Monday, November 17, 2014


Six musicians are stranded by a blizzard in their motel with only their instruments, each other and their secrets to keep them warm. Where will everyone sleep when everyone is sleeping with everyone else? Underscored by their struggles to come to terms with their failing careers, failing marriages and unfulfilled desires, the sextet tries to make a set-list for a show that they know won’t happen. How long can they keep their composure before everything they’ve kept hidden comes into play?

                                                                     Tarragon website

Music has long been considered beneficial in enhancing performance and cognitive skills … more recently music has even been shown to strengthen the immune system and bring back memory loss to the elderly…
sex; which aside from its obvious benefits, can produce… complete dysfunction, confused brain activity, and even, quite possibly, a compromised immune system…

It seemed only natural, then, to put these two types of human experience together into one piece. After all, both take practice.
                                                         Morris Panych - Director's Notes                                                                                                      

   photos by  Cylla von Tiedemann  set & costumes by Ken MacDonald

Arnold Schoenberg’s works were classified as degenerate music by Nazi Germany. As a touchstone for his latest play, Sextet, Morris Panych has used references to Schoenberg’s compositions in order to create a complex analogy to fleeting, at times atonal episodes in an ordinary motel, comprised by many fleeting moments, making up six separate - fleeting - lives. 

Damien Atkins & Bruce Dow

What starts out as a light comedy, reminiscent of the quick, urbane repartee one finds in Noel Coward’s Private Lives, the lives of six stranded musicians become anything but private in this ninety-minute tour de force.

A powerful ensemble delivers the rapid-fire dialogue of the opening scenes with impeccable timing and characterization, and then they move seamlessly and gradually into a very layered and dramatic ending that both enlightens and provokes through a touching meditation on the sex-capades of a half dozen very distinct personalities.

Bruce Dow & Rebecca Northan

Jordan Pettle as Otto gives an authoritarian tone to his character and manages a complex relationship to love and heteronoramtive provocation with a fine sense of both comedy and parodic sincerity. Bruce Dow as Gerrard, as the omni-sexual monk-like figure, presides over all of the erotic antics with a beautiful bumbling sense of the serene and the silly. His frequently gender bent costumes, at one point described by Gerrard as non-dress-like, are decidedly dress-like, and beautifully conceived by designer Ken MacDonald. MacDonald’s engaging set gives the overall playing space a farcical feel from the outset, and well serves Morris Panych’s tightly woven script and direction as these kooky lovelorn characters cavort in confusing and comical contortions from room to room to room to room to room to room…
Laura Condlln & Damien Atkins

Laura Condlln as Sylvia is a wonderful blend of sincerity and muddled reserve as she becomes a calmly anxious conduit for forms of sexuality and sensual camaraderie no one seems to fully understand, both on and off the stage. Matthew Edison as Dirk plays the charming and sexy ‘het’ male whose self-assured, yet alarmingly nerve-racking het ‘ness’ flips in and out of farcical triangles that aid in bringing all of the characters together in complicated ways. Rebecca Northan’s Mavis, as Gerrard’s scheming wife, brings a strong self-assured, nun-like quality to her decidedly non nun-like behaviour as she becomes the through line to the final complexity of this very procreative text.

Having very little knowledge of Catholicism myself, I was told after the play ended by my theatre companion that evening that St. Gerrard is the patron saint of expectant mothers, thus a suitable partner to Mavis’s sexually active maternally motivated maneuvers through the lives of five unsuspecting musicians. 

Jordan Pettle & Laura Condlln

Perhaps the performance that brings it all together, as a kind of queer cohesive faintly harmonizing strategy, is the marginalized gay character, Harry - played by Damien Atkins with a powerful movement from lighthearted farcical tones to a commanding narrator like presence at the end. With a kind of hapless Harry stock quality, Atkins gives the overall piece a kind of passive, sexually hesitant aggression and blustery charm that achieves both comedy and pathos in a single sentence, a single movement across the stage. His star turns range from concealed full frontal encounters with his secret paramour, to frigid camaraderie in a blizzard-drenched parking lot. Atkin’s layered stage presence drives home all of the playwright’s central metaphors around music, sex, and art - and the hateful degeneracy that certain historical movements have imposed upon identity, sexuality, and self-expression. By the end of the play music and sex become one glorious mismatched conundrum that the current Tarragon ensemble for this premiere production have crafted into a beautiful and engaging composition.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014


"Every time you get on a bike, you’re making a choice with your time, and your body: to power your own journey, to move under your own steam.  You’re taking your place in a transformative global movement.  Every time you get on a bike, you become a link in the chain of that long line of people who’ve come before you on two wheels, looking for freedom:  riding over terrible roads in long crazy skirts down to their shoe tops and ankle length bloomers and funny hats. You’re riding on a time machine. It’s this simple, elegant invention that hasn’t changed in its basic design in over a century, and it still gets you where you want to go, when you want to go, on your own terms. Your heart is the motor." 
                                                                                                      Evalyn Parry - Spin

“Part theatre, part music gig, part spoken word poetry, part documentary: whatever it is, it is brilliant” Toronto Star

“this magnetic artist and her winning production team invest the work with such intelligence and playfulness, it’s hard not to be charmed.”  Now Magazine

Inspired by the incredible true tale of the first woman to ride a bike around the world in 1895, this epic cycle of songs and stories explores the early connections between bicycles, advertising, and women’s liberation.
Award winning author, singer/songwriter, and theatre maker Evalyn Parry takes audiences on a musical journey from the dawn of the bicycle in the 19th century to her own experiences riding her bike through the streets of Toronto and Montreal. Parry’s co-star is a vintage bicycle – suspended on a mechanic’s stand and outfitted with microphones and sound equipment. The bike is played by percussionist Brad Hart, who conjures an astonishing array of sounds to score Parry’s songs and monologues.


DB Basically I would just like your thoughts on how the show has changed. I read that you had received a letter from someone related to a figure from the show. Could you describe that a little and how it affected the upcoming production/remount.

EP The thing that is going to be most strikingly different about the upcoming production at Buddies (from the premiere three years ago) is the new musical arrangement for a string trio (cello, viola and violin)  accompanying the whole show (created by composer Michael Holt). So, the (more punk rock) bicycle - and - guitar duo version of the show that we've been touring the past three years will for the first time be backed by a string trio made up of three awesome local Toronto musicians, Don Kerr, Kathleen Kajioka and Anne Lindsay. The new musical arrangements arrangements bring a whole new dimension to the show, adding a lot of drama and tension and playfulness and beauty to the music, and I'm so so so excited to have people experience it again. 

There is also the way that the story and content of the show has actually changed. Shortly after we had premiered the show, and released the CD of all the music, I received a letter from Annie Londonderry's granddaughter, who had heard my song about her grandmother ... and wrote to tell me how it had impacted her.  I was very affected by her letter: i was moved, and it also caused me to understand new things about Annie Londonderry's story - and  I knew this new development had to become part of the show.  So I scrapped the ending as it was - which had always been a bit of a question anyway -- and wrote a couple new songs. I think it's had a positive impact overall on the show - has kind of brought the story full circle.

DB Perhaps you could talk a bit about how the show has been received elsewhere, on tour.

EP We have toured all over the country at this point, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, and I would say the show has been really well-recieved everywhere we've gone. In fact, i'm always surprised by how well it's been received in some of the more out-there places we've toured: like, the tour of the Northwest Territories!  Last fall we played Inuvik, Yellowknife, and three other very small, fly-in communities around the Territory. I was worried whether the themes of the show would translate in these Northern communities with very different cycling culture than what we have down south. But I have to say, Yellowknife was one of my favourite shows we've ever played - and all the small communities in NWT responded so beautifully to the show - they loved it everywhere we went, and it was a reminder to me that people just love to be told a good story, anywhere.   Also, it was a good reminder that the themes of SPIN actually do transcend cycling - the bike is just the central metaphor.  At it's heart, it's a show about liberation.

DB How is this piece in particular located in your career as an artist? Describe its significance and how it reflects your concerns and your interests as a writer and performer.

EP I created SPIN with the intention of bringing together my (previously separate) practices as a songwriter,  a theatre maker and a spoken word poet. The show also (perhaps pretty obviously) totally reflects my concerns / interests in history, social justice, feminism, together with my love and respect for cycling…and even after touring it for more than three years, i'm still so passionately engaged with the subject matter, it never ceases to be a story that I want to tell, again and again.

So i would say the show holds a very significant place in my career, primarily because it showed me that was possible to bring together my interdisciplinary tendencies and my interest in research and make something that doesn't fit neatly into a box in terms of genre, but holds together conceptually. 

DB Do you think of yourself as a performance artist, or is this more theatre than performance - or possibly a performance poet? I know that the distinctions can be blurred, but I'm just curious how you see the form of the piece and the genre you fit it into.

EP Yes, genres are always a hard question for me.  I think of myself as a creator and performer.  My creation sometimes takes shape as music, sometimes as storytelling, or poetry, or sometimes character….

Whether SPIN is "theatre" or "performance", I think it depends on how you define those things. More and more, I think the boundaries between different genres are starting to  blur - and to me, that's a good thing. If you think theatre should have a kitchen sink in it, then this show definitely doesn't fit that definition. If you define theatre as transformative storytelling, a performance that takes an audience on a narrative journey….then i'd say it's theatre. Maybe it's also a documentary concert. Hard to say. 



directed by RUTH MADOC-JONES
arrangements for string trio by MICHAEL HOLT
production design BETH KATES

Opening Night November 19 | Closes November 23
Runs Tues-Sat 8pm, Sat & Sun 2:30pm. 

Tickets PWYC - $25 until November 18 | Regular Price PWYC - $37
Box Office 416-975-8555 or
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON

The Bakelite Masterpiece

Mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual.
Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction. 1935.

There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
Benjamin, Walter. Theses on the Philosophy of History. 1940.

The current production of Kate Cayley’s poetic drama, The Bakelite Masterpiece, is just that - a perfect, intimate array of complex theatrical gems that radiate outward toward a very troubled world of imitation and immense beauty. Using the work of Johannes Vermeer as an artistic touchstone, Cayley creates an intricate web of intrigue and interrogation.

Vermeer’s meticulous renderings of interior scenes possess a soft, peaceful quality that both inspires and calms the viewer. Cayley’s play, however, is far form calming as she utilizes the painters work in order to illustrate the ways in which art and life can deceive each other into thinking that peace can be found at the end of intense chaos. Holland, at he end of the second world war, acts as an historical site for subtle romance and political intrigue to play themselves out within a claustrophobic, textural set - masterfully designed by Charlotte Dean. Geordie Johnson, as a gifted yet admittedly derivative painter, and Irene Poole as his accuser, create a powerful sense of connection to the fine art in question.

What Cayley never addresses - and rightfully so - in great detail is that Vermeer was considered a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime, and only gained notoriety much later as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age. This necessary omission allows the play and the work of art being interrogated to stand securely on a pedestal of high artistic proportions - until we hear all of what Cayley so astutely points out in a beautiful and enlightening examination of the ways in which surface beauty glosses over the chaos and ugliness that often lies beneath.

Director Richard Rose has managed the characters and the playing space with a strong sense of physical engagement, utilizing scene changes to point out the meta-theatrical sense of the actual mechanics of art happening onstage as we watch it unfold.  

Johnson delivers his lines with an extremely engaging and measured intensity that give Cayley’s words the poetic resonance they require. His performance is matched by the authoritarian - turning into poignant and remorseful - tones that Poole offers up; until the measured darkness of a soft yet moving final scene flirts with intense revelation, tragedy, and an insightful form of anti-climax. Gradual lighting changes throughout, designed by AndrĂ© du Tout, add a very effective, layered beauty to the progression of tightly knit scenes between these two conflicted art connoisseurs.

At the centre of the narrative is the figure of a woman - a woman in a painting and a woman questioning the validity of that painting. Poole has the physical grace and power to become both, literally and metaphorically. She creates a character that is moved by both deception and truth (the truth of deception and the deception of truth). Ultimately, the deceiving plasticity that the title substance - Bakelite - both reveals and withholds from its audience, becomes a symbol of a contemporary landscape where celebrities, artists, politicians - what have you - frequently hide behind a beautiful glossy veneer that can destroy the actual subject. The meta-text becomes a moving and harrowing commentary on the ways in which art - and the objectification of feminine beauty and agency - can play a complex part in the career of a moderately successful male artist from the 17th century whose work continues to be heralded as magnificent representation.