Rave: Another Africa

On the fourth floor we have a soft spot for anything art-related. From galleries to performance to film to music. When its good, it makes our souls happy, creates debate and inspires us at work where we represent so many different artists.

Last week, we received an invitation to Canadian Stage‘s season opener, Another Africa. The play takes the audience through several incredibly emotional and expressive stories, which are broken down into three parts: an introductory monologue and two one-act plays. 

We loved each of the one-act plays for different reasons. The first, Shine Your Eye, tells the story of Nigerian princess/computer hacker Gbene Beka, daughter of an assassinated political hero who is trying to determine if her life will continue on a Nigerian path or a Western one. The play is set at an Internet scam company in Nigeria, and uses technology, dance, music and animation to explore the impact Western and African cultures have on each other.

The powerful characters, moments of levity (especially the Soulja Boy-inspired dance routine), and insight into the other side of the “Nigerian prince” spam emails that we regularly receive were great. The difficult inner struggle that Beka goes through as the people in her life pull her towards their goals without considering what choices are best for her, is one of the most compelling parts of the story.

The second play, Peggy Pickit Sees The Face of God, explores African experiences from the cozy living room of a North American home. Two couples reunite at a dinner party, and catch up on their lives from the past six years. One couple spent time working as doctors in Africa, while the other couple stayed in North America, bought a house, and had a daughter. 

The adventurous couple explains their time in Africa, while the couple who stayed at home tries to justify why they didn’t take the risk of traveling abroad and experiencing life in another country.

There’s obvious tension between everyone, which is slowly revealed by stopping the action for each character to deliver an aside directly to the audience. The scene then rewinds to an earlier place, with a new layer of meaning given to the action and dialogue as a result of the information shared. Even though this play is very different from the first, they fit together well, with Shine Your Eye providing a lot of context for the Western issues and setting of Peggy Pickit.

We walked away deep in thought and conversation about our different interpretations of each story. Exactly what we hope for.

If you haven’t seen this play yet, take the Globe and Mail’s advice: run to get tickets and see it as soon as you can.  Another Africa is on stage at the Bluma Apprel theatre until Saturday, October 22. Better yet, buy online with Canadian Stage’s clever “click and save” promotion. Every day, tickets are offered for between ten and 50 per cent off. Score tickets here and thank us later.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on Another Africa: @rockitpromo @canadianstage.

Images courtesy of Canadian Stage and John Lauener. 

City Living: Scotiabank Nuit Blanche 2011

This weekend, like almost one million other Torontonians, we had a chilly night out on the town for Nuit Blanche 2011. To be discovered that night? More than 134 art projects that were presented and curated throughout several parts of the city including City Hall, Zone A, Zone B and Zone C. Among the many local, national and international artists that we saw, here are a few that definitely caught our eye: 

City Hall
A short walk from the subway station, we found ourselves in a very jam-packed Nathan Philips Square. There were hundreds of people, so many people didn’t realize that the stairs were open to the higher level, which provided a great view for the night’s spectacle: Flightpath Toronto. We were running a bit late, but managed to catch the beginning of the performance. 

Flightpath Toronto. Image via @aimcook.
Laser beams of all colours were being projected into the sky while people were seemingly floating from one two-storey metal structure to the other. After some quick research (did you know the Scotiabank Night Navigator App just launched?) we learned that this was an audience-fueled exhibit. Bystanders were encouraged to soar through the sky, while safely harnessed, and imagine what it’d be like to be able to fly.
Although we are all for trying new things, taking flight through Nathan Philips Square while it was freezing out didn’t sound too appealing. Instead, we were spectators for a while and that was pretty cool on its own. 

Zone A
One of our favourite parts of Nuit Blanche is stumbling across delightful and unexpected installations, such as we did with Limelight: Saturday night. The concept is simple – two streetlights are replaced with theatre spotlights. Like many exhibits this year, Limelight depends upon the interaction of passers-by in order to succeed. As it was quite late at this time, the crowd was relatively sparse. We took a quick twirl under the lights and then continued on our way. 

Limelight: Saturday Night. Image via Blog TO.
We didn’t manage to explore much else of Zone A, but heard great things about the CFC Media Lab up at the Bata Shoe Museum and were intrigued by the concept of The Police Station

Zone B
The Heart Machine was an extremely popular exhibit, partly because it was just so warm (a key component to survival this year). Appropriately debuted at Burning Man in 2010, The Heart Machine was made of of 4 “arteries” attached to sensors that when touched, caused flames to shoot up 25 feet in the air. From what we could tell, not all the sensors were connected. Participants were forced to interact with the machine in various ways to make it work. Flame bursts were sporadic and made our heats skip a beat a couple times. 

Lights, camera, action! at 12 Hour Dolly.

We came across a cinematic exhibit off of Church St. called 12 Hour Dolly. Here a circular dolly track surrounds a stage and people are invited one-by-one to sit and become the cinematic spectacle. While we were there, a young guy borrowed someone’s guitar and played “Blackbird” with a cigarette dangling from his lips. The crowd cheered him on and danced. It was one of the most genuine Nuit Blanche moments we’ve ever experienced. 

Zone C 
There were a number of standout projects in Zone C this year. Perennial favourite, the Drake Hotel lit up West Queen West with a larger-than-life balloon clown covering the side of the building. Further west at the corner of Queen and Dufferin was Xxi Collective’s The Athanor and the Stone. We were sold on its interest on magic’s role in art and loved the combination of performance and installation. We don’t know how they did it, but we loved how the air was filled with the scent of lavender!

The Drake Hotel’s creepy facade.

Our favourite exhibit of the night was The Happiness Project: In the House. The studio was transformed by a team of artists who each interpreted a song from Charles Spearin’s album. 

Listening to the inspiration behind the painting at The Happiness Project.

Each space was interactive and unique. Ideas ranged from eating a fresh chocolate-covered marshmallow, dipping your hand into water to increase the intensity of a song and having your face projected onto a wall. The Happiness Project was fun and playful, exactly what Nuit Blanche should be. We had a great night filled with inspiration and fun with friends. Until next year, #snb2011.