The Genius Code hits the Edmonton theatre scene with a burst of edgy romanticism
We asked Jon Lachlan Stewart to describe his work in five words and he used both "Intense" and "Intensely" to get the job done so, if you're wondering whether or not The Genius Code is meant to move you in tornado-like spins, the answer is absolutely.
Certainly, as a writer, actor, director and producer, Stewart works with the intensity of a summer storm. Born in Edmonton and a recent graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, Stewart is one of our favourite young Canadian artists. His love for the theatrical medium swallows his shows, making them fabulous experiences, whole productions, generous, generous pieces of absolute performance art.
With his company Surreal SoReal Theatre (2004), Stewart has been touring the country, performing in mostly new works which are meant to challenge and engage the audience via physical and technological innovation. This past January, we were lucky enough to catch Stewart in his most recent solo show Big Shot in Montreal's Wild Side Festival at Centaur Theatre. The piece was captivating from moment to end. Not a single detail of narrative was missed. Most notable, and as testament to Surreal SoReal's mission, the show relied on a tight marriage between design, performance and writing. The audience experience was the best kind of dizzying and everyone left sweaty with delight. Stewart's work jumped from the page to the stage in a (yes, that word) intense delicacy of theatre.
Stewart's newest work The Genius Code (Catalyst Theatre) is its own unique theatrical experience. Audience members are each given a set of headphones and are able to choose which of three characters to follow throughout the show. A step away from his normal work, this piece is more personal than usual for Stewart as he studies romance and tragedy based on past experiences from his own life. The "real" nature of the work reflects Stewart's current writing focus as he states "everything I write now just has to be personal or I don’t want to write it." Perhaps more of a stretch for him, the show relies heavily on technology and major trust and collaboration with designers. The result is an intimate, dark and complex exposure of the inner lives of Stewart's characters. The marriage between dazzling technology and very honest story-crafting makes for an intelligent game of love played by the smart and vulnerable characters conjured by Stewart.
Coming up for Stewart, is another solo show, that he is working on with Georgina Beaty. You can catch The Genius Code at Catalyst Theatre running until June 8.
More information here.
She's known for her radical investment in feminism and anti-psychiatry as well as her multidisciplinary involvement in the performing arts. She's written poetically and in prose for TV, film and theatre as well as worked with famous artists including Harold Pinter, Charles Bates and Allen Laughton. For her dynamic impact on theatre, film and televison in North America and Europe, we're celebrating Jane Arden as today's playwright of the day.
Today's particular cause for celebration is Arden's 1958 debut of The Party which was directed by Charles Laughton for London's New Theatre and starred Albert Finney in his first stage appearance. This family drama broke social ground in London theatre as it bravely explores mental illness and, implicitly, incest. Arden's investigation of taboo an conformity met with censorship issues in late-fifties London. She navigates expertly and poetically through topics no one would dare mention and she crafts tension with the kind of overwhelming sensation that makes you take a deep breath at the end of the play.
For her fortuity and courage, we honour Jane Arden today. A look through her work will prove to you the kind of bravado her voice rang with at the time and, we think, still rings with to this day.
Shout-outs to our friends who ring with Arden-flavoured brilliance: Victoria Urquhart, Michaela Jeffrey, Elena Belyea,
Toronto Festival of Clowns
May 28-June 1
Don't miss this epic five day celebration of clown, bouffon, cabaret, puppetry and all things hysterical. Famed acts and friends of Newborn in the lineup include Adam Lazarus, Guillermo Verdecchia, Step Taylor, Butt Kapinski, 2 Man No-Show, Adventure Time, Joshua Stodart, John Lalchlan Stewart, Ben Wheelwright and so many more!
Inspirato Ten-Minute Play Festival
May 29-June 7
Looking for just the right dose of a story? Check out these ten minute plays written by a wide variety of writers from across the world. This is one of our favourite festivals because it introduces a ton of new playwrights into the scene. The festival takes place in the historic Aumnae Theatre and, last I remember, it gets pretty packed and fun in there. 25 10-minute plays, including site-specific, it's a grab bag, it's a party, it's a really strange and wonderful festival.
East End Performance Crawl
May 21-June 1
We've been gushing about this event all week. Crow's Theatre has taken over the studios and stages of Toronto's East End and brought us a stunning variety of performances. Don't miss some of our recent favourites including Vanessa Smythe, Kanika Ambrose, Meagan O'shea and many more. Get on over there, crawl around and enjoy the array of delicious displays of bravery.
May 22-June 2
Once again, Montreal is being bombarded with artistic brilliance. We love this festival because it is dedicated to celebrating new works in contemporary dance and theatre from across the globe and often the acts combine both of those things. This year's selection is particularly innovative featuring some of our favourite beauty-builders including Matija Ferlin, Marlene Monteiro and Nicolas Cantin. If you feel like getting a taste of everything, pick any event in this festival. You will be blown away.
Vocal Arts Festival
May 10-June 29
Have you been waiting for non stop opera to arrive and stay? Good news! We found a whole festival that is dedicated to that exact effort. We're pumped to have stumbled upon Opera Nuova's Vocal Arts Festival. There's a lot about opera that blows us away but one bit after another? That'll be a rush. The festival celebrates written classics and new professional performers. Check it out!
Tales in Crux
We love it when young writers get together and write! Tales in Crux is celebrating that exact initiative as storyteller/MCs from Quimera Theatre Collective guide you through a weave of stories that they've enmeshed into an exciting night of theatre. We're mostly excited to learn about Quimera and their dedication to new works by young writers. As our missions are much alike, we're considering this a spirit-sister-festival to our annual Odds and Ends. Go check it out and support new young writers as they enchant you with their youth and artistry.
The Art of Traditional Head-Tying debuts at Toronto's East End Performance Crawl
Sometimes I watch a writer tell a story and I forget that they spent years writing it. Charm can do that. Intelligence can also do that. Eccentricities also, they can do that too. Kanika Ambrose definitely does that with all three of those qualities.
The Art of Traditional Head-tying debuted last week at the Toronto East End Performance Crawl but I was lucky enough to see an excerpt of it a couple of weeks ago at a Theatre Passe Murraille after hours event. As I watched, oddities, all kinds of oddities, hit me. And I liked it. It was one of those "Wow I really like this" moments. We all love those moments and Ambrose serves them up throughout her piece.
Ambrose plays several characters as she tells the story of Rosemarie, a young woman who, after twenty years of living in Canada, goes back to her home Island, Dominica (Dominica, W.I., Ambrose's cultural heritage) to take a workshop on traditional head-tying, a dying art form. While there she meets a voluptuous cast of characters, each uniquely voiced. The magic of the piece comes from Ambrose's spontaneity. Her imagination is vivid, tangential, hurried and strange: All great things in story telling and all coveted principles of any solo show.
The impulsive nature of the script reflects Ambrose's writing process. She writes on her feet, a trick true performers love to exercise (see favoured Newborn writers Haley Mcgee and Daniel MacIvor). As stated by Ambrose, she wrote "in as many characters as I wanted and I put them in all kinds of situations. They yell at each other, chase each other up hills, have arguments and even make-out with each other. It wasn’t until I started reading the play as an actor that I realized all the problems that I had created for myself!". One of the greatest writing stories ever told will eventually be the one you hear about Ambrose writing a love scene for her to play between two different characters in her own solo show. It's moments like that which allow a humble writer/actor to rely on her director. Ambrose's generosity in process and performance are absolute treasures which will continue to support her growing body of work.
The Art of Traditional Head-tying can be seen at the East End Performance Crawl until next Thursday. (Tickets Here) You can also catch Ambrose at this summer's Toronto Fringe Festival (July 2-13). Don't miss her! If you love story telling, you will laugh and continue laughing post-show. See it several times! Like a true creator, her work is always developing. She's a new friend to Newborn and a perfect addition to the Canadian theatre scene.
"I’m always curious to see how the work will land with different audiences. After that, who knows what will happen, but I do see more life in this work. I’m not quite finished exploring it and growing it yet."
...And we will keep following her.
See below for how you can continue to support her work.
Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart will soon be immortalized by film
If you consider yourself to be a theatre lover and you haven't at least head of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart by now, I'd suggest you read it immediately. The play combines Kramer's passions for tense dialogue and AIDs activism, two things which he storm-troops through until you are inevitably in tears by the end of the play. If that doesn't sound like fun to you, you aren't a theatre lover. I suggest you read it.
I came across the show in Toronto years ago when it was mounted at Buddies in Bad Times but the piece has been put up across the world over and over and over again. The show's honesty and deceptive confusion keeps empathy easily at bay. The play takes place between 1981-1984 wherein the protagonist is sick with an unknown illness. Of course, watching the play now, the irony is tragic, and the house weeps. The Normal Heart might be one of the most interesting contributions to American Theatre in the twentieth century.
Kramer has also become known to write with at least a slight amount of shock value. His debut novel Faggots chronicles the lives of a group of gay men in New York. Modeled after his own life, the book is quite detailed. The power behind his words, however, still comes from his bravery as a writer. Continuing courageously and politically, Kramer has written a host of other works including Just Say No, A Play About a Farce (1988) andThe Destiny of Me (1992). He is an adamant activist against AIDs and for gay rights. He is an icon, a genius and a poet.
I'm writing about Kramer today because I just read about the upcoming film adaptation of The Normal Heart. Now that its jumping onto film, luckily we'll all be able to weep whenever we please. Grab a copy today. This is a classic.
Thank you Larry Kramer for continuing to motivate artists to write bravely about what we're afraid of.
Brooke Banning works with special needs artists to bring a new innovative interdisciplinary piece to Toronto
I cannot express more excitement over Peanut Butter People's newest project Wolf Sounds.
First of all, we love the company's mission to produce new Canadian works that break the divide between audience and performer. We also love, absolutely love, their dedication to experimenting with new works through development.
Of course, mostly we're happy to have heard about their newest innovation. Wolf Sounds is directed by Brooke Banning, Toronto-based writer, actor and director whose works include Genitalia, Swell Broad, Opposable Thumb and Joyful Noise. She's created this project with five special needs artists including Lindsey Chalmers, Nicole Flynn, Dylan Harman, Amelia McAfee-Brunner, and Victor Pereira. Wolf Sounds is a love story devised through movement and found text. It opens in Toronto July 18th-27th at the Box Theatre and I absolutely cannot wait.
The video above explains it all. Please visit their crowd-funding page to contributing to this beautiful project.
Spoken Word Poet and Playwright Vanessa Smythe takes Toronto East End Performance Crawl with her stand-up musical piece In Case We Disappear
We're so excited to have stumbled upon Vanessa Smythe at this year's East End Performance Crawl in Toronto. Her adorable, hilarious, musical, spoken word, epic way of handling story telling in her newest piece In Case We Disappear makes us think twice about the normalcy of, our old friend, Dialogue and any other playwriting entities that we've determined to be necessity. Smythe teaches us otherwise as she invents new ways of giving over a beautifully woven monologue and a masterfully enchanting story.
Smythe is a skilled interdisciplinary artist. She's mentored with famed Canadian talents d’bi Young, Daniel MacIvor, Tanya Evanson, and Christian Bok. She has been featured in theatre, film and poetry slams throughout Toronto (and otherwise) and her philosophy background shines through her writing as she tangles deliriously intelligent insights into love and all things personal.
If you're in Toronto, don't miss the brilliance that is Vanessa Smythe. Take yourself on the ride that's been called "a fully experiential love letter to all those who vanish" and check out In Case We Disappear at this year's East End Performance Crawl in Toronto.
Find show information here.
Take a peek at Vanessa's work:
Dixon's A God in Need of Help Closes at the Tarragon Theatre this Weekend
Sean Dixon is a magical playwright. Writers don't always make good magicians. Sometimes we try to use mysticism or absurdist logic to disguise our attempt at a clumsy literary seduction. Instead of faltering in these complexities, Dixon relies on the naked honesty of live performance to ease that seduction and, frankly, make love to all of us over and over and over.
I first learned of Dixon when I stumbled upon his list of "Things (He's) Learned from Theatre SKAM" which appears at the start of his short anthology Awol: Three Plays for Theatre SKAM (Coach House, 2002). After reading through the anthology, I fell in love with Dixon's passion for theatre as a shared experience. As he states,
"The audience knows that you're the ones who are telling the story. You're sharing the performance area with them. You don't have to hide from them."
This truism led Dixon to expect and appreciate minimalist productions therefore allowing hims to approach writing for the stage as though nothing is impossible.
Dixon was and remains to be the first official playwright-out-of-residence for Theatre SKAM, a still existing project-based usually site-specific company from the Canadian West Coast. His past plays include: Falling Back Home (1990), Billy Nothin' and Aerwacol (1999-2000), The Gift of the Coat (2008), and many more. His latest novel, The Many Revenges of Kip Flynn seems amazing and magical just like his shows.
Dixon is charming. He writes with breath and brain. His latest show A God in Need of Help opened at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto in April to beautiful reviews. In support of his show, we've made him the Playwright of the Day. Go check out the run this weekend to learn a little more about one of Canada's literary gems.
Shout out to friends of Newborn who remind us of Dixon: Kyle Capstick and Alexandra Simpson.
This year at Montreal's Festival Transamerique, Croatian choreographer and performer, Matija Ferlin will be presenting two of his pieces from the Sad Sam series: Sad Sam Lucky (2012) and Sad Sam Almost 6 (2009).
A young artist, Ferlin, born in 1982, has already created four short films and five exhibits. His training is interdisciplinary, spanning both performance and visual arts and his enchantingly personal solo shows have become known for, not only their awe-striking physical presentations but also their narrative structures.
As playwrights, we often use too many words to tell a story and so I love physical artists who teach us the value of body language. Ferlin's pieces tell us tidbits from his life story. Please check out this fascinating interview with the artist to learn more about his creative process and product.
For upcoming show information click here.
My favourite days are the days where I can honour female cultural heroes.
Today marks the death of dramatist and long time theatre developer Lady Gregory Augusta (1852-1932). Since her plays are no longer in circulation, I can't much revere her for being an iconic writer but I feel I must expose the impact she's had on the national theatre scene in Ireland and therefore the global theatre scene at large.
Lady Gregory began her career as a writer of folklore and essays. For her love of literature, she soon founded, along with William Butler Yeats and Edward Martin, The Irish Literary Theatre. The theatre held the mission to produce Irish plays by Irish playwrights in Dublin. It opened its doors in 1899 and closed in 1901 due to lack of funding.
However, Lady Gregory was not to be deterred from her personal mission. The early 20th century saw the fall of many cultural institutions in Ireland but in 1904, artists began strengthening their comeback and Lady Gregory was at the forefront of the battle. Firstly, in 1904, she along with Yeats and Martin opened The Abbey Theatre, which is still operating as Ireland's national theatre, a major tourist attraction. Moreover, her comedy Spreading the News debuted in the same year, a year when many artists were debuting iconic works (i.e. James Joyce's Ulysses, J.M. Synge's Riders to the Sea) and Lady Gregory stepped into to capitalize on the rising cultural temperature. Not only did she produce her own full-length play but she wrote them as historical comedies, a genre which many fail to conquer and most barely desire to approach. Her work was therefore timely and empathetic, two qualities writers chase with every piece. She worked to reflect the spreading national resurgency as well as the growing importance of national female roles.
Lady Gregory was born into an elevated class and, upon marrying a knight, used her fortunes and privileges to support cultural nationalism. As a self-producing, script-developing, company-owning woman, I step proudly in the footsteps of Lady Gregory. May we see many more women rise to the occasion and lead national culturalism to new places.
We give a big Newborn shout-out to friends whose companies have also been founded by women: That's What She Said (Toronto), Steady State Theatre (Toronto), Nightwood Theatre (Toronto),