Biting Into Rhubarb: Part Two

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Biting Into Rhubarb: Part Two

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“Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” Photo courtesy of Rhubarb.

We’ve reached Week Two in our coverage of this year’s Rhubarb Festival, and we’re reaching the point where patterns are beginning to emerge. Sure, there are the usual trends—video screens, funny songs, solo performances (featuring d’bi.young this week!), and the odd one-joke pony that shouldn’t be allowed to go on for twenty-five minutes—but a more unusual one we noticed was this: all-women ensembles appropriating goofy, macho ’80s subcultures. Last week, it was WWF-style smackdowns in Birdtown & Swanville’s Dead Wrestlers, this week it’s heavy metal and hair bands with the aptly-named Headbangers.
One show that falls somewhat outside the trends is Suburban Beast‘s Insurgency. A devised piece performed by five non-actors aged ten to twelve, Insurgency combines film and live performance to take a look at the generation born after Gerri left the Spice Girls. In their own words, each tween discusses something that they would die for in a brief monologue, and the result is funny, touching, and fascinating. These kids are all right. It also features original music by indie darling Katie Stelmanis, which should be enough to get some of the Ossington set out to the Village.
After the fold, we catch up with Suburban Beast’s artistic director and the creator of Insurgency, Jordan Tannahill, who tells us all about Miley Cyrus. (Well, not really…)


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Photo courtesy of Suburban Beast.

Torontoist: Tween culture is the new teen culture. What was it like working with performers aged ten to twelve? Do they know how much the world revolves around them?
Jordan Tannahill: All five of “our kids” (producer Sarah Sherman and I really do feel like mother hens) are so incredibly thoughtful and articulate. It was very important to us that they were treated as collaborators and that their ideas were heard and incorporated. And yes, they are aware of the world around them and, to a great extent, how much they are its fulcrum. Hell, one of them has a blog! The only thing I used computers for at their age was to play Brickles.
Katie Stelmanis is a pretty hot commodity these days. How did you wind up working with her, and what does her music add to your show?
When Natasha Greenblatt first emailed me some of Katie’s music, I knew I had to work with her before she was too famous to reply to my emails. Katie’s a superstar in the making. Her Kate Bush-meets-high school marching band-meets midi keyboard apocalypse sound perfectly embodies Insurgency’s youthful urgency.
Why is the Rhubarb Festival important to Toronto?
When I was growing up in Ottawa, we went to the National Research Council on a field-trip and I was so thrilled by the wind tunnels and the particle accelerator they showed us there. And really, that’s what Rhubarb is. Except instead of wind tunnels there’s hair dryers blowing the mullets of four headbangers, and instead of atoms crashing together at near-light speeds, its eight fierce, female wrestlers. Rhubarb is a vital testing ground for new Canadian performance.
What else have you enjoyed seeing/are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
I have a major and none-too-disguised art crush on Aurora Stewart de Peña and Nika Mistruzzi, and their raucous Dead Wrestlers only fanned those flames. It was like Raging Bull meets Les Belles Soeurs. In terms of what I’m most looking forward to, basically anything Lindsey Clarke’s in.
Do you have a tween culture guilty pleasure? A favourite Cheetah Girl or Jonas Bro? Can you do Miley’s “Hoedown Throwdown”?
Man, I don’t even know who “Cheetah Girl” is, but she sounds wicked. I think my favourite tween culture guilty pleasure would be to see Neal Medlyn do a Jonas Brother concert. But get this: one of the first usages of the term “tween” was actually by J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings to describe Hobbits in their twenties: “…tweens as Hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and the coming of age at thirty-three.” So in that case, I guess I am still a tween myself.
The Rhubarb Festival continues until February 28.

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