Soul reviving human connection in the entertaining, engaging, enlightening Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua

Justin Miller as Pearle Harbour, with Steven Conway in the background. Production design by Joseph Pagnan, with tent by Haley Reap. Lighting design by Jareth Li. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

 

Pearle Harbour invites you into the milky folds of her tent for some soul reviving human connection in the engaging, entertaining, enlightening Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua, written and performed by Justin Miller, accompanied by Steven Conway and directed by Byron Laviolette. The sold-out SummerWorks 2017 Audience Choice Award-winning show returns to its home base at Theatre Passe Muraille as it opens TPM’s 2018-19 season.

As you’re ushered into the Mainspace through the stage door and walk towards the tent, you pass various collections of objects from another time and place; an acoustic guitar, a vintage typewriter, wooden crates. There’s a bar, too, just before you get to the opening of the tent; and Conway is there with your seating assignment. Finding your bench to sit inside the tent, you see text stencilled on each wall: SPEAK TRUTH, LIVE PURE, RIGHT THE WRONG, FOLLOW THE WAY. Three strings of Edison bulbs hang from the ceiling; and you can hear fiddle music and a man’s voice speaking—poetry, philosophy?

Our hostess joins us, singing “Come on Up to the House” as she enters, accompanied by Conway on acoustic guitar. A sassy redheaded all-American wartime tragicomedienne, Pearle proceeds to lead us through a rousing, enlightening experience of connection and redemption as she takes us through each of the four pillars of Chautauqua (the words stencilled on the walls of the tent). Acknowledging that things are rough out there in the world, but having faith in “people power” and joining together, Pearle is no clueless Pollyanna. She gives it to us frank and candid, in a gentle, respectful interactive space—and always with the hope and belief that people can change the world.

A hilarious and poignant storyteller and rabble-rouser—true to his drag alter ego Pearle—Miller engages and entertains; touching on universal truths in an intimate, focused yet relaxed way that invites us all to be present, grounded and breathing throughout. The vintage props, puppetry and Creamsicle sing-song reminiscences are more than mere exercises in nostalgia or fond souvenirs of simpler times; they’re a meditation of sorts. A reminder to go back once in a while, to remember who you really are—that individual spirit you may have lost along the way in this hi-tech, fast-paced, ever changing workaday world. And that one flickering light bulb highlights that, no matter how hard you try to make things perfect, we live in an imperfect world—and we’re all imperfect or broken in some way. We’ve all done things that were less than kind, that we may regret. And while that admission can be infuriating, embarrassing and guilt-inducing, we can be better and we can let go.

When was the last time you sang or heard “One Tin Soldier”? The last time you had a Creamsicle? What takes you back to who you were all those years ago?

Part revival, part enlightening cabaret, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua invites us in and embraces us—valuing the spectrum of humanity and shining a light on that which unites us. It’s just the thing we need right now. Come on in and join Pearle in the tent.

Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua continues in the TPM Mainspace until October 27; please note the 7:30 p.m. curtain time for evening performances. Should you book in advance to avoid disappointment? You betcha! Get advance tickets online or by calling the box office at: 416-504-7529.

The run includes a post-show Q&A, usually hosted by Jivesh Parasram, with cast and crew on October 14; and a pre-show chat, hosted by AD Andy McKim, with a cast member or local expert at 6:45 p.m. on October 17.

In the meantime, take a gander at the trailer:

 

 

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Luminous, organic & abstract works, vibrating with colour & tension in Mediated Space exhibit

Humans react and respond to their environment.
The space, atmosphere and the room ingredients, especially the art. Abstract expressionist art has an active and interactive effect on the occupants of a room – offering windows and doors, mood and attitude where there are otherwise merely walls to contain the space. Come and experience mediated space. – Nora Camps

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Nora Camps & Avril Bull-Jones

Abstract expressionist Nora Camps launched a unique exhibit of her work, along with guest artist Avril Bull-Jones, last Thursday night: Mediated Space at Arbitration Place. The site-specific show had an opening reception, and from there will be an immersive experience for those who work in and use the space.

The idea came from an experience Camps had when her work was incorporated into a house staging a few years ago. When the buyers took possession of their new home, they were distressed. The space didn’t feel right. Something was missing. Turns out, what they were missing was the paintings. In the initial showing of the home, the paintings impacted how they perceived and responded to the space.

Arbitration Place is a dispute resolution facility, equipped with a series of hearing rooms, and a staff of resident and member arbitrators, and in-house legal support, as well as a concierge administrative/services team. Two parties will meet to resolve an issue – and although this is not a trial setting, strong emotions and high stakes will still come into play. How will the presence of these works transform the space and impact the rapport between the arguing sides?

Camps and Bull-Jones are two very different artists, with divergent approaches and media. There is an intensely deep, expressively dramatic feel to Camps’ work, while Bull-Jones’ pieces have an organic, storytelling quality, at times nostalgic and whimsical. And yet, both artists create works that are rooted in a personal response to nature and the space around them – engaging, moving and evoking a response in the viewer.

Abstract expressionist Camps works mainly in acrylic, with pieces ranging from the shimmering, luminous and textured Flowers Silver to the deeper, dramatic palate of Red Trees Reflected, to the sensual and organic touches in On Pond and Below Sea Level 3. Interesting dynamics emerge in how the works are placed in the space (in the reception area, hallways and hearing rooms): Red Trees Reflected is hung opposite Blue Portal in a startling and moving contrast of hot and cold, with the Blue Portal canvas revealing tension of its own, as a red horizontal line cuts across an oceanic blue and white background.

Bull-Jones’ work incorporates a variety of printing processes, as well as acrylic and watercolour, creating images inspired by the patterns and dance of nature. Falling for You is a whimsical portrait of falling leaves. Contrast is evident here as well, the cool blue background of the falling leaves in Plunging Lines hangs in the same room as the hot, organic orange and cinnamon of Balanced Sizzle. There are scenes of anthropomorphized flora in the nature love-in So Special and the emerging figure in In and Out; and an illustration style in the fable-like Mystical Universe, where four elephants ride a sea turtle.

As these spaces get used over the course of the exhibit, I imagine these works acting as both flies on the wall and catalysts to the nature and tone of the proceedings that unfold.

A lovely combination of luminous, organic and abstract – vibrating with colour and tension – in Mediated Space.

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The haunting beauty of porcelain – Clare Twomey’s Piece by Piece @ Gardiner Museum

3 original figurines
6 makers
2,000 replica statuettes

Artist Clare Twomey’s remarkable, interactive exhibit Piece by Piece is on now at the Gardiner Museum.

Inspired by the museum’s commedia dell’arte collection, Twomey and five other makers created molds of three figurines (Leda, Harlequin and Scaramouche) and produced 2,000 statuettes. The three originals stand in raised glass cases at one end of the exhibition room, facing the maker’s table opposite. In the taped off space between them, the replicas are situated on the floor. A path along the edges of the room takes the viewer on a journey around the exhibit, providing a 360° perspective of the spectacle.

The scores of white statuettes in the space between the maker and the original figurines are placed in evocative positions and groupings, calling to mind armies, intimate dancing couples and chorus lines, and even acrobatics. Some of them are grouped to hold others aloft, like a cheerleading squad or even a mosh pit; some are broken, missing their bases, arms or heads – a dichotomy between strength and fragility at play here.

As the statuettes are all unpainted – and most have not been glazed – the lighting in the exhibition space plays sharply about their contours, casting shadows on the floor and bringing them eerily to life. The effect is both beautiful and haunting.

At various times throughout the exhibit, a solo maker can be seen at work at the table, pouring porcelain into the molds, or opening molds to reveal a newly created piece. Take a look at the video:

Piece by Piece is on display (on the third floor of the museum) until January 4, 2015. On the final day of the exhibit, the museum will be staging a public intervention, during which the public will be invited to take a piece of the exhibit home. You can find more info, including priority registration here.

You can also follow the Gardiner Museum on Facebook and Twitter.

Nuit Blanche T.O. amazes & inspires

Had a blast wandering the night and checking out the Nuit Blanche Parade exhibits and others with my good pal Lizzie Violet. I’ve included some highlights of the evening below.

What turned you on at Nuit Blanche this year?

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The Queen of the Parade, by Lisa Anita Wegner & Vanessa Lee Wishart. Multi-media artist/performer Lisa Anita Wegner, as the Queen, waves to the crowd from atop a 20-foot high gown.
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The Queen of the Parade – gown detail.
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Tortoise, by Michel de Broin. One of a series of assemblage sculptures made from picnic tables outside Campbell House. You could smell the cedar on this pleasantly cool fall evening. Warm cider was served there as well.
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Music Box, by John Dickson. A kinetic sculpture of musical instruments, creating eerie, otherworldly sounds all based on parts moving against each other.
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Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles installation at Nathan Phillips Square.
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Forever Bicycles installation with Toronto City Hall in the background.
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Ferris Wheel, by Katharine Harvey.
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Parallax, by Idea Design Collective. A luminous, beehive-like effect – all done with cardboard tubes and light.
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(X)Static Clown Factory, by Ruth Spitzer & Claire Ironside. An interactive performance installation, where folks were invited to come up and do the clowns’ work. I think peeps got paid in balloons.
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Woman in the crowd with neon light hula hoop.
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There is an elephant in the truck, an indie installation by Laurence Vallières. Another impressive piece done with cardboard.
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Hybrid Globe, by Arthur Wrigglesworth, Mohammad Mehdi Ghiyaei & Mojtaba Samimi.
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Ad Astra, one of three indie projects by [R]ed[U]ux Lab at the Bata Shoe Museum.
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RevitaLight – another piece utilizing cardboard – at Bata Shoe Museum.
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Light_Scape, an interactive light installation at Bata Shoe Museum.
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On the way to Artscape Wychwood Barns, we encountered this sculpture artist at work on Bloor Street West. He uses only centre of gravity and balance to build these pieces.
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Yep, that’s a concrete block balancing on top. And set on fire to great effect.
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An assistant moves a piece on Chess Set, by Blandford Gates, an indie installation at Artscape Wychwood Barns.
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Chess players Tomas Krnan (L) and Peter Vavrak (R) play blindfolded, giving verbal instructions to their respective assistants to move pieces on the board. And having to remember where every piece is.