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Posts tagged ‘Cabaret’

“Fempocalypse 2018” In Conversation with Lauren Wolanski on Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovator’s Unit’s Upcoming Event

Interview by Bailey Green

We had the pleasure of chatting with Lauren Wolanski, one of the artists in Nightwood Theatre’s 2017/18 Young Innovator’s Unit about their upcoming event, Fempocalypse 2018. We spoke about the importance of welcoming mentorship that challenges you, partnering with Sistering for their event, and the importance of “finding your people” and advocating for the value of your work.

(Interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Bailey Green: What was your first memory of Nightwood Theatre? do you remember a show you saw produced by Nightwood that stood out for you?

Lauren Wolanski: I was in university working on a project for my professional practice class. We were asked to get in contact with a theatre company that we admired and interview them (classic theatre school assignment, right?) Truthfully, I saw it as the perfect excuse to get in touch with women who I was, and still am, huge fans of. I was nervous as hell. But from the get-go the team at Nightwood proved to be incredibly approachable and generous with their time. Beth Brown spoke with me on the phone and answered all of my questions about the inner workings of the company, from their season selection to their emerging artist and community outreach.

Kelly Thorton also came to visit my class to do a workshop. I had the chance to work with her on a monologue I had prepared and I’ll never forget it—she was candid, honest, brazen and persistent. She was able to really challenge me while at the same time convince me that I was capable of more, which is something that’s rare to find in a mentor.

Asking for It, written by Ellie Moon and presented as a part of the Consent Event at Nightwood this past fall, completely blew my mind. Here was a young woman, no more than a few years older than me, doing a show that really spoke to what we needed to hear NOW. It covered all the things I’ve wanted to talk about, but never had the guts to. It was relevant and daring and deeply personal. It changed my perception about the possibilities for women on stage, and reminded me that audiences do in fact want to listen to our experiences as young women—that our perspectives are valuable and not to be overlooked.

BG: Tell me about your experience in the Nightwood Theatre’s Young Innovators Unit, what’s the process been like? How often have you met throughout the year and how is your time together spent? 

LW: The Nightwood Young Innovators Unit is a group of young emerging artists, ranging from producers to stage-managers and playwrights to actors, that are being trained by the team at Nightwood to be ambassadors for Canada’s National Women’s Theatre. After our first meet up, the staff at Nightwood asked each of us what our interests were so that they could notify us when any related opportunities arose. In this sense, it is a completely individualized program that lends itself to the particular skills you wish to nurture. So, that could mean that you get asked to help Kelly Read with applicants in the audition room for the Lawyer Show, or that you spend the day assisting in the Groundswell Festival, when the Write From The Hip artists share their work in front of an audience for the first time. The variety of opportunities they offer to us is so vast. And what’s best is that they’re always just an email away if we ever want to touch base and go for coffee.

We meet about once a month for workshops with different team members from the company to learn about the essential skills to running a theatre company. Some of the workshops focus on development, marketing, grant writing and more. Of course, we are also tasked with planning Fempocalypse, which is the event we are currently in the thick of preparing for. Nightwood has given us a space, tons of guidance in regards to curating and organizing this event—but they’ve pretty much given us the freedom to take the reins on this project. And when we hit little technical bumps, the company helps us get back on track. It’s our special project to navigate on our own, and I love that Nightwood is giving us total liberty to create this thing!

I also love that I feel like a valued artist at Nightwood. When I’m in the company’s presence, I never feel like I’m being schooled, per-se, even though I am in a sense. I don’t ever feel the pressure of being one of the youngest, or least experienced one in the room. I always feel accepted and encouraged by the team at Nightwood, and that feeling of true support is not always something you’re lucky enough to find in this industry.

BG: With part of the Young Innovator’s Unit focused on learning how to run a theatre company, what was one the most valuable insights or pieces of advice you received during your time in the unit?

LW: Kelly said something along the lines of, ‘yes, this is about making art but this is also a business’. We women have to be able to make a living off of the work we do. And I think that’s incredibly important to keep in mind. In order to do good work, we have to have the means to do it in the first place. So as much as we young dreamers like to believe that networking, marketing and funding aren’t as important as the art, and that passion alone is enough to fuel our careers, that’s not necessarily so.

Another piece of advice we got that I found of particular use was to find your people. Theatre is so much of a collaborative process, and it’s important to find the people who share a passion for telling the stories that you want to tell.

BG: Fempocalypse 2018 is coming up tomorrow on March 9th, how did the group decide or discover the quote that inspired the theme of this year’s cabaret? Courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own Michelle Obama

LW: It was really important to us that this be an uplifting night of celebration. It seemed appropriate then, that we choose a quote that would elicit a similar response. As much as we’re all frustrated, saddened, and frankly just pissed about the work that still needs to be done, we’re optimistic that bringing artists together to share words of hope will put the Toronto community on the right path this year. We want to celebrate how far we’ve come, and the amazing group of people we have brought together that will help lead the way into a better future. ARTISTS, lead the way!

BG: You have some incredible folks performing at the cabaret, could you give me a sneak preview of any of the acts?

LW: Yes yes yes! We’re SUPER excited to have such an amazing line up of female-identifying or gender non-binary artists this year. Up-and-coming Somali-Canadian writer Fatuma Adar will be sharing a musical piece that she wrote (Music by Fatuma and Alexa Belgrave) which we are SO looking forward to seeing. We’re also going to be screening Julianna Notten’s film Erins Guide to Kissing Girls. We also have Brefny Caribou, a Cree-Irish Canadian actor, creator, and writer, who will be performing a piece. Honestly, I want to list all of the artists we have because they’re all so darn amazing and talented and inspiring… but you’ll just have to wait! I can promise you however, that it will be a night full of diverse artists from all kinds of artistic disciplines—and that we are incredibly excited to be hosting all of them!

BG: The cabaret will raise money for Sistering, a local Toronto agency for at risk homeless or precariously housed women, can you tell me more about the work they do?

LW: As Canada’s only 24/7 women’s shelter, located right here in Toronto, Sistering has a lot of important work to do for the women in our community. Not only does Sistering warmly welcome any woman at any hour of the day with a meal, a place to sleep and clean clothing—Sistering focuses on providing women with the support they need to find jobs and suitable housing in Toronto. A doctor, mental health professional and counselor are available on a regular basis, and staff are at the ready to help any woman with resume and job application assistance. Sistering goes as far to offer women work experience on location in the kitchen and other in-house facilities. 

A few of us Young Innovators, Bryn Kennedy, Justine Christensen and Samantha Vu, had the chance to visit Sistering to speak with some of the hardworking staff, including Fund Development Associate Marian Lupu, to tell us more about the far-reaching initiatives and programs that Sistering takes on. First, we were taken to the Inspiration Studio: A space for the women to hone their artistic skills, whether it be beading or pottery, in regular workshops with artistic professionals. We had the chance to see some of the impressive, beautiful work that the women are making at Sistering on a daily basis, which then go on sale for purchase. Beyond the work that they are doing on-site, spending countless hours making approximately 10,4000 harm reduction kits per year and providing an array of recreational social gatherings, Sistering is also fighting for the rights of these women within the broader Toronto landscape. Sistering staff publically advocate for more harm reduction shelters, programing and greater funding for the opioid crisis in our local government and social action rallies.

We’re really excited to be hosting a Sistering staff member at the event so that our guests can experience learning more about Sistering first-hand. If people can’t make it to the event and would still like to get involved, we’re encouraging everyone to check out their volunteer opportunities here. If you’d like to honour a woman in your life while contributing to this incredible cause, you can also check out this page.

BG: What or who are you currently drawing inspiration from?

LW: SO MUCH. There is no denying that there has been a major shift this past year. A lot has happened that has made us stop, re-evaluate, and reconfigure the direction we’re heading in. People across the globe are no longer willing to stay silent. We get our inspiration from the galaxy of voices that ignite change. That includes the incredible artists we have invited to this event, and the powerful staff at Sistering who work endlessly to better the lives of our women. It is the presence and impact of these fierce, determined and unabashed people—their words, their songs, their art, their hearts and their actions—that have made this event such a pleasure and ease to produce.

We hope to see everyone there to celebrate how far we’ve come.

Fempocalypse 2018

Who: Nightwood Theatre’s 2017/2018 Young Innovators Unit cordially invites everyone to FEMPOCALYPSE 2018:

What: LET’S CELEBRATE. BECAUSE THERE’S A WHOLE LOT TO CELEBRATE.
International Women’s Day. Let’s hear it for our sisters, right?

A cabaret night that is jam-packed with performances from an array of female-identifying or gender non-conforming artists, covering a range of different viewpoints and experiences that respond to the following prompt: “Courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own” – Michelle Obama.

After an incredibly successful event last year, with over one thousand dollars in proceeds being raised for Native Women’s Association of Canada, Fempocalypse will return this year under the leadership of the this year’s Young Innovators.

FEATURING WORK FROM: Monica Garrido, Parmida Vand, Ansley Simpson, Mayumi Lashbrook and Lisa Emmons, Form Contemporary Dance Theatre, Belinda Corpuz, Brefny Caribou, Emma Houlahan, Athena Kaitlin Trinh, Fatuma Adar, yes the poet, Julianna Notten, Claren Grosz, Allison Price and Becky Johnson, and Gay Jesus.

When: Friday, March 9th starting at 8:00 p.m. Doors at 7:30pm

Where: Ernest Balmer Studio in the Distillery District.

Tickets: Pay-What-You-Can donation in support of SISTERING: a local, multi-service agency for at-risk, socially isolated women in Toronto who are homeless or precariously housed. A representative from the organization will be present at the event to tell you more about the amazing work that they do and how we can get involved. All proceeds from the night will be given to this fantastic organization that is changing the game for women across Toronto.

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2018 Next Stage Festival Profile: Leila Live!

Interview by Brittany Kay.

It’s easy to fall in love with Leila. She will have you giggling the second you meet her and will probably add herself into your contacts before you leave. If you haven’t seen her Formation video, you are missing out. I had the distinct privilege of talking to the Persian Princess herself about her show Leila Live! at The Next Stage Festival.

Brittany Kay: Who is Leila?

Leila: Hi there! My name is Leila and I am a real-life Persian Princess. I am originally from Tehran, Iran and have been performing my solo shows Love With Leila and A Very Leila Christmas across Canada (and one time in America before that disgusting monster became president) for the past three years. The critics have named me the ‘Persian Judy Garland’ but I self-identify as the ‘Persian Ariana Grande’ (as you will see in my show). People may also recognize me from my hit YouTube videos such as: The Fresh Queen of Tehran, My hijab brings all the boys to the yard, and my own take on Beyonce’s Formation.

My biggest dream—other than being a broadway star and having my own Netflix series—is to date Zac Efron. I think he is so talented, good looking and I believe we have a lot in common so we would be a really good match.

I have been quite active on Tinder lately – I am single and ready to mingle, looking for the right guy! No on has matched with me yet but I am staying optimistic and know that it will happen soon.

BK: What inspired you to create this story?

L: My newest show Leila Live! is my first venture into the world of CABARET! I wanted to start off this new year by trying something completely different. In this show, I am not only acting and telling a story, but I am showcasing a big variety of my talents such as: monologuing, dancing, original singer songwriting, stand up, impressions, sound effects and puppets. That’s right! There is a lot going on in this tight 30 minute show. We are really hoping to find potential agents, producers and boyfriends after one of the performances. If you are interested please email me: salam@laughwithleila.com

BK: Where else can we see some of your work? I see you have quite the social media following! How did that happen?

L: You know it really just happened naturally. I love to be social and I love to take pictures so Instagram is really the perfect platform for me. I am also on Twitter but I don’t like birds that much. On Instagram I am trying to show what it is like to be a touring performer but also to give advice to my internet friends – #tiptuesday and #wisdomwednesday have been quite popular posts. But none are nearly as fun as #mancrushmonday – I have to start posting about some guys other than Zac Efron though because I think he blocked me but my mother is looking into it for me. You can expect to see some new YouTube videos later this year as well as the launch of my very first album!

BK: Why is this show and more importantly Leila as a person, important for our community today?

L: Earlier this year someone told me that they had never seen a show with a Middle Eastern character who is portrayed as a nice and fun person. That made me really sad!!! We are not just the terrorists and angry cab drivers—we are real human beings with families, personalities, dreams, ambitions and are usually really freaking funny and full of joy. I want people to have fun with me! I want my audience to laugh and feel like they are just hanging out with me and not watching a ‘show’ in a theatre. Like we are friends, because we are friends! And in the end we get to see a little bit of ourselves in one another.

I just finished a run of my show A Very Leila Christmas in Kitchener with an amazing theatre company called Green Light Arts. We packed the theatre for 5 nights and even got the Mayor of Kitchener to come and sing a duet with me. The night was full of so much joy and laughter (and a few tears because let’s face it the holidays aren’t fun and games all the time) but so many people said that they have never smiled so much, that they didn’t know they could laugh so hard and that this kind of laughing was therapeutic. I mean, what is better than that really?

BK: Talk to me about Leilas Girlfriends?

L: Leila’s Girlfriends is one of my favourite projects I have ever done. It was a partnership program with the Immigrant Working Centre and the Good Shepherd in Hamilton. I hosted a storytelling workshop for newcomer women to help them share their own stories of being in Canada. The ones who felt comfortable enough joined me on stage for a performance on International Women’s Day. It was so empowering to watch these beautiful women stand up in front of sold out audiences and share their voice for the first time. I had shivers each night and had to hold my tears back. Some of these women are still very good friends of mine.

BK: Why is The Next Stage Festival the perfect platform for you and your work?

L: Well this is quite literally the next stage for me. This is the first time that I am performing a cabaret show. I am trying out never before seen material in a different style than I am used to and I get to do it 12 nights in a row! My mother and I have been rehearsing this showcase in our living room for a few months now and we are so excited to share it with an audience.

BK: Are there any other shows that you are excited to see in the festival?

L: My friend Christel Bartelse is performing her new clown show The Surprise in the same venue as me (Factory Antechamber). We did a Double Bill of our shows Love With Leila and All KIDding Aside last year at the Toronto Centre of the Arts and I am so happy to share a space with her again. She is so talented and funny and she has the most beautiful hair. Really, go check out her ginger locks – they are gorgeous.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

L: My Instagram account on their phone.

BK: Anything else we need to know?

L: My venue is the warmest one in the entire building… so… that should be enough of a reason to buy a ticket.

Leila Live!

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

Who:
Written and Performed by me (Leila)
Directed by my mother (Farideh)

What:
Real life Persian Princess seeking a real guy who is trusting, healthy, and has his Canadian citizenship. Must enjoy authentic middle eastern cuisine, hypnotic dance moves, and little bit of fluff and scruff. No smoking, drinking, or drugging allowed! If my parents don’t like you chances are I will 😉 Swipe right for singing, dancing, acting, joking, and modeling my me (Leila).

Where:
Factory Antechamber
125 Bathurst Street, Toronto

When:
January 3rd – 14th
January 10th – 5:55pm
January 11th – 8:40pm
January 12th – 8:40pm
January 13th – 5:25pm
January 14th – 3:55pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

Connect:
fb: /badgirlleila
t: @_badgirl_leila
ig: @_badgirl_leila

In Conversation with Rebecca Perry – Creator & Performer of “From Judy to Bette: The Old Stars of Hollywood” at the NSTF

Interview by Brittany Kay

Rebecca Perry is back and at it again with her new solo show that will surely steal your hearts and sell out seats. She is best known for her sold out runs in the Toronto Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe for Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl. Her newest creation, From Judy to Bette: The Old Stars of Hollywood will be presented at this year’s Next Stage Festival from January 6th-17th and I’m thinking that it will no doubt be a crowd favourite.

Perry’s strength lies in the creation and presentation of solo shows. She is able to seamlessly transform from one character to the next by her stunning physicality and vocal manipulation. Her performances have always been incredibly engaging to watch as each new character introduced. 

Through holiday correspondence, I was able to talk creation process, inspiration and girl power.

Brittany Kay: What is this show about? How does this show differ from your other shows? How is it similar?

Rebecca Perry: From Judy To Bette: The Stars Of Old Hollywood is a power-punch of cabaret style entertainment that chronicles the life and times of Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton and Lucille Ball: four stars from the Golden Age of cinema who refused to be just another ingénue. They were trailblazers, who saw their value before anyone else did and fought for the roles that made them famous… and infamous. It’s an evening of marvellous melodies and scandalous headlines.

This is quite a departure from my previous work in that From Judy To Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood explores the life and times of four real ladies from the last century and the positive effects that they had on their industry. The Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl shows, while based in real life experiences (at least the first one) and with much research into Jane Goodall and her work, are still fictional stories about a fictional character. However, there are two small similarities: From Judy To Bette shares: the upbeat and humorous tone of the RCSG shows and both of these shows look at strong women and their drive to better their situation. Empowerment and breaking the mold will always be themes in my solo shows.

BK: What is so attractive about one woman shows for you?

RP: I think because I can pick a major theme and run with it! I’ve seen (or acted in) shows where I don’t agree with how the women are being portrayed, or the message isn’t clear. I still very much believe theatre can be used for positive change. With solo shows, you are given the luxury of sharing your point of view and how you see the world. It’s heart-warming when somebody relates to a message you’ve hand-picked. It’s also quite fun to play multiple characters who sing and act and have lots of sass and brass, but when you get down to it, I hope people leave the theatre feeling like they can take on the world.

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

BK: What is your creation process when devising your solo shows?

RP: All three of my shows have a lot of improv moments because I like to connect with the audience, but I find that the bulk of the core script starts to write itself once I’ve decided what subject I am most passionate about (ex: women empowering themselves) and what elements of it are worth sharing on a stage, then making it into an active story. Anything I do is full of songs and various characters that illustrate what is important and fun about the message or major theme.

BK: Where does your inspiration come from? 

RP: Honestly, these women. I grew up idolizing them when I felt like I couldn’t relate to the role models in my generation.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some great ones… Spice Girls forever!… but something resonated with me in regards to that Old Hollywood charm that Bette, Judy, Betty and Lucille possessed. They paved the path for women of talent and drive, making it okay for women of Hollywood to have comedic chops or character acting skills, essentially making it okay to be more than just a pretty face. While many people today continue this message, I appreciate it from the source.

BK: Is there a major theme or message that the show centres on?

RP: Absolutely: that these four women wouldn’t take no for an answer – and look where it got them!  They knew their value before anyone else did and kept soldiering on. We could all take a page from them.

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

BK: Do you plan on touring this piece?

RP: Absolutely! We already have an expanded version that runs at 70 minutes. This is the cocktail hour version – a power punch of entertainment!

BK: You have a new director – Michael Rubinstein. Can you talk to me about his directorial style and approach to your show?

RP: Michael loves these women and what they stand for just as much as I do, so my script and his directorial ideas are collaborating seamlessly. It’s always a treat to have a director who is as passionate about the topic as you are. In rehearsal we basically nerd out together about how awesome these four women are and then channel that into the show so that we can pay tribute to them in the best way possible. We spent forever even debating over which Judy Garland songs to keep and cut from the script because we love them all!

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

RP: That they should stick to their guns. That’s what these women did. They were unapologetically themselves and 80 years later their legacies live on. So go ahead: embrace your inner Lucy, Judy, Betty or Bette.

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Who:
Featuring: Rebecca Perry with Quinton Naughton on keys
Director: Michael Rubinstein
Dramaturg: David Kingsmill
Lighting Designer: Chin Palipane
Stage Manager: Natalie Frijia
Co-Producer: Jennifer Walls

Where: Factory Theatre Antechamber

When: January 6 – 17, 2016 as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival

January 06 07:10 PM  buy tickets
January 07 06:10 PM  buy tickets
January 08 08:40 PM  buy tickets
January 09 05:40 PM  buy tickets
January 10 05:40 PM  buy tickets
January 11 07:55 PM  buy tickets
January 12 05:55 PM  buy tickets
January 13 05:55 PM  buy tickets
January 14 06:55 PM  buy tickets
January 15 08:55 PM  buy tickets
January 16 05:25 PM  buy tickets
January 17 03:25 PM  buy tickets

Connect:

Twitter: @Redheaded_CSG or @rebeccaperry21
Facebook: Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl
Instagram: @Redheaded_Coffeeshop_Girl
Web: www.redheadedcsg.com

Brittany Kay: @brittanylkay
In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

Cabaret playing at Hart House Theatre

Check out this theatrical trailer for Hart House’s production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret.  The Show runs until Jan 28, Wed-Sat 8 pm, mat Jan 28 at 2 pm. $25, stu/srs $10-$15. 7 Hart House Circle. 416-978-8849, harthousetheatre.ca. See it before it’s too late!!

 

Tales from a Suitcase – Acting up stage

Everyone should check out Tales From a Suitcase at the Berekley Street Theatre on January 30th. The show is a part of Acting Up Stage’s Dark Night Cabaret series.

Through a variety of songs and stories about life on the road, Laura Caswell takes you on an unforgettable journey.

Laura has been living at least part of her life out of a suitcase for nearly twenty years. As a young girl her father moved to Europe, followed by years of studying abroad, then life on the road in regional theatre and tours and, of course, yearly vacations with loved
ones. Come laugh and learn through her incredible tales of the joys and woes of travel.

Featuring her talented sister Andrea Caswell (EP: Love and the Afters) and the amazing musical skills of Greg Gibson on piano, you will hear everything from old familiar show tunes to popular music, original Canadian songs, and contemporary musical theatre.

Full of fun, comedy, laughter and tears this Cabaret is sure to be “packed” with something for everyone.

Box office: actingupstage.com/productions/dark-night-cabaret
416 363 3110