Deconstructing Young Romance with Chaotic Spontaneity
A playwright can build a mountain out of any molehill. That's our job. We inflate reality into theatrical realms. We groom everyday ordinaries into Broadway dramas. A playwright can and must create topical explosions which means that all playwrights can discover a story, no matter the subject. The "what" is never the problem. Perhaps surprisingly, most playwrights have more trouble determining the "when", the sequence, the structure. The issue is, anything in life can happen at anytime. We think things must happen for a reason but no, not at all, guys, the truism is overwhelming: Things just happen.
Here's how it works: Fifty-two scenes are represented by a deck of fifty-cards and each night, at the top of the show, two actors (a different pair each night, four different pairs in total) throw the deck in the air, collect the cards, and perform the scenes in a new order. This non-structure structure is actually quite brilliant. A lot of relationships are just stories we tell. We have them, they die, we memorialize them and our memory of them is influenced by the chaos within which we experienced them. Our stories are experientially and emotionally devised by the structure of our memories. The more chaos there is, the more emotion. Therefore, get ready for a dangerously exciting presentation of real-life spontaneity and the resulting emotional consequences. If no one knows what's going to happen in the show...then...no one knows what's going to happen in the show...It makes me as nervous as falling in love or as breaking up with a loved one or as nervous as being single for the rest of my life. The show will stir your stomach a bit but, the good news is, the actors are also on their toes.
A show with so much emotional potential insists that performers must trusts their improvisational skills as well as, I can imagine, their emotional decorum. Ordinarily, in a structured show, performers can prepare their appropriate emo-buttons for the oncoming pushing but, in this case, they have to acknowledge before hand that their open-hearts must be monitored closely throughout. The experience presented therefore epitomizes the high-strung emotional realm of the twenty-something year-old individual, a realm that The Howland Company often excites on stage. The exhaustion that overcomes two characters, two performers who have no idea what is coming next, mimics the exhaustion of the young individuals The Howland Company is seeking to reach.
With chaos and passion up in the air, there's no way this show won't shake-up your Fringe line up. It's seventy-five minutes of who-the-hell-knows and it will defy all the other relationship plays you see this summer.
CHECK IT OUT!
52 Pick-Up Opens at The Tarragon Extraspace July 3rd, 7 pm
ADDITIONAL SHOW TIMES
July 05 at 10:30 PM
July 08 at 03:00 PM
July 10 at 01:45 PM
July 11 at 05:45 PM
July 12 at 08:45 PM
July 13 at 05:15 PM
The Howland Company will also be producing a new translation of Ödön Von Horvàth’s “Kasimir and Karoline” as translated and adapted by Holger Syme, Chair of English and Drama at the University of Toronto, and one of our founding members Paolo Santalucia. They hope to have a staged reading ready for late autumn.
Ellen Chorley transforms Edmonton into an urban playground at the 2014 Found Festival
The problem I've always had with Peter Pan, and I know we all have problems with Peter Pan, but mine specifically is that, if I could remain a kid forever, I don't think I'd ever want to leave my home. I grew up in a city. Why would I ever want to leave the city? Wouldn't I rather find intrigue and mystery in my own backyard just in case the intrigue and mystery disappoints me? Yes. I'd rather meet pirates at home than far away. Good thing, then, for Promise Productions' premiere of Ellen Chorley's Never Never. As part of this year's Found Festival (produced by the Common Ground Arts Society), Chorley has crafted a site-specific adaptation of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan that transforms downtown Edmonton into an urban, concrete, strange and sensational, theatrical playground for young audiences.
Promise Productions is Chorley's own Theatre For Young Audiences (TYA) company. Since 2006, she's been adapting fairy tales and folk tales into larger-than-life, strange and fantastic, imaginative theatrical worlds for children to ooh and aah at. Finding ways to engage children in a live-performance setting is a very special skill meant for the charismatic and compassionate. After encountering Never Never it became clear to me, Chorley embodies "charismatic and compassionate". She gets it.
Here's my humble assessment of her formula: Small children like big worlds. You'd agree if you saw Never Never which is a huge undertaking, just big enough, perhaps, to swallow a child whole and enchant them through the best day of their life.
Though Never Never is Promise Productions' first site-specific piece, they are hardly shy about taking ownership over a little bit of Edmonton. In order to construct her urban Neverland, Chorley has successfully metamorphosed a significant portion of the cityscape for a full participatory adventure.
Honouring the true craft of site-specific work, Chorley has written the script specifically for this location. As she describes:
"The writing process was one part typing in front of my computer and two parts walking around the Old Strathcona area location scouting. I chose under Duggan bridge for the Lost Boy's hideout because there where lots of nooks and crannies to hide in, but also a ton of high points for look outs. Michael realizes that he can't fly in an old school playground because we could have him (safely) try to climb a slide in his attempt to take off. The last half of the play takes place on the paths of the river valley because they feel a little like maze and I wanted to make the audience feel like the danger of being lost in a forest."
Chorley's work on and off the computer has certainly paid off. The breadth of the show is arousing. The audience must negotiate their understanding of the landscape in order to inhale the transformation and experience an entirely new scenic display.
Above and beyond the environmental accomplishments that the show emblemizes, its breadth of cast is also a milestone for Chorley. With sixteen different performers, Never Never is the largest cast that her company has ever employed. The enlarged cast absolutely makes for a more immersed setting. Familiar characters including Captain Hook, Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys surround the audience as we follow Wendy, Michael and John Darling on their escape from Neverland. Children will think they are lost in a video game, I swear. It's too big for them to see beyond. They will think that they're television has swallowed them. Chorley obviously gets it: The bigger the blithe-ier. As long as she can contain her participants, this might be her best contribution to whatever-it-is-that-makes-kids-gleeful yet. The experience is unforgettable.
Once you're taken by her Found Festival entry, you'll be happy to have learned that Chorley isn't just a whims-maker for children. She also has a burlesque theatre company called Send in the Girls Burlesque and they will be debuting her new play The Hollywoodland Burlesques at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival 2014 this August. So, get your fill of childlike fun at Found and then anticipate adult-awesomeness at Fringe.
CHECK IT OUT
Never Never plays June 28-29 at the Found Festival in Edmonton.
For more information, click here.
Living Room Theatre Decorates the Night with New Works by Quirky Artists
I remember meeting We're From Out West, a threesome of musicians from Alberta, at a NEST Magazine party a couple of years ago. The men in the band were very clearly artistically ambitious and I didn't understand quite what I was listening to but I liked what I was being asked to experience: An ambience, a seance, maybe, perfumed with the earnest, new and raw writing of three generous and skilled artists. It might not have been done, but it was certainly being done in the moment, as I watched.
After sitting down with Thomas McKechnie, the bass guitarist of the band (who was trying to convince me that if I should ever want to join a band, I should just learn the bass guitar because you "don't really do anything but you look really awesome and then you're in a band") I realized that this band is quite literally and impressively a "band", a tiny little performing unit of people bound buy their work and their vehemence for performance, a tiny tribe of artists who live together and work together in a theatre company called Living Room Theatre.
It was then that I learned about New Art Night, a series of evenings once or twice a year in Toronto where artists gather to display what they're working on, in whatever format, as a means of contributing to an up-and-coming performing arts scene. The event was created by the founders of Living Room Theatre. Alexi Pedneault, Jesse Byiers and Thomas McKechnie, three gentleman who hail from Alberta and have come to Toronto to perplex and amaze us with their love for expression. With New Art Night, Living Room Theatre has compiled a performance format wherein, much like my experience of their band, the audience barely has time to judge or estimate what we are watching. All we have time to do is participate. You can ask questions later as artists co-mingle in the Post-New Art Night bliss of hey-we're-artists-and-we-just-tried-something-new-and-now-we're-filled-with-joy just because amongst one another's strange ideas. It's absolutely a place for people who love zygomatic, in the rough, polishing, polishing, getting there, getting there, types of gold arty nuggets. Living Room Theatre has created a space for Artists to come together and collect ourselves. It's a home for any artist especially if your ideal home includes an orgy of investigation and a very sweet nod towards our right to participate in opportunities of shameless love for our process.
This year, New Art Night will feature the works of an astounding array of local artists including (our very own and very dear) Kyle Capstick, Lily Tarba, Kelsey Goldberg, Daniel Karasik, Alexandra Simpson and plenty more. The event will take place in the relentlessly cool Videofag in Kensington Market. You will meet strange people. They will meet you. Go have a look. Get inspired. Art a little bit.
CHECK IT OUT
New Art Night takes place June 21-23 at Videofag in Toronto.
For all details check out the Facebook event page.
Chilko Tivy Dizzies Us Down To Earth with a Quirky, Personal Show about Luminous Universals
"There is no such thing as a one woman show", Chilko Tivy tells me as she lists off her mentors, collaborators and friends who have all helped her compile her current Fringe creation Gravity: A Tragedy. Having met Tivy and knowing that she's as open-hearted as she is outspoken, I believe that she accepted help from an admired collection of artists including Jesse Stong, Tedi Tafel, Eamon Knowles, Krysteena Demarco and Leni Parker, only to name a few. However, given the originality of the piece, the kind of originality that can only really come from a lady who shoots high within the creative stratosphere. a woman with narrative ambitions that come with unavoidable personal quirks, I cannot help but insist: Tivy's show is uniquely her. She's been developing it for years and, now at the Montreal Fringe, she's brought it to a place of extreme writer-ly merit, not to mention her outstanding performance capabilities and brilliant musical talents.
Gravity: A Tragedy is centered around the Queen of the Universe and her love affair with Gravity. The concept is already incredibly poetic. I know few writers who could have the imagination, let alone the diction, to articulate such a crazy cool concept. Eventually, Gravity pulls The Queen of the Universe so far down to Earth, she's forced to adapt to human life and turmoil. Throughout the show, Tivy explores the repercussions of falling down to Earth, of being in love with a menace who tugs you downwards, and of cycling through self-abusive patterns that are usually symptomatic of a fallen ego.
Deep, dark and dirty, Tivy doesn't shy away from a gloomy theme: " This is the story of a loveless world and how ultimate love cannot survive in this society", she tells me and I let out my long-held breath and accepted that Tivy is a young writer, writing about darkness and the best gift she can give us is to write about it in an incredibly interesting way. The show includes music that Tivy has composed herself, a tool that helps add a touch of lightness to her very heavy subject matter. Though a heartbreaking story, the storytelling technique is light, absurdist, giving, so giving, and intimate. The combination of magic and disturbance gives way to a meaningful 45-minute musical theatre explosion. It is unique, it is brave and it is absolutely Chilko Tivy.
CHECK IT OUT!
Gravity: A Tragedy runs at La Chapelle on June 19-22.
All ticket and show information can be found here.
Flapjack Cadillac Joins the Fringe sketch comedy brigade with a sixty very silly minutes of fun
I don't really know what's happening but there seems to be a surge of sketch comedy in this year's Fringe circuit. Wasn't there always a lot of improv? And cabarets? And stand up acts disguised as solo shows? I admit that I have always craved a little more dramatic writing in the Fringe comedy world and finally I'm salivating with satisfied hunger as hoards of talented sketch comedy writers make their way onto the Fringe scene.
Flapjack Cadillac is a sketch troupe from Montreal made up of the very funny Shane Adamczak, Jo Willers and Al Lafrance. Their current Fringe show Bananaramallamadingdong premiered last year and has been in development ever since. Now, a year and a half after it's inception, the troupe is performing the show again, this time on steroids, as they feature some of the best work they've ever done. With an absolute dose of funny and just the right amount of edge, this show is targeted directly towards making you laugh. The success of the piece fumes from the troupe's dedication to the audience. That's really the pay off of watching a comedy show: Unlike straight theatre, comedy is written with the audience's needs in mind. This show is a great example of the writer sacrificing narrative ambitions for audience payoff. Here, there are a few recurring characters and themes but mostly the vignettes are perfectly tailored to meet the audience's needs. What do we need? We need to laugh and Flapjack Cadillac will do whatever it takes to make that happen. "Of course, we also make a point of making a huge mess", Lafrance tells me. "Everybody loves making a mess, or watching someone make a mess. So we're happy to oblige." It's all for you. They're running around, acting hysterically, causing a riot. And it's all for you. And they're so good at it.
Bananaramallamadingdong has four more performances. Don't miss out!
CHECK IT OUT!
Bananaramallamadingdong runs at Spanish Club Espanol June 17-18 and 20-21.
All ticket and booking information here.
Brave New Comedy Imports Richard Herring's Acclaimed Answer to The Vagina Monologues to the Montreal Fringe
I've had many male comedians try to convince me that they've matured above and beyond writing jokes about their penises. "I'm smarter than that, a better writer than that, I'm more than just my dick, younger comics will learn quickly, I'm older and wiser now, right right right". Ok. But what if you can write a really runny penis joke? Gold is gold, even if it is adhered to your genitals. At least that's the lesson I've learned from the Canadian premiere of Talking Cock: Don't discredit jokes about your junior.
Admittedly, as a woman, I wouldn't ordinarily endorse writing a seventy-five minute piece about penis. Further, as a dramaturg, I also would never endorse writing a ninety minute show about vaginas or any genitalia or any one particular body part or love affair or just one thing, one dimension, because, I would humbly suggest, one dimension may not substantiate an entire show. Thank goodness no one told that to Richard Herring, a wildly successful UK comedian who has spent hours on stage in his winning show (and now podcast) Talking Cock discussing all the curiosities, fascinations, disturbances and wonders of his very own"spam javelin". I must admit, with his humour and honesty ingenuity. he has won the argument: Penis is funny. It's personal. Personal is tricky because it's easily offensive but if you're a funny person, you can ease personal matters into public places without much trouble at all.
Originally, when Herring premiered his show in Edinburgh in 2002, the piece was heralded as a "man's answer to the Vagina Monologues". The comparison doesn't really ring true if the piece is a one man show. The Vagina Monologues is Eva Ensler's amalgamation of a female voice through various voices ergo one man and his penis doesn't compare. By splitting Herring's show into several performers, Brave New Comedy is actually constructing something similiar with Herring's work: Several men discussing their genitals in order to appeal to a universal male voice. The result? A multi-dimensional show about penis. HOW?? It's such a brilliant little adjustment to a comedic piece and it adds many layers of theatricality. Brave New Comedy always works to blur the line between comedy and theatre and by premiering Herring's work in Canada with a theatrical twist, they are absolutely doing just that.
The show opened last Thursday to basically sold out houses. The humour is not for the faint of heart but is absolutely for those who would like to laugh immediately and probably for a while after the show. The sincerity, however, will hit home with most audience members. The universality of things that are personal, private, terrifying to experience and terrifying to talk about can be appreciated by any audience member. Though there is plenty of genitalia in the show, there is also plenty of heart. Bring both of yours with you and you'll be moved in all kinds of ways.
CHECK IT OUT!
Talking Cock plays at the Wiggle Room this week: June 17-21
All ticket information here.
Daniel Wishes Raises Hell with a Big-Top Puppetry Circus
I can't decide what I'm most excited about right now: puppets? DEVIL puppets? Devil puppets that SING, FLY, JUGGLE AND DO CIRCUS TRICKS while TELLING AN EPIC LOVE STORY WHAT IS HAPPENING??? I'm so pumped. Daniel Wishes, crazy-creative-puppetry master hails all the way from Edmonton to spectacular-ize a gentle (but NOT gentle) story about a heartbroken tight-rope walker. Actually, the story is quite tragic and dark (re: Devils) but what is most impressive and lovable about Wishes' work is that, despite being dark, it is still very watchable. Turning darkness into light is one of our jobs as theatre creators and it seems that Wishes is quite great at it. He pulls style and story from all kinds of places and the result is a really brilliantly crafted arrangement of the best of the best theatre components out there. The craft that goes into Wishes' show is seamless and rewarding. Hard to notice, sort of, because it's so dazzling, but I think I have him figured out.
Though the plot sounds simplistic, it is absolutely not. Creative, dark and very strange, what happens to our hero, Eurydice, after heartbreak is horrifying and gut-wrenching. Wishes has combined a number of romantic-journey plays into one three-million-dimensional story of love and loss. "The piece is based on the Greek legend of Eurydice and Orpheus, the Japanese legend of Izanami and Izagami, Beauty and the Beast and Victorian-era marionette circuses", Wishes breathlessly lists to me. "It's a bit of a mash-up." He realizes. But the result is a really well structured story of tragic love- loss wrapped up in well researched and well practiced stylistic nods use of Unraku puppets and 19th century trick marionettes. It's quite obvious: there will be no other show like it in the Fringe. Furthermore, maybe no other show like it that you'll ever see in your life, probably. Few people can handle tragedy with such whimsical elegance. Absolutely worth watching, worth enjoying and then bragging about afterwards.
CHECK IT OUT
Devil's Circus has remaining runs on June 14th, 15th and 17th at Scene Mini
More ticket and show information here.
Check out a preview to the show below!
George Braithwaite & Morgan O’Shea bring superhuman comedic buddy-cop parody to Fringe Montreal
Braithwaite and O'Shea began their careers as stand-up comedians in Montreal. As a challenge and, probably, from what I can tell, at least a bit of an amusement to themselves, they began writing for theatre. So far, these two have succeeded twice in the Montreal theatre scene with The Last Hollandaise Sauce (2012) and Failure to Thrive (2013). With their latest piece, Hardcastle and McCormick: Spiceface, Braithwaite and O'Shea are nodding facetiously towards vintage crime television: "It’s an homage to the 80s/90s buddy cop formula'", Braithwaite explains, "with a touch of Blaxploitation thrown in for colour."
Personally, I'm ecstatic that Braithwaite and O'Shea are in the Fringe this year. Though I have yet to see their theatrical works, I have seen both of them perform stand-up and I have laughed to the point of forgetting that there was a beer in front of me, to the point of holding the arm of the person beside me, to the point of cackling. Always funny, these men exude comedy and once you're a fan, you can continue to catch both comics after their Fringe run has ended. Braithwaite is working on an untitled radio play and O'Shea will be performing in The Hard and Slow Tour across the Maritimes with David Heti. Most fortunately, both comics will be performing in July in a 2014 Zoofest stand-up comedy event entitled The Mount Royal Rumble. Of course, if you're exceptionally inclined, you can find both of them performing around Montreal at various venues.
Get your first dose of them TONIGHT at Fringe Montreal.
CHECK IT OUT!
Hardcastle and McCormick: Spiceface opens June 13th at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Addicitional runs on June 14-15, 17-18, 21-22
Tickets available now, check here for ticket and booking information.
Nancy Kenny Breezes into the Fringe on her cross-country solo show tour
I'm in awe of quirky writers. People who find interesting spins on interesting topics involving interesting people regarding just the strangest types of quirks are often the people who make me laugh. They make me laugh with a little bit of "yeah", right? With a little bit of "yeah that's so funny". It doesn't mean that only marginal topics make for good comedy, it just means that the writers who go there, really go there, refreshing us, sprinkling us with things we never thought of, make me laugh in a particular way. An enjoyable-chuckle way. I believe Nancy Kenny to be one of those writers.
Roller Derby Saved My Soul is a solo-show written and performed by Kenny wherein a shy comic book geek and her bossy sister join the competitive world of roller derby in order to grow into themselves a little more. Is this a coming of age story? I don't know. Is it a sports story? I have no idea. Doesn't matter. Here's what I love about it: Simple. Simple. Yet, so quirky. We've all been there: Joining recreational activities in order to pursue a personality, a facet of ourselves that needs a little more developing. (I'm personally laughing because at age 25 I've just learned how to ride a bike and it has changed my life.) The combination of quirky "what?" factor, that little hue of absurdity, combined with real emotional resonance, is brilliant. It's a work that Kenny has been nurturing since 2009. She premiered the piece in the Ottawa Fringe in 2011 and since then the piece has become it's own monster, transforming through performance after performance as Kenny continues to tour it across North America this summer. Catch her at the Montreal Fringe or become a total groupie and follow her across the country. Either way, why would you ever want to miss a show involving someone on roller skates? How can you miss that. Don't. Check it out next week!
CHECK IT OUT
Roller Derby Saved My Soul opens Monday June 16th at Mainline Theatre in Montreal.
Additional runs at Fringe Montreal: June 17-19, 21-22
Tickets on sale now!
For additional information on Kenny's cross country tour: click here.
If you're inspired by Kenny's cross country tour, and you're looking to learn more about the Fringe experience from a real pro, check out her new documentary On The Fringe. The film gives an inside look on the Canadian fringe scene and bits of pieces of it have already been released.
Check them out!
Al Lafrance Enters the Montreal Fringe with the Pride of a Quitter Only A Comedian Could Acquire
First of all, Lafrance's stand-up repertoire includes his own show with Deanne Smith entitled Let's Do This! and some-show-amusing-evening-type-thing I would very much like to attend but I'm not sure when or how or why, an event which he calls Alcoholic Cinema wherein he just makes up drinking games to go along with movies (what? yes!). Above and beyond stand up, he's written several short stories, many of which have been read publicly including a feature on CBC's Definitely Not the Opera. To top it all off, he performs regularly with his sketch troupe Flapjack Cadillac (stay tuned for a feature on them coming up in a couple of weeks).
Ok, so, super, we have all of the above credits. I'm impressed and a little jealous, which is exactly where a writer should want another writer to stand at a distance from him. Of course, I haven't yet mentioned his current tour (a TOUR) of his first ever 60 minute self-written solo show, The Quitter. The irony of a "quitter" taking on the astonishingly daunting "I don't know if this is going to work but I have to do it because I have to do it because I just have to do it" task of writing and performing his own solo show, is sort of what makes me have to see the it at Fringe Montreal this month.
Only a great comedian could look at his losses, or whatever it is you call dropping out of college three times and quitting every job you've ever had, and say "hey man, if I did quit, it was for a good reason because listen to how remarkably strange the situation was and at least I didn't die even though I probably wanted to (laughter laughter laughter laughter)." Lafrance's actually brilliant justification of quitting (which doesn't really resemble what I just drafted but something much better, I promise) as an act of empowerment really does prove that his sense of humour is probably unbeatable.
Lafrance's exploration of playwriting both from a performer's perspective (Re: his extensive standup background) and from a writer's perspective (Lafrance has written two other shows that he hasn't starred in) gives him a unique handle on writing for the theatre, the kind where creative angles are covered both from on and off the stage.
Finally, and especially non-quitter-esque, Lafrance will absolutely refuse to quit after his FIVE CITY (that's insane, Al) tour with The Quitter. Let's not stop there, he's amalgamating a book of his short stories and working on two other solo shows which he hopes to one day bring back to the Fringe or perhaps an alternate venure: "'I'm the co-artistic director of SOLOS, Montreal's only solo theatre festival", he says, as if it's no big deal at all "- so maybe I'll end up workshopping something there later this year." We certainly hope so.
Now that we've reviewed his contribution to the performance arts in mild detail, I hope we haven't deterred you from accepting Lafrance's coveted accomplished "quitter" status. He is still willing to call himself a quitter and so we absolutely have to honour his title. Don't miss at this year's Montreal Fringe. He'll be there to make you laugh at all of his apparent life losses and probably make you laugh at whatever demise you've considered yourself to have endured in this life.
CHECK IT OUT!
The Quitter opens on Friday June 13th in the Montreal Fringe at Montreal Improve Theatre.
Additional runs on June 15-16, 19-21.
Tickets on sale now.
Click here for all Montreal Fringe booking information.
Click here for more information on all touring dates in Vancouver, Regina, Edmonton and Winnipeg.