By: Alex Johnson
Kim’s Convenience by Ins Choi at Soulpepper
I missed this Best New Play winner at Fringe last summer, and regretted it. I’ve always been a quiet admirer of Ins Choi (a Soulpepper Academy alumnus and an actor who manages to find why those peripheral parts are in the script, and elevate them from walk-on role to scene-stealer). At first it seems out of step that Soulpepper would add a Fringe winner to their docket of “important” and “time-tested” classics. But the Soulpepper website calls Kim’s Convenience a “Toronto classic in the making.” Props to Soulpepper for recognizing and nurturing a more localized “classic” and props to Ins Choi for writing it. It makes for a hell of a good underdog story.
Queen of Puddings Music Theatre Presents Beckett: Feck It! at Canadian Stage
The title notwithstanding, I am surprised to find myself so excited about this show. I am not a Beckett fan, so the idea of sitting through a Beckett-themed musical evening shouldn’t sit right with me. However, I can’t help thinking that if anything can shed some light on Beckett, and possibly change my mind about him, it’s going to be the combined energies of Laura Condlln, Jennifer Tarver, Tom Rooney and a smattering of contemporary Irish composers. And who am I kidding…the title kind of clinches it. Maybe Canadian Stage will hand out more of those slightly naughty buttons like they did at Krapp’s Last Tape.
Beckett: Feck It! Plays February 17th – 25th at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs. For more information http://www.queenofpuddingsmusictheatre.com/index.php/productions/beckett-feck-it or http://www.canadianstage.com
Arts cuts by City Hall
It hurts our wallets, our functionality, our sense of protection and calm. But historically, Toronto always produces incredible work when our funding gets axed. The community bands together and breaks new ground, flipping a well-crafted bird to the higher-ups. Look at what happened with Summerworks in 2011. I, for one, would wish away the budget cuts if I could, but intend on embracing them when they come. Strange as it is, I look forward to seeing what remarkable things happen when we get put inside the pressure cooker.
I probably wouldn’t be so doe-eyed about it if I had the job responsibilities of Matthew Jocelyn….
Penny Plain by Ronnie Burkett at Factory Theatre
I can’t stress enough how everyone should see the work of The Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes. It ain’t for kids, though it might make you feel like one. I dare even the hardest, crustiest cynics to not be blissfully caught off guard. Seriously. If you’re totally unaffected, send me your address and I’ll mail you a Radiohead album. I’ll assume that’s what you listen to…
Penny Plain plays January 20th – February 26th at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. For ticket information (and a great video interview with Ronnie Burkett) check out http://www.factorytheatre.ca/concrete/concrete/index.php/season-and-subscription/penny-plain/.
Closer by Patrick Marber, Mnemonic Theatre Productions
This play made the list because I see it as a diamond in the rough. The cast is relatively unknown, the director is new on the scene; but going to this production will give you the thrill of feeling that you’ve discovered something special and substantial before anyone else has – like how I felt when I got the first Arcade Fire album weeks before it aired on Much Music. I would be very surprised if these young, up-and-coming artists weren’t on many more “Top” lists in the years to come. Not to mention, the play is infinitely better than the film – as is often the case – so exorcise Julia Roberts from your brain and go check out the real deal.
Closer plays February 1st-4th at the Winchester Theatre in Cabbagetown. For more information visit www.mnemonictheatre.com/closer
The new “Theatre trailer” and online promotions
I get sick kicks out of sitting down on YouTube and searching for trailers and promotional videos for theatrical productions. I’ve seen some bombs, and I’ve seen some goodies (anyone remember the Jersey Shore transcripts done in the style of Oscar Wilde that promoted The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway?). It’s interesting to see the creative ways in which people build interest for a live medium through a recorded medium, and I think that with each passing year we are going to see that creativity produce some pretty spectacular efforts. Who will have the most effective, ludicrous, sensational promotional video of 2012?
If you haven’t seen the Earnest Playbill promotions, just YouTube “jersey shore oscar wilde”. And enjoy.
The Year of the Playwright?
Is it? Maybe? Fingers crossed. I can only hope that we are moving into a revamped era where people aren’t just writing great Canadian plays, but they are being produced, watched, and taken seriously. I think that voices like Hannah Moscovitch and Anunsee Roy are showing us that the appetite for new plays is there, and following their example, more young artists are going out on a playwright’s limb. I think that very soon, the playwright will once again be a commanding force of a nature in Canadian theatre (I leave that to better people than I). 2012 is only going to bring us one step closer to that.
There are tons of great writing and creation workshops out there, so keep your ear to the ground. I’ll keep you posted through Inthegreenroom.ca as they pop up.
The Neverending Story at Toronto’s Theatre for Young People
As if this needs any explanation. If you were born in the eighties, raised in the 90s, had even a smidge of a child’s imagination, and owned a VCR…this is a big moment in Canadian theatre for you. Atreyu and Bastian and the Childlike Empress on stage together? Live?? In the flesh?? I might have to knock me down some toddlers to get to the front row. All’s fair in Fantastica, the Land of Stories.
The Neverending Story plays February 27th-March 17th at Young People’s Theatre (it was never the Lorraine Kimsa to me!) For more information, check out http://youngpeoplestheatre.ca/en/current/theneverendingstory.cfm. There are cheapie tickets, too!
Groundling Theatre Company
Sometimes I think that every six days there is a Shakespearean start-up venture in Toronto (God knows I’ve been a part of my share). His work is like actor crack: sexy, high-stakes, showy, language that is almost edible. Everyone has an opinion on Shakespeare, and everyone wants to put their stamp on the canon. But when I heard about Groundling Theatre Company, a new Shakespeare company founded by Graham Abbey….well, I think it’s good news for all of us. Abbey knows what he is doing. He has been wrestling with the great roles and the great plays his entire career, has been mentored by the very best, and remains a staple of classical theatre in Canada. We need good Shakespeare, and I’m pleased as punch that he is helping an initiative to do just that. Although their first production isn’t slated until 2013, keep your ears clean and your eyes open and you may hear tell of something. Abbey will also be returning to Stratford for the Festival’s 2012 season. It’s a quick drive for a big treat!
For more information, you can look at their website, groundlingtheatre.com.
The Tennessee Williams Project
Something is a-brewing in the Toronto theatre scene; something built off a love for Toronto, a need for community, a sense of artistic curiosity, and a hot and heavy love of Tennessee. The details are in the works, but we at Inthegreenroom.ca will keep you posted.