2020 TORONTO THEATRE CRITICS’ AWARD WINNERS

 
TORONTO, ON – Undaunted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a shortened season, the Toronto Theatre Critics’ Awards have returned to honour excellence—and this year, resourcefulness as well—in the city’s professional theatre. The 10th annual TTCAs boast 30 winners in 14 categories spanning the 2019-2020 season, including a special citation for creativity in the face of the health crisis. 
 
Outside the March, Obsidian Theatre and Crow’s Theatre were the big winners this year. OtM and Crow’s were cited for Best Production of a Play, Best Ensemble and Best Design for their co-production of The Flick, which also won the Best International Play Award for American playwright Annie Baker. Another Crow’s co-pro, Ghost Quartet, a collaboration with the new Eclipse Theatre Company, won two awards in the musical division: Best Ensemble and Best Director, for Marie Farsi. 
 
OtM, meanwhile, received this year’s special citation for its quick and clever response to the COVID quarantine, a personalized telephone experience via its Ministry of Mundane Mysteries
 
Obsidian Theatre’s outgoing artistic director, Philip Akin, was hailed with not one, but two Best Director awards: for Actually, a campus drama about consent and rape culture, produced by the Harold Green Jewish Theatre in association with Obsidian, and for Pass Over, a poetic drama about race relations produced by Obsidian at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Pass Over also landed a Best Ensemble award for its cast. Obsidian’s teamwork with the Musical Stage Company netted two awards: Best Lead Performance in a Musical, for Jully Black, and Best Supporting Performance, for Vanessa Sears, both for the civil-rights-era musical Caroline, or Change
 
Black shared the Best Lead award with Chilina Kennedy, who starred in the North American tour of The Band’s Visit. That show, presented by Mirvish Productions, also picked up Best Production of a Musical. Another Mirvish musical, the Bob Dylan-inspired Girl from the North Country, won a Best Director prize for Conor McPherson.
 
Soulpepper Theatre, meanwhile, grabbed a couple of awards, with Best Performance in a Play going to both Amy Rutherford in A Streetcar Named Desire and Daren A. Herbert in Jesus Hopped the “A” Train. For the second year in a row, the TTCAs eliminated gender categories in its acting awards. Sarah Dodd received Best Supporting Performance for her role in Coal Mine Theatre’s futuristic Marjorie Prime
 
The Best New Canadian Play Award goes to Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie for The Jungle, their contemporary reimagining of Upton Sinclair’s muckraking classic, which had its world premiere at Tarragon Theatre. 
 
The Toronto Theatre Critics’ Awards were founded in 2011 and are given out on an annual basis by a jury of professional theatre critics, whose outlets include The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, NOW Magazine, The Slotkin Letter, Stage Door, Intermission, Ludwig van Toronto, cushmancollected.com and paulacitron.ca. This year’s jury members are Paula Citron, Robert Cushman, Steve Fisher, Karen Fricker, Carly Maga, Martin Morrow, Lynn Slotkin and Glenn Sumi.
 
This year’s awards will be given out in an online ceremony that will double as a fundraiser for The AFC. Formerly known as the Actors’ Fund of Canada, The AFC is a national charity with a mission to help Canadian entertainment professionals maintain their health, dignity and ability to work. The TTCAs will be streamed live on The AFC’s YouTube channel on Monday, June 22, at 7 p.m. ET. 
 
For further information, please contact Glenn Sumi at glenns@nowtoronto.com. A complete list of the winners follows:
 
 
COMPLETE LIST OF 2020 TTCA WINNERS
 
Play Division 
 
Best New Canadian Play 
 
The Jungle by Anthony MacMahon and Thomas McKechnie (Tarragon Theatre)
 
Best International Play 
 
The Flick by Annie Baker (Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre)
 
Best Lead Performance in a Play 
 
Daren A. Herbert in Jesus Hopped the “A” Train (Soulpepper Theatre)
 
Amy Rutherford in A Streetcar Named Desire (Soulpepper Theatre)
 
Best Supporting Performance in a Play 
 
Sarah Dodd in Marjorie Prime (Coal Mine Theatre)
 
Best Ensemble Performance in a Play 
 
Colin Doyle, Amy Keating, Durae McFarlane and Brendan McMurtry-Howlett in The Flick (Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre) 
 
Kaleb Alexander, Mazin Elsadig and Alex McCooeye in Pass Over (Obsidian Theatre)
 
Best Director of a Play 
 
Philip Akin, Actually (Harold Green Jewish Theatre Co. and Obsidian Theatre Co.)
 
Philip Akin, Pass Over (Obsidian Theatre Co.)
 
Best Production of a Play 
 
The Flick, produced by Outside the March and Crow’s Theatre 
 
 
Musical Division 
 
Best Lead Performance in a Musical
 
Jully Black in Caroline, or Change (Musical Stage Co. and Obsidian Theatre Co.)
 
Chilina Kennedy in The Band’s Visit (Mirvish Productions)
 
Best Supporting Performance in a Musical 
 
Vanessa Sears in Caroline, or Change (Musical Stage Co. and Obsidian Theatre Co.)
 
Best Ensemble Performance in a Musical 
 
Beau Dixon, Hailey Gillis, Kira Guloien and Andrew Penner in Ghost Quartet (Crow’s Theatre and Eclipse Theatre Co.)
 
Best Director of a Musical 
 
Marie Farsi, Ghost Quartet (Crow’s Theatre and Eclipse Theatre Co.)
 
Conor McPherson, Girl from the North Country (Mirvish Productions)
 
Best Production of a Musical 
 
The Band’s Visit, produced by Orin Wolf, Stylesfour Productions, Evamere Entertainment, Atlantic Theater Co. et al., presented by David Mirvish 
 
Best Design, Play or Musical 
 
Nick Blais, Nick Bottomley, Anahita Dehbonehie and Richard Feren for The Flick (Outside the March, Crow’s Theatre) 
 
Special Citation – For Creative Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
 
The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries by Outside the March 
 
 

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Junior International Children’s Festival, Virtually Junior edition.

For the last three years Harbourfront has produced the Junior International Children’s Festival over the Victoria Day Weekend. This year because of COVID-19 the Junior Festival, May 16-18 was on line, hence, Virtually Junior. It’s billed as “Big Thoughts For Growing Minds” and the roster of events proves that. It has been co-curated by Natalie Bonjour and Mary Francis Moore. Bravo to them both.

This year there were 21 events on offer over the Victoria Day weekend (and still up on-line for your enjoyment) that ranged from: films, nature walks that explore the Humber River or looks at the life cycle of bees—Harbourfront Centre raises bees on its roof and collects the honey (for sale?) in the Fall—storytelling, crafts and performances in dance, song and comedy.

I was particularly impressed with the following (in no particular order) for so many reasons:

Story Time with Fay Slift.

Fay usually performs with Fluffy, but Fluffy was taking care of people on the West Coast, so Fay performed solo.

Fay is dramatic in a huge swooping pink wig and pink-strapless gown, startlingly made up in glittery, muti-coloured eye-shadow, eye-liner, mascara, eyelashes, red lipstick, a beautifully groomed salt and pepper beard (yes) and the most generous, open heart. Fay read three books with stories for our time: I’m Worried by Michael Ian Black that addresses concerns that young children might be going through; Be You by Peter H. Reynolds about being proud and happy with who you are and know all the good things about oneself; and The Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak that has no pictures but lots of wonderfully wonky ‘words’ that the reader must say out loud.

As usual, Fay offers the young audience compassion, understanding, kindness, support, trust, faith, hope and humour.  He says that if something is bothering you to talk to a trusted adult or older sibling. You are not alone and don’t need to carry the burden of your worries by yourself. A wonderful message.  

Deconfine Me

By Aguibou  Bougobali Sanou a dancer-choreographer from Burkina Faso.

This is an excerpt of a larger piece called Talking to My Mom. It is a poem and dance in response to self-imposed isolation, with his mother in mind all the way from Burkina Faso. Aguibou Bougobali Sanou performs it in a grove of trees. The movement at times is free and open and other times it’s confined and restrictive. It expresses so many emotions we are all feeling while we are in isolation and longing to connect with those we love who are far way.

For me, the most important events were contributions from Indigenous artists who brought wisdom, generosity, an embracing attitude and their respect and knowledge of the land to share with their audience.

Nature Walk with Alan Colley.

Alan Colley, of Toronto Aboriginal Eco Tours, gave a nature walk along the Humber River. His mission was to bring people out into nature so they can connect to the land in a meaningful way.  He said the Humber River and its environs were not only things of beauty but also they could be considered a grocery and a pharmacy. He pointed out the various plants that were edible: violets, garlic mustard and horsetail. The river was teaming with various species of fish, equalled by the wildlife on the land. Colley’s respect for the land and river was matched by his enthusiasm in talking about it. When physical distancing is over I’ll take that tour.

Strawberry Moon Teachings with Kim Wheatley

Kim Wheatley is from Shawnaga First Nation, an Anishinaabe Ojiway Grandmother.

She greeted us she said, “In the various languages that the traditional peoples of these lands have spoken for time immemorial.” When she said in English, “Greetings, my relatives,” my heart melted.

As she said, “You are never too old to hear a story” and told the story of two brothers who went into the woods to wrestle. One of them died and the other brother tried to hide his crime. Eventually twines formed at the spot of the death, with a perfect red strawberry in the twines. The strawberry is in the shape of a heart and a drop of blood. Kim Wheatley talked of the Strawberry Moon, the traditions surrounding it and the folklore.

Cody Coyote, An Indigenous Voice in Canadian Music.

Mr. Coyote is Ojibwe. He sings of a child surviving the “60s Scoop”; of youth being told they aren’t good enough, or can’t do something, or is considered a loser and contending with that attitude and prevailing. In his comments to his audience he talks of doing small acts of kindness, “rock with each other”, “and if you aren’t Indigenous, come into our circle, share what we have…let’s live in harmony.”

Chats and Crafts with Lesley McCue

Lesley McCue is from Curve Lake First Nation. She made crafts referencing the animals and birds of the land illuminated in light. She also talked of the Seven Ancestral Teachings which certainly are important during this time in isolation: Respect, Bravery, Love, Honesty, Humility, Truth and Wisdom. Interestingly these teachings are also the basis of the programming at Young People’s Theatre.

In these sometimes divisive, angry times, the inclusive, embracing message of these artists is heart-warming.

These are some of the offerings of Virtually Junior this year and there are much more. Both Natalie Bonjour and Mary Francis Moore have worked hard to curate a festival that speaks to children from 4 years of age to 12 years old or so and are to be celebrated for their efforts.

But I do have a concern, as I have had since the beginning of this worthy festival, and that is that it seems to be a secret that Harbourfront wants to keep to itself. Trying to find any publicity on this festival is an exercise in frustration. I have reviewed this festival since it began three years ago, but getting advanced information on the festival is like pulling teeth. Fortunately I know Mary Francis Moore so I was sent information but that should not be her job. Surely in that vast administration of Harbourfront there is a publicity department, although you would hardly know it, and surely that department should be sending out information way in advance of the festival. I didn’t receive anything. And surely all the social media platforms should be brimming with such information, but that too seems strangely absent. Frustrating.

And isn’t it time that the Junior International Children’s Festival and the Wee Festival (catering to very young children to six-years-old) began collaborating instead of being separate festivals? The age groups overlap. That should be just one reason to collaborate. Both are worthy festivals. Collaborate, folks! News on the Wee Festival will follow shortly.

In the meantime, here is a link to the Virtually Junior Festival: https://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/junior/

May 16-18, 2020. But still on line.

Click on “Instagram events” and scroll through the list. You can still watch and enjoy many of these offerings.

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From the wonderfully inventive people at DopoLavoro Teatrale  (DLT) (DopoLavoro Teatrale www.dltexperience.com) we have “Theatre On-Call” their initiative to cope with being at home while we deal with “the virus”.

DLT (dopolavoroteatrale) is an international award winning company that is dedicated to innovative and experimental multi-disciplinary productions. Often, but not always, their work is immersive, with the audience engaging directly in and with the production.

Theatre On-Call is their latest creation in which ‘audiences’ have a theatrical experience via the telephone. There are two options. The first is Bedtime Stories Collective in which you are called at a certain time to hear various stories that are told to you to get you in the mood to go to sleep.

The second initiative is Invisible City, Episode 2. Participants are invited to join a ZOOM meeting (just audio, not visual), in which the listeners are read excerpts on cities from various readings. And the participant is engaged in conversation with the creators of the initiative.

Bedtime Stories Collective.

Before the phone call you are instructed to make sure your phone is charged; that you are comfortable in your pyjamas; that you have brushed your teeth and wherever you are receiving the call, the lights are turned down for relaxation.

Danya Buonastella called me at the appointed hour and ensured it was me who had answered and she told me who she was. In the most lilting, calming voice she read me about seven stories or poems that were both serious and whimsical. One was “Hypnotized” by Shel Silverstein, in his usual prickly, impish way with a situation. There was George Saunders’ story “Sticks” about an eccentric father who decorated a pole for various holidays and affixing some sticks to it on one occasion. It was odd, compelling and even a bit sad. The call ended with a poem? Story? In which various things were wished “good night”. I can’t remember really if this was the wonderful “Goodnight Moon” but Danya Buonastella reading it had so much gentleness and compassion I kind of wished it was. And I was softly wished good night. A perfect ending to a lovely call.

If there is a comment it’s that in spite of the wonders of technology cell phones can be finicky and the sound quality can be a touch murky. The overall effect of the call though was lovely.

The next night I ‘participated’ in a Zoom call for Invisible City, Episode 2. In this initiative various participants joined Daniele Bartolini and Rory de Brouwer to explore through the written word, the beauty and mysteries of cities. I, Bartolini and de Brouwer were in Toronto, another participant was joining from Hong Kong and another was in Montreal. We had the option of engaging in conversation or just listening. I chose the latter. Bartolini had an added connection to the subject; that evening he took his parents to the airport where they would fly home to Florence, Italy. They had been with Bartolini and his wife and toddler for 63 days. Now they were going home to Florence. Bartolini was born there and loved the place (me too). His longing was touching.

Rory de Brouwer read from two books that gave a view of cities from different times: “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino dealt with many cities referencing the different times of  Marco Polo and Kublai Khan; “City of Glass” by Paul Auster (from his New York Trilogy) talked about the magic of New York in modern times. That magical look gradually revealed the grunge, grime and sadness of the place on closer reflection.

Rory de Brouwer read in a clear almost poignant voice. After each reading Bartolini asked the participants how they viewed cities; what intrigued them about where they lived; what was an ideal city. The participants plus de Brouwer and Bartolini shared their relationships to various cities. It was a deeply felt, highly personal viewing of what a city meant to each person, and certainly to me, who did not verbally share my ideas of where I live, but still appreciated the conversation.

Such depth of thought of an intriguing question or idea is typical of DopoLavoro Teatrale and the wonderful work they do.

This initiative continues until the end of May.

You can find out the full show line up here: https://www.dltexperience.com/theatre-on-call

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Note: This revised version properly reflects who did what (because of new information).

Factory Theatre, via the magic of technology.

Written by Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set designed by Nina Lee Aquino and Kevin Hanchard

Lighting designed by Michelle Ramsay

“House” Technician, Quincy Hanchard

Cast: Kevin Hanchard

A compelling production of a gripping play in this time of isolation.

Note: The production of House by Daniel MacIvor was supposed to open on May 7, and was the last production in the 50th anniversary season of Factory Theatre. COVID-19 put a stop to that and the production was cancelled. But the ever-resourceful Daniel MacIvor had other ideas. He suggested to Nina Lee Aquino, Factory Theatre’s Artistic Director, and the director of House, that he tweak the play to reflect they are in isolation and that they do a one-off on-line version. And so they did. The production took place in Kevin Hanchard’s basement (he plays Victor in this one man show), with a set created by Nina Lee Aquino and Kevin Hanchard (furniture provided by Christine Hanchard)  with technical help by Quincy Hanchard, Kevin and Christine’s son. The  lighting was by Michelle Ramsay.

The Story. Victor is a disappointed man who wanted to be an engineer but instead is a clerk in a company that sells septic tanks. His father left the family to join the circus to portray The Saddest Man in the World. Victor married his third cousin because his mother told him to. The marriage is unhappy. His wife has a penchant for the ‘swinger’s life’ and Victor does not. Instead Victor goes to group therapy to deal with his issues of being tense. Friends have disappointed him. Members of the group aggravate him with their weird behaviour.

The Production.  The production takes place in a low-ceilinged room. A child’s red chair is positioned in front of a backdrop of unmarked cardboard boxes that are piled on top of each other almost to the ceiling. Michelle Ramsay’s lights give off a foggy, ghost-like glow.

Kevin Hanchard plays Victor as a wired, anxious, easily aggravated man. He often sits in the too-small chair, or he stands awkwardly and shifts from one foot to another. Victor says that he’s tense. Our perception might be of a man who is angry. Victor is angry at his lot in life—his father left the family to join the circus. Victor is unhappy in his job as a clerk and in his marriage. When Victor says that his wife is his third cousin and that his mother told him to “marry her” Hanchard says it in what one presumes is the mother’s lilting accent from one of the ‘islands.’ (Note Hanchard was “born in Jamaica and raised on the mean streets of Mississuaga” according to his programme biography.) Victor is angry because is has to endure endless slights. And most of all Victor feels ignored, irrelevant and unseen.

He tries to handle his tense feelings by going to group sessions with other people who have their own issues. One silent woman chews on her split ends. Another friend drags him to a huge supermarket to buy a pack of gum. Victor gets into a verbal altercation with a man in the check-out line who has a whole cart of stuff to check out and doesn’t offer to let Victor’s friend through with just the gum. During the altercation the friend runs off with the gum, leaving Victor there to deal with the fall-out. Victor has a lot to cope with.

Over the course of the 80 minutes of the running time Kevin Hanchard uses the small space to illuminate a man confined. Occasionally he reaches up and yells “House” as if to try and expand the confines of the space. Because Hanchard is a gifted actor in both theatre and film he knows how to use the “new” medium of ‘on-line’ theatre for a theatrical effect. It’s quite startling to see him lunge forward, his face up close to his computer’s camera—challenging and stark.

Nina Lee Aquino has directed a production that was bracing and compelling and never let us turn away from Victor’s anger in his world.  The play certainly reminded us of what a fine writer Daniel MacIvor is. He illuminates the life of a man on the edge, who feels marginalized  but who functions and operates in the hopes of being better. And I loved seeing Kevin Hanchard’s take on Victor.

Comment. At the end of the production there was a conversation with Nina Lee Aquino, Daniel MacIvor and Kevin Hanchard. MacIvor said that he tweaked the play to reflect our time in isolation. Also in that conversation it sounded as if MacIvor tweaked Victor to reflect that he was black because Kevin Hanchard is black. For further clarification, according to a spokesperson for Factory Theatre, Daniel MacIvor “just gave Nina and Kevin the license to reinterpret him (Victor) during their rehearsals online.” The tweaking was subtle—a line reference here and Hanchard’s accent as Victor’s mother. This deepened the work of the actor exploring the work of the character. Terrific result.

https://www.factorytheatre.ca/

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Factory Theatre, via the magic of technology.

Written by Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set designed by Christine Hanchard

Lighting designed by Michelle Ramsay

“House” Technician, Quincy Hanchard

Cast: Kevin Hanchard

A compelling production of a gripping play in this time of isolation.

Note: The production of House by Daniel MacIvor was supposed to open on May 7, and was the last production in the 50th anniversary season of Factory Theatre. COVID-19 put a stop to that and the production was cancelled. But the ever-resourceful Daniel MacIvor had other ideas. He suggested to Nina Lee Aquino, Factory Theatre’s Artistic Director, and the director of House, that he tweak the play to reflect they are in isolation and that they do a one-off on-line version. And so they did. The production took place in Kevin Hanchard’s house (he plays Victor in this one man show), with a set created by Christine Hanchard, Kevin’s wife, with technical help by Quincy Hanchard, their son. The  lighting was by Michelle Ramsay.

The Story. Victor is a disappointed man who wanted to be an engineer but instead is a clerk in a company that sells septic tanks. His father left the family to join the circus to portray The Saddest Man in the World. Victor married his third cousin because his mother told him to. The marriage is unhappy. His wife has a penchant for the ‘swinger’s life’ and Victor does not. Instead Victor goes to group therapy to deal with his issues of being tense. Friends have disappointed him. Members of the group aggravate him with their weird behaviour.

The Production.  The production takes place in a low-ceilinged room. A child’s red chair is positioned in front of a backdrop of unmarked cardboard boxes that are piled on top of each other almost to the ceiling. Michelle Ramsay’s lights give off a foggy, ghost-like glow.

Kevin Hanchard plays Victor as a wired, anxious, easily aggravated man. He often sits in the too-small chair, or he stands awkwardly and shifts from one foot to another. Victor says that he’s tense. Our perception might be of a man who is angry. Victor is angry at his lot in life—his father left the family to join the circus. Victor is unhappy in his job as a clerk and in his marriage. When Victor says that his wife is his third cousin and that his mother told him to “marry her” Hanchard says it in what one presumes is the mother’s lilting accent from one of the ‘islands.’ (Note Hanchard was “born in Jamaica and raised on the mean streets of Mississuaga” according to his programme biography.) Victor is angry because is has to endure endless slights. And most of all Victor feels ignored, irrelevant and unseen.

He tries to handle his tense feelings by going to group sessions with other people who have their own issues. One silent woman chews on her split ends. Another friend drags him to a huge supermarket to buy a pack of gum. Victor gets into a verbal altercation with a man in the check-out line who has a whole cart of stuff to check out and doesn’t offer to let Victor’s friend through with just the gum. During the altercation the friend runs off with the gum, leaving Victor there to deal with the fall-out. Victor has a lot to cope with.

Over the course of the 80 minutes of the running time Kevin Hanchard uses the small space to illuminate a man confined. Occasionally he reaches up and yells “House” as if to try and expand the confines of the space. Because Hanchard is a gifted actor in both theatre and film he knows how to use the new medium of ‘on-line’ theatre for a theatrical effect. It’s quite startling to see him lunge forward, his face up close to his computer’s camera—challenging and stark.

Nina Lee Aquino has directed a production that was bracing and compelling and never let us turn away from Victor’s anger in his world.  The play certainly reminded us of what a fine writer Daniel MacIvor is. He illuminates the life of a man on the edge, who feels marginalized  but who functions and operates in the hopes of being better. And I loved seeing Kevin Hanchard’s take on Victor.

Comment. At the end of the production there was a conversation with Nina Lee Aquino, Daniel MacIvor and Kevin Hanchard. MacIvor said that he tweaked the play to reflect our time in isolation. He also said that he tweaked the character of Victor to reflect that Kevin Hanchard, a black actor, was playing him, therefore this established that Victor was a black man. The tweaking was subtle—a line reference here and Hanchard’s accent as Victor’s mother. This deepened the work of the actor exploring the work of the character. Terrific result.

https://www.factorytheatre.ca/

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Steven McCarthy’s St. Steven’s (“Pure Bliss”) Bagels.

Something mysterious and wonderful is happening in Parkdale besides gentrification. Actors whose work we know and love are branching out and making treats that are irresistible.

Craig Pike has always augmented his income from acting by making special orders of his famous chocolate chip cookies (from his mother’s recipe) and selling them in variations  to his friends and others. His private cookie business was so successful that he opened his first store, Craig’s Cookies, on Queen Street West in Parkdale a year ago. He recently opened his second store on Church Street. (There is a third store called Newfoundland that sells all sorts of food stuffs from his native Newfoundland—that store is on Queen St. West next to Craig’s Cookies). With COVID-19 closing many businesses, Craig’s Cookies is selling his cookies on line for delivery and for curb-side pickup (from the Church Street store.) Those cookies are delicious, whimsical, inventive and a necessity when we are all stuck in doors.  https://craigscookies.com/

Steven McCarthy is a wonderful actor, director, musician, singer, rock-band member and now bagel maker. I kept seeing references on Facebook to orders of Mr. McCarthy’s bagels being delivered to other actors in Parkdale. I seem to recall that a delivery of Steven McCarthy’s St. Stevens (“Pure Bliss”) Bagels was made to Craig’s Cookies’ and perhaps there was an exchange of goods between the two acting entrepreneurs. I was intrigued, curious and hungry. How do I get those bagels? I must have them! I private messaged the man himself. Mr. McCarthy said making and selling the bagels depended on the available time and he would put me on the list for the following week. You have to be ready at a moment’s notice to commit to an order—in my case I was told today that there might be bagels but he would have to check and he would put me down for one dozen bagels. Because he only makes deliveries in Parkdale where he lives, and he had meetings (!?) all afternoon, he asked if I could pick up the bagels from his place. But of course.

I texted him when I was outside his address. He met me on his porch with two bags of still warm bagels that were obviously just out of the oven. Money changed hands. I wonder if it looked like a drug-drop? If one loves bagels, I guess in a way, it was like a drug-drop. On the bag is a square label that says St. Steven’s Bagels with a dark-haired woman at a microphone underneath which was the phrase “pure bliss”. That’s how I would describe St. Steven’s Bagels, pure bliss.

I ate one right then and there and swooned, with Steven McCarthy witnessing the result of his baking brilliance. The outside of the bagel has a crispy crunch to it and the inside is chewy and saliva-inducing. My dozen bagels were covered with sesame seeds that were perfectly baked to a golden-brown. Mr. McCarthy used as his model the bagels he ate every day coming home from the National Theatre School in Montreal St. Steven’s Bagels don’t have that hint of sweetness that a Montreal bagel has and that’s fine with me. St. Steven’s Bagels are simple, pure and obviously made with care and pride. They are worth a trip to Parkdale. I envision making that trip as often as Mr. McCarthy makes a batch of his bagels.

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Life in a Box episode 3.0 (on Instagram from Friday, May 1, 2020.)

Background. The wonderful Landon Doak & Matt Finlan are presenting episodes of their apocalyptic-friendship-stoner-musical Life in a Box live on Instagram (@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

They perform about 15-20 minutes of the show in succession, playing the instruments live and using wifi lightbulbs for the effects, have incorporated some new music, and then after do a talk show-style chat about the show, life, weed, etc. with some good news stories thrown in.

I love the show when I saw it live. Here’s my review of the full show when it played the Grand Canyon Theatre last year.

In this week’s episode Landon Doak and Matt Finlan know their ‘time machine’ works because it has taken them back in time to be able to prepare the future for a conflagration (getting high is the focus of the show, so the mind-blowing story seems about right). They are ready to return to the future only Matt finds that he has returned to someone named Langdon and not his good buddy Landon! Langdon looks like Landon only Langdon wears glasses and it seems has never gotten high. A bit of a glitch there. How to fix this? It’s all part of the cleverness of the story and the creation of the production.   

This episode has several examples of the clever word-play in the songs and of Doak and Finlan’s beautiful harmonizing.  Their performances are full of energy and dazzling timing. Again, they riff off each other, never miss a beat (until they tell us they did later in the chat section. Even that is expressed with gleeful enthusiasm.)  And while Life in a Box is described  as a ‘stoner musical’ you don’t have to be high to enjoy the artistry, musicality and wild imagination of the two.

The chat session happens after they (supposedly) have ‘a bowl’ to unwind. There they give their shout-outs to all those who helped put the segment together, or donated equipment. They always end with a bit of good news.

All the episodes are available on YouTube and on their Instagram page. The details are below.  Check them out. In our worlds of isolation, Life in a Box is a breath of fresh air even if it might be filled with the fragrance of weed.  

@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm. May 8 will be the last episode unless these two gifted performers decide to carry on with the story, with a bong.

And their Instagram handle for the show is: @_lifeinabox_

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Life in a Box episode 2.5 (on Instagram from Friday, April-24, 2020.)

Background. The wonderful Landon Doak & Matt Finlan are presenting episodes of their apocalyptic-friendship-stoner-musical Life in a Boxlive on Instagram (@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

They perform about 15-20 minutes of the show in succession, playing the instruments live and using wifi lightbulbs for the effects, have incorporated some new music, and then after do a talk show-style chat about the show, life, weed, etc. with some good news stories thrown in.

I love the show when I saw it live. Here’s my review of the full show when it played the Grand Canyon Theatre last year.

In this week’s episode Landon Doak and Matt Finlan know their ‘time machine’ works and they have been sent back to the past in order to leave a note for their future against the impending conflagration. They are then ready to return to the future. They realize that if that doesn’t work, that might be the last time ‘they can hang together.’  

This episode has several examples of the clever word-play in the songs and of Doak and Finlan’s beautiful harmonizing.  Their performances are full of energy and dazzling timing. Again, they riff off each other, never miss a beat (until they tell us they did later in the chat section. Even that is expressed with gleeful enthusiasm.)  And while Life in a Box is described  as a ‘stoner musical’ you don’t have to be high to enjoy the artistry, musicality and wild imagination of the two.

The chat session happens after they (supposedly have ‘a bowl’ to unwind). There they give their shout-outs to all those who helped put the segment together, or donated equipment. They always end with a bit of good news. In this segment they championed the good neighbours of their ‘hood’ at Brunswick and Wells who come out to bang pots or sing or listen to the local trumpet ‘concert’ at 7:00 pm or so.

All the episodes are available on YouTube and on their Instagram page. The details are below.  Check them out. In our worlds of isolation, Life in a Box is a breath of fresh air even if it might be filled with the fragrance of weed.  

@landondoak) every Friday at 4:20pm.

And their Instagram handle for the show is: @_lifeinabox_

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Where: from the comfort of my very own apartment, on the phone.

When: April 13-18, 2020.

Who: Outside the March presents the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries.

What: The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock.

Creative Team: Nick Blais, Katherine Cullen, Mitchell Cushman, Anahita Dehbonehie, Colin Doyle, Sébastien Heins, Amy Keating, Griffin McInnes.

Ministry Direction by Mitchell Cushman, Griffin McInnes

Cast: Colin Doyle

Sébastien Heins

Toby Hughes

Liz Johnston

The always inventive folks at Outside the March have fashioned some theatre for these extraordinary times, all in the comfort of your home. They call it The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries and those who get involved fashion their own ‘mundane mystery’ that an Inspector and his/her team has to solve. To date the Ministry of Mundane Mysteries have worked on 120 individual cases with their own scenarios, clues and teams.  The teams have solved issues of coincidence, lost keep sakes and anomalies (one was the mystery of the three-yoke egg—the makings of an anomaly if ever there was one).

My issue might be mundane to some but to me was a serious concern: The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock.

Participants arrange a good time to be called on the telephone for six days straight by a member of the team who will try and solve the case. I was lucky. I was assigned Inspector Doyle who told me his track record for solving his cases was impeccable. He was not boastful. He was just stating the facts.

I was called on Monday, April 13 until April 18 at a certain time every afternoon. Inspector Doyle’s attention to detail was obvious. He was punctual. His ability to listen and empathise was heartening and he went the extra mile in my case. He began our discussion by singing me “Happy Birthday” (and I wasn’t even washing my hands). It had in fact been my birthday the day before. His attention to detail was impressive.

The facts of my case were these: I had been given a pair of socks by loving friends for a significant birthday. One sock had “Right Foot” printed on it and “Left Foot” on the other. Somehow I lost the “Left Foot” sock. The socks had sentimental value. I looked all around the washing machine and the dryer in the dust and could not find the sock. I looked in drawers and could not find the sock. I thought static electricity held it captive in the pile of ironing that had accumulated over the years (!) and I thought it might be stuck at the bottom of the hamper. Nothing. I unfolded an extra duvet cover and looked inside and found two!!!!! mis-matched socks but not the one I was looking for. I did not give up and just toss the errant sock. I held out hope. Inspector Doyle was that hope.

He confided that a close personal friend had been in the same position regarding the loss of a cherished sock. He knew my pain and sympathized.

Inspector Doyle kept meticulous notes of what I said, as did his team, because in subsequent calls from other members of his team (I won’t divulge their names to protect their cover) they referred to other bits of information I shared. One operative believed there was a conspiracy theory and that nudist in Caledon were taking socks to make a point (??? Don’t be careless with your clothes?). I got another call from a person representing the nudists in Caledon saying the previous caller was a crank who besmirched their good name and was known to them. Inspector Doyle called me during the week, talking softly, saying he was in a cave in Caledon checking out the clues about the nudists. In that call with Inspector Doyle he cried out in surprise then the phone went dead. What was I to think? When he called at the end of the week he said that he had been in a cave. There was bad reception.

All the clues and information were gathered. Inspector Doyle solved the case in a logical way. He played the catchy theme song for the experience composed by the gifted Britta Johnson. I was able to share with him my new favourite song “Stand Up” sung by Cynthia Erivo and co-composed by her and Joshua Brian Campbell (thrilling). And in true classy fashion Inspector Doyle played that recording for me too, as a parting gift. There was nothing mundane about this experience.

The experience of The Case of the Missing Beloved Sock was fun, engaging, uplifting, full of unexpected turns and presented by an expert team who were creative and intellectually and artistically nimble. The wonderful people involved with Outside the March have created this to help bring theatre through the phone because we can’t go out and engage in person. It’s great fun. Sign up and see what I mean. 

 Presented by Outside the March

https://www.mundanemysteries.com

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For immediate release April 15th, 2020
Home-Prov – the virtual improv experience!
A new way for families and friends to have fun and stay
connected.
In this strange new world of social distancing, we’re all longing for connection.
That’s why veteran Toronto actor-improvisers and parents Shari Hollett and
Chris Earle created Home-Prov, the new virtual improv experience to help
people stay connected through the joy of improvisation.
Home-Prov is a hilarious 1-hour improv workshop, led by 2 veteran Second City
alumni-improvisers. Up to 8 players per session – all ages 7+
With 2 ways to play!
Private: Host your own jam! Invite friends and family to play with our
team from any location in Canada or around the world.
Public: Play with other families from all across Canada.
Collaborators in life and work, Chris Earle and Shari Hollett are
veteran directors, writers, actors, and Co-Artistic Directors of the
award-winning theatre company the night kitchen. Alumni of
The Second City comedy troupe, Shari and Chris are also
experienced workshop facilitators for businesses and non-profits,
as well as sought-after teachers of acting and improvisation.
For more info or to book a workshop, go to www.hollettearle.com/homeprov or
contact us at homeprovfun@gmail.com

  • Offering free workshops weekly to essential workers, as a thank you for
    keeping us all safe! *

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