I’ve never been to a wake, but I can safely say hosting one in a bar, a most Irish affectation, I am told, may come with a certain set of unfortunate but hilarious outcomes. It’s an old cliché that death rituals are about the living—a show of elegy, narcissus eulogies. Sermo Scomber Theatre’s In Memoriam is no different. It hinges on the ridiculousness of the fact and basks in it’s messy, lively tastelessness.

A shuffling cast of fluid, multi-talented women (and one gent, too), all of Cheddar Fandango’s eulogizers take turns refilling their swizzle-stick drinks, throwing back shots at the bar and telling all of us what cheddar meant to them. As you might assume, things turn to retribution and over-sharing as everyone gets more and more liquored up. Shouts across the room are exchanged, expediently. And in turn, we get a realer, more hilarious portrait of Cheddar, as well as of the people who populated her life.

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Whether it’s her three singing sisters—the kind one, the estranged one, the white and not-so-nice one—her best friend, who met her when she walked in on her screwing her husband in Berlin, the pal who wants his cashmere back, the friend who aims to, corset and all, make it yet another performance, and the random dame/crasher who no one seems to know, and who’s full of checkout aisle slam poems, everyone at Cheddar’s bar-side wake takes part in making it what Cheddar’s life seems to have been at its best: a performance.

Complete with reaper/dead-Cheddar tap-dance interludes, original songs and a crowd pleasing rendition of “Amazing Grace,” In Memoriam doesn’t disappoint, even if it’s got one too many Tom Waits songs in the background. Wakes are kinda tacky, so it’s alright; indulgences have their time and place.

See it at the Wiggle Room tonight as part of the Montreal Fringe festival; pay your respects, if you’ve got any.

Australian story teller Jon Bennett returns to the Montreal Fringe with his new one-man show Story Whore. Looking at the titles of Bennett’s previous Fringe shows (Pretending Things are a Cock and Fire in The Meth Lab) is a quick way to prepare yourself for what you can expect this time ‘round. Some of its silly, some of its serious, thankfully all of it’s entertaining.

Bennett’s past shows have included stories of his ultra-religious father and meth dealing brother. Now that he’s run out of interesting stories to share of other people, what’s a story teller to do? Inspired by a Montreal (or likely whatever city you catch the show in) airport security guard who questions whether he knows what love is, Bennett guides the audience on an epic journey through the soaring highs and dramatic lows of his romantic relationships.

A quick look at Bennett’s website demonstrates that story telling is perhaps his life’s greatest passion. I missed his past Fringe shows, but it’s clear Bennett has worked hard at crafting an anecdote just right. Whether it’s deciding which exact moment to use voice inflections, or incorporating real and re-imagined items from his life, it’s all part of a goal to gain your sympathy and trust.

As an audience member you know you’re being manipulated. While the real names of people in the stories have been obviously changed, you can’t help but wonder how one would feel knowing Bennett was traveling around the world sharing personal details of your relationship. Or how much of these stories are exaggerated, or even true.

But Bennett is such a good performer you never cling to those feelings for long. It’s much more fun to just go along for the ride. Because seriously, when else in your life will you see a man in his thirties run around in a dress while recounting a sad childhood memory?

Story Whore plays until June 21st at Café Campus.

God is back in town ladies and gentleman, and she’s got loads of new stuff to bitch about. After a buzz-worthy show at the 2012 Fringe, Mike Delamont makes a triumphant return as everybody’s favorite deity in God is a Scottish Drag Queen 2.

Don’t worry, you won’t get lost if you missed Delamont’s hilarious stand-up performance the first time ’round. Here’s all you need to know to get caught up: shows are performed by Delamont in-character, in the role of God. Delamont’s version of God also happens to wear a wig, a woman’s 1980s floral power suit, and be Scottish.

God in the worst drag outfit of all time is, of course, a completely ridiculous character. Seeing Delamont complete in-character at the 2012 Drag Races at Fringe Park was one of my favorite Fringe moments of all time. Here’s hoping he competes with Montreal’s drag queen beauties again this year!)

But upon reflection it’s easy to see there’s a method to Delamont’s “sweats like a mutant farm animal” madness. When a tall, bulky man wears a cropped wig, shoulder pads and speaks in a Scottish accent (Delamont is actually from Victoria BC), as an audience member  it’s easy to let your guard down.

And in that state, Delamont effortlessly commands your attention for the hour-long show. Throughout that hour you can expect God to drift in an out of rants that are both topical and universal in nature. The west Edmonton mall, Scientology, and my favorite bit of the evening – circumcision, are just a few of the things you and God are going to talk about. If that seems like a bizarre grouping of topics now, trust me, go see the show and within minutes you’ll also be laughing your mortal ass off.

Having toured the Fringe circuit across North America in two different shows, Delamont certainly loves being God. And we the audience love him playing it. God is a Scottish Drag Queen 2 was just as fun the second time, but I look forward to Delamont returning to the Montreal Fringe in a new ridiculous character or just maybe even as himself. After all, you wouldn’t want God to wear out his welcome.

With their aim to promote a healthy body image for people of every gender, weight and sexual orientation, Glam Gam shows are always worth checking out. In Turning Tricks, this Montreal Burlesque troupe has taken it up a notch in their most ambitious and successful production to date.

In the show the “Gold Dust Women” are led by mistress Goldie Showers (aka the always amusing and fearless Julie Paquet). Throughout the evening this raunchy team of magical misfits will shock and titillate you in some pretty impressive ways that include glitter, throwing knives, chicken suits, gimps and sparkler pasties. Beyond the staple silliness of their shows, Glam Gam added some important messages as well. It was hard not to notice their comment on slut shaming and a woman’s right to choose. Every character in the show either asked or gave their consent for all that fun naughty stuff. Remember folks: consent is sexy!

While it was nice to see them add a message, this time around Glam Gam wisely cut back on story. Turning Tricks is the strongest of Glam Gam’s past three Fringe outings largely for focusing on the vaudevillian talents of the troupe. That being said, congrats have to be given to miss Phoenix Wood. This Glam Gam beauty usually shows up just in time to dance and strip, but in Turning Tricks she demonstrated she’s a talented actress as well. I would happily see her act again- whether or not she was taking her clothes off.

I was sad not to see more of Michael J. McCarthy in the show, as he’s always entertaining to watch onstage. There’s a reason he and Paquet dominated the “Best of Montreal” List this year in Cult Montreal; the two have a natural chemistry in whatever project they work on. Instead this time around McCarthy’s talent were found off-stage, where he did a great job co-directing the show with Hannah Morrow.

Beautiful naked guys and gals, big splashy dance numbers, Turning Tricks is a must-see Fringe 2014 show for many reasons. Perhaps most importantly because it’s the only Fringe show I’ve ever seen that uses it’s exposure in the festival to raise money for a good cause; during the show money was raised for STELLA, a sex-workers advocacy group. You still have plenty of time to catch all the fun; Turning Tricks plays until Saturday at the Montreal Fringe festival.

 

To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t planned on writing a Dear Armen review. I had extensively interviewed co-creator Kamee Abrahamian and discussed who Armen Ohanian was and the motivation behind the play so I had planned on just publishing some pics of the show along with a paragraph or two about if I thought they had executed things well.

Well, a funny thing happened Sunday night. I discovered rather quickly that what I thought about this show could not be summed up in two paragraphs.

Armen’s remarkably mysterious story, although serving as the show’s main throughline, was only a part of the experience. The play cut back and forth between Armen’s highly embellished memoirs, voiced beautifully on a recording by Abrahamian, and co-creator Lee Williams Boudakian playing a very realistic researcher trying to find the real Armen.

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But it wasn’t as much about what she found as why she was looking for it and why the co-authors of the play were looking for information on a progressive, feminist, possibly queer voice in Armenian history. The answer is in the grandmother: the one Boudakian impersonated in character as the researcher and Abrahamian played but also the proverbial Armenian grandmother, or the matriarch who survived the unthinkable and was still clinging to the old ways.

Now, I don’t have such a figure in my life, but several of the people I’ve met over the years do and they’ve told me stories. Because of that, the portrayal of the grandmother in this play resonated with me and I imagine that it would resonate even more for someone whose family was closer to that of the fictional researcher.

The grandmother was also part of the comic relief and audience participation. Yes, you read that right, the audience is surrounded by the action in the play and a part of it, too, from the moment they enter the space.

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Dear Armen is audience immersive theatre. I wasn’t sure going in to what extent they would take that concept but am pleased to say that they didn’t hold back.

Can’t say I’m surprised. After all, Abrahamian has a burlesque background and Armen was a burlesque performer, too. There is a burlesque number in this show but it’s a little more Requium for a Dream than Lily St-Cyr. While burlesque certainly involves the audience, it’s not to the extent that this show did.

The creators of the piece are searching for answers and bring the audience into that process. This is a performance, but in addition to being a captivating one, it’s also a collaborative one.

Dear Armen is a work in progress and each new audience is invited to take part in moulding it into the next shape it will take. I, for one, am glad I had the opportunity to be a part of that process.

* photos by Melanie Kalinian & Chris Zacchia

* Dear Armen plays in Toronto June 7th and in San Fransisco October to November with other dates TBA, for more info, please visit DearArmen.com

The business of contemporary dance is like a party with no closing time. Dancers exhaust and brutalize their bodies. Curators (party-planners in their own way) want to catch the hot new thing while it’s still fresh, and burn their budgets on international productions that have to be shown now to meet the demands of rarefied audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. At the end of the night, bodies are drenched in sweat, money’s spent, and none of us get to go home with the hot guy.

In Trajal Harrell’s Antigone Sr. / 20 Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L), the eros of the performance may distract you from the social commentary that permeates this prolific artist’s work. When I spoke to Harrell two years ago about his baroque collaborative work (M)imosa, with Marlene Freitas (also at the FTA this year), he spoke of his ground-breaking series of dance pieces as a way of reactivating and reimagining history.

A Yale graduate who studied under preeminent queer feminist scholar bell hooks, Harrell is the darling of the dance world right now, the newest and most intellectual expression of that always fertile – and très New York – antinomy: “the high-low” juxtaposition. His series, now a hallmark of postmodern dance, posits what dance may have looked like in a hypothetical world where black and latino Harlem voguers “came downtown” to the largely white laboratory of new dance and the Fluxus school, an auditorium known as the Judson Memorial Church. This is revisionist history given life, with the complexity of race, class, and sexuality left in.

But back to the hot guys we don’t go home with: Thibaut Lac, a coltish youth with the chiseled body of a model, Rob Fordeyn, a mercurial Flem who dons 5-inch heels to reign as a butch queen MC for one portion of the performance, Ondrej Vidlar (the Czech bear), and the breathtaking Stephen Thompson. As he did in (M)imosa, Harrell speaks directly to the audience: he sits, stands, hunches over his lap-top, or perches like an oracle on a small dais, nonchalantly dancing with his troupe, but mostly hovering, sitting in the aisles of Usine C reading from his iPad.

Adopting the dance-theatre technique of both improvised and memorized texts delivered in live voice, the dancers repeatedly pick up the mic to chant, sing, speak in aphorisms, or act as judge and commentator on the lengthy deconstructed “runway” fashion shows that form the central movement of Antigone Sr. Delicious and fun, but obviously not “dance” enough for the dozen or so “customers” who left halfway through the show.

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Trajal Harrell (center), photo from his Facebook page

Harrell further flouted tradition by announcing in plain English, at the top of the show, exactly what he is going to do: mix voguing with postmodern contemporary art-for-art’s-sake dance, and further splice these sources with a rereading of the Sophocles tragedy Antigone, about a princess who defies her king/brother by ensuring her murdered other brother gets a decent burial. Even if the piece is so replete with references (to voguing balls, pop culture – specifically Britney Spears, Tori Amos, and Zebra Katz – and classical Greek tragedy) that very few audiences anywhere could ever grasp its essence entirely, Harrell’s opening speech was a bold and unpretentious way of putting us all on the same page. You can read the programme notes if you like, but you don’t have to. There’s a show to enjoy.

Like his contemporary, Miguel Gutierrez, whose “Age & Beauty Part 1: Mid-Career Artist/Suicide Note” had a sold-out run at the Whitney Biennial last month, Harrell is not interested in being hermetic. He may confuse you. He may outwit you. But he wants you to be in on the game.

Having done a little voguing myself, and been fascinated by its high/low play of dance, fashion, and queer realities (and theories), I was struck by how predictable and familiar some of the tableaux in Antigone Sr. seemed. The runway show with surreally manipulated Salvation Army finds (did that in 2011); the drawn-out fashion show imitations, essential to voguing, had a been-there, seen-that quality (Pippo Delbono and 2boys.tv both went there years ago); and above all, the long, variously beautiful and banal turns at the microphone, which is a trend in dance that might not die anytime soon, and has spawned many a less successful imitator.

Smartly however, Harrell bookends his Size Large version of this challenging work with solo segments by his dancers, sometimes side by side, gorgeously lit on white rectangular “islands.” As in voguing, each of the performers’ particular charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent were allowed to shine, with Thompson and Fordeyn virtually stealing the show at the end. Thibault Lac, if you’re reading this: great catwalk!

Harrell positions himself as choreographer, dancer, theorist, revisionist historian, author, MC, and businessman, producing versions of his works in various sizes according to his customers’ budgets. According to the programme notes, once his 20 Looks… series is completed with an Extra Large version of Antigone Sr., he will be leaving the voguing/Fluxus duality, and all its camp and headiness, behind him to explore that purest of dance forms: Butoh.

With Paris is Burning’s 25th anniversary coming up next year, the revisiting of this urban art form by makers of high (i.e. heavily funded and talked about) art may be on its way out. You may want to get to the dance floor while the music is still pumping.

Antigone Sr. / 20 Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church (L) Wed. June 4, 8PM, @ Usine C, Part of the Festival Transamériques

Featured photo by Bengt Gustafsson with dancers (L to R): Rob Fordeyn, Stephen Thompson, Thibault Lac

Viktor Tatran opens the Photography exhibit Musée de la vie et de la mort this week at Théâtre Saint-James. This not to be missed show is on from June 2nd to 8th and features a series of provocative Erotic photography, artistic nudes as well as the artist’s powerful image series from Auschwitz, Germany.

The stark contrast between these subjects exemplifies the theme of the exhibit, where the viewer is tempted with seductive images of life in all it’s beauty and then reminded of our frail mortality by being confronted by images from the Holocaust.

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Viktor Tatran is a former photojournalist who shot photos during the war in Afghanistan (1980-81) and then returned to pursue his career as a Fashion and Erotic photographer. This is Viktor Tatran’s first major international show, and as such he has invited three other photographers to present their work as part of this complete show. On display you will find the works of Thierry Quenette, MAXXX and Michel-Pierre Levy.

viktortatran_visuelautiliser_72dpiForget The Box is also happy to announce that we have a limited number of tickets for this event! To score a pair of tickets ($40 value) simply share this article on Facebook or Twitter or sign up to our email list (in the sidebar) and send and email to chris@forgetthebox.net letting me know.

Musée de la Vie et de la Mort de Viktor Tatran au profit de la Fondation SoFy, Don d’organes from June 2-8 at Théâtre St-James, 256 St-Jacques Ouest (purchase tickets)

 

Just who was Armen Ohanian? No one really knows, and that’s essentially the point of Dear Armen, a new play premiering in Montreal this weekend.

“She was very careful in the crafting of her self,” noted Kamee Abrahamian, the show’s co-creator, adding that Ohanian “left behind a mysterious trail which her biographers, and now we, are still trying to decode.”

What we do know about this turn of the century artist is quite an impressive biography. She survived the anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku and went on to have an international career as a dancer, writer and translator. Ohanian founded a theatre in Tehran, a dance school in Mexico City, wrote a collection of memoirs and had time for affairs with some of the biggest stars of the day.

“A friend of mine who runs the women’s resource center in Armenia told me about her a couple of years ago because she knew I was a burlesque performer and she thought I would be interested in the story,” Abrahamian recounts, “she was right, her story was completely inspiring.”

The first person Abrahamian called was Lee Williams Boudakian, who became her co-writer, co-performer and collaborator. Both are Canadian-based artists with Armenian backgrounds and they had found their muse.

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“Both of us were also really excited about the fact that we finally found such an enigmatic Armenian woman in history,” Abrahamian remembers, “I was drawn because of Armen’s performative work and nomadic life, Lee was drawn to the same I believe, as well as Armen’s supposed queerness.”

The product of this collaboration is described in their press release as “a blend of traditional Armenian dance, erotic performance, spoken word and live music.” For some, myself before this interview included, juxtaposing the term “traditional Armenian” with the word “erotic” clashes with some very prevalent preconceptions about Armenian culture.

Abrahimian is no stranger to the stereotype of a very conservative, religious culture, she’s dealt with it her whole time as an artist, as has Boudakian. In fact, it made things difficult for the pair as they started out as artists and, frankly, she’s tired of hearing it.

“It’s not just others who assume Armenians are typically conservative, but Armenians themselves fall into that cliche as well in their thinking and approach to family and culture,” Abrahimian argues, “I find these assumptions to be irresponsible, constricting and narrow minded – a trap that is heavily laden with learned habits and religious-patriarchal narratives, which is a subject that comes into focus in the play.”

“Our history is full of people who push the envelope like Armen Ohanian did,” she says, “Sergei Parajanov, Atom Egoyan – the fact that we chose to live in such derogatory frameworks, and why we don’t talk about the females who have been a part of these so-called progressive, avant garde movements in Armenian history, is proof that these traps exist. How about we stop referring to the Kardashians as the ambassadors of all Armenian people!”

Speaking of the Kardashians and pop culture (and admittedly reaching for a segue), Abrahamian is probably best know in this city for the Blood Ballet Cabaret, a show that took various pop culture tropes like fantasy/sci fi, high school graduation, Disney, video games, childhood fairy tales and slasher movies, infused them with some damn sexy and creative burlesque dancing and turned them on their heads. While that show may have been dormant for a while, it is coming back with shows as part of this year’s Zoofest.

Cher Armen is produced by Saboteur Productions, a company Abrahamian founded in 2013 with Blood Ballet alum Tiffany Golarz and Abrahamian hopes that the audience she has already developed will check out her new show, despite the different feel.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the BBC,” she comments, “it brought me to this point in my work today and I welcome the BBC audience to see Dear Armen for this reason. Yes, its a more thoughtful piece, but every art form has it’s own way of being clever or embodying a certain message. I’d like to think that we can be open to embrace and play with the different shapes these narratives take.”

The shape this particular narrative will take is one where the audience is expected to move around a bit. They’re calling it audience immersive theatre. The show’s venue was also a mystery for a bit (maybe not one akin to who Armen Ohanian was), one that has now been solved on the show’s Facebook event page.

If you want to immerse yourself in the world of Armen Ohanian and the daring original theatre created by Kamee Abrahamian and her team, there’s still time.

Dear Armen Trailer from Saboteur Productions on Vimeo.

Dear Armen runs one time only in Montreal Sunday, June 1 at 8:30pm (reception 8pm). Reserve your tickets through lorikamee@gmail.com

 

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.

Concordia University’s Department of Theatre will debut their production Attawapiskat Is No Exception, an original play conceived in response to 2011’s housing crisis at the Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario.

The play is influenced by the historical events and cultural practices of three northern First Nations communities: Sayisi Dene of Manitoba; Lake St. Martin, Manitoba; and Attawapiskat Cree Nation. It draws attention to the problems surrounding living conditions on northern First Nations Reserves, and enacts the troubled relationship between native leaders and non-native policy makers.

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Broad-based research about First Nations issues was carried out by all participants in the early stages of collaboration during the fall semester. Students involved in the production took a required course about First Nations dramaturgy, co-taught by Favel and Neuerburg-Denzer. In addition, Karl Hele, chair of First Peoples Studies at Concordia, gave an in-depth lecture on land rights, and participation in such activities as a visit to Kahnawake’ s Cultural Center, Mc Gill’s First Peoples Week, and the March for the Murdered and Missing Aboriginal Women aided students in their research.

First Nations theatre is a new research field for Neuerburg-Denzer, whose area of study has focused extensively on emotion studies for performers. “Through the research and creation of Attawapiskat is No Exception, I expressly aim to help conserve and develop knowledge specific to Canada’s First People” she says, “so that the relations between native and non-native individuals and groups might be improved.”  Floyd Favel is a theatre and dance (contemporary and native traditional) director, performer, writer and teacher from Poundmaker Reserve in Saskatchewan. He is currently in writing and co-producing a feature length film, Sweet Cherry Wine, that will be performed entirely in Cree.

There will be a roundtable discussion after Saturday’s matinee performance about the issues raised by “Attawapiskat” and the ways the performance addresses the intersection between aboriginal and “western” playmaking strategies, including the special responsibilities of a predominantly non-native co-creative team. The roundtable will be moderated by M.J. Thompson (Art Education) with Floyd Favel, Ursula Neuerburg-Denzer, Karl Hele, Anik Sioui and Emilie Monnet of Odaya Drum Group, Chelsea Vowel (activist blogger and Cree instructor) and the student actors Tyson Houseman and Brefny Caribou-Curtin. A talk back session with the cast and designers will take place directly following the Friday night show.

Attawapiskat Is No Exception runs April 2 to 5 at 8pm, April 5 and 6 at 2pm at D.B. Clarke Theatre (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. West). Tickets ($10 regular, $5 student) available at the door or in advance. To purchase tickets, email  your name, phone number, number of tickets requested, and the date and time of performance.

 

As someone deeply passionate about the silver screen, most people assume I’ve seen every film ever made. While I’m confident that I’ve seen a far greater number and variety of films then my average contemporary, the 1992 adaptation of the David Mamet play Glengarry Glen Ross is not one of them. So going to a production of the play this past Saturday meant that I was able to view the story of the sordid dealings of a Chicago real estate office with fresh, un-tainted eyes.

Over the past two years that I’ve covered plays at The Segal Center  I’ve always been thoroughly impressed with the set design, and this time was no different. In a play your actors live in the limited environments you create for them, and it’s made me realize that set design is one of the crucial elements to a successful production. For mastering this I tip my proverbial hat first to the set and costume designer Michael Eagan.  In the first act we meet all the characters in a Chinese restaurant, designed in this beautiful deep red. Then the second act plays out in the cold, broken, over head lighting of the real estate office where the characters work. Even the chaos of the vandalized office was put together perfectly.

Having watched Road to Avonlea  as a child, I was most excited to hear that R.H Thomson would be in this production. His character Shelly Levene is supposed to be a once successful salesman who’s now down on his luck and desperate for good leads. Thomson made his Shelley more manic then pathetic and the profanity laced Chicago accent felt a little forced at times. Thomson was good, but I felt he was trying a little too hard to be great.

I was also a bit disappointed in MikePaterson’s performance. Perhaps I’m bias because I know how good he is at comedy and selling the audience on his loud, exuberant personality. So in contrast seeing Paterson as the timid client George Aaronow was a bit of a let down. I’d be curious to read what others thought of his performance.

For me the stand out performance of the night came from Graham Cuthbertson. As office manager Jon Williamson he was engaging without being showy, which I think is an impressive feat in a play; it’s tempting to be as over the top as possible on stage. The program says that Cuthbertson is a staple of Segal Center productions, so I’m excited to attend future productions that he’s involved with.

My final tip of the hat goes to the great man David Mamet himself. This production of Glengarry Glen Ross is not perfect, but absolutely worth seeing for an evening of professional actors reciting this amazing dialogue. Who could of thought that watching a group of alpha-males scream phrases like “You’re a cunt!” at each other for two hours could be so darn entertaining.

Glengarry Glen Ross runs until March 30th at the Segal Center. Get your tickets here.

Photo by Andree Lanthier.

If you weren’t willing to brave the treacherous sidewalks on Nuit Blanche, you were likely viewing art below the streets. Navigating the underground city was trying, given its immensity, but well worth it to avoid the cold and the drunken ruckus up above. Art Souterrain had on hand cultural guides, and the sometimes even the artists themselves on hand to have a chat. Foundations is the theme for Art Souterrain 2014, calling for reflection on how we build connections, identities and places, whether they be in the digital or physical realm.

Touche-o-maton by Hannah Palmer and Aude Guivarc’h at the Eaton Center. Photo by Julia Gunst.Tucked away in the Eaton Centre, Touchbooth, provides an antidote to our selfie-saturated world with an interactive photobooth created by Hannah Palmer and Aude Guivarc’hOne artist who embraced the selfie in video format was Owen Eric Wood. Many of us have snapped a photo ourselves while traveling, in lieu of asking someone to do it for us. Owen Eric Wood had the idea to create a video self-portrait in selfie-style, titled Return. While traveling, he used the camera to film himself he expresses continual self-evaluation and transformation in unfamiliar lands.

“I had this idea- does traveling make you feel either alienated or disembodied or disconnected…because you have nostalgia from the place that you are from and when you come back you have nostalgia for where you were?” he told me in the Place Victoria food court.

“It’s not just about these places, but this character in these places…it is about self-reflection… now that I’m displaced and I don’t feel like I belong there, who am I?” he added. He juxtaposes images from Mexico to Italy with narration in several languages, as he swirls in and out of the frame. Wood, who obtained a B.F.A. from Concordia University and an M.F.A. from the University of Windsor, explores identity in the context of specific themes in his work, and is certainly a video artist to watch.

Next door at Place de la Cité, photographer Meagan Moore was present at her piece Maison. The piece used photography and video to Megan Moore's Maison. Screenshot courtesy of Megan Moore.recreate the experience of her Grandmother’s home. “It was kind of like a sanctuary when I was young and I wanted to preserve the calm feeling of the house,” explained Moore.

That house is presently up for sale, and a connection to this place ever more important. Moore used both photography and video in a patchwork fashion to reconstruct the house, while leaving a living and open feel. “I didn’t want it to become a memento mori,” she added. The soft sound of a ticking clock loops to accompany the images, and you can easily begin to feel at home.

Later on, I caught a performance of Taktiligne by Geneviève Le Guerrier-Aubry in Place Bonaventure. Using an infrared camera and programming code, Geneviève drew as her body moved with the goal of saturating the screen with geometric shapes.“My performance consists of creating a design, and my body is integrated into the design. I’m using a wireless mouse with which I’m drawing,” explained Geneviève, “I find there is an interesting effect with the costume. There is a visual effect and this is what I research. How do we integrate the image into the body and make it fluid?”

The design disappears after the performance, making it truly a live drawing. If you missed the Nuit Blanche performance, you may get another chance to see her perform. “I really want to continue to do more in the future,” added Geneviève.  She is currently completing a Masters in Communication and Media at UQAM.

Margo Majewska's Plato’s Tectonics. Photo by Julia Gunst.

I ended my underground adventure at Plato’s Techtonics by Margo Majewska in Place de la Cité. Seeing the shadows of passersby float onto the folded paper structures,  I was reminded that things aren’t always as they seem and certainly that was the message of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The exhibits I saw questioned identity, time, place and how we perceive them. Until March 16th, you can come make your own conclusions and explore these exhibits, along with the many more present throughout the underground.

 

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Well it’s already that time of the year, time for Nuit Blanche as part of Montréal en Lumière Festival. The 11th edition is as packed as ever and spread out across the city.

From Quartier des Spectacles to downtown and Old Montreal to the Plateau/Mile End area, east to the Olympic Park and to the newest Nuit Blanche location: the Blue Line, this night promises to be amazing!

What to see, where to go, what to do? Here is a little preview of some events happening in the Arts.

At the Musée des Beaux Arts, join the illustrators, Cyril Doisneau and Siris, and participate in creating a colourful collective mural. While you’re there, check out the Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands exhibition (admission $10).

If you have ever wanted to explore a museum with  a flashlight, then the Redpath Museum should definitely be on your list (admission $10 at the door).

MAC will have four exhibitions open including the 24 hour projection of The Clock by Christian Marclay. In conjunction with the exhibit, DJ Monique Giroux will help you seize the moment with tunes from Pink Floyd to Charles Aznavour to Nina Simone.

The Fresh Paint Gallery ‘s second Art Attack exhibition with artists HOARKOR and MissMe painting live to the music of HighonBeats (admission $5 at the door). In Old Montreal, the Phi Centre will host Hybrid Bodies which explores the complexity of organ transplants with a Dubstep DJ set by VILIFY and The Salvation Army.

The Belgo building is offering, as always, so many activities in different galleries. There’s a fun fair at les territoires and an interactive photo booth at studio 303 to name a few.

Meanwhile Maxime Geraldes invites you to Theatre Ste-Catherine to help him create a piece and then destroy it at 3AM. 

At the Darling Foundry you can taste some mulled wine while discovering two new exhibitions.

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The Plateau and Mile End area will also be bustling with activities. The MAI will have an immersive installation by an Icelandic artist which sounds quite trippy. You can also get your cut and paste on at gallery Monastiraki‘s Collage Party or create etchings on vinyl records at Espace 503.

If you plan on hanging out around the blue line then you can learn to make a mosaic at Mosaïkashop or experience a night of performance and sonic art with a hot beverage at Espace Projet

Obviously we can’t mention all the Nuit Blanche events here, so pick up a copy of the program for more info or check out the Nuit Blanche’s website. Now let’s all hope for warmish weather even though the weather won’t change how awesome the night will be.

Remember, the metro is open all night!

For its fifth instalment, the live, late night talk show Night Fight will welcome celebrated screen and stage actor Graham Cuthberston to the Mainline Theatre stage for a special Saturday night edition on February 22. Known for his frequent work with the SideMart Theatrical Grocery and his roles in recent productions such as the Segal Centre’s Sherlock Holmes and The Haunted Hillbilly, Cuthbertson makes a fine addition to eclectic assortment of personalities  who have graced the Night Fight couch.

Graham Cuthbertson Night Fight, Episode Five, will also feature musical guest Chesley Walsh and celebrity chef Antonine Francoeur-Despres, who will regale all with a demonstration of culinary magnificence.

Normally a Friday night affair, this will be the first edition of Night Fight to take place on a Saturday. Come 11 pm, all bets are off. There’s really no telling where host Walter J. Lyng and Musical Director Leighland Beckman will take the show, but it’s bound to be a place of wonderful insanity.

Night Fight has proven itself to be a surreal one-of-a-kind attraction that needs to be seen to be believed. Featuring segments such as the Top 38 List and the occasional knife stunt performed by the very un-trained Lyng, Night Fight combines the classic tropes of late night talk shows with the manic energy of a Vegas variety review.

In only four episodes, Night Fight has already featured appearances by professional wrestlers Giant Tiger, Twiggy and The Green Phantom as well as T.J. Hazelden, star of the hit series Dinner With T.J., burlesque sensation Miss Sugarpuss and professional dancer Stephanie Morin Robert.  In addition, Night Fight has also offered musical performances by local favourites Nick Raz (of the BCASA), Bones Malones and Aaron Ricker.

MainLine Theatre is located at 3997 Boulevard Saint-Laurent. Tickets are $8 regular and $6 for students at the door.

 

The genuine enthusiasm and energy with which Alessandro Mercurio, the director of Concordia’s upcoming production of Tonight We Play “A Soggetto”, speaks about the show is palpable. It’s obvious that much care and effort has gone into creating a magical world where theatre, in its entirety, can be explored, expanded and celebrated.

Tonight We Play “A Soggetto”—or Questa sera si recita a soggetto in Italian—opens on Wednesday, February 12 at the F.C. Smith Auditorium. Written in 1928, it’s the final part of Nobel Prize-winning writer Luigi Pirandello’s “theatre within theatre” trilogy and is a script that Mercurio has much experience with. As a student at the Accademia Nazionale D’Arte Drammatica Paolo Grassi in Milan, he worked on the play with Massimo Castri, one of Italy’s most renowned Pirandello scholars. With Castri he spent months analyzing the script, something that has also been part of the process with his Concordia cast.

“The script for Tonight We Play ‘A Soggetto’ is a text that you have to change every time you work on it” he explains. “It’s very linked on the present moment. You have to understand who you are, who is your audience, what kind of society will see this show.”

“It’s the story about a company who is playing a play” Mercucio says. For this reason “every actor has to create two characters: the actor involved and that actor’s character.”

“The script is a celebration of theatre,” he continues. “I wanted to celebrate theatre not only as an art but as a physical space.”

The result is a translucent realm of visibility. The actors are always visible to the audience and to each other; their costumes are translucent and there is a transparent curtain which exposes everything behind it. The entire theatre is in want of the audience’s attention.

Mercurio also celebrates theatre by weaving a variety of theatrical forms throughout the show. Each scene will pay tribute to different cultural theatre traditions, such as Commedia dell’arte, German expressionist theatre and Indian shadow puppets.

In one scene, Mercurio uses a miniature puppet theatre and shadow play to subvert associations of largeness and grandeur that are often attached to the opera. This choice also explores another theme of the show: the permeable boundary between fiction and reality. The small-scale puppet theatre is a playful representation of an opera house, but the audience will still experience a display of abundance through the oversized shadows cast on the wall.

The F.C. Smith Auditorium is an intimate theatre, one that Mercurio says is ideal for this show. “The whole space is used. Theatre is the main character.”

Tonight We Play “A Soggetto” plays at the F. C. Smith Auditorium (FC Building, 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, Loyola Campus) on February 12, 13 and 15, 2014 at 8 p.m., with matinee performances at 2 p.m. on February 15 and 16.

Montreal Poutine Week

Poutine Week is a festival where we get to celebrate poutine in Montreal! Between 20-30 restaurants prepare a special poutine just for the occasion for $10 or less. Fans get to vote for their favourite ones by using the unique code provided by each restaurant. By the end of the week, winners are declared. Log on to http://lapoutineweek.com/ for the list of participating restaurants and to cast your vote. Poutine week ends on Friday February 7.

An Evening of Multimedia Performance: “Deep Screens”

The performance series “Deep Screens” showcases live music/film/video acts that extend the screen into physical/virtual space through performance and formal interventions. This inaugural version of the series focuses on acts that use optical illusions, 3D animation, props, synthesizers and wicked tricks to expand screen planes and alter planes of consciousness.

Featuring: Le Révélateur/ Sabrina Ratté / Alaska B/ Katherine Kline / Leyla Majeri. The event takes place Friday, February 7 at Studio XX.

LE RÉVÉLATEUR / DATA DAZE from Sabrina Ratté on Vimeo.

Concordia University Department of Theatre Presents: Tonight We Play “A SOGGETTO”

concordiaWith only a few weeks to go, Concordia Theatre students are busy preparing for their production of Tonight We Play “A Soggetto.” The show is a metatheatrical experience that challenges conventions and actively leaps from comedy to drama while exploring the permeable boundary  that separates life from fiction and actor from character.

This third part of Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature Luigi Pirandello’s “Theatre within Theatre” trilogy takes an incredible and extreme situation as the starting point to question the meaning of theatre: a director/scientist asks a group of actors to improvise an entire show in front of the public.

Concordia’s version of Tonight We Play “A Soggetto” is a never ending rollercoaster ride. A true challenge for young actors, it is a pyrotechnic game and a leap into the world of theatre that draws on theatrical forms such as Commedia dell’arte, German expressionist theatre, puppetry, musical theatre and the Italian lyric opera.

Wednesday, February 12 to Sunday, February 16 at F.C. Smith Auditorium (Concordia’s Loyola Campus).

Persephone Productions Presents: The Walnut Tree

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The Walnut Tree tells the story of the intense journey of Sussel, a young, privileged Jewish woman who grows up in Czernowitz, studies in Prague and Paris, endures the horrors of World War II in Eastern Europe and ultimately escapes to the peace and promise of a new life in Saskatoon. The character of the older Sussel looks back at her life, accompanied by her alter ego, a Musician, who performs on a piano. This powerful, transcendent drama sets the devastating power of historical events against the personal forces of reconciliation. The Walnut Tree deals with vital social, political, and ethical issues, and finally (most importantly) with enduring love.

February 20 to March 1 @ Centre Culturel Calixa-Lavallée.

You have an awesome event coming up? Send us all the info at arts@forgetthebox.net.