Hot damn, that was one fine Queer Slam!

Hot damn, that was one fine Queer Slam! I had the great honour – and pleasure – of being on the judging panel at last night’s Queer Slam at Supermarket. Hosted by hot damn slam poet Cathy Petch, with assistance from Brock Hessel, last night’s festivities included performances by Petch and Hessel, and fellow judges David Bateman and Duncan Armstrong, and a feature set from Regie Cabico – with sponsors Canadian Cancer Society, who reminded us to Get Screened, and LGBTOUT, who lead us in an acknowledgment of World AIDS Day, which was marked earlier this week on December 1. The fabulous Lizzie Violet and a trio of guys dubbed “The Cutie Patooties” rounded out the judging panel.

Sharply attired in a fedora and mustache, Petch (who also performs with Bateman and Cabico in The Dildettes) is an awesome fun host, cheeky and frank, and making sure everyone was included and appreciated. She read a piece from David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration (Part 1) and Brock shared AID/I/SAPPEARANCE by Joan Retallack.

David Bateman gave a sardonically edgy, darkly comic scathing social commentary in his performance of “What’s it Like?” – a piece about the experience of living with HIV, and dealing with the insensitivity and dumbassery of the curious.

Duncan Armstrong – who really does have the best t-shirts in the business – performed three of his pieces: a rhythmic and comic piece about getting it on; “Last Will and Testament,” a moving and pointed piece inspired by his experiences as a palliative caregiver of HIV/AIDS patients; and a sharply funny commentary on the art world with “Art Abstracted.”

To kick off the slam portion of the evening, Petch played the queer national anthem on the saw: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” then introduced a sacrificial slam performer (to give the judges a baseline score to work with for the competition). Shouts to Barbara Erochina, who gave us a raw, real and humourous confession of youthful desire set in a religious camp.

Three performers came forward to compete in last night’s two-round slam – the winner moves on to the finals in the spring, for the ultimate battle for the prize spot in Capturing Fire, Regie Cabico’s queer summit and slam in Washington, D.C.:

Tanya Neumeyer is a mercurial, rhythmic performer, playing with the ideas of experiencing the body – one’s own and that of others – and the dichotomy of desiring closeness and space in her first piece; and a socio-political, historical, philosophical queer anthem in the second round.

Mind the Gap has a quirky, fun nerd girl vibe – riffing on falling in love with straight girls and unrequited feelings in round one, and a quick futuristic, playful narrative in round two.

Jed Mimnagh-Kennific is an adorable baby slam performer, serving up a sweet, funny and lyrical love remembrance for her first piece. She brought a more complex narrative arc in her second piece, opening with the first flutterings of attraction, Catholic school sex ed, Bible readings and the message that the body is a temple, then shifting into a heart-wrenching account of childhood abuse – taking the audience along on this emotional journey.

Feature performer Regie Cabico is where stand-up meets spoken word in slammin’ fabulousness. Combining the divine and profane, he gave us a sensual and sexual observational piece featuring the sense of smell, an ode to an older lover from his younger days (which included a Fosse dance pose break) and an irreverent fun tale of Lucifer doing stand-up (inspired by an early morning stand-up gig after a very late night of debauched fun). And he does a wicked Tina Turner. Several of us were trying to convince him to move to Toronto; he lives in Washington, D.C., loves T.O. and visits regularly.

Results from the slam: Mind the Gap took third place, as well as the Queirdo prize for the weirdest poem; Neumeyer placed second and Mimnagh-Kennific took first place. With shouts to our score keeper Michelle Darby.

Big fun times was had by all. Look out for the next Queer Slam event next month – at Glad Day Bookshop. In the meantime, you can check out some pix I took at last night’s event:

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Random thoughts & sage advice in Felicia Guy-Lynch’s Scattered Thoughts: A Stream of Consciousness

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Felicia Guy-Lynch reading “you should know” at The Beautiful & the Damned.

Felicia Guy-Lynch’s first book, Scattered Thoughts: A Stream of Consciousness, is a poetry collection of random thoughts and shared wisdom on love, self-worth, trust and living in this world. Political, analytical, with word play, rhymes and rhythms – it sometimes feels like you’re reading a sheet of music with no notes on it, but you can hear the words, feel the beat.

I saw Guy-Lynch perform “you should know,” which appears near the end of Scattered Thoughts, at Glad Day Bookshop back in September at the monthly The Beautiful & the Damned poetry and music cabaret. Having now experienced this piece both live before an audience and read silently to myself in solitude, it’s still one of my favourites. Inspired by The Alchemist, the piece imparts sage advice that strikes home and sticks: “…those who gossip to you will eventually gossip about you. you should know wisdom is avoiding all thoughts that weaken you. those who anger you control you. you should know how your treat and make people feel? that’s all that matters…”

Often served up with a rap rhythm, some of the poems use rhyme, some don’t – and poems like “stylistic” weave a single rhyme throughout the piece. At times, the words flow across the page without punctuation, capital letters signaling the beginning of the next line. And just when you think you’ve got the rhythm down, anticipating the next beat, Guy-Lynch changes it up, playing the words in rhyming couplets in “crossroads,” then floating them in free association phrases in “cosmic sanctuary.”

You can catch Guy-Lynch at her upcoming book signing – including Scattered Thoughts: A Stream of Consciousness and her new book 365 on Saturday, May 11 at Knowledge Bookstore (177 Queen St. W., Brampton) from 12 – 4 p.m. In the meantime, you can pay her a visit at her Twitter and YouTube co-ordinates.

So much fun coming up!

Thought I’d take a moment to post about some ongoing/upcoming arts events.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) continues this week with the Week Two program and reading (March 13-17), with Week Three program/reading running the week after (March 20-24).

Quick note on Saturday’s Week One reading of Falling: We had a packed house, with an audience who responded very positively and had some great feedback for playwright Jamie Johnson. Shouts to Jamie, co-artistic directors Pat McCarthy and Carolyn Zapf, director Ed Rosing, AD/SM Jake Simpkins, dramaturge Diane Forrest, sound designer Rick Jones, and fellow cast members Carys Lewis, Cora Matheson, Ruth Miller and Kristen Scott! And a big thanks to all the folks who came out to support the play, including friends and family – some of whom trekked in from Ottawa, Burlington and Hamilton. xo

The next edition of The Beautiful and the Damned is Thursday, March 14 – 7 p.m. at Glad Day Bookshop. Host DM Moore introduces feature performers Greg “Ritallin” Frankson, Gerald Hannon and Andraya Smith, and some amazing open mic folks.

The next Songwriters Circle of Jerks is coming up on Thursday, March 14 – 8:30 p.m. at Free Times Café, featuring Brian Cober, Hugh Wilson, Marcus Walker, Nelson Sobral and Nick Verona.

Nightwood Theatre’s Groundswell Festival opens Friday, March 15 and runs until March 24 at Berkeley Street Theatre – check out the cool promo vid for the fest.  Features a new play by one of my favourite playwrights: Judith Thompson’s Who Killed Snow White? Also check out Nightwood’s annual International Women’s Day Celebration FemCab on Wednesday, March 20.

Speaking of my favourite playwrights, check out ongoing productions of works by Hannah Moscovitch (Double Bill) at Tarragon Theatre (till March 24) and Theatre Brouhaha’s production of Kat Sandler’s Rock at Storefront Theatre (till March 23).

And while you’re at it, check out the March programming and workshops at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

Canadian Music Week (CMW) is coming up hard and fast (March 19-24) – so check that out. Just a selection of some artists I know who will be performing: Angela Saini, blueVenus, Meghan Morrison, Jessica Speziale, Tin Star Orphans

But wait – there’s more! Bella’s Burlesque Birthday Bash: DIRTY THIRTY DANCE PARTY is coming up on Thursday, March 28 at Lee’s Palace – 8:30 p.m. Bella Fox hosts a night of burlesque, music (including High Heels Lo Fi), dancing – it’s going to be a blast. Next day is Good Friday, so lots of you will be able to sleep that one off.

All the more reason for me to get over this stupid head cold, which I’ve had since last Thursday.

Valentine’s Day goes Femme Fatale @ The Beautiful & the Damned

Passion, poetry, music – and fun, sexy and moving times – at Glad Day Bookshop last night during The Beautiful and The Damned Femme Fatale Valentine’s Day edition, hosted by the lovely and talented Lizzie Violet, who also acted as quiz mistress on this month’s dead celeb Gloria Grahame trivia questions. I had a blast, live tweeting the event, along with pics of all the performers.

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blueVenus: Jessica Stuart (guitar & backup vocals) & Andrea de Boer (lead vocals & violin)
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blueVenus’ Andrea de Boer

Feature performers included Josh Smith, Myna Wallin and blueVenus (Andrea de Boer & Jessica Stuart), and there were several excellent open mic artists as well, including Kat Leonard, who got us up on our feet dancing to the One Billion Rising music video on her iPad. Check out the pics from last night’s festivities.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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It’s so cliché – not to mention annoying and sad – to be a bitter single person today, so I’m choosing to celebrate with some lovely and talented friends at Glad Day Bookshop tonight: The Beautiful and The Damned Femme Fatale Valentine’s Day edition, hosted by Lizzie Violet – with feature performers Josh Smith, Myna Wallin and Andrea de Boer – doors open at 7 p.m.

If you’re up for some music, check out Heartbreakers (aka Songwriters) Circle of Jerks at Free Times Café, featuring Melting Pot, Big Name Actors, David Hustler and Nick Verona – doors open at 8:30 p.m.

Sorry to be missing the music at Free Times tonight. This gal has to get up bright and early for the office job tomorrow, then on to my first rehearsal for New Ideas Festival 2013 Week One reading of Jamie Johnson’s Falling, directed by Ed Rosing, at Alumnae Theatre. More on this acting gig soon.

What are you doing today?

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.

Poets & songwriters & a holiday love-in

Last night was a double pleasure – for the art and for the company. First up was The Beautiful & The Damned (TB&TD) at Glad Day Bookshop, where a gang of my best pals (Liz, Lizzie, Kat, Janis and Kira) and I gathered to catch the first set before continuing our evening’s cultural festivities.

The December edition of TB&TD was Star Wars night, with props to dead celeb Sir Alec Guinness. Host Duncan Armstrong started the evening off with his poem “Guilt,” funny and insightful youthful reminiscences of a father’s jacket and stealing away to the closet – my favourite line “grow much too quickly into adulthood.”

Open mic performers included author/poet Adam Abbas, who read his piece “Excess,” words and rhymes tripping from the page and out of his mouth with Dr. Seuss-like playfulness. Singer/songwriter Kat Leonard treated us to a new song, a fun – and decidedly dirty, but in a good way – ode to Santa and his big, bulging sack. Duncan followed this up with his own raunchy ode to holiday time, with his poem “Santa Daddy” – a fun and sexy romp.

Feature performer Melissa Benner finished off the first set, reading a selection of her poems. “Small Town Straight,” a place where gays are beat up or forced into covert ops disguise, and later dream of throwing a Pride parade before setting the town alight in flaming retribution. Then the love poems: “Tom Boy,” a beautiful love poem to a boyish woman, a woman she was and now loves, and “Bloodstream,” about a boy she once loved, attraction starting innocently with a date in a church and coming to a boiling point, senses coming alive with touch. “Letter to My First Love” is a love poem to the farm landscape of family and childhood – which Benner said she read to the fields one day – the heartache of a love lost, of a place that will never be the same. Moving on to the loss of a loved one, the wife of a dear friend – chosen family – caring and healing with food in “Cooking.” And, lastly “Call For Beauty,” an ode to the love of words, sparked by a Leonard Cohen haiku – touching off memories, words painting the landscape of a beloved place, again the farm, and “one white lawn chair sits regal in the middle” of a field. Benner has a lovely, lyrical way with words – sensuous, romantic, evocative and sexy – and delivers them with genuine emotion, humour and love of her subject.

The next edition of The Beautiful and The Damned will be on Thursday, January 10 – with host Philip Cairns.

Then, Lizzie, Kat, Janis and I walked to the Free Times Café for a night of music with the Songwriters Circle of Jerks. This was their third event, and the Jerks are Nelson Sobral (Melting Pot), Hugh Wilson and Nick Verona (Big Name Actors), and David Hustler (David Hustler and The Trustworthy).

Four guys. Four acoustic guitars. Four mics. One set of antlers. One Star of David. This edition of Jerks had a whimsical, holiday feel to it – and there were Santa jars of candy on every table. The guys started with an amazing round robin set – from Sobral’s blues-infused rock, with growling vocals and driving guitar, to Wilson’s soft rock ballad with smooth vocals countering the forceful chords on a Big Name Actors original tune, Verona (the “awkward” one) serving up powerful sounds on a rock-driven ballad with his 12-string that’s got two strings missing, and Hustler’s melodious and funny-‘cuz-it’s-true “Six Pints In.” I think the holiday song round was my favourite, though, partly because the guys donned holiday headgear and also for the new twists well-known Christmas songs: Sobral’s “Jingle Bell Rock” and Hustler’s “We Three Kings” rawked out, while Wilson’s “Christmas Time is Here” (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) was melancholy and bluesy, and Verona’s “White Christmas” started quiet in the lower register, shifting into a more longing and earnest sound in the higher register.

Guest performers Red Falcon White Lightning gave us an all-original set, with acoustic guitar and bass, featuring some driving rhythms and sweet harmonies, all with a roots/power/pop rock flavour. Brought Blue Rodeo to mind, actually. And I loved the double-barreled harp tune.

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Nelson Sobral, Hugh Wilson, Nick Verona with David Hustler in the foreground

The next Songwriters Circle of Jerks event is Thursday, January 3, when the guys will be covering each other’s songs. And get ready for the boys breaking hearts and stealing your girlfriend in February. All in the back room at Free Times Café.

Big, big fun and a whole lotta love.