York theatre students are Telling Tales downtown

Undergraduate theatre students in Professor Judith Rudakoff’s playwriting class have been invited to reprise performances of short monologues they created last semester, at two public events in downtown Toronto.

These short works were originally devised for Telling Tales Out of School, an event presented last month in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre at York. Set mostly in an urban landscape – perhaps Toronto? – the two- to five-minute monologues offered glimpses into the inner worlds of an intriguing cast of characters, from smokers and sommeliers to salesmen and sinners.

Left: Judith Rudakoff

An annual project in the Theatre Studies Program, Telling Tales was conceived by Rudakoff as an experiential way to teach York’s up-and-coming playwrights and dramaturges about character development.

“The students interview theatre professionals for inspiration,” says Rudakoff. “They use the characteristics, quirks and proclivities of their interview subject as a creative springboard. The essence of the subject is filtered through the playwright’s perspective, and out of this hybrid gaze, new characters emerge.”

Each monologue goes through a series of drafts, evolving with feedback from Rudakoff and her dramaturgy students, who help the playwrights hone the characters they are developing and ultimately performing. 

York’s young theatre artists will bring their tales to new audiences at Well and Good at 52 McCaul on Jan. 24 and at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on Feb. 12.

“This is a great example of York student work having a ‘second life’ and making inroads into the downtown arts community,” says Rudakoff.

Twenty-two students will be participating in the show at Well and Good’s new arts hub, named after its location at 52 McCaul St., just around the corner from the Art Gallery of Ontario. Owned and operated by Lisa Martin and Steve Ferrara of the grassroots arts advocacy organization Well and Good, the gallery is a resource centre for artists and arts enthusiasts, and features primarily street-inspired art.

Rudakoff saw 52’s intimate, flexible space as an ideal venue for her students’ work and, as Martin described it, “Things snowballed from there.”

“The collaboration has been like a dream,” says Martin. “Our mandate is to bring arts and culture to a wider audience and to encourage people to make it an ongoing, regular part of their lives. As an arts service organization, we’re always looking to make connections and facilitate fun ideas, and this project has been all of that and more.”

Telling Tales Out of School starts at 2pm on Jan. 24. To help spread the word and give audiences a taste of what the show is about, student Dan Vena created a YouTube video:

Four of the Tale-tellers – Evan Vipond, Michael Lyons, Chris Michael Burns and Rain Chan – have been invited to perform their pieces at the Keith Cole Experience at Buddies in Bad Times, located at 12 Alexander St. Cole (BA Hons. ’89), an alumnus of York’s Fine Arts Cultural Studies Program and a well-known local performance artist, has a regular gig at Buddies on the second Friday of every month. He describes the evening as “a delicious selection of Toronto’s most fabulous performers and a few slices of my own life, with sexy results guaranteed.”

Cole was interviewed by Chan for Telling Tales. He selected the other playwright-performers based on the individuals they interviewed, whom he numbers among “Toronto theatre’s most glitterati”: playwright, performer and writer Sky Gilbert (BA ’77) , a York theatre alumnus who was the founding artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times; songwriter, poet, performer and ironic social commentator Evalyn Parry; and director and dramaturge Iris Turcott. The Buddies show takes place at 11:15pm on Feb. 12.

“This is an extraordinary example of emerging artists moving fluidly from the protective and nurturing cocoon of the academy into the world of the profession,” says Rudakoff. “It’s never a seamless transition from being a student to working as an artist, but projects like this offer students at the pre-professional level the opportunity to shift those gears and test the waters.”