MALE BONDING IN THE ATTIC

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Simon Mizera (left) and Michael-David Blostein in Itamar Moses’ The Four of Us.           Photo by Burke Campbell

 

One of the reasons I like going to the Attic Arts Hub is the total experience. It’s in Leslieville, one of Toronto’s nicest neighbourhood, bespeckled with shops and restaurants and pubs, like The Roy Public House. The Attic Arts Hub is itself located above a wonderful restaurant, The Queen Margherita Pizza. So you could enjoy a great dinner there, and also see a play. The Attic is such a lovely space, with a tent like wooden ceiling. The whole room has a lovely warmth to it. It seems to embrace you and make you feel welcome, no matter the season.

On the weekend, I went to see the Attic’s latest offering, The Four of Us, by American playwright Itamar Moses, produced in Toronto by Foxglove Theatre. In The Four of Us, we see, primarily, Simon Mizera (as David) and Michael-David Blostein (as Benjamin), two writers at various stages of their friendship. Mostly, the action centres around David trying to deal with Benjamin’s early and incredible success. The whole play is a study of their relationship.

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Director Samantha Holland. Photo by Burke Campbell.

The work is very well directed by Samantha Holland. I find this interesting as Holland is a woman, and this is an all-male play, including  Chistropher Fulton and Mike Ruderman. Historically, most theatre directors have been men, but there has been a steady rise in the number of females, and the results in this case are very good.

As the leads, Simon Mizera and Michael-David Blostein are engaging actors, and I for one hope to see them in other works. In fact, the main reservations I have about this production is  the text itself. The play lacks any real danger or conflict. Conflict is the life blood of drama, even if it’s all just under the surface. But Itamar Moses doesn’t really write that well. In fact, Canadian playwright Kat Sandler can conjure male characters who exhibit far greater vitality and intimacy. But again, the director, the actors, and overall viewing is well worth the experience. In particular, there is something malevolent and mysterious about Michael-David Blostein. I have a hunch one day he’s going to pop up a villain in a famous yet-to-be-written film. Or perhaps as a saint who suffers martyrdom with exceptional bravery. One doesn’t just go to a play to watch what’s on stage. A play is also an appetizer for the imagination.

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I could get into trouble for saying this but everyone even remotely associated with this production is pleasing to the eye. Is it wrong to admire male and female beauty? Note to myself: I should say more about why there are four cast members for what is really a two-character play, but I won’t. I feel that’s part of the mystery or secret of the play. And there ought to be things you must judge for yourself.

Location:

The Attic Arts Hub, 1402 Queen St. East

Ticket Prices:

$20; Available through eventbrite.com or at the door

Performances:

September 17 to 26, 2016.

Saturday-Sunday at 8:00 pm (matinee at 2pm on Sun Sept 25); Industry Night Monday 26 at 8:00 pm.

What Others Have Said About This Play:

Reviews from past productions of The Four of Us: Four stars. An extremely clever and enjoyable study of friendship…funny, touching, and wickedly smart. – Time Out New York. A clever comic drama with a nifty twist…a touching, appealing play. – The New York Times. A smart, sharply observed, and exceptionally enjoyable affair. 90 minutes of humor and painful truths that really zip along. – Chicago Tribune.

The Four of Us is produced by Šimon Mizera. The design team for the production includes David Costello (lights), Andy Lajeunesse (sound), Isaac Robinson (set), Zuzana Benesova (graphics) and Tomas Andel (composer). The stage manager is John Murphy.

All photos by Burke Campbell

 

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MASTER TAILOR

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Vincent Custom Tailoring

A lot of times, you buy an outfit that requires quality alterations. Or, you own clothing that needs taking in or letting out, re-styling, or repair.

You might even want a custom-made suit, dress, or other apparel.

Vincent Custom Tailoring

Whatever you need, I’d just like to recommend Vincent Custom Tailoring, centrally located at Yonge and College in downtown Toronto. Vincent is a master tailor, someone who can make, mend, or alter anything having to do with fabric. There’s no one better. He’s at 2 College Street West, Unit 107. Telephone: 416-921-5294.

Fall is coming and your wardrobe probably needs an update. Please save this posting for when you’ll need it.

Vincent Custom Tailoring

Vincent Custom Tailoring

Location:

2 College Street West

 Map to Vincent Custom Tailoring:

https://www.google.ca/maps/place/2+College+Street+West/@43.6613039,-79.3834452,3a,75y,348.07h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m4!1sXGfWJS58h_IbkZoIO4KlLg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x8dc6f096d19ecb8f!6m1!1e1

All photos by Burke Campbell

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WHEN THE WHEELS FALL OFF THE LANDAU CARRIAGE

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MILF LIFE CRISIS, written and performed by Anne Marie Scheffler, is a comic romp through the stress of a woman, with children, getting a divorce. Appearing alone on stage, Scheffler becomes the husband who rejects her, her various girlfriends, and the numerous characters she meets as she seeks to find sex after marriage.  MILF is frank and funny, and as the show goes on, it becomes an interesting snapshot of a society where divorce is increasing commonplace, as male and female roles change dramatically.

MILF appears inspired by Scheffler’s own life experience, at least that’s the impression we get. What starts as her desire to fulfill her career ambition, along with her husband’s symbolic gesture of buying a king-size bed, triggers the process of marriage derailment. As in any relationship, what people say and what is actually going on may be two different things, and one does wonder how much most couples really talk to each other. Or listen. But whatever the reason for divorce, the aftermath is often a dark comedy.

If anyone has ever tried “dating”, it’s pure torture. You go to bars, you go to events, you go anywhere you might meet another person searching for love or carnal engagement. And a divorced woman looking for sex has to re-learn all the rules of this mindless game. Also, with modern phone apps, there are thousands of men looking for sex with women round the clock, with pictures and profiles, and this adds endless opportunities.

But do such relationships end in one-night stands or evolve into those of depth and endurance? That is the question. Anne Marie Scheffler doesn’t offer answers. What she does offer is a lot of zany fun and observations, and the audience has a very good time.

Personally, I like going to the Red Sandcastle Theatre. You can drop by, buy a ticket, and be thoroughly entertained for over an hour, and come out feeling great. Leslieville is a wonderful neighborhood, too, where one can have dinner or drinks at fine places like The Roy Public House or Braised. MILF Life Crisis is perfect for this weather, too. It’s light, sunny, and full of laughs. Actually, it’s a great date play. You can make it super interesting by inviting your “ex”. (hehehe).

MILF doesn’t run very long, so go now.

Tickets:

Red Sandcastle Theatre

http://redsandcastletheatre.com/

922 Queen Street East

 

Posted in actors, Canada, comedy, culture, Entertainment, Ontario, Theatre, Toronto, tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

PRIDE IN TRANSITION

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I’m late in posting about Pride Toronto. But, you know, it’s never late to share a good thing, is it?

This year, 2016, Pride Toronto was mostly wonderful. I personally encountered nothing but good cheer. And the police did a tremendous job of keeping us all safe.

Pride Toronto is no longer an exclusive “gay” affair.  It’s grown so vast, so inclusive, and so much fun, folks of every age, gender, and sexual persuasion attend. Gays, straights; teens and grown-ups fill the downtown to overflowing. While Pride had its start in the gay liberation movement, by now, the event has evolved into a massive public Mardi Gras, where free expression reigns. All sexual persuasions  mingle freely, and have a ball.  It’s totally pagan!

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While I photograph people during Pride Week, I really enjoy the last day. I tend to avoid the huge parade down Yonge Street, and focus on the smaller crowds that fill nearby Church Street. On Church, it’s far easier to move about, approach people, chat, and take pictures.

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© Burke Campbell 088 - we open beer bottlesDecades back, Pride Toronto was a political celebration focused primarily on promoting gay rights. But now, “gay pride” has been superseded by broader societal forces.  Sex, once viewed as a “sacrament” reserved for marriage and procreation is seen more by a younger generation as a biological fact.  Sex is just one of humanity’s normal appetites. And as people in general become less repressed about sex, and less fearful of it, gay sex seems a natural part of  humankind’s wider sexual spectrum.

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Gay liberation is a by-product of urbanization. When gays began moving into cities in numbers, they had to create places where they could find each other. In Toronto, gays congregated in the downtown area, and throughout the 1990s, a visible gay village emerged on Church Street, full of shops, restaurants, bathhouses and bars. This density of gays gave rise to a community with political clout, one that could push for protection under the law. But in recent history, something of even greater significance has unfolded. The Internet has increasingly diminished the role of “location” and now, gays can get in touch anytime, anywhere, no matter where they live.  New technologies such as iPhones, online websites and apps like Grindr, make it easy for gays to locate each other, match up interests, and make contact directly.  Today, in Toronto, gays live all over the city and work in every profession, openly. This new freedom and mobility has faded the need of living in a protective “ghetto”.

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But the great success of Pride has led it directly into precarious waters. Years back, Pride started as a small festival to promote specifically gay causes. At present, Pride has grown so large, attracting thousands of tourists and millions of dollars, it has become an essential component of Toronto’s tourism industry. Tourists, however, come for a good time, not to find themselves entering a political firestorm. And because Pride attracts extraordinary coverage, in every media, this means any group can grab enormous attention simply by showing up and sharing kinship with the “gay oppression” of the past. All persecuted groups should show solidarity, right?

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So what goes up may well come down. The festival that began as a political movement may eventually sink in its own political legacy. Hopefully, those who organize and manage Pride can find solutions to what is clearly one of Toronto’s most high profile events.

 

Perhaps, as the larger society grows more comfortable with sex in general, human intimacy and sexual fantasy are things we can all celebrate and share.

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Posted in culture, Entertainment, Gay, PRIDE, Toronto, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CASTLE FULL OF MONKEYS

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Rosemary Doyle, Artistic Director of the Red Sandcastle Theatre opens the 4th Annual 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Festival.

 

I was thrilled to attended the 4th Annual 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Festival at the Red Sandcastle Theatre.  Each year, playwrights crowd into the little, perfect theatre, sitting around tables, typing up a storm, and devouring piles of gorgeous food. 24 hours later, each writer turns in play. The following day, the newly-minted scripts are print up, bound, and read by volunteer actors for an audience.

The 1000 Monkeys Festival is a great opportunity to be bold, daring, and  wildly creative. But it’s also an important social and networking venture. Many playwrights are turning into veterans simply by attending this annual all-nighter. This year was particularly interesting because of the mix of personalities, with writers ranging in age from 19 to nearly 70!

 

Did I mention the FOOD?  The Event is generously catered by first-rate supplies: The Roy Public House, Rashers (bacon as you have never tasted it!), Braised Restaurant & Bar, Leslieville Cheese Market & Fine Foods, and Ed’s Real Scoop. Believe me, the quality of the meals improves the quality of the scribbling. How could it not!

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Playwrights gather at 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event. Photo by Burke Campbell.

The 1000 Monkeys creates a unique ambiance.  Everyone is writing in the same room, and the round-the-clock comradery is wonderful. After the finish, the next day, works are then read for an audience in the same space. Over the years, several of the plays have been produced for the stage at Red Sandcastle. The whole affair is like working in a magic factory conjured out of one’s imagination!

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Rosemary Doyle, Artistic Director, Red Sandcastle Theatre. Photo by Burke Campbell

Artistic Director, Rosemary Doyle, founded The Red Sandcastle over 5 years ago. In that short time, the place has become an active player in Toronto’s independent theatre movement. In addition to producing its own plays, the theatre provides every service imaginable for professionals wishing to stage theatrical works.

During my marathon writing binge at the 1000 Monkey Event, I dashed off a very funny play called TOO FULL OF SURPRISES. And thanks to some amazing actors, the virgin reading of the work went very well. I plan to expand the comedy, and hopefully, it will enjoy a future production. After all, who doesn’t like to laugh?

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Actor/Playwright Joshua MacGregor. Photo by Burke Campbell

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Actor/Playwright Adam Bonney. Photo by Burke Campbell

A Few Playwrights - 2016 - 1000 Monkeys

Photo by David Fitzpatrick. A few of the “monkeys” at Red Sandcastle Theatre’s 4th Annual 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event.

Congratulations to all my fellow and beloved “monkeys”. The gods are with us!

http://redsandcastletheatre.com/

 

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ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH

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The god Dionysus, Patron of the Arts, blesses the 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Festival. Photo by Burke Campbell

Every year for the past three years, the Red Sandcastle Theatre, headed by Rosemary Doyle, has staged the 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Festival. Writers who have registered for the event gather at the theatre, and write for up to 24 hours, creating a plethora of new scripts. Food is provided for the playwrights by some of the finest restaurants in the Leslieville area. There are also mattresses so attendees can nap, if they wish.

The following day, the scripts are given a reading. Usually, one play is selected out of all the scripts and professionally produced at the Red Sandcastle.

I’ve attended all the events and I can tell you, they are SO MUCH FUN. What is really inspiring is that many accomplished actors show up and volunteer to read the scripts. It’s also a networking opportunity for many in theatre. The Red Sandcastle Theatre is now over 5 years old, and has become a pioneer and key player of the independent theatre movement.

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I urge all playwrights, producers, and theatre artists to come to the 4th Annual 1000 Monkeys Event, either to write or to help read the nicely-bound scripts (usually 20 – 30 of them).  The schedule is as follows:

The writing begins:

Friday, July 29, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Writing ends:

Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Scripts are read on:

Sunday evening, July 31 at 7:00 pm

and Monday afternoon, August 1, 2:00 pm

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Posted in actors, Canada, culture, Literary, Ontario, play writing, playwright, theater, Theatre, Toronto | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW YORK CITY ONLY

Jesse LaVercombe - portrait Photo by David Leyes

Actor/Playwright Jesse LaVercombe – Photo by David Leyes

Dear New Yorkers,

LOVE YOU FOREVER BILLY H TENDER opens in New York City at the fringe festival. If at all possible, please take in a real rising star, Jesse LaVercombe. Time and locations of performances are in the Vimeo video, so please watch it.

I think all of you in the Big Apple will hugely enjoy Jesse, his performance, and this, his play. He’s just another pretty face, with a whole LOT of talent. And the music is GREAT!

This link should get you all the current information on the show:

http://www.jesselavercombe.com/billy

This link has times and dates:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1254214347923197/?notif_t=plan_user_invited&notif_id=1469504440348105

And this is a link to my notes on the play when it premiered at VideoFag in Toronto, where it premiered.

https://burkecampbell.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/jesse-lavercombe/

 

Posted in arts, comedy, drama, Entertainment, Fringe NYC, Gay, New York City, theater | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment