A hero’s journey, a quest for identity & a world in a Chinese mall in the trippy, visually striking, thoughtful No Foreigners

 

Derek Chan and April Leung. Miniature design by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung & Derek Chan. Media apparatus design by Remy Siu. Projection design by Milton Lim & Remy Siu. Photo by Daniel O’Shea.

Hong Kong Exile (Vancouver) and fu-GEN Theatre (Toronto) opened their co-production of No Foreigners, produced in association with Theatre Conspiracy (Vancouver) and presented in association with The Theatre Centre (Toronto), at The Theatre Centre last night. No Foreigners was co-created by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, Milton Lim, Remy Siu and David Yee; and features performers April Leung and Derek Chan.

Puzzled and troubled at being barred from a store by a mysterious old Chinese woman for being a “foreigner,” despite being Chinese, a young man ventures into the depths of a Chinese mall seeking his identity. While visiting his mother, he learns he is to inherit his grandfather’s estate, but must first discover the password. His dual purpose becomes a single quest, and he ventures deep into the mall where, with the help of an unexpected mentor, he completes a series of tasks and eventually arrives at a secret moth conservatory, where he may attempt to speak with his grandfather.

No Foreigners Production Photo 2
No Foreigners miniature close-up. Miniature design by Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung & Derek Chan. Media apparatus design by Remy Siu. Projection and sound design by Milton Lim & Remy Siu. Photo by Daniel O’Shea.

This magical multimedia adventure in storytelling is achieved through the shadow play of miniature sets and figurines, manipulated and voiced by Leung and Chan, as well as projection, animation and sound. Exploring the concept of what it is to be Chinese, No Foreigners incorporates language, popular culture and ancient traditions within the framework of the classic hero’s journey. The result is a mind-bending, funny and moving ride featuring a large and diverse cast of shopping mall characters. As husband and wife co-owners of a failing electronics store, Leung and Chan bring particularly hilarious and poignant performances. And Leung is also a cheeky, cool and gifted mentor to Chan’s determined, serious and ambitious young hero as they navigate food court ninjas and a karaoke performance. Ethereal, meditative moments combine with dynamic visuals for a truly remarkable theatrical experience.

With shouts to the design and creative team: David Yee (text); Natalie Tin Yin Gan, April Leung and Derek Chan (miniature design); Remy Siu (media apparatus design); Milton Lim and Remy Siu (projection and sound design); and Derek Chan (translations).

No Foreigners continues in the Theatre Centre Incubator space until February 25. Tickets available by calling The Theatre Centre’s Box Office at 416-538-0988 or online; advance booking essential, as it’s an intimate space and a very short run.

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The Devil went down to Old Montreal in the foot stompin’, magical Chasse-Galerie

chasse-galerie-01
Nicole Power, Kat Letwin, Hunter Cardinal, Tyrone Savage, Michael Cox, Tess Benger, Shaina Silver-Baird, Ghazal Azarbad & Alicia Toner in Chasse-Galerie – photo by John Gundy

Soulpepper opened the Kabin/Storefront Theatre production of Chasse-Galerie to a delighted full house at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery District last night. With book adapted by director Tyrone Savage, assisted by Janet Laine-Green; music and lyrics by musical director James Smith; and choreography by Ashleigh Powell, Chasse-Galerie is a big fun, immersive, multimedia adventure that twists, turns and entertains.

When we enter the theatre, we find ourselves in the Flying Canoe pub on New Year’s Eve, greeted by members of the band/cast and availed of bar service – when our narrator Lucy (Ghazal Azarbad) emerges to tell us a tale of the Chasse-Galerie, a folk tale of a wild hunt in which those caught up in its path join the hunt forever.

On another New Year’s Eve, four coureuses des bois (i.e., female lumberjacks) are cold, exhausted and nearly out of whiskey. Alex (Tess Benger) longs to see her sweetheart, the lovely golden-haired fiddle player Jaune; Lea (Nicole Power) misses her red-headed whiskey maker Michel-Paul; coincidentally, so does Michelle (Kat Letwin); and Toba (Shaina Silver-Baird) doesn’t have someone special, but pines for music and romance. Fondly remembering their favourite Old Montreal pub, The Flying Canoe, the four women are dying for a road trip. There’s just one problem: it’s a three-day trek.

Enter Damien (Tyrone Savage), disguised as a weary frozen stranger, who offers them a way to get their wish and travel to the pub in hours. But his magic comes with conditions and a price: they must not swear or touch a cross, and they must be back by dawn. If not, their souls belong to him.

The women agree to his terms and travel by magic flying canoe to Old Montreal; convinced they’ll be fine as long as they don’t drink – especially Michelle, who has the biggest potty mouth of them all. Alex sets off in search of Jaune (Alicia Toner), and Michelle finds the lusty Michel-Paul (Michael Cox) before Lea does. And Toba becomes smitten with the bashful band leader Francois (James Smith), who is equally taken with her and gives her a fiddle lesson. Meanwhile, Lea meets a handsome cowboy who speaks in Shakespearian verse (the angel Uriel in disguise, played by Hunter Cardinal). To ensure that he reaps those four souls, Damien enlists Lucy’s assistance to foil our four heroines at every turn.

All hell breaks loose in the pub and dawn is fast approaching. When all seems lost, Toba challenges Damien to a fiddle duel to save her friends. And you won’t believe what happens next!

Incorporating animation, puppetry, songs and folk dance – not to mention a butt load of Québécois swears, including a very catchy audience participation tune at the end of Act I – Chasse-Galerie is one big fun musical ride of adventure and friendship, featuring performances from an outstanding multi-talented cast. Everyone sings and everyone plays an instrument (in Smith’s case, more than one); the excellent band is rounded out by Justin Han (drums) and Jason O’Brien (bass).

Benger’s Alex is sweet and pious; she may be a virgin, but Alex is full of fierce passion and love for her Jaune. Letwin is hilariously irreverent as Michelle; hard-drinking and a master at cursing there’s a soft gooey centre beneath that tough exterior. Power’s bespectacled Lea is the level-headed brains of the group; and when she finds herself struggling with the prospect of lost love, she gets some unique advice from Uriel about what to do about her love triangle situation. Silver-Baird’s Toba is the peacemaker of the group; not expecting to find love at The Flying Canoe, she is put in the difficult position of choosing between her dream and making it home on time to save her own soul and those of her friends.

Savage is deliciously diabolical as Damien; comic and compelling, Damien’s dead serious when it comes to this deal – and he needs these souls as much as the four women want to keep them. Azarbad is cabaret sexy and delightfully mischievous as Lucy; our storytelling host and Damien’s right-hand minion, she excels at manipulation and even gets on a bit of romancin’ of her own.

With huge shouts to the design team for this remarkable, immersive environment: Lindsay Dagger Junkin (set and props), John Leberg (scenic magic), Holly Lloyd (costumes), Melissa Joakim (lighting), Andre Stankovic (sound) and Daniel Briere (projection and puppetry).

The Devil went down to Old Montreal. A singin’, dancin’, whiskey drinkin’ helluva good time in the foot stompin’, magical Chasse-Galerie.

Chasse-Galerie continues the Young Centre; get your advance tix online or by calling the box office at 416-866-8666. it won’t be there forever though – so what are you waiting for?

Update (Nov 17): The run of Chasse-Galerie has been extended, with new shows just added:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29 – 8:00pm
  • Wednesday, Nov. 30 – 8:00pm
  • Thursday, Dec. 1 – 7:00pm
  • Thursday, Dec. 1 – 10:30pm

Get a sneak peek in the behind-the-scenes video:

The Next Big Thing online interview

LwMC micI posted this interview a while back, and thought it might be handy to re-post, especially for those of you who are new to life with more cowbell or visiting for the first time. Enjoy… 🙂

I was invited by my friend writer/blogger/poet/editor Lizzie Violet to participate in an online interview called Next Big Thing as a way for writers to do a little self-promotion and/or think about what they’re working on or will have out soon. Writers tag other writers, who all answer the same 10 questions and post them on their blog. Lizzie added a twist and decided to include playwrights, songwriters and bloggers as well, so my responses will be about my blog.

What is your working title of your blog? life with more cowbell

Where did the idea come from for the blog? I was the company blogger at Alumnae Theatre, posting about the shows it was producing, and generally shouting out and supporting the theatre. When I made the decision to “retire” from there, I decided to start my own blog. I wanted to get out to see more live theatre and music, and support local artists. On a broader level, I felt the desire to inject more excitement into my life and generate some positive impact in the process. If that makes any sense. Shout out the work and spread the good word.

What genre does your blog fall under? Arts/culture and entertainment mostly, from an experiential point of view, as opposed to being a review or critique.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? If this blog ever became a movie, it would be a huge honour if Jodie Foster played me.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your blog? Toronto-based culture vulture/social bloggerfly shares her arts/culture and entertainment adventures, with a bit of travel and philosophy thrown in.

Will your blog be self-published or represented by an agency? At this point, I have no representation or plans to turn this blog into a book – but that is an interesting notion. The blog is a serious hobby that I pursue in addition to my “day job” as a copy editor/proofreader for a national public opinion polling company. I’m not really thinking in terms of going “professional” with the blog – to get paid for writing it. Right now, I’m just happy to experience and shout out the art/artists. Though, if someone wanted to pay me to do this – I probably wouldn’t say no.

How long does it take you to write the blog/how much time do you put into it? The blog is ongoing – I post several times a week and a single post can take up to about two hours just to write. Added to that is the time it takes to go out to see the event/performance, maybe take some photos. I usually tweet about it right after, make a few notes, then let it perk in my head over night and write the next day. I also reblog posts of bloggers I follow.

What other blogs would you compare this story to within your genre? Alumnae Theatre Company’s blog, The Magnificent Something. I also contribute to Lipstik Indie Review, so there’s a very similar tone and vibe there too.

Who or what inspired you to write this blog? I come from a visual arts and performing arts (acting and singing) background, then got into writing, short stories and personal essays at first. Then I had the job of bloggergal at Alumnae Theatre – first time blogging for me – and I was hooked. Being this all-around artsy fartsy kinda gal, I wanted to see other art forms and blog about them too. 

What else about your blog might pique the reader’s interest? I’m starting to do interviews and photo essay posts, to mix it up a bit and make for a more interesting visit to the site.

Here are five writers/bloggers/playwrights – and I’m also adding an animator/filmmaker – I’d like to shout out:

Chloë Whitehorn

G. (The Magnificent Something blog)

Lesley Wallace (Coaching with Les blog)

Patrick Jenkins

Transman (The Adventures of Transman blog)

And while you’re cruising through the webiverse, check out these folks as well: Alumnae Theatre Company, Dawna J. Wightman and DJ Paul V. (Born This Way blog & book)

With thanks to Lizzie for inviting me – and Chloë, G., Lesley, Patrick and Transman for coming onboard.

Cool photo exhibits & artists around T.O. right now

As I’ve been out and about seeing lots of theatre, music and spoken word lately, I must remember to not forget the other media I love: film, photography and visual arts.

Here are just a couple of photography/visual arts exhibits you can check out in Toronto:

Photographer Pamela Williams and animator/artist Patrick Jenkins feature their work at a Valentine’s Show at the Terrace Gallery (51 Austin Terrace, Toronto), including a new book of Williams’ Paris photographs, as well as some new works from her France and Argentina visits, and new DVDs and books by Jenkins: starting tonight (Thurs, Feb 7) from 5-9 p.m. and continuing this Saturday and Sunday from 12-5 p.m.

Williams is also giving a slide show talk on her work on February 20 from 7-9 p.m. $20. Call 416-533-2440 or 416-444-3086 to register and for location info.

I have three of Williams’ cemetery sculpture photos and a print of a still from Jenkins’ animated film noir Labyrinth hanging in my home. Beautiful, startling and haunting images – well worth a look.

Musician and artist Patti Smith’s photography exhibit Patti Smith: Camera Solo is up at The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) from February 9 – May 19, with Smith and her band performing on March 7 in the AGO’s Walker Court.

These are just two of the many art exhibits happening in and around T.O. What are you excited about seeing?

 

 

The Next Big Thing online interview

I was invited by my friend writer/blogger/poet/editor Lizzie Violet to participate in an online interview called Next Big Thing as a way for writers to do a little self-promotion and/or think about what they’re working on or will have out soon. Writers tag other writers, who all answer the same 10 questions and post them on their blog. Lizzie added a twist and decided to include playwrights, songwriters and bloggers as well, so my responses will be about my blog.

What is your working title of your blog? life with more cowbell

Where did the idea come from for the blog? I was the company blogger at Alumnae Theatre, posting about the shows it was producing, and generally shouting out and supporting the theatre. When I made the decision to “retire” from there, I decided to start my own blog. I wanted to get out to see more live theatre and music, and support local artists. On a broader level, I felt the desire to inject more excitement into my life and generate some positive impact in the process. If that makes any sense. Shout out the work and spread the good word.

What genre does your blog fall under? Arts/culture and entertainment mostly, from an experiential point of view, as opposed to being a review or critique.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? If this blog ever became a movie, it would be a huge honour if Jodie Foster played me.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your blog? Toronto-based culture vulture/social bloggerfly shares her arts/culture and entertainment adventures, with a bit of travel and philosophy thrown in.

Will your blog be self-published or represented by an agency? At this point, I have no representation or plans to turn this blog into a book – but that is an interesting notion. The blog is a serious hobby that I pursue in addition to my “day job” as a copy editor/proofreader for a national public opinion polling company. I’m not really thinking in terms of going “professional” with the blog – to get paid for writing it. Right now, I’m just happy to experience and shout out the art/artists. Though, if someone wanted to pay me to do this – I probably wouldn’t say no.

How long does it take you to write the blog/how much time do you put into it? The blog is ongoing – I post several times a week and a single post can take up to about two hours just to write. Added to that is the time it takes to go out to see the event/performance, maybe take some photos. I usually tweet about it right after, make a few notes, then let it perk in my head over night and write the next day. I also reblog posts of bloggers I follow.

What other blogs would you compare this story to within your genre? Alumnae Theatre Company’s blog, The Magnificent Something. I also contribute to Lipstik Indie Review, so there’s a very similar tone and vibe there too.

Who or what inspired you to write this blog? I come from a visual arts and performing arts (acting and singing) background, then got into writing, short stories and personal essays at first. Then I had the job of bloggergal at Alumnae Theatre – first time blogging for me – and I was hooked. Being this all-around artsy fartsy kinda gal, I wanted to see other art forms and blog about them too. 

What else about your blog might pique the reader’s interest? I’m starting to do interviews and photo essay posts, to mix it up a bit and make for a more interesting visit to the site.

Here are five writers/bloggers/playwrights – and I’m also adding an animator/filmmaker – I’d like to shout out:

Chloë Whitehorn

G. (The Magnificent Something blog)

Lesley Wallace (Coaching with Les blog)

Patrick Jenkins

Transman (The Adventures of Transman blog)

And while you’re cruising through the webiverse, check out these folks as well: Alumnae Theatre Company, Dawna J. Wightman and DJ Paul V. (Born This Way blog & book)

With thanks to Lizzie for inviting me – and Chloë, G., Lesley, Patrick and Transman for coming onboard.

Magical results with glass painting animation – Patrick Jenkins

Since I’ve been taking a bit of a theatre break to check out some cinema recently (and get back to some reading), I wanted to give a shout out to artist/animator/documentary filmmaker Patrick Jenkins, whose work I got to know over the past few years when I met him via his wife, photographer Pamela Williams (I have prints of both artists’ work at home).

I especially love the glass painting technique Jenkins uses for his animated films, like Labyrinth and Sorceress.

Check out the trailer for his new film Sorceress:

He also created a new flip book called Morphing City Hall, as part of the Flip-Toronto project. Eight artists chose sites around Toronto and made flip books about them. The flip books will be shown on the TTC Subway Video Screens from August 4 to 19, 2012. Here’s Jenkins’ flip book of Toronto City Hall: http://www.flip-city.com/patrick-jenkins.html

 

Find Patrick Jenkins on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Jenkins

His website is: http://pages.interlog.com/~pjenkins/latestnews.html

And his blog site is at: http://patrickjenkinsanimation.wordpress.com/