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.

NSTF: Sisters are takin’ names and kickin’ butt in From Judy to Bette

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Rebecca Perry in From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood – photo by Tanja Tiziana

The Toronto Fringe’s annual Next Stage Theatre Festival (NSTF) opened at the Factory Theatre last night and I kicked off this year’s festivities with Rebecca Perry Productions’ From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood. Written and performed by Rebecca Perry, and directed by Michael Rubinstein, From Judy to Bette is Perry’s NSTF debut – and a departure from her Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl shows – in this solo cabaret-style homage to four real-life women.

Inspired by four powerhouse performers (Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton and Lucille Ball) who refused to be relegated to the stereotypical female roles of the day, Perry highlights the career highs and lows of these remarkable women with anecdotes, quotes and songs. Perry is no slouch herself, taking us on a 30-minute old Hollywood history tour in a delightfully dynamic and engaging performance of a tight and entertaining script. Accompanied by music director/arranger Quinton Naughton, she gives us some sweet tastes of the tunes that made these women famous, particularly Garland and Hutton, featuring a moving performance of “Over the Rainbow,” a hilarious “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” and a rousing finale of “Rock-a-by Your Baby With A Dixie Melody.”

With big shouts to the design folks for this production: Edward George (set), Chin Palipane (lighting) and Patricia Whalen (costume and props).

Four talented dames take names and kick butt in old Hollywood in Rebecca Perry’s entertaining and eye-opening solo cabaret From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood.

From Judy to Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood runs until Jan 17 in the Factory Theatre Antechamber; see the show’s page for exact dates/times. It’s an intimate space – and last night’s opening was sold out – so advance tix are strongly recommended. There will be a talk back following the peformance on Sun, Jan 10 at the Hoxton.

To book tickets in advance, call 416-966-1062 or purchase online; or you can purchase tickets at the box office tent, which opens one hour before the first show of the day (it’s heated and includes a bar featuring tasty warm drinks). Click here for full ticket/pass info.

Check out these great interviews with Perry from In the Greenroom blog  and Stageworthy podcast; Perry was also featured in this week’s brave, bold and beautiful Love Your Body edition of NOW Magazine.

Toronto Fringe: Danger, romance & chimps in Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

adventures_of_a_redheaded_coffeeshop_girl-web-250x250The adventures of our favourite coffeeshop girl continue in Rebecca Perry’s Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, directed by Matt Bernard and running now at the Annex Theatre for Toronto Fringe.

When last we saw our intrepid Joanie Little (in Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl – and you needed have seen this to join in the fun of Adventures of a…), she’d just found the man (Marco) and job (interning with Dr. Jane Goodall) of her dreams. Bad news: the dream job is located at the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania!

Trekking from the urban jungle of Toronto to the actual jungle in Gombe National Park, Joanie joins Goodall, and other interns and staff, to study chimps in the wild and assist with preparing the sanctuary chimps for the wild. In addition to the challenges of the work and conditions, and navigating a long-distance relationship, being a pale-skinned, redhead has its own difficulties – and our feisty gal isn’t always sure she’s up to it. But if you didn’t know it already, you’ll soon learn that there’s nothing small about Joanie Little.

Masterfully shifting between multiple characters and dialects – including Goodall; Joanie’s male Scottish tent mate, also a redhead; and the African park security chief – Perry incorporates music (with live sound cues signalling character changes) and storytelling to take us on an entertaining and moving ride. And, just as she gave her human coffeeshop patrons animal attributes as she studied them from behind the counter in Confessions of a…, she anthropomorphizes her chimp charges, and discovers an interesting emerging dynamic between the dog-like Fetch and sanctuary tenant Cora.

Also a lovely crooner, Perry can serenade like nobody’s business, charming the sold out house with standards and Celtic roots-inspired ballads, accompanied by Da-Rell Clifton on percussion and Quinton Naughton on keys. Her performance of “Caledonia” is particularly beautiful and heart-wrenching.

With shouts to set/props designer Claire Hill and costume designer/makeup artist Ellie Mac.

Rebecca Perry has done it again, this time giving us danger, romance and chimps in Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl. Joanie Little is an anthropological warrior princess!

Perry is remounting Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl at Brampton’s Rose Theatre July 9-11, then taking that show to Edinburgh Fringe. You can support her efforts by purchasing a CD of songs from Confessions and Adventures, and more – available after each Fringe performance or on Bandcamp.

Adventures of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl runs at the Annex Theatre until July 12; check here for dates/times. Definitely pre-book your tix for this one – last night was sold out and it’s sure to sell out again.

You can also follow the Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Raw, honest & irreverently funny with no apologies – Troublemaker @ SOULO Fest

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Rebecca Northan is a big ‘ole Troublemaker

You can’t say you weren’t warned. Tracey Erin Smith and SoulOTheatre opened the 2015 SOULO Theatre Festival last night at Aki Studio at the Daniels Spectrum with a gala performance of the Toronto premiere of Rebecca Northan’s Troublemaker. And what a celebration it was!

Opening to a packed house with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” blasting from the speakers, Troublemaker is Northan’s first autobiographical piece, taking us from her childhood and young adulthood in Calgary ‘hood Rundle to present day by way of memory, personal anecdote, family history, and pop culture and fairytale-inspired storytelling. Her brother’s cat Misty becomes her own personal Mr. Miyagi in her pursuit of bad-assery, she finds a kindred spirit for neighbourhood shenanigans, and discovers her inner dragon – the instigator, the heart of troublemakery – and finds a way to embrace it.

Northan’s performance is brave, frank and without apology. Engaging and entertaining, yet vulnerable and truthful, the audience can’t help but be her partner in crime on this journey.

Troublemaker is a raw, honest and irreverently funny piece of storytelling, full of magic, sardonic whimsy and sharp insight. Keep your eyes open for future productions.

A bit of SOULO Fest trivia: Northan directed Smith’s solo show mega hit The Burning Bush (Toronto Fringe 2006).

While you’re waiting for the return of Troublemaker, Northan’s own mega hit improv show Blind Date returns to T.O. this season at Tarragon Theatre (Sept 8 – Oct 4). I saw the show once, eight years ago at the Spiegel Show at Harbourfront – and loved it! I fell in love with Mimi and with Northan’s work. I’d love to go on a date with Mimi sometime. Sadly, she only dates dudes.

You can keep up with Rebecca Northan’s shenanigans on Twitter. And you must check out her humourous, insightful and honest TedxYYC talk examining state of fear behaviour, the rules of improv, her eureka moment connecting her experience performing Blind Date with how we behave when we’re madly in love, and the value of the arts in society:

SOULO Fest continues until May 24, with workshops and panels, and the remainder of the solo shows taking at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

SOULO_2015_POSTER-FINAL-668x1024Here’s the line-up:
A Tension to Detail (Gerard Harris)
A Nurse’s Worst Nightmare (Zabrina Chaves)
Fractured (Nicola Elbro)
The Archivist (Shaista Latif)
Love with Leila (Izad Etemandi-Shad)
Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (Rebecca Perry)
Lost in Lvov (Sandy Simona)
Killer Quack (James Brian Judd)

The solo show schedule also includes a PWYC Masterclass Showing.

Check out the Shows page for details on dates/times.

Advance tickets are available online. Reservations are strongly recommended – these shows get only one performance each, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.

SoulOTheatre’s SOULO Theatre Festival is coming (May 21-24)!

2015-soulo festBig treat coming up for you theatre fans: Tracey Erin Smith and SoulOTheatre are back with an awesome line-up of solo shows with the 2015 SOULO Theatre Festival!

Running May 21 – 24, SOULO Fest opens with a gala performance of Rebecca Northan’s Troublemaker at Aki Studio at the Daniels Spectrum. Workshops and panels, and the remainder of the solo show run take place at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

Here’s the line-up:
A Tension to Detail (Gerard Harris)
A Nurse’s Worst Nightmare (Zabrina Chaves)
Fractured (Nicola Elbro)
The Archivist (Shaista Latif)
Love with Leila (Izad Etemandi-Shad)
Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl (Rebecca Perry)
Lost in Lvov (Sandy Simona)
Killer Quack (James Brian Judd)

The solo show schedule also includes a PWYC Masterclass Showing.

Check out the Shows page for details on dates/times.

Advance tickets are available online. Reservations are strongly recommended – these shows get only one performance each, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Big shiny panto fun with Panto Players’ Sleepy Beauty @ Red Sandcastle Theatre

Sleepy-Beauty-Star-CorrectedSheets and coloured fabric, plus some artfully custom cut tape and green felt, become castle walls and turrets, and an enchanted forest. All part of the magic and imagination at Red Sandcastle Theatre – in this case, for the Panto Players’ production of Sleepy Beauty – The Tale of the Narcoleptic Princess and Her Cat.

Written by Jane A. Shields and Red Sandcastle A.D./impressaria Rosemary Doyle, and directed by Jackie English, this modern-day retelling of the beloved fairy tale features a sparkling, multi-talented ensemble cast and a head boppin’, toe tappin’ series of pop tunes tailored for the show.

Three fairies (Matthew Donovan, Victor Pokinko and Brenda Somers) attending a christening for Princess Suzie come up with a plan to thwart the evil machinations of bad fairy Malefolent (Taran Beaty), softening the curse set upon the infant, tasking a remarkable pink cat (English) with looking after her, then finding a prince (Andy Ingram) to break the sleeping spell that bewitches a teenage Suzie (Rebecca Perry).

The fairies are a treat: Donovan is all heart and southern gentility, with a touch of befuddlement and insecurity, as Twankey Fairy; Pokinko is fabulously dapper and entertaining as woodland Fairy of the Trees Algonquin (but you can call him Al); and Somers is a ball of blue fun as the sharp-witted, colourful-haired Fairy of the Lake. Perry is adorably precocious as Princess Suzie (also doing double duty as the hilariously doting Queen) and has an impressive set of pipes; and Ingram is wonderfully goofy as the handsome, but dim-witted, Prince Joe (and gives a comic turn as the King). Beaty is chock full of evil comedic deliciousness as the jealous and vengeful horned fairy Malefolent. And English is a delight as everyone’s favourite wry-witted pink cat with a French accent.

All the shenanigans kept running by Doyle (wearing many hats, including box office, lighting FX and palace guard) and SM Deborah Ann Frankel, Sleeping Beauty features colourful, striking costuming (designed by Doyle, who also did the set) and catchy, fun tunes borrowed from pop – lyrics rewritten for the show – like “Wake Up, Little Suzie,” “Can’t Touch This,” and “Celebration,” and from artists like Katy Perry and ZZ Top. And the entire cast transforms into a band, rockin’ out on “Call Me Al” – with Beaty on guitar, Donovan on trombone and Pokinko on keys.

Sleepy Beauty is a big shiny panto good time for kids of all ages.

Sleepy Beauty continues its run at Red Sandcastle Theatre until Jan 4, including 2 p.m. matinees (Dec 28 and 31, Jan 3 and 4) and 7 p.m. shows (Dec 29 and 30, Jan 2 and 3).

Coming up Oct 5: Brooklyn Doran Played At Your Fundraiser – Fundraiser

Brooklyn 1So, we’re well into the fall season now, kids – and, as usual, there’s so much to see. And this Saturday, October 5 is especially full of arts and culture goodness.

For instance, Brooklyn Doran Played At Your Fundraiser – Fundraiser. Join Brooklyn Doran and guest performers Rebecca Perry, Domanique Grant, Jeff Insell and Elliot Loran, Stevie Joffe and the Bayonets, and DjRay Ruby on Saturday, October 5 at The Central for an evening of music and good times. Cover is $10 and all proceeds go towards producing Doran’s debut EP, which will be released online free of charge early in 2014. Doors at 9:00pm, music at 9:30.

This fundraising event comes at the end of Doran’s indiegogo campaign, which ends today (September 30). Special perk for donations of $60 or more: Doran will write an original song about the subject of your choice!

You can also check Ms. Doran out on Facebook and on her YouTube channel.

Photos by Adrienne Callan Photography. Brooklyn 2