A salmon ‘going home’

King’s Mill Park North, 21 Old Mill Rd, Etobicoke. Playing Sunday, Oct. 17, 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. FREE! Ages 5-10.

www.theatredirect.ca

Created and performed by Alexandra Simpson and Morgan Brie Johnson

Directed by Rebecca Northan

Original compositions by Anders Azzapardi, Stefan Hegerat and Sabine Ndalamba

Puppet design and creation by Alexandra Simpson, Morgan Johnson and Nina Keogh

Wonderful. Wise. Uplifting.

From the play’s information: “Finding Home is the story of two best friends, who also happen to be salmon from Lake Ontario. Beagle and Sojo do everything together (as true best friends always do) – until one day Beagle starts to change and gets the urge to set off on an adventure upstream, whether Sojo wants to come or not. It’s tough to swim against the current of the Humber River and the two face all kinds of challenges together: fishermen, pollution, sharp rocks, and rapids. Along the way they learn what it means to ‘reach maturity’, what it means to be a real friend, how beautiful it is to complete your life cycle, and why salmon really are the rockstars of the fish world!”

This wonderful production takes place, outdoors, on the grass of this park, just down a road to the side of the Old Mill Inn. I arrived very early.  Alexandra Simpson and Morgan Brie Johnson were sitting on one of the sitting mats, applying their make-up for the show, using a simple hand-held mirror (ah the glamour of the theatre). They moved to behind the covering of their band to get into their salmon costumes. (Kudos to the designer!)

Sojo (Morgan Brie Johnson) and Beagle (Alexandra Simpson) are energetic, frisky, irreverent and have their own special code of communicating. Their special code involves flapping hands and bumping bums with stuff in between. Their philosophy of life is simple and direct: “Swim fast. Lay eggs. Leave a beautiful corpse.” It sounds dark but it isn’t. When Beagle begins to change Sojo doesn’t know what’s happening. She knows that she must be there for her friend. Now Beagle is ravenously hungry so Sojo tries to help here. Beagle wants to go on a trip from Lake Ontario up the Humber River. She doesn’t know why. She just does. Sojo follows her. Along the way the friends are separated. Sojo is desperate to find her friend. An unlikely ‘elder’ explains what has happened. Beagle has gone to lay her eggs. Sojo is a bit too young at that point. The ‘elder’ explains this in the kindest, gentlest way. It is the miracle of life and it’s beautifully told without a hint of sadness or regret.   

Finding Home: A Salmon Journey up the Humber River is a wonderful show about life, friendship, love, maturity, birth, death, decay and renewal. It is directed with joyous vitality and imagination by Rebecca Northan. Sojo (Morgan Brie Johnson) and Beagle (Alexandra Simpson) slowly waive their arms behind them suggesting fins moving in the water. Beagle gives birth with Sojo coaching her and supporting her, as loved ones do. Fertilizing the eggs is a thing of beauty. All of this bubbling imagination comes from Rebecca Northan and her gifted creators.

It’s inspired to present this mere meters from  the Humber River where kids can see the salmon swimming/jumping up river or a “beautiful corpse” in the water that replenishes the river banks and air.  

Kudos to Animacy Theater for creating such a gift of a play and for Theatre Direct for bringing it into vibrant life.

Theatre Direct presents an Animacy Theatre Collective production:

Plays until: Oct. 17, 2021 at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm

Running time: 1 hour: 40 minutes for the production and then a short Q and A.

www.theatredirect.ca

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ANNOUNCING BIGGER THAN BIG AND ORGANIZATIONAL RESTRUCTURING AT TIFT
Today Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak announced a consortium program of emerging voices in artistic direction and curation, as well as a restructuring for Talk Is Free Theatre.

Bigger Than BIG Over the last year, together with our Artist BIG cohort (40 artists who are receiving a minimum financial guarantee over the next three years), we have had many conversations about requirements for new types of leadership and new governance structures through which to build a stronger, healthier theatre ecology. And although we have provided a number of artistic producing internships over the years, we needed something bigger that would not only give the next generation of curatorial leaders a welcome environment to formulate their voice, but, together, affect a much bigger change – says Artistic Producer Arkady Spivak.

  Bigger Than BIG will provide seven emerging artistic leaders with an opportunity to work together on new managerial visions, and fresh ideas of governance structures and support systems. At the same time, each participant will develop an artistic practice, a company, or a program of their own. For example, they may also wish to develop their own theatre company under the auspices of the Bigger Than BIG program, be equipped to join an existing organization as an artistic director, or choose to apply the knowledge in a different career path altogether. Artists will be supported with professional salaries in their work, and additional budgets as may be required by their projects.

Organizational Restructuring Taking advantage of this project, TIFT will also re-assign its own staff structure, for the first time since the company’s founding 20 years ago. Michael Torontow will step into the role of Artistic Director of TIFT’s existing scope of work. Torontow is a long-time leading actor, director and project manager with TIFT and beyond, who is also one of the seven inaugural Bigger than BIG artists. Torontow will report to the Founding Artistic Producer, Arkady Spivak, who will move into a CEO role, responsible for the overall strategic direction of Talk Is Free Theatre and Bigger Than BIG.

  Our Board of Directors is thrilled to support the Bigger Than BIG program and to welcome this cohort of artists. This project is another example of TIFT’s commitment to celebrating artists as the multi-faceted creators that they are, and providing platforms for an important diversity of voices. With these artists working in tandem we are confident that Talk Is Free Theatre will not only remain one of Canada’s most innovative theatre companies, but will further transform the paradigm of all that a theatre company can be, and can encompass. -Betony Main, TIFT Board of Directors
Seven Inaugural Artists of Bigger Than BIG include:

Noah Beemer “For me, what is really exciting about this initiative is the opportunity to explore new ways of working and ultimately producing theatre/the arts. I’m interested in investigating how we can best support one another both in the room and onstage, and in doing so make the most thrilling art we are capable of!”

Alexis Gordon
“My hope, my dream – through my own experiences, moments, and obstacles as a performer in this industry – is to strengthen our community with better tools of communication.  If communicating an idea or story is the base of most art, we, in the theatre industry, deserve so much more support. Working with TIFT on the beginnings of our Two-Way Mentorship Program and Community Safe Space Project Initiative the past few months, has grounded me in goals that are based in the humans in our rooms, our community, alongside the art. What happens when we make an investment in the group, in kindness, in giving and in sharing together? What can we create if our leaders, and if each member, is strengthened with communication tools and better support? That is the leader I want to learn to be through this initiative: to bring together, to listen more and learn, to support and to share with each artist and creator I meet.”

Gabe Maharjan “I hope we will trade the comfort and security we find in established systems in exchange for the vitality that is the continual process of reconstructing the structures.”

Joe Pagnan “I am elated to be given this opportunity of creativity focused on eco-poethos; our inextricable relation of space and identity. I hope through explorations centred on rural and environmental experiences to reinvest appreciation of natural phenomena not always easy to witness within a theatrical framework. I cannot wait to begin the journey with this esteemed cohort of creators and learners.” 

David Andrew Reid “The role of an Artistic Director comprises at the core: curation and leadership; the art and the people. Through this program I look forward to developing my voice as an artistic leader: learning how I may use myself to facilitate a brave space of artistic expression and development for others and also a brave space of operating and existing in the theatre industry.”

Merlin Simard “What are the ways that we can reimagine structures of artistic leadership from the ground up? For me, taking part in this program is a means to seek alternative ways to conceive of what it is to curate from a place of equity and care. It’s a commitment to develop a newfound sense of self-awareness over my existing practice.”

Michael Torontow “My journey with Talk Is Free Theatre began nearly eight years ago. In that time, as a TIFT artist, I have quite literally pounded the Barrie pavement, sung operatically as a sheep, played the gutters of London, UK, won awards in Australia, and coaxed crows to caw on cue. My amazement at what TIFT artists can do just grows and grows. I am thrilled to be able to help guide the journey forward and take Arkady’s innovation and care of artists to new heights.”

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The CAMINOS 2021 Festival is a huge endeavor of works-in-progress produced by Aluna Theatre taking place Oct. 12-24.  CAMINOS 2021 is a multi-arts celebration of 32 works-in-progress involving over 100 artists. These are on-line, in audio form or in person instillations.

Beatriz Pizano, the fearless Artistic Director of Aluna and this festival, has said in the festival’s introduction, that many worlds and visions bridge cultural divides, connecting North and South America and elsewhere through the arts. Aluna theatre is joined with Native Earth and Factory Theatre to present this festival.

Because these are works in progress, formal reviews are not really wanted. A reasonable request.

But I can comment on the huge cross section of stuff in that first day. An audio piece called Savage is a Word in the English Dictionary by Brefny Caribou is about an Indigenous experience of a young student in school.

A Brazil flag emoji. 47 is a monologue about aspects of gay sexual relations, between a younger man and older man.

Taura is a dance piece imagining if three people were in fact bulls. The piece seemed complete to me. It was vibrant, muscular, graceful, elegant and powerful.

There is even a hint of a tiktok piece called One Perfect Day about a wedding planner planning a wild wedding.

The CAMINOS 2021 Festival provides a fascinating cross-section of ideas, stories, experiences and performance styles. I look forward to the others as they are revealed as on line for the most part.

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I often see productions with people I admire more than once.  This production of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women certainly fit that bill. In the play we see the three women at three stages in their lives, playing A, B and C. 

It was directed by Diana Leblanc whose work I admire for its sensitivity and depth.  It had Lucy Peacock in the cast  whose work I’ve loved over the years, playing B with subtle understatement and wonderful humour. (Mamie Zettler played C and Andrew Iles played “The Boy”—both of whom I want to see act again).

But at the centre of this production was Martha Henry playing A. I knew this would be something special. She is a towering presence in the theatre in this country and certainly at the Stratford Festival. Every performance of hers is an education in acting, theatre and being human.

I had my review tickets for the beginning of the run, but knew that I wanted to see it at the end as well. The run was sold out. I put myself on various wait-lists for several performances and got lucky when I got a ticket for the very last one. As thrilling as the early performance was, this final one was more so: gut-wrenching, luminous, dangerous and full of spirit and guts, all because of the woman at the centre of it.

One is aware of the passing of time when one sees a veteran like Martha Henry. She played Prospero in The Tempest three years ago when she was 80. She is now 83 and she just finished this run of Three Tall Women. I fluctuate thinking she can go on forever playing whatever part she wants, to wondering, is this the last time I’ll see Martha Henry on a stage.So I went again, for her last performance in this play.

Was it much different than when I first saw the show? It certainly was deeper, richer. A is a cantankerous, obstreperous, pampered, paranoid, racist woman.  She holds racist beliefs about many ethnicities and is bold about expressing her racism in offensive language.  She says that her son has scolded her for that language but she seems perplexed by that.  So in that performance we see that arrogance of class against minorities as if that’s what she knew and didn’t know any better. But her son was from that class and presumably of the world and he learned that racism was reprehensible and told his mother directly—where no one else did. Such quiet scenes just leapt out.

Watching Martha Henry as A was watching a master manipulator, as A brow-beat the underlings there—the two women in her employ. It was a masterclass in watching how language can be used to play tricks, games and tell jokes when you least expect it. And a masterclass of how a great actress uses that language in different ways. You expect a word to be said a certain way, and she changes it up for the same or better effect.

When I first reviewed this production, Martha Henry? The character? used a walker to maneuver the stage. And she was dexterous in shifting it around.  In this last performance she was in a wheelchair. Not a motorized one but one in which she pushed the wheels and maneuvered the room.

In one scene, A’s son has come to visit and he’s lying on a divan with his knees folded along it. Martha Henry drives that wheelchair towards that divan and rams it on purpose to get the silent son to be startled and move his legs. Then she backs up and rams it again. She is showing him her contempt. It was frightening, combative and true for the character.

At the bow, the audience was rapturous with applause and Martha Henry glowed with triumph. Antoni Cimolino, the artistic director of Stratford was there, and presented Martha Henry with a huge bouquet of yellow roses and went down on one knee, like a courtier, to give her the bouquet. She beamed at that.  Then she waved to the audience as she was wheeled off.

You wonder, is that a wave of good-bye? An evening full of such brilliance and emotion. I was so grateful I was there.

Here is the link to my review of Three Tall Women:

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Live and in person at the Firehall Theatre of the Thousand Islands Playhouse, Ganaoque, Ont. until October 30, 2021.

www.1000islandsplayhouse.com

Written by Marcia Johnson

Directed by Marcel Stewart

Set and costumes designed by Rachel Forbes

Sound by Andrew Penner

Lighting by Echo Zhou

Cast: Shannon Currie

Jordin Hall

Marcia Johnson

Makambe K Simamba

Andy Trithardt

The Story. The story takes place in two time periods in two places: 1952 in Kenya and in 2015 in London, England. In 1952 in Kenya, Mercy a restaurant owner, is hired to cook for the impending visit of Princess Elizabeth (soon to be Queen) and the Duke of Edinburgh.  

 In 2015, in London, England, Tia a young Kenyan-born Canadian, is working as an intern on a TV drama series about the British royal family (think The Crown) – while also pursuing a writing project of her own.

In both the 1952 section and the 2015 section the story initially is being told and managed by white voices to the exclusion of black voices. And then Mercy in Kenya1952 and Tia in London in 2015 decide to correct the exclusion.

Comment. In his program note, director Marcel Stewart writes: “Our play…explores many themes—roots and inheritance, family loss and succession, female leadership, to name a few. Perhaps the most interesting though is that of perspective. This story could be about Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Kenya, where she would ultimately become queen, and it can also be about a country on the precipice of a liberation movement in the quest for independence from its colonial oppressors.

Serving Elizabeth challenges out thinking by showing us a world where the past is present and the present is past. Tia’s journey forward taking a stand against Maurice Gilder runs parallel with the story of Mercy and Faith’s service to Elizabeth. By telling this story Marcia critically examines the significance of liberating ourselves through imagination, a notion not often afforded to marginalized people living in the western world. This play uses representation and imagination to reconsider how we tell stories about colonialism.”

In her programme note, playwright Marcia Johnson explains where her idea for the play came from. She was watching an episode of The Crown. “I found out about the Thousand Islands Playhouse Playwrights’ unit colonial-themed Call for Submissions the day after I saw The Crown’s Kenya episode where African characters were firmly in the background. Writing a play was just what I needed to vent my frustration while giving voice to under-represented people. My hope is that audiences will question what we have all accepted as the official story.”

Serving Elizabeth has been nurtured, developed and now programmed by the Thousand Islands Playhouse. The journey comes full circle with a few stops along the way, one being at the Stratford Festival for the 2021 season.

The Production. I was intrigued to see this production at the Thousand Islands Playhouse because playwright Marcia Johnson was playing Mercy. She certainly brings a wealth and depth of emotion to the part. Her playing of Mercy is spirited, feisty and full of dignity.

The audience sits on three sides of the playing area. Rachel Forbes has created a set in which there are two arched entrances, one upstage and one downstage. There is a table and chairs downstage right (if one is sitting in the centre of the house) which look like they would be for the Kenya (1952) scenes. There is also a ceiling fan that revolves in the Kenya scenes. Upstage left, (if one is in the centre of the house) is a table and sturdy office chairs suggesting these would be for the London (2015) scenes.

At first I thought that director Marcel Stewart and lighting designer Echo Zhou were going to indicate the different time periods and locations with lighting cues on the different areas of the set. This would have simplified matters rather than re-arranging furniture for each scene. However the latter was the way of changing locations etc. The cast did a lot of moving of tables and chairs for different locations.

Also, I thought it would have been helpful for there to be some notification in the programme of the two different time periods and the locations, or lighting cues with that information flashed on the three sides of the set. The issues are so important that even a second of confusion takes away from them.

The cast is confident and compelling. Makambe K Simamba as Faith in the Kenya scenes and Tia in the London scenes establishes her characters’ attitudes and convictions with clarity and economy. Andy Trithardt  plays Talbot in the Kenya scenes with the respectful diplomacy, as a representative of the Royal Family. Marcia Johnson has written him with compassion. Trithardt also plays Maurice Gilder in the London scenes, and he plays him with that touch of arrogance and condescension. Jordin Hall plays both Montague and Steven with distinct definition. Shannon Currie is a regal, cool Princess Elizabeth until Mercy breaks through that coolness to reveal a woman who wants to listen and make a difference. She also plays Robin in the London scenes, as an ambitious woman who seems to want to give Tia an opportunity to get ahead.    

Comment. Serving Elizabeth asks provocative questions worth exploring but by setting the play in two time periods that shift back and forth with each scene, the story becomes confusing and the weight of the issues is weakened. It did get me thinking that if the two time periods were separate on their own the arguments would be made and context established clearly. Still, I am glad I saw this production and hope more people see it as well.

Produced by Thousand Islands Playhouse:

Plays until Oct. 30, 2021.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

www.1000islandsplayhouse.com

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Tuesday, Oct. 12- 24,  2021.

TransAmerican Multi-arts Festival ‘Caminos’

This is a wonderful festival.

ALUNA THEATRE ANNOUNCES 4TH ITERATION OF TRANSAMERICAN MULTI-ARTS FESTIVAL ‘CAMINOS’  – In partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Factory Theatre, CAMINOS 2021 will present a combination of digital and live performance/installations featuring 32 projects involving the work of over 100 artists, as well as a series of in-depth conversations about performance from across the Americas from October 12-24, 2021.

Since its first iteration in 2015, CAMINOS has become an important platform for diversity and inclusion in Toronto’s theatre community. This year the festival looks to broaden its reach across the country and continue to provide opportunities for artists of diverse backgrounds to showcase and develop their works alongside a supportive community.

Aluna’s TransAmerican vision is a tapestry of cultures, backgrounds, and the identities of the many diasporic communities that all live, breathe, work and create on this land. The works-in-process that will be featured as part of this year’s line-up expand across a variety of mediums, languages and communities, and each provides a uniquely immersive experience for its audience.

“CAMINOS was envisioned as a platform that would allow artists to explore and experiment; dismantle eurocentric performance traditions; devise their own way of telling stories; develop new creation processes that speak to who they are; create presenting opportunities for artists; and create bridges between artists and their communities.

The artists this year challenge our perceptions of what, how, for whom, and with whom we create through theatre, dance, performance, photography, installations, and digital explorations. From stories that begin here in our neighborhoods all the way to the south of the continent, artists explore the many languages of love, gender and identities.” – Beatriz Pizano, Artistic Director

Full programming available at caminos.ca

Tuesday, Oct. 12-17,  2021

Finding Home

From Theatre Direct

For school runs and for public runs.

CLOWN, LIVE MUSIC AND PUPPETS AT FINDING HOME!
A hilarious and heartfelt new “salmon-y” site-specific show staged overlooking the Humber River–home to the annual salmon run–from Animacy Theatre Collective!

Theatre Direct is so excited to present Finding Home: A Salmon Journey up the Humber River created by Alex Simpson and Morgan Johnson and directed by Rebecca Northan (Blind Date, Canadian Comedy Award and Dora Award winner).

School Run:
Tuesday October 12 to Friday October 15, 2021 
10am | 2pm 

Public Run:

Saturday October 16 and Sunday October 17, 2021
10am | 2pm

All shows including school bookings are FREE!
RESERVE A SPOT FOR YOUR FAMILY
BOOK A SCHOOL SHOW

Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. 6:00 pm EDT.

Playwrights Canada Press

Press Play Reading Series

Join Playwrights Canada Press in a showcase of readings from newly published playwrights and translators! Featuring Olivier Sylvestre and Bobby Theodore (The Law of Gravity), Marie-Claude Verdier and Alexis Diamond (Andy’s Gone), Andrea Mapili & Byron Abalos (Through the Bamboo), and Cat Walsh (Do This In Memory of Me).

Register to attend here.

Saturday Oct. 16 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 matinee

FOLLIES IN CONCERT

Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music.

SEASON GALA: Follies in Concert

October 16, 2021 | 8:00 PM

BUY TICKETS

  • Starting at: $99.00
  • Venue: Koerner Hall
  • Series: Special Performances
  • Genre: Jazz, Pop
  • Presenter: The Royal Conservatory

Season Gala: Follies in Concert

Starring Cynthia Dale, Ma-Anne Dionisio, Eric McCormack, and Marcus Nance
with Jenni Burke, Mary Lou Fallis, Denise Fergusson, Lorraine Foreman, Ben Heppner, Roger Honeywell, Charlotte Moore, Jackie Richardson, and Avery Saltzman and featuring Gabriel Antonacci, Tess Benger, Katelyn Bird, Andrew Broderick, and Kimberly-Ann Truong


Marcus Nance, Ben
Cynthia Dale, Phyllis
Eric McCormack, Buddy
Ma-Anne Dionisio, Sally
Charlotte Moore, Carlotta
Jackie Richardson, Stella
Lorraine Foreman, Hattie
Denise Fergusson, Solange
Jenni Burke, Emily
Avery Saltzman, Theodore
Roger Honeywell, Roscoe
Ben Heppner, Dmitri
Mary Lou Fallis, Heidi
Andrew Broderick, Young Ben
Tess Benger, Young Phyllis
Gabriel Antonacci, Young Buddy
Kimberly-Ann Truong, Young Sally
Katelyn Bird, Young Heidi
 
Book by James Goldman
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Richard Ouzounian
Music Director Paul Sportelli
Designer Nick Blais
Choreography by Genny Sermonia
Produced originally on Broadway by Harold Prince
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
By special arrangements with Cameron Mackintosh and Music Theatre International

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Live, in person in Victoria Park Tent, Kitchener and on-line as part of IMPACT21, hosted by MT Space, produced by Red Sky Performance (Toronto). Plays, Oct. 8 and 9, 2021.

www.mtspace.com

TRACE

Director and concept, Sandra Laronde

Choreography by Jera Wolfe

Music and sound design by Eliot Britton

Lighting by Alexis Bowles

Costumes by Kinoo Arcentales

Cast: Miyeko Ferguson

Lindsay Harpham

Tyler Layton-Olson

Sarah Di Lorio

Jessica Mak

Connor Mitton

From the production information: “We are traceable to the very beginnings of the universe, our ancestral origins stretching across the Milky Way to the atoms burning inside of us in the ‘her and now’ on earth. Trace is a highly kinetic contemporary dance work inspired by Indigenous (Anishinaabe) sky and star stories, offering a glimpse into our origin as well as our future evolution….

Red Sky Performance is a leading company of contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and worldwide.

Led by Artistic Director Sandra Laronde of the Teme-Augama-Anishinaabe (People of the Deep Water), they are currently in their 18th year of dance, theatre, music and media.

Their mission is to create inspiring experiences of contemporary Indigenous arts and culture that transform society. They create, produce, and disseminate new creations and events that illuminate themes, aesthetics, and values of importance to Indigenous peoples.

They significantly influence the evolution of Indigenous-made work and share their work across Canadian provinces and territories and with the world.”

Dance has such a specific vocabulary that I confess I don’t possess. But the energy and pulse of Red Sky Performance is so visceral, so vivid that you are held in its thrall. The piece starts with a dancer being held aloft by her five colleagues, as if floating in space. Since the production information notes that this piece it inspired by Indigenous sky and star stories. That leads me to imagine the dancers are echoing space. As the description states,” it’s a highly kinetic dance work.” Eliot Britton’s percussive score pulses and throbs with energy, beat and propulsion. Jera Wolfe’s choreography makes one long to know what the vocabulary means and what stories are referenced. The piece takes you into another world and makes one want to know more, as all good art does.

Produced by Red Sky Performance

Performs: Oct. 9, 2021.

Running time: 60 minutes.

www.mtspace.com

 Stretch Marks

Written and directed by Vanessa Spence

Costume, hair, make-up by Janissa Cyrus

Voice actor, Vanessa Spence

Cast: Sarah Nairne

From the production information: “Sasha, a pregnant, transracial adoptee, attempts to beat her gestational clock as she battles with her past, present, and future to decide whether she should keep her unplanned child or place them for adoption.”

Sasha is six weeks from her due date. As she starts her monologue, she muses: “How will it end?” She’s had eight months to think about her baby, the relationship that got her to this place, and her own issues with being a transracial adoptee.

Sasha weighs the pros and cons of an issue in order to make a decision. The problem is that she sees both sides equally and can’t make a decision. She thought of having an abortion when she found out she was pregnant. She weighed the pros and cons and could not decide. She is now six weeks from having the baby and has reasons for keeping the baby and for giving the baby up for adoption.

She is told she can be involved in the adoption process. Thinking about her own situation—being a transracial child adopted by a white couple—she looks through a book of couples who want to adopt. None are Black. This infuriates Sasha. How will the child know they are Black if they don’t have Black parents? It’s a problem she and we learn about in this compelling play.  Sasha had been asking about her birth mother for a long time and was only given the papers on her birth mother when she was 18-years-old.

Stretch Marks can look like the cyclical story of a young woman who gets pregnant and has to give up her baby for adoption. The baby grows up, gets pregnant and has to give up her baby for adoption. But Stretch Marks is much more than that.

Vanessa Spence is a thoughtful, graceful writer. She makes the audience patiently wait to hear how Sasha came to this situation. First we must learn about Sasha’s measured thinking; her dreams, hopes and happiness; her longings to learn about her birth mother; and then we learn about her relationship which resulted in this pregnancy.

We learn that Sasha didn’t realize that she didn’t look like her adoptive parents until she was four years old. Her parents never explained that she was adopted until she was 18 -years-old and that’s because her birth mother wanted her to be given the papers when Sasha was 18. That said, Sasha says her parents waited three months after she was 18-years-old before they told her. That hesitation rankled. She was never taught she was Black by her parents. She learned that from her bullying classmates.

Stretch Marks is a compelling play about race, dreams, hopes, love, identity and belonging. It is beautifully written by Vanessa Spence and acted with delicacy and nuance by Sarah Nairne.

This is the last show I’m seeing from this year’s IMPACT21 Festival. Each production has taken us into a different world with different stories and experiences. I love the selection of shows, the breadth of expression and being challenged. Love this festival.

Produced by Virtu Arts,

Performs: Oct. 9, 2021.

Running time: 70 minutes.

www.mtspace.com

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Hi all. On CRITICS CIRCLE, CIUT 89.5 fm tomorrow, Sat, Oct. 9 from 9 am to 10 am I’m interviewing Rob Kempson, the new Artistic Producer of the Cameco Capitol Arts Centre in Port Hope, and I’m reviewing, AS YOU LIKE IT, a radical retelling by Cliff Cardinal at Crow’s Theatre, held over until Oct. 24.

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Live in person City Hall—William St. Parking Lot. Waterloo, Ont, and on-line. Part of IMPACT 21 from MTSPACE21. I saw the last on-line performance.

www.mtspace.ca

Inspired by “Memories of Fire” by Eduardo Galeano

Co-presented with Neruda Arts

La Patagallina y Ciclicus, Chile

Directed by Martin Erazo (Chile)

Original idea and dramaturgy by Martin Erazo and Leandro Mendoza

Musical creation and interpretation, Alejandra Muñoz

Wardrobe design, Antonio Sepulveda

Lighting by Martin Erazo

Accessory and headdress design by Gabriela Gonzalez and Natalie Morales

Puppets (Apu Condor) Tomas O’Ryan

Sound Design by Pablo Contreras

Cast: Francisca Arce

Gloria Salgado

Francisca Artaza

Valentina Weingart

Alex Carreño

Matias Burgos

Juan Ferino

From the show information: “A funeral is transformed into a pagan celebration, a coffin becomes a portal which brings forth the voices of Atahualpa and Jemanya, and the rituals of the Yawar and shrines to the dead are put on display in this rustic opera. Physical theater and contemporary circus mix and meld, breathing life into a series of dreamlike landscapes through the use of object manipulation, poetic imagery, and live music. A Latin America under construction is presented in this dynamic production that speaks to us about the tension that exists between our memory of the past and our experience of the present, raising the questions: How much of that past have we lost? How much of it lives within us in the present? Is it possible to reconnect with that past?”

What a terrific company of street theater artists, acrobats, jugglers and wonderful storytellers. The symbol of death—a skull and the outline of skeleton is maneuvered around the stage—the skull is held above the formation of the skeleton. The outline of the body is composed of what looks like bowling pins. The pins are held in such a way that they look like the skeleton’s arms and legs. Later the bowling pins will be used in complex juggling formations. A coffin is carried by the cast around the stage—the skull is on the side. Later the coffin is propped on the narrow edge and the lid is open. The cast enter the stage from a slit in the back of the coffin. There are so many inventive images in this creation it’s eye-popping.

The stories that are told are stories of explorers coming from elsewhere and slowly taking over the land. One story is that the people had the land and the visitors had the Bible. When the people woke up from sleep, they had the Bible and the visitors had the land. This is South America. It could be anywhere as we all know. This is what impressed me most about the piece, rather than the memory aspect of it. The truth of stolen land is so prevalent in so many histories.

The theatricality of the company is so vivid. Loved it. I would love to have seen this company live because the filming of it was frustrating. Whoever was filming this could not leave any scene untouched for more that 10 seconds so that we can at least focus on the group, their athleticism and theatricality. The camera jumped from side shots to close ups to medium shots so frequently and so quickly it was aggravating. I’ll look out for this company again.

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On line and live at City Hall—William St. Parking Lot, Waterloo, Ont. Part of IMPACT 21, Oct. 8, 2021.

www.mtspace.ca

Written by Henrietta Baird

Directed by Liza-Mare Syron

Choreography by Vicki Van Hout

Sound and composition by Nick Wales and Rhyan Clapham (Dobby)

Lighting by Karen Norris

Set by Kevin O’Brien

Performed by Shakira Clanton

A stunning, gut-twisting piece of theatre from Australia.

From the show information: “Lara, a Sydney mum working interstate (Queensland) as a dancer, receives a distress call from her youngest son, Kyle. Dad hasn’t been seen for days and they are running out of food. Lara has only the weekend to traverse the world of high-rise public housing, drug dealing, and addiction to track him down.”

When Lara flies home from Queensland she hugs her two songs, Kyle and Charlie and questions them about their father, Simon. He just up and left them says the boys. Lara then spends hours calling Simon’s phone with no answer. Finally a woman in a rough voice answers. This is Ronnie. Lara wangles the address out of her and she goes over to confront Simon. The address is a high-rise complex of public housing. The elevator has blood and excrement on the walls and buttons to take you to the floors. Lara almost gags on the stench.

When she gets to Ronnie’s apartment she finds Ronnie, a gruff woman who deals drugs. She lost her two children when she left them in the care of her sister. Her sister was busted and the cops took the children away. In the apartment are various people strung out on drugs. Lara then spends time with Ronnie chasing every lead to find her husband who just stepped out to get some drinks. Lara is plunged into a world of addiction in which mother passes on the addictions to her children. Ronnie gave a young hysterical teen some drugs to calm her down (this was the only way she knew to do it). The young teen then became an addict as well.

Playwright Henrietta Baird has created a vivid, sordid world of the addict. It’s a world peopled by people who want to find their place, love, something positive. And yet she does not judge her characters. We see that world through Lara’s eyes, her desperation to find her partner, Simon, and take him to task for leaving their children alone without food for days. It’s a world where Lara is shocked by the addictions and desperation she is seeing. But her lack of judgement, her compassion for these people is hopeful in a way.

She has a realization at the end, that she might be like these people, (I won’t be specific) that I found might be a bit too quick a conclusion. It does make sense, but it seems to come too quickly. We need more information to build up to it.

A large standing mirror is on a bare stage. As Lara, Shakira Clanton dances onto the space in an energetic dance performance. She holds out her arms and then wraps them around her shoulders. She strokes her arms. She skitters from side to side of the space. There are other movements that are part of the routine. It lasts about five minutes.

Then she goes behind the mirror and comes back around it putting on a jacket and tells us that she got a call from her youngest child Kyle and she tells us she flies home. As she narrates the story—the embracing of the kids, the search for Simon etc. she repeats all the movements of the dance but this time there is meaning. Her arms stretched our is Lara reaching for her children to hug them; stroking her arms is her stoking theirs. Skittering across the stage is the speed with which she begins her search for Simon. It is wonderful how choreographer Vicky Van Hout created a dance to interpret what writer Henrietta Baird was saying in words. Nick Wales and Ryan Clapham (Dobby) created a subtle percussive soundscape and score of beats and sounds that made the whole experience evocative of throbbing and a heart-beating,

Terrific.

Produced by Moogahlin Performing Arts, Sydney, Australia

Plays: Oct. 8, 2021.

Running time: 70 minutes.

www.mtspace.ca/IMPACT21

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