The History of Sexuality is a play that is going to make you uncomfortable, but the reasons it will are the very reasons why you should see it.

Following a successful run at the Mainline theater in September 2017, it was selected as part of Pride 2018’s programming. Playwright, director, and producer Dane Stewart set out to write a play about queerness and power dynamics and the result is a piece that is visceral, heartrending, intellectual, sexy, and authentic.

The play revolves around a Master’s seminar about Michel Foucault’s book, The History of Sexuality taught by Marie, played by Renée Hodgins. It is through this seminar that the stories of the professor and her students are tied together. Though they have their own lives and relationships with power dynamics and sexuality, they always end up in class to talk about Foucault.

Hodgins’ portrayal is partly of the stereotypical passionate university professor doing her best to make her students think, while at the same her character is given depth through her relationship with her long-term partner, Gayle, played by Haitian Canadian actress Melissa Toussaint.

Gayle is disabled and the struggles between her and Marie to maintain intimacy despite the disability are relatable and real. Toussaint’s Gayle is one of the most faithful representations of the struggle to live with disability I’ve ever seen on stage.

You feel her frustration as she struggles to find a job not only as a black woman, but as a disabled black woman, and you see the deflated look of depression so many disabled people have when Toussaint is on stage. It is a look similar to that of Madeleine, a black woman struggling with depression while doing her best to maintain her relationship with Alissa – played by Kayleigh Choiniere.

Madeleine – played by Jazmin Illidge – is a woman struggling to find her place in the world despite being a black lesbian with depression. You feel the listlessness in her portrayal and the impact on her relationship with Alissa, who works as a stripper. Alissa shares her struggles with being objectified in her work and her portrayal is a good demonstration of how ordinary and likeable strippers can be. In the play, Alissa is asked to introduce her classmate Talia (played by Katherine King) to stripping.

It is Talia and Darr, the play’s transgender character played by Darragh Mondoux, who are in one of the most important parts of the play. This section addresses sexual assault, and is overlaid with audio clips of an interview Dane Stewart did with an actual sexual assault survivor.

It mercilessly addresses the fact that it is the female victims’ accounts that are always put on trial and not men’s, and with every graphic detail, audiences are made profoundly aware that coercion or the simple violation of the accepted terms of a sexual encounter can turn a consensual encounter into a rape.

The play also includes an interview with a male self-professed perpetrator of sexual violence. It is an uncomfortable topic, but it’s an important one that we need to keep talking about.

The History of Sexuality also addresses kink, which is another topic that might make people uncomfortable. Craig – played by Trevor Barrette – is a student in Marie’s class, but he also works as a gay male escort, and is into puppy play. You see him being whipped by his master Martin, played by the Oliver Price who comes off a bit cold but well-suited to the part, as well as some simulated pee play that may make some people squirm.

That said, Barrette’s Craig is sweet and loveable and the relationship between Craig and Martin helps to demystify some aspects of kink. The portrayal also addresses the issue of emotional abuse while highlighting the power submissives have in BDSM relationships, a notion that is typically misunderstood. After Fifty Shades of Grey, we need more realistic portrayals of kink like this one and Stewart, Barrette, and Price certainly did it justice.

The History of Sexuality does have its flaws.

The portrayals of the characters in prostitution seem to minimize its dangers. The classroom scenes can get a bit boring and heavy with intellectual discussion, though they do succeed in addressing the viciousness with which some people on the Left speak to those with opposing views.

David Hudon is perfect as John, the stereotypical cis white male who is a slave to the gender binary and adheres to essentialist notions of differences between sexes. You feel John’s defensiveness constantly when he is on stage as well as how quick his non-gender conforming classmates are to attack him. Though the character has no backstory, Dane Stewart admitted in an earlier interview that the character is meant to represent the majority of men women and queer people have to deal with regularly.

The History of Sexuality is the kind of play we need more of. It’s not perfect, but it helps to demystify many aspects of sexuality many cis straight vanilla people would like to ignore but cannot. If you identify as queer, disabled, or trans, or a person of colour you will see aspects of yourself on stage and feel the power of being adequately represented. If you’re a woman who’s been victimized in the past, you will feel vindicated. If you’re cis and straight, the play will hopefully make you realize that people are people. For this reason alone, it’s worth seeing.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image of Darragh Mondoux in The History of Sexuality by Peter Ryaux-Larsen

I had no idea what to expect when I entered the Mainline Theatre to see Brave New Productions’ staging of the Martin Sherman play Gently Down the Stream. I knew that the play was part history lesson, telling the history of the persecution of gays in the United States, but I had no idea what the format was going to be. As a reviewer, it’s often best to go into historical plays without any prep – a true test of how well the play tells the history without boring the viewer.

The play is set in the London flat of Beau, a gay pianist from New Orleans, whose claim to fame was being the accompanist to cabaret singer Mabel Mercer in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The history of gays in the United States is told by Beau to his young English lover Rufus, who is fascinated with history and into older men.

Beau’s knowledge of the past is fragmented and Joe Dineen’s portrayal is at once sincere, funny, and heartrending as he describes losing a lover to the terrorist attack at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, and another to the AIDS crisis. Dineen’s Beau comes off as veteran-like and sweetly grandmotherly.

It is not, however, the history lesson that sets this play apart. It’s the sincerity with which the relationships are portrayed. The age difference between Beau and Rufus – the former is in his late sixties, the latter in his late 20s – is a constant point of contention, as is Rufus’s mental illness. The on-stage kisses between the two men seem real, not forced, and you get a feel of genuine intimacy between all the characters and a sincere snapshot of gay male domestic life.

Sean Curley’s Rufus is one of the most realistic portrayals of Bipolar disorder I’ve seen on the stage. Montreal native Daniel James McFee is sweet and saucy as the tattooed performance artist, Harry.

Brave New Productions’ play is not perfect. Though he never breaks character, Joe Dineen seems to have trouble remembering his lines from time to time, though he does recover quickly enough. Sean Curley’s British accent slips here and there, and while his portrayal of depression is on point, it lacks the look of deflation depressed people usually have. People who aren’t into history or domestic scenes may find parts of the play boring, but they brought a tear to my eye.

If you want to laugh and cry, and learn a little and see scenes separated by beautiful old timey music, you need to check out Gently Down the Stream.

* Gently Down the Stream is playing at the Mainline Theatre from August 2 to 11th. Tickets and info through MainLineTheatre.ca

** Featured image by Donald Rees, courtesy of Brave New Productions

Montreal Pride is upon us and with it tons of amazing entertainment! Whether you like drag shows, workshops, films, plays, or parties, Pride has something for everyone, all it requires is that you have an open mind and not be a bigot.

The History of Sexuality is one of Pride 2018’s many theatrical offerings. It started as a low budget two week production at the Mainline Theatre in September 2017 and was selected to be part of Pride’s 2018 programming. It was also recently awarded a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ).

The History of Sexuality is producer/director/playwright Dane Stewart’s creation. He had the idea while doing his Individualized Master’s degree in Theatre, Communications and Gender and Sexuality at Concordia.

“I knew that I wanted to write something about queerness in Montreal but I didn’t know exactly what the format of the play was going to be,” the playwright said in an interview.

Stewart was more interested in the method of writing, so he had the idea to do interviews. The play is based on a series of interviews he conducted with queer people living in Montreal which he then worked into his script.

Many of his subjects were friends and acquaintances, while others were second and third degree connections he made by reaching out on social media. In order to tell their story faithfully, he offered copies of his script to interviewees for feedback in cases where he used their actual words in the play, and made sure he had everyone’s consent to include them.

“One of the things I wanted to incorporate while I was writing was a feedback mechanism,” he noted, “I used their words in the script, I then returned the script to them with those scenes so they could reflect on whether or not they felt they were adequately represented and if they felt they hadn’t been, I worked with them, usually one-on-one, to address those issues.”

I asked Dane about the title of the play as many would see the title and assume they were getting a history lesson. Dane explained that the play’s title comes from a book of the same name by the philosopher Michel Foulcault.

The History of Sexuality is kind of a bland book,” Dane said with a smile. “But it’s a sexy title. Put that title on something and pair it with a sexy image and people will come see it.”

He said that audiences will see a show that’s really sexy.

“There are on-stage representations of sex and there are all these different types of queer relationships represented,” he explained, “so there is a really sexy element to it. It is also highly intellectual. It doesn’t approach sexuality just to say ‘come and watch these people get naked on stage’, it’s ‘come and let’s watch people represent sex on stage and then let’s analyze the power and the truth and the dynamics that go into that.”

Stewart is not worried that he’ll lose audiences by being too intellectual because he admits that he’s not going to appeal to everyone:

“It’s been really a process over the three years I’ve been working on it to pare down the intellectual theory and really make it digestible and I think we’ve done a half decent job of that. People will have a fair number of questions hopefully…It’s about analyzing what power dynamics look like in our sexual relationships, what power dynamics look like in our romantic relationships, how we’re socialized and raised into those power dynamics and how do we, moving forward as a society, start to deconstruct that to make society as safer place for expressing sexual identity.”

I asked Stewart who he feels needs to see this play the most. He said the two groups are members of the queer community and, for the educational side of it, straight men.

“I think we’ve done a decent job representing real, honest queer experience on stage. A lot of representation of LGBT folks you’ve seen still is like a stereotype and we really work to overcome that so I think there’s a feeling of empowerment in seeing that representation.”

Regarding straight men, Stewart mentions that he recently incorporated an edit into the script. It’s a scene that will show in upcoming performances in which a woman recounts an experience of being sexually assaulted overlaid with audio clips from the actual interview he did.

In the scene the actress is speaking in dialogue with the actual audio clip. Following the #MeToo movement, Stewart really wanted to address that issue in his play, “and especially address what can men do improve their own actions, to address their own behaviors.”

“I incorporated an interview I did a couple of weeks ago with a man who identified as a perpetrator of sexual assault so we actually have the actress who’s playing a survivor of sexual assault interviewing another actor whose speaking from text from that interview. It’s intense, for sure, but I’m hoping to give straight men a point of access to say ‘Ok, I’ve heard all these conversations, I’ve heard all these women and others sharing their experiences of violence maybe I’ve perpetrated that but how do I recognize that and how do I start to move forward and be a better human.”

In the era of #MeToo and a growing recognition that sexual identity and consensual expressions of it is not something to be ashamed of, The History of Sexuality sounds like the kind of play everyone needs to see.

* The History of Sexuality runs August 9th through 12th. Tickets available through Place des Arts

** Featured image by Peter Ryaux-Larsen. (L to R) Darragh Mondoux, Trevor Barrette, Kayleigh Choiniere

I should say right off the bat that I wasn’t expecting much when I went to see Brave New Productions’ Buyer & Cellar at Montreal Fringe. Though the show was a hit at Montreal Pride last year, the whole idea of a one-man show struck me as egotistical and pretentious. I am very happy to say that this play and its star, Donald Rees, proved me wrong.

The show is about a gay aspiring actor who, having recently been fired from Disneyland in LA, finds himself hired to work as the only clerk in the mock shopping mall of Barbra Streisand’s cellar.

When I asked Rees what audiences should expect, this was his reply:

“Expect to see me sweat and eventually lose my voice. I’m (half) kidding. Buyer & Cellar feels like story time with an old friend. It’s a fast-paced and funny show that mixes an energetic theatrical performance with elements of stand-up comedy.”

And he was right. Amidst show tunes and impressions of Streisand that were at once funny and deferential, there was a delicious amount of charm, snark, and humour. You don’t feel like an audience member at this play, but rather someone who is letting a new friend tell their life story.

The only flaw I could find in the play was with regards to the language. The hero’s boyfriend, Barry, is Jewish, as is Streisand, so there are a lot of Yiddish words that may be lost to audience members unfamiliar with Jews and Ashkenazi slang.

I mean, one could always look the words up on their phones, but using your phone during a theatrical performance is just plain rude. Brave New Productions would be wise to include a Yiddish glossary in the show programs for future performances.

To go further into detail about the show would be to spoil it, and I think that if you love storytelling and aren’t homophobic, you should see this play; it’s delightful. Instead, I’m going to treat you to the chat I had with Donald Rees about the play itself, what brought him to it, and what to expect in the future:

What drew you to this play?

I read the script about five years ago, and even though I knew nothing about Barbra Streisand (for example, I had no idea she removed the middle A from her first name), I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The script itself is wonderful and has elements of stand-up comedy, which I love.

Is it more of a challenge playing a one-man show? What do you feel the differences are as a performer?

I think, between the first run and these encore performances, I’d forgotten just what a challenge the show was. On the one side, in terms of text memorization, it’s an incredible volume to commit to memory.

I won’t lie. Every once in a while the audience cracks me up and I’ll lose my spot. So far, I haven’t had to reach for the script to get back on track, but it’s backstage just in case.

The real challenge is energy. There’s no break. It’s over an hour of my energy mixing with the audiences’ reaction. Near the end, it starts to feel like a marathon.

At the Fringe, the added challenge is our limited time slot, so we have to push the pace a little harder. With that, the challenge is still to make sure that the laughs still land and the emotional parts still have time to sit and resonate.

Why do you think Buyer & Cellar was such a hit last year?

That’s a great question. I know we were up against a show which was basically naked men singing cabaret songs, which clearly has naked men and songs (I’m a big fan of both those things) and then we were up against RuPauls’ Drag Race show (also a fan), but luckily people still came out to see the show.

I think it may come down to the fact that it’s good old-fashioned theatre and that really speaks to people these days. It’s not complicated, it’s not convoluted. It’s also not politically charged, which is maybe refreshing these days.

What do you feel resonates most with audiences?

Laughter feels so good to the soul and this show is filled with moments of laughter. It’s nice to just sit down for story time. In the end, it’s so wonderfully written, and brings up some wonderful themes we can all relate to.

The play addresses issues of employment, the price of fame and more. What do you think the most important issue addressed in the play is?

Barbra has a lot of stuff. Who doesn’t? But what happens when you start to value stuff more than people? Without revealing too much about the ending, it really comes down a loving reminder to appreciate the people who matter in our lives.

Will the play run only during Fringe, or do you anticipate appearing at Pride 2018 as well?

For now, the plan is for this to be the final run. When it comes to comedies, I’d rather do less performances with fuller audiences, not for any reason other than people feel more comfortable laughing at a busy show, so it’s a win-win for all.

But I’m excited to tell you that we are preparing something very special for Pride this year. We had such a great experience with Fierté in 2017. This year we are returning with the Canadian Premiere of Gently Down The Stream by Martin Sherman.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a show. It’s a powerful piece of theatre that explores LGBTQ history, but has this beautiful hope and energy to it. The performances are astounding and humbling to me. We’ll be sharing more details about that after the run of Buyer & Cellar.

* Buyer & Cellar runs until June 16th as part of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Tickets available through MontrealFringe.ca

If there’s one play that truly embodies the spirit of diversity and creativity of the Montreal Fringe Festival, Glam Gam Productions‘ Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story is it. If you’re open minded and want to laugh yourself silly, this play is a sure bet.

Greasy is not for everyone.

If you’re a prude who takes offense to nudity and simulated sex acts, don’t come to this play. If you’re homophobic, do not come to this play. If the idea of people being open and free about their sexuality makes you angry, do not come to this play. If you’re the type to have a social media tantrum about a few Catholic school jokes, stay away.

Inspired by the musical play Grease, Greasy is a racier, raunchier, funnier, gayer spoof with all the right jokes in all the right places.

The play starts with Winter, a cute blonde lesbian played by Magenta Haze, whom nine months earlier had rolled around in the snow with Dani, played by the amazing Phoenix Wood. Like in the original play, the sweet naïve Winter finds herself at the same all-girl Catholic high school with her old flame, who shrugs her off to impress her clique of butch dykes.

Many of the character names in the play are riffs on the names in the original. Rizzo becomes Jizzo, Danny Zuko becomes Dani Fuko, Kennickie becomes Kink-Nikki, and the Pink Ladies become the Pink Tacos.

This play is a treat because no topic is off limits. Queer identity, drag culture, gender roles, polyamory, and even mental illness, academic stress, and school debt are all addressed in the piece. What particularly sets Greasy apart from the original, however, is how thoroughly the other characters are developed.

The original Grease revolved around the romance between Danny Zuko and Sandy, giving it an almost nauseatingly sentimental note while leaving the other characters’ storylines superficial. In Greasy all the characters are given a voice and a story to tell, whether it’s Frenchie’s struggles to get into med school, Jizzo’s conflicted sexuality and her romance with Kink-Nikki, or Rummy and Slutzy – played by the hilarious Booze Crotch and her puppet Slutzy – and their struggles with mental illness and love for Tarty.

Even gay male identity is addressed through the play’s two drag queens, Cha Cha and Ta Ta, played by the beautiful Lez Izmohr and Spoopy Patootie, respectively. We also get this through Prince LaFontaine, played by Micheal J. McCarthy, whose outfits consisting of the tackiest suits I’ve ever seen, trumped even the most beautiful drag costumes in the play.

The show has the added benefit of promoting body positivity via its numerous burlesque performances. Few in the play fit the Hollywood ideal of an anorexically thin body and big boobs, but all who took their clothes off for the audience made it sexy through artful shimmies and shakes and the sensuous removal of their outer costumes revealing glittery pasties and thongs.

Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, you may want to give this play a shot. All the singers and band members are talented and never miss a beat even when the venue’s sound system screws up.

This play shocked me in many ways, but awed me in more. If you want to laugh and cheer and dance in your seat, check out Greasy. It’s worth it.

* Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story runs until June 16 as part of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Tickets available through MontrealFringe.ca

* Featured image via GlamGam.com

Montreal Fringe is one of those events that truly has something for every theatre go-er. You like burlesque? They have shows for that. You love drag queens and drag kings? There are shows for that too. You want drama? Comedy? Something different? Fringe has got you covered. If you’re willing to look, you’re bound to find many diamonds in the rough.

The Montreal Fringe Festival prides itself on creativity, diversity, and accessibility so even the shows that producers consider unsellable get a shot at stardom by having a chance to take the festival stage. One of the best ways to sample local talent is to take in the Fringe for All event that happens the first night of every festival.

For up to two minutes, all the local performers get a shot at enticing attendees to come to their plays. It’s a slog, but for your stamina you see a lot of gems hidden among snippets that confirm people’s worst prejudices about independent theatre – that it’s pretentious, artsy, and consisting of symbolism lost on even the university educated.

I’m not going to bore you with those. Having witnessed bits of shows that look REALLY good, I’m going tell you MY picks for Montreal Fringe 2018:

Apocalipsync : Humanity Is a Drag

I should admit right off that bat that I LOVE drag, so the show intrigued me before I saw their bit. When they took the stage I was not disappointed. Their lip sync and choreography was immaculate as was the glam the genre requires.

The premise of the show is that – “CONSERVATIVES REJOICE!” – the left ended the world and the “Social Justice Road Warriors” played by drag queens Uma Gahd, Dot Dot Dot, and Anaconda are searching for humanity’s salvation. If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you NEED to see this show.

Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story

True to the title, the show is riff on the classic musical play Grease but with a much naughtier touch. There isn’t just dancing, there’s riveting burlesque performances proving that you don’t need to be a busty toothpick to be sexy.

Also, this is the latest offering from Glam Gam Productions who produced Peter Pansexual, which set Montreal Fringe box office records last year and a group we at FTB have been following for a while.

Mid Knight

Mid Knight is a modern fairy tale about what would happen to Little (Prince) Charming if his parents got divorced. The snippet I saw featured a piñata with the word “childhood” on it getting smashed to bits by the show’s prince with a blunt sword. The audience got any candy that came out. It’s an interesting approach to the classic fairy tale that’s timely given the renewed public interest in medieval themes due to shows like Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time.

CLIO: Puppets, Not Patriarchy

If you’re a heterosexual male who doesn’t believe in making sure your sex partners are satisfied in bed, this isn’t the show for you. It’s a puppet show about Clio, a clitoris on a journey of self discovery to find out what she is capable of, thus becoming “cliterate”.

The snippet I saw was funny and sweet so while I don’t typically go for shows about one body part, this looks intriguing, if only to marvel at how the puppeteer keeps a straight face through the performance.

What the Hell Happened to My Patio Furniture?!

I’m not normally a fan of one-man shows, but Joshua Budman’s two-minute performance in which he wonders how his patio chairs disappeared from his sixteenth-floor balcony to the song Dust in the Wind had me laughing so hard it looks like a sure thing.

#ashtag

This is an interactive show in which audience members are invited to participate using their cell-phones. It’s a format I’ve never seen before in theatre and it featured a male and female actor with perfectly synchronised dialogue. It’s worth checking out if you like high tech audience participation

Mme Brulé

Mme Brulé starring Evelyne Laniel is a French language play that embodies the frustrations of formerly idealist teachers everywhere. The snippet I saw was hilarious and heartwarming, making me want to laugh and cheer. If you have any teachers in your life, bring them to this show.

Drunk Live Reading: Bridesmaids

If you were a fan of the film, you need to check this out. Featuring Montreal’s own Cat Lemieux who co-hosted the Fringe for All with Kenny Streule and Dayane Nbaritukure, all proceeds of the event go to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Not only is that an amazing cause, but Lemieux’s snippet channeled Melissa McCarthy and the late Chris Farley in way that was hilarious and riveting, making this show a sure bet.

Les Aventures d’Humphrey Beauregret

Philippe Gobeille’s one-man puppet show surprised me. His puppet “Humphrey Beauregret” is a 1940s style P.I. reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart’s classic roles. Not only does the character tell stories, he sings songs such as Unbreak My Heart and All By Myself channeling the trope’s loneliness and taking it to amusing extremes. It was riveting and funny and a good sample of what’s to come in his show.

Montreal Fringe is on from May 28th to June 17th. As festival spokesperson and Fringe veteran Véronique Raymond declared in her opening speech: “It’s the only time when Francophone and Anglophone artists share the same stage.”

Check it out. It’s worth it.

The full schedule is at MontrealFringe.ca and look for our reviews over the next few weeks

If you like unique original art and unique takes of the well-established classics, there is plenty to check out this week (this weekend in particular) in Montreal. So let’s get started:

Doris: the art show

Montreal-based performer and art maker Jessica Rae is hosting a one-day immersive art show set in a trash-kitsch dream world inspired by her grandmother.

The event will feature hand sculptures, mobile art and x-mas tree decorations which you can purchase. The chips, soda, jelly rolls and wine, though, are free!

Consult the Facebook event page for more info.

Doris: the art show takes place Saturday, December 9 from 2pm – 7pm at 3655 boul St-Laurent, #205, all ages welcome

The Film Society’s 25th Anniversary Surprise Screening

You may have seen or at least heard of a Montreal company presenting silent films with live musical accompaniment. That was Le Cinéclub de Montréal or The Film Society of Montreal and they’ve been in operation for 25 years.

To celebrate that milestone, they’re holding a surprise free screening this Saturday. By surprise, we mean that we don’t know what film will be screened, though you can bet it will be a classic and there will be something unique to the Film Society happening either before, after or alongside it.

Le Cinéclub de Montréal / The Film Society of Montreal’s 25th Anniversary Surprise Screening is Saturday, December 9th at 6:30pm at Cinema de Sève in Concordia’s Webster Library (LB), 1400 de Maisonneuve Ouest

Geordie Productions’ A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ holiday classic A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the stage and screen so many times, it’s really difficult to come up with a unique take on it. Montreal’s Geordie Productions, though, has, in more ways than one.

They’ve cast lawyers, judges and other leaders in Montreal’s legal and business communities as actors. Quebec Superior Court Justice the Honourable Pepita G. Capriolo plays Ebenezia Scrooge, so yes, Scrooge is also a woman in this production.

There are only a few shows and each one includes a cocktail hour and silent auction. This holiday tradition is a fundraiser to allow Geordie to continue to function and bring its plays to schools year-round.

A Christmas Carol presented by Geordie Productions runs Friday, December 8th at 7pm and Saturday, December 9th at 2pm and 7pm at the D.B. Clarke Theatre, Concordia University Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest, tickets are $25 and available through geordie.ca

* Featured image courtesy The Film Society of Montreal

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

It’s that time once again! Time to find out just some of what’s happening artistically this coming weekend and next week in Montreal. Two of the shows are happening tonight, so let’s get started:

Hunting Moon

It seems like community theatre is alive and well in NDG. This weekend and next, Theatre NDG is presenting a new one-act comedy by local playwright Ryan Madden called Hunting Moon featuring a cast of local actors.

According to the description, it’s all about love: being in it, being burned by it and being hopeful about it. Seeing as pretty much everyone can relate to at least one of those states, it’s sure to speak to the audience.

Hunting Moon presented by Theatre NDG continues November 24th and 30th, December 1st and 2nd at 8pm with a matinee December 2nd at 2pm. Loyola Chapel, 7141 Sherbrooke Ouest. Tickets are $10  and available through Eventbrite

ArtJam Vol. 15

ArtJam is a monthly multidisciplinary arts party put together by Good Vibe People and streamed live by Nomad. According to the promo material, they shoot for an atmosphere that is more social than a typical arts show or concert.

Tonight’s event features art by DUVAL Art, Michèle Laflèche, Kasimp Productions and others. Music will be courtesy of Afro-Soul artist Tina Ford, folk-alternative musician Vikki Gilmore, indie rockers Made Men and more.

ArtJam Vol. 15, November 24, 8pm, NomadLive, 129 Van Horne. Tickets are $10 (including a drink) and entrance is free for members only before 9pm

Collage Workshop with girlplague

Ever wanted to learn how to collage? Local collage artist (and FTB contributor) girlplague is offering a two hour workshop on the art form. She will show cutting and application techniques, differences in adhesives, basic composition and more.

girlplague has over ten years’ worth of experience in the genre and her work has been shown in galleries worldwide.

Collage Workshop with girlplague, November 30, 6-8pm, 3487 rue Peel. Tickets are $25 and available through Elysium

* Featured image courtesy of girlplague

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

I’ve seen Glam Gam shows before. They’re always fun and clever. They always push the envelope while making a point about sexuality and cultural norms. There is always plenty of nudity.

All of that was again the case at their latest Fringe show Peter Pansexual, but there was something more. A few things more, in fact.

So Very Montreal

Peter Pansexual is as much a story about Montreal as it was a critical parody of Disney’s Peter Pan. The Darlings, in this show, are from London….wait for it….Ontario and the Neverland that Peter (Adrian Mal Au Nez) and Twinkerbell (Meander) transport them to is Montreal’s underground art and late night party scene.

The operatic song You’ll Get By beautifully performed live by Stella Von Stein was not only a fun way to accompany the Darlings’ trip to their new home, but an excellent introduction to a world that many of us, myself included, know or knew all too well, though one that has never, to my recollection, been represented through drama (or comedy) before.

There’s the precarious job market for unilingual transplants, the guestlist as payment economy, the abundance of less-than-legal party favours and, of course, the pansexual orgy that is just around the corner, “second loft to the right” with a light on all night.

Neverland feels real. Sure, an over-the-top fantasy version of reality, but at its core, this is a world many Montrealers are familiar with.

This is definitely the type of show that’s good enough to tour with, though, if Glam Gam decided to take it anywhere beyond Laval, they would have to re-work some major portions of it for each city it played in, because a good chunk of the references are hyper-Montreal specific.

A Unified Story

One of the hardest thing to do with burlesque-inspired theatre is incorporate many divergent elements and different performers into a unifying throughline. Glam Gam and director Sam Sullivan pull it off wonderfully.

The pacing is solid, the transitions make sense and even the most random of all elements, guest performers (they had a different one each night of the Fringe run, Honey Lustre wowed the audience night I attended) fit into the story by way of being an act the characters are watching on stage at an underground party following an attempted Michael Jackson impersonation by Rachel Dolezal (Glam Gam veteran Booze Crotch who also played Dad Darling and blueman Periwinkle) that intentionally got the crowd riled up.

It’s like the play within a play from Hamlet if people were getting naked (note to Glam Gam: naked Shakespeare, just think about it for the future). It’s also close to how David Lynch incorporates his musical guests into the new Twin Peaks without leaving the story (no, that’s not a spoiler for Twin Peaks).

Yes, it was a play, with a beginning, middle and an end. But it was also, at the same time, a burlesque show, with the audience cheering as the performers removed clothing and got raunchy with each other.

Character-Driven

Amidst all the nudity, Montreal references and clever puns, there are the characters who move the story along. Obviously modeled on the characters in Disney’s Peter Pan.

We’ve got Peter who, while the instigator of the story and cool at first, turns out to be kind of a di…um, no, wait, don’t use a body part we got to see, he’s kind of an as…nope, same problem, got it, he turns out to be self absorbed and not a very nice person, but someone anyone who has been on the party scene has met.

Twinkerbell (or Twink) is that contact you have for the party favours that never disappoints but rarely sticks around. He helps Peter seem cool, like a wingman with actual wings.

The pair work really well together as Peter’s too-cool-for-school bravado juxtaposed with Twink’s very practical approach to everything made them quite the team for comedy. Like a pair of entertaining though always horny tour guides.

You could see the young Darlings as stereotypes. However, since they’re representative of people in the audience or people those people know, I’d go with archetypes instead.

There’s Wendy (Glam Gam veteran Super Sherri), a funny though quite sympathetic take on the Social Justice Warrior. John is the bro homophobe closet case (played by troupe co-founder Michael J. McCarthy, so if you’re familiar at all with Glam Gam, that’s some serious acting, folks). And then there’s Michael (Lolipop Bob) who is, well, an exhibitionist.

The most in-your-face character is clearly Captain Hooker (Tessa Brown). For me, that was literally true. I was seated in the section of Cafe Cleopatre where she made her first appearance on top of a bar. Up close she was intense to say the least and that intensity stayed with her wherever she went in the room, a real comedic tour de force performance with some of the funniest reactions in the show.

Erik Leisinger (Radical Raven and pianist), Misty Portugal (Pearl), Seth Scheuner (Smee), Tristan Ginger (Door Bitch), Mish Chartier (Turqoise) and Alex Brault (Flaming Fox) round out the ensemble cast with choreographers Debbie Friedmann and KungfuPaul de Tourreil and stage manager and tech Fiona Ross helping behind the scenes.

This show was all about the ensemble. They worked together to do so much more than guide us from point A to point B, they made the journey fun provocative.

As the show wrapped up with the same song that was near the beginning, I’ll do the same and say that with Peter Pansexual, as with Montreal, you’ll do more than get by, you’ll find something truly unique.

 

Angélique, the story of the black slave tortured and put to death in New France (later Montreal, Quebec) for allegedly setting the fire of 1734 that burned down the only hospital and left hundreds of people homeless, is most remarkable for the fact that so few Canadians know about this incendiary incident in Montreal’s history.

It’s a story with everything: chaos, love triangles, danger, a woman’s determined quest for freedom.

Yet, despite these features that make Angélique a perfect candidate for telling and re-telling, like many stories of slavery in Canada’s history, and many narratives sympathetic to disadvantaged people of colour, the story of Marie-Joseph Angelique has been largely ignored until very recently.

In fact, the play currently being billed as the first collaboration between Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau d’Hote Théâtre, is the first time this story has been presented on stage in Montreal, the city where the true story took place. It is running from March 15th to April 2nd at the Segal Center.

Angélique is the story of the strong-willed black slave tortured and put to death for allegedly starting the fire of 1734, which burned down the majority of what is now Old Montreal. Though it was generally accepted that Angelique did commit the crime for which she was accused, it has recently been argued that she was innocent, convicted on the basis of her reputation as a rebellious runaway and hard-to-control slave. The evidence used to convict Angelique would not stand up in a modern court of law.

“I am a very proud Canadian, and a very proud Montréaler, but I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favours by not acknowledging the bad along with the good in history,” says Black Theatre workshop artistic director Quincy Armorer. “I’ve noticed this play is educating a lot of people about some of the forgotten or ignored times in Canadian and Montreal history, and I am very, very happy to be a part of letting people know this happened here.”

Mathieu Murphy-Perron, artistic director for Tableau d’Hote Theater, agrees: “As someone who generally tries to be aware of where we live and the land we are on, and the fact that it’s stolen land, and Canada is not the land of milk and honey…to have zero-ZERO-knowledge of this show, it spoke to our educational shortcomings of telling the stories that make up this city, Quebec and Canada”

“I didn’t even know about this before,” adds Jenny Brizard, the lead and title actress of Angélique “They didn’t talk about slavery in Canada at all when I was in school.”

Having left her native Montreal to pursue a career as a dancer in Toronto, Ms. Brizard has returned in a blaze of glory with a breakout performance as the title character in Angélique. This is her first professional acting role, and though the performance seemed a little manic at times, this is certainly fitting as an artistic choice for a character under an incredible amount of mental, emotional and physical stress.

Speaking of artistic direction, the costuming decisions in this production were extremely powerful, working as an additional layer of social commentary. ‘Upper class’ members of society began the production dressed in contemporary business wear, and ended the production dressed in 1730s period clothing. Conversely, slaves began the production in period clothing and ended the production in contemporary street wear, or in Angelique’s case, an orange prison outfit.

The closing images of a modern black woman being put to death for a crime, with no evidence that she had committed it, while being looked upon by people stuck in the past, were extremely powerful and speaks to the ongoing issues with class and race that still exist today. The play ended with Angelique hearing the drums of her homeland (drums were banned in New France in an effort to sever slaves from their culture) and dancing her heart out in the traditional style of her childhood, which she had been previously embarrassed and nervous to display in New France.

The musical backdrop of Angélique was completely percussion based, set to an original composition by SIXTRUM Percussion Ensemble. The use of drums served as a clever musical allegory for Angelique’s struggle and personal erasure, due to the nature of the importance of drum music in Angelique’s internal life and history versus their ban in New France.

When Angélique is first introduced at a slave purchasing block, thick chains were used as an instrument by SIXTRUM, who were playing above the stage. It was fresh, creative, and enhanced the narrative.

Though the script, written by the late Lorena Gale, doesn’t claim to be completely factual (and how could it be, when the source material is from the 18th century), one creative inclusion bothered me:

In the play, Angélique is repeatedly raped by her master François, and it is implied that she gives birth to a child fathered by him. Though I couldn’t find any historical rumours that this had taken place in real life, and the father on record for Angélique’s children is listed as fellow slave César (played with subtlety, depth and range by Tristan D. Lalla), I can understand its inclusion in this play. This is the story of a black slave woman, a group that is underrepresented in the telling of their stories and for whom rape, and the subsequent fathering of children, by white masters was most certainly a frequent occurrence.

Where I take issue that it is then used as THE major point of contention between Angelique and Francois’ wife Thérèse. I think, in a story that already has so much drama and intrigue, it’s a bit lazy to then add as a major plot point, a shift away from Angelique’s real struggle, towards a jealousy fight between women arguing over the affections of a shitty guy. It reinforces the stereotype of women as petty and jealous, and having nothing more of substance to do or think about than the affections of a man.

In fact, this same theme is echoed again between Angelique and Manon, a Panis-Native slave, who in this play rejects Angélique’s friendship and sells her out at trial over Manon’s love of César, who in turn loves Angélique. According to the historical record, Manon more likely tried to divert suspicion to Angélique for self-preservation as she herself could have been severely punished if suspicion had fallen on her own shoulders.

However, I suppose pitting women against each other over a guy once again adds easy intrigue and a familiar stereotype. Despite the historical setting of the play, it’s 2017, and I think we can do better.

Overall, Angelique is a skillful and extremely important retelling of a chapter in Montreal history that is conspicuously absent from most history books. It is powerful, visceral and necessary, and with tickets starting at $22, much more accessible than the majority of professional theatrical productions.

Bring a date, bring your mom, bring a history or theatre buff, a lover of Montreal, or even your favorite arsonist, but don’t miss Angélique’s first (and certainly not last) tour in Montreal. It is a tribute to a powerful and strong woman who was persecuted until the end by a society that did not value her.

Only one question remains in the fiery tale: Did she do it?

“At this point, I don’t really care…if she did it or not,” says Ms. Brizard. “The fact is, she didn’t have a fair chance. Period. And that’s how I approach the work. She didn’t get a fair trial, a fair chance, as a woman, as a black woman. Period.”

Angélique presented by Black Theatre Workshop and Tableau d’Hote Théâtre runs through April 2nd, 2017 at the Segal Centre, 5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine,  tickets available through the Segal Centre box office

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its last November edition. Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Beaux Dégâts #45 – Tap Water Jam MTL + Ella Grave showcase

Beaux Dégâts is a time-honoured Montreal tradition that combines improvisation in musical and fine arts to create a unique organic event space. From their Facebook page:

“Beaux Dégâts tries to make a parallel between the reality of street artists and the Fine Arts. It is here to bring back what has been ignored for too long by art institutions and return to the street artist’s reality: the importance of community, sharing, accessibility and uniqueness.

For two hours, six teams of artists will improvise 8ft X 8ft murals on different themes given on the night. Each team will have to research and find visual references to create a production in front of public. All mediums except spray cans are allowed. During the evening, the public will vote for it’s favorite mural using their empty Pabst beer cans. The team that will collect the most cans will win the right to paint over the other artists work if they wish.”

Beaux Dégâts #45: Live Improvised Painting and Music – Wednesday, Nov 30, Foufounes Electriques, 8pm-1am. Entrance: 5$

The Crossing presented by Cinema Politica Concordia

Cinema Politica is a media arts, non-profit network of community and campus locals that screen independent political film and video by Canadian and international artists throughout Canada and abroad. It is volunteer-run and all screenings are by donation.

 

The film that Cinema Politica is screening this Monday, The Crossing, “takes us along on one of the most dangerous journeys of our time with a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents and five countries, searching for a home to rekindle the greatest thing they have lost – Hope.”

The Crossing screening @ Cinema Politica Concordia, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard W, Room H-110, Monday, 7pm. Entrance by Donation

50/50 presented at Mainline Theatre

50/50 is a novel concept; a half-scripted, half-improvised live comedy show! This show was a major hit at Just For Laughs 2016 and will not be back for four months – definitely catch this if you can at the Mainline Theatre.

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Coming off a sellout show at OFF-JFL/Zoofest this past July, 50/50 returns with a new cast blending talented actors and hilarious comedians. In each of the show’s nine scenes, a prepared actor who has learned lines off a real script is paired with an improviser who has no prior knowledge of what the actor has rehearsed.

50/50 @ Mainline Theatre, 3997 boul St-Laurent. Wednesday, November 30th, 8pm. $15 (students/seniors/QDF Members $12)

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.

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Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its early November edition. The chill has definitely returned to Montreal, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock ourselves indoors yet! Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Bareoke presented by Glam Gam

No stranger to performing in local strip clubs with the burlesque troupe Glam Gam, Lipster’s organizers realized this type of venue would surely allow them to transform their karaoke show into Stripster!

Now you can find them the first Saturday of every month at the historic Café Cléopâtre, which comes equipped with a large stage, a smoke machine and crazy lighting which allows people to take their performances to the next level.

Glam Gam’s organizers have made an important step in making the space open for everyone, according to their Facebook event page : “We are thrilled to have performers of all different backgrounds, ages, body types, gender identities and sexualities. Some people will take off just a sock, others will get down to their skivvies and a lot of brave souls prance around in their birthday suits! The best part is that everyone respects and encourages each other’s boundaries with little to no policing on our part.”

Come see what all the fuss is about!

Bareoke @ Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St Laurent, Saturday, November 5, 10PM, $5

FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!
FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!

Fishbowl Collective Presents: An Anti-War Art Pop-up

The Fishbowl Collective will be occupying a studio space in Griffintown and filling it with art of all kinds against war/militarism of any kind!

At 8:30, the space will be taken over by anti-war Pierrots in an hour-long version of Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War!

From 9:30-11 the space will act as a showcase for local artists to show their work!

Local anti-war organizations will be tabling in the space.

Oh What A Lovely War's Theatrical Poster
Oh What A Lovely War’s Theatrical Poster

Using songs and documents of the period, Oh What a Lovely War! is an epic theatrical chronicle of the horrors of WWI as presented by a seaside pierrot troupe. It was collectively created by Theatre Workshop in 1963 under Joan Littlewood, and over 50 years later remains unique in its innovative satiric way of looking at the difficult subject of war and its futility. Its dismissal of sentimentality and its distinct anti-war-agit-prop flavour highlights the oppression of the working stiff turned common soldier and points to the absurdity involved in war.

141 Rue Ste Ann, Pay What You Can (All Proceeds go to Actions Réfugiés Montréal)

Pride Screening presented by Socialist Fightback!

Socialist Fightback is screening Pride (2014) at McGill University’s Shatner Building in Room 202 this Wednesday. Entrance is FREE, and a spirited discussion is sure to follow. Curious about what “Solidarity” means to the LGBT community? Check this movie out.

Pride offers an excellent example of solidarity along class lines. Between 1981-1984, the British government under Margaret Thatcher had closed around 20 mining pits and coal mining employment continued to fall. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a major industrial action to shut down the British coal industry in an attempt to prevent colliery closures.

Also victims of Thatcher’s bigotry and conservative policies, gays and lesbians came together to collect funds and sustain the miner’s strike. Although reluctant at first, the miners accepted the support from the LGSM.

Pride is a great demonstration of how class unity is the best and most effective way of fighting against all types of oppression.

Pride is screening in the Shatner Building Room 202 @ McGill University, November 9, 7pm, FREE

 

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Rocky Horror is my religion.

Every Halloween and during the occasional summer show for the past seventeen years, I’d paint my face and those of my friends, fasten my garter belt and wait in the freezing rain and snow to see the interactive Rocky Horror Picture show.

The interactive show is something every Montrealer should experience at least once. The production doesn’t just show the 1975 movie, but actors also act it out on stage while the audience is invited to yell comments – there are scripts and videos of call lines available online – and throw toilet paper, toast, and playing cards at specific times during the film. There is a costume contest, and prizes are awarded on both the costumes and on what you are willing to do to rile up the crowd. That could mean anything from flashing to doing backflips on stage.

The venues and casts have changed from the Imperial to The Medley to the Rialto and back to the Imperial, but the formula and spirit of the event stays constant. This is a show where you must put any prejudices you have about sexual orientations and gender identities aside. It’s where you have to stuff your prudery and your judgment to celebrate the safe, consensual and fun.

Whether it’s the annual musical play at the Mainline Theatre or the interactive Picture Show at the Imperial, The Rocky Horror shows are not for those who want their intolerances tolerated. It’s for those who believe everyone deserves to feel welcome.

For me the interactive picture show is now sadly a no-go. My health problems make it dangerous for me and anyone with a physical disability as people are regularly bumping and grinding and dancing with each other, and many are drunk.

As a consolation prize to myself, I opted to go to the Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical. If you can get up the treacherously steep staircase of the theatre, the live musical show is no consolation prize but a gem in and of itself.

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With no background movie to compete with, the actors, musicians and dancers truly shine. The voices you hear are not those of Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Tim Curry, but of the Montreal cast.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz, who played Magenta, opened the show with her rendition of Science Fiction Double Feature, a version a lot sweeter than Richard O’Brien’s scratchy one from the film. The “Phantoms” clad in fishnets and garter belts danced around her and throughout various scenes, keeping the show’s burlesque feel true to form. The dancing, while choreographed by Director/Choreographer Amy Blackmore, never felt overly predictable or plastic.

This is one of the few shows where heckling (within reason) is encouraged. If you know the show’s call lines, you are welcome to yell them and even invent some you feel fit the show. The actors never miss a beat and give as good as they get. When Stephanie McKenna’s Frank delivered the line “even smiling makes my face ache”, one audience member yelled that it was from all the blowjobs. McKenna, never breaking character, replied with:

“No, I don’t give blowjobs like you do.”

Rocky was played by Dane Stewart, who portrayed the character’s infantile naivete and sexual curiosity perfectly. Unfortunately, he seemed unable to do the physical moves the part calls for, but whether this was a mutual decision between him and the director is unclear. Rocky is described in film and play as being all muscle and no brains. When Frank starts singing about press ups and chin ups, I expect the person in the role to at least do a push up, but if Stewart can do them, the audience never got to see it.

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Franco De Crescentis as Riff Raff was a sight to behold, stealing nearly every scene he was in. His portrayal made a character who is supposed to just be creepy sexy and intense. His performance was rivaled only by that of Maxine Segalowitz as Columbia.

Segalowitz’s Columbia was the perfect mix of sass, cuteness, and hysteria. She was also physically remarkable, performing the dance moves in a way that looked at once polished and clumsy, and like all great comedic actors, she clearly knows how to take a fall.

McKenna’s portrayal of Frank was prissier than I expected, but she played the role with all the snark it needed. Her physical strength was especially impressive as she could do lifts and simulate sexual positions many men can’t do.

Kenny Stein portrayed both Dr. Scott and Eddie. While Meatloaf raised the bar incredibly high with his portrayal of Eddie in 1975, Stein can sing and got the job done. His portrayal of Dr. Scott as (by his own admission) an old Jewish guy made the jokes about Dr. Scott being a Nazi especially funny.

Elyann Quessy’s Janet and Anthony Schuller’s Brad were what one would expect: nervous nerdy naivete, but nothing outstanding. As they are a foil for the play’s more interesting characters, that’s all you need.

Perhaps the true stars of the show were the band members, who kept the music on point. Led by Musical Director and former Producer of the show, Shayne Gryn, the timing of the music never faltered, even though the actors struggled with only two microphones and one headset worn by Frank, probably the result of a low budget and feedback issues.

If you love snark, sass, and sex, The Rocky Horror Shows are for you. If want to feel part of the experience and don’t mind being hit in the head with a roll of toilet paper, go to the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you prefer to sit and watch and see local talent at their best while enjoying great music, go to the Mainline Theatre’s Musical Show. Hell, go to both if you can! They’re amazing!

The Rocky Horror Show Halloween Ball is going on October 28, 29, and 31 with shows at 8 pm and 11 pm. Tickets are $17.95 ( + tx and serv) in advance and $19.95 (+tx and serv.) at the door. For more info and tickets go to www.rockyhorrormontreal.com

The Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical is happening from October 20 to 31. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Seniors, students, and members of the Quebec Drama Federation pay less. For more info and tickets go to mainlinetheatre.ca

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back with for its Halloween edition! We’ve got some great onstage performances coming up in the city, and as always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message or leave a comment below.

We’ve got two different but wildly entertaining version of Halloween cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show – both are sure to sell out so get there early for last-minute tickets!

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical

See the sensational play that sparked an international phenomenon. MainLine Theatre presents Richard O’Brien’s musical-theatre masterpiece as camp sci-fi meets sexual exploration, glam-rock, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Experience #RockyMainLine up-close-and-personal in an intimate experience with a full live cast, band and dancers!

The show was directed and choreographed by Mainline’s Amy Blackmore with additional choreography by Holly Greco and Patrick Lloyd Brennan. It features Stephanie Mckenna as Dr. Frank N’ Furter.

Oct 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($15 for students and seniors + a Quebec Drama Federation discount, please call 514-849-3378 for discounted tickets)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball 

This is the more “traditional” Rocky Horror experience, featuring the original film with live on-stage performances. It will sell out, so get there early!

There is a limit of six tickets per person and all in-person sales are cash only.

There is a student discount of $5 which applies to the October 31st shows only. A valid student ID is required at one of our advance ticket outlets. Limit of two tickets per student. Student discount tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show but cannot be purchased online.

Oct 28, 29, 31, Cinéma Impérial, 1432 Bleury.

The Refugee Hotel

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s The Refugee Hotel is a dark comedy about exile, love and the Canadian resettlement experience. Told from the point of view of a young woman looking back on her childhood, Award-winning writer Carmen Aguirre poignantly chronicles the true story of a wave of Chilean refugees who are placed at a hotel in downtown Montreal in 1974, following the aftermath of the brutal Chilean coup d’état, one of the watershed moments of the Cold War.

While chronicling the true story of hundreds of thousands of Chileans who resettled across Canada and around the globe, The Refugee Hotel explores Canada’s ability to accept, support and embrace refugees as new citizens.

The play was written by Carmen Aguirre and is directed by Paulina Abarca. It will be performed in English with Spanish-language subtitles.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

October 26 – November 13, Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Call 514-739-7944 for tickets or purchase them through the Segal online box office

An Illiad

A poet recounts the bloody epic of Achilles and Hector in a sweeping story of rage, violence and grief. Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Illiad is an award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic which has gone viral, from New York to Egypt.

Chocolate Moose Theatre Co. revisits the Canadian premiere that earned them #1 Theatre Company in this year’s Cult MTL poll! The show, which runs again starting next week is directed by Lynn Kozak in collaboration with Shanti Gonzales It features a performance by Martin Law, set design by Mikey and Sarah Schanz Denis and lighting design by Ceci MacDonald.

Runs November 2-13 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets: $15 general / $12 students and QDF
Available online through the Mainline Box Office or by calling 514-849-3378

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Forget The Box is kicking off Autumn with a new weekly calendar of arts shows in Montreal! Check out these events and feel free to contact us with suggestions for others as well.

Alder & Ash

Alder & Ash is a counterpoint of two extremes. The music lies in stillness, introversion, and penitence. It lies in violence, cacophony, and angst. Alder & Ash plays solo cello with loop pedal to create improvised minimal classical music, with influence of doom metal, ambient, post-rock and noise. Alder & Ash will be performing live at Le Réactueur as part of an ambient music showcase – don’t miss it!

Alder & Ash Live at Le Réacteur, 2401 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Friday, October 14th. Pay-What-You-Can

Fela Kuti Tribute

The Tupi Collective crew, ASMA, KYOU, and DJ Kobal are putting together an exciting evening filled with sonic tributes to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti at Groove Nation. The event is in celebration of what would have been Fela’s 78th birthday, October 15th (but don’t get it twisted, the show is October 14th).

 

Fela Kuti Tribute at Groove Nation, 410 Rachel Est, Friday, October 14, 10pm-3am. $5 before midnight, $10 after

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza offers Montreal’s finest in a casual context with one of the best new resto/bars in the city. At your service Riccardo Spensieri & his crew will be dishing out the eats and libations as Franco Taddeo & friends light up the night with laughter.

Taddeo is joined by emcee Peter J. Radomski of Just for Laughs fame as well as Paul Baluyot, ParkEx’s One Name Wonder Pantelis, TV’s Geoffery Appelbaum, Erica “The Funny & No Relation” Taddeo plus a Special apperance by Ernie the 80 year Old Comedian & his stool (chair to sit on to be clear!!).

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza at Pompette, 4128 Boulevard St-Laurent, Wednesday, October 19th, 8:30pm – 10:30pm. $9 with comedy night special on drinks

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!