Saturday, July 8, 2017

Toronto Fringe 2017 Day #3

 Joylyn Secunda in The Moaning Yoni. Photo by Emily Cooper

Got gloriously wet in the fringe tent and did a little dancing. My one day of having serious hangout time - thanks rain! (The links in the titles takes you to their fringe page.)


The Moaning Yoni

This show is about a subject near and dear to my heart - women's sexuality.

It opens and closes with a chant to mother earth, creating a space for the sacred feminine. From there we're taken to a tantra class to connect women with their yonis, not unlike a class I watched online last week. The teacher talks to Zoe, and it's her Yoni that is the title of the show. And the Yoni talks like a Jewish mother.

Throughout the next hour, we meet a parade of men that have passed through Zoe's life (the live-person Tinder is a highlight of the show), discover all the awful ways that men kiss, and get a window into how hard it is to express your sexuality as a young woman. (I'll spare you the rant about how internet porn has ruined sex. I'll just say I'm glad my sexual initiations were done by men who were interested in making me feel good instead of copying moves they've seen in porn.)

However, this show is not a downer by any means. It's really funny. It mocks all the various ways that we tell women to connect to their sexuality and how we pressure them to be sexual, even if they're not interested. The movement in the show is gorgeous and the writing is really good. While this show speaks to the feminine experience, it's not exclusive. There was only one man in the audience and he was enjoying it almost as much as the rest of us. It was a beautiful hour of communion between the performer and the audience.

I wish everyone under 30 could see this show. There'd be hope for better sex for everyone.


Pineapple Club

I had no idea walking into it what this show was about. I didn't know that the creator of Dance Animal (which I sadly missed in both its incarnations) was involved. I didn't know that I would have so much fun. I loved the soundtrack, music from artists we've lost since the beginning of 2016. I loved the dance - oh, how I loved the dance. (I've been feeling very stuck in my dancing right now and have decided that I need some Jazz in my life.)

I wasn't sold on the blackouts between scenes, prefering a movement-based transition, but the use of the blackout becomes really important in a scene later on - a beautiful set of tableaus lit only by flashlight. What ties the scenes together is the theme of loss. (The program states that it's loosely based on the five stages of grief.) At times it's hilarious, poignant, and absurd.

A couple of things really struck me. I loved seeing a male dancer who looks like someone you'd run into in a biker bar - and boy can he sing! I also need to shout out Paul Barnes' accent work - he had me convinced he was Canadian-born with a really good English accent.

If you like a mix of dance, comedy, and a soupçon of angst, this is the show for you.

A personal note: in the program there's a thank you to Tom King. Wonder if that's the same Tom King I used to swing dance with?


Real Actors, Not People

Or, real life cleverly disguised as a play.

I saw this with a friend and before the play she asked me if I knew what it was about. I didn't really. But early on in the play I saw spaces being mentioned that I knew about. Turns out the performers are the proprietors of Brick and Mortar, a company I found out about when the Attic and The Box merged last year and asked Keith Brown to perform at their launch party. In fact, if you go to the online program after the show, they answer which parts of the show actually happened and which ones were the product of their imagination.

The two meet at an audition, eventually discover they both run an art space, and decide to join forces. In a series of vignettes we see the trials and tribulations of being an arts administrator who runs a physical space. I was reminded of my first outing as a producer. I plunged toilets and had lighting short out my board. There's no glamour in it, just a desire to serve the theatre community.

And it's exhausting. The show does a very good job showing what the cost is to providing the spaces we use with barely a second thought. This is not a downer show, though. It's done in a breezy way, with a funny set piece that runs throughout the show tracking the development of one space they're working on jointly while they're trying to carve out time to be artists.

The bit that really hit home for me is the discussion around compensating administrators. It's done in a very humourous way in the show but it highlights a real problem in the arts - acknowledging that our work should be financially compensated.

(I'll hop on my soap box here and point out that we do ourselves no favours if we force people to work extra jobs so as to keep costs to productions low. That extra $5/hr for a rental space means that the person who made that space happen and is taking care of it can buy groceries and pay rent. We need to become better at creating money for all of us as a whole rather than insist that we keep ourselves in sustenance living for the sake of our art. And the first step is compensating everyone involved in our productions in some way that makes their day to day lives easier, whether that's money or transit or bartering services. We can be more proactive in helping our sponsors find clients so that they'll want to invest more in our art. Collectively, we have the ability to figure out ways to raise the financial situation of the entire community. We just need the commitment to do it.)

If you're involved in theatre in any capacity, this is a must see. If you're a theatre goer, this is more than the usual "the trials and tribulations of an actor" that crops up at fringe. It's a door into a world that isn't much talked about but needs more light shine on it. The end reaffirms faith in theatre and why we do it. And you'll have had a good time along the way.

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