2015 Winnipeg Fringe!

After a 3 year hiatus from any fringe related work outside reviewing, I've plunged head first into things this year, with 3 projects. There is quite literally something for each of you.
Clink -- A new play by Hannah Foulger(Venue 11) - showtimes available here:
- This is a fantastic 4-hander which I've directed, world premiere. A brand new play by an emerging playwright, featuring four emerging actors from the city. It takes place at a wedding, and we've staged it in a surprising way, where the audience get to be the guests at the wedding! Come ready for a party. Drinks not included, but a pre-show drink is heartily encouraged. You'll feel like one of the wedding party.

Sea Wall - by Simon Stephens
(Venue 27) - showtimes available here:
- Theatre By the River's offering for the fest. This is the opposite end of the spectrum -- a play by recent Tony award winner Simon Stephens, one man show featuring Rodrigo Beilfuss before he heads off to a season with Stratford's Birmingham Conservatory. I've co-directed this piece. It is only 30 minutes. Beautifully written, a devastating piece of theatre.

popART: Project Vapour -- Sunday July 19 from 1-4pm
- Finally, this is an odd little project of mine, the first in a series of installations I am doing. I call it theatre, some may argue that point... Essentially it is an immersive installation project that lasts 3 hours. You can come and go. It features music from John Norman, and a physical video installation by Pixel Pusher, all curated by me. The goal is to re-create that feeling of disorientation you get when you go into a movie or theatre in the daytime, then emerge into the light again, but in this instance you immerse into a warehouse party in an alley in the exchange. The whole thing takes place in the alley beneath artspace on Arthur Street. Stay tuned, there is another one of these coming for Nuit Blanche too, just learned we're an official selection for the next in this series, popART: Intersection!
Anyway, hope you can make it to one (or all!) of my projects.

The Fringe is Upon us!

It is that week of the year when the Exchange District in Winnipeg becomes overwhelmed with excitable theatre-goers, looking for the "best" show, some curry, and a beer. For me, the BEST show is one that gives you all three at once!

In honesty though, we can all get caught up in the reviews, the drama (offstage) and the politics (back stage) so lets' try not to this year, by following my simple steps.

Performers - Be honest and truthful to the show and performance you have worked on. Remember that only very rarely are we in a "hit", and that one person's opinion is just that - one person's opinion. Share your work earnestly because really that communion between audience and performer is all we've got. Don't be upset by a poor review, and don't fly high from a good review. Remember that 3 stars is actually a pretty good review! It is not the disaster it may initially feel like. Just keep performing your show. Truthfully. And to quote Genet, "if it is done well, they won't be bored".

Audiences - Stay true to your tastes. See shows that seem interesting to you based on their write up in the program, poster, etc. Don't get caught up in the "hit" show - I've seen many things reviewers have touted as 5-star and been disappointed. At the same time I've seen loads of things that were "average" or worse, and been transported by fantastic writing, performances, and overall production. If you see something you like, share that with someone. If you see something you don't like, try to assess the piece on its own terms, not based on your tastes. We're a communal art, after all, so the most important thing to do is share your thoughts.

For any who usually follow my reviews, this year I'll be part of the CBC Review Crew - so the vast majority of my thoughts will be available here:

Happy fringe-ing (and curry-eating!)

PS - remember that loads of "fringe" shows happen outside the festival and throughout the rest of the year, so plan to FRINGE ON ;)

Mixtape - Theatre 3 @ Winnipeg Fringe Venue #9

Mixtape is a series of  stories told through clown and physical work, ranging from silly stories of watering a plan, to clownish circus acts. R.G. Chesterson is captivating with his highly detailed and specific physical work; his smallest movement evoking emotion from the audience. He plays on the audience through clever participation activity, and truly engages. Some highly enjoyable de-familiarization of objects occurs, including dancing robot heads for some clever puppetry.

Unfortunately his partner is not as deft a physical performer, and lacks the polish that Chesterson offers. The result is that her solo scenes drag somewhat, and diffuse the energy of the performance.

Overall this is an enjoyable piece. Personally, I would love to see Chesterson either working on his own, or perhaps with a different partner.

Review - So You Think You Can Be A Music Theatre Idol, Venue #9

Those who know me know that i am very much anti-reality TV for the most part...indulging only for the sheer athleticism displayed on So You Think You Can Dance. So the opportunity to see a campy send up of all that i dislike was very appealing. White Rabbit Productions did a great job of putting together this parody, which balanced silly mockery with some great performances. Overall the tone of the piece was great, and I loved the audience participation. There was a sense however that some actors understood the campy style required a bit better than others; standouts for me were Vespa, Roi, Penelope, Claw, and Ripp Tripper. Some others I felt were in and out.....not always carrying the self-awareness needed for a performer to carry off this sort of a piece with seriousness to truly bring the audience in to the crazy world with them. I enjoyed the multimedia aspects and some clever staging, though I did feel the audio clips could have been mastered better to understand the actors more clearly, and some lighting cues were a bit off. Overall though this was really fun and I'd recommend it if you are looking for a good, silly, night of fun.

Review - Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Venue #13

What fun. Hedwig (played with beautiful specificity by Seth Drabinsky) and her fabulous backup band, The Angry Inch, take us through a rock and roll rollercoaster, re-telling the her rise to stardom. Well, close to stardom. The show beautifully moves from raucous fun rock numbers, to angry punk songs, to sorrowful ballads, each telling us a little bit more about Hedwig's transformation from little German boy in East Berlin, to captivating Queen rocking stages in North America. Never once did I question what was happening or the over-the-top relationships of the characters. Kudos must also be given to the silver-voiced actress who plays Itzak, Hedwig's husband. I can only dream of singing like her.

Review - The Apiarist, Venue #5

Mylee Nordin is delightful in this touching story of a young girl's encounter with the death of her neighbout, an old bachelor who keeps bees. The story moves gently from the feel of a lecture, to recount of the experiences, to lovely re-enacted memories of her youth. One standout scene included the re-telling of going to school at 14 with an eye swollen shut from a bee sting, brought to perfect comic life by Nordin. The character's growth through the play as she learns from the bees she finds herself caring for is quite enjoyable to watch.

Co-creator and director Heidi Malazdrewicz does a great job staging to bring the simple set to life. The production's use of photo and video projection added beautifully to the story as well. I did find that some shifts could have been more clear, perhaps through a more distinct shift in the light or physicality.

This was a highly enjoyable show, and a very informative one; I now feel quite informed about bees!

Review - Master Orloff and Madame Clodile's Freakshow Beautifique, Venue #15

I was excited heading into this show, as I have come to expect a high level of creativity and a certain aesthetic value from Theatre Incarnate's work. This production did not disappoint. Beginning with some excellent live music provided by the talented Claire Friesen, the show then spun out into a wordless exploration of the Master's obsession with the "freak" Clodille. The initial scenes felt a little slower as the relationship was built up, however soon the audience falls under the spell of master in the same way Clodille has. The imagery created by The two principals (Brenda McLean and Christopher Sobczak) was at once beautiful and horrific.
The production also featured young "Lizard Girl" in interludes, and she was a gem to watch.

Overall a strong production; I recommend it to those hoping to see something truly unique and outside the mainstream.

Review - To My Amazement, venue #9

This show was not on my initial list, however i make a rule for myself to see at least one show from a non-manitoban company, and at least one i know nothing about. this show met both criteia, with a company travelling from LA and Costa Rica. it began well, with a calm yogi, and moved into some interesting chorus work, including masks and some creative movement. This for me was intriguing; unfortunately i felt the show lost momentum from there. It moved into a series of scenes playing out the real-life scenarios in which each piece of yoga practice can be applied to help make one happier. The majority of these scenes felt contrived, and rarely did these actors feel connected to the material.

In addition, there were interludes from a young actor, the premise being that as a child we understand better how to interact with the world, and slowly most of us un-learn this. These grew unfortunately repetetive s the play continued to loop through these three types of scenes. The idea of the show was strong, but got muddied through the devices of the corus, scene, yogi and child all repeating over one another.

For me, the strongest point in the show was when the young character had one of her "to my amazement" speeches, and then herself moved into and out of a scene on the subject. This show could hve benefitted from more of these for a clarity of message.

Finally for a show preaching being "present" in life, the actors unfortunately rushed through most lines and scenes. At times they were difficult to understand, and rarely connected to the mterial in the scenes, seemingly reciting for a vocal tone of effect rather than to experience the text in the present.

Winnipeg Fringe Picks!

Here are my quick-picks for the Winnipeg Fringe this year. I'll be posting reviews of things I see, so check back :)

African Folktales with Erik de Waal - Kids Venue
- This is a kids show, but by no means is it kids-only. Erik deWaal is from South Africa, and travels to the fest each year. He is one of the most amazing physical storytellers i have EVER seen in my life. Sarah loves him so much she has his cd and listens to it at home regularly.

The Apiarist - Venue #5, Son of Warehouse
- I am invested in this one personally, as it is written, directed and performed by two dear friends of mine who are immensely talented. AND it is about beekeeping.

The Brain From Planet X - Venue #16, PTE Mainstage
- I helped out with this zany show as the choreographer for the tap dances, and a couple other numbers. It is HILARIOUS and i don't put that label mildly. Imagine a 50s leave it to beaver perfect american family who meet up with two aliens and their leader, a giant brain, who want to take over america. Very "fringe"

Etoile - Kids Venue
- this is my pick for best kids show this year. If you have little ones, you should go!! It follows the life of a little girl who seeks fame, and learns its price.

Hedwig and the Angry Itch - Venue #13, Pyramid
- I have been trying to see this crazy rock show for a few years now and have failed. I vow to see it.

It's YES: A one-man mockery of all things human - Venue #4, Manitoba Museum
- Spoken word, criticism of humanity....what more does one need? If you were around MEME festival and saw the dude with the fish puppet...this is him!!

Master Orloff & Madame Clodille's Penny Arcade Freakshow Beautifique or The Illusionary Box - Venue #15, Studio Incarnate
- I was part of Theatre Incarnate's last project, and have always been a fan of their work. You will see something unique, challenging, and intellectual...and probably just outside your comfort zone. And you'll LOVE it.