Monday, December 5, 2016

Sleeping Beauty Panto




DON'T MISS SLEEPING BEAUTY 
AT THE ELGIN THEATRE 
RUNNING UNTIL JANUARY 7TH, 2017

"THE DELIRIOUSLY DREAMY FAMILY MUSICAL"
Filled with wonderful musical performances and hilarious comedy, fabulous dance, and a laugh a minute. The panto version of this timeless fairy tale/love story takes on outrageous proportions with the help of Sparklebum the good 'fairy' and an entourage of good and evil - evil led with fiery finesse by Hilary Farr as a designing deity hell bent on tampering with young love and the Kingdom she wants to change from bright, happy, and and colourful to sombre, evil, and dreary. 

with spectacular sets and costumes 
by Michael Gianfrancesco 
and magnificent projections 
by Beth Kates & Ben Chaisson

AJ Bridel as Princess Rose and James Daly as Luke
photos by Racheal McCaig


Paul Constable as Sparklebum



left - Eddie Glenn as Jacob Grimm


Hilary Farr as Malignicent








Lisa Horner and Laurie Murdoch (centre l-r) as the Queen and King

ROSSPETTY.COM
SLEEPING BEAUTY
RUNNING UNTIL JANUARY 7TH, 2017

Sunday, November 27, 2016

SAGA COLECTIF and BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE present BLACK BOYS

SAGA COLECTIF and buddies
                                                                                 IN BAD TIMES THEATRE 
                                                   present 
BLACK BOYS
It is very important to us that this production of Black Boys brings young queer people of colour to the theatre. As we have discussed in our creative process, the racism that is felt against the black body within mainstream society and the LGBTQ+ community continues. This experience, which is shared by many POC's (people of colour) and QPOCs (queer people of colour) is not recognized by our community at large, much less represented in our theatres...we want to engage an audience that does not go to the theatre, because too often they do not see their lives reflected, and when they do, people of colour are not the ones telling the stories or signing the cheques. This time is different.

We hope to offer ourselves as examples of those who see limits and choose to transcend them...Through this co-produciton with Buddies, a Black queer perspective is found on the main stage of a Toronto theatre when it is deeply needed.
excerpted from Creators' Note, program


DON'T MISS BLACK BOYS, RUNNING AT BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE UNTIL DECEMBER 11TH. A REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE BY THREE INCREDIBLY TALENTED YOUNG MEN. 

BREAK NECKING PACING, HEATED DEBATES THAT RAISE SIGNIFICANT QUESTIONS FOR AUDIENCES TO CONSIDER AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR, MUSIC AND EXQUISITELY CHOREOGRAPHED DANCE (BY VIRGINIA GRIFFITH) THAT PUNCTUATES THE ACTION THROUGHOUT - THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE NINETY-MINUTE TOUR DE FORCE THAT RACES BY WITH THE FINESSE AND BEAUTY OF A TRULY ARTICULATE AND VASTLY ENTERTAINING PIECE OF DANCE/PERFORMANCE/THEATRE. 

ALL THREE ACTORS TAKE ON STARRING ROLES AS THEY EXPLORE THEIR OWN PERSONALITIES IN RELATION TO BEING A QUEER PERSON OF COLOUR IN A THEATRE WORLD AND A SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT DOMINATED BY IMAGES OF WHITENESS.

AND SO I INVITE YOU TO ENGAGE. TO ENGAGE WITH THIS SHOW, WITH THE NECESSARY AND CHALLENGING CONVERSATIONS IT MAY PROVOKE. WITH THE ARTWORK. WITH THE COMMUNITY FORUM ON BLACKNESS, QUEERNESS, AND MASCULINITY. AND WITH THIS WORLD OF OURS, WHICH ASKS EACH OF US TO CREATE MORE SPACE FOR THE MULTIPLICITIES OF WHO WE ARE NOW, AND WHO WE CAN IMAGINE OURSELVES TO BE.
Evelyn Parry, Artistic Director, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre




l-r STEPHEN JACKMAN-TORKOFF, TAWIAH BEN-EBEN M'CARTHY, THOMAS OLAJIDE


RUNNING AT BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE UNTIL DECEMBER 11TH

DANCEWORKS PRESENTS tiger princess dance projects/Yvonne Ng

 photos by Cylla von Tiedemann


Yvonne Ng 
tiger princess dance projects


Yvonne Ng's two dances reveal interrelationships of identity, memory and history. The title of the first  piece, In Search of the Holy Chop Suey, is humorous, but it asks a rather profound question. What makes us who we are? - Mimi Beck, Dance Curator


“In the late seventies/early eighties, there was a TV series called In Search of … that focused on mysterious phenomena, e.g. Loch Ness, Holy Grail, Big Foot, etc. But they would never find the ‘thing’ that was the subject of the particular episode. Chop Suey is a dish that reportedly originated from migrant Chinese workers who lived in the U.S.A. in the 19th century. When I was young, living in Asia, I wanted everything Western. I knew about the dish and equated it to something Western/North American. The title is a comment on my belief that each of us has a deep desire to find meaning for our lives — even as that meaning eludes us and/or is not what it seems.”
The two works comprising Yvonne Ng's double bill act as perfect counterparts to the experience of identity in both solo and ensemble formations. In Search of the Holy Chop Suey plays with an elaborate set piece (designed by Silvie Varonne & Yvonne Ng) that Ng inhabits during the entire twenty minute performance. She peeks out, intimately resides within, and humorously penetrates, as she takes part in at times manic, pensive, and all around engaging movement. Utilizing built-in cloth arms on the outside of this gorgeous contraption, Ng and her fabulous installation prop traverse the stage in a playful and mesmerizing manner. Especially engaging when she is peering out of the many surface layers of the tent-like structure, and moving her hands in and out of various arm extensions - Ng becomes a kind of multi-limbed goddess like figure, simultaneously honouring and delighting in humorous poses that reflect the complex identity structures and influences that she works into the overall piece. 

There are moments when one yearns for a break from the elaborate sculptural tent in order to give performer and object a space in which to breathe and separate - possibly enacting  and adding less prop connected choreography to the piece. And yet, in tandem with the second offering of the evening, In Search of the Holy Chop Suey provides a short, delightful, and at times powerfully manic waltzing camp[y]ground that speaks to the act of identity formation in a world where displacement and cultural amalgamation can create a very layered sense of who we are and what our collective and individual lives mean within the larger scheme of things. Visually, Ng's moveable tent is a world, a playhouse, a kind of micro/macro cosmic, blue layered omelette'ish, swiss cheese, hole filled layer of culturally caged and cagey proportions - a  mini paradise of form and substance that dominates yet enwraps the performer in a beautiful and enchanting dance habitat.
















In the second offering of the evening - Zhong Xin (meaning human centre in Mandarin) - Ng further develops the  concept of identity in a less performance/moving insallation mode with three skilful dancers who take on a variety of engaging choreographic sequences. Luke Garwood exemplifies intense varied movement at its finest. The individual performances stand alone as extended examples of identities being formed both separately and as a threesome. MairĂ©ad Filgate, in a b/w patterned dress genders the costuming in a way that elegantly opposes blended identity as the only feminine signifier onstage. And yet her powerful presence acts as a beautifully realized third element of the triumvirate of identity created in collaboration with Ng and the other two performers. Irvin Chow brings a robust presence to an invigorating ensemble, and rounds out the trio with nuanced and layered presence that at times couples in enigmatic ways with Garwood's contrasting physicality. All three dancers inhabit the space with a beautifully conceived sense of finding inidivudal spots to feature themselves within, yet discovering each other by the end within a powerful and layered three pronged display of ecstatically refined denouement - as they stand together and present a final tableau that powerfully ends their diverse search through identity formation and expression.





tiger princess projects presented In Search of the holy Chop Suey & Zhong Xin at Harbourfront  Centre from 
Novemebr 24-26

Thursday, November 24, 2016

George F. Walker's The Damage Done

THE DAMAGE DONE
photos by Michael Cooper

To have seen Tough not so long ago - George F. Walkers first instalment of a dramaturgical triptych, begun in the 1990’s - through the contemporary lens of Ken Gass’ Canadian Rep Theatre, was a refreshing look at the ways in which an older script can begin to reflect epic concerns in a planetary card game of towering losses, frightening trumps, and hard won gains. One upping himself through the use of two decades of aging, maturing, and complex bitterness, Walker’s characters in his newest creation - The Damage Done - have given in to just about everything - except love. Love comes their way and they take it. And from a Marxist, perhaps decaying socialist perspective, filtered through capitalism, well, why the hell not? It’s there for the taking by two physically beautiful people who use their youth and their desperation to make their way through a stultifying world fraught by the allure of drugs, sex, and the agitating numbness of poverty - and relative wealth. 


In last summer’s re-mount of Tough Ken Gass turned a three person play into a multi character ensemble in order to reveal a kind of diversity that struggled but ultimately shone through. It was an admirable attempt that showcased the talents of a large cast of young actors who drove the socially relevant points home in an intense, refracted way within versatile walls of a minimalist set inhabited by the energy of youth, sagging hopefulness, and teenage lust. Eighteen years later, The Damage Done, a two person play is just that - two people onstage for seventy-five minutes trying to sort it all out - all that has happened over nearly two decades - and how to proceed. 


Sarah Murphy and Wes Berger

The set has a stark autumnal flare that serves the purpose very well. And yet, with the ghost of Tough wandering through the space, one cannot help but wonder what this production might have been like if Gass had chosen to use an ensemble instead of a two character format. Fracturing the naturalism into frayed character portrayals, in order to show facets rather than single, finely cut snapshots of two tragicomic characters in search of a play within a play - in search of lives beyond the ones they have already lived - well, it’s complicated. But Tough showed audiences that it can be done. The Damage Done is of course play - a play closer to a sitcom than a drama, yet wobbling a bit uneasily between the two forms. 

Walker has always been a master of this double edged sword, and in The Damage Done there are many fine moments, and a wonderful balance between the voices of two genders at odds with each other - and yet attracted somehow to the unease their roles have demanded of them. They play of sex and gender in a stagey, guarded, infrequently explosive manner - that could have added a touch of libido here and there to heighten the stakes. The performance are strong and yet the sex, although present, seems to live in the past.



Sarah Murphy as Tina possesses a direct, powerful command of the breakneck pacing the quick dialogue demands. Her emotional moments are strong and moving, and yet they tend to belie to some degree the rapidity of her more manic, conversional  strategies. In general, everything needs to be picked up a little. There is a bit too much room to breathe at times during the vocal and emotional pacing. When Tina breaks down, given her recent forays into self examination and a need to recover, her persona might fare better within a less weepy, more layered palette. Crying and resisting crying, simultaneously, could strengthen the colours of her need. Murphy does sob and break down very well, but needs a bit more of the uneven quality common to this kind of pathology. And when she has to physically joust with her ex it is just a case of slightly bungled stage business that needs to be stepped up - faster quicker and far more frenetic than the slow clumsy threat of a kick in the balls that occurred on opening night.

Wes Berger as Bobby parallels Murphy’s powerful and studied performance with many charming moments. His emotional narrative is not written with the same levels as Tina’s. Bobby seems to have mellowed into a bowling loving, aspiring playwright bellowing fellow who finally - at times begrudgingly - seems to get it when his ex lets him know that he has been the proverbial deadbeat dad for almost two decades. Wow! Take your time buddy. She has done all the work, all the good and the bad, and the damage has been done, undone ,and now it’s time for a shift in custodial care. Get it Bobby! Good!

The shadows, or even suggested presence of the two young women, Bobby and Tina’s teenaged daughters - alongside younger versions of the couple traversing the wide open leaf laden playing space - might have shifted a long sitcom’ish dramedy into a somewhat more powerful section of a three part mini series. A version of The Damage Done staged in the way Tough was staged could take the television aspect out of the drama and put it firmly back into the theatre. But as it stands, The Damage Done is an extremely engaging, humorous, and at times moving examination of the ways in which desperation born out of poverty can mature into the fragile compromise of hard won wealth, and then morph into two bitter - frequently sweet - people meeting in a park to talk about their lost youth. And it’s fun, and it’s sad. And now they are back at square one, in a park, and the park is empty. But the dramedy is full, embodied, flawed here and there, but at times rich and layered for the taking by audiences craving more of Walker’s limitless concern for people and their very serious problems.



GEROGE F. WALKER'S
THE DAMAGE DONE RUNS AT THE CITADEL UNTIL DECEMBER 11TH

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PLAYDAY MAYDAY

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT - Keith Cole LIVE at the AGO!!!

QUEERCLUTTER
KEITH COLE AGO PERFORMANCE #HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT

#tippycanoe&tomthomsontoo

“The history of performance in the twentieth century is the history of a permissive, open-ended medium with endless variables, executed by artists impatient with the limitations of more established art forms, and determined to take their art directly to the public. For this reason it has always been anarchic. By its very nature, performance defies precise or easy definition beyond the simple declaration that it is live art by artists. Any stricter definition would immediately negate the possibility of performance itself.”

Roseiee Goldberg, Performance Art from Futurism to the Present (1979)

___________________________________________

Keith Cole’s current performance/installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario defies easy or precise definition. #HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT is an unabashed celebration of all things Canadian and sacrosanct - or perhaps better put - all things embedded in the sacrosanctity of Canadian Cultural practice, piety, and promiscuity. Now there’s a mouthful of words to ingest. 

Tom Thomson, David Buchan, Maria Del Monte, and a buxom sailor type (aka gay porn star Ryan Russell) either wander through the gallery or become ensconced in patchy sections of stark white wall space, displaying various aspects of iconic gay signification. Drag, promiscuity, shaming, beautiful male breasts, and lives shrouded in mystery (i.e. Tom Thomson) take centre stage in a huge uncluttered space that, paradoxically, embodies a positive essence of clutter - a spare, selective form of clutter, but clutter nonetheless. Snapshots, portraits, etc. as beautiful queer camp clutter. Clutter as resistance, clutter as queer...

____________________________________________

“the only antidote to cultural effacement is the cultivation of diversity in as many forms as possible - the production of marginality as a deliberate and deliberate act of artistic resistance.”
Robert Wallace, Producing Marginality: Theatre and Criticism in Canada,1990
________________________________________________

Reflective of some of the poses he performs in the centre of the room, large photographs of Cole in drag, hang from the ceiling, interrupting traditional male het identity as he lounges bewigged and corseted - a lone blousey courtesan of sorts. Instead of the demure femme wig in the big photos however, Cole the live performer wears an elaborate head dress that becomes a central and very active prop during a ninety minute performance of both mesmerizing and bewildering endurance for both audience and performer. 



_______________________________________________

“Performance has been a way of appealing directly to a large public, as well as shocking audiences into reassessing their own notion of art and its relation to culture.”

Roseiee Goldberg, Performance Art from Futurism to the Present (1979)
_________________________________________________

During Cole’s performance spectators enter and leave as they see fit, and when they see fit it is always entertaining to overhear or to simply observe their expressions and their words.

“What’s going on? What does it mean? When will it end? Has it started yet? Is he going to shampoo and condition?”

#HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT enters the room, bulls eye in tow...

________________________________________________

Making a distinction between theatre and performance has been cautioned against as a tendency toward “giving a ‘preciousness’ to performance art that it does not deserve or need.”
 
                     Gregory Battcock, The Art of Performance; A Critical Anthology, 1984

________________________________________________

There is nothing precious here - without giving too much away about Cole’s latest exhibitionist/exhibition/installation/performance it may be sufficient to say that, true to Keith’s notorious style as a performer/bon vivant/social political activist, candidate for mayor, #whathaveyou over the past few decades, his current work at the AGO continues to resist all of the conventional elements of traditional theatre and cohesive narrative by exploding the myths and grandeur of one of Canada’s most beloved painters. Considering Tom Thomson’s complicated legacy as the premise, exploding the puzzle of Thomson’s unanswered finale adds to a further web of unsolvable mystery through a performative element that teases and teaches regarding the act of how to be Canadian without really trying. Cole asks many unstated questions as he gives himself the most vulnerable position of all, centre stage and literally submerging himself in the iconic mire of particular Canadiana-queries -

I.E. Was Thomson a homo? How did he die? Why all the fishing line around his ankles? Is that a paintbrush in your pocket or are you just… Do Thomson’s paintings evoke an authentic Canadian experience or are they just pretty canvases depicting nature? What the fuck is authentic anyhow? Was Lawren Harris really related to Lauren Bacall or was he just caught up in a frozen petrified forest of his own design? Is Steve Maritn funnier as a curator or a comic?

Enough already. Indeed, there is something starkly surreal, comical, and inexplicable about what Cole does in “HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT, and yet some of what he may be saying and doing might find substance in a simple and performative question for artists to ask themselves at the outset and then just carry on from there - why not just break all the rules and present whatever Thomson’s legacy makes you feel? Which is precisely what Cole seems to do in a truly immersive and relentless performance that defies easy access/meaning by reveling in queer identity’s most spare, elegant, and beautifully cluttered signifiers - drag, sex, sex & more sex, sex in drag - among others. Also, did I mention sex…

Through the use of a variety of simple landscape photos with accompanying erotic nude dude images, alongside painted portraits adorning small areas of the huge wall space available, Cole’s installation element gives the gorgeous clutter plenty of room to breathe in, and to also make room for very evocative video visuals designed by Raymond Helkio that suggest, in rapidly moving bright blurred tones, the Ontarian locales that Thomson inhabited when he began to create his beloved painted lakes, forests, and all that glorious  natural jazz. Just go to Huntsville for the day some random Fall and you will see it all over the bloody place -  from night lights to mugs to sweaters to murals to actual trees littering the expensive wilderness. It is all fabulous!

But long since Thomson met his  tragic demise in a tippy canoe near or in (I can’t remember) Algonquin Park in 1917, a great deal has happened in art, in painting, in performance, and in theatre - needless to say, but I said it anyway. And of course the root of the word theatre, bearing close yet marginalized kinship to performance - is theory, and Keith Cole pays indirect tribute to his own, and many other performance artist’s debt to fairly recent developments in Queer Theory in general and Queer Failure Theory in particular - developed by Judith Jack Halberstam (among others) over the past several years.

“Being taken seriously means missing out on the chance to be frivolous, promiscuous, and irrelevant. The desire to be taken seriously is precisely what compels people to follow the tried and true paths of knowledge production around which I would like to map a few detours.”
J. Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure

Cole brings a well considered form of “low theory” to high places ("low theory is an actual term, google it, related to Queer Failure Theory) by taking part in the performance component of the AGO’s current show Tributes & Tributaries; 1971-1989  exhibit - currently showing on the fourth floor (until May) and displaying a broad overview of Toronto cultural practice (curated by Wanda Nanibush). 
TIPPY CANOE AND TOM THOMSON TOO - HE'S GONNA WASH THAT MAN RIGHT OUT OF HIS HAIR!!!

And then there’s that all white clad sailor type (Ryan Russell), specializing in the kind of shame that fuels failure, traversing the playing space and always there to remind us at specific intervals during the show that shaming remains and has always been a part of queer experience, a part that we often spend our lives liberating ourselves from. By coupling an intense bodily performance (taking a great physical toll on the performer) with an open-shirted muscly male subject harassing him, Cole subjects himself to a kind of self-shaming, partnered with said well-built sailor type. Thus raising images that intersect with both misogyny and homophobia, and manners in which feminine identity, within both male and female bodies, is simultaneously celebrated and mistreated. 

RYAN RUSSELL AS THE SAILOR WHO HASSLES THE STAR


MARIA DEL MONTE BRINGS CLASSIC GLAMOUR TO THE OPENING MOMENTS
Maria Del Monte’s beautiful performance opens the show, suitably shadowed and unaided by the flair and intimacy of a drag club - taking on epic proportions as clear succinct lyrics abound from speakers - defining (& misdefining) elements of gay identity that entertain, delight, and inspire awe. Del Monte, in a sense, ghosts drag as she takes it into an unlikely setting. Both like and unlike the intimate drag moments in a small bar on Church Street, or the striking cinematic gestures from drag sequences in an Almodovar film, Cole’s inclusion of drag allows the elegant Queen to leave the usual public/pubic space for ‘her’ display and enter a space that infrequently includes this kind of camp cultural consideration.
                                                     DROWNING IN CULTURE

#HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT is not always an easy performance to watch, or listen to, and that is possibly part of the point, if there even needs to be one. Allow me to suggest - or not - that one may choose to approach, enter, exit - whatever - this particular event without any pre-meditated expectations. Wander about the space, enjoy the expansiveness, make unfunded small talk in big subsidized places, watch the gorgeous flickering videos that at times move hauntingly into the floor space creating a Group of Seven’ish aqua-infused arboreal texture for Cole’s hardworking, deliberate, and self-effacing escapades. Listen very carefully to the opening sung/synced words and try to decode their many misleading, dramatic, & delightful meanings. And in doing so, if it pleases you, or not, discover and/or re-discover that there is a great deal more to the history of Canadian Art (& by association, Performance Art) than a bunch of painted trees clothed in nature’s colourful autumn drag, resplendent and breathtaking in their simplicity, resistant and seasonal in their dying grandeur - and spiritually performative in their utter lack of obvious textual meaning. 
unrelated New Yorker cartoon

#HASHTAGGALLERYSLUT OPENED ON OCTOBER 26 (7PM) - WITH ONE MORE PERFORMANCE AT TWO PM ON SATURDAY OCTOBER 29 - AT THE ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO - DUNDAS STREET, TORONTO

- photos photos and more photos -