Toronto Fringe: An intersectional heart-to-heart on the state of manhood in the candid, funny, brave We The Men

Sunday Muse, Mercy Cherian, Rachel Brophy & Sundance Nagrial. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Sam’s having the guys over at his cottage—and we’re all invited!

The back room stage of the Cadillac Lounge is transformed into the living room of Sam’s cottage as Soulo Theatre takes us behind the scenes of a heart-to-heart gathering on the state of manhood with its Toronto Fringe production of We The Men. Co-created by director Tracey Erin Smith and an ensemble of Dude for a Day workshop participants, and inspired by hearing men’s stories during Soulo Theatre’s Step To The Line events, women portray male characters—and the sexes come together from the other side of the gender divide in the hopes of bridging the gap and coming to a greater understanding.

The storytelling, which includes stories that emerged from male Step To The Line participants, draws on important and timely ongoing issues: Debates about complicity—direct or indirect—in #MeToo scenarios; societal, familial and cultural challenges and pressures; physical abuse and bullying; and struggles with identity, sexuality, loneliness and finding love. Heartfelt anecdotes and confessions emerge from the cocky, fart-filled party atmosphere as the men confront themselves and each other with their experiences, beliefs and perceptions—giving us a fly-on-the-wall perspective of men’s lives. And one is struck that, while women will naturally open up and have these kinds of conversations—revealing shame, vulnerability and confusion—it’s maybe not so easy or as common for men. And we all need to have those conversations.

Featuring energetic, entertaining and poignant performances from Rachel Brophy, Mercy Cherian, Jacqueline Dawe, Savoy Howe, Sunday Muse, Sundance Nagrial, Silvi Santoso, Savannah Binder and Todd, We The Men is a candid, funny and brave intersectional exploration of what it means to be a man in the 21st century.

We The Men continues at the Cadillac Lounge until July 15; check the show page for exact dates and times. For the inside scoop on the inspiration and creative process, check out this great interview with Tracey Erin Smith by She Does the City. And check out the show’s Facebook event page for bios and character descriptions.

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Interview with Christian D of Christian D and the Hangovers

As promised, here’s the interview with Christian D and the Hangovers frontman Christian DeArmond. I first met Christian in the Twitterverse – then eventually in person while he and the band were playing a gig at The Cadillac Lounge. Performing with powerhouse vocals and driving guitar riffs, Christian D has a charismatic, compelling and – I won’t lie to ya – sexy stage presence. Recently, I fired over a bunch of questions over email – and here’s what he had to say:

LWMC: Hey, Christian – thanks for coming onboard to do this interview for cowbell. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to take it from the angle of folks who may not be all that familiar with you and your music.

CD: Perfect, since most people aren’t familiar with me at all…

LWMC: Your music has been described as rockabilly, cow punk and “psychobilly.” How would you describe the kind of music you play – and does it even matter?

CD: All those genres are quite tight in my view, and none of those really fit what I do, but people like labels so they know what to expect. Lately we’ve been described as Americana, which is at least more openly defined.

I’d like it to sound like Nick Cave and Joe Strummer in a knife fight at Johnny Cash’s house… but it doesn’t really matter to me, anyway… Rock and Roll works, because, in my eyes, that’s pretty wide open. I try to avoid narrow definitions…people can call it whatever they want. I just want them to listen and give it a chance.

LWMC: How long have you been playing with the Hangovers? Who are your main influences? Any previous forays into other music styles?

CD: The first live shows were in April, 2008 so the band probably started in late 2007, I’d guess. My main influences would be Elvis, The Cramps, The Clash, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. Not sure if you’d necessarily hear that in the songs though…

LWMC: Who’ve you got playing in the band with you right now?

CD: Right now it’s Mack Black on bass, he’s been around the longest, he was on the first EP. Tim Kelley on drums, he’s been around for a while now and currently Jesse James Dale from Buzz Deluxe on guitar… he’s been in and out a couple of times depending on how busy he is with his own band. He produced the first couple of releases too. You can check them out at http://www.buzzdeluxe.com/

LWMC: I hear you’re a big fan of The Cramps, Nick Cave and Elvis. Have any current favourite bands/singers?

CD: Current singers – I’ve been in love with Bloodshot Bill for about 8 or 9 years now – the stuff he does with his voice is incredible. And his shows are great – he’s a complete wild man, thrashing away by himself onstage. It’s mesmerizing.

LWMC: With songs like “Vampire Rocker,” I’m guessing you’re also horror fan. What are some of your fave horror movies? Do you have a favourite vampire character or actor?

CD: Actually, I’m not that much of a horror fan, more so when I was in my teens. That song was sort of an extended metaphor that grew into something of its own… the vampires took it over. It’s basically just raging sexuality with some bloodsucking thrown in on top.

Near Dark had some bearing on the imagery – that might be my favourite vampire flick. Favourite vampire character – gotta be Dracula, really. I loved the Coppola movie. Gary Oldman and Tom Waits unleashed and completely over the top? That’s entertainment.

LWMC: Last year, you released solo EP Beat Up Guitars. What was that experience like, recording and performing that record? Was it strange, or even a bit intimidating, being up onstage alone without the band backing you up?

CD: Recording it was really fun and relaxed, it was just me and Mario (“Rockin’ Rio”) Pietrangeli working in his Downtown Sound Studios before he moved it out to Hamilton. I think we did the recording in about four or five sessions. Great guy to work with, we’re old friends and have played together quite a bit. We were just kinda hanging out drinking beer and figuring out how I could make a record by myself.

Playing a solo show is whole other thing. It’s not something I do often, and it’s pretty nerve-wracking. I feel really exposed without a wall of sound behind me. On the other hand, I think it’s important to challenge yourself, so I’ll make myself do it every now and then.

LWMC: You’re in the process of putting together a live record with the band, and you recently recorded a gig you guys played at 3030 Dundas St. West in Toronto. What inspired you to do a live recording? Got a working title?

CD: I’ve wanted to do a live record forever, basically. The first MC5 record was live, and I always thought debuting with a live record was such a ballsy move. And I love live bootlegs, they give you such a sense of time and place. I think that’s really cool.

It’s easier than it’s ever been to record live now, so the time is right. Working title? 3030 Live and Raw, maybe.

LWMC: Any upcoming gigs?

CD: I’m always looking… know anyone that needs some rock and roll?

LWMC: Anything else folks should know?

CD: That’s wide open… I’ve not much to say though…

LWMC: Thanks, Christian!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Christian D’s solo gigs and gigs with the Hangovers. In the meantime, check out a vid:

You can check out more vids on his website or YouTube channel.

Upcoming awesomeness: music, poetry & theatre

Happy New Year, all!

Here are a bunch of upcoming events/performances/productions to watch out for – and there’s a little somethin’ for everyone here:

Tin Star Orphans open for The Strumbellas at The Dakota Tavern on Tues, Jan 8.

The next edition of The Beautiful & the Damned poetry cabaret, hosted by Philip Cairns and featuring trivia on dead celeb of the month James Dean, is on Thurs, Jan 10 – 7 p.m. at Glad Day Bookshop.

Queen Milli of Galt, written by Gary Kirkham and directed by Victoria Shepherd, opens at The Village Playhouse on Fri, Jan 11 and runs until Sat, Feb 2.

Theatre Brouhaha’s Toronto Fringe 2012 hit production of Kat Sandler’s Help Yourself runs at Red Sandcastle Theatre Fri, Jan 11 – Sat, Jan 19 – if you missed it at Fringe, be sure to check out this remount. Check out the rest of Red Sandcastle’s January lineup on the website, which includes the final week of The Shoemaker and the Pant-O-Mimes! (closing Jan 6) and a remount of Act II Studio’s production of Mark Leith’s play Dinner with Goebbels (Jan 25-27).

Rarely Pure Theatre is staging a Comedy Night at The Winchester on Fri, Jan 11.

LMG Productions’ Super Wonderful New Year Kickoff (a Wonder Women fundraising event – for the first time, featuring Super Men) at The Central at 7:30 p.m. on Sat, Jan 12 – $10 cover.

Christian D and the Hangovers – with guests The Howling Bullets – at The Cadillac Lounge on Sat, Jan 12 at 9 p.m.

Theatre Passe Muraille’s next Songbook Series: Michael Jackson – on Fri, Jan 25.

Christian D & the Hangovers take us to the Church of Rockabilly

Back from cottage country, after a last-minute change of weekend plans so I could help some friends get their cottage ready for some upcoming rental folks. This means I’m a bit tardy on this post. But, as they say: better late than never.

Finally got out to see Christian D and the Hangovers play on Friday night at the Cadillac Lounge (http://www.cadillaclounge.com/), where my cottage-owning friends and I arrived extra early to have dinner and some beverages of the alcoholic persuasion before the show.  I say “finally” because I’ve gotten to know Christian D a bit over Twitter – and have especially enjoyed the three-way Twitter banter with him and Lizzie Violet – but hadn’t been able to make it out to any of his band’s gigs, as they’ve been often late-night on a school night. We even got to sit in the Cadillac booth – made from an actual car with flames painted on the side – which was both super cool and comfy.

Christian D – Christian in name only – and his band, with him on guitar and lead vocals , a bass player on upright, a second guitar player and drummer – took us to the Church of Rockabilly (and cow punk and rock ‘n roll) and got folks up dancing to the driving rhythms. From tunes like “Hillbilly Heroin,” “Vampire Rocker” and “Life Gets In the Way” to Cramps covers “Tear It Up” – these guys had us stomping our feet and bopping our heads, and shaking it in front of the stage. The place was jammed and everyone had a blast.

For more on what Christian D and the Hangovers are up to, check out their website: http://christiand.ca/

Christian D just released a solo recording: Beat Up Guitars. Check out the trailer, as well as vids by the band on their YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChristianDMusic

Christian D & the Hangovers
Christian D & the Hangovers
Christian D & the Hangovers
Christian D & the Hangovers
Christian D & the Hangovers
Christian D & the Hangovers

In the meantime, some pics from Friday night: