Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘theatre passe muraille’

Artist Profile: Bilal Baig, Playwright

Interview by Hallie Seline.

It is an absolute pleasure to feature playwright Bilal Baig, chatting about what inspires him as an artist, the development of his current piece Acha Bacha, on stage this month with Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and on writing “the story you need to tell”.

HS: What inspired Acha Bacha and how did the piece develop?

Bilal Baig: I was sexually assaulted when I was seventeen. One of the first things that was irrevocably changed after my assault was my relationship with my mother. I began to think: I’m queer, I’m not very religious, I like to fuck with gender sometimes and now I’m a survivor of sexual assault – will my mother EVER think I’m good?

I sat on this thought for about a year before I took a playwriting class with Judith Thompson at the University of Guelph and under her guidance, the first draft of the play exploded out of me in a few weeks in April 2013. That summer, I was connected to Damien Atkins, who worked as a dramaturge on the play (and is still a current mentor in my life). Through the Paprika Festival‘s playwright residency program, I met, worked with and fell in love with Djanet Sears, which resulted in an excerpt sharing of the play at the festival in April 2014, where Andy McKim was present. From that point on in the play’s developmental journey, I worked predominantly with Andy, Jiv Parasram and Brendan Healy as dramaturges.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

HS: I am very excited about the team working on the show. What has it been like working with these artists bringing your show to life?

BB: I am very excited about this group of artists coming together as well! There has been so much love in the room and a fiercely deep commitment to understanding the story and honoring it with such care, curiosity and empathy. I am in sincere awe of all the artists I get to work and play with every day throughout this process! So much love.

HS: What are you most looking forward to about sharing this show with audiences now?

BB: I’m really curious about what the conversations around power, sex and shame will be surrounding this play.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

HS: I know that you’ve both developed work with the Paprika Festival and worked with them. What has been the impact of this outlet on your growth as an artist?

BB: Paprika has been instrumental in my growth as an artist. It was a playground for me (for five years!) to explore my artistic obsessions and learn from what it feels like to put your work out there when it’s not ‘ready’. Artists who I met through Paprika five years ago have become friends I collaborate with today.

HS: What is best piece of advice you’ve received either in life or in art?

BB: “Write the story you need to tell”. That was actually the prompt given by Judith, which lead to the first draft of Acha Bacha. I think I use this advice in my life as well!

HS: What inspires you?

BB: I’m inspired by genderqueer Indigenous, black, people of colour living their truth. I feel like my art is probably inspired by shitty events happening in the world that devastate/confuse/terrify/arouse me to the point where I can’t talk about it anymore and I must write it.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

Rapid Fire Questions:

What are you watching right now? America’s Next Top Model.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? Fiji or New Zealand. Or Vancouver.

Favourite food: Mom’s chicken fried rice or biryani. Or pizza.

What other show are you most looking forward to this year? Trying everything in my power to catch Calpurnia before it closes. Looking forward to Prairie Nurse at Factory Theatre.

Current mantra or goal for yourself as an artist this year: You’re allowed to feel ambivalent about your work and this career you are pursuing. That is okay.

Acha Bacha

Who:
Co-Produced by Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Written by: Bilal Baig
Directed by: Brendan Healy
Featuring: Shelly Antony, Qasim Khan, Omar Alex Khan, Matt Nethersole,
and Ellora Patnaik
Set and Costume Design by: Joanna Yu
Lighting by: C.J Astronomo
Sound Design and Music by Richard Feren
Stage managed by Kat Chin

What:
For years Zaya has balanced his relationships with his religion and his queer identity. But as secrets from the past reveal themselves, and crisis strikes his family, he is torn between loyalties, culture, and time. Written by Bilal Baig, and directed by Brendan Healy, Acha Bacha boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora. The show uses both English and Urdu to tell a story about the way we love, the way we are loved, and how sometimes love is not enough.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When:
February 1-18, 2018

Tickets:
artsboxoffice.ca

Connect:
@beyondwallsTPM
@buddiesTO
#AchaBachaTO

#FiercelyFringe 2017 – Part 1

It’s the most WONDERFUL TIME of the year! Happy Opening to the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival! Every year, we are constantly inspired by the core values of The Toronto Fringe Festival:

  • It’s about creating art at a grassroots level.
  • It’s “theatre by the people, for the people“.
  • It’s about taking risks and exploring something new.

So, we asked this year’s Boss Fringe Artist Babes: How are you FIERCELY representing these values? How are you #FiercelyFringe?

After an overwhelming response, we’re thrilled to share our first #FiercelyFringe preview with you, listed in no particular order, and in two parts (because we can only get our scroll on for so long…)

We hope this gives you a more personal look at these shows and the artists behind them as you plan your viewing schedule over the next two weeks.

Be sure to follow along with us on twitter, facebook and instagram for our full #FringeTO coverage celebrating all of the people and moving pieces that make this festival so electric!

See you at the Fringe Club #FiercelyFringe friends!

– ITGR


Pineapple Club 

WHO ARE YOU?

The Pineapple Club team is comprised of Director/Choreographer Robin Henderson (of last year’s Best of Fringe hit, Dance Animal) and performers Paul Barnes, Jonathan Shaboo and Pascale Yensen.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

The Pineapple Club tagline is “Come for the comedy. Stay for the calamity”. With everything that’s happening in the world, it’s especially important to be laughing right now.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Where else would you find a mash-up of comedic dance, sketch comedy and social commentary? Pineapple Club speaks to the emotional fallout of the world’s events in 2016 through the unique lens of comedic dance, sketch comedy, puppetry and music.

CONNECT

t: @PineappleClubTO
#PineappleClubTO


Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun

WHO ARE YOU?

From a group of seasoned Fringers boasting a total of 13 Fringe tent romances collectively, Janelle Hanna’s new solo show Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun is not simply a clown show, but it does feature her clown Bad Baby, prominently. Think of it instead as a new play about love, loneliness and humans’ need for connection, as well as it being Bad Baby’s first Fringe appearance, all rolled into one.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Bad Baby has seen a lot of Fringe shows, and she is a self-proclaimed fringe expert. So she knows exactly what to do and what not to do. She knows all of the rules.

WHAT MAKES YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

What makes us FIERCE is how the play itself goes deeper, exploring themes that writer and performer Hanna feels strongly about: love, relationships, vulnerability and shame. Expect a lot of laughter and comedy at this show, but don’t expect to see only that.

CONNECT

t: @lark_and_whimsy
@janellemhanna
#BabysFirstFringe
i: @janellemhanna


Interstellar Elder

WHO ARE YOU?

SNAFU is the creators of SOLD-OUT shows ‘LITTLE ORANGE MAN (***** – VueWeekly) and ‘KITT & JANE,’ (****½ – Edmonton Journal)

We’ve been touring across Canada for the last ten years, both to all the fringes and to curated festivals like Wildside, Undercurrents, Next Stage and SummerWorks. All of our shows are weird.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

In Interstellar Elder, we meet Kitt, fierce lone geriatric astronaut adrift in a spaceship carrying cryogenically frozen human cargo. Her mission: protect the last of humankind.

“Amazingly versatile physical comedian with the BEST ENDING IN THE HISTORY OF FRINGE.” – Montreal Gazette.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This summer, we’re touring 9 FRINGE FESTIVALS across Canada. #FringeHogs. This is my second time winning the CAFF lottery in the past three years, whereas some artists have applied for CAFF every year for the past two decades and never been drawn. If I win CAFF a third time, I expect death threats from other fringe artists.

CONNECT

t: @snafudance
#InterstellarElder


Picaza 

WHO ARE YOU? 

#FiercelyFlamenco – Inamorata Dance Collective was found in 2014 by Mexican Canadian dancer, Sofía Gudiño, to explore experimental crossovers between contemporary and flamenco dance, music and theatre.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Their premier full-length work, Picaza, is an honest and visceral look into one woman’s journey to self-awareness, told through bilingual poetry, dance, traditional Latin music, and experimental compositions!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

One of this year’s Culturally Diverse Projects at the Fringe, this group of twelve multidisciplinary artists is #FiercelyFringe, building everything in their grassroots show from scratch and pooling their creative resources to learn from each other and create something completely new.

CONNECT

i: @inamoratadance
#Inamorata2017 #Picaza


Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

WHO ARE YOU?

The Howland Company with Slow Blue Lions

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

(1) It’s about love, and law saying you can’t say more than 140 words/day; (2) It’s the healthiest, most citric, show in Fringe; (3) It’s funny and touching, also has a couple of tips for mostly silent relationships.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

(1) women directing and producing*, each for first time; women AD and intern; *producer won Cayle Chernin Award for theatre production’; (2) show is by first time playwright Sam Steiner and comes from UK Fringe.

CONNECT

f: /TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
t: @TheHowlandCo
i: @thehowlandcompany
#lemonslemonslemonslemonslemons


Welcome to the Bunker

WHO ARE YOU

Portius Productions is a brand new company that aims to explore the opportunities different theatrical spaces offer for experimentation with audience immersion and interaction, with an emphasis on all things nerdy. Its inaugural show, Welcome to the Bunker! is written, produced, and performed by Clare Blackwood and Ryan F. Hughes, and is an immersive zombie apocalypse comedy set in a bunker deep below the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

This is a show for nerds, comedy lovers, and anyone who wants to laugh at two weirdos trying and failing to lead an apocalypse orientation for the survival of humanity.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We’re pushing the boundaries of how to involve audiences inside of a traditional theatre space, taking them out of their pre-armageddon comfort zones, and maybe singing welcoming songs to them. That is, if the zombies don’t get to them first…

CONNECT

t: @bunkertofringe
#bunkerTO


Macbeth’s Head

WHO ARE YOU?

I’m Kyle McDonald, the founder of Malfi Productions, whose mandate is: to produce entertaining and interesting film, television, theatre, and literature by merging tradition with innovation for an audience who craves emotional and intellectual risk. We’re dedicated to injecting classical material into something contemporary and relevant.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

How many people can say they’ve seen a disembodied head with magical powers running around on a dessert trolley while threatening to destroy all of Shakespeare’s work?

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We’ve gotten this show on the road with pure love: from the illustrator who did our amazing artwork, to the composer who made original music, to our photographer who’s shot us free of charge. Also, there is little to no set, and we’re relying only on our wits to tell the tale of this maniacal head! And, the script is half in original verse, which seems like a pretty bold move in the age of one liner TV scripts!

CONNECT

t: @malfiproduction
#macbethshead #malfiproductions #longlivethehead


Perfect Couples

WHO ARE YOU?

We’re an indie theatre collective dedicated to generating bold new work. We are passionate about stories from underrepresented voices, and providing opportunities for emerging artists to flex their muscles.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Our fringe show, Perfect Couples, is a good example of this. Written, directed, designed and performed by emerging artists, the show is distinctly millennial. Yet, refreshingly, it’s never reductive or patronizing— there’s not one mention of twitter or selfies. Perhaps more defining as a millennial piece is that it talks about mental illness, which is rampant among 20-somethings. The play is a twisty trip down visual artist Valencia’s unravelling, and we see how her struggle with mental health impacts her relationship and community. Women-driven, queer, sexy as hell…

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Perfect Couples by Mitchell Janiak is both witty and dark. It takes advantage of what Fringe provides— an opportunity to take risk and tell stories that aren’t heard often enough.

CONNECT

t: @PencilKitProd
i: @PencilKitProductions
f: /PencilKit


Monsters By Nature

WHO ARE YOU?

We are Kindling Collective! We take an intersectional feminist perspective to classical works. Our show Monsters By Nature was created in a similar fashion to how Frankenstein made his creature, by piecing together classical and self-written texts, punk and folk music.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Audiences explore what makes them feel empowered by their inner monster and reflect on their perceptions of people that they fear.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Monsters by Nature owns the term Fiercely Fringe by its bravery to examine the roots of our fears. It’s terrifying to watch pieces that force you to look into what makes you a monster. But it’s also empowering to do so. At rehearsal last night I thought how fulfilling it feels to be in a room with 6 fierce women, an electric guitar, and bare hearts telling these stories of characters that have remained relevant through the ages. We can’t wait to meet you in the midnight.

CONNECT

i: @kindlingcollective
f: @kindlingcollective
t: @kindlincollec3
#kindlingcollective #whatareyouafraidof


13 Ways the World Ends

WHO ARE YOU?

Good Morning Apocalypse is a comedy troupe from South Ontario, formed in 2015.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Why see our show? For one thing, we have a hour-long revue about all the ways the world will end, and not once does someone mention Donald Trump. Nothing about what’s happening in the U.K. either, since we couldn’t find a rhyme for “Brexit.” There’s zombies, but not enough to get you all zombied out. At one point someone plays the saxophone – badly. There’s a killer robot, and a killer plague, and a lovely little sketch about how all the bees are dead and we’re next. Mostly it’s full of people who go through their days with a vague sense of dread, and who also have opinions about which of the Mad Maxes is the best Mad Max.

WHY ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This is the kind of show that can only happen at Fringe, and we’re fiercely proud of it.

CONNECT

t: @ApocalypseGood
i: @GoodMorningApocalypse
#13WaysTheWorldEnds


White Wedding

WHO ARE YOU?

I’m a female writer / director who is trying to combine those skills for the first time with a new play called “White Wedding”! I’ve had a lot of luck in the past as both a writer and director and now I’m trying to bring those two sides of my brain together with an incredible group of creative individuals!

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

White Wedding explores really recognizable feelings in a new way. Instead of asking what happens as a wedding, White Wedding asks what happens in a hallway above a wedding. What private conversations and secrets are told? Who makes out with who? Who ends up drinking themselves into a sad quiet corner somewhere? Why do we celebrate stupid emotions like love again?

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We are creating theatre in a found space firstly because we think it’s a cool thing to do, but also because it’s a necessity. Re-imagining theatre for new spaces for today’s audiences is what will bring in new audiences, make people feel invited to the art form, and open up the stage to something new, something novel, something fierce!

CONNECT

t: @PortAlbertPro
i: @portalbertproductions


Bendy Sign Tavern

WHO ARE YOU?

Sex T-Rex is a comedy collective that has been in the Toronto Fringe since 2013!

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Bendy Sign Tavern is our most Fiercely Fringe show yet- a site specific puppet show where six-legged barflies trade actual Fringe reviews and you can order a pint from a puppet!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We’ll have rotating fringe guests from our favourite shows. Throw in live music and Sex T-Rex’s signature wit and you’ve got a real tour-de-fierce.

CONNECT

t: @sextrex
f: /sextrexcomedy


MUTTS OR: 101 LIBATIONS

WHO ARE YOU?

The Gracie May Theatre Company, named after the creator’s late childhood dog, is devoted to creating new Canadian content. The company refuses to take any political stand and holds no beliefs whatsoever.

 The founder, Joey Monahan, currently resides in a fortified compound near Georgetown, Ontario.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

MUTTS OR: 101 LIBATIONS is a unique comedy, not for the faint of heart. As dark as it is funny, the story follows two hopeless, helpless, and hapless drunks who steal dogs and return them for reward money to support their addiction. After taking a service dog and causing the death of a blind man, the two find themselves at odds with each other when one wants to continue their lifestyle and the other decides to stop.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

It has been created and is being performed by a small group of local artists. Although the play itself never states a location, it is very much a Canadian, and specifically a Torontonian piece. It has been made with the intention of making people laugh and hurt at the same time, because in life sometimes something can be humorous and heartbreaking at once.

CONNECT

i: @GracieMayTC
f: /GracieMayTC
t: @GracieMayTC
#MUTTS


The Stories of Lantern Tales

 

WHO ARE YOU?

I am a storyteller.

Encountering the storyfire in 1981 at the age of 28, when I hitchhiked 70 miles from St. Catharines to Toronto to hear my first storyteller, Trinidadian Paul Keens-Douglas. I became interested in composing original tales, especially stories inspired by my childhood in the Ottawa. Valley. I am a violinist/fiddler and featured in festivals across Canada and abroad.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Composed in traditional forms The Stories of Lantern Tales are unique, shaped by a childhood spent in the countryside of Black Bay Road.
 They are an excellent opportunity for listeners to meet the devil, a 4 tonne traction engine with a soul, 12 sea serpents and a cedar canoe pulled by six Ottawa Valley beavers.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

The distillation of images and experiences that came from growing up as a child in an isolated Ottawa Valley countryside, wandering alone along endless trails in the woods, the silence of a winter moon.

Through the imagination of the listener those experiences live again.


Death Meets Harlequin

WHO ARE YOU?

Unspoken Theatre was founded in 2011 by sisters Nina & Natalie Kaye, and focuses on new writing with a classical influence. We have produced over a dozen new plays by local women writers.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Our short comedy, Death Meets Harlequin tackles big themes with a light heart, using archetype, music, dance, Commedia dell’Arte, and physical comedy to infuse our attitude on life and death with a little optimism.

Our cast and crew are Festival veterans, with credits at Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival and Big Ideas Festival; SoCap Theatre’s Short Short Play Festival; InspiraTO; and the Toronto Fringe.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Death Meets Harlequin offers something for everyone. A deeper meaning for the philosophical thinkers; bright costumes and silly songs for the kids; great new writing for the lovers of literature; a touching family story for the ones who cry and laugh at once; and a circus pre-show by Deflying Feets for anyone else!

CONNECT

t: @TheatreUnspoken
#FringeKidsFest
#FringeFemmeTO
#deathmeetsharlequin


The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert!

WHO ARE YOU?

Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw are “The Diddlin’ Bibbles”, a comedy band making their Toronto Fringe debut. Co-written and directed by the hilarious Dana Puddicombe, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” tells the story of Rose-Marie and Jessop Bibbles, a sex-positive and spiritual singer-songwriter duo, who have travelled from small-town Wisconsin to Toronto to perform at the Toronto Fringe Festival – their lifelong dream.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE COME SEE YOUR SHOW?

Their show, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” is part sketch comedy, part live concert, part mockumentary, part metatheatre, and part love story. Think: Flight of the Conchords meets Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind meets #the6ix.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This show is “fiercely fringe” because it’s a new play written and designed specifically for the Toronto Fringe Festival, St. Vladimir Theatre, and Toronto audiences! The entire show is a self-reflexive comedy spoofing the experiences of the Toronto Fringe Festival, the arts, and the city of Toronto.

CONNECT

w: www.thediddlinbibbles.com
f: /thediddlinbibbles
i: @thediddlinbibbles
t: @DiddlinBibbles


Madeleine Says Sorry

WHO ARE YOU?

Prairie Fire, Please was founded by Aaron Jan and Madeleine Brown, lightweights with no taste whatsoever in alcohol. We welcome you to judge our poor choices – we’re likely already judging yours. Madeleine Says Sorry is the company’s inaugural production. Will it be our last? Depends how bad the hangover is…

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Where else can you see a 6×4 foot poster-shrine of David Suzuki, and a magical cardboard Apologemeter X that descends from the heavens?

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

How are we #FiercelyFringe?
 We collectively had three very successful fringe shows last year. Rowing, Silk Bath, and Knots. This one is nothing like any of those shows. Our process has been entirely funded by popsicles. 
We never start rehearsal on time. Our director cannot afford underwear. We are one of the most diverse teams in the Toronto Fringe! #FiercelyFringe

CONNECT

t: @MadeleineSaysTO
i: @madeleinesaysto


Pillow Talk

WHO ARE YOU?

We are a group of comedians, actors and creators who met while attending the Second City Conservatory Program. Shortly after graduating, Charlotte Cattell and Olivia Brodie-Dinsdale reconnected to start a sketch duo, the O.C. After their successful show at Montreal Sketchfest they thought there would be no better idea than asking their friend and fellow creative, Adam Martignetti to join them in making a completely original sketch revue.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Pillow Talk is not what you would expect from a traditional sketch revue, we wanted to keep things real and make it more than just making people laugh. We tackle those intimate and vulnerable moments in life that people wouldn’t normally talk about openly. Pillow Talk, doesn’t imply the usually sexual connotation. I mean, we would like to think we are pretty darn sexy!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Written by 3 real people about real experiences, Pillow Talk couldn’t be anything more than “Fiercely Fringe”! We are people with anxieties, fears and the notion that ghosts are real! But what is more fierce than displaying those moments for everyone to see.

CONNECT

f: @Pillowtalkfringe2017
t: @PTFringeTO17
i: @pillowtalkfringeto


Lysistrata

 

WHO ARE YOU?

how.dare.collective. is making their debut at this year’s Toronto Fringe. The brainchild of two-time Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame performer-choreographer St. Stella and writer/director Kay Brattan, their mandate is to create theatre for the underdog – representing the underrepresented. The Lysistrata company is made up of experienced and talented performers from both the theatre and burlesque communities, and some of whom are well-known in both scenes, such as Sebastian Marziali (El Toro to the burlesque & boylesque community).

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Lysistrata brings an appetizing take on classic Greek comedy to the contemporary audience. Brattan has used her own words to combine three different translations of Aristophanes’ work, and through the combination of slam poetry, songs and striptease, this will be a retelling of the story the likes of which has not been seen before, with the two mediums blending to embody and convey the messages of the piece (such as female empowerment, peace not war and, of course, equality).

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

With this show, we bring together the varied talents of our diverse company to tell this story in a fresh, powerful and memorable spectacle. Bring on the glitter and good times!

CONNECT

i: @LysistrataTO
t: @Lysistrata_TO
#LysistrataTO
#SlamPoetrySongsAndStripTease
#GlitterAndGoodTimes


The Miserable Worm

 

WHO ARE YOU?

We are Let Me In, a theatre collective spearheaded by Justine Christensen and Patrick J. Horan. We seek to remix, alter, satirize, and break “classical” plays, thrusting them into a contemporary landscape.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Our show, The Miserable Worm, exposes gendered expectations often ingrained in old works, bringing to light new colours from Chekhov’s “untitled play”, which our show is based off of. The story is made new through gender-bent casting; particularly by placing a woman in the title role of the smarmy playboy Platonov.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Let Me In’s The Miserable Worm is Fiercely Fringe because it draws in and implicates the audience into the action. As soon as they walk through the doors of the Annex, each audience member becomes a guest at the Platonov Estate. They are privy to the events and intimacies of a fatal night of hard drinking and painful nostalgia. Oh, and it’s going to be really funny. 

CONNECT

t: @LetMeInTheatre


Lover Lover

WHO ARE YOU?

Subverting Something is a company founded by Veronika Gribanova and is now based in Toronto and New York. Our mandate is our name. We’re almost half serious.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

A lesbian and a straight man walk into a bar: a love story. It’s complicated. Lover Lover is a story about the limitations and possibilities of love. This site-specific play is an intimate conversation between strangers in a public space. At Nightowl, a bar in Little Italy, audience members can have a drink and watch the story unfold. Allow us to subvert your expectations.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Lover Lover explores issues that aren’t often discussed in a public setting. Questions of sexuality, identity, and polyamory, as well as of vulnerability and intimacy, are brought to light. We have risked placing emotion at the centre of our work and we are telling the truth as we understand it, which is both an obligatory and subversive act.

CONNECT

i: @subvertingsomething
t: @subvertingsome
#loverlover


For the Love of Pie

 

WHO ARE YOU?

I’m the daughter of a French Canadian mother who taught me the importance of butter and extravagance. For the Love of Pie, my play, showcases a lot of that French “je ne sais quoi”! Montrealers and Chicagoans were dazzled by the show nominating it for Best Solo Theatre Production (Montreal Fringe) and naming it one of of the 5 Best Bets of the Chicago Fringe (TimeOut Chicago).

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Why see it, Toronto? Because sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and need to be reminded that life is not as easy as pie and why not embrace failure as opposed to suppressing it.

HOW IS YOUR SHOW FIERCELY FRINGE?

It’s fiercely fringe because, well, it’s just me writing, producing and playing three very extravagant characters leading over the top ridiculous lives and my challenge is to make their story resonate with the audience.

CONNECT

t: @PieGeorgiaPeach
#FortheloveofpieTO


HEXEN  

WHO ARE YOU?

The Creation Coffin is a Toronto based company that focuses on progressive work, emerging artists and female creators. The cast and crew of Hexen are all recent Randolph Academy Alumnae.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Fringers should be sure to see Hexen because it is a savage critique on the society that we have constructed for ourselves, through a powerful, sexy and feminine lens.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Hexen is truly “fiercely fringe”. The show and our site-specific venue are designed to make you feel like you’re deep in a forest. Because of this we did the majority of our rehearsals outdoors and we have benefited greatly from the inspiration that nature provides. Stylistically, Hexen is quite pioneering – we would describe it as a “deconstructed musical”, something we have never seen done before but are fiercely experimenting with for this year’s Fringe Festival!

CONNECT

f: /thecreationcoffin
i: @thecreationcoffin
#hexenfringe


Wanted

WHO ARE YOU?

Sue Morrison is a world-class teacher of performance-oriented Clown and Bouffon.

Mélanie Raymond has been working and training at DynamO Theatre (acrobatical theatre) for 15 years.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?  

The performance has been described as like having a conversation with a best friend that you didn’t know you had. The arc of the show is affected by the qualities that the performer brings to the theatre each night, and the qualities of the audience, and how those interact. The audience is part of what happens each night and no two shows are the same.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This is outsider theatre. This is bottom-up, grassroots theatre. The collaborators developed the script through a process of question and answer, call and response between the outside eye and the inside eye… a bricolage brought to life using the language of twelve masks. There is a universality to the experiences that the performer encounters and explores.

CONNECT

t: @guayoyo_ca
i: @guayoyo_ca
#WantedTF


RISE/FALL  

WHO ARE YOU?

Malcontent Theatre Company is a diverse, grassroots indie company made up of performers from students to seasoned professionals. We are committed to inclusiveness and challenging standards.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

RISE/FALL is an immersive, site-specific production that has the audience divided by a wall. A unique show happens on each side, and occasionally interacts with the other side. The wealthy percentage of society has gained control of the government and banished anyone of minority to the other side of a wall.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This production is fiercely Fringe because we are an independent group of local artists, who are playing around with new theatrical concepts and tackling political issues with no holds barred. We are creating a show unlike anything any of us have ever seen, and are taking a huge risk with such a complicated concept. This deals with subjects that are close to everyone’s hearts, including segregation, prejudice, racism, homophobia, and Trump’s America.

CONNECT

t: @MalcontentTC
#RiseFallFringe #BreaktheWall


The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me  

WHO ARE YOU?

We are Spindrift and our combined talents include: acting, writing, directing, magic, music and stage combat! We put all of these to use in our very first Fringe outing, The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

What’s a Hart Crane you may be asking? Answer: a sailor-loving, hard-partying poet who burned through the burlesque houses, vaudeville theatres, boxing matches and speakeasies of Jazz age New York before blazing out at 32. His grave merely says: Lost At Sea.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We chart his final hours, explore how his life and art intersect with our own, and attempt to invoke the feeling of encountering his poetry for the first time using all of the rad methods mentioned above. This summer we invite you to get #KissedByHart

CONNECT

t: @spindrifttc
i: @spindrifttheatreTO


Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains 

WHO ARE YOU?

We are Theatre Rhea and Neoteny Theatre.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Yes, it may have the longest title ever, but most importantly it’s a millennial love letter dedicated to the misfits of the Peter Pan Generation. Lucy and Bennett, our two main characters, are lonely but are given the chance to connect. Written by Rose Napoli and directed by Carly Chamberlain, be sure to visit us in the backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille, just down the street from the tent!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Our characters are just like the people who come to the fringe. People who exist on the periphery, and find a connection by being on the outside. The show itself may be about nothing. Or it may be about everything. But it’s definitely about an urn of ashes and six popsicles.

CONNECT

#CreaminsTO
t: @TheatreRhea


The Life Henri 

WHO ARE YOU?

Award winning Artist Adam Bailey: creator of Fringe hits The Assassination of Robert Ford and Adam Bailey is on Fire, and director of The Enchanted Crackhouse .This year I’m doing The Life Henri, a play about dead painter Henri Rousseau. It includes a slideshow and we’re selling wine. 

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

It’s a really intimate experience that’ll sweep you away. We got four stars when we tested it in Edmonton and it deftly touches on some modern issues like bullying. Plus, slideshow!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

Henri Rousseau should be the patron saint of Fringe. An outsider artist, spends years unlocking the key to success, overcoming poverty and incarceration along the way. Also, I mash his story with a 1970s horror movie and somehow that makes it all very touching.

CONNECT

i: @still_your_friend
t: @stillyourfriend
w: www.stillyourfriend.com
#thelifehenri


Traffic Jams

 

WHO ARE YOU?

Resilience Theatre. We are a feminist theatre company dedicated to telling women’s stories and those of the underrepresented. This is our first production and hope this opportunity will allow us to make connections and create more content that young people can relate to that illustrates their experiences.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Five-word pitch: woman attacks depression with ukulele! See this show because it’s funny, relevant, and sometimes uncomfortable. It deals with issues many young people are facing, particularly artists, and highlights the different ways mental illness can surface within one person.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This show came from a late-night phone call between two friends about mental health and artistic struggles. We refused to wait for this story to be told, so we’ve brought it to the stage ourselves. Mental illness is tough to talk about, even for us, but by taking the risk to show this battle, we can contribute to a dialogue on mental health.

CONNECT

f: /resilienceTO
t: @resilience_TO
i: @resilience_to
#trafficjams


Love and Information  

WHO ARE YOU?

The play is by Caryl Churchill, will be directed by Andrea Donaldson and performed by the 5th term students at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. Our show is essentially 50 mini shows packed into one.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Contemporary issues regarding knowledge, communication, and our capacity to love and be loved are beautifully represented. We explore these issues in the most unique ways, incorporating movement, song, and even silence. There is so much to take away from this beautiful painting of humanity.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

As the actors, we have been very thankful for the process. Every day we go into rehearsal and are utterly moved by our discoveries. We dive into various human behaviours, points of view, sexualities and cultural differences. When something doesn’t work, we ask ourselves why, and approach it from a different angle. It has been the most incredible journey for us, and we cannot wait to share it with Toronto.

CONNECT

#RALoveandInformation #LoveandInfo #LoveandJan #JanLovesInfo #RAPA


 The Resurrectionists  

WHO ARE YOU?

House of Rebels Theatre started in 2014 as a podcast audio drama company, that has since expanded into interviews and original stage plays. In the 2016 Toronto Fringe, we produced King of the Castle, and are excited to bring another exploration of morals and humanity to the Randolph Theatre this year!

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?  

The Resurrectionists tackles one of the western world’s best-kept, darkest secrets. Grave-robbing in the 19th century was a rarely-reported crime that occurred anywhere people studied medicine. Shortages of bodies with surpluses of students lead to creative, criminal solutions to the growing demand. This play examines Canada’s habit of hiding it’s less-savoury history, and why we keep letting ourselves do so. 

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE? 

The Resurrectionists is co-produced with Theatre Parallax. We are companies interested in theatre that is provocative AND entertaining – and we don’t believe those are mutually exclusive qualities. We want to have our art, and like it too.

CONNECT

t: @RebelsTheatre
i: @RebelsTheatre
w: www.rebelstheatre.com


Kassandra aka Joyia, Fringe Concert Series  

WHO ARE YOU?

My name is Kassandra, aka Joyia, and I’m a musician. I’ve made it my mission to make unique music, which represents myself. I make all of my songs in both acoustic and electronically produced versions. I make music that combines R&B with a bit of an electronic sound. I’ve coined my genre as “soultronic,” and want to bring the genre to life in my own unique way.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?  

I’m part of the Fringe concert series on July 9! True songwriting and composition has always been my passion, and I’ve been building up a new repertoire over the last few months. For the first time, I’m making music that I feel is 100% me, and it’s the most liberating feeling ever.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

I create art for the reason art was created. It’s a freedom of expression, a chance to connect people. It’s finally giving me a chance to share my true self with people. It’s been a long journey of self-discovery, and I can finally say that the music I make truly represents me. 

CONNECT

t: @joyiamusic


Life Records 2: Side B 

WHO ARE YOU?

I’m Rhiannon Archer & I wrote/perform Life Records 2. This company is just me & I named it after my late dog Beefy. He was really great! 

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

2 words: IT’S FUN! Everyone should see Life Records 2. Unless if you hate fun, then maybe just stay home.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

7 words: Because I’m Fierce & in the fringe! I’m really putting myself out there in order to connect myself and the audience with one another.

CONNECT

t: @rhiannonarcher
@LifeRecordsTO
i: @rhiannonarcher


A Flea in Her Ear

 

WHO ARE YOU?

Pulse Theatre’s “A Flea in Her Ear” is a modern adaptation of one of the greatest vaudevilles ever! We made the characters quirkier, the relationships more sensual, the show more exciting! A splendid cast, terrific creative team, a visionary director.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

The energy, the sexiness, the colorfulness, the playfullness- our show is funny and entertaining! All the original comedy gold, plus hippies and furries, and just a touch of…well, let’s not spoil the surprises! Even if you do know the original script – you don’t know this show!

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

A part of Pulse Theatre’s mandate is working with immigrant artists and diverse performers – “visible and audible minorities”, and we did just that – our talented cast and crew depicts the wonderful diversity of Toronto’s theatre scene. A fierce comedy with a powerful ensemble and crew, and beautiful promo art by the amazing Derrick Chow! Our Flea roars like a tiger!

CONNECT

#afleainherear


The Balding 

WHO ARE YOU?  

Jeff Gandell is a Montreal writer, storyteller, actor, musician and teacher. I tell stories that aim to make people laugh and feel a greater connection to the emotional landscape of the universe.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

The Balding is a hilarious story about a twenty-year-old man who’s convinced he’s going bald because he’s still a virgin. In his quest to find romance, he falls down a rabbit hole of dangerous car accidents and property destruction. It’s a show about learning to love the fleeting nature of all our lives. Basically, the lighter side of mortality and decay.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?  

It’s funny! The rawness and vulnerability of the protagonist will make audiences concurrently laugh and feel better about their own insecurities. Plus, there are a couple of raucous rock n’ roll numbers. And it’s a masterfully constructed story that will leave audiences breathlessly anticipating what comes next. Come on!

CONNECT

t: @jeffgandell
i: @jeffgandell


Recall

 

WHO ARE YOU?  

Seven Siblings Theatre utilizes the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to create the Theatre of the Future, Fantastic Realism. We’re presenting a sci-fi thriller that pushes the boundaries of government control. Written by genre-shattering female playwright Eliza Clark, the show is centered around a mother and daughter relationship holding their ground as the government tries to “RECALL” potentially dangerous or psychopathic children. 

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

Clark dives into a troubled child’s mind and examines emotional understanding as the two desperately try to start fresh. The world of this play is a truthful and surreal depiction of our future society.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

This Fiercely Fringe show not only gives us sci-fi in theatre, something you don’t see often, but gives women the lead narrative in what is usually a male domain. Plus… we have violence, blood, guns, mature language, a shopping list of food props, sci-fi machinery, and a sick sense of humour. We’re fierce as f$%k.

CONNECT

t: @SevenSiblingsCo
#RecallTO


On The Inside  

WHO ARE YOU?

My name is Michelle Thoms and I’m the writer and director of On The Inside, a play about a young woman caught in the vicious cycle of Canada’s Corrections System. It doesn’t stop there though, it’s also about humanity and the lengths people go to survive.

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE CATCH YOUR SHOW?

People should watch this show because it raises questions about solitary confinement, society and about the grey area that sits between professionalism and caring.

HOW ARE YOU FIERCELY FRINGE?

We are pushing the envelope by taking a true story and extending and exploring further questions that surround it. Questions like: Why is the rate of women of colour increasing at a dramatic rate in Canadian federal prisons? Why is self injury increasing in women’s prison? Is “othering” used in the prison system and to what extent?  As well, On The Inside is taking a risk because it is being presented as a docutheatre production. 

CONNECT

t: @ontheinside17
i: @ontheinside17


*Submissions have been slightly edited for clarity and length.


But wait! There’s more!

For more #FiercelyFringe, continue here.

 


 

“Embracing Embarrassment, Renouncing Shame & Starring in Your Own Musical” In Conversation with Katherine Cullen & Britta Johnson on STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Interview by Hallie Seline

Knowing that Stupidhead! A Musical Comedy was returning to the stage after loving it at the Summerworks Festival, I was excited to sit down with funny ladies Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson to chat all about it. We appropriately met in the Theatre Passe Muraille greenroom and spoke about how the piece has developed for this first professional production with TPM, Katherine’s inspiration to communicate her experience with dyslexia through her dream of being in a musical, and finding freedom in renouncing shame and owning where you’re at, epic life fails and all.

Hallie Seline: Tell me about the show and how it has developed from workshop to festival to first professional production.

Katherine Cullen: Stupidhead! is a sort of musical/standup comedy style/storytelling show about me growing up with dyslexia. I had this idea a couple of years ago and I started to write, let’s call them proto-songs when I was alone and bored and unemployed. And then videofag gave me the opportunity to do a workshop presentation of it, about three years ago now. So I went to Britta (Johnson), maybe a week before the workshop, (laughing) not even… and asked if she would help me with the song aspect of it – to help me add accompaniment. When we did that first workshop of it, we were exploring different ideas and forms.

When it came time to do the Summerworks Festival version, we really decided to make it more of a musical. The theme around that version was much more like… birthday party, piñata, musical, which is still very different from what it has grown to now.

Britta Johnson: The story of it now is that we’re trying to make Katherine’s dream of being in a musical come true so, you know, it has lighting, full songs and all of that. But I also think in the process of continuing to write and develop the songs, because that’s all I can speak to, we’ve tried to keep the essence of those early ones from the workshop in the fold of its current form. Where it isn’t necessarily about a perfect polished song, it’s about how to honestly step into each one, as herself and what song serves this character.

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

KC: Yeah, this character, me, has no musical training and doesn’t know anything about singing, or pitch, or what makes a good song, or… anything. Anything I’ve picked up over the last few years has literally been because of working with Britta and forcing myself by saying, “I need to learn to hit that note!” So we put those parameters out there from the beginning and it allows the space to really fuck up and not hit the note, and know that it’s still going to be okay. I feel like I’m allowed to not be this polished musical theatre singer because that’s part of the conceit.

BJ: Yeah! I feel like part of the conceit is to joyfully and whole-heartedly step into doing something that you don’t feel you’re good at. That’s really important in this show.

HS: Which is so wonderful because we so rarely or just don’t do that. So often we feel like we have to wait to be perfect before we show it or do it.

KC: Exactly. I feel like this show has a kid-like mentality of being like “I don’t know? That looks fun! I will do that in front of people,” you know what I mean? It’s trying to get back to that place where you don’t second-guess yourself and you don’t self-edit and there isn’t that sort of judgmental voice being like “Oh, no. No. No. That’s ridiculous. Don’t do that.” It’s more like “That sounds like a great idea! I will try it.” (laughing) You know?

BJ: As someone who gets to watch it over and over again, it really looks like Katherine as a kid playing pretend in her room. The songs go everywhere from a full three-and-a-half-minute-long, emotional, perfectly rhymed song, to what I picture as her as a kid looking in the mirror and playing pretend. There’s room for all of it.

KC: Yeah, it’s like if this show had a spirit animal right now it’s that little girl in that viral video who wobbles into the room for her birthday party. She’s just having a hippity-hoppity day. Because, why not?

I mean, there are darker themes that are in the show that are being probed now in a way that we didn’t really probe when we were at Summerworks. One of the songs expresses how you need darkness to have light and I think I’m exploring a child-like freedom of expression but also those kind of adult things in the world or in our lives that make us feel like we can’t or that beat us down, make us feel like we’re losers or “less than”. I think that there is a real conversation that the show is trying to have between those two and trying to kind of make peace with it.

And part of having a hippity-hoppity day is saying “I don’t need those chains. I don’t need to think of myself as a bad loser. I can just be a person because we’re all just people and we’re all fine here, so why not just have a jazzy time?”

BJ: And that the imperfection isn’t something to overcome and get to the other side of. That’s why hearing you sing these songs is so moving. If it’s just something that you invite into the picture, and own, you can have a hippity-hoppity day with the dark parts and the light parts and the parts where you fail and the parts where you make an ass of yourself and it’s still just as hippity-hoppity! (they laugh)

Photo of Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson by Michael Cooper.

HS: Amazing. You mentioned from the beginning you were writing songs for this and you have also said that you have never been in a musical. So what was the idea behind making this piece of yours a musical?

KC: One thing that I do really like about musicals is that there’s this element that you get to express something extra or express something that you can’t satisfy just in dialogue. There’s this component to the expression that is sort of special or heightened and that isn’t in the realistic way that we express ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I feel that there is something also about dyslexia that has that. My experience with it and how I experience the world has been so sort of topsey turvey and that has been very difficult for me to explain to people. To me, it just makes sense that then to be able to communicate that experience that I would need to burst into song.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

HS: What is something that you hope the audience takes away or experiences while they are here?

KC: I think this play is so much about, you know, just not feeling alone in the parts of yourself that you feel don’t totally fit in. So I hope it speaks to people from that perspective, that they feel like their humanity is seen, you know? And that it’s cool to laugh at the shit that you do that’s silly as opposed to being ashamed of it.

I think the show is really about renouncing shame, in a lot of ways.

BJ: I just feel that if the audience has half as much fun as I have sitting at the piano, laughing and crying along with Katherine, I think that we will have done our job.

Photo of Katherine Cullen by Michael Cooper.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite Food:
KC: Probably sushi.
BJ: Burritos, no question.

Favourite Musical:
KC: Jesus Christ Superstar
BJ: West Side Story.

Where do you get inspiration?
KC: Hmm… I think usually when I watch something really funny and it just makes me feel like there’s a lot of possibility in the world, when I see something super funny.

BJ: Probably the people around me. Watching people I love and respect… or don’t, you know (laughs) struggle with the same stuff I do.

KC: Watching people I hate…

BJ: Watching people I hate and delighting in their failure (laughing)

HS: That inspires me!

KC: Don’t edit that…

BJ: That’s the end of the interview. “Britta Johnson, who kind of glommed on to the interview, talks a lot about the people she hates…” (laughing)

The Best Advice You’ve Ever Gotten or That You’re Currently Living By:
KC: My dad always says “Have faith in the future” and I don’t totally know what that means but I kind of like it. Have faith in the future. Why not?

BJ: I don’t know… There’s never going to be a moment where you’re like, “Now I’ve got it”, so don’t wait for that moment. You’re still doing it even if that “moment” doesn’t come.

KC: Yeah, you’re always doing the best with what you’ve got at any given moment.

BJ: Also I think my sister once told me that my hair always looks better than I think it does… which has also really helped me lately… (laughing)

Describe Stupidhead! in 5-10 words… together:
KC: … It’s a… fun,
KC & BJ: hippity-hoppity day
BJ: that embraces the honest struggle of simply…
KC & BJ: beeeing aaa..llliiv?—huuuman!

HS: Brilliant. Thank you!

 STUPIDHEAD! A Musical Comedy

Who:
A Theatre Passe Muraille Production
Written & Performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson
Original Music by Britta Johnson
Original Lyrics by Britta Johnson and Katherine Cullen
Directed & Dramaturged by Aaron Willis
Additional Dramaturgy by Andy McKim
Set & Costume Design by Anahita Dehbonehie
Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon
Associate Producer: Colin Doyle

What:
Stupidhead! is a comedy musical about having dyslexia. It’s also about how being a human is really embarrassing… like all of the time. The winner of Best New Performance Text at the 2015 SummerWorks Festival, Stupidhead! returns to Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace with brand new material and brand new songs.

In Stupidhead! performer/playwright Katherine Cullen shares true stories about her dyslexia, the way she interacts with the world, and the way the world interacts with her. Cullen’s script – directed by the Dora nominated Aaron Willis and accompanied by lyricist/musician Britta Johnson’s original songs – makes for a show that is painfully funny, brutally honest, and totally relatable for anyone who feels like they do things a bit different.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave.
Toronto ON.

When:
March 16 – April 2, 2017

Tickets:
passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/

Connect:
w: passemuraille.ca/stupidhead/
t: #StupidheadTO
@KatinkaCullen
@johnsonbritta
fb: StupidheadMusical
TheatrePasseMuraille

 

Artist Profile: Jordi Mand – Playwright of CAUGHT, on stage now at TPM

Interview by Brittany Kay

I had the utmost pleasure of talking with the incredible Jordi Mand, playwright of CAUGHT, which opened this week at Theatre Passe Muraille in their Backspace. We spoke about creating your own work, the inner struggles you face when graduating university, and the differences between doing the job and getting the job.

Brittany Kay: Tell me a little bit about your new play? 

Jordi Mand: Caught takes place in the security holding room of a major department store in Toronto. It focuses on a female security guard and a teenage guy who she has caught shoplifting and how the situation unfolds between them. A police officer arrives to process him and the tables are sort of turned on this security guard. She thinks she has caught this shoplifter but everything starts to go awry for her. That’s focusing more on the events of the actual play, but the piece, itself, has changed a lot over time. To me, it’s really about justice and interpersonal justice – justice between people and their steep inner personal justices that they feel. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how some people in this world for lesser reasons seem to be able to get away with things and other people can’t. How does that come to be? What are the ingredients of our lives that bring us to that place? What is our moral code that allows us to actually break the rules or make the rules? That was a really big launching point for the show.

Photo of Jakob Ehman, Meegwun Fairbrother, Sabryn Rock by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Jakob Ehman, Meegwun Fairbrother, Sabryn Rock by Michael Cooper.

BK: There was a lot of development that went into this play. How did it come to be?

JM: It’s actually had a bit of a long life. So in 2009/2010 I was part of Nightwood Theatre’s Write from the Hip Unit, which is their emerging writer’s unit for emerging female playwrights. Write from the Hip has changed considerably in terms of its format, but at that time the objective was to write a 15-minute piece and so I wrote the first 15 minutes of Caught. Andy McKim at Theatre Passe Muraille asked me if I wanted to present something or hear something read at their Buzz festival. I hadn’t touched the piece in about a year and then decided I wanted to hear it again. I had been a resident artist at TPM for a number of years and both Andy and I knew we wanted to work on a project together. We were circling around different ideas and at the same time we both came back to that piece and the themes of justice and injustice, entitlement and consequences that are found in the play. We both agreed that there was a longer life for this piece than just a few minutes and started exploring it. I had been working with Andy dramaturgically and further developing it. There was a workshop of a earlier full draft in September and now we’re sharing it with the city.

BK: Why TPM? 

JM: When I graduated theatre school, I had been working for Obsidian Theatre in an administrative capacity. I was their Director of Development and Obsidian had done a co-production with Roseneath Theatre and TPM and it was just as Andy was moving into the theatre as Artistic Director. I first got to know him then and the philosophy of TPM, which I just sort of fell in love with. I just found their attitude towards storytelling and their artists and emerging artists really real and wonderful. They had put a call out around that time for Elephants in the Room, which was their emerging artist program, and they were looking for people to help launch that. So I approached them and said it was something I was really interested in doing. I became one of the four co-founders of Elephants in the Room. We also started Crapshoot, which still happens and so I’ve had a long relationship with TPM. I think a lot of artists, especially in this season who are sharing stories and are part of TPM, have similar connections with the TPM. The company has been an integral part of their journeys as they have been moving forward in this crazy theatre world. Then I became a resident artist with TPM and Andy and I really wanted to tell a story together and I wanted to tell a story with that company and Caught just seemed like the right fit.

BK: What a lovely journey.

JM: Yeah! Sort of a natural evolution over many, many years.

BK: Why the title Caught?

JM: The action is certainly a big part of it. I love how it has to do with how we find ourselves caught, either by our own doing, people catching us, us being caught by our own habits and our own hang-ups that we can’t get past, us being caught within society’s rules and regulations of what we can and cannot do – how that sometimes can work in our favor and sometimes it can work against us. We’ve really been spending a lot of time in rehearsals talking about how we can get these characters caught as much as possible. It’s also part of the ride for the audience and part of the fun of it – how can we get into as much trouble as possible?

Photo of Sabryn Rock, Jakob Ehman and Meegwun Fairbrother by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Sabryn Rock, Jakob Ehman and Meegwun Fairbrother by Michael Cooper.

BK: Tell me about your team?

JM: I’ve known Sabryn Rock (who plays Trisha) for a decade now. We went to the National Theatre School together. She’s amazing. I’m really spoiled, it’s a really incredible team. Jacob Ehman is playing our kid, James.

BK: I saw him in Sophia Fabiilli’s play “The Philanderess” in the Toronto Fringe and just thought “Who are you? You’re amazing!”

JM: I am really thrilled for him that he is getting the attention that I think he really deserves. He’s such a talented actor and he gives so much. I love watching him work on this piece because James is a confusing character, Jakob is such a spontaneous actor. It’s wonderful watching him process the play, moment by moment. I know what the character is going to do next but I don’t know what Jakob is going to do next. It’s really an actor’s play. The joy and pleasure of this world is really the moment-by-moment, tiny details that each character either brings to the other and the journey that the actors take their characters on. An actor named Meegwun Fairbrother plays our police officer and he’s a real presence in the room. As soon as the character walks in, everything changes. I feel that way with who Meegwun is as a person as well, so that’s just really amazing that those two line up. Sarah Garton Stanley who is the Associate Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre is our director. She is so focused in her storytelling. Each moment is so fresh and calculated. She has a really great brain and heart for this world. Our design team is fabulous. It feels like the right ingredients in the room for our world.

BK: Tell me about the design concept?

JM: It’s one room, one location, almost like a holding deck. There’s only a table and chairs. It’s very neutral. It has very little personality and it’s almost as if there’s the forth wall and part of it has just been cut out so you can see through it. Not like a two-way mirror… someone has just taken a knife and removed a chunk of it. So the audience will feel like a fly on the wall, like they shouldn’t be there or they’re intruding. It should feel a little bit like a scene of car accident on the street, where people are driving by and they can’t turn their eyes away from it. Hopefully we can do the same thing for our audiences. Fingers crossed!

Photo of Sabryn Rock and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Sabryn Rock and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

BK: I’m going to put a hold on the play and ask about you. Tell me a little bit about your journey to where you are now.

JM: I’ve been involved in theatre for a long time. I was one of those theatre kids, where babysitters loved me because I would coordinate plays for parents to watch and they would sit upstairs and do nothing. I had been involved in productions as an actor as a kid for a very long time. I grew up in Richmond Hill and I was part of CharActors Theatre Troupe, where they had just auditioned to be one of the choirs in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. They asked me if I wanted to be a part of it and that was a big thing for me as it was my first professional show. I missed school for a year. It really changed a lot for me. There was never a moment where I said, “I don’t want to do this.” At that point I thought I still wanted to act and so I went to Unionville High School, which is a performing arts school. Then I went to York for their theatre program for a year.

I’m not a particularly impulsive person, but there are these few markers in my life where I’m like, “I’m going to make this decision!” and I have no basis for it or even an understanding if it’s going to work out. York is great because it’s a generalized theatre program where in your second year you specialize. This might have just been the really bad student in me because school and I have had a bit of a complicated relationship, but I just remember hearing this voice being like “you need to be in a more of a conservatory program”. Someone I went to high school with who I considered to be the best actor was at the National Theatre School and I just remember saying, “I have to go there.” I started looking at all of the artists that really inspired me and a lot of them had graduated from NTS.

BK: So you left York before specializing?

JM: Yes. I auditioned for the acting program at NTS and got in. I went there really thinking I was going to focus on classical theatre, with my ultimate intention of acting at Stratford or Shaw. I was very focused on that being my trajectory. What I didn’t anticipate was that when I was there I would find this unexpected joy in creating my own work. The curriculum in our second year was focused more on creating your own work and largely for yourself. I ended up finding that work really enjoyable and craving it more, which was a big surprise for me because I thought I had really defined for myself what I thought I was going to do.

I graduated and moved to Toronto and started auditioning. I had applied to SummerWorks the year after I had graduated with this solo show that I had written in school. It was about my family and me. I used my own name. It was a very personal story. I applied and they said that they were interested in my voice but they were not offering me a slot in the festival. They had offered me a spot in the Under-25 Reading Series instead, which provided the opportunity to develop my piece with a mentor, followed by a live reading. They partnered me with Hannah Moscovitch.

BK: Wow! What an amazing person to be paired up with.

JM: Right?!

BK: Could you ask for a better mentor?

JM: No. It was crazy. That was sort of one of two path-changing moments, I think. Even when I was at school and we were graduating, I was still conflicted about whether I wanted to be an actor. My parents are pretty academic and they are huge supporters and lovers of the arts but they are not artists. I don’t come from an artist family. I really felt that after going to a conservatory, where you don’t get a degree and you don’t get a diploma, the idea of me saying that I don’t know if I want to act anymore, felt like such a slap in the face for them and that I was letting myself down. It sounds so silly saying it out loud, but I actually felt so ashamed that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep acting. So in meeting Hannah, who had gone to NTS and who had been in the acting program, who had really started very seriously on her trajectory as a writer at that point, was the first person I could actually talk to about writer things. She was the first dramaturge I had in my life. She was the first mentor I ever had. Sometimes when you find the right person at the right time it just makes all the difference. She answered every question that I had. We worked really closely together. There was something about it that, as I was working on that piece, and as I was working with her, something just started to feel right.

BK: So that was it for your actor days?

JM: I just wasn’t always prepared to do the work as an actor that I should have been. I liked the idea of getting the part but once I got the part I was like, “well I guess I gotta do this now.” Actors have to have such a commitment and dedication to the process. I just don’t think I have that as an actor. Whereas, as a writer, I can see the difference in my process now, in that case. Meeting Hannah and working with her was a huge game-changer for me.

BK: So what happened with Summerworks and your play?

JM: I ran into Michael Rubenfeld on the street and he said, “Just to let you know, we’re going to hire an actor to read your piece for you.” I was confused because the play was about my family and me. I was writing it for me. I was supposed to be in it.

His response was, “That’s fine and you can pick it up and take it wherever you go afterwards, but I think it would be really helpful for you to just hear it.”

BK: How did that change things for you as a writer?

JM: As I started writing, knowing that in mind, I decided to change the character’s name from my name because I thought it was bit silly for somebody else to say it. Then I stared changing other details and this solo show went from being one actor on stage to there be being three actors on stage, with multiple characters. What seemed like such an inconvenience at the time, turned out to be one of the biggest gifts. I was really only writing for as well as I could act as opposed to telling a story fully. If I started writing in territory that really scared me as actor, then I would stop writing it, because it was just for me. Somebody else having to do that work meant that I could go anywhere. It never occurred to me to write for other people. So the combination of working with Hannah, somebody who was really at the rising point of her process as a writer, and this large shift writing for other people made everything click. That was the key moment I unlocked everything. From there, I’ve been writing pretty seriously ever since.

Photo of Sabryn Rock, Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Sabryn Rock, Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

BK: Where do you find inspiration for your work?

JM: My life. There is a lot of me in every world that I touch. People may see it and not know anything about that. I’m really inspired by my family. I’m very inspired by the world that we are living in, this city and beyond. What is it that is defining and challenging and turning our world right now? I’m really worried about the state of our world right now. There’s just chaos in so many areas of our lives. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but in the last 10 years even, things have changed so much. Our connections to each other have changed so much. I find inspiration in how troubling I find that. So that’s a large part of Caught, too. Who are we as people today? Who are we raising? Who is this next generation? Do we have any accountability to each other anymore? Do we mean anything to each other?

I have a lot of those questions. I find inspiration in fear, in anger and in not knowing. For me and for a lot of writers these plays sort of become our venues to try to work out a problem or a query.

Photo of Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

BK: Is there a way you stay motivated to write? What are ways you keep the motivation alive and dedicate yourself to the work?

JM: The last two years I’ve found it really helpful to work on multiple projects. That’s the way it’s sort of panned out. If I feel like inspiration is resting a little bit, I find myself cheating on my plays with other plays that I’m working on. It’s not that I’m not working, I’m just working on something else. So that helps.

Thinking about an audience, I find, is the thing that always keeps it going for me. Continuing to come back to what’s at the heart of it. What is it that I’m trying to say? What is that I want audiences taking away? Writing is such a solitary process. You spend so much time here in your head. I mean, you have your team which is amazing, but then you’re in a rehearsal hall and it’s still pretty contained. Thinking about the people who are going to be receiving it; who you may never have any contact with, you never know how they are going to experience it and you can only hope that it’s the way that you intend. Thinking about them, that magical audience, is the biggest thing for me.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?

JM: Right now, today, I would really like audiences to walk away and think about how they are treating other people and how they are treating themselves in relation to other people in this crazy world.

Photo of Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

Photo of Meegwun Fairbrother and Jakob Ehman by Michael Cooper.

Rapid Fire Question Round:

Favourite Book: Today, I will chose The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

Favourite Play: Shape of Girl by Joan MacLeod

Favourite place in Toronto: My bed.

Favourite Food: Berries.

Favourite Movie: Toy Story.

Last play you saw: The Public Servant.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten or words to live by: Do the work. Focus on the work.

Advice for emerging artists: Do what works for you. The amount of work you get might mean you might not be able to sustain yourself in any capacity. I’ve talked to a lot of artists recently and they’ve expressed a shame or trepidation about having part-time jobs or full-time jobs to support themselves. They think they have failed or they’re dishonouring their craft in some capacity, but I don’t think there’s one way to make something happen for yourself. I think everyone’s life and reality is different. You have to shape your life in a way that you can do the work and do it with a full heart and not have to feel guilty for making excuses for yourself. Don’t ask yourself, why you’re not doing it like this person or that person. You have do it the way you do it. I wish someone told me that early on. It would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights. It’s so hard. It’s hard for everyone, even the people it doesn’t seem hard for. Look for mentors and make connections. Treat those connections like gold. Find people that help you do what you want to do. 

CAUGHT

A Theatre Passe Muraille Production. On stage now until April 24th.

Who:
Written by Jordi Mand
Directed by Sarah Garton Stanley
Dramaturgy by Andy McKim
Starring Jakob Ehman, Meegwun Fairbrother & Sabryn Rock
Production Design by John Thompson
Sound Design by Debashis Sinha
Assistant Director: Donna Michelle St. Bernard

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto.

When: March 31 – April 24, 2016

Tickets: Pay-What-You-Can Saturday & Sunday 2pm Matinees, $17 Under-30, $20 Artsworkers, $28 Senior, $33 General Admission

passemuraille.ca/caught

Connect with us

Connect with us!

Spread the word: #CaughtTO

Theatre Passe Muraille – @beyondwallsTPM

In the Greenroom –  @intheGreenRoom_

Brittany Kay – @brittanylkay

 

 

Chelsea Hotel is “Magical. Sexy. Haunting. Refreshing. Passionate.” – A few words with Tracey Power, Director/Creator/Performer of Chelsea Hotel – The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Interview by Shaina Silver-Baird

SSB: How did you conceive of the idea for Chelsea Hotel?

Tracey Power: I was interested in creating a show that was a fusion of music, movement and theatre. The poetic quality of Cohen’s music immediately became the inspiration for this desire. The concept for the world in my mind was always one of imagination, magic, love and surprise.

SSB: How was this new musical created?

TP: I began listening to all of Cohen’s music and images and stories began to form. A poetic order began to grow, a seamless flow of consciousness that in my imagination made perfect sense. I could also hear a sound for the show that incorporated the instruments that were played by the team of 6 artists. There are 17 instruments in the show so creativity has always felt limitless.

SSB: It’s been very popular in theatre recently, to have the actor/singers playing the instruments instead of the more traditional band – actor split. Why did you decide to take this approach?

TP: We began creating this show 5 years ago and at that time it was much less popular, certainly on the west coast. The style of Chelsea Hotel stems from a concert or cabaret so that is where the roots of its approach lie.

SSB: What attracted you to Leonard Cohen’s music?

TP: His lyrics. Even after 5 years, there are still words I hear for the first time. They make you curious, they inspire incredible imagery and you discover pieces of yourself within them.

SSB: Describe the show in 5 words:

TP: Magical. Sexy. Haunting. Refreshing. Passionate.

Chelsea Hotel – The Songs of Leonard Cohen

A Firehall Arts Centre Production
Produced by Theatre 20
With the support of Theatre Passe Muraille

ChelseaHotel-photo by Mat Simpson-sm

Who:
Directed and Conceived by Tracey Power
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Steven Charles
Cast: Rachel Aberle, Sean Cronin, Christina Cuglietta, Benjamin Elliot, Jonathan Gould & Tracey Power.
Set Design: Marshall McMahen
Lighting Design: Ted Roberts
Costume Design: Barbara Clayden
Sound Design: Xavier Berbudeau
Dramaturg: James MacDonald
Artistic Producer: Donna Spencer

What:
“It’s written on the walls of this hotel, you go to heaven, once you’ve been to hell.” – Leonard Cohen

CHELSEA HOTEL comes to Toronto fresh from a sold-out national tour! Leonard Cohen’s powerful and inspirational music is the heartbeat of this eclectic cabaret of loves won and lost. With extraordinary arrangements, six performers play seventeen instruments in this rollicking tribute to the remarkable writer. Through Cohen’s transcendent songs and lyrical honesty, you will be transported to New York’s infamous hotel – a place full of music and enchantment, desire and passion.

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When: February 3-21, 2016

Tickets: $25-$55 + limited Pay-What-You-Can for selected performances. Buy tickets here.

Connect:
#chelseahotel2016

In Conversation with Severn Thompson, playwright and performer of ELLE, on stage now at TPM

 

by Bailey Green

When Severn Thompson read the novel Elle four years ago she had no idea that this story would capture her imagination for years to come. The Governor General’s Award-winning novel written by Douglas Glover is based on the true story of Marguerite de Roberval. Marguerite, along with her lover and nurse, were marooned by her uncle the Sieur de Roberval on the Isle of Demons in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Thompson spent the last three years adapting and workshopping Elle before bringing it to Theatre Passe Muraille. “It struck me as so refreshing to find a female voice from a time I had heard very little about, in the very early days of the explorers in the mid 1500’s,” says Thompson. “I felt very close to her [the character]. The story crossed 500 years very easily for me. It brought the past to the present.”

Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Adapting a 200 page book into a 24 page script is no easy feat, and Thompson had to set deadlines to make the hard choices. From the beginning, Thompson knew that she wanted simple props and set, and that the staging would be essential in creating the world of the play. “You want to still make it as rich an experience as you can,” Thompson says, “and assume that the audience coming in may not have the same background with the story that you have.”

As the project grew, so did the team involved. Thompson participated in the Banff Playwrights Colony where she worked with dramaturg and Program Director Brian Quirt and then Andy McKim, Artistic Director and dramaturg of Theatre Passe Muraille, who “has been guiding me through from an early stage. He [McKim] brings a lot of experience to the work, so that has been so useful” says Thompson. Two and a half years ago, director Christine Brubaker joined the project and became Thompson’s main partner in developing Elle. “We see things in a very similar way, so it’s been great to have eyes from the outside. She’s been really invaluable in pointing to aspects that need more and areas that need less. It’s been a great discovery, seeing how the audience relates to the play.”

Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Author Douglas Glover has connected with Thompson throughout the development process, but Thompson notes that he has been very supportive from a distance, recognizing the differences in form between a play and a novel. Glover has seen drafts throughout the process and a short workshop performance at the Lab Cab Festival, but TPM is his first experience of the fully realized production. When asked about the greatest joy Thompson has experienced working on Elle she says:

“To share this story. It’s one that gives a very strong female voice to a point in history where we have heard so little. And she’s not just strong, because bad things happen to her but she doesn’t play the victim and yet she isn’t the perfect hero either. She has faults and quirks and it’s wonderful and exciting to share this character that Douglas has created.”

Thompson also notes that Elle reminds us of the history of our land and how easy it is to forget about the ground we stand on. “Elle reminds us about the power of this land, and the complications that have evolved from colonialism,” Thompson says. “The nature of that history is still in play today, whether we are aware of it or not.”

Jonathan Fisher and Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Jonathan Fisher and Severn Thompson in ELLE at TPM. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

ELLE

A Theatre Passe Muraille Production

Who:
Adapted by Severn Thompson from the Governor General’s Award-winning novel by Douglas Glover
Directed by Christine Brubaker
Starring Jonathan Fisher & Severn Thompson
Dramaturgy by Christine Brubaker & Andy McKim
Stage Manager: Laura Baxter
Production Design: Jennifer Goodman
Sound Design & Original Music: Lyon Smith
Movement: Viv Moore

What:
“Headstrong. What do you do with a headstrong girl? Maroon her on a deserted island lest she spread the contagion of discontent. Forget her.”

It’s 1542 at the time of France’s ill-fated third attempt to colonize Canada. The Sieur de Roberval abandons his unruly young niece, her lover, and her nurse on the Isle of Demons just off the coast of Labrador. With real bears, spirit bears, and perhaps hallucinated bears, Elle brilliantly reinvents the beginnings of this country’s national narrative.

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When: January 14-31, 2016, Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30pm & Saturday & Sunday at 2pm.

ASL-Interpreted Performances: Thursday January 21 at 7:30pm & Saturday January 30th at 2pm.
Relaxed Performance: Saturday January 23rd at 2pm.

Tickets: $17 Under 30, $20 Artsworker, $33 Seniors, $38 General Admission, Pay-What-You-Can Saturday & Sunday 2pm Matinees. Purchase here. 

Connect:
passemuraille.ca/elle/
@beyondwallsTPM
@severnthompson

#ElleTO

@_BaileyGreen
@intheGreenRoom_

Artist Profile: Sara Farb, Playwright & Performer of personal piece R-E-B-E-C-C-A at Theatre Passe Muraille

Interview by Brittany Kay

I had the utmost pleasure of sitting down with long time friend, Sara Farb, to discuss her new play, R-E-B-E-C-C-A, which opened this week at Theatre Passe Muraille. We shared our “somewhat” fondness of our suburban bubble and the journey into realizing that theatre is the fundamental lifeline that keeps us going.

Throughout the laughter and reminiscences, I couldn’t help but marvel at this woman. She is one of wit, talent and has created a truly remarkable play that shares a one of a kind story.

Brittany: How did you get to where you are now?

Sara: I’m originally from North York, so technically I’m from Toronto but my entire childhood was in Thornhill. A huge part of my childhood was spent at a community theatre program called Charactors Theatre Troupe. I went to Earl Haig Secondary School in the Claude Watson arts program as a drama major and then decided to go to the University of Toronto to get a normal person degree, because I’d been working as an actor and didn’t want to remove myself for too long. University was a constant struggle. I ended up doing really well, but it took me six years to finish. I don’t regret it for a second. It was a really good balance to exercise, especially entering a life where you know multitasking is sort of essential if you want to remain sane. 

For a while, I was working as an editor for on an online publication and the acting wasn’t really happening. At the age of 24, I made a decision to leave the business. 

Brittany: What made you come to that choice?

Sara: It was mostly musical theatre that I was doing and that’s already such a marginalized part of the arts community. What I offered was too astray from the norm that the musical theatre arts community is so devoted to here in this country. You know, not necessarily to its detriment, but very few risks are taken in casting. It was really hard to establish myself in any real momentous way. In like bits and pieces sure. It was just too much of a struggle… too frustrating.

I’ve always had an affinity for words and for literature and I had dabbled in online journalism. I decided that if I’m going to be unsatisfied in a profession, it might as well be one that is more lucrative, yields better results and where the competition isn’t as ferocious. I made the promise to myself that after I had a show in Halifax, that was going to be it. I enrolled in these courses to be an editor and my entire life perspective was going to be flipped after the show. This new re-focus would be in the middle and theatre would be its orbit. That’s the way it looked.

Brittany: That must have been an incredibly hard moment in your life.

Sara: I remember having this watershed conversation with my boyfriend where I felt like I was getting a divorce. I needed a clean break. It was such a huge decision and so monumental in my life. But the second I let it go, it just all came at me like I was a magnet. It was so crazy, but also very informative. I’m not an avid believer in cosmic anything but that’s the closest thing I can think of, of any universal involvement in ones’ life, it seemed. It’s inexplicable. So I decided to ride the wave, but I still didn’t take my foot out of the writing door.

It was evident that I obviously wasn’t ready to let go entirely. Eventually, it led to being asked to come in to audition for Stratford because they needed an immediate replacement. I got the part and that was sort of a no brainer.

Brittany: Well…obviously.

Sara: And so now I’m an actor. The feeling that this isn’t permanent never goes away. This always feels like a temporary fix and that’s why I still write and that’s why I’m very keen on exercising other skills. I am not delusional and I don’t in any way, shape or form think that this is going to stay as good as it’s been forever. That’s simply not realistic.

It’s important to pour everything you have into what you’re doing, but if that’s all you got then I think that’s a serious problem in this industry.

Sara Farb in R-E-B-E-C-C-A. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Sara Farb in R-E-B-E-C-C-A. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Brittany: Let’s switch gears and talk about the play. How did this play come to be? What was the development process? 

Sara: The last possible year I could participate in the Paprika Festival, I decided to submit. I had sort of been musing about what a play about my sister would even look like because I didn’t really want it to just be a family drama. That wasn’t it. I was kind of more interested in people’s perceptions of people with disabilities and how they might be wrong, especially in my very specific experience with my sister. I know that it’s easy to look at someone like her and feel an overwhelming sense of pity, but in reality she’s actually probably the happier of the two because she’s not aware of the minutia of day-to-day struggle. It just sort of felt like a really interesting place to start. It developed into a 20-minute piece that examined her day-to-day existence. It built a foundation for the development and growth of the play to where it exists now – with a Rebecca that is portrayed in the present and a hypothetical Rebecca.

Rebecca was born prematurely and there’s been speculation in her life that her developmental delay has to do with that. It’s a theory. That sort of coincided with the big question of what you do with legal adulthood even though there’s no comprehension of what that is or any real way of manifesting that with someone who is a perpetual child. What would a hypothetical Rebecca, who was brought fully to term, look like if she were turning eighteen? The play looks at both of those worlds on each of their respective birthdays.

Brittany: How did it come to Theatre Passe Muraille?

Sara: Rob Kempson, who ran Paprika at the time, invited me to participate in the “Old Spice” program, which invites Paprika alumni to further develop their work with a mentor of their choice. Until then, there were a couple years where the development of the play was kind of dead and I didn’t really know what to do with it. This program really sort of kicked me in the ass and it was more due to Rob’s insistence that I applied because I was on the fence about it. It’s just been a really long line of very supportive people, encouraging me to do something about it. So I had my pick of mentors and Richard Greenblatt had been very interested in the play back when I was first doing it with Paprika, so I invited him to be my mentor and dramaturg. It was a really great match. I really owe this to Rob, who brought it to the attention of Andy McKim. It’s been very much on his radar for a very long time.

Brittany: Talk to me about you relationship with your sister.

Sara: It’s very very close in the way that it is. There are few people that she feels comfortable showing all of her colours to, a part from my mom. I may be the next person in line who knows as much about the parts of Rebecca. Her life and my life will really be fused for our entire lives. I adore her to no end. It’s very protective.

Brittany: Like any other older sister would be.

Sara: Pretty much. Obviously there are significant parts of sisterhood missing. It’s like having a four-year-old sister forever. That has its benefits and its costs, but I’ve never wished her to be anything else. I’m pretty aware that I’d probably be a different person if I had an ally in my sister. That’s sort of fodder for why one writes a play like this.

Sara Farb in R-E-B-E-C-C-A. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Sara Farb in R-E-B-E-C-C-A. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Brittany: You play two Rebeccas in this play. Can you speak a bit about the two of them?

Sara: The characters’ names in the script are May and July. May is the Rebecca that exists and July is the hypothetical one if she were brought to full term. May is a pretty true to life representation that I’ve been able to master after all the time spent with my sister. It’s a little more articulate than she actually is, but it communicates what I perceive to be her thoughts and feelings. July Rebecca comes from the question of what someone would do if they had the deep feeling that they weren’t supposed to exist. The kind of person July is, is the direct opposite of May who’s fully unaware of her existence. Time is not a concept to May. July’s existence is constant. It is not supposed to have happened to her and therefore it’s always there.

Brittany: What has it been like being both playwright and actor?

Sara: It’s been extremely challenging. Richard gave me a week grace period of allowing the playwright into the room and then the playwright had to leave. It had to just be about performing the play. It’s mostly now about getting 80 minutes of theatre from beginning to end without worrying too much. Being able to treat the words like someone else wrote them is strange. Every now and then I’ll come across something and think, “I can’t believe I wrote that.” I’m trying to shelve those opinions. Not having an opinion on the writing has been a really difficult thing. 

Brittany: Richard Greenblatt has been a part of so much of this process. How has it been having him as your director?

Sara: It’s been outstanding. He’s such a champion of thought-provoking, unusual stories and his commitment to this one is humbling. Anytime my confidence has waivered, he’s there to slap me out of it. He’s just got such a keen eye for developing new work and his dramaturgy skills are unbelievable. I just feel so lucky. The whole team are masters in their field and the fact that they assembled because I wrote this play is a really gratifying thing to feel.

Brittany: Who does this play speak to? Speak for?

Sara: It’s an examination of our experience with people with developmental delay and what we project onto them. How we try to fit them into our world when they necessarily might not want to fit into it. The way they operate may be preferable or more natural. It’s sort of a look at everyone’s struggle of the idea and less about what somebody who is disabled struggles with. They could be the happiest people in life but because we know what they can’t do, that’s immediately a reason for pity.

As well as I know Rebecca this is all largely hypothesized. I’ll never truly know exactly how she feels about certain things because there’s a huge lack in ability of communicating. Even for me to impose all of this on her is sort of the point of what I’m trying to get across.

Brittany: What do you want audiences walking away with?

Sara: All I want is for them to be affected. I want them to like the play. I want it to not suck (she laughs).

It’s important to come to terms with these things and how we approach certain ideas and how much we force ourselves onto everything. How something isn’t necessarily a certain way because you feel a certain way about it.

The notion of the ease with which any one of us could have ended up with a genetic disorder. How easy it is for all of that to not go according to plan. If it does go according to plan is that necessarily better?

Rapid Fire Questions:

What is your favourite…

Book: Of Human Bondage.

Movie: Recently, Whiplash.

Place to write: Revel Caffe in Stratford.

Place in Toronto: I really like walking along Bloor Street.

Food: Lately it’s been Korean food. I cannot get enough kimchi into my mouth.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten: Don’t give up, get ready.

R-E-B-E-C-C-A

Written and performed by Sara Farb. Directed and dramaturged by Richard Greenblatt. A Theatre Passe Muraille production.

RBC TPM Cover Photo

Tickets: PWYC-$33  – Buy here.
Where: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)
Length: 80 min
When: On now until March 1st.

Connect: Sara Farb @SaraFarb
Theatre Passe Muraille @beyondwallsTPM
Brittany Kay @brittanylkay