Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet The Fierce

Last week, conversation happened on Twitter around the recent Theatre on the Net panel hosted by Canadian Theatre Critics Association (CTCA) and Tarragon Theatre after Amanda Campbell blogged about it. Essentially, there were people on the panel who were dismissive of social media and a sense that internet reviewers were not legitimate critics because they weren't going through an editing process.

It started out as an idea for prominent Toronto theatre writers on Twitter to have their own panel, which quickly turned into a lighthearted plan to form an alternative to the CTCA. The first meeting promises "Hostility! Wine! Theatre!" I, wanting to hang with the cool kids, asked if I could tag along and was brought into the group.

So here are The Fierce (according to their Twitter bios):

Catherine Kustanczy @catekustanczy: Journalist, Producer, Interviewer, Broadcaster, Foodie, Artist, Painter, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen(sometimes).

Amanda Campbell @mt_champion: I review theatre in Toronto and I love it.

Kelly Cameron @broadwaybabyto: Broadway nut, film geek, writer and reader - self described nerd, passionate about promoting the arts through social media. And I dabble in finance.

Megan Mooney @mooneyontheatre: I'm a Toronto theatre writer who spends a ridiculous amount of time at Jet Fuel.

Glenn Sumi @glennsumi: NOW Magazine editor/writer covering theatre, movies, comedy, dance, books, whatev.. CTV News Channel entertainment blabber

ETA: I've been asked to mention that this is all in good fun. The Fierce is really about the cutting edge of internet critical engagement. I'm excited to see where this is headed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hitting the Button

Yes, it's a curling term. I've been spending a scary amount of time watching men's curling at the Olympics. Never underestimate the power of a successful, attractive man. I'm also a huge fan of men's figure skating and ice dance, so a lot of my life is revolving around the Olympics these days.

It's also put me in mind of the last Olympics, when funding for international arts export was cut and we were galvanized to plead the cause of funding for the arts. Sadly, nothing has changed. In the case of BC, it's gotten worse. We never did get the chance to use the Olympics as a jump-off point for the arts - the Cultural Olympiad is happening but you wouldn't know it from CTV's coverage.

I still believe in the necessity of partnering with amateur athletes to make the case for funding what we do. In the wake of disappointing finishes off the medal podium, they are going to hear the same call for cuts as we did. This is a golden opportunity if we can leverage it. The question is, how? I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Last night I had the privilege of seeing Birdland Theatre & Talk is Free Theatre's production of Assassins. I'm very grateful as I found out this morning that the rest of the run is now sold out.

I was especially curious about the show for a couple of reasons. One was that I saw Canadian Stage production in 1994, with my friend Christopher Shyer playing Booth. It's particularly memorable as my grandmother had died that morning, so seeing the show was part of my grieving process. The other reason was that we had Jay Davis and Evan Builing do The Ballad of Booth in Sondheim in September, which ended up being one my personal highlights of the experience. Jay is in this production but in a different role, and it is thanks to him I got to see it.

It's amazing how the show came back to me as I watched it. Like the Canadian Stage production, this one was intimately staged and Adam Brazier did a fabulous job in directing it. I'm not a fan of the John Doyle style of presenting Sondheim with the actors playing their instruments, but Adam chose his moments so when they came they punctuated the action, not distracted from it. He used the balcony of the Theatre Centre well. And the design was simple elegance, working in a sometimes problematic space.

As for the performances, they were all great. I do have to mention Graham Abbey though. Richard McMillan played Sam Byck in 1994 and was one of the highlights of the show. Graham topped him. A powerful mix of twitchiness, intelligence and anger, he blew me away. I hadn't see him on stage for many years and it was nice to be reminded just how good he is.

As for Ballad of Booth? Geoffrey Tyler and Paul McQuillan did a great job but I was haunted by Jay and Evan. I would have liked to have seen Jay play the Balladeer, although he did a great job as Zangara. And I did prefer Chris Shyer's Booth. However, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the evening.

The thing that struck me most is all this amazing musical theatre talent we have. And it makes me angry that we don't have work for these people all the time. I glad to be seeing companies like Birdland and Acting Up Stage picking up some of the slack, letting us see more intimate musicals like Assassins and Light in the Piazza. These shows have sold out the end of their runs, showing there's an appetite. So why are so many of the musicals in this city road shows, some of them mediocre? It's criminal that we're not using more of what we have, from both sides of the stage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cultural Olympiad

For those of you lucky enough to be in Vancouver in the next few weeks, there are a myriad of events happening as part of the Cultural Olympiad. This is my personal recommendation list.

I'm most excited to see Dance Marathon on the list. My thoughts on it are here.

I saw Fear of Flight last year when Factory Theatre brought in Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland. It takes place on a plane and its mix of sound, movement and text is stunning.

I've heard amazing things about Nevermore. This is from Catalyst Theatre in Edmonton. I saw their Blue Orphan the last time I was in Adelaide and was stunned by their visual style. Nevermore is coming to Toronto after this and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

BASH'd: A Gay Rap Opera has played Toronto a few times. I saw it at Theatre Passe Muraille and it's a wonderful mix of storytelling and music, with a dash of surrealism thrown in. I don't know one person who has seen it who didn't rave about it.

China is by the wonderful Australian photographer/performance artist William Yang. I've seen his previous work, Shadows, at the Six Stages festival and loved how he integrated the photos and storytelling. This piece is about his four trips to China.

Robert Lepage is bringing Blue Dragon. I haven't seen this one but any Lepage is worth seeing.

K’NAAN & Tinariwen. I love K'NAAN and this sounds like it's going to be a fantastic show.

Where the Blood Mixes. I didn't see this one but it won a boatload of Doras, so I feel safe in recommending it.

Another one I didn't see but heard amazing things about: Dis/(sol/ve)r by Toronto Dance Theatre.

This isn't a recommendation but something I'm really curious about, Michael Sakamoto: Sacred Cow. If anyone sees it, can they tell me about it?

And while not officially part of the Cultural Olympiad, my good friend Tyler Yarema is going to be in residence at Ontario House at the Concord Pacific pavillion throughout the Olympics. He's playing from 6-8pm every night. Check him out and tell him I sent you!