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Philip Ridleys “Mercury Fur” Gets Toronto Premiere – A Chat with Director Will King

Interview by Hallie Seline

HS: Could you tell me a bit about the show? 

Will King: Absolutely! Mercury Fur follows two brothers who survive in a lawless city by fulfilling the dark and vivid fantasies of their clients. Language is degrading, memories are disappearing, and as the population becomes increasingly dependant on mind altering butterflies, their desperate need to connect with each other is intensified. It’s provocative and unapologetic, but at its core this is a show about what you would do to protect the person you love.

HS: What inspired you to do this show in Toronto right now? 

WK: I’ve been a fan of Philip Ridley’s work for a long time, and once I realized that there’s never been a Canadian production of this play I knew we needed to bring it to Toronto. It has an incredible cast of characters, and I’m consistently impressed by Ridley’s ability to write three dimensional parts for young actors. I also think Mercury Fur challenges the audience to experience theatre in a new way. It weaves together horror, drama, and comedy into a shot of adrenaline which leaves you wanting more. I’ve never read or experienced anything quite like it, and I feel like the strength of the writing allowed us to bring together a pretty incredible cast and crew.

HS: What has been the most surprising discovery you have made while working on Mercury Fur?

WK: The humour. Mercury Fur can be wickedly funny. We are constantly finding joy in this bleak world they live in and although there’s plenty of heavy subject matter, Ridley has created a solid polarity of comedy to keep things rolling.

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HS: What inspires you as artists?

WK: At the moment I’m quite fascinated by Fantastic Realism. Through taking characters which are grounded and believable, and placing them in a heightened, magical, or supernatural environment I find we are able to expand the style and size of our world without compromising the given circumstances or truth of the characters.

For example, in Mercury Fur, every character has been affected by the outbreak of butterflies. Whether they sell them, consume them, reject them, or become hopelessly addicted to the power of their fantasy, the existence of these butterflies creates an immediate bond between the characters. 

Seven Siblings Theatre is also focused on utilizing the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique. So when I see a piece with strong shifts in atmosphere, an even ensemble, and characters that are heightened enough to be in a constant state of play I get excited. Mercury Fur goes hand-in-hand with my style and our company values, and I’m very proud of the people who are helping to make this possible. Their commitment to our psychophysical exploration was thrilling to watch, and the detail and nuance in their performance is the result of their engagement throughout our rehearsal process.

HS: If you could pitch this show to your audience in five to ten words, what would they be?

WK: Judith Thompson meets Quentin Tarantino. A party ensues.

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HS: What song or soundtrack should we listen to before coming to see the show? 

WK: As a small homage to the culture in which the play was written we’ve been digging into the soundscape of East London’s electronic music scene. I would recommend looking into Burial, Four Tet, Phaeleh, and SBTRKT. We’ve also been building a deep and dark sound palette, so Gesaffelstein seems appropriate to me as a pre-show prep. For the exact tone of our play, check out our sound designer’s work in his new self-titled Holloh E.P.

Lastly, I’d recommend that you brush the dust off your Elvis collection, but to find out why you’ll have to come to the show!

Mercury Fur

Presented by Seven Siblings Theatre Co.
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Director: Will King
Assistant Director: Madryn McCabe
Lighting and Sound Design: Parker Nowlan
Stage Manager: Andreane Christiansen
Fight Choreography: Nathan Bitton
Fight Captain: Annemieke Wade
Set Design: Stephen King

Cast:
Elliot: Cameron Laurie
Darren: Andrew Markowiak
Naz: Adrian Beattie
Lola: Eric Rich
Spinx: Mishka Thébaud
Duchess: Annemieke Wade
Party Piece: Kenneth Collins
Party Guest: D. Gingerich

Where: Unit 102

When: Aug 27th to Sept 6th

Tickets & More Info: http://sevensiblingstheatre.ca/mercury-fur/ 

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sevensiblingstheatreco
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@SevenSiblingsCo 

FWYC Campaignhttps://fwyc.ca/campaigns/mercury-fur 

Our Favourite SummerWorks 2014 Moments

It’s that time again! Check out Our Favourite SummerWorks 2014 Moments, in no particular order, to see what performances we’ve particularly dug so far and left us feeling all of the feels. Some we’d love to see developed further and come back for a remount, others you still have a chance to catch to finish off your SummerWorks Festival weekend with a bang.

Is there a performance we’ve missed that really struck a chord with you that we should check out? Let us know via Facebook or Twitter and we’ll be sure to check it out as our final #SW14 shows! Enjoy the last weekend of SummerWorks, Friends!

Unknown Soldier – The Whole Package

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Presented by lemonTree creations, Architect Theatre

Written by Jonathan Seinen,
Directed by Jonathan Seinen,
Performed by Jeff Ho,
Dramaturgy by Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman,
Set and Costume Design by Jung-Hye Kim,
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon,
Sound Design by Thomas Ryder Payne,
Stage Managed by Marc Benson,
Produced by Georgina Beaty, Indrit Kasapi

“A fictionalized drama, Unknown Soldier is inspired by the actions of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, a US Army Private who leaked classified documents to Wikileaks and was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison.”

Thought-provoking, funny and beautifully styled, this sharp script by Jonathan Seinen and captivating performance by Jeff Ho has definitely been a highlight of this festival. We’re hoping for a remount.

When: Sat Aug 16 5:00 PM

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace

Recurring John – Tugged on Our Heart Strings

 

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Recurring John takes you through the life and times of John, a man whom you never meet, but who has impacted the lives of those around him. It is a contemporary song cycle that inspires you to be true yourself in every stage of your life. A story that moves you to take a critical look at your own world and ask, “am I living this life fully? Kevin Wong created an incredibly moving piece that brought the whole house into tears. Although this musical works had a very limited run, there will definitely be a future for this show.

Written by Kevin Wong,
Composed by Kevin Wong,
Directed by Jeff Madden,
Music Directed by Donavon LeNabat,
Produced by Seren Brooke Lannon,
Performed by Natasha Buckeridge, Kevin Dennis, Arlene Duncan, Alexis Gordon, Chris Tsujiuchi, Jennifer Walls, Paula Wolfson

Where: Artscape Youngplace

Trace – Part of the Piece

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Trace is a mesmerizing, haunting and unique piece of theatre. The two performers, Martin Julien and Michelle Polak, are sensitive, grounded and generous as they weave in and out of storytelling and audience interaction. Intimate and captivating, the performance allows you to reflect on your own memory and engage in the memory of others. Using music, movement and a collection of memoirs, Trace forces us to confront our own ghosts.

Presented by Vertical City, A Theatre Gargantua SideStream Cycle

Directed and Co-Created by Bruce Barton
Performed and Co-Created by Martin Julien and Michelle Polak
Dramaturgy by Pil Hansen

Where: Artscape Youngplace at 180 Shaw Street.

When: Saturday August 16, 8:00pm
Saturday August 16, 10:00pm
Sunday August 17, 8:00pm

Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales – Remembering Magic 

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“If you’re looking for a fairy tale, fable, or thinly-veiled metaphor to make you feel better about how life works sometimes…this isn’t it. But let’s pile into a blanket fort and get through it together.”

The blanket fort alone was the most magical, comforting, wonderful part of our SummerWorks. Add innovative, beautiful puppetry, charming musical transitions and smile-inducing and at times heart-breaking stories and you’ve got a truly special experience. Go early to secure a ticket as they are sold out in pre-sale tickets for the last two shows. 

Presented by Caterwaul Theatre

Written by Erin Fleck,
Directed by Maya Rabinovitch,
Puppet Design by Sarah Fairlie, Daniel Briere and Erin Fleck,
Video Art Direction by Sarah Fairlie,
Musical Direction by Brad Casey,
Set Design by Roxanne Ignatius,
Lighting Design by Pip Bradford,
Performed by Glyn Bowerman, Sascha Cole, Talia DelCogliano, Erin Fleck, Marcus Jamin, Jordi Mand, Michelle Urbano, Brian Webber

Where: Lower Ossington Theatre Studio

When: Saturday August 16, 6:00pm
Sunday August 17, 7:00pm

 

SummerWorks 2014 Artist Profile – Erin Fleck: Playwright, Performer, Puppeteer – Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Interview by Hallie Seline

Hallie Seline: Could you talk a bit about your show Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales playing now as part of the SummerWorks 2014 Juried Series and where you got the inspiration to write it?

Erin Fleck: Growing up, I remember my parents, grandparents and important adults in my life telling me fairy-tales, fables and other stories to teach me about the world. In many cases, they were lessons outlining morality, how to be a good person to others, or how to find my place in the world. Which, according to them, and me, was going to be something important, something for the history books. We all are the heroes of our own story, right?

I remember most of the stories told to me by my parents tending to frame life as a positive adventure, where things always work out in the end, even if the journey gets hard along the way. Good things happen to “good” people, and “bad” people get what’s coming to them… or at the very least they learn something and become better people.

But when you grow up, it becomes very apparent that this isn’t the case most of the time. Of course, there can be a lot of beautiful things to celebrate in life, but things don’t always work out, even for the nicest, most caring, well-intentioned people out there. And people who do evil things don’t always have to answer for them.

(And to add another level to that, ideas of what or who is “good” or “bad” are never that cut and dry.)

Life often throws you disappointments, unwanted responsibilities, lowered expectations, and in some cases, tragedies that you have to survive. I think this realization also coincides with an age where most people consider us too old to sit down, curl up and have someone read aloud to us from a book of treasured tales.

So, I started writing the Tales with that idea in mind. People who are trying to be heroes in their own stories, but end up having the heroism or that poignancy snatched away by circumstance. But I still wanted the telling of their stories to capture the magic and whimsy of the tales I loved as a kid. And also, I didn’t want to lose the sense of surviving those things, and keeping on, because we do that every day.

HS: You have quite the team of creative people working on it with you (sound designers, puppet makers, video artists etc.) Being the playwright, what surprised you the most while developing the show to its current version?

EF: Honestly, the amount of enthusiasm, passion and resourcefulness that all of the artists have, who’ve been involved with the development since the beginning. I love the show and the stories, but there was a part of me in the early stages that thought, who besides me is going to care about this whimsical and sad little world, that is actually a huge logistical undertaking? And to have so many talented people throw themselves into it has been overwhelming and wonderful.

We had Jordan [Tannahill] and Will [Ellis] at Videofag back in January (where we did the first workshop) saying “We will give you space, make this thing happen”. My director Maya [Rabinovitch] heard my ideas about a puppet show in a blanket fort and what I was trying to create as an experience with this show, and thought “Ya, let’s just go for it. We’ll deal with logistics later.” Our designer Roxanne Ignatius has been living with 100 yards of blankets for the last few months to build a tent big enough for the LOT Studio space. Sarah Fairlie, who runs Caterwaul with me, and is the puppet designer and main builder, has designed five puppet shows and a stop motion film in the last eight months. The puppeteers and narrators that have come on board, are all incredibly talented and busy actors and performers, and they’ve just taken whatever has been thrown at them, and given back insight into the stories that has been so helpful to me as the creator. And since she’s come on board, Pip [Bradford], our stage manager and technician, somehow managed to look at our five shows worth of puppets, a 25 x 30 foot tent, four projectors and a puppet screen and say “Why yes, we can get that ready in 25 minutes before curtain, no problem, Erin.”

Erin Fleck & Maya Rabimovitch Photo by: Juni Bimm

Erin Fleck & Sarah Fairlie. Photo by: Juni Bimm

HS: What are you most excited for the audience to experience with the show (We’re really excited about this blanket fort that you can watch in!)

EF: We opened on Thursday, so I’m cheating a little bit with this question. We’d just gotten the tent up and set up all of the inside seating and puppets, and I was waiting behind our shadow screen as the audience was let in. And all I could hear were people reacting to realizing that they were walking into a giant blanket fort built for them. They were pointing out details to each other, exploring the space, identifying knickknacks, wondering what everything was going to mean to the show they were about to see. Having that off the top of the show really sets the performance for me. We’re doing five different puppet shows in and around the audience. Sometimes you can see us as puppeteers and narrators and sometimes you can’t. Having the audience already curious, already engaging with the space, really sets the tone for how we want to engage them with the stories. It really is a “these stories are sad, but we’re all in this together” kind of environment for that 60 minutes.

HS: Why do you think festivals like SummerWorks are so important to the Toronto theatre scene?

EF: I’m a playwright who creates new work primarily, and I’m also a puppeteer. Having a festival that focuses on supporting artistic risk and innovation on stage, while encouraging their audiences to do the same, provides artists with a relatively safe space to create, develop and showcase their work. Those opportunities aren’t always so available with such a high level of exposure for that work.

HS: Best advice you’ve ever gotten.

EF: This was about being a writer:

No one cares about your work as much as you do. So make sure you’re doing it. People will invest in it, and you, only if you believe in it and put it out into the world for others to see.

HS: Favourite place in Toronto.

EF: Toronto Island. Hands down.

HS: Where do you look for inspiration?

EF: I write a lot from personal experience, but I’m also a pretty big history, literary, folklore nerd, so I find as a writer I’m often trying to weave those things together. It harkens back to the inspiration for the show really. It’s the attempt to find the epic in your own personal narrative.

HS: Tell us in five to ten words why you think someone should come see the show? 

EF: We’ll make you sad, but we’ll hold your hand through it.

HS: If the audience were to listen to a song or soundtrack before coming to see the show, what should it be?

EF: I’ve had a lot of music playing during the writing and building of this piece. (You need it when you are exacto-knifing bristol board for hours on end!) In fact, on our production blog I was tracking an “Unintentionally Depressing Soundtrack” If you’re interested, it’s here: erinmaefleck.tumblr.com

But in terms of a go-to for the writing of the Tales, I always came back to this:

Just Another Diamond Day – Vashti Bunyan

 

Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Written by Erin Fleck, Directed by Maya Rabinovitch presented by Caterwaul Theatre as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Festivalstatic.squarespace

Puppet Design by Sarah Fairlie and Erin Fleck
Video Art Direction by Sarah Fairlie
Musical Direction by Brad Casey
Set Design by Roxanne Ignatius
Lighting Design by Pip Bradford
Performed by Glyn Bowerman, Sascha Cole, Talia DelCogliano, Erin Fleck, Marcus Jamin, Jordi Mand, Michelle Urbano, Brian Webber

Where - The Lower Ossington Theatre Studio

When -Thursday August 7, 8:30pm
Saturday August 9, 8:00pm
Sunday August 10, 12:30pm
Monday August 11, 9:00pm
Wednesday August 13, 4:00pm
Thursday August 14, 10:00pm
Saturday August 16, 6:00pm
Sunday August 17, 7:00pm

Buy Tickets: tickets.ticketwise.ca/event/UnintentionallyDepressing

More about Caterwaul Theatre:

www.caterwaultheatre.com

Twitter: @catrwaule

 

2014 SummerWorks Preview – And Now The End

Interview by Brittany Kay

What started out as a classroom project became something “much bigger than anyone could have ever conceived.” A team of five artists spent more than a year creating a dramatic musical that is sure to be a must-see at this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival. I sat down with creators, Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst, and Jake Vanderham to discuss their upcoming show, And Now the End

Brittany: Talk to me about the show? What are some of the major themes or messages that come out of the story?

Drew: The show asks the question, “What would you do with the time you had left, if you knew how much it was?” A definite major theme, which we didn’t intend on having, was love. There’s also hope and survival, as you see these characters under this magnifying glass that is the end of the world and you just watch how they deal with it.

Emily: You never see the outside world. You only see the characters indoors referring to how the world is disintegrating, outside, how it’s completely falling apart. What you are actually seeing on stage, is the relationships between the characters contained away from that. You see how the world disintegrating has affected them and their relationships.

Drew: One of the primary questions that the play asks is “What is it that keeps us going? Why do we keep going?” One of the major answers that we found is each other. That’s why relationships and love became such a big part of the show.

Victoria: Another important question that it asks is, “What would we become at the end of the world? What would humanity become and also what is revealed about the people you thought you knew?”

Brittany: What was the spark that ignited the inspiration for the story?

Victoria: It started as a class project at Ryerson Theatre School. As a class we came to a consensus that we were going to go away and write something about the end of the world. We left with our separate ideas and came back to present. At the end of it all, there were five of us left and it just so happened that the five of us were all working on two characters each, aside from Drew and Zach who wrote their characters together.

Drew: It was also partly because of our creative performance teacher, Sheldon Rosen, who noticed that there was an unusually high amount of musical people in our class – not musical theatre people – but people who have an aptitude for music. He proposed the idea of trying to write a musical, which is not typically done at Ryerson. We’re an acting school. It’s not our main focus.

Zach: It certainly became that way!

Drew: You start with a book of course, and then the music… Yeah… It’s a musical!

Victoria: Is it? Did you know that yet? Do you need to write that down?

(Chuckles table round)

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Amir Haidar

Brittany: I mean having a strong foundation of a dramatic story with real characters underlining the music is such a positive feature and is sometimes missing in musical theatre.

Zach: Exactly. The fact that we’re all actors is something that’s really benefitted us in that way. We’ve been able to write for actors. Especially having great casts in the room and in every step of the process has been helpful because we can go away and think about what works and what doesn’t. Having been on stage, we know what’s helpful to them and hopefully we can write better scenes because of it.

Emily: When we were inviting people onto the project, they were presented with the book and the first decision, on whether they wanted to be part of it or not, was off of whether they connected to the book or not and then they heard the music and went “Oh My God, this is amazing!” As writers, it’s nice to know that the book is strong in its own right and is what in fact opened the doors for us.

Drew: Let me also toot Jake’s horn for a minute because we are blessed to have him with us. He is not only an incredible dramatic writer but also an incredible composer. Something really special about how the show was created was Jake’s involvement in the writing of the book and then shifting into the composing. All of the music comes directly from the page and directly from the characters that he knows so well.

Brittany: So much of this show is the music. Jake, as composer and lyricist, talk to me about the development of the music.

Jake: In order for the music to be effective, it has to come directly from the book, from the story and from the character’s dialogue. A lot of the lyrics are word for word some of the text that the characters say. What’s amazing, is how much of our speech and conversation is musical in its essence – it has music to it. When you can find those moments in the script and then fill it with more music, it makes it so affective. The music heightens the moment. It elevates the mood. It’s essentially a fast track to the heart.

Drew: What a quote.

Jake: Sometimes you don’t need words. Sometimes I can see the musical underscore hit the actor and open them up completely.

Brittany: So there has been a lot of development of this show. I just want to talk about the process that has gone into it.

Jake: So it started with a book. Once we knew we wanted to make it a musical (which was a choice that we knew all along) as the composer, I waited as long as I could for the book to come together. We knew we really wanted the book as a strong foundation. I took it and identified what places could be better expressed or heightened through music. Songs replaced text. There’s a lot of back and forth between that. Then we put it into other peoples’ hands and voices and it’s been very valuable having the actors that we’ve had in this process. With two different casts, we’ve been able to have a lot of voices and a lot of opinions and feedback…and so it’s been very…what’s the word…

Zach: Interesting?

(Table round laughter)

Jake: It’s been involved.

Victoria: There also came a point where we couldn’t finish it until we had bodies and actors to play these roles.

Drew: Not that it’s finished…

Victoria: No, it’s not finished by any means. We couldn’t really go any further until we had people there because… I don’t know… after working on a project for so long you get trapped in this voice that you’ve created in your head of these people, and it was so helpful to have other people come in and give a completely different take on what you’ve put on the page.

Jake: We brought on our director, Esther Jun during the workshop process that was the Ryerson New Voices Festival. And as dramaturge as well.

Zach: Esther has been instrumental. Before, when we were writing this, the five of us would just dramaturge each other, but that would take five hours. Having one person who became super familiar with the script and music was really beneficial. She was really a key player in the development of our show to where it is now.

Drew: Absolutely

Emily: Absolutely.

Victoria: She still is. We’re still doing rewrites as they come.

Jake: The average musical takes ten years of workshops and productions and the only way it gets better, is by doing it. We’ve been very fortunate in the stretch of six months to have had the opportunity to do the show twice.

Drew: What’s really special is that it came from the collective brain of five people and that has been really amazing to be part of, because it’s much bigger than any one of us could have conceived. I think that development goes back years and years because we all came from a really strong bond of friendship and years of knowing each other… bizarrely intimately.

Emily: Theatre school.

Drew: (Shrugs shoulders) Theatre School. Having all of that behind us, made it easier and in some ways harder for us to discover a collective vision.

Victoria: Having a diverse group of people working together has made for such unique voices because, naturally, we’re all five different people and there’s no way we could sound the same on paper.

Emily: Something that has been really special for me about this process, is that we’re in this absolutely wonderful position where we’re working with people like Tamara Bernier Evans and Troy Adams and Esther Jun. I just remember so much of this process was us between classes, sitting in the hallway, trading and editing scripts and sharing things whenever we could.

Photo Credit: David Leyes

Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

Brittany: To state the obvious, there are five of you. What were some of the challenges of working and creating with such a large group?

Drew: I don’t talk to Victoria anymore.

Drew: We all fight all the time.

Emily: It’s true!

Victoria: We’re all friends and we’re all friends still. We all know each other so well that when we get into an argument, we know it’s going to be okay.

Drew: It’s almost like family getting together at Christmas and your uncle is being an asshole and you all fight and say terrible things to each other.

Zach: And you’re sister’s drunk.

Drew: And someone needs to put her to bed. You’re at each other’s throats, but it’s all rooted in love. We fight all the time, but it’s always been in the interest of the project.

Zach: In the words of Drew, everyone’s been on Team Good Show.

Emily: We all love the project so much. We’re tied together by it.

Victoria: It’s what’s expected when you work with five people, but the project wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Brittany: What’s the future for And Now the End? Any further development?

Jake: Having a chance to workshop it without the pressure of a final product – without as much of a high stake deadline. It would be really lovely just to have another fantastic group of people getting together to hammer out the mechanics and see what’s not working. It is more complicated because it’s a musical – you’re telling the story in more than one way. We’ve been workshopping it and also mounting a show at the same time.

Brittany: How has it been being a part of SummerWorks?

Drew: It’s been a very fast maturation for us, from being in theatre school to entering the professional world. SummerWorks has been the craziest part of that because all of a sudden we’ve had this show we’ve been writing for two years, and we get into this festival, and realize that it’s too big for us right now and we need help. We’ve been fortunate to have our dream team of professional artists that we’ve looked up to for years jump aboard. What’s amazing about SummerWorks, is that the Toronto theatre community loves this festival and people of the highest caliber in Canadian theatre want to do shows in it.

Zach: It’s also been a wonderful learning experience for all of us getting into the producing side of things. A lot of this is still very new to us. Being able to work so closely with the creative team in a way that’s not acting, has been an incredible learning experience I would say for everyone. It’s helped us establish ourselves as emerging artists and what creating art, as artists, becomes.

Jake: It really is the Toronto theatre community that brought this to life. We all have poured our hearts and souls into it and countless hours. We’ve all made our sacrifices to go the extra mile for the show. That’s the wonderful thing about our theatre community, people are willing to make those sacrifices for theatre’s sake. No SummerWorks show has a Mirvish budget…it’s a lot of people making a lot of sacrifices and working extremely hard just to support it.

Emily: The professionals in the community have truly embraced and welcomed us. Everyone is just so eager and willing to help us with this project. It’s incredibly inspiring.

Brittany: What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing this show?

Zach: Tears. Tears everywhere.

Emily: I want people to feel like they need to live more fully. I want them to feel the pressure of time in some way and through that, kind of wake up and stop fucking around… if that’s what they’re doing… and really just try and be more present.

Victoria: I hope they leave asking the questions we have asked.

Drew: I hope they go home and hug somebody they love.

Zack: I just want them to cry a lot…and then want to see it six more times during the run (laughs). In all honesty good theatre makes me think. I would want someone to go away really examining and thinking, “what would I truly do?” A really incredible line that Jake wrote is, “What will our legacy be?” I want people to think “all the living that I’ve done, what does it amount to it and how can I know that I’ve made it worth while for myself and die knowingly.” It’s a huge question for someone to ask.

Emily: And who do you live for?

Jake: And now…the end.

And Now The End

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Photo Credit: David Leyes. Featured here: Ruth Goodwin

A NEW MUSICAL by Victoria Houser, Emily Nixon, Drew O’Hara, Zach Parkhurst and Jake Vanderham presented as part of the 2014 SummerWorks Festival

Directed by: Esther Jun

Cast: Troy Adams, Tamara Bernier Evans, Ruth Goodwin, Kaleigh Gorka, Amir Haidar, Zach Parkhurst, Hugh Ritchie, Paolo Santalucia, Jeff Yung

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

When: Thursday, August 7, 9:30 PM

Saturday, August 9, 5:00 PM

Monday, August 11, 4:30 PM

Wednesday, August 13, 9:30 PM

Friday, August 15, 7:00 PM

Saturday, August 16. 10:00 PM

Sunday, August 17, 5:00 PM

Website: andnowtheend.com

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.

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