Pride & BLM divide between friends in the provocative, fierce, meta Every Day She Rose

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski & Monice Peter (as Mark and Cathy-Ann). Set design by Michelle Tracey. Costume design by Ming Wong. Lighting design by Rebecca Picherack. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

 

Nightwood Theatre continues its 40th season with the premiere of Andrea Scott and Nick Green’s Every Day She Rose, co-directed by Andrea Donaldson and Sedina Fiati, and running at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Provocative, fierce and sharply funny, divergent responses to the 2016 Black Lives Matter protest during the Toronto Pride parade force two best friends—a straight Black woman and a gay white man—to examine their relationship and allyship. Their exploration of friendship, oppression and allyship gets meta as these characters morph in and out of the two playwrights who are writing their story; struggling and processing not only the structure of the play, but the nature of and relationship between the two characters, who are to some degree based on themselves.

It’s Toronto Pride 2016, and besties/roommates Cathy-Ann (Monice Peter) and Mark (Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski) are getting decked out and ready to hit the parade route. Out at the parade, the celebratory vibe of their annual ritual takes a somber turn when they encounter a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest blocking the parade route. Back at their downtown condo, Cathy-Ann becomes quiet and pensive, going online to learn about BLM’s demands for a more equitable, inclusive Pride celebration; while Mark shrugs the protest off as a momentarily scary and ultimately poorly timed inconvenience. No longer feeling like celebrating, she opts to absent herself from a night of drinking and dancing; unable to change her mind, he goes off to meet his friends.

That moment of protest at Pride becomes the tipping point of an ongoing series of micro-divisions that have been apparent in their friendship for some time, and these come bubbling to the surface as the debate continues, the heat turned high, when Mark returns. Divergent personal perspectives on the police, Caribana and privilege erupt—not to mention the collision of odd couple-esque personalities—and, more and more, they find that their differences outweigh their similarities.

Woven into Cathy-Ann and Mark’s story is the journey of playwrights Andrea and Nick; and this is where it gets meta, especially since the characters are, to varying degrees, based on the actual playwrights. Debating everything—from structure, to back story, to the inclusion of flashback scenes and fourth wall-breaking monologues—like the characters (Cathy-Ann and Mark) who question their friendship, Andrea and Nick find they must ultimately ask themselves why they’re writing this play.

Every Day She Rose, Nightwood Theatre
Monice Peter & Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (as Andrea & Nick). Set design by Michelle Tracey. Costume design by Ming Wong. Lighting design by Rebecca Picherack. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Outstanding work from Peter and Shepherd-Gawinski in this complex, insightful and sharply funny two-hander that takes us to some uncomfortable places in a powerful, candid way. Playing characters that would otherwise be relegated to “sassy friend” supporting roles, the relationships go beyond the stereotypes to get real—becoming a microcosm of awareness, allyship and oppression Olympics, with issues of prejudice, intersectionality and privilege coming to the fore. Peter is a circumspect, grounded, Devil’s advocate delight as the cerebral, deliberate and sharp-witted Cathy-Ann; a scholar and somewhat of an introvert, Cathy-Ann has two degrees and is working temp jobs to pay the bills. Supportive of and engaged with Mark and the queer community, she finds herself having to rethink these relationships when she realizes the extent to which the Black community is excluded from Pride—and saddened to hear the clueless and negative responses from the white male-dominated queer community, including Mark.

Shepherd-Gawinski is a loud and proud treat as the gregarious, visceral Mark; flamboyant and impetuous, Mark is living the gay man’s dream—a great job, a fabulous condo, sex available with a swipe on his phone, and an awesome best friend. But, as much as he loves Cathy-Ann, Mark just can’t seem to get that the Black experience of oppression isn’t the same as his gay experience. His “colour blindness” makes the Black experience invisible to him—not to mention that, even though he’s gay, he’s still a white male, operating from a position of privilege that a Black woman does not. And, much like Cathy-Ann and Mark, Andrea and Nick are operating as opposites: Andrea is interested in a deep dive, less linear look at these characters and their relationship, while Nick is more comfortable with a less complicated, straightforward chronological approach. But, unlike Mark, Nick seems to get it when it comes to divergent experiences of oppression, and how intersectionality compounds the issue—and wonders how Andrea deals with it.

How does she do it? One day at a time—every day, she rises. We all need to check our privilege, and acknowledge the accompanying benefits; and be aware and mindful of the intersectional nature of oppression, and the barriers created therein—and educate ourselves on effective, positive allyship. And, as co-director Fiati pointed out during the opening night pre-show panel, no one wins when competing in the oppression Olympics.

Every Day She Rose continues at Buddies until December 8; advance tickets available online or by calling 416-975-8555. It’s a two-week run, and you don’t want to miss this—so advance booking or early arrival strongly recommended.

For dates/times of special events, talkbacks and a relaxed performance, check the show page. And, after the performance, check out the engagement space behind the playing area.

ICYMI: For more perspective, check out Jordy Kieto’s interview with co-directors Andrea Donaldson and Sedina Fiati in Intermission Magazine.

 

 

 

Looking back on an undefinable relationship in the entertaining, touching, resonant A Beautiful View

Alison Brooks & Pip Dwyer. Lighting design by Wes Babcock. Photo by Matthew Eger.

 

Nothing is enough.

Shotgun Juliet opened its production of Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View in the Alumnae Theatre studio last night, presented as a Pride Toronto Community Event. Directed by Matthew Eger, it’s an entertaining, quirky, touching and resonant overview of an undefinable intimate relationship between two women, spanning across time as they come together and move apart.

Set in a place outside of time and space, two women (Alison Brooks and Pip Dwyer) meet to review their life together, presented to us as slice of life scenes and monologues over the course of 75 minutes. The relationship starts with an adorably awkward meet cute outside a tent in a camping goods store. One woman is quirky and fanciful (Dwyer) and the other is practical yet free-spirited (Brooks); there is an immediate connection that feels romantic in that goofy first moments kind of way. A chance meeting leads to an on-purpose meeting, which leads into a relationship that some would call a love affair, BFFs or soulmates—extremely intimate, yet defying labels.

Opposites with much in common, the two women are drawn to each other in a way that even they don’t fully understand; and what they know of relationships and sexuality causes them to make assumptions and draw conclusions about each other and their dynamic over the course of their time together. Intense, hilariously funny and complex, in between reliving key moments from their history together, they stop to take stock of what happened and who said/did what. The storytelling, shifting between otherworldly space and everyday life, is nicely supported by Wes Babcock’s lighting design and Oshan Starreveld’s sound design.

beautiful view 2
Pip Dwyer & Alison Brooks. Lighting design by Wes Babcock. Photo by Matthew Eger.

Brooks and Dwyer have lovely chemistry together as they play out this hilarious, moving and sharply drawn overview of a complex, relationship—shifting between playful, flirty banter and tension filled argument and call-out. Brooks brings a mischievous puck-like playfulness, along with the seasoned, grown-up pragmatism of the neglected childhood her character endured; her character is fluid and easy-going, possibly more introverted and definitely more introspective. Dwyer is delightfully adorkable as the chatty record store/temp worker drummer wannabe; the more out-there extrovert of the two, her character describes her lies as “wishful thinking”—expressions of longing to be something/someone else.

A reminder that people and relationships aren’t always what they seem; and to let people and how they are together just be. Maybe we don’t need to pigeon-hole, label or quantify our relationships on the basis of some romantic love vs. friendship scale. It’s all love and it’s all beautiful. Nothing is enough.

A Beautiful View continues in the Alumnae studio until June 22, with performances Tuesday-Saturday at 8:00; and Saturday and Sunday matinées at 2:00 (final performance is June 22 at 2:00). Tickets: general $25, arts worker $20, PWYC previews and matinée PWYC rush; advance tickets available online. Email shotgunjuliet@gmail.com if you cannot afford to see the show, tickets are available to everyone.

 

Taming the Shrew like it’s 1989 in sharply witty, playfully bawdy, LGBTQ+ Bard’s Bus Tour

shrew 1
Geoffrey Armour & Siobhan Richardson – photo by Dahlia Katz

Driftwood Theatre Group launched its annual Bard’s Bus Tour earlier this month, this time with a 1980s Toronto Pride take on William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Driftwood Artistic Director D. Jeremy Smith and running this week at Toronto’s Withrow Park.

A challenging play to produce for modern-day audiences, given its dynamic of patriarchal dominance tinged with misogyny, Smith and company decided to take the opportunity to present the play from a contemporary point of view, exploring themes of identity, consent and equality.

Set in 1989, Lucentio (Fiona Sauder) and Tranio (Paolo Santalucia) travel from small-town Ontario to Toronto to experience the sights, sounds and possible romantic entanglements of Pride. Upon their arrival, they witness a family matter gone public, as Baptista (Renée Hackett) engages in a battle of words with Hortensio (Drew O’Hara) and Gremio (played by various company members, in mask), both would-be suitors to her youngest daughter Bianca (Tahirih Vejdani). Baptista refuses to let anyone marry Bianca until her eldest daughter, the wild Katharine (Siobhan Richardson) is wed first, an edict which prompts Hortensio to enlist the aid of his old friend Petruchio (Geoffrey Armour), newly arrived from Hamilton, recently furnished with a great inheritance after his father’s death and seeking a wife.

In the meantime, Lucentio has fallen for Bianca, and they* and Tranio devise a plan to woo her, whereby they switch identities so Tranio can present Lucentio as a tutor to Baptista’s household. Meanwhile, Petruchio and Hortensio have hatched a similar plan, placing Hortensio as a music teacher. The initial spark between Petruchio and Katharine becomes apparent as they begin a game of wits and dominance. They marry on the day of the Pride Parade, and he immediately takes her away to his home in Hamilton where he begins the process of taming her as the two test their boundaries. Add to this wacky mix are two Vincentio’s (Lucentio’s father): a pedant enlisted by Tranio to play the part in order to validate the dowry offer and the real Vincentio, who arrives searching for his child.

Artfully staged, with a minimalist set comprised of modular, movable Tetris pieces (designed by Smith), and utilizing commedia dell’arte masks (for Gremio, Vincentio and the various servants, each played by various members of the company), puppetry, inventive props, and outrageous and colourful 80s costuming (Melanie McNeill), Driftwood’s The Taming of the Shrew challenges our preconceived notions of this play in a battle of equals, loving who they want to love and how they want to love.

shrew 2
Paolo Santalucia & Fiona Sauder – photo by Dahlia Katz

Shouts to an outstanding ensemble, with its high-energy performances and totally rad a cappella renderings of favourite 80s pop tunes (arrangements by Tom Lillington). Armour is both charming and rough as Petruchio, a ruffian with a loving disposition beneath the lusty denim and flannel exterior. Richardson is fierce and unforgiving as the neglected Katherine, whose heart longs for love beneath that scrappy attitude; she consents to soften under her husband’s direction as they set the terms for their relationship of equals. Sauder is adorably love-stricken and determined as the floppy-haired cutie pie Lucentio; and Vejdani’s Bianca is a small but feisty gal under the good little sister exterior. Hackett is a strong negotiator and drives a hard bargain as the noble, put-upon mother Baptista; and is hilarious as Petruchio’s laid-back servant Curtis. Santalucia is a delight as the sharp-witted, mercurial and flamboyant Tranio; and O’Hara gives a hilarious turn as the spurned and opportunistic Hortensio.

Taming the Shrew like it’s 1989 in Driftwood Theatre’s sharply witty, playfully bawdy, LGBTQ+ Bard’s Bus Tour 2016.

The Taming of the Shrew continues at Toronto’s Withrow Park until this Sunday, July 24 – please note the 7:30 start time. Toronto performances include the following extras:

July 20: Pre-show chat (6:45 p.m.) with Dr. Nikki Cesare Schotzko, University of Toronto

July 21: Intermission show by 80s throwback a cappella band Retrocity; post-show chat with the actors

July 22: Pre-show chat (6:45 p.m.) with Headmistress Shaharazad

Shrew then moves on to various locations across Ontario till August 14; check here for cities, dates and seat reservation info.

*In this production, the part of Lucentio has been cast to be gender fluid, identifying as neither male nor female; therefore, the pronoun “they” is used.

Dawn Patrol Pride brings the big, gay funny @ Comedy Bar

Had some big, gay fun times at Dawn Whitwell’s weekly Dawn Patrol standup show at Comedy Bar last night – this week, the extra spectacular Pride edition.

Last night’s lineup featured an amazing roster of local talent, representing some of the funniest gays in the City (in order of appearance):

Paul Hutcheson

Danz Altvater

Regina the Gentlelady (see also the band The Lightfires)

Marco Bernardi

Carolyn Taylor

Phil Luzi

Catherine McCormick

Ted Morris

Deanne Smith

Here are some pix I took last night:

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Beautiful, fun word play with Lizzie Violet

Okay, so right off the top, I have to admit a certain amount of bias – okay, a whole lot of bias – when it comes to Lizzie Violet. She’s super smart, funny and has an incredible way with words – and is brave enough to get up in front of a room full of strangers to read them – and she’s a really good friend. She’s also the reason I’ve been getting out to see so many amazingly talented poets and spoken word artists over the past year.

Last night, I had the pleasure of dropping by open mic night at Free Times Café to hear Lizzie read some of her work. Pretty sure this was her first time reading there – and, despite TTC challenges causing her to be running a bit late, she arrived looking fabulous, checked in with host Jeff Kahl, then hung out with Brandon Pitts and Jennifer and me for a bit at our booth near the back room (as it was packed with no seats left) before shortly getting called on stage. She read some of my – and Jeff’s – favourites: the devilishly mischievous and fun piece about her childhood invisible friend Sid, the hilarious mom blurt piece “Chlamydia is Not a Flower,” and the very funny and sharply pointed unsubstantiated relationship piece. She avoided the naughty haikus, as there were minors present, but read us a few back at our booth. They’re very erotic. Seriously erotic. I wasn’t able to get close enough for a decent photo while she was reading, but thanks to host Jeff Kahl, here’s a stunning pic of Lizzie – it puts me in mind of classic cabaret: smoky and shadowy.

Lizzie will be reading this Friday, August 24 (5 – 9 p.m.) at Harvest Noon (16 Bancroft Ave., Toronto) with featured poets Cassandra Witteman and Vanessa McGowan, among others.

Also coming up: The Beautiful and the Damned (TB&TD) on Thursday, September 13 (7 – 9 p.m.) at Glad Day Bookshop (598 Yonge St., Toronto – upstairs), with host DM Moore, and feature performers Jacob Scheier, David Bateman and Jessica Speziale. Lizzie is the go-to gal for TB&TD poster design, has been a feature performer and often performs in the open mic slots.

Here’s Lizzie reading at Toronto Pride 2012, with Amoeba Starfish playing in the background:

Friends, words & music @ Toronto Pride 2012

Some very big fun times at Pride this year, chickens. And as I enjoy a day off to recover – so to speak, since I’m hanging with a friend this aft. – thought I’d take a moment to reflect and share some fun moments from the past weekend.

Friday night was Chic Productions Carnival women’s Pride dance at the Palais Royale. Always love going to that space and the Pride dance always sells out there – so the place is full of women (with us single gals tagged with glow-in-the-dark bracelets before they let us loose in the wild – optional). I met up with my friend Ty, her gf Liz and their friend Cathy, and bumped into a bunch of folks throughout the evening – some of whom I hadn’t seen in ages and some I usually bump into at the Pride dance.

With entertainment by Zero Gravity Circus, a lovely woman on stilts greeted folks at the entrance and performers dazzled at various points in the evening: ribbon gymnastic dancers, silk acrobats and fire jugglers – all while the music was playing and women were dancing their butts off. The patio is especially lovely, with a gorgeous cool breeze wafting and the lake so close by and beautifully calm.

Saturday, I met up with my good pal Lizzie Violet to go see the Dyke March. It was frickin’ hot out there, but we managed to catch some shade on the west side of Yonge, a bit south of Wellesley and had a comfortable viewing spot for the festivities. We met up with Kat Leonard and Leah Walker at Lizzie’s place early evening for a fabulous picnic dinner – Lizzie’s birthday present to me – with tons of tasty vegan salads (yes, I said tasty – good food is good food!), wine and her amazing birthday cupcakes. And we watched about half a dozen episodes of Sex and the City, three of which featured Samantha’s brief relationship with a woman (played by the stunningly beautiful Sonia Braga). Another great evening with friends – and an amazing finish to my month of birthday.

Sunday – and I’ll be brief ‘cuz I have a bunch of photos I want to share – I met up with Lizzie, Kat and Leah again, along with pals Janis, Brandon, Laurie and Adrienne, to see Lizzie perform in the Beautiful and the Damned (B&D) readings at the Paul Kane Parkette (the Clean, Sober and Proud Stage). Poets/spoken word artists included: Duncan Armstrong, David Bateman, Philip Cairns, DM Moore and Lizzie Violet. Since Zelda’s is now closed after sustaining a fire, the next B&D event will be at Glad Day bookstore on July 19. After taking a break indoors at Spirits pub for an early dinner and a pint, we returned to that stage for an evening of music with Iman Wain, Rex Baunsit, Arlene Paculan and Meghan Morrison. Amazingly talented folks sharing their art. So. Much. Fun.

Dyke March – dykes on bikes
Dyke March – rainbow flag
Readings – Duncan Armstrong
Readings – Philip Cairns
Readings – David Bateman
Readings – DM Moore
Readings – Lizzie Violet
Iman Wain
Rex Baunsit
Arlene Paculan
Meghan Morrison

Best. Pride. Ever. Here are some pix.

Passionate words & music @ Zelda’s The Beautiful & the Damned – Pride edition

Back upstairs at Zelda’s (aka “the trailer in the sky”) for another edition of The Beautiful and the Damned last night – with my pal, the lovely and talented Lizzie Violet – this time, for a special (and early treat) Pride edition, sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA). Dead celeb of the month: Jean Genet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Genet

Host DM Moore had a full roster of features and open mic readers/performers, and as I’ve done previously, I’d like to go for a word association riff here. If I’ve misspelled or misnamed anyone, please let me know in Comments and I’ll correct the error asap. One thing all these artists had in common was passion in their words, whether by poetry, spoken word or song.

Ghadeer Malek

Features: Ghadeer Malek – poetry of the pain and resilience of the Palestinian people, resolving to not just survive but thrive; marginalization of queers and Palestinians, and the local struggles of Toronto Pride, QAIA participation and the threat of losing city funding. Words that resonated with me: “I write because I want to set my stories free” and “There must be hope.”

Hamid Parnian

Hamid Parnian – sweet, soft-spoken young man from Iran, alternating between Farsi and English in a beautiful, good-humoured piece of yearning, memory and love.

Mraya

Mraya (three-woman group: Maryem Toller, Jayne Brown and Sophia Grigoriadis) – traditional songs from Palestine, Egypt and Greece, accompanying themselves with drum, tambourine and tabor (?); strong, beautiful female voices blending in harmony.

Open mic folks: Katherine (Katrina?) Hernandez – she had me at “CWL” with her funny, insightful piece on family and being different; love the use of “twitterpated,” which came before Twitter even existed.

Vanessa McGowan – a piece to those who aren’t safe; timely and passionate, “Everyone has to be heard.” See her at an upcoming slam on June 20 at Waterfalls in Kensington Market (303 Augusta Ave., Toronto).

Brandon Pitts – performed his poem, which if memory serves, is called The Apocalypse of Weeks – “On the senate floor, I will crush them” political, sardonic and visceral. Pitts’ play One Night will be appearing at the George Ignatieff Theatre (GIT) during the Toronto Fringe.

Jeff Cottrill – hilarious Darwin Award-worthy piece: product welcome and instructions for the Darwina microwave oven, my fave instruction: “Do not place your Darwina microwave oven in a catapult.” Catch him at Kaplansky’s on June 17.

Philip Cairns – 21st century existential reflections in A Bombing for Peace: “I’m ashamed to be a citizen of this planet.” July 6, catch him doing The Judy Monologues at the Toronto Fringe.

John Nyman – irreverently funny and good-natured life observations. Catch him at The Central on Sunday, June 24.

Joe Dewar – first time up at Zelda’s, giving us a “damned contribution,” comic cranky old liberal guy poetry – fun!

Duncan Armstrong – reflections on queerphobia and violence in our times.

Troy Jackson – soulful blues gospel songs (sung a cappella), shout out to his black/gay/Muslim/Turtle Island native identity, beautiful bracelet and striking bow tie, the man is stylin’.

Susan Munroe – the lady in the rat pack hat, reading a spiritual, existential and lyrical piece from her recently published book Coil.

Sue Goldstein – activist and poet, “Not Sleeping but Remembering” exploring cleaning house, clearing life, struggles with life’s clutter both domestic and in the larger sense of memory, identity.

Cathy Petch – up wearing a newsboy hat, serving up an erotic zit fetish ballad. Catch her at The Truth or Dare Slam on June 19 at Supermarket (268 Augusta Ave., Toronto).

And that was one great, full evening of passionate words. Confession: in my haste to get ready and out the door this morning, I stupidly forgot my camera cable – so I’ll have to insert photos later this weekend.

Troy Jackson
Sue Goldstein
Philip Cairns

p.s. – done. Here are some more.