OPERUS RISING

 

© Burke Campbell 009

(Left to Right)
Oscar Rangel (guitar/backing vocals)
Wojciech Sokolowski (bass/backing vocals)    David Michael Moote (vocals)                                                     Robin Howe (cello/backing vocals)
Rob Holden (guitar)
J. J. Tartaglia (drums)

OPERUS could never be considered ordinary. All of its musicians are highly trained, exceptional in their individual talents. The band merges a melodic, symphonic sound with the aggressive drive of metal, embellished with soaring, often haunted vocals.  Key members have knowledge of theatre and performance, and to see OPERUS live on stage, straight up, is electrifying. The band knows all the rules; how to break them all to hell.

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In Cenotaph, the Operus creates a forceful symphony, full of stories, rather like fairy tales, epic in scope.

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The album contains finely controlled music, and lyrics that echo the inner life of those who have conquered, suffered exile, known war, travelled distant lands, found love, and felt its desolation. The songs can be interpreted in many ways, from many different angles. The complex album seems to lie outside of any given epoch or era.

The project began in 2009, as Oscar Rangel’s sought to create new compositions, evading the limits of any particular catagory. From then on, the work morphed in many ways, finally evolving into Cenotaph. For almost a decade, the band added and subtracted core members, until, at present, these men comprise Operus:

David Michael Moote (vocals)
Oscar Rangel (guitar/backing vocals)
Wojciech Sokolowski (bass/backing vocals)
Rob Holden (guitar)
Robin Howe (cello/backing vocals)
J. J. Tartaglia (drums)

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The album is released worldwide on October 13, 2017 via Dark Star Records in Association with MVD Entertainment and Sony Music.
Get an idea of the music here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju8bfD6jaL4

 

Premiere performance in Toronto:

https://www.facebook.com/Epic.Operus/photos/gm.1915270505412262/1233921590086301/?type=3&theater

OPERUS THE BAND

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All photos by Burke Campbell

 

Posted in actors, Canada, culture, Entertainment, Music, music bands, Ontario, pop, Theatre, Toronto, tourism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

SPAGHETTI HITS THE FAN

 

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The Spaghetti Show, Toronto, 2017. Photo by Burke Campbell

 

This week, I made my first visit to The Spaghetti Variety Show, a recurring event, staged by Joel Edmiston and his comrades-in-comedy, stand-up comics and actors. The Spaghetti Variety Show is fast developing a cult following and I can understand why. There is something addictive about watching this theatrical lunacy. The show pulls in a young, smart, attractive crowd.

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Sitting in a basement theatre, in trendy Kensington Market, the stage has the look of studied wreckage. A curtain made entirely of cut up garbage bags, held together with duct tape, veils the backstage area. Plastic sheeting covers the stage to protect it from piles of food that will be thrown or rolled around in. The Spaghetti Variety Show is a kind of frat house drama with possible fetishistic overtones, something like a toga party, but without all the bother. For the record, only the audience knows for sure. All I can say is the place was packed.

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On stage, there is free-flowing lineup of stand-up comic acts. The routines are often interrupted, challenged, and merged with another, free-wheeling drama, enacted by a fabulous cast of characters.

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For this show, the separate and parallel storyline had something to do with a mad-shirtless-scientist creating a raccoon with human emotions, a barefoot robot, and Joel Edmiston’s crisis with his golf instructor. The instructor is having a breakdown over his parent’s forthcoming divorce. His mother develops a crush on raccoon-man and the father seems to secretly lust for Joel. I’m not sure I got any of this right, but that really isn’t the point. I mean, it’s hard to concentrate on details when people are enveloped in food. (The costumes have to be seen to be believed.)

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Somehow, all of these antics are funny as hell, and I couldn’t stop laughing. When I first heard about this event, I actually feared going because randomly silly entertainment can rapidly wear thin. But there is something in the very bones of this enterprise that makes for mad fun. The Spaghetti Variety Show makes you feel great, and there is a marvellous after-glow, too. You think, “Wow. I was right. Adulthood is for suckers!”

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Overall, all the stand-ups and actors are terrific, but Joel Edmiston is a great impresario and one could imagine him doing a late-night show. He just LOVES doing this stuff and it shows. The next Spaghetti Variety Show is scheduled for October 14, so don’t miss it.

 


I am just praying next time they do a shirtless spaghetti wresting match, with primavera sauce. So good!

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Cast of The Spaghetti Variety Show:

Performers:
Cassidy Furman
Alex Montagnese
Alex Allan
James Kenny
Ben Siapas
Keagan Moore
Rob Davies
Jordan Laffrenier

Comics:
Merv Hartlen
Tamara Appleton
Camille Côté
Clare Belford
Ashley Moffat

All photos by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in actors, comedy, culture, Entertainment, theater, Theatre, Toronto, tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NEW CULT TEXAS COMEDY

 

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Adam Bonney and Rosemary Doyle in Burke Campbell’s dark comedy The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

I wrote my dark, outrageous comedy, The Lady in Shoes from Hell about 30 years ago. But it was not until I showed it to Rosemary Doyle, the Artistic Director of the Red Sandcastle Theatre, was the work to be fully realized, and imaginatively presented.
The Lady in Shoes from Hell is a Texas tale—simple, diabolical, and sexually impure.

 

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Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney in The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

It’s the 1950s. While working in a West Texas cafe, located on the side of a desolate highway, a waitress doesn’t like her tip, kills a cowboy, steals his truck, and speeds off on a wild killing spree that decimates the male population of three states. But this is no ordinary serial killer. In the newly-born atomic age, Thelma is a woman awash in a high-octane obsession, on a sensational journey that takes her to the heart of quantum physics, wrenching apart the forces that bind human love. And that’s even before the audience is properly seated!

 

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Adam Bonney and Rosemary Doyle in The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

In The Lady in Shoes from Hell, wit flies like bullets, and the stage is filled with indecent sex scenes, deadly car chases, graphic lingerie and suggestive footwear that illustrate human depravity. This is a comedy with no brakes.

 

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Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney in The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

The set—all modular pieces—permits nimble changes in locations, morphing the stage from a restaurant, to bus station, to a hotel room, and into a car racing down the night road, complete with overhead projections. Collectively, those watching the show react like kids on a joyride, cheering at the end of each scene!
Actors Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney, and director Robin Haggerty, captured the play’s comic frenzy.

 

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Rosemary Doyle in The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

The Lady in Shoes from Hell is a true “cult drama” with unforgettable characters, compulsions, and bizarre encounters. Hopefully, this play will find its proper home in a small New York City theatre, off-off-off Broadway, where it can run for a hundred years, like other beloved cult classics such as Lesbian Vampires of Sodom or The Rocky Horror Show.

 

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Audience at a performance of The Lady in Shoes from Hell

 

Mooney on Theatre Review:
https://www.mooneyontheatre.com/2017/06/14/review-the-lady-in-shoes-from-hell-shoe-fits-productions/
All photos by Burke Campbell
All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Canada, comedy, Entertainment, New York City, Ontario, playwright, Theatre, Toronto, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

COMING UP SOON !

© Burke Campbell 008 - Rosemary Doyle 2016
Coming Up Soon — The 5th Annual 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event – 2017

Five years ago, I arrived for the first-ever 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. Convened by the theatre’s Artistic Director, Rosemary Doyle, the event invited registered writers to converge on the theatre, laptops in hand. Settling in for the next 24 hours, we each create a play. Even more exciting, all the plays are given a reading, the following day(s).

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This year, The 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event begins: August 4, Friday, 6:00 pm and runs until August 5, Saturday, 6:00 pm.

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Readings of the newly minted scripts will then be read on August 6, Sunday at 7:00 pm and on August 7, at 2:00 pm. (Actors, please volunteer for this momentous event!)

To keep the playwrights energized, the theatre itself provides mountains of delicious food, all donated by local restaurants. And boy is it good! All of it comes from Leslieville’s finest like The Roy Public House and Braised, and a number of other places. Ed’s Real Scoop provides Internet connectivity to the playwrights. (see links at end)

I had so much fun the first time, I just kept signing up. I created, in this order, these four plays:
1) Perilous Gossip – 2013
2) Beyond Belief – 2014 (which received a full production, 2015, at the Red Sandcastle)
3) The Wooden Sword – 2015
4) Too Many Surprises – 2016
5) ??? (to be created) – 2017

I urge fellow writers and would-be writers to attend. And actors, please volunteer for the script readings. It’s so much fun !

http://redsandcastletheatre.com/

Contributors and supporters of the Event:

Braised Restaurant and Bar
http://www.braised.ca/

The Roy Public House
http://theroy.ca/

Ed’s Real Scoop (Leslieville)
https://www.edsrealscoop.com/

© copyright by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

Posted in arts, Canada, Literary, Ontario, play writing, playwright, Theatre, Toronto, tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A LOOK IN THE MIRROR

 

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Alex Dault’s documentary drama, The Five Points, in Barry, Ontario. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

This production of Alex Dault’s play, The Five Points, premieres in the handsome Mady Centre, on a corner of The Five Points, a series of intersecting streets in downtown Barrie, Ontario. Dault created the drama from hundreds of interviews, gathered by him, and by those who perform in the show. Walking mostly about The Five Points in the dead of winter, the theatre artists asked pedestrians questions like, “What do you like about Barrie?” or “What don’t you like about Barrie?” They made recordings of what the people said.

The idea for the work sprang from a local event in which someone placed a sign on a building front, “What happened to Barrie?” The sign was hung on a wire gate intended to block a space where a homeless person had slept, seeking shelter, a niche to call home. Blocking this space off triggered other events, and inspired the writing of the play.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

Out of all collected transcripts springs The Five Points. The play is a mix of actors demonstrating how they got the interviews fresh off the street. This process is combined with scenes of the characters, going about their lives. The set is mostly stark, a white metal bench placed under overhanging traffic lights.  The actors are also integral to the set, using simple props like rope to show the outline of buildings, or their own bodies to create a car. They move so quickly and nimbly about the stage, they form a tapestry of action.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

I have seen a number of “documentary plays”, based on interviews with “real people”. Most are dreadful because their intent is to “educate” the public or correct some social injustice. Usually, these docudramas confront the audience, and demand they do something about the problem or at least feel guilty if they don’t. Sitting through one is often a cross between going to the dentist while suffering through a tedious sermon.

The Five Points is, thankfully, nothing like that. It’s a cavalcade of characters and hugely entertaining. The play moves along at a clip, and is often screamingly hilarious.  But it also has more somber moments. Holding up a mirror to the citizens of Barrie, it invites discussion as well as self-examination. Alex Dault is too good a playwright to preach, and he’s too wise to supply easy answers. Fortunately, he knows how to write a play that works.

 

Dault is fortunate in his cast. All the actors are quite wonderful. But I must single out Iain Moggach, who is given a plum of a speech at the end, and he delivers the heart of the work with astonishing skill. Joshua Doerksen’s soundscape is masterful, as always.

The city is in part shaped by geography and weather. In winter, Barrie is pelted by horrendous snowstorms. In summer, it’s heaven on earth, situated on beautiful Kempenfelt Bay. Once a small town, Barrie has grown enormously in the past few years. The citizens are proud of its expansion. But new wealth has brought problems like soaring rents, too many condos, and the homeless. Sadly, many of the homeless drift about, victims of mental issues. There is a growing drug culture, too, which flows from the top down and the bottom up, and seeds the problems of urban living.

The people of Barrie cling to the memory of the place in simpler times. But all they have to do is look around and see how things are not as they were.

Today, the city sits at a crossroads, and you can see it at The Five Points. Right in the middle of The Five Points sits the handsome Mady Centre, but from the windows, one can see drug dealers wandering the streets. (I know because drug dealers do actually dress like dealers, the same as in my neighborhood in Toronto.) And then, a block away is Kempenfelt Bay, where the affluent park their pleasure boats, enjoy a beer, and entertain their guests.

We live in a world where we can now communicate instantly, at every hour. And yet, what we see happening in our cities is the growth of personal isolation; the unravelling of any concept of “neighbourhood” and “community”.  With a deft hand, Alex Dault’s play reminds us that behind all the new buildings, and urban planning, a city must be a community, a gathering place, held together by intertwining stories. The veins and arteries must all connect, or the body does not truly live.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

One last note: I’d just like to say that this kind of drama competes very well with the quality of plays in Toronto, and I hope those in Barrie understand that this level of theatrical enterprise contributes heavily to the tourism. The productions by Theatre by the Bay offer a level of sophistication available in big cities, and it’s nice to see Barrie investing in this valuable resource. Also, I believe this production would be understood in any town or city. It’s specific to Barrie, but it’s such a human tale, and so universal, any audience would identify with it.

The Creative Team:

Alex Dault – Director; Beth Elliot – Production Manager / Technical Director; Rosalind Naccarato – APM; Kathleen Hemsworth – Stage Manager; Julia Duiella – ASM ; Composer / Sound Designer: Joshua Doerksen; Composing Musicians: Corey Dzula, Zach Franchetto, James Laxton, Brandon Davenport; Script Supervisor / Dramaturge / Choreographer: Brandon Crone ;Lighting Designer: Melissa Joakim; Set Designer: Joe Pagnan ;Costume Designer: Abigail Kennedy; Props Master: Vera Oleynikova; Fight Director: Jonathan Langley

Assistant Director & Ensemble: Chloe Payne

Ensemble (Actors):  Iain Moggach, Thomas Williams, Bilal Baig, Joanna Keats, Victoria Urquhart,  Alexandra Simpson, Holly Wyder, Sarah Bransfield, Andrew Cameron, Chloe Payne

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Director/Playwright Alex Dault (in green) giving notes to the cast immediately after a preview of his play, The Five Points. Photo by Burke Campbell

Tickets:

http://theatrebythebay.com/the-five-points/

 

© by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in acting, actors, arts, Barrie, Canada, Ontario, playwright, theater, Theatre, tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A FASCINATING THRILLER PREMIERES

 

 

(Left to right) Kyle Bailey, Alexander Thomas in Stephen Joffe’s Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy.

Last night, I took in Stephen Joffe’s new play, Letters to Annabelle, at the MAY Cafe, premiering during the Fringe festival. The Fringe offers around 100 theatrical events, all of them  now running at venues across the city. But Letters to Annabelle stands out, for several reasons. When the play starts, you think you are about to watch a sentimental cliché. But rather quickly, conventional characters grow more complex, there are twists and turns, the mood grows darker, and a mature narrative opens seductively, like a poisonous blossom.

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Vanessa Trenton and Kayle Bailey in Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy

 

The play is staged in a real bar, so you can order drinks, as well as food. The atmosphere of the MAY Cafe adds beautifully to the ambiance of the work. Even better, lovely dance girls loll about the room in filmy lingerie and negligees, and piano music fills us with cheer. Soon the audience feels part of the play’s fabric.  Director Yehuda Fisher knows pacing and he allows solid actors to listen to their instincts. The work unfolds both briskly and slowly, creating its own rhythm.

Vanessa Trenton, Anne van Leeuwen, Alexander Thomas, Kyle Bailey,

Cast of Letters to Annabelle. (left to right) Vanessa Trenton, Anne van Leeuwen, Alexander Thomas, Kyle Bailey. Photo by John Gundy

As noted,  Letters to Annabelle begins as a familiar story. It’s the end of World War I. A young handsome Canadian soldier, Pt. Liam Crane, well played by Kyle Bailey, returns to a bar in Montreal. There he searches for a girl, the beautiful Annabelle, played by the vivacious Anne van Leeuwen. Although they met only for a short time, Annabelle remains the love of Crane’s life, a treasure in his memory.

In Montreal, Pt. Crane questions the bartender and owner, Louis-Andre, but finds no girl named Annabelle. Louis-Andre is philosophical, gruff; evasive.  The actor Alexander Thomas gives us Louis-Andre, a grand mix of sly negotiator, gentlemanly manners, and a generous heart. As with all in this play, nothing is as it seems, and we begin to see the more sinister aspects of the bartender’s pragmatism. This is one of those noteworthy characters that a gifted actor can awaken, and Alexander Thomas rises to the occasion. He both enchants and repels.

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Anne van Leeuwen in Stephen Joffe’s Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy.

Pt. Crane’s quest for Annabelle is stalled by his predicament. The soldier has empty pockets, bad memories of the war, and secrets of his own. Louis-Andre supplies him with food, clothes, shelter, and employs him for ‘errands’.  One of the bar’s entertainers, a girl named Maggie May (Vanessa Trenton), in fact, a childhood acquaintance of Crane, tries to help him solve the mystery that surrounds Annabelle. Trenton is very good in this part. She knows how to put on a bright face, while hiding her own heart, information, and obsessions.

Letters to Annabelle is a well-crafted thriller, in fact, a film-noir written for the stage. Playwright Stephen Joffe pays attention to every detail, and as the mystery unfolds, the audience knows they are in the hands of a careful writer. We fall willingly under his spell, as he closes his velvet fist around us.

 

Joffe is a diverse, interesting, and accomplished artist. He has acted since his youth, is presently the lead singer of a successful band, Birds of Bellswoods, and he writes beautifully. But what makes him unique is that he does all of it with astonishing skill. As an actor, he has the potential for true greatness. And his writing demonstrates an economy and virility that most would not attempt.

Without a doubt, play writing is the most difficult of the literary art forms. Even a small play can have a hundred moving parts and each must coordinate with the other to form a unified story. Information must be delivered seamlessly so that all of it is heard and understood by a live audience. Any good playwright knows it is hard as hell to take a worn out story, make it new, give it depth, and surprise an audience. And that’s what Stephen Joffe has managed to do with Letters for Annabelle. One feels he could easily turn out a screenplay for a movie that would have broad appeal.

 

I’ve seen Stephen Joffe sing, perform in a band, act in plays, and I’ve attended his plays, performed by other actors. Clearly, Mr. Joffe has an abundance of talent. But even more than that, there is a fascinating perspective that travels through his written work. The playwright operates from a vantage beyond his years. He looks boyish and innocent, but there’s too much experience in his eyes. And what he has observed surfaces in his use of language, its music, and the way he deploys it.

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Stephen Joffe. Photo by Burke Campbell

The author of Letters to Annabelle should be congratulated on his success. It was no easy task to get this drama up and running, and the entire crew should be celebrated. This includes Panfish Productions, Director/Producer Yehuda Fisher; and Assistant Producer Ashley Groves.

Other Members of the Crew:

Lindsay Lowes, Stage Manager; Sydney LaForme, Assistant Director, Assistant Choreographer; Melanie Nablo, Assistant Stage Manager; Danielle Oswald, Choreographer; David Robert Leslie, Fight Choreographer, Knox Harter, Assistant Choreographer; Melanie Garros, Set/Props Designer; Sarah Arrunategui, Costume Designer; Sadie Johnston, Assistant Sound Designer; John Gundy, Photography; Dahlia Katz, Graphic Design; Jesse Fraser, Pianist; Burlesque Performers: Knox Harter, Esther DeVille, Miss Reason.

Special praise to the MAY Cafe for its wonderful hospitality. It’s places like MAY Cafe that make Toronto a great city.

Photos by John Gundy

Tickets:

https://fringetoronto.com/festivals/fringe/event/letters-annabelle

Venue:

http://www.maytoronto.com/

© copyright by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

Posted in actors, arts, Canada, drama, Entertainment, Literary, Ontario, playwright, theater, Theatre, Toronto, tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE MAGIC OF PRIDE

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Pride. In Toronto, Canada. 2017. What began years ago as a small political event on Church Street has grown into one of the most massive carnivals in North America, with well over a million attendees. Historically, it’s a “gay pride”, but it has morphed into a gigantic extravaganza where people of every race, color, creed, and sexuality fill the downtown to dance, party, and feel the groove. It’s proud and pagan.

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Tens of thousands of people flood Yonge Street, Toronto’s Main Street, for Pride.

Originally, it was a public display, a show of force, and an attempt to secure homosexual and lesbian equal rights under the law. It was a call to end fear, and to free gays from having to live their lives in a closet, their relationships hidden from view.

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Now, at least in Toronto, Pride has become solidly mainstream. The downtown is filled to overflowing with celebrants— gay and straight couples, single men and women, kids, and even pets wearing rainbow flags.

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While the Pride Parade is often viewed at the “big spectacle”, it’s really the fun of just walking around the downtown, especially Church Street, which is cordoned off for three full days. There, crowds wander up and down, checking out the information booths, shopping, buying meals at food wagons, and gawking at the incredible costumes. There is even public nudity which is accepted without a word.

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While many cities still shun gays, the money generated by gay events is staggering. In Toronto, Pride dumps millions of dollars into the local economy. And favourable word-of-mouth keeps them coming.

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Marketers have noted that gay tourism is “recession proof” and is, in general, quite steady through economic ups and downs. Friendships are made here, which encourages return trips and personal networks blossom.

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I took a few pictures. Thought I’d post them. Hope you like them.

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MAN IN GASMASK

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© Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Canada, culture, Gay, Media, Ontario, Photography, PRIDE, Toronto, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EVEN MORE PRIDE

 

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Trojan models at PRIDE in Toronto, Canada. Photo by Burke Campbell.

 

Pride. In Toronto, Canada. 2017. What began years ago as a small political event on Church Street has grown into one of the most massive carnivals in North America, with well over a million attendees.

Burke Campbell 003 - rainbow

Historically, it’s a “gay pride”, but it has morphed into a gigantic extravaganza where people of every race, color, creed, and sexuality fill the downtown to dance, party, and feel the groove. It’s proud and pagan.

Burke Campbell 001 - closeup
Originally, it was a public display, a show of force, and an attempt to secure homosexual and lesbian equal rights under the law. It was a call to end fear, and to free gays from having to live their lives in a closet, their relationships hidden from view.

Burke Campbell 001 - Faerie
Now, at least in Toronto, Pride has become solidly mainstream. The downtown is filled to overflowing with celebrants— gay and straight couples, single men and women, kids, and even pets wearing rainbow flags.

Burke Campbell 004 - Nathaniel
While the Pride Parade is often viewed at the “big spectacle”, it’s really the fun of just walking around the downtown, especially Church Street, which is cordoned off for three full days. There, crowds wander up and down, checking out the information booths, shopping, buying meals at food wagons, and gawking at the incredible costumes. There is even public nudity which is accepted without a word.

Burke Campbell 001 - men in uniform
While many cities still shun gays, the money generated by gay events is staggering. In Toronto, Pride dumps millions of dollars into the local economy. And favourable word-of-mouth keeps them coming.

Burke Campbell 010

Marketers have noted that gay tourism is “recession proof” and is, in general, quite steady through economic ups and downs. Friendships are made here, which encourages return trips and personal networks blossom.

Burke Campbell 001 - Tall guy
I took a few pictures. Thought I’d post them. Hope you like them.

 

Burke Campbell 003 - TD shot

Burke Campbell 003

 

© Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Canada, culture, Gay, Media, PRIDE, Toronto, tourism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ALL CAME FOR PRIDE

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Massive crowds fill Toronto’s downtown core for the Pride Parade 2017. Photo by Burke Campbell

Pride. In Toronto, Canada. 2017.

What began years ago as a small political event on Church Street has grown into one of the most massive carnivals in North America, with well over a million attendees. Historically, it’s a “gay pride”, but it has morphed into a gigantic extravaganza where people of every race, color, creed, and sexuality fill the downtown to dance, party, and feel the groove. It’s proud and pagan.

Burke Campbell 007

Originally, it was a public display, a show of force, and an attempt to secure homosexual and lesbian equal rights under the law. It was a call to end fear, and to free gays from having to live their lives in a closet, their relationships hidden from view.

Burke Campbell 013 - hot girl

Now, at least in Toronto, Pride has become solidly mainstream. The downtown is filled to overflowing with celebrants— gay and straight couples, single men and women, kids, and even pets wearing rainbow flags.

 

While the Pride Parade is often viewed at the “big spectacle”, it’s really the fun of just walking around the downtown, especially Church Street, which is cordoned off for three full days. There, crowds wander up and down, checking out the information booths, shopping, buying meals at food wagons, and gawking at the incredible costumes.

Burke Campbell 012

There is even public nudity which is accepted without a word.

Burke Campbell 005

While many cities still shun gays, the money generated by gay events is staggering. In Toronto, Pride dumps millions of dollars into the local economy. And favourable word-of-mouth keeps them coming.

Burke Campbell 006 - two strong guys

Marketers have noted that gay tourism is “recession proof” and is, in general, quite steady through economic ups and downs. Friendships are made here, which encourages return trips and personal networks blossom.

Burke Campbell 004

I took a few pictures. Thought I’d post them. Hope you like them.

Burke Campbell 001 - police

Burke Campbell 006

Burke Campbell 003 - jockstrap

© Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Canada, culture, Gay, Media, Ontario, PRIDE, Toronto, tourism, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

BRIGHT POCKET OF MUSIC

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The hands of Donavon LeNabat on keyboard at Statler’s, Toronto, Canada

 

Statler’s is a bar on Church Street. Recently, I started to hang out there. The place is especially amazing on Monday and Thursday nights, around 10:00 pm. Monday night is SINGular Sensation, a show hosted by Jennifer Walls, with Donavon LeNabat on keyboard and Jamie Bird, on percussions. SINGular Sensation focuses mostly on Broadway songs. On Thursdays, LeNabat runs his own “Open Mic”, which lets anyone get up and sing. But usually, only the best voices in Toronto show up and entertain brilliantly. Occasionally, both evenings are “subbed out” to different hosts and musicians. For example, recently, Monday nights are headed by Jenna Warriner, who can belt out any song and acts as a glamorous ringmaster. But whichever of these two nights you go, there is stellar entertainment. The place just rocks!

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I should mention that Donavon LeNabat is a brilliant pianist, and along with Jamie Bird, they make a phenomenal combo. Both are wonderful singers in their own right. In addition to these two, incredible musicians often just show up, and you’ll find yourself listening to a full band sound, spontaneously conjured. Statler’s is a window on Toronto’s complex network of musical talent. And if anyone is a true talent scout, this is the place to install a permanent chair.

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Donavon LeNabat at Statler’s, Toronto, Canada

Statler’s sits in the middle of the gay village, but music accepts all, on Monday and Thursday nights, the crowd is a mix of attractive men and women. The whole tone of the show is light, sophisticated, and SO much fun!

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MeL Côté – Chanteuse at Statler’s, on Church Street, Toronto

Toronto is splitting at the seams with gifted performers, and Statler’s is an easy showcase for both established and new singers. The type of music is all over the map. You can hear newly-written songs, pop, Broadway, and every type of classic, no matter the style. It’s all good and the atmosphere is cheering.

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Daniel Abrahamson, singing up a storm at Statler’s

 

So I do urge you, if you like to listen to the best in Toronto, live, you must go to Statler’s and try it. Summer is coming, and the sound will spill out onto the street, scribbled in neon. Warm nights and hot music. Who could ask for anything more?

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Scott Neary at Statler’s, Toronto, Canada

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Jahlen Barnes singing at Statler’s

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Jeff Beauchamp at Statler’s, in Toronto

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Matt Dell at Statler’s, Toronto, Canada

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Jamie Bird at Statler’s

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Statler’s owner, Michael James MacDonell

Check out Statler’s

http://statlers.ca/

All photos by Burke Campbell

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A TURN OF THE PAGE

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Closing party of The Storefront Theatre at its 955 Bloor West location. Photo by Burke Campbell

After a few brief years, The Storefront Theatre closed at its location, 955 Bloor Street West, near the Ossington subway stop. Rather scruffy looking, and on a corner, the small space become home to some of the most talented directors, actors, and designers of the independent theatre movement. In its short life it staged playwrights, ranging from Shakespeare, to David Mamet, to amazing new talents like Kat Sandler. The little theatre came to represent all that was fresh, and wonderfully youthful in the Toronto entertainment scene. Sadly, The Storefront was in mid-season when its lease came to an end and the place was rented to others.

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The Storefront is just part of the desperate plight that threatens Toronto right now, as rent and housing prices soar everywhere. The city is now carpeted with sterile condos and there is a lack of affordable space for small businesses and those offering entertainment.

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The closing at 955 was a shock to the various budding companies that have produced at the location, including the Red One Theatre Collective, Theatre Brouhaha, and others. There is a search for new venues going on now. Hopefully one can be found.

The Storefront had a major closing party in January, and just about everyone showed up. I took some pictures, and rather than write about its history, productions, and personalities, I just wanted to post a few images of that last great night of revelry.

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All photos by Burke Campbell.

 

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ANTON & OLGA

 

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I Take Your Hand in Mine… is a drama, based on the letters exchanged between the Russian literary giant Anton Chekhov and his wife, the important actress, Olga Knipper.  In a script created by Carol Rocamora, and directed by Dmitry Zhukovsky, we view the intimacy of their marriage. We also glimpse moments of when and how some of the greatest drama ever created came into being.

Anton Chekhov was already famous when he met Olga Knipper. Though still young, he had only eight more years to live, and was to die at age 44, in 1904. Consumption would finish him, but his life was far from tragic. The play is inspirational because Chekhov’s decline was also his most productive. His love of Olga and his own insight into human life triggered a great volley of masterworks. In those closing years, he created The Sea Gull, Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard. Any good writer is humbled by Chekhov’s subtlety, how he uses the ordinary door to open onto a panoramic view of human nature.

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Rena Polley and Richard Sheridan Willis in I Take Your Hand in Mine…

I Take Your Hand in Mine… is wonderfully cast with Richard Sheridan Willis as Chekhov and Rena Polley as Olga Knipper. Willis gives us the look of a man who sees more than he tells, a wise observer of people, and how they use words to hide their true feelings, even from themselves. Chekhov was of course a practicing doctor, and Willis plays him as a man who is both warm, and yet maintains a certain clinical detachment. Willis also portrays a shy man, who continues to hide his affair with Olga until she finally gives him an ultimatum. Then and only then does he offer to tie the knot.

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I should confess I have a special fondness for Rena Polley, especially when we see her rehearse a scene from Three Sisters. In the scene, she plays Masha, a woman who is in love with a married man she cannot have, and she does so with a lightness that tears your heart out watching her. Whether you know anything of Chekhov’s life or his works, I believe you’d still enjoy watching these two fine actors communicate this marriage, through the couple’s own words. I Take Your Hand in Mine… is a play that has a strange resonance to it, of sadness and a larger joy.  It’s a perfect “date drama”.  Like fine wine, it’s a drama to savour.

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This play is running now at Tarragon Theatre Extraspace. April 6-23, 2017.

Tuesday – Saturday, 8:00 pm

Saturday and Sunday matinee, 2:30 pm

You can order tickets at:

thechekhovcollective.com

 Tarragon Theatre

30 Bridgman Avenue

Toronto, Ontario

Presented by:

The Chekhov Collective in association with Theatrus

Produced by Yulia Rubina and Rena Polley

 

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THE RED LACQUERED BOX

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Alekandra Maslennikova as Madame Giles in Burke Campbell’s new drama, The Red Lacquered Box

Love. Yes. Madame Tullée was an expert in matters of the heart. She could listen to any man, or any woman—to their problems.

Initially written as prose, my play, The Red Lacquered Box adapted easily to the stage.

In late fall, I submitted the work to the New Ideas Festival, in Toronto. Held annually at the Alumnae Theatre, the festival showcases new plays of every type, especially those of interest to women. Shortly thereafter, my psychological thriller was selected as one of the fifteen plays scheduled for performance, March 8-26, 2017.

The Red Lacquered Box is set in Paris, France, in the late 1880s, and explores an event that scandalized polite society. The play is in fact a dramatic monologue, spoken by Madame Giles, secretary to Madame Tullée, a woman known by men of power and influence.

But how could I have foreseen—how could anyone have foreseen that such a tragedy could play out in that room, so far from this house! And no one can say for sure what happened!

At the Festival, I matched up with director, Lynn Weintraub, who in turn recruited actress Aleksandra Maslennikova for the role of Madame Giles. It is through Madame Giles that we are offered an insider’s view of how the disturbing events unfolded.

Rehearsals went well, and I was lucky to have stage manager, Ksenia Sabulua.

The Red Lacquered Box premiered on March 15. Honestly, I could not have hoped for a better production. It is a special treat for a writer to realize what he has penned in private can hold an audience spellbound. And I was fortunate to have an actress as captivating as Maslennikova, who appeared so at home in my words. I also felt blest to have a director as accomplished as Lynn Weintraub, who worked so hard to illuminate and illustrate the text. In many productions today, men play women and women take male parts. But what astonished me was how instinctively women knew the role of Madame Giles, and understood implicitly the contours of her logic.

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“Madame Tullée was in perfect health. No, there were no medications of any kind. What are you thinking—she was hardly an invalid! The occult? A witch? Madame Tullée was not a witch!”

What an audience finds so compelling about The Red Lacquered Box is that it’s not so much a “who-done-it”.  Rather, it’s more of a “how this happened”.  Set in a period of intense sexual repression, the play showcases how the human mind can work. I doubt if this drama will date, and at its core is a fascinating character.

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Director Lynn Weintraub

Hopefully, my play will enjoy productions elsewhere. It is an ideal solo for any seasoned actress, especially a woman past the stock “ingénue” roles.  In the meantime, there are plans afoot for a production of my rather profane comedy, The Lady in Shoes From Hell, at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. For me, this is turning out to be a very interesting year.

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Alumnae Theatre, Toronto, Canada

All photos by Burke Campbell

 

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PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER

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Aleksandra Maslennnikova as “Madame Giles”, in The Red Lacquered Box. Photo by Burke Campbell

The curtain is going up on the second week of the New Ideas Festival, at the Alumnae Theatre. My play, THE RED LACQUERED BOX, will receive its premiere. The psychological thriller stars Aleksandra Maslennikova. As “Madame Giles”, she explains the incredible events that have led to a public scandal, one that has sent shock waves through polite society. Directed by Lynn Weintraub. Stage managed by Ksenia Sabouloua. Book early, as the festival usually sells out.

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Director Lynn Weintraub

The Red Lacquered Box by Burke Campbell
March 15-19, 2017
Wednesday to Saturday 8pm
Saturday + Sunday 2:30pm

In the late 1800s, in Paris, France, a tragic incident shocks polite society. Madame Giles, secretary to Madame Tullée, relates the details of the terrible event, casting light on this dark mystery.

Playwright: Burke Campbell
Director: Lynn Weintraub*

Actor: Aleksandra Maslennikova

Stage Manager: Ksenia Sabouloua

*With the permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association

 

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Stage Manager Ksenia Sabouloua

The Red Lacquered Box is part of the New Ideas Festival 2017
Presented by Alumnae Theatre
Produced by Carolyn Zapf, Jennifer McKinley and Patricia McCarthy

Each evening of the New Ideas Festival includes a curated presentation of new short plays. Shows are not ticketed individually. We invite you to join us for the entire evening and experience the whole selection of new works.

The Red Lacquered Box is part of WEEK TWO which will also feature

Parallax: https://www.facebook.com/events/1096154643829943/

Y by Rosemary Doyle

Professionally Ethnic: https://www.facebook.com/events/1725092994398795/
and a Saturday 12pm PWYC reading of Who You Callin’ Black, Eh?: https://www.facebook.com/events/1302890289757569/

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=atc13

Location:

 Alumnae Theatre’s home is the old Firehall No 4 
70 Berkeley Street
on the South West corner of Berkeley and Adelaide Street East.

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Alumnae Theatre. Photo by Burke Campbell

TICKETS:

https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?actions=4&p=2

 

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DREAM HOMES

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Radiant Vermin by famed British playwright Philip Ridley has opened at DIRTY TALK, 167 Augusta Avenue. You arrive, descend a flight of stairs. There’s a waiting area, glowing with pink light and overhead, a huge sign that reads “DREAM HOMES”. After a few moments, you are directed into the theatre itself. Seated, we face a wide, white corridor with an unfinished ceiling, wires and supports exposed.

It’s here that we meet Jill (Julie Tepperman) and Ollie (Jonas Widdifield), a youthful, rather desperate couple living in shabby, crime-ridden, and over-priced housing district. Suddenly, an extremely cheerful and all-knowing bureaucrat arrives, (Marium Carvell) who explains that the government is giving Jill and Ollie a  brand new house of their own. Apparently, it’s been decided that they are the ideal couple to fix the place up, transform it into a “dream house” so attractive, others will fall under its spell and buy up all the surrounding homes, turning the whole area into a gorgeous neighborhood, eliminating a looming housing crisis. (To those living in Toronto, now carpeted in unaffordable condos, this might sound all too familiar). Marium Carvell is both sincere and sinister in her role as a government agent, anticipating Jill and Ollie’s every doubt.

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Jonas Widdifield and Julie Tepperman in Philip Ridley’s Radiant Vermin. Photo by: Maylynn Quan

 

According to the government, beauty breeds beauty.  But as the young couple move in, they gradually discover that creating the perfect home requires moral compromises that grow more extreme and preposterous by the minute. Their own expectations sky rocket along with each moral crisis.

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Jonas Widdifield, Marium Carvell, and Julie Tepperman in Philip Ridley’s Radiant Vermin. Photo by Maylynn Quan.

 

Radiant Vermin runs over 90 minutes non-stop but for me, the work zooms along largely because of the frenetic skill and energy of the cast, especially Julie Tepperman and Jonas Widdifield. The pair, as Jill and Ollie, don’t stop for a minute, illustrating and commenting upon the escalating story, which turns and twists on a dime. I have a special fondness for Jonas Widdifield, who played the roguish devil in the rowdy hit musical, Chasse-galerie, which premiered two years back at The Storefront Theatre and later played at SoulPepper Theatre. I am also a fan of the director, John R. Shooter, who brings a special spirit to the indie theatre movement in Toronto. He’s relentless in seeking out new and vintage plays, providing Toronto actors with a chance to do unconventional and demanding work.

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Julie Tepperman, Jonas Widdifield, in Philip Ridley’s Radiant Vermin

While Philip Ridley’s main target shows how a consumer society corrupts all human values and reasoning, Radiant Vermin suggests something even more disturbing. Exalted morality is largely interior decor. Morals swing in and out of vogue, from one generation to the next, as folk scramble to get them what they want. Humans tell themselves lies and tolerate situations that are so preposterous, so bizarre, all of history ultimately becomes a nonsensical and surreal landscape. And as Radiant Vermin frolics along at a faster and giddier speed, you fall into the rhythm of the mania. The dark comedy might appear a wicked, zany romp, but for me, it has a strange and lasting echo.

As with all of Philip Ridley‘s work, there is a haunted and haunting quality. Both Radiant Vermin and his much earlier work, The Pitchfork Disney, take place indoors. Radiant Vermin plays out in a gloriously modern “dream home” while The Pitchfork Disney unfolds in a dingy, roach-infested apartment. In both these dramas, home is where nightmares start and where they continue. And the home is really the human condition, uproariously funny and deeply horrific.

TICKETS:

http://radiantvermin.brownpapertickets.com/

DIRTY TALK VENUE:

167 Augusta Avenue, in Kensington Market

Hats off to the crew: Davida Tkach, lighting; Victoria Ius, set; Tim Lindsay, sound; Molly Marmaduke, costumes; La Banderilla, graphics; Stephanie Simonetta, stage manager; Michael Knutson, production manager.

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