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Posts tagged ‘punk’

“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

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

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.

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

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

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.

fb: /pandemictheatre
t: @presgang

Naming the Beast, Performance Lecture & Screaming Along at the Punk Show – A Chat with Thomas McKechnie, writer/performer of “4 1/2 (ig)noble truths”

Interview by Hallie Seline

Hallie Seline: Tell me about 4 1/2 (ig)noble truths.

Thomas McKechnie: 4 1/2 (ig)noble truths is a performance lecture on clinical depression. It’s more fun than that sounds. It’s my attempt to take the swirling incoherent masses of feelings, perspective and physical and emotional sensations of depression and give it form. To name it. If you know the true name of a thing it doesn’t make it less significant but it allows you to reach your arms all the way around it. To make it a thing that you can manipulate, contend with. Instead of being this overwhelming weight that lies on top of you in your bed, or chews on your joie de vivre among friends, it becomes like a pet you inherited, you don’t necessarily like it and it doesn’t necessarily like you but so long as you feed it and treat it ok the relationship is mostly peaceful.

Hallie: Where did you get the inspiration to create it?

Thomas: I started working on it the Soulpepper Academy under the direction of Guillermo Verdecchia. He encouraged the writers to write something personal for our first piece and really pushed me to not hide in my words or my ideas.

Hallie: Tell me about the format of the performance.

Thomas: It’s a performance lecture. Which can be sort of imagined as if that one teacher you had in high school who always got really invested in telling you about the War of 1812 or whatever, making gunshot noises and singing Rule Britannia etc, was let off the leash. It’s an attempt to use the lecture format of direct address with the poetry and metaphorical action of a play.

Hallie: Can you speak to what you are currently interested in exploring in your work in the experience of going to the theatre? This question is inspired by the following from your description:
“Because we are walking around polishing silverware or running schools or arresting jaywalkers, and we’re dying all the time and no one is saying anything. We aren’t talking because we don’t have words. Or we have those words but to say them could be worse. If he howls will you howl back? If we howl together will we be healed?”

Thomas: In reference to the quoted passage I’d say: localization and liveness. By localization I mean recognizing how the theatrical ecology has changed in 100 years. When folks did three-night-runs of touring productions of Shakespeare to 1000 people, the event had very little localization. You couldn’t be speaking to those people in that place specifically. You could speak to all people generally and the people would find specificity for themselves. By doing small plays in small theatres for small audiences we have a chance to speak to them specifically, locally, like a congregation at a church.

This is for you if you come. I made it for you. I didn’t make it for the sold-out run in four major Canadian cities on a major tour that is not going to get specifically. I made it for you, here, now.

Which ties into the liveness. I’m so fucking tired of having performances pretend I’m not there, pretend that we’re not doing a thing together.

When I go to a good punk show I feel like I’m included. I’m allowed/encouraged/impelled to scream along, it isn’t just the performers doing their things and me watching it. The band opens a space where I can scream, where the person next to me can scream, where we can all scream. Where we are all there, having more and more fun, together. This is what I want for theatre.

Down with the fourth wall. Speak to me.

Does that mean every show should be a solo show in direct address? No. What it means is that if I wanted a dead, abstracted, though very moving, performance I’d watch a movie.

Why are we doing this live? It’s hard and expensive and an ineffective means of communication. Given that, there should be a really, really good reason to make it live.

Hallie: What music would you recommend your audience listen to before the show?

Thomas: Titus Andronicus – The Monitor. It’s a devastating album that weaves the history of the American Civil War as a metaphor for the lead singer’s turbulent (and sometimes violent) relationship to mental illness. It was one of those bands that saved my life.

Hallie: What inspires you as an artist?

Thomas: I came up in the church and I still have so much of that mythos and ceremony and ritual in my bones, that pursuit of a holy thing.

I’m not one of the faithful anymore but you find that transcendence in all sorts of places, in all sorts of music, in the way light lands on streetcar tracks.

Hallie: If you could have written one album, which one would it be and why?

Thomas: Nana Grizol – Love It, Love It. It’s strange and bright and kind and SO SO SO wise. It’s like a strange man who hitchhiked into your town and he seemed cool and so you invited him to have a beer and instead of hearing his story you find yourself telling him your whole life and he listens carefully and has the exact right words to heal, to inspire, to make you laugh. It’s wonderful.

Hallie: Where is your favourite place in the city?

Thomas: Bathurst and Dundas at dusk.

Hallie: Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Thomas: Lots of shit my mom says. Not advice per-se but more of leading by example, “We’ll make it work.” “This too shall pass.” “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Things like this.

Hallie: Describe the show in 5-10 words.


Shitty punk kid tries to find the words you need.

4 1/2 (ig)noble truths


Company: zeitpunktheatre
Written and Performed by Thomas McKechnie; Directed by Michael Reinhart; Assistant Directed by Julia Matias; Scenography by Claire Hill; Produced by Kelly Read.

Let’s pretend for a second that we’re OK. What does that feel like? A lot of things are not OK with Thomas but he’s got a ten-pound sledge hammer and is pretty sure that could solve at least one of his problems. This is a show that he wrote. It’s for/from those times when you can’t get out of bed. When you’ve only been eating breakfast cereal for days. When if someone asks you how you are you’ll say great – and then smash your face into their face. Thomas has 4 ½ totally useful pieces of advice for battling depression. He has an hour-long anarchic expression of depression that must be passed through first. Because we are walking around polishing silverware or running schools or arresting jaywalkers, and we’re dying all the time and no one is saying anything. We aren’t talking because we don’t have words. Or we have those words but to say them could be worse. If he howls will you howl back? If we howl together will we be healed?

Curator’s Note
“‘The Buddha laid it out a long time ago:
All life is conditioned by suffering
Suffering has its causes
Put an end to the causes, and
Cultivate the path.’

My favourite young anarchist playwright wrestles with mental suffering and clears his own path, which might be yours as well.”
– Guillermo Verdecchia

Scotiabank Studio Theatre, Pia Bouman
6 Noble Street

Thursday August 4th 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Sunday August 7th 7:45 PM – 8:45 PM
Wednesday August 10th 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Sunday August 14th 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

More Show Info:


twitter – @postbrechtian

Dearly Beloved, are you listening? American Idiot and Rock n’ Roll Purity

Read what Jeremy has to say about Dancap’s American Idiot, playing until January 15th at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Click here to read the review.