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.

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