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Posts tagged ‘Graham Isador’

“Punk Rock, Remounts & SITUATIONAL ANARCHY” In Conversation with storyteller Graham Isador

Interview by Brittany Kay

It’s always the best chatting with storyteller/artist Graham Isador so we were thrilled to catch back up with him about remounting Situational Anarchy, which was runner-up for outstanding production at the 2016 SummerWorks Festival. We spoke about Against Me, punk rock, remounts, and why it’s important to keep doing what means something to you.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a bit about the show?

Graham Isador: Situational Anarchy is a storytelling show about how punk rock is the most important thing in the world. It’s also a show about how punk rock is the stupidest thing in the world. The show is framed as an open letter to Laura Jane Grace, the lead singer and frontwoman of the band Against Me. It chronicles my times growing up in the Southern Ontario Music scene, my obsession with her band, and the frustration I felt when Against Me signed to major label Sire Records (a division of Warner Records). While the framing device has to do with music, the show is a series of stories about the compromises we make and the things we leave behind as we get older.

BK: What was your initial draw into Against Me!?

GI: I found Against Me in my adolescence. Like a lot of creative types, my teen years were spent in turmoil. I didn’t have a lot of friends. My creative inclinations – which mostly consisted of unreadable poetry and a penchant for eyeliner – made me stand out from my peers. Those differences often lead to violence both psychological and physical. Against Me’s music offered refuge. I could sing along with tracks that celebrated my outsider status. The band introduced me to punk rock and gave me a place to belong. They mattered to me in that overwhelming, heartbreaking way, things can matter to you as a teenager. But it was more than just that.

There is a saying that my friend Frank has: If you grow up and your favorite band was Oasis it means you liked a band called Oasis. If you grew up and your favorite band was Minor Threat, it means you liked a band called Minor Threat and had a certain opinion about how the world was supposed to function. To me, and to a lot of my friends, punk rock is more than just shitty music played very loud. It’s a set of ideologies and values. Those ideologies and values shaped the person I am today.

BK: Why do this again? What was successful about it the first time around?

GI: Theatre is such a ridiculous medium. Situational Anarchy has been celebrated as the most successful thing I’ve done in my career, we were awarded runner-up for outstanding production at the 2016 SummerWorks festival, but we only did three performances. A couple of hundred people saw the show. I’m grateful to everyone who bought a ticket. I’m also grateful for the praise we were given. But I’d like more people to see what I do. This is a chance to do that.

I don’t think it’s up to me to decide what was successful about the show. I just get up there and try to do the best job I can. Without giving too much away, people have told me they enjoyed the depictions of how awkward growing up can be, what depression can do to people, and the nature of the things we love. Also there are jokes.

BK: What was the creation process for this show? How do you rehearse/structure a show that is based in storytelling?

GI: I started writing this show because it was impossible not to. When Against Me signed to a major label it felt like a personal affront. It hurt my feelings. I was sad and I was pissed off and despite knowing that those emotions might seem laughable to others – why should a band being on the radio throw your life into a tailspin? – it’s still how I felt. I couldn’t not talk about it. I’d be at a house party and I’d talk about Against Me. I’d be at Thanksgiving dinner and I’d talk about Against Me. I’d be interviewing another band for my job and it’d turn into an interview about Against Me. It was all getting to be a bit much.

When I was at Soulpepper a first draft of the script was created as a part of the playwrights unit. I performed different versions of the story at smaller stages across Toronto and it kept getting longer. When we got into SummerWorks last year, I brought on longtime collaborators Tom Arthur Davis and Jiv Parasram to help me shape the story into an actual play. They’re both wizards with that type of thing. They were a crucial part of taking my anecdotes and making them into something palatable. If anyone enjoys the show that is as much to do with their work as it is to do with mine.

BK: Why is this story important for you? Why is this something that is close to your heart

GI: Growing up there are so many times when we have to question whether the things we believed in as youth still matter to us as adults. I devoted my life to mediums which people at best ignore and at worst actively dislike. But I do it because these things are important. They mean something to me and if I do my job then this show will make them mean something to other people. I need them to be important to other people because otherwise what’s the point?

BK: Why the title?  

GI: It is a clever play on words.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

GI: That punk rock is the most important thing in the world. And that punk rock is the stupidest thing in the world. We are also donating the proceeds of the show to Trans life Line and Gender is Over. They are two organizations helping trans at risk youth and hopefully people will know we tried our best to help them.

 Situational Anarchy

Who:
Written & Performed by Graham Isador
Directed by Tom Arthur Davis & Jivesh Parasram

What:
Situational Anarchy is 100% true. Sort of.

For the past thirteen years Graham Isador has been in an on again/off again relationship with transgender rockstar Laura Jane Grace. The relationship is characterized by two main factors:

1. Laura Jane Grace is the lead singer, lyricist, and front woman for the punk rock band Against Me.
2. Laura Jane Grace does not know that Graham exists.

Framed as an open letter to the singer, Isador chronicles his teenage years spent in the Southern Ontario punk scene, sharing stories of Internet message boards, strip mall record stores, and concerts in basements and backrooms.

Situational Anarchy is a one-man storytelling show about the growing pains of adolescence and the inevitable heartbreak of teenage conviction.

Where: 
Stop, Drop, and Roll (Located Above Rancho Relaxo)
300 College St, Toronto, ON M5T 1R9

When:
May 24th-27th and May 31st-June 3rd
All shows at 8pm, with an additional performance June 3rd at 4pm

Tickets:
Door tickets are Pay What You Want
Advanced tickets are $15
Very limited seating. Only 25 seats per night.

All proceeds from the show (after expenses) will be donated to TRANS LIFE LINE/GENDER IS OVER.

Connect:
w: http://www.pandemictheatre.ca/situational-anarchy/
fb: /pandemictheatre
t: @presgang

“Two Truths and a Lie… Oh, and a Can of Spam” – In Conversation with Storyteller Graham Isador

Interview by Brittany Kay

I had the joy of sitting down with Graham Isador, one of the creators and storytellers of Two Truths and a Lie, opening this week as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. We spoke about the fundamentals of the show, the Storytelling community in Toronto, and how sometimes what we really need is just a feel-good performance where we can sit back and laugh.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a little bit about your show Two Truths and a Lie?

Graham Isador: Rhiannon Archer, Helder Brum and myself tell three outrageous stories, one of which is completely fictional. The goal of the performance is to trick the audience into thinking that all of them are false or all of them are true and at the end somebody has to guess which one is the lie. If they guess right, they win a can of Spam.

BK: A can of Spam?

GI: A can of Spam.

BK: Alrighty! So there is audience participation?

GI: Ish. Do you hate audience participation?

BK: Some people do. It really depends on my mood that night.

GI: Well it’s very limited audience participation. We’re probably going to single someone out. They don’t have to do anything other than picking out which story is fake. It’s basically a fun storytelling show.

BK: Are there different stories each night?

GI: We are switching them up. So each one of us has a lie story and a truth story and, depending on the night, we decide before the show who’s going to tell what.

BK: Where did the idea for this show come from?

GI: Well it’s like the party game, right? It was just kind of a very easy, recognizable format to put the stories in and hopefully entertain some people. Helder, Rhiannon and I have all had pretty successful solo shows throughout the past year. Rhiannon’s Life Records sold out a complete Fringe run at the Backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille. Helder did very, very well with the show called Born with a Tale and I did a show called Situational Anarchy in this past SummerWorks Festival. We put together a proposal because we wanted to work together to do some sort of storytelling thing with the Fringe and this is what we had come up with for the Next Stage Festival.

BK: Where do these stories come from? Do we know what the stories are about?

GI: Nope. We’re not putting that out there. We’ve discussed what we’re going to use. Alternates included a story Rhiannon refers to as the Legend of Mudbutt, the time Helder ate a pepper so spicy he questioned his place on the space-time continuum, and a time that I became a pallbearer for a man I never met. But what we’ve come up with to share is a lot of fun. Or if it’s not, we lie until it is!

BK: What’s the process to craft and rehearse these stories? Do the three of you work together?

GI: I mean, we are all performers who are constantly doing shows. I perform probably once or twice a week. Rhiannon and Helder both perform more than that because they are stand-ups, so we’re always working on new material and always putting out different stuff. It’s the kind of material that we’ve sort of perfected, or are trying to perfect, at different shows through the city. It’s honing those skills down down down until we’ve got those tight 5-8 minute pieces to be able to give to the people.

BK: What’s your rehearsal process like?

GI: (whispers) There isn’t one. Hahaha…

Testing out the stories at different shows is kind of like our rehearsal process. They’ve been developed in front of a live audience to figure out what jokes are working. We said to each other, “Come up with 8 minutes, don’t go over that 8 minutes, and we’ll figure it out the night of.” We’re in the antechamber space. It’s a half hour. It’s fun, low-key and easy for the audience.

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Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

BK: Why is this show’s concept important right now for Toronto audiences?

GI: I think, first and foremost, this is just a show that we hope is entertaining. It’s going to be a fun half hour and a cool night out with your friends. It’s not one of those things where there are bigger through lines or emotional arcs. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy finding morals to stories and bigger truths to that stuff, but there’s also times where you want something a little dumb and hopefully people like it.

This is honestly a night where we are telling jokes. We want to entertain some people and send them home happy. It’s a feel-good event in the winter.

BK: How did you first start working with Rhiannon and Helder? Did you know them through the storytelling community? 

GI: I did a show with Rhiannon called Raconteurs, which is a monthly event that happens at the Tranzac Club. It’s a big storytelling event, which brings in about 100 people. We both admired each other’s work and wanted to be in each other’s shows. I run Pressgang out of the Garrison, which has become a little bigger with about 80-100 people per show. Rhiannon and Helder’s is called Fire Side, it happens at Dufferin Grove Park when the weather permits. We sit around a campfire and tell stories to each other.

BK: That’s wicked.

GI: Yeah, it’s free. People might have cheeky beers… It’s nice. It’s a good way to do things.

BK: I want to go to that.

GI: It’s awesome. We have marshmallows. People bring dogs. It’s a really fun show to do.

BK: What about director Tom Arthur Davis?

GI: Oh, we don’t need to talk about him.

BK: Hahaha. How is he as a director?

GI: Terrible. Just useless. I give him no credit for anything I’ve done.

No, no. We’ve known each other since University. We went to UofT together. We didn’t talk to each other for the first year and then eventually we started giving each other the head nod when we would see each other on campus. We became friends once when we got really drunk together at an improv jam in a basement. We lived together for a while and worked on various projects. He was the co-director for my SummerWorks show. We co-directed for a play I wrote called Served that happened at the Fringe two years ago. He’s been a part of Pressgang Storytelling on and off since its inception like 5 years ago. He’s genuinely the most talented director I know in this city and a total garbage human being.

BK: Nice. Good. He’ll like this.

GI: Yeah, no I love him like a brother. He’s excellent. He’s very, very good. So it was one of those things where we thought for the little rehearsal time that we had, we needed an outside eye to make sure we weren’t being too self-indulgent. Tom is good at being an outside eye and good at telling me when I’m being too self-indulgent, which is more or less all the time. So it’s a great fit.

BK: Haha. Love that. Anything else we should know about Two Truths and a Lie

GI: The goal of this show is to make people laugh. I can’t speak to my own talents but I think that Rhiannon and Helder are some of the funniest people in this city. In terms of up-and-coming comedians, they have both performed on JFL42 this year and they both have up-and-coming projects (that they’re not allowed to talk about) but are going to be very, very big deals in the spring time. It’s the recognition of talent and being able to catch them before they’re going to be a huge deal in this city and I’m really glad that a hack like me can come along for the ride.

BK: What do you hope audiences will walk away with?

GI: I hope they just go, “Wow, that was outrageous and remember when that happened?” and that they giggle at some stuff and then relay this information to their friends.

BK: What are 3-5 words that would describe your show?

GI: Just the best party.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite…
Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
Book: Permanent Midnight.
Play: Swimming to Cambodia.
Food: Tacos
Place in Toronto: Top steps of Castle Loma.
What are you currently listening to: Jeff Rosenstock/Frank Turner/Converge.
Best advice you’ve ever gotten: Try and say as little as you can. 

Two Truths and a Lie

 

truths

Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

Who:
Presented by Pressgang Theatre
Created by Graham Isador, Helder Brum, and Rhiannon Archer
Director Tom Arthur Davis
Featuring Graham Isador, Helder Brum, and Rhiannon Archer

Where: Factory Theatre Antechamber

When:
Wed      January 4th – 9:40 pm
Thurs   January 5th  – 6:10pm
Fri         January 6th  – 8:40pm
Sat         January 7th  – 7:40pm
Sun       January 8th  –  5:40pm
Mon      January 9th  –  8:25pm
Tues     January 10th – 7:55pm
Wed      January 11th – 5:55pm
Thurs   January 12th  – 8:40pm
Fri         January 13th  – 6:40pm
Sat         January 14th  – 5:00pm
Sun        January 15th  – 4:25pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com