Tuesday, August 31, 2010

W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney

W.A.R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney Stories
Directed by Clairmont Chung - Roots and Culture Media
Screened as part of the African Diaspora Film Festival - New York (August 28, 2010)

In one segment of this absorbing documentary, Dr. Walter Anthony points out that while North Americans of European origins retain their cultural ancestry, "Africans who are ripped from the continent mysteriously
disappear... and become negros." It's a mere taste of the blunt yet literately phrased analysis of racial politics, colonialism and corruption that earned him fame and the respect of many - just as it did the dangerous enmity of figures in places of power.

This documentary film tackles the short 38 year life of Guyanese born political thinker, brilliant scholar and poltical revolutionary. Throughout a career that took him from his native Guyana to London, Tanzania, Jamaica and then finally back home, he became an increasingly influential figure in a global movement towards anti-colonialism, and later on workers' rights as the colonial powers were replaced with a homegrown ruling class. His often turbulent trajectory as an intellectual and political figure culminated in his murder on June 13, 1980 in an explosion - an as yet unsolved crime, despite the fact there was a witness.

It's a dramatic story and a subject that  many others have dealt with in various media. Clairmont Chung's approach, however, brings a skillful narrative touch that threads the reminisces and recollections of a host of people from political brothers in arms to family members, friends, writers and filmmakers into a coherent story that begins at the end, so to speak, and then proceeds from childhood on.

The footage pieced together consists of direct interviews, travelogue style and archival footage, newsreels, and other visual flotsam and jetsam that relate to the places and themes. At times, a Caribbean flavoured soundtrack accompanies the segments. The resulting pastiche propels the story along from start to finish with an engagingly kinetic quality.

What comes out of it is a fairly clear portrait of the man. He emerges as a gifted student, impressing teachers from childhood on to his post-graduate dissertation, published in 1970 under the title A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800K. He was an inspiring speaker and masterful debater who seemed to become the intellectual heart wherever he set up. On being expelled from Jamaica in 1968 for his active support of workers' causes, violent riots broke out. His books, including the seminal How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972, were received as controversial by some, and hugely enlightening by others.

As a special bonus of it being the African Diaspora Film Festival, director Clairmont Chung was there to talk and answer questions after the screening. When asked how long the film had taken to put together, he answered, "Five years. Really, it encompasses my entire life. It was always in the making." Obviously it was a labour of love.

While it ends on that inevitable downbeat, as a film it's a powerful reminder of the steep cost society too often exacts from those who seek to upset the balance of power. Clairmont's answer to the last question perhaps sums up (one of the) messages of Dr. Rodney's life. Someone asked about the balance between his intellectual contributions as opposed to the personal portrait as handled in the film, and the answer was that Rodney himself made no such distinction between his political and his personal life. How many of us can truthfully say that?

You can "like" the film on Facebook here, so you'll be on top of future screenings.

DVDs available at this link

Check out the trailer here

Art of Time opens New Season with Schumann

From a media release:

Art of Time Ensemble presents
September 17-18 at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre:
A tragic, beautiful life, a musical genius revealed.

Toronto, August 20, 2010 - The Art of Time Ensemble, under the artistic direction of Andrew Burashko, presents Robert Schumann 1810-2010, a multidimensional program celebrating the music and tragic life of
famed composer Robert Schumann, running September 17-18 at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre, sponsored by BMO Financial.

In classic Art of Time fashion, Robert Schumann 1810-2010 transcends musical boundaries in its exploration of the late composer's music, combining readings from Schumann's own letters and critical writings with selections of his music, including the Andante from his Piano Quartet Op.47, selections from Kreisleriana, a selection of lieder, and the entire Piano Quintet Op.44.

Singers Andy Maize (founding member of country/folk/rock outfit Skydiggers) and Mike Ross (Soulpepper Associate Artist) will join some of the best classical musicians in the country including Benjamin Bowman (violin), Andrew Burashko (piano), Steven Dann (viola), Timothy Ying (violin) and Winona Zelenka (cello) for an unforgettable concert evening.

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was a German composer and the husband of pianist Clara Schumann. He was one of the most famous Romantic composers of the 19th century, as well as a well-known music critic. Struggling to break from the restrictive tradition of classical forms and structure, Schumann's music reflects the deeply personal nature of German Romanticism as his work was often introspective and whimsical. Little understood in his lifetime, much of his music is now regarded as daringly original in harmony, rhythm and form.

Robert Schumann 1810-2010 launches the Art of Time Ensemble's 2010/11 season, which also includes Shakespeare: If Music Be..., Take This Waltz, The War of the Worlds and The Songbook 5 featuring Sarah Slean, as well as a special encore presentation of last year's acclaimed Abbey Road, co-produced with The Royal Conservatory at TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning's Koerner Hall.

Art of Time Ensemble presents
Robert Schumann 1810-2010
Friday, September 17- Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 8 PM
Harboufront Centre's Enwave Theatre | 231 Queens Quay West
Tickets: $25-$59
Box Office: 416-973-4000

lithograph (top) by Josef Kriehuber, in 1839.

Art Stylists Launching in Toronto (and it's free!)

An artsy (for real) stylist service being launched in town. I'm just back from New York, as it happens, where I was hearing about a new hotel going up on SoHo with an art curator as an integral part of the crew, part of a growing trend. I love the idea of taking art beyond the gallery. From a media release - and note that the service is free:

The Art Stylists launches custom-curated art collections

Innovative service provides art solutions for Torontonians

Toronto, ON – Local experts in all things artistic, Manny Neubacher and Anya Shor today announced the official launch of The Art Stylists, a free art consultation service that provides art solutions for homes, businesses and event spaces alike. Giving careful consideration to spatial requirements, budgets and existing
elements in the room, The Art Stylists specializes in fashioning any environment, from lobbies and boardrooms, to kitchens and nurseries. The company works to make the walls of Toronto’s living spaces more beautiful by turning blank walls into custom-curated art collections.

“We believe that art is an element of design and an extension of personal style. It reflects the image of the owner,” said Neubacher. “Art can create an instant impact in your home or place of business and our passion is to find the correct piece for each space.”

The Art Stylists has amassed an impressive collection of Canadian art, giving particular focus to young emerging artists and designers. Neubacher and Shor work to integrate and introduce the next wave of Canadian talent into spaces, showcasing names like Thrush Holmes, Paul Butler, Adrian Williams (The Royal Art Lodge),  and Edgar Ameti. Besides pulling artwork from their own extensive roster, The Art Stylists scours the city extensively for the perfect piece, making the process incredibly simple for clients. In addition, the company works with numerous galleries and artists in order to achieve the ideal art solution for every client.

“No one should have to live with blank walls. We aim to bridge the gap between high-end and affordable art. Original and thought-provoking pieces should be accessible for all budgets,” said Shor.

The Art Stylists has also created TAS ART + Design [Custom], a banner for custom creations. Art consultants work with clients to determine size, genre, medium and colour of the desired piece. Based on a specific budget and timeline, pieces are designed and created by an artist within The Art Stylists’ network, perfect for thoughtful and original gifts.

About Manny Neubacher:
Neubacher is an artist, director and owner of Gallery Neubacher. Now a conceptual gallery, Neubacher showcases the next wave of exciting, young Canadian talent and helps to propel artists to heightened levels of recognition. Neubacher has also lent his curatorial eye and belief in the importance of original art as a key element of interior design to a variety of projects including events, residences, night clubs, restaurants and offices. As the television host of more than 300 art segments for Rogers Toronto Living, he has gained insider access to numerous galleries and artists across the country.

About Anya Shor:
Shor worked as a fashion stylist for 10 years and also studied art history. Her success can be attributed to her ability to combine a discerning eye and the ability to assess a client’s space and style. Shor has lent her stylistic insight to various print and television items including etalk, Globe and Mail, National Post and Fashion magazine. Other client lists include such perennial style-makers as BMW and Nike, along with a number of celebrities and music personalities.

The Art Stylists:
488 Wellington Street West

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Odessa/Havana - Jewish Cuban Mash Up at Toronto's Ashkenaz Fest

From a media release - Jewish-Cuban fusion at the Ashkenaz Festival Toronto - they've gotten rave reviews wherever they've played:

David Buchbinder's
At the Ashkenaz Festival
Harbourfront Centre in The Brigantine Room

Odessa/Havana, David Buchbinder’s Canadian Folk Music Award-winning, Jewish-Cuban fusion ensemble, returns to its Ashkenaz Festival birthplace to debut  whole new repertoire. The concert will
introduce the audience to the music of their second album, La Roza, set for an international February 2011 release on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. It will also feature vocals for the first time in Odessa/Havana’s history.

From the band’s first performance 2006, Odessa/Havana creator David Buchbinder, key collaborator Hilario Durán, and their ensemble of crack World and Jazz musicians have been impressing critics and delighting audiences with their “unique” and “utterly brilliant” creation based in the powerful musical traditions of the Jews and the Cubans. Their first album was named as the #1 Jazz CD of 2007 by both Toronto Life and Allmusic.com, and was named as a top 10 Jazz CD of 2007 by many critics. The band has performed sold-out concerts across North America, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto.

To mark their return, Odessa/Havana will perform with a guest vocalist: Juno nominee Maryem Tollar. “I’m really excited about working with the vocals,” says Buchbinder, also the founding Artistic Director of the Ashkenaz Festival. “Audiences love singers; they can bring us even deeper into the emotion of the music. [...] The festival is a great place to show this work to a knowledgeable audience, both fans and other artists. I wouldn’t want to be presenting it for the first time anywhere else.”

You can check them out here

Line up:
David Buchbinder: trumpet/compositions • Hilario Durán: piano/compositions
Aleksandar Gajic: violin • Roberto Occhipinti: bass • Mark Kelso: drums
Rick Shadrach Lazar: percussion •Colleen Allen: saxophone/clarinet
SPECIAL GUEST: Maryem Tollar: vocals
David Buchbinderʼs Odessa/Havana • Ashkenaz Festival

Harbourfront Centre in The Brigantine Room
Tickets: $15 in advance/$18 at the door

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Small World Music Festival - Sept 23 - Oct 3 in Toronto

The good people at Small World Music have put together an exciting line up for their annual Small World Music Festival:

Small World Music Festival
21 perfomances - 11 days - 10 Venues
September 23 - October 3

There's a great deal in a $50 All Access Pass
Available at that price only between now & Labour day weekend
(N.B. - The All Access Pass does not include admission to K'naan on October 1)

The Festival: Concert Schedule

Thursday, September 23
Funkabelly feat. Nomadica @ Lula Lounge, 9:00 (Gypsy funk & bellydance)

Friday, September 24
Darbazi @ Mazzoleni Auditorium, 8:00 (Georgian choir)
+ Quarteto Olinda @ Lula Lounge, 10:00 (Brazilian “forró de rabeca”)

Saturday, September 25
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt & Pooran Maharaj @ Betty Oliphant Theatre, 7:00 (Indian classical music & dance)

Sunday, September 26
Small World on the Street @ Queen’s Park, 1-6:00
featuring: Steve Oda (sarod) w. Vineet Vyas (tabla) (Indian classical music)
Tich Maredza Quartet (Zimbabwean music) - see video clip below
Njacko Backo (Drums &  songs from Cameroon)
beatmap (world funk)
Joanna Moon (French Gypsy & Flamenco)
People Project (Border-crossing grooves)

Tuesday, September 28
Mahala Rai Banda @ Opera House, 9:00 (Romainian brass band)

Wednesday, September 29
Kinobe @ Lula Lounge, 9:00 (Ugandan Vanguard)

Thursday, September 30
Carmen Souza @ Lula Lounge, 9:00 (Acoustic Afro-soul) - see video clip below

Friday, October 1
K'naan @ Kool House, 9:00 (Somolian hip hop)
**Not included in $50 All Access Pass
+ Elio Reve y su Charangon @ The Courthouse, 9:00 (Cuban salsa)

Saturday, October 2
Sashar Zarif Dance Company celebrates Nuit Blanche @ The Great Hall, 8:00 (Persian dance)

Sunday, October 3
Global Soul @ Isabel Bader Theatre, 8:00
feturing: Azalea Ray  (India / Pakistan – vocal - Qawwali devotional)
Jani Lauzon (First Nations – vocal - Canadian roots)
Amchok Gompo (Tibet – vocal / lute / flute - Buddhist chant and song)
Alan Gasser (Music Director – vocal – Georgian music & hymnody)
George Koller (bass / dilruba  / vocal - kirtan - yoga chant)
Njacko Backo - (Cameroon – African ritual drumming)

Opera Erratica presents Orlando Lunaire

Opera Erratica & The Classical Music Consort
present Orlando Lunaire
in a storage shed at 128 Sterling - Toronto
Conducted by Ashiq Aziz
Directed & designed by Patrick Eakin Young
Featuring Scott Belluz (countertenor) & Carla Huhtanen (soprano)

Continues to August 28

Orlando Lunaire, the third of Opera Erratica's Underground/Opera series, pieces together bits from George Frideric Handel’s 1719 opera Orlando and Arnold Schoenberg’s Moonstruck Pierrot, a setting of 21
poems from Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire he composed in 1912.  The industrial shed was transformed (somewhat) with black fabric on either side and rows of fold out chairs, the stage bisected by a kind of translucent screen. The musicians played behind the screen, and the singers passed in front and behind it at various times, and the words were translated from the original Italian and German in English that flitted across the screen, sometimes unintelligibly at agitated moments.

At first thought, Handel's rich baroque score and Schoenberg's ethereal atonalities  seem an irreconcilable pairing, but somehow it works - perhaps because I wasn't overly familiar with either score, and without expectations. A dozen or so musicians were divided between period instruments and modern, flitting back and forth seamlessly, as did the two singers in a mad kind of narrative that ran the gamut of operatic emotivity from the euphoria of love, rage, despair and thievery to murderous thoughts. The opera came in short sections with titles like Madonna, Thief, Hell, and so on, and switched back and forth between the 18th and 20th century scores.

I interviewed a theatrical director earlier this year, (Catalyst Theatre's Jonathan Christenson, actually,) who described his goal as wanting to transport the audience into a different realm. I suspect that Opera Erratica leader Patrick Eakin Young shares that same thought, and on that point the production succeeds admirably. It took us into a kind of insane journey into the character of Pierrot (played by both singers - I think!) the melancholy clown whose great love Columbine perpetually leaves him for Harlequin. Imaginative costuming by Heidi Ackerman certainly helped in that regard.

It was interesting and performed with conviction, particularly by soprano Carla Huhtanen, who went seemingly without effort from the soaring notes of Handel to Schoenberg's half spoken poetry. The venue was full at about 125 people on Sunday, and as a special note of interest, South African visual artist William Kentridge was in the audience - turns out he's a relative of Patrick Eakin Young.

Images of Scott Belluz and Carla Huhtanen by photographer Tavishe Coulson.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

d.bi young CD release - Aug 24 at Lula Lounge

from a media release & other materials, including an artist's statement - I saw d.bi young perform as part of SummerWorks Festival recently - she's got a very powerful stage presence, not least because she has lots to say:

d'bi.young's highly anticipated new dubtryp album launch - wombanifesto
tuesday august 24, 2010
lula lounge,1585 dundas street west
7:00pm doors | 7:30pm show
admission: $15 ($25 u get an album)
featuring resident artists of anitafrika dub theatre
and the dubbin revolushun gangstars band

it is a celebration of the fierce, the fearless, and the feminist in all of us.
the lp boasts a rebellious collection of sixteen
cross-genre dubtryp tracks, soaked in d’bi.young’s gritty
awe-inspiring delivery; featuring musicians from havana, montreal, and
toronto as well as the genius works of cuban producer pablo herrera
and armenian- egyptian producer haig vartzbedian.

d'bi.young is a second generation dubpoet who learnt the artform from her her mother anita stewart and her mentor ahdri zhina mandiela, building on the foundational work of stewart and mandiela by developing dubpoetry/dubtheatre theory and practice through anitafrika! dub theatre: a launching pad of artistic training that locates itself within art for social change.

from an artist's statement:

I am an afrikan-jamaican-canadian storyteller – dubpoet, monodramatist, and an educator – who believes in art for social transformation. I was taught storytelling by my mother, who was taught storytelling by her mother. I create art that allows me (and the people who witness and participate in my work) to locate ourselves in complex conversations around identity, belonging, community, herstory, family, displacement and other ways in which we intersect and overlap. I create art about self-reflection and analysis within the context of social change, highlighting our collectivisms and individualities as a part of one humanity. it is important to work among people of our global community and experience our prisms of identity as we create stories about ourselves that reflect each other.

my developing methodology comes out of dubpoetry passed down to me by my mother. orality, rhythm, political content, language are fundamental pillars of dubpoetry. i named the other three principles (urgency, sacredness, and integrity) from observing processes of storytelling everywhere i have been, and noticing the common threads of responsibilities and accountabilities expected. dubpoetry is primarily an oral-storytelling form, originally spoken in jamaica nation language, using (reggae) rhythm and rhyme to chant social commentary.

in the short term i envision sharing my ideas on a global scale. a long term goal of mine is to create, support and participate in the already existing international networks of storytellers for global social development;. ultimately both these long term and short term goals are to contribute to the betterment of all life on our planet.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ronnie Burkett & Factory Theatres 2010/2011 Season

From a media release - a look ahead at Factory Theatre's upcoming season:


Toronto, ON – Wednesday, August 4, 2010… Returning from an acclaimed international tour, and now
launching Factory’s 41st season, BILLY TWINKLE: Requiem for a Golden Boy, created and performed by Ronnie Burkett, 2009 recipient of the prestigious Elinore and Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre, opens on September 28, 2010 for a limited run. BMO Financial Group proudly sponsors this season’s opening production.

“It’s a great thrill to welcome Ronnie for the Toronto premiere of his latest creation—featuring 36 marionettes—and to present this entertaining and daring offering for our audiences,” says Factory’s Artistic Director, Ken Gass, “Burkett’s imaginative theatrical vision has transformed the meaning of ‘puppetry’ and his work continues to have a profound effect on both Canadian and international theatre.  One of the world’s greatest puppeteers is back home at the Factory.”

Billy Twinkle is a middle-aged cruise ship puppeteer who dazzles audiences with his Stars in Miniature marionette niteclub act... until he is fired by the cruise line.  As Billy contemplates a watery demise, his dead mentor Sid appears as a ghostly hand puppet forcing Billy to re-enact his life as a puppet show and rekindle
the passion for a life that sparkles. (Please note - this production is for audiences 14 years of age and older.)

Previews run September 24 – 26, the opening is on September 28 and the closing is on October 24, 2010. Factory’s Mainspace Theatre’s show times are Tuesday – Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., with the exception of the Sunday, September 26, 7 p.m. preview. Billy Twinkle tickets range between $25 and $48, with Factory subscription packages ranging in price from $70 to $190.

BILLY TWINKLE: Requiem for a Golden Boy, which premiered at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre on October 23, 2008 before touring the United Kingdom and Australia, returned in March 2009 for shows in Calgary, Montréal and, now, Toronto. Reviewers heartily agree that this play is one of Burkett’s best: “Ronnie Burkett is simply one of the geniuses of world theatre and a Canadian cultural treasure…superb intelligence, marvelous craft and delicious humour of a masterful artist.” The Province, Vancouver; “Billy Twinkle brings us a world class master at the peak of his powers." The Edmonton Sun; and, “Ronnie Burkett’s Theatre of Marionettes is one of the great wonders and joys of the modern theatre world and this show, one of Burkett’s most personal, is surely one of his best-ever.  Full of compassion, humour and technical virtuosity, this is an extraordinary creation.” Manchester Evening News, UK.

The play was commissioned by The Citadel Theatre (Edmonton, Canada) and co-commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre (Ottawa, Canada), The Vancouver East Cultural Centre (Vancouver, Canada), The Arts Centre (Melbourne, Australia), Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia) and barbicanbite09 (London, UK). Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes was formed in 1986 and celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2011/12.

Factory’s 41st Season is one of variety and diversity:
  • BILLY TWINKLE: Requiem for a Golden Boy, is created and performed by Ronnie Burkett - September 24 to October 24, 2010 (previewing September 24 - 26; opening September 28), Mainspace;
  • Ali & Ali: The Deportation Hearings, by Camyar Chai, Guillermo Verdecchia (director) and Marcus Youssef, is a Neworld Theatre production produced by Cahoots Theatre in association with Factory Theatre - September 28 to October 17, 2010 (previewing September 28; opening September 29), Studio;
  • the World Premiere of Bethune Imagined is written and directed by Ken Gass - November 13 to December 12, 2010 (previewing November 13 - 17; opening November 18), Mainspace; (Bethune pictured in 1905)
  • the acclaimed Eternal Hydra by Anton Piatigorsky is directed by Chris Abraham and produced by Crow’s Theatre in association with Factory Theatre - January 22 to February 13, 2011 (previewing January 22 - 26; opening January 27), Mainspace;
  • the World Premiere of Brothel #9 by award-winning Anusree Roy is directed by Nigel Shawn Williams -  February 26 to March 27, 2011 (previewing February 26 - March 2; opening March 3), Mainspace;
  • Performance Spring, a festival of groundbreaking works from the national scene, including CrossCurrents, a showcase of new works, runs March 31 – April 24, 2011, Mainspace and Studio; and,
  • the Revival of Zadie’s Shoes, a smash hit by Adam Pettle is co-directed by brothers Adam and Jordan Pettle - April 30 to June 5, 2011 (previewing April 30 - May 4; opening May 5), Mainspace.

TELUS TAIWANfest: Crossover at Harbourfront Toronto

TELUS TAIWANfest: Crossover
Aug.27 – Aug. 29

Part of World Routes Summer Festivals 2010 at Harbourfront Centre 

TORONTO, ON (Aug. 5, 2010) – The fifth edition of TELUS TAIWANfest: Crossover returns to Harbourfront Centre Aug. 27 - Aug. 29, 2010.  This year’s festival is organized in eight parts and includes an electrifying focus on Taiwanese indie music, a glamorous fashion show from some of Taiwan’s top designers, food demonstrations from local chefs along with traditional puppet and Hakka opera performances.

Friday night kicks off with the return of the CLASH: The Battle of Elegance fashion show that sets top Taiwanese designers against each other for runway supremacy. Designers Chiui Hsu and Jasper Huang, showcase their signature styles (which are some of edgiest in Asia) alongside Vancouver-based designer Angela Chen.

Also returning is the highly anticipated UMUSICLIVE concert series that explores the concept of ‘crossing over’ in the context of musical expression with 10 high-energy indie rock bands from Canada and Taiwan. Some of the acts representing Taiwan include Aboriginal reggae singers Matzka, Taiwan’s ambassadors of rap Kou Chou Ching and Peaches-esque rocker chicks Go Chic. Hip-hop jazz performer Leo 37 and female MC Masia One represent Canada and supply the audience with a dose of uniquely Torontonian hip hop flavours.

Taiwanese cuisine is also showcased at the Crossover Kitchen food demonstrations. Foodies will rejoice as chefs prepare signature Taiwanese dishes including an assortment of Hakka, aboriginal and local derivatives of Chinese cuisine. They will also prepare vegetarian dishes made with an innovative use of spices packed with flavour.

The big idea behind all programming in this year’s World Routes summer festivals is “globalocal”, or global to local, a theme programmed into each festival to bring together rich artistic traditions from around the corner to around the globe!

Information Hotline at 416-973-4000.
Harbourfront Centre is located at 235 Queens Quay W. Toronto, ON.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Toronto Buskerfest August 26-29

I won't be in town for this one but it looks like a great time for a good cause, and remember to bring some extra cash for the hat:

Fabulous local and international musicians at Scotiabank BuskerFest
AUGUST 26-29, 2010 throughout the St. Lawrence Market district
- Event proceeds benefit Epilepsy Toronto -

Toronto, August 5, 2010 - Organizers for  Scotiabank BuskerFest 2010 have announced that the festival will feature a wide array of renowned musicians from Canada and around the world. The 11th Annual Scotiabank BuskerFest inhabits Toronto's historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood once again as world-class buskers take to the streets in support of Epilepsy Toronto for a wild four days of fun for all ages from Thursday, August 26 to Sunday, August 29.

Last year's Scotiabank BuskerFest attracted over 1 million people, and this year promises to be even bigger, with Country, Rock, Pop, Folk, Hip Hop, Roots, Latin and Jazz music acts joining the festival's wide array of over 100 stunning street artists including daredevils, magicians, high-skill circus acts, contortionists, giant puppets, fire-breathers, aerialists, clowns, jugglers and more from Canada, the United States, Hungary, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Argentina, the Netherlands, and England with 50% of them never before seen at the festival!

Some of the musical acts at this year's Scotiabank BuskerFest:
  • Australian guitarist/songwriter Kim Churchill has already shared the stage with acts such as Xavier Rudd, Ben Harper and John Butler. His powerful blues harmonica melodies and soulful voice speak beyond his 19 years.
  • Toronto electro-pop-rock group Nights & Weekends' catchy beats and pop hooks have been played on TV shows such as "The Hills," "The Real World: Cancun" and "Make It Or Break It." In 2009, the band won first place in Anthem Entertainment's International Music Festival, and played two showcases as part of New York's CMJ Music Marathon.
  • OKA fuses the traditional music of Australian Aboriginals with pop and dance melodies, playing everything from didgeridoos to bamboo flutes and slide guitars. OKA was voted among the top five most memorable performers at the 2009 Quebec Summer Festival, alongside mainstream headliners Sting and KISS.
  • Toronto beatboxer Scott Jackson replicates many styles of rhythms and sound effects using only his mouth and vocals. The reigning Scribble Jam Beatbox Battle Champion, he represented Canada at the World Beatbox Championships in 2009.
  • Highlighting the distinctive rhythms of Ecuador, Toronto's Farrucas combines Latin sounds with Arabic elements, as well as Cumbia, Rumba/Salsa and traditional ballads to create exciting Latin fusion style.
  • Michael "Shoehorn" Conley's unique blend of jazz saxophone and tap dance create a sophisticated yet entertaining spectacle. Conley can create music with his feet and dance with his horn, but it is his poetic and complex arrangements that keep audiences coming back.
  • Toronto singer/songwriter Jim Armstrong has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Steve Earle. As well as being a renowned performer, Armstrong has a personal connection to the Scotiabank BuskerFest; he himself lives with epilepsy.
  • Victoria's gypsy-ska-folk-grass powerhouse the Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra meld Eastern European/Klezmer influences with African rhythms and Americana/traditional roots music to produce an undeniably addictive beat.
  • Three women make up Toronto's Dirty Dishes and each bring a variety of styles to the table, ranging from classical to musical theatre, Celtic, folk, rock, pop, country and gospel.

ADMISSION: Pay-What-You-Can at the gate, in support of Epilepsy Toronto. Suggested donation: $5.

Epilepsy Toronto is a non-profit organization that helps people living with epilepsy and their families for the past 50 years.

Buskers retain proceeds from "the hat" passed around among audience members at after their performances.

The Scoop:
11th Annual Scotiabank BuskerFest
Toronto International Street Performers Festival
Thursday, August 26 - Sunday, August 29, 2010
throughout the St. Lawrence Market Neighbourhood:
Front Street from Jarvis Street to Yonge Street, and all adjacent side streets
Thursday, noon - 10 p.m., Friday, noon - 11 p.m.,
Saturday, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Admission is by voluntary donation to Epilepsy Toronto

Taika Waititi's Boy to Open ImagineNATIVE

A look ahead at an acclaimed film coming to Toronto as part of imagineNATIVE later this year, from a release:

New Zealand’s Third Highest Grossing Film
Berlin’s Grand Prix for Best Feature Film

A Film By Taika Waititi
Canadian Premiere

Opens the 11th Annual
imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
October 20, 2010

Five days of Indigenous film, video, radio, new media, art, entertainment, and  more. October 20-24, 2010

(Toronto) –  Winner of the Berlin Film Festival’s Grand Prix for Best Feature Film, Taika Waititi’s BOY will open this year’s imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on October 20, 2010 at 7:00pm at the Bloor Cinema.

Written, directed and starring Taika Waititi (Maori Te Whanau-a-Apanui), BOY is a hilarious and heartfelt coming-of-age story that kicks back to 1984 on the rural east coast of New Zealand, a time when “Thriller” is changing kids’ lives. Inspired by Waititi’s Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night, BOY is about heroes, magic, and Michael Jackson.

"BOY is a landmark work from an incredibly talented filmmaker," says imagineNATIVE’s Executive Director Jason Ryle. "Since his first screening at imagineNATIVE, Taika’s career has grown and flourished. His work continues to impress audiences around the world and we're very excited to have the Canadian premiere of his new feature at the festival. It's a moving, funny film that Toronto audiences are sure to embrace."

Eleven-year-old Boy lives with his brother Rocky, a ragtag group of cousins, and his Nan.  Boy’s other hero - and the object of his adventurous fantasies - is his father Alamein. He imagines him as a deep sea diver, war hero, and a close relation of Michael Jackson (in reality he’s “in the can for robbery.”).  When Alamein returns home after seven years away, Boy is forced to confront the man he thought he remembered, find his own potential and learn to get along in a world without heroes.

Check out the trailer here.

BOY has made $8.4 million at the New Zealand box office since its release in March, making it that country’s third highest-grossing film ever behind Once Were Warriors and Goodbye Pork Pie.

The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, the largest Indigenous festival of its kind in the world, will celebrate its 11th year running October 20 – 24, 2010 at the Al Green Theatre and various other venues in downtown Toronto. imagineNATIVE celebrates new works by Indigenous people on the forefront of innovation in film, video, radio and new media.

Opening Night screening tickets to BOY cost $12 ($10 for Seniors, Students and the Underemployed) which includes admission to the Opening Night party.
General admission to regular screenings costs only $7. imagineNATIVE is pleased to offer FREE daytime tickets (before 6:00 pm) to Seniors, Students and the Underemployed.

More about imagineNATIVE to come - tix go on sale September 28 at the link.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Haunted Hillbilly - part of SummerWorks

Haunted Hillbilly
part of SummerWorks Festival
August 15, Theatre Passe Muraille - Toronto

Sidemart Theatrical Grocery
Written by Graham Cuthbertson
Songs & Music by Matthew Barber
Starring: Daniel Brochu, Graham Cuthbertson, Kyle Gatehouse, Gemma James-Smith, Greg Kramer, Matthew Raudseep & Alexis Taylor
Directed by Andrew Shaver
Music by Matthew Barber with Joe Grass & Julian Brown

I'll stop swillin'
If the good Lord's willin'!

Take a feckless but talented young singer/songwriter with ambitions and a sleek older man with a gift for couture and an appetite for blood and buttocks, add some country tunes, a wife, a girlfriend, a preacher and a henchman or two, and you have what was described to us as the "cautionary tale" of one Hyram Woodside.

On his way to buy a new shirt one day, he stumbles across the haberdashery of Nudie, a man with a talent for making clothes. He talks Hyram into wearing his flashy garb on stage, instead of the homespun attire made by wife Audrey. The kicker is, Hyram's built a reputation for writing songs about being lonely, and since getting married, he hasn't been able to write. So Nudie talks him into a sequinned jacket, then an embroidered suit or two or several, and eventually out of his marriage. Lonely again, he writes the songs that get make him famous...

It's a classic Faustian-esque theme. The writing is fresh and funny and kept me guessing, even as it used a flurry of familiar icons - the seductive vampire, the loving wife, macabre wax museums and carnivals - the brisk pace held it all together. The talented cast handled the musical numbers with aplomb and an appropriately gleeful abandon, aided by three musicians who played onstage the entire show. As for the blood and buttocks, I'll just mention that the vampire gets his fill from Hyram via jeans with special flaps at the back.

Not surprisingly in a piece about the corrupting influence of couture, the costumes are fab, especially Hyram's stage gear. There was a lot of buzz about this show, and deservedly so, with a sold out house and a line up around the block for Sunday's matinee.

Haunted Hillbilly is based on the 2003 book of the same name by Derek McCormack, and is a production Sidemart Theatrical Grocery, a mainstay of Montreal's English theatre scene.

Redheaded Stepchild - part of SummerWorks Festival

Redheaded Stepchild
part of SummerWorks Festival
August 14, Factory Theatre - Toronto

Nobody's Business Theatre
Written & performed by Johnnie Walker
Directed by Morgan Norwich

Redheaded Stepchild lets us into the world of one 12 year old redheaded "sweet disaster", as his suave, older alter ego Rufus Vermilion describes him. The play begins with Rufus on stage, complete with a Hefner-esque satin dressing gown and in full lizard lounge stage patter, complementing we the audience on our collective beauty and such. Rufus, as a point of fact, singled me out and came down into the seats to check out my hair and yank at a lock - which is what I get, I guess, for sitting in the second row in the aisle seat.

But I digress. I'm an atypical child, says Nicholas when he first appears, and never truer words were spoke. The set is quite spare, just the bare stage as his room and an old blue trunk out of which Nicholas pulls various toys. With the lid raised, it (surprisingly) serves well as a screen for minor costume changes.(photo by Greg Wong)

And see, Nicholas isn't just the redheaded stepchild of urban parlance, he likes show tunes, and connects with Rita Hayworth when his search for a male role model can only turn up David Caruso at best. He just doesn't fit in, in other words, and the school bullies make him pay for that in increasingly violent ways - including a Facebook page inviting people to his beating. Add Maryanne, the stepmother and third character, a jockish woman who never saw herself as a mother. She's not evil, but she's definitely not in tune with the needs of a troubled and precocious preteen.

The writing is clever and full of wry wit. In speaking of his parents and the cause of his current malaise, he notes, It's not that they got divorced - everybody's parents get divorced." For the most part, the flow of the words has a natural ring to it, barring occasional moments of too broadly drawn comedy, (like the over used reference to Caruso and sunglasses). Johnnie Walker switches between the three voices and points of view without missing a beat, and he's especially authentic as Nicholas in his 12 year old mindset.

Like Nicholas, my mother was a huge Rita Hayworth fan, so I grew up in a household where redheadedness was revered. I'd heard of the ginger phenom, but the tales of outright persecution surprised me. The yank didn't hurt, by the way, I have a fairly high threshold of pain - unlike redheads, who are genetically predisposed to have a low one, yet another useful fact I learned from this engaging production.

The Witch of Edmonton

The Witch of Edmonton
part of SummerWorks Festival
Trinity Bellwoods Park, August 13 - Toronto

The Red Light District Theatre Company
by thomas dekker, william rowley, and john ford.
directed and conceived by catherine dunn and ted witzel.
adapted by the ensemble (michael-david blostein, val cina, marcel dragonieri, lauren gillis, jonah hundert, mina james, ron kelly, kat letwin, reid linforth, jess moss, ted witzel, eve wylden)

The Edmonton of this play's setting has nothing to do with the familiar city of northern Alberta. Written in 1621, the play was written as a collaboration credited to Thomas Dekker, William Rowley and John Ford, and based on real life events that had just transpired.

I didn't know that before joining the goodly throng who gathered at the gates of Trinity Bellwoods Park on Friday night, and at first the reference to Edmonton seemed almost disconcerting. But it didn't matter. The Red Light District Theatre Companys refreshing and highly entertaining approach blended the Jacobean text with much more modern sensibilities, including a stylized approach to costuming, and the woodland atmosphere of the park itself to come up with a thoroughly enjoyable meditation on the general rottenness of the human race.

The labyrinthine plot has three threads. Central to them all, while she doesn't actually appear much at the beginning of the piece, is the Witch (Mina James). The play portrays her as simply an old widow who's persecuted by the good towns folk for being different, for living alone. When she's beaten by them, she turns to the devil to ask for revenge, and he shows up in the form of a dog named Tom. And I have to concur with the Witch herself, who describes him as a sexy dog, which is just the kind of dog that the devil would be, isn't it? Ted Witzel brings a wonderful sense of physicality to the role, which had him up in the park's trees, barking at the incidental dogs in the park, and up on rooftops playing the violin.

Another plotline involves the son of an impoverished gentleman. He marries a poor servant girl out of love, and believes she is pregnant with his child, but then also marries a rich girl at his father's insistence, in an attempt to restore the family's fortunes. Tom the devil is present as he makes his violent choice between the two of them - but you know he's only exploiting the naked self interest that's already there. The third thread sees the village idiot, played here by Reid Linforth with a believable sense of other worldliness and an ever present hobby horse, befriend Tom. It's a tale of lust, betrayal, murder and persecution, with the towns people revealed as a self serving and morally corrupt lot. The young cast brings a delightful sense of gusto to the drama, peppering it with a wry sense of humour.

The white face makeup was a stroke of genius, rendering the actors much more visible in the darkening park, (although they did also distribute a number of flashlights for the audience to use). It combines with white and black costuming in a mishmash of styles from various eras from the early 20th Century to the present for a look that really worked. The story seems over the top, and the surreal touches added to that effect, even as the darker thematic thread rang true to human nature.

The production takes you to various spots in the park, with the added atmospheric bonus of people (and dogs) who just happen to be there - like the guy on a bike who rode by yelling Who are you people?? as we all clambered into the dell, and the little kids who ran away from the devil when he jumped out of the tree (good instincts!)

Sadly, the story, as it turns out, is 100% true. Elizabeth Sawyer, the real life witch of Edmonton, was executed on April 19, 1621. R.I.P.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

African Diaspora Summer Film Series NYC


Riverside Theatre, New York
13 Films from 13 Countries
Aug 20th – Aug 29th

New York, July 29, 2010 - Thirteen films – including several World, U.S. and New York premieres – will screen during the 5th Annual African Diaspora Summer Film Series presented by the The Riverside Theatre and African Diaspora Film Festival from August 20 to August 29, 2010, at the Theatre (91 Claremont Ave., bet. 120th & 122nd St., Morningside Heights).

With two weekends of compelling and provocative films, an opening reception, a closing musical performance and multiple discussions with guest speakers, the 5th Annual African Diaspora Summer Film Series is expanding in scope, range and resonance.

“We are very proud of our line up this year,” says Reinaldo Barroso-Spech, Co-Director of the African Diaspora Film Festival. “It is the strongest we have featured so far in the ADFF Summer Series and it will provide a great entertainment value for those who like to enjoy quality art, culture and education in a cool and relaxed atmosphere.”

The 5th Annual African Diaspora Summer Film Series will open with the U.S. premiere of a fiction film from Trinidad & Tobago, “Happy Sad” by award winning director Dianah Wynter (Soul Food, ABC Afterschool Specials: Daddy's Girl), who will attend the screening with her lead actress. In this absorbing family drama, passions are unleashed, laying bare souls and revealing long hidden secrets when 17-year-old Mandy Graham goes to live with her father’s dysfunctional family after her mother is sent to prison.

Three other films exploring life in the Caribbean are classic film “Ava & Gabriel: A Love Story” from the Dutch Caribbean -- soon to be released by ArtMattan Productions with “Papa’s Song” in the 2-DVD set entitled “The Colors of Curacao;” documentary “Sara Gomez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker” about the life, passion and family of first Afro-Cuban woman filmmaker in Cuba, Sara Gomez; and “W.A. R. Stories: Walter Anthony Rodney,” about the life of world renowned, historian, author, Pan-African thinker and activist Dr. Walter Rodney, who was assassinated in 1980, at age 38, in his native Guyana.  The screening of “W.A.R. Stories” will be followed by a discussion with director Clairmont Chung.

Two films in the series will explore global issues that are particularly relevant today:  “Greening the Revolution” by Katie Curran is a powerful documentary that investigates today’s globalized, profit-centered food system and explores how people are fighting back all over the world against that system.  “Sweet Crude: A Film about the Niger Delta” by John Anderson, tells the story of the people of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, who have experienced for years the same natural destruction as that generated by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Six of the thirteen films presented in this Summer Program were directed by women. Already mentioned are “Happy Sad” by Dianah Wynter, “Sara Gomez: An Afro-Cuban Filmmaker” by Alessandra Muller, and “Greening the Revolution” by Katie Curran.  The other films are “Hearing Radmila” by Angela Webb about the life of the first Miss Navajo of African descent; “Cape Verde: My Love” by Ana Ramos Lisboa Praïa, a fiction film that takes a critical look at the lives of women in Cape Verde; and “The Wedding Song” by Karin Albou about the life of Jews and Muslims in occupied Tunisia during World War II.

Also from Africa are: “Arugba,” the latest film by award winning Nigerian filmmaker Tunde Kelani -- the ADFF 2009 Africa Channel Gala Screening selection – a film based on traditional Yoruba culture and conflict in Nigeria; and ADFF 2009 Opening Night Film “Nothing but the Truth,” by renowned actor/director John Kani, a gripping investigation into the complex dynamic between the people who remained in South Africa and risked their lives to lead the struggle against apartheid and those who returned victoriously after living in exile.

Burn: The evolution of an American City” by Harold Jackson III, is a revealing documentary about the 1921 Tulsa Oklahoma Race Riot which decimated the Greenwood District of the city nationally known at the time as the “Negro Wall Street.”

All tickets for the opening and closing screenings are $15; and tickets for the other screenings are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors.
Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.theriversidetheatre.org, by phone at 212.870.6784, or in person at the Theater box office (Thursday-Saturday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.; Sunday, noon – 4:00 p.m.).

urbanNOISE Festival

from a media release:

urbanNOISE Festival
August 20 & 21, 2010
See details below

"You can put us on mute, but you can't stop the NOISE"
2010 urbanNOISE festival to feature Ghetto Concept and Kim Davis
Rexdale youth collective organizes fifth annual festival

Toronto, August 11, 2010 - Juno award-winning hip hop duo Ghetto Concept and R&B sensation Kim Davis will headline the fifth annual urbanNOISE festival - a free, all-ages urban arts festival organized by young people in the Rexdale/Jamestown communities to inspire youth to stand up to violence.
urbanNOISE will take place on Saturday, August 21 from 4pm - 8pm on the grounds of the Albion Library in the heart of Rexdale/Jamestown, located in North Etobicoke. This two-day festival kicks off the day before (Friday, August 20) with a series of free urban arts workshops for youth in the area, inside the Albion Library from 3pm-5pm.

urbanNOISE began in 2006 as a joint production of Expect Theatre and Arts Etobicoke aimed at providing arts training to at-risk youth in North Etobicoke while fighting the popular perception of Rexdale as a gang war zone. The festival's message has struck a strong chord with the community; this year, urbanNOISE is being organized by a group of young urbanNoise Ambassadors from the area, including gang-influenced youth, community activists, local artists and students. They created a short video to help promote the festival: and part of their statement reads: "We are dedicated to serving our community and tearing down the misconceptions and stereotypes that have been plaguing our area. Having experienced the trials and tribulations that come with living in the area, we joined the UrbanNoise team to help demonstrate that there is a wealth of talent, motivation and determination from our youth to make a positive difference." To sum it up, their slogan: "You can put us on mute, but you can't stop the NOISE."

As well as providing a platform for Rexdale/Jamestown residents to speak out against violence in their community, urbanNOISE helps foster up-and-coming talent in Canada's urban music industry. In the past, urbanNOISE has featured such artists as Drake and Jully Black before they became big stars as well as Jelleestone, Divine Brown, Humble and Masia One.

Festival organizers are proud to welcome new sensation Black Sage as emcee whose distinctive 'Couture Rap' delivers a creative depiction of today's society; and Toronto artists Ghetto Concept and Kim Davis as the headliners for this year's urbanNOISE.

Hailing from Toronto's Rexdale and Lawrence Heights neighbourhoods, Ghetto Concept have been performing since 1989 and have collaborated with many major Canadian artists, including Divine Brown, Maestro, Kardinal Offishal, Snow and Red1 of the group Rascalz. They have twice won Juno Awards for Best Rap Recording.

Kim Davis is one of Canada's most popular up-and-coming R&B performers, without having even released a single album. She has been nominated for a Juno Award and two Stylus Awards for R&B Single of the Year, has twice won Buffalo radio station WBLK's Unsigned Hype contest, and has opened for such acts as Alicia Keys, Flo-Rida and John Legend.

The headlining acts will be joined on stage by a multitude of talented local performers including JJ Money, Mista Bourne, Theo 3 and the ABS Breakdancing Crew, as well as young Rexdale/Jamestown residents looking to showcase their skills in the presence of established artists. Since some of Canada's hottest urban music stars have played the festival before making it big, the future of Canadian hip hop just may just be found on stage at this year's urbanNOISE.

In addition to music, the festival will feature a number of activities including a one-of-a-kind graffiti T-shirt giveaway by Studio 32, fashion show, graffiti workshop, African drum and dance workshop, dunk tank, games, prizes, barbecue and more.

Kim Davis
Ghetto Concept

Fifth Annual urbanNOISE Festival
Kick-off Workshop Day: Friday, August 20, 2010 from 3-5pm
Main Event: Saturday, August 21, 4pm-8pm
Albion Library Parking Lot, 1515 Albion Road (across the street from the mall).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Foreign Exchange - part of SummerWorks Festival

Foreign Exchange
part of SummerWorks Festival
Featuring:  Nisha Ahuja, Cole J Alvis, Falen Johnson, Michael Rubenfeld, Nawa Nicole Simon, DM St. Bernard
Design and Technology by: Keith Barker, Isidra Cruz

Continues to August 15 at the Lower Ossington Theatre

You could say that Foreign Exchange was an audience friendly show. The affable cast members will greet you as you come in the door, (even latecomers,) with an offer of coffee and fresh baked pie - and you can go for refills anytime you like.

As the show begins, a panel of sorts (for lack of a better word) sits at couches on the stage, à la talk show, and the fun begins. Each of them comes from a minority group, with the South Asian, queer, Jewish, black and First Nations communities being represented. Audience members are given a pen and slip of paper to write on. Ask any question about race or culture that you've ever wanted to ask, it instructs. We're told to explore our ignorance, and cool all our hot buttons. The idea is talk about what never gets talked about, and moments of discomfort may arise.

It's such a terrific premise, and one I think we need to practice a lot more in Canada, where our polite facades too often prevent us from discussing anything to do with race. What followed was the panelists reactions to questions they didn't prepare for beforehand and came in the form of video and audio clips, along with those written slips of paper and direct audience participation (more about that in a moment). You could also text a question to a number that was given out.

There were certainly moments when many in the audience confessed to feeling uncomfortable. Questions like Why do you think you're the chosen people? elicited a groam from Michael, the resident Jew. The notion of one person representing an entire race was another of the questions discussed. I actually responded to that discussion, mentioning that when I'm hanging out with African friends, I do feel a certain self imposed pressure to represent myself as better than the "white" stereotype of being boorish, intolerant and wilfully ignorant of cultures other than my own. (That's a literate paraphrasing of what I said, at least.)

I found it a really fruitful experience overall, with real issues under discussion, and a refreshing atmosphere. And, as an added bonus, your ticket stub will get you into another show if you want to continue the discussion (or just have more pie).

Images from top to bottom:

Les Races Humaines ("Human races"), by Dr. René Verneau (1890)

The map shows a "roughly drawn" distribution based on: "On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind, Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1870) [http://aleph0.clarku)"

World map of human migrations, with the North Pole at centre. Africa, beiing the start of the migration, is at the top left and South America at the far right. Migration patterns are based on studies of mitochondrial (matrilinear) DNA. Numbers represent thousand years.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Word! Sound! Powah! - part of SummerWorks Festival

Word! Sound! Powah!
part of SummerWorks Festival

Continues at Theatre Passe Muraille to August 14

A Jamaican flag, draped at the front of a table, offers the only splashes of colour against the matte black
environs of Theatre Passe Muraille and the 3 black clad performers in this piece. Likewise the production itself takes a minimalist approach, centering around the performance of d'bi.young as she dubs and sings and rants and cajoles us through a story about art student activists and their clash with police, and poses the question - what happened to the revolution in Jamaica?

The play comes as quick segments, some in pure dub, some as dramatic monologues, with d'bi switching seamlessly between an array of characters. Among the first scenes is the questioning of one of the students by police, the subsequent scenes swirling around the incident in a circle that widens to include fellow activists, speechin' politicians and the brutal cop himself, looping back and forth to connect the events and characters.

Gradually, the players emerge and their words begin to coalesce, winding themselves into a tighter and tighter circle around the "Freedom Rally" they'd planned to hold opposite that of the politicians, all set against the real life backdrop of the ultra-violent elections of 1980 that saw 745 people killed, including one member of Parliament. The story takes on greater urgency as it unfolds, despite occasional flashes of humour, propelling the piece to its climactic conclusion. I don't like to give away the details - part of its appeal lies in putting the pieces together as you see it.

d'bi is joined on stage by Iam on digiridoo and Stxman on sticks, who ably supply rhythm, percussion, music, sound effects and a couple of extra characters in a scene or two. The third in a trilogy of pieces by this
talented performer, (begun with the Dora Award winning blood.claat: one womban story in 2006,) the piece looks at how Jamaica exchanged the tyranny and inequalities of the colonial era for a set of new tyrannies and inequalities at the hands of its own ruling class. As one of the characters remarks it's "the king replaced by a jester".

It's a powerful production that's cleverly and intriguingly written, and revolves entirely on the chameleon-like conviction and the intensity that d'bi brings to each segment. Highly recommended.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Alexandre Guillaume - Gallery Show Opening

I won't be able to make the opening tonight, but plan on getting in to see this very interesting looking show in a few weeks when I'm back in NYC - from a media release:

Alexandre Guillaume invites you to his opening reception

Friday, August 06, 2010
6:30 PM - 9:00 PM EDT

Muriel Guepin Gallery
47 Bergen street
Brooklyn, NY

Alexandre Guillaume's acrylic paintings offer a more masculine take on abstraction. In his work, Guillaume incorporates the speed, brutality and impatience we experience in daily life to create paintings that ultimately leave the viewer in peace. A thick, carefully placed, large brush stroke interrupts a solid ground to end in light, airy splashes of thin lines, alleviating an omnipresent tension. His palette ranges from a monochromatic grey, to a swath of black paint on a bright orange, yellow, blue or red ground.

His work will be on view at the gallery from August 6th through September 12th. (10 paintings, chance to see some large format like 76, 84 inches)

How to get there via Subway:

F Train - Bergen stop.
2, 3, 4 or 5 train to Borough Hall.
Or the R train to Court Street.
The Gallery is located at 47 Bergen Street
between Smith and Court Streets.

Life Is Horrible


A revue of sketch-comedy and nihilism

Featuring:  Taylor Katz, Matt Nadeau,  Paloma Nunez, Mandy Sellers,  Richard Young
Directed by Stephen Kew
Sketches Written by: Whitney Hewitt, Stephen Kew, Chris New, Aaron Peever, Andrew Smythe

Bread & Circus Theatre
August 5/6/12/13/19 @ 7:30pm

When these people say nihilism, they mean nihilism! I caught the opening night of Life is Horrible last night, and I can attest to the fact that this sketch comedy revue not only contains several very funny "Adventures
with a Nihilist" segments, but an overall tone of abnegation, anarchy, denial, disbelief and disorder (thanks www.thesaurus.com!) And it really is funny, did I mention that already?

Where do I start? The show is a rapid moving barrage of skits and sketches, some lasting mere seconds, others several minutes, that cover the gamut of life's horribleness and absurdities, from the vagaries of television programming to gas leak repairs, unwanted vampire/werewolf pregnancies, the death penalty, gangsters and of course much more. Their approach varies from straight up farce to humour for the over educated, like the nihilist segments. Cinderella's fairy godmother gives her a minor in women's studies and a major in drama - "Try getting a job with that!" she exclaims, and of course mayhem ensues.

My favourite was the one where a guy goes into a car body shop to complain that his car hasn't really been fixed, only to find a "quantum mechanic", who explains that his car still contains enough car-ness to be a car, and is in perfect "atomic condition". "By trying to start your car," she insists, "you made it not start!"

If your sensibilities are particularly delicate, be forewarned that the show's humour is not. It covers everything from abortion to the return home of a wounded soldier, and language that contains the infamous "C" word. The packed crowd at Kensington Market's Bread and Circus Theatre loved it, and deservedly so.

As a bonus, you'll not only see the show, but different improv guest artists that open each performance. Last night, we were treated to Slap Happy, a trio that started a riff on haircuts that included Sergio the existential hairdresser and sexually suggestive mailboxes. You really had to be there.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Todd Solondz' Life During Wartime Opens in Toronto, Van, MTL

Entertainment One
A Film By Todd Solondz

Part sequel / part variation on Solondz’s acclaimed film Happiness

*North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2009
*Won 2010 Golden Osella Best Screenplay for Todd Solondez at the Venice Film Festival
*Nominated 2010 Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival

Will open in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal
Friday, August 27, 2010
Toronto – Cumberland Theatre

Starring Shirley Henderson, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, Allison Janney, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rosalyn Ruff, Michael Lerner, Dylan Snyder, Ciaran Hinds, and so many more

In writer and director Todd Solondz’s LIFE DURING WARTIME, three sisters and the people they love struggle to find their places in an unpredictable and volatile world where the past haunts the present and imperils the future. The question of forgiveness and its limits threads throughout a series of intersecting love
stories, offering clarity and, perhaps, alternatives to the comforts of forgetting. Ten years have passed since a series of shocking and catastrophic revelations shattered the world of the Jordan family. Now, ghosts circle and loom, trouble and console as Joy (Shirley Henderson) discovers her husband Allen (Michael Kenneth Williams) is not quite cured of his peculiar “affliction” and runs away to seek solace and guidance from her mother and sisters. She is pursued by visions of her former suitor Andy (Paul Reubens), now deceased, who nonetheless continues his efforts to win her heart. As these characters and storylines dovetail, expand and collide, they create an emotionally resonant portrait of prisoners of love and life. Alternately hilarious and tragic, outrageous and poignant, LIFE DURING WARTIME is an audacious comedy with unexpected resonance.

Check out the trailer here.

About the Director/Writer:

TODD SOLONDZ (Writer, Director) was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in the suburbs. In 1996 Welcome to the Dollhouse, a feature he produced, wrote, and directed, won the Grand Jury Prize at the
Sundance Film Festival, as well as the CICAE Award at the Berlin Film Festival, an Independent Spirit Award and a special citation from the National Board of Review. In 1998 Happiness, which he wrote and
directed, won the International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. It was also honored by the National Board of Review with an award for Best Acting Ensemble. His next film, Storytelling, premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, and was named one of the “10 best films of the year” by The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times called it “a virtuoso work in every aspect.” Palindromes premiered in competition at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, as well as at that year’s Telluride, New York and Toronto Film Festivals. Entertainment Weekly described it as “a mood altering meditation on the meaning, and snuffing, of identity in America today… [that] dares to go places no independent film has.”

Comedy/ Drama
98 minutes

Avishai Cohen Canadian Debut

From a media release:

Avishai Cohen Makes Canadian Début
October 19, 2010 - Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto
Presented by the Koffler Centre for the Arts

[Toronto ON]   On Tuesday, October 19, world renowned Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen makes his premiere Canadian appearance at Toronto's Isabel Bader Theatre on his North American CD Release tour of "Aurora".

Declared one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player Magazine, Avishai Cohen is an alchemist at heart.  Finding inspiration in musicians ranging from Bach to Stevie Wonder, Avishai can transform a tired Israeli school tune back into poetic gold.  He can take the Sephardic melodies his grandfather sang in prayer, or that his mother hummed while washing dishes, and make them groove. In turn, he can take a sinuous and spontaneous jazz bass line and transform it into a top forty hit.

Along with the vibrant Sephardic and Baroque sounds of his childhood, Avishai's sojourn in New York during the 90s made an indelible stamp on his music, where he played with jazz great Chick Corea and as many Latin ensembles as he could manage, drawing on Latin grooves, tucking and transforming them into his arrangements.

Avishai's joyful powers of transformation are in full force on Aurora (EMI/Blue Note), an album turning his roots into lyrical, intense songs that showcase not only Avishai's masterful bass and lifelong musical loves, but his newfound voice.

Cohen sings in Hebrew, English, Spanish and Ladino, as the music draws its source from the earth of his home country and at the crossroads of cultures -- Arab-Andalusian and Hebraic -- telling the story of Bedouins of the desert and of life, love, youth and freedom. Jazz naturally remains at the heart of this original universe – the ideal meeting place for all kinds of encounters.  Aurora is a work of synergy under the Blue Note label, which for years has represented cutting edge jazz, of which Avishai Cohen is undeniably the most modern and irresistible standard-bearer.

Shifting between languages and genres, as oud vibrates alongside piano chords, Avishai speaks with a voice that is both global and local, universally resonant and yet deeply personal.  All thanks to an unexpected turn to song: “The voice is always fresh because it's such a human, ever-evolving instrument," Avishai reflects. “You can never know what to expect and you can never master it, even if you try to gain as much control as you can. It's a healthy but paradoxical thing, like the heart."