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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 But now, “gay pride” has been superseded by broader societal forces.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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© Burke Campbell 252 - Trojan ManPhotos by Burke Campbell


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© Burke Campbell 008 - Rosemary Doyle 2016

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!


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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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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:

This link has times and dates:

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


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Cast of the Musical Faust in Barrie, Ontario. Opening Night. Photo by Burke Campbell

FAUST is the epic tale of a man drawn into a deal with the devil, a pact that affects not only the character Faust, but others as well. In this production, FAUST premieres as a musical, one that demands a discerning audience.

The drama itself, written by the great German playwright Goethe, and published in the early 19th century, is often difficult for those accustomed to plays with lots of action and complicated plots. Staged by Theatre By the Bay, at the Mady Centre for the Performing Arts in Barrie, Ontario, this FAUST demands an audience that’s looking to enjoy a classical drama, staged with daring, and embellished with rapturous music and near miraculous singing.

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Iain Moggach (General Manager, Theatre by the Bay), Jeannette Lambermont-Morey (director), and Alex Dault (Producer and Assistant Director).

As a play, FAUST has a thoughtful, and deliberate pace. At the same time, set to music, it gains momentum, quickened by composer Leslie Arden‘s score that sparkles darkly. In fact, Arden’s music lifts and carries us on a lush wave of sound coming from a live orchestra and the wondrous voices of the actors.

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Alessandro Costantini, Jake Deeth, and Leslie Arden at Faust opening. Photo by Burke Campbell

Jeannette Lambermont-Morey‘s directing is always engaging, but it’s a director’s job to assemble the best actor available, and in this, her work is particularly outstanding. It’s this small and dazzling collection of actors that really give this show its resonance.

In the lead, Sean Hauk is a strong Faust, brooding, desperate, and all too ripe for a devil’s picking.  Jake Deeth as Mephistopheles is a delicious and puckish rogue, a devil so devious, you want to cheer for evil. Certain actors like Michael Dufays and Alessandro Costantini are so gifted, they could change flat tires on stage and it would appear as a revelation. Christina Gordon is a treat to watch. Like most of the cast, she plays multiple roles, including an old witch, as does the fabulous Kate EtienneGab Desmond is given one of the best scenes in which he plays Gretchen’s brother, a soldier who seeks revenge on Faust for the ruin of his sister. And Faust’s love interest, Gretchen, is played with sweet pathos by Priscilla Taylor. In the closing moments of the work, Taylor brilliantly delivers a harrowing tale that easily rivals Ophelia’s mad speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s astonishing that one can even assemble actors of this calibre who also happen to sing like angels.

This classical play at first appears to be what is now a stereotypical plot about a man making a wager with the Satan. But really, this production is more about Faust’s innocent lover, Gretchen. Her trust in Faust’s love moves her, and the whole work, into the realm of high tragedy.

Time and again, the drama displays evil’s collateral damage, that lies all around Faust’s self-indulgence. In this, the drama is really very contemporary. In the character of Faust, we see a man, an intellectual and a narcissist, trying to recapture the innocent pleasure and openness he once felt. Instead, his own self-involvement wrecks the world around him. Faust seeks to retrieve the lost feelings of his youth without ever really connecting emotionally with the people who surrounds him. In a sense, he’s a truly modern character. People exist solely for his purposes, and they nourish his famished soul. But Faust is ultimately trapped in the lonely hell of his own ego. As the story progresses, we see Faust turns out to be a kind of emotional vampire who feeds, but is never truly sated. He’s a human version of what caused Satan’s fall from heaven. Lucifer came to feel he was more beautiful than God, and became the victim of his own corrosive vanity. Separated forever from God’s love, the dark angel’s existence became a devouring of the lives of others.

This production of FAUST has received thoughtful media coverage, including a large review by Kelly Nestruck in the Globe and Mail.  And producer Alex Dault was interviewed on radio by veteran announcer Bill Anderson on Classical 96.3 (part of Moses Znaimer’s ZoomerMedia umbrella). It’s really a shame there are such limited number of performances of this extraordinary theatrical offering.

It should be remembered that Theatre by the Bay took great risks in staging such an ambitious project. Those who worked on it created effective set and costumes. However, this type of production craves more opulence. I hope it will be re-staged, and in a grander manner. Barrie, Ontario, isn’t a little town any more, and it can well afford larger budgets for this level of work. And with this kind of talent about, it could easily make culture one of the city’s big drawing cards. Staging shows like FAUST would signal a new maturity in the centre’s development.


All photos by Burke Campbell. Opening night of Faust in Barrie, Ontario.


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A short jaunt from Toronto, in Barrie, Ontario, Theatre by the Bay marks its fifteenth anniversary with a world premiere of the great classical work, Goethe’s Faust. Radically transformed, the work is now presented as a rich musical with original score by acclaimed composer Leslie Arden. Faust will be playing at The Mady Centre, 1 Dunlop Street West, Barrie, Ontario, from July 5 to 16, 2016. Press Opening is Friday May 8, 2016 at 8:00 pm.

Faust is the story of a man, seduced into signing a pact with the Devil. This signature in blood throws open the doors on a panoramic view of a man’s terrifying fall into Evil’s cruel hand. This impressive undertaking has attracted some of the finest talents in the country.

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Jeannette Lambermont-Morey (l) and Leslie Arden (right)

Jeannette Lambermont-Morey, a seasoned veteran of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and other key theatres across North America, will direct. Fascinated by the play for years, she observes, “Goethe himself obviously heard music when he wrote it. In fact, there are many places in the text that call for music.” Further, she notes, “The epic scale of the piece suggests lush orchestrations.”  For this task, the director called on the gifted composer Leslie Arden to create original music for the production. It’s Arden who’s added a sophisticated, all-encompassing score, having written many of her own award-winning musicals as well as train with the musical mastermind Stephen Sondheim.

The high-calibre production will showcase an all-star cast, featuring many of the finest actors in Canada including Sean Hauk, starring as Faust, and Mike Dufays. Faust also stars Jake Deeth and Priscilla Taylor, in the roles of Mephistopheles, the devil, and Gretchen, Faust’s love interest.

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Alex Dault, Artistic Director of Theatre by the Bay, Barrie, Ontario

This rare musical treat is produced by Alex Dault and Theatre by the Bay. Dault, the Artistic Director of TBTB, understands this to be a major step for Barrie’s entertainment scene. “Faust isn’t your average bouncy musical. It’s a dark drama, filled with humour, wit and life, and now infused with brilliant and glorious music sung by some of the most sublime voices around. It’s going to be a unique experience and I believe it’s a show that will please audiences and critics alike.”

 Personally, I feel this is going to be a significant event in the history of Canadian theatre and in musical theatre in general. While the more high-profile, influential theatres play it safe re-staging pop musicals or those based on hit movies, Theatre By the Bay has ventured to present a complex drama illustrated by audacious music. Those who enjoy, love, and value theatre must see this one!


Theatre By The Bay presents Faust

Previewing July 5,6,7, Press Opening July 8 and playing until July 16, 2016

The Mady Centre for the Performing Arts 1 Dunlp Street West, Barrie, Ontario


Ticket Prices $25-$33.00; Available through Box Office (705) 739-4228 at or

Tuesday – Saturday at 8:00pm; Sunday at 2:00pm

Company Website



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