Friday, 21 August 2015

Why is Rockabilly Photographer Liisa Morton All Hopped Up?

Liisa Morton outside The Black Cat Gallery, Toronto
photo by donna g
donna g: Your debut show and Zine are called All Hopped Up!, so we have to talk about the cars. How did you capture the shot entitled Highway, in San Francisco?

Highway by Liisa Morton
LIISA MORTON: I was travelling with the Swanx car club of Vallejo, CA. We had been at the Billetproof car show inHayward, CA earlier that day and were heading back home to San Francisco. I was riding along the highway with Swanx member, Guido, when I heard Steve O coming up from behind us. I quickly scrambled to get my camera and took a few quick shots. It was really tricky to do because we were all driving so fast! This photo was later used for the cover of the Royal Crowns' CD, "After Dark"

dg: Maya’s Ford Fairlane is a classic, and she looks so cool driving it. Do you know how long she’s had it, and does she drive it all the time or just at conventions? 

Maya by Liisa Morton

LM: Maya has owned her beautiful 1964 Ford Fairlane Sport Coupe 500 since about 1985. She did all of the bodywork and paint on this car, which she calls, "Kitten".  She still drives it and other classic cars too, including a 1961 Ford F100 step side truck, a 1952 Dodge Coronet, and a 1959 Willys Wagon. Her commuter car is a 2004 Golden Anniversary Ford Thunderbird.

Maya  started an all female car club with her Mom, Vida Lee in the early 1990's called "The Cherry Bombs". The idea behind their club was to have girls join who had expertise in a certain area, such as, auto body and paint, transmissions, or brakes, etc. they then supported and helped one another without having to rely on guys to help them out. 

I spent the day with Maya and Vida Lee in 2001 driving around San Francisco. Both Maya and Vida Lee are dj's and  we stopped off at a couple of their favourite records shops where I took some photos. They are two of the most interesting and inspiring women you'd ever like to meet!


dg: The cover photo really captures the joy of the scene. Tell me more about Misti and Janna and whose car they are posing on. 

 Misti &  Janna by Liisa Morton

LM: I just love Misti and Janna in this photo! They are so cute; they're having the best time. They had driven all the way from Texas to Marion, IN, in a beautiful baby blue '55 Chevy, that belongs to their good friend Amy, (who still owns it to this day). We all met at the James Dean Rockabilly Rebel Weekend, in Marion, IN, back in 1995. We struck up a conversation and they told me of their car mishaps that had occurred along the way, including tire trouble and a complete loss of reverse, which meant that they could then only park sideways! At one point during our conversation, Janna grabbed me by the hand and we all ran out to the parking lot to see the infamous baby blue Chevy. We chatted and I took a few photos. Love these gals!
 
dg: How did you end up in Marion?

LM: I ended up going to my first Rockabilly weekender in 1995, in Marion, IN after seeing a small ad in a roots music fanzine. I have always loved Rockabilly, but had not been to many shows up to that point. It's funny now thinking about it because I don't drive and had to take a plane, bus and taxi to get there! I can't explain it; when I saw that small ad, I just knew I had to go!

dg: You have several shots of people at home. How did you establish such an intimate relationship with your subjects?

Jessica & Mini Pearl by Liisa Morton  

LM: When I first started going to Rockabilly weekenders back in 1995, there was pretty much one taking place every month all through the Summer & into the Fall. There has always been a great sense of community and camaraderie at these weekenders & It was so much fun to reconnect and get to know people from all of the world, with similar interests. Over the years I have gotten to know some amazing people!

dg: What is the story behind the shot of the woman looking up at stage Rudopho’s in Silver Lake California?

Rudolpoho's by Liisa Morton

LM: I took this photo in 2001 at Rudolpho's, which was a very popular club in Silver Lake, CA. at the time. I had heard that there was a really great Rockabilly night there and decided to check it out. I went with Claudia, a girl I had photographed over the years. When we arrived the place was hopping with everyone dancing to a mix of Rockabilly and Doo-Wop. 

While the band played, I took a few photos of two girls talking to one another, near the stage. All of a sudden one of the girl's turned towards the stage, while a man near her threw his hand up into the air, and another raised his drink. It all happened in a split second!

dg: Dames in Dis Dress is such a fantastic shot. I love the way you managed to capture the three women in the light.

Dames in Dis Dress by Liisa Morton

LM: Thank you very much! The ladies in this shot, were a burlesque group at the time called, "Dames in Dis'Dress", In this shot, I used a flash & the background was darkened by the awesome photographer Steben Alexander, who printed this shot for me.

dg: One thing that strikes me is the number of couples in All Hopped Up. Do people meet each other as singles at weekenders or is this a lifestyle that couples enter into together?

José & Viyani by Liisa Morton

LM: A lot of people go as couples to weekenders but some couples have met at weekenders too.

dg:  Most of your photos are taken in the US, but you have a few pictures of Toronto in the Zine. Besides obviously being smaller, how would you describe the Toronto scene?

Heather & Santiago by Liisa Morton

LM: The Toronto Rockabilly scene is super fun and has grown a lot since I first started going to shows in the mid-1990's. Everyone makes sure to support the scene, as much as they can. At the zine launch you would have seen a picture of Johnny; he has been involved in the scene for many years and is a local dj. Heather(above) works at a vintage reproduction clothing store and has been known to sing a kickass Elvis song or two! 

There are always lots of great events going on which can be found on http://www.torontovintagesociety.ca, which lists all things vintage and retro. There are lots of awesome bands that play in town such as Tennessee Voodoo Coupe, The Millwinders, The Royal Crowns, the Swingin' Blackjacks, Alistair Christl, The Hellbent Rockers and the Greasemarks. There are also lots of awesome vintage shops around like Flashback and Cabaret, as well shops that sell vintage reproduction dresses like Loveless, Rosie the Rebel and Damzels.

dg: Where can people buy your work?


Liisa Morton
photo by donna g
LM: My zine, All Hopped Up is available for purchase in Toronto at Kustom Life at 1364 Queen St. East (Greenwood Queen).  I am also in the process of setting up an etsy shop on my blog. Stay tuned! http://liisamorton.blogspot.ca

Saturday, 15 August 2015

SummerWorks Interview:The Templeton Philharmonic's An Evening in July

Briana Templeton (left) and Gwynne Phillips
 aka The Templeton Philharmonic
photo courtesy of SummerWorks
donna g: In your program notes you write that An Evening in July was “Inspired by the cult documentary Grey Gardens and Helene de Rothschild’s 1972 Surrealist Ball." Could you please elaborate  for those not familiar with those works?

Gwynne Phillips: Of course! Grey Gardens is a 1975 American documentary about two reclusive upper class women, a mother and daughter named Edith and Edie Beale, who lived in a decaying mansion in East Hampton. They were the aunt and first cousin of Jackie Onassis. We were very much inspired by their story and relationship, and our venue fit the aesthetic perfectly. The Surrealist Ball was hosted by socialite Helene de Rothschild in 1972, and was essentially an elaborate star-studded ball with celebrities like Salvador Dali to Audrey Hepburn in attendance. Look it up online you will not be disappointed!

dg: Briana, how would describe May?
 
Briana Templeton: She's June's sister, and they live together as recluses in a strange, crumbling mansion. They're both well-moneyed and neither of them have jobs or much to do except pick each other apart with witty repartee. But they live in a creepy, "out of time" place.

She's a fairly narcissistic person... She's always been very materialistic, and has a really brassy, loud veneer which she uses to hide her inner pain. Through out the play she is less and less successful! BT

 dg: Gwynne, how would you describe June?

GP: The character of June exists in two different timeframes; her life before her sister died, and her life afterward. During the play she simultaneously lives both, replaying the night of the party over and over again in her mind - hoping that maybe one time her sister will survive. She lives out her days alone, trying to remember the good times they had together. But on a more surface level, she is just a manipulative flirt who claims to love parties and fashion.

dg: How did you decide who would play which character?

GP: We often write a dynamic which  involves my character being haunted or plagued by Briana in some way. We're not really sure why, it just seems to always turn out that way.

photo by donna g
dg: What was it about Thom Stoneman that made you cast him as the  manservant?

GP: We have known Thom Stoneman for many years and have worked on several different plays together. We had originally wanted him to just be the bartender for this show, but we thought it would be more interesting to expand his character to be part of the narrative. Also, he looks the part. 
dg: I loved the 1970s set décor and your costumes. Could you please share your team’s process in creating this world?

BT: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. Gwynne and I knew we wanted to create something from that era - and throw in touches of surrealism. While we were writing and developing the look of the show, we watched a lot of movies from the era - like "Valley of the Dolls" and "Grey Gardens". Then, we scoured thrift shops in Toronto and New York to find things that fit the look! Pretty fun. I think co-designing the set informed the script a lot too. Also, our stage manager Vanessa Purdy found some GREAT 70's self help books for the set.

dg: An Evening in July, is staged indoors and out  at St. George the Martyr Anglican Church (Music Gallery). How have you been dealing with the challenges of various weather conditions? 

GP: This is the second time we have produced this show. The first time was for the Toronto Fringe Festival last year. In over 20 performances in this space, we have never been rained out. If it's a rainy day, the skies somehow clear right before be performance. It's very eerie!

dg: With this play being interactive, you have to rely and adapt to audience response. What has that been like for you? For example, you had a matinee and evening performance last Saturday. Could you please share how your audiences differed,  and how you dealt mentally  with such a quick turnaround in performance?

BT: We developed a lot of the script through improv originally, so we feel very comfortable improvising as May and June which helps. The audiences each night can really change the feel of the show. Sometimes it can feel like a pure drama, and sometimes people laugh the whole time! That was our intention-the malleability is really exciting as actors, and our audiences seem to like it too... You never know what's going to happen.

dg: Do you have any projects lined up after SummerWorks, or will you be sitting back and  sipping martinis once you've shrugged off the polyester?

GP: Ha! We do love martinis. But we also have a few excited things coming up this fall! We are creating an art installation for Scotiabank's Nuit Blanche entitled, "Lillian" in October, as well as taking part in an exciting charity event called The Generator hosted by Chris Hadfield on Oct 28th at Massey Hall!
 
An Evening in July (Final Performance)
Sunday, August 16, 8:00 PM
St. George the Martyr AnglicanChurch (Music Gallery)
197 John Street (north of Queen, behind the Art Gallery of Ontario)
Tickets $15
No latecomers
 
Find out more about The Templeton Philharmonic at http://templetonphilharmonic.com/
 

 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

SummerWorks 2015: Women!

SummerWorks Performance Festival
August 6 - 16, 2015
Missing the Toronto Fringe Festival, well, satisfy your love of theate and add some dance, live art and music to your days and or evenings at SummerWorks 2015! The 11 day festival kicks off tonight at various venues west of Yonge Street, and branching north and south of Bathurst. The festival is in its 25th year, and plays are selected by jury. 

There are a few plays by women that caught my eye. Here are a few that I intend to check out. Be sure to share your thoughts on these and other plays, by commenting on this post or at www.facebook.com/tmtmradio, or on twitter at @tmtmshow. Let's inspire and engage each other.  www.summerworks.ca



AN EVENING IN JULY
Written and Created by Gwynne Phillips and Briana Templeton; Performed by Gwynne Phillips , Briana Templeton and Thom Stoneman; Stage Managed by Vanessa K. Purdy 

Yes, July has passed, but what intrigues me about this play is I like to mix things up when it comes to my venues, and if I can see something set outside, then I'll give it a try. This performance is set at St. George the Martyr Church on John Street. This sentence drew me in "Inspired by the cult documentary Grey Gardens and Helene de Rothschild’s 1972 Surrealist Ball, An Evening in July gives audience members a chance to attend their surreal fete as guests."  I can't resist a surreal fest, can you? My imagination is running wild, so I hope this is really dark and really funny.


BETTER ANGELS A PARABLE
Written by Andrea Scott; Directed by Nigel Shawn Williams; Performed by Sascha Cole, Peyson Rock, and Akosua Amo-Adem; Stage Managed by Farnoosh Talebpour; Lighting Design by Jennifer Lennon; Sound Design by Verne Good; Costume and Set Design by Laura Gardner; Produced by Call Me Scotty Productions

She looks so darn sad, doesn't she? Yep, this picture really spoke to me, then when I say that the production company was Call Me Scotty, my trekker brain cells said beam me up. (Yes, I know that's not how it's spelled in Star Trek).  This treatment of the nanny/employer dynamics promises an influence of the West African spider god, Anansi. How will magic realism play out in this all too common tale of employee oppression and "modern day slavery"? Stay tuned...


THE EMANCIPATION OF MS. LOVELY
Written and Performed by Ngozi Paul; Directed and Dramaturged by d'bi.young anitafrika; Choreographed and Assistant Directed by Roger C. Jeffrey; Dramaturged by Birgit Schreyer Duarte; Musical Composition and Collaboration by L'Oqenz and Waleed Abdulhamid; Costume Design by Jeannette Linton

I honestly did not select this play because I wanted to contrast slavery (Better Angels) with emancipation. I just wanted to see the amazing Ngozi Paul (da kink in her hair). This play about identity offers a journey into "a musical landscape using movement, sound, dance and projection while reexamining our relationship with ourselves, our sex and the dark matter that binds us all."  I am so there. Plus any play that references Sarah Basrtman, is one that I want to see. Don't know who Sarah is? That's why I want you to see it. 



THE MARQUISE OF O-
adapted and directed by lauren gillis and ted witzel; set concept by camie koo; costumes by amanda wong; sound by christopher stanton; video by wesley mckenzie; production managed by christopher ross and amanda wong; performed by kaleb alexander, rong fu, tyler hagemann, richard partington, g. kyle shields, and eve wylden

Here is a bit of the description: "the marquise of O— is pregnant, but doesn’t know how it happened. was it the immaculate conception or an ordinary sex crime? she puts an ad in the newspaper to find out." Are you kidding me?! Of course, I want to find out how this happened and who the father is. Plus, the set design is by Camie Koo, and she is talented beyond belief, and her Dora Award wins and nominations are no fluke. It's put on by the red light district and this promises to be, let's say, far from normal:-)

All photos courtesy of www.summerworks.ca 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

FringeTO: The Women of Tu-Na House Deserve a Warm Welcome

Even in death, Nancy Eng's beloved cat lives on. Eng conceived The Women of Tu-Na House as a therapeutic medium to cope with the loss of her  pet after their nineteen year relationship. The piece has since evolved from its three actor stage to a solo show that has played to appreciative audiences in the US and now Canada, thanks to the Toronto Fringe Festival.

Exploring the private world of sex and massage trade workers, Tu-Na House focuses on the lives of several women and one man. The stories are varied and fascinating, and Eng plays them all with the individuality and clarity that is demanded of a solo show. With the ring of a bell, a quick costume change and interspersed with recorded poetry that lends further insight into the lives of each character, Eng moves from one persona to the next with ease.

All the characters resonate with me, but a personal favourite is the tea server with Peking Opera roots. His reminiscences about his artistic past made me long to hear more about his experiences, and I'm sure many in the audience have the same thoughts about each of the workers at the massage parlour. sex trade house. In Tu-Na (mispronunciation of "tuina" which means massage in Chinese) House as with every other job, there are moments of boredom and repetition.  As one character shares, everyone gets tired of doing the same thing day after day, and if she looks old it's because she is old, and tired is tired. Another worker pretends to be FOB (Fresh Off the Boat). Even though she was born in the United States and has degrees in academia, she finds pidgin English nets her more clients, and she likes the amount of money that she makes per hour. Sad and hilarious is the tale of the employee who has to serve a client while dealing with the death of her cat. From an audience perspective, crying on the job has never been so funny!

There are occasions where Eng's husky voice is a bit difficult to understand, but her overall presentation of these pan-Asian women and man afford a non-judgemental look at the community that develops among the inhabitants, and at the world of their chosen profession. I feel grateful that The Women of Tu-Na house ends its Fringe run right here in Toronto.

The Women of Tu-Na House
St. Vlads Theatre (just south on Spadina at Harbord)
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/shows/the-women-of-tu-na-house/

Remaining Shows
July 09 at 12:00 PM
July 10 at 12:30 PM  
July 12 at 02:45 PM

For all things Fringe please visit http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/

Monday, 6 July 2015

FringeTO: Twelfe Night or What A Romp...

William Shakespeare's Twelfe Night, or What You Will is one of my favourite plays, so naturally it was on my To See list for this year's Fringe. Then, when director Joshua Stodart revealed on my show that they were presenting the play on a thrust stage, I was sold.

It was a packed house tonight at St. Vlads Theatre, and as the actors tread the boards (literally in this case), there was laughter and applause aplenty. The manipulative triumvirate of Sir Toby Belch (Tim MacLean), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Matt Shaw) and Maria (Andrea Massoud) with the aid of Feste the clown (Jake Vanderham)  generate mirth with their on point line delivery and physical antics as they plot  mischief against the pompous Malvolio (Tal Shulman. The boisterous drunken "riding" scene, for example, induced belly laughs that filled the house.  As for Tal Shulman's Malvolio: priceless. Fooled into thinking
that Lady Olivia (Hilary McCormack) is in love with him, he makes a complete ass of himself by wearing what he has been led to believe she likes: yellow stockings with cross garters! What a fool! And what a talent is Shulman as he plays the lovelorn suitor to the hilt. The letter reading scene is a piece of theatre I won't forget any time soon.

Hilary McCormack has stage presence from head to toe to finger tips. Even if she wasn't playing a lead role, she would be noticed. She just has that command of the stage. Unfortunately for Peyton Lebarr (Viola/Cesario), she is outclassed by McCormack which means that there is just no believing that Olivia would have any attraction for the girl disguised as a man.  Like Lebarr and her characters, Tayves Fiddis is not credible in his role of Orsino. These two young actors demonstrate a noticeable lack of passion and a weakness of diction that reduces major roles to minor significance. They deliver their lines as if the words are hot potatoes burning their tongues, something to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the rest of the cast is so endearingly energetic and engaging that the action moves forward with uproarious success.

One tip I have for director Stoddard, is this: have the actors dress the stage if they find themselves facing someone down stage left. On a couple if key moments, everyone was lined up like soldiers in a diagonal formation which meant my area of the room saw the back of one character and no one else.

Despite the weaknesses I have mentioned, Ale House Theatre's Twelfe Night is a production I highly recommend.

Twelfe Night, Or What You Will
St. Vlads Theatre
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/shows/twelfe-night-or-what-you-will/

Remaining Shows
July 7, 4:30 pm
July 9, 7:00 pm
July 12, 4:30 pm

Sunday, 5 July 2015

FringeTO: Becoming Burlesque is All Strip And No Tease

I was really looking forward to seeing Becoming Burlesque tonight, anticipating a rowdy titillating experience that I would be sharing  with a Fringe Festival audience--theatre goers who are up for anything; sadly, I have to report that the show just did not work.

Right away, upon walking into the Al Green Theatre, I wondered why director, Jackie English had decided to place action in the pit while the stage remained bare. In my seat near the back of the theatre, I was even more at a loss because I couldn't hear the pre-show dialogue that was happening in the pit/dancers' backstage dressing room. It was the equivalent of a cell phone call cutting in and out. As the house lights came down and the spotlight came up on the stage, I felt relieved that backstage was going to be just that--an area where the dancers would go after performing. Well, I was partiality right: they used the stage for the dances, but there was action in the pit as well. My guess from what I could pick up is that the backstage patter was about the dancers' lives and chatter directed at the new helper who will eventually unleash her "inner Burlesque-self." I was further confused by simultaneous backstage and on-stage action. There was a seductive bit of chair dancing happening on stage in the shadows that should have been given the spotlight over what was happening backstage--what a loss!

Writing off the backstage, I decide to concentrate on the dancing. The opening number with the girls in fringe dresses is fun--you can never go wrong with fringe--and the music is infectious and pumping. As the show progresses, I forgive the stage lighting which doesn't hit everything it needs to because that's just part of being in a festival where multiple shows have to share the same stage, and I look forward to seeing what each girl will do. Bobbing breasts with pasties, feathers, veils and gyrations keep my interest for a while, and the new girl trying to walk in heels and adjust to the brevity of her costume is amusing, but after a while, I realize that there is no tease happening, just strip.  There was no build up to a grand conclusion from either the storyline or the dancing. Choreographer, Pastel  Supernova, is an amazing dancer but the show itself doesn't reflect her ability to tantalize. Too much is revealed too early in the show--dances that should have been longer are truncated for dialogue, and there is no "wow" moment.

Want a real peep? Check out Pastel Supernova's enticing dance to  I Belong to You on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/28681753 and her main website http://www.pastelsupernova.com/welcome.html

Becoming Burlesque
Al Green Theatre (corner of Bloor and Spalding, inside The Miles Nadal JCC)
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/shows/becoming-burlesque/

Remaining Shows
July 6, 3:15 pm
July 8, 11:00 pm
July 11, 9:45bpm
July 12, 4:00 pm

For all thing Fringe visit http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/

Saturday, 4 July 2015

FringeTO: Waiting For Alonzo

As the title suggest, Waiting For Alonzo references Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, the mid-Twentieth Century absurdist play in which two characters endlessly anticipate the arrival of a third party.

Starring Victoria Urquhart as Doctor Zanita,  Hayley Malouin as Bielke and Kevin Chew as Andre, Waiting For Alonzo is set in a future where pollution and climate change has destroyed planet Earth and all that appears to be left of the home world are these three characters drifting through space: two human women, a scientist whose lust to create perfection has lead her to regenerate her body parts to the point where they barely function; her desperately lonely sycophantic assistant, and a sexy humanoid mainframe who runs the spacecraft.


Victoria Urquhart demonstrates an adeptness at physical comedy in the stilted movements of her character's vain attempts to defy age and gravity. Her robotic antics are displayed at their humorous best when, without the aid of Bielke, she has to manoeuvre her way around the ship with the help of a chair on casters. Hayley Malouin delivers her fatalistic asides with heartbreaking comic deftness and Kevin Chew gives new meaning to the word straight man, as he remains standing  immobile for the majority of the play.

While I appreciated the cast of Waiting For Alonzo, the pacing of this comic tragedy is frustratingly uneven. Absurdist plays demand a syncopated rhythm to match its dialogue, but in this offering, there are too many instances where the tempo is flat. I laughed on occasion, but I left the theatre feeling a bit disappointed.

Waiting for Alonzo
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/shows/waiting-for-alonzo/

Remaining Shows
July 5, 1:45pm
July 6, 3:00 pm
July 9, 4:00 pm
July 10, 7:30 pm
July 11, 5:45 pm

For all things FRINGE visit: http://fringetoronto.com/


Thursday, 2 July 2015

FringeTO: My Thoughts on "A Nurse's Worst Nightmare"

I kicked off the Toronto Fringe Festival with Zabrina Chevannes's "A Nurse's Worst Nightmare." The comedian and nurse, who hosts and produces a regular show, "Things Black Girls Say" at the Comedy Bar, took an intimate audience at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace through the trials and tribulations of her life. The best part of the show is her imitation of her Jamaican father. "You called the wrong Black man!" is his response to a paying $30, 000 to get his son released from a Mexican jail. As a comedian, Chevannes shares with us the fact that she can't help but put these things in her show because while they are negative, they are just so bizarre that her comedian brain automatically saves them for her stand-up routine. This stance on sharing even includes such elements as the heartbreak of dealing with a husband whose mental illness changed the dynamics of their marriage to racist elderly patients who "don't like" people like her. While the flow of the material could be smoothed out for easier transitions, "A Nurse's Worst Nightmare" is a unique stand-up show that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

My Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

Show: A Nurse's Worst Nightmare
Venue: Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace,
16 Ryerson Avenue (north of Queen, 1 block east of Bathurst)

Upcoming Performances:
July 03 at 03:00 PM  
July 05 at 02:45 PM
July 06 at 09:15 PM
July 07 at 05:00 PM  
July 09 at 02:45 PM  
July 10 at 10:30 PM  
July 11 at 06:15 PM  
Show length: 55min.
Genre(s): Comedy, Storytelling

This performance is not accessible for non-English speakers

For all things Fringe Toronto please visit: 
http://fringetoronto.com/fringe-festival/