by Lynn on August 9, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

SummerWorks shows: The Breath Between, CHILD-ISH Wah, Wah, Wah, and Rochdale until Aug. 18, 2019 at the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

My favourite summer festival is SummerWorks Aug. 8-18.  (I’m never here for the Fringe). I love the rough and tumble mix of Indie theatre work, music events, and various arts that play at various venues but centering around the Theatre Centre

For the theatre component there are plays that are both finished or still developing. The developing work is part of the SummerWorks Lab. SummerWorks is a welcoming home to emerging and established talent.

How do I chose what to see? Often I will decide if I like the playwright,  director, actors, the story, or if they are young talent.

So last night I decided on The Breath Between by the AMY Project because I like what they do;  Child-ish because it’s directed by Alan Dilworth and the story is intriguing; Wah, Wah, Wah, is directed by Bilal Baig and it’s created by an emerging talent named Celia Jade Green who has created, choreographed and performs it; and Rochdale because it’s written by David Yee and directed by Nina Lee Aquino—both established artists. And of course the name Rochdale just grabs me because of all it stands for.

And it also matters if the plays are in the same place, as they were at the Theatre Centre so with a tight schedule, the plays are easy to go from one theatre to another. The Theatre Centre has two performance spaces—the Franco Boni Theatre and The Incubator– so I was charging from one to the other.

The Breath Between

Created by the AMY Project

Directed by Kumari Giles and Julia Hune-Brown

Scenic design by Karis Jones-Pard

Lighting by Senjuti Sarker

Created and performed by: Jericko Allick

nevada jane arlow

Taranjot Bamrah


Daniella Leacock

Claudia Liz

Alice Cheng Meiqing

Lyla Sherbin

Fio Yang

It’s a terrific company in which AMY stands for Artists Mentoring Youth.  From the programme: “…it provides free performing arts training programs to young women and non-binary youth from black and Indigenous People of Colour and 2LGBTQ and other equity-seeking communities.

AMY breaks down barriers to participation by providing meals and transportation, accessible queer and trans inclusive and anti-racist environments and more.

With the mentorship of professional artists, AMY participants learn to tell their stories with honesty integrity and artistic rigour.”

From the programme: “The Breath Between is a collection of monologues, poetry, movement and music that explores themes of queer resilience and dreams of what new worlds we will make together in apocalyptic times.”

The group of performers paints a picture of a time when people live in temperature controlled domes because climate change has run amok and the temperature outside is unbearable. Everything is out of control. Corporate greed is everywhere. A bottle of water will be $17.

The group decides to travel away in a space ship for a better life and environment. They tell stories of living with racism, anti-gay attitudes and general attitudes of not being welcome. They decide as a group what to do next.

I always think it’s a bold, brave enterprise for non-professionals to tell their stories with honesty and without embellishment.  Some parts of the presentation were a bit rocky but will smooth out with playing. Slow down in speaking. Speak clearly and enunciate and don’t drop your words at the end of a sentence. Your words are important. I want to hear every one of them.

I thought The Breath Between could use some gentle editing to focus on the stories, the world they were escaping and how that world came to be and the world they wanted to create instead. The piece was a bit unwieldy but still intriguing.


Written by Sunny Drake

Directed by Alan Dilworth

Set and costumes by Ken Mackenzie

Sound by Deanna Choi

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Movement by Monica Dottor

Cast: Itir Arditi

Walter Borden

Maggie Huculak

Sonny Mills

Zorana Sadiq

It’s part of the SummerWorks Lab so is work in development and exploration.

Sunny Drake is the playwright and his idea was to interview 33 children over the past 2 ½ years ranging in ages from 5 to 11 years old about all manner of topics ranging from love, kissing, death, gender and consent, among others.

Some of the interviewers would also be children. Sunny Drake would then take their words, create a verbatim script and have adult actors perform it. For my performance the actors read from scripts. They are beautifully directed by Alan Dilworth

The result was terrific. First of all, kids are just naturally funny.Their observations are quirky to us but serious to them. They naturally frame their thoughts and observations in incongruous ways and that’s funny. Humour comes from juxtaposing the incongruous.

Added to that are actors who have the subtlety and nuance to take those words and with a turn of phrase or a look, or even shifting pages of the script draw every laugh out of the work. The actors entered into the serious world of the child. They didn’t baby talk or sound condescending. Walter Borden talking about kissing with his eyes wide open and an impish smile says it all. Sonny Mills talking as a kid being gender non-binary and trying to keep secrets from a hovering mother is very funny. Maggie Huculak as that clinging mother, but gentle about it is funny, as is her being a precocious kid. Hilarious.

There are also moments of seriousness when they are talking about death and  uncomfortable moments in their lives. I thought Child-ish was a bracing, funny, thoughtful exercise and look forward to the next segments of the development.

Wah, Wah, Wah.

Created, choreographed and performed by Celia Jade Green

Directed and dramaturged by Bilal Baig

Lighting by Echo Zhou

Sound by Phoebe Wang

It’s created, choreographed and performed by an artistic wonder named Celia Jade Green. Green investigates questions around sexual harassment.

As the program says: “A young, queen woman grapples with the messiness of being violated.”  At the beginning of the piece the young woman wants to tell us what happened to her but hesitates.  She almost reveals her secrets but then backs out.  She tells snippets of having men yell cat calls at her.  When she was 11 years old, riding her bike a man called out something suggestive.  She wanted to stop and face him and tell him “I’m 11.”  The young woman went to Europe after high school and told of being followed by a man but getting away from him. She tells of meeting a young woman in Spain and enjoying her company at a dance club, but when an imposing man appeared at the door, our young woman became fearful again. She had brave thoughts of facing down her ‘oppressor’ but usually backed off.

She hitch-hiked in France, was picked up by two men in a truck and sat between them. The way Green describes the big burly men and how she was squeezed between them has you gripping the arm rest (if there is one) hoping nothing happens.  There is a litany of these stories in which the prospect of trouble looms.  But the one story she has been trying to tell involved a teacher in university.  By this time she is so uncertain that anything happened and wonders if she imagined it.  And realizes that she must do something about it because something could have happened. She leaves us with a sobering question as well and I’m not going to tell you what it is because you must see this show to find out.

Loved Wah, Wah, Wah.  I loved being heartsick for the young woman’s situation and held my breath as she both told and danced the story. Her choreography is graphic, vivid and elegant all at once.  Her story-telling is compelling and has you hooked. And Bilal Baig’s direction also brings out the gripping nature of the piece.

The title is wonderful as in that whiny baby cry of Wah, Wah, Wah. But the reaction to the piece is anything but a childish whine.


Written by David Yee

Directed by Nina Lee Aquino

Set by Mona Farahmand

Costumes by Tiana Kralj

Sound by Jonathan North

Choreography by Brandon Pereira

Cast: Dean Bessey

Ori Black

Julia DeMola

Sofia Gaspar

Claudia Hamilton

Nelvin Law

Sabrina Marangoni

Brandon Pereira

Tomasz Pereira Nunes

Adrienne Ross Ramsingh

Carina Salajan

Margarita Valderrama

Rochdale…a name that is full of history and possibilities for a wild ride?

It was a huge disappointment. David Yee’s play is a mess of stuff. It takes place in 1969 in Toronto and the programme says: “…Rochdale College—an experiment in cooperative housing and alternative education—is about to become very famous for all the wrong reasons.”

The reasons are of course, drug taking and selling; bikers moving in and causing trouble; no order; people refused to pay rent; bills piled up; their governance failed and it was total chaos.

It starts with the chaotic, out of control nature of Rochdale. Whitman has returned to Rochdale after disappearing for two months. She was the head of the governing council and in a sense ran the place and tried to keep it in order. When she disappeared she didn’t tell anyone, and certainly not her boyfriend Dennis. Everybody thought she was dead. When she returns (telling only Dennis why she left) she says she didn’t know which number to call to tell him so she didn’t contact him at all. (Seems lame to me).

The story goes from the wildness of the tenants for most of the play that then segues into some dangerous events when a body is found in a person’s room and they don’t want to call the police for certain reasons.

Then the play shifts into debates about racism and finally when chaos consumes the whole place, Whitman makes a decision. She tells Dennis that her father had followed the rules of living and but was shafted. She wanted Rochdale to be different. She wanted to run the place that would make her father proud. That idea comes from no where and is supported by nothing.

Nina Lee Aquino directs the large cast playing hippies in full regalia of beads, tie-dyed clothes and a constant state of being high.

The play is unwieldy and needs ruthless cutting and more focus.

The Breath Between, CHILD-ISH, Wah, Wah, Wah and Rochdale continue at SummerWorks over various dates until Aug. 18.

Comment: I love SummerWorks. I love the buzz of the place when it’s full of theatre goers who are eager for a lively, new experience. I love the welcome from all the volunteers and the efficiency of how it’s run.

But, yesterday, of the four shows I saw, three of them started late. The curtain was held to accommodate people who bought their tickets late. In one case they started 10 minutes because tickets were still being sold even thought the show was supposed to start. Fix that please!

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