Electric Theatre

Electric Theatre set to open in the heart of Kensington

You'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.

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