AWARDS ‘n STATS

We broke attendance records, hitting the 13,600 mark this year.  Wowz.  Wayta Go SummerWorks.

The Awards are:

SUMMERWORKS PRIZE – IF WE WERE BIRDS

OUTSTANDING PLAY – ANY NIGHT (Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn)

CROWS THEATRE EMERGING DIRECTOR AWARD – CLAIRE CALNAN (Raising Luke)

SPOTLIGHT AWARD – DJENNIE LAGUERRE (Rendezvous With Home) and WHY NOT THEATRE (I’m So Close It’s Not Even Funny)

EMERGING ARTIST AWARD (Sponsored by Steam Whistle) – DOROTHY ATABONG (In Darfur)

NOW AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD – THE EMERGENCY MONOLOGUES

COMMUNIST ‘TIL PAYDAY and (never underestimate) THE POWER

One Reed Tries To Interview Anand Rajarm


‘I figured you guys were going to be assholes,’ he says. Or maybe he uses a different word.
‘But why?’ says Frank. I am thinking that the interview is going really well at this point.
‘I don’t know,’ he shrugs, ‘I just assumed it. No good reason.’
We were interviewing Anand Rajaram. He’d been forty minutes late trying to get an OAC grant in; Megan had arrived just after him. It was an early Friday evening. While we had been waiting and drinking beer Frank and I had compiled a list of questions that even we found obnoxious:
‘How does /Communist Till Payday/ reflect the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned by Marx?’
‘It doesn’t.’
‘And do you play ukulele in this show?’
He might, actually, but it makes for a short answer.
‘Can you laugh at yourself?’
‘Yes.’
‘In that case, is your solo show more of an Eric Bogosian rip-off or a Spalding Grey rip-off?’ It seemed more charming when we wrote it down.
‘Its more of a Carrot-Top rip off’, he replies.
We are running out of steam. And we haven’t figured out what we’re doing yet.
Anand suggests that we take a cue from our own show and make the interview a period piece set in the future. We agree that it’s a good idea but the potential verb tense disagreements are already making me catatonic. Instead, we decide to all do our own thing: Megan writes things down but keeps ‘ending up with Virginia Woolf’. Frank takes out his computer to record our talk in garage band but the patio is so loud that it keeps peaking every thirty seconds, he gives up and orders a beer. We decide to take a screenshot of the levels to serve as a graphical representation of the interview. I decide to use my mind-powers to remember and then write things down later. Possibly I share this decision, possibly I don’t, but it seems to be everyone’s unspoken plan. I don’t know what Anand was thinking to do, but he seemed confident.
We’ve had a drink now, and we’re talking about this show, and we’re pretty sure that either his Carrot-Top quip isn’t true or that we should give Carrot-Top a second chance – a third chance in Frank’s case. Anand is funny, really funny, but He’s using the laughs to get the audience somewhere, he says. He won’t tell us where, he might not know.
‘Is there a direct through line of any sort drawing together the discrete moments and theatrical experiments – is it a sketch show?’
‘It is but I am very wary of calling it sketch comedy. The comedy in the show is a means, not an end.’
‘So the thing that ties together what you’re doing is that you’ve decided to put them all next to each other in a theatre as part of one show, that’s enough. And they are, in some way or other, all about you. So it’s a show about you? About your personality?’
‘Yeah, I guess so.’
There’s a pause. He says it like it’s a discovery. The answer’s a good one to us – we’ve all become a bit enamored with his personality.
‘So are you improvising?’
‘I was thinking about it but I don’t think I will. In a way it is because everything is new and fresh so its like improvising ‘cause its first time out of the gate. And there’s things I’m doing with the audience where there’s no way to plan. Like I can set a structure, but…’
Then Anand swears us to secrecy about the show, the parts of it that are done and he could talk about. But expect audience involvement – and not of the cringe-inducing variety – that is, expect to want to be involved. Anand is whip smart. His work sounds detailed and conceptually subtle, but he seems fearlessly committed to big gestures in performance.
‘And what are the big gestures in service of?’
‘Attention: the point is to call attention to what’s actually happening,’ he says. ‘Like in a Chaplin film, he keeps your attention with the jokes, and then you’re rewarded. With Chaplin it’s the sad moments that you’re rewarded with, but there can be other rewards, too.’ Or he says something like this.
‘What about thinking?’
‘There are times when I tell them to think, when I have them “think this it too slow or this isn’t funny or something’s gone wrong”, but I’m in control. People shouldn’t be thinking during the show. Thinking isn’t ever what’s actually happening.’
‘Because the show moves faster than your ability to think about?’
‘Yes,’
Anyway, we all want to see his show now.

And Anand meets One Reed to interview them:


Well, so I thought they’d be a bunch of jerks. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the name. What the hell is One Reed? I don’t know anything about them. Nothing, not even what their Summerworks show is about. Not even the name of the show for chrissake. When I meet them I feel guilty because actually they are not jerks at all. They are nice, self-effacing, laid-back, and maybe they take their work seriously, but don’t take the fact that they take it seriously, seriously. You know what I mean? Not jerks. I am still coming off mushrooms I took to help me finish two grant apps and I’m really late. But, they are happy to sit and drink on the patio and even though they are working together so closely like ensembles do, they don’t seem like they are sick of each other or wanna kill each other, like ensembles do. I don’t wanna plug my show. Just because. They are kind of the same, but they do get excited and tell me stuff when I ask specifics. The show is created with theatre legend Paul Thompson and it is set in 2003. It’s about how they felt that year that that would be the end of the world. Because of all the crazy shit that was going down, like the invasion of Iraq and the still fresh terror of the possibility that planes could fly out of nowhere into buildings. That feeling that anything could happen at any time. 911 marked the beginning of a new world order and 2003 would mark the terrible twos of infancy. Or some shit like that. Those are my words not theirs. They would say something cooler and with less effort. I dunno. I think if you are reading this to learn about their show, you won’t really, but you should go because I think it’ll be really interesting and smart. And if you are reading this to decide if you should see it, just go for god’s sake. It’s an hour and it’s ten bucks. And not, “Oh man, why did I commit an hour and ten bucks to this friggin show?”, but more like, “I’m glad I took a chance to go and see something philosophical and smart and maybe a little bit funny.” But, if you are not sure, I can understand that ‘cos for no reason, I thought they were a bunch of jerks. But, they aren’t at all. And I still don’t really know or get what their show is about, but I really like them and I am gonna go see it. So you can take the chance and go, or you can write them and ask to meet with them and get convinced to go when you see how charming and smart they are, or you can not go and then feel stupid when everyone else is saying great shit about them. So what you gonna do, be a jerk about it or what? Seriously, don’t.

THE MUSIC SERIES – ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL / EVALYN PARRY

We’re nearing the end of this already phenomenal festival of theatre and music, and while I certainly wouldn’t consider any of bands so far to be lightweights, this Friday’s double bill is a pairing of some pretty experienced musical acts.

Rock Plaza Central had been playing shows with a revolving door roster in various small venues around Toronto like the Tranzac and Rancho Relaxo for nearly a decade when their concept album “Are We Not Horses” (which will make for an interesting tie in with Saturday’s Laura Barrett, but that’s tomorrow’s post) found its way to the ears of the editorial staff at the influential music appreciation site Pitchfork, via Toronto music critic Stuart Berman (who tested the limit of his mic cord in a highly mobile and energetic set last Saturday with his band The Two Koreas at the Music Series).

Pitchfork posted not one but two glowing reviews, and seemingly overnight, Rock Plaza Central was catapulted into the ranks of other hot folk-rock acts like Animal Collective, Beirut, and Adevandra Banhart; by the end of 2007, “Are We Not Horses” had earned a place on many influential critic’s top ten lists, and the band had a record deal with U.S. label Yep Roc.

What started as an extracurricular get together of musically inclined friends (the fact that Rock Plaza Central had never had a full band rehearsal outside of their shows in its first seven years of existance has become an entrenched bit of lore) has evolved into a focused ensemble of musicians that have been wowing crowds at festivals and shows across the U.S. and Canada in the past year and a half. RPC has thankfully lost none of their charm and playful approach to their live shows as a result of their phenomenally successful disc; they still play their annual wedding anniversary show (frontman Chris Eaton and wife Laura have kept this tradition alive since 2004) and frequent low profile shows in Toronto.

Evalyn Parry’s road to establishing herself as a signature Toronto act has been much more circuitous; she’s built up an intensely loyal following over the years with intimate stage shows at colleges and small theatres across Canada, exposure on CBC, and an association with several theatres and companies, including Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (where she’s currently Director of Youth Initiatives) and Independent Aunties (if which she is a founding member).

Evalyn is a masterful storyteller (which should come as no surprise, given her theatrical roots), and many of her best songs come with fascinating preambles on the evolution of the song, and what sort of responses it’s generated. She’s also known for her passionate and opinionated spoken word performances, but that doesn’t preclude a deft hand at writing playful pop melodies, like “Please Stop Following Me”.

Evalyn is also the first (but not the last, as tomorrow’s Sunparlour Players profile will explore) of the Music Series participants who’s also got a Summerworks show of her own to plug; she’s currently performing nightly in the cabaret show “The Pastor Phelps Project”, which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should try to catch this weekend, as it’s gotten a lot of rave reviews and press coverage.

http://www.plankmagazine.com/columns/freedom-what

THE MUSIC SERIES – Claire Jenkins avec Band / The Rural Alberta Advantage

In these blog postings, I’ve been writing about the Music Series acts with the intent of introducing them to the theatre community, or perhaps reminding readers about where they might have seen the band previously (The Bicycles having played several theatre events, Bob Wiseman having acted in several past Summerworks shows, etc.). Claire Jenkins avec Band is one of the easier sells in this regard: her background prior to starting her band was firmly in Toronto theatre.

A graduate from George Brown Theatre School, Claire’s past theatre credits include “Essay” with Absit Omen at Summerworks, “Unity: 1918” at Theatre Passe Muraille, and “The Gambler”, the last play produced at the dearly missed Artword Theatre. For the past few years, however, her focus has been fixed on her band, and they’ve been making a real go of it. Claire plays to her strengths, utilizing her sense of the theatrical in her live performances, which incorporate props and costumes to lend an air of enchantment and whimsy to her musical storytelling.

It also helps that Claire’s enlisted a crack team of musicians, including the marvelous Treasa Levasseur, and veteran Rheostatic Don Kerr (who also produced her debut album “Crow’s Nest / Nie De Pie“), to participate in her stage shows. Claire and her paper hat attired voyageurs show off her bilingual repertoire to full effect; their music conjures a rich tapestry of Quebecois culture (with perhaps a smidge of Gallic je-ne-sais-quoi).

http://www.herohill.com/MP3/08.%20Claire%20Jenkins%20Avec%20Band%20-%20Harold,%20Coco.mp3 )

Similarly, The Rural Alberta Advantage wear their roots on their sleeves (or more accurately, on the crests on their chests), despite the fact that just 1/3rd of the band, singer-songwriter Nils Edenloff, hails from small town Alberta. Drummer Paul Banwatt and keyboardist Amy Cole both grew up in within a short drive of Toronto, and play in less specifically geographically focused bands, like Paul’s high profile drums and keyboards project with Dan Werb, Woodhands, and Paul and Amy’s own acoustic duo We’re Scared.

Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt of The RAA

But for The RAA ‘s songs, Nils draws the subject material primarily from his experiences growing up in Fort McMurray and other communities in Alberta.

Nils from The RAA

Nils from The RAA

The references and places name checked in their debut album “Hometowns” are all firmly rooted in the Wild Rose province, such as Lethbridge, AB, and Frank, AB, which no longer exists, as it was buried by a rockslide at the turn of the 20th century.

http://www.theraa.com/audio/the_RAA-frank_ab.mp3

Musically, though, their sound is very diverse, drawing on Nils’ love for such bands as Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, and M Ward, Paul’s tremendous drumming ability, and Amy’s ethereal back up vocals.

http://www.theraa.com/audio/the_RAA-dont_haunt_this_place.mp3

All in all, this double bill on Thursday Aug. 14th will be not only a great night of music, but with all the out of province references, it will showcase fascinating aspects of Canadian culture from outside our own provincial borders; you could consider this night as the Music Series’ contribution to the Summerworks National Series.

The RAA at the Gladstone

The RAA at the Gladstone

Ottawa axes second arts subsidy in two weeks

For those who may not know about this. This is not good. We’re living under a government that does not value culture. This isn’t a theory. It’s just fact. Programs are being cut. Valuable programs. The Culture of this country is being sensored. And this is under a MINORITY conservative government. And so what happens if they win a majority? Does all funding get cut? What is stopping them?

Now, more than ever, we are in need of support. We need to stop looking only to our governments. We need to find other ways of supporting ourselves. We need to be in dialogue about this with ourselves. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre has a bar. Why are they the only ones? We need to be collectively looking for other ways to fund what we do.

Read Below and be furious.

Ottawa axes second arts subsidy in two weeks

Trade Routes, a $9-million program funding Hot Docs and other initiatives, ends in what critic calls a ‘stupid’ and ‘provocative’ choice

From Monday’s Globe and Mail

Alain Pineau was disappointed, but not terribly surprised, when the federal government last week announced it was ending PromArt, a $4.7-million cultural program administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

After all, rumours of the demise of PromArt’s travel grants to artists and arts organizations had been circulating for months.

But Mr. Pineau, national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts – on vacation and cut off from the news – was shocked to learn yesterday that the Tories, late last week, had also decided to terminate Trade Routes, another cultural subsidy initiative, effective next year. “This is amazing,” Mr. Pineau said. “I can’t believe they would be so stupid. It’s just provocative.”

Administered by the Department of Heritage, Trade Routes, valued at about $9-million annually, helps cultural groups such as Hot Docs and the Canadian Independent Record Production Association export and sell products abroad.

Now, says Peter Feldman, former executive director of the Canadian Arts Presenting Association, arts industry officials are wondering if other cultural funding shoes may yet be dropped.

“It’s pure speculation,” Mr. Feldman conceded, “but maybe their intention is to get rid of all the former Liberal government’s Tomorrow Starts Today programs.” That might include Cultural Spaces Canada, a capital renovation fund, and Arts Presentation Canada, an operational subsidy.

Kory Teneycke, the Prime Minister’s press secretary, declined yesterday to address the decision to close Trade Routes, but noted that Ottawa “spends $3.5-billion on arts funding … and is spending more on arts than did the previous [Liberal] government. In the case of PromArt, we think the [funding] choices made were inappropriate … inappropriate because they were ideological in some cases, with highly ideological individuals exposing their agendas or [money going to] wealthy celebrities or fringe arts groups that in many cases would be at best, unrepresentative, and at worst, offensive.”

Mr. Feldman disputed the contention that the Tories have been more generous to the arts. “If they are spending more, it’s in adjusted-for-inflation dollars. This is about some right-wing troglodytes in the party overcome with self-righteous indignation that people like [Toronto broadcast journalist] Avi Lewis received funding.” He estimated that programs like Trade Routes deliver a 10-to-1 return on investment. “Would we not love to get that from our stock portfolios? If these cuts will save the country’s economy, God help us. We’re in worse shape than I ever thought.”

Mr. Lewis, now reporting for the English-language affiliate of the Al-Jazeera network, said the cuts were “a window into the Machiavellian political tactics of killing a small but crucial government program.”

Public funding for the arts is a proven economic and cultural stimulus that the majority of Canadians embrace, Mr. Lewis said in an e-mail yesterday.

“The government knows … that if the story is framed honestly, there will be little support for killing the program. And so, in the middle of a summer when Canadians are having trouble paying for gas, they find a few examples of grant recipients that will enrage their conservative base … and use that as a political rationale for doing something that would otherwise hurt them politically. Now they’ve succeeded in framing the story in terms of who deserves public funding, rather than who supports it – and that is cynical in the extreme.”

HOLY CRAP!!!

WOW. WOW. WOW.

All I can say is WHAT AN AMAZING FESTIVAL!

I am whelmed. There is so much brilliance this year, and so much more to come. Such an influx of culture. So exciting. So Inspiring.

I’d like to take a brief moment to encourage you all to check out the PERFORMANCE GALLERY at the Gladstone. It really is truly a remarkable thing, with 6 or 7 performances happening at any given moment. It’s a really special event, with some really exciting, surprising performances. Its running 7-9 every night. It’s Pay What You Can. I’ve seen most of the performances, and they’re all fantastic, and so shockingly varied. The work ranges from incredibly political to a 4-minute dance party.

The Music Series is also going great. The Bicycles and Young Rival played a great show last night. Peter Elkas and Julie Fader are playing tuesday. Julie also plays in Sarah Harmer’s band, and rumour has is that Sarah may be sitting in with Julie (playing the drums!)

On Wednesday, local rock Heroes (and one of Steve Fisher’s favourite bands) The Diableros, are playing with Will Currie and the Country French (recently signed to Sloan’s label, Murderecords).

And, I need not tell you about the theatre, as it is the heart of the festival, and it is what we know and love. There’s some great work this year–I’ve been frequently moved, and very humbled.

Congrats all. Just about to hit the half-way mark, and I can’t wait for the rest!

xoMichael.