Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Harder They Come

Mirvish Productions has brought the London production of THE HARDER THEY COME to Toronto. Like the classic 1970's Jimmy Cliff gangster film, the musical is based on the life of Ivanhoe "Rhygin" Martin and is written by the late Perry Henzell. You can rent the film and buy the soundtrack, but only the play will make you want to step back into 1970's Jamaica. The play's charismatic cast and on-stage musicians performing classic reggae makes you want jump into the hard, sweet life of Ivan (Roland Bell), his girlfriend, Elsa (Joanna Francis) and friends Pedro (Lain Gray) and Pinky (Susan Lawson-Reynolds). A sure bet not just for reggae fans but for people who like to have a good time. Once you see it you'll want to go back for more. I plan on seeing it again with LOTS of friends.

Info: The play runs until August 23rd at the Canon Theatre. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Hmm...Why Don't I Go to Comedy Clubs?

I love watching comedies, but I never consider going to comedy clubs the same way I think about going to the movies. I watch comedy sketches on television all the time, and when I happen to come across them on television I always tune in. I especially enjoy hearing the comedians featured on the Just For Laughs (JFL) programs. Seeing Toronto comedian Zabrina Chevannes perform last year, and recently seeing Scottish comedian, Danny Bhoy at Toronto JFL made me question why I don't often venture into this realm of the arts.

Maybe I don't consider it part of the arts? I've had Zabrina on my arts focussed radio show, and, lately, Rob Salerno and Debra Di Giovanni.

Do I consider comedy a "lesser" art form? I have a high level of appreciation for the skills involved in joke writing.

I'll go see a play in pokiest of places that barely qualify as a "theatre", so why then do I not include comedy in my entertainment routine?

I've had a few days since Danny Bhoy's well-timed comic annecdotes at Toronto Just For Laughs made me ponder these questions. The best answer I can come up with is that I just don't think about actively changing my entertainment habits. Professor Tim Conley (Brock U) has been a guest on my show a couple of times and he has helped me break my habit of "reaching for the same potato chip", reaching for the known comfort of the novel (aka Mrs. Vickie's original) instead of a book of poems (Organic rice crisps).

So, while I have managed to expand my literary menu (thanks to Professor Tim) it took an very funny evening at JFL to remind me that I have even more options to enjoy. So, comedy clubs, here I come!

For more information on Just For Laughs visit
The Toronto festival runs until July 19th.

Photo of Danny Bhoy courtesy of

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Images of AFROFEST 2009: Sunday, July 12th

Fojeba and a solo dancer with the group

Menwar (Mauritius) with Madagascar Slim sitting in with the group

Khmer Yousef (Ethiopia/Oromo); Achilla Orru performs with African and European sounds

Sunday's headliner, Malian singer, Oumou Sangaré "the songbird of Wassoulou" and her highly talented band and dancers.

CIUT's David Dacks (Abstract Index) meets the man whose music has has played for his audience, Ghanaian sensation, Samini

Many people forget that Afrofest has things a zone in the park for children. Why not bring the kids along next year to the participate in arts & crafts, facepainting and stiltworkshops?

Children's Village Coordinator, Audrey Hudson

Seasoned stiltwalker, Keianna pauses in a walk around the Children's Village to pose with her mother, Denise. Keianna learned to walk on stilts last year. (at right) Christopher Pinheiro focuses on the art of facepainting

Monday, 13 July 2009

Images of Music Africa's AFROFEST 2009-Saturday July 11th

Lorraine Klaasen performs at Afrofest

Idy Oulou (Cameroon) and Saturday's headliner, Fayila Boendi (Congo) perform respective sets

Valu David (Angola) rocked Queen's Park with his band with amazing guitar and congo sounds; Kwesie Selassie (Ghana) brought reggae to the people

Madagascar Slim performs with dance group, Kitana Gasy who performed several traditional dances from Madagascar.

A contingent from Borden, Ontario follwed our broadcast to Queen's Park to see and hear Afrofest live!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Caribbean Tales Film Festival Launch

The Caribbean diaspora is well represented at the launch of the 4 Annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival: (left to right) International Festival Programmer June Givanni (England), ground-breaking Director, Euzhan Palcy (Martinique) and Cultural Officer, National Cultural Foundation, Annette Nias (Barbados).

The launch of the 4th Annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival got off to a good start tonight. Invited guests were treated to a repast of Caribbean foods with a background of music and conversation in English of all flavours and a smattering of French. Following the reception at New College's Grad Student's pub guests attended a screening of 2 short films and a feature documentary:

1. "Where do White People Go When the Long Weekend Comes? The Wonderous Journey of Delroy Kincaid" by Powys Dewhurst is an 7 minute film that mixes the live action and animation to answer the film's title question silently posed by a Black young boy. I related to this film very well. As a young girl immigrating to Canada from Jamaica, I too, used to wonder what "cottages" were and why white Canadians had two homes, one of which they only visited a few times a year.

2. I interviewed director, Akin Omotoso a few years ago when his short film Gathering the Scattered Cousins played at the Toronto International Film Festival. Akin wasn't present for this screening but it was great to share the experience of his film with a new audience. As the son of an Nigerian man and Barbadian woman, Akin had always wanted to learn more about his Caribbean relatives. His mother's death is the impetous for him to take a vogage of discovery to Barbados, where family secrets are revealed.

3. Most people around the world know Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die or as for his Uncola 7-Up commercials, but he was also an award-winning choreographer, director, dancer and artist. The documentary, Carmen and Geoffrey took us into the personal world of Holder and his wife, the extraordinary dancer, Carmen de LaVallade. It was a pleasure hearing their individual stories as well as stories of them as a couple.

The Caribbean Tales Film Festival runs until July 12th. For more information please visit

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Toronto Fringe Festival 2009: Two Worth Seeing

Two performances worth seeing at this year's Fringe are Fucking Stephen Harper and interrogation. Vastly different in tone, both plays will take you to unexpected places. Rob Salerno's one-man performance is the gay journalist's tale of the trials and tribulations he experienced while trying to get an interview with our nation's Prime Minister. Why is it called Fucking Stephen Harper? You'll have to see the comic piece to find out, but the play is aptly named. I can tell you that you will get a civics lesson that inspires thought and laughter.

On the other hand, "interrogation" is a tense psychological drama that evokes little laughter, while keeping us involved in the murky world of the real and the imagined. Writer and lead actor, Ben Noble is at his best in this demanding role.

Visit www.fringetoronto.comfor more information.

Photos by donna g

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Fringe Festival 09: It's Was a Very Good Day

Had a fantastic day today at the Fringe. Spent my day on the U of T campus and saw three plays. Met first-time volunteer Vincent (left) on his first Fringe shift ever at the Robert Gill Theatre after seeing my second play of the day, Donny's Day. Vincent is a high school drama student, who decided to volunteer for the Fringe after attending the festival last year with his dad. (The Fringe has shifts for high school students that counts towards the school board's mandatory Community Involvement hours.) Vincent and I had a great conversation about what he saw last year and what he hopes to see this year at the Fringe. One of the perks of volunteering is that, if circumstances are right, you have a good chance of seeing a show at your venue.

After my show ended, I walked down to the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse to see the one-woman show, Grandpa Sol and Grandma Rosie, starring Australian actress, Lana Schwarcz. Nurse Jackie (Schwarcz) is confronting her fears about aging by working in a home for the aged. Of course, she learns a lesson, but what I enjoyed about this play is the numerous characters that we meet in the home, and the use of puppets as a supporting cast of Jewish seniors. Actress/puppeteer, Schwarcz introduced me some delightful elders, a few of whom share stories of their pasts. My favourite was the flirty gentleman who liked to dance. The Bingo session is not to be missed, so I won't give anything away here.

After Grandpa Sol, I walked down St. George Street to the Robert Gill Theatre to see Donny's Day, "a comedy about a guy named Eddie". The play an hilarious comedy that I recommend, even though I found the dialogue in the last 15 minutes of the show to be weak. What comes before though, is a very funny tale of Eddie (Timothy Walker) an alcoholic (1 year sober) who is having a very, very, very bad day. Despite his flaws, Eddie is a fun guy, if commitment shy. (Shh...I think actor, Timothy Walker has great calves.) Other characters in the play include Eddie's girlfriend, his shrink (strongly paid by John Illingworth), his sponsor, and an acquaintance/friend. Shout out to "Sandwich Board Guy", Ryan Giesen.

After Donny's Day I ran into Allison Elizabeth Burns, Joannie Pharand, and Vanessa Kneale. They were handing out promo material for their show, Dancing In My Unbirthday Suit, which was the next show at the Robert Gill. The trio live in Montreal and are studying dance at Concordia. I decided to stay for the show since I hadn't yet seen any dance performances. After meeting the young women, I was sincerely hoping they wouldn't be "cutsie". I loathe cutsie, and their costumes, thought pretty did make me wonder what I was in for. At them most, I hoped they would make me happy. Well, they did make me happy, and I'm glad I stayed. Dancing is more of a performance piece rather than straight out dance. The comical theatrics is silly and inventive in its use of props and sound. I laughed my head off. One of my favourite vignettes is the "un-striptease". I've never seen pasties like that before:-0 The performance runs 35 minutes rather than the listed 45 minutes, but this might work in your favour if you are trying to fit other plays into your Fringe schedule.

After seeing Dancing In My Unbirthday Suit, I ran into choreographer, Kate Nankirvis(second from left) and the dancers of twentysomethings (they had just seen "Dancing"). Kate did a 5 minute phone interview with me last Saturday, and we had never met, but as with many festivals in Toronto, it's easy to strike up a conversation with attendees.

For information about the Fringe Festival, please visit or call 416-966-1062 The festival runs until July 12th, and most tickets can be purchased at the door for $10.

Friday, 3 July 2009

CONGRATULATIONS! Ken Stowar Celebrates 20 Years of Global Rhythms on CIUT 89.5 FM

Ken Stowar celebrates his milestone radio anniversary at the Lula Lounge

Family, friends and fans turned up at the Lula Lounge on Thursday, July 2nd to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Ken Stowar's show, Global Rhythms. The radio show, which airs Sundays from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm on CIUT 89.5 FM was one of the few that programmed international music in the late '80s. I don't think the term "world music", however vague that phrase is, was even in existence at the time. The music industry didn't know what to call music from Africa, Cuba, Jamaica, Hungary etc and Toronto record stores (remember vinyl was still in) didn't really carry much of it. We are, after all, taking about 1989 when the Top 40 included hits by Belinda Carlisle, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Rick Astley.

Thank you Ken for bringing us Afro-beat, Zydeco, Hungarian throat singing, and numerouis other forms of music from the around the globe. Thanks also for hosting emerging artists on your show. I have learned much from you over the years, "Mr. Global Rhythms".

Photos by donna g: (left) Los Caballeros del Son, Babalao Stereo Club, Hosts, Lise Watson & Andy Frank (right) Femi of Femi Abosede & Culture Force

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Fringe Festival '09: Frances-Anne Solomon's LOCKDOWN

The Cast of "Lockdown" playing at this year's Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival.

by Frances-Anne Solomon
presented by Leda Serene films from Toronto, ON

Frances-Anne Solomon’s new play Lockdown, takes us into the new world of some inner city Canadian high schools.  Post "lockdown", how will students behave under a new set of rules and the constant presence of armed police officers in their hallways and classrooms? Schools used to be a safe haven for students, but how will some of them now function when they are exposed to violence in their homes, community and, now, school?  We peer into the lives of several young people, moving with them from classroom to living room as answers are revealed. As adults, our own culpability is also in question as we watch this play unfold. Please bring some young people with you to see this play. The young cast is incredibly natural, and legendary Jamaican actress Leonie Forbes is at her usual best. Tickets are $10 each.

Director: Frances-Anne Solomon
Cast: Leonie Forbes, Michael Miller
Audience: General Audience
90 min

Venue 10: George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place (south of Bloor)
Thu, July 2 8:15 PM
Fri, July 3 1:15 PM
Mon, July 6 10:45 PM
Tue, July 7 1:00 PM
Fri, July 10 4:00 PM
Sun, July 12 8:30 PM

Fringe Festival Volunteers, Sally & Marco

For more information about the festival, please visit or call 416-966-1062

A Sweet Liar: Theatre Francais de Toronto's Le Menteur/The Liar

The tag line is  "Don't believe a word he says" , but you can believe me, Le Menteur/The Liar is a fun way to spend a night at...