Steven Conway & Pearle Harbour. Lighting design by Logan Raju Cracknell. Photo by Michael Cooper.
Pearle Harbour pops onto the Factory Theatre Mainspace stage for Next Stage Theatre Festival with her timely, funny and moving pre-apocalyptic multimedia drag cabaret Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop! Written by Justin Miller and directed by Rebecca Ballarin, with music direction and live accompaniment by Steven Conway, and video design by Adam Miller, Pearle brings her wartime tragicomedienne song stylings and storytelling to explore our deepest fears.
Climate change is at a crisis point, the Doomsday Clock is at two minutes to midnight, and Australia’s on fire—but keep calm and laugh, sing, and even scream and cry, along with Pearle as she treats audiences to some music gems by the likes of David Bowie, Judy Garland, Tom Waits and more, including a different special guest artist appearance with every performance. Examining our deepest existential fears, the storytelling and song stylings switch between funny and poignant, with Pearle living up to her reputation as a wartime tragicomedienne and including some gentle, consensual audience participation.
The 1950s Bert the Turtle PSA bit on how to protect yourself in the event of a nuclear blast (duck and cover) got a bit too close to home this morning when that Emergency Alert went out to folks across Southern Ontario around 7:30AM. The vague warning, directed to folks living withing 10km of the Pickering nuclear power plant, turned out to be sent in error, but loads of questions remain as I write this.
There’s some truly frightening stuff happening out in the world right now—but, ultimately, Pearle’s message is one of awareness, engagement, hope and love. Let’s do better. Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s turn back that clock.
You have three more chances to catch Pearle Harbour’s Agit-Pop! in the Factory Theatre Mainspace until January 19; check the show page for exact dates, times and advance ticket purchase. The house was packed yesterday, so early arrival or advance booking strongly recommended.
Carly Telford, Chris O’Bray & Raechel Fisher. Photo by Laura-Kate Dymond.
Irrelephant Productions takes us into the mouth of the sea lion for 55 minutes of absurd sketch comedy, peppered with drag performance and social satire in the wacky, surreal Swallowed Whole, written and directed by Rachel Perry, and running at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse.
Sketch comedy trio Chris O’Bray, Raechel Fisher and Carly Telford take us through a series of comedic, sometimes bizarre, scenarios: a cooking show for poor people, hosted by O’Bray in old lady drag; and a pair of entitled, dick-obsessed slackers (Fisher and Telford in drag) get broromantic to the tune of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers—returning later with O’Bray in a three-man boy band. There’s the misadventures of Calvin (O’Bray), who finds himself trapped in the oddest places—and his pissed of (recent) ex (Fisher), Olive Garden manager (Fisher), and even his mom (Telford) and dad (Fisher) refuse to help. And then there’s the Ouija Board Dating Game, where bachelorette Demi (Fisher) poses a series of compatibility questions to three dead celebrity bachelors (Telford, O’Bray and a surprise guest).
Shouts to the cast for going all-out in their commitment to character and outrageous antics. Telford and Fisher are especially funny as the two slacker bros; and O’Bray’s cooking lady is something of a low-rent Julia Child. And nice work from the trio on the boy band harmonies!
It’s a mad, mad work of bizarre wacky times. And you can wash it all down with a Dougie Ford Buck a Beer beer while you bop your head to the music and marvel at humanity’s endless quirks.
Swallowed Whole continues at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse for two more performances: July 13 at 6:45 and July 14 at 8:00; check the show page for advance tickets.
Living in Canada, it can be easy to take our rights and freedoms for granted, and sometimes we need to be reminded that people in other countries are still struggling and fighting – and this is especially true for the LGBT community.
Salvador, written by Rafael Antonio Renderos and directed by Sam Graham, is one such reminder – on now at Toronto Fringe. A Young Man (Renderos) travels to his family’s homeland, El Salvador, to research gay rights violations. There, he interviews Joaquín Caceres (Jamie Johnson), an HIV+ gay man, human rights/LGBT activist and founder of Asociacíon Entre Amigos, and he learns of the history of horrors and routine rights violations suffered by LGBT people, all the while repressing his exuberant gay self.
Appearing throughout the play is the Spirit (Jaime Hernandez-Lujan), a stunningly beautiful and vivacious drag queen. Through verbatim theatre (the interview), storytelling and drag performance, the journey unfolds as the Young Man corresponds with his lover back home in Toronto. And he ends up learning much more than he expected – mainly, about himself.
Renderos is beautifully idealistic, curious and open-hearted as the Young Man, struggling with his own sexual and gender identity even as he hears about Joaquin’s fight. Johnson gives Joaquin a strong sense of passion and drive, tempered with good-humour and warmth; this is a good man risking his life in the fight for human rights. Hernandez-Lujan (also known as drag performer Lucinda Miu) gives a lovely performance as the Spirit, going from flirtatious, entertaining and whimsical to tender and melancholy throughout her various numbers, as she plays various characters, including Joaquin’s mother. It is as if the Spirit is the Young Man’s true self come to life – and when he puts his own internal repression and fear aside, he lip syncs and dances with such release and joy that I couldn’t help but be brought to tears.
Salvador is a moving, entertaining and eye-opening story of LGBT cultural and self-discovery.
The show continues at the Annex Theatre until July 13 – check here for exact dates/times.
I was very happy to kick off my World Pride Toronto experience with the opening of A Chorus Queen at Hart House Theatre last night; a drag musical conceived by Marc Simcox (also the show’s executive producer and artistic director) and Ramzi Ayyash, with book by Joseph Amenta.
Directed by Heather Nassler, with choreography by Lucas Porter, A Chorus Queen takes us on a journey of live, love and following a dream as we tag along with three intrepid drag queens Tanya (Justin Deschaine/Laydee Justice), Veronica (Devion Farley/Devine Darlin) and Dede (Andrew Pelrine/Bunni Lapin) – sisters in heels – on their trip of self-discovery as they go after their dream of performing at the Moulin Rouge. All presided over by their mentor Mama Rose (Chantelle Helena Carr/Farra N Hyte), and accompanied by a hot and talented ensemble of young men (aka “the boys”), a soundtrack of well-known and beloved show tunes, the hilarious hoofer antics of the puckish Delicious Dick (Jose Arias/Dyna Thirst) – and a struggle against the vicious machinations of the evil queen Unca (Matty Cameron/Scarlett Bobo). Adding to the fun and glamour is a cast of guest queens, including Sofonda Cox, Brooklyn Hytes, Judy Virago, Xtacy Love, Carlotta Carlisle, Jada Hudson, Igby Izzard and Ala Mode.
A Chorus Queen is a singing, dancing, drag extravaganza, featuring stunning costumes by Michael DiFruscio, and witty – sometimes bitchy – banter. The second act especially stands out, with Carr giving her all in a knock-out performance of “Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy; and Farley and Pelrine rock “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent. I adored the rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” from (the First Wives Club (movie version) from our three heroines Deschaine, Farley and Pelrine – reprised near the end of the show in its full pop glory. And the entire cast gives us a tap number that’ll knock your socks off.
A Chorus Queen is a magically delicious drag musical with sparkles on top. And if that weren’t enough, the show is a fundraiser for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA).
That’s two reasons to go out and see A Chorus Queen. If you need a third – it’s World Pride! A drag show is pretty much compulsory for a complete Pride experience. The show runs until June 28 – be sure to note the 7:30 p.m. curtain time.
So go forth, get tickets, have lots of fun and support a great cause. And have a happy and safe Pride! xo
So 2014 is my official year of doing scary shit. And, by “scary shit,” I mean stuff that’s anxiety-inducing to me personally – so you may not find these activities scary at all.
I’ve managed to accomplish one of my nerve-wracking goals: posting the photo shoot I did recently in the Alumnae Theatre studio space – where I dressed in period drag – working with photographer Lisa MacIntosh and makeup artist Rebecca Kupferstein, who are both awesome. My nerves were not so much about the shoot itself – though I felt like I had the right amount of nervous excitement – but more about posting it on the blog and making the pictures public, as I tend to shy away from putting myself out there on the blog. After all, the main purpose of the blog is to shout out local indie and emerging artists and arts/culture events. But, since I’d already decided to post more short fiction and creative non-fiction anyway, I thought it would be fun to show another side of myself.
The current scary thing is Comedy Girl, a beginner’s stand-up comedy class for women with Dawn Whitwell at Comedy Bar, which started on April 17. Next to improv, stand-up always seemed like one of the scariest performing gigs out there – and it’s something I’ve been thinking about trying for a while. So, I thought, what the hell? Two classes in, I’m having a blast. It’s still a bit scary – but I’m working with a group of amazing, funny women and it’s a very supportive atmosphere. We’ve still got our training wheels on, and Dawn is jogging along beside us as we bring in our ideas and work them into bits. All working towards coming up with a short set and performing at a class show.
Next up: I’ll be doing the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower. This is also something I’ve wanted to do for a while – so much so, I put it out there to my family as a birthday gift possibility. My sibs got me a gift certificate for a walk at my 50th (yes, I’m 50) last year. I originally planned to do the walk last fall, but got sidelined by my cranky knees and a physiotherapy schedule. I’m aiming to schedule this in May/June – will keep all y’all posted.
Are you doing anything scary on purpose this year?