The 35th Rhubarb Festival Looks Back and Forward
At 35 years old, the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre may be nearing middle age, but it’s still the place to go if you’re looking for experimental, boundary-breaking, not-your-theatre-next-door kind of stuff in Canada. Every February, Buddies in Bad Times warms up the Church Street neighbourhood with public works, cabarets, live performance art, and a robust lineup of emerging and established artists pushing their own limits and those of the political and cultural moment.
Festival director Laura Nanni is taking the opportunity to look at Rhubarb’s trajectory: this year’s lineup revolves around significant works of the past, and prophetic interpretations of the future. At the same time, with 34 successful years behind it, Nanni and the Rhubarb team have faced an unexpected challenge in getting the 2014 edition off the ground: a funding denial from the Department of Canadian Heritage.
We spoke to Laura Nanni to get her perspective this year’s festival, and the repercussions of the funding gap.
MLK Was Here
Hart House honours Black History Month with its special presentation, MLK Was Here. A lineup of esteemed guests will speak on “Conscience for Change,” from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 Massey Lectures, and how it applies to present day. Speakers include Marilyn Legge (associate professor of Christian ethics), Sheldon Taylor (historian), and Bob Rae (former premier of Ontario and current First Nations advisor).
Embracing the F Word in Untitled Feminist Show
Young Jean Lee’s theatrical mantra—”What’s the last thing in the world I would ever want to write?”—has resulted in creative battles against some pretty intimidating opponents: religion (Church), death and mortality (We’re Gonna Die), and black racial stereotypes (The Shipment, which came to Toronto in 2012), to name a few. But the risks have paid off so far: Lee has amassed a loyal and influential following in New York City. Her fans and collaborators have included the late Lou Reed and his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson; the Talking Heads’ David Byrne; former Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna; and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz. According to the New York Times, she’s “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation.”
The Black Museum: Carnival of Souls
The Black Museum is gearing up for another slew of horror-themed presentations, and it’s kicking it all off with a special film screening at its new home: the Royal Cinema. Herk Harvey’s surrealistic 1962 thriller, Carnival of Souls, gets the honours of breaking in the new venue and will be accompanied by the announcement of semester four’s first three lectures.
The Guggenheim Comes to the AGO
Virginia Woolf once remarked that “on or about December 1910, human character changed.” Whether it actually did is debatable, but the curators of “The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection 1910–1918” use that year to start their exhibition of works from a tumultuous decade of innovation in European fine art.
TIFF Promises to Love Godard Forever
“Photography is truth,” Michel Subor’s young draft-dodger announces in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Petit Soldat, “And cinema is truth 24 frames per second.” Though that statement is often misattributed to the French filmmaker himself rather than to his character, the sentiment seems to hold true enough for Godard. On the strength of his wide-ranging, by turns playful and socially committed, and equal parts aesthetically and politically revolutionary filmography, one might even say that Godard’s life’s work has been dedicated to elevating the cinema to the esteemed status in which philosophers hold first principles like truth.
That effort to haul the cinema out of its infancy and into a kind of artistic maturity is the subject of TIFF Cinematheque’s newest and fullest retrospective in some time, a two-season programme entitled Godard Forever, which is intended to span the length of the filmmaker’s remarkable, varied career—from the jazz-infused improvisation of Breathless to the Marxist montage of recent work like Film Socialisme. The first half of that retrospective, a fifteen-film programme dedicated to what most consider Godard’s golden age—the period from 1960’s Breathless to 1967’s apocalyptic, decade-capping Weekend—runs this season, highlighting the period in which Godard famously moulded existing genres like Hollywood gangster pictures and musicals into his own unique creations.
Life Is Good, When it’s This Cabaret
It’s 1931 in Berlin, and the Nazis are on the brink of supremacy. But there remains another side to the city—one that’s decadent, permissive, and artistic. And that’s the world we meet when we’re beckoned into the extravagant and sleazy Kit Kat Klub by eccentric Emcee and his troupe of saucy dancers, performing “Willkommen.”
Cabaret’s primary plotline begins with the arrival of American writer Cliff Bradshaw (David Light). Without a real agenda, he’s come to Berlin to work on his novel and teach English. A patron of the Kit Kat Klub, he catches the eye of the star performer Sally Bowles (Kylie McMahon). A natural stunner, Sally is a bubbly young Brit with a powerhouse voice, a dancer’s grace, and a reputation for flitting from man to man like a bumblebee in a flowerbed. It’s not long before she and Cliff fall in love—though the question of whether he’ll be able to satisfy her wild side constantly hangs over their heads. The sweetness lacking in their relationship can be found in the romantic pairing of the boarding house landlord Fraulein Schneider (Adeen Ashton Fogle) and Jewish shop owner Herr Schultz (Don Berns). As appealing as they are, though, these middle-aged lovebirds are just as susceptible to trouble and heartbreak as their younger counterparts.
Time once again for the City of Toronto’s annual cold-weather enticement to get people out to fine dining establishments, the Winterlicious Festival. Over 200 restaurants have signed up to offer lunch and dinner prix-fixe menus over the official two-week period (many of them continue the pricing for longer), and the City’s also arranged for a number of different culinary events as well. For a full listing of the restaurants participating, visit the City’s website.
From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru
Ichimaru—once one of Japan’s most famous geishas—left the profession in the 1930s to pursue a career in entertainment. Never really leaving her past life, she became known for adorning herself in the traditional geisha garb when performing in concert or on television. “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” exhibits several decades’ worth of outfits and personal effects, shedding light on the woman behind the makeup.
“Poetic Poverty; Experiments in Living”
Those who work in the arts are well acquainted with the balancing act between creative work and life-sustaining day jobs. “Poetic Poverty; Experiments in Living” explores the notion of the starving artist, and why it’s a life so many choose to lead. This two-week show features works by Erin Loree, Stella Cade, Kevin Columbus, and more.
Idiot’s Delight: Not Exactly Theatre for Dummies
The word “idiot” was originally used in ancient Greece to describe a person unconcerned with public affairs like politics, but dedicated to following private pursuits. The setting of Robert E. Sherwood’s 1936 romantic comedy Idiot’s Delight, a failing luxury hotel in the Italian Alps called the Hotel Monte Gabriele, initially seems to be full of idiots: newlyweds on their honeymoon, a group of burlesque singers and their manager, a blissfully genial waiter, and a couple of ornery managers sour over the lack of business. And when a spark flies between a beautiful and mysterious Russian and a smooth-talking American showbusinessman, while the other guests dance, drink, eat, and sing, there’s another piece of juicy plot that can be used to distract themselves, and the audience, from the war that’s literally raging outside the hotel windows.
Heartbeat of Home
The producers of Riverdance have spawned yet another on-stage extravaganza. With a talented cast of 38, Heartbeat of Home is a high-energy show, combining Irish, Latin, and Afro-Cuban music and dance. Torontonians get the honour of seeing the production’s North American debut—take it in before it’s gone!
The Ugly One Plays Both Faces Well
German theatre has gone over really well in Toronto in recent years. Playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s contribution to Volcano Theatre’s Africa project was widely praised, and twinwerks//zwillingswerk’s production of Felicia Zeller’s Kaspar and the Sea of Houses earned the company an outstanding production award at the 2011 SummerWorks (and a trip back to 2012’s festival). Now, Theatre Smash returns with Marius von Mayenburg’s The Ugly One, a clever slice of absurdism that works well on several levels. There’s light humour when the titular character discovers that everyone finds his face repugnant, and darker tones when his new, beautiful face becomes coveted obsessively by those around him.
Flesh and Other Fragments of Love: A Rocky Production
In Tarragon Theatre’s current mainstage production, Flesh and Other Fragments of Love, there are both a marriage and a body on the rocks, and the prognosis isn’t good for either of them. While the human figure appears pale, cold, and lifeless, the marriage is slightly more alive, and the play chronicles its last dying breaths. Surprisingly, though, the young female cadaver is by far the more interesting of the two.
Told through South American music and dance, Arrabal is the story of a young girl desperate to find out what happened to her father after the Argentine military made him disappear when she was just a baby. Her search leads her to the Tango clubs of Buenos Aires, where she discovers both the truth, and herself.
Even though Billy was born deaf, his family strived to raise him the same way they would have a hearing-able child. Tribes sees him learn what it is to hear and be heard when he meets Sylvia, a young woman who is gradually becoming deaf herself. Presented by A Theatrefront Production, Canadian Stage, and Theatre Aquarius, this emotional play stars Stephen Drabicki and Holly Lewis.
Fresh Blood 2014
The Chimera Project knows Canadian dance, and it’s giving us a hint of what the future holds with Fresh Blood 2014. Fifteen emerging choreographers have been selected and given five minutes each to present their solo or group dance works. This year’s roster features EmiMOTION, In’trinzik Dance Project, Sarain Carson-Fox, Social Growl Dance, and many more.
Hidden Restrictions in Free Outgoing
At first, the rise of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram seemed to herald nothing more than a new kind of annoying exercise in narcissism and a devastating black hole for productivity. But, as we all know by now, they had a far darker side: although those of us who were young and vulnerable when these networks emerged are now, we hope, informed enough to use them with care, younger people, who live much of their lives online, have a large and potentially dangerous platform from which to broadcast their immature and stupid mistakes. The negative repercussions of social media aren’t limited to embarrassing photos or inane political rants—teens are being charged with cyber-bullying and, as was the case for two teens in India, a leaked video can lead to a national scandal.
Anupama Chandrasekhar’s play Free Outgoing is partly inspired by the latter, the story of two teens who videotaped themselves having sex and triggered a moral panic in India over sex-crazed teens when the video went viral.