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In Conversation with Julia Aplin & Jacquie PA Thomas of “The Hum” at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival

Interview by Madryn McCabe

“Listen. Can you hear it?”

We sat down with Julia Aplin, one of the performers and creators of The Hum, a theatrical experience she co-created with her partner, John Gzowski, and their daughter, 10 year old Jenny Aplin.

MM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your show?

JA: It’s called The Hum. I created it with my partner, John, and our daughter, Jenny and it’s based on Jenny’s drawings, which have come out of family discussions about books that we’re reading, and ideas that we’re talking about. A lot of her drawings are of the outdoors, from camping trips and her experience even with wildlife in the backyard, so we’ve extrapolated stories and ideas from all of that and put it all together.

MM: Is the show based off of one particular drawing?

JA: No. I remember there was one meeting between Jacquie (Thomas, The Hum’s director) and myself in my kitchen and there was a drawing that Jenny had done stuck on the fridge of a woman who was sitting in the sun, curled up. And Jacquie said, “That’s really interesting. What is that?” It was a drawing Jenny had done from a book. She has a children’s book called We Are Stardust, and I have another book called The Universe Within, which has the same kind of information, but mine was more of a scientific adult book, so we discussed the ideas, and then Jenny drew this woman in the sun. We are stardust, scientifically. The materials in our bodies, everything that we’re made of is from stars, and she knows that, and that our sun is a star, so she put it all together into this drawing of a woman in the sun.

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Yulia Kovaleva

 

MM: What kind of story can we expect to see?

JA: There are some stories from when I was a kid, there are some stories of Jenny and her pet snails that she found in the garden, there are some stories of John trying to explain scientifically from a sound designer’s point of view how the earth might hum. The way we work is pretty abstract; this is the most story based piece we’ve ever done. There are a lot of emotional, dance, music moments where John plays music and I dance.

MM: It doesn’t sound like it’s the kind of theatre that lends itself to a very traditional ‘we have a script and we rehearse scene by scene’ approach. Can you talk about the elements that we might see in the show?

JA: The main elements are dance, music and there’s actually text in the show too, which is rare for me. I usually have little bits of text, but this is a big step having chunks of text, that I wrote. It’s pretty exciting. Jenny wrote her monologue and John wrote his monologue and almost all the music.

MM: Jenny is in the show as well?

JA: Yes, she is. Performing, dancing, talking, drawing. Another huge element is her drawings. She does some live drawing, which is projected, and we’ve also taken some of her other drawings that she’s done and animated them. We used The Woman with the Water, because she’s talking about the concept that the same water that’s in the lakes is the same water that we drink is the same water that’s in our bodies. We’ve got an amazing animation of The Woman with the Water, so that’s onstage with us.

MM: Is this the first time that you’ve collaborated with your family?

JA: John and I have collaborated a lot before. In fact, we first performed together at TPM in the backspace together, Quartet by Eugene Stickland. That was about nineteen years ago. Since then, we’ve done a lot of collaborations. Mostly, John composes for them, and I’m either choreographing or dancing, so this is new for us, to collaborate as a family. I’ve worked with Jenny before as a teacher, choreographing a piece for her dance class or something like that, but never with her as a fellow artist. We’re really including her artistic point of view on this.

MM: I’m really getting the impression that Jenny is an equal partner in the creative process.

JA: Exactly.

MM: Is this something that you’re focusing for a younger audience or do you feel like this is a piece for everyone?

JA: My hope is that it won’t exclude anyone. So the kids that come will have an “in” to what’s going on, but also that the adults don’t feel like they’re watching Barney the Dinosaur. I hope that it speaks on different levels. The three of us are together on different levels. We have a 10 year old, and we have–I won’t say how old (she laughs)–so between all of our different points of view, we hope to be pretty inclusive.

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

Julia Aplin, Jenny Aplin & John Gzowski photo by Yulia Kovaleva

MM: Do you think you’ll collaborate with your family again?

JA: That might be a question to ask me in a week or two! (she laughs) I’m sure we will. We won’t be able to help ourselves.

MM: Where does the title The Hum come from?

JA: Have you ever read The Bone series? It’s an awesome set of graphic novels by Jeff Smith. We read the first one and kept going and it became this obsession in our family. There are characters in there who talk about The Hum Hum and there’s this one character named Thorn who does this (places two fingers to her forehead) and she can feel all kinds of things. We’d go walking in the forest and do it too, and when we heard the word, it clicked that it was a word for everything we were already feeling, and then The Hum became a catch word for something that we already knew.

We know something in our bodies. Our bodies come from this earth and we’ve been here in this form for 10,000 years. But if you keep going back through evolution, back to when your mom’s mom was a fish, that’s where we’re from. If you really go deep, you can hear that, and that’s The Hum. In our modern world, we don’t really listen to it, but now science is showing us that ‘oh this is actually, really true’. We really are from stardust, we really are connected to the earth, and the scientific principles are coming forward and people now are like, “ohhhh”. Maybe we should have known this all along.

(At this point, director Jacquie PA Thomas, artistic director of Theatre Gargantua, who are co-producing The Hum as part of the SideStream Cycle joins us, and she adds this to the conversation):

JT: This is a unique family. It’s a family of two well established and beautiful artists coming from different backgrounds, who both dabble in other artistic realms. Julia is also a musician and John does some instrument making and design. When I first proposed the idea, I thought it would be exciting to understand from a child’s perspective what it was like growing up in a family of artists.

I knew that Jenny was a drawer and we’d seen some of her work, which was really quite remarkable for such a young age. I’ve known John and Julia for over twenty years and we’ve collaborated on a number of shows, so the artistic relationship goes back years. Our new stream of performances, which we are calling SideStream Cycle allows associate artists time and space to explore something freely and offers them the opportunity to experiment with form and content. Julia had never actually performed specifically as an actor, she’s never really written anything professionally for the stage, and we’ve discovered during this process that she’s a really beautiful writer. John has never, ever acted in his life, and he’s quite charming on the stage, and of course their daughter, in terms of where the ideas came from for the piece, they all sprang from her drawings. When you look at Jenny’s drawings, a lot of them are of these beautiful, strong women who have tree branches as veins, or a winged- woman looking into the sun and she has fire coming out of her. She has this really interesting way of looking at the world, and I thought that was a good beginning point. What’s it like growing up in a family of artists, and a child’s perspective on not only family, but connections to art, connections to life, connections to the world. It seemed like a really amazing opportunity for us to explore these wonderful artists.

 

The Hum

presented as part of the 2015 Summerworks Festival

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Julia Aplin, John Gzowski & Julia Aplin photo by Jacquie PA Thomas

Tickets:

Online: summerworks.ca

In Person: At the SummerWorks box office at Factory Theatre & At the door of Theatre Passe Muraille, one hour before show time.

When:

Monday August 10, 4:45pm

Sunday August 16 2pm

Where:

Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue

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? 

Thoughts on Theatre Gargantua’s IMPRINTS

“Hauntingly Palpable Elements to a Story Looking at the Idea of What We Feel but Cannot Quite put a Finger on – Magic!”

Theatre Gargantua’s IMPRINTS – Playing at the Factory Theatre Studio Space only for a few more nights!

“Why are there ghosts inside me?” “Why who would you be without them?” This is the concept of Michael Spence’s IMPRINTS – exploring the idea that the ghosts from your ancestral past do not only supply your genetic make-up, but they may also contribute to who you are…

Read the rest of these “Thoughts on Theatre Gargantua’s IMPRINTS” at Reviews