The humanity & commonality under the vestments in funny, moving, eye-opening The Clergy Project

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Father Daniel in The Clergy Project

A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a theatre… again.

Tracey Erin Smith and SOULO Theatre remounted The Clergy Project at Revival Bar for a one performance only show to a delighted sold-out house last night.

I caught the premiere performance of The Clergy Project back in May – and loved it just as much the second time around in this revised version, played out in front of an audience of friends, family, colleagues and congregants.

Father Daniel, Reverend Shawn and Rabbi Elyse are back again, sharing their stories of how they were called and the challenges they face doing this deeply human, intimate work. And wait till you get a load of the light bulb jokes! Part storytelling, part confessional, part love letter to their respective congregations, these three clergy get up close and personal, speaking candidly and bravely – and with humour – about their lives in religious service. And while they treat their jobs seriously, they’re not too serious about themselves.

During the post-show talkback, Father Daniel, Reverend Shawn and Rabbit Elyse talked about the joyful moments of ministry; the common thread that emerged was being present in their congregants’ lives, often from cradle to grave, and witnessing their milestones and moments of growth. When it came to doing Smith’s soulo workshop, each expressed a desire to take a moment to break away from their daily duties and be themselves during this process of creating a show (they did a 10-week workshop with Smith, specifically set up for clergy). As Reverend Shawn remarked, it can be a lonely role and it was good to spend time with other clergy to talk about their day-to-day experiences. In doing so, they became siblings in ministry, finding much in common despite their different faiths – and the love, respect and camaraderie show on stage.

The hope is that the show will shine a positive light on clergy and religion; and show that religion doesn’t have to be fundamentalist, bigoted, sexist, homophobic or narrow-minded. That religion and clergy can be there to show the way to depth and meaning, and be a positive force in the world.

The humanity under the vestments and commonalities that transcend religion in the funny, moving and eye-opening The Clergy Project.

The Clergy Project was a one-performance only event, but keep an eye out for future productions, as well as Tracey Erin Smith and SOULO Theatre’s upcoming projects, including soulo class shows and Trans Canada.

You can keep up with SOULO Theatre on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Judy! Judy! Judy! Kimberly Roberts’ powerhouse performance in The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy HourThe late actress/entertainer Judy Garland is beloved on an international scale, and especially so among the LGBT community. And no one does Judy Garland quite like Kimberly Roberts.

I first saw Roberts appear as Garland in the The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe – and was struck by how much Roberts was able to convey of Garland throughout a completely silent performance.

I had the great pleasure of seeing Roberts perform in The Get Happy Hour with Judy, in the second of two World Pride 2014 Toronto opening night shows at Revival Bar last night, and it was the first time I’d heard her speak onstage.

Written by Roberts and Sephera Giron, and directed by Sarah Strange, The Get Happy Hour with Judy is part multi-media theatre/part cabaret/part TV show. Roberts plays both a Garland impersonator named Kimberly Williams and Garland herself in this largely one-woman show. Jamie Johnson plays the affable Bartender and accompanist, and Stuart Park guests as the Drunk and the Announcer. The action shifts from Williams chatting with the bartender about Garland and her cancelled TV show, and the two share an appreciation of her work even as they ponder the tabloid reports of self-destructive behaviour. Williams chooses to see the positive side of Garland, though, and imagines how successful her TV show would have been if it had been set up as a happy hour, with people talking, drinking, performing and enjoying. Complete with vintage black and white TV commercials, and a slide show of Garland family photos.

This is where Roberts really gets cooking. From there, the show launches into the TV program that never was, imagined by an actress sitting in a bar, chatting with a bartender over a martini: The Get Happy Show with Judy. Garland tells us about her early days in the business and shares stories about family, highlighted by the song choices (which Roberts expertly lip-syncs), including some rarely heard gems that will thrill Garland fans.

It’s more than the fact that Roberts is a remarkable look-alike. Every expression, from the mouth to the eyes, every gesture is nuanced and precise. The warmth and vulnerability behind the powerful voice and stage presence is palpable. And that’s why people love Judy Garland. Roberts doesn’t play Judy Garland – she channels Judy Garland.

You have two more chances to catch The Get Happy Hour with Judy during its Pride run: tonight (Wed, June 25) at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. You can also follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.

If you’re heading over to Revival Bar, you might also consider getting there early and taking in JJ Marie Gufreda’s Left Hander in London: The Earthquake, based on Gufreda’s book about her transition from a “Joe to a Jane,” which is touring with The Get Happy Hour with Judy and has performances at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on June 25. I caught the end of the show last night – and it promises to be a funny and poignant experience.

p.s. – Love how The Get Happy Hour with Judy gang includes their favourite Judy Garland song in their bios. Mine is “The Man That Got Away.” What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

World Pride 2014 Toronto event teaser: The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy PicHere’s another World Pride 2014 Toronto event I’m really looking forward to: The Get Happy Hour with Judy, directed by Sarah Strange and featuring remarkable Judy Garland look-alike Kimberly Roberts – running June 24 – 25 at Revival Bar at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.

Toronto Fringe fans may remember Roberts performing as Ms. Garland in The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe 2012.

Kimberly Roberts is a truly incredible performer. She’s not so much impersonating Judy Garland as channeling her. Need proof? Check out this clip of her performing:

Come have a martini and spend the evening with Judy as she tells us about the TV show she’d preferred doing.

In the meantime, you can go follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.

 

 

Moving & grooving sounds + positive vibes = WonderFest 2014 concert

SAMSUNGA fabulous, fun time was had by all at WonderFest 2014 and I was so glad to join in the festivities at the concert last night, closing off a day of learning, collaborating and positive interaction at Revival Bar. And after a full day of workshops (A Capella Jam with Niki Andre and a Synergy Session with Madette), the gang was engergized and ready to go.

LMG Productions organizers Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan hosted an amazing line-up of talent (aka Wonder Women & Super Men) from a variety of arts disciplines, including music, spoken word, stand-up comedy and visual arts. Visual artists included paintings – which were featured onstage – by Dorothy Knight, Rohan Moore and Stephanie Payne, and face painting by Lisa Diane.

The stellar roster of concert performers, in order of appearance, included:

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s the cowbell interview with Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan about this event.

And thanks to Kat and Arlene for my fabulous WonderFest coffee mug!

Here are some snaps I took of last night’s celebration of empowerment through art:

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Interview with Kat Leonard & Arlene Paculan on WonderFest 2014 event

POSTERwonder96Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan are both amazing solo artists in their own right. Together, they are Musedy Tag Team and half of the Four Winds Collective (with Heather Hill and Meghan Morrison), performing music with heart and humour, and they are the force behind LMG Productions, spreading empowerment through art through their Wonder Women, Super Men and now WonderFest events. Leonard is also a well-known Johnny Depp fangirl and Paculan, like me, shares his birthday. I interviewed these two lovely and talented ladies over email about their work together and their upcoming WonderFest 2014 event on April 6 at Revival Bar in Toronto.

LWMC: So tell us about how you met and how you came to start working together.

AP: I met Kat at a Valentine’s Show. It was called No Sweetheart Required, so she calls it an anti-Valentine’s Day show. It was so amazing because I immediately was drawn to her and was curious as to what she was all about. We started talking about what we did in the arts world. I found out that we both put shows on and I asked her if she’d like to participate in one that I do in the future – not having heard any of her work, I was trusting my instincts that she was incredibly awesome. After I saw her perform “Jockstrap,” that solidified my assumption! Prior to meeting her, I was in the process of starting Wonder Women and asked her to join the line up and she’s been a part of the event ever since! And now she’s Artistic Director for the company!

KL: … We hit it off and within mere moments decided we should embark upon doing shows together. We were both individually relieved as we stood backstage listening to the other perform their piece, because we had agreed to collaborate before even hearing the other perform. We’re both allergic to eggplant so it must have been fate!

LWMC: And how did LMG Productions, Wonder Women and the evolution to WonderFest come about?

AP: LMG Productions was something I came up with in 2010 – just a little production company that I could use to put on little concerts around the GTA. It was initially called Lene, Mean, and Green because of my name and my favourite colour is green. Kat came on board in 2012 to help out with the growing Wonder Women events. Soon she came up with the idea of changing it to ‘Let’s Make Good’ because of the direction our shows were going.

Wonder Women started to showcase female songwriters with different genres and to grow our audience base. After four Wonder Womens where it was solely music, we teamed up with This Girl Friday, which is run by a talented poet and graphic designer, Lizzie Violet [link]. Lizzie brought on the idea of having music and spoken word in a show. From then, Wonder Women and Super Men (all male showcase) combined creates ‘WonderFest’ which celebrates all types of art forms.

KL: … I was happy to be a performer in that first concert and to become Artistic Director of the series and production company. We worked together to create events that would eventually include Super Men and also workshops to nurture creativity and healthy self-esteem. We really endeavoured to develop a strong community that would encourage and promote the arts and self-empowerment. WonderFest was born. Because we were endorsing positivism we felt it was important to have a production name that reflected the same, so we went about brainstorming something with which we could retain the LMG moniker. Like a flash of enthused lightning, the name Let’s Make Good blasted into my brain as Arlene and I sat there doing just that, making good, and munching on Crispy Minis. 🙂

LWMC: In addition to your individual projects and work with LMG, you play together as Musedy Tag Team and in the Four Winds Collective What can you tell us about the experience and dynamics of performing solo, in a duet and in a group?

KL: Solo: I love it! Performing solo is empowering and freeing, though I tend to engage audience members in my act quite often. 😉 It is freeing that I can go off track and discover new moments without throwing anyone else off, and it’s also liberating to not worry that my behaviour is partly representing a bigger group. Having said that, there is no sweeter pleasure than sharing the stage with others, and sparking a unique and dynamic energy.

Musedy Tag Team: I love it love it!
I feel truly blessed to create and perform with Arlene in Musedy. She is the perfect yin to my yang and the class to my sass. A duet is a special relationship because you’re able to really get to know the other person and create a solid foundation of confidence upon which you can play and take risks. Musedy Tag Team is one of my favourite things to do and it is on my “to do more” list. Stay tuned for our upcoming Musedy Tag Team Mashup Madness show that’s in the works for being in the works! 🙂

Four Winds: I love it love it love it love it!! There is something absolutely enchanting about working in a group that works; it leads to endless discoveries and gifts. I really feel there is something magical about this collection of gals. We are eclectic and complementary, a songstorm of musical forces intertwined for the greater good. 🙂 I completely trust and admire each one of them musically and as best buds. When I play with Heather, Meghan and Arlene I feel safe yet thrilled, and a buzz of love adds to the rhythm of every performance. Incidentally, Four Winds will be performing our first original song at this year’s WonderFest!

AP: It’s SO much fun to do different projects with my best friend, Kat Leonard. Whether it’s LMG events, or duos, or even with more artists, like Four Winds, it’s really easy, extremely fun, hilarious and productive to work with Kat. I feel like we both have the same vision in promoting ourselves through these different projects and I’m really excited to see where it goes!!! We even toured to Halifax together on the VIA Rail, and travelled to LA to get a taste of the film and music scene.

LWMC: On Sunday, April 6, WonderFest takes over Revival Bar. What’s happening at this year’s fest?

KL: So much talent and fun is happening! Along with visual art displays, WonderFest starts this year at 2:00 with an inspiring workshop led by Niki and Madette: A Capella Jam and Synergy Sessions come together to lead us in musical improvisation. All levels of experience wanted! At 4:00 there will be networking and face painting until doors open at 6:00 for the variety show taking place 7:00 to 9:00. Music, comedy, dance, spoken word, art; we are so very excited for this fun-packed day!

AP: This is from our press release (Thanks Jeff Costigan!)
This year’s event promises to build on the popularity and success of previous years – empowering people of all ages and backgrounds to use creativity and art in their everyday lives. The one-day event will take place on Sunday, April 6th at the Revival Bar in Toronto (783 College St.). The art-packed schedule includes a musical workshop, networking, and a culminating concert featuring musicians, poets, visual artists, and comedians (welcome to everyone from all levels, as spectators or participants). Tickets for the concert are $10 in advance, and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be found at: https://wonderfest2014.eventbrite.ca/

Event Schedule:

2-4pm: Synergy Jam Workshop
A Cappella Jam + Synergy Session team up for a flash mob style jam session. Come sing, play, and leave feeling inspired! All styles, traditions and levels are welcome.

4-5:30pm: Networking

7-9pm: Concert (doors open at 6PM)

LWMC: And what do you hope participants and audience will take away from this year’s event?

AP: I really hope that people leave feeling inspired and empowered by what they learned and what they got to experience by performances and art work. The goal is to encourage people to tap into their creative side again, whether it’s to make an interesting spreadsheet or a lovely homemade dinner.

KL: My hope is that everyone who experiences WonderFest will discover a new artist and friend, will explore something fresh about themselves, and will find the freedom and power in nurturing a community of healthy risk-takers. I hope that every person walks away from WonderFest with a sense of empowerment to pursue the wildest of their dreams and the minutest of everyday miracles.

LWMC: Any other upcoming gigs or projects you’d like to shout out?

AP: Saturday April 12, 2014
with Miquelon Rodriquez, Sarah Giles, and Edward Monzon
The Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W., Toronto)
9pm – 11pm * FREE

Sunday April 13th, 2014
Village Vinyl (2925 Lake Shore Blvd West, Toronto)
2pm – 5pm * FREE

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?

AP: Life with more cowbell ROCKS!! Thanks Cate for having us on your blog again!

KL: If I may be so bold, I want to thank you for being such an important and loving member of our WonderFest community. We adore you completely!

LWMC: Aw! Thanks, ladies!

You can also check out Kat Leonard and Arlene Paculan on their YouTube sites:

Kat on YouTube   Kat on Twitter

Arlene on YouTube   Arlene on Twitter

I highly recommend coming out to experience the inspiration and music talent at this year’s WonderFest! Come on back after April 6 – I’ll be posting a slideshow of the WonderFest concert!

musedy elbows
Arlene Paculan & Kat Leonard