Alia Rasul, Ellie Posadas, Isabel Kanaan, Maricris Rivera, Ann Paula Bautista & Belinda Corpuz. Photo by Martin Nicolas. Cathleen Jayne Calica, stylist.
The Tita Collective invites us into Filipin* kitchens, living rooms and lives with its Next Stage Theatre Festival production of its hilariously entertaining sold-out Toronto Fringe 2019 hit Tita Jokes.Created and performed by the Collective and directed by Tricia Hagoriles, the show features music direction and piano accompaniment by Ayaka Kinugawa, choreography by Chantelle Mostacho and animation by Solis Animation. Part Spice Girls-inspired concert, part sketch comedy and all love letter to Titas—aunts in both the familial sense and broader sense of beloved, respected Filipina elders—the ensemble sings, dances gossips and riffs on Filipin* family and community. Tita Jokes is currently running in the Factory Theatre Mainspace.
Playing characters inspired by the Spice Girls (instead of X Spice, it’s Tita X), the Collective—Ann Paula Bautista, Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Ellie Posadas, Alia Rasul and Maricris Rivera—frame the show as a farewell concert. With choreography that incorporates traditional Philippine fan dance, and music that borrows from pop, R&B and musical theatre, the Collective sings, dances and performs hilariously insightful, satirical sketch comedy bits that speak to the heart of Filipin* family and community, with a particular shout-out to the Titas.
The energetic, multi-talented ensemble takes us on and entertaining, often moving, ride as they weave song and dance with sketch comedy bits. Filipin* folks will especially enjoy the in-jokes, but you don’t have to be Filipin* to have a blast and laugh along with this peek into the lives, loves and experiences of the community. Highlights include a kitchen table scene between a mother and her two daughters; church ladies gossip and strut their stuff; navigating queer and gender identity in the Filipin* community; and Tita superheroes come to the rescue in a mystery/action adventure story. And even music director Ayaka Kinugawa, supplying live piano accompaniment, gets in on the act!
Tita Jokes is jam-packed with love, family, community and Tita power—and loaded with LOLs and ‘Now you know’ moments.
Tita Jokes continues in the Factory Theatre Mainspace until January 19. You have a few more chances to catch the show during this Next Stage run; check the show page for exact dates, times and advance ticket purchase. Yesterday’s show was so packed, they had to open the balcony—so advance booking is strongly recommended.
Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan are both amazing solo artists in their own right. Together, they are Musedy Tag Team and half of the Four Winds Collective (with Heather Hill and Meghan Morrison), performing music with heart and humour, and they are the force behind LMG Productions, spreading empowerment through art through their Wonder Women, Super Men and now WonderFest events. Leonard is also a well-known Johnny Depp fangirl and Paculan, like me, shares his birthday. I interviewed these two lovely and talented ladies over email about their work together and their upcoming WonderFest 2014 event on April 6 at Revival Bar in Toronto.
LWMC: So tell us about how you met and how you came to start working together.
AP: I met Kat at a Valentine’s Show. It was called No Sweetheart Required, so she calls it an anti-Valentine’s Day show. It was so amazing because I immediately was drawn to her and was curious as to what she was all about. We started talking about what we did in the arts world. I found out that we both put shows on and I asked her if she’d like to participate in one that I do in the future – not having heard any of her work, I was trusting my instincts that she was incredibly awesome. After I saw her perform “Jockstrap,” that solidified my assumption! Prior to meeting her, I was in the process of starting Wonder Women and asked her to join the line up and she’s been a part of the event ever since! And now she’s Artistic Director for the company!
KL: … We hit it off and within mere moments decided we should embark upon doing shows together. We were both individually relieved as we stood backstage listening to the other perform their piece, because we had agreed to collaborate before even hearing the other perform. We’re both allergic to eggplant so it must have been fate!
LWMC: And how did LMG Productions, Wonder Women and the evolution to WonderFest come about?
AP: LMG Productions was something I came up with in 2010 – just a little production company that I could use to put on little concerts around the GTA. It was initially called Lene, Mean, and Green because of my name and my favourite colour is green. Kat came on board in 2012 to help out with the growing Wonder Women events. Soon she came up with the idea of changing it to ‘Let’s Make Good’ because of the direction our shows were going.
Wonder Women started to showcase female songwriters with different genres and to grow our audience base. After four Wonder Womens where it was solely music, we teamed up with This Girl Friday, which is run by a talented poet and graphic designer, Lizzie Violet [link]. Lizzie brought on the idea of having music and spoken word in a show. From then, Wonder Women and Super Men (all male showcase) combined creates ‘WonderFest’ which celebrates all types of art forms.
KL: … I was happy to be a performer in that first concert and to become Artistic Director of the series and production company. We worked together to create events that would eventually include Super Men and also workshops to nurture creativity and healthy self-esteem. We really endeavoured to develop a strong community that would encourage and promote the arts and self-empowerment. WonderFest was born. Because we were endorsing positivism we felt it was important to have a production name that reflected the same, so we went about brainstorming something with which we could retain the LMG moniker. Like a flash of enthused lightning, the name Let’s Make Good blasted into my brain as Arlene and I sat there doing just that, making good, and munching on Crispy Minis. 🙂
LWMC: In addition to your individual projects and work with LMG, you play together as Musedy Tag Team and in the Four Winds Collective What can you tell us about the experience and dynamics of performing solo, in a duet and in a group?
KL: Solo: I love it! Performing solo is empowering and freeing, though I tend to engage audience members in my act quite often. 😉 It is freeing that I can go off track and discover new moments without throwing anyone else off, and it’s also liberating to not worry that my behaviour is partly representing a bigger group. Having said that, there is no sweeter pleasure than sharing the stage with others, and sparking a unique and dynamic energy.
Musedy Tag Team: I love it love it!
I feel truly blessed to create and perform with Arlene in Musedy. She is the perfect yin to my yang and the class to my sass. A duet is a special relationship because you’re able to really get to know the other person and create a solid foundation of confidence upon which you can play and take risks. Musedy Tag Team is one of my favourite things to do and it is on my “to do more” list. Stay tuned for our upcoming Musedy Tag Team Mashup Madness show that’s in the works for being in the works! 🙂
Four Winds: I love it love it love it love it!! There is something absolutely enchanting about working in a group that works; it leads to endless discoveries and gifts. I really feel there is something magical about this collection of gals. We are eclectic and complementary, a songstorm of musical forces intertwined for the greater good. 🙂 I completely trust and admire each one of them musically and as best buds. When I play with Heather, Meghan and Arlene I feel safe yet thrilled, and a buzz of love adds to the rhythm of every performance. Incidentally, Four Winds will be performing our first original song at this year’s WonderFest!
AP: It’s SO much fun to do different projects with my best friend, Kat Leonard. Whether it’s LMG events, or duos, or even with more artists, like Four Winds, it’s really easy, extremely fun, hilarious and productive to work with Kat. I feel like we both have the same vision in promoting ourselves through these different projects and I’m really excited to see where it goes!!! We even toured to Halifax together on the VIA Rail, and travelled to LA to get a taste of the film and music scene.
LWMC: On Sunday, April 6, WonderFest takes over Revival Bar. What’s happening at this year’s fest?
KL: So much talent and fun is happening! Along with visual art displays, WonderFest starts this year at 2:00 with an inspiring workshop led by Niki and Madette: A Capella Jam and Synergy Sessions come together to lead us in musical improvisation. All levels of experience wanted! At 4:00 there will be networking and face painting until doors open at 6:00 for the variety show taking place 7:00 to 9:00. Music, comedy, dance, spoken word, art; we are so very excited for this fun-packed day!
AP: This is from our press release (Thanks Jeff Costigan!) This year’s event promises to build on the popularity and success of previous years – empowering people of all ages and backgrounds to use creativity and art in their everyday lives. The one-day event will take place on Sunday, April 6th at the Revival Bar in Toronto (783 College St.). The art-packed schedule includes a musical workshop, networking, and a culminating concert featuring musicians, poets, visual artists, and comedians (welcome to everyone from all levels, as spectators or participants). Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be found at: https://wonderfest2014.eventbrite.ca/
2-4pm: Synergy Jam Workshop A Cappella Jam + Synergy Session team up for a flash mob style jam session. Come sing, play, and leave feeling inspired! All styles, traditions and levels are welcome.
7-9pm: Concert (doors open at 6PM)
LWMC: And what do you hope participants and audience will take away from this year’s event?
AP: I really hope that people leave feeling inspired and empowered by what they learned and what they got to experience by performances and art work. The goal is to encourage people to tap into their creative side again, whether it’s to make an interesting spreadsheet or a lovely homemade dinner.
KL: My hope is that everyone who experiences WonderFest will discover a new artist and friend, will explore something fresh about themselves, and will find the freedom and power in nurturing a community of healthy risk-takers. I hope that every person walks away from WonderFest with a sense of empowerment to pursue the wildest of their dreams and the minutest of everyday miracles.
LWMC: Any other upcoming gigs or projects you’d like to shout out?
AP:Saturday April 12, 2014
with Miquelon Rodriquez, Sarah Giles, and Edward Monzon
The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W., Toronto)
9pm – 11pm * FREE
Sunday April 13th, 2014
Village Vinyl (2925 Lake Shore Blvd West, Toronto)
2pm – 5pm * FREE
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?
AP: Life with more cowbell ROCKS!! Thanks Cate for having us on your blog again!
KL: If I may be so bold, I want to thank you for being such an important and loving member of our WonderFest community. We adore you completely!
LWMC: Aw! Thanks, ladies!
You can also check out Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan on their YouTube sites: