Toronto Fringe: Conflict, family & connection in the compelling, moving Checkpoint 300

Back: Brittany Cope. Front: Ori Black & Lizette Mynhardt. Photo by Adrianna Prosser.

 

Tamaya Productions, this year’s winner of Fringe’s First Play Competition, presents Checkpoint 300, written and directed by Michelle Wise, assisted by Duncan Rowe, and running in the Factory Theatre Mainspace. A tragic incident at the Israel-Palestine border involving the first female soldier assigned to a checkpoint brings two women from opposite sides together as the soldier deals with the aftermath and a reporter looks for answers in this compelling, moving story.

Shiri (Lizette Mynhardt), a young Israeli soldier, has just completed punishing training and rigourous testing in order to be the first female soldier assigned to an Israel-Palestine border checkpoint. Her mother Tivka (Jorie Morrow) is concerned but supportive, and her father Benny (Geoff Mays) worries and wonders why she couldn’t have aimed for a safer office position. Shiri’s commanding officer Shay (Ori Black) is taken aback by the posting, but takes it in stride, acknowledging that she’s passed the same training and testing the male soldiers have, and makes a place for her on the team.

On the Palestinian side, reporter Amelie (Brittany Cope) leaves her family home for Paris, for a life away from the oppressive environment of constant policing, control and monitoring. Her gentle, easy-going father Bashir (Mays) and mother Nabila (Morrow) want her close to home, and on a more traditional path, including a husband and family. Her younger brother Walid (Amir Pour) works with their father as a mechanic when he’s not playing soccer.

Amelie and Shiri are brought together following a tragic incident at the checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian man were killed—the latter a terrorist suspect. Shiri refuses to speak of the incident to anyone, and her mother arranges a meeting with Amelie in the hopes that Shiri will get to tell her side, and achieve some closure and relief. And as the story unfolds, Shiri and Amelie’s personal connections to the incident are revealed.

Lovely work from the cast in this often intense tale of conflict, family and connection; and where everyday life proceeds with humour and a sense of pragmatism, coloured by which side of the border one lives on. Mynhardt’s Shiri is a tightly coiled combination of determined ambition and nervous anticipation; Shiri wants to do something that makes a difference, but is all too aware of the many eyes on her with this historic posting. Cope’s performance as Amelie reveals a sense of resilience, drive and heart; like Shiri, Amelie is an ambitious, hard-working professional in a male-dominated field—and must now navigate personal feelings as she seeks to find the truth.

Black is a likeable, irreverent, and highly skilled leader as Shay; not too sure how this girl at the checkpoint thing is going to work, Shay takes a professional attitude and becomes a mentor to the rookie Shiri. Pour brings a sense of fun and mischief to the cocky youth Walid; clocking time at the shop with his father, he dreams of a life away from there—and glory on the soccer pitch. The casting of Morrow and Mays as both sets of parents is both fitting and poignant here, as it serves to highlight the commonalities on opposite sides of the border. Parents worry and try to usher their children toward what they think is best for them. And, no matter where they are, they want much the same thing: for their families to be safe and for their children to have a good future.

Even in an environment of conflict, opposing sides always have something in common—a way to connect. But easier said than done when fear and mistrust run so deep and for so long. Can hope and love have a chance?

Checkpoint 300 continues in the Factory Theatre Mainspace for two more performances: July 13 at 10:15 and July 14 at 4:00; check the show page for advance tickets.

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Cinematic, diabolically fun trip to the dark side – Cine Monstro @ PROGRESS fest

CineMTop-620x372A kid who’s fascination with his weird next door neighbours turns to morbid fixation following a horrific event in their home.

A boyfriend and girlfriend constantly fight as she longs for marriage and a baby, and he gropes for an unknown something that’s just out of reach.

A recovering addict drawn to screenwriting envisions an edgy, quirky love story featuring an eerily familiar flashback scene.

Appalled by his own script, a filmmaker brings his film shoot to an abrupt halt in an effort to disengage from – and disown – the darkness portrayed.

All hosted by the devilishly charming narrator Adam, his Puck-like mischievousness tinged with malevolence.

White flats stretch across expanse of the playing space upstage, serving as a screen for the projected atmospheric and scenic images. A clear plastic chair with an accompanying glass table, bearing mostly glasses of water and one glass of red wine, sits centre stage. It is here that performer/producer/co-translator/co-director Enrique Diaz spends most of the play – but only after hanging out with the audience a while, and then offering an introduction and instructions as to how the play will begin.

Which all happens when he rides a red tricycle around the stage and the lights go to black out. We have begun.

This is Cine Monstro, a Portuguese translation (by way of Brazil) of Daniel MacIvor’s Monster, translated Barbara Duvivier with Diaz, directed by Marcio Abreu and presented/curated by Why Not Theatre for SummerWorks’ inaugural PROGRESS international festival of performance and ideas at the Theatre Centre.

It was my first time seeing this play – in any language – and my initial concern about splitting my attention between the English surtitles and the action onstage was quickly dispelled. Cine Monstro is a dynamic, sight and sound-filled trip. And I’ll never hear “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (which folks may remember from the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid film soundtrack) again.

Diaz is an engaging and compelling storyteller, skillfully weaving in and out of the various characters and scenarios with truth and a sense of the present, balancing light and dark with the warmth of his voice and the sharpness in his eyes.

Following last night’s performance, Why Not Theatre A.D. Ravi Jain moderated a talkback with Diaz and MacIvor, who took questions from Jain and the audience, as well as a brief interview (in English and Portuguese) with Omni TV. And it was Jain who was the connecting thread between the two artists.

MacIvor described the process of creating Monster, taking inspiration from the film world, reading The Fifth Child, the impending birth of a friend’s baby, among other things. Diaz first saw MacIvor perform in two-hander In on It in New York, and was fascinated by the layers, structure and humour of the piece – and the work the audience must do in the process of watching.

Last night was the first time MacIvor saw Cine Monstro, and while he seems to be less comfortable with interpretations of his one-person shows in general (which are more his babies, as he both wrote and performed them), he is pleased with this production and marvelled at Diaz’s multitasking. Diaz described his experience as an exercise in relaxing into the piece, focusing on the text and getting any sense of ego out of the way.
Jain remarked how present the text is when one is watching a show with surtitles: “we engage with the ideas in a different way – engaging with the text itself.” Diaz was nervous about whether the audience would follow the show, with their attention divided between the watching the action and reading the text (translated back from Portuguese to English, while maintaining the original English script) – but we were fine.

The question of language rhythm came up: was it an issue with the translation? This didn’t seem to factor into the show as much as what the actor brings to the performance. MacIvor spoke of approaching it differently – with tension and rapid pacing, barely moving from the chair throughout his performance. He also remarked how he found Diaz’s interpretation warmer in tone, with a stronger placement in the film world – especially evidenced by the “Cine” in the title of the translation, which reveals Diaz’s intention to immerse the audience in the story. Diaz worked with the translation as an actor, and seems to have taken an organic approach, as opposed to focusing on the rhythm of the language per se.

An audience member asked about the reception in Brazil, as the origins of the piece are very Canadian. Diaz found that cultural differences were not an issue, as the audience engaged with the characters’ experiences and the themes of the storytelling. Nor were there any issues of regional differences as Diaz performed the piece around Brazil. This is storytelling at its best – so these findings are not so surprising. Good storytelling is good storytelling.

Another audience member wondered if having an original work interpreted by others around the world represented a shift in MacIvor’s work – a “revisiting of the Canadian cannon,” as it were. Whether this is an overly optimistic outlook or not, with Cine Monstro, Diaz has made the piece his own and has introduced MacIvor’s theatrical storytelling to a whole new audience.

With shouts to the design team: Simone Mina (set), Batman Zavareze and Nathalie Melot (video), Maneco Quindere (lights) and Lucas Marcier (music).

Cine Monstro is a diabolically funny trip into the flickering dark and light of the destructive side of the human spirit.

You have one last chance to see Cine Monstro: tonight (Sat, Feb 14) at 8p.m. – the place was packed last night, so I strongly suggest that you book ahead. In the meantime, check out the Cine Monstro trailer on the Why Not Theatre website.

 

PROGRESS announcement: Cine Monstro talk back with MacIvor & Diaz following Feb 13 performance

CineMTop-620x372The folks at PROGRESS announced today a not to be missed event following the February 13 performance of Cine Monstro, the Portuguese adaptation of Daniel MacIvor’s much lauded play (translated by Barbara Duvivier and Enrique Diaz), Monster: a talk back featuring playwright Daniel MacIvor and director/performer/co-translator Enrique Diaz.

A dynamic, one-man piece of storytelling, Cine Monstro weaves “a series of storylines that link multiple characters to one unsettling event.”

Created in Brazil, Cine Monstro is presented/curated in partnership with Why Not Theatre with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Cine Monstro runs February 12-14 at the Theatre Centre; the piece will be performed in Portuguese with English subtitles. You can get advance tix online.

Progress is coming! Final, revised lineup announced for international fest of performance & ideas Feb 4-15

ProgressLogoTransparentSummerWorks announced the updated lineup for the inaugural SummerWorks/Theatre Centre production of Progress: an International Festival of Performance and Ideas, running February 4-15 at The Theatre Centre. Progress is curated by SummerWorks, The Theatre Centre, Why Not Theatre, Volcano Theatre, Videofag, FADO Performance Art Centre, Dancemakers, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre.

“Progress is bringing together a series of essential conversations being had by some of our city’s vital thought-leaders in performance. This is a festival led by a collective desire to collaborate in how we think about performance in Toronto and the result is a staggeringly unique and diverse program of work.” – Michael Rubenfeld, SummerWorks Artistic Producer

New to the lineup is Novorossiya: No One’s Land (Ukraine), by Pavel Yurov and Anastasiya Kasilova, directed by Pavel Yurov. Here’s the full final roster of shows for this exciting and intriguing new international performance fest, which will also include workshops and community dialogue:

Novorossiya: No One’s Land (Ukraine) – Curated and presented by SummerWorks
Reading performed in English, translated from the original Russian and Ukranian.
A documentary-style piece based on writer/director Pavel Yurov’s experience as he was taken into captivity by pro-Russian separatists. “Part journalistic experiment, part theatre, this remarkable project asks the painful question: how did the place Yurov once called home become his captor?”

Marathon (Israel) – Curated by SummerWorks, and co-presented with The Koffler Centre for the Arts, supported by Spotlight on Israeli Culture, the Embassy of Israel and the Israeli Consulate (Toronto).
Performed in English – a North American English-language premiere.
Three runners, running in a circle in a physical, psychological and emotional marathon in a deep dive into the Israeli consciousness. “Combining dance, text, theatre and grueling physicality, Marathon uses the autobiographical stories of the performers to reflect a state of constant emergency. Who will survive? And how?”

The Messiah Complex 5.0 (Canada) – Curated by Videofag
Performed in English.
A performance-lecture, multidisciplinary work that incorporates ritual, the piece uses the Harlow experiments – which were used to study infant/mother relationship by placing newborn monkeys with cloth and wire surrogate mothers – as a jumping off point for an examination of religious evolution. “The multidisciplinary work culminates in the creation of hybrid images, videos, diagrams and texts from pop culture, ancient religion, Freudian psychoanalysis, archaeology, queer theory and anthropology.”

D-Sisyphe (décisif) (Tunisia) – Curated by Volcano Theatre, generous support from Why Not Theatre and The Goethe Institute.
Performed in Arabic with English subtitles – North American premiere.
A construction worker, alone and estranged from his family, a social reject and deserted by God, ruminates about his life as he spends the night alone at the construction site as he tries to find hope in the ruins of his life. “Tunisian actor, dancer and playwright Meher Awachri performs his acclaimed interpretation of the ancient myth of Sisyphus, offering insights into contemporary Arab society and the idea of what revolution entails – all through spoken word and choreography.”

Margarete (Poland) – Curated by SummerWorks, supported by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto.
Performed in English or Polish.
Sixteen audience members. One creator/performer. Sitting down to have coffee or tea. “With humour and irony, [Janek] Turkowski recounts his experience uncovering and constructing stories based on a set of private 8mm films he discovered at an outdoor market in Berlin. The performance is a reflection on the lost and found, through memory and the legacy of silent film.”

Cine Monstro (Brazil) – Curated and presented by Why Not Theatre, with the support of Department of Canadian Heritage
Performed in Portuguese with English subtitles.
A Portuguese-language adaptation of Daniel MacIvor’s Monster. “Brazilian actor and director Enrique Diaz … transforms himself into a series of MacIvor’s characters, from a young boy who tells the story of the neighbour who hacked up his father in the basement to quarrelling lovers or a filmmaker who never completed his epic film, these characters are separate yet eerily related.”

Silent Dinner (Ireland/Canada) – Curated and presented by FADO Performance Art Centre
Performed in English and ASL.
Over the course of an eight-hour performance, 10 people – “a combination of Deaf, CODA (children of Deaf adults) and hearing artists, performers and non-performers from Toronto” – make and eat dinner in silence. After the show, the audience is invited for dessert and a chat with creator Amanda Coogan and colleagues; ASL interpretation will be provided.

But wait – there’s more! Workshops, discussions and panels:

Make. Make Public. – Curated by Dancemakers (workshop)
Creation workshop led by Dancemakers curators Emi Forster and Benjamin Kamino, with people “from any artistic background, with any level of experience are invited to join in collaborative, dance-derived processes.” The public will be invited to see the result and engage in a talkback.

Dancemakers will also curate Dance as Metaphor, Language and Lens, a conversation featuring Progress artists Aharona Israel and Meher Awachri, and Dancemakers’ resident Zoja Smutny.

The Republic of Inclusion – Curated by Alex Bulmer and Sarah Garton Stanley
Part of The Collaborations at Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre
“Alex Bulmer and Sarah Garton Stanley call for a rigorous and provocative discussion about the state of inclusion in our theatre community. A conversation for theatre makers, audiences, leaders, funders, all those in the performance world, and those who are being left out. Progress: it’s about accessing the arts and about the arts being accessible.” The event will be live-streamed through http://www.SpiderWebShow.ca

Workshop: Intelligent Body and Seeing Through Movement

Additional artist talkbacks and panels to be announced.

Check out the trailer:

SummerWorks announces Progress line-up

SummerWorks, in partnership with the Theatre Centre announced the line-up for its inaugural Progress international festival of performance and ideas, running Feb 4-15, 2015.

The curatorial partners for Progress include: Why Not Theatre, Volcano Theatre, Videofag, FADO Performance Art Centre, Dancemakers, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre.

The performance line-up includes:
Marathon (Israel), performed in English – Choreographer/director: Aharona Israel
Margaret (Poland), performed in English and Polish – Created and performed by: Janek Turkowski
D-Sisyphe (décisif) (Tunisia) – Created and performed by: Meher Awachri
The Messiah Complex 5.0 (Canada) – Created and performed by: Michael Dudeck
Silent Dinner (Ireland & Canada) – Created and performed by Amanda Coogan and Toronto collaborators
Cine Monstro (Brazil) – Created by Enrique Diaz

The fest also includes workshops Make. Make Public and Dramatic Action – The Republic of Inclusion, and talks like Dance as Metaphor, Language as Lens.

Can’t think of a better way to beat the February blues. Check out the trailer:

SummerWorks: 2014 wrap-up & news

sw_logo1And now for the SummerWorks wrap-up, starting with some news from SummerWorks and the Theatre Centre:

Yesterday, the SummerWorks Performance Festival announced its partnership with The Theatre Centre in the creation of Progress, a new international performance and ideas festival to be launched February 5-15, 2015 – full line-up to be announced on November 5, 2014. Curators for 2014 include: Michael Rubenfeld (SummerWorks), Shannon Cochrane (FADO), Ravi Jain (Why Not Theatre), William Ellis and Jordan Tannahill (Videofag), Mel Hague + Brendan Healy (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre), Franco Boni (The Theatre Centre), Ross Manson (Volcano Theatre) and the Interferencias International Artist Network.

SummerWorks presented its awards for this year’s festival last night. This year’s jury included: Ross Manson, Kat Sandler and Anand Rajaram (except for the NOW Audience Choice Award, which is determined by ballots submitted by audience members). Award winners for SummerWorks 2014 are:

SummerWorks Prize for Production: He Left Quietly

The Contra Guys Award for New Performance Text: The Water Thief                                                                       Honourable mention: Half Girl Half Face

National Theatre School Award for Set or Costume Design: Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales

Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation: Jacqueries, Part 1
Honourable mention: Fuck You, You Fucking Perv

Canadian Stage Award for Direction: Mercedes Batiz-Benet for El Jinete – A Mariachi Opera

The Spotlight Award for Performance: The Ensemble of Tragedy, a Tragedy: Don Allison, Benjamin Clost, Miranda Edwards, Cyrus Lane and Christopher Stanton
Honorable mention: Mazin Elsadig for Complex
Honourable mention: Jeff Ho for Unknown Soldier

The Theatre Centre Emerging Artist Award: Shaista Latif for Graceful Rebellions and Cole Lewis for Antigonick
Honourable mention: Rebecca Applebaum for Complex

The NOW Magazine Audience Choice Award: Trace

And, finally, thought I’d share my favourites from this year’s fest. I tried really hard to come up with a top three list, but that proved too difficult, so here are my top five plus some honourable mentions (in alphabetical order):

My top five:
And Now, The End
Complex
The Bull, the Moon and the Coronet of Stars
The Container
Trace

Honourable mentions:
Against Gravity
Blindsided
If Hearts Could Bloom

To Live in the Age of Melting: Idea of the North 2.0
Unintentionally Depressing Children’s Tales
Yarn