Each week, Drama Club looks at Toronto’s theatre scene and tells you which shows are worth checking out.
The Rhubarb Festival, currently entering its second of three weeks at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, touts itself as a “critic free” zone, which means you won’t be seeing reviews of any of the shows on Torontoist. But don’t worry; we haven’t forgotten about it, and we don’t intend to ignore it. A new bunch of pieces premiere tonight, and one that happened to catch our eye was Moon Mission III, a science fiction piece by Evan Webber. You might know Webber as one of the members of One Reed Theatre, who created the acclaimed SummerWorks shows Nor the Cavaliers Who Came With Us and (Never Underestimate) The Power. If you’ve browsed through your Soulpepper brochure, you also might recognize his name as one of the writers behind the new version of Antigone they are presenting this season. Moon Mission III is, appropriately enough, the third part of a trilogy of semi-fictional plays about human beings in outer space, this one focusing on two astronauts who attempt to “return to the moon” in the near future.
After the fold, we talk to Evan Webber and Moon Mission III actor Hannah Cheesman about what it is that makes the moon so appealing. Also, Scorched returns, who got naked(!) at Wrecking Ball 8, and even more theatre stuff!
Moon Mission III InterviewTorontoist: Science fiction as a genre is not something that gets explored theatrically all too often. How do you think the two worlds meet, and are there are special challenges or happy mistakes that go along with the territory?
Hannah Cheesman: Yes, very rarely do these two worlds meet. This probably has something to do with the fact that science fiction and theatre seem to exist at opposite ends of the spectrum: one is heart and one is mind, right? That is obviously a ridiculous and reductive statement, but both sides do generally stay in their respective corners, which is unfortunate. There exists some sort of belief that science is not highly creative (which probably has more to do with how poorly sciences are taught in high schools, thereby keeping many creative minds outside of the seemingly impenetrable world of science) and while this can be true, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in the world of “outer space.” Where space sciences and humans meet, there is a very poetic reality. NASA material (and particularly that of the Cold War/fight for flight to the moon eras) is exceptionally philosophically driven and human in its vision and ambition. So I suppose the challenge is seemingly to find a connection, but there exists a very clear one: the aspect of dreaming to create or realize something that is only imagined or imaginable. And the ambition that is necessary to do so. Both are sort of petty and grand; arbitrary, yet potentially important.
Evan Webber: Science fiction is good for plays because people actually have a relationship to it. They think they know what science fiction is cause they’ve seen it in movies. Actually, in capitalism, science fiction is incredibly important, because it’s one of only two ways you can talk about the future. The other way is by presenting some dystopian vision (which is much more common in theatre). Science fiction creates space for considering a flawed but possibly habitable future. It’s a way of denying the end of history.
Why is Rhubarb the right place for this project, and where do you think you could see it going in the future?
EW: At Rhubarb everything is unfinished or made in the spirit of unfinishedness (with some notable exceptions, like Taylor Mac or Public Recordings). That combination of done and undone means you can think critically about your own and the other work without too much editing of response. You can look at something and say, “That’s terrible, but it’s fascinating because…” and then you realize how you actually value risk more than you thought. You start to appreciate where a piece sends you, as well as what it is. Maybe you get less afraid. This is good for art. The project is a play in three parts. Personally, it’s a bit of a directing experiment for me, as well as a way of talking about time and ambition and collaboration. That’s about all I know right now.
What does the moon mean to you?
HC: To me the moon means shadows and eyeballs and faces. But the moon also represents to me some aspect of death: I imagine the moon rotating around Earth, where there is no longer human life. It is quiet, but the moon keeps circling the planet, our unimportance finally asserted and movement carrying onwards until it comes to stopping. I suppose this is the closest I will come to being near her.
EW: The moon is a kind of a stand-in for the impossible. It’s like where your dead are: the furthest-away place that is also always in view. It’s like a big ghost in the sky.
Wrecking Ball 8: Senators and Full Frontal Nudity
The Department of Culture announced its “Senate” at Wrecking Ball 8. Image taken from their website (where you can find a full-size version as well as descriptions of who these people are).
“Well, I certainly never expected to see his penis,” said one audience member to the woman sitting next to him during the intermission of Monday night’s edition of The Wrecking Ball. The “him” in question was none other than revered Toronto playwright and actor Michael Healey, who provoked many a surprised giggle when he opened the evening by entering the stage of Theatre Passe Muraille absolutely naked and proceeded to stay that way for several minutes. (Just because we can, here’s a link to that video where he yells “fuck my wide ass!” again.) The eyeful served as the beginning of a short scene about Olivia Chow becoming prime minister, called “O, Bamada,” that was written by Matt McFadzean.
Monday marked the eighth edition of The Wrecking Ball, an evening of politically themed performance that demands each piece presented be written only a single week prior to the show’s first rehearsal. Sure, the time constraints mean everything’s bound to be a little rough around the edges, but the result is an engaging, topical, and very entertaining night of theatre. McFadzean’s piece was a big hit with the crowd, as were the adorable Anand Rajaram’s one-man rant “On the Force of Time” and a short play that Michael Healey actually wrote on Monday morning. The evening also featured a special appearance by members of The Department of Culture, who had a special announcement to make: Senate appointments! But don’t go looking for this Senate in Ottawa; the Department has created their own thirty-person team that represents arts professionals from across the nation who oppose Stephen Harper’s government. This Senate includes Tara Beagan, Jason Collett, Sarah Harmer, NOW editor Alice Klein, Naomi Klein, Daniel MacIvor, Michael Rubenfeld, and everyone’s favourite naturist, Michael Healey.
Scorched: Fire Sale?Here’s a friendly tip to those who missed Tarragon’s wildly successful (and generally sold-out) hit Scorched: the show will be returning to Bridgman Avenue in June, and this Friday, every single ticket for the run of the show is on sale for only twenty dollars. If you couldn’t get tickets to either of the show’s previous productions, or if you just can’t get enough of it, this is an awesome opportunity to score some super-affordable seats for Wajdi Mouawad’s acclaimed play.
On Stage This WeekIt’s about time: 60 dances in 60 minutes is the new show from Dancemakers, who brought us last year’s cool Double Bill # 1, and it opens tonight at the Enwave Theatre. This one-hour show runs until February 14.
Lady in the Red Dress is a new production by fu-GEN playing at the Young Centre. The play, which runs until February 21, is a Chinese-Canadian noir mystery that mixes the aesthetics of Murakami and Frank Miller (along with a heavy dose of David Lynch). The script is sometimes messy, and the performances don’t all gel, but the design is gorgeous and Nina Lee Aquino directs the piece with a deft hand.
CanStage‘s season returns with Miss Julie: Freedom Summer, which opens tomorrow at the Bluma Appel. This new version of the Strindberg classic re-imagines Julie and Jean’s illicit affair as an interracial coupling in 1960s Mississippi. It plays until March 7.
Buddies in Bad Times’ annual Rhubarb Festival kicks off its second week tonight with six different performances going on in their Cabaret and Chamber spaces, featuring work by such artists as Sky Gilbert, Geoffrey Pounsett, Ryan G. Hinds, and Ulysses Castellanos. The festival runs until February 22 with a new lineup each week.
Toronto the Good continues at Factory Theatre. The new play about racial profiling is written by notable Toronto playwright Andrew Moodie. It runs until March 1.
Ubuntu (The Capetown Project) plays at Tarragon. This collective creation is a collaboration between South African and Canadian artists and features Holly Lewis and Michelle Monteith. Runs until March 1.
You Fancy Yourself is a new solo show written and performed by the multi-talented Maja Ardal and directed by Mary Francis Moore. It plays at Passe Muraille until February 14.