What to See at SummerWorks: Theatre

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What to See at SummerWorks: Theatre

The nation's largest juried arts festival is back for another year—and with it comes over 100 theatre, music, art, dance, and shows to choose from.

Photo by Lodoe-Laura Haines-Wangda/Torontoist.

Last year, The SummerWorks Performance Festival was in a bit of a financial pickle, which had Toronto’s theatre community up in arms over the future of the festival that has helped launch the early careers of a number of eminent artists. Luckily, a few extra bucks on ticket prices didn’t stop 20,000 people from coming out, nor slow a 25 per cent increase in the music series attendance. Nor did it stop some seriously cool work from getting the attention it deserved.

Now with its federal funding back in the bank, SummerWorks is bigger and badder than ever. The 2012 festival has an exciting new spin on its concert series, and a whole whack of quirky, intimate shows at the Performance Bar and new Live Art series. The theatre lineup—full of local, national, emerging, and established artists—is agruably the strongest in the festival’s history.

It’s hard to go wrong, but we have a few suggestions on what you definitely shouldn’t miss at the 2012 SummerWorks Festival, opening tonight and running until Sunday, August 19.

I, Animal
KAZAN CO-OP

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, August 9, 5 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 12 p.m.

VENUE:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)

Sometimes it feels harder not to see a new work from Daniel MacIvor lately: he’s been on a roll recently with shows at Factory, Tarragon, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and will have another at Buddies in Bad Times next season. But that doesn’t mean there won’t still be lineups for I, Animal, an examination of what it means to be human from the perspectives of three different characters, three animals, and one full moon. Premiering in Halifax this past May with KAZAN CO-OP, the same company responsible for MacIvor’s acclaimed Communion, Toronto is in for another dose of MacIvor’s signature direct-address style and evocative language that has made him one of the country’s most successful playwrights.

(Carly Maga)

Barrel Crank
Suitcase In Point

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, August 9, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 10:30 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 8 p.m.

VENUE:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (‪16 Ryerson Avenue‬)

It’s really about time that someone developed a show that explores the natural beauty and kitschy horror that is Niagara Falls. And who better to do it than a group of theatremakers from both St. Catharine’s and Toronto: director Rose Plotek, and playwright Erin Shields (recent winner of the Governor General’s Award for the past SummerWorks hit, If We Were Birds)? In a vaudevillian style suitable for Niagara’s more gaudy qualities, Barrel Crank takes audiences over the edge through the eyes of Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to survive the fall off the Falls. It should be a ride to remember.

(Carly Maga)

Marine Life
Company Theatre Crisis/Aluna Theatre

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 8 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 10:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 8 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 10:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 5:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (‪16 Ryerson Avenue‬)

Natasha Mytnowych was at the helm of last year’s SummerWorks favourite Little One, and now she’s back with a similarly offbeat (but less sinister) play about the desperate side of love by award-winning playwright Rosa Laborde (Hush, Leo, Sugar). Joined by an equally strong cast of Philip Riccio (last seen in Mr. Marmalade), Tommie-Amber Pirie, and Scott McCord, and with two previous runs at the Rhubarb and Panamerican Routes festivals under its belt, Marine Life should reach a promising turning point with its SummerWorks stint.

(Carly Maga)

Terre Haute
Ecce Homo

Photo courtesy of SummerWorks.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, August 9, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 8 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 10 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 12 p.m.

VENUE:
Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue)

Alistair Newton and his company, Ecce Homo, have carved out for themselves a distinct place in Toronto’s theatre scene, based on their socio-political queer subject matter, mixed-genre performances, and unique aesthetic. So far, this has been achieved by writing and directing Newton’s own work. With Terre Haute, he takes on a play by gay literary luminary Edmund White. Based on the correspondence between the recently-deceased author Gore Vidal and the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, this two-hander has festival highlight potential.

(Carly Maga)

Dark Locks
SNAP Productions

Photo courtesy of SNAP Productions

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 5 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 7:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue)

Dark Locks reunites director Mary Francis Moore with playwright Richard Sanger after last year’s work on acclaimed SummerWorks show Hannah’s Turn, for yet another story exploring the complications of the teacher-student dynamic. This one will see veterans of stage and screen Arsinee Khanjian and Gord Rand sharing the spotlight with a newcomer appearing in her first professional show, 18-year-old Ashley Jagga. If one of the thrills of an event like this is discovering not only great new shows but bourgeoning young talent, this may be the rare opportunity to witness both at the same production.

(Kevin Scott)

When It Rains
2b Theatre Company

Photo by Nick Rudnicki

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, August 9, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 12 p.m.
Monday, August 13, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 5 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 5 p.m.

VENUE:
Factory Theatre Mainspace (125 Bathurst Street)

For anyone wondering what exactly an existentialist graphic novel might look like if brought to life, here is your answer. Using a single projector as the only light source, writer-director Anthony Black harnesses the flickers and shadows, transforming them into an innovative story of two couples dealing with relationship troubles amidst a seemingly random universe in different ways. Already having opened to raves in Halifax last April, expect the same stellar quality to which one has become accustomed from the venerable 2b Theatre Company.

(Kevin Scott)

Extinction Song
Voodoo Theatre Company

Photo courtesy of Voodoo Theatre Company

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 8 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 8 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 12:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (‪16 Ryerson Avenue‬)

Ron Pederson is known in Toronto predominantly for his hilarious work with improv theatre company National Theatre of the World. Back in 2009 though, he returned to his hometown of Edmonton and earned raves for his performance in Ron Jenkins’ award-winning one-man show about a child’s escape from his alcoholic Mountie father into an imaginary world. Pederson was inspired enough by the experience to self-produce the show again this summer for its Toronto premiere, with a little help from indiegogo. Between this and his six-night soiree aboard Captain Ron’s Ship of Friendship at the Performance Bar, it is an especially busy festival for him.

(Kevin Scott)

Dutchman
lemonTree creations

Photo by Brian Telzerow

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 9 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 3 p.m.and 9 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.*
Monday, August 13, 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.*
Tuesday, August 14, 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 3 p.m.* and 9 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 3 p.m.* and 11 p.m.

VENUE:
Parking lot, Queen West Storage (21 Ossington Avenue)

Because Fringe proved with Camp Schecky that it’s not a proper festival without a show on a bus, SummerWorks has its own performance on wheels. The difference: this one will be using the bus less as a participation-friendly vehicle for comedy and more as an appropriate locale to study racial relations in 1964, when a white woman seduces a young black man on public transit. Lead actress Sascha Cole has excelled previously at SummerWorks, before more recently tackling the challenging title role in The Diary of Anne Frank. Be careful to note that some shows include the intriguing option of a Talkback directly following the performance (marked with an asterisk in the list of performance times above), in which patrons will have the chance to discuss the impact of what they have just seen.

(Kevin Scott)

Petrichor
Kitchenband Productions

Photo by Howie Shia.

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 10 p.m.
Monday, August 13, 10 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 10 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 12 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 7:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street)

We’ve seen several in-progress versions of Petrichor already—a trial excerpt at the Harbourfront Centre’s Hatch series in 2009, and a workshop production at Theatre Direct in 2010—and we’ve really appreciated the level of careful, methodical craftsmanship of the work so far. That work ethic is also exhibited by the Mennonite farmers the cast portrays in movement, story, and song. There’s a love story that slowly develops between hoed rows, but the play’s really a heartfelt tribute to working the land, living the so-called simple life, and the bonds of family—even when they occasionally chafe.

(Steve Fisher)

Ally & Kev
JSquared Productions

Cara Gee and Jeff Irving. Detail of a photo by Alex Felipe.

PERFORMANCES:
August 9, 9:30 p.m.
Friday, August 10, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 11:30 a.m.
Sunday, August 12, 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 14, 9:30 p.m.
Friday, August 17, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 7 p.m.

VENUE:
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)

Playwright Jason Maghanoy’s got an impressive track record when it comes to festival productions in Toronto, with previous hits like Dust and Gas. His new play, featuring Cara Gee (who we loved at last year’s SummerWorks and elsewhere) and Jeff Irving, as two siblings waiting in an empty house for the owner’s return—and having dark plans for what happens when they do.

(Steve Fisher)

Breath in Between
breath Collective / Crow’s Theatre

Paul Fauteaux and Amy Rutherford. Photo by Guntar Kravis.

PERFORMANCES:
Thursday, August 9, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 3 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 8 p.m.
Monday, August 13, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 12:30 p.m.

VENUE:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace (16 Ryerson Avenue)

We were huge fans of Anton Piatigorsky’s previous play, Eternal Hydra, and he’s back with another tantalizing premise: a man places an ad looking to find someone to kill…but falls in love before the axe falls. Piatigorsky’s hooked two great actors in Amy Rutherford and Paul Fauteaux, and he’s got Buddies in Bad Times’ artistic director Brendan Healy helming this premiere.

(Steve Fisher)

Iceland
The Iceland Collective

Claire Calnan, Kawa Ada, & Christine Horne. Photo by Dwayne Fundano.

PERFORMANCES:
Friday, August 10, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 11, 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 12, 12 p.m.
Thursday, August 16, 5 p.m.
Saturday, August 18, 10 p.m.
Sunday, August 19, 5 p.m.

VENUE:
Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue)

Ravi Jain, this year’s winner of the Pauline McGibbon Award for “unique talent and excellence” at the Dora Awards, seems to pull all sorts of dramatic gold from the banking industry. Here he directs Nicolas Billon’s new play about a real-estate deal gone wrong due to the banking crisis fallout, with a top notch cast: Kawa Ada, Claire Calnan, and Christine Horne. Spent, his clown show with Adam Paolozza (who performs in SummerWorks 2012’s Artaud: un portrait en décomposition), also about the banking crash, has toured extensively.

(Steve Fisher)

CORRECTION: August 16, 2:45 PM The preview for Iceland stated that Ravi Jain’s clown show with Adam Paolozza was being performed at this year’s SummerWorks. It is not. More accurately, Paolozza’s current project, Artaud: un portrait en décomposition, is playing this year.


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