Tag: Nightwood

Girl Soldiers

When people think of warfare, images of fatigues, guns, and tanks come to mind. Taken for granted is the gender of the soldiers. But female soldiers do exist. Really.

Colombian director/ playwright Bea Pizano explores this fascinating reality in her new work, La Communion. It’s being read as part of this year’s Groundswell Festival put on by Toronto’s Nightwood Theatre. La Communion portrays the experiences of a young woman who’d been kidnapped by guerillas at the age of twelve. It isn’t just based on imagination, either; Pizano actually met and spoke with several women who’d been kidnapped and forced to be part of Colombian guerilla groups during their childhoods.

Bea Pizano talks about women, drama and warfare, tomorrow on Take 5.

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Previewing Groundswell

The Next Stage Festival may be wrapped up for another year, but Toronto’s theatre scene is hopping. The Groundswell Festival, celebrating Canada’s incredible female playwrights, kicks off January 26th at the Berkeley Theatre.

Wednesday morning I’ll be speaking with one of the writers featured at this year’s fest: Florence Gibson.

Originally trained as a medical doctor, Gibson is known for her powerful portraits of family and relationships. Her new work, Augury, revolves around the 1879 abortion trial of Emily Stowe, one of Canada’s most important historical figures.

Tune in, just after 9am ET.

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Lovely Ladies

With the openings of Them & Us, Bear With Me, and East of Berlin, it could easily be argued that Toronto’s theatre scene is in the throes of an all-out estrogen fit. And that’s not even counting the works in this year’s edition of the Next Stage Festival; Julie Tepperman, Sarah Michelle Brown, and Kate Hewlett all have works being produced there.

Tracy Dawson is the woman behind Them & Us. Opening at Theatre Passe Muraille this week and directed by Ruth Madoc-Jones, it explores the ins and outs of relationships in 30 different vignettes. I can hear the guys (and some gals) yawning: Oh great, another woman writing about relationships. But wait… Dawson’s caustic, funny, and sarcastic. She freely admits she isn’t Dr. Phil. In fact, in a recent interview, she named John Cassavetes as the single-biggest inspiration on Them & Us. She also said her work isn’t shying away from one big aspect of relationships: sex. “Oh yeah, we’re going there,” she told me. Good. About time a woman playwright did -with gusto, passion, ferocity, joy and hilarity. Sex should involve those things, onstage and off.

Over at the Berkeley, Diane Flacks is doing a solo show about her first pregnancy (Flacks is now a proud mum of two). Bear With Me started out life as a series of columns, and then a book. It turned into a play when Nightwood Theatre AD Kelly Thornton approached Flacks about the possibility of adapting Flacks’ work for the stage (Thornton also directs). Will Flacks pull it off? Solo shows can either be great or dreary; as an audience member, you only have one person to guide you through the sometimes-labyrinthine world of the writer. As well as being curious about how the show will be presented, I’m also wondering what the play offers non-moms in the audience, beside an insight into the wonderful worlds of big-belly-sex, flatulence, and epidurals. Hmmm.

The Tarragon Theatre is remmounting East of Berlin, Hannah Moscovitch‘s hugely acclaimed 2007 show, with the same cast and director (the awesome Alisa Palmer). For me, Moscovitch’s writing is a neat mix of classical and contemporary; she freely, easily mixes recognizable elements of modern life with more classical structures and ideas, and the result makes for great, capital-D drama. East of Berlin is the story of Rudi, a young man forced to deal with his Nazi parentage. I’ll be interviewing Moscovitch Friday morning on CIUT‘s Take 5; we’ll discuss the work, and the surprising reaction it received during its first run, particularly from Toronto’s Jewish community. Tune in.

And, among the many goodies at this year’s Next Stage Festival is Kate Hewlett‘s Humans Anonymous, which details what happens when “a businesswoman who prefers lattes to love meets a sexually experimental young genius looking for Ms. Perfect.” First presented as a Fringe show and then in New York City, the work has garnered serious praise. You might know Hewlett from her work on Stargate: Atlantis, or from Don’t Wake Me, which ran at last year’s Next Stage Fest. As mentioned, this year Festival also features Julie Tepperman’s Yichud (Seclusion) and First-Hand Woman, by Sarah Michelle Brown. Reports as I see ’em.

Add the various productions from this past year that featured the incredible talents of Anita Majumdar, Anusree Roy, Brooke Johnson, Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, Marcia Johnson, Tara Beagan, Oonagh Duncan, and Jennifer Tarver (to name only a few) and I’m left asking the same question I have for a while: when is Toronto getting a Women In Theatre Festival? There is a surfeit of amazing, inspiring talent here, and so many great stories worth sharing -and not just of the “if-my-vagina-could-talk” variety, either. These are stories for men and women alike -for children and parents and families of all kinds, that has a meaning and relevance everyone can dig. Talent is talent, and it’s time the female theatre artists of this city had a proper festival in which to fully, loudly, proudly promote and celebrate theirs. C’mon now. You know both Aphra Behn and Bill the Quill would heartily approve. What are we waiting for?

Joy Is For Everyone

Walking up Bay Street at 10pm Saturday night, I couldn’t help but look around in wonder. The streets were jammed, and there was a palpable excitement in the air. It was the third annual Nuit Blanche, and Toronto was staying up late to catch the “all-night art thing.” Whether visual or performance, everyone was curious about experiencing… something. The flashing pixellations in the windows of City Hall were like a beacon for the thousands walking up Bay street, past the lineups of others curious about finding out about being part of a live art installation.

Waiting to meet a friend in the chaotic, crowded madness of Nathan Phillips Square, I had to wonder: “Wow, are we all elite?Stephen Harper’s sad, sadly hilarious idea about art being a “niche” meant only for elite people at galas seemed really removed from the reality surrounding me Saturday night.

And after wandering around the city all night, and taking in the smiling excitement, open experimentation, child-like curiosity, and outright wonder that such an event produces, I can only reiterate my own position: culture isn’t partisan. Like good food, we all consume culture. We all have our tastes, sure, we all have our favourites, we all have the things that work better for us than others. But we still share the passion, curiosity, wonder, and delight. Art isn’t made by, much less for, outsiders. It’s about us, for us, by us. Hallelujah.

In that spirit, I’m excited about the spate of openings coming to Toronto this week and next. Tonight the magnificent Famous Puppet Death Scenes returns to the Young Centre; I saw this wonderful show, by Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop, last year, and in all frankness, it changed my life. It changed the life of my 905-dwelling friend, too. Never having been to the Young Centre, much less to puppet theatre, she was so enamoured, enthralled, and inspired, that she’s planning on returning with a gaggle of 905 buddies this year, to introduce them to the wonders of Old Trouts, puppets, the YC, and the Distillery District. Ordinary? Whatever.

The next fortnight also sees the openings of Scratch, a new play by newcomer Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman, whose mother, journalist Caroline Corbeil, died of cancer. The play is based those experiences, though it has comic elements. With my own mother starting a second round of chemotherapy this week, there’s a special significance to the work for me. Something about the scenario of a young woman writing and sharing her life and vulnerabilities that I find very brave. Sometimes art helps us make sense of our own lives through sharing experiences. Carrying on the big-up-tha-women theme, Nightwood Theatre launches its fall season with an adaptation of the Helen Humphreys novel Wild Dogs; from the sounds of it, the work is challenging, disturbing, unusual. Good. I like that.

Speaking of challenging, Canstage opens their season next week with Frost/Nixon, a play about the famous interviews between Richard Nixon and David Frost in the 70s. Having already played to great acclaim in Vancouver, I’m looking forward to seeing this Ted Dykstra-directed work, with its timely themes and, from what I’ve heard, excellent performances. Soulpepper, a company Dykstra helped co-found eleven years ago, offers the Toronto premiere production of A Raisin In The Sun next week too, and never having seen it live, I’m looking forward to it immensely.

Amidst all this, I’ll remember the mascots, who were probably my favourite Nuit Blanche installation. It was silly, stripped-down, basic theatre in its most absurd and joy-full state. Called I Promise It Will Always Be This Way, and performed beneath the blazing lights of Lamport Stadium, with Yoko Ono’s enormous IMAGINE PEACE billboard illuminated in the background, the sight of various furry mascots dancing, jumping, and instigating cheers made for pure, unfiltered joy. I looked around at my fellow Torontonians, between snapping shots and dodging the bouncing beach balls tossed into the crowd; everyone was smiling. Isn’t that the point?

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