SummerWorks blends dance, music, theatre and more
The Fringe Festival beer tent is packed away and so is the one you brought to WayHome last weekend. But before you think Toronto festivals are running on empty, enter the SummerWorks Performance Festival, Canada’s largest curated performance festival.
From Thursday to Aug. 13, celebrated and soon-to-be-celebrated artists across disciplines — performance art to dance to music to theatre, and everything in between, even lectures — will appear in SummerWorks’s 52 productions, creating the festival’s signature blend of in- terdisciplinary experimentation, engaging in the festival’s theme of “coming together.”
But the 2017 festival even brings some work online, such as Jordan Tannahill’s Nocturne, which is one of three projects (the other two are by Cara Spooner and Darla Contois) that can be accessed through the SummerWorks app and unlocked only by visiting three specific venues. The app is free to download and single performance tickets are now “pay-what-you-decide,” with options of $15, $25 or $35.
Artistic director Laura Nanni has continued in the SummerWorks tradition of assembling a lineup of works that are eclectic, often interactive and most certainly memorable. Here are 10 we’re hoping to catch over the next 10 days: Bodies of Water This show will show you what happens when you combine folk music from Iran and Azerbaijan, video projections and synchronized swimming. The site-specific poolside location and mixture of genres is quintessential SummerWorks.
Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre Pool, 155 Crawford St. What Linda Said This production includes powerhouse female theatre-makers, dead and alive — it’s written by poet and playwright Priscila Uppal and directed by Gein Wong.
What Linda Said is an imagined meeting between Priscila (played by Kimwun Perehinec) and the late playwright Linda Griffiths (played by Tracey Hoyt), inspired by their conversations after Uppal was diagnosed with cancer as Griffiths was nearing the end of her battle with breast cancer.
It was also partly dramaturged by Iris Turcott, who also died of cancer in 2016. This will be beautiful and heavy.
Factory Theatre Studio, 125 Bathurst St. Paths This interactive dance performance encourages you to get lost — literally. Travel in a group of six through a maze and encounter dancers inspired by the four elements — earth, wind, water and fire — and track the environmental footprint of your own path.
Artscape Youngplace, Studio 109, 180 Shaw St. Are We Not Horses Subtitled “The Sci-Fi Summer Musical,” Are We Not Horses celebrates the 2007 record of the same name by Rock Plaza Central, which imagines a group of “robot horses facing an existential crisis.” The ever-interesting Small Wooden Shoe Theatre Company presents this new Canadian musical, reuniting the band and joining forces with live illustrations, projections, puppetry and some all-star performers like Liz Peterson and Elley Ray Hennessy.
Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst St. The Archivist The Archivist premiered in 2016 through Why Not Theatre’s RISER Project, which also launched the lauded duet Mouthpiece (on this month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
It’s fortunate that Shaista Latif’s intriguing solo performance, exploring her family history from Canada to Afghanistan, will get another look after that short run. (Another former RISER performance, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua is also appearing in this year’s SummerWorks). Let’s see if RISER can continue its streak.
Pia Bouman: Scotiabank Studio Theatre, 6 Noble St. Erased: Billy & Bayard It feels like the Queer Songbook Orchestra (QSO) has been, for lack of a better word, everywhere lately. So it wasn’t surprising to see them pop up in the SummerWorks lineup, especially with this new project. With the mandate of shedding light on queer composers overlooked by mainstream music, QSO created this production that resurrects two queer black men lost in history: Billy Strayhorn, an influence on the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Bayard Rustin, an adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. (also featured in the Fringe hit play The Seat Next to the King).
Factory Theatre Mainspace The Only Good Indian Pandemic Theatre has been behind some top festival productions that have gone on to bigger runs ( The Emancipation of Ms. Lovely, Daughter and Situational Anarchy just over the past year), so hopes are high for The Only Good Indian and its three impressive performers: DonnaMichelle St. Bernard, Tom Arthur Davis and Jivesh Parasram. After each performance, one of the three will sit down for a Long Table with the audience — think of a big dinner party where, instead of courses of food, it’s courses of conversation.
Factory Theatre Studio Ghost Days Details are light on this new work by renowned Blackfoot performance artist Terrance Houle — because it hasn’t been made yet. But in an exciting partnership with SummerWorks, emphasizing the “coming together” theme, he will be creating it every night of the festival and premiering it on the final day. It will likely be as interdisciplinary, and as impactful, as the rest of Houle’s work around colonialism, reconciliation and Canadian identities.
The Theatre Centre Upper Lobby, 1115 Queen St. W. Serenity Wild SummerWorks is known for tackling taboo subjects and Serenity Wild promises to do so unflinchingly. From last year’s acclaimed Charisma Furs, Katie Sly has written a play, partly inspired by her own history with sexual abuse, about the line between desire and danger in sexual relationships. Sly, an emerging artist from Vancouver, already has the approval of some industry leaders, so Serenity Wild should be a remarkable step in her career.
The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator, 1115 Queen St. W. Nashville Stories If you like shows that defy expectation, check out Nashville Stories, which likely will go against any idea of what you think might come next. A few things you can expect are: a bluegrass band, live cooking, a story steeped in pop culture references (especially revolving around Garth Brooks) written by David Bernstein and Jake Vanderham, joyous choreography by Alyssa Martin and probably a lot of neon. Grab your cowboy hat and join the square dance.
The Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre, 1115 Queen St. W. Go to summerworks.ca for dates and times of the performances. Carly Maga is a Toronto Star theatre critic. She alternates the Wednesday Matinée column with critic Karen Fricker.