Fairy Fails is the debut solo show for Meander, known to many as the Dot Dot Dot from the Montreal drag family House of Laureen. The show introduces Meander the Fairy, and is the tale of a fairy prince destined to rule, but who sadly cannot fly. It’s a fairy tale that’s sweet and delightful, a joyful reminder of what it’s like to be a child full of innocence and wonder.

Unlike the stereotypical play where all the characters talk, Meander the Fairy is silent, communicating with the audience through facial expressions, gestures, and dance moves. Meander is innocent, endearing and sweet without being annoying.

He is helped along in the play by director and stage manager Sam Jameson, who also provides narration. Jameson and Meander met during Glam Gam’s production of Peter Pansexual, in which Meander played the role of Twinkerbell.

The only other voice in the play is that of the witch, whom Meander plays via swift and hilarious costume changes. The bitter old raspy-voiced witch is a perfect foil for Meander the Fairy’s glittering innocence.

Jameson’s narration is reminiscent of the kind you would hear in children’s television and film. Mature and parent-like while still maintaining the humor.

For those of you who know Meander as Dot Dot Dot, the fariy is a far cry from his drag persona. Meander’s background is in a Canadian style of clowning called Pochinko, which he learned at the Manetoulin Conservatory for Performance and Creation (known as the ‘Clown Farm’). It’s a style of clowning reminiscent of the late Charlie Chaplin, and Meander does it well.

He came up with Meander the Fairy with the help of his clowning teacher Francine Coté, who developed the character’s costume and taught him that your clown character should be an expansion of who you really are. Where Dot Dot Dot allows Meander to explore his fiercer side, Meander the Fairy is cute, demure, and graceful. Meander’s makeup has hints of classical French clown with a few bright colors and some glitter thrown in.

Not everyone will like Fairy Fails. A friend of mine felt it was too simple and childish, but it is for those very reasons that I loved it so much. With all the terrible things going in the news and around us, sometimes we need a show that allows us to shut our minds off for the sheer joy of watching a fairy learning to fly.

Fairy Fails is a show that allows you to do just that. See it if you can.

The Moaning Yoni was a show I was prepared to hate. While I’m all about demystifying women’s bodies, health, and sexuality in fiction and non-fiction, I find the idea of a show devoted entirely to a single body part repugnant. I was however, pleasantly surprised when I finally got to see it.

The show is the brainchild of Joylyn Secunda, an actor, dancer, and singer from Vancouver, who created the piece out of a desire to create a solo show that expressed something personal.

“At the time I had just came out as asexual and was thinking a lot about how I fit into society as an ace, female-bodied person. I began to explore different characters and developed the show through a lot of experimentation and play.”

The show follows the heroine Zoë through a journey of self-discovery during a “Yoni Healing Circle”, a sort of yoga class devoted to honoring and nourishing “sacred feminine organs”.

Secunda, clad in red harem pants and a matching long-sleeved crop top, plays almost all the characters in the play, including Crystal, the class instructor, Zoe – the show’s protagonist, Zoe’s “Yoni”, Zoë’s promiscuous college friends, and the men she’s dated. The only character she doesn’t play is a male voiceover done by voiceover performer Adam Bergquist, who clearly represents the condescending patriarchal voice of ‘reason’.

At the beginning of the class, the Crystal hands the students a magic elixir and asks them to apply a small amount to their vulvas. The effect causes Zoe’s yoni to talk, resulting in the first pleasant surprise of the show.

The Yoni in question is portrayed by Secunda as a Yenta: a shrill, nagging, opinionated old Jewish lady. I grew up with women like this, so while I appreciated the portrayal and found it hilarious, those unfamiliar with Jewish culture and Yiddish expressions might not understand all the words expressed by the Yoni in her anguish and irritation with Zoë.

The struggle between Zoë and her Yoni was fun to watch, as it even included a dance with a giant tampon.

The show is unfortunately not without its flaws. Secunda sings a few songs in the show that go on far too long without contributing to the story. The ice cream song about sex with frat boys and the multilingual song praising mother earth were repetitive and could easily have been cut in half without sacrificing the play’s message of self-love.

Where The Moaning Yoni really shines, however, is in its merciless attack on all the things a woman navigating her health and sexuality has to deal with. Everything from sexual assault, to online dating, peer pressure, to bad kissers, to toxic masculinity, to oral sex, to snake oil peddlers selling dangerous vaginal insertion devices – the latter clearly a dig at Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, to pubic grooming is mercilessly lampooned by Secunda during the show.

There are parts of the show that are triggering so sexual assault survivors might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s still worth watching. Secunda is incredibly talented, with her supremely expressive face and body carrying much of show. If Jim Carrey is the male rubberface, Secunda might just be the female equivalent.

Secunda hopes that audiences walk away thinking about the nuances of their own genders and sexuality and the affect it has on their relationships. Some men might have reservations about seeing the show as she pulls no punches in her descriptions of negative heterosexual male behavior. When I asked her about it, she said the show is as much for men as it is for women. Her message to potential male viewers is that:

“Toxic masculinity hurts men just as much as it hurts women and non-binary people. I hope by watching Zoë’s journey in the play, you might have a better understanding of an experience that is different than your own. It’s a really fun comedy for anyone, no matter your age, gender, sexuality, or culture.”

The Moaning Yoni is a piece with a lot of potential, and if anyone is wondering whether Joylyn Secunda can carry a whole show, the answer is yes. She just needs to do a little trimming.

I’m generally skeptical of one-man shows because I know they depend on the charm and talent of the star, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl.

The show stars Shane Adamczak, a native of Perth, Australia, who first introduced the Zack Adams character to Fringe Festivals in 2006. Following the success of his show The Ballad Of Frank Allen, Adamczak has brought Zack Adams back.

It should be said that the show’s subject matter is nothing original. It’s the story of a cis straight man, Zack Adams, discussing through song and story the women in his life, his travels, and his professional mishaps as a performer and children’s drama teacher.

I had the opportunity to email back and forth with Adamczak prior to show so I asked him if the character was based on anyone in particular.

“Zack is based partially on me, partially on people I knew in drama school, but mostly a figment of my imagination. I like to think of him as a cooler alter ego…like my version of Ziggy Stardust. He’s evolved a lot over the years; he started as a nervous performance poet then became a struggling actor, a time traveller and then a folk rock star. It’s nice to find an outlet to live my rock star fantasies, I suppose.”

People have compared the show to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Adamczak is super flattered by the comparison as he’s a big fan of the book and film adaptation. He admits that there are a lot of similar themes with regards to music, reflecting on past relationships and how they can change you as a person. Adamczak’s portrayal of these themes through Zack Adams is however a lot fresher and more fun.

While Hornby’s hero is deflated and loveably sad, Zack Adams is funny, a little angry, and almost frenzied in his storytelling. There are gags in the show you won’t expect, and rants – sometimes in song, sometimes without – that will make you laugh.

He says Bob Dylan was the primary musical inspiration for the show with “a bit if cheesy 90s pop thrown in too,” something that will appeal to the thirty somethings in the audience. What really sells the show is Adamczak himself, who is charming and looks far too young to have been touring for ten years.

You won’t just be watching a schmuck on stage with a guitar, you’ll be watching dance moves and hand gestures and tales of hilarious misery all packaged in a ginger Aussie in an 80s punk-inspired studded denim jacket.

When I asked Adamczak what he would say to people thinking of seeing the show, he said:

“ABSOLUTELY do it. Bring your sister, brothers and significant others, we’ll make a night of it and you’ll leave smiling with a bunch of weird funny songs stuck in your head.”

Zack Adams says in the show that if a show is good, you’ll be talking about it with your friends for two weeks, but if it’s a bad show, you’ll talk about it forever. I’ll be talking about this one for at least two weeks. In the meantime, go see it! It’s worth it.

Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl plays two more times at the Montreal Fringe, June 14th and 15th. For tickets and info: montrealfringe.ca

The Man Behind the Curtain is a hard show to review. Inspired by magic, the show is cramped, unpredictable, and uncomfortable, but it’s also fast-paced, hilarious, and intense.

The venue is set up in the apartment of co-writer and director Sam Jameson. Anyone who feels squeamish about attending a performance in someone’s home is missing out on a great show. Productions Presents describes the show as:

“A series of fantastical vignettes that are all tied together by the theme of magic… The show consists of the performance itself, the physical space around you, and the how the physical space changes over the course of the show. “

The Man Behind the Curtain stars Erik Leisinger and is directed by Sam Jameson who met on themet on the set of Glam Gam’s Fringe Production, Peter Pansexual, when Sam was director and Erik was a performer. They worked together again last year on Glam Gam’s Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story – currently the highest grossing Fringe play of all time.

In 2018, Jameson and Leisinger founded Productions Presents, a company for the work they produce together. When I had the chance to speak to them, the question on my mind was whether Jameson or Leisinger were actually magicians, given the show’s magic theme.

“Neither Sam or Erik are professional magicians, and quite frankly can’t really do magic to save their lives. Fortunately, Erik Leisinger’s childhood friend, Erin the Magician is a hotshot magician from the west coast and has helped us throughout the process.”

You will see magic tricks in this show, but they’re nothing spectacular, and as a viewer, you really won’t care because you’ll be too busy laughing. Unlike the classic theatre setup where audience and performance spaces are separate and distinct, The Man Behind the Curtain is immersive theatre, a type of show where “the entire performance area is a part of the show, and the audience has far more freedom to interact with the performance environment and the performers themselves.”

As audience members you won’t be picked on by the performers, but you will be expected to participate a little. That said, the venue has extremely limited space, with a maximum capacity of ten people.

Shows are often sold out so get your tickets in advance. You won’t be disappointed!

The Man Behind the Curtain runs through June 15. Tickets available at montrealfringe.ca

Spurt of Blood is NOT production for the faint of heart. It will make you uncomfortable physically and psychologically, but if you can tough it out I guarantee you a theatrical experience like you’ve never had before.

I had a chance to speak to Director Marissa Blair about what audiences should expect. She informed me that they are active participants as well as observers.

The layout of the performance is not your typical theatre layout. The audience is brought into a room with an oval of chairs surrounding the stage area, with only a couple of gaps to allow the cast in.

Each audience member is handed an LED light and instructed to turn on the light and swirl it above their heads if they decide they want to leave. Should they decide to do so, there will be no re-admittance and no refunds.

Disclaimers out of the way, the stage area’s only door is sealed with black duct tape and the lights are dimmed.

Spurt of Blood was written by philosopher Antonin Artaud when he was developing his Theatre of Cruelty philosophy.

“The show is what Theatre of Cruelty calls for, an attack on the senses. It is aggressive, and I take some risk in creating sensations – the Cruelty is the body’s necessary response. An audience member will hear, see, smell, feel, and possibly taste. It’s primal, and very effective.”

True to what Blair said, it IS an attack on the senses. Audiences are left in the dark half the time, with only flashlights, lit matches, or video projectors allowing us to see what’s going on.

You’ll hear recordings of music, and of noise. You’ll see images and videos projected onto the ceiling. And you’ll hear a variety of languages from French to English to Dutch and some you may not recognize.

There will also be riveting performances; Kathy Slamen was particularly powerful as the spotlight illuminated her harrowing tale of being diagnosed with cancer. Later in the show, she sang along to The Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again with the vocal prowess that would make Annie Lennox proud. Tofunmi Famotibe was beautiful as the joyful, dancing seductress in a red dress.

Some performances will make viewers uncomfortable. Jeroen Lindeman was so effectively creepy, his performance led to a couple of viewers raising their LEDs. He remained perfectly still as the lights went on so they could be led out of the room, before it was re-sealed, the lights dimmed, and the show went on.

Marissa Blair warned me that audiences should expect to be splattered with non-toxic washable stage blood, purchased from a small company in Chicago, Illinois. What she didn’t say is that the venue only has one bathroom, and the blood is VERY sticky – “a wonderful sensorial experience!” but only if you like being covered in syrup.

Some audience members – myself included – embraced being sprayed with blood, for in the moment it feels great and you truly feel part of what’s going on. Unfortunately with nowhere to clean off after the show, those considering seeing it should invest in a pack of wet wipes or pray that it’s raining when you’re out of the venue.

I had sticky fake blood in my hair, on my clothes, and all over my hands and arms. I marched straight from the theatre to the nearest shower as fast as I could.

What the author’s notebook looked like after the show

Though the massive spurts of blood were a truly climatic moment, the show continued, something I felt was unnecessary. The spraying blood was so powerful why not end on a high note?

That said, I had no idea what to expect when I went into Spurt of Blood, and I found myself enjoying the mindf*ck it gave me. If you’re afraid of the dark or squeamish around blood, don’t see this show. But if you’re feeling brave, and you have a raincoat and wet wipes, check it out!

Just don’t wear white.

Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood plays at the Montreal Fringe until June 15. Tickets and info: montrealfringe.ca

Photos by Samantha Gold

The Montreal Fringe Festival is a festival for the underdogs. As Fringe Spokesperson and Board President Helene Simard said at the festival launch, Fringe is a place for people who want to put on a show but have always been told “no”. Whether you’re a female artist, an artist of colour, a non-binary artist, or on an LGBTQI artist, “Fringe always has room for you.”

The Montreal Fringe Festival is huge, with hundreds of artists putting on shows from May 27th to June 17th. With so many shows to choose from, it’s hard to pick what to see.

One way to choose is to go to Fringe for All, an event that takes place on opening night of the Festival. At this event, anyone with a show at the Fringe can take the stage for two minutes to give prospective audiences a taste of what their show is about.

It’s an endurance test, as some of the snippets you see confirm every negative stereotype about independent theatre. But if you’re willing to tough it out, you’re going to find some real gems.

I’m here to help. Below you’ll find some of my pics for the best shows at Montreal Fringe 2019. Please note that I have tried to offer recommendations in a variety of genres and languages.

Why Are You Afraid of Clowns?

There is something inherently funny about a cutesy character behaving like an awful human being, and if the snippet I saw is any indication, the R’Iyeh Theater Company’s Why Are You Afraid of Clowns? is going to be a blast.

A man came on stage in a clown costume with a blanket over his head, screaming angrily. Then he pulled off the blanket, revealing a clown wig and red nose, handed an audience member an apple, and pulled out an axe.

It was short but hilarious, and by far the best snippet of the night.

Why Are You Afraid of Clowns?

Les Plaisirs Interdits

Some of the best comedy is about contrast, and like my last recommendation, Productions Belle Lurette’s Plaisirs Interdits offers just that.

The characters presented were prim and proper and in period costumes– a nun, a priest, a maid, and a very conservatively dressed upper crust man and woman. I was about to roll my eyes… and then they opened their mouths, and what came out was a slew of hilariously lascivious songs about sex and sexuality.

It’s a French language production, so if you have a poor grasp of the language you might not get all the jokes, but if you can manage, check it out!

House of Laureen Presents: Mx. Queerdo MTL

If you love drag, you need to check out Mx. Queerdo. Presented by House of Laureen, a Montreal-based drag family. The show stars Uma Gahd, and is all about a pageant, Mx. Queerdo.

If the snippet I saw is any indication, it’s going to be a blast!

Re-Imagined

I’m not much into dance shows, but if I were to see one at Montreal Fringe, it would be Eva Kolarova Danse’s show Re-Imagined. The twenty-five-minute show explores loneliness and relationships with contemporary dance.

Their two-minute bit at Fringe for All featured a dance at once graceful and erotic, portraying without words the complexity of human relationships.

Happy-Ish: Russian Immigrant’s Guide to Smiling

In the era of so much anti-immigrant sentiment in Quebec, Happy-Ish is a show worth seeing. Vadim Gran’s solo storytelling show is about a Russian immigrant trying to navigate life in Canada.

The bit I saw featured an angry bearded Russian man holding a smiley balloon while trying to smile to make himself more approachable… And failing spectacularly. It was hilarious and a good indication of things to come.

Opera Reviens-Moi

One thing Fringe heavily encourages is seeing a kind of show you never have before and opera is certainly outside the box for many.

Though the art form has a reputation for being more for rich old people, the snippet of Opera Reviens-Moi I saw was approachable and funny, and the actors certainly have the pipes befitting the genre. It looks to be a marriage of the classical and modern and a good way to introduce people to opera.

Fairy Fails

Fairy Fails is the story of a fairy who can’t fly. Starring House of Laureen’s Dot Dot Dot, it looks to be a treat for anyone who loves glitter, twinkles, twirls, and fairies.

A Brief History of Time

This play specializes in presenting complex concepts in a simplified, approachable format. Their presentation at Fringe for All used a variety of toys and props to explain astrophysics.

If you’re interested in the unknown but don’t feel like opening a book, check out A Brief History of Time. You might learn something.

L’Appel du Vide

Anyone who ever went through a witch phase in high school will want to check out L’Appel du Vide. It’s the story of a grieving witch who decides to perform a ritual to bring about the end of the world.

It looks hilarious and the bit I saw told me it will have all the theatrics a witch story needs.

L’Appel du Vide

The Aventures of Humphrey Beauregret: The Case o’Bianca

Following a successful award-nominated show last year, Philo 14 is back with an English sequel to their French language puppet show Les Aventures de Humphrey Beauregret.

The theatrics in The Adventures of Humphrey Beauregret: The Case o’Bianca seem to have been taken up a notch, but the drama and humour and puppets are still there, proving that puppets aren’t just for kids.

Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood

Director Marissa Blair assures you that there will be blood in Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood, but it’s blood that will wash out. An immersive theatrical experience featuring a cast of characters as interesting as they are creepy, it’s play written by philosopher Antonin Artaud while developing his Theatre of Cruelty philosophy.

Though the snippet at Fringe for All was mostly disclaimers about the kind of blood in the show, it looks to be a sure thing for people wanting something a little different.

The 2019 Montreal Fringe Festival runs May 27-June 19. Full Schedule: MontrealFringe.ca

Featured Image via Montreal Fringe on Facebook

If it wasn’t for comedy legend Sandra Bernhart, Montreal may never discovered the hilarious talent that is Tranna Wintour.

“When I discovered Berhart’s revolutionary one-woman shows a couple of years ago, I was transformed. It turns out comedy was what I had been looking for all my life,” Wintour told me via email this past weekend, “I’ve always dreamed of being a performer in some form, but I didn’t know how to express it. Once I came to that realization, I was able to start putting things into motion and finally find my voice as a storyteller.”

And thank goodness she did. After discovering comedy and a Halloween costume became a full-fledged stage persona, the trans comedienne known as Tranna Wintour was born. “Who I am on stage is the real me–a more glamorous, sassier version of the real me,” Wintour said when asked about the certain New York City fashion editor that inspired her stage name.

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-59

Tranna is a proud transgender woman. Anyone watching her stand-up or following her social media posts can tell that immediately. So how does she feels about the attention transgender people have been getting in the media recently? “I do worry that the recent media coverage makes the transgender experience a kind of novelty,” Wintour said.

Wintour continued by saying “not everyone trans woman has the means to look as good as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox 24/7. And not every trans person wants to undergo a physical transformation. The transgender experience is unique to every trans person. When I’m not wearing makeup or a wig, I look like a boy. But I don’t ever feel like a boy. Regardless of what I look like on the outside, my spirit is female.”

This year Wintour made it on a few of Cult Mtl’s annual “Best of Montreal” lists, including best Instagram in the city. While Wintour admits she uses social media very little in her personal life, for her career it’s key. “I use social media as another means to entertain people. It’s an extension of the work I do on stage,” Wintour said, “it allows me to entertain and engage my audience when I’m not performing on stage.”

Those performances include the buzz-worthy 2015 Fringe show Trantasy. “My Fringe 2015 experience was absolutely magical,” Wintour said, “my favorite part of the show was performing an acoustic version of Taylor Dayne’s Love Will Lead You Back arranged by my friend Anis. I performed it on the last two nights of the run and it was probably my most favorite thing I’ve ever done on stage. I also want to give a big shout out to The Wiggle Room team who made my run so smooth and wonderful!”

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-45

Up next for Wintour is the show My First Time at Zoofest, which opens on July 9th. The show is hosted by Darren Henwood, and showcases Canada’s up and coming comedy talent.

“There are so many local comedians I love, they know who they are, but I must give a very special shout out to the comedians I’ll be performing with at Zoofest–Darren Henwood, John St. Godard and Tommy Marshall,” Wintour said, “I am so freaking excited and honoured to be in a show with these super talented guys!”

It’s always exciting to see a Montreal talent on the verge of becoming a big deal. And with all the glamour, hard work and positive energy Wintour has put into her career, she deserves to become the kind of successful diva she admires so much. And not as a novelty, but as a celebration of the fabulous disco-loving woman that she is.

* Photos by Reese Turner

Don’t be confused; there’s nothing macabre about the show Die Mutter. And no, this isn’t a new mounting of the Bretolt Bretch play. (although there is an obvious German influence).

Instead the name refers to the hilarious sketch comedy stylings of the Toronto duo Noemi Salamon and Deborah Ring. And after seeing their show you will most definitely be in a very good mood.

From life coaches to Shia LeBeouf to club bitches, no one is safe from their brutal mockery. The skits range from absurd to hyper sexualized to witty commentaries on how, as the ladies so delicately put it, “white people are the worst.”

Even the weakest skits are smarter than entire other Fringe shows (that will not be named obviously) and produce a chuckle. The strongest skits will have you laughing out loud.

While the show is most definitely NOT kid appropriate, the appeal of their zany sketches, it seemed, was not solely that of a 20-30 something hipster. People of all ages were in attendance at the Montreal Improv, and all laughing in equal measure. If only it were possible to raise Christopher Hitchens from the dead to show him that he was quite wrong; women can indeed be very funny.

While the Montreal Fringe is now over, make sure to check them out next time you’re in Toronto!

Comedian Walter J. Lyng brings his popular local talk show “Night Fight” to the 2015 Fringe stage. Teaming up again with his musical director Leighland Beckman, the duo engage in all your typical late-night talk show activities… with a twist. (Yes, a knife makes an appearance!)

You have your “politically correct” monologues (last night was about the Charleston shootings, you know a topic that lends no way to being insensitive), awkward banter (both with each other and the audience!), musical guests (aka some delightfully filthy music provided by Beckman), and the popular “Top 38” (This list was “Worst Ice Cream Flavours” which included totally enticing flavours like Vanilla Vag).

None of the pre-mentioned gags that I happened to catch on Thursday will be spoilers for anyone else who wants to check out the show. As with any talk show the jokes and guests change with every performance. I hope the commercials they play during the “commercial break” moments, though, don’t change, because they’re ridiculous, in the most amazing way possible.

While this was my first ever Lyng/Beckman performance, it’s easy to tell the duo have been working together for a long time. They bounce their comedic energy off each other so seamlessly that it’s unsurprising they’ve been hyped as one of the best shows of the fest, and nominated for a Frankie for best English comedy. Check out this show while you still can!

The Shiner is a charming one-woman show about the two selves we have inside us at all times; the adult and the child. Performed by Katie Legitt and directed by Al Lafrance, this show crams thirty-odd years of experience into one solid hour of storytelling. And like any good story there’s moments of happiness and sadness, silliness and wonder.

Just like LaFrance’s last Fringe show The Quitter, The Shiner relies completely on the ability of its star to captivate the audience. Whereas Lafrance relied on his snarky wit, Legitt brings her own unique strengths to the table. For Legitt this means demonstrating her passion for her day job as a spiritual animator, as well as being able to transform into a naïve, scrappy version of her younger self.

Legitt does both masterfully. Kudos also has to be given to the scriptwriting; the show has just the right amount of younger/older self to balance the serious/silliness aspect. Too much of either and the show would have veered off course. What a pleasure to see a strong woman who embraces the pain of the past and the passion for her work and literally turns it into a work of art!

Some shows this week: Suoni per il Popolo continues, Fringe POP outdoor show at Parc des Amériques, the Montreal Infringement festival and B.C. metal band Bison returns for round 2.

FRIDAY, JUNE 20

Infringement: Crazy Knows Crazy + Richard Lahmy + Realms of Bliss + The Extract @ Barfly

Show starts at 9 p.m., PWYC.

SATURDAY, JUNE 21

Fringe POP: Syngja + Kurvi Tasch + Medhi Cayenne Club @ Parc des Amériques

Show starts at 7 p.m., PWYC.

Infringement: Psynlangwage + Lucky Lex + Jay Manafest + Nikolai KUSH + Drop D @ Le P’tit Cabaret

Show starts at 9 p.m., PWYC.

Amen Dunes + Alex Calder + Syngja @ Casa del Popolo

Doors open at 10 p.m., $10 in advance via Blue Skies Turn Black or $13 at the door.

SUNDAY, JUNE 22

Fringe POP: Le Trouble + Athens + Hua Li + Look Vibrant + Nanimal @ Parc des Amériques

Show starts at 4 p.m., PWYC.

Bison + USA Out of Vietnam + Vile Intent + Xothogua @ Turbo Haus

Doors open at 8 p.m., $10.

Infringement: This is not [sic] @ Le P’tit Cabaret

Show starts at 10:30 p.m., PWYC.

MONDAY, JUNE 23

Geographer + Diamond Bones @ Divan Orange

Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $12 in advance online via Indie Montreal or at L’Oblique, Atom Heart and Cheap Thrills; $15 at the door.

Over the past few years I’ve seen Australian actor/writer/producer Shane Adamczak perform several times in Montreal. From Edge of the City’s live podcasts to last year’s Fringe Festival, I’ve always found him to be a charming and interesting performer. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Adamczak, who’s currently promoting his new play Trampoline opening at Mainline Theatre on May 7th.

Hailing from Perth, Adamczak first came to Montreal to perform his Fringe Festival play Love Songs for Future Girl.

“What was meant to be a short stay turned into a much longer one than expected … a lot of that had to do with developing relationships with the folks at Mainline and Montreal Improv,” Adamczak said, “what I love so much about Montreal is the fact that it’s filled with so many like-minded people. People who embrace DYI theatre and telling stories. That’s what really made me want to stick around.”

A quick visit to Adamczak’s website shows the creative evidence of his time here; writing for the blog Bloody Underrated, putting on improv shows like Captain Spaceship, even producing a talk/variety show Up Late Live in his bedroom. While his time in La Belle province has been a productive one, unfortunately Adamczak admitted during our interview that it’s coming to an end. “Yes, after this year’s Fringe Festival is over I will be heading back to Australia for a while. After that I’d like to try living in the states, or maybe Europe… who knows! “

During his last few months in Montreal, Adamczak is enjoying being Mainline Theater’s artist in residence. What exactly does that involve?

“Hanging out a lot at Mainline, which is cool ‘cause when I’m in Montreal I do that anyways,” Adamczak joked, “but seriously being the artist in residence means Mainline helps you develop and produce your work, which in my case has been the show Trampoline.”

The press release for Trampoline gives a pretty straight forward blurb on what to expect from the play: “Matt is a dreamer. He lives in a world where fiction and reality are all mixed up. Kelly, the girl of his dreams, is beautiful, talented, funny, and she even has a trampoline. TRAMPOLINE follows their awkward and impossible courtship as Matt struggles to find what is most important to him and what reality it belongs in.”

Adamczak describes Trampoline as ‘his take’ on a romantic comedy. “The project started off as me writing a dream journal blog under a pseudonym while living here in Montreal,” Adamczak said, “after writing these blog posts for a while, I began to see a natural story line emerge from them. That’s when I saw the possibility of it becoming something more, and I started adapting the blog into a play. ”

Trampoline first debuted in Australia this past October, and now the North American premiere will be at Mainline. The show reunites Adamczak with two actors he’s worked with before; Stevie Pemberton, whom was Janet to Adamczak’s Brad in a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Vance Gillis from Captain Spaceship.

While it’s unfortunate that Adamczak is moving on from Montreal, I sincerely hope that means he’s off to bigger and better things. I for one will make sure to enjoy him while he’s here and check out Trampoline, which runs until May 17th. For tickets, make sure to head to the Mainline Theatre website.

A couple of weeks ago, it was 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night and I was frantically running around Concordia, lost. I was supposed to interview the ladies of the Montreal theatre troupe Hopegrown Productions to chat about life as a young female actor and their play Around Miss Julie, (a meta theatre experience of sorts about a group of actors trying to put on the Stringberg play Miss Julie) which was showing as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival. Just as I was about to give up and call it a night, what should appear but an information kiosk! It appeared our interview was meant to happen after all.

And thank goodness it did! If I hadn’t made it, I never would have had the chance to meet with the three founding members of Hopegrown; Lindsey Huebner, Miriam Cummings and Samantha Megarry, who are all recent grads of the theatre program at Concordia University.

Hopegrown Productions was born when these obviously close friends were seeking quality material for female characters and the chance to continue working for people they trust and respect. They concluded that the best way to do this was to start their own theatre troupe.

“There was just nothing out there for young female actors that appealed to us,” Cummings said. “So we decided to start our own thing. That being said, just because we care about strong female characters doesn’t mean we’re anti-men or anything. We just want the same juicy types of characters as they do.”

Unlike many other artists I know, who decide they want to start a company but then smoke weed and go to bed instead, Hopegrown Productions have been working hard throughout the year to ensure that their current project was properly promoted and financed. Around Miss Julie is the troupe’s debut production. Written by Harry Standjofski, who taught the Hopegrown ladies while they were at Concordia, Around Miss Julie premiered at this year’s Fringe Festival. The play is scheduled for an international tour over the rest of the summer.

They launched an Indiegogo campaign and have been active on social media all throughout the year to ensure there was buzz about their opening at the Fringe.

“It’s kinda been scary, all the interview requests we’ve gotten about the show. Scary, but great obviously. It means our hard work has paid off,” Megarry said enthusiastically.

During our interview, the ladies couldn’t help but praise their professor for delivering them this incredible script to work with, noting how rare it is to find female characters who are “well rounded in all aspects, fully developed, three-dimensional women.” After the Montreal Fringe is over, the ladies will be performing the play at the Ottawa and Hamilton Fringe Festivals before capping it off with a trip to Scotland to play the original Fringe Festival in Edinburgh.

Around Miss Julie has been getting excellent reviews around the Montreal theatre blogs. I am super excited to have made this play a part of my final Fringe 2013 weekend. There’s one final showing today, June 23, at 7 p.m. at Club Espagnol (4388 Saint-Laurent). See the Hopegrown Productions website for more details.

Image from HopegrownProductions.ca

 

Urge For Going was on my list of I’d really like to see but I don’t know when shows. Luckily I arrived in the right place at the right time last night and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Urge For Going is a multidisciplinary show by Quality Slipper Productions written by Bekky O’Neil. Multidisciplinary can be a scary word when it comes to emerging artists, as often times it means they do many different things poorly. To their credit the cast manages to combine theatre, puppetry, music and animation into a well structured, well staged and overall smooth show.

Urge for going-020The story follows a sweet Prairie girl from Saskatchewan who wants to gain her independence and goes on a journey of self discovery. A true free spirit, she attempts to follow in the steps of Joni Mitchell and follow her dreams. She picks up her ukulele and leaves home meeting a diverse cast of talking animals, hipster bloggers and corporate wolves.

Probably one of the most interesting and impressive elements of the show was the puppetry as one of the main characters the protagonist meets is Henry the Fox. Besides being a voice of reason, Henry is a very cool looking puppet expertly voiced and acted by Cloe Saint-Laurent.

The show does a really good job at satirizing both the purity of being free (running around with your feet in the mud and living on a dairy farm in Vermont) and today’s modern uber connected tech world (hipster bloggers will write reviews for beer).

Overall this is a story of trying to grow up too fast which hits the right notes. Check show times on Fringe Montreal.

How do you review a group that has already impressed you three times? Do you talk about what’s new and then link to your old reviews? Kinda lame, and not something deserving of a highly original troupe like Glam Gam Productions.

Got it! Bring someone along who’s never seen them before, let them be the judge of what you’ve experienced before and then report on the new stuff. So, for the Little Beau Peep Show, I drafted my brother Joe.

Let’s start with the new stuff. Troupe founder Michael J. McCarthy kept his clothes on for the entire show! That may or may not have had something to do with his mother coming into town from New Newfoundland for the first time to see him perform.

I’m not joking. In fact, he wore more clothes than everyone else combined. Dressed as the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, we didn’t even get a little leg or someone screaming “off with his clothes!”

That’s not the same with the rest of the cast…and what at cast it was. It seems like the Glamily grew over night. For what’s been said about inbreeding, maybe it’s not all that bad.

Seriously, though, it seems like the already ample Glam Gam cast from the last show is even bigger. Not only that, they’ve changed the dynamic, too.

This is a group known for a non-traditional, all shapes and sizes approach when it comes to what’s considered sexy for women. Now, it appears that they have extended that philosophy to men, too. Nice touch.

This cast spent their time on stage raunching up classic fairy tales, or moreover bringing those fairy tales back to their very sexualized and often quite violent roots. We get a male red riding hood and wolf tale, a carnivorous teddy bears’ picnic and the aforementioned and soon-to-be re-mentioned Alice among others.

What’s also new this time around is that instead of relying on just one emcee or pair of emcees as they have in the past, they rotated the characters doing the hosting duties throughout the show. And it made sense story-wise, too.

The first act was informally hosted by a brother and sister who can’t get to sleep after their babysitter Auntie Lipstick strips while singing, pretty much freaking them out.

Stripping while singing is an impressive feat on its own, it wasn’t the only live music in the show. There was an intimate choir, inspired by barbershop, comprised of Les Blow, Phoenix Wood, Rae Ocampo and Estelle de Pierre, that appeared throughout the show. Also, from my side-stage vantage point, I could see what looked like a small orchestra pit.

Anyways, when the brother gets taken away in the middle of the night, hosting duties switch to a witch played by Ellen Cherry Charles. She captures Eugene and, as she is preparing her brew, or rather preparing to add him to her brew, she starts telling stories.

These stories segway nicely into scenes like the comedy act of Blow’s Pinocchio (guess what grows when he lies) and McCarthy’s Gepetto (or GePedphile). We even get a puppet show. Yes, a puppet show telling the story of Rumplestiltskin performed by none other than Jizzika Unklein, Booze Crotch and Skyler Boushel.  Nice touch.

The third act saw brother and sister reunited and then some…more on that later.

Now, for the elements I’ve seen before, I turn to Joe. To sum up his experience, he was impressed.

He was amazed at the whole scene. I heard “bravo” and “yes” many times throughout the show. He told me that he was mostly impressed with how the narrative elements combined with the nudity and the way the whole cast seemed to be really enjoying performing the show.

After seeing some of the violence, namely in the red riding hood bit and the teddy bear’s picnic, he commented “they’re not fucking around!”

Indeed they weren’t. Joe noticed what I noticed the first time I saw this troupe: their no holds barred approach to performance and their outright love of what they were doing. A combination that is both rare these days and a hallmark of a Glam Gam show.

Unfortunately Joe had to leave before the last act, and what an act it was. Almost all of the cast were now playing cards. Their costumes were great, actually all of the costumes and sets in this show were professional and fantastic, with a real attention paid to detail.

These cards had one parody-tastic mission: “We’re painting the pussy red!” Seems the Queen’s spouse, facial hair-clad drag king Paquet , isn’t a real ginger. While that may have eluded McCarthy’s real redhead-obsessed Red Queen on their drunken wedding night, the cards weren’t taking any chances.

“Who’s been painting the royal bush red? Off with their head!” I’ll leave it at that.

This was a great Glam Gam show, and an amazing first-time encounter with the Glamily as it was for Joe. To be completely honest, though, my fave by them to date is still If Looks Could Kill, They Will. Guess there’s just something about a burlesque murder mystery that hits me the right way.

Good news is if you missed this show the last time around, they’re playing a few more dates at the Fringe Fest. Details and a few video trailers are on the Glam Gam website.

* Photos by Iana Kazakova. See all the photos on our Facebook Page

I don’t know about you fellow Montrealers, but I’m still pretty darn annoyed that we seemed to have completely skipped Spring. But as my mother taught me its always better to look at both sides of the situation; with the warm weather finally here, summer festival season is upon us!  Whether its stand up comedy, experimental theatre or Drag Queens riding tricycles, I will be spending my June in the Plateau and Mile End watching all the strange and fabulous things the 2013 St-Ambroise Fringe Festival has to offer.

After carefully examining this year’s Press Kit here are the events that I’m most excited to be checking out;

I’ve seen a lot of great comedy shows come out of the Fringe, last year for instance “God is a Scottish Drag Queen” was definitely my favourite thing I saw at the festival. This year there’s a couple of interesting looking comedy shows; “Alex Cross and His Rise to Fame” is one of the first shows that caught my attention, mostly with the shameless poster of a man on a cross with a bunch of hot chicks. A blatant grab for attention, yes, but I admit it was grabbed. The press kit describes the show as;  A talentless philistine sells his soul to the devil for fame and fortune. Follow Alex’s journey during his rise to fame until a conspiracy theorist exposes him and the satanic agenda behind the music industry. What would you give up for fame and fortune? Is this show going to be a satire or a giant mess? I’ll let you know.

I always enjoy watching Zach Adams on stage so this year I’m looking forward to seeing his new show ZACH ADAMS: ZACH TO THE FUTURE. Sillyness and charm is a combination that always works on me and this man’s got it in spades so I have every confidence the show is going to be great. I mean come on, read the description for the show; To find out if his career ever takes Weeping Spoon Productions program and websiteoff, Australian actor/comedian Zack Adams decides to travel through time to find his future self. In the year 2018, Zack finds himself on a comical, musical adventure involving a beautiful parking inspector, a man with two left hands and a 1979 Datsun. Plus how can you not like a guy who makes Back to the Future references?

I’m very excited to check out as many theatre shows as I can; I shamefully admit that as a film and television nerd the Fringe provide me with the very rare treat of going to the theatre. Some of the show’s I’ll be checking is “Around Miss Julie”, “Love in the Time of Time Machines”and “My Pregnant Brother” performed by this year’s Fringe Festival spokesperson Johanna Nutter. The play I’m most excited for is “Cross My Heart” which is described as “What is Love?  What if you could buy it in pill-form, like Viagra for the heart?  Or can you only find Love in your dreams?  Jim and Maggie are arch-enemies at work; but things are different on the Astral Plane.  Cross My Heart:  a romantic comedy with a twist.”  I may just be interested because I’m a sucker for a sappy love story but I also hope its a smart comment on love.

Along with smart plays with characters sharing their feelings, I also enjoy show where characters take their clothes off. (Then again, who doesn’t?) As always I will make sure to check out my friends at Glam Gam productions put on their 2nd Fringe play, the re-vamped “Little Beau Peep Show” and this year I’m also looking forward to seeing “ACME Burlesque”. Other events I’ll be checking out throughout the festival is visual art at Gallery Fringe taking part in drinking and watching a movie with the folks at Bloody Underrated with The Alcoholic Cinema.

By the time the festival kicks off with Fringe for All   June 3rd who knows if my festival plan will be the same, but that after all is my absolute favourite part of every festival. You do enormous research carefully reading through the schedule, and then when the festival actually starts you throw all your plans out the window and sees what actually comes of it. Make sure you check back here at Forget the Box throughout June to find out what adventures I embark on at this years Festival. Happy Fringing everyone!