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Artist Profile: Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Actress

Interview by Brittany Kay

This Lady Boss had a kick-ass 2016, which appears to be shaping into an even more exciting 2017. We couldn’t be luckier to sit down and chat with actress Vivien Endicott-Douglas, who’s performing in the current remount of Infinity at TarragonWe spoke about not going to theatre school, how she has grown as an artist at Tarragon over the years, and the love that comes with Infinity.

Brittany Kay: What made you choose performing as a career?

Vivien Endicott-Douglas: I’ve always been a performer, ever since I could talk. I loved to perform for my family. My family is a huge fan of the original Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. I had listened to these stories on tape a bunch. There was one point where I was 4 or 5 years old when my dad turned on the tape and I had memorized it entirely. I just recited it, instead of listening to the tape. I asked my parents if I could start acting when I was 8 and they sent me to these drama classes called Dragon Trails with a woman named Jill Frappier, who’s this incredible actress and had this drama school for kids. I was in love with her. I was in awe of her. She was always doing voices and had so much energy and we created plays with her. She said to my parents, “Have you ever considered Vivian doing this professionally?” I really wanted to, so when I was 11, I got an agent and started working professionally. That was mostly in TV and film so I was able to learn so much. I got a lead in a TV series when I was a year into working professionally and I was in almost every scene, so I really absorbed a lot and got to work with some incredible actors.

Richard Rose gave me my first professional theatre gig right out of high school at 18. I was taking a year off and trying to figure out whether I wanted to go to theatre school or not. I was working and there were all of these other actors who were like, “If you’re already working, maybe theatre school isn’t right for you and you can find other people to train with on your own.” That was a big debate for me for a while of whether I should go or not go. Not going kind of won out in the end, just based on friends and people’s advice to me. The biggest challenge for me was the fact that I really wanted to find a community of artists and actors and theatre makers.

BK: That can be hard if you’re not going to theatre school.

VE-D: Exactly. And I was always kind of like the kid amongst the other artists. I was so lucky to be working with these older, super experienced actors but I didn’t feel like they were people who I could necessarily create new projects with. Around that time it was important for me to find people my own age who wanted to experiment and create. I met Rosamund Small during my time at UofT and our friendship and working relationship blossomed from there.

BK: Well that’s a great connection! Without the training of theatre school, what is your process or preparation for auditions and rehearsals?

VE-D: I started taking voice classes with a woman named Rae Ellen Bodie about 4 years ago out of Pro Actors Lab. She’s an incredible actor, director and coach. I took this class because I thought I should have something on my resume that says that I’ve had some kind of training. I walked in on my first day and Rae was like, “Where have you trained?” and I was like, “Mhmm… I haven’t.” Everyone started making these sounds and moving freely and I just tried to do that too with absolutely no idea what I was doing. It turned out to be about breath and body work to connect with how you’re feeling right now in this present moment and so I have incorporated that into my daily practice. It helps with auditions, a lot. Auditioning is not easy for me. I don’t think it’s easy for anybody.

BK: What are you talking about? It’s the best process ever…

VE-D: (laughter) I certainly enjoy auditioning for theatre more than I do for TV/Film just because there feels like there is more time and you can really talk about it and get into it. I’ve picked up other things along the way. There’s a book called the Power of the Actor by a woman named Ivana Chubbuck. It’s these twelve steps to approaching a character and script. What really spoke to me was this idea of what you need from the other person and what you want to make them do. That has really helped my work. I have played a lot of victims or people who don’t necessarily have a lot of agency, just because of the nature of the roles I’ve been given in my career so far. This book really empowers you. Instead of just wanting something from them, it forces you to look at what are you doing to that person to make that happen.

I think I have an emotional intuitiveness and I’m a very empathetic person. I think I bring that to my work. For the past few years it’s been really important to be more powerful. Not just in the work but in the room. Really have my voice heard by directors and other actors. Because I started as kid, I’ve always felt like a kid.

paul-braunstein-amy-rutherford-vivien-endicott-dougas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

Paul Braunstein, Amy Rutherford, Vivien Endicott-Douglas in Infinity. Photo Credit: John Lauener

BK: Tell me a little bit about the show?

VE-D: Infinity is about a couple, who are two brilliant people. One is a theoretical physicist and the other is a musician. I play a young woman, named Sarah Jean who’s a mathematician and I go between being in my mid twenties to playing an eight year old. It’s about her figuring out her emotional life because she doesn’t actually live in that at all. She’s a very intellectual academic, a very smart, driven person, who doesn’t often take an emotional inventory of where she’s at or of her past relationships. Without giving away too much, there’s kind of an incident that makes her have to reflect on it. It’s about how we come to understand love in our lives, with parents and with lovers.

It’s also filled with beautiful live music. There’s a violinist, named Andréa Tyniec that plays throughout the show. It’s amazing because live music has such a resonance as you’re working. It’s so visceral. It’s really intertwined with what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. She has an incredible ear so she can be dynamic in the way that she plays. She changes with us from night to night.

BK: There’s definitely something about strings that brings you further into the experience as an audience member. It just hits you somewhere deeper.

VE-D: Well the vibrations hit you. I find it so moving when there’s live music.

BK: Were there excitements or fears or challenges coming into a remount, where Haley McGee played the part before you?

VE-D: Well yeah, those are certainly big shoes to fill. Because I didn’t see the original production, I didn’t have any preconceived notions about the character. I just had a couple of monologues and read the script and went into the audition bringing what I had to it. We worked quite intensively in the audition. I think we made a lot of fresh discoveries about the character and about how I relate to Sarah Jean. Our director Ross Manson was really willing and very interested in me finding the character myself, which was awesome because I felt like he gave me the kind of support to just go. There are certain things about the character that are true for anyone playing this part but within that, I was able to find what my own relationship to her was. We only had 10 days of rehearsal…

BK: Whoa! Why so short?

VE-D: Well because it was a remount and originally Haley was going to do it. She wasn’t available and so they had only budgeted for 10 days.

BK: Wow…

VE-D: Yeah… It was an intensive rehearsal process. I found out that I got the part while I was doing Killer Joe, so I had a lot of time leading up to prepare. The first day we just got on our feet. I came into a room of people who were already so confident in the work, which was actually really neat. Amy and Paul, the other actors in the play, have such a great dynamic in their relationship. They were very encouraging and supportive of the work that I was doing. Ross worked with me and really challenged me. He pushed me, which was important because we didn’t have a lot of time so I had to be on my toes. I felt like I came into a room that was filled with a lot of love because I think people really love the play. From the whole team, everybody loves the play, and you really feel this connection… they all feel connected to it.

BK: Why is this play so important and important to bring back?

VE-D: It’s so relatable in the way that it shows a relationship between two people who are deeply in love and who can’t quite get on the same page or can’t quite give each other what they need. My character, Sarah Jean, is so relatable because she’s this young woman who’s trying to figure out her relationship to her parents and what their legacy is and her relationship to how her childhood has made her into who she is. It’s her opportunity to reflect on how she’s gotten to where she is and that she can actually change… that the future is not written and she kind of comes to this realization that she can change for the better.

andrea-tyniec-vivien-endicott-douglas-in-infinity-photo-by-john-lauener

BK: This is your fourth show with Tarragon. What do you love about being there and what keeps you coming back?

VE-D: I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to work there. I have learned so much working there because they produce all of these new plays. I actually have also been a part of numerous workshops that have taken place there. Being a part of those with other actors and directors has allowed me to learn so much about theatre and about being an actor and the process to creating a show. I have been able to learn how other actors approach the work. People will really question playwrights and then the play changes and grows and that’s a huge part of working at Tarragon – having these conversations about stories. You’re often not getting a static play that’s already written. So much of the time it’s about dramaturgy. I love that part of it.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with from Infinity?

VE-D: I hope that people walk away feeling hopeful. I hope that people walk away and maybe call someone they love and tell them that they’re grateful to have them in their lives or if they come with family or friends and can walk away and talk about their connection to each other. I hope that it opens people up.

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: Back to the Future

Favourite Play/Musical: The Sound of Music

Favourite Book: Fall On Your Knees, closely followed by The Sun Also Rises

Favourite Food: Salmon

Best place in Toronto: Either of grandparents’ houses or the ravine close to my parent’s house.

Advice you live by: Trust your instincts.

Infinity

Tarragon_Infinity

Who:
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Original score composed by Njo Kong Kie
Directed by Ross Manson
Co-produced by Volcano Theatre
Featuring Paul Braunstein as Elliot Green, Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Sarah Jean Green, Amy Rutherford as Carmen Green and Andréa Tyniec as violinist

What:
How does a new Theory of Time change everything we know about ourselves? Three brilliant minds – a musician, a mathematician, and a theoretical physicist – smash together like colliding particles in an accelerator. Together they learn that love and time are connected in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Infinity is a shocking, funny and revelatory play about love, sex, & math by Tarragon Playwright-in-Residence Hannah Moscovitch developed with Volcano Theatre. Back by popular demand from Tarragon’s 2014/15 season.

Where:
Tarragon Theatre

When:
January 4 – 29, 2017

Tickets:
tarragontheatre.com

 

 

Artist Profile: Actor Jakob Ehman on Rebellion, Drive, Risk & “The Circle” at Tarragon Theatre

Interview by Brittany Kay

I sat down with the incredibly talented Jakob Ehman who is making his Tarragon Theatre debut in The Circle. We discussed rebellion, his drive for the craft, and the need for established theatre companies to take risks on young artists.

Brittany Kay: What has been your journey to getting to where you are right now?

Jakob Ehman: I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. I lived there for a short couple of years. I moved to Calgary, Alberta until I was 5 and then we drove across the country to Nova Scotia. I lived in a couple of different places in Nova Scotia: LaHave, which is in the country and very rural, I lived in Bedford, and I lived in Dartmouth where I spent the most amount of time. At the end of grade 8, I moved to Toronto and started high school here at the Danforth Collegiate Technical Institute.

BK: What made you go to theatre school?

JE: I don’t know… I can’t really remember what it was that got me into it, but I had to take some sort of arts class in high school. I was interested in drama, I guess, and I had a great teacher! Her name was Heli Kivilaht. I think I remember one of the first classes I played this character ‘Indiana Jake’ and everyone laughed. My childhood memories have a lot do with me entertaining the family. I started to like making people laugh a lot. The years went by and that drama teacher left, but while she was there, I was pretty heavily exposed to some wicked writers – David Mamet, Beckett, MacIvor. I was in grade 10 and 11 studying those writers and that was kind of crazy to me at that time. I was so fascinated by it because it reminded me of the type of films I was into when I was in high school – ones with dark writing. It seemed pretty cool just to be able to do that, to say those words. I felt like I had an affinity for it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue acting or not. I was still pretty into the idea of some sort of work in policing, investigations or the military. I decided I would apply to George Brown, NTS and Ryerson.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

Vivien Endicott Douglas & Jakob Ehman. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedmann.

BK: Why those three?

JE: They’re all that I really knew, I guess. I was more into the idea of doing some sort of conservatory. Figured that if I was going to go do this, I didn’t want to have to also take a bunch of other classes and be in a university setting. I kind of decided if I didn’t get in, that would be that. I would go to UofT and be a spy or something.

I got into George Brown and I loved the feeling I had when I went to that audition and the Young Centre was new, beautiful and seemed great. So I kind of left everything else behind… gave in and immersed myself into that program and into the life of what I thought it was to be an actor and eventually then a creator, which George Brown wasn’t very helpful in overall.

BK: To create your own work?

JE: Yeah.

BK: Is that where HUMANZOO came from?

JE: Yeah. Sort of. George Brown had a couple of projects that were based in creation, but they had pretty specific ideas of what being a professional actor was and what they wanted us to be, at least that’s how I felt. It was actually helpful because it really gave me something to rebel against. That’s generally when I feel most at home.

BK: When you rebel?

JE: Yeah, I’m sort of an antagonistic kind of person, especially as an artist, though not necessarily in rehearsals. I don’t want to be like that. But you know, challenging everything.

BK: So how did HUMANZOO come to be? What happened after theatre school?

JE: HUMANZOO was an idea that was formed in theatre school. My great friend Edward Charette and I lived together. I talked a lot about ideas I had, just all the time…. just spouting off things. I think it annoyed him quite a bit. We had this idea about a human zoo, a zoo for humans. The actual company was all just ideas and a name that I liked, until I was contacted from the Hamilton Fringe. Somehow a spot had opened up there and they didn’t want to put it out to the public or have a whole bunch of people applying for this spot, so they asked me if I would be interested in doing something. At that time I had no clue what that would be. I decided to take the spot and figure it out after. I spent a week in the reference library reading every play that looked interesting. I looked for ones that had small casts since we were all going to be living at my parent’s house in Hamilton. Eventually I found this play called Normal by Anthony Neilson about this real life serial killer in Germany who killed a great many people. I thought the play was terrific and felt very inspired by it as soon as I read it. I kind of took the book… went downstairs and I ripped the sticker out of it.

BK: You stole it from the library?

JE: Yeah, I stole it from the Reference Library. The Reference Library, if you’re reading this… come get me, I guess. I’ve got it and I don’t intend to give it back.

So yeah, we did that and it was awesome. We won the Critic’s Choice Award. It was the first thing I directed.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: Do you have future plans with this company?

JE: I definitely want to do stuff in the future with the company. That sort of becomes about deciding how to manage your own time. I’ve been quite fortunate in the last couple of years where I haven’t necessarily had a lot of off time to plan a production or knowing when I’m going to have time next year. I haven’t committed to deciding that I won’t accept any acting work so that I can do that.

BK: You’re not just an actor, though. You’ve also sound designed, produced, directed, and written. How do you choose when you want to do what? Is it whatever is offered at the time or is it an active choice you make?

JE: Well, we went back to the Hamilton Fringe the next year. We really enjoyed our time there. I like the city of Hamilton. I knew I wanted to direct again but I also wanted to write and sound design once I started writing the play. I always want to be doing all of those things. I think that theatre is such a collaborative thing that if you want to, you can sort of have a part in all of those things, no matter what role you are in with the production. As an actor, you are still collaborating with a director. If you fight for your ideas of your character, you could feel like you have a say in some parts of the direction.

I guess it does come down to what is offered more. Acting happens more frequently for me. It takes a lot more of my own drive to make any of the other things happen. I’ve done a couple of sound designing jobs on the side but I’ve also been involved in the production as an actor so it’s never one thing at a time.

BK: What motivates you?

JE: I think just being really hungry. I’m obsessive – about the craft and about wanting to be…awesome. I want to be better every time. I want to inspire other people. I want to inspire people who I’m working with to work as hard as I want to work, so that what we give in the moment on stage is truthful and electric and vibrating with energy and life. I’m just sort of addicted to that feeling and to that kind of presence, but that type of presence takes a lot of preparation work and a lot of thought and time. It’s literally just thinking about the work, about the character’s stories and motivations like a detective.

BK: This is part of your rehearsal process, as well?

JE: Yeah. For sure.

How can I find other things to bring into this? How can I go deeper? And sometimes it can be really simple things you might not think of. Where does this person look when someone’s talking to them? Which eye? Do they look at both eyes? There’s an infinite level of details humans have. That makes me excited to investigate.

BK: We’re going to shift into talking about The Circle. What is it about?

JE: The Circle is about a group of young people from 15-18 years old. There’s this guy Ily, who I’m playing, and he’s living in his girlfriend’s mom’s garage. He’s dropped out of school and he sells weed and works at The Keg. During the day when his girlfriend is at school he gets this call from Tyler, an old friend of his that used to live at his place. It’s this guy who’s ended up living on the street and in various squats and in and out of homelessness. Tyler calls him wanting to hang out that night and Ily agrees but meanwhile his girlfriend has also invited her friend Will over that night with his new boyfriend Daniel. There’s this clash of groups that are going to come together and it really becomes a fucked up party.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What draws you to this character?

JE: I think I’ve played a lot of emotionally unstable and intense kind of characters. When I read this one, I was excited because it felt more like a side of me. You know, a happier kind of guy. He’s just generally smiling and laughing. He’s the kind of guy who can hang out with any group. I dunno, it felt like I needed a change and play that part of myself and to not always be going down those dark paths.

I really think that within each of the characters there’s something every person in the audience, whether young or old, can relate to. The characters are so varied. The play is about them figuring out who they are and figuring out who they want to be. They are looking for a place of belonging with each other and in their own lives.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

Jakob Ehman in The Circle. Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann.

BK: This is a cast of all young people and a big first for Tarragon. It’s nearly everyone’s Tarragon debut. There’s been a bit of a trend with professional theatres not often hiring younger performers. How do you feel about Tarragon programming this kind of show filled with young actors?

JE: It’s a huge risk for them. This is Geoff’s debut play. It’s been produced before at ATP (Alberta Theatre Projects) but he’s still a very young writer. The cast needs to be playing 15-18 years old, so no matter what, you’re going to be taking a gamble on some very young actors that may or may not perform at the sort of level that an audience or critics are used to from an establishment like Tarragon. I think it’s going to pay off for them. The first step to making it pay off was hiring director Peter Pasyk, who took the time to find the right actors that were going to be able to make this thing live. Even then, it could still really have not worked out for them, but they have to do it. They have to do this play and plays like this, written by young people with young directors and young actors so that they can get younger audiences because their subscriber base is going to end and if they don’t have a new subscriber base and new people who are interested, they won’t survive. It’s a risky production but I think necessary for their survival.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

BK: What is it like working with Peter?

JE: Peter is a funny guy.

BK: That’s it?

JE: He and I joked once when we were leaving the theatre about how he’d like to be described, and he said he’d like someone to say that he’s a funny guy. So yeah, I’ll leave it at that…

But he’s actually tremendous. He’s a tremendous director. A wonderful, lovely person to work with everyday. Really patient and demanding and never gives up on anybody or anything that he wants. I think he’s quite courageous and I had a great time working with him.

BK: Why is this story relevant today?

JE: I don’t think it’s specifically the story that makes it relevant. It’s quite simply about young people – that young people are portrayed fully, at all. They aren’t used as a device for some older character’s story. They’re not the singular teen in the play. It’s a play about them. That’s really different. That’s what’s relevant, I think.

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Rapid Fire Question Round

Favourite Movie: That’s an impossible question.

Favourite Play: Nope.

Favourite Book: “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

Favourite Food: Sushi. Chino Loco’s burritos.

Last play you saw in Toronto that stayed with you: James Smith’s Lessons in Temperament.

What are you currently listening to: Solange, Bon Iver’s new album.

Advice for young emerging artists: Don’t settle for doing what a director asks you to do, always suggest something to do… make offers, continue every moment that you can. Try and give your own perspective, different intentions/objectives/movements. Never settle for just taking direction. Always take it, but give more than what you’re asked for.

The Circle

A Tarragon Theatre Production

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

The Circle, Tarragon Theatre

Who:
by Geoffrey Simon Brown
directed by Peter Pasyk
starring Nikki Duval, Jakob Ehman, Daniel Ellis, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, Brian Solomon & Jake Vanderham
set designer Patrick Lavender
lighting designer Rebecca Picherack
sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne
costume designer Joanna Yu
fight director Steve Wilsher
stage manager Sandy Plunkett
apprentice stage manager Victoria Wang

What:
Welcome to Ily’s high school garage party: there’s the genius, the drug dealer, the runaway, the kid with ADHD, and the son of a priest. Everyone’s a total mess, but it’s better than being alone on a Friday night in suburbia. This remarkable debut by 26-year-old playwright Geoffrey Simon Brown is an explosive SOS from an orphaned generation desperately looking for a place to belong.

Where:
Tarragon Theatre Extraspace
30 Bridgeman Ave.
Toronto

When:
Oct 18 – Nov 27, 2016

Tickets: 
tarragontheatre.com

Connect:
Jakob –
w: jakobehman.com
t: @JakeEhman

Tarragon –
w: tarragontheatre.com
fb: /tarragontheatre
t: @tarragontheatre

Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit: An Introduction with Dramaturg Andrea Romaldi

by Bailey Green

I sat down with Andrea Romaldi, Literary Manager at the Tarragon, to discuss the 2014 Playwrights Unit. This piece is the first of an ongoing series of profiles on the members of the Unit. A playwright profile will be launched each month leading up to the play reading week at the Tarragon in November.

The Tarragon Playwrights Unit 2014 announcement arrived in my email inbox earlier this year. The playwrights? Rachel Blair, Alexandria Haber, Jessica Moss, Kat Sandler and Evan Webber. These five talented individuals will spend a year working on one of their own projects in collaboration with dramaturg Andrea Romaldi. But what exactly is this unit and how does it function? I contacted Andrea Romaldi to learn more about the process. All five playwrights generously agreed to participate in this series of features. I hope other writers or artists will find connection in these pieces. The writer’s profession is a solitary one. But the Playwrights Unit, just like In the Greenroom, encourages community.

The Unit has been in existence since 1982. The last four units have been primarily under the dramaturgical care of Andrea Romaldi. Artistic Director Richard Rose passed the reins a few years ago as demands of Tarragon’s season became more insistent. Rose returns to the process in November to direct the play reading week. Andrea Romaldi began working at Tarragon in October 2007 after completing internships with Maureen Labonté at Shaw Festival and Brian Quirt of Nightswimming. Romaldi was part of the inaugural Festival of Ideas and Creation at CanStage and worked with the Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival for a several years. And her joe job? Teaching as an artist in schools and working at the ROM’s summer camps.

The Unit meets in January, May and September with a day or half day dedicated to each play. The playwrights attend each meeting and give feedback to each other on their work. After the meetings, the writers return to their drafts until the next meeting. “Writing is a very lonely profession and so when people have the opportunity to work with others, they don’t take it lightly,” Romaldi says of the dedication of playwrights to the unit.

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In between Unit meetings, writers have the opportunity to meet with Romaldi who dramaturges their work. She offers feedback, suggests new avenues to explore or requests revisions. Romaldi adapts to each writer’s process, “some people take me up on meetings, some don’t. Part of that is how people create. Some glean what they need from the readings or discussion and some people require constant checking in to feel supported. Everyone’s process is unique.” In her many years of experience, Romaldi recognizes the sensitivity required in dealing with artists and the varied challenges each playwright faces. In the past, Romaldi has worked with a variety of challenges such as writing a play in real time or writing a play out of chronological order. Many plays require the challenge of an extensive research process. This can stunt the writer when they come to actually putting words to paper. Breaking out of the comfort zone is also a common challenge, “many playwrights cut their teeth doing a certain kind of play, for example a one person show or an episodic play,” says Romaldi. “When playwrights challenges themselves it will always challenge their process.” Other playwrights struggle with their material and fears of what others might think of them if they create unlikeable characters or tackle difficult subject matter. “Write the play you need to write,” Romaldi encourages.

The selection process is very challenging for Romaldi. She invites six playwrights a year to join the Unit. “People who are brand new to writing want to work at the Tarragon, however they often don’t have enough experience,” Romaldi says of many writers who contact her through the Tarragon website. “I direct them to places or institutions where they can develop their skills.” Romaldi says she often comes across new writers typically at festivals like SummerWorks, Fringe and occasionally Rhubarb (Rhubarb shows are often more performance art/creation based). Romaldi also draws from Tarragon’s RBC Playwriting Competition and the Theatre Creators Reserve. The Unit is open to working with alternative creators however, “the unit has a very specific infrastructure which is geared towards playwright-driven, text-based plays,” Romaldi says. The budget often can’t accommodate paying creators for the extended rehearsal period required with a collective creation or movement-based performance. “We do make offers to people who work in a less conventional way than I think people perceive of Tarragon,” Romaldi says, “they [the creators] just have to be more flexible with their needs.”

When asked what she looks for in selecting the playwrights for the unit Romaldi replied: “At Tarragon we’re looking for plays whose primary focus is exploring the human condition. We’re not looking for plays with a single perspective, an easy hero and an easy villain. Our plays ask people to look at themselves and others with complexity and compassion. No matter how good a character tries to be there’s always something that eats at them. It can cause them to do thing we may not admire, but that we are forced to understand.”

Romaldi also listed several basic qualities: strong dialogue, a clear understanding of drama and above all that scripts are written for the theatre (as opposed to the mediums of film or poetry).

The level of experience varies within the unit. Romaldi looks for playwrights who have put a play through the production process, whether it was at a small indie venue or at the Fringe. The experience of putting original work through rehearsals with actors, meetings with designers and performances with audiences is crucial to growing as a playwright. Romaldi looks for a diverse group in terms of age, skills, and experience, “some people are well beyond the minimum, some have experience in film and television want to return to theatre, some have had experience in cities outside Toronto and so perhaps Tarragon isn’t familiar with their work.” Each playwright comes into the unit at a different stage in their plays’ development. Some plays may have been in the works for years while others may have only gained an ending the night before.

Romaldi’s advice for young writers and emerging artists? “Read and see as many plays as possible.” Be analytical, but generous, and always speak about plays in compassionate terms and “respect the integrity of the creators.” Romaldi notices that writers commonly have a lot of talent but are afraid to claim their confidence. Romaldi searched for the right words to describe what she feels is essential for life as an artist, “I am allowed to be a writer. It doesn’t make me inferior or superior, it just makes me who I am. Building up the idea of the ‘nobility of the artist’ won’t help. Part of what artists are offering people is a piece of themselves. It’s complicated and it’s not easy. But at some point you just have to accept that this is who you are and this is what you are meant to do.”

Be sure to check back over the next few months to follow our Tarragon Playwrights Unit Feature as we meet with each of the playwrights.

Follow our writer Bailey on Twitter: @_BaileyGreen

 

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

Genesis 2014 Promo Photo #1

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

On Our Radar TO: Get Stoked for Theatre this November!

Why is theatre relevant? Whether it allows you to re-connect with your inner child, be exposed to a new perspective, challenges your pre-conceptions or allows you to let your guard down, whether you’re looking for a sexy night out, a night to sing and dance with childish glee without feeling out of place, or simply looking to be entertained and connect with those around you through classic love stories and a beer in hand, these productions are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should get stoked for theatre this November!

Savage in Limbo

Written by John Patrick Shanley, presented by Bob Kills Theatre

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With a newly extended run, we’ve heard nothing but exciting things about this production. Bold, brave work, exciting use of a new venue to the Toronto scene (The Downstage), and some incredible talent that must be noted!

“John Patrick Shanley is an Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning writer of stage and screen. He is best known for the 1988 film Moonstruck, and the 2004 play Doubt, which was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated film in 2008.

Bob Kills Theatre is an experience in visceral theatre. Founded by Melissa D’Agostino and Diana Bentley, the company strives to present unique, often surreal, texts in interesting venues. With an emphasis on bold stories and the virtuosity of performance, Bob Kills Theatre aims to challenge, engage, entertain and instigate.”

Various 32-year olds seek love, sex and a way out of their dead-end lives.

Where: The Downstage, 798 Danforth

When: **Extended Run** October 22nd – Thursday November 7th 8pm.

Tickets: $20 savageintoronto.com

The Double

A TheatreRUN production presented by Tarragon Theatre

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Adapted from the novella by Dostoevsky, created and performed by Adam Paolozza, Arif Mirabdolbaghi and Viktor Lukawski, we’ve heard this production described as hilarious, whimsical, psychologically complex, haunting and magical. If that doesn’t catch your interest, maybe this delightful trailer will. Catch this gem of a remount before it closes!

“When are you no longer yourself? The anxious government clerk Golyadkin is plagued by a stranger who looks just like him but is more daring, romantic and brash. Inspired by Dostoevsky’s novella The Double, this theatrical triangle between a neurotic, his doppelganger and a stand-up bass transports us to 19th century Russian high society and Golyadkin’s labyrinthine search for his identity.

After a hit independent run last season that saw a Dora Award win for lighting design, Tarragon warmly welcomes this dark satire about our deepest fears of losing our identity.”

Where: Tarragon Theatre Extraspace

When: October 15th-November 24th

Tickets: 416-531-1827 Tarragon Box Office

Dirty Butterfly

Written by Debbie Tucker Green, presented by Bound To Create Theatre as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 Presentation Series

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If there is one production we have been excited about for its first professional Canadian Theatre debut, it’s Bound to Create Theatre’s production of Dirty Butterfly as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 presentation series. Since its first run at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival, we’ve heard nothing but incredible things of this arresting play by British playwright Debbie Tucker Green and after seeing its opening, this hypnotic play is not to be missed!

“This drama explores voyeurism, power and guilt by confronting the collateral damage of domestic abuse and racial economic divide.”

Where: Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas E.

When: Previews Oct. 30-31st, Opens November 1st and runs to November 17th. Tues-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm

Tickets: $20-$25 Preview 15$, November 10th PWYC. www.boundtocreate.com

Moss Park

Written by George F. Walker, presented by Green Thumb Theatre/Theatre Passe Muraille

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There’s a new George F. Walker in town and with some pretty incredible young Canadian talent as its leads, local talent Haley McGee and Vancouver native Graeme McComb, and we’re into it!

“Moss Park is an intimate look at two young people as they confront an uncertain future.  In this follow up to Tough!, George F. Walker takes Bobby and Tina on a journey as they fight to map a life that doesn’t include poverty.”

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson

When: Previews Runs November 5th-16th, Tues-Sat 7:30pm, Mat Sat 2pm.

Tickets: $15-$32.50, Matinee PWYC, 416-504-7529, passemuraille.on.ca.

Alligator Pie

Featuring poetry by Dennis Lee, presented by Soulpepper

Soulpepper's Alligator Pie in rehearsal, Raquel Duffy, Mike Ross, Gregory Prest. Photo Credit: Nathan Kelly

This needed a remount in the most heart-felt way. We saw this last fall and what a treat it was to watch this talented group of artists weave the children’s poems of Dennis Lee together with heart, humour and glee-inducing creativity. This family-friendly production is definitely enjoyable for all ages on so many levels as it celebrates imagination and invention.

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane
When: Opens November 3rd and runs to December 1st
Tickets: $23, Rush $5-$22 416-866-8666, www.soulpepper.ca

Romeo and Juliet

Written by William Shakespeare, presented by Shakespeare BASH’d

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If you know anything about Shakespeare BASH’d it’s the long line-up of Fringe hopefuls trying to snag the last few tickets at the door of their two sold-out Fringe hits with both their 2012 production of Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing this past Summer at the Victory Café. If you managed to get your tickets early, then you got to see what all of the hype was about – a clean, story-focused Shakespeare, chalk-full of boisterous local talent, all of which you could enjoy with a drink in hand. Well BASH’d is about to present their first tragedy outside of the Fringe circuit and bring us to the incredible 3030 Dundas West in the Junction, inviting us to grab a beer (perhaps from one of the 3030’s many local craft beer selections) and reconnect with Shakespeare’s greatest story of original young love-at-first-sight.

Where: 3030 Dundas West in the Junction

When: November 19th-23rd Tuesday-Friday 7:30pm, Closing Saturday at 4pm

Tickets: $16-$21 with advanced purchase highly recommended* http://www.shakespearebashd.com/tickets.html

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Mature Young Adults

By Wesley J. Colford, presented by Aim for the Tangent

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We had the pleasure of catching this gem at the Atlantic Fringe Festival on a visit to Halifax this September and we’re very interested to see it in its next stage of development in Toronto at the intimate Videofag space. Andrea Nemetz from the Chronicle Herald expresses our thoughts on Mature Young Adults perfectly: “Everyone has been a teenager in love, or will be. …an astonishingly real look at that most complicated of emotions.”

“This tragi-comic love story continues the theatrical tradition of East Coast playwriting greats David French and Daniel MacIvor with a contemporary twist for the Facebook generation. In a world where labels and gossip fly through cyberspace like lightning, is it possible to love without giving up your identity? Can you escape the container your community places you in?”

Where: Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave.

When: November 20th-24th: 19th-22nd 8pm, 23rd & 24th 4pm & 8pm

Tickets: $15 at the door. Advance tickets available through T.O. Tix www.totix.ca

After Miss Julie

Written by Patrick Marber, presented by Red One Theatre Collective

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If you are looking for a crazy, sexy performance to spice up your life as the temperatures drop… we’re looking to After Miss Julie presented by Red One Theatre Collective. After Miss Julie is a version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie by Patrick Marber, where Marber amps up the power play between Julie, John, and his fiancée Christine to a deliciously dangerous level. The result, a steamy and at times manic and even hilarious power play amongst the class structure of 1945 England. With David Ferry as the director and a cast of some exceptional young local talent (Claire Armstrong, Christopher Morris and Amy Keating), we can’t wait to see what Red One brings to the Storefront this November.

Where: The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West

When: November 15th-30th (Preview November 14th) Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Sundays 2pm

Tickets: $20/ Tuesdays $10/ $15 Preview)

The Sacrifice Zone

Written by Suzie Miller, presented by Theatre Gargantua

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If you’ve never been to a Gargantua performance, now is your chance to catch their world premiere of their 10th cycle of work The Sacrifice Zone. Created through their unique process, Theatre Gargantua is artist driven and works as a creative ensemble, producing projects in two-year cycles. We’re overflowing with excitement to see their latest creation, blending physical theatre, vocal soundscapes and unique storytelling and staging and we think you should be too!

“An industrial explosion shatters lives in an isolated resource town, rocking the balance of the community. While Alex and Hannah struggle with the loss of their partners, Laura and Patrick renegotiate the boundaries of a love affair, and newcomer Elly watches the emotional landscape change as arrestingly as the physical environment does. When everything is at stake, what would you sacrifice to make things right?

The Sacrifice Zone cuts right to fundamental questions of who and what are our responsibilities? And is balance, indeed justice, ever possible? Gargantua explores real world issues of individual, corporate and environmental accountability through their signature physical and critically acclaimed contemporary visual style in this gripping production based on a script by celebrated Australian playwright Suzie Miller.”

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: November 13th-30th Wednesday-Saturday 8pm, Saturday November 16th & November 20th 2pm.
Tickets: $19-$25, Buy tickets at www.factorytheatre.ca 

The Gay Heritage Project

Created and performed by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn & Andrew Kushnir, presented by The GHP Collective in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

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We just caught a glimpse of this promo video, and we can’t wait to catch it mid-November! A collaboration between acclaimed theatre makers Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir, The Gay Heritage Project offers audiences a unique chance to discover, celebrate and connect to our queer heritage. Once again, Buddies in Bad Times provides Toronto with relevant, thought-provoking, socially-conscious theatre.

“Three of our country’s most gifted creator/performers set out to answer one question: is there such a thing as gay heritage? In their search, they uncover a rich history not often shared and shine new light on contemporary gay culture. The result is a hilarious and moving homage to the people who came before us and the events that continue to shape our lives.”

Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, near Yonge & College

When: November 17th-December 8th, Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Saturday & Sunday 2:30pm, Preview Performances 8pm

Tickets: $20-$37

Know something that should be On Our Radar, Toronto? Connect with us through Twitter & Facebook using the hashtag #OnOurRadarTO or send us an email to inthegreenroom.ca@gmail.com. What’s on your Radar?