Friday, 13 November 2015

Precisely Peter Production of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads Dark And Hilarious

Thank you John Shooter for leaving England and coming to Canada, or to be more precise Toronto. Because of your desire to create theatre in your new city, I have been delighted to attend plays by Mike Leigh (Abigail's Party) and Alan Bennett (Talking Heads).

Shooter is back with Talking Heads 2 and as the program notes state: "Step into the lives of six ordinary people, each concealing a far from ordinary secret!"

The 6 monologues have been divided into Part A and Part B. If you are able, I recommend  you see both parts.  At $25 per evening, $50 is all you will pay to see very talented Canadian and English actors performing the brilliantly witty, darkly-edged dialogue of Britain's preeminent author, playwright, and actor Alan Bennett (The Uncommon Reader, The History Boys, The Madness of King George).

I saw Part A last year, and recently took in Part B. The major contrast between the two parts is the difference in tone. The monologues in Part A are more dramatic, although, Bennett never lets the scenes get too heavy, using the catharsis of humour to direct us through each piece; the segments in Part B are more overtly humourous, but at their core, they are no less emblematic of life's challenges than his monologues in Part A.

Bennett's characters are everyday, relatable  people, and these monologues directed by John Shooter are expertly delivered by an outstanding cast. The scenes are presented in various rooms of Toronto's historic Campbell House, which gives each performance an intimate, voyeuristic feel, whether the character's experiences take place in a home, park, antique shop or church. Shooter's blocking moves the characters in such a way that the audience cannot escape the connection by proximity nor Bennett's quotidian soliloquises so perfectly rendered by each actor .

The Outside Dog in which Marjory, wonderfully captured by Naomi Wright shares her anxiety about a serial killer. Playing Sandwiches in which Jason Gray infuses his handyman character of Wilfred with both pathos and repulsion. A Lady of Letters in which Alex Dallas convincingly brings to life Irene, the neighbourhood busybody, who thinks her poisoned letters are for the good of society.

Remaining Performances
Evenings, 18, 20, 21
Door opens 7:30 pm; show begins 8 pm

Matinees, November 14
Door opens 2:30 pm; show begins 3 pm

The Hand of God in which Deb Filler artfully presents her antique shop owner character of Celia as a woman who is completely oblivious to her own middle class snobbery and greed. Shakespearean actor, Richard Willis deftly brings the right touch of empathetic neuroses to Mama's boy Graham in A Chip in the Sugar. Fiona Reid's matter-of-fact delivery is heartbreakingly humorous in Bed Among the Lentils in which Susan, a vicar's wife, struggles with her Godlike husband and her increasing lack of faith in Him and him.

Remaining Performances
Evenings, November 13, 14, 17, 19
Door opens 7:30 pm; show begins 8 pm

Matinees, November 21, 22
Door opens 2:30 pm; show begins 3 pm

Tickets: $25 (general admission)
Precisely Peter Production
Directed by John Shooter
Sound design by Evan Jerred
Set and costume designs by Rachel Forbes
Lighting design by Siobhan Sleath
Stage management by Laura Lakatosh
Production management by Christopher Douglas

Campbell House Museum*
160 Queen St. West, Toronto

* Please note that there will be no late admittance. Campbell House is not wheelchair accessible, patrons will be required to climb stairs.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Writer Spotlight: Julia Hart on her script for The Keeping Room

photo courtesy of Films We Like
I missed "The Keeping Room" when it was an official selection of The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, so was happy that the film was recently released and is presently screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The film tells the story of three women (two white sisters and their black slave) defending themselves against rogue soldiers at the tale end of the American Civil War. I love westerns and was intrigued by the female perspective of this film, especially since it brought back memories of my university days writing papers about women in the US south during this time period. When the opportunity arose for a quick interview with screenwriter, Julia Hart, how could I resist?

donna g:  Could you please tell me more about your script being selected for the Black List in 2012? This is not an area that the average film-goer is familiar with.

JULIA HART: A bunch of people in our industry - executives, producers etc... are asked to vote for their favourite unproduced screenplays each year and the scripts with the most votes end up on the Blacklist. The Blacklist is a wonderful organization and warm and inviting community of which I am truly honored to be a part. All the writers are just very supportive of each other's work and films and Franklin Leonard and Scott Myers are just the best.

Julia Hart at TIFF '14
donna g: "The Keeping Room" premiered at TIFF '14. That's an awfully quick turnaround from screenplay to film festival screen. You must have felt as if you were caught up in a whirlwind!

Julia H: I definitely did. I was teaching high school English when I wrote the script. I wrote it over my summer break and then it started going out to agents in October of that year and by June we had a director and a cast and I had quit my job. And now I'm writing full time, I directed my first feature and I have a baby. It's been quite a trip! 

donna g: Female-centred scripts with women as heroines are rare enough, but you've written one that's as rare as hen's teeth. Audiences are used to Scarlett O'Hara's Georgia, not your version that features two starving white women and their slave staving off "bummers". What triggered the writing of the script?

Brit Marling (forefront),
Muna Otaru, Hailee Steinfield (rear)
photo courtesy of Films We Like
Julia H: I was sick of exactly what you say -- I wanted to see real women instead of damsels in distress and I think we're starting to see that other people want that too. There's definitely a shift happening in terms of the types of films that are getting made and the way that women are portrayed on screen and I'm just excited to be a part of it. 

donna g: In the film there is a line "we're all niggers now" . Given our era of political correctness, did you ever consider revising that line or were you ever pressured to rethink the line?

Julia H: I think political correctness is an enemy to art. I think we have to ask ourselves is the character racist or is the artist? And if it's the character then it is an artistic depiction of a type of person from a certain place at a certain time. I think it's important to show racism and sexism in our art in order to expose it. That line is Augusta just completely misunderstanding her place in the world and the circumstances under which she's in. She thinks that her life is like Mad's life now, but it's not in the least and she learns that by the end of the film.

photo courtesy of Films We Like
donna g: These three women have had to redefine the social structure they were all raised with. Your script does an excellent job of showing us this new social order. One of the scenes that brings this home for me is the one in which Augusta, a white woman and Mad, her slave, share a drink and talk as equals. Was this part of your original screenplay or was it added during the film stage?

Julia H: That scene was in the very first draft of the script. I was actually inspired to write the film while sitting in a keeping room on a farm in Georgia drinking moonshine with some friends so that scene was one of the first scenes I found when I started writing the script. It was actually cut down quite a bit by the director -- there was a lot more of that scene that we shot that I love and miss when I watch the film. That scene is in many ways the heart of what I was trying to say about these women and I'm so glad it spoke to you.  

donna g: Will you be writing any more Westerns? There are so many untold stories about women and the American frontier.

Julia H: I couldn't agree more! I actually happen to be writing one right now. I also happen to find a way to turn a lot of what I write into a western even if it's not technically a western. There is something so potent and connected for me about coming into your own as a woman (no matter where or when you are) and the myth of the American West and Manifest Destiny. 

donna g: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your thoughts.

Julia H: Of course! Thank you for supporting the film. 

Directed by Daniel Barber
Written by Julia Hart

Principal Cast
Brit Marling as Augusta
Hailee Steinfield as Louise
Muna Otaru as Mad

For showtimes at TIFF Bell Lightbox
416.599.TIFF (8433)

Friday, 16 October 2015

From Weekly Radio to Online Coverage!

With JACK director/writer, Elizabeth Scharang at TIFF15
Hey, tmtm fans! I am on hiatus for the next couple of weeks, as I move from connecting with you on a weekly basis at CIUT 89.5 FM, to sharing arts-at-large coverage via social media. Until then, please make sure to follow me via



Twitter (*NEW)

Friday, 18 September 2015

TIFF15 Review: A Patch of Fog

Conleth Hill (left) & Stephen Graham, "A Patch of Fog"

I don't watch Game of Thrones nor Boardwalk Empire so walking into "A Patch of Fog", I didnt' have any pre-conceived notions of what to expect from Conleth Hill and Stephen Graham. Hill stars as Sandy Duffy, an author famous for a seminal work that's celebrating it's twentieth anniversary. Duffy is also a creative writing professor, a regular contributor to an arts television show and a shoplifter. Unfortunately for Duffy, he gets captured in the act by security guard, Robert (Stephen Graham), who blackmails Duffy into a one-sided friendship.

The tension between Duffy and Robert is skillfully maintained by director, Michael Lennox, who knows when to go for the close up and when to pull away and let the action unfold. The script by John Cairns and Michael McCartney is smart, well-crafted, and delivered with credibility by the two leads. Watching the successful Duffy, who is so imposing and opinionated in his own world of television and academia, reduced to beseeching and bargaining with the quiet, non-descript Robert is a fascinating voyage that is at once uncomfortable and relatable. Who can't empathize with someone who has a secret that, if revealed, could blow their world apart if uploaded on social media? Conversely, Robert is indeed lonely in his box of a room at work and in his modest apartment; and while Duffy has friends and fans, Robert has no one except his pet snake. The contrast and emotional sparring between the two men is further emphasized by the stature of the actors with Hill being the wide-shouldered heavyweight and Graham the quick-stepping bantam.

I had a ball watching this cat and mouse story unfold, and by the rare sound of applause at the end of my the Press and Industry screening, I was not alone in my appreciation of A Patch of Fog.

Final Screening
Saturday, September 19
9:00 AM, Scotiabank Theatre (Richmond and John)

Details/Buy Tickets:

Thursday, 10 September 2015

TIFF '15 Interview : Director, Sanna Lenken on "My Skinny Sister"

My Skinny Sister (Min Lilla Syster) screens as part of TIFF Kids, but this Swedish film about eating disorders is far from being an after-school special. I was especially impressed by the casting of this smart, realistic film with its portrayal of sisterhood and family dynamics.

donna g: You are so right in your Director's Statement that eating disorders are as common in families as alcoholism, yet the subject is never given equal attention.  Based on this lack of awareness, did you have any problems getting this film made or was funding readily available for this project?

Director/Writer, Sanna Lenken, "My Skinny Sister"
SANNA LENKEN: It  wasn’t as hard as I had expected even though we, of course, had some meetings without luck. The main problem was distribution in Sweden. The distribution companies didn’t believe in the film as a commercial product, mainly because of the cast, two young girls, and the heavy subject. I was really scared for a while because in Sweden you can’t get all the money before having a distributor. In the end, Scanbox said yes and very luckily we could shoot when we had planned. I have heard other filmmakers who have a story with children or a young cast having the same problem, especially when the subject is a bit darker than usual. Now we have sold the film to almost 50 countries!

donna g: I have to ask about your cast because I truly felt as if I was watching a real family:  Firstly, what a star you have in Rebecka Josephson. She is absolutely incredible in the  role of Stella. I know you spent a long time looking for her but where did you find her? You could easily have gone with one of the young people you've worked with previously.

Rebecka Josephson as Stella
Sanna L: Yes it was very, very hard to find her. I knew she had to be in every scene. She had to have integrity but also be able to show a lot of emotions. Strong and weak at the same time. And then, since she was a child, also be able to perform on a high level for seven weeks. Rebecka was a blessing, only one and a half months before the shooting we found her. I was on my way to just say yes to another choice but I’m so happy I waited and had the patience even though it was nerve-racking.

donna g:  Amy Deasismont  is taking on a large role in this film as the “skinny sister”. She is not new to the scene, but her role as a skater battling anorexia is a challenging one. As Katja, she is both a loving older sister to Stella and a raging teen who is cruel to her.  What did you see in her that made you know she could play this very emotional role?

Amy Deasismont  as Katja
Sanna L: She wasn’t a person I had thought about, but she came to a casting. I wanted to find a person no one had seen before. But Amy did the best casting (I met so many girls before her). She completely gave herself to the project and we trusted each other through the whole shooting. She gave so much of herself and she wasn’t scared to be ugly. I wanted to make her beautiful in the beginning, the picture of the ideal girl, the norm (which I think, with her being famous in Sweden, was a nice thing to play with). And then just show the truth behind. How the norm is fake and makes us sick. To me the disease is a symbol for a society that is making women sick. Through both Stella and Katja, I show the limitations a girl is forced to face. Being a woman and not just a human being.

donna g: I was familiar with Henri Norlén from seeing him in Lisa Langseth's "Hotell', so it was a pleasant surprise to see him as the father of teenage girls in this film. As for Annika Hamlin, I remember her from "Patrick, Age 1.5" (although she is probably better known for The "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy of films). Could you please comment on finding and casting them as the parents in this film?

Sanna L: I tried different couples and the main reason (except that they are both great actors) was that they immediately had a strong connection together as a family. They are, like Amy, not vain. They want to be truthful and they also went into the project with so much love and energy.

donna g: How long was the rehearsal period before you started shooting?

Amy Deasismont  & Rebecka Josephson
Sanna L: I actually see the casting as a rehearsal period because I use casting a lot to really get the right actors, and also the right actors together. I guess it was about a week of casting and trying the scenes without them knowing for sure that they had the part. Then I had one week of different sort of rehearsals. We improvised some of the scenes I was unsure about and that was a great way to change the scenes into more authentic dialogue. I will do that with the whole film next time. We also did a lot of things together, like cooking, going to a museum, talking on Skype and we also stayed in the house we shot in for a day. Everything I could come up with to make them a family and trust each other before shooting.

donna g: This film is beautifully shot. I especially appreciate the way in which you position the camera at Rebecka/Stella’s height. Could you please talk about your collaboration with your Director of Photography, Moritz Schulthefeiß?

Sanna L: We hadn’t worked before. He’s from Germany and I got a recommendation and then watched one of his films, "Tore Tantz”. I understood after watching it that he was great with actors and we had a meeting in Sweden. Our collaboration is the best I have had with a DoP. He was on my side the whole pre-production and shooting, and together we created an atmosphere which was focused and totally in ”the moment” which is so important to get good acting. He loved the actors and I think he is a big part of the acting as well, everyone felt happy and filled with energy around him. Positive but also questioning things in a great way. We shot the film through Stella's perspective. I wanted "a girl's gaze" through the whole film.

donna g: Costuming is something I always pay attention to. Having said that, am I correct in noticing that Stella is the only one in the family that wears bright colours? If so, was this a deliberate choice to play into the isolation she sometimes feels as the unnoticed sister, or was this just “teen gear”?

Rebecka Josephson as Stella

Sanna L: I fell in love with her jacket, it was something I can’t explain. Of course, it was an artistic choice but sometimes pure love makes me do decisions without any other reasons. I love pink and I know it is a ”girl” colour but to use it without the normal cuteness connected to it was a reason of

donna g: I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and think that it playing in TIFF Kids will give parents (and other adult viewers), a wake up call. I know the film has won awards, but what has been the audience response to the film in your home country?

Sanna L: We have our premiere next week so I don’t know yet! But during the pre-screenings the film has been very well received by the audience. tmtm

TIFF '15
September 10 - 20, 2015

My Skinny Sister (Min Lilla Syster)
Swedish & English with subtitles
Recommended for ages 11 and up

Screening Dates
Saturday, September 12, 4:15 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 19, 12:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox

For screening details please visit:
For tickets:

Photo stills from My Skinny Sister, courtesy of WIDE.
TIFF photo courtesy of

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, 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!

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


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, or on twitter at @tmtmshow. Let's inspire and engage each other.

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.

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...

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. 

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 

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)

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

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

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 and her main website

Becoming Burlesque
Al Green Theatre (corner of Bloor and Spalding, inside The Miles Nadal JCC)

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

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