Tantalizing treats & 2016-17 season sneak peeks @ Nightwood Theatre Dramatic Spring Social

It was a fabulous night of tantalizing treats and 2016-17 sneak peeks in very good company as Nightwood Theatre gave invited guests a sneak peek at its 2016-17 season at a Dramatic Spring Social, held at the home of Nightwood Board Chair Karon Bales on Wednesday night. The evening’s festivities included delicious food and drink, with wine supplied by GreenLane Estate Winery, and food from Sublime Catering and Beacon Restaurant Concepts.

kelly & beth
A.D. Kelly Thornton & Managing Director Beth Brown – photos by Taylor Trowbridge

Host Karon Bales welcomed us to her home, thanking us for our attendance as she highlighted the importance of theatre and the arts, and our shared dedication to the advancement of women. Nightwood A.D. Kelly Thornton and Managing Director Beth Brown echoed the importance of equity in the arts, hearkening back to the founding of Nightwood in 1979 – and shouting out founder Cynthia Grant, who was present – and its dedication to producing “relevant, dynamic and powerful theatre.” And that the low proportion of produced works written by women (22%) is evidence that, even in 2016, there is still a need for a women’s theatre.

We were then treated to excerpts from three of the four productions from Nightwood’s upcoming 2016-17 season:

Mouthpiece (Oct 21 – Nov 6, 2016 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). A Dora award-winning Quote Unquote Collective production; created and performed by Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, and directed/composed by Amy Nostbakken. Presented as a double bill with Quiver.

Amy Nostbakken & Norah Sadava
Amy Nostbakken & Norah Sadava

Gorgeous, fluid a cappella harmonies, unison spoken word and expressive movements make this an engaging and evocative piece. Performing an excerpt from the second half of the play, Sadava and Nostbakken portray two sides of a character whose mother has died. Shifting from the hauntingly beautiful a cappella harmonies of a roots spiritual to the unison voice message from the woman’s aunt, the audience is both moved and tickled as this young woman deals with conflicting emotions, inner turmoil and a funeral fashion crisis. I missed the RISER Project production last year – and will be sure to see it this time around.

Anna Chatterton
Anna Chatterton

Quiver (Oct 21 – Nov 6, 2016 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). Written and performed by Anna Chatterton, directed by Andrea Donaldson. Presented as a double bill with Mouthpiece.

Chatterton incorporates a vocal processor, laptop and microphone to create atmospheric and vocal effects to orchestrate this multi-character one-person show. In the excerpt, 14-year-old Maddie observes the world around her, particularly her mother’s bad romance with boyfriend Daniel, who turns out to be cheating on her. This revelation is exacerbated further when her teenage sister tells them the one he’s cheating with! Funny, dramatic and quirky, it’s a remarkable and engaging piece of solo storytelling.

Unholy (Jan 15 – Feb 5, 2017 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). Written by Diane Flacks, directed by Kelly Thornton.

Niki Landau
Niki Landau

Set as a live, televised debate, four women argue the question: “Should women abandon religion?” The play weaves flashbacks with debate moments, where each woman’s personal life is revealed (showing us what’s not being said). In the excerpt, Niki Landau performed a flashback: a hilarious drunken Jewish wedding toast from the sister of the bride that turns into confession and accusations of favouritism.

Century Song (April 12 – 29, 2017 at Crow’s Theatre). A Volcano Theatre production; created by Neema Bickersteth, with Kate Alton and Ross Manson, directed by Ross Manson and performed by Neema Bickersteth.

Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Century Song combines song, movement and projected images to create a feast for the senses as the storytelling takes the audience on a stunning journey of 100 years of women and art.

With thanks to Nightwood’s Marketing Coordinator Taylor Trowbridge for the photos and Development Coordinator Victoria Leberge for the invite.

Coming up soon for Nightwood: The annual Lawyer Show fundraiser; this year, it’s Guys and Dolls (June 9-11 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts). Also, coming up: the Creativity Gym; contact Michelle Alexander for info.

Can’t make it to The Lawyer Show, but want to support Nightwood? Consider making a donation.

You can keep up with Nightwood Theatre on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

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Interview with Project HOTS organizer Kayla Forrest

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Kayla Forrest – Project HOTS organizer

Founded in December 2014, Project HOTS (Helping on the Streets) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those living on the streets or in shelters have the basic necessities of life. Organizer Kayla Forrest, who works a full-time job as she prepares to head back to school to study Emergency Telecommunications, kicked off a series of fundraising events in November 2015 with Get Off The Streets, an evening of music/spoken word/comedy at the Horseshoe Tavern (which I had the great pleasure to perform in). The mission is to raise funds, food, clothing and survival gear for the coming weather, and the Horseshoe show was followed by a second event in December at The Painted Lady, hosted by The Celebration Army. I spoke with Kayla about Project HOTS and their upcoming events.

LWMC: Hey, Kayla. Thanks for taking the time to talk about Project HOTS. How did this organization come about?

KF: You’re most welcome, always happy to spread the word about inspiring people to do random acts of kindness and help others. This organization was started by a friend, Lizzie Violet, and it was originally named Project Warmth. After my own project of putting together bags of food and survival gear for the homeless on the streets, and collecting a bunch of donations for the homeless shelters Horizons For Youth and also Fred Victors – Helping People Find Place And Purpose, Lizzie invited me into being a part of the organization of hers. This is something that means a lot to me, as we are all humans at the end of the day and it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have, it’s about what kind of person you are to one another.

I ended up really getting into it and ran with the whole thing; she was super awesome and after a while let me take over the whole thing. So I ended up beginning to look into really taking it to the next level; when I researched the name to proceed with getting it certified and licensed, I found that there was already an organization in Alberta with the same name that began years before we did. So I went back to the drawing board and played with some name possibilities that were catchy and memorable. It was decided upon Project HOTS (helping on the streets) because in the winter you want to get warm, hey Project HOTS, and in the summer it’s pretty hot/warm, hey Project HOTS.

Project HOTS Exec Ass't Ashley King & Organizer Kayla Forrest
Project HOTS Exec Ass’t Ashley King & Organizer Kayla Forrest

So we kicked it into high gear with the name, had a friend of mine create the logo for us, and began to look into having merchandise created along with organizing fundraisers for the food/survival bags for the homeless on the streets.

LWMC: And what made you decide to launch the music/spoken word fundraising events?

KF: Lizzie suggested doing fundraisers, as I was paying for everything along with a few other volunteers for the food/survival bags and that we’d be able to make more of the kits if we did fundraisers. I avidly support the local arts (music, spoken word, etc.) scene, so asking the local performers if they’d like to be part of it along with choosing local venues was the next step.

LWMC: How has the response to the events been so far?

KF: The fundraiser events turned out amazingly awesome, with so many people supporting helping the homeless stuck on the streets and those in shelters that were lucky enough to get into them. The shows consist of bands, solo singers, spoken word, poets and comedians; along with raffles for gift bags put together by myself and the performers that volunteer for the show, along with other band merchandise donated to us by the incredibly awesome local performers. So far, we have had two events and currently a third one is being planned. We are also working on having a home base venue as well, so there will be semi-annual fundraiser shows a year for the semi-annual street donation drives.

LWMC: Tell us a bit about what happens after you receive donations. How does the food, clothing, survival gear, etc., get distributed?

KF: The donations are collected and accumulated at my place, then it’s all packed into my car and brought to the only homeless shelter (to my knowledge and as informed to me by the staff there) in Canada that take in homeless with animals, Fred Victor – Helping People Find Place And Purpose. I’m a complete animal lover, so this is something that really touched my heart. They furnish the residents rooms and also help them out when they get places of their own.

As for the food and survival gear that’s donated, I put together grocery bags with one or two of everything that was donated, or that we buy with the money raised from the fundraiser shows along with my own. I’m an avid believer that a non-profit organization should actually mean making nothing at all from the donations given as I spend my own money on the food/survival items along with buying merchandise for the fundraiser shows. To me, it just doesn’t make sense taking someone’s money for dedicating my time to a cause that shouldn’t have to be a cause since everyone should just care for and help one another no matter who you are in the world.

Then the volunteers are split into teams and given maps of the city I print out for different zones, load their cars up with grocery bags of food and survival gear, then they’re off to drive/roam the city streets looking for homeless to hand them out to.

LWMC: You’re mounting another event this spring at The Painted Lady. Do you have a date set yet?

KF: We absolutely love this venue as the staff and owners are absolutely incredible, so we’re working with the owners to find a date/time that works for everyone. It’ll be held in May though, as the next street donation drive will take place in June, but everyone can keep up-to-date with events and street donation drives on our Facebook and Twitter pages since the exact date has yet to be chosen.

LWMC: Can you give us a sneak peek as to who will be performing?

KF: It’s currently being worked on for the set list, but one of the performers that will for sure be there and opening for us will be the wonderfully awesome Supertash; who also is the writer for our organization’s theme song (which we totally snagged with her permission) “Listen To Your Heart.”

LWMC: Anything else coming up that you want to shout out?

KF: I want to let everyone know that we are always looking for new and upcoming performers for our shows. So if anyone has any interest in being part of one of the fundraisers, please feel free to contact us, as we will be having semi-annual shows, one in the spring and one in the winter every year.

LWMC: Anything in particular you guys need in way of donations right now?

KF: We are always accepting donations of clothing, household items, pet supplies (food, treats, bedding, toys, etc.) and survival gear for the streets and non-perishable food for the food care bags. We can either arrange a pick-up or drop-off point for the donations, or people are urged/welcome to bring them to the fundraiser shows as well. We do periodic drop-offs to the homeless shelter year-round every three to five weeks when we’ve accumulated a carload of things from people around the city.

LWMC: What do you do when you’re not working on Project HOTS?

KF: I work a full-time job, so any free time from work and the organization is spent at the gym, at local venues watching friends perform, reading, painting, writing, or randomly road-tripping and seeing where I end up.

LWMC: I like to close my interviews with the adapted Pivot questionnaire that James Lipton asks his guests on Inside the Actors Studio. What’s your favourite word?

KF: AWESOME!!!!!! You can’t help smiling when thinking/saying this awesome word.

LWMC: What’s your least favourite word?

KF: Hate. Such a strong angry word. <laughs>

LWMC: What turns you on?

KF: <laughs> This is really truly random, but definitely vanilla and intelligence. Intelligent vanilla? Is it a thing? It is now!

LWMC: What turns you off?

KF: Animal and child abusers… just no soooo hardcore!!

LWMC: What sound or noise do you love?

KF: Kittens purring, rain, kids giggling… but not in that like creepy children of the corn kind of way.

LWMC: What sound or noise do you hate?

KF: Any kind of sounds that come from a clown’s mouth. They should never be allowed to speak. Ever.

LWMC: What is your favourite curse word?

KF: Fuck. It’s so ridiculously versatile, plus as my mother taught me, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! Thanks mom! 😛

LWMC: What profession other than your own would you like to pursue?

KF: When I was a little girl, I used to want to be a lawyer so I could put away all the bad people, but now I realize that if I were a lawyer and the bad people got let go, I wouldn’t be able to hold myself back if it had anything to do with children and/or animals. Really, though, anything that is about helping people or animals would be super awesome to work as.

LWMC: What profession would you not like to do?

KF: I would definitely not like to work in a circus (other than it’s barbaric for the way they treat animals), but because they have clowns, and clowns freak me out to the absolute fullest amount. They should be outlawed. For good. Like forever banned.

LWMC: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

KF: Hmm… he’d probably laugh and say “It surprises me too that you actually made it up here.”

 

Thanks, Kayla!

Want to volunteer or donate to Project HOTS? For more info, email them at: projecthots@outlook.com

Interview with comedic pop dynamo Kat Leonard

imageKat Leonard is a multi-faceted, multi-talented ball of endless joy and positive energy. She performs her own brand of music, using a combo of comedic and poignant themes; is one-half of the music/comedy duo Musedy Tag Team (with Arlene Paculan); and also works with Paculan as the A.D. of Let’s Make Good (LMG) Productions to produce and present the WonderFest series of music, comedy and spoken word/poetry events. I had a chat with Kat over email about what’s been up with her lately, 2014 in general and upcoming events.

LWMC: So you’ve been a very busy lady lately. What’s been going on? What have you been up to?

KL: Oh man, that’s what I’d like to know! The year has whizzed by like bursting piss that’s been held in way too long! I started a new health and wellness business, and I’ve been doing some motivational speaking presentations and workshops (which I love), and of course still writing and performing my music and comedy, and being Artistic Director of Let’s Make Good Productions and WonderFest.

LWMC: I get the sense that 2014 has been a year of big changes. How would you sum up this past year – for you?

KL: Big changes. 2014 was the beginning of my detox, which continues into 2015. I’m detoxing my mind, my body and my world. Don’t worry. It’s not the end of cussing, beer and gyrating for me – in fact, it might mean even more! I’m just really scrutinizing what I let into me physically and emotionally. (That actually wasn’t supposed to sound dirty, BTW ;p)

LWMC: And what was your favourite gig of 2014?

KL: If I had to choose one favourite gig of 2014 it would be our Wonder Women LA showcase because we were in L-fuckin-A and I revel in the vibe there. I love the warmth of the people – and obviously the sunshine – I love the way they embrace art and take risks. We did a jam-packed four-hour show that was filled with soooo much talent and love – from music, comedy, spoken word, visual and multimedia artists. We had two stages at opposite ends of the venue so we could flip back and forth between artists, the sound was amazing, the food was amazing and the people were amazing. It was full of amaze! I made a lot of friends and felt that glorious buzz that lets you know you’re in the right place at the right time.

LWMC: I’ve always wanted to do this in an interview, and you’re my first. I’d like to give you James Lipton’s adapted Bernard Pivot/Proust questionnaire.

KL: I love it!

What’s your favourite word? I think it might be “fuck.” Maybe lowbrow, but it’s so totally versatile, eh? I like its sound and the different emphasis that can be put on it, and the effect it has on people.

What’s your least favourite word? Sometimes I don’t like the word “skin” even though it’s quite harmless and obviously I use it a lot. Just sometimes I hear it and get weird visuals of empty skin just lying around. In those moments, I don’t like it.

What turns you on? Low rumbling bass notes, a good beat, honesty, courage, strong hands, kind lips, boobs.

What turns you off? Complaining, arrogance, boredom.

What sound or noise do you love? People laughing, especially when it’s that erupting uncontrollable kind they can’t stop. Even better when they’re somewhere inappropriate and they gotta try to muffle it.

What sound or noise do you hate? Anything high-pitched, especially whining. And hockey game din. All my life, I’ve been surrounded by people watching hockey. Good lord, shut up!!! 😉

What is your favourite curse word? Fuck.

What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? International Spa Tester. I would be so good at this!

What profession would you not like to do? Ultimate Outdoor Survivalist. I would be so not good at this.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Surprise!

LWMC: You have a special gig coming up on January 8th at Flying Beaver Pubaret. What’s that about?

KL: THURSDAY, JANUARY 8 – 7pm SHE’S LISTENING: BENEFIT CONCERT FOR OVARIAN CANCER CANADA

This is a benefit concert for Ovarian Cancer Canada. There will be laughter and love, door prizes and other surprises! A spectacle of rock, pop and comedy mixed with the spirit of hope and help, this is an evening not to miss! However, if you must miss it and would still like to donate, please consider donating directly to Ovarian Cancer Canada.

$15 advance/$20 at the door: tix available at The Pubaret or online. Dinner available before, during and after the show. Dinner patrons get priority seating. E-mail heather@pubaret.com for rezzos or call 647.347.6567

Artists include:
Heather Hill
Kat Leonard
Angela Saini
Jessica Speziale
Kristine St. Pierre

This is the link to the Facebook Event should anyone wanna click!

LWMC: Anything else you want to shout out?

KL: Let’s Make Good Productions is partnering with SIPO Foundation and One Fire Movement for our next big WonderFest event in March 2015! We are also always looking for people to be featured in our weekly WonderFest series. More information on all of this at our website.

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

KL: I’ve been maintaining my blog wherein I sometimes do People Profiles. Anyone who would like to be featured can contact me. Here is my latest one, on musician Marcus Walker, if you’d like to check it out. You should check him out too!

LWMC: Thanks, Kat! It’s been a pleasure.

KL: No, thank YOU!!! YOU’RE the pleasure! 😉

You can also keep up with Kat Leonard on her YouTube channel and on Twitter.

A marvelous evening @ Mini-Soulo Festival, ft. Bits & Pieces by Diane Flacks & Katie Ford

Tracey Diane & Katie
Diane Flacks & Katie Ford (front), Tracey Erin Smith (back) – photo by Shy Alter

Last night’s program for Tracey Erin Smith and SoulOTheatre’s Mini-Soulo Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre was a multipurpose, big fun event that combined theatre fundraiser, love-in and new solo works.

Smith played auctioneer throughout the evening, calling out fabulous items that included a ukulele lesson from Jodi Pape (who serenaded us before the festivities began), one night’s rental at Red Sandcastle Theatre, a photo shoot with Shy Alter and a surprise last-minute offering of a year’s membership at Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club, courtesy of Savoy Howe.

Solo show class student Sara Armstrong kicked off the night’s performances with her show Tripping on the Way out of Town. Featuring personal stories of her life, spanning childhood memories to experiences of sexuality, and bookended with camel rides, Armstrong’s show is unflinchingly frank, and a strong commentary on the assumptions and expectations of others. Peppered with humour and dance breaks, the serious subjects are matter-of-fact and avoid the slide into maudlin. Funny and poignant, keep an eye out for Armstrong and this piece.

For the main event, Diane Flacks and Katie Ford performed a reading of their two-person solo show Bits and Pieces, which received dramaturgical support from Smith. Part stand-up, part monologue, part dialogue between two good friends, Flacks and Ford take us on a trip of life, love and resilience.

From the opening back and forth on everyday things we should just stop doing, to personal experiences of fear and courage, the piece is equal parts autobiographical, inspirational and motivational. Whether performing in character, like Flacks’ hilarious self-involved but present hot yoga instructor, or presenting personal anecdotes – Ford’s musings about a fledgling relationship and whether to keep it at a safe arm’s length or dive right in, and both share heart-wrenching accounts of experiences with death – Flacks and Ford make us laugh, cry and think.

Ultimately, Bits and Pieces is about finding your authentic self, getting back up when you get knocked down – and just staying present. Life really is too short after all. And what if, like Ford’s dog Ollie, you thought the whole world was your friend?

Bits and Pieces is a funny, moving, joyful ride through life’s experiences, and a reminder to stay present and not give up. A work in progress, I look forward to see where Flacks and Ford go with this piece. In case you missed it, check out the cowbell interview with Flacks and Ford.

The Mini-Soulo Festival wraps up this afternoon (Sun, Nov 30) with workshops and a public reading at Red Sandcastle Theatre. Congrats to Smith and SoulOTheatre for winning NOW Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Small Theatre Company!

mini-soulo fest

She’s Listening Toronto II – five lovely & talented women make beautiful music for a great cause

What a pleasure being out at The Cameron House for She’s Listening Toronto II last night! This fundraiser in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada featured five amazing female singer/songwriters, all bringing their talents and positive energy to the stage in support of a great cause: Heather Hill, Kat Leonard, Melanie Peterson, Angela Saini and Jessica Speziale.

And what a great evening it was! I was already very familiar with – and love – Hill, Leonard, Saini and Speziale, and was really happy to meet Peterson and see her perform with her band. And she is also awesome!

Check out these ladies’ websites, and take a look at their music videos too. Heather Hill recently released her music vid for “Stupid Happy” and Jessica Speziale launched “Brace Yourself” recently. Here’s Angela Saini’s “Little Black Dress” (and she tells me a vid for “Something Like I’m Beautiful” is coming soon!) Here’s Melanie Peterson’s “Cinema Girl” – and if you haven’t heard Kat Leonard’s fangirl ode to Johnny Depp, then you must take a look at this singalong vid of “Jockstrap.”

And last, but not least, here are some pix I took at the event last night:

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New Heather Hill music vid makes me Stupid Happy

I absolutely love this super fun, quirky, sweet love song – and this amazing music video by Toronto-based singer/songwriter and bringer of positive vibes Heather Hill:

You can catch Heather Hill live, along with Kat Leonard, Melanie Peterson, Angela Saini and Jessica Speziale, tonight (Wed, June 4) at The Cameron House for She’s Listening Toronto II, a fundraiser in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada. 8 p.m. Suggested $10.

Hilarious, frank & real – grown-ups dealing the best they can in Sex After Kids

A father/adult daughter conversation that ventures into TMI territory – for both of them.

A date between two single parents that ends with a note that reads: “I’m really really sorry for drugging you.”

A couple with an infant and a non-existent sex life are both tempted to stray.

These are just a few of the moments presented in the multi-storied Sex After Kids – now playing in Toronto at the Carlton. This film, by Canadian writer/director Jeremy LaLonde, was a labour of love, of friends and family, on many levels – funded through a crowdsourcing campaign and populated with an impressive ensemble of Canadian talent, including some familiar faces from the cast of Lost Girl (Paul Amos, Katie Boland, Kris Holden-Ried, Christine Horne and Zoie Palmer), veteran actor Gordon Pinsent and some truly adorable kids (including LaLonde’s son and daughter).

This is a hilariously frank, real and poignant look at the sex lives of parents – mostly new parents – and how the grown-ups deal with the challenge of navigating their drastically altered lives and relationships, and coming to grips with how their own identities have changed in the process. Everyone is flawed, struggling and doing the best they can to deal with his/her situation, to varying degrees of success. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but life moves on. I laughed a lot, gasped several times and really felt for these characters. This is an outstanding and generous cast, and the stories were woven together brilliantly.

It was especially gratifying to see Sex After Kids last night, as actor Amanda Brugel and her Brug’s Army hosted a fundraising screener – including a food and clothing drive, and cast meet ‘n greet – for Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.

Sex After Kids has been held over for another week at the Carlton, so if you’re in Toronto, get your butt on over there to see it.

Check out the trailer: