SummerWorks Toronto Preview
The SummerWorks Festival starts in Toronto this Thursday! Running for ten days and packed with live performances of all stripes, SummerWorks is now the largest juried theatre festival in Canada. The 'Works' has been around since 1991, beginning as a Fringe-like festival, but it has evolved into very much its own animal: unpredictable, exciting, and a crucial showcase for local talent. Okay, with ten days, and way too many options, better take your vitamins now.
Why not start with a home-grown piece that's perfectly suited to the Fest, and to its chosen outdoor venue: The Crush of Beauty, happening nightly at St. Andrew's Park. Laurel Smith's play casts us as witnesses to an unlikely meeting between a world-weary old woman and a disillusioned teenage girl. The piece was developed in collaboration with dramaturge Alexandra Seay, and it was received a staged reading at the '06 SummerWorks Fest. Now it's ready for the real world. (Don't worry...there will be chairs set up in the park.)
If the weather's uncooperative, head for Benu, an exploration of motherhood and mortality from Dora Award winner d'bi.young. The title of her new piece is a reference to the benu bird -- a mythical African bird, like a phoenix.
After the intriguing exploration of self and consciousness with Part 1 at the Fringe , The Red Machine: Part Two hits SummerWorks. It's a play that is partially about writer's block--with seven writers and three directors. If you missed Part 1, that's no excuse...go see Part Two.
Ecce Homo, who brought us the controversial Pastor Phelps Project, is also back this year, with The Ecstasy of Mother Teresa or Agnes Bojaxhiu Superstar--original songs by Reza Jacobs, a cast of 9, puppets and a touch of vaudeville (because surely the Albanian nun who became Mother Teresa deserves an expressionistic Pageant Play.)
SummerWorks isn't only about theatre; there's also music. And straddling the divide is a man who claims to be Toronto's least likely Canadian Idol contestant: Bob Wiseman. Our city's stalwart is doing his first theatre show, Actionable, which takes a hard-suffering look at music and the law, with video, powerpoint, accordion, guitar, and hell yes, a small Casio.
Looking for more music? Every night at 10pm, bands like Kids on TV and Forest City Lovers take over the Theatre Center (Dovercourt & Queen West; all ages; cash bar). But before the music starts, drop into the Gladstone nightly at 7pm, where a variety of short performances have been created specifically for the hotel's second floor rooms and hallways. Don't miss Sedina Fiati's remake of the 1950s pinup, Jannine Saarinen's wall-centric dance piece, and Clinton Walker's take on personal space, at the Gladstone's Performance Gallery.
In case this isn't enough, alongside with the main line-up, the National Series, the readings, music, and performances, this year SummerWorks has added walking tours. Yes, just when we thought we knew everything there was to know about West Queen West, actor Dana Puddicombe explores the strip through love letters from strangers, Bryan Abalos gives us a tour of the 'hood through his grandmother's eyes, and Bruce Beaton looks at the historic evolution of Queen Street itself.
As always, SummerWorks is a great chance to check out new talent in Toronto theatre--most especially with the Youth Reading Series, where four talented emerging writers are paired with a director to help bring their work alive in a public reading. This year features Mia Yugo, Andrew Gaboury, Cassie Beecham and Marisa Ship.
SummerWorks venues include the Factory, Theatre Pass Muraile, The Theatre Centre, the Gladstone Hotel, the Cameron House, Rolly's Garage, and St. Andrew's Playground. Tickets are a steal at $10 per performance, on sale one hour before the show, at the venue; you can buy advance tix online or at Soundscapes, Rotate This and the Arts Box Office.
Can't wait to get started? Put La Grosse Merde (opening night party) on your calendar for Wednesday night, for the kick-off bash at the Theatre Centre (cash bar, free food, no cover.) And don't forget that on Sunday, August 16th, there will be prizes & a closing party in the Factory Theatre Courtyard.
SPECIAL PRIZE OFFER: Be one of the first three people to correctly identify which SummerWorks show is associated with which photograph here on our site, and win a package of tickets: two tix to Every Time I See You I Cry, by Daniel Barrow - Friday August 7th - 4:30 pm, two tix to Actionable, by Bob Wiseman - August 7th - 8pm, and two tix to Matthew Barber w/Claire Jenkins - Wednesday August 12th - 10pm. To win, just be one of the first three people to post the correct answers on blogTO's Facebook group wall. Contest open to Toronto-area residents only.