Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wingéd - A Multimedia Performance

I just got back from seeing Wingéd, a really fascinating and thought provoking take on three of the major icons of classical myth - Icarus, Lucifer and the Phoenix. I'm doing a review and interview piece for Lucid Media Magazine - the print version - but it doesn't come out till the June issue and I wanted to pass along the information. Check it out if you're in Toronto - this is from media releases:

Whetstone Productions presents the world premiere of
Wingéd
Written & Performed by David Tomlinson
Directed by Diana Kolpak
(remaining credits below)

April 29 - May 8, 2010 - The DeLeon White Gallery, 1139 College Street
Wednesday- Sunday 8pm.
Tickets: Wed-Sat $20 ($18 for Students/Seniors/CAEA); Sunday Pay-What-You-Can.
Box office: 1-800-838-3006 or www.whetstoneproductions.com
Warning: adult themes and language

Poetic, surprising and irreverent, the world premiere of Wingéd inspects and dissects relationships between fathers and sons, friends and lovers, predator and prey and serves up a clarion call for the transformation of humankind in a series of dramatic monologues about three mythical winged beings: Icarus, Lucifer and Phoenix.

Performer David Tomlinson's highly physical performance style is blended with original artwork and live projection to create an emotionally bold multimedia experience.

Wingéd is performed amidst a special exhibit of paintings, photographs and sculpture which are thematically linked to the performance. The artworks are by ELDON GARNET, MENNO KRANT, BRUCE EVES, KEITH SHEPPARD and RASHMI BAIRD

David Tomlinson is an accomplished writer, actor, clown and sketch comedian. In addition to his numerous stage performances (including numerous Rhubarb! Fesivals, Toronto Masque Theatre's The Tears of a Clown, Toronto Festival of Clowns and and Sky Gilbert's Rope Enough and Happy), he has played at Vancouver's Sketchfest and Montreal's Just For Laughs festival as part of the sketch duo GLYPH. His television credits include Howie Do It, Queer as Folk and The Newsroom.

Whetstone Artistic Director and Wingéd director Diana Kolpak has helped develop more than a dozen original productions that have been performed across the country. She recently curated the sold out debut of pandemonium machine for Teatro Magnetico.

PS - I'm also in the current and next issues of Lucid Media Magazine - print version.

Lighting Design by Sharon DiGenova
Video & Imaging by Jacob Niedzwiecki
Environment Design by Sharon DiGenova & Jacob Niedzwiecki
Exhibit Curation by Jessica Cimó

The Devil Operation - a Hot Docs Review

The Devil Operation
Written & Directed by Stephanie Boyd
Cinematographer(s) : Ernesto Cabellos Damian

Screenings as part of the Hot Docs Festival - check for times here

There's no doubt that Oshawa filmmaker Stephanie Boyd has her heart in the right place with The Devil Operation. In it, she traces a conflict between the mostly indigenous and impoverished farmers in the Andean regions of Peru and the gold mining companies - and their goons - who look at the land only as the storehouse of their future wealth.

The early parts of the film focus on one Father Marco Arana, a simple parish priest in one of the country's poorest regions. He stands up for the people as they organize against the gold mining conglomerate that's attempting to explore and then mine the mountain that looms above them. Father Marco, named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time Magazine in 2009, tries to keep his parishioners safe by keeping order and trying to face the onslaught of commercial interests with civil disobedience but not violence. At stake is the land and the life giving water that flows down from the top, water that will be contaminated by the machinations of the conglomerate at the Yanacocha Mine.

The people organize a blockade of the only road leading uphill, one that's so successful in bringing the mining exploration to a halt that eventually, the government caves in and rescinds the company's mining permit. A victory - but not so fast. All of a sudden strangers are seen in town, taking pictures and following Father Arana and his activist group, called the Grufides. Paranoia runs high, and justifiably so. A nearby veterinarian, also instrumental in organizing the local farm people, is shot at point blank range in front of witnesses. Who are the perpetrators, and who sent them to terrorize and intimidate?

It's a compelling story, and the footage that focuses on the group, its struggles and its testimonials is the strongest. The problem with the film itself is none other than Stephanie Boyd, whose mannered voiceover occasionally interjects to explain how evil the company is, just in case we didn't get the point. The narration shouldn't stand out over the evidence of the film.

The film also loses focus about two thirds of the way through. To ostensibly illustrate the level of fear and apprehension of the activists, it goes into a long section that has nothing to do with Father Arana. It's another good story with riveting evidence of corporate abuses, but here it's tacked onto another narrative, it keeps making the same point over and over. The promo material describes it as a "real life political thriller", but we're simply told about the various bits of evidence that link together - some of them flimsiliy - in a tone that has already set the conflict in stark black and white. Investigative journalism it certainly is not.

It's not that I didn't believe the story or doubt what was being presented, but it doesn't build a coherent case in and of itself. The title of the film refers to the fact that the company's operatives gave all their surveillance subjects codenames. Father Arana's was "the Devil". However, that part of the story only takes up about a third of the film. What it lacks is a solid focus, one that should rest with the good Father and his cohorts. No amount of smug voiceover can match the poignancy of his words.

If we don't risk our lives to protect life, what sense is there in living?

The verdict is - worth viewing even if it was only to inform yourself about the Andean people and their poetically beautiful countryside, and the surreal struggle they find themselves embroiled in. You become absorbed by their story as you see it in the film.

You can check out the trailer here

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Royal Conservatory's 2010-11 Season

From a Press Release, a dizzying array of music to fill your ears with next season, and I assure you that my enthusiasm for the RC's line up has absolutely nothing to do with the smoked salmon or the french toast soufflé thingies at the official launch (mmm...)

They say Yo-Yo Ma heard about the incredible acoustics at Koerner Hall, and called them himself with an offer to play - as he will at the season opener.

the Royal Conservatory
Announces the 2010.11 season at Koerner Hall

Yo-Yo Ma WILL open the second season with a gala concert
Oscar Peterson's legacy will be explored
American superstar violinist Hilary Hahn will make her Koerner Hall debut

Following on the immense success of the inaugural Koerner Hall season at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, The Royal Conservatory (The RCM) President, Dr. Peter Simon, is thrilled to announce more inspiring and diverse concerts for 2010.11. Mervon Mehta, Executive Director, RCM Performing Arts, has once again assembled a wide array of artists of different backgrounds, performing a variety of musical genres, in order to present audiences with the highest quality of rich and diverse musical experiences. The journey will go from South Africa through France and Ireland to the Americas, from the earliest Baroque through jazz to Broadway and pop. Along the way we will celebrate an icon, introduce new artists to Toronto, present the next generation of classical artists, focus the attention on the varied aspects of Beethoven and Bach, revel in the solo piano works of Liszt, feast on works from Canadian composers, and offer a chance to hear the best music from Africa.

Grand Opening Weekend

The 2010.11 Koerner Hall season will open with a very special Grand Opening Weekend of performances and events.

On Thursday, October 14, 2010, one of the world's most beloved cellists and a favourite of Toronto's audiences, the incomparable Yo-Yo Ma, will give a recital accompanied by pianist Kathryn Stott. The following evening, presented by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, Koerner Hall will host the high-profile LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture. This year's special guest will be His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, who was invested as an Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada in 2006 and became an Honorary Citizen of Canada in 2009. Bringing her signature coplas (female-centric Spanish torch songs), Afro-Mallorcan world music star, Buika, will make her Canadian debut on October 16, and the Grand Opening Weekend will be rounded out with a concert by the Esprit Orchestra, featuring a work by RCM stalwart R. Murray Schafer, which will mark Esprit's official move of their concert series to Koerner Hall. (image of Yo-Yo Ma from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008)

Aspects of Oscar
Jazz giant and Canadian legend, Oscar Peterson, holds a special place in The Royal Conservatory's history (he is an honorary Fellow of The RCM) and in Mervon Mehta's heart. Mehta presented Peterson on the opening night of Philadelphia's Kimmel Center in 2002, and enjoyed a long association with the pianist. In Aspects of Oscar, a series of concerts dedicated to his memory, Peterson's legacy will be explored in detail by his long-time artistic collaborators and friends. The first of the five concerts, Oscar's Songbooks, has been put together by bassist Dave Young, who frequently worked with Peterson, and will feature Reg Schwager (guitar), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Robi Botos (piano), 2010 Juno Award-winner Terry Clarke (drums), and special guest vocalist Carol Welsman, one of Oscar's favourite singers and a daughter of a former RCM President, Frank Welsman. John Coltrane's legendary pianist, McCoy Tyner, and rising star pianist, Alfredo Rodriguez, recently discovered and recorded by Quincy Jones, will pay tribute to Oscar Peterson's solo piano music in the Oscar Solo concert. In Oscar's Trios, Benny Green, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, and Ulf Wakenius, will swing through trios of piano/bass/drums and piano/bass/guitar combinations; and Oscar Swings, with Monty Alexander and other special guests, will be a celebration of Oscar at his swingin'est, and feature his social and civil rights works, such as Hymn to Freedom. The last concert of the series, Oscar's Blues, with soulful trumpeter Roy Hargrove, will present a forward-looking ensemble of the next generation of artists carrying Oscar's torch. Each of the five concerts will include an Artist Chat between Mr. Mehta and the evening's guest artists as they share stories and lessons learned from Oscar Peterson. (Pic of Oscar Peterson Hans Bernhard 1977)

Jazz
In addition to the extensive Aspects of Oscar jazz series, South African phenomenon and jazz trumpet legend, Hugh Masekela, will bring his melodic brand of world jazz to Toronto;Â Swedish mezzo-soprano, Anne Sofie von Otter, will team up with American jazz pianist, Brad Mehldau, in a special program of classical and jazz favourites; and legendary pianist Allen Toussaint, trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and The Joe Krown Trio, will take the audience into the spirited soul of New Orleans in a concert titled New Orleans Nights.

Piano Concerts
Simone Dinnerstein is one of the artists who will already be returning to Koerner Hall in its second season. Having previously appeared with Absolute Ensemble in ultra modern interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach's music, on her return visit she will play the Goldberg Variations, a recording of which almost made her a household name in 2007. Young Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear will return home to perform an all Beethoven program - Goodyear was taught by James Anagnoson, Dean of The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School, who later recommended him to the legendary Leon Fleisher. Fleisher, who led a sold-out concert with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra featuring Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand this season, will appear next to play works by Schubert and Bach. Two French pianists, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Hélène Grimaud, both renowned as proponents of contemporary music and leading interpreters of the standard piano repertoire, will present works by Franz Liszt, during the 200th anniversary year of his birth. Grimaud will be making her Toronto recital debut. The series will wrap up with a recital by Olga Kern, playing Yamaha's superb new concert grand piano.

String Concerts

Canadian violinist Leila Josefowicz has won the hearts of audiences around the world with her honest, fresh approach to the repertoire and her dynamic virtuosity. She made her Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 17, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner, and in her Koerner Hall debut she will present works by Brahms, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Schubert, and the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. Called "The Violinist of Violinists" by The Strad magazine, Leonidas Kavakos will be accompanied by pianist Enrico Pace in a recital including Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No.1 in F Minor and the gifted emerging composer Lena Auerbach's Preludes. A favourite of Toronto audiences and an iTunes phenomenon, Hilary Hahn, stated that she has played more works by Bach than any other composer and has played solo Bach pieces every day since she was eight years old. She will display her considerable Bach skills in the Sonata No. 1 for Solo Violin in G Minor, among other repertoire, with Valentina Lisitsa on the piano. Gears will switch from violin to the guitar in the hands of Grammy Award winner John Williams. This international ambassador of the guitar has toured the world playing solo and with orchestras, and his guitar version of Cavatina became a worldwide hit single when it was used as the theme music in the Oscar-winning movie, The Deer Hunter.

Chamber Concerts

One of the highlights of the chamber music concerts, as well as the whole season, will be the Canadian debut of the Scharoun Ensemble. This octet, comprised of the first chair woodwind and string members of the incomparable Berlin Philharmonic, will make their highly anticipated Canadian debut in March of 2011. Kremerata Baltica is a renowned Chamber orchestra, founded by violinist Gidon Kremer to foster outstanding young musicians from the three Baltic States.

Grammy Award winners in 2002, their program will include works by Béla Bartok, Robert Schumann, Arvo Part, Raminita Šerkšnyté, Michael Nyman, Georgs Pelecis, and Lena Auerbach. Three highly specialized chamber ensembles will also grace the stage of Koerner Hall: Interpreti Veneziani with expertly performed Italian baroque chamber music, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification; Les Percussions de Strasbourg with percussive energy of a Iannis Xanakis piece that will surround the Koerner Hall audience and a world premiere by Canadian composer Andrew Staniland; and the renowned viol player, Jordi Savall, and his Hespérion XXI ensemble, with baroque music by composers from the Old Spain, Mexican Baroque, and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions. Bringing music closer to home and rounding out the series, The Royal Conservatory's very own ARC Ensemble will share the stage with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, who made their debut at the White House for President Carter's Inauguration in January, 1977.

Orchestra and Opera Concerts

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra (RCO) will present more concerts than ever before in one season. Three concerts will be led by Maestro Uri Mayer, Director of the Orchestral Program and Resident Conductor at The Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School, and two by returning conductors from the 2009.10 season: Canadian Opera Company's Music Director, Johannes Debus, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Music Director, Peter Oundjian. New this year, Mervon Mehta will engage Peter Oundjian in one of his popular post-intermission Artist Chats. The last RCO concert will be conducted by Julian Kuerti, Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the son of the illustrious Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti, in his Koerner Hall debut. Building upon the extraordinary success of this season's magical telling of Massenet's Cendrillon, the talented young artists of The Glenn Gould School's Vocal Program and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra will present another opera in the glorious acoustics of Koerner Hall in the spring of 2011.

Vocal Concerts

The season's vocal concerts will have something for everybody: from theatre superstar Barbara Cook, the only Broadway singer to have given a recital at The Metropolitan Opera house in New York; to early music specialists, The King's Singers, one of the most sought-after and critically acclaimed vocal ensembles in the world since their inception over 40 years ago; to reigning Canadian soprano, 2010 Juno Award-winner, and Officer of the Order of Canada, Adrianne Pieczonka. Finally, Anne Sofie von Otter and Brad Mehldau team up for one of their special collaborations.

World, Pop, and Everything in-Between

Exactly as the title suggests, these concerts and events have everything! Fiery guitars and Latin soul-infused melodies by the recently formed trio of guitarists - Pavlo, Rik Emmett, and Oscar Lopez, a special Christmas concert by Irish tenor John McDermott, and a tap dance spectacular courtesy of Bring In da Noise, Bring In da Funk star, Savion Glover. For the second year in a row, the Toronto Blues Society's Maple Blues Awards will return to Koerner Hall to celebrate Canada's top blues musicians, and The Royal Conservatory will once again open its doors to Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, filling the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning with contemporary chamber music, DJs, jazz, and world music, as well as an art installation. The first event of Nuit Blanche will be a concert in Koerner Hall, featuring the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Uri Mayer, performing a work by R. Murray Schafer for string quartet and orchestra.

Building on the tremendous success of Senegalese singer Baaba Maal's recent appearance in Koerner Hall, which had audiences dancing in the aisles and on stage, there will be three shows next season presenting African musicians in special concerts. An evening titled Acoustic Africa, featuring Habib Koité, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Afel Bocoum, will explore the richness of African guitar traditions, while The Johnny Clegg Band serves up infectious crossover music - a vibrant blend of pop music and African Zulu rhythms that exploded onto the international scene and broken through barriers in Clegg's native South Africa. Getting things off to an auspicious start will be the aforementioned jazz legend, Hugh Masekela.

Words & Music

Legendary retired pianist, Alfred Brendel, will come to Toronto for a fascinating lecture. Providing musical examples on the piano from works by Beethoven, Haydn, and other composers, he will attempt to answer the question: "Does all classical music have to be entirely serious?"

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, conducted by Edwin Outwater, is also a returning guest to Koerner Hall from the inaugural season. In the first of their two concerts, through an interactive presentation involving live audience surveys using the latest technology, titled Beethoven and Your Brain, author of the best-selling books This Is Your Brain on Music and The World In Six Songs, Daniel Levitin, will explore what happens to the brain when it comes into contact with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In the second concert, best-selling author Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) recounts his tortured days as a choirboy in San Francisco and narrates HK Gruber's classic and demented cabaret piece, Frankenstein!!

Beethoven and Bach

After everyone has been Beethovenized by Alfred Brendel and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, why stop?! Beethoven threads are running throughout the entire 2010.11 season and can be experienced through performances ranging from large ensembles to intimate recitals: the Royal Conservatory Orchestra will play his Symphony No.1 in C Major, the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic his Septet in E-flat Major for Strings and Winds, violinist Hilary Hahn his "Spring" Sonata, and pianist Stewart Goodyear is devoting his entire recital to four of Beethoven's piano sonatas. Similarly, Johann Sebastian Bach's music will feature prominently. Pianist Simone Dinnerstein will perform his Goldberg Variations, Hilary Hahn his Sonata No.1 for Solo Violin in G Minor, and pianist Leon Fleisher his "Sheep May Safely Graze" from Cantata No. 208; Capriccio in B-flat Major, On the Departure of a Most Beloved Brother; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D Minor; and Chaconne for the Left Hand from the Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor.

Many more 2010.11 season concerts, master classes, postlude concerts in the Leslie and Anna Dan Gallerias, and four more Bluebird North concerts in the Conservatory Theatre, will be announced in the coming months. Additionally, there will be many more Beethoven, Bach, and R. Murray Schafer works performed throughout the season by other music organizations.

Independent Presentations

In addition to welcoming the Esprit Orchestra for their 2010.11 season to Koerner Hall, numerous other organizations, such as Soundstreams Canada, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and Tafelmusik, will be presenting their own concerts in our venue. All details can be found at www.rcmusic.ca or on the individual web sites of the various presenters.

The Royal Conservatory

Founded in 1886, The Royal Conservatory is the largest and oldest independent arts educator in Canada. It is an internationally-renowned centre for performance and learning, providing opportunities for personal development through music and arts education in over 300 communities across Canada and a dozen countries around the world. Each year, more than 500,000 Canadians take part in RCM programs, exams, and public school initiatives.

The Royal Conservatory's 2010.11 concert season is made possible through the generous support of:

Department of Canadian Heritage
Ontario Arts Council
Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund

Toronto Lawyers to Star in Shakespeare

From a Press Release
If your lawyer seems unusually hard to get hold of in the next little while, it may all be for a good cause.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Lawyer Show
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kelly Thornton
Set and Costume Design by Denyse Karn
Stage Managed by Monica Esteves
Starring a cast of 28 Toronto lawyers and legal professionals

June 11 & 12, 2010 at the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs

Produced by Nightwood Theatre

Toronto, ON… Nightwood Theatre is proud to present the Toronto premiere of The Lawyer Show. This unique event, which will raise vital funds for Nightwood, sees a cast of 28 lawyers on stage performing in William Shakespeare’s classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directed by Artistic Director Kelly Thornton, Nightwood is thrilled to be partnering with Toronto’s legal community on this new fundraising initiative. As Thornton stated in a recent interview with law and style magazine, Precedent, “The most important quality of an actor is intelligence…Lawyers are naturals because they can think analytically and abstractly”; moreover, their profession demands ‘performance’.

The Bard’s original wedding play portrays the adventures of four Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors and their interactions with the Duke of Athens, his court and the fairies who inhabit a moonlit forest. Under Thornton’s direction, The Lawyer Show’s rendition of this Shakespearean classic is set in the late ‘50s: the play’s fairies, lovers and mechanicals are re-envisioned as beatniks, debutantes and nerds. It’s the rise of the Beat generation, a smoky jazz-infused subculture – where tradition is challenged and gender constructs are shattered (such as a daughter breaking free of her father’s choice of husband): themes well suited to Nightwood Theatre.

Aside from money raised from ticket sales, funds will also be generated from a silent auction. Goodies include: an Ottawa Getaway package; private garden tour by Canada’s gardening guru, Marjorie Harris; luxurious spa experiences; golf packages and more. All proceeds from The Lawyer Show 2010 will go towards enhancing Nightwood’s productions and training programs.

Kelly Thornton, Director
Kelly Thornton is an award-winning theatre director and dramaturg. Since 2001, she has been the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre, Canada's national women's theatre. Prior to this she worked in play development at Canadian Stage Company, Factory Theatre and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. She has been directing for the stage for over fifteen years, and has toured nationally and internationally with her work. Ms. Thornton teaches at the National Theatre School of Canada and has been a guest instructor at Graduate Centre for Drama at University of Toronto as well as the Sheridan College Theatre Program. In 2003 she was honoured with the prestigious Pauline McGibbon Award for her outstanding work as a Director and most recently, Ms. Thornton was recognized for her commitment to training and mentorship of young women in the performing arts by being named a 2008 YWCA Woman of Distinction. (Image is The Lawyers by Honoré Daumier)

The Cast
Jonathan Bitidis, LL.B; Brendan Brammall, McCarthy Tétrault LLP; Bonnie Cleary, Bales Beall LLP; Sanjay Desai, Legal Department, Trapeze Group; Anna Gatova, Paterson, MacDougall LLP; Sheila Gibb, Epstein Cole LLP; Barbara Gordon, Lawyer (sole practitioner); Alrica Gordon, Paralegal/Community Legal worker; Peter Hamiwka, Hrycyna Pothemont; Jennifer Hefler, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP; Sarah Huggins, Torys LLP; Danny Kastner, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP; Michael Kleinman, Cooper Kleinman; Karen Kwan Anderson, Pace Law Firm; Kate Lioubar, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; Hilary Mack, Epstein Cole LLP; Diane Mason, Mitchell, Bardyn and Zalucky LLP; Cathy Milne, Turnpenney Milne LLP; E. Llana Nakonechny, Dickson MacGregor Appell LLP; Jay Nathwani, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP; Teja Rachamalla, Lawyer; Lisa Robinson, Davis LLP; Paul Jonathan Saguil, Stockwoods LLP; Eve Schwarz, Schwarz Family Law; Randall Telford, Lawyer (private practice); Brent Vickar, Longley and Vickar LLP; Scott Werry, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP; Kenway Yu, Yu Law Firm

Saturday Night Cabaret at Toronto's Young Centre

From a Press Release - at $15 a pop you could hardly do better for a Saturday night's entertainment.

Saturday Night Cabaret Series at the Young Centre begins May 1st

Toronto, ON – April 21, 2010 – Albert Schultz, General Director of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, today announced a Saturday Night Cabaret Series, an evening of music and storytelling at the Young Centre starting May 1st.

The Kevin and Roger Garland Cabaret in the Young Centre is transformed into an intimate, club setting for the Saturday Night Cabaret Series with table seating and a fully licensed bar. The series features multi-talented artists ranging from jazz, world music, spoken word to traditional torch songs. In true cabaret style, the performances are up close and personal creating a musical dialogue between performer and audience.

The Saturday Night Cabaret Series will feature many artists who have participated in the highly acclaimed Canwest Cabaret Festival, which returns to the Young Centre for the third year from September 30 – October 4, 2010.

The Young Centre Cabaret Series is generously supported by Laura Dinner and Richard Rooney.

Saturday Night Cabaret Artists and Performance Dates:

Waleed Abdulhamid and the Kush Quartet – Saturday May 1, 2010 @ 10pm
Led by Young Centre Resident Artist Waleed Abdulhamid, the Kush Quartet strives to take you on a musical trip through the use of unique instrumentation and a collage of multiple genres. The music is pure and organic, cascading thorough harmonies and melodies of Jazz, Classical, Funk, Blues and African music.

John Millard and Happy Day – Saturday May 8, 2010 @ 10pm
Young Centre Resident Artist John Millard is a Toronto-based composer, singer, songwriter, and founder of the Polka Dogs. Come and enjoy a rare Toronto appearance of John Millard and Happy Day with Randi Helmers and Karin Randoja on vocals and Rob Clutton on bass. They will be performing selections from their recordings and a new collection of songs: The Black Hammer.

The Roaring Girl Cabaret – Saturday May 15, 2010 @ 10pm
The Roaring Girl Cabaret deliver a spicy mix of jazz, classical, opera and folk with an overall sound that walks the line between traditional and contemporary. Ringleader, vocalist, violinist and lyricist Miranda Mulholland is the driving force behind this ensemble, and her opera-trained voice lilts and soars over original compositions mixed with a few covers.

DK Ibomeka – Saturday May 22, 2010 @ 10pm
With a three-octave range, huge emotional depth and power, DK Ibomeka is one of the most exciting new voices in jazz and soul. He will be showcasing some new original songs from his upcoming album, co-written with a stellar list of songwriters (Aaron Davis, Kevin Breit, Lori Cullen, George Koller, Haydain Neale etc). DK will be joined by George Koller (bass) and Michael Shand (piano).

Bryce Kulak – Saturday May 29, 2010 @ 10pm
Kulak grew up onstage, acting in theatre and playing classical piano. An award-winning composer, he has performed with symphony orchestras and in theatrical world premieres. “Kulak’s versatility knows no bounds.” Edmonton Journal

Patricia O’Callaghan – Saturday June 5, 2010 @ 10pm
“The most promising cabaret performer of her generation”, Young Centre Resident Artist Patricia O’Callaghan lends her gorgeous, supple voice to an offbeat repertoire of cabaret classics, rock covers and original songs. She will be performing with two pianos, played by Robert Kortgaard and Peter Tiefenbach.

Denzal Sinclaire – Saturday June 12, 2010 @ 10pm
Toronto-born vocalist/pianist/composer Denzal Sinclaire has earned his reputation as Canada's most popular male jazz vocalist. A multiple Juno Award nominee and recipient of the 2004 National Jazz Award for "Best Album", he has graced the stages of numerous high-profile jazz festivals, performed with symphony orchestras, and starred in his own one hour television special for BRAVO!

Chris Whiteley and Diana Braithwaite – Saturday June 26, 2010 @ 10pm
The collaboration of award-winning multi-instrumentalist Chris Whiteley and acclaimed blues singer Diana Braithwaite has resulted in multiple Maple Blues awards and rave reviews.

The Anais Project – Saturday July 3, 2010 @ 10pm
Patricia O’Callaghan, Miranda Mulholland and Romina Di Gasbarro embark on a new musical journey celebrating old world cabaret performing songs in English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Sharron Matthews – Saturday July 10, 2010 @ 10pm
This comedic vocalist, writer and producer has been presenting her comedic musical extravaganza “Sharron’s Party!” since 2005 featuring many luminaries of the musical theatre stage.

John Alcorn – Saturday July 17, 2010 @ 10pm
Acclaimed for his stylish, heartfelt renditions of jazz standards, John Alcorn is a beloved fixture on the Toronto cabaret scene.

Heather Bambrick – Saturday July 24, 2010 @ 10pm
Heather Bambrick is an award-winning singer, broadcaster, and actor destined to entertain. Her recordings have received international acclaim, and her live shows combine her amazing voice with natural stage presence, warm audience rapport, timeless music, and some of the finest musicians in Canada to create a performance that is simply outstanding.

The Saturday Night Cabarets begin on Saturday, May 1st and will run all year at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (future participants will be announced at a later date), located at 55 Mill Street, Building 49, in the Distillery Historic District.

Ticket prices: $15 ($10 if you have purchased a ticket for a Soulpepper/Young Centre performance on the same day. Patrons must show their ticket stub for discount). Tickets are available by calling the Young Centre box office at 416.866.8666 or online at www.youngcentre.ca.

Images:
Lyubov Popova The Pianist

Georges Seurat Cabaret

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fritz the Cat

Fritz the Cat (1972)
Produced by Steve Krantz
Written & Directed by Ralph Bakshi.
With Skip Hinnant, Rosetta LeNoire, John McCurry
Based on the comic books by Robert Crumb
Midnight screening as part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival

There was a wide range of films at this year's Jewish Film Fest, including important documentaries, dramas, and the 2009 restoration of 1948's Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. So naturally, I chose to end my TJFF experience with... Fritz the Cat.

Fritz the Cat was the first X-rated animation feature, (I clearly remember the big stir when it came out - as a mere child of course,) and was for a time the highest grossing animated movie of all time, raking in a cool $100 million. Written and directed by Israeli born Ralph Bakshi, it follows the adventures of callow Fritz the Cat, a character developed by comic book luminary Robert Crumb. More about that later - first the film.

It was made in 1972, after all, and it's a film supposedly about the 1960's, so you can take a few things for granted:
  • Totally awesome hand drawn animation with the kind of depth CGI still can't touch,
  • A groovy soundtrack that features Bo Diddley, Charles Earland and Billie Holiday, among others,
  • Sex, sexism, drugs, and characters saying things like "We had a great thing going until the Fuzz showed up!" (the Fuzz being played, naturally, by pigs)
Fritz is a young ne'er-do-well going to NYU until, in a fit of pique when all his friends are hard at work studying for exams, he burns his books and papers. "I'm a writer and a poet!" he declares. "It is my duty to get out there and dig the world!" Ah, the 60's.

Thus begins an adventure into... well, a series of convoluted adventures, drug binges, and encounters with things like dancing Rabbis, Harlem (the black people played by magpies - subtle, this film is not,) a rat who looks like Henry Kissinger, Nazi biker mice and much, much more. He goes on a road trip across the country and comes across crazy, violent revolutionaries (played mostly by lizards,) with a burst of violence, including a gang rape, towards an ending that brings him home to the three girlfriends he left behind.

Robert Crumb, Fritz's creator, has publicly stated his distaste for much of the script, including Bakshi's ramped up violence. He also had a problem with the Fritz's anti-leftwing rant near the end. The feeling, it seems, was mutual, with Bakshi declaring his dislike for Crumb, (as quoted in a 2008 biography by John Bigson and Chris McDonnell). Crumb actually bumped Fritz off in a comic that came out after the film, having him killed by an ex-girlfriend. The same producer went on to make The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat in 1974 without either Crumb or Bakshi's help.

But despite the unfortunate hubbub, it's an eye popping trip back in time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tilahun Gessesse, Sweet Charity & Things African in Toronto

Tilahun Gessesse, Sweet Charity and Things African in Toronto

The late Tilahun Gessesse is often called the Father of Ethiopian music. He and his music became famous during the 1960's and 1970's with danceable polyrhythms that held sway under large ensembles with horns, guitars, back up singers, and "The Voice" (as he was dubbed) that layered above it all in Arabic style, sung largely in Amharic and Oromo.

It wasn't only his voice that made him special to his fellow countrymen, however. He sang songs of everyday life, of justice, peace, war, and some of the tumultuous events of his time, including the coup d'état of 1960 and the famines of 1973 and war in 1974. His own personal story intersected with that history at times - he was playing with the Imperial Bodyguard Band in 1960 when the coup occurred, and was imprisoned for a time because of it. His recordings raised large sums of money for famine victims, and cemented his place in the nation's heart.

He passed away April 19, 2009, at the age of 68, and various tributes were organized globally on the anniversay this year, including a special concert at Toronto's Evangadi Restaurant & Lounge on April 23. Tilahun's music was played by an all star band of TO musicians, including singer Ermias Assebework - whose nimble voice more than did justice to the music - saxophonist Girma Woldemichael, keyboard player Gezahegn Mamo, bass player Waleed Abdulhamid, Naz Tana on guitar, and drummer Daniel Barnes.

The event was sanctioned by Tilahun's family, and his son-in-law was there to acknowledge the event and read a poem penned by the late singer's daughter (in DC for a similar event). Proceeds, as per the family's wishes, went to People to People Canada, a non profit organization that assists HIV/AIDS orphans in Ethiopia and engages in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs in the Ethiopian-Canadian community. Among other efforts, they have an Orphan Sponsorship programme that allows you to help support a child for $1/day while that child is placed in a good home in Ethiopia.

As a side note, I can't seem to find a website for the club, but if you're into African music and food you might want to check it out - naturally the dance floor was full:

Evangadi Restaurant & Lounge, 1220 Danforth Ave. 416-469-5336

Also coming up in Toronto in quick succession:

Nigerian gospel/ju ju crooner Yinka Ayefele plays at the Edessa Banquet Hall in Toronto April 30.

May 6 at Polson Pier - 6:30pm
Amref's African Marketplace Gala
Live African music, authentic African cuisine and auctions with unique treasures in an evening celebrating the theme of mother & child - just before Mother's Day. The proceeds support AMREF (African Medical & Research Foundation) in its mission "to ensure access to good health for the most marginalized and vulnerable people in Africa".

May 7 at the Gladstone Hotel
Same venue, different rooms, so you can probably bop back and forth between these two concerts:

In the Melody Bar:
Zimbabwean folk music with the Tichaona Maredza Quartet - 7 to 10pm
You'll hear acoustic guitar, drums, keyboards, mbira, marima and percussion in a fusion of Zimbabwean contemporary rhythms and afrojazz. Tichaona Maredza has toured North America with Oliver Mtukudzi as an opening act and guest percussionist.

In the Ballroom:
An Evening for Bazou - 8:30pm
100% of the $10/PWYC ticket you buy for this concert will go to supporting repairs to l'Ecole Saint Albert le Grand in Cameroon. Once the repairs are completed, all of the rooms in the much needed school will be usable. Here's a video of the school. and you can see the work that's being done (along with the adorable kids).
Performers include:
Njacko Backo & Kalimba Kalimba
Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley
Muhtadi
Steafan Hannigan & Saski Tomkins
Amara Kanté
Jacques Yams

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

American Splendor (The Movie)

American Splendor (2003)
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis

Part of the
Toronto Jewish Film Festival

The film American Splendor screened at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival with none other than Harvey Pekar to give opening remarks and a Q&A after the film. He was rather grandly described as a pivotal figure in the history of comics, the first to popularize the autobiographical illustrated novel, namely American Splendor, written about his own life as a file clerk at the V.A. Hospital in Cleveland.

It was a notion the irascible cartoon artist hastened to dispell. "I'm not used to this kind of star treatment," he said. He reminisced about his introduction to comics, and their typical superhero world. "If you wanna call that Superman, you can call me Schlepperman." When it came to the film that chronicles his life, he was equally candid. "This movie really saved me." As he confided, he found that couldn't retire on his earnings as a lifelong file clerk - he never went for promotions because he loved the job where he didn't really do very much. "And my comic books don't sell that much," he added.

After having seen him in the Comic Forum the day before, I'd have to say it was Harvey at his most genial. "If you want to come down to Cleveland, I'm in the phonebook - give me a ring." It sounded like a genuine invitation.

Then it was on to the film. It's partly narrated by the real Harvey Pekar and featuring his real life wife Joyce Brabner, partly acted out by Paul Giammati and Hope Davis as same, with a scene or two where we see the film being made, the cameras behind Paul, and in one scene, Paul as Harvey watches as a third actor and actress act out their/his lives. It keeps the narrative tripping along.

"Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." It's Harvey's mantra of sorts, and an explanation of why he writes what he writes. As much as he's uncompromising in some ways, the humour softens the blows. On looking at himself in the mirror: "Now there's a reliable disappointment."

The film begins just as his second wife is leaving him. Some lonely time later, Joyce, then a young and budding/failing comicbook store owner, strikes up a written correspondence with the artist whose work she loves. One thing leads to another and they decide to meet.

It's a match made in heaven. Right off, at their first meeting, he announces his vasectomized status before anything else - Joyce seems nonplussed.

Later, at his place:
"Harvey, would you get me some water and 3 aspirin?"
"Why, do you have a headache?"
"No, I'm trying to avoid one."

Harvey admits to marrying quickly all 3 times to the only women who'd have him (his words!) For whatever reason, it's a schedule Joyce was in synch with. This also on the first date:

"I think we should just skip the whole courtship thing and get married."

Naturally, even after he hooks up with Robert Crumb barely out of his teens and gets him to illustrate his first comics, and even after he marries the love of his life, things don't seem to get much better - certainly not his mood. "I'm just a gloomy guy, that's all." He still has to work as a file clerk as the riches fail to come in.

Eventually, as history tells us and many will remember, the David Letterman Show got wind of his grassroots appeal, and had him on. The infamously irritable Harvey balked at Letterman's slick questions and assumptions (he bristled when asked why he didn't quit his day job!) but the fractitious repartee seemed to suit the audience. Even though he was aware that he was largely playing Letterman's chump, he thought it good for business, so to speak, and so the appearances continued.

He did, that is, until one fateful appearance at a time when Joyce had been away saving children in Palestine, and he'd just found an ominous lump in the nether regions of his body. At the same time, he'd concluded that he was serving perverted corporate interests by appearing on the talk show. The result is an episode that went down in history.

Despite his resident gloom, however, it's clear that his life came alive when he began producing his comics, and he met virtually all the important people in his life because of it, including Joyce and their foster daughter, a brainy blonde little girl brought around by one of the artists he worked with. That's the thread of hope that keeps the story - and him, I would imagine - alive.

The latter part of the film deals with his struggle with cancer. It was Joyce's suggestion to turn the ordeal into something positive by making a comic out of it, a book that won them both recognition and awards.

"With any luck I'll get a window of good health between retirement and when I die." It's his semi-hopeful wish.

Paul Giamatti, one of my favourite actors, inhabits the role completely, from his posture, his voice and words, gestures and movements. It's a really interesting film about a true iconoclast.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Comic Art Forum - Toronto Jewish Film Festival

The Comic Art Forum
With Harvey Pekar, Ben Katchor & Paul Buhle
April 18 - Al Green Theatre
part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival

Note - Ben Katchor will be reading live from his work April 19 8:30pm

There was no clear agreement on the role of Jews in comics, whether there was ever a golden era of Jewish involvement in comic books in or about 1939, or even if there was a significant, purely "Jewish" role in comics to be spoken about. There were, in fact, as many opinions on the subject as there were panelists at the Comic Book Forum.

The introductory remarks did seem to be leading in a particular direction, including references to left wing Yiddish American scholar Irving Howe and the early history of Jews in America - the tenement world, a Yiddish world that still has a connection to today. Harvey Pekar was described as one of the early underground cartoonists, one of the first whose work was personal and autogiographical, detailing his life as a file clerk in American Splendor. It was noted as a continuation of Jewish literary tradition, just as Ben Katchor's work was put in the context of the Jewish fantasist, creating believable worlds.

Buhle led the discussion, opening with an innocent enough question about the role of Jewish history and culture in their work. "My only connection to Jewish culture is through history," Ben Katchor began carefully.

The notoriously curmudgeonly Harvey Pekar was less circumspect. "I heard a lot of stuff growing up about how great the Jews were," he said. "I'm kind've studious - that's good. I'm obsessive compulsive - that's not so good." He acknowledged picking up Yiddish, but downplayed the role any of his background had in his upbringing. His father worked 7 days a week, his mother 6 days a week - not leaving them a lot of time to pass along a sense of tradition, as he pointed out.

Ben questioned the very idea of Jewish element to the comic business. "I remember bringing comics home," he said, "my father thought that they were the epitome of American culture." Not Jewish, in other words. "The idea that these would be celebrated as Jewish artifacts seems insane. What kind of Jew would write these comic books?" It drew laughs. "Jews, if they were so interested in comics, they would have invented them in the Middle Ages!"

He went on to point out the traditional separations of text and image both in the publishing and art worlds. Comic books came out of pulp fiction and other non-Jewish culture. He threw cold water on the idea that superheroes came out of the Jewish golum legend.

Pekar's take on the advent of comics books and the role of Jews was more pragmatic. "A lot of Jews were into commercial enterprises, and the comic book was invented during the Depression," he said. "You could make a living producing comic books." He pointed out that their readers were not intellectuals. "They were kids or those with child-like minds" - i.e. setting the bar low in terms of content. "A lot of Jews were into crime (during the same era)."

Paul mentioned Harvey Kurtzman and Mad Magazine as an extension of the by now disputed Jewish tradition. Ben saw Mad, though, as a reinvention of the comic book - not an evolution. "It's not a continuity." He himself, with his exquisitely drawn graphic novels, illustrates a case in point - he took the medium and made it his own. It was in fact comic books that helped awaken his bent towards visual art. "This is where I discovered the tradition of figurative drawing," he noted. "I look at the work of Bill Griffith - he was talking about French surrealism." Ben went on to study "the Western traditions of drawing, perspective and all that."

Harvey Pekar was dozing on stage by this point, but became animated in discussing the evolution of comic book art to its current level of acceptance. "It took a long time for the general public to recognize comic book art as good as any other art form. It's just the way people have used it," he said. "You can do anything with pictures and words." He was one of the first to show that the form could be used for much more than superheroes, with his tales of file clerkdom. "Who, in any form of literature, dealt with the lives of people like me?"

Unlike Ben, Harvey is a writer - "As I've admitted, I can't draw worth a shit" - who has worked with a variety of illustrators over the years, including Robert Crumb. "I met Crumb when he was about 19 and saw some of his groundbreaking work - even then," he recalled. He describes a back and forth creative relationship with illustrators that has proven rewarding.

In the end, as Paul pointed out, there was something all could agree on - a connection between the advent of movies and a greater acceptance of comic books. And, he added a fittting summary for the discussion. "Comic art seems to draw the rebellious spirits."

PR image of Harvey Pekar
Poster from A Checkroom Romance, a musical tragicomedy by Ben Katchor and Mark Mulcahy.

Mensch - Toronto Jewish Film Festival Review

Mensch
Canadian Premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festiva
l
in French with English subtitles
Director: Steve Suissa
C
Cast: Nicolas Cazalé, Sami Frey, Anthony Delon, Maurice Bénichou


The gentleman who introduced the film told the audience Mensch is a French caper film about a Jewish safecracker, and that pretty much sums up the plot. Sam is a good looking guy from a 'good' family in the produce business who gets off on living a life of crime.

It begins with a chase gone wrong and a young man dead, the explanation of which contains the twist in the story. Otherwise, the outlines of the story are familiar - the 30 something career criminal with a son who keeps getting drawn farther and farther into the big job to end all big jobs. The guy who supposedly wants out.

The film is shot in Euro-style realism in that not everyone is model good looking, (although Sam sure is easy on the eyes,) a sense of reality that extends to a script that portrays the drudgery of crime, those long hours of planning and sometimes risky fact finding that come before the electrifying moment of truth.

Sam is in love with an African-French woman, a reporter who naturally ferrets out the truth about him. If the story holds few surprises, that's compensated in the most part by the depth of the characters, even as we come to ever so slightly dislike the glib way Sam lies his way back and forth between the straight and criminal elements of his life. His young son is already a budding extortionist, disturbingly like his father in his easy justifications for what he's done.

Naturally, the two threads of his life start to intersect with increasingly ominous consequences. His son finds a gun tucked in the backseat of his buddy's car, and he has to get him to leave the room when another associate wants to snort coke on the coffee table. He's not an entirely likable character. Without giving too much away, let's just say that, in the end I was - like his girlfriend - unconvinced of his Mensch-ness.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn - Coming to Toronto

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn
Panasonic Theatre Toronto - April 28 - May 16

"I'm very happy to be back in Canada - just in time for the Olympics," quips Jake Ehrenreich, writer and performer of the hit one man play A Jew Grows in Brooklyn. After a run of well over a year at New York's venerable Lamb's Theatre (and breaking some box office records in the process,) the well reviewed show will be hitting Toronto later this month. "I drove from New York last night - took me 7 hours," he claimed to laughs (from those of us that have ever driven that torturous 10 hour route) at a recent media event.

Billed as "a rock'n roll true story, Holocaust family, Borscht Belt comic musical", Jake's autobiographical show clearly has a Jewish theme, yet he describes issues and ideas that can be appreciated on a universal level. "I wrote the show about my journey of self discovery. I wanted to be anything but like my parents." Amen to that.

The Holocaust cast its insidious shadow into Jake's life as a child, resulting in an overriding desire to create an identity for himself that was American above all. "I needed American credentials to offset the fact that my parents were immigrants," he says. Baseball was one of his solutions. "It was as American as applepie, and that's what I wanted to be." In the show, he describes getting his father, an intellectual man, to watch his first game of baseball with his son when Jake was 9, in 1965. His father's response? "What kind of game is this baseball? Two people play and eight people watch!"

Despite its potentially darker themes, including the early onset Alzheimer's that struck his mother and both sisters, the baseball line is typical of the upbeat mood of the show - it's necessary to find hope to move on. Another aspect of his all-American identity was a career in music as a professional drummer. He toured the world with the Beatlemania show as Ringo, among other gigs. "I almost got the gig to play with KISS when Peter Criss left," he says (the 1979 leaving, I'm presuming). He gets out the drums for a rousing solo during the show.

Part song and dance, with the music coming from several eras in English and Yiddish, part storytelling, part stand up comedy, it features a re-creation of the golden era of Catskills Borscht Belt entertainment, among many other scenes.

Being a personal story, Jake says the most rewarding responses come from people who come up to him after the show and simply want to tell him about their own experiences. Publishers of the original Chicken Soup series of books approached Jake after one of his shows with a proposal - to write a book based on his story, but specifically incorporating some of the life lessons he'd learned along the way, à la Chicken Soup of course. It was a match made in heaven. "Part of my mission is really to heal the world," Jake admits. You can check out an excerpt here and order it here.

Photos by Carol Rosegg

Ballet Creole's Sankofa

Ballet Creole's Sankofa
Fleck Dance Theatre - Harbourfront Toronto
continues to April 17

(see full credits below)

Dancers are often called upon to flex their dramatic muscles along with all the others in their physical bodies. Sankofa, Ballet Creole's new spring show is really a showcase for the talents of their company in both respects, from feats of athleticism - which were impressive enough - to a real sense of emotive expression.

Ballet Creole are currently a mostly young company of engaging and athletic dancers whose total commitment not only to the individual pieces but the overall artistic vision was obvious from the opening piece, Dancing Spirits. Dressed in white, the dancers explored Afro-Caribbean traditions in a lively flow that included live drummers on stage and the vocals/spoken word of Consuelo Herrera, who told a story about the gods in Yoruba. (It helps to have Nigerian friends!)

That piece was neatly contrasted by the solemn and meditative Requiem for my Parents, set to the moody avant garde violin music of Estonian composer Arvo Part. This piece required a prolonged display of emotion on the part of the dancers, a visible effort, gasping, half sobbing in a very effective display that added depth to the mournful choreographic vocabulary of modern dance and ballet.

There is something elemental about the appeal of the drum, something that connects with the rhythm that lives deep in your gut - but even if I needed no convincing of the vital nature of drumming, Drum MasQ/TRANS-formation, the third piece, was still persuasive. Each of the dancers had lines that meditated on drumming as a lifeblood, as a force that can't be denied. The Creole Drummatix ensemble, on stage again, simply demonstrated the point, engulfing the audience in their mesmerizing polyrhythms as much as the dancers themselves. It ended the programme with a display of athletic prowess and a passion that was entirely convincing.

I'm becoming quite fascinated with lighting design these days, and I give kudos to Brad Trenaman for highly atmospheric concoctions that went from a sun dappled jungle floor to foggy and moody and then some. Elegant costumes (see full credits below) added to the overall effect.

The standing ovation was highly deserved.

Credits:

Dancing Spirits (2004)
Choreographed by Patrick Parson
Collaborators Newton Moraes & Consuelo Herrara
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Megan Evans, Mikhail Morris, Alistair Graphine, Mafa Makhubalo, Bogkabane Rakeepile
Music Patrick Parson, Walter Mclean, Hudson Forde, Mikhail Parson, Consuelo Herrara
Costumes Erin Daley

Requiem for My Parents
Choreographed by Gabby Kamino
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Mikhail Morris, Danah Rosales, Mafa Makhubalo, Samantha Mcloughlin (understudy)
Music Arvo Part
Costumes Diane H. Sobers

Drum MasQ/TRANS-formation
Choreographed by Patrick Parson
Dancers Yuhala Muy, Gabriella Parson, Megan Evans, Mikhail Morris, Alistair Graphine, Mafa Makhubalo, Bogkabane Rakeepile
Music Patrick Parson, Walter Mclean, Hudson Forde, Mikhail Parson
Costumes Christopher Pinhero, Deanna Brown

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scrabble with the Stars for PAL

Scrabble with the Stars for PAL
April 12 - Toronto

The Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) is a haven for artists, providing affordable housing for people making, or who did make, their livings in performing arts professions. Some are still working, some might be disabled, others retired. More than just a housing complex, PAL is about community, about the industry looking after its own.

Last night a veritable cornucopia of Canadian talent got together to play Scrabble for charity, including auctioning off the helpful services of Robin Pollock-Daniel, the highest scoring woman in Scrabble in Canada for $1K, and a silent auction of artwork by Marilyn Lightstone, Dave Broadfoot (I liked his amusing collage the best, and he's very friendly by the way,) and landscape paintings by Jayne Eastwood and Karl Pruner.

The Mexican food was good, there was free beer going around - you get the picture.

I just wonder, what will they do for all us bloggers as we enter retirement age?

Pics, top to bottom:
- Jeanne Beker (in her Scrabble dress) laughing at Mark Breslin
- 99.1FM Jazz DJ Jaymz and singer Saidah Baba Talibah
- Actor Nicholas Campbell chatting with event organizer Viviennne Muhling
- Dinah Christie (looking great)
- By the bar, Eric Peterson, Sheila McCarthy & Colin Mochrie

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Baaba Maal - the interview piece

Baaba Maal - the interview piece

I was able to interview Baaba Maal after the show on April 6 - here's a link to that story here.

If you're in the Toronto area, you'll also be able to catch a slightly longer version in print in the African World newspaper that comes out this Thursday, April 15.

Aszure Barton & Artists and the National Ballet School

Aszure Barton & Artists
present Busk & Blue Soup
April 17 & 18
at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, Toronto
in collaboration with the National Ballet School

There's been a seismic shift in the dance world in recent years, one that echoes across all the creative disciplines as they work to readapt to the changed financial landscape. As a major national institution, the National Ballet School in Toronto it taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, in an effort to educate their students not only in the art of dance, but in the art of running a creative business. To that end, they've entered into a brand new mentoring programme with star alumna Aszure Barton.

You could hardly think of a better and more inspiring example for students of dance than Aszure Barton. The Alberta born dance sensation, a protégée of Mikhail Barishnikov, is currently based in New York City with her Aszure Barton & Artists company as both choreographer and dancer. She's defnitely carving out a distinct name for herself in the international world of dance with innovative choreography. Recent commissions include original works premiered by the American Ballet Theatre in October 2009, and with the National Ballet of Canada in November 2009.

This time around, her company's performances are part of that process. "The producer is 18, and the donors are in their 20's," says the Ballet School's Jeff Melanson. "I think it will be very useful." Aszure will be mentoring Robert Binet, that 18 year old producer and Ballet School student, in a collaborative process.

It's an important evolution when the landscape for dance is in a state of flux. At one time, graduates could count on a position with a major dance company somewhere in the world. Today the trend is more towards a model of creative entrepreneurship. Jeff mentions Toronto's Arts & Crafts Record label as another example of a creative business that started small, and now has a global reach. "It's a pretty exciting time in terms of opportunity," he says.

Still, the opportunity comes because some doors have simply slammed shut."There's a fairly massive gulf between larger institituions and smaller, more recent companies," Jeff says, pointing to longterm funding issues. "They can't make the transition to more stable, mid-sized companies. We're exploring our responsibility as a large institution. We're trying to embed that sense of creativity and entrepreneurialism."

Ballet sometimes gets stuck with the label of being stodgy and too stuck in old, established way, a fallacy both the National Ballet School and National Ballet of Canada itself has tried to dispell."People talk about technology like it's the worst thing that's ever happened to us," Jeff says. "If we embrace the opportunities, we can explore the possibilities." He notes the younger, media savvy generation and its 'new' perspective. "It's a shift - you still emphasize the content, but now you pay attention to the delivery of it as well."