SummerWorks: Pitching vulnerability in the frank, darkly funny, insightful …And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next

Graham Isador. Photo by Jillian Welsh.

 

How do the stories we tell about ourselves reflect on us? And how do the stories we read shape how we see the world? Pressgang Theatre explores these questions, combining journalism and theatre together as playwright/performer Graham Isador takes us on a journey of personal story pitches to BuzzFeed in …And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next. Directed by Jiv Parasram, Isador is performing in the Theatre Centre Incubator for SummerWorks.

Staged as a stand-up routine, while Isador’s solo show has elements of a comedy show, it’s a storytelling show—differentiated by a beginning, a middle, an end and a take-away. Having taken the path to writing and publishing, a piece catches the eye of the Reader editor at BuzzFeed; and he’s invited to pitch his stories, with the instruction to mine the vulnerability—for this is a key ingredient of serious writing. What follows is a challenging apprenticeship in journalism; one that is both gruelling and encouraging.

Cycling through various stories from childhood and youth to adulthood, he submits pieces torn directly from his own personal headlines: The worst day of his first job; a heart-wrenching break-up, precipitated by a horrible moment of finding out his girlfriend was cheating on him; looking after his injured mother while his father lay in a hospital bed in critical condition.

Isador is a masterful storyteller, delivering a performance that is frank, darkly funny and deeply moving. There is vulnerability in the directness, coupled with a quirky stand-up comic edge—reeling us in and keeping us at a safe distance as the storytelling takes on a confessional tone. Struggling with depression, he comes upon a chicken/egg problem: Is it these worst moments of his life that are making him depressed—or is it the telling of story after story of the worst moments of his life?

Is it true that serious journalism only includes the stories of struggle, hardship and tragedy—the awful, sad, worst moments of our lives? What do we get out of staying in bad situations? In telling those tales of personal woe? In reading them? The take-away is largely left up to us—some serious food for thought.

…And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next has two more performances at SummerWorks: Aug 17 at 10:00 p.m. and Aug 18 at 9:00 p.m. Get advance tickets online. Last night’s show was packed, so advanced booking advised.

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Toronto Fringe: Take a moment to play in the Shed in Monologues for Nobody

2016_Fringe-Signage_FINALLate yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the Fringe Club (Honest Ed’s Parking lot – Bathurst/Bloor) to experience Jordan Mechano’s Monologues for Nobody, one of several Shed Shows on offer at this year’s Toronto Fringe.

When I say “experience,” I mean this is DIY theatre acted by you, for you. There’s a list of 20 monologues to choose from, all written by Fringe veterans like Kat Sandler, Laura Anne Harris, Jiv Parasram and Rebecca Perry, among others. Characters cover a broad range of age and dramatic styles, as well as varying levels of challenge. You get five minutes in the Shed to read over and perform the piece – and you’re encouraged to read it aloud at least once and notice any discoveries you make during the process. If you need assistance selecting a piece, one of the box office folks (including Mechano) will be happy to help you out. And no worries about watching the clock; you’ll get a friendly knock on the Shed door to let you know when your time’s up.

As I scanned the list to make a choice, Laura Anne Harris’s When I Grow Up caught my eye. The character is a five-year-old girl who likes trucks, wants to be Spiderman and longs to run around on hot summer days with her shirt off. But her dreams are constantly getting squashed by her mother, who wants her to be a ‘normal’ girl – nice, well-behaved and lady-like.

Full disclosure: I’m a classically trained actor. I had a blast being this kid for five minutes, playing with her frankness, her innocence, and especially her defiance, mischief and bravery. Throughout the process, I thought about her revelations, and if she knew that her feelings were unconventional, or even socially forbidden, or if she was unaware and just following her bliss. What had she been thinking about for a while and what was she just discovering in the moment? Playing this kid made me remember that I was that little girl who loved to run around topless in the summertime, playing Tarzan around the inflatable wading pool in our backyard.

The ‘so what’ here is that art is for everyone – and we can all learn something about ourselves and the world when we take a risk and experience putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes (however fictitious) and work on a piece in solitude. It’s a ‘dance like nobody’s watching’ kind of moment – or singing in the shower. No one’s going to judge you. It’s just you, performing for you.

Take a moment to play in the Shed and act out a piece for an audience of one – you! Fun, playful and thought-provoking good times in Monologues for Nobody.

Monologues for Nobody is PWYC and continues in the Shed until July 10 on these dates/times:

July 2, 5 & 8 @ 6:30-8:30 p.m.

July 4, 7 & 10 @ 8:30-10:30 p.m.