January 27, 2015

Short Film Spotlight: Serpent's Lullaby

Part of Toronto's Little Terrors' Short Film ShowcaseSerpent’s Lullaby will have its exclusive Toronto screening tomorrow, January 28, at the Carlton Cinemas.

Serpent’s Lullaby is picking up praise on the festival circuit with successful screenings which started at the Cannes Film Festival’ “Coup de Coeur” selection of the highlights at the Short Film Corner. From there, the film had multiple subsequent screenings all over the world at Fantasia, HollyShorts, Oaxaca FilmFest, Rhode Island, Blood in the Snow, among others.

I had the pleasure of meeting the film's producer, Byron A. Martin, and director Patricia Chica (via Skype) during The Blood in The Snow Film Festival last November. The film had caught my attention not only because of the story, which presents Medusa in a new light, but also for its aesthetic. I was rather impressed with the look and feel of the film, as well as its ability to convey a good story in less than 15 minutes. With short films, time is essential in order to engage the audience.

Chica shared she had come accross Charles Hall's screenplay for Serpent’s Lullaby after he had submitted it for the ABC's of Death 2 anthology. At that point, it was supposed to be a 3-minute short. Lullaby contained all the ingredients that generally attract Chica to the psychological genre. She liked the script very much, but wanted to add more depth to the Medusa character.

Richard Cardinal, Lover. Serpent's Lullaby

The story thus evolved into a tale of confrontation with oneself, and rituals of acceptance and salvation. It examines the mental state of a woman searching for her inner strength and trying to find redemption and resilience within her life cirscumstance. Chica suggested making Medusa not a victim nor a monster. Without giving too much away, Chica and Hall opted to emphasize that Medusa sacrifices herself to save humanity, as well as, a sign of her love for her partner.

Stephanie Miramontes, responsible for the visual make-up effects, worked closely with Chica in order to come up with the right texture that would have a "stone sculpture feel". Jenimay Walker (Medusa) and Richard Cardinal (Lover) needed up to 4 hours to get the stone/sculpture look completed. Even with this make-up, one is able to discern the emotions of both Medusa and her lover.

Some other key points on this film include the fact that Chica does all her own edits. In some cases, the director serving the dual role of editor can make or break the film. At 13-minutes in length, Chica does a great job in keeping Lullaby cohesive. There is enough here to tell a complete story. The film also features next to no dialogue, yet nothing is lost. Part of what helps the film is that Chica and Walker worked together doing breathing exercises. These helped Walker be able to remain still like a statue. Chica also suggested some yoga exercises that would help Walker to give the illusion of a serpent-like undulating body while on-screen.

From the production point, Martin explained Lullaby was filmed by the Laurentians, near Montreal, at an old mansion. The crew took over this old house for 6 days solid. An interesting yet 'creepy' bit of information is that this old house was also haunted. Things were moving around the house, which adds an interesting sidenote to this film.

Annabella Hart (Mother) and Jenimay Walker (Medusa)
Serpent's Lullaby

Chica is hoping Lullaby will serve as an eye-opener and a discussion trigger to talk about taboo subjects such as depression, the sentiment of loss and suicide. For that reason, it was important for her "that the film ended on a poetic note and present a new unexploited twist in Medusa's story." In this, I think she and collaborators have succeeded.

You can catch this lovely, poetic short film, along with other genre shorts, on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 9:00pm. Producer Byron A. Martin will be in attendance. The screening takes places at the Carlton Cinemas. For a full list of films and more tidbits on the Little Terrors monthly screenings, click here.

January 26, 2015

My Picks For Progress: An International Festival of Performance and Ideas

Coming to Toronto from February 4 -15, 2015 is the inaugural Progress. The festival brings together international performances to engage in a larger conversation about language, accessibility and what progress means to Toronto’s performance ecology. 

Progress will feature six international shows, six languages and five free artist workshops and talks. Programming has been curated by nine different companies. Artistic producer of SummerWorks Michael Rubenfeld, says "[Progress] is a festival led by a collective desire to collaborate in how we think about performance in Toronto and the result is a staggeringly unique and diverse program of work.”

From the curated line-up, I have picked a few performances that shall pique your interest. They have certainly piqued mine.

D-Sisyphe (décisif)  (Tunisia)
Curated by Volcano Theatre

Performed in Arabic with English subtitles

Created and performed by: Meher Awachri

Directed by: Meher Awachri and Imed May

February 6 & 7, 2015

Khmais, a construction worker, spends a night at the construction site meditating about his life. Despised by his wife and son, rejected by society and abandoned by God, he sees nothing but wreckage: his life is in ruins. Faced with the apparent meaninglessness of existence, Khmais looks forward to a new day… Khmais seems to be losing his faith, and although this painful realization scares him, it also gives him strength. Sisyphus revolted and was punished; Khmais voluntarily chooses hell to be his fate.

Tunisian actor, dancer and playwright Meher Awachri performs his acclaimed interpretation of the ancient myth of Sisyphus, offering insights into contemporary Arab society and the idea of what revolution entails - all through spoken word and choreography.

I do not always understand dance pieces. Awachri describes this piece as being about construction... " about the construction of a new future, a new society, a new Tunisia." Sounds intriguing and challenging, at the same time.

Silent Dinner (Ireland/Canada)
Curated and presented by FADO Performance Art Centre

Performed in English and ASL

Created and performed by: Amanda Coogan (Ireland) and collaborators (Canada)
February 7, 2015

Silent Dinner is an eight hour performance in which 10 people prepare, cook and eat a dinner in complete silence. The table functions as both motif and metaphor for community and connection.The participants are a combination of Deaf, CODA (children of Deaf adults) and hearing artists, performers and non-performers from Toronto. 

Audience is free to come and go during the performance. Post-performance, the audience will be invited for dessert and conversation with Coogan and collaborators. ASL interpretation provided.
This is such an excellent idea and proposition. Why not partake in a communal experience and engage with others in a new, silent way? I am definitely intrigued and excited about this performance.

Enrique Diaz in Cine Monstro

Cine Monstro (Brazil)
Curated and presented by Why Not Theatre

Performed in Portuguese with English subtitles

Directed and performed by: Enrique Diaz

Written by: Daniel MacIvor

Translation: Barbara Duvivier and Enrique Diaz

February 12-14, 2014

Brazilian actor and director Enrique Diaz performs this adaptation of Daniel MacIvor’s Monster. Diaz transforms himself into a series of MacIvor’s characters, from a young boy who tells the story of the neighbour who hacked up his father in the basement to quarrelling lovers or a filmmaker who never completed his epic film, these characters are separate yet eerily related.
Presenting this classic Canadian play in Portuguese introduces it to a new community in Toronto. This certainly is a unique and new way to experience this piece.

Novorossiya: No One’s Land (Ukraine) 
Curated and presented by SummerWorks

Reading performed in English, translated from the original Russian and Ukranian

Created by: Pavel Yurov and Anastasiya Kasilova

Directed by: Pavel Yurov

Dramaturgy by: Jonathan Garfinkel

February 14, 2014

On April 25, 2014, in Slovyansk, Ukraine (Eastern Ukraine) theatre director, Pavel Yurov was falsely accused of being a spy for the Ukrainian government, and taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists. He was beaten and tortured for two weeks and remained in captivity for more than two months. After being freed in July 2014, he sought to make sense of the experience and started writing Novorossiya: No One’s Land with Ukranian artist, Anastasiya Koralova. To build this documentary style piece, Kasilova and Yurov explore found text from interviews with Ukranian and Russian press that explore the multiple disparate perspectives on the conflict.

Works-in-progress are great to listen to, as they offer a glimpse into a story that is still developing. What is also great is that this reading will be preceded by an interview with Yurov, and followed by a post-show discussion. It offers the audience a chance to learn more about the process, as well as, provide the artists feedback on the work and assist in its further evolution.

All of the Progress performances take place at The Theatre Centre, host venue of the festival. For a list of all the performances, worshops, and box office information, please visit thisisprogress.ca

I leave you with a video of Michael Rubenfeld (Artistic Producer of SummerWorks) and Franco Boni (Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre) with a few words about Progress.

January 23, 2015

Theatre Crawl: Love, Murder, And Hope

Aside from the other fun and artsy events in Toronto, there are some great shows currently playing or opening at various theatres. Here are three, which have piqued my interest, and hopefully they will entice some of you as well.

Waiting Room
Tarragon Theatre 
Written by Diane Flacks
Directed by Richard Greenblatt
Starring Ari Cohen, Michelle Monteith, Jordan Pettle, 
Warona Setshwaelo, Jane Spidell, Jenny Young
Runs until February 15, 2014
Tuesday-Saturday 8PM; Sunday at 2:30PM
Select Saturdays at 2:30PM; Jan.24, Jan.31
Tickets can be purchased at 416.531.1827 or by online
Regular Tickets: $42-$55

A doctor embarks on a ground-breaking medical experiment despite the objections of his colleagues. Meanwhile, a couple are torn about whether the doctor has what it takes to save their baby.

This is a play about life in the waiting room of a major children's hospital. This is a play about medical compassion and risk. This is a play about families who find the will to keep going. This is a play about the needs of the heart and the extremes of medicine. This is a play about breaking the rules. This is a play about hope.

Ari Cohen, Jenny Young, Warona Setshwaelo in Waiting Room
Photo: Tarragon Theatre

Flesh and Other Fragments of Love (Une vie pour deux)
Théâtre français de Toronto
Written by Evelyne De la Chenelière
Directed by Alice Ronfard
Starring Jean-François Casabonne, Rachel Graton, Violette Chauveau
Runs until January 25, 2015
Berkeley Street Theatre
Evening performances: Wednesday to Saturday at 8PM
Matinées: Saturday Jan. 24 at 3:30 PM and Jan. 25 at 2:30 PM
English surtitled performances: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
Tickets: Adults from $44 to $48 | Seniors (65 and over): $37 to $41| Artsworkers and Under 30: $30

This is the original French language production of Flesh and Other Fragments of Love (Une vie pour deux) written by the Governor General Award-winning playwright Evelyne de la Chenelière. The play will be presented in French with English surtitles.

Adapted from the 1978 novel by Marie Cardinal, the story is based on actual events that happened to Mary Cardinal and her husband Jean-Pierre Ronfard, the parents of the show's director Alice Ronfard, while vacationing in Ireland.

Blood Relations
The Alumnae Theatre Mainstage
Written by Sharon Pollock
Directed by Barbara Larose
Starring Marisa King, Andrea Brown, Kathleen Jackson Allamby, Steven Burley,
Rob Candy, Sheila Russell, Thomas Gough
January 23-February 7, 2015 
Evening performances: Wednesday to Saturday at 8PM
Matinées: Sunday at 2PM
Tickets: Wednesdays 2-for-1, Thurs-Sat $20 @ door, Sunday PWYC
Tickets available online, phone 416-364-4170 (press 1) or email reservations@alumnaetheatre.com

Sharon Pollock’s Governor General’s award-winning play Blood Relations is a psychological journey, bringing the past to life in a search for a possible answer, a motive. The only suspect, the real Lizzie Borden, was acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother, but in Blood Relations, the chilling question still repeats.

Rather than centering on the grisly details of the murders, the play focusses on the patriarchal oppressive society Lizzie Borden (played by Marisa King) has endured. Lizzie’s friend, and lover, The Actress (Andrea Brown) play a game of memory and imagination, reenacting moments of Lizzie’s life leading up to the murders as a play-in-a-play.

Marisa King and Roby Candy
Photo: Dahlia Katz

All three of these plays have varying themes, as well as time and place. These should give you not only something to do, but also create some thought-provoking dialogue. If you've yet to venture to any of these local theatres, I highly recommend you do.