10 must-see shows at SummerWorks 2015

SummerWorks, Canada's most innovative annual performance arts festival, is once again hitting stages, parks, and concert halls around Toronto from August 6 to 16. This is the place to find some of the best new work in theatre, dance, music, and live art from across Canada.

It's the festival's 25th anniversary, and to celebrate SummerWorks is throwing a free party on August 15 in Lisgar Park featuring The Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Maylee Todd, Buck 65, Basque de Bamba and more.

Here are my picks for what to watch at SummerWorks 2015.

Counting Sheep
Part concert, part sing-along, part dinner theatre, Counting Sheep masterfully weaves together music, dance, and video in an immersive experience that puts the audience in the middle of Maidan Nezalezhnosti during the 2014 uprising in Ukraine. The play is co-written by Lemon Bucket front man Mark Marczyk and singer/ethnomusicologist Marichka Kudriavtseva.

Beautiful Man
An irreverent, dark, and sexy dissection of the stories we find ourselves drawn to when alone at night. Beautiful Man, written by Governor General's Award winner Erin Shields and directed by Dora Award winner Andrea Donaldson, turns the narrative of violence against women in film and television on its head by exploring the incessant barrage of images of gender violence that invade our consciousness as entertainment.

Performance About A Woman
"You're not English, you're not Chilean, you're not Indian, you're not Canadian. You're nothing." Liz Peterson's work is inspired by a conversation with a girl from her boarding school who defined her as nothing. This improvised dance, and comedy performance about identity is an evolving piece that plays out as an invitation for chaos where the future is uncertain.

Upon the Fragile Shore
In this performance nine interwoven tales of loss are told by four actors playing sixteen characters to attempt to explain how we reach across borders to deal with loss. From Syria to Venezuela to Louisiana mothers, daughters, sons and partners share stories of refuge, survival and resilience.

Hyper explores the limits of perception in an intersection of performance with visual and digital arts. UV lights, bodypaint, 3D glasses are used to trick your senses as the live body shifts from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional moving from screen to the stage and melding virtual and cyber dancers with live performance.

Offending the Audience
"This is not a play," and the audience are the only characters in this radical performance of Peter Handke's anti-play where 'theatre' is put under a question mark. Christian Lapointe's interpretation of this piece uses elements of cinema-verite, sound art and digital theatre to literally chase spectators out of the theatre.

Let's Not Beat Each Other To Death
This genre-defying play combines music, and monologues to create an electro-pop dance party in memory of a Queer activist in Halifax who was killed in a brutal attack. The story changes every time as it strives to incorporate local narratives.

Like There's No Tomorrow
In this fictitious environmental assessment panel, a resident of Northern British Columbia who records disappearing sound, an urbanite wannabe survivalist, and a flip-flopping salmon conduct their own review of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. Their findings are presented as first-hand accounts, audio-recordings, interactive presentations and a dance party.

All You Can Hold
This performance will be an intersection of dance, costumes, digital painting and projections all set against the music of electronic duo LAL. Be prepared for a dynamic showcase of radical community and diversity.

The Stranger
Become the protagonist in a journey through the streetscape of Queen West where you weave in and out of building from alleyways to stairwells in pursuit of the shadowy characters who lurk in these secret urban labyrinths. The Stranger is an unforgettable journey in art and adventure. The production is back at SummerWorks after a sold out run, so get your tickets fast.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions for the top shows at SummerWorks 2015 in the comments.

Follow Sima Sahar Zerehi on Twitter @SimaSaharZerehi.

Photo from Counting Sheep

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