB 2020 !!!

interviews with some of the rhubarb artists

FEBRUARY 12 – 22, 2020

“The wildest theatre fest in town”

— Toronto Life
Canada’s longest-running new works festival transforms Buddies into a hotbed of 
experimentation, with artists exploring new possibilities in theatre, dance, music, 
and performance art. Rhubarb is the place to see the most adventurous ideas in 
performance and to catch your favourite artists venturing into uncharted territory.
Rhubarb is a space for artists and audiences to experiment together by trying new 
things and testing their boundaries. You always get to see more than one show 
(often 3 or 4) in one night, and no two nights of Rhubarb are ever alike. So come out 
and see what’s happening.




February 21
in the Chamber

A queer-art-party-performance cabaret celebrating 
sex, intimacy, and the grotesque through sound-art, 
and performance.

Jord Camp, Brock Hessel, Steff Juniper, R. Flex, 
Kenton Smith + 

What attracts you to the Rhubarb Festival as a venue for your particular work?

It was the first place I had a chance to make an ass out of myself on stage since playing Tiny Tim in 
grade 7 (I was such a sickly looking faggy child when I was 12, it could hardly be called acting). But 
my first Rhubarb performance wasn't on a stage. It was in one of the old washrooms (the one with 
the urinals) with you, Paul Bellini, Stewart Borden, Ray Helkio, and Amy J. Lester 5 years ago in a 
queered up version of Hamlet. I love Rhubarb because reviewers aren't allowed to tear to shreds 
what they see here, so you're allowed to take risks and fail hard. 

Describe your performance/play in 50 words or less (or more), and could you share a favourite 
moment or even a quote from the piece you are presenting at Rhubarb?

"Come on everyone! Grab a handle on the rope, but don't doddle or pull too hard or you'll have 
to change baby's bum."

What are the greatest challenges of presenting at Rhubarb? 

Allowing yourself to fail hard and fail brilliantly! Though the performers I love the most do this 
all the time--artists like you (of course) and Jord Camp who I will be doing this piece with. 

Could you define your work at Rhubarb as performance or theatre or any other performing arts genre? 

The highest brow of performance art, I'm sure ;) 

Is there something about your performance/play at Rhubarb that you feel is the primary idea 
that you are trying to get across/share with your audiences? 

Loving your inner child even when they're marinating in their own feces. 

If you have been to the Rhubarb Festival in the past cold you share a favourite moment of performance 
that you saw? 

I was one of Rhubarb's artistic interns last year with Natalie Liconti under Mel Hague's direction. 
The process not only helped me become less precious about my own work, but fully see how hard 
this festival is to curate to do justice to all the weird in this city and how hard everyone works (shout 
out to bar staff, box office & front of house, tech, and all the performers, the curators and directors). 
There's a running joke about the nasty cold aka the Rhubarb Rhume everyone who works the festival 
every year gets and shares with one another, but getting it is a badge of pride. 
In terms of shows, there are so many I loved that helped me fully embrace my weird, but their names 
and creators are sadly escaping me. I loved Ryan G. Hind's Donna Summer tribute disco ballet, 
MacArthur Park 5 years ago. I also loved Steven Conway's Twin Mask installation last year--both 
performers and audience members alike were allowed to make musical instruments out of whatever 
they found in the antechamber and make beautifully horrible racket--it had to be scheduled in between performances on either side because the sound of it leaked through every part of Buddies. 

To All My Past, Present, and Future Lovers...
I'm Sorry

February 19-22
in the Chamber
Nickeshia Garrick lays it all bare and 

offers up 
an apology for herself in this 
solo dance theatre 

Nickeshia Garrick / choreographer, 

+ performer

Kevin Ormsby / mentor

What attracts you to the Rhubarb Festival as a venue for your particular work?

What attracts me to Rhubarb as a venue for my work is the fact that it is a festival for experimental new works. I have certain liberties I wouldn't normally have if I were to present this work (the way I envision it) elsewhere. 

Describe your performance/play in 50 words or less (or more), and could you share a favourite moment or even a quote from the piece you are presenting at Rhubarb?

My piece in 50 words or less...A revealing look into my apology to past, present and future lovers.

What are the greatest challenges of presenting at Rhubarb?

This is the first time I'm presenting at Rhubarb, but a challenge I could forsee is the audience not connecting to my work. 

Could you define your work at Rhubarb as performance or theatre or any other performing arts genre?

My work at Rhubarb I would define as Dance Theatre.

Is there something about your performance/play at Rhubarb that you feel is the primary idea that you are trying to get across/share with your audiences?

The primary idea of my piece that I'm trying to get across is that relationships can be painful and ugly, but we're all accountable.

What do you think of Rhubarb as a perennial vegetable? Do you prefer Rhubarb Pie of Rhubarb Crisp? Or is Rhubarb something you prefer to avoid unless it comes in the form of a theatre/performance festival? 

I definitely love me some Rhubarb Strawberry pie!!!

How queer is your work?

Well, I'm gay, so it's automatically queer in my mind.

Nickeshia Garrick (she/they)

BFA, RMF® | Dancer | Singer |
Actor | Personal Trainer|
Movement Teacher 

The Parasite

February 12-15
8:30pm (9:30pm on Feb 12)
in the Cabaret

Through mask, burlesque, fringe, pompoms, and more, 

two performers delve into what it means for their queer 
bodies to create, gestate, and nurture.

Jay Northcott / creator + performer
Alisha Van Wieren / creator + performer

Our work is new, experimental in form and highly visual. Rhubarb allows us - no encourages us - to really dedicate ourselves to this experimentation. There is a big focus on process rather than product which makes us feel that we can make brave choices without fear of “failure”. This is how theatre, performance and art should be as it allows audiences and performers to grow together! 

Describe your performance/play in 50 words or less (or more), and could you share a favourite moment or even a quote from the piece you are presenting at Rhubarb?

Our performance combines highly visual/tactile elements (including mask, fringe and pompoms) with original sound design and live performance to delve into what it means for our queer bodies to create, gestate, and nurture. 

A quote: “I want to, but I can’t. I can but I don’t want to.”

What are the greatest challenges of presenting at Rhubarb?

Short change over in between shows! We make quite the mess and we’ve only have 5 minutes to clean up before the next act. Luckily the festival provides a great team to help us with this!

Could you define your work at Rhubarb as performance or theatre or any other performing arts genre?

Both Jay and I are trained in theatre but we also both consider ourselves interdisciplinary artists. I would say this piece takes a mesh of various elements - visual art, mask work, movement, burlesque, visual art, sound design - and mixes it all up in one package.

What do you think of Rhubarb as a perennial vegetable? Do you prefer Rhubarb Pie of Rhubarb Crisp? Or is Rhubarb something you prefer to avoid unless it comes in the form of a theatre/performance festival? 

I love rhubarb from the garden. It’s great as a rhubarb crisp, in smoothies and pies... definitely it’s best form is as a performance festival!

How queer is your work?

V. queer and it gets queer-er every damn day. 

Eat Me
February 12-15
8:00pm (9:00pm on Feb 12)
in the Cabaret

A womxn indulges in her endless taste for cake & capitalism. Come hungry; it’s gonna be nasty.

Desirée Leverenz / the conceiver and the body

What attracts you to the Rhubarb Festival as a venue for your particular work?

I love Rhubarb because it is filled with a bunch of artists that are doing really wild work that feels like it belongs on the periphery of all other ar festivals, but at Rhubarb, the periphery is the main subject. 

Describe your performance/play in 50 words or less (or more), and could you share a favourite moment or even a quote from the piece you are presenting at Rhubarb?

My piece is about the white patriarchal world, and the cycle of consumption it traps womxn into: we consume things so that we can become more consumable. 

I don't talk much in my piece, but I love nasty, sexy, foody quotes so my favourite would probably be eat me ;) 

What are the greatest challenges of presenting at Rhubarb?

My piece depends a lot on the audience, and also my stomach.  I eat a lot of cake, and my body can take that differently on different days.  So both the audience, and I are experiencing something new, together, every time! 

Could you define your work at Rhubarb as performance or theatre or any other performing arts genre?

I like the term performance, because it is so broad, and really we are always performing.  I'm also really interested in shaking up form, not really being performance art, not really an installation, not really theatre, I feel like I live in the inbetween of everything. 

Is there something about your performance/play at Rhubarb that you feel is the primary idea that you are trying to get across/share with your audiences?
I don't think I have a primary message or idea, but I am interested in audience reaction and unpacking that.  I think that all responses, interpretations, and opinions are right about my art! 

What do you think of Rhubarb as a perennial vegetable? Do you prefer Rhubarb Pie of Rhubarb Crisp? Or is Rhubarb something you prefer to avoid unless it comes in the form of a theatre/performance festival? 

I actually had rhubarb growing in my backyard as a kid, and once it was ready, we would eat it by sucking on it, and dipping it in a cup of sugar.  In the autobiography of my life, that was a very good foreshadowing moment for my 2020 Rhubarb experience haha! 

How queer is your work?

The queerest performance, with the queerest queerdo performing. 

Desirée Leverenz, MFA 
Bachelor of Arts in Drama Honours 
Master of Fine Arts in Theatre 


for interviews with the cast see

Imagining a narrative where lives are simultaneously torn apart and held together by complex intersecting storylines is no small task. Ellie Moon does this in her play This Was the World with the structural and creative finesse of a truly remarkable playwright. With a strong cast, under the direction of Richard Rose, Moon’s complex take on Indigenous law as it finds itself immersed within a traditional academic setting creates a balancing act between timeworn modes of learning and more inclusive ways of teaching with diversity in mind. 
The juxtaposition, in one scene, of a man falling to pieces in front of a televised hockey game is a brilliant and unnerving theatrical gesture that drives every point home regarding the intricate web of erasure, violence and mistruth that has been scattered throughout Canadian history. Another intense scene shifts quickly into a car scene where three women are taken captive by their individual concerns and the ensuing dialogue and plot action is both gripping and suspenseful in its fast paced, unexpected emotional intensity.

Moon’s cast never fails her as they take complex characters and perform them with great nuance and emotional depth. Direction by Richard Rose, contained within a compact and highly effective setting by Michelle Tracey, gives the semi-triangular seating area a unique and engaging vantage point - becoming at times a lecture hall of sorts where the character of the student performs part of her response to R. H. Thomson’s professor character as he stands in front of a chalkboard. By the end of the play the backdrop becomes a mirror that both startles and absorbs - including the audience as a complicit element of the overall narratvie environment.

Moon has been able to craft detailed knowledge into a play that possesses intersectional strands regarding mental health, indigenous identity, white identity, and familial trauma, giving each element a strong position that ultimately comes together as part of the overall epic dilemma. This Was the World is a complex and compelling play in its breadth and attention to the lives of characters all searching for a way in which to make their voices heard in a world that is changing rapidly.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020


Eden Planted is an exercise in futurology. Eden Planted contemplates 'the fall of man' reversed, the concept of returning to a new paradise in our technological age. (programme note)

William Yong - Director/Choreography
The themes of this work are timely and urgent, touching upon human evolution and how we envision the future....Eden Planted proposes a cautionary view of a re-engineered world, through movement, sound and visual design. The musical score by Anishinaabe dancer/composer Joshua DePerry (DJ Classic Roots) evokes the heartbeat of the land, integrated with techno beats. The work challenges us to consider carefully the legacy we're creating for future generations.

Mimi Beck, Dance Curator
Perhaps one of the most striking moments, among many, occurring during this hour long tour de force of sci-fi proportions, is a triumvirate of couples - two men, two women, one woman and one man - in pas de deux like configurations elegantly hoisting and gesturing, possessing an engaging flair for gender relations that imagines an enigmatic Eden where all kinds of couplings may occur.

But this Eden, in the hands of director/choreographer William Yong is also a beauteous and potentially monstrous place where the past lurks behind each new technologically inclined movement. One scene, replete with high tech stilt-like appendages attached to a taut shirtless male dancer maneuvering through the space presents an eloquent form of measured, athletic awkwardness as he attempts to interact with another dancer - both somewhat unable to completely complete the connection the stilted and the unstilted seem to be attempting - suggesting a new kind of human that may have difficulty becoming fully integrated into the 'future.' But with time, Eden Planted intimates the possibility of integration, growth, and ultimate demise.
Gorgeous projections by Afaq Ahmed Karadia, complemented by intriguingly beautiful costumes by Lisa Mann, give the piece an almost Hunger Games tone - without the high terror - that moves in and out or gauziness, plastic adorned bodies, futuristic appendages, and a lone black tulle figure with a delightfully manipulated bird midway through the evening.

A panoply of language - Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese - is spoken by other lone figures, inserting global and faint biblical implications that move through ideas of nurturing gardens to spinning deceptive horizons, tempests about to deploy, and decisions that must be urgently made.

This is no simple Eden. The ensemble of six dancers, through great skill and subtle movement, mixed with a softly emphatic acrobatic sense, roll a sharply bent body around the stage like a mechanical human being puppeteer'ed about - some contorted, wheel-like breathing form staying true to a circular origin. The sheer strength and varied physicality of this moment, and the overall work, never fails to enthral as a timeworn sense of a flawed yet perfect Eden replays itself in a future sci-fi like environment, begging the question, "If I don't have the courage to commit to reimagine creation, who will?" (programme translation from Spanish)

William Yong's re-imagining is gorgeous, meditative, simultaneously haunting, empowering and forewarning as it moves through many possibilities for a future paradisiacal garden framed by high tech prowess that intersects with the evolution of human bodies in perpetual motion.