Saturday, September 24, 2016


Rebecca Northan’s show Blind Date was already a smash hit - beginning as a ten minute improv at Harbourfront Centre (under the encouragement of Harbourfront Performing Arts Director Tina Rasmussen), becoming a full length 70 to 80 minute show at Tarragon last year, as well as countless other venues - spanning five hundred plus performances, beginning with Northan as the improvising ‘clown’ date Mimi - and subsequently starring a variety of performers in the lead role. So what else could happen to make the show even more expansive. Well, now it’s queer - with it’s queer premiere at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. As artistic director Evelyn Parry queries in a program note - “in this queer context, just how different - or similar - will the show be? And, how will the many complex manifestations of contemporary queer identity be revealed in this space?” That of course will be up to the performer and the audience participant as they take us on a very unpredictable adventure every night.
photos of Julie Orton with her 'Blind Date' are not from opening night

On opening night Julie Orton chose a date with a wonderful manic energy (she admitted early on that she might be a little addicted to Red Bull) that gave spectators and Ms. Orton a complex challenge to behold. Orton’s immense skill (courage, charm, creative energy and intelligence - to name a few) as an improv artist racing through a lightly structured improvisational narrative where the date progresses along particular romantic lines, was put to the test. And she came out of it all triumphant and irresistible as both date and performer. 

At the outset, Mimi (Orton’s character in the show), and her date enter “the world of the play” whereby general rules are laid out at the beginning and then the ride begins. It was beautiful, romantic, intimate, hilarious, and vastly entertaining. And as Parry suggests in the program note, it revealed complex manifestations of queer identity. 
It also revealed some of the endless intersections within the identities of two women thrown into this amazing theatrical formula that pulls out all the stops regarding strict convention and puts audience, performer, and participant at risk of - well, who knows. In its new queer incarnation Blind Date promises to show people who they can be within an ever expanding queer universe. On opening night this universe was decidedly sexual, flirtatious, fun loving, and full of surprises. At one point the audience participant raised the idea of “meta” - wondering how one responds to onstage ‘truth’ as it plays with emotions and intention. This is part of crucial dramatic tension that successful theatre, whatever form it takes, relies upon. How we behave on a date - a meptahor to being onstage -may affect our future responses to and from the people we engage with when we embark upon this age old social custom - dating. How does this behaviour move beyond the date and into our lives and all of our social interactions?. Where does the date begin and the fantasy end? By constructing this simple yet brilliant meta-theatrical premise in her show, Northan has created a kid of spellbinding meta-evening of unpredictability and performance acumen that, as she suggests herself “is showing no sign of slowing down.” 
A large poster in the bar, during a pre-show meet and greet, articulates the need for consent, as well as an open ness toward queer subjectivity that moves beyond lesbianism and gayness into other areas of sexual and gender expression.
Each night is different and susceptible to the personalities and the collaborations between the individuals onstage. Bruce Horak and David Tomlinson provide skilled comical interjections throughout that pay close attention to all that has gone before as they interact briefly as waiters in a restaurant setting. This provides a kind of re-charging and mixing up of the onstage energy - giving the show a re-boot/re-framing effect that can serve to keep audience and performers on their toes regarding all that has been shared so far. And to make matters even more complex - and queer - David Benjamin Tomlinson will take on the lead role, as Mathieu, next week, choosing nightly his queer catch for another romp through improvisational intimacy.

When Evalyn Parry saw Blind Date at Tarragon last year the idea of a queer version immediately sprang to mind - for both Parry and Northan, almost simultaneously. In her show and her first season as Buddies Artistic Director Parry reveals her knack for pure entertainment with a queer twist that is sure to please a variety of audiences. And as Parry suggests - and the opening night audience participant tapped into with her mention of meta-theatircality as it moves beyond the stage and into our daily lives - what does it mean “to be authentic and generous, to really listen, and what can happen when you say “yes.” [Evelyn Parry, program note]

Say yes to Blind Date by buying a ticket or two - one for your date - or three or four, and find out more about yourself - and your date[s] - by seeing one, or two, or three or four of these shows. Find out how complex queer, queer dating, and queering dating can be during an onstage encounter. Then take it home as a model for your own next blind date.


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