At the Montreal Fringe Festival every year there is a wide variety of shows, from comedy to theatre to music. But something I haven’t seen much of in the festival previously is ethnic diversity. That is why I was interested in seeing Single Black Female, a two woman show of comic vignettes exploring life for the modern black female.

While the show explores the problems of black females there are plenty of themes that apply to women of any race. When a woman reaches her thirties and is still single, there is enormous pressure from society and family to settle down. One can’t help but reflect back and ask themselves have I been too picky and let the love of my life pass me by? Will I ever really find “the one?” Is getting married even what I want, or what I’ve been programmed to think I want?

Written by Lisa B. Thompson, Single Black Female has been performed all over the states including off-broadway. The show stars Gara Nlandu and Letitia Brookes (who also directed it).  These two ladies are extremely smart, talented performers who have a perfect mix of self-deprecation and comedy and kept me laughing throughout.

I don’t know if the show would appeal much to a male audience. In fact the major flaw in the production is that while these ladies fiercely state that they are strong independent women they spend the whole show taking about men. But as a woman I found it a amusing look at modern dating and encourage any ladies out there interested in theatre to make sure they make it a part of their Fringe 2013 line up.

Single Black Female runs until June 23rd. For tickets and showtimes visit the Montreal Fringe Festival website.

 *photo Tom Kenney, The Gazette

yelp helpsForget the Box is thrilled to team up with Yelp Montreal for Yelp Helps! , an annual event that helps spotlight worthy non profits. Along with blogs such as ours writing posts about some of the Yelp-supported non profit organizations, everything culminates when Yelp has a party on June 18th at Parc Ameriques during this year’s Fringe Festival.

Those who RSVP to the party get a chance to connect with these non for profits who are always looking for volunteers, donations, and supporters. And did we mention you get to do so while enjoying delicious McAuslan beers, samples of barefoot wines and a chance to win all sorts of neat prizes?!

For our Yelp Helps spotlight, Forget the Box wanted to talk about an organization that we feel very strongly about: Distroboto. Since 2001 Distroboto has been re-purposing old cigarette machines to instead sell pieces of art, and all for the low price of $2.00!

This project was conceived by Louis Rastelli and is administered by ArcMtl with the goal of providing a venue for emerging artists to sell their work. Through Distroboto, 750 artists have sold over 50 000 pieces of art in Montreal.

Distroboto has been featured multiple times on local TV news and even caught the attention of media as international as the New York Times. All this while remaining a non profit organization, proof positive that with our support, non profits like Distroboto can continue to do wonderful thing.

Let’s help them keep growing!

If you are interested in being apart of this years Yelp Helps party, make sure you check out their website.

* Top image from Radical Montreal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam Mullins’ “Tinfoil Dinosaur” did not disappoint. Delightful and sincere, Mullins captivates the audience on a storytelling, improv journey about grave uncertainty, epic failure, and brutal humiliation after brutal humiliation. And of course, of his humble redemption.

In sharing his tale of struggle through the great unknown that is your twenties, Mullins offers the audience a beautifully mastered story full of brutal honesty and irresistible charm.

His style is tasteful and pleasantly modest and his delivery is articulate and captivating.

Overall, Mullins delivered on an entirely satisfying hour of laughs, brutal honesty, shameless sincerity and heartwarming humility. If you have the chance to catch the remaining shows, I highly recommend you do.

 

Friday, June 22 – 22:45

Saturday, June 23 – 18:00

Sunday, June 24 – 19:15

My 2012 fringe festival adventure began as many of my Montreal adventures do, running frantically down St-Laurent. The goal was to meet up with fellow FTB writer Robyn Dickson and hopefully get a good spot to watch the Fringe-for-All at Café Campus, where I was to get my first real taste of what this whole Fringe thing was all about. Robyn and I managed to meet but of course despite our best intentions we still ended up standing way in the back; clearly Fringe veterans knew exactly what time to show up and score a seat. While I found it pretty hard for artists to sell me their show in only two minutes the energy in the room that night even amongst a sea of red squares was an upbeat one, and only heightened my excitement to be covering the festival.

The first event that I attended was a Fringe edition of burlesque troupe Glam Gam’s play If Looks can Kill, They Will! I had seen the play when they brought the show to Toronto last year so I knew what to expect, but I was curious to see what tweaks they’d brought to the show and also how the play would fair without Les Blow in the role of Sherlock Homo. He’d unfortunately suffered an injury only a few days before the play opened and was replaced by Cam M.

The early reviews for the show weren’t great, but I was luckily to attend on a night when the troupe really hit their stride, and I’m pleased to say I loved it. Was Cam as good as Les? Maybe not, but she fit right in and you have to give it a hand to someone to commit to a show like that two days before it opens. You don’t go to Glam Gam shows for the perfect plots or tits and ass (although of course who doesn’t have fun seeing tits and ass!?) you go because you know its always fun. I have the up-most respect for people who can sing, dance, take their clothes off all while making you smile all at the same time.

After quickly stopping by the opening night of Fringe Park to catch the set of Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir (whose singer I had the chance to interview) on Thursday, I spent Saturday in full out Fringe mode; I began wandering over to Fringe Festival headquarters, Mainline theater, and decided to randomly check out that afternoon’s performance of UBU. Sadly the show was a downright bore. The actors were a group of cegep kids who I chatted with briefly before showtime and were all cheerful and charming, I feel like in a different production they could have really wowed me. But sadly this production, which felt like a bad King Lear rip off, just didn’t do the trick.

Thankfully I had something more then fabulous to look forward to; Drag Races! Hosted by legendary Montreal Drag Queen Mado the show pitted professional drag queens against Fringe artists in drag in a series of challenges like; make over an audience member, ride a tricycle, or carry a tray while walking in obligatory stilleto heels through a tire maze. One of the Fringe Drag Queens, in fact the clear winner in my opinion, was the Scottish Drag Queen. Perhaps learning my lesson from the Fringe for all I made sure that I arrived extra early to the event so that I could enjoy every sparkly, catty moment of it.

After enjoying the sun and watching men looking better in a dress then I ever will, I spent more money then I’m willing to admit at the St-Laurent street fair and ended up at the play Alice in Wonderland. In my drunken scribble from the Fringe-for-All I had underlined that this production seemed interesting. While in most cases your drunk self and sober self may not make the same decisions, thankfully in this case I’m glad I made a point of writing it down because I had a lovely time. Unlike UBU these were clearly seasoned actors, and the minimalistic set design was more then made up for by absolutely gorgeous costume design. Seriously even though it was a fantasy show I would absolutely wear some of those clothes in my day to day life. To date I would say its my favorite thing I’ve seen at the Fringe.

I’m not going to make any final decisions yet though because Fringe and I are not quite done yet! I still have another full weekend of Fringe activities ahead, so make sure you check back to find out what I thought about the final weekend of Fringe 2012.

Photos By: Phyllis Papoulias, Chris Zacchia & Matt Hovey

God is A Scottish Drag Queen is a stand-up performance by Mike Delamont as, well, God as embodying a Scottish Drag Queen. Simple enough. And talk about an inherently awesome character.

Minutes after walking on stage, Delamont had the entire room bent over in laughter and kept them entranced for the rest of the evening. It’s the show of a potent and lovable, bare-footed and burly man dressed in an 80’s power suit delivering on quick-wit, loud banter and unexpected laughs.

Though I admit, I spent the day drying in the sun and consistently quenching with beer, I guarantee I was not thoroughly enjoying myself alone. Honestly, God had to stop on a few occasions and ask surrounding tables if they were still breathing under that tear-jerking laughter. Naturally, they could barely answer.

Needless to say, I am a new, big fan of Mike Delamont and will definitely be seeing this show again before Fringe is up. In the end, Delamont delivered on everything you hope out of a night of stand-up. Simply put: laughter.

 

Thursday, June 21, 2012 – 18:00

Friday, June 22, 2012 – 20:30

Sunday, June 24, 2012 – 16:15

My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia

My exploding family
My Exploding Family on at the Fringe Fest – Photo Chris Zacchia

My Exploding Family as with many things from Japan, is weird. But it’s weird in a fun fantastical sort of way and will have you laughing and smiling throughout. The show is like a journey inside the mind of a 5 yr old child. Their world is filled with brilliant brilliant colors, bizarre sounds and expressive movements.Their imaginations have been left to run wild.

My exploding family
My Exploding Family – Photo Chris Zacchia

The 3 characters bounce around from one train of thought to the next all with the utmost fluidity. Even their movements are reminiscent of childhood as they laugh and play with each other & the audience. The language barrier doesn’t play any issues either as the sparing bits of dialogue are delivered with an adorable Japanese accent.

The show is written and directed by Yanomi, an award-winning Japanese performer, a.k.a. Miss Hiccup/Shoshinz.

Over all hilarious! You have to check it out!

Remaining dates:
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – 15:15

Friday, June 22, 2012 – 23:00
Saturday, June 23, 2012 – 21:00
Photos by Chris Zacchia
For more check out out ForgetTheBox on FB
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
Yanomi of My Exploding Family – Photo Chris Zacchia

 

My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia
My Exploding Family Photo Chris Zacchia

Here’s a not so secret confession for you: there’s nothing I love quite as much as planning out a busy festival schedule. The anticipation of looking through the program book for the first time, the excitement that builds when you find a show that catches your interest. Over the past few years I’ve casually seen some of the free shows in the festival, but this year I am thrilled to be full out Fringing for Forget the Box.

After seeing the secular gospel band Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir at the Edge of the City Live Podcast this spring, I was definitely excited when I noticed they were headliners for the opening night of Fringe Park on Thursday. I was even MORE excited when I discovered I’d get the chance to interview the lead singer from the band, aman simply known as The Profit. We talked about why he likes to be anoymous, why gospel is his favorite kind of music and where he sees his band headed in the future.

Stephanie Laughlin: You call yourself The Profit instead of giving your real name; why do you feel its important to separate yourself from your music?
The Profit: My alias is a satirical jab at the showmanship innate to all organized religion. The frock, the titles, the speechifying, the ceremony; it’s all just an elaborate show. In some cases, it can inspire awe and empower spiritual awakening. But in most cases, it merely extorts funds from well-meaning people. It’s big business! We thought we’d bring attention to that by emulating it. Getting people to recognize prophets for what they really are is no easy task. So we spell it out.
SL: I’ve read elsewhere you liked gospel because you felt it was the most most joyful kind of music.  What are your thoughts on the importance of music during a time of political unrest like we have now in Montreal?
TP: When done right, music can get one’s message across in a pacific and yet highly charged way. Montreal’s tintamarre [pots and pans protest] against Bill 78 is proof of that. And gospel music covers similar ground. The beat of it is a pulse, the melody and chords are the emotional core. But as with any music, the message, the rallying cry, those are things that can only come from words. That’s where our subversion of traditional songs comes into play. And it’s how any music will be either made relevant or insignificant. Take Billy Holiday’s Strange Fruit or Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? – the music may touch the soul, but it’s the lyrics that spur the revolution.
SL: Where did the idea to have the audience as “the choir” part of Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir come from?
TP: The Mississippi Delta. Nobody does interactive like old-school all-black Southern congregations. The pews don’t just listen, they are the show. Not merely in their singing along, but in their interjections, hallelujahs and amens. We wanted to find a way to engage our audience in a similarly inspiring fashion. There’s simply nothing like it. The Critical Mass Choir is in effect an attempt to force people out of their shells by planting keen participants among the greater audience and getting everyone in the room involved.
SL: You guys are getting some pretty high profile gigs these days; NXNE, Tedx Montreal, The Jazz Fest; how do you see yourself evolving as a band? More records? Dream venues?
TP: We have an EP in the works that we’ll be releasing before 2012 is up. Then a full-length album in 2013 and hopefully a quick swing down to the Bible Belt to kick at the hornet’s nest. Our dream venues? Any tiny, sweaty, packed room with a real upright piano and lots of avid folks to belt back the answers to our calls. That, and the Ed Sullivan Theater.
SL: Thoughts on the Fringe Festival? Have you guys played Fringe before, what kind of impact do you think The Fringe has on the Montreal arts scene?
TP: We are huge fans of the Fringe Festival and of thinking outside the box in general. Fringe offers a rallying point for all the disparate works that keep being conceived, built and produced under the radar. It’s a showcase for artistic expression in its purest form. The furthest thing from corporatism, theocracy and fascism. It’s messy, confused and gorgeous. This will be our first time participating and we consider it a privilege. We’re in some pretty outstanding company.
SL: Any other thoughts, things you’d like readers to know?

TP: Elvis Presley isn’t dead. He lives in Simi Valley, California and may very well be the Second Coming. Or so tells me the Internet.

Make sure to check out Irreverend James and the Critical Mass Choir when they headline the opening night Fringe Park Thursday, June 14th. Check out the full 2012 Fringe Schedule here

glam gam if looks could kill
Tweet us @forgetthebox and make us blush with a caption for this picture! The one we like best wins.

As Forget the Box gets ready to swing into full Fringe mode we are pleased to announce that along with coverage from myself and new arts writer Robyn Dickson, we have in our possession several tickets to Fringe shows to give away! And who on earth doesn’t love free stuff?

First up for grabs is tickets for Montreal burlesque troop Glam Gam’s production of If Looks Could Kill, They Will!  After a successful run of the production last summer  the “Glamily” as they affectionately call themselves went on to clean up at the 2012 Montreal Mirror’s best of list, in which they won just about every award out there including best play for If Looks could Kill. In case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what this hotly anticipated play is all about, here’s a little description for yah from the group:

Something is not quite right over at Glam Gam headquarters! Ever since the polyamorous triad Sarah, Michael and Julie invited the members of their Glamily over for a reunion dinner party cabaret, tensions have been rising on the set… and so has the body count!!!

Sounds fun? Of course it does! I was lucky enough to catch a production of the show last September when they brought the show to Toronto, and cannot wait to check them out at their real home: Café Cleopatre. If you want to win two free tickets for what is one of the hottest shows at this year’s festival you have one relatively simple task ahead of you: Tweet us @forgetthebox and make us blush with a caption to the picture in this post! The one we like the best wins. (If you’re afraid of twitter, simply leave a comment below, and the best one will win!)

Make sure you regularly visit the site for more ticket giveaways, and we’ll see you at this year’s Fringe!

 

I’m one person and that’s who’s writing this. Despite my editorial duties on this site, when I write in this space, it’s my Soapbox and mine alone. I’m speaking for myself and not any one of the twenty plus other writers you read here regularly. Some of them, in fact, may have drastically different opinions. This site is a conversation, and in that conversation I’m but one voice. If you have a difference of opinion, there is a comments section and you’re also invited to offer an alternate view, whether you’re a regular writer on this site or not.

What you’re about to read is biased, incredibly biased, just like any good op-ed piece. I’m a co-founder of the Infringement Festival, a festival which I hold near and dear to my heart. This post, however, also does not necessarily reflect the views of the thousands of artists and volunteer organizers who have participated in the Infringement and continue to do so around the world or the hundreds who infringe here at home.

The Infringement is a festival dedicated to using art to challenge oppressive structures, and having fun while doing it. It was designed to capture the spirit of the original Fringe, lost when the festival started charging artists several hundred dollars to perform and trademarked the word Fringe itself.

I always felt that the best way to achieve this goal was to offer a real alternative. While I am an avid culture jammer with Optative Theatrical Laboratories, theatrically opposing companies like Starbucks, American Apparel and Canadian mining giants over the years to name a few, I always felt that the best approach with the Fringe was just to do better on our own terms.

While not all of my colleagues agreed with me on this, it was a large part of our approach recently. And it worked. The Infringement grew and even the folks at the Fringe seemed to mellow a bit. Gone were the days of blanket bans on anyone remotely associated with our festival entering the Fringe beer tent. Gone were the malicious rumours that all Infringement shows were cancelled and that we weren’t a “real festival” anyways.

I personally went with Infringement colleagues to Parc des Ameriques, a public park temporarily converted into the private “Fringe Park” (also known as the “Fringe Beer Tent”) for the duration of the festival, on the first day of the Fringe this year. People at the Fringe were very cordial with us and it seemed like this year it could very well be the time to start building bridges.

We had a plan to present new Fringe producer Amy Blackmore with a giant novelty cheque and legitimately offer her a free trip to the Buffalo Infringement Festival. While the Infringement in Montreal is small and underground, Buffalo Infringement is one of the largest festivals in the region and is comparable to the Montreal Fringe in size and scope, while also incorporating a much larger line-up of music and arts not traditionally associated with the Fringe. We hoped that she would see such a huge event operating very well without charging the artists a penny to participate and without depending on huge corporate sponsorship money to survive. We hoped that she would bring these experiences back with her to Montreal and help us shake things up a bit.

I wasn’t supposed to be part of this scene, opting instead to perform in an alleyway as part of Car Stories, an interactive guided theatrical walking tour/show that this year was connected to the scene at the Fringe Tent. Now, to clarify, this is a show for three spect-actors at a time. It’s a very intimate experience that does not take attention away from whatever is going on near it in the streets or on a stage in a bar or in Parc des Ameriques.

Given the innocuous and light-hearted nature of what we intended to do, the seemingly more open approach of the new Fringe administration and the fact that all this involved, really, was Donovan King and a few associates sitting down and having a beer in a park, we had every reason to think that there wouldn’t be any problems and our olive branch might be accepted and even welcomed. Well, that wasn’t going to be the case.

I received a call informing me that there was “a huge problem at the Fringe” so I headed down to see what was going on. When I arrived, Donovan King and two other colleagues were being told by Fringe security chief Ace Lopes that they could not enter the park. Lopes then informed me that, regardless of my involvement with what King had planned to do that day and because of my general association with Infringement, I was denied entry as well. Not only that, “anyone associated with Infringement” was not permitted to pass.

Now, despite the gall of, in one sentence, barring thousands of artists worldwide, including artists performing in both Fringe and Infringement, from a festival that is supposed to be inclusive, it gets worse. They also told a man that I have seen at countless activist and community events but never been introduced to that he couldn’t enter. This man has no association with me, the Infringement or Donovan King and was in no way aware of what was going on that day.

Why couldn’t he go into the Fringe Park and meet his friends? Well, he had been given a flier by Donovan a few days earlier and recognized King on his way in. He gave King a fist-bump hello gesture and that was enough to get him barred. This takes   guilt-by-association to a whole new level, it’s now guilt by casual gesture of acknowledgement of brief conversation.

OTL has released a video of these events, so have a look for yourself:

What this video doesn’t show is that Lopes attempted to intimidate and bully my colleagues and I with insults. It also doesn’t show him later letting the actors carrying the giant cheque and expecting to be stopped enter the tent only to personally shove them out. This could either be due to incompetence or a desire to further escalate the aggression level in hopes of making us look bad. He used classic schoolyard bully tactics to try and get a rise out of us.

It worked. I’m not proud to admit it, but it worked with me briefly. When he said I was someone who couldn’t string two words together to make a sentence, I temporarily lost my cool. When he called a colleague a “real pussy” after shoving him, he lost his cool, too.

While Lopes seems to be proud of his actions and genuinely seemed to enjoy playing the thug, I wonder how hundreds of artists, two levels of government and McAuslan Brewery (brewers of St-Ambroise beer and major sponsor of the Fringe) feel about paying this guy to turn his workspace and our public space, into the schoolyard.

Since this event, I’ve seen a Gazette article mocking the Fringe’s actions and heard a CKUT radio commentator disgusted (mp3, right click, “save as…”) with how security behaved. I also read the lone report critical of infringers for going to the park in the first place. While the article itself had a pretty standard “let’s bury the hatchet” tone, the comments (now more than 40) tell another story.

People close to the Fringe have come out in droves, making very personal, and in some cases slanderous, attacks against Donovan King and others. I even read the former editor-in-chief of the Hour admit his bias, attack King and never explain why he found it justified to block coverage of Infringement artists for years at the Hour regardless of their personal involvement with King.

It’s this clique-ish mentality that unfortunately permeates the Montreal Anglo arts scene. It’s present at the Fringe, it’s present in some of the press and it’s what’s driving us apart.

I think that, if it is truly interested in peace and progress, the Fringe should distance itself from the actions of Lopes and the wrong-headed decision to blanket-bar anyone remotely connected, or casually associated, with the Infringement from Parc des Ameriques. I may be dreaming in Technicolor here, but an apology for that decision and the security boss’ actions would go a long way to building bridges in our community.

There are plenty of good people who perform at, work and volunteer for and attend the Fringe year after year. It’s a shame that the actions of a few in security, and one would assume Fringe administration, are distracting from what everyone else is doing.

At the very least, it has become crystal clear to me that a festival that puts permits, fees and borders above all else is anything but fringe. Maybe that’s why when people hear the word fringe, they don’t think of the Fringe, they think of the Infringement.

* Images courtesy of Optative Theatrical Laboratories