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Posts tagged ‘Brendan Healy’

Artist Profile: Bilal Baig, Playwright

Interview by Hallie Seline.

It is an absolute pleasure to feature playwright Bilal Baig, chatting about what inspires him as an artist, the development of his current piece Acha Bacha, on stage this month with Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and on writing “the story you need to tell”.

HS: What inspired Acha Bacha and how did the piece develop?

Bilal Baig: I was sexually assaulted when I was seventeen. One of the first things that was irrevocably changed after my assault was my relationship with my mother. I began to think: I’m queer, I’m not very religious, I like to fuck with gender sometimes and now I’m a survivor of sexual assault – will my mother EVER think I’m good?

I sat on this thought for about a year before I took a playwriting class with Judith Thompson at the University of Guelph and under her guidance, the first draft of the play exploded out of me in a few weeks in April 2013. That summer, I was connected to Damien Atkins, who worked as a dramaturge on the play (and is still a current mentor in my life). Through the Paprika Festival‘s playwright residency program, I met, worked with and fell in love with Djanet Sears, which resulted in an excerpt sharing of the play at the festival in April 2014, where Andy McKim was present. From that point on in the play’s developmental journey, I worked predominantly with Andy, Jiv Parasram and Brendan Healy as dramaturges.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

HS: I am very excited about the team working on the show. What has it been like working with these artists bringing your show to life?

BB: I am very excited about this group of artists coming together as well! There has been so much love in the room and a fiercely deep commitment to understanding the story and honoring it with such care, curiosity and empathy. I am in sincere awe of all the artists I get to work and play with every day throughout this process! So much love.

HS: What are you most looking forward to about sharing this show with audiences now?

BB: I’m really curious about what the conversations around power, sex and shame will be surrounding this play.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

HS: I know that you’ve both developed work with the Paprika Festival and worked with them. What has been the impact of this outlet on your growth as an artist?

BB: Paprika has been instrumental in my growth as an artist. It was a playground for me (for five years!) to explore my artistic obsessions and learn from what it feels like to put your work out there when it’s not ‘ready’. Artists who I met through Paprika five years ago have become friends I collaborate with today.

HS: What is best piece of advice you’ve received either in life or in art?

BB: “Write the story you need to tell”. That was actually the prompt given by Judith, which lead to the first draft of Acha Bacha. I think I use this advice in my life as well!

HS: What inspires you?

BB: I’m inspired by genderqueer Indigenous, black, people of colour living their truth. I feel like my art is probably inspired by shitty events happening in the world that devastate/confuse/terrify/arouse me to the point where I can’t talk about it anymore and I must write it.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

Rapid Fire Questions:

What are you watching right now? America’s Next Top Model.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? Fiji or New Zealand. Or Vancouver.

Favourite food: Mom’s chicken fried rice or biryani. Or pizza.

What other show are you most looking forward to this year? Trying everything in my power to catch Calpurnia before it closes. Looking forward to Prairie Nurse at Factory Theatre.

Current mantra or goal for yourself as an artist this year: You’re allowed to feel ambivalent about your work and this career you are pursuing. That is okay.

Acha Bacha

Who:
Co-Produced by Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Written by: Bilal Baig
Directed by: Brendan Healy
Featuring: Shelly Antony, Qasim Khan, Omar Alex Khan, Matt Nethersole,
and Ellora Patnaik
Set and Costume Design by: Joanna Yu
Lighting by: C.J Astronomo
Sound Design and Music by Richard Feren
Stage managed by Kat Chin

What:
For years Zaya has balanced his relationships with his religion and his queer identity. But as secrets from the past reveal themselves, and crisis strikes his family, he is torn between loyalties, culture, and time. Written by Bilal Baig, and directed by Brendan Healy, Acha Bacha boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora. The show uses both English and Urdu to tell a story about the way we love, the way we are loved, and how sometimes love is not enough.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When:
February 1-18, 2018

Tickets:
artsboxoffice.ca

Connect:
@beyondwallsTPM
@buddiesTO
#AchaBachaTO

Full Dark by Sharron Matthews at the 36th annual Rhubarb Festival

by Bailey Green

I saw Sharron Matthews perform cabaret for the first time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2011. Her incredible vocals, dynamite stage presence and the way she reached out to her audience completely captivated me. About two years ago, when Sharron began her artists residency at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, I witnessed the first incarnations of her new show, Full Dark. Full Dark had a different, gritty feel, and the piece dealt with themes of fear, loneliness and grief. Now, after several workshops and performances, Sharron is bringing Full Dark to the Chamber at Buddies for the Rhubarb Festival.

Sharron originally workshopped Full Dark twice before doing a full run at Sheridan College in the fall of 2013. After the Sheridan run, Sharron wasn’t sure she could return to the project. The subject matter had weighed heavily on her and writing the show, which had turned into more of a book show, had lost its joy. She sat down with Brendan Healy (Artistic Director of Buddies) for a long talk. Brendan suggested that Sharron bring in a director and a dramaturge. “I’d always been in charge of my own voice,” Sharron remembers, “but I’d thought about it. The distance [from the project], it helped me discover news things and be brave.”

photo by Mike Bickerton

Photos by Mike Bickerton

Sharron had seen The Gay Heritage Project in early winter of 2013 and had admired it for being moving and exciting work. Specifically she was drawn to how the creators, Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn & Andrew Kushnir, married storytelling and music. She connected with Andrew Kushnir and they set up a pair of three day workshops in March and October 2014 (attended by Sharron, Andrew, Brendan, with musical director Steve Thomas joining for the second one.) The workshops went well and Andrew Kushnir became the director and dramaturge of Full Dark at Rhubarb.

On working with Andrew, Sharron praises his intuitive nature as a dramaturge and his ability to stand even farther outside as a director to decide what serves the piece best. “Andrew sees what I’m doing and helps me find ways to get there when I’m not sure,” Sharron says, “I’m not giving away the steering wheel, someone’s helping me drive.” Cabaret is a meeting of minds, between performer/writer, director, dramaturge, musical director and musicians. Sharron raves of her team which includes Jason Chesworth on guitar and mandolin and Bob DiSalle on percussion. Musical director Steve Thomas has been her go-to chief arranger for many years and “is a really safe person to have on a trip like this.” Steve Thomas has a conflict with the run at Rhubarb, so stepping in to play piano is Wayne Gwillim.

As a constantly evolving artist, Sharron continues to push the her own boundaries as a cabaret artist. Earlier last year, she performed a Prince-themed cabaret at the Global Cabaret Festival at Soulpepper. And this past January, Sharron spent a month in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico hustling to promote her shows by day and performing two separate cabarets (made up of “previously loved material”) by night.

“I wanted to find new ways to tell a story, in cabaret,” Sharron says of her residency at Buddies. “For a long time I did the kind of ‘cabaret way’, essentially a lot of comedy so then I felt I’d earned myself a ballad. Now I want to tell deeper stories in the same format.” Of the process of rehearsing and creating a fresh production out of Full Dark, Sharron says “It’s very exciting and fresh and immediate. I get so excited about coming to work every day. I haven’t felt like that since I did Les Mis when I was 21.”

When asked about Rhubarb, Sharron expresses her excitement about a festival that celebrates pieces that are in transit, in action, in progress. Work that pushes boundaries and stories that are unique to the artists who tell them. As for the moment that Sharron looks forward to the most during Full Dark, she says it is right at the end. It’s a new mash up of “XO” by Beyoncé and “Glitter in the Air” by P!nk. “It’s a gift to myself because it’s right at the end. And I know it’s there,” Sharron says, “It’s a joyous song.”

Sharron Matthews: Full Dark

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What happens when Canada’s best cabaret performer assembles a three piece band and takes a walk on the scarier side of the street? Full Dark expands Sharron Matthew’s signature style to delve into the darker sides of storytelling – about growing up fatherless, about being bullied, about sexuality and danger, the unacceptable, and the unexplained.

When: February 18-20 at 10:00pm

Where: In the Chamber at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Artists: creator / performer Sharron Matthews | director / dramaturge Andrew Kushnir | musical director / arranger Steve Thomas | guitar / mandolin Jason Chesworth | percussion Bob DiSalle

Tickets: included in your $20 Evening Pass

Full Dark is being developed by Sharron Matthews as part of Buddies’ Artist Residency Program