Stage Write: Winter Theatre Lineup

We’re feeling dramatic (again) so the lovely Christine Gresham of Theatre Isn’t Dead popped by the Fourth Floor to share her theatre picks for the upcoming chilly months. 


We’re well on our way in 2013 and so far so good. We made it through the end of
the Mayan calendar unscathed, it’s (usually) cold enough that we can adorn our winter
duds without fear of an onslaught of slush from a passing car, and we’re in the
thick of the winter theatre season.

Obviously one of your new year’s
resolutions (the one that you’ll actually keep) is to see more theatre. And like
a good personal trainer, I’m here to help.

Here are some shows that will exercise your theatrical chops; none are too laborious and all will leave you
feeling invigorated and healthy. You may even wipe some sweat from your brow in
the process.



Clybourne Park, a Studio 180 production as part of the Off-Mirvish series. 


Now through Sunday, March 3 at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)


Prize-winning theatre started at the Panasonic Theatre on February 12. As part of the Off-Mirvish series, Tony, Olivier, Evening Standard and Pulitzer Prize-winning Clybourne Park will undoubtedly knock your socks off. The Studio 180 production is back for a second time after a critically acclaimed run last spring at Canadian Stage. I missed it in NYC and I don’t intend to do so in T.O. The uniformally rave reviews and the stellar word-of-mouth buzz ensure that this play will be the talk of the town.


Tickets: http://www.mirvish.com

Cast of Clybourne Park.

Sem Mim & Ímã by Grupo Corpo, part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage program.

Now through Saturday, February 23 at The Fleck Dance Theatre (207 Queens Quay W.)

Sem MimÍmã features two brilliant dance productions by the Brazillian dance troupe Grupo Corpo. Part of Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage, Sem Mim merges the rhythm of the sea with medieval Portuguese-Galician chants, while Ímã takes inspiration from the law of magnetism. The performances beautifully combine classical ballet technique with a contemporary take on Brazilian world dance.


Brazilian Grupo Corpo dancers perform Ímã. 


Gabriel Prokofiev: From Chamber to Electronica, an Art of Time Ensemble performance. 


Friday, February 22 to Saturday, February 23 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay W.)

If you’re like me, you don’t experience
classical music enough – mostly because it can be hard to find an entry point
and can also be a BIT snoozy (just being honest). Cue Art of Time Ensemble’s
latest gig in February. 
London DJ Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of
Sergei) comes to the Art of Time Ensemble to continue the family tradition of
reinventing modern music. Prokofiev will add some spin to legendary modern
classical composers Gavin Bryars and Jonathan Goldsmith (BAFTA Award-winning
Canadian film composer) instrumentals. Prokofiev performs DJ sets between
performances, the type of classical music I can get into. Plus, the
creative/marketing campaign is amazi
ng.


Tickets: www.harbourfrontcentre.com 

Poster art for Art of Time Ensemble’s Gabriel
Prokofiev, created by Monnet Design.

Spotlight Japan, presented by Canadian Stage. 

Tuesday, February 26 to Saturday, March 2 at the Berkeley St. Theatre (26 Berkeley St.) 


For something completely different, I’m
into Canadian Stage’s Spotlight Japan. The series features a selection of
dance, drama and music from Japan’s leading arts innovators, and to be frank,
the entire line-up sounds unique and exciting. 
You can catch two double-bills: Haptic and Holistic
Strata
(double bill one) or Sayanora and I, Worker (double bill two). See one or see them both, because you aren’t likely to
see anything similar around these parts for a very long time.



Tickets: https://www.canadianstage.com 








Hiroaki Umeda in Holistic Strata. Photo by Ryuichi Maruo (YCAM). 


For a dose of classic theatre, check out
Soulpepper’s Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead and for
contemporary Canadian drama, see Tarragon Theatre’s mini-festival of Hannah Moscovitch’s plays (until March 24). If you haven’t heard of her already you will soon, so get on the bandwagon while there’s still room.

With this regime you should be sufficiently
theatrically worked-out until spring, when you can flex your brain for the
summer festivals. A theatre-goer’s work is never done.

Bonne chance!

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Stage Write: The Arsonists

Life on the fourth floor can get pretty dramatic (urgent request! interview cancelled! event emergency!), so we love the opportunity to sit back and watch the theatrics unfold on stage, rather than in our everyday lives. Last night we hit the opening night performance of  Canadian Stage‘s wickedly funny farce, The Arsonists, on stage now through December 9 at the Bluma Appel Theatre.


 The Arsonists set, designed by Ken MacDonald. Photo by Bruce Zinger


The play is set in an unnamed town plagued by a group of arsonists who charm their way into houses and then burn them down. Biedermann (Michael Ball) is a well-to-do homeowner whose evening is interrupted when a mysterious and burly stranger named Schmitz (Dan Chameroy) knocks on his door. Cunningly praising Biedermann’s humanity, the stranger appeals to his humanity (or guilt) and is invited into the home.



Schmitz soon invites his even stranger friend Eisenring (Shawn Wright) to join him and the pair move into the attic, blatantly setting the stage for a fire. They up the creepy factor as Eisenring cackles about setting up detonators and purchasing fire starter. Biedermann,  suspecting (or maybe even knowing) the strangers are arsonists, chooses to ignore the signs, even as they become indisputable. Neither Biedermann nor his wife, Babette (Fiona Reid) want to risk offending anyone or igniting the spark that will (literally) blow up the entire house.

Shawn Wright and Michael Ball. Photo by Bruce Zinger
What makes the play most interesting is the context. It was written by Max Frisch, a Swiss writer, less than a decade after the second World War. As Biedermann and his wife Babette watch the arsonists set up camp in their attic and are too mannerly, afraid or self-conscious to pass judgement or do anything about it, the parallels between Swiss neutrality, or even a modern contexts where people stay silent or complacent when faced with evil, are unmistakable.
The cast of The Arsonists

Now, don’t let the serious message or the fact that the script was written in 1953 fool you: written as a political farce, the play is funny. Actually funny, we promise. We were laughing out loud, and there are plenty of smart (albeit dark) jokes during the performance.

Shawn Wright and Dan Chameroy. Photo by Bruce Zinger



We especially loved the on-stage musicians, led by local songwriter Justin Rutledge, who act as a chorus throughout the play. The music has a Brit-rock feel, and provides a fun and unique narration between the scenes. Have a listen:





The set is the beautiful home where the Biedermanns and their maid (Sheila McCarthy) whisper about the arsonists from their living room, while you watch the arsonists (up to no good) in the adjacent attic. The changing lighting on the backdrop reflects the activities outside the house, and the sound of distant sirens echoes throughout the theatre, reinforcing the atmosphere of fear and chaos in the town.


We highly recommend the play for a night out. The show runs until December 9 and tickets begin at $24 (available by phone 416.368.3110, in person at the box office or online at canadianstage.com). Also, Canadian Stage has just introduced a ticketing app that lets you buy tickets – and reserve seats for your friends – through Facebook! To celebrate, they are offering $20 tickets for tonight’s show, and buy-one-get-one-free tickets for shows this weekend. Only available to Canadian Stage’s Facebook friends, so “like” that shit! 

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Sheila McCarthy in The Arsonists. Photo by Bruce Zinger.



Media, Darling: J. Kelly Nestruck

J. Kelly Nestruck is
the theatre critic at The Globe and Mail, and has been so since 2008. His
writings about the arts and theatre have also appeared in such publications
as the National Post, the Toronto Star, Toronto Life, The Boston Globe and The
Guardian
. He has appeared on
The National, been heard on CBC Radio’s Q, and tweets all the live-long day
@nestruck.

In addition to work, Nestruck is currently pursuing a Master’s from the Centre
for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. He
likes to garden, cycle around the city, and the J stands for James.

Photo credit: Catherine Farquharson.


Twitter: @Nestruck
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other
careers were on the horizon?

No – when I was five, I wanted to be a firefighter. But from my teens on, my
twin passions were theatre and newspapers. The newspaper business seemed like
the wiser route financially at the time…


Where would you like to be five years from now?

I prefer to go where life takes me, but I’d be happy to still be here doing
what I’m doing now. It’d be nice have a kid to take to Young People’s Theatre.
Or at least a dog to take to Young Dogs’ Theatre.


Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

Have you considered the skilled trades?


What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 

Theatre-wise, I love to read all my competitors at the Toronto dailies and
weeklies, plus online voices such as Lynn Slotkin, Stage Door and the
Charlebois Post. Scott Brown in New York Magazine; Chris Jones at the Chicago
Tribune
; the whole theatre package in The Guardian. I subscribe to the NewYorker and The Onion, listen to This is That and Q on CBC Radio, and watch The
Bachelor
and Dragon’s Den. I read Garth Turner’s blog every day to get over my
renter inferiority complex.


Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?

Best – playwright John Mighton in 2004. His pet rat Cookie escaped and I got to
watch him scramble around with his daughter to catch it.  Worst –
playwright Michael Frayn. I accidentally unplugged my computer with my foot
while interviewing him over the phone.


Best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t go to journalism school.


What rule(s) do you live your life by?

I do not have a body; I am a body.


What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?

Add your theatre openings to my online calendar: cantheatre.wikispaces.com.
I can’t keep track of emails any more.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

Ann Swerdfager at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is a real delight to work
with – and I have to work with her a lot, so thank goodness!


I hate?

Stickers. They creep me out.


I love?

Seeing a show I loved find an audience.

Reading?
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain


Best place on earth?

Mount Royal when the leaves turn.


Dinner guest?

Christopher Hitchens, RIP.


Hero?

Nick Auf Der Maur, RIP.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

iAnnotate” is the reason I own an iPad.


Pool or ocean?

Ocean.


Voicemail or email?

Oh, email PLEASE.


Theatre show in the fall season you’re most looking forward to?

Alligator Pie at Soulpepper!

Stage Write: Fall Theatre Lineup

Every now and then, things get a little bit
dramatic up in hurr. With a few resident drama queens in our
midst, we’re thrilled to be working with some incredible performing
arts clients this year, like Canadian Stage  and Art of Time Ensemble (not to mention some great past shows like Potted Potter and Love Lies Bleeding) To stay on top of the season’s buzziest openings and hottest shows, we’ve enlisted
theatre-blogger-extraordinaire, Christine Gresham of Theatre Isn’t Dead for a new monthly column called Stage Write. She’ll lend some theatre expertise each month and give you the goods on the latest and greatest theatre shows in Toronto.



To start, here’s what we’re most excited about this fall on the city’s stages.



Fall is one of my fave times of year –
the leaves change colour, the weather becomes cooler, so my wardrobe options
increase, and, Halloween arrives, bringing with it the self-mutilating urge to
increase my sub-zero tolerance for scary things.



At the moment, I still can’t handle scary
movies, stories or even photos. Case in point – someone told me the plot of Paranormal
Activity
, and I couldn’t sleep that night. I hadn’t seen a trailer for the
movie, let alone ANY image from it and I woke up multiple times in the night
convinced an (spoiler alert!) invisible hoofed demon was standing over my bed
waiting to possess me.


So this year I’m looking to the theatre
(where else?!) to help me become a tougher, more down-with-the-gore, more
supernatural-loving person.


Here’s where I’m starting:

Tear The Curtain! an Electric Company production, presented by Canadian Stage.

Sunday, October 7 to Saturday, October 20 at The Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front. St. E.)

A jaded theatre critic in a gritty film noir rendition of 1930s Vancouver falls for the screen siren Mila, and is
caught dangerously between two warring mob families – one controlling the
city’s playhouses, the other its cinemas. As the action moves from screen to
stage and back again, Tear the Curtain! blurs the boundaries between film and
theatre in a stylish psychological thriller that’ll knock your socks off.

Canadian Stage’s Tear the Curtain! will knock your socks off. 
Image source.

Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare, a Theatre 20 production presented as a bonus in the Mirvish Productions subscription season.

Tuesday, October 9 to Sunday, October 28 at The Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge St.)

Watch the true story of two 19th century
Irish serial killers, who go into business selling corpses to anatomy schools
in Edinburgh. Reminiscent of Sweeney
Todd
, this eerie tale of deceit, murder, and mayhem is told in memorable song,
macabre humour, and compelling lyrics.




Bloodless: The Tale of Burke and Hare tells the story of two Irish serial killers. 

Jekyll and Hyde, a Mirvish Productions musical.

Wednesday, November 14 to Sunday, November 18 @ The Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St.)


The classic tale of good and evil is
re-vamped and re-mounted with all of the chilling Broadway songs that first
grabbed audiences by the throat and transformed the show into a
theatrical phenomenon.
This production stars Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox
and American Idol Star Constantine Maroulis, which, depending on your
point-of-view, could also add to the creepiness factor.

Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox star in the classic production of Jekyll & Hyde
Image source.

War of the Worlds, an Art of Time Ensemble performance.

Tuesday, October 30 to Sunday, November 4 at The Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay W.)



Aliens have landed! Again! In the return of the sold-out 2001
production of the play based on Orson Welles’s infamous radio broadcast. The
all-star cast of Sean Cullen (The Producers) joins Nicholas Campbell (Da
Vinci’s Inquest
) and Marc Bendavid (The Border) is accompanied by an
on-stage radio orchestra and remains chilling enough to cause Margaret Atwood
to tweet “Brilliant! Not 2 miss!”.


Tickets: http://tickets.harbourfrontcentre.com

Even Margaret Atwood thinks you should see Art of Time Ensemble’s War of the Worlds

Shows that are currently running and are scary
GOOD are Nightwood Theatre’s Between The Sheets (at the Tarragon Extra Space now until October 7) and Soulpepper’s production of Arthur Miller’s faux/real witch
tale (depending on how you view Abigail), The Crucible (at the Younge Centre
for the Performing Arts until October 6). 
Wish me luck (and sound sleeps)!






Media, Darling: Carly Maga

Believe it or not, when Carly Maga moved from the cultural hotspot of suburban Ottawa to Toronto in 2006, she had a serious case of the starry-eyes. Now, through the ups and downs of any long-term relationship, the infatuation has evolved into a deep and meaningful appreciation. Her journalism degree coupled with a constant need of being entertained has resulted in her writing/tweeting/talking/living Canadian theatre and the arts for publications like The Globe and Mail, The Grid, Torontoist, OpenFile, and Toronto Standard. When not at a play or writing about a play, she’s covering the celebrity news everyone needs to know on Yahoo! OMG! or TV for BeyondtheGuide.com.

As a freelance writer, Carly has had the opportunity to pair her passion for theatre and her savvy writing style through profiling and reviewing theatre productions in Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, New York, and more. She’s chatted with notable directors like Atom Egoyan and Robert Lepage, and would do anything to get a story. Including trying a KFC Double Down.




Twitter: @radiomaga

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
When I was a kid, I would flit week to week between careers as a dental hygienist (like my mom), an opera singer, or a school bus driver. But acting was the first thing that really stuck with me, until I discovered journalism offered me the same opportunity for storytelling but on a larger platform and, I thought at the time, in a more reliable industry.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d like to get some international living under my belt, but other than that, I’d love to still be seeing tons of art and discussing it with those who make and love it. And I want a dog, her name will be Bea.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Just write a lot, wherever you can. It sucks and I don’t think it’s right, but work for free, or very little. Especially if you want to focus on a particular beat, you have to create a place for yourself. And when you intern, don’t lose those contacts.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
There are a few things I try to keep up with – Toronto news, theatre in New York, London, and Chicago, things my friends and peers are up to. Twitter, actually, has been amazing for that. Plus Maisonneuve Magazine, The Walrus, and I’m addicted to Vulture and New York Magazine.

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
Talking to actor Eric Peterson is definitely a highlight, but I’ve also had some amazing talks with young, exciting artists around my age. Worst was the director of a really reputable avant-garde theatre company in New York. She refused to answer my questions and I felt about two feet tall by the end of it.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Just work harder than everyone else.” (Thanks @NatalieZed!)

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t get too comfortable.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
As someone who’s relatively early in their career, I always really appreciate even a small greeting, or proof you’ve read any of my stuff. It goes a long way. And when you meet in person at an event, I know there’s lots going on, but try to look people in the eye.

I hate?
Mustard. And arrogance. And sharks.

I love?
The fall.

Reading?
Still in summer-fluff reading mode – the last of Guillermo Del Toro’s vampire trilogy The Night Eternal. Next will be one of the classics I’m trying to catch up on, though I admit I hardly have time to read fiction.

Best place on earth?
A cottage. Any cottage.

Dinner guest?
The expats of 1920’s Paris.

Hero?
I don’t have one in particular, though there are lots of people around me that I really admire. I like to surround myself with people who, I think, are achieving bigger and better things than I am. It keeps me motivated.

Pool or ocean?
Oceanside (see “what I hate”).

Voicemail or email?
Email definitely. Or for bigger conversations, in person.

Live theatre show you’re most looking forward to this fall?
This is the hardest question so far! I wrote about a few of my picks for Torontoist, but I think personally I can’t wait for the remounts of The Normal Heart at Buddies in Bad Times and No Great Mischief at Tarragon – they were so praised and I missed them both the first time. As for new shows, Tear the Curtain! at Canadian Stage is really exciting, I love what Electric Company Theatre is doing.



Rave: Wllm Shkspr’s Wrks works the crowd at Casa Loma

Perhaps the book of the Bard need not be found in every
hotel room, as the actors 
at the Classical Theatre Project’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare exclaim it should be, but we think you should find
yourself
catching this show before the end of August MMXII.


We jumped at the chance to see a Toronto trio perform the
wildly successful London parody, a.k.a. The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr
(Abridged)
, and found ourselves happily situated at the castle on the hill. The
pithy script is a winner and actors Matt Drappel, Jeff Hanson and Kevin Ritchie
thoroughly exercised their right to improvise. They peppered in remarks on Rob
Ford and Canada’s Olympic performance while commenting on their own need for
laughs with the same self-deprecating humour the Brits are known for.



The light-hearted show took the audience from Romeo and
Juliet
to Titus Andronicus the cooking show to Othello the rap song. In dealing with the
comedies, which we were told are actually not as funny as the tragedies, all
the plot lines were tied together and told as one story. The abridged version
of Macbeth was an amusing testament to English sentiments towards the Scottish
and led into the swift demise of the plays Julius Caesar and Antony and
Cleopatra
. The histories became a football match, likely the first one that has
made us chuckle. The show closed with Hamlet. Three times. Once abridged, once
again at breakneck speed and, finally, backwards.



Complete Works will return to Casa Loma on Wednesday, August 15 and Wednesday, August 29
with shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Without a doubt we recommend this show as
the perfect Wednesday evening diversion. We have a few tips to offer as well
(garnered from our own errors as the best advice is). First, arrive early.
Stadium style seating is not available at this venue and you’ll want a clear
view, those seated in the front row also have a more interactive experience.
Second, bring bug spray. The late summer mosquitoes can be quite pesky at
the luscious grounds. Third, be prepared for sore cheeks. Ours still hurt from
laughing!  

All images courtesy of Classical Theatre Project.

City Living: Shakespeare in High Park

We recently had the pleasure of viewing Canadian Stage’s production
of William Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Richard Rose.
This production marks the 30
th anniversary of the much-loved
tradition of outdoor theatre in Toronto’s
High Park. Our verdict? Loved by all!



This is the seventh time Canadian Stage has performed this particular play, and it’s easy to see why. The outdoor setting, in combination with a lovely midsummer night’s evening, adds a magical element to the experience. 

The production features a talented local cast (including the delightful Tamara Podemski, a dear friend of the fourth floor). The actors are charming and funny, dressed in modern attire. Although they stick to the classic script, the play is accessible and easy to follow as the staging gives the classic light-hearted comedy a unique Toronto twist.

Tamara Podemski and Dmitry Chepovetsky
The 90-minute production had us out laughing out loud and vowing to return with friends who didn’t make it to the first outing. The event is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $20. The production runs until September 2Tuesday through Sunday
at 8 p.m. with gates opening at 6 p.m.

Here are a few of our tips to enhance your experience:
  • Arrive early and pack a picnic basket. The amphitheatre fills up fast, so enjoy your dinner while waiting for the play to start. We brought a baguette, cheeses, greek salad and strawberries. Nom, nom, nom.
  • Wine isn’t *technically* allowed; however, if you bring plastic cups and a tetrapak no one will complain.
  • Bring a blanket to sit on and a pillow for your back.
  • Bug spray! They weren’t bad while we were there, but better to be safe than sorry.
  • Turn off your cell phone, relax and enjoy the hilarity of the play and the opportunity to experience one of Toronto’s best summer traditions.