York talent dominates independent theatre festival

The 2005 Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival, which celebrates independent theatre from across Canada and around the world, is awash with York talent – a testimony to the strength of York’s theatre program. An important stage for emerging talent, the festival presents a wealth of unexpected and unforgettable productions, chosen at random from hundreds of applications. Running until July 17, this year’s Fringe offers 134 new works with more than 1,000 performances in more than 25 venues.

The playbill features the following “Yorkies”:

Calipix Productions presents Les Mers Rouges by Liliane Atlan. Directed by York film instructor and Genie Award-winner Kalli Paakspuu, this postmodern epic spans 500 years from the Spanish inquisition to the Holocaust. Featuring Sephardic love songs, this layered story documents Atlan’s family history and portrays Jewish resistance. The production is an English world and Canadian premiere.

Bella Donna, a Some Strange Reason production by David Copelin, is directed by Sue Miner. This dark comedy, winner of the 2005 Fringe of Toronto’s New Play Award, is set in Renaissance Italy and revolves around the infamous Borgia family and its vengeful enemies. Amongst the cast members is theatre veteran Mimi Mekler (MFA ’82). 

Theatre LMNOP presents Bird’s Eye View by Mark Wallace, Amelie Lefebvre, Macarena Suazo and Cyndi Mason. Directed by Mark Wallace, the play was nominated for a 2005 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production in the Theatre for Young Audiences category. Inspired by the question, “What if there were no wild places left for birds to live?”, the production is about a remarkable assortment of feathered creatures who move to the Big City, get jobs and learn to live like humans. Ginette Mohr, a second-year student in York’s masters program in theatre, is one of the performers in this imaginative tale.

From York University’s Creative Ensemble program comes a compelling, quirky and perplexing piece of raw theatre, titled KD and the Bomb. Presented by Backburner Productions, the play is directed by York alumna Tanya Smith (MFA ‘03). Rounding out the cast are fourth-year theatre students Guy Doucette, Eric Hopkins and Kristina Schartmann and third-year theatre student Gabriel Shpilt.

Dark Deeds Theatre presents LaVicious, written and directed by Laura Roald. This new production is about three sisters and their unflinching desire for revenge. Designed and stage managed by fourth-year York theatre student Mariana Salazar, the play’s cast also includes York alumna Melanie Windle (MFA ‘00).

Serviced, scripted by York theatre instructor and alumnus Tony Berto (MFA 2003) and presented by Pencil-Neck Production, is co-directed by Judith Thompson and York alumnus Charles Roy (MFA ‘05). This is a play for every actor who has ever waited on tables, and all the waiters who act. Join wait staff Fifi, Able and Tag-along-Terry as they take on the night, searching for the rush, thrill and the chase of getting “serviced.” Fourth-year theatre student Justin Darmanin is a member of the cast.

Carey St. Theatre presents Thank You by York alumna Tanya Smith (MFA ‘03). Inspired in part by the powerful story of Oseola McCarty, this play tells the tale of an elderly African-American woman who graciously donates all of her savings to a university scholarship. The production explores the pervasive nature of appreciation, the ubiquitous confines of the word and the limitless complexion of the human heart.

Atomic Legion Theatre presents The Fall of Team Justice by York alumnus Luis Fernandes (BFA ‘05), with Brendan Wikland and Ben Fifield. Directed by Fernandes, this play brings comic book heroes to life through visual art, music, film and animation segments interlaced with live stage action. The play is stage managed by fourth-year York theatre student Jessie Shearer.

The Hunt for Treasure by Adam Risbridger and York alumnus Byron Laviolette (BA ‘04) is a Théâtre du Refusé presentation directed by Elenna Mosoff. This fresh new comedy tells the tale of the myriad of misadventures of two adolescent boys as they search for treasure, both underground and within themselves. The production has enjoyed successful tours in both the London and Hamilton Fringes, where it received the Best of Venue awards.

Broken Dog Productions presents Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill. Directed by York alumnus Christopher Brauer (MFA ‘94), this play looks at self-obsession and the loneliness of love through three dysfunctional couples who are stuck on an absurd merry-go-round of destructive habits. “The result is a series of scenes that are little dramatic pressure cookers, layered with emotional subtext,” wrote NOW magazine.

Finally, The Rude Mechanicals in The Mechanical Mystery Tour!, a Rapier Wit production by The Rude Mechanical Ensemble, is directed by alumnus Daniel Levinson (BFA ’91).The play offers a swashbuckling slapstick extravaganza, featuring sword-fighting, singing and skilled physical acts of foolishness. Levinson is also part of the cast.

Visit the 2005 Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival Web site for more information on the productions, including a full schedule of dates, times and venues.  

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.