Top 10 of 2014

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Friends & fellow artists of Nik Beat perform a track at the launch for his Famous For Falling CD @ Amsterdam Bicycle Club

Seeing as I already took a bit of a peek out of my December hiatus with the Sleepy Beauty post last weekend – and as this is the last day of 2014 – thought I’d take another peek out to post my top 10 of 2014. Here it is, from a variety of disciplines, in alphabetical order:

Nik Beat: Famous For Falling CD/chapbook launch @ Amsterdam Bicycle Club
The De Chardin Project @ Theatre Passe Muraille
Elizabeth Rex (East Side Players) @ Papermill Theatre
I Hate Todd: The Moves Pt. 1 CD launch @ The Horseshoe Tavern
Lisa MacIntosh: ASK photography exhibit @ 3030 Dundas West
Memento Mori (Tracey Erin Smith/SoulO Theatre) @ Toronto Fringe
Mercury Fur (Seven Siblings Theatre Company) @ Unit 102 Theatre
Romeo and (Her) Juliet (Headstrong Collective/Urban Bard) @ Bloor Street United Church
Jessica Speziale: Shine CD launch @ The Duke Live
Trace (Theatre Gargantua/Vertical City) @ SummerWorks

Have a big fun and safe New Year’s Eve, all. See ya’s next year! xo

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Creative non-fiction – “Dear Tom”

Was out at Amsterdam Bicycle Club last night for another inspiring evening of poetry and spoken word at Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic, featuring Banoo Zan and several amazing open mic performances.

In an effort to get me kickstarted into writing more short fiction and creative non-fiction, I decided to read the first piece I ever had published: “Dear Tom” from Countering the Myths: Lesbians write about the men in their lives (edited by Rosamund Elwin for Women’s Press, published in 1996). A friend love letter to a dearly departed friend and theatre school colleague, this is “Dear Tom”:

SAMSUNGRemember how warm it was that afternoon before Victoria Day weekend when we decided to take our lunch outdoors? It had been years since I’d been on a picnic. I helped you make our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I also hadn’t had in years, then we headed out, stopping at the corner store for Pepsi, orange juice and salad.

Across the street and down about a block were the spacious grounds of a private boys’ school. I don’t remember why, but no one seemed to be in school that weekday. The ground was soft and relatively dry, so we sat cross-legged on the grass under a big, leafy maple tree while we ate and talked. It was the first, and only, time I tasted carrot and raisin salad. It was surprisingly good. You were so happy to be outside in the light. Your sunny disposition had been too long in the shade in the hospital. I watched you turn your face to the sunlight, confident that the sunscreen would block any cancer-inducing rays.

Lying on your stomach, you read me some of your poems. Many were about death, some were even hopeful. You wrote of a healing of the soul and finding peace within. One of your poems, set in a cemetery, was about “a man and a hole and another year more.” It gave me a disturbing sense of foreshadowing. You’d already asked if I could set one of your pieces to music. I had turned you down, giving the excuse that I was not a composer and that there were better musical heads than mine to undertake the task. You always believed in me. Maybe that’s why I secretly worked on a melody in my spare time, waiting for the perfect tune to present itself, to surprise you.

“It’s like – I didn’t believe it till you got pneumonia.” It was the first, and only, time I admitted to you how difficult it was for me to accept your illness.

“Bill’s been avoiding the issue too.”

You also told me we all needed our own healing. A good listener, and possessing of a courageous and loving heart, you took the confusion of loved ones in stride, and in turn, inspired love and courage.

I don’t remember everything we talked about that day, but I felt a child-like joy at being alive. And for being with you. Drowsy after our meal, we stretched out our legs and spent some quiet time, you rested your head on my thighs. The clouds drifted by in the bright blue spring sky, but we were both too much in a sleepy haze to make out their shapes. The green maple leaves flapped lazily in a light breeze that rolled through the grass. I’d never felt so connected to you.

Our pastoral afternoon was interrupted by a medical emergency. Your temperature had been elevated all day and showed no sign of coming down.

“I’m sorry,” you said. You didn’t want to cut our day short.

“Don’t worry about it. You gotta go. You have to have this checked out.”

We took a cab to emergency. You settled into the back seat while I leaned forward, willing the car to move faster.

In the examining room, you sat on the gurney, back slouched and shoulders caved in, patient and vulnerable, waiting for the doctor to arrive. After taking your temperature and asking you some questions, one of the AIDS team doctors, a young Asian man, did some blood work. He left the bloodied cotton swabs on the thin white sheet that covered your legs. Annoyed, I moved to dispose of them.

“Don’t touch the blood,” you warned.

I brought the garbage can and you slam dunked the dangerous waste.

“Two points!” I exclaimed. It’s easier if you make it a game. Easier for who, though?

You were tired when we got back to your apartment, but we were both relieved that you didn’t have to stay at the hospital. You needed a nap. I hugged and kissed you goodbye and went home.

The song is finally finished now. It’s not perfect, but it has a pleasing and moving melody. My striving for just the right series of notes has cost me though. You never heard it. But that’s really the only thing I remember about you that makes me sad.

Interview with writer/poet/cabaret mistress Lizzie Violet

img_1052Lizzie Violet is a Toronto-based writer, editor, poet, blogger, cabaret organizer/host and horror aficionado. She is a huge fan of zombies. She’s also an awesome person and a great friend.

Lizzie hosts Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LVCN), which features music, poetry/spoken word, vaudeville and burlesque performers, as well as open mic artists, at The Central. She recently launched Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic at Amsterdam Bicycle Club, and has ongoing shared organizing and hosting duties for The Beautiful and the Damned poetry and music cabaret at The Central. All this in addition to performing at a variety of other poetry/arts events throughout the City – including WordSpell and Songwriters Circle of Jerks at Free Times Café – and writing (poetry/spoken word, fiction, blogging, music video story and playwriting). I interviewed Lizzie via email about her various projects – and got a peek at what the New Year will bring.

LWMC: So, wow, you’re a very busy gal and I was having a bit of a challenge coming up with what to ask – given your multidisciplined work – so let me first ask about LVCN. You launched it almost a year ago at the former Q Space before moving it to The Central in the fall, and it’s developed quite a following. Tell us a bit about the format and what made you want to launch a cabaret format show.

LV: I certainly do have my fingers in a lot of pies and even with everything I was involved in, I decided to scratch an itch I had for many years. I’ve been obsessed since I was a child, with Vaudeville its history and that entire era (Edwardian/Flappers/1920s). When others find it to be just entertainment, I see the complete beauty in this wonderful art form of performance.

Currently, I only have three features and a true Vaudeville show has anywhere from 12 or more acts per night. Keeping in mind they have an intermission. My dream is to do a full Vaudeville show with a Lizzie Violet twist. There is a lot of preparation that comes with this type of show and I am working to bring that dream to fruition.

LWMC: What’s in store for LVCN in 2014?

LV: In 2013, LVCN grew very quickly into a wonderful night of entertainment. 2014 is about making it bigger and taking it on the road. I absolutely adore our current home at The Central and plan to remain there, but I also want to start taking the event around to other venues in Toronto and eventually other cities in Southern Ontario.

LWMC: This past summer, you wrote the music video script for Toronto band I Hate Todd’s debut single “Zombie Love,” then worked crew for the video shoot. (And I had a blast working crew with you guys that weekend.) Tell us about that experience. What was it like combining your love of writing, zombies and music?

LV: It’s like sitting at a table with all my favourite people, eating all my favourite foods, watching all my favourite movies and laughing till your belly hurts. The whole process from beginning to end, though long hours, was a total blast and I can’t wait to do it again. On top of it all, I got to work with my favourite band and spend three very long and fun filled days with my favourite zombies and friends (both old and new).

LWMC: Your work was published in several poetry/art magazines/collections in 2013 alone, including Carousel, Big Art Book 2, NorthWord and Nest. What can you tell us about the importance of getting published on paper, as opposed to digitally online?

LV: Even in this day and age of digital, publishers and anyone giving out grants to the literary arts, want you published on good ole paper. Plus, there is something about being able to pick up a physical book or magazine and see your words in ink. It’s euphoric. Plus, it’s easier for my Mom to put on her fridge.

LWMC: 🙂 You’ve also been working on a TV pilot script and a stage play. What inspired you to write these? What have been the challenges and delights as you tell stories in these very different formats?

LV: Both the TV pilot and the play have been inspired by real life and the people in it. The most recent project is the play. A really dear friend of mine Nelson Sobral wrote a song called “Arsenic & Turmeric,” and something about this song grabbed at me and this story formed in my head. I wrote the first draft of the play in one evening. I haven’t been this excited about writing something in a long time. At this moment, I have finished the second draft and am hoping to do a reading in the spring.

The TV series is based loosely on the antics of my single life. My dating life has been like a bad sitcom, so I figured, why not turn it into a TV script. It will be true dark comedy. I have changed names to protect the not so innocent.

My current challenges right now are finding the time to sit and be able to write. The bug has bitten me in the ass again, I’ve been writing like I’m on a mission. This all started right before Yule.

LWMC: Writing is a very solitary pursuit, while performing as cabaret host and feature poet is very public. What’s it like being in front of a live audience with your work after spending so much time crafting it in solitude? Does the prospect of performance influence your writing – and, if so, how?

LV: When writing poetry and spoken word, I keep the page and performance pieces separate in my writing process. Though everything can be read to an audience, I have only been performing pieces that I specifically have written to perform. Oddly, those are the pieces that have been published in print.

LWMC: What else is coming up for you in 2014? (See January events here.)

LV: I have a few features coming up. The next one is January 22nd for the Queer Snow Ball, and a few more that will be happening over the next few months. Currently, I am putting a lot of my energy into the Cabaret and Poetry Open mic. I’m hoping to build on the Cabaret and at some point in the near future have a full Vaudeville show.

Other than performing, finish the play and a full season of the TV series and get them produced.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

LV: Well, firstly, a great big thank you for interviewing me. You truly are an inspiration to me. I’m looking forward to 2014. There is a lot of amazing stuff happening and I can’t wait to find out what else is waiting around the corner for me.

LWMC: Thanks, Lizzie!

The January edition of Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir is tomorrow night (Sun, Jan 12) at The Central with featured artists Brock Hessel, David Bateman, and Cap & Kev (who are both also in the band I Hate Todd) 7 p.m. open mic sign-up. PWYC – $5 suggested.

Happy holidays!

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My wee Xmas tree, lit up in the dark.

Hi all –

It’s full-on holiday hustle and bustle, with gatherings and errands galore! Wanted to send out a quick note to say that I’m still here, I just needed to take care of a few things, which left me no time to post over the past little while. Hope you’ve been enjoying the reblogging of some other fabulous bloggers in the meantime.

Here’s what I’ve been up to (in addition to the f/t office job as a copy editor, which has been super busy the past couple of weeks, and some fabulous holiday gatherings, and arts and culture):

Rehearsing and reading in Siobhán Dungan’s radio comedy The Receptionist, which featured 8 actors reading 120 characters, and a violinist – we did that on Dec 6 at Innis Town Hall and had a blast!

Auditioning for the Village Players’ upcoming production of Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge (directed by Greg Nowlan, running Feb 28 – Mar 22). I made it to callbacks and didn’t get cast, but really looking forward to seeing this.

I’ve been working as a scenic artist with set designer Ed Rosing on Alumnae Theatre’s upcoming production of Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning (directed by Jane Carnwath, running Jan 24 – Feb 8 on the mainstage).

Seeing amazing arts events like The Gay Heritage Project (Buddies In Bad Times), Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (The Central) and Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic (Amsterdam Bicycle Club).

Coming up soon:

The great pleasure of a photo shoot with Lisa MacIntosh on Saturday.

I’ll also finally be doing an interview with writer/poet/editor/horror aficionado and cabaret mistress extraordinaire Lizzie Violet.

And, of course, we’re now a week away from Christmas Eve, so the countdown is on!

Happy holidays, all! xo