Monday, 30 November 2009

November Wrap

DJENNIE LAGUERRE in a scene from her one-women play, Rendez-vous Lakay. Théâtre français de Toronto. Dec. 2nd - 12th. Berkeley Street Theatre. 5 English surtiled performances.

I hope that November was as glorious for you as it was for me. Along with the record-breaking weather we had here in Toronto (first time ever with no snow), there seemed to be an abundance of things to do in this city.

The arts were blooming this month and I am glad that I was able to continue bringing you arts via the airwaves thanks to people like Golan who made a donation to TmTm and became a member of CIUT 89.5 FM. I had a chance to meet this brand new TmTm listener at our main studio in the Map Room at Hart House when he came to pick up the exclusive show prize package that he won by donating to my show (I did a TmTm Member's Only draw).

Golan is representative of many listeners who are interested in the arts but not sure where to start. The exciting thing I learned about him is that he is willing to try new things. I plan to have Golan on the show to share the experiences he will have attending the many plays in his winner's package. Golan is also hoping that he will be the grand prize winner of this e-bike, but that draw isn't until December 21st. Good luck to Golan and everyone who became a member during CIUT'S Fall Friends of 89.5 Campaign.

I attending the Opening Night of The Toxic Avenger Musical (on Halloween, of course), and it was everything that I expected: subversively funny, musically delightful, and and entertaining! Based on the cult movie of the same name, this musical is about a nerd who is transformed into a toxic superhero after being dumped in some very noxious New Jersey waste, but don't despair folks, because Toxie beats the bad guys (including a conniving mayor played by Louise Pitre) and wins the heart of his blind, librarian/authoress girlfriend.

I hope you had a chance to hear my chat with Jamie McKnight (White Dude) and Darren A. Herbert (Black Dude). As I mentioned during that broadcast, I couldn't really call it an interview since these to guys are so good at riffing off each other. The two have great chemistry despite the fact that they had never worked together previously (Jamie hails from Scarborough and Darren lives in Vancouver). As Black Dude and White Dude they play over 25 characters between them (there's only 5 cast members and close to 30 characters), making up the bulk of the New Jersey populace fleshing out this bizarre story. The Toxic Avenger Musical runs until January (hopefully longer so these guys have more of a chance to show off their talents) at the Danforth Music Hall.

Unlke Avenger, a few plays I manged to see had very limited run. Yellowman starring the extra-ordinary Ordena and a new face on the stage for me, Dean Marshall. This play by Dael Orlandersmith probes the issue of "shadism" as it relates in particular to the Gullah community of South Carolina; the theme however is a universal one to which many cultures can relate.

Don't miss the opportunity to see 3 one-act French plays at the Théâtre français de Toronto (TFT). Don't speak French? No need to worry. TFT has surtitled performances in English! Yep, so no excuses to stay home. Get out of the house and go see 3 plays in one evening: two fabulous plays by Martin-David Peters and a Haitian family-themed play by Djennie Laguerre. Peters' play The Servant (Le Domestique) is a about the servant-mistress dymanics while the provactively titled Black People are Happy (Les Noirs son heureux) will have you laughing as one couple's temperament is explored. Having first seen the English version of Rendez-vous with Home at Summerworks, I am looking forward to see the French and Creole version the play featuring writer/actress, Djennie Laguerre. Laguerre plays the role of two sisters on their way back home to Haiti for the funeral of the father they did not know. One sister sees this as a vacation while the other wonders about the relatives she barely remembers. This diverse francophone trio runs Dec. 2 - Dec. 12th. Surtiled performance dates are Dec. 3, 4, 9, and 12th so buy your tickets NOW! 416-534-6604

Photo Credit: all photos by donna g; TFT poster courtesy of Théâtre français de Toronto

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Adam Seelig's TALKING MASKS Opens in Toronto

(R-L) Actors Jane Miller & Cathy Murphy; n/a; Dimitris Azemopoulos, the Consul General of Greece in Toronto; actor Richard Harte; playwright/director, Adam Seelig; Anna Shepelevich of the Greek Consulate; Efstratia Karagrigoriou, Greek Consulate Cultural & Educational Affairs Officer.

Playwright/director, Adam Seelig's brand new work opened to a packed house at the Walmer Centre Theatre on Friday, Nov. 13th. Talking Masks (Oedipussy)--yep, you read those parenthetical words correctly-is Sophocles' Oedipus Rex meets the story of Isaac and Ishmael as birthed by Seelig, founder of "North America's only theatre company devoted to modern and contemporary poetic theatre", One Little Goat. Confused? That's to be expected with Seelig's work. I've been a fan since seeing his 2007 work, Antigone:Insurgency, a play that blends the ancient world with a post-9/11 world (that play also starred Richard Harte). I followed up that thought-provoking experience with Seelig's translation of the Jon Fosse's Noweigan play, Someone is Going to Come in 2008.

Seelig continues to throw a lot at his audience with this play about abandoned children: a boy tied to a tree (Richard Harte), two mothers (or is there only 1 mother voiced by actresses Cathy Murphy and Jane Smith?), a father figure (Andrew Moodie) on a wooden horse named Master Thespian, projected words on the back wall, and a stage setting that makes the audience feel as if they are at a slow game at Wimbledon whenever the dialogue is sometimes tossed back and forth. All the actors are mic'd for the performance, turning the voice(s) of the mother(s) into a chorus at times. Kudos to Dora-nominated set designer, Jacke Chau for her fourth collaboration with Seelig. Chau's previous work with Seelig include Ritter Dene Voss, Antigone:Insurgence (Dora nomination), and Someone is Going to Come.

Like Seelig's other works, you bring your own bias to these plays so there is always interesting discussions/debates to be had after viewing as each person defends their own perspective. "What did this mean?/What did that mean?" I enjoyed Talking Mask, but I think there is a little too much superfluous modernity tossed into the mix, but this is a minor criticism of this riveting piece. After all, I howled when actresses Murphy and Miller break the fourth wall to introduce themselves to the audience: "Hi, I"m Cathy" and "I'm Jane (from Woodbridge)". The humour is subtle and personal, meaning not everyone laughs at the same time in the play; it depends on what resonates with you, and that's what I love about Seelig's work. I learn something about myself from the world he invites me into. He also has an amazing talent at casting, with all four actors in this piece delivering a stellar job.

Talking Masks (Nov. 13-28)
Walmer Centre Theatre
188 Lowther Avenue(Spadina Subway)
Tickets: $20/12 Students, seniors, artists
Tuesdays Pay-What-You-Can

Photo Credit:
Group shot, Adam Seelig, Richard Harte and Andrew Moodie by donna g
Stage shots (3) by photograper, Sai Sivanesan

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival:...and the Award Goes To

I am very happy to announce that guests* of TmTm won awards at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival (RA). I had a chance to talk to directors, Mio Adilman (UNLOCKED) and Paramita Nath (FOUND) when their respective films made their debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September. I was pleased for both of these filmmakers when their films were accepted at RA because this a win-win situation: further exposure for Canadian talent and another chance for the public to see their films.

I had another opportunity to discuss FOUND when poet Souvankham Thammavongsa (whose work and life are the subject of FOUND) visited CIUT's new Hart House studio in October. Joining her on that show was FISH IN BARREL director, Randall Okita (see post) . Both of these shorts screened as part of RA's SENSE OF WONDERS programme along with another award winner from that programme, REX VS. SING directed by Richard Fung, John Greyson, and Ali Kazimi.

Congratulations to ALL the filmmakers whose work screened at RA this year. Being selected for inclusion in a film festival as well-known as RA is not an easy feat.

So You Think You Can Pitch? Emerging: Sonia Hong, Olga Barsky and Claire Lowery for A DRAGGED OUT AFFAIR

So You Think You Can Pitch? Professional: Jonathan Ng for REQUIEM FOR ROMANCE

*TSV Visionary Video Award: Paramita Nath for FOUND

*Centennial College @ Wallace Studios Most Innovative Film Production Award: Randall Okita for FISH IN BARREL

*LIFT and Fuji Best Film Award: Mio Adilman for UNLOCKED

Animasian Award: Lesley Loksi Chan and Serena Lee for LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

NFB Best Canadian Film or Video Award: Richard Fung, John Greyson and Ali Kazimi, for REX VS SINGH

Kim Orr Barristers P.C. Best Narrative Feature Film or Video Award: Uruphong Raksasad for AGRARIAN UTOPIA (with an honourable mention to Fish Story)

Photo by donna g (L-R) Randall Okita, Bobby Del Rio (star of UNLOCKED) and Mio Adilman

Award Winners list courtesy of

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Saturday Night at the Movies

Now in its thirteenth year, the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival (RA) has come a long way in terms of the diversity of films it is able to offer the Toronto public. Whether its better programming selection or the mix of films that are being made by Pan-Asian filmmakers (or maybe a combination of both), Saturday's films range in moods and genres that could have you spending your afternoon and evening at Innis Town Hall.

AGRARIAN UTOPIA Thai director, Uruphong Raksasad's film about rural farmers tilling the soil in the shadows of multi-nationals and the big money behind modern-day food production, is bound to illuminate even as it creates a pang in our urban hearts about our own dis-involvement with the food that we consume. The beautiful still from the film promises to take us on a visual and emotional journey. Screens at 2:00 PM

WHITE ON RICEThis was my first time seeing a Japanese-American movie where both English and Japanese are spoken. Usually, such films are in English with the odd Japanese word thrown in. This film is about the family loser; you know, the one who can never seem get things right, but who won't take advice from anyone in the family. Well, this family loser is Jimmy (Hiroshi Watanabe), who lives with his sister Aiko (Nae), her husband Tak (Mio Takada) and their son Bob. I'm with the brother-in-law in this film in that I can't stand Jimmy BUT unlike the brother-in-law, who would gladly kill Jimmy, I find myself laughing at his antics. He shares a room with a 10 year-old, loves childish things and is determined to win the heart of a girl (Lynn Chen from Saving Face) who has no interest in him what-so-ever. Teaming with this Japanese comedy (shot in Salt Lake, Utah) is Canadian Mio Adilman's comedic short UNLOCKED about a stolen bike, a young man in recovery (Bobby Del Rio) and his mother (Jean Yoon) who fears her son is doomed to be "an alcoholic bicycle thief". Screens at 5:00 PM

YANG YANGThis story about a biracial young woman (Yang Yang is French/Taiwanese) is a curious choice to screen at 7:30 pm on a Saturday. I would have switched its screening time with WHITE ON RICE, since this film's focus is more youthful and WHITE ON RICE has a broader appeal. There are many Eurasian youth in Toronto who will identify with Yang Yang (Sandrine Pinna), who is a beautiful combination of her parents, but who is exoticized despite her own self-identification as Taiwanese (she doesn't speak French and does not know her father). The romantic complications in the movie (she reluctantly falls into competition with her step-sister over a boy) will appeal more to young women than men, but the issue of identity may be enough to draw them in some young men as well. Screens at 7:30 PM

FISH STORYNot only does Punk live, it rocks in this quirky blend of disaster/action/punk. It's 2012 and the world is going to be destroyed by a giant comet (aren't they always "giant"?). Who comes to the rescue? You'll have to watch this hilarious film to find out. I loved this popcorn movie. Preceding the Japanese, FISH STORY, is a short by Winnipeg director, Leslie Supnet's THE ANIMATED HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT. What a combo, eh? Screens at 10:00 PM

Info: or try getting same day tickets at the door. Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Avenue (South of Bloor, off St. George)

Photos some source material courtesy of RA

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Friday Night Special

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival(RA) had strong showings Friday night with it's short film programme SENSE OF WONDERS, which features some of Canada's best Asian Canadian shorts, including a twisted historical musical piece from powerhouses, Richard Fung, John Greyson, and called REX VS. SINGH.

Istvan Kantor is not exactly a name you automatically think of with a festival like Reel Asian, but his short film, WHITE BOY FROM THE EAST is an auto-biographical treatise on his theory that Hungarians had Asian roots. And speaking of roots, RA's Centrepiece Presentation RED HEROINE was a one-night only opportunity to see this rare Chinese Kung Fu film. The 1929 silent film is the only surviving episode in a thirteen part series. Devil Music Ensemble provided live music to boost the original folk music score.

WHEN THE FULL MOON RISES made it's Canadian premiere on Friday. The Malaysian film is a smorgasbord of genres, starting out with noir and, as programmer Todd Brown says, adding "everything including the kitchen sink". And he is so right. This film defies explanation but has made me curious enough to see if I can hunt down more of this style of film at one of Toronto's better video stores. I love weird.

Photos courtesy of RA

Monday, 9 November 2009

Community Donors Keep TmTm on the Air!

Thanks to everyone who called in/pledged on line on during TmTm's fundraising show on Saturday, Nov.7th. I was very lucky to have my usual team of on-site supporters to answer the phones and help me pitch on air. (L-R) Blogger Heidy M., Film Market Access founder, Kirk Cooper, and entertainer/activist, Sistah Lois.

Joining my favourite fundraising triumverate (below) were Ron Burd, CIUT Music Director and one of his assistants, Ming.

(L-R)The African Woman and Family's (12noon - 1:00PM Mesfin at the control board; Sistah meets up with CKLN's Virlia and pitches in to support AFW.

CONGRATULATIONS! to Golan, who became a member of CIUT and won the TmTm Membership Prize pack and is in the running with all new members to win one of several CIUT grand prizes.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

What's In The Bag? What You Could Win by Pledging $25 or More to The More the Merrier

Hello, arts lovers. Here's what's in the TmTm show prize pack (so far). One lucky member (pledge of $25 or more) will win ALL of these prizes. That person could be YOU. Good luck, and thanks for donating to The More the Merrier. (See details at right on how to pledge.)

First Weekend Club (Canada Screens Series)Tickets to Prom Night in Mississippi screening on Tues. Nov. 10th, 6pm. Drake Hotel Underground. Complimentary pre-screening drink + Talkback with filmmakers after the screening.

MEMBERSHIP DRAW! ONE lucky member (donations of $25 or more) will get ALL this!

Cinematheque Ontario
Wild River starring Lee Remick and Montgomery Clift, Nov. 21 7pm AND The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starring Clint Eastwood, Sun. Dec. 6th

Hart House Theatre Opening night performance to 2 plays:
A Midsummer Night's Dream Nov. 20th AND High Fidelity: January 15, 2010

Mirvish Productions
My Lesbian Mother's Jewish Wiccan Wedding Nov. 24th

Musicians in Ordinary
Violin Music of the 17th Century: Nov. 28th

Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People
The Princess and the Handmaiden Saturday, December 5 at 2PM.

Theatre Francais de Toronto
Le Domestique & Les Noirs sont heureux (Black People Are Happy) by Martin-David Peters &Rendez-vous Lakay (Rendez-vous with Home) by Djennie Laguerre Thursday, December 3. 8PM English surtitles.

Dancap Productions, Inc. has donated this sweet treat to the prize pack: The Toxic Avenger CD, Toxic Waste (seriously sour candy!) and a cushy "toxic" pen.

Angolan-born, Toronto singer/guitarist, Valu David has donated his self-titled debut CD to the cause. I love supporting Canadian talent.

Shout Outs!
Thanks to all the above organizations for their respective contribution to the TmTm show prize package.

I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...