Friday, March 6, 2020


BOX 4901

by BRIAN FRANCIS
directed + co-created by ROB KEMPSON
starring BRIAN FRANCIS, COLIN ASUNCION, HUME BAUGH, SAMSON BONKEABANTU BROWN, KEITH COLE, DANIEL JELANI ELLIS, JEFF HO, MICHAEL HUGHES, INDRIT KASAPI, DANIEL KROLIK, ERIC MORIN, G KYLE SHIELDS, CHY RYAN SPAIN + GEOFFREY WHYNOT
set design BRANDON KLEIMAN
lighting design COSETTE PIN
sound design ADRIAN SHEPHERD-GAWINSKI
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


THE RHUBARB FESTIVAL
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.

_________________________


BROCK HESSEL FOR

'ART PARTY'



February 21
10:00pm
in the Chamber

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

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


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
8:00pm
in the Chamber
Nickeshia Garrick lays it all bare and 

offers up 
an apology for herself in this 
solo dance theatre 
piece.

Nickeshia Garrick / choreographer, 

writer, 
director 
+ 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. 


DesirĂ©e Leverenz, MFA 
She/Her 
Bachelor of Arts in Drama Honours 
Master of Fine Arts in Theatre 




THIS WAS THE WORLD

for interviews with the cast see

http://www.tarragontheatre.com/show/this-was-the-world/

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.


RUNNING AT TARRAGON THEATRE UNTIL MARCH 1ST

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

EDEN PLANTED

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.

RUNNING AT HARBOURFRONT CENTRE THEATRE UNTIL FEBRUARY 8TH




Friday, January 31, 2020




It’s a complicated thing, grief.

I tend to avoid the word when talking about this play - mostly due to people’s discomfort with it. Often, in response to their reaction to the play, I say, “but it’s also funny” which, let’s face it, further complicates things.

Keith Barker - Playwright/Director’s note

l-r Tamara Podemski and James Dallas Smith

Keith Barker’s critically acclaimed play,’This Is How We Got Here’ - a finalist for the Governor General’s Award in 2018 - possesses a comic elegance that underscores the profound tragedy at the heart of the story. A gifted ensemble of actors, under Barker’s direction, are able to take the subtly crafted, fast paced dialogue and find the eloquence and the poetry, the lighthearted and the sorrowful of day to day conversational strategies of people in the throes of prolonged grieving. Something almost Chekvovian, in part domestic drama, as characters stumble through the smallest details of their daily lives, often avoiding the over-arching burden of past trauma.

Kristopher Bowman as Paul has a softly powerful vocal range that gives the character an engaging presence and allows his sorrow to smoulder throughout, rising and falling with bouts of dignity, distress, and disappointment from one moment to the next. Michaela Washburn as Lucille matches this subtly and powerfully, bringing moments of great authenticity and grace to a woman barely able, yet consistently trying, to cope with what life has given her. Tamara Podemski’s Liset offers a sharply contrasting portrayal as the concerned sister, and creates a character filled with both physical and emotional power as she struggles to help her family through ongoing emotional crises. James Dallas Smith as Jim becomes a frustrated, supportive and compassionate uncle ultimately administering to a lost soul who stands at the core of the narrative.

And then there is the much discussed yet unseen fox, a recurring ‘character’ providing both comedy and sadness from start to finish - ranging from a garden menace to a symbol of hope and spiritual retrieval in the midst of loss. The story of fox, sprinkled throughout the play effectively fractures and unites various threads, similar to the ways in which Barker has dismantled and re-arranged the time frame, bringing us in and out of a story at contrasting moments, toward an unexpected ending that promises hope and comfort through the memory of a love that could not be sustained.

There is a beautiful elegance in the structure of Barker’s play. He fractures narrative like the moments of a fragmented memory, giving his characters great moments of conflict and daily detail that creates both comedy and pathos. There is a scene dealing with ‘fruit’ that resonates deeply within a friendship that reveals itself as both complex and filled with self doubt - both quirky and comic in its repeated identity squabble. Barker does all of this in a deceptively simple set of conversational scenes, split by the presence of an elusive and mischievous creature. Ultimately he deconstructs story, allowing an audience to be constantly engaged in the broken aspects of a timeless drama regarding familial love and the relentless aftermath of sudden and inexplicable tragedy. He shows us how his characters got there, to the places they were, the places they are, and the places they may be by bringing all of the pieces together.

RUNNING AT AKI THEATRE UNTIL FEBRUARY 16TH