Lynn

Streaming as part of the Factory Theatre Audio series: You Can’t Get There From Here until September 25, 2021.

You Can’t Get There From Here

Written by Yvette Nolan

Directed by Cole Alvis

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Cast: Nicole Joy-Fraser

Derek Kwan

Meghan Swaby

Playwright Yvette Nolan has taken the title of the series and applied it as the title of this bracing, unsettling audio drama.

The Story. Leah and David are worried about their friend Hanna. They have not been able to reach her by either phone or e-mail for days and they are so worried something has happened to her that they go to her apartment and bang on the door until she lets them in. There are simple references that Leah is Black and David is “Chinese” (as he describes himself). There is the awareness from the three that the sound and sight of people of colour causing such noise might be considered suspicious, so Hanna lets them in quickly. Can I assume that Hanna is Indigenous because Nicole Joy-Fraser who plays her, beautifully, is a mix of Cree and European decent? At one point in the story Hanna says that she saw ‘her people across the room’ and went to join then. I thought that might be a clue that Hanna, like her two friends, might be a minority.

Hanna’s apartment is almost bare. Because of recent events at work (she calls it a ‘debacle’ but with no explanation), she has had enough and is leaving Toronto for Saskatoon. Leah and David are aghast. They feel that she is giving into the bullies who have trolled her on social media (Leah is not on social media), sent her abrasive messages and other unsettling things.

The arguments from her friends to stay are interesting, thoughtful and sometimes whimsical. Hanna’s arguments to leave are also wise and realistic. The people of Toronto are mean and xenophobic. She worked hard to find her little apartment in Cabbagetown (pronounced all snooty as Ca-bahge town). Hanna says that the Toronto she moved to is not the Toronto she lives in and she doesn’t have the fight in her to stay.

The Production and Comment. Playwright Yvette Nolan creates various moments and aspects that are chilling. There are marauding groups of people called “villagers” who one can assume target people who look different from them, such as Hanna, Leah and David. We hear one group late in the play. I think of the disgraceful riot of the Capital Building in Washington. D.C. January 6, 2021. The internet is full of cyber bullies. As are our offices and social areas, all for no better reason than they can. So Hanna has had enough. She is very lucky in her two friends and they appreciate her.

You Can’t Get There From Here is an economical and bracing play that grabs you from the first bang on Hanna’s door and continues to the last smart line. Yvette Nolan deliberately does not explain what ‘the debacle’ is and I don’t think that diminishes the play at all. We live in a world of ‘cancel culture’ where people are forced out of their jobs for the slimmest of reasons.

The acting by Nicole Joy-Fraser as Hanna, Derek Kwan as David and Meghan Swaby as Leah is heartfelt, full of concern and humour. They beautifully establish their friendship and their concern about the world they live in. Director Cole Alvis is attentive to the details and nuance of the piece. And Debashis Sinha has created an evocative soundscape. It got me thinking about my Toronto. Always a good thing.

The Toronto Pigeons

Written by Luke Reece

Directed by Marcel Stewart

Sound by Michelle Bensimon

Cast: Britta B

Trevlyn Kennedy

Luke Reece

This is the last audio play in the You Can’t Get There From Here series for Factory Theatre.

The Story. It’s June 13, 2019 and two pigeons, Trae and A.C., are preparing to watch game 6 of the NBA playoffs between The Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. They will be watching from the top of Jurassic Park in Toronto, on the Jumbotron. They will be scavenging for good eats from garbage cans etc.

Trae is a diehard Raptor’s fan. He thinks of nothing else but the Raptors.  A.C. is more measured in her devotion but still is loyal. Into this scene flies KLAW (is this an homage to Kawhi Leonard), a Kestral from the Kawarthas. KLAW’s family was taken out by a hawk and she flew to Toronto to find a place to be safe.  Both Trae and A.C note how small KLAW is but her talons are lethal and impressive. Trae and A.C. inform KLAW about the Toronto Raptors basketball team. They also inform her of Toronto and how wonderful it is and how everybody is different and fits in.

But truths are told. A.C. informs Trae that he never confronts his problems and uses the Raptors as a distraction. Trae is rude to KLAW and she flies away. I’m thinking that perhaps Trae is so wired for the game, so anxious that his beloved team wins the NBA Championship and so fed up with KLAW’s questions, that he got frustrated and hence, rude. Raptor devotion might do that to a person or pigeon.  

A.C. flies after KLAW to find her to bring her back and eventually Trae goes too—forgoing the game to be a better citizen of Toronto in the sacrifice. It turns out that KLAW does return and just in time to protect her new friends from a predator. Oh, and the Raptors won the game and the championship.  

The Production and comment. I’ve loved this whole series of five audio dramas. They are poignant and tell stories of our diversity and inclusion, or differences and our connection; of sisters who pull together in spite of difficulties, of siblings at odds; loving couples from different continents trying to marry and have children; friends trying to help friends in distress and that goes for pigeons.

I was really impressed by The Toronto Pigeons because Luke Reece wrote it in rhyme akin to rap. (Reece is an award-winning slam poet). It’s smart, edgy, clever, including the strategically placed sound of “pigeon cooing” and is a love letter to the Toronto Raptors as well as the city. I love that notion of home here.

Both Trae and A.C. know the good and the not so good about Toronto but are still fans of the place. They love the noise, the hustle, bustle and secret hiding places for food. They love the chips and dip they find at the games from their high perch. A.C. has a great line that the pigeons are ambassadors of the city—I’ll have more respect for them in future. And their selflessness to go and find KLAW when this important game is playing says a lot about friendship, loyalty and being a good neighbour.

I think The Toronto Pigeons is sweet, smart, funny and wise.

You Can’t Get There From Here, and The Toronto Pigeons plays until September 25 on the Factory Theatre website at

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I watched this on Demand after the showing at FOLDA, www.folda.ca

Creator, artistic director, producer, writer, performer (violin, monologue), Leslie Ting

Pianist, Hye Won Cecilia Lee

Deaf performer (monologue), Thurga Kanagasckarampillai

Co-director, dramaturg, voice coach, Alex Bulmer

Co-director, dramaturg, Tristan R. Whiston

Lighting designer, Patrick Lavender

Projection design, Amelia Scott

Audio engineer, Kai Masaoka

Videographer, Roger Galvez

From the show blurb: “Speculation takes the audience through the stages of grief, vision loss and silence. The music of Beethoven and John Cage, and experimental projections accompany an immersive storytelling of the artist Leslie Ting’s witnessing of her mother’s vision loss and eventual passing.”

There is so much going on in this digitally impressive, busy production. Leslie Ting has divided the work into four parts with such provocative titles as: Part 1, “Reasons for Communication” Part 2 “Impossible to Say”, Part 3 “All That Held Me Back”, Part 4 “Around Our Words.” She  tells us at the very beginning that she and her mother did not get along. Her mother was stubborn, everything had to be her way and she never listened to her daughter or considered her point of view. A stubbornness formed on both sides so that conversation was brief and resentment was long. Towards the end of the piece Ting realized something about her mother that might have explained some of her behaviour.

Leslie Ting’s mother began losing her eyesight in early 2000. Her mother had several operations in one year, took many medications but eventually her mother became blind. Ting was studying to be an optometrist at the time that seems more coincidental rather than seeming helpful to her mother. Ting eventually transitioned from optometry to studying music. She is now a violinist.

Ting also included Beethoven’s loss of hearing in Speculation in which Beethoven continued to compose music but gave up touring as a pianist. Beethoven also seemed to isolate himself because he could not communicate with his friends etc. (They took to shouting even while he used an ear trumpet with little effect). This has less to do with her mother’s loss of sight than it has to do with Beethoven’s determination to create music no matter what. But it is an interesting inclusion.

Ting also includes composer John Cage in her piece as a person who felt that harmony was not relevant in his music. Again, an interesting inclusion.

Ting played pieces by Beethoven and Cage during the Speculation. Physically she is a muscular, energetic player but facially she is expressionless. When she was not playing Ting sat in a chair, light billowing from the sides (kudos to designer Patrick Lavender), and told the story in an unmodulated voice, but initially with a hint of an edge when talking about her mother. Again, her face was expressionless. I found that lack of engagement odd, if not disconcerting. Rather than engaging the audience her lack of expression, both facially and vocally, distanced the audience because of her lack of emotion. Even when Ting told us her mother died in 2010 there was a pause in the delivery, but no physical indication of any emotion.  If this was a deliberate decision by her co-directors, Alex Bulmer (who is herself blind) and Tristan R. Whiston then I don’t think it worked for the piece.

There is a part of Speculation in which Cage’s composition, 4’33 is played—it’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence except for ambient sound; breathing, echoes, breezes, scraping and occasionally a woman saying “Are you serious?” During the piece Ting stood holding her violin and when the woman could be heard saying, “Are you serious?” Ting smiled. Hmmm.

Technologically Speculation is very busy. There are projections (Amelia Scott) that are blurry to suggest her mother’s diminishing vision; there are streams of bright projections and coloured effects suggesting what will be lost by the loss of sight.  There was a scene of pianist Hye Won Cecilia Lee playing presumably Beethoven’s piano sonatas (I say presumably because there is no actual list of the music played) and all we saw were her illuminated hands. By that time I was rolling my eyes. Speculation was well-intentioned but it a miss.

www.folda.ca

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Monday, June 14, 2021

A fascinating creation by Alex Bulmer:

May I Take Your Arm?
follow-at-home show now open
Close-up of paper cuttings have window panels and voids in between the strings and textures. From the void, we see a faint image of the website landing page for May I Take Your Arm?
The doors to May I Take Your Arm? is now open. Simply click the button below to be taken to the immersive, follow-at-home experience. If you want to learn more about the show, or read the visual story before entering, make sure to visit our website by clicking here.
Enter the show

Monday, June 14, 2021, 7:30 pm

Free reading from the wonderful Red Bull Theatre:

An Online Benefit Reading
VOLPONE, OR THE FOX
by BEN JONSON
Adapted and directed by JESSE BERGER

MONDAY, JUNE 14, 2021
7:30 PM EDT | LIVESTREAM
Meet Volpone, the rich old magnifico, whose ingenious schemes and farcical scams dupe his wealthy friends into showering him with gold. This feast of extraordinary language and outrageous characters is a merciless satire that delightfully skewers the selfish manipulations of hypocrites—without excusing the greed and gullibility of their victims. Against scoundrels cloaked in propriety and legal dodgings, the virtuous are practically defenseless—and even the judge is on the make. Is Volpone the sly fox…or the outfoxed?     Directed by Jesse Berger, this online benefit reading will feature André De Shields as Volpone, Jordan Boatman, Sofia Cheyenne, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Clifton Duncan, Amy Jo Jackson, Peter Francis James, Hamish Linklater, Roberta Maxwell, Sam Morales, Kristine Nielsen, Mary Testa, and Shannon WicksFIND OUT MORE First produced by Red Bull Theater in 2012, this new version will feature emendations & elaborations by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (The Government Inspector). VOLPONEwill have visual design by John Arnone, costume design by Rodrigo Muñoz from original designs by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos, original music and sound design by Scott Killian, and property design by Faye Armon-Troncoso.  
GET FREE TICKETS

Thursday, June 17, 2021, 8:00 pm

On Demand Reading of:

DEAR ELIZABETH
By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline
Date: June 17th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET Based on the compiled letters between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, Dear Elizabeth maps the relationship of the two poets from first meeting to an abbreviated affair – and the turmoil of their lives in between.
GET TICKETS

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Part of the Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA) www.folda.ca June 9-13, 2021.

The Zoo Motel Staff:

Motel Guest (creator, magician etc.) Thaddeus Phillips

Interiors, Steven Dufala

Direction, Tatiana Mallarino

Magic, Steve Cuiffo

Night Clerk, Newton Buchanan

Night Clerk, Miriam Hyfler (I guess depending on the show you chose)

Reservations, Melissa Jernigan

Dancing, Katya & Fernando.

This was a very complex, ambitious show because of the audience’s involvement. There were lots of instructions. We were asked to print off various documents that were sent to us by e-mail attachment.

The documents were:

  1. Your Room Key, on which is your room number
  2. Welcome Brochure
  3. A Zoo Motel Evacuation Map
  4. A blank piece of stationary
  5. An outline drive-in car to cut out.

And there were instructions:

  1. Cut out the items along any dotted lines.
  2. Place your room key in the slot in the brochure
  3. Have all materials on hand for your time at the Zoom Motel.
  4. And remember, find by any means necessary, a deck of cards.

I went and bought a deck of cards. I didn’t have a deck of cards in my apartment.

When I tried to print the various documents the typing was so huge it did not fit on the page. I tried to diminish the printing. It still came out with huge typing. I had no instructions then.

We were told if we could not print the documents then we would have to use another device to read the instructions like a cell phone or a tablet, besides the device were using to watch the event. We also needed a device that had a camera and a microphone so I could not use my PC which doesn’t have either. I plugged in my cell phone to charge it cause it was getting low, as was I with the frustration of it all.

I had the charged phone beside me at the ready to show my key etc. I had the cards at the ready. I waited to begin and we did exactly on time. Love that!

We were checked in by the Night Clerk who wanted to see our documents. My cell phone was not brilliant in showing the documents. That didn’t seem to bother him as much as it bothered me, and if that didn’t bother him then why should we have bothered at all? Hmmmm.

The Night Clerk checked us all in. A man entered his hotel room, the Night Guest.  He looked through the peep hole.  He wore a sleek backpack (that I wanted) when he took it off he was wearing a jacket with what looked like a brain on the back of it. Clever! He took items out of the cupboard, a wonderful red manual typewriter for example.

There were items around the room: a tiny model of the Titanic; Maneki-neko, Otsuchi ‘wind phone’, Mojave phone booth, Starlite Drive-in Sigh. He told us the significance of each as he wove a winding tale. Oh, and he realized that the door to his room disappeared. Gone. He found the peep hole on the floor.

He did various mind tricks especially with the cards. I will only tell you one because there is an interesting point. He showed a bunch of cards face up then more cards face down. He put both the faced-up cards and the faced down cards together in a pile and then neatly spread all the cards in a line across the table. All the cards were now face down. How did he do that? I don’t know. But it was interesting seeing the other people watching the zoo motel—Zoom Motel? Some watched without even noticing the cards were now all face down. The reaction for the most part was muted. I thought that odd.

The tricks got more elaborate. There were reactions this time. The show is about connection, space, family, missing loved ones, perhaps climate change we went from the Mojave desert to a lush garden in Japan.  

The world was created in that hotel room as it shifted, changed, and unsettled our conception of where we were. Wonderfully clever. Beautifully done.

When it was finished Thaddeus Phillips, the creator and the Motel Guest took us ‘backstage’ to show us how things were done, but not the card tricks. Fascinating.

After the show, I pulled up the instructions, this time on my laptop. They fit the screen nicely. I printed them off from the laptop. It printed perfectly. Didn’t work with my PC. Kafka? A mystery? Don’t know.

www.folda.ca

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Streaming as part of FOLDA (Festival of Live Digital Arts) June 9-13.

www.folda.ca

By HEIST.

Written by Aaron Collier with Stewart Legere and Francesca Ekwuyasi

Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr

Composed and sound design by Aaron Collier

Costume designer, Emyln Murray

Digital Designers, Matthew Downey and MacKenzie Cornfield

Cast: Aaron Collier

VR Driver, Sylvia Bell

Frequencies is both an homage to the boundless imagination technology affords a curious, creative mind and a heart-squeezing story of love, longing and grieving for someone you never knew. In both cases the creator and story teller is Aaron Collier.

Early in the storytelling there appears to be static and a disruption in the sound. This is deliberate. Aaron Collier works a computer console, turning nobs and dials to create the sound and ‘noise’ that is appropriate.

Initially he wanted to harness the frequencies in nature and translate them into music. He also wanted to explore time and how it was relative. He used bees as an example. He created the thrum of the sound of bees, subtle, slight, eye-brow-raising—something you don’t usually think about, now is in the centre of our curiosity. He wanted to show some magic in the show. But mostly he wanted tell his story and that of his family. Aaron Collier offered that it was possible to miss a person he never met. He was mysterious about that person, but it comes clear gradually. Aaron Collier has such a soft, mellifluous voice and a graceful way of telling a story, you are rapt with attention. The addition of such creative technological invention makes your eye pop with amazement.

He was born in the winter of 1981. A circle of light forms in front of him A small ball of ‘light’ is situated in one of the circles of light. Another ribbon of colour formed inside the circle first white (for winter), then green (for spring), then colourful flowery (for summer) then browns and golds (for fall). At another time a whole galaxy of planets in their circular orbits formed in the air behind him as he was telling the story.

Music is very important to Collier. He describes how he discovered the beauty of playing a toy piano and how it developed when he got a real one. His music is beautiful.

Through the story we learn of a deep yearning, grief even. Unexplained, mysterious, until he finds out the reason. We also find out to whom he has dedicated the show. This is a deeply personal, sensitive story of love, family and creation. There are so many surprises of discovery of the simplest of things, because of the way that Aaron Collier has created and presented them. The piece is beautifully directed by Ann-Marie Kerr, a wonderful theatre director, who has taken this dazzling technological creation, and realized the world of longing and missing that Aaron Collier has beautifully created.

Comments. FOLDA is a revelation to a person (me) not techno savvy but still curious about this cutting-edge world. The abilities with the technology, the fearlessness of the creators, the imagination that goes into using technology to tell a story in a different way, or even the ‘usual’ way but with a difference, just stuns me. I so appreciate this new artform.

I appreciate that FOLDA embraces its audience and makes it as easy as possible to engage. There is always help with glitches, missteps etc.

Typed information on our screens said that the production would start when the slowly forming circle in the background was complete. I was cynical. Every single show I’ve seen of late on line has been late in starting, in spite of the viewers being at home at the time. Who are we waiting for? Latecomers? AT HOME! But I digress.

The circle completed exactly at show time and then the show began! On time! As Frequencies is about time and how it’s spent and slowed and speeded up with imagination, Aaron Collier states the simplest, most important truth: “The biggest gift we can get is your time.” Wonderful, and true to his word and consideration of his audience the show started when it should have. There is a warning as well when there would be flashing lights at a certain time in the show. Consideration for the audience is everywhere here.

Frequencies also does its wonderful bit to make the audience as comfortable as possible. As with Good Things To Do (another FOLDA production) we are told to get comfortable; listen with ear phones but if you don’t have them, that’s ok; and turn the lights off as you would in a theatre.

Loved this piece. Will look out for anything by HEIST in future.

Details on FOLDA go to: www.folda.ca

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Streaming on the Soulpepper Theater website until June 30, 2021: www.soulpepper.ca

Written by Wole Soyinka

Directed by Tawiah Ben M’Carthy

Sound by Debashis Sinha

Composer, Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison

Audio producer, Gregory Sinclair

Cast: Maev Beaty

Déjah Dixon-Green

Ijeoma Emesowum

Peter Fernandes

Patrick McManus

Pulga Muchochoma

Wole Oguntokun

Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah

Amaka Umeh

Micah Woods

Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka is part of Soulpepper’s Around the World in 80 Plays audio series and this one is presented in partnership with the Stratford Festival. It’s the last in the series and this time we are in Nigeria.

The Story and Comment. This is from the show’s blurb: “When an individual’s actions shake a world off its axis, how is honour restored? When a Yoruba King dies, the King’s horseman, Elesin (Wole Oguntokun), is required by tradition to accompany him into the afterlife. But this sacred ritual is interrupted, resulting in an unforeseen tragedy. Based on actual events in British-occupied Nigeria, Wole Soyinka’s Nobel prize-winning play shares the story of a community striving to uphold its culture in the face of colonial power. “

I think a few details need expanding. In the play we are told there is a mourning period of one month between the death of the king and his burial. When it says that Elesin, the King’s Horseman is required by tradition to accompany him into the afterlife, they mean Elesin must commit suicide. If the process is interrupted then the spirit of the dead king roams the earth and can wreak havoc on the people because of his disturbed spirit.

Nigeria became a British protectorate in 1901 and had British colonial influence until 1960 when there was a movement for independence, which they got in 1963. In the play Simon Pilkings (Patrick McManus), the British District Officer in Nigeria, learned of the tradition, that Elesin had to commit suicide to fulfill the traditional ritual, thought it was unacceptable from his civilized British point of view and was going to prevent it. This is what is meant by an individual’s actions shake a world off its axis.

Elesin considered this tradition an honour to fulfill.  Elesin is a hugely confident man, totally aware of his stature in the community because of this honour and he was going to play it to the hilt. Here is a wonderful speech he gives: “In all my life as a horseman of the King, the juiciest fruit on every tree was mine. I saw. I touched, I wooed. Rarely was the answer no. the honour of my place; the veneration I received in the eye of man or woman prospered my suit, played havoc with my sleeping hours, and they tell me my eyes were always in perpetual hunger.”

Glorious. The language and rhythms of Nigeria as exemplified in Soyinka’s play are seductive, evocative and gleaming.

Elesin planned to marry the most beautiful young woman in the village, have the wedding night and do his husbandly duties, thus carrying on his line, then follow the King into the afterlife soon after. But the women of the village take him to task for his hubris: first in the person of Olohun-iyo (Amaka Umeh) a praise singer, and then Iyaloja, (Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah) Mother of the Market. Elesin has an obvious verve for life and determination to have as much pleasure before he has to give up his life. Elesin knows and believes in the importance of the tradition, but the women are fearless in letting him know that his humility and sense of entitlement leave a lot to be desired.  

With the British in Nigeria Soyinka, through his play, addresses the difference in cultures and how one treats the other. It’s one of the many beauties of the play. The arrogance and contempt of the British, exemplified in Simon Pilkings and others,  for the traditions of the people of the village are obvious. Pilkings represents the quintessential overpowering culture who has no reason to learn anything about the place or people whom he is colonizing. Pilkings was going to stop the fulfilling of the tradition because he didn’t agree with suicide.  He didn’t care about the ramifications and consequences.

There are references that native Nigerians became Christians during Pilkings’ stay, so one can assume pressure was put on them to convert. And Mrs. Pilkings (Maev Beaty) is no better—she is more accommodating on the surface, but really no better.

For example there is a costume ball at the European Club in the village to welcome British royalty and she thinks it’s for a good cause. Mrs. Pilkings wears a traditional Nigerian mask that she’s tinkered with for the ball. She meets Elesin’s son Olunde (Peter Fernandes) who has returned from England to do his duty at his father’s funeral. He knows the Pilkings because they sent him to England to study medicine and ensure a bright future, from their point of view.

Olunde is polite when he sees her but eventually he says to her: “You have no respect for what you don’t understand.” And he says of the ball. ”…that is the good cause for which you desecrate an ancestral mask.” Again, rather than see her cultural blunder and apologize Mrs. Pilkings says to him, “So you returned with a chip on your shoulder.”

The play was written in the 1970s and I think it’s as timely today as it was then.  You don’t get the sense that attitudes have changed toward other cultures. And it’s interesting to note that Wole Soyinka was so observant about the differences in British and Nigerian culture.  (He wrote the play at Cambridge).

Mr. Pilkings didn’t share anything important about his work with his wife—no need for her to know. She was not treated as an equal in that marriage or important in her husband’s work. She was someone to be a cordial hostess to the British upper classes, without learning about the people the British were acting as ‘protectors.’

But in Nigeria those women of the market were fiercely independent and could and did stand up to the revered King’s Horseman. I loved that juxtaposition.

The Production. I thought the audio production was terrific.  The language of the play is dense and poetic. The rhythms are so particular in the language of the play and the cast, under the direction of Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, nails them.The cadence, pace and emotion just grip you.

You get the sense of bursting life and pride in Elesin by Wole Oguntokun’s performance. There is confidence, verve and a bristling energy in his delivery. The fierce independence and strength in Olohun-iyo is so clear because Amaka Umeh’s performance is so confident in standing up to Elesin.  The same can be said of Iyaloja-Mother of the market, by Kadijah Roberts-Abdullah’s performance. As Mother of the market, Iyaloja empowers the same stature to stand up to the prideful Elesin. It’s a buoyant balancing act as one side does not concede to the other—and the women make their points with quiet understatement and the occasional contemptuous ‘tsk’.

Olunde is his father’s son in every way. He knows his responsibilities to tradition and he’s learned about other cultures in his time in Britain. But as played by Peter Fernandes, Olunde is more courtly than his father Elesin. He knows how to play the game but he can stare down Mr. and Mrs. Pilkings’ arrogance and send a barb with unerring accuracy and do it quietly ( ”…that is the good cause for which you desecrate an ancestral mask.”). Patrick McManus as Simon Pilkings has that haughty, distracted air about him when dealing with people he feels are lesser. And Maev Beaty as Mrs. Pilkings has that arrogance as well although in a subtler version. Still not twigging to her cultural blunder is part of Mrs. Pilkings persona and Beaty plays it beautifully.

No less important in the cast of characters is the almost constant presence of drumming, composed by Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison. The subtle drumming is the heart-beat of the play; the conscience of the people being ‘protected.’ The drumming is there, rhythmic, constant and persistent as an underscore to the dialogue. At times the pace, the thrumming increases as does the sense of danger or heightened emotion. And the sound scape of Debashis Sinha creates the world of the play.

I thought the whole series of Around the World in 80 Plays was a terrific tour of international plays that gave us a look into other cultures, language, and stories. Rather than look at these plays from ‘our’ point of view and how they compared to us, they made us look at them fresh, anew, from ‘their’ point of view.

Death and the King’s Horseman is streaming on the Soulpepper Theater webpage until June 30. For tickets go to www.soulpepper.ca

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Created by Rumble Theatre

For the streamed Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA—June 9-13) www.folda.ca

This piece is certainly one for the technological age.

From the info on the show:

“The viewer is invited to attend and experience the blending of a dreamy sonic landscape, a solitary physical environment, and an unexpected use of technology, as Good Things to Do by Rumble Productions, entices participants to place themselves within a dreamscape where they possess extraordinary powers. This wondrously immersive experience is a meditation on goodness, generosity, and the struggle to stay tender in a world that asks us to be hard.”

Participants are told that at a half-hour before the show they will be contacted by text to ensure that we are ready for the experience. Exactly at half-hour I got a text. I like that punctuality. Then we are told that we will receive another text at 15 minutes before the show we will be sent a text with a password that gets us into the site. I got the password right at 15 minutes. Loving this.

We are also told to watch the presentation on a tablet or laptop; to use earphones that go over the head rather than ear-buds; (I found ear-buds to be fine); to find a very cozy place, preferably in bed; have a nice drink handy and be cocooned in a blanket. The description was so seductive I thought it might be a porno movie, not that I would know about such things. But still.

Show time came. And went. For a few minutes hmmm. I texted my accommodating contact and was assured all was ok. We were asked to click a button and adjust the sound and ensure that we heard gentle falling rain. It played for some minutes. Lovely sound but suggestive. I went to the bathroom for a quick visit.

Then gently, delicately typing appeared on my laptop screen. The person was talking about a dream in which, miraculously, I was a participant. We ran in a meadow of yellow daisies; through forests; swam in water and under it. A hand was offered for comfort. Companionship; laughs, good times, jokes, sharing of secrets. We were asked to type things that were important to us. I did think of the play, Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan that was about the same thing. This is part of the transporting power of Good Things To Do.

As the play progressed the languid pace continued but the typing seemed to speed up. Several surprises happened during the show. I loved the technology and the technologically gifted creators of the piece. Then it slowed down again and finally we were thanked and let go to continue our relaxing evening.

Fascinating experience. It was nice to be connected and taken care of so well. E-mails and texts were answered quickly, assurance was gracefully given. Here’s an interesting thing; we are told that if we want to be able to go to sleep quickly, we should get away from our computers at least a half hour before bed because our brains are just buzzing with the stimulation of the screen and what’s on it. As I was reading the quickening typing that appeared on my screen for Good Things To Do I could feel my heart racing with the buzz of it all. And while the pace slowed down at the end and I was toasty under the blankets, I wasn’t able to get comfortable or relaxed or sleepy until 2:30 am. thinking of all sorts of ‘good things to do.”

For information on FOLDA go to www.FOLDA.ca

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Katharsis originally streamed from the Prairie Theatre Exchange in November, 2020. Is is a repeat of my review:

Streamed for the Festival of Live Digital Arts (FOLDA) June 9, 2021.

Written by Yvette Nolan

Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones

Original music and sound by M.J. Dandeneau

Lighting by Ksenia Broda-Milian

Film director, Sam Vint

Cast: Tracey Nepinak

This is a wonderful one person show that is a love letter to an empty theatre.

Definition: “Catharsis” (from Greek) “purification” or “cleansing” or “clarification”) is the purification and purgation of emotions — particularly pity and fear — through art or any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration.”

Katharsis was created from the start to be filmed.

The story is a love letter to the empty theatre and I think theatre in general. The stage is dark except for a ghost-light and a chair. The ghost-light in theatre tradition is the light that is put on the stage after the last person (except for the stage-door guard) has left the building. It is there to ward off ghosts or to provide light so no one will fall off the stage by accident. (Take your pick).

A woman/actress/stage-protector (Tracey Nepinak) in a flowing top and long skirt comes on stage. She is barefoot. She sits in the chair and claps her hands at the light which is beside her chair. The light turns off. She claps her hands again and the light goes on. She does this a few times, smiles at the light and finally takes it off stage.

When she returns, she says out to the darkness: “Ok, you can come back now.” Meaning this is our cue—the audience can come back now. She says she realizes that won’t be that easy because people are scared. At times she is on stage sitting in the chair, playing to the ghost light. Other times she sweeps the floor in an almost ceremonial fashion, making large circular sweeping motions, as if to get rid of the things bedevilling us.

For part of this short 15 minute piece the woman goes and sits in a seat in the empty audience.  She notes how we have always used the theatre to tell stories with lessons we then take into the world. She is that lone audience member who then goes on stage now as the actress and waits to welcome the rest back to the theatre.

I loved the simplicity of Katharsis and the ceremony of it. In her wonderful play Yvette Nolan references her Indigenous heritage and ceremonies to offer healing in times of uncertainty, stress etc. This time of the pandemic certainly has put all of us in a stressful place. Nolan also references the theatre as a place of discovery, healing and to make sense of things.

In almost every Indigenous play I’ve seen there was a ceremony welcoming everybody to come into the circle, without exception. That’s the sense I got in Nolan’s play and Tracey Nepinak’s playing. I loved this piece because of its generosity of spirit and embracing of the missing audience. Tracey Nepinak plays the woman with nuance, humour and sensitivity.  It’s beautifully directed by Thomas Morgan Jones.  

We miss being in a theatre listening to stories. This filmed production of Katharsis makes that ‘missing’ easier to bear.

Produced by Prairie Theatre Exchange and is part of FOLDA

Info: FOLDA.ca

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Heads Up:

June 9-13, 2021.

June 9 – 13, 2021

“I like to call it the one performance festival that never needed to pivot. […] It was ahead of its time.” – J. Kelly Nestruck, The Globe and Mail

LEARN MORE ABOUT FOLDA>

Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

From Soulpepper as part of their Around the World in 80 Plays Series:

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‘DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN’ 
PREMIERES THIS WEEK!


WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL’S ACTIONS SHAKE A WORLD OFF ITS AXIS, HOW IS HONOUR RESTORED?

We are thrilled to have you join us for the final week of Around the World in 80 Plays, our eight-week global adventure of audio dramas, in-depth documentaries from CBC Ideas, and cultural highlights celebrating the global ‘canon’. This week we welcome you to Nigeria for the premiere of DEATH AND THE KING’S HORSEMAN by Wole Soyinka. This Nobel prize-winning play based on actual events in British-occupied Nigeria is available to stream beginning this Wednesday, June 9.

Presented in partnership with The Stratford Festival.

Thursday, June 10, 2021 7:00 pm

Marys Seacole

From Lincoln Center Theater

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Private Reels: From the LCT Archive. Marys Seacole
 
FREE STREAM! ‘MARYS SEACOLE’ STARTS JUNE 10! LEARN MORE »
FREE STREAMING ON BROADWAY ON DEMAND

BEGINS THURSDAY, JUNE 10 AT 7PM ET  

MARYS SEACOLE, a “breathless and radiant new play” (NYTimes) from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of FAIRVIEW, is the story of an ambitious Jamaican nurse and caregiver whose adventures take her across oceans and eras, from a battlefield of the Crimean War to a contemporary urban playground, and many times and places in between.

Our acclaimed LCT3 production of MARYS SEACOLE premiered at the Claire Tow Theater in 2019. Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, it features Gabby Beans, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Marceline Hugot, Karen Kandel, Ismenia Mendes, and Lucy Taylor.

100 minutes runtime. REGISTER NOW »

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Review: 1812

by Lynn on June 8, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Streaming until Wed. June 9 https://fosterfestival.com/shop/1812-reading-only/

Reading presented digitally by the Foster Festival, St. Catharines, Ont.

Written by Norm Foster

Directed by Jim Mezon

Cast: André Anthony

Mairi Babb

Ellen Denny

Jon-Alex MacFarlane

David Nairn

Patricia Yeatman

It’s June, 1812. Wallace Edwards (David Nairn) is a robust, good-natured man but he’s having trouble remembering his wife’s name, or any name for that matter. He was thrown from his horse and he lost his memory as a result, and his dignity I would expect. He tries to carry on but keeps forgetting that his wife is Millicent (Patricia Yeatman), their daughter is Caroline (Ellen Denny) and the maid is Henrietta (Mairi Babb). There were other servants too but they had to be let go because money was tight, and even though Wallace is the mayor of St. Stephens, New Brunswick, the salary is a pittance. Millicent does the best she can to economize. Wallace seems befuddled about everything around him, although he’s cheerful. Again, we have to blame all this odd behaviour on his dive from the horse.

Caroline, always resourceful, put a shoe on her own horse that morning. A neighbour heard about it and sent one of his men, (Ben Strong by name  (André Anthony)) over to see if he could lend a hand. Wallace and Millicent wondered how such news got around. Ben said that it was a small town and news does travel quickly. This is one of the sweet recurring jokes of Norm Foster’s play—everybody hears the news before it seems to be news. This would also provide one of the more poignant moments in the play, when news did not travel as quickly as it should have.

Over time Ben and Caroline would become close friends, often riding together on their respective horses. Ben was a courtly fellow. He was born and educated in England. His father was a ship captain transporting Black people from Africa to other places to be slaves. Ben’s father fell in love with one of the women he was transporting and took her to England where they married and had Ben. Ben was well educated and came to America. While Wallace was cordial when he met Ben Wallace was his usual gauche, insensitive self and asked, “Are you a Negro?” Yes, Ben was in fact a Negro and nothing more was made of that, except in a few beautifully placed Foster moments of supposition and jumped conclusions that land us squarely on our assumptions.

Ben became a welcome guest in the Edwards’ house. To help Wallace get back his memory, Ben taught Wallace Italian. The thinking was that having to learn and remember a new language would twig Wallace to remember what he forgot when his horse threw him, including Millicent’s name.  (This sounds like such a flight of Foster fancy, learning another language to get your memory back, that if in fact it is true, well fine, but Foster conjuring it is hilarious, as is.  

St. Stephens, New Brunswick is just across the bridge over a bit of water from Calais, Maine. The townsfolk of both small communities are great friends. Such good friends are they that the good people of Calais, Maine ask the equally good people of St. Stephens, New Brunswick if they can borrow some gunpowder for their July 4th celebrations, and their Canadian neighbours  happily obliged, even though war had been declared earlier in June. Actually the British and the United States were at war and Canada was mixed up in there too, but the people of the two neighbouring towns wanted no part of the waring animosity. It’s hard to avoid war when a militia is formed on the other side (all thought they didn’t have gun powder). So matters escalated.

This is a Norm Foster play so animosity and harshness are not strong points. Wisdom and humour are. So when characters on either sides try and one-up each other about what one side did to the other (quiet Canadians seem to have burned down an important white house on the other side) the reality is funny and sobering. Foster makes the strongest argument against war in his usual understated way, but he has Millicent voice it and that is resounding. When you least expect it, Foster sends zingers in the air that land right in your heart.

The cast is wonderful under the equally skilled direction of Jim Mezon. David Nairn plays Wallace with good-natured confidence but with an air that he might not be ‘reading the room’ as clearly as he should because of his accident. As Millicent, Patricia Yeatman is patience personified with a touch of exasperation. The closeness of the relationship between that husband and wife is clear in the playing of David Nairn and Patricia Yeatman. Caroline is an independent woman thanks to Mairi Babb performance of her. She can shoe a horse, stare down any man who dares to be over-bearing and is wise enough to meet her match in Ben. André Anthony plays Ben with great charm, grace and integrity. Director Jim Mezon realizes the nuance and subtlety in the script along with his smart cast.

There are weighty matters that are discussed in 1812 and Norm Foster accomplishes it in this thoughtful, funny moving play.

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