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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EVENT: Crazy Love (Fringe 2011)

News: Fringe-For-All Coverage

The Motherhouse

Four Hours of Near-vana
Uncalled For begins its farewells, 60 companies say hello
by Valerie Cardinal
You know the Fringe Festival has started when your evening includes breakdancing, drag queens, karaoke, rapping grannies, promises of nudity and more. Over 70 English, French and dance shows had the opportunity to introduce themselves in two minutes or less at last night’s Fringe-For-All at Café Campus. The night included almost all companies except for those from out of town. The nearly four-hour theatre extravaganza was hosted for the last time by Uncalled For, who are abandoning their 13th Hour hosting duties to become producers of online videos. With so many shows and so little time, it’s difficult to remember all the companies that took the stage. Even one-off events such as Art Camp and the Grindhouse zombie night were given their chance to shine. 

EVENT: Venezuela and Friends (Fringe 2011)

After Dark, May 31, 2011 - Pre-Fringe Edition

Zack Adams

CharPo advises you on where to start
"Best Bets" ...sorta
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois with Estelle Rosen, Sarah Deshaies, Émilie Charlebois, Valerie Cardinal and Janis Kirshner

After the Fringe announced its lineup at a press conference last week, I asked part of the army of CharPo writers who are about to launch themselves at the festival if there were any items which caught their attention, piqued their curiosity and that they would like to see or at least advise other people to see (as many of them may be too busy at other shows to see some of the things they would councel others to view - we are martyrs to the larger cause...).

Here is a list of ten such shows, with a couple of honourable mentions. Comments come from three veterans of the Fringe wars - me, Estelle Rosen (ER) and Janis Kirshner (JK) - and three of our rising talents - who nevertheless have all had Fringe experience - Sarah Deshaies (SD), Émilie Charlebois (EC) and Valerie Cardinal (VC).

Please feel free to tell us, in the comments section below, what excites you and why.

Theatre for Thought, May 31, 2011

joel fishbane

There’s never a lack of solo shows at the Fringe; indeed, they’re so ubiquitous that I suspect one couldn’t survive without the other. When performed by a T.J. Dawe or Nicola Gunn, the solo show is a theatrical gem. Done poorly – insert eighty percent of all solo shows here – then the solo show becomes little more then a performer using the stage to exorcise their demons. 

Predicting where a particular solo show will fall is a tough task for any Fringer - fortunately, performer Veronica Russell, who will be presenting her solo piece A Different Woman at this year’s Fringe, has given us all a heads up: the last thing she ever wanted to write was your typical one woman show. 

Feature: The Gay Fringe

Top Gay Picks at the 2011 Montreal Fringe Festival
By Richard Burnett (Reprinted from Three Dollar Bill by permission)

Few know more than Steve Galluccio how incredible a launching pad the Fringe Festival is. The openly-gay Galluccio launched his career at the Fringe two decades ago with She's The Queen in 1991, and has since gone on to fame and glory. His 2003 play Mambo Italiano – a poignant comedy about two closeted gay Italian lovers – was translated into French by none other than Michel Tremblay, has been performed on stages around the world, been adapted into a successful movie co-starring Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino, and will soon become a Broadway musical. 

But it all started at the Montreal Fringe. So Galluccio agreed to be their festival spokesperson this year. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Video: Sights and Sounds from Fringe For All 2011

There will be full coverage of the event from Valerie Cardinal later, but here is your first taste of the noisy, messy, happy event that is the Fringe For All.

For full coverage of the entire Fringe go to the CharPo Fringe Aggregator

The Upstage Interview: Veronica Russell

“It is perfectly clear to me that life is not worth living, but it is also equally clear that life is worth talking about.” –E. Gertrude Beasley

Upstage and CharPo contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke with Veronica Russell about Texpatriate Productions presentation of A Different Woman as part of 2011 Fringe Festival. Below is an abridged version of the interview, edited by Estelle Rosen, CharPo Editor-in-Chief.

Beasley wrote candidly about her childhood, strange upbringing and dysfunctional family. Her story was published, subsequently banned, eventually she was institutionalized. Incredible story. How did you discover Beasley?

Really it was a fluke. A writer friend told me an essay of his was being covered in an anthology titled Lone Star Literature, produced by the University of Texas press. Basically  a survey of sexist literature throughout history, fiction and non-fiction, with excerpts and essays. My friend suggested  I pick  up a copy. I did and it  happens there was also an excerpt from Beasley’s autobiography.

The forward contained some background of her life.  I was hooked on this stunning story. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Review: PHOTOG (FTA)

(Photo Credit: Farah Nosh)

PHOTOG Needs More Time In the Darkroom
the company wanted to create a character with..."total absence of sentimentality or idealism"
by David King

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a wartime photograph should be worth ten thousand. 

Exploring the rare perspective of conflict photojournalism in their newest multi-media piece PHOTOG: AN IMAGINARY LOOK AT THE UNCOMPROMISING LIFE OF THOMAS SMITH, Vancouver-based Boca del Lupo's Sherry J Yoon and Jay Dodge take on Place des Arts' Cinquième Salle and the FTA with a one-man show that's co-created and performed by Dodge. Dedicated to Tim Hetherington, who was killed this past April while covering the Libya conflict, PHOTOG is a documentary-theatre hybrid, basing much of its material on the testimonials of Hetherington and other embedded photographers who were interviewed by Yoon and Dodge in the early stages of their creation process.

Sunday Feature: Festival TransAmériques

Yume No Shiro (photo: Klaus Lefebvre)

And We're Off!
Festival Transamériques takes on today's youth with an unpredictable blend of new hybrids in the performing arts
David King

If there was a way to describe what to expect at this year's Festival Transamériques (FTA), it would first be to expect shows about our youth - and then expect the unexpected. Although the Festival makes some pretty clear delineation between its theatre and dance offerings, there's an increasingly fine line between the two each FTA as disciplines overlap.

Until June 11, CharPo will be reviewing more than a handful of the English-language related (spoken or subtitled) international theatre highlights at this year's FTA, including the Berlin / Amsterdam work Trust (read Joel Fishbane's review here), the always exciting Vancouver company Boca del Lupo with Photog, world renowned director Richard Maxwell's Neutral Hero, the much-anticipated Gardenia (see our preview by Bugs Burnett) and the contemporary Buenes Aires adaptation of Ibsen's A Doll's House entitled El Desarrollo de La Civilizacíon Venidera, by the brilliant Argentinian director Daniel Veronese.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ford's Focus: Bob Bachelor

One Lucky Lyrical Music Man
If you have seen Montreal musical theatre, you have seen Bob Bachelor at work
by Barbara Ford
Bob Bachelor is one lucky man. Since he began his musical training in Toronto at a Catholic choir school, he has never had to support himself by taking work outside his chosen profession: musical theatre. 

He came to Montreal in 1971 to study music at McGill University and while there, he began working as a vocal rehearsal pianist for the well-known and extremely popular amateur group, The Arcadians. At the time, the dance pianist for them was Linda Laroche … to be continued.  

By the time he graduated with both a Bachelor degree in music as well as a teaching diploma, he was The Arcadians’ Musical Director and remained so until 1980, managing to make ends meet with small musical jobs in between their massive productions. “I never wanted to have a day job, work in a bank or something to support my music. I told myself early on that I only wanted to make a living with music and, I can hardly believe it myself, amazingly, it’s worked out that way.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

EVENT: Motherhouse (Fringe 2011)

The Friday Five, Pre-Fringe Edition, May 27, 2011

The Last Straight Man in Theatre (Kurt Fitzpatrick)

Tilting at Titles
Two fives for the Fest
by Estelle Rosen and Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Ah! Those were the days: when we at the alternative press amused ourselves in wondering how the mainstream press would handle Fringe titles like The Happy Cunt. This year's batch of titles include none that jump off the page and smack you in the face quite like that one, but there are enough intriguing and/or wacky ones to offer food for thought. (To find out the perpetrators either follow the links for the show to their EVENT listing here at CharPo or go to the Fringe site.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review: Trust (FTA)

(Photo Credit: Heiko Shafer)

TRUST at the FTA
I suspect reaction to Trust will be mixed
by Joel Fishbane

It’s possible that a new theatrical language will be needed to discuss Trust, the multi-disciplinary hybrid that opened the Festival TransAmériques on Thursday night. Part dance, part theatre, part performance art, Trust is a show that borrows liberally from the theatrical pantheon – Brecht, Beckett, musicals – even as it discards the usual annoyances like plot, story, characters or a dramatic arc. Trust merrily flies in the face of all traditions, which makes for a fascinating artistic experiment. Whether it’s also an entertaining night at the theatre, though, will probably be a matter of taste.

Review: FOUR: Yourself

Colour Me Intrigued
There is so much to think about that I want to see FOUR: Yourself again.
by Valerie Cardinal
My experience with verbatim-style theatre was very limited until I saw the MAP Project’s FOUR: Yourself. Now, colour me very intrigued. FOUR: Yourself combines interviews with its three performers and endless pop culture references to make a narrative. In essence, it’s an epic journey made up of a collection of moments that don’t make sense until it ends. But when it does get there, it generated enough discussion between my play-going companion and I that I could write a nice philosophical essay about the purpose of nostalgia and video if I really wanted to. The shot of vodka that came free with entry really helped with that as well. 

EVENT: The π-Roject (Fringe 2011)

CharPo's Picture of the Week, May 26, 2011

Gardenia, playing at the FTA, photo by Luk Monsaert.
There is something delightfully seedy about the juxtaposition of grand
costumes and vivid colours with the simplse set and the barefoot,
shirtless fellow on the left. Simply, it gives you
the taste to see the show. Richard Burnett previews it here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EVENT: Black Theatre Workshop's Birthday Bacchanal

Review: In The Yichud Room (Podcast)

Wedding in Not-So-White (Lies)
Despite listening to the play in my bright bedroom surrounded by distractions, I was absolutely captivated by the story and its telling. 
by Rachel Zuroff

I loved this play!  In the Yichud Room is a 25 minute theatre piece put on by the C’est la Vie theatre group in the form of a podcast.  It tells the story of the wedding of Amy and Suttler and the secrets that are revealed on their wedding day.  

The austereness and minimalism of In the Yichud Room, required by the use of the podcast form, reminded me strongly of a one-man play. However, unlike most one-man plays, I was blown away by the quality and simple enjoyableness of In the Yichud Room. Its minimalism allowed the story to completely engage the listener. Despite listening to the play in my bright bedroom surrounded by distractions, I was absolutely captivated by the story and its telling.  

EVENT: Adopt This (Fringe 2011)

Beyond the Fourth Wall, May 25, 2011

Not-Necessarily Theatre Dates For Your Agenda
by Estelle Rosen

May 26-28 
Nominee Best Female Comedian

May 28
1900 Wellington
To support reconstruction of Japan

May 29
Montreal Improv

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: La Bohème

Marianne Fiset as Mimi (Photo: Yves Renaud)

Bugs clears the aria
L’Opera de Montreal’s new million-dollar La Boheme doesn’t quite make the cut
By Richard “Bugs” Burnett
 Man, I had such high hopes for L’Opera de Montreal’s brand-new season-closing production of Puccini’s masterpiece La Bohème. As its talented director Alain Gauthier told The Charlebois Post in a preview feature story last week, “It’s pretty hard to do a shitty La Bohème… I’m not straying far from the original production of La Bohème, which is beloved by audiences who don’t like it when you mess around with a classic.”
Gauthier didn’t stray far from the original script at all. Problem is, this production – budgeted at a whopping $1.15 million – spent a ton of cash on a new set that never properly served the plot. The central new piece is a factory-window-like backdrop that also doubled as a cheesy silhouette of the 19th-century Paris skyline as seen from dirt-poor bohemian Rodolfo’s unbelievably huge Attic apartment. The rest of the set was essentially made up of steps and several multi-purpose chimneys that made this reporter wonder where all the money was spent.

EVENT: Remember Ezra (Fringe 2011)

Review: The Dybbuk

Poster advertising a 1920 performance of The Dybbuk in Warsaw

New Twists on Old Ghost Stories
Theatregoers are getting another glimpse of a rich theatrical tradition.
by Sarah Deshaies
The dybbuk is a piece of Jewish folklore, a spirit caught between the world of the material and the ephemeral. The Dybbuk is a staging of a piece of Yiddish theatrical canon caught between being a modern undertaking and a flawed technical outing. 

No matter the tradition, humans fear the return of spirits that can return and take over innocent souls. Catholics have possession by demonic spirits, Haitians and West Africans have voodoo, Jews have dybbuks. S.An-ski wrote The Dybbuk in Yiddish after years of researching shtetls, the small, insular Jewish communities that dotted Europe. 

People usually glimpse mainstream depictions of humble shtetl life, which largely disappeared in the last century, in renderings of Fiddler on the Roof. But thanks to this staging of The Dybbuk, and the upcoming second edition of the Montreal Yiddish Theatre Festival, theatregoers are getting another glimpse of a rich theatrical tradition. (The short vignette of a dybbuk haunting preceding the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man leaps to mind.)

Theatre For Thought, May 24, Pre-Fringe Edition

joel fishbane

This column starts a four part series about Fringe shows that I have chosen to endorse based on a subtle combination of instinct, optimism, personal bias or because someone sent me a really expensive bottle of wine.
A Fringe without Keir Cutler is more or less a play without a curtain call: the show will go on, but you’ll always feel like something’s amiss. Like Jem Rolls and Uncalled For, Cutler has become a staple of the Fringe, returning year after year with his latest one-man combination of sharp writing and clever comedy. An obsessive Fringer – he calls the Fringe “one of the nation’s great treasures” – Cutler’s been on the festival circuit since 1999 and the experience has made him something of a veteran. Like the boy scouts, he is always prepared, a lesson he learned the hard way during his early days. Having blanked on his lines during a performance of Teaching Shakespeare, he froze up completely. In a matter of seconds, he had gone from competent actor to a deer in headlights. 

“Nobody realized I had forgotten my lines,” he told me. “They just thought the play was extremely boring.” 

After Dark, May 24, 2011

Are You Helping?
Theatre is ALWAYS at a turning point...what it needs to turn
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

When I was eight, my parents took me to my first opera: La Bohème (a revival of which is playing at PdesA right now). It was at Quebec City's bijou theatre, at the time, the Palais Montcalm. It was a soirée - exploding with specialness; people dressed up (me in grays, a blazer and clip-on tie) and acted like throw-backs to a previous century. I was mesmerized and simply loved the grandness of it all.

Other operas followed: my uncle brought me to a huge production of Faust at PdesA (part of the Expo 67 party) and then there was a steady diet of Verdi all across Germany. Not all of these productions were hopelessly old-fashioned. The rise of the Régisseur in German theatrical art meant that some of the provincial houses in towns like Hägen and Düsseldorf were fiddling about. I saw, at 12, my first bare-stage production. It was Trovatore, it was gorgeously sung, and the place and time was suggested by elements of period costumes and lighting alone. After the performance, as we always did, we had supper at a place my mother chose from Europe on $5 a Day. That's where the real magic of that Trovatore happened: the singers from the opera - poorly-paid wanderers learning their métier in the small houses - were all eating there too. My mother pushed me to them and I still have the program they all signed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

EVENT: Madwomen's Late-Nite Cabaret (Fringe 2011)

EVENT: Callback (Fringe 2011)

The Upstage Interview: David di Giovanni

Photo credit: Richard Muller

A conversation about FOUR: Yourself with David di Giovanni, General Manager of The MAP Project. 
By Estelle Rosen

To start with, could you explain what MAP stands for and its origin. 

Mind Action Personality  started when my colleague Rio Mitchell and her partner Bella Kline had done an installation where they filmed themselves for an hour at various times. They became very interested in banal moments.  Rio Mitchell was interested in how to put these banal moments on stage. We started with ONE a year ago. We get together. We film ourselves,  transcribe,  and try to make a narrative out of that.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

EVENT: Robby Hoffman: Autobiography So What, You Think You're Better Than Me?

The Sunday Feature: Gardenia (FTA, 2011)

(Gardenia, Photo credit: Luc Monsaert)

The Art of Drag
Gardenia is poignant meditation on beauty and age
By Richard Burnett (printed from Fugues with permission)

I have been to just about every major drag event in London, Sydney, Paris, New York, New Orleans, Vegas and Montreal, and as drag culture has morphed into a universal phenomenon, it is evident it has also become increasingly homogenous and mainstream. There are no longer any great differences between, for instance, French and English drag performers (if there ever were), except for perhaps in Quebec where audiences still really love their clown-like drag queens like Montreal icon Mado La Motte  – so-called when she started her career at Poodles nightclub on the Main back in 1987 because patrons there thought she looked like a mutt.

“She looks like a clown!” my six-year-old brother Skye told me as he pointed to Mado at his first Gay Pride parade in Montreal over a decade ago. When I told Mado about it afterwards, she replied, “He’s right, I am a clown!”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ford's Focus: Heather Markgraf

A journey of self-discovery
From Stonehenge to a little train station and beyond...
by Barbara Ford
In our quests to understand and grow, to come to terms with ourselves and our lives, every step we take is somehow reflected in the people and events around us. We can’t realistically gauge the scope of our influence; we can only continue to walk our paths, hopefully with the best intentions. Like the rest of us, Heather Markgraf’s journey has had some expected as well as unexpected turns, and though she has had an indelible impact on the community where she lives, on the theatre community and on those she has helped near and far, she continually strives for greater truth and self-awareness in both her work and her private life.   

Markgraf was born in Salisbury, England (close to Stonehenge) but her father’s work relocated the family to various places such as Lancashire and Lincoln before they settled down (by the time she was twelve) in Wimbledon in the south west of Greater London.  During this part of her life, Markgraf had only a passing fancy with theatre: a boyfriend took her to see plays from time to time and occasionally she would take on a small role in the chorus of school plays.