Wednesday, July 10, 2019

NEWS PLAY
Having just got off the bus from Peterborough to Toronto only a few hours before seeing NEWPLAY may not have prepared me for the most objective response. I found it hilarious, strangely accurate, and an unsettling reflection of the past two days of my life. And it is set in Peterborough as a kind of escape and return serio-comic tale of success, failure, family, and fortitude.

There were times when the layered, absurdist script and broad comic performances, frequently verging on slapstick, reminded me of slightly less intense incidents on the downtown streets of what some call Peterpatch. Over the preceding 24 hours confrontational moments ranged from the manic strains of a young man ranting about their collection of antique coins in a threatening hostile manner, to a frenzied lineup at the maddening Greyhound bus station that felt like a mob waiting to implode. But I am from Peterborough, born and raised, with six off-and-on decades of experience rumbling in my soul. The city has always struck me as a quaint, vibrant, scenic town with an abundance of diversity ranging from abject poverty to immense wealth, incredible arts activity, and all of the chaos, calm, joy, distress, and contradiction that follows.  That is the long and the short of it with many details to fill in. 


But I do not mean to pick on Peterborough. During lunch at a restaurant on Yonge Street, just after arriving back in Toronto, I had a perfect and disturbing view of four young women beating up another young woman in the middle of the road, framed by the mammoth and enticing commercialism of MILESTONES, TOKYO SMOKE, WINNERS, and the AIDIDAS store  Or was it NIKE? So it can all happen anywhere. Strangers intervened and the fight ended. And there is something current and topical and global in all this streetwise signage and hostility, and it can verge on the terrifyingly comic, which is precisely what NEWS PLAY tries to examine and reveal. And it succeeds on many levels. But it needs some tweaking here and there in order to give the plot a somewhat more cohesive crowd pleasing tone. But I did love it in all its disturbing, cleverly crafted, quirky and highly comic chaos that does reveal the mayhem at the heart of many current events. It reminded me of my recent and distant past, my current present, and possibly my unforetold future. A pigeon did fly in the through the balcony door this morning, for the first time in 25 years. Confronting my surprise and mild terror, I gently wrapped said pigeon in a quilt and set them free into the wilds of the sunny overpopulated skies bordering Dundas Square, St. Michael's Hospital, and the dozen new fifty storey (and beyond) condos in progress. Life is rich...

One of the potential developments this play seems to perhaps unconsciously call out for is a song here and there - in the midst of fast paced, well acted, almost screwball comedy. And in the context of NEWS PLAY, the circa 1930's/40's cinematic term 'Screwball' takes on a diverse and poignantly comic tone throughout. The overall effect may also remind one of the issues tackled in the 1987 romantic-comedy-drama Broadcast News (Holly Hunter, William Hurt etc.) 

NEWS PLAY, as an attempt to conjoin issues around family, mental health, unlikely unresolved pseudo-romantic involvement, and the current manipulative aspects of what we, and the man in the orange 'wig' have come to know as a very new and unimproved version of fake news, well, it all works absurdly well as a provocative and complex script. It does a wonderful and very clever job of revealing the ways in which news stories, at the mercy of monetary gain and shallow entertianment value, may never be able to convey truth in any helpful way.

In a longer version, lyrics and music embracing the back stories of each character could add the necessary glue that, as it stands, does not quite hold the piece together. And yet, the ensemble, under the direction of Aaron Jan, provides the audience with many laughs and many fine physical moments that do manage to keep up the rapid pace needed for a one hour fringe play. 

And to return to my own subjective stance, well, in my bio I often use the phrase "I was born and raised in Peterborough. I am still in recovery." It is a lovely place to visit, but in these increasingly troubling financial and political times, it is sometimes not an easy place to be, like so many towns compromised by high rents, gentrification masking rampant capitalist force, and the ongoing marginalization of the poor, and all the chaos that involves. My experience as a Peterborough 'native' is merely a subjective reaction to what I have come to view as a somewhat absurdist life, both onstage and off.

NEWPLAY is well worth seeing as a darkly funny attempt to bring many (perhaps too many) important social issues to the surface, succeeding in a multitude of ways yet faltering here and there with uneven moments that are never quite clear enough about the details of the important social and political parody at its core. 


RUNNING AT THE ANNEX THEATRE 

UNTIL JULY 13TH 
                                                        
Wed. July 10 - 5 PM
Fri. July 12 – 3 PM
Sat. July 13 - 12:45 PM

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Molly Bloom at the Toronto Fringe Festival

FOURTH GORGON THEATRE PRESENTS 
MOLLY BLOOM

AN ADAPTATION OF THE FINAL CHAPTER 
OF ULYSSES BY JAMES JOYCE

https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/24780604.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents



________________________________________

excerpt from Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy
...and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”



Decidedly joyful, yet complex and emotionally varied, Jocelyn Adema's adaptation and direction of the final section of Ulysses is a vivacious, sensual, and vastly entertaining representation of what has often been considered a lush and impenetrable piece of great literature. 

Dressed in strongly delineated and frolicky, colourful night clothes (costumes by Beatriz Arevalo) four young women take on aspects of Molly's character and bring theatrical life to an impressionistic text with great physical agility and an energetic aplomb that is infectious from the get go. Molly becomes a playful and intensely driven character as Adema's full bodied blocking, filling the stage and bringing the women together and apart throughout, and her intertwining use of dialogue, allowing the performers ample solo moments of great depth, as well as ensemble vocal variations that simultaneously separate and unite the elements of the psychological play of a single woman becoming many and becoming one.

Jenna-Lee Hyde, Lena Maripuu, Reanne Spitzer, and Annie Tuma perform in front of Arevalo's (set and costume design) spirited and summery backdrop with high energy and emotional depth. By separating the run-on quality of Joyce's Molly, Adema has given her a kind of agency that the original condenses into a tightly packed thought process that, although brilliant and engrossing, becomes something more performative, theatrical and potentially visceral in Adema's hands.

Those unfamiliar, and/or impatient with the freewheeling, narrative 'mayhem'/non-traditional form of Joyce's work may choose to allow the words to wash over them with the poetic substance and the raw, often lyrical emotion Molly embodies. Her past gives her the material agency to move forward with a kind of enthralling abandon, and Jocelyn Adema's treatment of Molly's iconic status, as the 'last word' in Joyce's mega-text, gives audiences a powerful and lively way in which to gain access to the iconic seven hundred page book - clearly exacted into a single character's struggle and celebration as Molly fills the final pages and stages of Ulysses epic journey. This allows Adema, through Joyce's Bloom, to insert a personal and overwhelming melange/message that reveals the character's frankness, her sense of humour, and her physical power as her mind wanders and empowers, in bed, at 3am, through the minds of four women as integral parts of her essential journey - bemoaning one man's demands, eliciting laughter and mixed liberationist import, and taking control of her nocturnal position as someone lounging about and intensely contemplating much of what has come before...in life, love, and elsewhere...

_________________________________________

MOLLY BLOOM RUNS AT THE TORNTO FRINGE;

HELEN GARDINER PHELAN
​PLAYHOUSE
79 St George st.

July 3 8pm
July 5 10pm
July 7 8:15pm
July 9 4:30pm
July 10 6:30pm
July 12 10:30pm
July 13 8:30pm  

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

DORA AWARD WINNERS!!!


AND THE DORA GOES TO . . . 


The recipients of Outstanding Production in each of the divisions are as follows:

General Theatre: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play - Obsidian Theatre in association with Nightwood Theatre;

Musical Theatre: Next to Normal - The Musical Stage Company presented by David Mirvish;

Independent Theatre: The Runner - Human Cargo with the support of Theatre Passe Muraille;

Opera: Eugene Onegin - Canadian Opera Company;

Dance: Blood Tides - DanceWorks / Kaha:wi Dance Theatre;

Theatre for Young Audiences: New Owner - Harbourfront's Junior Festival presents The Last Great Hunt;

Touring Production: Grand Finale - a Hofesh Shechter Company production presented by Canadian Stage(which was bestowed at the 2019 Dora Nominees Toast, a reception honouring all the nominees on June 10).

_______________________________________________________________________



ELLEY RAY HENNESSEY GREETING NOMINEES AND AUDIENCE 
IN THE LOBBY OF THE SONY CENTRE
RICK MILLER WITH BAND AND DANCERS 
IN THE OPENING NUMBER 'CHANGES' (VERSION OF DAVID BOWIE ORIGINAL)
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AT THE DORAS


SILVER TICKET AWARD 


PEGGY BAKER, RECIPIENT OF THE SILVER TICKET AWARD
Peggy Baker is acclaimed as one of the most outstanding and influential dancers of her generation. Born in Edmonton in 1952, her unique abilities are the result of an education in both dance and theatre, pursued initially through the drama department of the University of Alberta, with the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, and further in New York City.
A vivid presence in contemporary dance since 1973, she performed internationally with Lar Lubovitch, Mark Morris, Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project and Doug Varone (NYC); Fortier Danse-Creation (Montreal); and James Kudelka, Dancemakers and Toronto Dance Theatre (Toronto).
She established Peggy Baker Dance Projects in 1990, and for the first 20 years, she dedicated herself to solo performance, winning praise for the eloquence and depth of her dancing, and accolades for her collaborative partnerships with extraordinary musicians and designers. Since 2010, her choreography has focused on visually and sonically striking works for small ensemble, collaborating with exceptional artists such as composers John Kameel Farah and Ahmed Hassan, dancer Margie Gillis, director Daniel Brooks, actor Jackie Burroughs, instrumentalist Andrew Burashko (piano) and as well as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste, among numerous others.
One of the highlights of her mentorship is her Choreographer’s Trust, a ten-year initiative that enabled Ms Baker to share six dances from her outstanding repertoire with thirteen remarkable younger dancers. Now complete, she also published a series of booklet/DVD sets that document those six landmark solos. She is also the subject of a book by Carol Anderson, Unfold – a Portrait of Peggy Baker, published by Dance Collection Danse.
Beyond the concert stage, Ms. Baker has premiered five all-night choreographic events for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, and situated three hour-long choreographic installations – moveinterior with moving figures and land | body | breath in public spaces and galleries across the country. Over its 29-year history, Peggy Baker Dance Projects has been presented at major festivals and dance centres in North America, Asia and Europe. A master teacher, Ms Baker teaches regularly at universities and professional training programs throughout Canada and the U.S. including Canada’s National Ballet School where she is Artist-in-Residence.
Ms Baker’s many honours include the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, Premier’ Award, Order of Canada, six Dora Mavor Moore Awards, honorary doctorates from the University of Calgary and York, Walter Carsen Prize, and the George Luscombe Mentorship Award, among others.
Previous winners of the Silver Ticket Award are listed here: https://tapa.ca/dora-awards/awards/silver-ticket-award/


for the full list of Dora recipients see:

TAPA - Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts      at

https://tapa.ca/announcement-congratulations-recipients-40th-anniversary-dora-mavor-moore-awards-tapa/

and

https://www.broadwayworld.com/toronto/article/Full-List-of-Winners-Announced-For-the-40th-Annual-Dora-Awards-Soulpepper-Theatre-Canadian-Opera-Company-and-More-20190626



Friday, June 21, 2019

TORNTO FRINGE - 'MOLLY BLOOM'


presents

'MOLLY BLOOM'

at the Toronto Fringe
HELEN GARDINER PHELAN
​PLAYHOUSE
79 St George st.

July 3 8pm
July 5 10pm
July 7 8:15pm
July 9 4:30pm
July 10 6:30pm
July 12 10:30pm
July 13 8:30pm



“Genius.” “Bawdy.” “Nothing but praise.” - Mooney on Theatre

​Molly Bloom is an original adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses’ final chapter. Four actors collectively play the consciousness of Molly Bloom as she lies awake in bed in this sensual and shocking exploration of one woman’s psyche. As the four women move and speak as one, Joyce’s infamous soliloquy is refashioned into a four person one-woman show. Molly Bloom is a fascinating, vivacious, and hilarious race through one hour of unrelenting thought.

DIRECTOR'S NOTE:

In 2014, a year of studying Ulysses with historian Peter Wylde cumulated in a staged reading of select excerpts from Joyce’s infamous novel. The final of these excerpts was the origin of what you are going to see today. Seven women (Annie Tuma, Caitlin Fysh, Jocelyn Adema, Lena Maripuu, Priscilla Taylor, Reanne Spitzer, and Sarah Doyle) gave breath and life to “Penelope”, the episode written as a stream of consciousness, charting the thoughts of Molly Bloom as she lies sleepless in bed. The text is so beautiful, so fertile, so intoxicating, that as we brought Molly to life, she brought something alive in us. We found ourselves wanting to let Molly speak again, and so a second staged reading was performed at Hub 14 on Bloomsday, June 16, 2015. Yet still the voice of Molly in us nagged, wanting more.

I decided to helm Molly’s next incarnation as a staged production. The original seven actors had whittled down to four, and I saw an exciting opportunity to get inside Molly’s head and give character to her thoughts. Creating identities for Molly’s thoughts gave us as women an opportunity to own the stories of our bodies and make our bodies heard. It’s been an inspiring process. This show has since performed in the In the Soil Festival, then for a three week run at Toronto’s Majlis Art Garden.

We now are performing at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse in the Toronto Fringe. We have a new team - Beatriz Arevalo is creating the scenography, Logan Raju Cracknell (again, thank god) is lighting us up, Kathleen Jones keeps us in tip-top shape, and Jenna Lee is lighting up a new cortex in the Molly Brain. But we stand on the shoulders of all of the artists who have contributed to this project’s five-year development: Peter Wylde, Jesse Beam, Priscilla Taylor, Sarah Bridget Doyle, Caitlin Fysh, Logan Raju Cracknell, Alex Norton, Niki Nikita, Blair Bouskill, Nick Boon, David Hoekstra, Hub 14, In the Soil Festival, Monica Dufault, Majlis Art Garden, The Watson Hub, and many more. Our new team is a reflection of how far this show has come. It is a testament to the diligence, rigour, and integrity of these fine artists, that I’m beyond honoured to call my colleagues.
Thank you for joining us in Molly’s current incarnation.
Who knows when she will come again?

JOCELYN ADEMA


____________________________________________________________________

Directed & Adapted by:
Jocelyn Adema

Performed by:
Annie Tuma
Jenna- Lee Hyde
Lena Maripuu
Reanne Spitzer

Stage Managed By:
Kathleen Jones

Set & Costume Design by:
Beatriz Arevalo

Lighting Design:

Logan Cracknell

for more info see;
https://www.fourthgorgontheatre.com




AT THE TORONTO FRINGE!!!


'NEWS PLAY'

After botching a major publishing deal, 
two estranged children's book writers 
return to their hometown to revitalize 
the local newspaper. From the best-selling, 
award-winning losers behind 2018 Patron's Pick, 
“Everyone Wants A T-Shirt!,” and 
“Madeleine Says Sorry,” comes a new comedy 
about fake news, self-improvement and a home printer named Stanley.


Theatre ARTaud and Lal Mirch Productions in association with Prairie Fire, Please and the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival present:
NEWS PLAY
a new comedy by Madeleine Brown
at The Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst Street) from July 4 to 14, 2019

Exuberant, absurdist and smart...
a great find! -
My Entertainment World
(A- Letter Score)
This smart, funny, and unpretentious comedy about the perils of charsing success if just what we need.” -
Kendra Jones
 photos by Graham Isador

CAST
Madeleine Brown
Andrew Cromwell
Charlin McIsaac
Rouvan Silogix
Greg Solomon

CREATIVE TEAM
Playwright:
Madeleine Brown
Director: Aaron Jan
SM: Aidan Shepherd
Set/Lighting Designer:
Logan Raju Cracknell
Sound Designer: Ross Somerville
SHOWTIMES
Thurs. July 4 – 6:30 PM
Sat. July 6- 10:30 PM
Sun. July 7 - 2:45 PM
Tues. July 9 - 7:30 PM
Wed. July 10 - 5 PM
Fri. July 12 – 3 PM
Sat. July 13 - 12:45 PM




FROM THE CAST 
& CREATIVE TEAM OF 

NEWS PLAY!!!

"Adults are like kids, Phoebus. 
Big, ugly kids."



Madeleine Brown (Playwright/Co-producer/Actor - WINNY): It's Prairie Fire, Please's biggest production yet--the design, the cast and the scope of the script. I'm excited--and terrified--by the goals we've set this year and how it will all come together. I'm also excited to return to my favourite audiences: Fringe audiences. There's never a crowd more accepting and fun than them. And to return to them with a comedy makes me even more excited. As far as the script itself, of course I'm delighted to hear how audiences will engage with it and its subject matter. I love those conversations outside the theatre and at the Fringe Tent. It means something entirely different to me when I'm not just a performer, but also the playwright.  



Aaron Jan (Director/Dramaturg/Co-Producer): As a left wing guy, I'm always excited to see work that takes a shot at liberals. I think it's really important to see where we mess up and make mistakes. I also really adore fringe. It's the only time where everyone in the city seems excited about theatre universally and willing to take a chance on unknown artists.



Charlin McIsaac (Actor - JOY): News Play excites me because it asks complicated questions – how do we properly care for others while pursuing our own success? Whose responsibility is it when a relationship is fractured due to mental illness or addiction? Should a home printer be named Stanley and spoken to as if it was a real guy? There's something interesting, something appealing about discussing serious things irreverently. I like the tone of it. And the family relationships at the heart of the story are what pull me in most. For me personally, I'm drawn to the complexity of the dynamic between Joy and Winny – how do you love someone who is dangerous to you? How do you love someone who can't help herself? It's a question that I've encountered a couple times in my life. I keep finding new answers to it.



Greg Solomon (Actor - PHOEBUS): NewsPlay excites me because we are exploring themes and social issues while making you laugh. Hopefully. Maybe only we’ll laugh. It excites me because this show feels like something new, something unique. It’s a new way of exploring the saviour complex. This show is a Prairie Fire, Please classic, and being a part of that is exciting enough for me. 

Andrew Cromwell (Actor- ART): Very recently, I've wanted to step back on stage to work on a theatre project. Over the last 5 years the bulk of my performing experiences have been either in a recording studio booth or as an improviser. This play is a chance to get back to traditional theatre. I'm excited to get back into a rehearsal process with a director who's vision is able to pull out my strengths and challenge my performing skills. It's always a pleasure to work with an ensemble that is talented, and it is my sincere hope that I will be able to perform at half the level of intensity they bring to the rehearsal process. They're a good bunch.

Rouvan Silogix (Actor - LYLE): There is a subversive biting politic that encompasses the show; our society's guilt, saviour complex, tokenism-ing, and fascination with pain. Are these things innate to our present-day society, or are they embedded in our humanity? Modern journalism is often categorized as sensationalist torture porn - where everything is "breaking news", and everything is exaggerated to be better or worse than the truth - so there will be more viewers, so the companies can generate more advertising revenue. But, the reason that has worked successfully, is because it taps into a very base human desire. The play is also hilarious - an impressive artistic feat in and of itself. 

Madeleine: Exhausting! And exhilarating. I wouldn't have been able to pull any of it off without Aaron Jan though. He challenges me and forces me to push myself further than I ever think I'm capable of. It's been a major learning curve. I'm also simultaneously studying in the Second City Consevatory program and feel that has fed hugely into my writing process this Fringe. Another major component of our experience is the cast. I admire them a lot. It's a group of people whose work I've admired from afar, and apart from Charlin, have never had the chance to work alongside before. They're also funny. And nothing wins over my affection more than a good sense of humour. 

Aaron: Quite exhausting, but also really rewarding. It's been incredible seeing Madeleine delve deeper into the questions she's exploring and to be gifted with a cast willing to take that dive with her.

Charlin: The cast and crew are both made up of the best and most generous people. I love the wacky energy in the room and I think we’re all great at listening to each other and offering the best version of ourselves. Madeleine and Aaron are an incredible team - they really push each other to always bring their A game and they ask the tough questions. There's really no ego involved from anybody, nobody is bringing energy into the room that's defensive or too possessive or precious. We work really well together and I think that we take ourselves seriously while still allowing a lot of levity and play, and especially with a new work I think that's very exciting. It gives us room to improvise or ad-lib and it makes the process really organic. As an actor, I'm given the opportunity to follow my instincts or to make offers based around my knowledge of the character, and that knowledge grows and changes as we progress through rehearsals. It's fun! And it's freeing to have a voice in the room.   

Greg: Working on this show has been a delight. Getting to watch Aaron Jan and Madeleine Brown transform this script draft-to-draft, day-to-day is a masterclass in creative collaboration. Between the cast and creative team, there are no egos in the room. We all get to try things out, laugh together, and tell each other when “that’s stupid, keep it.” 

Andrew: Four months ago, I welcomed my beautiful son into the world. As a new father, it has been an incredible experience. My partner is an amazing and supportive woman. Outside of the rehearsal process I have a full time job, auditions, a second show I'm working on, and its a juggling act to say the least. The production team has been incredibly generous and accommodating of my schedule, which is only half as busy as that of my new mom partner...

Rouvan: The team is great. Aaron is legitimately a fantastic director - and as a Kafka scholar snob who has worked around the world - there is something quite refreshing about the no-bullshit approach taken to creating the art. The high-minded ideas can only work well if the performance creation is grounded with a realistic approach to the mindset and ideas.Also, the play is hilarious - what's not to love?

Madeleine: I never feel there’s enough comedic plays on Toronto stages. (Or maybe I’m just a glutton for them.) Otherwise I like to believe News Play is a catalyst for conversations about news, sure, but also our fascination with victim-based narratives, small town culture and family dynamics around mental illness. We’re a young, energetic and silly team. I like to think that energy will radiate from the show itself. And who doesn’t want to be around young, excitable, beautiful people being ridiculous? Also Aaron, our set and lighting designer, Logan, and me are on the cover of this year’s program guide, so we’re basically celebrities. You should want to see celebrities.

Aaron: We're the only show to light a fire in the Annex this year. The very thought of our show strikes fear into the Fringe technical team. You can also come and see how our faces have changed since the fringe cover shoot. Mine has gotten rounder and more wrinkly.

Charlin: If you want to laugh hard and see a tight piece of theatre with good pacing, come see this show. If you wanna spice up your life with a little absurdity, come. If you want to see Rouvan act the shit out of being an entire bus, come. I think that anyone who's into any sort of surreal millennial/Gen Z energy and humour is going to find something they like in this piece. It's got a good grasp of that sort of youthful spirit and zany meme energy that is kind of the calling card of our generation, along with that determination to improve, to make the world better, to find someone to blame, to call out and call to action

Greg: Audiences should see this play because there’s something for everyone to glean. Exploring themes and issues such as fake news, utilitarianism, selfish social justice, sensationalism, pyromania, and offering support to the ones you love even when you don’t like them, this show will make you laugh, and unpretentiously make you think. 

Andrew: The production teams knows what they're doing. Madeleine knows what she's writing. Aaron knows what he's directing. Greg, Charin, and Rouvan know what the scene's require. Put it all together and BAM, you've got a play. I just happen to be on stage from time to time.

Rouvan: I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but the show is hilarious. In these dark and ever changing times, perhaps we all need some levity - a hilarious reminder about the lighter side of life; with the subversive politic still ringing true. I'm also very handsome, just ask my mother she'll tell you.