rhubarb festival toronto

Rhubarb Festival Preview 2014

The Rhubarb Festival turns 35 this year, a milestone anniversary for the progressive and interdisciplinary theatre event. It happens in the shadow of government funding cuts, in the amount of $20,000-$25000, which arrived without any sort of explanation as to why the festival no longer qualifies for the Building Communities through Arts and Heritage programme. Buddies has soldiered on, curating a sprawling collection of performances under the direction of Laura Nanni that activate a variety of different spaces throughout the city. Here are some of this year's highlights.

Becoming an Image / February 12 / 9:30pm / $10
The headliner of Rhubarb's 2014 festival is Canadian-born performance artist and bodybuilder Heather Cassils. While most well-known for her make out with Lady Gaga during the extended introduction to "Telephone," Cassils is a dynamic performance artist who uses the body as a medium to address gender representation and cultural norms. In Becoming an Image, she creates a unique sculpture on-stage by attacking a 2,000-pound block of clay in the dark while a photographer illuminates the performance with camera flash. Cassils will also sit down for an artist's talk on Thursday, February 13.

35 Performances for 35 Years / February 13 / 8:00pm / $10
A veritable who's who of Rhubarb past performance comes together to present the best of their previous work in the context of today's realities. Festival Director Laura Nanni has enticed all of these performers back to the festival for a cross-section of Rhubarb throughout the ages. Those on hand to present short work include Sky Gilbert, Cynthia Grant, Daniel David Moses, Ed Roy, Cathy Gordon, Sonja Mills, Keith Cole, Ryan G. Hinds, Jordan Tannahill, Nicolas Billon, and Hannah Moscovitch.

Young Creators' Unit Presentations / February 14-16 / 8:00pm/6:00pm / PWYC
Buddies has nurtured talented, young performers through their well-developed youth programmes, encouraging them to contribute new and exciting queer stories. This year's performers could eventually find their way onto the theatre's mainstage after further development. Chimera, by Rory Jade Grey, presents a disturbing image of twin fetuses who question their very existence; Alt Title: I Wish I Knew, by Jackie Rowland, profiles a bisexual woman and her desire for transformation under pressure from public scrutiny; and Twenty-Something or Nothing, by Ramon Vitug, is a black comedy that considers a young gay man's struggle to overcome societal expectations and standards of happiness.

The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show / February 12 8:00pm; February 23 6:30pm / Free
Small Wooden Shoe takes us back to the days of the variety show, the internet variety show that is, with a live taping of The Fun Palace Radio Variety Show featuring performers Christopher Stanton, Nicola Correia-Damude, Richard Allen Campbell, and Susanna Fournier. The entertainment grab bag, from creators Brendan Gall, Jacob Zimmer and Evan Webber, will feature serial drama, music, science fiction, and, of course, a slew of surprise special guests. With a name like 'Fun Palace' be sure to expect the unexpected.

Open Space Projects / Various Times and Locations / Free
This year, the festival has made a concerted effort to link Toronto's LGBT communities together through performance. The Open Space Projects is a free initiative, developed around the concepts of history, archive and 'making public,' set to inspire artistic connections between five historic queer institutions around the city. To this end, there will be a number of intriguing satellite performances meant to activate and explore the city's queer heritage at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives, the Glad Day Bookshop, and the Pink Triangle Press.

Week Two Mainstage / 8:00pm onwards / February 19-23 / $20
During the second week of the festival, Buddies offers audiences the opportunity to sample a number of mainstage performances with a "choose your own adventure" viewing style. Presentations on offer during the second half of the festival include An Anthology of Belonging (Kerri Flannigan), No One Receiving (Maggie MacDonald), Since Santino XXX (Jill Connell and Katie Swift), Henri FabergĂŠ on the Lamb (Henri FabergĂŠ), Trapped! (Hope Thompson and Morgan Norwich), Jagged Canyon (Bridget Moser), Viking Blood (Humboldt Magnussen), and Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo (Viktor Lukawski and Nicolas Di Gaetano).


The Rhubarb Festival runs from February 12-23 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Week One Mainstage Projects are $10, Week Two evening passes are $20, Young Creators' Unit performances are PWYC, and the Open Space Projects are free.

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Rhubarb Festival Preview 2014