Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Ronnie Burkett's Billy Twinkle: Requiem for a Golden Boy

Billy Twinkle: Requiem for a Golden Boy
created & performed by Ronnie Burkett
Factory Theatre Toronto - continues to October 24

I have a bit of a confession to make. I have this thing with puppets - particularly marionettes. They creep me out. Even as a child, although I did play with them, (it's what one does as a little girl,) it was always with an edge of distaste and unease. So first off, I'll credit Ronnie Burkett with creating enough theatrical magic that I actually forgot about my longstanding aversion. In fact, I found myself reacting to a hand puppet as if it was actually a character separate from the hand inside it, so well was he able to embody the illusion.

Billy Twinkle begins with a crisis that unfolds quickly. Billy's performing his show - Stars in Miniature - on a cruise ship where, weary of inattentive patrons, he has a bit of a meltdown that results in his getting fired. More than a simple job loss, it sparks a midlife crise where he's lost faith in his gift, his own artistic vision. "Life will never be as beautiful as I imagined it," he laments.

From there, the story takes a detour into left field, as his hand puppet becomes possessed by the spirit of a former mentor who forces him to re-enact scenes from his life and his show, and their troubled relationship. It sounds like a convenient excuse for a lot of puppeteering, and in lesser hands, could have become a bit of a side show and novelty act. Burkett's gift, however, is to infuse it all with a level of truth that made that damn hand puppet and all the marionettes into real characters.

His skill with marionettes is remarkable, giving them a subtlety of expression that saw a dejected shrug, hand gestures and much more. Even the marionettes had marionettes! I really did forget there was anyone pulling the strings at times, and those characters included oddities like a stripper (okay, "showgirl", lol,) tipsy society lady and demented old man, along with Billy at various points in his life and the men in his life along the way.

Ronnie's script is witty and insightful. "If it's not the asshole of show business, it's the belly button," he says of the cruise ship gig. Later, when he argues with his partner over money he's saving for plastic surgery, he tells him, "I am not vain - I'm in show business! I have a level of vanity appropriate to my job." His performance takes Billy from sweet if oddly marionette-obsessed preteen to disillusioned middle age in a performance that runs the gamut from philosophical to histrionic. It's a real showcase of his work.

He's aided by a wonderful set design (again his own) that creates the bow of a ship complete with railings, the puppet stage and twinkly stars and moon above. It was the perfect backdrop to the story.

In the end, Billy manages to rediscover the spark and his love of show biz, and he lays an old ghost to rest in the process. You probably still never find a marionette at my place, but for a couple of hours, the magic was real even for me.

Ronnie Burkett's image by Helen Tansey.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Me and Nuit Blanche

Me and Nuit Blanche
I Cried For You - Julia Loktev
October 2 - Viewing area will be Bay Street, south of King Street West

I'm pretty excited to be part of Brooklyn based artist Julia Loktev's video installation/performance piece, I Cried For You, 2010. In it, a series of actors (where I come in) do an unrehearsed 10-15 minute audition where the goal is to evoke tears. The live feed will be visible on a screen on Bay south of King, I believe it's Exhibition Area C.

Julia's award winning work (including the award for best documentary direction at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival for Moment of Impact) is based in film and video, and she's the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship.

So, if you're still up at about 6:30am, come and watch, and afterwards you can help me get my make-up back together - I have to work at 10!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sony Centre Toronto Grand Re-Opening Oct 1 with Cirque Eloize

The Sony Centre reopens October 1 after renos with a hiphop circus/West Side Story mash up, oodles of high end Sony gadgetry and more. From a media release:


(TORONTO, ON)…Finishing touches are being made as the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts prepares to unveil its thrilling new renovation as part of its 50th Anniversary Season celebrations on Friday, October 1st, 2010.

“It’s been an incredible undertaking”, said Dan Brambilla, CEO of The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts. “We’re eager to welcome Torontonians into the venue to see the exciting new technologies integrated with the magnificent architectural beauty of this historic building.”

From June 2008 to October 2010, more than 200 local trades people were employed to restore the elegance and grandeur of architect Peter Dickinson’s original O’Keefe Centre which opened on October 1st, 1960 (picture below is of the foyer in its incarnation as the Hummingbird Centre).  Phase Two of the Centre’s three-part renovation begins in 2011 with the construction of the new permanent backstage facilities and the “L Tower”, a 57-story residential tower designed by Daniel Libeskind.  Upon completion of the tower, the final phase of the renovations gets underway, encompassing the external cityscape design and a new public plaza.

Restoration highlights

The restoration of this designated historical site eliminated a number of architectural interventions added to the theatre over the past 50 years.  The process was governed by a commitment to preserve and showcase the building’s landmark modernist designs and showcase the fine quality of materials - Carrera marble, cherry wood, limestone and bronze – that were hallmarks of the original facility.  Many iconic features including the marquee canopy and R. York Wilson’s lobby mural “The Seven Lively Arts” have been preserved.

Throughout the lobby, the original Carrera marble that had been hidden was uncovered, glass panels were removed to reveal the original coved ceiling, and all 189 bronze doors were removed and refinished, as were the 1016 bronze handrail pickets.  Inside the theatre, the original interior finishes, including 1700 cherry veneer wood panels and the 1500 rosewood slats spanning the acoustic back wall, were painstakingly restored by hand.   All 3191 seats were replaced with custom designed ergonometric seats, complete with cup holders.  The thirteen washrooms have been gutted and redesigned, with more ladies washrooms added on the second floor.

New at the Sony Centre

Sony of Canada Ltd., the naming sponsor of the Centre, will further enhance the theatre’s environment by providing state-of-the-art Sony entertainment solutions throughout the venue.  In addition to the latest Sony Bravia® panels, visitors can expect to see cutting-edge multimedia technologies such as the new Sony Ziris Canvas, a high end feature application where high definition digital content stretches across wall-to-wall screens.  Comprised of 21 screens, this video wall is the largest installation of its kind in North America. This Ziris Canvas will greet visitors as they enter the main foyer of the Sony Centre, and in the north-west corner of the renovated building, visitors can explore more Sony technologies in a new Sony retail store.  Also in the main lobby, visitors can enjoy the latest 3D technology shown on a 3D wall, just steps away from the Sony Store.

The Sony Centre has partnered with Sodexo, a world leader in food services, to create an international culinary experience that reflects and compliments the diverse programming on stage.  Prior to every show, Executive Chef Stephen M. Lee will prepare an affordable menu featuring signature foods from the particular country showcased, such as Russia, Japan, or China.  Beginning October 7th, patrons will be able to enjoy specialty ABSOLUT cocktails at the new Balcony Bar beginning at 4 p.m. 

The Walls of Fame featuring photographs of the thousands of artists who have performed at the Centre have been scanned and will be featured on screens located in the lower lobby.  New and improved art gallery spaces have been created throughout the expansive lobbies.

Opening Night October 1st

The Sony Centre embarks on its 50th Anniversary season ready to play a central role in the cultural experience of Torontonians as a nexus of arts, culture and technology.  The 50th Anniversary Season reflects the diversity and sophistication of 21st century Toronto audiences with programming featuring the international stars of dance, theatre, music and popular culture that resonate with today’s audiences.  To celebrate its grand re-opening and to launch the 50th Anniversary Season, the Sony Centre co-commissioned Montreal’s renowned Cirque Éloize to create iD, a spectacular new production featuring acrobats, break dancers, contortionists and eye-popping video projections. 

Described as a mash of "West Side Story gone hip-hop circus", iD will run for six performances only October 1 to 9, 2010.  For tickets and more information visit .

Opera Atelier Launches 25th Season with Handel's Acis and Galatea

From a media release:

Handel’s ravishing pastorale Acis and Galatea launches
Opera Atelier’s 25th Anniversary Season

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Toronto, ON (September 21, 2010) …Opera Atelier will open its 25th Anniversary season with a sumptuous new production of Handel’s pastorale, Acis and Galatea, at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre (189 Yonge Street). Sung in English with English SURTITLES™, performances run October 30, November 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, 2010 beginning at 7:30 p.m. with the exception of the November 7, Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.

Based on Ovid’s tale of the water nymph Galatea and her doomed love for the Arcadian shepherd Acis, Acis and Galatea is one of Handel’s best loved works, and considered the pinnacle of 18th century pastoral theatre.  The opera weaves together a story of startling sensuality and humour blended with moments of heartrending poignancy – all told through some of Handel’s most sublime music for singing and dancing.

Gerard Gauci, OA’s resident scenic designer has designed both the costumes and sets for this production – a first for OA! Gauci, a well-known Toronto artist, recently designed the Art Gallery of Ontario’s stunning theatre-themed exhibition Drama and Desire. Gauci’s paintings are regularly exhibited at the Leo Kamen Gallery in Toronto and Montreal’s Gallerie de Bellefeuille.

Acis and Galatea will be directed by Marshall Pynkoski and choreographed by Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, OA’s co-artistic directors. The production is a showcase for the full corps of Artists of Atelier Ballet and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir under the baton of David Fallis.  The production will be lit by Kevin Fraser.

Tenor Thomas Macleay, who thrilled Toronto audiences with his performance in last season’s Iphigénie en Tauride, will sing the title role of Acis.  Macleay’s recently made his Canadian television debut as Gennaro in Bravo Canada’s “Death at the Opera.”  Macleay’s upcoming performances include La Traviata and Otello with Edmonton Opera and Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with Alberta Ballet.  Canadian soprano Mireille Asselin, will make her main stage debut with OA in the role of Galatea, having previously toured with the company in South Korea.  Praised by critics for her “crystalline tone, agile coloratura” and “vivacious stage presence”, Mireille Asselin will be featured at Yale Opera this year in the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, and in the title role of Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol.

Dramatic contrast is provided by the voices of Portuguese bass João Fernandes who appears as the jealous giant Polyphemus and tenor Lawrence Wiliford as the spirit Damon.  João Fernandes last appeared with Opera Atelier as Seneca in the The Coronation of Poppea (2009).  Other operatic engagements have included Giove in La Calisto (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), Claudio in Agrippina (New York City Opera), Bellone in Les Indes Galantes (Paris Opera), and Tiferne in Eliogabalo (Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie and Innsbruck Festival).  American-born tenor Lawrence Wiliford – an Opera Atelier favourite – returns to the company having enjoyed enormous success in OA’s previous productions of The Return of Ulysses and The Abduction from the Seraglio. 

The Details:
  • Tickets for Acis and Galatea are $33 to $146 and can be purchased by calling TicketMaster at 416-872-5555, on-line at or at the Elgin Theatre box office.
  • Operatix are $20 and may be purchased by people under the age of 30 with valid I.D. in person at the Elgin Theatre Box Office (subject to availability).
  • Group discounts (10 people +) are available by calling 416.703.3767 ext. 22.
  • For more information visit or check out our Vox Populi blog at .
  • Subscriptions for Opera Atelier’s 2010-11 season start at $55 and are on sale now by calling 416-703-3767 ext. 22.

Opera Atelier also gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of The Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, and the Creative Trust.

• Company Photo: Bruce Zinger / Ben Cruchley, Leonie Gagne, Juri Hiraoka, Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, Patrick Lavoie, James Leja, Jennifer Nichols, Jack Rennie, Curtis Sullivan and Magda Vasko / Photographed at St. Lawrence Hall
• Photo by Bruce Zinger / Juri Hiraoka and Thomas Macleay / Handel's Acis and Galatea / Photographed at The Soho Metropolitan Hotel

Sampling Small World on the Street

Small World on the Street
Queen's Park, September 26, 2010

With only a couple of hours to spare, I walked right by the hefty lines at Word on the Street on Avenue Road and straight into Queen's Park to see what I could catch on the stage.

I'll mostly let the video clips fill you in on the performances - tight playing, cool vibes - this city certainly plays home to a lot of great musicians - but the two bands I saw have interesting stories to tell too.

Njacko Backo is a native of Cameroon. Along with traditional Cameroonian drumming, he studied music under various masters all over West Africa. "You can hear Senegal, you can hear Guinea - you can hear Canada - in the music," he told Garvia Bailey of CBC Radio One's Big City, Small World Show in a bit of a Q&A after the show. I think you can hear a little soukous in there too.

"White people came from the sky - on planes," he joked, "I wanted to see where they came from." His music is always uplifting in its message, and he draws on a spiritual and all inclusive philosophy. He sings in English, French and Bazoué - one of Cameroon’s many languages - and he'll also be part of the Global Soul show at the Isabel Bader Theatre on October 3 as part of the Small World Fest.

Band members are Chip Yarwood - flute, guitar, Anne Lederman - violin, accordion, backing vocals, Joaquin Nunez Hidalgo - drums, percussion, vocals, Roberto ? - bass, Bwana Moto - percussion, Cellina Carrol - small percussion, backing vocals

beatmap features Alan Davis on drums - one of the founders of Small World Music, as it happens - and they represent nearly 100 years of experience between all its members. They also include Latin-flavoured composer and arranger Neil Gardiner on keyboards, accordion and trombone, and Charlie Roby, a multi-guitar player and songwriter. Bassist Reza Moghaddas was one of Tehran's premier players and audio engineers before he moved to Toronto. They recently added Ethiopian style singer Maylat Mesfin, whose soaring voice adds a gorgeous dimension to songs that draw from the world's library of musical styles.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

131 Opens at O'Born Contemporary Gallery, Toronto

131 opens at the O'Born Contemporary Gallery
131 Ossington St., Toronto
September 25 - October 23

Featuring works from Robert Canali, Liam Crockard, Alex Fischer, Rafael Goldchain, Kate McQuillen, John Monteith, Dominic Nahr, Ed Ou and Noel Rodo-Vankeulen.

I was lucky enough to catch this exhibition that inaugurates the O'Born's new digs on chic Ossington Avenue, with many of the pieces already sporting the red dots of acquisition even at the preview show on Friday. With their focus as photography, the show puts together a wide variety of approaches to image making in an artistic vein, with some impressive inclusions. Here are some of my notes.

Ed Ou
Striking in their clear sightedness, his images depict Somali child soldiers like 12 year old Mohamed Adan Ugas, a member of the Transitional Federal Government's forces in Mogadishu, in an image of him assembling a gun. What they capture - heartbreak- ingly - is their very childishness even in the harsh realities they occupy.
Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou is currently based in Nairobi. His photographs of child soldiers made the front pages of the New York Times, and were used as evidence in an US congressional hearing on whether or not the American government was violating international law by supporting a government that uses child soldiers. His work has been recognized internationally.

Liam Crockard
Herators are a series of three dimensional works, based on photographic prints in sepia tones and images that include Greco-Roman statuary. The Kitchener native's work is quite atmospheric, creating a nostalgic and somehow secretive effect.

John Monteith
Archival prints of books are given a spatial, ethereal treatment that imparts a kind of spiritual glow. A native of Newmarket, he graduated from the MFA programme at Parsons the New School for Design, and his work has been shown all over North America and Europe.

Noel Rodo-Venkeulen
I was intrigued by his stark black and white prints of a variety of objects from a house to a hoodie - mundane subjects given an expressive treatment that finds the drama in the ordinary. Noel lives and works in Brampton, his pieces shown all over the place.

Dominic Nahr
Dramatically lit portraits of people with children awaiting treatment for malaria in Uganda. While it's easy to turn them into yet another story about human misery, the image of a woman breastfeeding her child has a quiet sort of dignity, even an angelic quality. I wonder how they'd compare to pictures of, say, St. Michael's ER in Toronto? His artist's statement talks about the proliferation of deadly malaria in Uganda, and efforts to control the disease.
Born in Switzerland and raised in Hong Kong, it was while Dominic was attending university in Toronto that he became a photojournalist, with a portfolio that nowadays includes National Geographic Magazine, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde 2 and many more.

Alex Fischer
His abstracted giclée prints assemble figures and landscapes from a variety of sources, including a neat sculpture on spindly legs (you'll know what I mean if you go). The work comes in advance of his first solo show at the O'Born that opens October 28.

Robert Canali
His handmade fold out book of prints range from mundane family type shots, vintage portraits and scenery to weirdly staged doll rituals and more. In his artist's statement, he likens the format to a kind of sculpture of photographs.

Rafael Goldchain
These large scale black and white prints find the extraordinary in the ordinary. They depict a series of concrete posts, their linear and smoothed forms contrasted by natural forms. Often, the concrete crumbles, and in one roots wrap themselves around it with sinewy strength. They're a fascinating contrast in textures and shades.
Internationally shown and represented, Rafael is a Professor and Coordinator in Sheridan College's Applied Photography Programme. He's received awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and accompanied the Governor General on trips to Chile and Argentina in 2001.

Kate McQuillen
With much of her recent work focused on the moon and lunar landings, the piece in this show is a unique print of pigment on handmade paper with a large and haunted full moon who looks back at the viewer.
Chicago based, Kate works largely in print and installation.

While I'm including some of these striking images, it really doesn't compare to viewing them in full size in a gallery setting.

About O'Born Gallery:
O'Born Contemporary was established as a gallery, exhibiting contemporary photographic and lens-based works by living artists. This shall be maintained in our new space with the addition of works of all mediums, conceptually or practically linked to photography or its history.

The artists that represent us are photographers, journalists, documentarians, painters, sculptors, builders and thinkers; they do not necessarily commit themselves to a single mode of expression but all contribute to the ongoing dialogue of photography's place in contemporary art practices.

Ed Ou | Untitled of Children of Men, 2010
Noel Rodo-VanKeulen | Untitled, 2009
Dominic Nahr | Grace Akullu and her Daughter
Rafael Goldchain, 2010

Apollo Theater Salon Series

An innovative series at Harlem's venerable Apollo Theatre. Here's a look at what's coming up in October - from various sources:

Apollo Salon Series

Since 2006,  the Apollo Salon Series has an incubation and performance program for mid-career artists working in diverse genres of the performing arts, including music, theater, spoken word, multimedia, and movement. Artists receive one week of time on the Soundstage and access to Apollo resources to develop new works. Projects culminate in two performances with audience discussion after each presentation. The Series involves up to 10 projects per year. The Salon Series allows the Apollo to nurture works of high artistic value. This is part of a comprehensive programmatic shift to integrate artistic performance as part of the Apollo's core offerings.

KICK-OFF EVENT: The Artists and Their Work
Apollo Soundstage
Friday, October 1, 2010 at 8:00PM

Please join Apollo artists and friends for the 2010 Salon Series opening event featuring a lively discussion hosted by WQXR’s Terrance McKnight.  Salon Series artists will be in attendance to speak about their work and present excerpts.  The evening will also feature turntable master, DJ Rupture.

Free of charge. Limited Capacity.

“Burnt Sugar Freaks the James Brown Songbook (An Opera In Progress)”
Apollo Theater Soundstage
Friday, October 8 at 7:30PM
Saturday, October 9 at 7:30PM

Founded in 1999 by guitarist and noted writer Greg Tate, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber was created as a forum for New York area improvisational musicians to explore the totality of  black American music and its offshoots in the 21st century. The collective combines their many influences into exciting and innovative hybrids.  The results are based on a solid foundation of superb old school musicianship and cutting-edge music technology.

For the Salon Series, the 21-member Arkestra’s array of guitars, strings, horns, keyboards, percussion, and voices will re-orchestrate several medleys taken from James Brown’s three Live At The Apollo albums, and re-imagine them in the styles of Brown contemporaries such as Miles Davis, Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix and Chaka Khan. This unique program has been subtitled “J.B.’s Funky Divas vs. the Revolution of the Mind” as it will not only feature music made famous by Mr. Brown himself but the productions and compositions he developed for his premiere female vocalists as well--notably Vicki Anderson, Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney.

“Who Killed Andy Warhol? / Who Shot Biggie Smalls”
Apollo Theater Soundstage
Friday, October 15 at 7:30PM
Saturday, October 16 at 7:30PM

Gordon Voidwell, the alter ego of Bronx-born ex-chorister turned pop culture enthusiast Will Johnson, is fast becoming known for creating a sonic fusion mixing his unique pop & funk sound reminiscent of Prince, David Bowie, Cameo and George Clinton with a new, futuristic vibe.

Voidwell's latest work, “Who Killed Andy Warhol?/Who Shot Biggie Smalls?”, a musical performance by Voidwell and his electro-acoustic backing band, combines video, sound, costume and choreography to trace the arc of pop culture from 1960s visual artist Andy Warhol to 1990s rap legend Biggie Smalls. The performance will prompt audience members to create their own understanding of "pop" and the distinction between pop culture and high culture.

“Mephisto’s Song”
Apollo Theater Soundstage
Friday, October 22 at 7:30PM
Saturday, October 23 at 7:30PM

Celebrated New York-based vocalist Helga Davis, whose inter-disciplinary practice includes work with composers and choreographers alike, constantly uses her powerhouse vocals and penchant to cross freely and seamlessly between genres to push the envelope and explore music’s unchartered terrains. With her piece “Mephisto’s Song”, Davis will present a stirring work-in-progress collaboration with composer Andrea Liberovici.

The performance, a multi-media songbook adapted from Goethe’s Faust, features Davis in a sonic/visual world created by Liberovici. The piece includes a recorded narration by Robert Wilson and a recorded cello improvisation by renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (of Kronos Quartet).

 “Speak! So the World Will Listen”
Apollo Theater Soundstage
Friday, October 29 at 7:30PM
Saturday, October 30 at 7:30PM

Check out a video clip here

MTV Movie Award nominated documentary filmmaker, music video director, and composer William D. Caballero’s current project, “Speak! So the World Will Listen: Uganda”, is a multimedia experience that blends projected visuals and live music with audio testimony focusing on the culture, traditions, and strife facing Uganda today.

Pulling from a wide library of personally recorded interviews and footage, these stories are weaved in a culturally sensitive artistic medium, and are combined with a unique symphonic score performed by a string and woodwind ensemble that blends Ugandan rhythms with western classical music. Visuals and music composed by William D. Caballero.

A Season of Africa at the Royal Ontario Museum

Anchored by the world premiere retrospective exhibit of the work of Ghanaian born and world renowned artist El Anatsui, the Royal Ontario Museum has some really great things planned for this fall.

By the way, you can check out the El Anatsui show free during Nuit Blanche - October 2, it's opening day. From a media release:

News Release

A Season of Africa at the ROM

New Acquisitions, exhibitions and stirring events this fall

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) celebrates a Season of Africa this fall, with a thought-provoking series of exhibitions and events inspired by African art and culture. Featured are two new exhibitions, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa and Position as Desired/Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, both opening October 2, 2010. Later this fall, significant new African acquisitions to the ROM’s permanent collection will be unveiled. A full slate of related public events delves into the complex cultural, social and political issues of modern Africa. Themes ranging from contemporary arts to geo-political realities of the region will be explored through guest lectures, panel discussions and films.

Season of Africa Exhibitions:

El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa
The Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM presents the world premiere career retrospective of Ghanaian visual artist El Anatsui. This exhibition is the artist’s first solo show in Canada and features 63 works in various media drawn from public and private collections internationally. Drawing on Ghanaian and Nigerian cultural references as well as global, local and personal histories, El Anatsui’s 40-year body of work comprises large shimmering metallic wall sculptures, for which he is best known, as well as paintings and sculptures in wood, ceramic and metal.

This retrospective has been organized by the Museum for African Art (MfAA), in New York, and will be one of the inaugural exhibitions in the MfAA’s new building, which opens in 2011. El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa will be on display in the Roloff Beny Gallery on Level 4 of the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal from October 2, 2010 to January 2, 2011.

Walls and Barriers
In association with the El Anatsui exhibition, the ICC is pleased to present Walls and Barriers: A Collaborative Project, an innovative education project by diverse youth from secondary schools and community agencies across the Greater Toronto Area. Unprecedented in its scale and conception, it involved more than 500 young artists and teachers who created a public art installation inspired by and in response to the work of El Anatsui. Walls and Barriers will be on display in Canada Court at the ROM from September 25 until October 23, 2010.

Position as Desired
The ROM, in association with Toronto’s Wedge Gallery, announces Position as Desired/Exploring African Canadian Identity: Photographs from the Wedge Collection, a selection of historical and contemporary photographic works documenting the experiences of African Canadians. The exhibition will be on display from Saturday, October 2, 2010 to Sunday, March 27, 2011 in the Wilson Canadian Heritage Exhibition Room of the ROM’s Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada.

New African Acquisitions
Contemporary African artist El Anatsui was commissioned by the ROM to create an original metallic wall hanging for the Museum’s permanent collection, which will be unveiled in the Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific (Level 3, Michael Lee-Chin Crystal) around the time of the opening of the exhibition El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa. In addition, several important and never-before-seen objects recently acquired for the African collection will be installed in this gallery in November and December. More information will be released soon.

*Public Events
  • Fresh Perspectives – Curatorial Tours of El Anatsui
  • Select Sundays at 2:00 pm. FREE with ROM admission Roloff Beny Gallery
  • Public tours of El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa led by prominent guests including:
    Oct. 10 Julie Crooks, filmmaker and independent curator of African Art
    Oct. 24 Rosemary Sadlier, President of Ontario Black History Society
    Nov. 7 Kenneth Montague, Director of Wedge Curatorial Projects
    Nov. 21 Sarah Quinton, Curatorial Director of Textiles Museum of Canada
    Dec. 5 Peter Toh, Artistic Director of Afrofest

Film: Nollywood Cinema
Monday, October 18, 7pm
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Screening of Canadian documentary film Nollywood Babylon on the bustling emergent Nigerian film industry, followed by a Q&A. Special guests to be announced soon.
Co-presented by ROM’s Young Patrons’ Circle.

Film: Fold, Crumple, Crush: The Art of El Anatsui
Wednesday, November 24, 7pm
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Documentary film on the art and life of El Anatsui, followed by Q&A with director Susan Vogel.

Talk: Is China good for Africa?
Wednesday, December 1, 7pm
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Panel discussion on the highly debated question of China’s new role on the African continent, with award-winning journalist Doug Saunders, The Globe and Mail’s European Bureau Chief, and John Schram, Senior Fellow with the Queen’s Centre for International Relations, and former Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, and former ambassador to Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Other panelists to be confirmed soon.

Talk: Three Continents: Roundtable on Contemporary African Art
Wednesday, December 8, 7pm
Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre
Panel discussion by three of today’s most high profile scholars on contemporary African art: Elizabeth Harney, Professor of contemporary African art, University of Toronto; Chika Okeke-Agulu, Professor of classical and contemporary African art, Princeton University; Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art, director of the Venice Biennale in 2007.
Co-presented by ROM’s Young Patrons’ Circle.

*Please note that program details are subject to change.

Institute for Contemporary Culture
The Institute for Contemporary Culture is the Royal Ontario Museum's window on contemporary societies around the globe. Playing a vital role within the historical museum, the ICC examines current cultural, social and political issues throughout the modern world in thought-provoking exhibitions of contemporary art, architecture and design that are presented in the Roloff Beny Gallery and other galleries of the Museum.

El Anatsui's Man's Cloth (pictured above) hangs in the British Museum, London.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Return to El Salvador - Documentary Opens In Canada

From a media release about what sounds like an important documentary being released in Canada, including some special screenings with the director in attendance. Jamie Moffett will also be meeting with Canadian government representatives including Peter Julian and John McKay before the vote on a newly proposed Bill C300 - proving my theory that you can learn a lot more about what's really happening in the world from art than from the news.

If you're not familiar with Bill C300, it has to do with corporate accountability for the activities of mining companies who operate internationally - what a concept!

For Immediate Release

Return to El Salvador
Directed by Jamie Moffett
Narrated by Martin Sheen

Opens in Theatres Across Canada - details at the bottom of this post

(Toronto – September 23, 2010) - Whatever happened to the human rights hot-zone known as El Salvador? It’s still there. It’s the media that got distracted. Others - including Martin Sheen - refused to turn away.  Well known for his activism in social justice, Sheen holds a particular interest in El Salvador and the Salvadoran civil war. He was present for the January 17, 1990 protests of U.S. policies in El Salvador at the Federal Building, where 234 demonstrators were arrested. He has worked on movies such as Choices of the Heart, which connected the murders of four U.S. Catholic women in El Salvador to America’s political and military involvement in that country.

Return to El Salvador, narrated by Martin Sheen, is the latest documentary from director Jamie Moffett, who explores the reconstruction of El Salvador, post-civil war.  The 12-year conflict (from 1980 to 1992) killed over 75,000 people and displaced nearly one-fifth of the population.  The fighting, which took place between the Salvadoran Army and the leftist guerrilla organization, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), resulted in a staggering number of civilian deaths as the Salvadoran Army bombed and raided villages thought to be sympathetic to the FMLN. Many of these Salvadoran Army soldiers were trained and supported by the United States military at its School of the Americas (now known as WHINSEC), located in Ft. Benning, Georgia. (Martin Sheen is pictured in 2007 - photo by Damon D'Amato of North Hollywood, Calfornia)

Return to El Salvador brings the struggles of this beleaguered country back into view and examines what drives over 700 Salvadoreans to flee their homeland each day, often risking their lives to illegally enter countries in search of a better life for their families.  It also profiles a Salvadoran couple who fled death threats in the 1980s, finding asylum and a political platform in the United States. We meet another couple who, after escaping during the war, returned to El Salvador to work with churches and poor communities. And a family speaks out about their continued hunt for the truth about a murdered anti-mining activist.

This film explores the hopes of the Salvadoran people and walks with them in their journey. Return to El Salvador represents the power and audacity of solidarity and challenges North Americans to question the global impact of their government on struggling nations.

After support from Martin Sheen and endorsements by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as a Canadian member of parliament, John McKay, Jamie Moffett's latest film, Return to El Salvador lands in Canada for a tour that will make an impact on Canadians as well as members of Parliament who are voting on a newly proposed Bill C300.

On September 24th in Ottawa Jamie Moffett (pictured) will be meeting with several members of Canadian Parliament including Peter Julian and John McKay.

You can check out clips of the film here and here.

About Jamie Moffett Media Design & Production:

Jamie Moffett Media Design & Production, uses motion picture to document the stories of those struggling for peace and justice in their communities and around the world; ordinary people who do extraordinary things with some simple love and service. In addition to two feature-length documentaries, The Ordinary Radicals and Return to El Salvador, Jamie Moffett Media Design & Production has produced dozens of short films, music videos and commercials.

  • Ottawa - Empire Theater – September 24
    Special Screening with Q&A on Sept 24 at 7:20pm. Director Jamie Moffett and MP John McKay in attendance
  • Toronto – Carlton Cinema – October 8
    Special Screening with Q&A on Oct. 8th at 7:30pm with director Jamie Moffett in attendance
  • Mississauga – Ciné-Starz – October 8
  • Halifax – Empire 8 Park Lane  – October 15
  • Vancouver - Empire Granville – October 16
    Special Screening with Q&A on Oct. 16 at 6:45pm with director Jamie Moffett in attendance
  • Edmonton – Princess Theatre  - date TBC
  • London – Hyland Cinemas – date TBC

RCM & CFC Present Jazz vs Classical for Toronto's Nuit Blanche

From a media release. It's worth noting that when it comes to Nuit Blanche, the ROM next door is also hosting artist Laurel McDonald's exhibition  - making Bloor Street a definite must see on your Nuit Blanche list!


Toronto, ON, September 20, 2010 – From dusk to dawn, on Saturday, October 2, 2010, during Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, The Royal Conservatory’s Bloor Street courtyard at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning will glitter with sound and energy. Visitors can interact with MUSICAL RUMBLE, created in partnership with TELUS, The Royal Conservatory, and the CFC Media Lab.

Larger-than-life images of eight musicians will be rear-projected through the soaring Bloor Street windows of the TELUS Centre, creating an arena of outdoor screens where directional speakers will surround the audience in an intimate sound experience in the courtyard.

Audience members can use smartphones to vote for their favourite musicians in an intense showdown of genres. Participants will be rewarded with a premiere original musical performance by some of Canada’s best musicians. The jazz group will feature:  Michael Occhipinti on guitar; Toronto’s go-to bassist, Roberto Occhipinti; Tim Ries, The Rolling Stones’ sax player and assistant professor of jazz studies at the University of Toronto; and Larnell Lewis on drums. They will battle it out with The Madawaska String Quartet, featuring  Sarah Fraser-Raff and Mary-Elizabeth Brown on violin, Anna Redekop on viola, and Amber Ghent on cello.

Jazz vs. classical, boys against girls—each special effects-laden rumble will culminate in Canadian Idol-style audience voting that will determine which quartet performs for the Nuit Blanche audience. Three new performances will premiere that evening.

Both quartets will offer renditions of the following masterpieces: Spanish Garland by Canadian composer José Evangelista; Franz Schubert’s Death and the Maiden (1st movement), and Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 (final movement).

The jazz arrangement of Spanish Garland is composed by Michael Occhipinti, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden (first movement) by Tim Ries, and Beethoven’s Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 (final movement) by Roberto Occhipinti.

CFC Media Lab, TELUS, and Conservatory staff will be on hand and look forward to welcoming and aiding audience members at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, to interact and vote for their favourite performance during the MUSICAL RUMBLE: JAZZ VS. CLASSICAL.

Toronto Run of Love, Loss and What I Wore Extended to October 30

Another update on the show that definitely has legs - in more ways than one (you'll understand if you've seen it!) From a media release:

L O V E,  L O S S,  A N D   W H A T   I   W O R E



Toronto, September 22, 2010  - Producers Michael Rubinoff and Daryl Roth proudly announce another extension through to October 30 with a brand new cast for their hit Toronto production of the award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Nora Ephorn and Delia Ephron at the Panasonic Theatre.

Award-wining writer and actor Trey Anthony ('da Kink in my Hair), Gemini-winning operatic comedienne Mary Lou Fallis (pictured on the left - Primadonna shows for theatre and CBC Radio, Bravo TV's "Bathroom Divas"), rising star Stacey Farber (CBC-TV's "18 to Life," "Degrassi" alum) and Gemini Award-winning Leah Pinsent (CBC-TV's "Made in Canada," "More Tears"), along with one other cast member tba, perform October 7-30. Tickets are on sale now at or 416-872-1212.

Written by sisters Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, Love, Loss, and What I Wore is an intimate collection of stories covering some of life's most poignant moments and their corresponding wardrobe. This evening of vignettes, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ilene Beckerman as well as personal reminiscences from the Ephrons and their friends, features a rotating cast of five who share tales to which every woman - and their male friends and mates - can relate.

The current cast - Jeanne Beker, Barbara Budd, Luba Goy, Sheila McCarthy, Jane McLean (with Lisa Horner stepping in for Beker on selected evenings due to her previous commitments) - perform to October 2. (Jeanne Beker, Barbara Budd,  Sheila McCarthy, Luba Goy and Jane McLean appear in the photograph by Cylla von Tiedemann.)

"Awesome women, funny stories.... hilarious, touching, always enjoyable" - Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star

"A show about women, and for women. Men, however, will get a kick out of being allowed, temporarily, to enter into the mysteries of womanhood. Definite belly-laughs" - Paula Citron, The Globe and Mail

"A closet full of laughs! Five fabulous and funny ladies deliver memories of fashions past from poodle skirts to stirrup pants. After seeing this show, you'll giggle every time you look in your closet." - Gloria Martin, 680 News

"What a treat it was to see five fabulously strong and uniquely colourful actresses perform. These women are a tour de force; at once hilarious and heart breaking. Great comic precision" - Jean Stilwell, Classical 96.3FM

About the show:

Love, Loss, and What I Wore opened Off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre on October 1, 2009 where it continues to play with rotating monthly casts. A Los Angeles company opened at the Geffen Playhouse on May 13, 2010 and continues its extension. The Toronto production opened on July 21, 2010, winning both popular and critical acclaim and has been extended for its second time through to October 30.

Directed by Lezlie Wade
Jeanne Beker, Barbara Budd, Sheila McCarthy, Luba Goy, Sheila McCarthy, Jane McLean - September 10 to October 2
Trey Anthony, Mary Lou Fallis, Stacey Farber, Leah Pinsent, plus one more TBA - October 7-30 (opening October 13)
Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge Street, Toronto
Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Matinees Wednesday & Saturday 2pm

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Fioretti in Musica - New Opera at La MaMa ETC. NYC

From a variety of sources:

Pioneers go East Company presents
I Fioretti in Musica - Opera in Danza
September 30th -October 17th 2010
Ellen Stewart Theater- La MaMa ETC
74/A East 4th Street, NYC Box Office: 212-475-7710

Brand new Italian opera based on a 14th century story and set in modern day New York - that's the bare outlines of what you can expect at the upcoming production of I Fioretti in Musica - Opera in Danza. It's presented by Pioneers go East Company, or La Compagnia Teatrale I Pionieri dell'Est. Founded in 2005, they're dedicated to producing Italian theatre and opera in America, and operate in residence at La Mama ETC.

Musically, I'd describe the piece as showing its 14th century inspiration in textured, contrapuntal works with soaring, ethereal melodies and harmonies, juxtaposed against an electronica score that uses live voice processing and music inspired by the noises of New York's streets. It's staged as a Medieval era madrigal comedy, with five singers on one side of the stage, and 12 dancer-puppeteers who act out the story on the other side of the stage. Running 75 minutes, the production includes live electronic music, with a mezzo-soprano as St. Francis, a countertenor, a tenor and two baritones.

You can check out audio samples from their latest rehearsals here at composer Sasha Zamler-Carhart's website.

The libretto is based on a 14th century book of poems in vulgar Italian called I Fioretti - Little Flowers - The miracles of Saint Francis of Assisi. It looks to bring the teachings of the good Saint - who renounced the materialism and an easy life as the young, rich son of a merchant to serve humanity and nature in poverty - to a contemporary context. Saint Francis saw the natural world as a manifestation of God, and treated all living things as his brothers and sisters. It's a lovely and powerful message for today's world, to be sure.

The team behind the production comes with some impressive credentials, including:
  • Gian Marco Lo Forte (libretto, concept & direction, set design) - artist-in-residence at La MaMa where he founded Pioneers Go East Co. He comes from a decade long background in set design in Italy and NYC, with notable mentions in the New York Times and others.
  • Sasha Zamler-Carhart, a French composer (vocal score) based in The Netherlands. His work often combines Western classical music with folk traditions from Europe and African, and he's done field work in ethnomusicology in various African countries. He currently teaches medieval music and Latin at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.
  • Ryan Carter, (composer - electronic music), whose work has been praised by the New York Times, and performed throughout Europe and North America by ensembles that include the Cleveland Chamber Symphony and the Nieuw Ensemble, with commissions from Carnegie Hall, Present Music, and the Calder Quartet, (among others). Awards include the Lee Ettelson Award, the Aaron Copland Award, and ASCAPlus Awards.
  • Philip Montana (choreographer), who has danced for Tatiana Bagonova, Michael Foley and Shapiro & Smith Dance. He was also a company member of the world renowned Shen Wei Dance Arts, and his pieces have been widely performed in NYC.
The piece also features projections, paintings and drawings by Mark Tambella, and puppets and masks designed by Jane Catherine Shaw & Abby Felder and fashioned from garbage and recycled materials. Costume designs by Gabriel Berry and Angela Wendt.

Told in four acts as independent vignettes, St. Francis is cast as a homeless person in New York in a gritty urban staging that includes trash bags and shopping carts, and bird puppets made of recycled garbage. The scenes cover Francis's conversion to a life of poverty, St. Francis preaching to the birds, the Saint saving the wolf of Gubbio from being killed by townsfolk, and in the final act, sees an older St. Francis dishing up hospitality to three thieves.

It sounds like a pretty interesting take on a story that's worth retelling.

Second image: Concept Gian Marco LoForte / Painting: Mark Tambella/ Flower Design Cathy Shaw & Abby Felder/ Emanuele Nigro as Francis

Tet Trung Thu: Mid Autumn Celebration in Toronto

From a media release:

Tet Trung Thu: Mid Autumn Celebration
Sept. 25, 2010
Harbourfront Centre Toronto

A one-day festival celebrating the end of summer harvest.

TORONTO, ON (Sept. 16, 2010) – The Tet Trung Thu: Mid Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or the Lantern Festival, is celebrated throughout South Asia (specifically Vietnam). It is the second-most important holiday (aside from New Year’s Day) and occurs around the September equinox.

This year, Harbourfront Centre is pleased to host this one-day festival where families can gather to celebrate the end of the summer harvest and plan a special day devoted to children’s activities. In Vietnamese folklore, parents were so preoccupied preparing for the harvest that they left the children playing by themselves for long periods of time. To make up for lost time, parents would use the Mid Autumn festival as an opportunity to show their love and appreciation for their children.

From 3-7:30 p.m., come and celebrate the Tet Trung Thu Festival with FREE mini moon cakes, paper lanterns and entertainment! The celebration kicks off with an incredible Lion Dance opening ceremony hosted by Tho Pham and Quynh Tram. The fun continues into the evening with music from renowned harpist Liang Lin, dance performances from The Baila Boogaloo Dance Co., Vietnamese cultural dance performances by the Vietnamese Student Association at York University and Ryerson University, and a Mid Autumn Fashion Show that showcases the incredible designs of Vyvian To. Festival revelers are invited to cap off the evening by joining in a Mid Autumn Lantern Parade from the Redpath Stage to the Natrel® Pond.

This event is presented in partnership with The Vietnamese Women’s Association of Toronto, Vietnamese Association, Toronto, Vietnamese Culture and Science Association and the United Vietnamese Student Association.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Iranian Musical Rebel Mohsen Namjoo comes to Toronto

From a media release:

Mohsen Namjoo Comes to Toronto
Sony Centre - October 16

TORONTO – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2010 – A cultural phenomenon and one of Iran’s most controversial and influential musicians today, Mohsen Namjoo gains worldwide appeal with his visionary take on traditional Persian music fused with Western blues and rock. With his band and full live orchestra, Namjoo takes the stage at Toronto’s prestigious and newly renovated state-of-the-art facility at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts on Saturday, October 16.

Hailed as "the Bob Dylan of Iran" by the New York Times, Mohsen Namjoo is a cultural wonder and visionary artist who speaks for, and touches the souls of, today's younger generation in his home country. With his non-conformist slant on classical and neo-classical Persian music, the master vocalist, composer and setar player breaks the mold where originality is concerned. By seamlessly blending western blues and rock influences with his outrageous and irreverent renditions of the traditional Persian stylings, Namjoo has captured the heart and soul of Iran’s youth and has become an international sensation.

Trained at – and expelled from – the Tehran University Music Program due to his refusal to tow the conventional line, Namjoo’s daring and unorthodox approach to the dogma of traditional music in formal institutions pushed him out of the mainstream and into cyberspace. Despite the extreme difficulties facing an independent artist in Iran, his prolific career soared as he found a vast internet audience with his debut album Toranj, followed by enormous worldwide attention.

A true rebel transcended from the confines of traditionalism and free from the restrictions of Iranian oppression, Namjoo is now based in California, where he is fortunate to have the freedom to reflect on the contemporary pains and dilemmas of his generation. His pieces written for In “A Minor”, while unique in theme, form and structure, feature a bold accessibility and lyrically charged quality that resonates most prominently with Iran’s youth. Appropriately described by Vanity Fair as "... the voice of Iran’s youth..", his diverse musical ability spans a range from extremely personal solo ballads and love songs to fantastical epic compositions, utilizing an extensive variety of instrumental and vocal arrangements. His musical finesse is demonstrated by occasionally tapping into classic verses from Rumi and Hafiz while sometimes playfully fusing these and his own lyrics with poems by modert masters of contemporary times.

Namjoo’s sense of theatrics in his live performances engages audiences of all backgrounds, touching the listener regardless of language barriers. Since 2007 he has been invited to numerous international music festivals and events in North America and Europe, such as the Venice International Film Festival, a sold-out performance at the Sala Verdi of the Milan Conservatory and at the Disney Centre in Los Angeles. A North American tour is in the works.

R. Murray Schafer Appointed Composer-in-Residence at The Royal Conservatory School

From a media release:


Dr. Peter Simon, President of The Royal Conservatory, and James Anagnoson, Dean of The RoyalConservatory’s Glenn Gould School (The School), are pleased to announce that pre-eminent Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer has been appointed to the position of Composer-in-Residence at The School.

“I believe that every artist has an obligation to assist the next generation in the advancement of their career,” says Mr. Schafer. “This is why I am especially looking forward to assisting the students at The Royal Conservatory in their approach to new music from a variety of cultures. I also look forward to writing works for these excellent performers.”

In this role, Mr. Schafer will coach many of the performing ensembles of The School, including the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, compose new works for faculty and students of The School, and teach a course in 20th- and 21st-century music for its post-secondary Performance Diploma Program.
“The appointment of R. Murray Schafer will provide tremendous opportunities for students of The Glenn Gould School,” notes Mr. Anagnoson. “Beyond his incredible knowledge and compositional insights, his very presence will inspire students to explore contemporary repertoire, including many of Mr. Schafer's own works, with the knowledge that the composer himself will be able to guide them as they discover each piece.”

Mr. Schafer’s relationship with the Conservatory dates back over 60 years. From 1945-55, he studied harpsichord, music theory, and piano, the latter from legendary teacher Alberto Guerrero. The Conservatory made him an Honorary Fellow in January 2008, and, in September 2009, his piece Spirits of the House premiered at the Grand Opening of Koerner Hall.  His composition Four Forty will be presented in Koerner Hall as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche on October 2, 2010. The piece will be performed by the Cecilia String Quartet and the Royal Conservatory Orchestra, under the baton of Uri Mayer.

Born in Sarnia, Ontario, Mr. Schafer has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s finest composers and music educators. He has won national and international acclaim not only for his musical compositions, but also for his work as a dramatist, educator, environmentalist, literary scholar, and visual artist. The diversity of his interests reflects the enormous range of his output: scholarly books, theatre works, multimedia productions, choral pieces, orchestral compositions for the Toronto, Montreal, and Kyoto Symphonies, a cycle of 11 string quartets, and numerous works for solo voice with both piano and orchestral accompaniment. He pioneered the field of acoustic ecology, which studies the relationship between people and their acoustic environment. He has also won numerous awards for his work, and he holds honorary doctorates from universities in Canada, France, and Argentina.

“We are honoured to welcome such a distinguished cultural ambassador to The Royal Conservatory,” says Dr. Simon. “R. Murray Schafer brings an incredible level of imagination, intellect, and passion to his work, all of which will be tremendous assets as we train the next generation of talented musicians as part of our larger mandate to develop a culture of creativity across Canada.”

VideoCabaret Remounts The Great War in time for Armistice Day

From a media release:

Lest We Forget
VideoCabaret remounts
The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1914-18
Previews from October 26, Opens November 3 for a Limited Run
The Cameron House, 408 Queen Street West, Toronto

Toronto, September 8, 2010  In time for Armistice Day and the season of Remembrance, VideoCabaret remounts Michael Hollingsworth's acclaimed production of The Great War, which saw sold-out houses every night of its initial run this past spring.

The Great War focuses on the mid-ranking officers and infantry-men who are named in no history book -- their stories link the front line with the home front, and intensify the tragedy in this play as far as satire can go. In VideoCabaret's magical staging-style, seven actors play more than 40 characters whose stories take the audience from the golf courses of Canada's political elite to munitions factories where widows work, to the front lines of Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge and more. The Great War elicits horror and laughter with the graveyard humour of soldiers, the murderous foolishness of leaders, the absurdity of warfare.

The play follows Canadian officers and infantrymen through the battles of the Ypres Salient, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, the Somme and Amiens, as the war devours ten million lives. Through the action on the Western Front, the home front is glimpsed -- Canadian soldiers storm machine-guns as conscription-resisters are shot in the streets of Quebec City. Under British Command, the Canadian forces suffer 230,000 casualties, 58,000 killed.  Canadians' pride and grief kindle a desire for an independent destiny. The piece spans two 50-minute acts.

The original '93 production of The Great War was presented at the Theatre Centre on the ground floor of a Legion Hall; the WWII veterans who saw the show embraced it as fully as teachers, students, neo-dadaists, history nerds and theatre lovers.  It won Dora Mavor Moore Awards for OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY and COSTUMES, and five further Nominations including OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION.

In May-June 2010, VideoCabaret created a new production of The Great War that played to sold-out crowds for 46 performances and united critics in praise.

The History of the Village of the Small Huts a.k.a. Canada's History Plays: Michael Hollingsworth has written and directed twenty-one plays dramatising Canada's history from Chief Donnacona and Jacques Cartier to recent times -- stories that capture Canadian society high and low, in various eras, seized by various ideas and passions. In each play seven actors portray dozens of  characters, the legends and losers who made this country what it is.

Written and Directed by Michael Hollingsworth
Starring Greg Campbell, Richard Alan Campbell, Richard Clarkin, Kerry Ann Doherty, Mac Fyfe, Anand Rajaram, Dylan Roberts
Lighting Andy Moro, Set Andy Moro, Jim Plaxton, Music Brent Snyder
Costumes Astrid Janson & Sarah Armstrong, Props Brad Harley, Wigs Alice Norton
Sound Designer Justin RoddyProduced by Jim LeFrancois

Tuesday to Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2:30pm
Tickets: Previews & Tuesdays $15, Wednesdays $20, Thursdays & Sundays $25, Fridays & Saturdays $30
Box Office: 416-703-1725  For more Info:

(The second image, btw, is of Canadian soldiers examining German guns after the operation at Canal du Nord)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Robert Schumann 1810-2010 - Art of Time Ensemble

Robert Schumann 1810 - 2010
The Art of Time Ensemble
Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront
September 18, 2010

The Art of Time Ensemble aims to open up the world of classical music, examining its power and range via a combination of performance and contextualized readings, with a couple of twists along the way. They opened their 2010/11 season with a presentation of the work of Schumann.

Given the size of the ensemble, they naturally left out the larger orchestral works, but instead performed a survey of pieces for solo piano, voice and chamber works, including the Andante from his Piano Quartet Op.47, selections from Kreisleriana, a selection of lieder, and the entire Piano Quintet Op.44. The instrumentalists (listed below) were flawless and very expressive in their execution of Schumann's gorgeous repertoire. If nothing else, I was reminded of just how beautiful his work was.

Art of Time performances proceed with a casual kind of sensibility. It was jeans and jacket for Artistic Director Andrew Burashko, and the pieces were interspersed with his readings of letters and Schumann's own writings to put the music into the man's life. The intimacy of the performance makes it a bit like spending the evening with friends who just happen to be incredible musicians.

The "twists" of the evening came in the form of songs. Schumann's lieder were sung with English words by Soulpepper's Mike Ross, and Andy Maize, (founder of the Skydiggers). The English lyrics and popular modern singing technique breathed a whole new dimension into the elegant melodies and harmonies in a way that truly seemed timeless.

Along with his stellar career as a composer, Schumann's life was marked by two major elements - his long and enduring love affair with his wife Clara, and the tragic mental and emotional deterioration that led him to attempt suicide. He spent the last two years of his life in an asylum, shut away even from his Clara. It's a sad ending to such a wonderful output of music - sad that somehow he couldn't have known there would be this level of understanding and appreciation for it two centuries after he was born.

Benjamin Bowman Violin
Andrew Burashko Piano
Steven Dann Viola
Andy Maize Singer
Mike Ross Singer
Timothy Ying Violin
Winona Zelenka Cello

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Studio Museum, Harlem- Zwelethu Mthethwa & other current shows

The Studio Museum
144 West 125th Street, Harlem, New York

All of the exhibitions mentioned continue to October 24, 2010

Zwelethu Mthethwa:  Inner Views

This show of South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa's evocative work puts together three collections. "Interiors" and "Empty Beds" take us into the domestic lives of migrant workers in and around Johannesburg, South Africa. "Common Ground" presents views of houses in post-Katrina New Orleans alongside those of Cape Town, SA, after a series of wildfires ravaged the area.

Zwelethu's work is collaborative rather than that of the dispassionate observer. I think you can see his early training as a painter in the lively use of colours in his photographs, and in their intimacy with their subjects that goes beyond documentary towards a sympathetic portrait. The walls may be cobbled together from unfinished sheets of board or plywood, or unevenly painted concrete, in some of them papered over with magazine pages, posters and labels, but the rooms' inhabitants sit with a quiet dignity and individuality, their clothes and decorations carefully chosen. In Common Ground, he finds the beauty in mud spattered walls and the abstracted patterns of paint and water damage.

Mind you, I've seen apartments like that in the Bronx.

I really enjoyed his work. It's warm hearted, and talks about experience on a human scale. Each images was quite engaging.

Usable Pasts
2009-10 Artists in Residence: Mequitta Ahuja, Lauren Kelley and Valerie Piraino

As the title of the show suggests, the work of the three artists in residence each involves some element of reusing the past. Mequitta Ahuja's work involved large paintings. Their kinetic compositions were most often dominated by the figures of black women in a colour range of dark shades depicted in sinuous lines. Some uses three dimensional elements like enamel and glitter, adding to the mythological dimensions of her work.

Valerie Piraino's installations include family photographs, letters and files given imaginative treatments. In one piece, a series of empty frames were hung on the wall. A slide projector cast a images up, one over the whole wall, another that would fit neatly into one of the frames.

Lauren Kelley's work consists of elaborate dioramas with photographs and scupture, and stop motion animated films. The films range from the amusing adventures of a black stewardess and her Farrah-esque supervisor (done in Barbie-type dolls) with procedural clashes and running makeup, to a dreamy sort of meditation with a French voiceover that doesn't match the English subtitles, where animals in a park-like setting are gradually immersed in goo. In the last, a little girl's voice narrates a story about a pool party as she sinks, unnoticed, to the bottom of the pool.

Hi Res

This show put together work by New York city high school students, each alongside a piece by noted Harlem photographer James Vanderzee. The Vanderzee piece would match the student's in some way, mainly thematically.

Of note, and I'd be curious whether I see their names come up in the future, were 17 year old Adeline Lulo's intriguing figure studies on the beach, and Juliet Martinez' (also 17) sepia toned interiors.