Theatre News: July 2 – July 8

Local News

Big news for fans of Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil! Cirque du Soleil as acquired Blue Man Productions, hoping to bring the show to a wider audience in places like Germany. These are two physical performance powerhouses! Look forward to seeing what kind of work they do together. (via Global News)

National News

A bold opinion and inside perspective by J. Kelly Nestruck about the Dora Awards which took place last week in Toronto. There have been some problems with the Doras in the past, and a programming overhaul a few years ago hasn’t quite done the trick. Kelly wonders why with the quality of theatre in Toronto the Dora Awards don’t garner much buzz, and posits it might be the confusing categories. How much stake do you place in theatre awards? If a company has a “Best Production” banner slapped on it, are you more likely to go see it? Have your say on Twitter! (via Globe and Mail)


Is Rick Mercer Ruining Everything? A great read about Canadian comedy and American politics. There’s lots of Canadian humor out there patting ourselves on the back for perceived progressiveness (read: superiority), as the article points out, as a major tenet of our national identity. The article examines comedy’s role in developing this trend. What do you think? Have we established a national identity beyond “Not-American”? Ought we to look to our own damning political problems rather than distract ourselves with At Least Things are Better Here Syndrome? Or is it just a bit of fun? Let us know on Twitter! (via NY Times)

International News

July 11 is World Fringe Day! Here’s an article on about what FRINGE looks like across the world, and why we need FRINGE Festivals (whether they scare us or not!). How many FRINGE Festivals have you attended? Tweet us your answer! (via HowlRound)


Is Shakespeare still shocking? An interesting experiment in the works at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The plan is to hook audience members up to heart monitors and track their heart rate while watching a live theatre performance of one of the bard’s goriest, Titus Andronicus, compared to a film version of the same play, and see if we can measure excitement. (via BBC)


Not sure how to react to this article from The Telegraph. Do you think it’s discriminatory or disrespectful to target a younger demographic? Would you say that the way older audiences are portrayed is “offensive”? I believe putting on a good, strong show will attract audiences regardless of age. Interesting that this #OldLivesMatter article dismisses all young people as preferring to “hang out” and “snog”. These are my reactions to this article, what are yours? Agree? Disagree? Share on Twitter! (via the Telegraph)


#fringebuzz wth Martin Law’s Odd, Offbeat, and Outlandish The Thrill of the Chaise 

by Caleigh Crow

“I think I wrote the play in a coffee and ramen state in University,” says Martin Law, “I was probably just trying to escape being a University student but also imagining the bizarreness of what consciousness would be like in any other object. So, I put fully human emotions into chairs and tables,” he pauses and thinks, “and a rug.”

And so, The Thrill of the Chaise, Martin’s latest St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival show, was born. I’m comfortable here using the word ‘born’ because I am in Martin’s company; a playwright who has absolutely no qualms about endowing inanimate objects with human qualities. The show has two narratives, one involving human Russian spies, acted by human actors on stage, the other the furniture in the room, voiced by human actors off-stage. Martin, playwright and director, describes, “The thrill of the chaise is an extremely exciting spy thriller which has a lot to do with our political, ethical, philosophical, sociological, personal milieu and our times.” He pauses for effect, “It’s also about what happens to furniture and their struggles.”

It’s a zany premise. Fitting, then, that the company who won last year’s Spirit of the Fringe award at the Frankie’s, Chocolate Moose, would come out with something so odd, offbeat, and outlandish at this year’s St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival, a very suitable venue for the piece, according to Martin. “I think it’s got just the right spirit of weird and funny, and not taking itself too seriously that I think is really crucial for fringe,” he explains. “I think it’s fun to take something that can pose as a serious piece of art and then rip the center out of that. There’s a funny subplot that’s happening beneath the surface.” Martin believes audience members will still be able to connect with the characters, human or furnishing. “I suppose that people will have a laugh at the art, the pretension, the weirdness, and if they see themselves in any of the furniture they’ll maybe have a laugh at themselves,” he says. “A lot of it is furniture having sad romantic relationships and sometimes I feel that if you can just embody something that’s far enough outside of our own bodies that it can be quite funny to get the bird’s eye view on yourself, or a human’s eye view as the chair would probably say.”

As a director, Martin had to take a different approach. The challenge for acting in The Thrill of the Chaise is that there are two contrasting performances required to serve the two contrasting stories. “I’m directing them in two sections,” he explains, “one is the human play, which is mostly movement, big overblown physical comedy, props, movement, and this weird hyper-choreographed bit. Then there’s the furniture, and pretty much all the emphasis is in the delivery of the lines, the sound.” As Martin is talking, he stops himself to take out a pen. “I have to write this down so I don’t forget,” he says. “I just had this idea to run rehearsal blindfolded. I just find I’m still watching their faces as we rehearse, just as habit. But then you realise that you’re taking the acting off their facial clues and sometimes you need it to be totally implicit in their voices.”

This is Martin’s third St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival, and he has nothing but praise for the festival, and the freedom, variety, and wild spirit it embodies. “Its good to be in a field of things where there’s old FRINGE veterans, there’s people who are total pros and some who are complete beginners and yet you can go and see anything and you can be very surprised.” It’s this ability to surprise that keeps artists like Martin pushing the envelope. “I think at FRINGE you’re in a position where you can go hard for something, it’s a way lower risk than putting in huge investments of time and money and social anxiety by producing something decently independently.” Martin brightens up, nods, and says. “On the other hand, the payoff can be huge. There’s a huge buzz about it. Something bizarre can really succeed.”

The Thrill of the Chaise runs from June 8th – 18th at MainLine Theatre. For more information and for tickets please click here.

For all QDF’s #fringebuzz posts click here.



#fringebuzz with the Team of La Troupe des Îles du Vent Moorea: Les Créanciers

By : Max Mehran

This next article will be written in French as the team I interviewed came all the way from France to share with our Fringe Audience their critically acclaimed piece, Les Créanciers. I met with  Frédéric Fage (director/producer), Maroussia Henrich (actor/Tekla), Benjamin Lhommas (actor/Gustave), and Colombe Villaume (dancer). Around a table at Starbucks, we had an informal, friendly discussion about the phenomenon that is Les Créanciers and their journey to Montreal.


[QDF] Pour commencer, parlez-moi de la pièce et des thèmes abordés.

[Frédéric] Les Créanciers est avant tout une histoire d’amour et de passion destructrice comme certainement nous l’avons tous vécue au début de nos premières émotions amoureuses. C’est quelque chose de très fort qui vient nous secouer à vif. C’est l’histoire d’un ex-mari qui, se sentant trahit par son ex-femme, vient se venger en manipulant son petit-copain du moment.


[QDF] Quelles sont les raisons derrières le choix de cette pièce ?

[Frédéric] Nous l’avons choisie parce que, justement, elle évoque quelque chose que nous avons tous vécu, avec une intensité plus au moins différente. Ce qui fonctionne dans cette pièce, c’est que tous les spectateurs en sortent bouleversés parce qu’elle leur rappelle des émotions qu’ils ont vécu. Elle est intemporelle. J’ai choisi cette pièce pour son côté humain, esthétique, et le texte de Strindberg qui est juste une merveille.

[Benjamin] Ce qui est fort avec cette pièce c’est qu’elle a été écrite en 1888, et c’est une histoire d’amour entre trois personnes qui a ce caractère intemporel dans lequel on se reconnaît tous aujourd’hui.


[QDF] En tant qu’acteur, comment avez-vous abordé la pièce et les personnages en sachant que c’est une pièce du dix-neuvième  siècle?

[Benjamin] C’était notre parti pris dès le départ de travailler sur des personnages qui nous ressemblent, qui sont inscrits dans la modernité d’aujourd’hui. Le texte était pour nous assez moderne pour pouvoir travailler avec nos propres personnalités, le monde d’aujourd’hui, et la façon dont on est nous.

[Maroussia] Oui, nous avons travaillé à partir de nous et nos personnalités tout en étant dans ce beau cocon que Frédéric nous a instauré, très esthétique, avec une vraie ligne directrice. Ce sont vraiment trois fortes personnalités que nous essayons de garder au plus proche de nous pour que ça touche les gens au plus proche d’eux.


[QDF] Je me tourne maintenant vers Colombe, danseuse, et lui demande de me parler davantage de ce qu’elle apporte au spectacle.

[Colombe] J’étais un peu surprise quand Frédéric m’a parlé du projet, de la pièce et de sa volonté d’avoir un moment dansé dans une pièce de théâtre. Il m’a dit que c’était une création assez libre pour moi. Il voulait que j’exprime l’émotion du personnage entre les deux premières scènes. Le spectateur peut y voir le côté sombre de Tekla ou y voir une annonce funèbre, je laisse libre le spectateur de s’approprier la danse. C’était un peu comme les comédiens pour jouer : c’est libre aux spectateurs de voir ce qu’ils veulent ressentir et je trouve génial de pouvoir apporter un moment dansé dans une pièce parce que cela exprime les émotions différemment par le corps, sans la parole.


[QDF] Frédéric, quelles étaient vos inspirations dans votre mise-en-scène, qui a mon œil, se montre très esthétique, ressemblant à plusieurs tableaux ?

[Frédéric] Mon inspiration est venue de différents  arts, en considérant  aussi bien ce que va apporter le comédien ou le photographe ou la danseuse. Essayer de mélanger tout ce côté esthétique que j’aime pour en faire ce cocon particulier. Mon inspiration a été aussi avant tout très psychologique. Ce sont des pièges dans le velours rouge, des  tableaux trop parfaits, des  personnages qui donnent trop  l’impression de bien se tenir.


[QDF] Comme nous l’avons remarqué lors de petits extraits que nous avons réussi à voir, vous mélangez les arts classiques avec ces tableaux, mais aussi de la musique très moderne. Comment, selon vous, ces deux styles réunissent dans la pièce ?

[Benjamin] Je crois que ce qu’a voulu faire Frédéric c’est ce caractère intemporel, et le mélange des genres et des temporalités permettent de ne pas pouvoir se situer dans quelque chose de précis, au niveau de l’esthétique, de la date, et du caractère de la pièce. Cela permet d’instaurer un flou artistique dans lequel on peut se retrouver chacun selon son interprétation.

[Maroussia] Ce qui est beau c’est qu’on a vu que ce texte de Strindberg qui a été écrit en 1888 n’a, en aucun moment, été changé. Nous sommes restés complétement proches du texte et ça n’a pas été un empêchement à y rajouter des musiques modernes ou de la danse. Au contraire, il y avait une parfaite alchimie entre les deux. C’est à ce moment qu’on voit la puissance du texte qui nous a encouragés de traverser au travers des temps, portés par le texte.


[QDF] Avant Avignon, la pièce a été présentée à Paris pour quelques semaines et votre succès là-bas a poussé l’équipe de voyager jusqu’à Montréal. Parlez-moi de la volonté de s’inscrire au Fringe et du sentiment d’être arrivé ici.

[Frédéric] C’est l’envie de partager, le fait d’avoir compris que c’était un sentiment partagé par tous au-delà des frontières et même des langues. Cette pièce est intemporelle mais aussi internationale parce que tout le monde ressent le sentiment amoureux, de frustration et de déchirement. Aussi, ce festival Fringe a une connotation très ouverte, très internationale, alors oui, on a une place particulière, mais nous avons notre place avec cette pièce dans le festival. Finalement, avant d’être metteur-en-scène et producteur, j’ai fait une carrière de naviguant avec Air France, pour moi l’envie de voyager est restée.

[Maroussia] D’être ici, c’est dingue ! Il y a un sentiment de se dire ‘wow.’ On se rappelle de quand nous avons commencé, quand nous ne savions pas où cette aventure allait nous mener. Cela a pris plus en plus d’ampleur, et nous nous retrouvons aujourd’hui à Montréal. C’est un sentiment fou, et sans avoir encore joué, nous ressentons une grande excitation.


[QDF] Depuis Paris, vous vous retrouvez ici avec l’équipe originale: les trois comédiens et la danseuse. Parlez-moi de cette camaraderie qui dure depuis deux ans.

[Benjamin] Pour l’instant, nous ne nous sommes pas lassés  les uns les autres.

[Colombe] Ce qui est incroyable. (rires)

[Benjamin]  Nous avons tellement travaillé pour construire cette pièce ensemble, définir ces personnages, savoir comment nous allions  les jouer, que nous avons vraiment envie de la montrer, de la  jouer. Nous ne nous lassons  pas du tout de ce sentiment. C’est une pièce très importante pour nous qui continue d’évoluer au fil des années.

[Colombe] Le théâtre n’était pas du tout un environnement que je connaissais, et en tant que danseuse je suis juste éblouie et ébahie par tout ce qui se passe sur scène et ces qualités humaines qui me touchent différemment. Nous mélangeons nos styles, nous nous apportons quelque chose mutuellement, et c’est un échange qui continue d’évoluer.

[Maroussia] Oui. Il y a une respiration commune.


[QDF] Est-ce que au Jour 0, vous vous imaginiez être ici aujourd’hui ?

Consensus: Pas du tout ! (rires)


[QDF] Qu’elles sont vos espoirs pour ces prochains jours ?

[Benjamin] Nous espérons que le public sera  nombreux.

[Frédéric] Et aussi que le public reste après pour discuter avec nous. C’est notre but quand nous participons à ce genre de festival; de partager avec le plus de monde possible.

[Colombe] Nous souhaitons échanger. Échanger avec un public différent de celui que nous avons en France.


Thank to you Frédéric, Benjamin, Maroussia, and Colombe for answering our questions and sharing more about their upcoming productions. You can catch the team hanging out at the Fringe Park and other events. Thank you for this wonderful rapport. Find out more about the production here.

#fringebuzz: Zag Dorison’s Appetite for the “Off-Kilter” with Renfield or, Dining at the Bughouse

By Caleigh Crow

“I did the Montreal Fringe 24 years ago. It was very different, not as many venues, not as many services and events,” says Zag Dorison of his FRINGE Festival background. “On one hand I’m a veteran, and on the other hand it’s not like I’ve done many of them. No, I’m no expert by a long shot.”

As an artist, Zag’s career has taken him in down many creative roads, as a spoken word and sketch performer, a writer of short fiction, as a playwright and an actor. Now Zag is back to solo performance with his St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival show, Renfield or, Dining at the Bughouse. Loosely based on a character from Bram Stoker’s classic gothic novel Dracula, the play takes a deep dive into the psyche of Renfield, an asylum inmate who compulsively consumes insects in an attempt to absorb their life force. “For some reason, I don’t know why, I’ve always been fascinated by madmen, and certainly, Renfield is a good example,” Zag says with a grin. If your Dracula knowledge is a little rusty or you’ve never read the book, fear not. “There’s very little from the novel actually in the show, but it’s a different take on it. You discover how Renfield ended up where he did and why he’s waiting for Dracula to come to him.”

Zag is bringing his horror piece to the St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival this year, but it’s not the first iteration of this story.  Zag performed Renfield that time, 24 years ago at the Fringe, and felt it was time to revive it.  As well, he gave a stripped down performance of it at DRACULA ’97, an academic conference, marketplace, and fan convention all rolled into one held in Los Angeles to celebrate the centenary of Dracula. He wound up adapting it into a short story and submitting to and winning the first prize at the literary competition held at the conference.  One of the jurors, a noted vampire fiction author called P.N. Elrod, singled Zag out and offered to help get the story published in an anthology about all things Dracula. “I had never had anything published before, so I took 1.5 seconds to say yes!” Zag says laughs, “As if I’m going to say no.”

When asked what he believes draws him to madmen characters such as Renfield, Zag credits the “actor in me” who entices Zag to step outside himself. “I’m actually a very shy, quiet person. I was a good little Snowden boy with very normal family upbringing,” he explains. “I’m just drawn to the opposite of myself somehow. As an actor, I seem to gravitate towards slightly off kilter characters.”

As someone looking to exhibit “off kilter characters”, Zag can’t think of a better place for Renfield than the St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival. “Generally, FRINGE is by the nature of its name, more alternative, not particularly commercial,” Zag says thoughtfully. “This show isn’t particularly commercial, either, in the general sense of the word.” He also takes the time to reflect on how the Montreal theatre community has evolved since his last foray into the scene. “Given how Montreal theatre scene has changed over the decades. It’s more alternative and uses various movement, visuals, multi-disciplinary approaches to theatre.” He considers, “It’ll be interesting to see how people take it.”

Renfield or, Dining in the Bughouse runs from June 8 – 18th at Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire. For more information and tickets please click here.

For all QDF’s #fringebuzz posts, click here.







#fringebuzz with Avi Bendahan: The Monkey Get His Staff

By: Max Mehran

On one of the first sunny summer days, QDF met with Avi Bendahan, co-founder of JingJu Canada, to talk about their upcoming production, The Monkey Get His Staff,  at this year’s St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. The show tells the story of the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, who travels to the Dragon King of the eastern sea’s palace to get a weapon he needs, and this is when chaos enthused.

I ask Avi to tell me more about the company and their unique style of theatre in Montreal. JingJu Canada was formed about 8 years ago and it started off after a course instructed at Concordia University about this art form. After Avi and some other classmates travelled to China to study it further, he and his co-founder Shijia Jiang (who was also the teaching assistant of the course) decided to form the company along with other actors at the time. The goal was to “continue training, practicing, and doing it and promote JingJu as an art form to western audience” Avi tells us.

I am then curious as to what exactly JingJu is. Avi explains that JingJu is a form of Chinese Opera, but not in the same sense that Opera is seen in the West. “It combines a lot of elements and training you would find in the east, such as martial arts, dancing, make-up, costume, and embellishment,” he continues.  It also includes songs and lyrics in a heightened Chinese language while still being easy to understand and follow because the stories performed are popular stories. “Most people can still follow what’s happening, “Avi explains, “therefore, it allows the actors to embellish as much as they want which is when all the tricks and stunts comes into play.” He compares it to an English audience listening to Shakespeare.

JingJu Canada does not perform in Chinese however. They teach classes, organize workshops, perform pieces and go on tours with the motto to promote and showcase this art form. “What we found works best for us,” Avi continues, “is when we do shows, we translate the shows that are part of the cannon into English and modify it slightly.” This explains their reasoning behind choosing this particular story for this year’s St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. “The Monkey King is a very popular character in China and his journey is epic,” Avi tells us. Another thing that Avi and the team at JingJu found translated well into English is comedy. The Monkey King Gets His Staff , therefore, became the best choice for the company.

I admire their mission and the work they have to put into this to be able to show their production and entertain their audience. I ask then the biggest challenges with this model. Avi honestly answers that a limited budget has been and is a big challenge when wanting to produce JingJu shows. “The things that we do cost a lot of money,” he confesses, “in terms of make-up, costume, etc.” Avi tells me they get their costume directly from China from families dedicated to keeping this dying art alive. The costumes are handstitched and are, consequently, very costly and precious. Thankfully, the company managed to receive generous sponsorship from The Confucius Institute in Quebec to support those costs.

This is going to be JingJu Canada’s second time at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. “Fringe was an extremely rewarding experience,” Avi tells me as they received amazing appraisals and accolades as well as a feeling their audience connected well to the show. Avi tells me that for the last couple of years, the company didn’t perform as much as they were mainly organizing workshops and classes to teach the methods behind this art form. “The itch was growing, so we decided to do it again,” Avi says.

Avi then quickly explains that in order for them to build a solid show, they have to start preparing in September. It starts with casting. When casting, experience in JingJu isn’t a requirement as they are looking for people that can bring something new and unique to their characters. Once cast, they also have to train the actors to the art form, which is very physical and specific. Most of their actors have luckily done JingJu before, but one new actor this year didn’t.  Training consists of teaching the actors how to use weapons, and combat training in the traditional style of JingJu for example. “Our mandate,” Avi explains, “is to promote JingJu to western audiences without bastardizing it; we want to stay absolutely true to what JingJu traditionally is.” He also tells me that they need at least two and half hour before every show to get ready and paint their faces.

The work that has to be put on this production seems tremendous, and with only a couple of days before opening night, I ask Avi what he is most looking forward to. As he is wearing different hats, his answers vary. He is, on the one hand, looking forward to getting through tech smoothly. He is also looking forward to a great initiative JingJu Canada is offering the community. “We decided to give around ten to fifteen minutes at the beginning of our show to different artists and companies in Montreal to perform their own thing in front of the audience,” Avi explains. I understand it works much like opening acts to their show but also as a way to showcase works from the city. They already booked many different artists from dancers to puppeteers.

“I can’t say enough about my actors because they are really great,” Avi tells me as we are wrapping up our discussion.  Their team has been working extremely hard since September and they are confident with the shape of the show. “It’s bubbling excitement at this point,” Avi expresses. The pride he feels for his actors and team can be reflected in his eyes. “This is going to be another experiment; this entire company was an experiment,” Avi finishes, and he is looking forward, as we all are, to what will come next.

Thank you to Avi for opening up to us and giving us insights on a company that works tirelessly to bring to their audience a unique and very aesthetically oriented style of theatre.  Find out more about their run at the festival here.

#fringebuzz with Charles Roburn of the Dastardly Literary Mashup Le Petit Prince selon Machiavel

By Caleigh Crow

Capricornucopia productions is a gift. Literally, a birthday gift. Or maybe it’s the party. Either way, the company was formed when a group of friends, all Capricorns, decided to forgo typical birthday celebrations by renting out the auditorium in Atwater library and inviting their friends to perform skits and scripts that the Capricorns wrote for the occasion. For the average birthday party, the most artistically fulfilling aspect is deciding what silly thing to write on the birthday cake; but Charles Roburn, playwright, assures me there’s more than enough silliness at the Capricornucopia shindigs, including this year’s St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival show, Le Petit Prince selon Machiavel.

The title says it all: the story follows the plot of Le Petit Prince, the famous children’s book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, as if it were given Machiavelli’s The Prince treatment. As Charles describes it, “Le Petit Prince is about him going to different planets and meeting people who illustrate human foibles.” Charles grins, “This is very much the same, its just that he meets people who represent human foibles and then exploits them mercilessly in order to extend his iron fisted rule over all the planets,” he laughs, “It’s perfectly natural. It’s a wonderful story for children.”

Charles originally wrote the play in English, and produced it for the first time at the 2012 St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE festival, where it was nominated for four Frankie awards including Best English Script. He later worked with a francophone friend from the Quebec Writer’s Federation playwrighting workshop to produce an adaptation in French at the 2014 Fringe festival. This year, he started with a new translation of his very own – quite a challenge for someone who learned French in Vancouver, BC.

Translating the work was a collaborative effort that extended even into the rehearsal hall, with the Francophone actors giving helpful insights to Charles’ translation. “It’s very important to have them tell me if something doesn’t sound quite right. Even just making little adjustments. They want the characters to come across in a certain way, so there are certain phrasings, certain ways of speaking, maybe an accent that I don’t know the right way to go. That’s something that’s been very useful and educational for me,” he says. The book was originally written in French, another source of inspiration for Charles, and another way to subvert the story with his diabolical approach. Ever mindful of his audience, however, he made sure to adapt the language for modern Quebecois usage. “What I wanted to do was use the original language from Le Petit Prince, since it’s something everybody is going to recognize which makes it all the better when we take it and put a horrible twist on it,” Charles explains, “but in a number of cases, the actors tell me that in modern Quebecois French a given phrase sounds a little weird or dated, even if it’s in the original book. So, they suggest a way to say the line a little differently and we go ahead and put in that change.”

The show itself is lighthearted and slightly farcical, with a dark undertone. It subverts a beloved children’s tale with scheming manipulation, and the overall aesthetic is fittingly fantastical. “It’s a little more David Bowie and The Man Who Fell to Earth,” he corrects himself, “or The Boy Who Fell to Earth, so the Little Prince is dressed in nerd chic and thick glasses and wears a leather jacket.” Charles laughs, “He has these funky shoes! Everybody has funky shoes.” You know you’ve got good design if everybody’s in funky shoes.

While Charles says you don’t have to have read either book to enjoy the show, owning a copy of either Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or The Prince by Machiavelli will save you two dollars off your ticket price. For this literary mashup, Charles wants to pay homage to the original authors. “I’ve tried to stay reasonably faithful,” he says, “but of course, I’m twisting it horribly, so I hope the audience won’t come after me for that!”

Le Petit Prince selon Machiavel runs from June 8th – 18th at the MainLine Theatre. For more information and for tickets please click here.

For all QDF’s #fringebuzz posts click here.

#fringebuzz: The Unconventional Directorial Debut of Marc-André Casavant – L’eau des nuages.

By Caleigh Crow

Marc-André Casavant, first-time director of L’eau des nuages, has been doing solo performance work, including spoken word and experimental theatre performances, for about ten years. He’s naturally drawn to more heightened work, describing his creative interests as the “wild, strange, in the spirit of David Lynch”. Compared to his previous work, he describes L’eau des nuages, adapted from the novel by Daniel French, as for the ‘grand public’ which he saw as an opportunity to add some heightened artistic elements, so the show would still to be recognizable as distinctly Marc-André. “It’s beneficial for me as a first-time director, as my first time working with other people and collaborators that the story is very simple,” he says.

The story revolves around a tense, emotional love triangle, ignited by a lost Oscar Wilde biography left on a café table. As Marc-André says, it’s a story that could happen to anyone, but he saw the opportunity to elevate the story with other artistic elements. “One of the reasons that I agreed to direct this play is that I was touched by the characters and the story,” he explains, “but my vision was to make it more complicated with the treatment. I show it very poetically. I’m doing a theatrical, poetic, contemporary piece.” He pauses to reflect, “I see it now more like a show than a play.”

As a solo artist, he was used to being the beginning and end of the creative process. “I really like doing things by myself with no boundaries and no concessions,” he explains, “but I think that I’ve been comfortable doing that for years because a part of me was afraid to share those weird things with others.” Now with a cast and crew looking to him for leadership, he’s had to grow and learn creatively. A good place for Marc-André to start was to reflect on his previous experiences being directed on film sets, and use what he likes about being directed as a jumping off point. “I think it’s good for the actors when they are working with somebody who knows how it is to be directed,” he says. “I’ve been directing them during the whole process the way I like to be directed. That means that I want to be considerate. I like to be directed in a soft way, and I was directing them in a soft way as well.”

However, that doesn’t mean he’s completely left behind his boundary-pushing tendencies. Once the show was cast and rehearsals started up, he took the time to do exploration exercises to get the actors familiar with the play, their characters, and Marc-André’s vision. “I want my actors to feel ready to give, because this is all about giving,” he says, “the challenging thing was how to start, then I just tried different things.” He suggested, “Let’s work with music, let’s work without music, let’s work with movement.” It was important for Marc-André to build a foundation of feelings in the actor that they would draw from when more rigid blocking rehearsals began in March. “That was fascinating because I was working with the instinct,” he comments, “I’m sure that instinct is going to be marked on your body somewhere. When we started the mise-en-place, different things were already there. They have the liberty to use things from the past sessions.” He says with a grin, “That was working.”

Another beneficial addition to the rehearsal process was the presence of the author, Daniel French, who is an acquaintance of Marc-André’s. Since he’s departing not from the story but from the form, it’s important for Marc-André to have the author’s reassurance about his directorial vision. “He’s really open to my ideas, and he’s always been so that made the work easier,” Marc-André says, hopefully. “He’s open to the work, and he knows my work, first as a solo performer. he’s open, I think he likes my vision, my creativity.”

Now that the show is a little further along in the process, Marc-André can reflect on the process, and ask himself some key questions. “As a new director, how could I work differently? How could I explore the actors and the material and their interiors in another way? How could they explore themselves and the work from another perspective?” he asks. Marc-André is grateful for he opportunity to try, and I can tell by the way he hints at his “next time” as a director that this isn’t a one-off role for him. “I’m the kind of creative person who is waiting to be ready in this career to do things, so that’s what happened with that project,” he replies. “I was ready.”

L’eau des nuages runs from June 8 – 18 at Theatre D’Aujourd’hui. For more information and tickets please click here.

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#fringebuzz-ing with Gina Granter of Mapping Grief

By Caleigh Crow

Gina Granter knows “there’s weird things about mourning.” Weird, unpredictable things, things you never could have foreseen, things that can even make you laugh. “How would he feel about memes?” she asks.

Gina is the writer and performer of Mapping Grief, the true story of how she went on living after her partner, Blake, died suddenly sixteen years ago. The story itself is told out of order, and while it has its sad moments, it contains the full spectrum of human emotions – much like grief itself. This is Gina’s first foray into theatre, though she has made quite a name for herself as a storyteller, and is even billed as “a Confabulation favourite” by Matt Goldberg, founder and executive producer of the storytelling event.

Being the literary type, she is a product of her influences, and during our conversation she mentions the Verdi opera La Traviata as one that she’s surprised was edited out  of her piece during the writing process. “That story certainly informed much of my romanticism about love, and then it didn’t even get into the show!” she says. La Traviata is the kind of tragic love story that many, Gina included, become infatuated with, but living through the reality of loss isn’t easy. “The vicarious part of it is so delicious,” she says wryly, “and then surviving past it is something else.”

La Traviata is one of many love stories that end in tragedy, but more often than not, the reader never gets to find out what happens to the characters five, ten, or twenty years after the fact, which is why Gina chose to set most of her show in the time after immediate grief. “I believed that I had found the one, because all the stories told me there was going to be a one,” she says, “and I had to renegotiate everything that I believed about relationships.”

She does take the time to reflect on the relationship, and share with the audience what it was like for twenty-year-old Gina to fall in love for the first time with twenty-one-year-old Blake, a choice she was worried was too “frivolous”, but as she told parts of the story at Confabulation and other storytelling events, she used the audience as a gauge. “When I was telling it onstage the audience was with me and I heard little noises and ‘ohs’ from them.” She grins, “There’s the innocence and the beauty of that. He and I were pretty goofy, overall-inexperienced-with-the-world people, and unabashedly just going for it. Because of the audience reaction, I improvised a few lines that got the biggest laughs.”

It’s a deeply personal story, one that fully belongs to Gina, and she’s not shying away from that fact in her performance of it. I ask her how it felt to be telling such a story at the St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE festival knowing full-well that her friends, family, and colleagues could be in the audience. She replies, “I’ve definitely thought about members of my deceased partner’s family who are invited. In some ways I felt like I maybe I didn’t say enough about him and who he was, but the show really is who he was through me, how I experienced him as a person and that relationship and afterwards. I was definitely sensitive to that.”

As a performance, it’s been a challenge to get through. “The first time I had to read something from it for friend I burst into tears and almost couldn’t get through it,” she says. “I’ve really only been processing it with the show in mind for the last year but definitely I think the show will be very honest and real and that you aren’t witnessing a character onstage.”

Mapping Grief runs from June 8th – 18th at Montreal Improv Theatre Venue A. For more information and tickets, please click here.For more information and tickets, please click here.

For all of QDF’s #fringebuzz posts, click here!


#fringebuzz with Luigi Buffone: Leave the Therapy Take the Cannoli

By: Max Mehran


As the buzzing of the Fringe Bees is felt more and more in the air, I met with Luigi Buffone, first-time director and producer who is putting on his original play, Leave the Therapy, Take the Cannoli, playing at this year’s St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Here is all you need to know about this play that will serve you humor, Italian-ness, and cannoli!


[QDF] Tell us about Leave the Therapy Take the Cannoli.

[Luigi] The play is very simple. It’s about an Italian family that has issues, and they decide to work them out by going to therapy. They are a little bit hesitant because they never went to therapy before, and Sal one of the sons convinces his family to go to family therapy. The whole show is about them going to three different sessions of therapy where a lot of things come up in discussions that usually is never mentioned between the Family. They also all work together at their family business, a restaurant, which is why they have a lot of fights.


[QDF] Tell us about the title and why you chose it?

[Luigi] First of all, Italians are all about  food. The idea for the title came from the movie “The Godfather”  during one of the scenes …”Leave the gun take the cannoli”.  In times of stress what better way to relieve it but by eating…..“Leave the Therapy . Take the Cannoli”.  Food solves anything.


[QDF] Great, now tell us about your journey from the conception of the play to today, being featured at the Festival?

[Luigi] This is a play that I have been thinking about writing for a long time. Although I am not a writer, I had this idea for the longest time, and I just found the concept of having an Italian family going to therapy funny. I can see my own family going there and imagine what could be said. Since I am not a writer, I asked my friend Natalie Darbyson to come and help me write it.   I gave her the idea and what I wanted in the play, and she put everything together and more.   Alex Haber who also contributed to the script suggested to try out at the Fringe festival.  I had been once before and thought it would be a great opportunity. We submitted the play  in the fringe lottery and were lucky enough to get in. It has been a great process since; everything is going well.


[QDF] You mention you had this idea for a long time. How did you come up with it? Is it somewhat autobiographical?

[Luigi] Although my family never went to therapy, there is a lot of things in there that come from my own experience. Let me give you an example. The father character, after the therapist asks him about his first arrival to Canada, tells pretty much the same experience as the one my father went through. There is also the character of one of the brother who is an actor, which is what I do. Therefore, there is a little bit of me and my family in the story. I just wanted to have fun with this story and I thought it would be a good thing to show little elements like those ones that people would find interesting. I also thought the whole concept of Italians would be funny. Old world Italians solve their problems by eating, not talking.


[QDF] So, it is your first time producing and participating at the Fringe. Tell us how does it make you feel?

[Luigi] It’s been great. I didn’t know really what was going to happen, and it’s been very, very exciting. Everybody in the cast is very excited. The Fringe team has been super helpful. I really like the way they help the artist go through whatever you need to go through. For example, I have been to all the workshops, which are very helpful as they really take the time to show people how best to prepare and to give advice.


[QDF] Would you say the Festival is a safe and support environment to participate in?

[Luigi] Yes, especially for me. Putting on a show through the festival is a big thing because we get a lot of exposure, and I get to be guided- that’s what I like. I learned things that I never would have thought I could do.


[QDF] Being part of this festival, is there any event you are most looking forward to?

[Luigi]On the days we won’t have a show, I want to walk around and see plays that looked interesting from the program and see what other artists are doing. There is so many events I want to go to that are not only plays, for example the air guitar event seems really fun.


[QDF] How do you feel about directing as a first time director?

[Luigi] I definitely enjoy it. It’s great because I can see my vision being brought to life by these fantastic actors. The only thing I would say is that I am kind a little jealous. (laughs) I would like to jump in with everybody so maybe in the future I can add another character, but I really enjoyed directing. It’s really fun to create something with a great people.


[QDF] What are your hopes for the play in the future?

[Luigi] We have many plans! I want to first of all perform the play in different venues across town.  Now that I become close to Mainline, we will definitely try to perform it there. Also, being part of the Fringe brought me close with other artists, so maybe we can partner up and do a double bill event with another short play. We are also working on translating the play in French: it could be funny and reach another market. We plan to play it not only in Montreal, maybe on the South-Shore and other outskirts of Montreal in places where they don’t have theatre, maybe tour a little bit. It’s definitely not going to be put to rest after the festival is over.


[QDF] Great, so you’ll keep busy. What’s your feeling like today, are you excited?

[Luigi] Very excited.Everyday,  I wake up feeling good. My wife always says that whenever I do something, I tend to be quickly consumed by it, and this is what’s happening. (laughs)


[QDF] Great, you look excited, which is great to see! Any last note you want to share with us?

[Luigi] This has been a great experience. It’s been very fun and heartwarming. It is not just a comedy; there is a lot of themes in the play I think people are going to enjoy. I also want to mention to any artists out there, is that I strongly suggest participating in the next Fringe because it’s a great and helpful experience that isn’t threatening at all. It is very inspiring.  They make it easy for us to have a great experience.


I can feel Luigi’s excitement to showcase the hard work of him and his actors on the stage of the Fringe this week, and it is heartwarming to see the sparkles in his eyes. Thank you to Luigi for taking the time to meet with the QDF and share some insights of Leave the Therapy Take the Cannoli and his experience at the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. Find out more about the play here.

#fringebuzz: A Philosophical Farce with Donna Byrne and Irene Saharov of The Meditations of Guido Kowalski

By Caleigh Crow

For some directors, the thought of having the playwright in the room is less than ideal. Donna Byrne, director of The Meditations of Guido Kowalski, admits, “I prefer to work with dead playwrights,” but in this instance, having playwright Irene Saharov in the room is a boon to the production, allowing the ensemble to take full ownership over their characters, checking in with Irene along the way.

“When I see the play being performed, I stop thinking of it as mine; it becomes ours. Everybody contributes something to it, different nuances, I have no problems with changing lines or throwing them out,” Irene laughs, “throwing out my babies! It’s a fun collaborative effort.” Irene and Donna are comfortable with this approach because they credit their actors for their hard work getting into character. “The actors bring some interesting takes on the characters. They’ve developed the characters right before our eyes,” Donna explains. “The other day Adam Recine, who plays Guido Kowalski, came out with this Italian phrase out of the blue, and it worked beautifully.” Donna turns to Irene, “Mark it down, Irene. We’re keeping that!”

“They all bring something to it, which is fun,” Irene adds.

“They do have that freedom to develop it. There’s a comfort zone,” says Donna. “They have a special degree of freedom because Irene, being the playwright, is right there, so they can just ask.”

This is Irene’s second play, and her first play in the St. Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival, and she was thrilled to be selected. She met Donna through a mutual friend before the results of the lottery, but knew right away she wanted Donna on board. Donna explains, “Irene showed me her script and said that she’d be submitting it into the FRINGE, and it was lucky enough to be picked, then she came knocking on my door-”

“I was banging on the door,” Irene begs, “Donna please!”

Donna laughs, “Don’t worry, Irene!”

“She said, well I’m going to check the website to see if it’s there!” The three of us share a laugh.

Irene was compelled to write, as so many writers are, by hardships and friendship. After a very trying year, Irene was “in a state of shock” when a friend asked her a question that stuck in Irene’s head: “Why do you think God is doing this to you?” What a question, and an age-old one at that. The audience navigates this complex quandary through Guido, a barkeep with regular people having regular crises such as bank foreclosures, cheating spouses, and burned down houses. “So, I wrote a comedy about all these weird people and bad things happen to them. It’s a philosophical farce. Guido tries to understand, tries to explain why bad things happen to these people,” Irene says. “One character who’s into numerology tires to explain using numerology. Guido talks about what he remembers from philosophy 101, which of course he mangles, and he quotes Father Silvio, who his mother used to invite for dinner, to try and explain from a Christian perspective.”

For Irene, being present at rehearsals has been an invaluable learning experience for her as a playwright, and she’s grateful to have Donna’s experience to fall back on. Donna relates a story about Irene filling in for an absent performer. Irene says she “would have been embarrassed in another group, but after so many rehearsals you’re just part of a family.” The experience informed Irene’s writing, as Irene was required to have a prop drink while she was reading lines, and realised that every item she writes into a play has a ripple effect through the production. Someone has to find the right prop, the actor has to use it at the right time and in the right way, but for the playwright, it was just a glass. “It’s much more complicated than I thought!” Irene says.

The Mediations of Guido Kowalski runs from June 8th – 18th at Mission Santa Cruz. For tickets and more information please click here.

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