Summerworks toronto

The top 10 performances to catch at SummerWorks 2014

This year the SummerWorks Performance Festival moves into the new digs at the Theatre Centre, firmly establishing itself as the west-end theatre jam of the year. On offer at the festival's Hub are a collection of arts conversations and parties that carry the energy from artists and audiences throughout the week. Those performances, on stage and at site-specific venues, include six shows in the Music Series, three Musical Works in Concert, thirteen Live Art interactions, and an immense collection of theatre examined below as part of the National and Juried series.

Here's a list of some of the most promising shows at this year's festival:

Thus Spoke / Theatre Centre Mainspace / Page 26
The festival's most intriguing post-modern mash up, featuring works brought together from the likes of Nietzsche and Hendrix, arrives from Montreal as part of the National Series. Incubated at Daniel Léveillé Danse, this dance-challenge to the status quo is the brainchild of Frédérick Gravel and Étienne Lepage. Four performers explore movement that flies in the face of landmark texts creating a piece that's combative, energetic, and never dull.

Écoute Pour Voir / various venues / Page 29
Solo performance pieces provide audience member with a unique, one-to-one experience of a work of live art. In Écoute Pour Voir each audience member is encouraged to share intimate moments with dancers scattered throughout the performance space as they take in the score through an iPod and headphones. The ability to traverse the space and forge a number of one-to-one connections ensures that no two experiences will be the same.

A Quiet Sip of Coffee / Scotiabank Studio Theatre / Page 32
Performers Anthony Johnston and Nathan Schwartz (gay/straight best friends) had a life-altering experience ten years ago when they crafted a prank letter to a fundamentalist organization. Their rumination on the experience, A Quiet Sip of Coffee, documents what happened when the organization took them up on the offer to workshop their play on the caveat that they join the group for two weeks of gay conversion therapy. Fascinating, to be sure.

Blindsided / Scotiabank Studio Theatre / Page 34
The majority of Toronto cyclists know the danger of traversing our city's streets alongside the generally well-meaning but dangerous mass of vehicles that speed along in all shapes and sizes. Blindsided, created and performed by Sabrina Reeves, is an account of what unfolds when a woman is hit by a car and the ensuing, unexpected past trauma unearthed by that moment of crisis.

El Jinete / Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace / Page 36
If you've yet to see a mariachi opera (really, who has?) now's your chance with El Jinete, courtesy of writer/director Mercedes Bátiz-Benét and featuring Mariachi Los Dorados. Utilizing the familiar tropes of love and vengeance, as well as video projections to give the impression of a black and white film, the show will transport you back in time to the golden era of Mexican cinema.

He Left Quietly / Lower Ossington Theatre / Page 38
An all-Canadian cast, under direction from Leora Morris, delivers Yaël Farber's moving account of the trial, death row imprisonment, and eventual stay of execution of Duma Kumalo, one of the Sharpeville Six wrongfully convicted of murder. Found guilty under the "law of common purpose," conviction for having been in the vicinity of an offense, Duma's story is one of injustice and grace under immense pressure.

Kafka's Ape / The Gladstone Hotel / Page 40
This ain't just monkey business, not when Kafka is involved. Adapted from the famed writer's Report to an Academy by Canadian theatre giant Guy Sprung, the play introduces us to Mr. Redpeter, who, as a means to survive, transforms from a free West African jungle ape into an ape with all the qualities of a human. It's performed by Howard Rosenstein and Alexandra Montagnese with direction from Sprung.

Madam Mao / Theatre Centre Incubator / Page 40
Created by Paul Thompson, Madam Mao considers the controversial widow of Chairman Mao, Jiang Qing, who recognized the power of art and its ability to manipulate a nation. Told from a jail cell in the years of her life as a political prisoner, the play attempts to uncover her motivations during the Cultural Revolution and in her role in helping form the Gang of Four, which sought to control the country's most influential institutions.

The Bull, The Moon and The Coronet of Stars / Lower Ossington Theatre Mainspace / Page 42
Daniela Vlaskalic and Ron Pederson star in this steamy romance about two museum workers caught in the labyrinth of forbidden desire and lust. While century-old artefacts may not seem to engender overwhelming passion, there may be mythological forces at work, in the form of the fabled Minotaur, that help give rise to their growing adulterous cravings.

Unintentionally Depressing Children's Tales / Lower Ossington Theatre Studio / Page 47
If you're seeking a cathartic experience, void of positive metaphors and feel good fables, Erin Fleck's Unintentionally Depressing Children's Tales, performed by the puppeteers at Caterwaul Theatre, might just be what the doctor ordered. Through stop-motion animation, shadow play, and projection, the ensemble probes both tragedy and comedy.

SummerWorks has an exciting crop of shows beyond the ten highlighted above.
Here are six others that also tickle our fancy: Antigonik, The Container, Graceful Rebellions, MARACATU YOU!, Unknown Soldier, and Women Who Shout at the Stars.

The SummerWorks Performance Festival runs from August 7-17. Visit the SummerWorks website for ticketing info and for the full, diverse lineup of arts programming (The Hub, Music Series, Live Art). Check out the SummerWorks Program Guide to plan your own viewing schedule.

Photo of Thus Spoke

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