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Our Favourite Picks of the Fringe 2014

We’ve made a list, we’ve checked it twice. Check out Our Favourite Picks of the Fringe 2014, in no particular order, to see what performances we’ve particularly dug so far, and think you might too for your last Fringy weekend. These were chosen based on general all-around enjoyment, intrigue, the desire to see the piece developed further, as well as notable execution.

These are also picks that aren’t entirely sold-out for the weekend. We have to give a special nod to: Pea Green Theatre Group’s Three Men in a Boat, The Howland Company’s 52 Pick-Up, Theatre Awakening’s Chasing Margaret Flatwood, Paper Plaid Productions’ Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl and Criminal Theatre’s True, all of which blew us away, as well. You can always try to line-up for these shows but also try to be bold and see a show you may have not heard much about.

Also, sad the Fringe is drawing to a close? Fear not! Fringe will not be totally over after Sunday. You can catch Three Men in a Boat, 52 Pick-Up and even some of our picks below at the Best of Fringehttp://www.tocentre.com/bestoffringe2014

Is there are performance that you think we’ve missed? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter and we’ll be sure to check it out for our own closing weekend line-up! Happy Final Weekend of Fringing, Friends!

An Ode to Dyads

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An Ode to Dyads presented by Fishbowl Collective

Running only at 30 minutes, this is definitely a piece I would love to see developed into a longer show. I didn’t want it to end. Delightful, funny, moving, simple. An Ode to Dyads is something really special that you shouldn’t miss out on. – Hallie

Two beings. Doomed to forever repeat their existence in a strange and disquieting world where chairs are loyal companions, exalted French poets dictate emotion, and narrative is swallowed by metaphysical clowns. This is an original piece, conceived and presented at the 2014 Paprika Festival.

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

When: Saturday July 12th at 5:45pm

All in the Timing

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A series of short plays by David Ives create a wonderful and charming piece of comedy. Transitions are slick while the actors are present, committed and honest. The world of each play is completely unique. – Bailey

With a mix of the works of a comedic genius and some local improv talent, you’ll be be glad you took the time to come and see “All in the Timing.” With the “Words, Words, words” of David Ives creating “The Universal Language” of comedy originating in “The Philadelphia,” it’s a “Sure Thing” that you’ll discover the reason for “The Death of Trotsky.”

All in the Timing presented by Miller’s Son and From the Oven

By: David Ives

Director: Jonathan Dufour and Mikhael Melnikoff

Where: St Vlad’s Theatre

When: July 12 @ 3:30pm 

The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward

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The Assassination of Robert Ford: Dirty Little Coward is a fun trip through the Old West featuring great original music and charismatic performances. Meet outlaws, heroes and an infamous assassin in this cautionary tale about inflated infamy, and what seeking revenge really gets you in the end. – Madryn

Tell me about your anger.

Does it burn inside you, threatening to destroy everything you have?

Has it turned you cold, frozen you in place and made you unable to change?

Or did you just want to be entertained?

The Assassination of Robert Ford: the dirty little coward presented by Still Your Friend

Directed and Written by: Adam Bailey

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

When: July 12 @ 11:00pm or catch it at The Toronto Centre for the Arts as part of Best of Fringe: http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/best-of-fringe-2014/ 

Everything is Fine…

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Witty. Relevant. A guaranteed laugh from start to finish. The cast takes sketch comedy to another level and then some. A definite must see. – Brittany

Everything is Fine… A show about convincing people your skin isn’t melting. Eight Second City Conservatory graduates come together under the guidance of Fringe favourite and CCA nominee Ken Hall (2-MAN NO-SHOW) for a truly immersive experience. Join this cast of humans on a twisted, hilarious and emotional ride, and remember, EVERYTHING IS FINE…

Everything is Fine, presented by Haggard Bitch Productions

Directed by: Ken Hall

Written by: Gillian Anderson, Gillian Bartolucci, Kristie Gunter, Ted Hambly, Steve Hobbs, Marshall Lorenzo, Nicky Nasrallah, Allana Reoch

Where: Tarragon Main

When:

July 13 at 07:30 PM

jem rolls: ONE MAN TRAFFIC JAM 

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jem rolls engages his audience in a way I have never seen. From start to finish his poetry mesmerizes. You can lose yourself in the tangle of words as jem rolls guides you through a wildly creative expression of his own mind. Funny and poignant, grotesque and beautiful. – Bailey

Farce-fetched poetic comedy. Where a London bus burns red with a blinding row between Compassion, Apathy & RoadRage. Do we humans get the best sex of all species?

“Highest calibre…Genius” Montreal Gazette *****.

“High performance master” Winnipeg Free Press *****.

You’re never alone with compassion.

jem rolls presented by big word performance poetry

By: jem rolls

Where: Tarragon Extraspace

When:

July 12 at 01:45 PM

Licking Knives

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Melanie Hyrmak invites her audience in with confidence, kindness and wry humour. The story is powerful and relevant. The text is fresh and complex. You’re left wanting more, and yet completely satisfied. – Bailey & Hallie

Exploring the themes of identity and self-determination, this a darkly funny story is told by a confident, confused, indignant young woman who decides to leave home in the spring of 1939. It is a journey that will take you across Europe from a stick in the Ukrainian mud to the City of Lights.

Licking Knives presented by Headstrong Collective 

By: Melanie Hyrmak

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace 

When:

July 12 @ 2:45

July 13 @ 5:45

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's Labour's Lost - Photo by Jesse Griffiths and Kyle Purcell

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Photo by Jesse Griffiths and Kyle Purcell

Razor-sharp wit paired with clear intentions and strong direction makes for wickedly awesome Shakespeare. The cast of 16 embraced their roles and brought distinct, unique characters to life. Pure entertainment. – Bailey

Join your favourite Best of Fringe winning Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare BASH’d, as they tackle Shakespeare’s zany masterpiece of wit: Love’s Labour’s Lost. The King and his three gentlemen have sworn off women for three years of study, until the Princess and her three ladies come to the court… Will their vow be forsworn or will love overcome?

Love’s Labour’s Lost presented by Shakespeare Bash’d

Directed by: James Wallis

Where: Victory Café, 581 Markham St

When:

July 12 at 07:00 PM

July 13 at 05:00 PM

Potosí

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Potosí is some of the best theatre I’ve seen. Gripping, raw, strong writing and even stronger acting. Special mention of Nicole Wilson as LeBlanc. She’s a bold risk taker, and it pays off every time. – Madryn 

A young emissary from a Canadian mining corporation is sent to a remote country to investigate reports of sexual violence at the mine. As civil war rages, she is taken hostage at gunpoint by a former miner. A psychological game of cat-and-mouse ensues in this darkly funny parable on colonialism, gender, and greed. Winner of the Fringe Best New Play Contest

Potosí presented by Good Old Neon

Written and directed by: Alexander Offord

Where: Tarragon Main

When: July 13 at 05:15 PM 

Punch Up _r1a6215

Kat Sandler has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple years and with this new one she’s really hit her stride. We were rolling in our seats with laughter, the characters and actors took themselves far from seriously (in a good way) and I’ve been quoting it for days. – Shaina

A lonely loser kidnaps his favourite comedian to win the heart of the saddest girl in the world. From Kat Sandler and Theatre Brouhaha, creators of sold-out hits Delicacy (NNNN, NOW Magazine), We Are The Bomb (NNNNN), and 2012 Patrons’ Pick and Best of Fringe show Help Yourself comes a dark comedy about the twisted lengths we’ll go to for a laugh.

Punch Up, presented by Theatre Brouhaha

Directed and Written by: Kat Sandler

Where: George Ignatieff Theatre

When: July 13 at 03:30 PM OR catch it at The Toronto Centre for the Arts as part of Best of Fringe: http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/best-of-fringe-2014/

Roller Derby Saved My Soul

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This was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent at the Fringe (and that includes Fringe Tent hours, friends). Believe the hype. Nancy Kenny is charming, charismatic and sharp. Loved it. – Hallie

Comics, fandom and the struggles of the introvert. In a world of tropes, one woman gets off the couch and unleashes the hero within. 

Roller Derby Saved My Soul presented by Broken Turtle Productions

Written & performed by: Nancy Kenny

Where: Tarragon Extra Space

When: July 12 at Noon
** THIS IS ON A FRINGE TOUR! SO TELL YOUR OUT OF TOWN FRIENDS TO CATCH IT AT THEIR LOCAL FESTIVAL.**

2014 Fringe Interview – Spilling Family Secrets – GoodSide Productions

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I had the chance to talk to Susan Freedman, performer and creator of her one woman show, Spilling Family Secrets, an intimate retelling of her parents’ 80 year love story.

MM: Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your show?

SF: It’s a show about my parents 80 year old love letters and their love story. I also talk about my own marital misadventures and about my daughter’s marriage too. Family secrets are revealed!

MM: Why do you want your audiences to hear and see such personal stories?

SF: If people relate my stories to themselves and their lives in some way, then they feel connected to what’s happening onstage. The hope is that they will feel connected to my story. This is my fourth Fringe show and all of them have been filled with personal stories. I’m not a particularly forthcoming person in “real life” but I don’t find it difficult to be open on stage. And, of course, any personal issues or revelations onstage have been resolved long-ago in my real life.

MM: You tell your parents’ love story while intermingling yours’ and your daughter’s love stories as well. Why not just tell your parents’ story? Why was it important to include three generations?

SF: We are all affected by our parents so greatly and I was certainly affected by how easy my parents made marriage look. My daughter’s caution was, in large part, due to how difficult I made marriage look. I could have made the show just about my parents but I felt it showed how we’re shaped by our parents to do it this way. And – there are only so many letters you can read onstage!

MM: Why do you think your mother gave you these love letters after so many decades?

SF: She gave me the letters because she thought I had already read them. And she knew I was very interested in them. I had really just read a couple of them.   I tell myself she was aware of what I might do with them. But I’m not at all sure of that.

MM: Have you edited or fictionalized any parts of the letters or stories?

SF: I edited the letters a great deal. When I transcribed them they filled 75 pages – single spaced type. Not great for a Fringe show – or for theatre at all. I fictionalized absolutely nothing. All stories and letters are completely true.

MM: Have you learned anything new about your parents after reading all their love letters? What surprised you? How has it affected you? 

SF: I learned so much from reading the letters. They were written mostly when my parents were from 19 to 25 years old. What a joy to get to know your parents before they were your parents! I was surprised by what an incredible romantic my father was. The love letters made me laugh and cry. They still do.

MM: What has been the reaction from your family members? 

SF: The family members who have seen it are very, very happy with it. My sister will have seen it five times during my Toronto run! My brother hasn’t seen it yet, but will when it gets to Winnipeg.

MM: What kinds of reactions have you been getting from your audiences?

SF: They seem to be completely engaged in the show and very touched by the story. They laugh throughout the show and many people tell me they are teary at the end.

MM: Anything else you’d like us to know? 

SF: I love doing this show. I’m the only one, other than my parents, who has read the letters so I feel privileged to be able to share parts of them. I’ll send my family the transcriptions at the end of this Fringe season.

Spilling Family Secrets

Presented by GoodSide Productions as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

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Picture of Susan Freedman by Dina Goldstein

Where: The Tarragon Solo Room

When:

July 02 at 06:30 PM
July 04 at 04:45 PM
July 05 at 06:45 PM
July 06 at 02:45 PM
July 08 at 03:15 PM
July 09 at 04:45 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM
July 12 at 08:00 PM

Show length: 45min.

Genre(s): Comedy

This performance is not accessible for non-English speakers

Website:  www.susanfreedman.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/619801868127212/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Twitter: Susan Freedman @BeachAcre16

 

2014 Fringe Interview – Tarrare – Suspicious Moustache Theatre

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: So, I’m here with an assortment of the cast and crew of Tarrare, being mounted by Suspicious Moustache Theatre as part of 2014 Fringe. Director Darcy Stoop is here.

DS: Hello!

RQ: Would you like to introduce the rest of these fantastic people?

DS: Of course! We have playwright Liam Volke, actor John Fray, who plays the man himself, and a set, costume, and props designer, as well as script consultant, Cat Haywood. And myself, directing and producing the whole business.

RQ: So, do you want to tell me a bit about the show? What can people expect when they come see Tarrare?

DS: For sure. It’s the story of France’s most notorious glutton. Tarrare was a real guy who lived in the last days of the revolution in France. And he probably had what we call polyphagia in modern terms, an extreme case of hunger. He could and would eat anything he could get his hands on: stones, corks, bones, at a certain point, corpses, live animals as well. His parents couldn’t feed him, so he was kicked out of his house, and he joined a travelling side show as a geek, and he was a spy for a little while. He was led around by this strange affliction that he had, and this is sort of his struggle of who he is versus what he does, and figuring out what his place is in the world. We have some really fun stuff coming onto the stage, we have a shadowbox, there are swords involved, there’s lots of live eating, of course. He was a real guy, but we only know five or six things about his life, so we’ve had to take these sparse facts and really elaborate and create the world he inhabits with all of these other characters he would have met along the way in his journey toward his ultimate end. I don’t want to say too much about that, we’ll leave some mystery behind it.

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Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz, Costumes: Cat Haywood

RQ: Liam, as a playwright, what drew you to this story?

LV: Darcy and Cat had been talking about making a play about this guy’s life for a while now, and we decided to have a go at it. I’m really interested in historical figures, lesser-known ones especially. I love the idea of someone who is, and I know this isn’t the right analogy to draw, but who is possessed by this hunger. It’s almost supernatural that way. Also, I realized in writing the play that there is so much about our language, in the metaphors and similes that we use, that is related to hunger and eating. Like when you see a puppy or a cute baby and you say “Oh, I could eat you up”. These are things we don’t think about, but they’re there in the water we swim in, they’re all around us. So, that’s something I became more aware of in writing the play. The material was so rich, even though we know so little about him. Everything we do know about him is pretty weird and brilliant. He had a short life, but the material is all there, you know?

RQ: He sounds almost mythic.

CH: Yeah, there’s a touch of Candide, definitely, in his lifespan. He always just goes from misadventure to misadventure, and he tumbles though these different cycles. So it’s fun to see together as a story. All of a sudden he decides to be a spy, and we get to take that leap with him.

DS: Yeah, it seems to be a journey of putting a person into strange circumstances and seeing what happens. It’s not exactly what’s happening here, but he’s such a strange figure, such an odd personality and remarkable individual that any situation he did find himself in became that much more fascinating and stageworthy because of the sheer fact of who he is. Even if we had his diary of, you know, “went to the market today, nothing else to report,” the sheer fact of who he is and the really fascinating historical period he lived in is enough to put up a really interesting show. One of the struggles we’ve had is having too much we want to say about this guy. We’ve had to nip and tuck and find the best bits.

RQ: So speaking of stage-worthy, Darcy, you’ve been involved in this production from its inception. It wasn’t text that you were going into blind, but it’s something you were thinking of conceptually and visually before it was put on paper, right?

DS: Yeah, especially between Cat and I. Cat’s my fiancee as well as my creative partner, so we had a lot of discussions about the fact that it’s this guy, and it’s on stage. Those are the two catalyst components. We’d work with Liam when we had a basic outline and we’d come in one scene at a time and say “How can we figure out a way to have him do this?”, or “what’s the connector pin between him being in the sideshow and him being in the army?”. There needs to be a reason for that to happen. So, it all came together like putting together a nice puzzle. We had these strong images, and we had to decide how to sew them together in a kind of Frankenstein-ish mix of bits and pieces. The company’s done original work before, but this was the first time where we had so much that’s just coming from ourselves, that we had to play and mold and shape. So, we didn’t sit down and write the beginning, then write the middle, then write the end. It was very much an episodic, piecemeal affair that fit together very nicely. I’m astonished and so grateful to everyone involved that so many of the images that floated into my head when I was thinking about this are actually on stage, and they look and feel wonderful. I’m excited to share that with people. It’s not often that you get this nice idea in your head of how something would look, then all of a sudden it’s there.

RQ: And as a performer, John, how do you approach work like this that’s more episodic, and it sounds a bit multidisciplinary as well.

JF: Well, it’s been interesting. I found that Tarrare’s voice in his head, or his drive, sort of changes as the play goes on. Certainly, he is narrating from his death, and there’s a distinct point of view he’s narrating from versus the one that he begins the play with when he’s alive. In my mind, he definitely develops in a concrete way as the play goes along, and that’s there in the writing. He matures, but he also gets worn down and beaten down and seems to disintegrate. It’s been a lot of fun, I just have to let myself disintegrate as the play goes on, haha.

RQ: Cat, when you’re designing a show like this, that takes place during the French Revolution, but that’s also a bit vaudevillian, a bit freak show…

CH: There’s definitely a touch of circus to it. It definitely starts that way and becomes a bit more militaristic as he grows up. I think that as Tarrare matures, so does, perhaps, the imagery that comes into his life. The major thing for me was creating the shadowbox as a script convention. I don’t think we could have done some of the eating tricks without it. We wanted to have a bit of mystery in the creepy but also intriguing things he’s doing behind this shadowbox. Making him a silhouette is also a great metaphor for what’s going on during the piece as well. Tarrare himself, the fact that he’s insatiable, and he’s always desiring more, and it hurts him but he can’t stop himself; it’s a great metaphor for what’s happening in the country at the time. The face of the revolution is this kind of downtrodden everyman trying to get some food. I think from the beginning, we knew that this character who’s from the lower rungs of society, who is just trying to eat, there’s a symbol there.

RQ: He has the hunger of an entire people.

CH: Yeah, I’ve often thought that that’s a way of thinking about scale. He is one guy, and it is something that really happened, but artistically, it serves to show what’s going on for an entire society. We’ve always established that as being a part of it.

LV: Something I’ve always found funny, is that he’s this outsider, this freak on the fringes of society and yet during this time period, he becomes the standard. He fits into this mob of hungry people, and the difference is that it’s an actual medical condition.

CH: Well, this is the point where we started to care about the downtrodden, and the dispossessed, and the people who’ve been disregarded. Of course, they are totally forgettable, they’re the peasantry, why would you care about whether they eat or not? And then you get to this revolution, where people finally say: “Maybe we should be eating. Maybe we shouldn’t be starving. Maybe there’s another solution”. And as Tarrare tries on these different hats, it’s almost like the country is trying them on too. France became a threat to neighbouring countries, if they can rise up and overthrow the government, will they inspire people here to do the same? I mean, the class system there is breaking apart.

DS: In theory.

CH: In theory, yes. The success he gets in being a performer, then being a spy, I think is the success that the people in general were striving for.

DS: I make this comparison without a whole lot of weight, but it’s similar to Midnight’s Children which takes the struggle of an entire nation and turns it into a very personal story. That’s the same thing that happens when you take the French Revolution and transpose Tarrare. You have a country personified by this one person whose actions don’t have a whole lot of consequence outside his personal circle, but there’s a synecdoche of what’s happening on a larger scale. There’s two stories we’re telling at the same time, though this remarkable man.

LV: This is all stuff we’re thinking about and hoping to communicate in the play, but it’s not something the audience needs to pick up on to enjoy the story, I think it’s a good story on its own.

CH: Yeah, even if you were to just look at it in terms of what we do know about him, without the historical parallels, and without our embellishments, I think it’s a story people will be really interested to see.

DS: I think one of the most encouraging parts of the process was before we had the script fully written, when we were just showing it to our actor friends and asking them what they thought about certain moments or scenes, and they were excited by the story, it’s a great story. And in terms of gathering resources, that’s worked really well in my favour! It’s a weird show that has the historical/political meaning for those that are looking for it, it has the interpersonal relationships, and it explores the idea of “come see the freak show because he’s different from you”. That’s the hook for something like this, but it’s also something I’ve always been personally interested in, trying to find why exactly we can’t turn away from car crashes and beached whales. They’re captivating. We want to see that side of the human experience.

LV: We need to admit to ourselves that we do like to do that?

DS: Yeah, we’re not above gawking.

RQ: I think that also, for people looking for it, there’s a real contemporary cultural relevance. Maybe now more than ever, there’s a culture of consumption. I was wondering if you could speak to that.

CH: I think we’re a little less ashamed now, as a society, to talk about our appetites and our needs. Humans have always been creatures of need, but now we’re actually vocalizing what we want and what we’re craving. Ambition, for example, is a hunger that’s really celebrated. That’s shown in some of the other characters in this show, Tarrare isn’t the only one who’s really hungry for something. While he has a physical hunger, others have hungers that are a little tougher to immediately diagnose. I think a lot of the characters in his world draw parallels to the types of people you’d see today.

DS: Social climbers, business climbers, people who’ll do anything to increase their status in some way.

CH: And we describe ourselves by what we consume and what we go through every day.

LV: One little tidbit of history that I found really fascinating is that when the French Revolution began, after the French populace stormed the Bastille fortress, people were quick to capitalize from it. They’d sell jewelry made from stones and metal from the Bastille and sell it on the street, sort of to say “Oh yes, I was there”. So even then, people were trying to establish the street cred of being at the French Revolution, of being a part of it.

RQ: So that’s their relationship to history in the making. They’re performing their history as you, as a company, are performing history.

LV: I think that’s what interests me in history, and it may be cliche to say this, but if you want to understand the present, you have to understand the past. That’s the great thing about Tarrare, is that it’s a lesser-known story, but it’s no less enthralling.

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Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz, Costumes: Cat Haywood

RQ: What’s the conversation you want people to be having after the show? What do you want people to argue about?

CH: I think there will probably be a dissonance in rooting for Tarrare. He transgresses a lot of moral boundaries, but he does it for a very human, understandable reason. An audience is supposed to judge the actions of a protagonist when it gets into a murky area, but I would also like them to be compelled to feel empathetic toward Tarrare at the same time. I think that’s what I’d like people to wonder about, is “Can I imagine a scenario where I’d be him?” Would I behave differently?

DS: What hungers do I have that could drive me to extremes like his, and what right do I have to judge him. How would I judge myself? We do ask identity questions as well, what you’re doing versus who you are. How we’re somewhat ruled by different appetites and desires, and how that plays into your identity or search for that. Tarrare’s opinion of himself changes drastically and repeatedly throughout the show. His condition doesn’t change, it’s all based on his attitudes toward himself. The hunger is always innately there, it’s always a matter of circumstance how it plays out.

JF: I have this image in my head throughout the play of his hunger being a beast. Sometimes he rides the beast and sometimes the beast rides him.

Tarrare

Presented by Suspicious Moustache Theatre as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival
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Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave, Toronto

When:
Fri. July 4 @ 1:45pm
Sun. July 6 @ 7:00pm
Mon. July 7 @ 4:45pm
Tue. July 8 @ 2:45pm
Thu. July 10 @ 11:30pm
Fri. July 11 @ 9:45pm
Sun. July 13 @ 4:30pm

Tickets:
$10 at the door (cash only) or $12 in advance (Visa or MasterCard, service charge included) beginning June 12 via http://www.fringetoronto.com, by telephone at 416-966-1062 (ext.1), or at the door.

Running time is 60 minutes.

2014 Fringe Interview – Vectors of Their Interest – Surplus-Value Theatre

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: Hello! I’m here talking to Zoë Erwin-Longstaff, director of Vectors of Their Interest. Do you want to tell me a bit about it? What can audiences expect?

ZEL: Sure! Vectors of Their Interest is a totally site-specific piece in that it was written in the place it’s going to be staged, for the place it’s going to be staged. We’re putting it up in my parents’ house. I moved home about a year ago, and that’s when I found out about the site-specific Fringe. I moved home around when it was happening and I thought “Wow, this is so great,” and it’s kind of a way to sneak into the Fringe if you don’t get pulled in the lottery. I approached my parents about whether they’d be okay with this, and for some reason they said yes, and so co-writer Ryan Healey and I were able to write this play not for any house, but for the house we actually live in. That was really cool. But, we didn’t want to do a typical domestic drama just because we have a house, so it’s about a company of three young women who have freshly graduated, who look at the prospects in this economy and feel down and out. They decide to take things into their own hands and they start a company called Viragon Capital Group, where they sell used panties online. This is all in this Annex house, and in the course of getting this company off the ground, they acquire an unpaid intern named Bowman, and he ends up doing most of the work.

 

 

RQ: You mentioned that it’s site-specific, that you wrote it there to be performed there, and there are ways that makes the process easier, but are their distinct challenges to working in a found space?

ZEL: Yeah, there are challenges. It’s very intimate, but to have four people onstage in a space that’s so small became its own challenge. There’s also the fact that we never go home. They come to my house, and then they leave. The separation between work and life is non-existent because I’m always in the space, thinking about it. There are also problems that you would never think of until you’re in the space, like people are playing basketball outside the house really loudly, or freaking out that we’re going to need air conditioning because it’s just too hot. All these things that theatres might tailor and take care of for us, all of a sudden I’m the owner of the venue so I can’t be pissed off at the terrible venue operator, because it’s me. That becomes its own host of problems. But, for the most part, it’s really nice. I’m never late for rehearsal, because they’ll show up and I’m there. And we always get coffee and fruit because it’s in my kitchen! Mostly it’s been a really good experience.

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RQ: What kind of conversation do you hope this show provokes?

ZEL: Well, when it comes to site-specific theatre, I hear a lot of people say that you have to justify it, there really has to be a reason why. I think what this play is about, in a lot of ways, is that young people are becoming really innovative in this new economy. The Fringe is a great resource, but in general, I can’t afford to rent out a theatre space. I’m doing something at my house out of economic necessity. Not that you shouldn’t use the space as much as possible, of course, but site-specific might not be just a fun gimmick, it might be all we can afford. Also, when young people walk into a theatre, they have a lot of negative connotations that unfurl with them, so that’s what I want people to take away from this experience, is that you can put on a play outside of a theatre building, and maybe it will grab people in different ways.

Then, from the actual play, I hope young people will be able to connect with the play and have that sympathy and a feeling that’s not quite cathartic or alienated, it’s just a nod to the fact that that’s how things really are right now. Even though this play goes to absurd lengths, the more we do it, it’s not that absurd. It’s a situation that I find myself and a lot of my friends in.

RQ: Both of those tie into the idea of ingenuity and resourcefulness in the face of the motto of our generation, “do more with less”.

ZEL: Exactly. A big thing in this play is “who knew young women could be making money with something that’s right under their nose”, and this idea of doing anything and being ruthless, that that can be okay. It’s also a satire because recently, there were all these articles coming out about “Why aren’t young women embracing the word ‘feminism? Why is ‘feminism’ going out of fashion?”. Then all of a sudden, we have Sheryl Sandberg come in with her Lean In book, and feminism was great again but it was equated with being a corporate climber. With the idea that if we had women at the top of corporations, it would be better for everyone, and better for feminism. But, recently, in the news, Sheryl Sandberg went to Harvard to give a speech and a group of women who were working at hotels around Harvard who weren’t unionized, who were on strike, reached out and asked her to come host a “lean in” circle and talk about women being more resourceful and working to get paid better, and she said she was too busy. So, it’s not about a collective actually trying to make things better for women, it’s about ruthless individualism, which is screwing us all the time. The play is also a commentary on that, on what we can actually do that will make it better for all of us because that’s not it.

RQ: Instead of changing the definition to fit the system that’s already in place.

ZEL: Exactly! Absolutely, yeah.

RQ: You created this production company as well, right?

ZEL: Yes, me and Ryan Healey created Surplus-Value Theatre. He and I went to school together, but it really came together after the student strike in Montreal. So it was that feeling of a collective ethos, and we came together and were so excited to be young and be in the streets, but it dissipated so fast. I guess we feel like we’re still looking for that feeling.

RQ: Where do you want to go with the company from here?

ZEL: We just want to keep putting on plays that speak to the world right now, 2014. We want to do really high-calibre stuff that is a commentary on contemporary life. I see a lot of theatre and wonder who’s programming it, and how it’s relevant to younger people and to our community. How is it commenting on the social-political zeitgeist of the time, and that’s what we’re looking to do. We have a show coming up in Summerworks, and I’m really excited about that. It’s a play I wrote called Half Girl, Half Face, and we toured that around this year, and now it’s coming to Summerworks, which is exciting. Then, after that, we have a few shows we’re working on, so we’ll see. It’s always the challenge of getting it up. That’s why the Fringe is so great, because it’s easier. You can even sneak in if you don’t get pulled in the lottery, haha.

RQ: What do you think is the importance of the festival culture in Toronto? Since we have so many, is there anything that can be improved upon? If not, what does it facilitate?

ZEL: These are my first time actually taking part in the festivals, so I’m sure I’ll have my long list of celebrations and grievances after, but I think that it’s too bad that a lot of people get stuck in the festival model. Some people only produce in the Fringe every year. Not that the Fringe isn’t great, it’s wonderful, and it democratizes it a bit that anyone can get a venue. I’m not reviewing this year, because I’m in it, but usually I get my Fringe pass and see shows, write reviews. What’s great is that you can see something fantastic followed up by something totally terrible, and that’s great. It makes it really fun.

I think in general there has to be spaces that are more accessible, that make it easier for people to put things on. Little venues like Videofag, I’m sure there are others doing that stuff. I was just at New Art Night at Videofag, and that was wonderful. I saw a show there that was just great. For me, I know that when I got out of undergrad, I was suddenly hit with the realization that it’s near-impossible to put anything on without a free space and a free room and gorgeous props. You have to get scrappy about it, you have to band together with other like-minded people. Even then, it’s really hard. We had to have a crowd-sourcing campaign so we could pay our actors. I’m really excited about that, I’ve never paid an actor before. I mean, I’ve always been in the red, so I’ve never been able to, so this is exciting. It’s also not sustainable, we just need to make it easier for artists to live.

Vectors of Their Interest

Presented by Surplus-Value Theatre as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

 

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Where: 106 Albany Ave.

When: July 02 at 07:00 PM
July 03 at 07:00 PM
July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM
July 07 at 07:00 PM
July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 07:00 PM
July 13 at 07:00 PM

Show length: 85min.

Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Tickets: https://www.tytixhosted.com/scripts/max/7000/maxshop.exe?STORE=FRIN

2014 Fringe Interview – Here After – Upstart Theatre

by Bailey Green

Meg Moran and I met up in the Fringe cafe where we bonded over our mutual love for the sci fi genre and chatted about her show Here After as part of the Toronto Fringe.

Here After is set 150 years in the future and humanity is in a dire state. We’ve become immortal. The immortality drug is discovered close to our present day in 2014 and, as you can imagine, it didn’t take long for things to rapidly fall apart. “The problem is that even if your body can live forever, your mind just can’t keep up,” says director and writer Meg Moran. Four people are trapped in an underground bunker, having retreated there shortly after civilization began to rip at the seams, where they are forced to keep their minds constantly stimulated. Otherwise, they’ll slip into a “coma-like state” and go blank.

“If everyone is immortal, overpopulation immediately becomes an issue, resource depletion accelerates, pollution increases and then you can’t breathe,” Moran sketches the timeline for the setting of the play. The four people have been trapped in the bunker together for over a hundred years, creating a pseudo-family. Very recently to the beginning of the play one of the character’s lovers goes brain dead. Here After examines issues relevant to society today through a unique lens, “this is a story of what could be the fallout of something that happens two weeks from now. The characters are people of this time dealing with the long term consequences of problems we are currently facing as a society,” Moran says. “We look at responsibility, loss, hope and the struggle to survive. Why do we keep going under extremely difficult circumstances?”

 

“What we’re looking at in some ways is the shift from the Jetsons future, to the more Hunger Games future,” Moran explains, “As we become more technologically advanced, we’re starting to realize that being constantly connected can have a sinister element to it.” The idea for the play first came to Moran on a plane where she imagined four characters playing games. The play itself is written by Moran and the process has been very collaborative. “I had a clear vision of the events and the world, but we did workshop it. If they need to play games to survive, we had to figure out what that looks like. It has been a growing changing thing for a long time,” says Moran of the process. She speaks very highly of her actors, of their inspiration, sense of play and willingness to give feedback.

Moran says her greatest challenge has been “finding the point where the script is done and the directing starts.” She feels this process has taught her how to better identify that point, and how to hand it off to someone else, in this case the actors. “You have to allow room for the happy accidents,” Moran smiles.

Upstart is a relatively new company founded by Meara Tubman-Broeren and Meg Moran, who met during their undergrad at York University. The company began with their site specific adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. They’re still exploring what having a company means and what theatre they want to bring to the stage. For Moran, she’s passionate about experimenting with form, movement oriented pieces and re-telling of classic stories. “I will see anything,” she says, “You have to see things you don’t know about or understand. Otherwise you won’t grow as an artist.”

Here After

Photo Credit: Madeline Haney

Photo Credit: Madeline Haney

by Meg Moran, presented by Upstart Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

Directed by Meg Moran

Featuring Owen Fawcett, Elizabeth Tanner, Chiamaka Ugwu, and Enzo Voci

Produced by Meara Tubman-Broeren

When: 

Thursday July 3rd, 2014 at 7:45 p.m.
Saturday July 5th, 2014 at 3:15 p.m.
Sunday July 6th, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
Monday July 7th, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.
Wednesday July 9th, 2014 at 10:00 p.m.
Thursday July 10th, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
Friday July 11th, 2014 at 8:45 p.m.
Sunday July 13th, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.

Tickets: $10 at the door/$12 in advance. Tickets can be purchased online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, or at the door.

For more information, go to http://hereafterfringe.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @Upstart_Twitter

2014 Fringe Preview – Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie – Fail Better Theatre

by Bailey Green

Intelligent, witty, political, sharp, funny and exciting—a few words I would use to describe this show after sitting in on a rehearsal with the cast of Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie by Fail Better Theatre. The name of their company comes from a Samuel Beckett quote that is one of my personal favourites, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail Better.” Director Matt White and actors (and the company’s co-artistic directors) Ben Hayward and Ali Richardson talked to me about their process.

Ask a person on the street if they know of Andy Warhol, and they probably will. But what about Valerie Solanas? Chances are slim. History forgot the woman who shot Andy Warhol, but Fail Better Theatre is bringing her story to light in a powerful new piece of theatre premiering at the Toronto Fringe Festival. This immersive, site specific piece takes place at the Influx Creative Space, an art studio, where Andy Warhol and his assistant Gerard are holding a party for Val—and you’re invited.

“We didn’t initially know this piece would be about Valerie,” says actor and writer Ben Hayward, “We thought it would be about their relationship or the shooting, but the more we read we realized there’s tons of stuff about Andy Warhol but nothing about Valerie. She’s always just a footnote in Warhol’s biography.” The collaborators chose to focus on Valerie because of her dynamic and active voice. Through the process they discovered Warhol to be a much more passive and less dramatic character who often allows things to happen around him instead of provoking the action. “Rather than giving him an exorbitant amount of text, we make him a presence by omitting text,” director Matt White describes. “But he’s still there, this is his world that everyone is playing in.”

Processed with Rookie

The idea of creating “a better play” comes from the collective process of Hayward, Richardson and White. “There can’t be an ego,” Matt White says and then chuckles, “because if there was Ben would have shot me about ten days ago.” This project has been in the works for eight months and has underwent multiple radical changes. It began with Richardson and Hayward writing together, but eventually progressed to Hayward taking over the bulk of the writing—though Richardson still contributes to the script. “It’s a delicate balance have the playwrights in the room with you,” says White. “From the top you just have to instill a non-fragile environment. At the core, we have to trust that everyone is good. So you’re good, but you can always be better.” Hayward agrees, “it’s actually nice to have it change so much. I go home and work on the script and it’s awesome. Meanwhile Ali goes home and memorizes a thousand lines and then has to forget eight hundred the next day.” The three collaborators jokingly refer any and all major cuts or changes as ‘building a better play.’ “In a different play, this scene or that scene would have been really cool,” Hayward smiles.

Richardson and Hayward got lucky when a new biography about Valerie Solanas came out this past spring. “At Christmas I looked online and the biography came up for pre-order, so I emailed Professor Breanna Fahs at the Arizona State University and asked for an advance copy,” Richardson says. “That wasn’t possible but what she [the professor] did do was verify our sources.” They had found an online PDF copy of Valerie Solanas’ play Up Your Ass, but according all sources only one copy of the play exists in a museum in Pittsburgh. “It’s in the Andy Warhol museum, in a drawer in a vault because no one knows who she [Valerie] is or cares. The ultimate irony is that Andy in fact finally did steal her work, in way,” Ben says. The PDF turned out to be Valerie’s play and became one of the many sources integrated into the text of Andy Warhol Presents. To name a few of their sources: Up Your Ass, the film “I shot Andy Warhol,” Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto, Valerie’s biography, multiple Andy Warhol books and a four hour PBS documentary about Warhol. Needless to say, they know the history of these two people inside and out.

The SCUM manifesto itself is widely available, and it began as the bulk of Valerie’s text. “We kept tweaking and tweaking the text to be more experientiel and to give it a storytelling quality,” Hayward says of the writing process. The company includes original music in the piece, with lyrics inspired by Valerie’s manifesto and the production added a chorus of five other actors a few weeks ago. “Matt suggested more people would help make the piece more interactive,” Hayward says—which is key for a show that requires a level of audience participation and engagement. “Ben and Ali wanted to include these adapted scenes from [Valerie’s play] Up Your Ass. But we had no one to play them. So we brought in a chorus to help animate the piece,” says White. The scenes were written with Valerie’s politics in mind, but are not actual extractions from Up Your Ass. However much of Warhol’s text in the play is actual quotes and adaptations of quotes, and the same goes for Valerie’s text.

The company is excited for their first production, and look forward to the new challenges that will come with an interactive audience. “If there is a call to action in the play, it is avoiding the temptation to be passive,” Richardson says. “The form of the piece speaks to that. There is no getting away from what’s happening in the room.”

Andy Warhol Presents: Valerie

by Fail Better Theatre presented as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

Processed with Rookie

Directed by Matt White

Written and Performed by Ben Hayward and Ali Richardson

With Ray Jacildo, Emily Johnston, April Leung, Nick Potter, Natasha Ramondino & Jon Walls

When: July 3rd – 13th. 8pm nightly + 2pm July 10th

Where: InfluxCreative Space (141 Spadina at Richmond)

Ticketshttp://fringetix.ca/

2014 Fringe Preview – MUTE! The Musical – Infinity Arts Productions

Interview by Charlotte Cattell

I had heard of MUTE! The Musical by word of mouth before and now here it is as part of The Toronto Fringe Festival, spreading the word on bullying through song and dance to a brand new audience. I was also pleased to find out that many performers I know are part of this production, which in turn allowed me the wonderful opportunity to hear a bit about their process from a member of the cast, Holly Wyder, and from the show’s creator and director Alinka Angelova. 

mute

Charlotte: What is the basic premise of the show?

Holly: It’s primarily focused around the theme of anti-bullying in the form of a musical, which of course is in the title. This theme is raising awareness of the hardships that children may face when it comes down to the pressures placed upon them by society and their peers. But the show takes place at the best performing arts school in Canada and the story follows a girl who is new to this school. Everyone else has heard about how amazing her singing voice is and so the gossip begins. Just like at most theatre schools gossip is a huge part of what the students have to deal with. So there are high expectations from the other students to hear her voice. And into the story a tragic event causes this girl to become mute so she loses her will to sing. The bullies hound her for this and add to the pressure, trying to get her to prove herself and show that she can really sing. And there is a big competition at the end where the climax and excitement and empowerment really comes to the surface.

Charlotte: Would you say the characters are separated into groups to represent what school cliques are actually like?

Holly: Well, there are definitely bullies and non-bullies which are seen pretty clearly as the story unfolds. And there is the one popular girl who takes it a bit too far. But there is also a bit of a love story in there as well so there is something for everyone!

Charlotte: And who are you playing specifically?

Holly: My character is Mandy. She’s basically the preppy nerdy type of character. I personally have really liked it because she’s a smaller character. So, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to play with the role and kind of add things to the character that I have a lot of fun doing. Everyone has been very supportive and positive about each other’s creativity and what each person can bring to their respective roles.

Charlotte: And how do you feel about opening this week? Do you feel ready and excited?

Holly: Again everyone has been super positive and it’s so great because through the entire process everyone has also just been super enthusiastic about being there. Everyone wants to be there and bring this show together to deliver a message. And I think we are ready to start sending that message out to our audiences at Fringe.

mute2

 After speaking with Holly I couldn’t get over how great it was to hear that a larger group of people were coming together so strongly and so passionately to orchestrate a show that has a really important message in this day and age. However, I thought, how did this show come to be what it is? Where do these messages of hope originate?

Alinka Angelova, the creator and head of this show and its process, was kind enough to answer some of questions!

Charlotte: What inspired you to write a show about bullying?

Alinka: There are a number of things that contributed to the making of MUTE. These are just a few of them: A little area of Phantom of the Opera with Christine coming out from being unknown and transforming into becoming the star of the grand show, Oprah Winfrey’s “Challenge Day” where they counselled and brought together the bullies and the Bullied.

Another contribution to MUTE was my Brazilian friend ‘Juliana’, an amazing dancer that I believe will be great one day. I named the main character after her.

Last but not least, when I was young, I had briefly experienced some bullying from one of my older brothers, Robert Chambers. The most amazing thing about that is, over the years he has helped me tremendously in composing music for my Musicals. We have partnered together to do many projects including MUTE.

Charlotte: And what lead you to make this show into a musical?

Alinka: I have always loved musicals. I especially LOVE musicals like MUTE such as, ‘Grease’, ‘Hairspray’, and ‘Little Shop Of Horrors’.

For some reason, no matter what I write, it always turns into music. Life without music for me would be like life without a heart.

Charlotte: How does the rehearsal process for the Fringe Festival differ from previous ones?

Alinka: I feel more pressured during this rehearsal process because this is first time I am taking MUTE into a professional atmosphere, so I want it to be the best it can be. I had to cut down a 3 hour show to 90 min, and we only rehearse once per week.

This time, I’m more at ease because I am working with a group that is more on a professional level. So they pick up choreography faster, they get into character easier, and they’re pretty dedicated.

Charlotte: And what are you aiming to achieve with the show at Fringe as opposed to when it was performed for schools? 

Alinka: I am aiming to achieve sold out shows in hopes that someone who knows the business will see its potential and offer to invest in MUTE and take it further. I would also like to win “The best of the Fringe award”!

Charlotte: Lastly, where do you hope to take this show once you have completed Fringe? What are your future goals for this production?

Alinka: I would like to take this show on another School Tour starting with Toronto. Ultimately, whether sooner or later, I’m taking it to Broadway.

There are definitely some big goals for this show and with good reason! I would like to thank Holly and Alinka for taking the time to discuss with me a bit about the show and I wish everyone involved a happy run. And for the folks wandering around the Fringe, be sure to stop by and check out the toe tapping anti-bullying joys of MUTE! The Musical.

MUTE! The Musical.

Presented by Infinity Arts Productions as part of The Toronto Fringe.

mute3

Written By: Alinka Angelova

Director: Alinka Angelova

Choreographer: Teisha Smith-Guthrie

Cast: Bryna Weiss
Sam Strelshik
Nicole McCafferty
Rochelle Robinson
Kierans Jordan
Freeyon Chung
Roselyn Kelada-Sedra
Charlene Dorland
Alyssandria Messina
Holly Wyder
Luiz Monterei
Jenifer Boyce
Jackie-Rose Brown
Preston Squire
Robert Venton

Creative team:
Director: Alinka Angelova, Composer: Alinka Angelova and Robert Chambers, Choreographer:Teisha Smith-Guthrie, Backstage Manager: Veronica Chambers, Assistant Director: Jerome Chambers, Photographer: Leo Vicari

Where? The Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst Street)

When? July 2-12

July 02 at 08:15 PM
July 04 at 03:30 PM
July 06 at 01:15 PM
July 07 at 08:15 PM
July 08 at 01:00 PM
July 11 at 05:15 PM
July 12 at 11:00 PM

Tickets: $10 at the door, OR you can order online: www.fringetoronto.com as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival

Trailer: 

 

Artist Profiles: 2014 Fringe Edition: Fabulous Female Fringe Performer/Playwrights – Melanie Hrymak of Licking Knives and Rebecca Perry of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

2014 Fringe Artist Profile: Melanie Hrymak of Licking Knives

by Brittany Kay

Melanie Hrymak is no ordinary gal when you get in a room with her.

She exhibits a fierce confidence while radiating the warmest of hearts. That is why it was my pleasure to talk about her latest show, Licking Knives, which premiers at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. 

BK: Can you talk a little about your show? And what were your inspirations behind it?

MH: Licking Knives was inspired by the ideas of identity and self-determination. It’s loosely based on the lives of my Ukrainian family members, and it’s a story about how a young woman travels from a farm in rural Ukraine to Paris over the course of World War II. I am very interested in how we become the people that we become: are we shaped by circumstance? Do we decide our own fate? What happens when you are forced to become someone you never thought you would have to be? Maybe it has something to do with being in my mid-20s and watching friends and colleagues really start to define their lives by going back to school, getting married, having kids, or none of the above.

BK: We’ve known each other for many years and I never knew you were a playwright!? When did this start? Can you talk to me about when and why you became a playwright?

MH: I think I am a playwright by necessity. I used to do a lot of creative writing as a child. During theatre school, where we met, I started to do some writing for various projects and a little bit for fun. I just always seem to have 2 or 3 half-finished plays on my hard-drive, and this year I decided the time had come to take the plunge and put my work out there. Also, I needed an acting job.

Artistically though, I think I became a playwright because I am often so bored by the female roles out there. I have been lucky enough to play a few really awesome male roles, which put the situation into high relief for me. There are some wonderful roles out there for women, but not enough, and certainly not enough for the number of incredibly talented actresses out there.

BK: Describe your process of creating a piece?

MH: I am a percolator. I think about the questions that I want the play to ask (which is something my very first acting teacher taught me to look for), and what the spine of the play is. I think for a long time about the characters. I walk around like them for awhile and see how it changes my view of the world. I muddle obsessively over the arc of the play. I research endlessly, particularly for this play, which is set in a historical reality that most people don’t know too much about. After I have procrastinated in every possible way, I sit down and write the thing in a relatively short period of time.

BK: What have the challenges been being both playwright and actor?

MH: Honestly, I like both roles very much. The hard part has been putting my playwright hat down and saying, okay, this is the script. I remember the first time I read the script with my actor hat on, and all I could think was “why did I do this to myself?!” Then I put on my producer hat and told everybody to get back to work.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with after seeing your play?

MH: I hope people learn something new about this time and place. I think most people know a lot about World War II from a very Western perspective, and I hope people become interested in learning more about the other side of the war. I hope people start to wonder where women’s voices are in our history, because we don’t get to hear a lot about the female experience. But mostly, I hope people look at their own lives and question whether they are living the life they want or the one they think they have to. I think we are always growing and changing and adapting, and I think it’s really important to ask yourself if you are happy. If you’re not, no one is going to fix it but you.

Licking Knives playwright & performer: Melanie Hrymak

Licking Knives playwright & performer: Melanie Hrymak. Photo Credit: “The Story is Mostly True” by Lauren Vanderbrook of LV Imagery

BK: What are the best aspects of this show, for yourself and for the audience?

MH: I find this show really inspiring. Yes, it deals with very dark subject matter at times, but it is a story of survival and finding your true strength. I have tried to find the humour of the situation as well, because that’s how human beings roll. We have to lift ourselves up, it’s the only way to keep going!

There is also a goat joke that I think is hilarious. I really hope someone laughs.

BK: Now about you! Where did you grow up and when did you move to the city?

MH: I am from Hamilton, Ontario. I moved to Toronto four years ago, after completing my degree at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto in Theatre and Drama.

BK: What are some of your favourite spots in the city? Places to go eat, drink, bike ride?

MH: Oh goodness. So many. I have become a true Torontonian, I am obsessed with brunch. My favourite spots are Emma’s Country Kitchen, Sadie’s, and Rose & Sons. I really love craft beer, so I tend to drink at places like Bar Hop, the Victory Cafe, and Grapefruit Moon. I am one of those people who hang out a lot in parks like St. James Park, High Park, and obviously Bellwoods. And I ride my bike everywhere. I really like biking in my neighbourhood, around St. Clair and Bathurst, but I am just so happy biking anywhere (except on Adelaide – what a deathtrap).

BK: What are you currently obsessed with? Any blogs, pod casts, films or artists? 

MH: I have been so obsessed by the show that everything else has pretty much been on hold. However, I adore Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Who ever thought some of the best TV would eventually come out of Netflix?! I love binge-listening to This American Life and I have recently realized how much I admire Tilda Swinton in every single possible way (artist, filmmaker, actor, activist, human being).

BK: Who is your role model, and why?

MH: I don’t really have one. Is that terrible? I admire so many people in so many different ways. I think my grandmother was the strongest person I know. I think my dad is the hardest working person I know. I think my mother is the kindest person I know. I think Oscar Wilde was the cleverest person of all time. I wish I could be some kind of hybrid of those people.

BK: What’s your superpower?

MH: I can usually tell when someone is lying. I have learned that people generally don’t like it when you call them on this.

BK: What is some of the best advice ever given to you?

MH: Not to be an actor. No, really. It’s the hardest thing ever, and if you are bull-headed enough to ignore it, you might be bull-headed enough to succeed in the industry.

BK: Any advice for aspiring playwrights or actors?

MH: Make stuff. Go to museums. Read books. Go to art galleries. Put your phone down and talk to people. Travel. Make friends who are not playwrights or actors. Be fearless.

RAPID FIRE QUESTION ROUND:

Favourite Play: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Favourite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Favourite Food: Fresh bread and brie

Favourite TV Show: Firefly

Guilty Pleasure: Butter pecan ice cream

Licking Knives

by Melanie Hrymak, presented by Headstrong Collective as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

lickingknives_image2

“Paris Streets” Melanie Hrymak. Photo Credit: Lauren Vanderbrook of LV Imagery

For more information on Melanie Hrymak and Headstrong Collective check out:

Websitewww.melaniehrymak.com | facebook: Melanie Hrymak | twitter: @melaniehrymak

Where?

Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

When?

Performance Details:

Friday, July 4, 2014 – 10:00pm
Saturday, July 5, 2014 – 6:45pm
Sunday, July 6, 2014 – 9:45pm
Monday, July 7, 2014 – 5:45pm
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 – 1:15pm
Thursday, July 10, 2014 – 1:00pm
Saturday, July 12, 2014 – 2:45pm
Sunday, July 13, 2014 – 5:45pm

Who?

Headstrong Collective
Written by Melanie Hrymak
Starring Melanie Hrymak
Sound design by Tessa Springate
Stage managed by Sarah Niedoba

Tickets: Can be purchased via http://fringetix.ca/ or by calling 416-966-1062

2014 Fringe Artist Profile: Rebecca Perry of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

confessions3

by Hallie Seline

HS: Tell us a bit about your show & where it came from

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl: It’s a story that comes from the real life experiences myself and other twenty-something graduates had while working at various coffee shops in Toronto. I interviewed a myriad of graduates to see what their most hilarious, poignant or upsetting moments were while working behind the counter. And that is what this show is about, it examines the customer/employee relationship in the most hilarious of ways.

So come on down to the Toronto Fringe and meet Joanie Little, an “adorkable” anthropology graduate who decides to make the most out of her barista day job by ‘reporting’ about the humans of her coffee shop as though she were Jane Goodall herself, bushwhacking through the African jungle to observe the chimps. A tour-de-force that makes you laugh one minute and cry the next. Complete with live music, hurricanes, co-worker showdowns and a gorilla for a boss.

HS: Not only are you presenting at the Toronto Fringe, but you are doing a whole Fringe tour. Tell us a bit about where you’ve been, where you’re going and, being a Fringe vet, what’s the benefit to doing a fringe tour.

RP: RCSG has toured to six other fringes throughout Canada and the US: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Victoria, New York City, Stratford & London – this year was particularly exciting because we got a lot of love from CBC and Audience Choice in New York City!

We couldn’t be happier to finally perform it in our hometown! That was one of our initial goals! And what better place to perform it then in the Annex, one of Toronto’s fantastic indie coffee hubs!  We are thrilled to be performing in The Annex Theatre, one of the two theatres at the Randolph Academy of Performing Arts – just behind the infamous fringe tent!

We really hope Toronto Fringe audiences like the show!  It’s something our creative team is proud of. We have dramaturged the show with the wonderful Canadian playwright and author Ron Fromstein and are excited to see where the “updated” version of the show will take us.  So far this summer we are touring to Saskatoon, Victoria, Seattle and New Orleans!  And we have been offered a spot in a solo festival in New York City for summer 2015!

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl playwright & performer: Rebecca Perry as Joanie Little. Photo Credit: Bryan Zilyuk

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl playwright & performer: Rebecca Perry as Joanie Little. Photo Credit: Bryan Zilyuk

I’d say the benefits of doing a fringe tour are endless, you develop a Fringe touring family, lifelong friendships are forged and you start to develop a relationship with each city. You get to know the fringe staff, the media, the volunteers and what makes each city and fringe festival so special and original.

HS: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far touring your show to various fringe festivals?

RP: Always, always show your tech team some love. Holy cow do they have a crazy job!

HS: If you could give a new fringer or someone who is considering doing a fringe tour one piece of advice, what would it be?

RP: Be as organized as possible aka: plan in advance! The biggest thing is being ready before everyone else is. Get all your posters up and postcards out, be the person to flyer the first day of lines, know where every venue is and be a social butterfly.

HS: Why do you think festivals like the Toronto Fringe, and the Fringe festivals around Canada and the world, are so important? 

RP: I’ve seen some of the most ground breaking, heart-wrenching and fascinating theatre at the Fringe. It’s no wonder some filmmakers and fringe performers are finally making a documentary about it (shout outs to Nancy Kenny, Natalie, Cory and the rest of the “On The Fringe” documentary crew!) I know Fringe gets a bad rap for having “weird” or “inaccessible theatre” but honestly that just sounds like pretentious theatre-goers trying to pigeonhole the fringe into a certain category. For every “bad” show there are 15 amazing ones. I’ve seen so many mediums of theatre excel at Fringe festivals. I think that is the only way certain forms of theatre can exist what with the declining audiences of theatre these days. For some reason the Fringe just gets everyone out!

HS: If you could entice someone in 5-10 words to come see your show, what would they be?

RP: Challenge accepted!  I’ll make a little 10 word equation:

Hilarious (caffeinated) situations + indie music = my love letter to Toronto.

Short & Sweet Questions:

Favourite Coffee place in Toronto: Abbott of Parkdale

Go-to Fringe drink in the tents: CIDER!!!

What inspires you as an artist? When other artists around me are so brave. It inspires me to put my heart on the table like they do.

What’s your favourite thing about the Toronto theatre scene? That the indie scene is just as alive and kicking as the established groups.

What’s your artistic mantra?/Best advice you’ve ever gotten. “You won’t know until you try”

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

Written and Performed by Rebecca Perry as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

RHCSG_FB_Timeline

Where - The Annex Theatre

When - July 3rd-13th, 2014
Thursday, July 3 – 7:00pm
Saturday, July 5 – 11:00pm
Monday, July 7 – 1:30pm
Wednesday, July 9 – 7:30pm
Friday, July 11 – 5:45pm
Saturday, July 12 – 12:30pm
Sunday, July 13 – 4:00pm

How can people connect with you online

www.redheadedcsg.com

instagram: @redheaded_coffeeshop_girl

twitter: @redheaded_csg

tumblr: http://coffeeshopgirl21.tumblr.com

facebook: Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

bandcamp: www.redheadedcsg.bandcamp.com

2014 Fringe Preview – Valkyrie – Rarely Pure Theatre

by Bailey Green

Sex, violence and theatre create a wicked combination. Rarely Pure Theatre presents Valkyrie, a new work by Thomas McKechnie that promises to “walk a fine line between agony and ecstasy” (says stage manager and RPT member Christina Bryson). In Norse mythology, Valkyries were immortal female warriors that chose who lived and died on the battlefield. These Valkyries are on a different mission, in a different time and sans immortality. Bradley and Erin (played by Monique Renaud and Tara Koehler) have both undergone very scarring experiences with men. They take it upon themselves to begin a Valkyrie quest to deliver justice to other men who have caused trauma to women. But this night is different. They bring a victim back to their lair. To find out what happens after that, you’ll have to see the show.

Artistic director (and the third member of the Valkyrie cast) Spencer Robson explains more about what is at the core of the piece, “it deals with spousal abuse and with sexism in multiple ways. The most interesting part about this piece, for me, is that the characters are far from heroic. You want to be able to root for them but, though every character might be justified in their actions, they are still bad people. It will be jarring for the audience. There’s justice but it isn’t what you want or expect.”

Valkyrie was born back in February of this year when the members of Rarely Pure (Spencer, Monique and Christina) met with Soulpepper Academy playwright Thomas McKechnie. “We really wanted to do an original piece at Fringe this year. Thomas saw our production of As You Like It and we had a meeting after. We asked if he would be interested in writing for us and he was,” Spencer says. “After that we bounced some ideas off him. He asked us what sort of play we would be interested in, what the traits of the actors were. Eight days later he had the first draft.” What followed were months of workshops and readings. The show’s veteran director Bruce Gooch is also a playwright, so his professional eye helped search the script for adjustments. “Bruce, and Tara who is also a playwright, aren’t afraid to stop and ask questions about the script, which is very new for me. I’m used to working with a more “finished” product,” says Spencer.

Planning has been key to finding balance in this process, especially for Robson as he juggles the roles of co-producer, artistic director and actor. “It sounds like a nightmare every time I say it out loud,” Spencer laughs, “but working with my friends who I trust and respect has really made this show possible.” He also says that taking on different roles on the production side has helped him as a working actor in the industry. “Now when I’m working for someone else, whether a theatre company or on a film set, I understand how difficult the production side is. So now I know that while I may not always understand what is going on or why a decision is made, I know that it isn’t my job to. They [the producers] spent time mulling over that decision, I just wasn’t part of their process.” Spencer continues, “I can better understand where people are coming from. It’s helped me lower my stress levels and just be immediately more comfortable.”

Rarely Pure Theatre was founded in the winter of 2012/2013 with its inaugural production “Until Our Paths Cross Again,” which was written, produced and directed by Monique Renaud. “The fact that Mo did that all on her own just really made me want to jump on board,” Spencer says of the company’s beginnings. Robson, Monique Renaud and Christina Bryson formed the company. The name comes from an Oscar Wilde quote, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Now almost two years later, the company has several productions under their belt including, The Pillowman and As You Like It. As a new company their mandate isn’t yet set in stone. They are still open to experimenting as the company collaborates with new artists, like National Theatre School graduate Tara Koehler. The company is passionate about theatre and exploring work that excites them as artists. Spencer says that the commitment to each project comes naturally, “we get to choose what we want to do, the people we want to work with, the plays and themes we want to work on.” The company has sights for the future as well, determining what show, or show(s), they want to do in the fall. Another priority is the re-definition of roles within the company and investing in a better website.

But for now they’re immersed in Valkyrie, facing the powerful and dark piece head-on as opening night approaches.

Valkyrie

by Thomas McKechnie, presented by Rarely Pure Theatre as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival

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Where: Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgeman Ave, Toronto)

When: July 2-13th, 2014

July 2nd: 10:30pm

July 5th: 8:45pm

July 8th: 7pm

July 9th: 5:15pm

July 10th: 12:00pm

July 12th: 3:30pm

July 13th: 12:00pm

Tickets: $10 at the door, OR you can order online: www.fringetoronto.com as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival

 

2014 Fringe Preview – Three Men in a Boat – Pea Green Theatre Group

Interview by Charlotte Cattell

On a warm Friday afternoon I entered a very warm rehearsal hall. But even in the stifling heat I entered a room of extremely happy and exceedingly warm-hearted artists. Having just completed a run, this generous team agreed to sit down with me and talk a little bit about their upcoming production in the Fringe, Three men in a Boat. I had the privilege of speaking with Adaptor: Mark Brownell, Director: Sue Miner, Stage Manager: Hilary Unger, and the Cast members including: Scott Garland, Matt Pilipiak, and Victor Pokinko.

Charlotte: Sue, tell me a little bit about the show. How did this group and project come together?

Sue: Well, the show is Mark’s adaptation of an old book by Jerome K. Jerome. The book was published in 1889, and it’s known all over the world, it’s a very very famous book. There have been a lot of different interpretations, but this story actually came into Mark and my life years and years ago. We actually… well, he’s been wanting to do a play on it since the nineties, hey?

Mark: (Nodding yes.)

Sue: We’ve done the Fringe for a very long time, the Pea Green Group, and Mark was actually a theatre history teacher of both Scott and Matt. So, he said, let’s do “Three Men” with these guys, and I had just worked with Victor. So this is how we all came together.

Mark: We got too old to do it ourselves, we needed some young bodies.

Charlotte: And Mark, what drew you initially to this piece?

Mark: It has a really strange lasting appeal because it’s never been out of print. And the reason is, I think, is because bad camping experiences are kind of universal and eternal, and Canadians understand that really well. That’s why it goes well in Canada. It just never falls out of fashion. This story has a freshness to it, even though it’s Victorian and the language is very old fashioned, for some reason it strikes a chord with us to this day.

Sue: And also, the fact that these three guys are stressed out and have to get away from it all. And we think it’s new to us. You know, it’s like, I have to get off Facebook, I have to get away, but these guys are feeling the same things that we do and they have to get away. So that’s what they try to do.

Charlotte: How has the overall rehearsal process been?

Matt: It’s been great! It’s been a whirlwind. This is our day nine of twelve, but it’s great because, although it’s a short amount of time, it’s the only thing we’ve been focusing on and we’ve been able to constantly live in this world for the last week and a half. It’s been a lot all at once. Sweaty and fun, but it’s been really good.

Scott: The virtue of such a shortened intense rehearsal process is that we as actors are given a chance to practice efficiency in process. We love playing, we still play in the room. However, this has been a wonderful opportunity to show up, do your job, and then have fun doing it. I wish we had more time, but with the time we’ve been given it’s one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had, and that’s due also in part to the professionalism of the actors and the trust of our wonderful director and the wonderful material to play with. And also, Mark has made cuts throughout to make it even more efficient. There’s something very refreshing about being able to zero in and harness the core of those entertaining bits.

Mark: It is a new script so we are cutting and chopping away. Putting stuff in to make it work.

Charlotte: Has the pressure of a short rehearsal process caused you to make rash decisions in terms of cutting or changing scenes in the script?

Mark: I wouldn’t say rash but we are well aware of the pace. The fact that it’s a journey, it has to be paced well. You can’t just have frantic action. You need the little nooks and crannies where they have pauses so the audience can take a breath as well. It’s quite a different experience were we to take it on further, which is of course what we want to do, but we’d have to expand it into ninety minutes and two acts and then the pace would be quite different.

Scott: Also, the minimalism of props and sets, the world is very much created mostly through our three combined efforts.

Matt: We have a stool, a chair, a stuffed dog and a banjolele. That’s it! And somehow we take the audience on an entire journey down the river.

Victor: I think what Scott said was bang on. The fact that we can play and that we can find play because there is a certain level of chemistry between me and these two that I can kind of harness and tap into and work off of. I think the reason we are able to get as much work done as we are is simply because the chemistry is flying constantly. And even if one of us is having an off day or an off run the other two are very ready to pull up and work a little harder to get things rolling.

Matt: Yes, even though I narrate a majority of the piece, it is impossible without the three. You need three to carry the story and you can’t have any part of the story happen without one of them.

three men

Charlotte: And Mark, as the writer, are you seeing what you expected to see while you were creating the piece?

Mark: Yes absolutely. I mean, I wrote the original text so long ago, that I obviously had three other people in mind, but when we reopened the text and had a look at it again I knew I wanted three very distinctive actors that stand out individually but can come together. And that’s the unique thing about these guys. They fit like a glove, from day one. They’re still close to their theatre school training so they haven’t gotten lazy like me. You know, you get far enough away from school that you lose that kind of edge, that sharpness and these guys have it in spades. I’m exceedingly happy with these guys.

Charlotte: I noticed that Rigzin Tute is noted as being in charge of music. Was the music created specifically for this piece?

Matt: Rigzin, who is the Music Director of this piece, didn’t write the music but he took an old song, it’s called the Eton Boating Song, and he arranged it into an a-cappella, three part harmony, barber shop sort of thing. That we use as a motif throughout the journey.

Scott: Would you like to hear the song?

Charlotte: Absolutely!

Victor: Do you have the pitch pipe?

Matt: Yeah!

Matt proceeds to blow into the pitch pipe. All of the gentlemen hum, and Matt counts them in with a rigorous and British “1,2,3,1,2,3”. They proceed to serenade me with one verse of an old fashioned and very upbeat song that put me right into their world and onto the boat with them.

Charlotte: Wow! That was so amazing thank you! It’s like a free concert! In the 1800s! Even from that I can get a sense of that chemistry you all spoke of earlier, which leads me to my next question. Sue, how has it been to take on this project with just a three person cast?

Sue: Three’s the perfect cast! Three is the perfect amount of people in a show because a one person show that’s a whole different animal, and two people you feel like you’ll be stuck with these two people, but three you’re never bored! Some of them sort of play other characters too and it’s so lovely.

Charlotte: And how has it been for you guys? How has it established the relationship dynamic between the characters?

Scott: To echo Victor, it’s wonderful to be in rehearsal with a cohesive unit. But the characters in the script are done in a way that each one is different enough to be interesting on their own but they’re similar enough that when they’re together they act as a unit. It’s three pillars holding up a show and it’s the perfect balance.

Victor: When you’re blitzing into a Fringe, if you have a ten person cast, the chance of you getting to know nine other people is difficult. If you have a two person cast it’s very easy to get sick of them. But with three it becomes a nice dynamic.

Matt: You have the dynamic of each individual. Then you have the relationship between two and the relationship between the other two, and finally all three together. So then there are a lot of different microcosms, and all of that you can kind of rest on.

Charlotte: What has been your favourite thing to rehearse for this show?

Victor: I don’t want to give too much away, but we have a spectacular pineapple war. And that is my favourite part.

Matt: We go to war with a tin of pineapple. Umm…

Scott: It’s…It’s intense.

Victor: Possibly the most intense thing I’ve ever done.

Matt: Uh, yeah actually, I think that would have to be my favourite bit too.

Scott: Yeah, it’s unanimous. I love that sequence so much.

Charlotte: Kind of a silly question, what would you say, for each of you, is your character’s favourite and least favourite trait about your two counter parts?

Victor: Oh God!

Scott: There’s so many!

Mark: All they do is complain about each other.

Victor: I think Jay (Matt Pilipiak) takes things too personally and I think Harris (Scott Garland) drinks too much. What I like about Harris is that he always makes me laugh, always, always, always. And, what I like about Jay is that he is so poised and so elegant. He’s so idealistic. The beautiful things in the world, he just wants to grab them and put them into his philosophical brain and muse and muse.

Matt: I like that George (Victor Pokinko) has all these facts. He’s a very factual man, regardless of whether or not they are correct facts. I go to him for the facts. He’s like Wikipedia before it existed. But I don’t like when he tries to steal my spotlight. That hurts my feelings. I like what a wild card Harris is, that I never know what he’s going to do. I find that very entertaining. And I don’t like that he drinks.

Scott: I like that George is very willing to be my partner in crime for anything. Let’s go swimming! Okay! I like that Jay clearly holds us as part of his team. He’s very selfless in that way, very loyal and I appreciate that. What I don’t like about George is that he thinks he can play the banjolele. You cannot play the banjolele. And what I don’t like about Jay is he’s less willing to do something stupid with me.

Charlotte: Any final thoughts?

Sue: I’m really excited to share it with an audience because I sit here and I am grinning from ear to ear watching it. It’s so much fun and it’s going to be great to see it in that space because the Annex has that wood. In fact we’ve incorporated the wood of the theatre into the play. And our little set such as it is matches the theatre so it’s just going to be really wonderful to be there. And the thing that always blows me away is watching them, and I know how it goes, but to see them travel so far and always wherever they are I’m there. If they’re sitting out on a grassy bank looking up at the stars, I’m there. If they’re in the middle of a busy walk, if they’re in a thunder storm, I’m there. I think that’s really special.

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I for one cannot wait to be charmed by this cast and its production team once again during the Fringe. Bon voyage, see you on the waters!

 

Three Men in a Boat

Presented by Pea Green Theatre Group as part of The Toronto Fringe

Three Men in a Boat Cast from left to right: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, Scott Garland

Three Men in a Boat Cast from left to right: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, Scott Garland

Directed by: Sue Miner

Original Story by: Jerome K. Jerome

Adapted by: Mark Brownell

Musical Arrangement by: Rigzin Tute

Period Costumes by: Nina Okens

Stage Managed by: Hilary Unger

Starring: Victor Pokinko, Matt Pilipiak, and Scott Garland

Where?  The Annex Theatre (730 Bathurst Street)

When?  July 2-13
July 02 at 6:30pm

July 04 at 1:15pm

July 06 at 4:00pm

July 09 at 9:15pm

July 10 at 11:00pm

July 12 at 7:30pm

July 13 at 12:00pm

Tickets: Can be purchased via http://fringetix.ca/ or by calling 416-966-1062

And for further information on the Pea Green Theatre Group you can visit their website at: peagreentheatre.com

Trailer:

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