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A Chat with Barbara Johnston & Byron Laviolette on “Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party” at the 2017 Toronto Fringe

Interview by Hallie Seline

If there is a dream collaboration in the Fringe not to miss, it’s the Fringe queens of new musicals – Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde (Summerland, The Fence) teaming up with interactive-theatre maven Byron Laviolette (Morro and Jasp) with Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party. We spoke with Barb and Byron about collaborating together, the excitement of trying something new in the Fringe, and how we all need a little more fun in our lives.

HS: Tell me a bit about the show and where the idea for this show came from?

Byron Laviolette: Brian Goldenberg, our producer, approached me with the idea that maybe we could find a way to take the best of current musical theatre (ie. Suzy Wilde and Barbara Johnston) and meld it with the interactive experience stuff I have been doing with Morro and Jasp. I was instantly intrigued. I’m not much of a musical guy, but had some experience with them working at Hart House on Rocky Horror and Reefer Madness, so I said yes.

HS: You have a stellar team involved. Can you speak a bit about working with each other?

Barbara Johnston: It was kind of a unique experience because the songs were written before the rest of the show. We had a song guide and character outlines to draw from, but essentially we had to build songs without knowing exact plot details – which was a challenging but really fun experience. The script was built in rehearsal with Byron and the actors, so Suzy and I didn’t even know the show until we saw it all starting to come together a couple of days ago.

Both of us are big fans of Morro and Jasp, so when we found out that Byron was on the project we were really excited to see where he was going to take this really cool concept. Suzy and I have worked together our entire lives and are constantly collaborating on projects (we’re also involved in True North Mixtape at Fringe this year) so us working together is “old hat” – in the best way possible! We have a short-hand with one another – we can read each others minds, so it makes working together heaven. It has been extremely exciting to write pop/karaoke songs for a cast of powerhouse singers who have all been so great with working with a short timeline and with our last-minute changes. Byron is an excellent collaborator – giving us lots of room to be part of the creative process and has done such great work with the actors, essentially building this show from the ground up. We have had a blast.

L-R: Jeigh Madjus, Tess Barao, Erica Peck, Kelly Holiff, Shane Hollon, Joseph Zita Photo Credit: Alex Nirta

BL: It’s been an interesting ride. There are a lot of differences in process between improv comedians, interactive performers and musical theatre actors. There are a lot of similarities too, but making sure that all processes are being honoured while trying to form a new methodology is challenging. I’m really happy with where we’ve landed though, and a lot of that credit goes to Suzy and Barb for giving us such stellar songs to work with.

HS: Why were you drawn to create this show for the Fringe? What is it about the show that makes it the perfect fit for the Fringe environment?

BJ: The concept of a site-specific Karaoke show was Brian Goldenberg’s idea, and it is a great one!

BL: I’ve done the Fringe now for something like 10 years and I was excited to try something new in the place where I believe new things have the best chance to soar and be seen. In different environments – like Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction at Crow’s – the opportunities to risk have very different stakes attached to them.

L-R: Kelly Holiff, Erica Peck, Jeigh Madjus, Tess Barao Photo Credit: Alex Nirta

HS: What do you hope audiences walk away with?

BJ: Hopefully with our tunes stuck in their head and maybe a slight hangover the next day.

BL: The tunes WILL be stuck in their heads. They are certainly stuck in mine. Like most of the work I am involved in, I hope that people have fun. We all need more fun in our lives. And meaning and feels and all that too, but I want to help build a space where people can feel invited in, involved in ways that doesn’t suck, and inspired to go out and share that sense of joy and wonder with the world around them. Keep the party going, you know?

HS: 100%! Love that. What is your go-to Karaoke song?

BJ: Mine changes, but either Sunday Morning (No Doubt) or Man! I Feel Like a Woman (Shania Twain). Suzy’s is always Sweet Child of Mine.

BL: I’m not much of a singer, but probably something from Disney. . .

HS: Where is your go-to Karaoke spot in Toronto?

BJ: Well I actually won 3rd place in a giant Karaoke contest 10 years ago during Pride lead by Foofer – the greatest Karaoke host in the city. She used to host at Crews and Tangos every Wednesday night and my friends and I would go religiously because there were always GREAT singers in the crowd. Now she has a night at WAYLA bar in Leslieville that we like to go to.

HS: Best advice you have ever received /current mantra you are living by?

BJ: When working in collaborations: The best idea wins.

BL: Yes, 100% Best idea wins. Also, find the balance in your work/life. This show is the third creation process I’ve been involved in since March (including Morro and Jasp and Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua) and you have to keep perspective as the dreams (and nightmares) swirl around you.

HS: Describe the show in 5-10 words:

BJ: Tony and Tina’s Wedding meets Company in a Teenage Dream.

BL: A Musical Mockumentary about the plight of the North American Millennial in the Modern Age.

HS: What other show(s) are on your must-see list this Fringe?

BJ: True North Mixtape (We’re in that one, but if we were not we would want to see it!)
Wild/Walled, Lipstique (both dance shows with some great dancers/choreographers).
Jay and Shilo’s Sibling Revelry!

All of them. ALL OF THEM!! Go risk. Go discover. Go play.

Maddie’s Karaoke Birthday Party

Who:
Company: Charcoal Sketch Productions
Playwright/Creator: Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, and Byron Laviolette
Director: Byron Laviolette
Cast: Tess Barao, Kelly Holiff, Shane Hollon, Jeigh Madjus, Erica Peck, Joseph Zita
Producer: Brian Goldenberg, Jeff Jones

What:
It’s Maddie’s 25th birthday party but something’s not right – the guest of honour hasn’t shown up yet! Join five of Maddie’s best friends as they try to sort out where the birthday girl is at while they fight to keep the party’s spirits high (and struggle to keep their own dark secrets hidden). This intimate, interactive story unfolds over a series of hilarious and heart-breaking Karaoke-style songs in a party environment where the audience are fellow guests.

Where:
THE MONARCH TAVERN
12 Clinton Street, Toronto

When:
6th July – 8:15pm
7th July – 7:00pm
8th July – 6:30pm
9th July – 6:00pm
11th July – 8:00pm
12th July – 8:45pm
13th July – 8:15pm
14th July – 7:00pm
15th July – 7:00pm
16th July – 6:00pm

Tickets:
fringetoronto.com

Connect:
t: @maddiesparty
f: /MaddiesParty

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Our 2015 Fringe Favourites

by Hallie Seline, Bailey Green, Brittany Kay, Madryn McCabe

As another incredible Toronto Fringe Festival draws to a close, we wanted to share some of the In the Greenroom gals’ favourite shows, should it inspire your final Fringe days. It has been a pleasure immersing ourselves in the Fringe spirit – racing from venue to venue, meeting new friends in the Fringe Alley or in various Fringe lines and discovering incredible artists as well as watching those we already knew share what they love with another year of Fringe-goers. Here are some of our Fringe Favourites, in no particular order.

What would make your list? Share your picks with us on Twitter @intheGreenRoom_ Facebook @In the Greenroom or on Instagram @inthegreenroom. #GetYourFringeOn!

Morro and Jasp Do Puberty

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Simply delightful! These clown sisters are such open, super smart performers, who embrace the chaos of growing up in weird and wonderful ways with a playful spirit that invites the audience to come along for the ride. These gals are truly great at what they do and had us smiling from ear to ear ever since.

Shows: Patron’s Pick show – Sunday July 12 at 9:15

Tickets here.

In Case We Disappear

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We’ve been likening the captivating Vanessa Smyth’s performance to a wonderful glass of wine since seeing her intimate piece of storytelling, song and spoken word poetry. It’s really something to watch. Smyth is so open and welcoming, confident and charming as she shares this unique performance with her audience. We loved it!

Sadly there are no longer any more performances but keep up to date with Vanessa’s next projects here: vanessasmythe.com Twitter: @vsmythe

SwordPlay: A Play of Swords

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Amazing physical comedy and sharp performances including some improv, beard-nuzzles, and a killer GOT Little Finger impression. Anyone who’s played those old-school video games will get a real kick out of this but definitely worth checking out even if you aren’t a huge video-game fan. Really inventive work. We had a super enjoyable time.

Shows: July 11 at 04:00 PM

Tickets here.

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@sextrex

Summerland

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This is a Fringe show of epic proportions, Fringe-wise. With a cast of 100 teens INCLUDING a rotating cast of main characters, the sheer scale of this mystical musical is something to see. Watching that many young performers sing and dance their hearts out on stage together is a true joy to experience. Filled with stunning music by the talented Anika Johnson, Barbara Johnston and Suzy Wilde, we hope this continues to develop and finds life in the main stages! Hello, Mirvish! Hello, Broadway!

Shows:

July 11 at 07:30 PM
July 12 at 02:00 PM

Tickets here.

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project

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Sam Mullins knows how to draw his audience in, connecting with every seat in the house. The writing was sharp, charming and honest. Mullins’ stories transport you to other places and times, and then leave you to reflect on your own quirks, fears, joys and heartbreaks.

Show: July 11 at 11:30 PM
Tickets here.

Hamlet… A Puppet Epic!

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Hamlet…A Puppet Epic! has laugh-out-loud humour for all ages, the Bard and awesome puppets. You’ve never seen Hamlet like this. The ensemble cast performs with an infectious energy. It’s no small feat to fill a theatre with families and then keep them all spellbound for an hour. It doesn’t talk down to the kids at all, and there are plenty of jokes for the adults. We also get the best explanation for Polonius’ decision to hid behind a curtain that we’ve ever heard. True theatre magic from Shakey-Shake and Friends.

Shows:
July 12 at 11:00 AM

Patrons Pick: July 12 at 6:00 PM

Tickets here.

One Good Marriage

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Becky Shrimpton and Matthew Gin’s performances are thoughtful and witty. They have the best chemistry of a staged married couple we’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue is quick and navigates the comedy and tragedy deftly. Definitely worth seeing.

Shows:
July 11 at 07:30 PM 
July 12 at 02:00 PM 
July 12 at 07:30 PM 
Tickets here.

Peter ‘n’ Chris Present: Here Lies Chris

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Vancouver based sketch duo, Peter n’ Chris had us laughing from beginning to end. Their use of physical comedy, repetition and sketch characters made their storytelling enjoyable and engaging. Constant Fringe Favourites!

Show:
July 11 at 07:30 PM
Tickets here.

A Man Walks into a Bar

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A Man Walks into a Bar was a meta-theatrical experience that allowed audiences to gain insight on what many waitresses and women at any given job can go through. Rachel Blair’s writing was witty and hilarious, and became extremely thought provoking about male/female interaction. Definitely worthy of Best of Fringe.

Show: July 13 at 9:15 PM
Ticketshere.

The Philanderess

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Playwright and actress, Sophia Fabiilli, challenged the notion of femininity and power in epic ways. Every player in this farcical marathon of a comedy was incredible! Fabiilli is one fierce Fringe femme.

Shows:
July 12 at 04:00 PM
Patrons Pick: July 12 at 9:45 PM
Advanced tickets are sold out but there may be tickets at the door one hour before.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Merry Wives of Windsor - Suzette McCanny, Sean Sullivan, Julia Nish-Lapidus - photo by Madison Golshani, Daniel Pascale

Bash’d does it again! The ladies call the shots in this silly Shakespeare play and we loved it. A special shout-out goes to Suzette McCanny and Julia Nish-Lapidus who we loved watching delight in their plotting and trickery, and also to the incredible AJ Richardson, whose mastery of text and comedy set up a Ford that added to our sheer joy of watching him and Falstaff be made the fool-of. Great ensemble, appropriately silly Shakespeare play, and perfect setting for Fringe-viewing with beer in hand.

Shows:
July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 05:00 PM
Tickets here.

Bout

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The fights are intense, and the relationship between Jackie and her coach is fantastic. The dialogue between them is fast and holds nothing back. The perfect one, two, punch for a Fringe knock-out.

Shows:
July 11 at 10:00 PM
July 12 at 10:00 PM
Tickets: here

The Dinner Table

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“Stories open us up to each other”. A truly special and intimate experience, delicious home-cooked meal that was tailored to the guest and a slew of incredible storytellers from the Toronto theatre community. If theatre, for you, is about connection and a sharing of stories, The Dinner Table is for you.

Shows:
July 11 at 09:00 PM  sold out
July 12 at 06:30 PM  sold out
Both of the final performances are sold out but there is always a chance at snagging a single ticket at the door.

Get Your 2015 Fringe On: What We’re Excited For & Some Friendly Fringe-ing Advice

It’s that time of year again… Happy Opening to the 2015 Toronto Fringe! There are so many shows, so many artists, so many activities, so much of everything… how do you even start? We’ve compiled a list of some shows that we’re excited to check out as we kick off our Fringe-ing for the next two weeks, as well as a few events that have caught our eye. We also have a bit of friendly Fringe-ing advice on how to get the most out of your Fringe Fest experience.

As always, this is just a starting off point. Our number one advice is to try something new that might not have made its way on to all of these lists. Also, #ConnectWithUs via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram to let us know what else we should check out!

The Crowd Pleasers

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Tried and true. These artists bring their A-game every time and we’re thrilled to have them back at the Fringe. Do. Not. Miss!:

Morro and Jasp Do Puberty, presented by Up your Nose and In your Toes (U.N.I.T) Productions – Tarragon Theatre Mainspace

Gavin Crawford: “Friend” “Like” #ME, presented by IdleMind Productions – Annex Theatre

Swordplay: A Play of Swords, presented by Sex T-Rex – Al Green Theatre

High Tea, presented by James & Jamesy – Randolph Theatre

Peter N’ Chris Present: Here Lies Chris, presented by Peter n’ Chris – Randolph Theatre

Caws & Effect, presented by Mind of a Snail Puppet Co. – Factory Theatre Mainspace 

The Musicals

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Is this the year of the new musical? Has the Fringe always been like this? Most likely. But whatever it may be, we’re super #intoit and these are the shows we are hoping to fill our hearts with song: 

Summerland, presented by Wexford Performing Arts – Harbord Collegiate Institute

Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, presented by Rebecca Perry Productions – Annex Theatre

People Suck, presented by Nutmeg Creations – Randolph Theatre

Rounding The Bend, presented by Out of the Blue Theatre Company – Robert Gill Theatre

I’m Right Here – A Song Cycle, presented by Victor Theatre Productions – Tarragon Mainspace

Deadmouse: The Musical, presented by Malach Productions – Al Green Theatre

The Classics

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The Bard in a bar, twists on a classic or re-told with some sass by our favourite Shakespearean puppets, these are the “classics” we’re most excited for:

The Philanderess, presented by Truth ‘n’ Lies Theatre (inspired by G.B. Shaw’s The Philanderer“) – Annex Theatre 

The Merry Wives of Windsor, presented by Shakespeare BASH’d – The Victory Cafe 

Hamlet… A Puppet Epic! presented by Shakey-Shake and Friends – FringeKids! Club – George Ignatieff Theatre

Twelfe Night, or What You Will, presented by Ale House Theatre – St. Vladimir Theatre

The Storytellers

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A refreshing way to mix up your Fringe schedule. Get personal. Go back to the basics. Connect to the storytellers. These folks have caught our eye and are sure to ignite your imagination. They’ll make you laugh. They’ll make you cry. They’ll make you groove. They’ll make you dinner? They’ll get you right in the feels: 

In Case We Disappear, presented by Hopscotch on the Rocks – Tarragon Extraspace

The Untitled Sam Mullins Project, presented by Sam S. Mullins – Factory Theatre Mainspace

Graham Clark Reads The Phonebook, presented by Laugh Gallery – Factory Theatre Studio

Starry Notions, presented by Nefarious Projects – Annex Theatre

The Dinner Table, presented by Fail Better Theatre – 918 Bathurst St. (Downstairs Kitchen)

The Events:

Tent Talks – Take your theatre-going experience to a whole new level. Delve deeper in to different topics surrounding the theatre ecology of Toronto and connect with local artists and experts to continue the discussion.

Get Crafty – We are a BIG FAN of buttons and this year you can make your own! We’ll trade you for one of ours if you can find us in the tents! Or if cross stitching is more your game, that’s going on too! Find out more at The Fringe Club.

Photo Booth – “Fringe Portrait Studio” is a new addition to the Fringe alley from Art is Hard, creators of the SMASH hit FLIP THE TABLE. “A participatory live art experience”. We’re game to check it out!

Visual Fringe – Local artists gather and rotate every day in the Fringe alley. See some incredible artwork and met artisans that you can be-friend and support all year round. #buylocal #supportlocalartists

Our advice:

Take care of yourselves! Drink water, wear your sunscreen and get your rest. It’s a marathon, friends. Hard-core Fringe-ing can wear you down. Winner lasts the full two weeks!

Go in with an open mind and an open heart! Get in the spirit of the Fringe and go see something on whim. There is so much out there, why not try something new? It may surprise you.

Be bold and say hello! Stuck in the Fringe tents in between shows? Why not approach a fellow Fringe-er and make a new friend! Talk about what you’ve seen. Talk about the work. Talk about the theatre you go to all-year-round. Get off those cell phones and connect!

Now go out there and GET YOUR FRINGE ON! Happy Fringe-ing, friends. We’ll see you in the tent!

In Conversation with Morro and Jasp – “Anything Goes” at the Rhubarb Festival

by Bailey Green

Clown sisters Morro and Jasp are trying out a completely new recipe for fun, exciting and unpredictable theatre with their new creation Anything Goes — part of Buddies’ Rhubarb Festival. Anything Goes is exactly what it sounds like. Audience members are in for a unique “one on one on one” experience (dubbed by director Byron Laviolette) as they will interact directly with Morro and Jasp for a little less than ten minutes. I spoke with Heather Marie Annis (Morro) and Amy Lee (Jasp) about their upcoming performance, their years of clowning together and being a part of Rhubarb.

Anything Goes is new territory for the ebullient and open-hearted Heather and Amy. “We call ourselves structure junkies,” Heather laughs. “People may think our shows are improv, and in some ways they are, but it is based on a very specific script and structure.” With Anything Goes, most of that is out the window. There are infinite possibilities for how any given interaction will go. The pair discuss the options with open excitement, describing how perhaps an audience member may bond with one clown and turn against the other, or what will happen if a small group wants to all interact. Heather and Amy are most excited to see the potential of what can happen when an audience member is free to play without being conscious of an external audience’s judgement.

When asked about the most challenging part of preparing, the answer comes quickly: they can’t actually rehearse. Morro and Jasp venture out into the world for adventures and interact with strangers, but beyond being present and open there isn’t much else to set in place. “My desire for control is being seriously challenged,” Heather says. The pair’s background is not based in improv either, they begin primarily with Morro and Jasp. “We can go outside the boundaries because we know what they are,” Amy says. “This [Anything Goes] is wide open. Our only structure is the human being and then we find a connection.”

So to prepare, Heather and Amy have continued to exercise their improv muscles, as well as coming up with ideas of props to have in the room and scenarios to offer. They’re both conscious of the constant assessment required for a performance of this focused nature. “If they want us to just take the reins and do something we have ideas for a jumping off point,” Heather says. Amy picks up Heather’s train of thought, “We’re challenging ourselves to do this because we really want to give each person what they need and want in that moment. The ball is in their court to decide what kind of experience they want.”

When I ask the pair what they’re most excited about for Rhubarb this year, their words tumble over each other as their enthusiasm bubbles:

Heather: It’s so inspiring to see artists who are coming up with things, and someone says an idea and you’re like “my brain!”

Amy: We’ve never done Rhubarb before. It’s an amazing festival! I love Buddies, the space –

Heather: A basement, events happen –

Amy: It’s a world of possibility –

Heather: A theatre carnival and you get –

Amy: a choose your own adventure

Heather: kind of everything!

Morro and Jasp were born during Heather and Amy’s time together at York University. The pair ended up working on a piece written by Heather about two sisters named Jamie and Mackenzie. They played multiple characters and Amy fell in love with the character work of physical theatre. Byron Laviolette was at York as well at the time and he saw the piece. Laviolette had studied Pochinko clown and was very interested in the style. He had written a turn called “Reflections” about two clowns named Morris and Jasper. He saw Heather and Amy and liked their connection. “We were saying yes to everything,” Amy says of their first years out of school, “we had no idea what we were getting into, nor did we think we’d be here ten years later.” The trio moved on to train with Pete Jarvis for two years. Their first few shows were mainly for children as part of FringeKids! The women laugh and cringe as they remember the early years where they were simultaneously figuring out how to write theatre and how to be clowns.

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Then they were accepted into “adult” fringe for 2009. “We wanted to write a show about our clown characters going through puberty, we needed to tell that story,” recalls Amy. “We wanted to write the show we wanted to make without worrying whether it was appropriate. And so in Winnipeg 2008, they premiered Morro and Jasp do Puberty! Amy remembers her nerves to perform the show in front of family members and Heather bursts into giggles, “she was nervous because she humped her stuffed animal in this show. But it was so scary! We were really putting ourselves out there. People responded like, yeah that happened to me! I just didn’t think I could talk about it. Like when you go to the grocery store and hide your tampons in your bag. Like why is that a bad thing?” And the rest is clown history with their other shows, to name a few: Go Bake Yourself, Gone Wild, Of Mice and Morro… In May, they’ll be premiering a new show at Factory called 9-5, and then in July they’re bringing Morro and Jasp do Puberty to the Toronto Fringe before taking it across the pond in August to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Ten years of clowning with your awesome clown sister makes for a tight bond and it’s evident in the way Heather and Amy finish each other’s thoughts. “I don’t know anything like it in my life. When we become the characters there is this amazing intimacy that happens,” Amy says of her partnership with Heather. “The boundaries are gone. We can say and do anything to each other [as Morro and Jasp.]” Heather adds, “it’s such a freedom we have with each other that we sometimes forget about that when we work with other people.” It only makes sense, as Morro and Jasp, just like Heather and Amy, have grown up together.

Morro and Jasp: Anything Goes

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Clown sisters Morro and Jasp are looking for someone to connect with. Could it be you? Come and see what happens.

When: February 11-14 at 7:30pm

Where: downstairs at Buddies

Artists: creator / performers Heather Marie Annis + Amy Lee | director / dramaturge Byron Laviolette

Tickets: included in your $20 Evening Pass

 

On Our Radar TO: Fall in Love with Toronto Theatre this Month

 

Whether it’s with your family, friends, lover, significant-other or you’re treatin’ yo self, we’ve listed our different date suggestions for these lusted-after February shows plus some February events we’re swooning over! These shows are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should Fall in Love With Theatre all over again this February! 

Genesis & Other Stories

Written by Rosamund Small, presented by Aim for the Tangent Theatre

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Did the nudie promo pictures convince you yet? If you didn’t catch Genesis & Other Stories in their sold-out run in last summer’s Fringe Festival, lucky for you they have brought it back for a February re-mount in the Red Sandcastle Theatre after a revised run in the Hamilton Fringe. If you did catch it, you know you’ll want to see it again! Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and feel-good family fun… well… It’ll get you talking!

This is our On the Laugh-track to Love date recommendation.

Check out our interview we did with playwright Rosamund Small to find out more about the show. https://inthegreenroom.ca/2013/06/25/we-chat-with-rosamund-small-writer-of-genesis-other-stories/

“After his father’s death, Christopher, a theology student, leads a misfit cast of amateur actors in a production of his late father’s play: a hyper-sexed version of Adam and Eve set in 1960’s USA.  Slapstick, satire, and meta-theatre frame a surprisingly complex story about lonely people trying to fill roles that do not suit us. Christopher tries to convince everyone including himself that he is committed to his religion and its strict views on sexuality, and capable of directing and producing his father’s bizarre script. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a break up, forgotten lines, and a crisis of faith conspire to sabotage the production. The primary focus of Genesis is on laughter, but the show is only funny because of the pain and struggle of Chris and the other characters. A hilarious romp that is sure to get you thinking, whether you’re religious, theatrical, or somewhere in between.”

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“Comically disastrous… very funny. Things could only go worse if the theatre collapsed.” – Jon Kaplan, NOW Magazine

Where: RED Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East)
When: February 5th-15th Wednesday-Friday 8pm, Saturdays 7pm & 9pm
Tickets: $15 at the Door, $10 in Advance at www.totix.ca or call (416) 845-9411
For more information, visit: www.aimforthetangent.com

Shrew

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, presented by Red One Theatre Collective

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Killer cast, intriguing promotional poster, “puppetry & Vaudeville charm” set in the Klondike? After being big fans of After Miss Julie, we’re excited to see what Red One Theatre brings us next and Shrew seems to be just the ticket.

This is our Rowdy Buddies at the Shakespeare Show date recommendation.

“The beautiful and gentle Bianca has no shortage of admirers, but her mother insists that she will not marry until her older sister, Katharina, is betrothed. The only problem is that Katharina is the wildest, loudest, maddest shrew in the Klondike. It’s a low-down showdown with honky-tonk, puppetry, slapstick, and Vaudeville charm, and one of these gunslingers will either go broke or strike gold.

In his directorial debut, rising Stratford Festival star and RedOne Theatre veteran Tyrone Savage gathers together Toronto’s premier emerging talents for the first time in this one-of-a-kind production.”

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 15th – March 2nd, 2014 8pm (Sunday PWYC Matinees – 2pm)
Tickets: $19.99 Advance tickets available @ www.secureaseat.com

The Way Back to Thursday

Written by Rob Kempson, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille

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Call your Grandma, call your mother… Hell, call EVERYONE and take them to the theatre this month. Rob Kempson has written a charming, funny and moving musical about unconditional love that will have you beaming one minute and reaching for a box of tissues the next.

This is our Reconnecting With Family date recommendation.

“Inspired by the traditional song cycle form, The Way Back to Thursday is a musical about unconditional love that crosses generations, genders and lifetimes.

Cameron and his Grandmother have a special tradition – movie nights every Thursday.  Together they escape into the glamour and romance of the Golden Age of film.  But as Cameron grows, so does the distance between them.”

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Where: Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson)
When: Now to February 8th
Tickets: Pwyc-$32.50. 416-504-7529

The Ugly One

Written by Marius von Mayenburg, translated by Maja Zade. Co-production by Theatre Smash and Tarragon Theatre

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Sharp, odd, hilarious and the tightest staging, design and performances that we’ve seen in one show in a while – The Ugly One is a must-see before it closes mid-February. We can’t and we won’t stop chatting about it. Theatre Isn’t Dead said it perfectly: “Non-theatre folks will dig it too. I can almost promise that.” –Blog Theatre Isn’t Dead.

We deem this our Theatrical Rejuvenation date aka. Win-over-that-friend-who-is-too-cool-for-theatre-with-the-cool-theatre-show date recommendation.

“You can’t sell anything with that face.” A razor sharp satire about getting ahead in the world. With mesmerizing speed, this award-winning work by one of Germany’s hottest playwrights catapults us into a narcissistic world obsessed with beauty, image and plastic surgery.”

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Where: Tarragon Theatre Extra Space
When: Now until February 16th
Tickets: http://tarragontheatre.com/season/1314/the-ugly-one/

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp

Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee, presented by U.N.I.T. Productions and Factory Theatre

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U.N.I.T. Productions is excited to announce the remount of Of Mice and Morro and Jasp!

Morro and Jasp feel the pinch of the recent economic downturn and decide to try to make ends meet by staging John Steinbeck’s classic tale Of Mice and Men. Can the clown sisters stick to the story? Will they both make it out alive? This winter, find out for yourself!

This is our Friends Until The End date recommendation.

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: Jan 28 to Feb 8, Tue-Sat 8PM, Thur 1PM, Sat 2PM
Tickets: $25 Regular Price / $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker PWYC Preview Jan 28 www.factorytheatre.ca 416-504-9971

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Read our latest interview with Co-creators & performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/2014/01/29/of-mice-and-morro-and-jasp/

Idiot’s Delight

Written by Robert E. Sherwood, presented by Soulpepper Theatre

Courtney Ch'ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Hailey Gillis, Gregory Prest & Dan Chameroy. Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

With 1920’s flair, song, dance and love amongst wartime, this is our Indulging in Delights date recommendation.

“A cast of wonderfully eccentric and international guests – countesses, arms dealers, showgirls, revolutionaries, charlatans and lovers – spend a fateful weekend in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps. While songs are sung and dances danced and loves rekindled, the dark clouds of war come rolling in.”

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts
When: January 29th – March 1st
Tickets: http://soulpepper.ca/performances/14_season/Idiot’s_Delight.aspx

Read our latest Artist Profile with Paolo Santalucia & Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster “From Academy to Company in Soulpepper’s “Idiot’s Delight” here: https://inthegreenroom.ca/artist-profiles/

the dreamer examines his pillow

By John Patrick Shanley, presented by JR Theatre Company

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the dreamer examines his pillow is a surreal, intimate look at the beautiful and dark forces of love. The play explores the aftermath of love, whether it’s after an explosive affair between two lovers, or the dwindling, harsh lack of love from a widowed father to his daughter. Poetic, lyrical and rough – the dreamer examines his pillow is one of contemporary theatre’s finest looks at intimacy and need. It sounds to us like the perfect antithesis to Hallmark’s version of Valentine’s Day!

This is our Dark Surrealist Valentine’s Day date recommendation.

Where: The Box Toronto (89 Niagara Street)
When: February 7th-16th Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm
Tickets: dreamer.brownpapertickets.com 

LABOUR

Written by Eric Welch and Ryan Welch. Based on the original short story by Ryan Welch with further realization by The Coyote Collective Company, presented by Coyote Collective

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LABOUR looks at the Sisyphean life of factory day-workers, who see no choices but to go to work every day, and have resigned themselves to a life of the same. For these four characters, commodification has completely changed the way they think about life, love, and happiness.

This is our Socially Conscious date recommendation.

Where: Theatre Passe-Muraille Backspace
When: February 5th to the 9th. 5th-7th 7:30pm, 8th 2pm & 7:30pm, 9th 2pm
Tickets: $20, Student/Senior $15, PWYC: Saturday, February 8th 2:00pm, Opening and Media Night: Wednesday, February 5th
Tickets available for purchase at artsboxoffice.ca or at the door. 

Events We’re Crushin’ On:

The 35th Rhubarb Festival

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Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents their 35th annual festival of new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music. For two weeks artists transform the Buddies neighbourhood into a hotbed of experimentation, sharing new works in contemporary theatre, performance art, dance, and music with adventure-loving audiences.

New to the festival this year is a new series of Open Space Projects will animate unexpected spaces around the Buddies neighbourhood and make new artistic connections between five historic queer institutions here in Toronto.

When: February 12th-23rd
Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre & around the neighbourhood
Tickets: Open Space Projects & Artist Talks – Free
Young Creators Unit – PWYC
Week One Mainstage Projects – $10
Week Two Evening Passes – $20

Roar

Written & performed by Spencer Charles Smith, presented by Straight Camp

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“Roar – a solo play about beefy, burly, brawny love”

SYNOPSIS – A boy’s campy quest for furry love, Spencer will explore his unapologetic desire for ‘bearish’ men, critique the problematic spectrum of identities within the Bear community (Bear, Cub, Otter, Panda, Muscle-Bear, etc.) and hopefully deconstruct notions of hegemonic masculinity.

Above all, it’s a love letter.

This is a staged-reading of Spencer’s latest draft of Roar and he is eager to hear your feedback. A talk-back will follow the presentation. And drinks. Featuring a special pre-show presentation: “Kid: A Queer Fable”, written, illustrated and performed by Katie Sly

Where: Videofag (187 Augusta Ave)
When: Wednesday February 5th 8pm, Thursday February 6th 8pm
Tickets: PWYC (at the door)

Theatre on a Theme: Love

Conceived and Directed by Drew O’Hara, presented by Everybody to the Theatre Company

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“Six actors, 18 theatre pieces that vary in length from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. What do you get? A hilarious, heart-wrenching, fast-paced, occasionally musical, exciting night at the theatre. Following the success of Theatre on a Theme: FAILURE, the Everybody to the Theatre Company gang will bring you Theatre on a Theme: LOVE, just in time for Valentine’s Day.”

Where: Unit 102 Theatre (376 Dufferin Street)
When: Sunday February 23rd 2pm & 8pm
Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/everybody-to-the-theatre-company-4737180757?s=20682528

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope”

Written by Ian Doescher, presented by Red One Theatre Collective and Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

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A one-night only staged reading of the classic sci-fi epic told in the Bard’s style.

“This sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The Saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.” This is the play you are looking for. Lightsaber fights included! Themed drinks/food/entertainment too – say whaaat!

Where: The Storefront Theatre (955 Bloor Street West)
When: February 7th Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm
Tickets
: $10 in advance online www.secureaseat.com or $15 at the door. 

The Howland Company Reading Group – February:

February 9th Charles Mee’s “Big Love”, February 23rd Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem”

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“Bi-weekly, The Howland Company hosts an open event called The Reading Group, where artists are encouraged to gather, meet, reconnect and work with fellow members of the Toronto theatre community and ultimately read a play together.

The readings are a laid-back, social way to work with peers and continue to develop our craft. Scripts are provided and parts are assigned and exchanged on the fly. All are welcome to participate in reading or sit back and listen.”

Check out the history of The Reading Group, including all plays past and future, at: http://howlandcompanytheatre.com/the-reading-group/.

For event updates: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre

When: Sunday February 9th & Sunday February 23rd 7:30pm
Where: Location is posted on the Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
Tickets: Free

Steinbeck meets Clown in “Of Mice and Morro and Jasp” – A Chat over Tea with Co-Creators & Performers Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee

Interview by Madryn McCabe

I had tea on a frigid evening with the talented and wonderful Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee of Morro and Jasp as they finished each others’ sentences and laughed about their upcoming show, “Of Mice and Morro and Jasp” playing now at the Factory Studio Theatre, January 28th to February 8th.

MM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Morro and Jasp?

HMA: Morro and Jasp are clown sisters. Jasp is older.

AL: Yes, she certainly is.

HML: And more bossy. And more particular. And they have been sisters…

AL: And Morro is younger. And more unruly. And flies by the seat of her pants. But loving and free spirited. (Indicates Annis) She plays Morro. We both said a nice thing and a not so nice thing about each others’ character.

HMA: They can’t live with each other or without each other.

AL: Absolutely. They have been growing up over the years. This is our… I can’t really keep track anymore. This is show… maybe eight, nine?

HMA: They’ve gone on a series of adventures. We started out with them performing. Morro and Jasp are the ones writing the plays and putting on the plays.

AL: We help sometimes.

HML: And they’ve grown up through the series of shows that we’ve done since we started. We had three…?

AL: Three shows for young audiences and then they went through puberty, which was awkward and exciting and then they went on different vacations, then they did a cooking show and now they’re tackling a tragedy with Of Mice and Morro and Jasp.

MM: So in doing Of Mice and Morro and Jasp, do we see their growing maturity through the progression of them growing up?

HMA: Yes. And they’re at a stage in their lives where they’re struggling financially, and they’re trying to find their place in the world with jobs and how they’re accepted by society, or not accepted by society.

AL: Figuring out how to make life work. (Looks at Annis) I guess you said that.

HMA: You said it in a different way.

MM: It sounds incredibly relatable. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t say, “What’s my place in the world? How do I figure this out? I need a job!”

AL: And similarly, just how George and Lenny are figuring out where to go and how to make their dream work. The first thing that jumped out for us was that it was such a great pairing. Their relationship is so similar to our relationship and then just figuring out their similarities. George and Lenny’s journey and Morro and Jasp’s journey and how they fit.

HMA: And also to explore the sadness in their lives. The tragic elements, beyond comedy, what else there is.

AL: There are always elements of tragedy in our shows, of course, there has to be both, but we wanted to try and adapt a full on tragedy to see what would happen.

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MM: Is this because the two of you sit down and say “This is what we’re going to do”? What is your process of developing your shows? I’ve heard of some performers who say “There is me, and then there is my clown” and others who say “It’s all me”.

HMA: (laughs) That is an interesting question!

AL: We are IN our clowns, but our clowns…because we’ve been doing them for so long, they really have minds of their own. And a lot of the time, we’ll think something will be a good idea, and when we rehearse as Morro and Jasp, they will let us know. A lot of the time, we’ll try to solve the problem, and we’ll say “Let’s let Morro and Jasp solve it” and they do.

HMA: At the end of the day, your clown character is coming from you and your own individual personality, which is why clown is so specific. With some characters, you can try to replicate them and perform this other person as an actor. I find it’s a little more challenging with clown because it is so specific to your person. So, we are our clowns, but once we get into character and start exploring ideas, we have totally different ideas that will come out in different ways.

AL: It’s about impulses!

HMA: Right. We might not have those as Heather and Amy sitting at a computer coming up with ideas. Theirs will be more! Theirs will be bigger and more exciting and more extreme.

AL: We write our shows in combination with them. We do it, and then we do it in clown, and we go back and forth to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

MM: I want to hear about your cookbook. How did that come to be?

AL: We were doing a show called Morro and Jasp: Go Bake Yourself and it’s our show about cooking. Someone came to see it, and he worked in publishing and said, “Make a book, and we’ll publish it”. Those were our guidelines! We didn’t really have any!

HMA: He totally came to us with the idea. We had said, “Maybe we should make a book, that would be so much fun”. Maybe we just put it out into the universe! He gave us so much freedom. The idea was to make a cookbook combined with other things, because it came out of our cooking show.

AL: We had never planned to make a cookbook, but it was a fun match. And we both love cooking and making food, and food in general and it felt like a good fit. It was a lot of work! We had no idea how much work a cookbook would be!

HMA: The fact that he gave us so much freedom is why it worked for us. We got to discover what form and what content, and everything it would be based on our process and how we went along with it and what discoveries we made along the way. Which isn’t always what you set out to do when you make a book, because I would assume the publisher would dictate it, especially when he came to us with the idea. We didn’t know how long it was going to be either.

AL: Initially, it was supposed to be 60-80 pages, and it ended up being about 235! We just kept getting excited about all the different recipes we could put in!

MM: Are they all your own recipes?

HMA: It’s a combination of some recipes we made up, recipes that we have that we’ve used and loved, a lot of recipes from our families and friends, and some fans.

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AL: Some fans wrote in and submitted recipes, which is fun.

HMA: Each of the recipes says who it’s from.

AL: It was exciting to see what we would get. And we tested everything.

HMA: Morro and Jasp tested them! (laughs)

AL: Well, we were there to guide the process.

HMA: There are also some recipes from our show, Go Bake Yourself. So it’s connected back to the show.

MM: It’s an extension of the show? A new medium?

AL: Yeah! It doesn’t run the same storyline as the show, but it’s connected.

HMA: There are similar themes about emotion and eating and those are connected. And love, and how food is a way of expressing love.

MM: Now I want to see a Morro and Jasp cooking show on TV.

HMA: So do we! That would be great!

AL: A few people have mentioned that. So we’ll see. We’d be up for it. And I think Morro and Jasp would be too. Jasp would feel like all her dreams came true.

OF MICE

MM: Of Mice and Morro and Jasp is a remount. Has it developed at all since the last time you performed it?

HMA: We’re developing it now! (laughs)

AL: We’re still developing it.

HMA: That’s where we just came from. It’s not that the story of it is changing, there aren’t dramatic rewrites, but we’re fine tuning it. We have more space to play now. At the Toronto Fringe you have a timeline. So now we have more room to breathe, and give the moments more detail. We can infuse a little more energy or breath into them.

AL: We’re coming back and going, “I think we can make this moment better. How can we do that?” “This monologue can be better”. So it’s really nice to be able to fix all the things that we wanted to fix and didn’t have time to. There are a few new elements as well, production elements that we can have.

MM: Like pyrotechnics?

HMA: (laughs)

AL: That would be fun!

HMA: The idea of the show is that times are tough. They’re on a strict budget and they’ve spent their last dollars on their set. No pyrotechnics, unfortunately. Not this time around anyway.

AL: But that is a good idea.

MM: Do you have anything else in the works? What’s next for Morro and Jasp?

AL: Morro and Jasp are in residence at Factory Theatre this season, developing their newest show, Morro and Jasp: 9 to 5, which is about them actually getting jobs. This show [Of Mice and Morro and Jasp] is about them not being able to, and the next show is about them figuring out how to actually make that happen.

HMA: Hold down a job.

AL: So that’s in process. We’re writing that right now. And also right after this show closes, we have a few days, and then we go to Ottawa to the GCTC for the Undercurrents Festival, and we’re performing Morro and Jasp Do Puberty there. Which is exciting because that’s the first in our series of adult shows, so it’s nice to give Ottawa audiences an introduction to us with that one.

MM: In going back to these other shows, are you finding out more and more about Morro and Jasp? Are Morro and Jasp discovering more about themselves?

AL: We always discover more. Every time we do a show, we change things about it. Because we’ve learned a lot about ourselves, we’ve learned a lot about Morro and Jasp, we learn so much more about who they are every time we do a show. That does inform us. We can add more detail and new things.

HMA: And also sometimes we have references or comments about things that are very timely. They’re happening now. So we’ll change them when we go back to a show. And always we’re interacting so much with the audience and the space that we’re in. Storytelling has to be alive and based on that audience and that thing and what they’re saying to you.

MM: Do you prefer that freedom of development of character and story versus an established play and character written by a playwright? Do you need both?

AL: It’s nice to have both.

HMA: They’re so different.

AL: It’s a totally different challenge. It’s nice to be able to practice both. Doing a play with a script written by someone else, whether it be a famous great playwright or someone new, always teaches us as artists a lot. So it’s nice to have the two inform each other constantly. How to bring what you know about making new work into a script that’s written and how to bridge that other kind of work into what we’re making.

HMA: And it’s a completely different exercise in that, with someone else’s script, you’re trying to interpret it and learn what’s already there and what’s hiding underneath and between the lines. With our stuff, it feels like such a rare opportunity to have a character that you enjoy and play with for so long. For, what? Ten years?

AL: Almost ten years, yeah.

HMA: And they’re so close to us because we created them. It’s a very special thing to be able to play with.

AL: We get to keep coming back to the same character and get to see what they will do in new circumstances, a new adventure, but keeping them, them. The nice thing is that there are no limits in terms of what we want to explore, but there are limits in terms of who those characters are and their relationship. That informs everything that happens.

MM: Are there certain things that Morro and Jasp would never do or say?

HMA: Never say never! (laughs) But there are certain things that they aren’t likely to do. They have their boundaries too. And those change and evolve just like anyone else. They’ve become these very dynamic people because they’ve existed for so long.

AL: I really hate it when actors say, “My character would never do that”. A lot of the time I think, “Just make it work”, but with this, Jasp, say, wouldn’t be happy wearing a pair of baggy pants. But it might be fun to see what happens when you put her in a pair of baggy pants.

HMA: So with those boundaries, it helps us put them into situations that they hate, which is funny. That’s what good theatre is, dynamics. So the more that we found out what they hate or love, the more we can play with the dynamic.

MM: To wrap up, in three words, why should people come to see Of Mice and Morro and Jasp?

(whispered consultation)

AL: Steinbeck meets clown. You’ve got to find out what that means!

Of Mice and Morro and Jasp
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Created and performed by Heather Marie Annis and Amy Lee
Directed by Byron Laviolette
Presented by Up your Nose and In your Toes (U.N.I.T.) Productions & Factory Theatre

When: January 28th – February 8th, Tues-Sat 8pm, Thurs 1pm, Sat 2pm

Where: Factory Studio Theatre

Tickets: $25 Regular Price, $20 Student, Senior, Arts Worker
http://www.factorytheatre.ca/what-s-on/of-mice-and-morro-and-jasp/

 

Morro and Jasp on the Nature of Relationships

Article by: Morro and Jasp
Photos by: Jackson Klie
Styled by: Mahro Anfield
http://www.morroandjasp.com

On the interpretation of ‘feelings’ as they pertain to the understanding of being ‘involved’ in, as, or with a society upon which the dependence of ‘another’ is debated and discussed OR How many licks does it take to get to the centre of a Tootsie Pop?

Morro and Jasp sit, sisterly, pondering the nature of relationships – theatrical, theoretical and thematic.  They often sigh before speaking, and pause before pronouncing their opinions.  They are very much, as the French say, “a la carte”.
JASP: Morro, tell me the honest truth – how do you feel about me?
MORRO: Without you I am not a thing, I am no thing, I am a lone tree in the forest and therefore not really there. Je suis la tristess!!!! Je suis la pizza without la sauce.
JASP: Really?
MORRO: Or maybe I’d be really excited to finally not have to report to anyone but secretly I’m too chicken-shit to find out if that could be true- the risk is too great. Take cover troops. Stay protected!!!
JASP: I see.
MORRO: And what about you Jasp? What are your feelings on this subject?
JASP: I think feelings are one of, nay, the most important things we have. They’re the only thing we have really. Every morning I wake up and write a journal entry about how I feel; from the dreams I had the night before; how my day is going to go; how hungry I am (hunger is after all, a feeling), etc.
MORRO: (sarcastically) Fascinating.
JASP: (ignoring her) Sometimes I think my sister is the only one who really knows me, yet she doesn’t know me. We share the same blood but different souls. I yearn for the day I will find the one who shares a soul with mine and we can lick to the centre of the proverbial Tootsie Pop together (No offense, Morro).
MORRO: None taken.
JASP: What are your thoughts Morro?
MORRO: I was pondering the other fortnight and upon my musings I imagined a world in which there were no farms. How horrible an utterance was this that a tear I did shed from my left eye. My right eye does not release fluids so readily. Imagine a city without a farm. Don’t’ actually imagine it , that was a rhetorical question. But think of it, what would we eat? I once sat under a tree at Riverdale Farm with my tootsie pop and let two drops of said liquid fall from mine eye (still the left one). Without a farm never can one indulge in such a delight. What was the question again? Jasp, it’s your turn.
JASP: My feeling about the actual topic, not about farms, is that relationships are so impossible because people place the importance of logic over feelings and emotion. People think logic is important, but it’s an illusion. There is no logic, our feelings are really all that guide us. That’s the only reason I don’t have a boyfriend. Boys want to think they can be independent and resist my charms. But the reality is that I am so romantic that it’s hard for people to handle.
MORRO: Boys are not the topic either Jasp.
JASP: (with conviction) I believe in romance films and novels. They are my religion, if you will, and people are intimidated by the feelings I bring out in them so they run away. Their logic tells them it’s not “normal” or “practical” to feel such strong romance in this day and age. An age of course cyber-dating and cheap pornography. But old-timey romance is alive and it burns like a fire within me. (You can find my profile on Plentyoffish.com)
MORRO: Oh I get it, you’re like a chicken with it’s feet cut off.
JASP: No.
MORRO: Your life is like the sound of two hands clapping, loud but lonely, and without me you’d be —
JASP: No, you’re not listening.
MORRO: I see, I see. What you’re saying is you can’t judge a book by its colour, that life is like rolling moss, it gathers, and then gets stoned.
JASP: MORRO!
MORRO: I know Jasp, It’s always darkest after the dawn.
JASP: Whatever.
MORRO: (singing) Feeeeeelings!  Nothing more than feeeeelings!!!
Jasp gets up and leaves. Morro continues to sing until she notices Jasp has left, then is silent, with no one to hear her, she becomes still.

– fin