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Electric Theatre set to open in the heart of Kensington

Posted by Keith Bennie / May 29, 2012

Electric TheatreYou'd be hard-pressed not to notice Toronto's newest mural peering down at you from the facade of 299 Augusta Ave. The piercing blue eyes of an extra terrestrial seem to interrogate your saunter through the city's bohemian corridor.

It's the former home of the now defunct Bread & Circus, which in its three years played host to an incredible variety of performances. Chief among them were Fringe Festival hits My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding and Love is a Poverty You Can Sell, as well as the now very popular The Carnegie Hall Show. The communal spirit of the Kensington theatre made it a much beloved place to tread the boards.

The new tenants, HUGE Picture Productions, have renamed the building the Electric Theatre (no relation to Kim Collier's west coast company). But that's not all that's changed — they've installed theatre style seating for 66, built a larger stage, and have equipped two walls for visual projections. All of this extra work is in the hopes of breaking onto the Toronto theatre scene with intelligent and innovative performance.

Unlike Bread & Circus, HUGE Picture Productions endeavours to present a season of their own original work at the Electric Theatre. At this stage, it will not be renting the space out to other groups. It's a move that will surely disappoint independent theatre companies looking for affordable rehearsal and performance space. But it's yet to be seen if their model is sustainable once financial realities make themselves present.

Mandy Leon, writer and director of their upcoming show, says the company hopes to "entice a new demographic of people, who might not give traditional musical theatre a chance. We'll always deliver original, relevant stories that entertain on multiple levels, blending film, music and theatre in a way people can connect with."

Their first play, HELLO, is an electronic musical set during a worldwide extraterrestrial event. Leon promises the show will feature an experimental soundtrack, film projections, light displays, and a cast of 14. They've set for themselves an extremely ambitious performance schedule — the play runs all summer from June 21 to August 31. That's right, eleven weeks.

Theatre's not the only activity planned for the building. The work of resident artist Doug Vanesselstine populates the cosmic art gallery in the front room. Vanesselstine, who completed the mural on the outside of the building, will be airbrushing custom orders. Members of the company will also be leading theatre and dance classes.

In the heart of one of Toronto's most community-focused neighbourhoods, the Electric Theatre hopes to make contact with an "out of this world" premiere performance.

HELLO, by HUGE Picture Productions, opens at the Electric Theatre at 299 Augusta Ave. on June 21.



cultureshot / May 29, 2012 at 02:03 pm
I'm glad we've got a new indie theatre in town, but that mural is a bit tacky...
Kaela / May 29, 2012 at 02:21 pm
Vanesselstine is an incredibly talented artist. I am amazed at his technical skills. Unfortunately however, this mural looks like it belongs on a poster in the basement bedroom of a 19 year old in 1996. The poorly conceived design is an unfortunate waste of talent.
Jeff / May 29, 2012 at 02:37 pm
I agree, the mural is UGLY... Not saying it lacks skill, just UGLY
nice / May 29, 2012 at 03:14 pm
wont take long for Ford to declare it graffiti.
Toby Buckets / May 29, 2012 at 04:28 pm
Regardless of you taste in art, that's a remarkable paint job. People won't be able to resist noticing / applauding / hating /photographing it, as evidence by this article and the comments.
mike in parkdale / May 29, 2012 at 04:54 pm
I thought drawings of aliens were reserved for bongs and bean bag chairs?

having said that, I think it's a perfect fit for Kensington (even if it's kinda ugly)
Binky / May 29, 2012 at 06:10 pm
I appreciate that the building's beautifully detailed original 'gingerbread' remains intact and exempted from the mural.... a typical Kensington juxtaposition of past and present artistic sensibilities and a fine one at that.
lofty / May 29, 2012 at 07:29 pm
They need a matching van outfitted in carpet and bead curtains. That mural is the greatest thing to happen in the market.
Tam / May 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm
So WHATS thiS TheatRE all ABOUT???
OopsIdiditagain replying to a comment from lofty / May 30, 2012 at 01:03 am
No one on the corner has swagger like us
Hit me on my Burner prepaid wireless
We pack and deliver like UPS trucks
Already going hell just pumping that gas
peasantsong / May 30, 2012 at 01:44 am
the mural is amazing. brash, hard, conceptual (maybe?) - i wonder if they'll change it for every production?
MrDixon / May 30, 2012 at 08:24 am
Cool! Nice to see someone has the guts to do something a little different in Toronto. Kudos to the new theatre!
truth / May 30, 2012 at 01:01 pm
this. will. fail.
hug replying to a comment from truth / May 30, 2012 at 01:58 pm
Don't be such a hater.
reptilian / June 1, 2012 at 01:00 pm
I think this will help young people enjoy theater for sure... Big Up's!!!
theatre101 / June 10, 2012 at 03:46 pm
So excited to check this out! Looks awesome! Its just what toronto needs for a new theatre experience!!
Jamie / June 16, 2012 at 08:43 am
Great article, but the eyes are black. Just saying.
Karen / June 23, 2012 at 10:17 am
Please add your phone number and the times of the performances
HELLO / July 6, 2012 at 04:34 pm
HELLO runs every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night at 8pm, doors at 7:30pm. Tickets available at the box office 299 Augusta Ave - or you can email or call 416 317 8715 to reserve. Come check it out!!
Vincent Pollard / July 27, 2012 at 09:13 am
HELLO is excruciatingly bad. Avoid at all costs.
LaryOly / February 21, 2013 at 02:44 pm
It appears that mural is doing its job.

It's got people talking about the place!
Francis / March 11, 2013 at 11:20 am
@LardyOly looks like the mural did NOT work. This place is shutting down.
Franics replying to a comment from LaryOly / March 11, 2013 at 09:43 pm

@LardyOly looks like the mural did NOT work. This place is shutting down.
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