Saturday, June 28, 2003

Toronto Fringe Set to Begin Soon

The Toronto Fringe Festival kicks off this Wednesday in the Annex and Fashion District in the biggest city in Canada.

But does Bigger mean Better?

My personal experience with the Toronto Fringe (which admittedly is only one year of Fringing here) is that it just doesn't have the same funky atmosphere that other Fringes do.

One reason for this is that the venues (20) are spread out in a fairly large geographic area. It's hard to foster a community atmosphere when it takes forty minutes to walk from your venue to the beer tent.

As well, perhaps because so many theatre professionals live in Toronto and see the Fringe as a way of getting their name out there, the whole thing sometimes feels a little bit more like a giant networking session than a Fringe.

The Fringe here just doesn't have the same "alternative" feel to it that exists elsewhere. I know this is a rather superficial way to judge that feel, but just take a look at the marketing here versus other Canadian fringes:

The Winnipeg Fringe's theme this year is "The Twelve Days of Fringing" with a Christmas motif and a sunglasses-wearing Santa. The Edmonton Fringe is "Attack of the Killer Fringe!" with its posters modelled on B-movies. The Montreal Fringe had a "Tales of the Crypt" thing going for their "Fringe 13!" which started, appropriately enough, on Friday the Thirteenth; their posters were done, as always, by local Comix Jammer Rupert Bottenberg.

The Toronto Fringe? The marketing material is BOOORING, featuring publicity stills from last year's Fringe. Its motto is "Celebrating 15 years as Toronto's largest most exciting and adventurous theatre festival." Yawn.

To top it all off, when I was speaking with Toronto Fringe producer Chuck McEwen earlier this week, he referred to the Beer Tent as the "Beverage Tent"! The BEVERAGE TENT!?! There is only one type of tent at a Fringe, and it is called the Beer Tent!

(To be fair, I was calling under the auspices of my day job as a reporter for a certain staid, conservative daily.)

The Toronto Fringe has about the same number of shows as the Canadian Fringe Kings Winnipeg and Edmonton, but is number 3 in terms of attendance -- meaning that it has grown in size and scope without growing its audience at the same rate. Of course, the Toronto Fringe has to compete with all the other theatre in town, plus the other Toronto summer festivities that occur concurrently with the Fest.

So, perhaps, it needs to put out a slightly more mainstream image in order to bring in the crowds. Besides, as Sprite commercials have taught me, Image is Nothing, Thirst is Everything.

I'm not sure how the second part of that slogan applies here...

Regardless, I am thirsty to get out there and start drinking some Fringe in my adopted city-for-the-summer (and perhaps longer).

Toronto Fringe Blogging Set to Begin Soon

Yes, that's right, just as I did for the Montreal Festival, I will be posting news, gossip and hearsay for the twelve days of the Toronto Fringe Festival.

This time, of course, I will be able to report what I see and hear first-hand. Nonetheless, I am eager to receive your juicy tidbits about Fringe artists, festival hanger-onners and Kate Taylor -- all of which I will be pleased to post here post-haste.

Email it all in to jkelly@cup.ca.

Toronto Fringe in the News

Well, some early Fringe news and previews have been trickling into the media here.

The National Post's Toronto section today has an article about the Fringe Festival today, featuring interviews with Fest Producer Chuck McEwen and actor Mark Chavez from Sabotage: In Fine Form. (Not online, alas.)
Writer J. Kelly Nestruck also picks ten "Best Bets at the Fringe Festival": A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's, Tyrannous Rex, Jem Rolls, P.S. 69, Meet the Imponderables, Sabotage: In Fine Form, The Power of Ignorance, JOB II: The Demon of Eternal Recurrence, An Act of God, and No One Showed Up For The Anarchist Rally.

In The Globe and Mail, theatre critic Kate Taylor writes, "The Toronto Fringe is growing, but who can ever manage to see enough of this non-juried smorgasbord to judge whether bigger is better?" She recommends the following shows as "likely prospects": Victoria playwright Janet Munsil's The Ugly Duchess; New York comic duo Harrington and Kauffman's Nharcolepsy; and David Austin's Belize, directed by Toronto director Chris Abraham.

Eye Magazine will have a comprehensive guide to the festival in its next issue, as well as online reviews updated daily starting Wednesday. For the time being, Joel McConvey picks out a few shows here, including Rutabagan in Down Town, Thousand-Dollar Zombie, JOB II, Teaching Witchcraft, and Highway to Rock 'n' Roll Hell.

Meanwhile, NOW Magazine has a guide to surviving the Fringe here by Jon Kaplan and Glenn Sumi. NOW will also be featuring online reviews updated daily, making for a furious Fringe battle between three-lettered alternative weeklies!

Send in your news, reviews and gossip to jkelly@cup.ca.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Montreal Fringe Finito

Well, this year's Montreal Fringe is over and I'm back in smoggy Toronto, where I have a week left to recooperate before the Toronto Fringe begins. Whew...

If you didn't catch the Frankies, here's a list of the winners:

The Spirit of the Fringe award went to Ron Scott's Almost Productions for the second year in a row. Again, I reiterate: Damnit Ron, why are you so likeable? Almost Productions (which presented Ninjas Get All the Chicks this Year) wins a free spot in next year's Fringe.

The Centaur Showcase Award went to Hamlet, which was a bit of a surprise, because every knew it was good, but no one seemed to think it was going to win. The Lit Moon theatre company will bring their physical/visual Hamlet back to Montreal in the fall, so you and I can catch it.

The Just For Laughs Prize went to Sabotage, which you may have read ahead of time here on the J. Kelly Nestblog. Those crazy kids will be back in Montreal for JFL, with a place in the On the Edge series.

The Chapters best text award went to Jerome Saibil and Eli Batalion for the second year in a row for JOB II: The Demon of the Eternal Recurrence, the sequel to last year's JOB: The Hip-Hop Musical.

The Chapters best French-language text award was won by Theatre du Cloitre for Richard III ou la chute du corbeau, which I picked (without seeing the play) as one of my Shows to Avoid like SARS. Shame! Shame on me!

La Derniere Mise by Delegation du Cerveau Droit cleaned up the rest of the prizes, winning the Theatre d'Aujourd'hui Award for best French play and the Infinitheatre prize.

And, finally, the award you've all been waiting for. On the Fence's Montreal Fringe Blog Prize for Best-Looking Black-Curly-Haired Monologist goes to T.J. Dawe, who was rated as an 8/10 on Hot or Not, with 57 votes. Rainer Hersch from All Classical Music Explained came in second with a 7.3/10 rating with 62 votes.

And the last word goes to...

.. Mr. Rainer Hersh, from All Classical Music Explained, who writes:

Needless to say I am flattered and entertained to find that I have such a colourful past. Naturally, I deny everything.

You may be interested to know that the naked picture of me you feature on your site is one of ten or so such poses I took at major tourist sights around London for my first ever Canadian fringe offering "The Mass Bands of the Grenadier Guards and R.A.F. Flypast Plus Support" (1994). Whatever you may think of its aesthetic qualities, allow me to point out that I am standing without any clothes next to a man on a horse with a sword. He was very angry indeed. While this picture was being taken, the horse reared up and almost unseated the rider, causing anguish to the horseguards regiment which (for all I know) persists to this day. Shame you have never seen the picture I took outside Buckingham Palace.

My warm wishes and thanks to fringers everywhere
Rainer Hersch
London

Thanks Rainer... And thanks to all who emailed or posted comments on my blog this week. It was a lot of fun keeping this online Montreal Fringe blog, so hopefully I'll do it again next year.
And keep on visiting the blog, as I update it regularly with mudane non-Fringe related stuff. Also, starting next Wednesday, you should be able to get your gossip about the Toronto Fringe here, though, frankly, they don't party as well here in T-dot, so there won't be as much silliness to post.
Cheers.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Last Chance to Fringe

Today is the last day of the Montreal Fringe Festival, so head out and catch a final show. Also, head to the Beer tent at 10pm for the Frankies, hosted by the beautiful Andy Nullman and the hysterical Jessica Pare.

Certain Fringe staffers with a particular fondness for liquor have leaked the name of the winner of the Spirit of the Fringe award, but I won't post it here, because that would be like printing an obituary for the character who dies in the latest volume of the Harry Potter septology. I shan't ruin the surprise.

Sources have told me that Sabotage is in line to win the Just For Laugh prize. (Uncalled For, the improv troupe of John Abbott College grads, is the most popular comedy, for sure, but the JFL already has a Improv troupe in its On the Edge series.)

The Centaur Prize looks to be a real dust-up this year. There were so many incredible shows, the jury had a difficult time picking one to win a spot at the Centaur for a fall run.

Some possibilities: T.J. Dawe has never won the Centaur Prize before (though he did win the JFL prize in 2001 for Slip-knot), so perhaps this will be his year. Two other shows I heard tossed around a bit as contenders were Uncle Jack and She's Not Well. Nicola Gunn's Tyrannous Rex is incredible, but it's unlikely she'd win two years in a row. Jem Rolls, perhaps?

We'll find out in just a few short hours.

Drag Race Scandal!

In the biggest scandal since the Black Sox threw the 1919 World Series, yesterday's Drag Races were marred by allegations that the contest was rigged. Two out of the three finalist pairs or individuals in the event hosted by Mado turned out to be employees of Cabaret Mado!

Worst of all, Gigi, an obnoxious drag queen dressed like Marie Soleil, inexplicably made it to the finals for the second year in a row, beating out crowd favourites Miss Vicky, Fonda Dix (a much-too-sexy Dan Jeannote from Uncalled For), and Lenore Lovecraft (Fringe General Manager Patrick Goddard cleverly disguised as a shy Marilyn-Manson-esque queen).

Luckily, the winners were Hiro and Sho, two Fringe artists from the Gay Samurai Revue. Otherwise, we might have had a real ballroom blitz on our hand!

Scandal aside, the Drag Races were wonderful, a popular and entertaining tradition that deserves to continue for years to come -- though someone needs to tell Mado that she doesn't need to explain how the race works to every single contestant.

Vava Voom!

Thanks to all of you who wrote in to let me know that Vava Laverite, the sexy gossip columnist on the official Fringe webpage, is a real person -- Fringe Communications Director Marta Cooper.

Yoicks! Rrrrrr... I will pop a couple of breath mints before tonight's Frankies and introduce myself. Surely love can spring between a gossipy blogger and a gossip columnist?

(Sniff.. sniff... Whoa. Anyone have any Febreze I could borrow?)

Shows I saw yesterday: Tyrannous Rex, Uncalled For, Ninjas Get all the Chicks.

Tyranneous Rex: I tend to ovate from my feet only when I'm in a rush to leave or when a show is remarkably good. I think standing ovations should be dispensed like I-Love -Yous, with a mix of passion and sincerity and only on rare occasions. Therefore, consider the fact that I shot up as soon as Nicola Gunn finished her performance last night as a sign that I loved the show. Brilliant and precise physical characterizations. The ironic retromania and gentle surreality present in her work remind me of the Coen Brothers' filmography. Strong, strong talent, that Nicola.
Hey guy-friend Mark Chavez (from Sabotage) is one lucky fellow. What a power-fringe couple.

Uncalled For: Anders, Matt, Dan, Caitlin, and Mike are hilarious. Top-notch improv, much better than what I see at the World Improv Championships each year at the Just For Laughs. They deserve all the kudos they've been getting. I'm proud of these kids.
Reminder, you can catch a bonus show of Uncalled For tonight at midnight, fundraiser for the Fringe.

Ninjas: One-man shows are often the expression of an actor's narcissistic tendencies let loose: "Me, me, me, me!" In fact, even the most talented one-man performer always ends up seeming a bit full of himself.
Well, almost always...
How does Ron Scott manage to pull off being so likeable, damnit?
A marked improvement on last year's hastily-thrown-together My Wellness Buddy Gave me Pink-Eye (he had to write and learn that show in three weeks), Ninjas shows that, if you give Ron a bit of time, he'll come up with an excellent Fringe show, which Ninjas is. It's original, competent and funny.
The biggest triumph of Ninjas is Ron's decision to remake the one-man show as a two-man show. He has an "invisible" helper on stage at all time, helping him fly across the stage in ninja-kick mode or pretending to be a video-store rack (the modern equivalent of the actor who has to play a tree?). That poor guy had to perform dressed all in black in the most sweltering-venue.
Don't be surprised to see this neat and clever technique become as frequently-used in Fringe shows as the Matrix multiple-POW effect has become used in film.
(Also, kudos to Ron and Helper -- sorry, didn't catch his name -- for using the black-outs during the scene changes. I can't believe how often I still see shows with clumsy, out-of-character scene changes.)

Out-of-town Shows Don't Need Reviews THAT Badly!

In response to a blog correspondent's assertion that "Actors who travel, especially from overseas, have significantly greater expenses that can only be offset by bums on seats. Their travel schedules and lack of local knowledge make self promotion more difficult. They need publicity.", Long-time Fringer Michael responds:

This is bunk about the out of town acts needing the reviews. The limited reviews we've been seeing have focused on (a) returning troupes, and (b) out of town acts, and both categories tend towards seasoned performers. They tend to come with the ability to get press, and for returning companies, I count at least 21 this year, it's really easy to say "I saw them last year, so I'm going to see them again this year". Meanwhile, the local shows, which tend to be the real Fringe shows, are locked out of the process.
I don't care if shows get bad reviews, but I really dislike the tone that suggests some shows aren't worthy of review before they've even been seen.

Thanks, Michael. Your point is also well-taken.
Michael sent me an interesting email about the Fringe and publicity, reviews and the Internet, from which this is taken. It's too long to post here, but it's here for those of you who are interested in these issues

Quick Fringe Hits

I hear that a high school English teacher brought her class to see Medea (presented in Japanese) on Friday, mistakenly thinking it was in English. After the show, she tried to get a refund for her and her 19 students. The gall... What is our education system coming to?

Big Celebrity Sighting: Margie Gillis, the internationally-acclaimed dancer and choreographer, has been spotted around the Fringe. She apparently attended one of Cuppa-Jo's performances earlier this week. Michael explains the connection:

Not a complete surprise, because one of the pieces [in Cuppa-Jo], "Mara", is the work of Stephanie Ballard, who long worked with Margie Gillis. When the music started,
I realized I had heard it before, and as the piece played out I remembered seeing Margie do it, maybe as far back as 1989 and I think for the first time.


Send in your final bits of Fringe gossip to jkelly@cup.ca and I'll post it in my final Fringe blog entry on Monday. Even though the festival is over tomorrow, you are always welcome at fence.blogspot.com for my usual blog stuff. Thanks for visiting and for all the kudos and constructive criticism..


Saturday, June 21, 2003

Saturday Fringing! Extra Shows! Rumours! Janis Kirshner!

Well, I almost missed the train from Toronto, but here I am and ready to Fringe. Here's my schedule for tomorrow:

13h15: No Cycle at Geordie Space (4001 Berri)

14h30: Beer Tent Fun/Games

16h00: The Power of Ignorance at La Chapelle (3700 St-Dominique)

20h00: Ninjas Get All the Chicks (3997 St. Laurent)

21h30: Uncalled For (4247 St. Dominique)

Midnight: Tyrannous Rex at Geordie (4001 Berri)

When I am not in a show, I will be hanging out in the Beer Tent. There, I will be accepting verbal complaints and/or beer.

Uncalled For Announces Extra Show!

Hey Kelly,

Just thought I'd let you and your blog-readers know that Uncalled For has just been picked up for a bonus show this Sunday at midnight, after the Frankie Awards. The extra performance will be at Venue 8 and is a fund-raiser for the festival. As usual, it promises to be completely different from every other show we've done, simply because hey, that's improv. Hope to see you there,

Anders the dirty corporate sell-out

More Janis Kirshner Bashing! An English Man Writes

In response to my crazed attack on Mirror reviewer Janis Kirshner's writing, a blog reader writers: I also read said review of TJ Dawe by Janis Kirshner. And my immediate response was that it would in no way be well received in the UK.

Seeing the piece (which was/is fantastic) last night reinforced this impression -- the average Brit /[insert nationality of choice here] with no knowledge or experience of Canadian culture would not get many of the comparitor references being made -- bumming a fag remains a daily event for thousands back where I come from. I know this doesn't buttress your literary arguments particularly well, but I like to hope that it adds to the overall impression of the review.

In other news, I and others were heavily impressed by Tyrannous Rex, Nicola Gunn's one woman rampage through the Scottish countryside, black leopard in tow. Each of the characters/caricatures was a beauty to behold, the transformations magically swift, the plot itself well written, if a little rushed at times. One can see why Gunn one the Centaur award last year. Go see this weekend.

An Englishman in Canada

Thanks AEIC, more fodder for my overly-harsh Kirshner vendetta. As for Tyrannous Rex, I have Nicola Gunn's show scheduled in tonight at 24h00. I cannot wait. See you in the beer tent.

Why it is important for weeklies (and other news sources) to review out-of-town shows...

In response to my complaint yesterday that not enough Montreal shows were reviewed in the Hour & Mirror, a blog reader writes:
Being parochial is fine, but some of us out of towners rely on the net reviews to see how our favourites are doing. Montrealers (Montrealites?) can enjoy the fringe experience in the time honoured manner of randomly picking several productions in the hope of chancing on one or two gems, thus gaining new experiences and supporting up and coming actors. Actors who travel, especially from overseas, have significantly greater expenses that can only be offset by bums on seats. Their travel schedules and lack of local knowledge make self promotion more difficult. They need publicity.

You make a very good point, sir. Thanks for writing.

Frankies: Rumour

Sources close to the jury say that the frontrunner for the Just For Laughs prize is.... Sabotage. We'll see what happens at the Frankies Sunday night.

Got a hunch? Want to have your say? Send in your picks for the Centaur Best Show prize, the Just For Laughs Prize, Spirit of the Fringe, and all other Frankies to jkelly@cup.ca. I'll post your choices on Sunday.

Quick Fringe Hits

The Black Fringe Page has a comprehensive list of ALL reviews and Fringe articles online. Check it out here. The guy's recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies is here.

Does anyone know if this Vava character really exists? She's really hot.

Blork hasn't reviewed a show since Monday... Is he all right?

Yes, I know there was a skirmish in the Beer Tent on Thursday. If you really want to know about it, you can read the comments people have posted on this page. I would advise, however, seeking out other sources on this subject...

The Short-Curly-Black-Haired Monologist Hot or Not Challenge Continues! Rainer Hersch remains steady at 7.4/10, while T.J.'s rating has increased to 8.0/10. Meanwhile, my score has decreased to 6.2/10, but I am just going to pretend that it is somehow Donovan King's fault.

My New Yorker summer fiction issue has arrived. Includes articles by Jonathan Franzen and David Sedaris. Huzzah!

Keep sending that sweet, sweet gossip to jkelly@cup.ca. Don't forget to send in your picks for the Frankies!


Friday, June 20, 2003

Fringe Friday: Review Round-up

Here's a quick summary of was said and written about the Fringe in Thursday's weeklies:

The Mirror features 19 Fringe reviews this week: 6 by Amy Barratt and 13 by her privateers Rupert Bottenberg, Lorraine Carpenter, Mark Slutsky, Patrick Lejtenyi, Amy German, Janis Kirshner, and Vincent Tinguely. (Tinguely? What a great name.)

Barratt reviews Tyrannous Rex, Molière Than Thou, One-Man Hamlet, Hamlet, Isla Xooxiimictlan: An Aztec Fantasy, and Job II: The Demon of the Eternal Recurrence, while the rest tackle Gay Samurai Revue, Etch-A-Sketch, Last of the Red-Hot Dadas, The One Man Star Wars Trilogy, Star Wars Survivor, Uncle Jack, Sabotage: In Fine Form, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s, Bitty Idiot’s "Discombobulated", In the Mouth of the Juney Bug: A Play by John Cocktoasten, Big Word, All Classical Music Explained, and The Contract.

All in all, a respectable number of shows reviewed. It did, however, seem like the reviewers had their kid-gloves on. Either that or this year’s Fringe is really outstanding -- which may well be the case.

Meanwhile, over at the cash-strapped Hour, poor Jason Whiting had to review 13 shows in the span of 4 days all by himself – and he even found time to squeeze in a wedding. He covers Skinned Teeth, Chicks With Tricks, The One Man Star Wars Trilogy, The Body, Roller Girl, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's, The Pugilist, The Contract, PRND21, Ninjas Get All the Chicks, Uncle Jack, The Power of Ignorance, and Medea.

Sadly, despite Whiting’s gruelling four-day theatre excursion, his editors only gave him about 675 words to work with, meaning that he has to write the shortest theatre reviews in the history of the world. (For instance, “The one-person show Uncle Jack is well performed by Melissa-Lynn Dozios.”) Compare this to the over 2000 words the Mirror dedicated to 19 shows.

This is all very sad. The Hour used to have awesome theatre coverage and its old reviewer Gaetan Charlesbois even kept an online Fringe diary some years. Ah, the Hour in its glory days of Charlesbois, M.J. Milloy, Lyle Stewart and Joe Fiorito… Miss it.

Whiting, unlike the Mirror reviewers, has no qualms about panning shows he doesn’t like. To wit:

So far, the biggest disappointment of the Fringe has to be Infinitheatre's production of The Contract. If I wanted to see a well-respected director stoop to working with a poorly written and derivative script made in Canada but set in the States, the whole thing emphasising special effects over content, then I'd rent a Hollywood movie. Screw you Guy Sprung.

[UPDATE FROM THE YEAR 2008: Greetings from the future! Poor Lydia Zadel has to to suffer the following bit of completely inaccurate gossip popping up in the Top Ten Google results for her name. I'm reticent to delete anything from my blog without receiving a legal letter or a bottle of Macallan, but I feel comfortable adding a disclaimer - the anonymous email I quote below is obviously untrue. I'm sure I meant to call that to your attention five years ago by noting that it is very odd that a man should audition for a one-woman show, but I thought I would clarify. And since Zadel is such a charming lass, I hereby encourage you to skip over to the Hour site five years and 27 critics later to find a 4/5 star review of Zadel's latest Fringe show, See Bob Run. Writes Brett Hooton: "The Fringe format tends to favour light-hearted fare (just look at the number of '80s cultural references in this year's edition). So when a passionate, well-performed drama pops up, it hits that much harder. Lydia Zadel treats audiences to a work of controlled mayhem in See Bob Run."]

[We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.]

Of course, [Whiting's] style of reviewing doesn't sit well with everyone. An anonymous blog correspondent writes:

Apparently Lydia Zadel, the performer in the one-woman rape survival show The Body has been less than pleased about her non-glowing review in today's Hour. She has been explaining reviewer Jason Whiting's comments as based in bitterness. [note: Whiting wrote that the show is "more of a short story than a play and is beyond the abilities of its young performer (Lydia Zadel)"] According to Lydia, Jason auditioned and was rejected, and now harbours some kind of grudge against her play.
Sounds to me like someone needs to learn to deal with negative criticism!

Thanks for the scurrilous gossip, Ms. anonymous emailer. I don't understand how Whiting auditioned for a one-woman show, though...

This week’s Voir sees Catherine Hébert reviewing La Leçon, Comment faire fuir les requins et les kangourous, La Derniere mise, Carmen, No Man’s Land Show, Les parapluies dans le desert, Plutot divertissant, and Une etoile se meurt. Hébert also makes mention of Inconnu à cette adresse, Antiviol, Je suis un pays, Contes de gouttières, Le Chien belge et l'hommo-québécus-érectus, L'ensemble de la morsure comprend 32 trous, Les Circus Cowboys, Richard III ou la chute du corbeau et Drame familial.

Very good coverage, especially considering rival Ici is a big sponsor of the fest. Hébert cleverly avoids naming the Ici Stage by name…

I don’t know anything about Ici’s coverage, because, well, it’s not online, and I'm still stuck here in Toronto until tomorrow.

The Gazette did have an interesting article today about the off-fringe shows the Roy Street Collective's Eliot and the Dark and Donovan King’s Car Stories, as well as Teaching Witchcraft and All Classical Music Explained. (Contrary to what some OTL Kingites have been saying, the article does not "vindicate" King in the 2001 Car Stories debacle at all.)

Two Nits I would like to Pick

1. Being as the Fringe is the Montreal Fringe Festival, can anyone tell me why none of these Montreal-based shows were reviewed in the English weeklies: At Random, Uncalled For, No Cycle, Teaching Witchcraft, The Points to B, They’ll Kill Me, Come Clean, Exploration, “Girl, that’s what I call myself these days”, Her Big Chance, and Mr. Smarty Pants?

As well, neither The Mirror nor the Hour reviewed a single French-language show… (What happened to those new Montreal anglos we always hear about?)

Put these two facts together and it seems as if you are much, much more likely to have your show reviewed if you’re not from Montreal…

Seems a shame to me.

2. Okay, what is up with this Janis Kirshner character writing theatre reviews for the Mirror? Does anyone else get as annoyed as I do at her garbled grammar and extremely awkward sentence structure? To wit, her review of A Canadian Bartender at Butlin’s:

The charming darling of the Fringe circuit, T.J. Dawe, is back with another raconteured tale. This time we find him at a well known, though timeworn, British family resort. Drudgerous time in a teen summer job is speckled with social commentary ("How many mouths has this restaurant fork been in?") and personal stories connected with notions of falling. With musings of Canadians’ views on Brits, this show would be well received in the U.K.

a. Neither raconteured, nor drudgerous are words. (I can understand making up the occasional word, but 2 words out of a 74-word review?)
b. The third sentence sounds like it was written by Yoda.
c. I have no idea what she means by “personal stories connected with notions of falling” or "musings of Canadians' views on Brits".
d. The sentence about how the show would be well-received in the U.K. is a beautiful non-sequitur. How would the show be received in Japan, Janis? What about in Slovakia? Does this mean that the show is not being well-received here?

Argh! It makes one want to tear up the paper. Please keep this woman on stage and away from any writing implements. It was absolutely horrible being subjected to her writing when Barratt was off having her baby...

Grumble, grumble… snarl…

Keep sending your Fringe tidbits, reviews and your own grammatical nitpicking to jkelly@cup.ca

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Early Thursday Fringe Mailbag Update: Cookies, History and Marta

That's right... Time to dip into the mailbag and see what people are emailing about today.

Cookies at the Fringe: Better than Sex?

The problem with S------'s story [see 6/172003] is that she was selling cookies at the Fringe, seeing it as a way to rake in money. Maybe it's different out west, but around here neither the volunteers nor most of the performers have all that much money to spare. Some guy has been making cookies and bringing them to the Montreal Fringe since 1997 for the volunteers and sometimes the performers, and while he jokes about charging, they're always free. Sometimes a lucky audience member even gets one. A couple of years, he actually got buzz, so we know what effect cookies can have on people; some might argue they are better than sex. He was thinking about taking some to the Classical show, and see if Rainer makes a pass at him.

Of course, maybe there were two women with cookies, and the other was trying to woo the classical guy.

One of the Car Story minions was inside the Beer Tent on Tuesday, handing out a flyer. I really hate to say this, but I'd say he did do damage to the Fringe two years ago, though not in the way he perceives it. I suspect some people got so fed up with him that the festival took a significant hit in terms of reviews and even tone of newspaper coverage. He didn't damage the festival, but the fewer reviews we are seeing does affect the very performers that he claims to be fighting for. The guy's
an idiot, and undoubtedly that will get me more email calling me a bozo.


More to come later.

Michael

Hi Michael,
Thanks for adding a new dimension to the cookie/S-----/Rainer love triangle. I am eager to hear more cookie-related gossip.
I don't know about consuming cookies at the Fringe, but I would recommend washing down some tasty Jem Rolls with a nice hot steaming Cuppa Jo.
I made a vow to not comment on anything else related to OTL/Car Stories/bald-angry-man; however, I will say, "I concur. That guy hurt the festival."

Uncalled For is "bare-faced ribaldry": Guy

Hey Kelly

Since you are more contactable than anyone in Montreal this week, or so it seems, I thought I would address various comments to the listening (?) audience via your good self. First, that Hasselhof [Amy Hasinoff] woman is following me around, or perhaps psychically I am doing the reverse: she was present on Monday at Uncalled For, and then again at Sabotage last night. Strange. If only I could work out how my mind works to unravel the mystery.

Anyway, more to the point I would have to echo Amy's resounding hurrah for Sabotage, which I think is possibly the most intelligent farce I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I was _so_ impressed. A note of caution however - a friend who saw them last year and this suggested that there was a certain degree of re-hash going on. Perhaps this is par for the course, whatever.

I must admit however that 'Uncalled For' actually hurt my sides to a greater degree than Sabotage, what with its bare-faced ribaldry, and so at the moment the five of them are prime candidates for my doctor's bill for stitches, when it arrives next week.

In other news, I hope you know that MSCL, or my so-called life, is now available on DVD for about $100 CDN. Yes, the whole damn lot. And it is still as fantastic as ever. In fact more so, what with one's rose-tinted spectacles perched precariously on one's nose...

hope all is well in the big T dot

Guy

Guy,
Oooh! MSCL on DVD! I am excited... However, at the moment I am saving up to purchase the first two seasons of Homicide: Life on the Street on DVD. That show was my favourite.
(Is it just me, or is TV a lot better now that I don't have to actually watch it live and can instead rent the series that I hear are good on DVD?)
Nice to hear from you and I hope to see you in the beer tent on Saturday and Sunday night.

Hottie Wrestlers' Absence Explained!

Hey Jay Kelly,

Cool stuff and kudos for your blog. I'd love to rate you on a sexiness scale, but I'll wait until you get a dramatic pose in B&W :-)

At any rate, what other fringe blogs are out there, "official" or otherwise?

If you're wondering what happened to the wrestlers, I heard a pretty nasty rumour. Something about the fringe producer not being on top of things (not returning calls, ignoring the group, etc.) and then blowing his top when they decided not to be part of the outdoor show this year. He's definately got the "white stuff" to run the fringe!

That's what a friend who follows local wrestling religiously said at any rate...

Keep up the good "unethical" work, and don't let the critics get the better of you.

Cheerio!

franklynne

Hey franklynne,
Thanks for the kind words. I shan't let the bastards grind me down.
Other than me, you can get Fringe reviews at Blork's Infinitely Unqualified Reviews.
As well, you can find a lot of information about the Montreal Fringe at this site, which I think is run by Michael Black (?). He has an interesting history of the Montreal Fringe on the Internet.
Other than that, the only Fringe news on the web seems to be at the official Fringe site in Vava Confidential, which is sadly short on any good gossip.
At other Fringe festivals I have visited, there are wonderful gossip/review newspaper/rags like The Jenny Revue in Winnipeg. They're fun and help foster the community atmosphere...
Personally, I decided to set this blog up, because I missed Gaetan Charlesbois' old Hour Fringe diary.
In wrestling news, folks jonsing for last year's Fringe wrestling extravaganza can check out the Internet Wrestling Syndicate for upcoming shows (the next one's in July in Laval).

There's more than one way to skin a Katz

Hey Kelly,

This is Marta, the Communications Director of the Fringe. I’d simply like to mention that a volunteer named Andrew saw “Uncle Jack” and was raving about it in headquarters, so I suggested that he write a netbuzz – perhaps he also wrote to you. I’d also like to point out that there isn’t anyone named “Andrew Katz” involved in “Uncle Jack.” Perhaps you are thinking of Peter Katz, who is the playwright and director, and whose father is also named Peter. I also know an Andrew Katz who is not related to Peter Katz (the name is common) who is a writer and Cégep prof – perhaps the review comes from him.

Please post this message post-haste, as I suspect you are unfairly accusing the Shape of a Boy troupe of writing their own review.

Thanks,
Marta.


Marta,
Re: Andrew Katz and Peter Katz. I suggest you read my entry again. I am not suggesting that Peter Katz wrote his own review. I am suggesting that a man named Andrew Katz wrote a glowing review of Peter Katz's show.
If the Andrew Katz who wrote the review for my blog is not related to Peter Katz, it is an odd coincidence. Certainly if I reviewed a show by someone with the last name of Nestruck, I would go to great pains to point out that I was not related to the people involved with the show. It certainly looks suspicious... Anyway, I have heard from neither Peter Katz nor Andrew Katz about this. Peter? Andrew?
I will, however, be happy to post your letter on my blog. And anyone elses for that matter: jkelly@cup.ca
Cheers,
Kelly

T.J. Dawe leading Rainer Hersch on Hot or Not!

Rainer is currently scoring 7.4/10, but T.J. is currently at 7.9/10 as of 1:31 am EST Thursday. Close race!

The Fringe Blogger is in third place with a respectable 6.8/10.

A reminder: you can view a naked picture of Rainer Hersch here.

Rabble babble

I promised I wouldn't mention I certain bald-headed, yellow-glasses-wearing, Augusto Boal wannabe whose initials are D.K. anymore, and so I won't. However, if you are interested in what the-person-who-shall-not-be-named is up to, please feel free to check out the disinformation he is trying (in vain, I think) to spread on Rabble.ca. Here are the two links:

First Thread
Second Thread

(Note that my good name and this blog are besmirched in them! Pathos! Bathos!)

Keep sending your Fringe gossip and reviewery to jkelly@cup.ca

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Early Wednesday Fringe Update: All Classical Music Explained by A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's!

Sabotage is Really Fucking Funny

So says correspondent Amy Hasinoff (a former culture editor at The McGill Daily):

I saw Sabotage: In Fine Form last night. It was the funniest thing ever. If you can think of anything more hilarious than a Sabotage show, I'll eat my helicopter...The show was even more polished and clever than the one I saw in Winnipeg last year. It was structured a bit like long-form imrov, but with much quicker pacing. The attentive audience member was well rewarded with subtle (and not-so-subtle) word play that was always original and hilarious. Their beautifully constructed characters and absurdist approach to humour were completely fabulous. Ahhhh. So wonderful.
So very, very, wonderful.

I've said it once, I'll say it again: Sabotage is one of my favourite comedy troupes. If one is to believe Amy, they remain funny. (I have always found her to be an excellent barometer of taste.)
Thanks for the review, Amy.

Nepotistic Review!

An individual, identifying himself as Andrew, sent me a glowing review of Uncle Jack.
But Andrew made one fatal mistake: his email header identifies his full name as "Andrew Katz". And the playwright/director of Uncle Jack is a certain Peter Katz.
Brothers? Father and Son? Uncle and nephew!?! The Katz is out of the bag!

Anyway, I'm still going to post it up because, hey, what the hell. But you have been forewarned: Caveat Emptor. (I've highlighted the passages that seem a little much, so you can skip over them if you want.)

Just to let you know about a truly great, both funny and poignant, refreshingly honest, bold Fringe show -- Uncle Jack, playing tonight (Tues), tomorrow (Wed), and Saturday. I saw it at its opening, last Saturday. The play explores the experience of a young woman, Summer, who finds herself at the point where all the fault lines of her life meet. On the cusp of adulthood, she doesn't really know who she is or what she wants, a confusion made worse by her parents' recent and sudden divorce, her boyfriend's unexpected and bewildering marriage proposal, and a generally impersonal, coporate-ladder-climbing culture.

Not knowing where to turn for answers, she holes herself up in her apartment for a confrontation with life, with herself. She also has a psychology presentation to prepare, with one-half of the presentation supposed to be about herself -- a subject she is still having trouble understanding.

This play has raw power, which comes from its honest, uninhibited portrayal of Summer's struggle. In a blitz of creativity -- from talking into a tape recorder named Max; to talking to Ani DiFranco in the poster on the wall; to making up Dr. Seuss-like rhymes; to putting together a gutsy, penetratingly insightful, surprising psychology presentation -- Summer grapples towards freedom, towards finding an honest sense of herself. She is not really neurotic -- just lost in confusion and trying every creative trick in the book to map her way out of the fog, to find bearings to her life.

The structure of the play is also excellent -- the scenes are dappled with interesting light changes, like sunlight through foliage, showing us the variations in Summer's emotional journey. Music and voice-overlays are used creatively and movingly. Phone calls from parents and from Summer's boyfriend come in, keeping Summer, as well as the audience, connected with the world outside her apartment. And the play keeps building in intensity, over 60 mintues, surprising you with where it goes right until the end.

This play will stay with you long after it's over, and may even have you wanting to see it again, and I will be doing this week. It's emotionally layered and textured, beautifully rendered, and strikes the balance between "dark" and "comedy". Summer is a real, breathing, living, complex character, who breaks your heart with her struggle and puts it back together with her balls-out courage. I think this is a play that really deserves to be seen, because of what is has to say, and because of how much I think many people will get out of it.

Dear Andrew, thanks for the review. However, your lighting design comments seem a little over-the-top. Fringe shows NEVER have lighting "like sunlight through foliage."
For another glowing review, though not written by someone whose last name is Katz, check out Isabelle from Pigeon-Hole's review on 6/16/2003.

A Blogger Responds: Quick Clarifications

Some people seem to be under the impression that this page is an "official" Fringe blog or something. Allow me to respond to a few of these allegations:

"I don't want to hear any more about Dovovan this or Donovan that... I can't believe the fringe blog is giving him press." - James

Dear James, thanks for posting. Alas, I am just "a" fringe blog, not "the" fringe blog. Unless you mean "the fringe blog", as in "the shit" or "the bomb".

"Anyways, I won't be sticking around on this blog - it sounds to me like its run by the Fringe festival, hence the biased "reporting" and pointless rants." - Dimitri (aka Donovan King?)

Dear D., thanks for posting. I can assure you that I am just a young, exiled Montrealer who has too much time on my hands. Also, I would like to stenuously object to your use of the word "reporting"; it is all bias and pointless ranting here.

"Who cares if this blog & the festival are corporate? It makes for a better event." - Audra

Dear Audra, thanks for posting. My blog is so not corporate, it's amazing. However, if anyone would like to corporatize it, I will accept any and all sponsorship. Email your dirty tobacco money to jkelly@cup.ca. Only $25 for a glowing Fringe review!

"Well, the official "fringe" blog is certainly talking about [D. King and all that stupid shit]. Amazing how this so-called blog attacks Indymedia while defending CanWest-Global." -- Performance Anxiety (aka. D. King?) on a rabble.ca thread.

Dear P.A., thanks for increasing my hit count by linking to my blog on rabble.ca. I am a little confused, however, as to what on earth a "so-called blog" is.
Do you mean like My So-Called Life? I really dug that show.

"Now let's get on to the real stories of importance at the Fringe festival. I thought the one about the woman who may or may not have had an affair with a Fringe performer to be very good, although I'd like more background on the scandal. I'd like to see a little more Entertainment Tonight-style journalism to add depth and intelligence to a festival that is starting to feel a little stale and worn. I'd like to know what happened to those hottie wrestlers -- as they always say -inquiring minds want to know!" -- more from Audra.

Dear Audra, AMEN! Where are the Hottie Wrestlers? I understand that the Hottie Breakdancers are back again this year (swoon!), but where are the Hottie Wrestlers!?! WHERE ARE THE HOTTIE WRESTLERS!!?!?!?!?!?

J. Kelly's Blogging Ethics: Out the Window!

Okay, all of you of there in Internetland. I got an email from S----- (see last entry) today saying that she hadn’t expected that I would publish her letter on the blog.
I think I made an honest mistake; she didn’t say that it should not be published and it certainly looked like a letter that was meant to set the record straight. I assumed she wanted me to clear things up…

Now, if I were really ethical, I would take the thing down now. But – frankly – it’s too good of a story, so I just removed her name.

Besides -- in the name of good Entertainment Tonight-style journalism -- I must continue investigating Mr. Rainer Hersch’s attractiveness/non-attractiveness.

Therefore, I put the following questions out to the Fringing public:

1) Ladies and Gentlemen (particularly members of the Gay Samurai Revue), is Rainer Hersch (see nude photo here) hot or not? Please visit Hot or Not and vote. (I have gone first and rated him an 8 out of 10, though I had to try and forget his naked picture in order to do so.)

2) Is Hersch anywhere near as hot as the other black-curly-haired Fringe monologist T.J. Dawe? Inquiring minds want to know! Vote here re: T.J. (I gave T.J. an 8 as well.)

3) Finally - since I am posting people's picture on Hot or Not without their permission - I hereby agree submit myself to the horrible ego-crush that is Am I Hot or Not? as well. Vote as to how (un)hot this Fringe blogger is, here.

Warning: King to Attack tomorrow at Five

Okay, I promise not to give any more space to this Donovan King/Optative Theatrical Laboratory nonsense. However, I suggest you avoid the Beer Tent tomorrow at 5pm. Sources have informed me that King is planning a "political action" (sigh) there at that time to celebrate the anniversary of the Car Stories debacle -- and his birthday. (So when I say 'source', what I really mean is that I read it here.) Or -- if you are there enjoying a McAuslan -- you can just ignore him and/or pull down his pants.

Send your Entertainment-Tonight-style tips, hot or not critiques and cold or not cash to jkelly@cup.ca. Again, here is a picture of Rainer Hersch naked.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Rainer Hersh: Attempted Homewrecker!?!

In my picks and pans post, I mentioned All Classical Music Explained as a show to see, writing:

I saw Rainer Hersch’s show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival way back in 1997, when Sorority Girl Slumber Party Massacre and MacHomer were all the rage. My memories are vague, but I remember two things about this show. 1) A volunteer named S------ was madly in love with Rainer and baked cookies in an attempt to woo the Brit. 2) This show is hilarious, especially if you have any musical background.

Well, apparently S------, who I haven't heard from or seen since 1997, has a different recollection of that summer and her cookies and the Rainer incident. Here is her story:

Dear Mr. or Ms. jkelly@cup.ca, [Editor's note: It's mister.]

I'm afraid I don't remember who you are exactly, but it seems you know...or remember me from the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine who was reading the reviews for the Montreal Fringe that my name was brought up in a little "blurb" near the end of a column praising "All Classical Music Explained" by Rainer Hersch. My name is S------ [expunged] and I'm the one who was apparently "madly in love" with "the Brit". Let me kindly correct you on a few points:

1) Since 1992, I have been, for lack of a more apt term, devoted to my now husband of almost 5 years. This would include the week-long Fringe of 1997. Add that up and you've got yourself over 10 years with the same guy. And no offense to Mr. Hersch, as he could be considered 'handsome' in some circles, but there is no way he could ever compare to the wonderful man I ended up marrying in 1999.

2) I was not "baking cookies" to woo him. The cookies were being sold to anyone who was interested; volunteers, performers, staff or otherwise. A volunteer colleague of mine gave me the idea to sell my baked wares because he thought they were very good quality and I would make a "fair chunk of change", which I did. Most of my customers were volunteers and a couple of staff members, and the only performer I even remember selling some brownies to was Wes Borg and Joe Bird of the Dead Trolls.

3) Mr. Hersch was actually the one who "made the move" on me one evening at the Fringe, knowing full well my relationship with my now husband, who he had met and spoken to the year before when I introduced the two of them at the Macaroni Bar. My husband was a musician at the time, and they both spoke at great lengths about the material in "All Classical Music Explained".
When we had the opportunity to see each other in 1997, I did not suffer from temporary amnesia and forget about my fiance...I spoke to him at great lengths about wedding plans and mine and my fiance's wish for "a big house with lots of kids so they can do all the housework". Whatever ideas Mr. Hersch had in his head, I can't say, but after a very brief show of affection on his part, I said in no uncertain terms, forget it.

In conclusion, after Mr. Hersch attempted his little game, the first person I told was, of course, my fiance. Needless to say, he was not amused, nor was I. But I did have enough good grace to see his show last year, "Rainer Hersch Will Sell Out". (Without the now-husband, despite my best attempt to let him "bury the hatchet", and not in Rainer's back). At least 5 years had passed since this little incident, I had been married for a little over 2 1/2 years, and since the incident itself was almost Jane Austin-like in its "innocence", (all the ado over a simple kiss?), I was more than willing to leave it in the past. We did manage to sit down one evening and talk about what had happened, and to my surprise and relief, he didn't remember a thing about it.

In no way to I want to slander the name of a wonderful performer like Rainer. I will heartily agree that his shows are fantastic in their quality; he always gives 100% in his performances. I also admit that some of his characteristics can be considered quite "charming", and he is a very engaging person to speak with, but I'm sorry to say that at no time have I ever found myself "attracted" to him. I have always regarded him with the same amount of respect that I have for other 'casual acquaintances' in my life.

I hope this clears up any confusion you may have had about past memories of the Winnipeg Fringe.

Sincerely, S----- {expunged]

Frankly, I'm inclined to trust S-----'s memories more than I am mine. I was but a wee lad at the time. It was never my intent to impugn this lady's honour.
Still, doesn't it seem like the lady doth protest too much? Rainer, what do you have to say about this?

Send your defences of Fringe affairs of years past to jkelly@cup.ca

Monday, June 16, 2003

Oedipus Retch: The King is dead, long live the King?

So, it turns out Donovan King is back again this year, carrying on his one-man protest of the Fringe -- or FringeTM as he calls it. King is putting on Car Stories again: "Using the lost art of the traveling troupe, with no conflict-of-interest “bossman” to answer to or be censored by, it will emulate the Commedia dell’Arte of the centuries gone by." It's described here in his press release. (Thanks Stan for sending the link in.)

For those of you who don't know the story, the bald and abrasive King's show Car Stories, a neat concept wherein three spectators at a time are shuffled from car to car, was kicked out of the Montreal Fringe in 2001. Jeremy Hechtman, producer of the Fringe, said that it was because of noise complaints and inappropriate behaviour on the part of King and company. King went ballistic and blamed The Gazette, a Fringe sponsor, for pressuring the Fringe to drop the show, after he asked Pat Donnelly (then-theatre critic at The Gazoo) to pay when she came to review Car Stories.

My personal opinion is that King did act inappropriately in the 2001 Fringe -- most of the cast of Car Stories 2001 ended up abandoning him, everyone I spoke with at the time felt intimidated or annoyed by his conduct. King is a shit-disturber, which is fine and dandy, but shit-disturbers have to be prepared to suffer the consequences for their actions. The Gazette had nothing to do with the dropping of Car Stories, as the independent body le Conseil de Presse du Quebec determined: "Enfin, le Conseil n'a rien trouvé dans son analyse des faits qui permette de conclure à une conspiration ou à une collusion visant à exclure "Car Stories" et M. Donovan King du Festival Fringe."

Personally, I find it tremendously irritating that King -- who obviously has many intelligent ideas, artistic and otherwise -- has chosen to wage this stupid battle for three years. Of all the evil out there in the world that he could target, King has dedicated himself to bringing down the Fringe Festival. In my books, that's like kicking babies and torturing puppies.

This just in: It turns out the charges against King -- who was arrested during his protest of the 2001 Frankies -- were dropped. Read about it in this IndyMedia article (thanks Dimitri).
(By the way, this article is a perfect example of what is wrong with the IndyMedia movement. It presents unsubstantiated (and probably libellous) allegations against The Gazette. While purporting to challenged the corporate bias of the mainstream media, IndyMedia often presents even more one-sided journalism -- and badly written journalism at that.

Send your Fringe-related gossip and reviews to jkelly@cup.ca.
Early Monday Morning Fringe Triple-M: Mooney, Melissa-Lynn, and Modern Stories

Molière than Thou: License to Ill-inois?

Tim Mooney, writer and star of Molière than Thou, was understandly miffed that I placed his show on my list of 8 Shows to Avoid Catching Like SARS. Betraying my Montrealcentric bias and my Misanthropic nature, I dissed the show writing: "I’ve got an idea! Why don’t I pack up my little English-language Illinois-based show about Molière – the world’s most famous French playwright – and present it in the biggest French-speaking city in North America?"

Mooney dropped me a line earlier today, expressing his indignation: "Well, I feel properly slammed. Obviously nothing good could come out of Illinois." He also sent along a few reviews. It's only fair to give equal space to a few good words about the show...

The Orlando Weekly: "Like his cultural hero before him, Mooney needs only a trunk of costume pieces and his superior histrionics to turn himself into any number of vivid, irreverent, fast-talking characters straight from the pages of the author’s greatest works. Mooney is a well-trained and appealing performer who whets the appetite for more."
The Orlando Sentinal: "Mooney’s show is a relatively traditional one for the Fringe: You can imagine it touring to high-school auditoriums, and surely it’s the only Fringe offering that mentions Aristotle’s unities of time, place and action. But the actor has a way with this material and an equally lovely manner with the members of the audience he invites onto his stage – at the show I saw, a retiree from New Smyrna Beach who got a huge kick out of performing “The Schemings of Scapin.” Clearly Molière lives."

Well, I suppose it was a little elitist of me to suggest that -- just because Mooney is an American performing in English -- he doesn't have the right or the talent to perform Molière in Montreal. (I was acting like one of those nobs who suggest that Judith Thompson should not write about poor, disadvantaged people, because she's a middle-class white woman.)

I still have no idea if the show is any good. However, to make up for my presumptuousness, here is a list of things from Illinois that I know are great:

- Chicago : that toddling town!
- Hillary Rodham Clinton : bestselling author and the most famous first lady ever!
- John Deere : Tractors! Tractors! Tractors!
- Miles Davis: Kind of Brilliant!
- Harrison Ford: They should have called him Illinois Jones!
- The Ferris Wheel: Invented by Galesburg-born George Ferris!
- Ernest Hemingway: He ran with bulls!

(Disclaimer: None of this makes up for the fact that Ronald Reagan was born in Illinois.)

Uncle Jack: 1/4 of Pigeon-hole Recommends this Show

Isabelle Famy, the lovely and talented lead singer from Montreal's folk-funk spectactular Pigeon-Hole, emailed me to recommend Uncle Jack (which I keep mixing up with Uncle Buck).

Izz says that the show is... Well, I'll let her tell you:

I'm writing to to send you a brief critique of a fabulous one woman show I went to see tonight (Saturday, June 14) at the Fringe festival. The play is called Uncle Jack, written and directed by Peter Katz, and starring Melissa-Lynn Dozois.

I have to admit that I walked in a few minutes late after my roommate and I had run like blind maniacs through the thick fog and mist that had spread across the entire city. Nonetheless, we both adjusted quickly to our shortened introduction to the plot... Melissa Lynn Dozois doesn't have to go past her bedroom door to make anyone understand her character's coping mechanism against her parents' recent divorce. Sequined costumes, blue eye shadow, and the bogus strip tease are absent in this space. Instead, you will find a genuine and clever performance accompanied by comical Dr. Seuss references, large gulps of Jack Daniels and a fitting sound track.

You heard it here folks: Run like blind maniacs to see Uncle Jack...

Also, you can catch the sweet sound-stylings of Pigeon-Hole in Toronto on June 21 at Cameron House and in Montreal on June 29 at Le Swimming. More deets here...

On the subject of Music...

... don't forget: the Fringe isn't just about the theatre. There are many wonderful bands that you can catch for free on the outdoor stage.

I've known singer/songwriter Katie Sevigny since I was just a wee lad, but have never actually been able to see play a concert. So I wish I was in town on June 19 at 6 pm to see her at Parc des Ameriques.

I also seem to have missed Sophie Young (formerly of Modern Stories) and Courtney Wing... The latter musician I am particularly upset to have missed, because it is so rare to find another man with a woman's name with whom I can commisserate.

Keep on sending that Fringe gossip to jkelly@cup.ca.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Fringe Facts and Staffing Snafus! (Plus, the return of Blork...)

The First Show to Officially Sell Out a Performance...

... was Uncalled For, the improv comedy show featuring Matt Goldberg, Dan Jeannotte, Mike Hughes, Caitlin Howden, and Anders Yates -- and deservedly so. These five have been performing improv together for close to five year now, since they all went to John Abbott College together.

There was no "mystery guest" at last night's show. However, sources have informed me of three of the mystery guests who will show up in future shows. MuchMusic VJ Amanda Walsh (also a JAC Improv alumna) will be guest-starring for one of the shows this week, and Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen, the hilarious guys from Sabotage, will be dropping by for Friday's show. Ron Scott, the blue-eyed star of Ninjas Get All the Chicks, is rumoured to be appearing at another of the shows.

Staffing Snafu: Dubinsky in doo-doo again?

Hawkeyed Fringers will have no doubt noticed that a certain Ira “Scooby” Dubinsky (see his picture at the top of the page here), formerly Assistant Producer, is nowhere to be found on the Fringe staff this year. Sources say that this is because he was summarily dismissed by Jeremy and Patrick earlier this year, despite alleged verbal assurances that he had his job back.
(Perhaps he was not brought back because it was HIM who was responsible for Art Duchamps' death last year?)
No skin off of Dubinsky’s nose, of course. He was quickly hired to work on Communications by the Just For Laughs Festival.

More Staffing Snafus

Did anyone notice that Ken “Captured-by-the-Taliban” Hechtman, local journalist and grungy-leather-jacket wearer, was hired on to fill the "Box Office Software" position? Could his brotherly status with Producer Jeremy Hechtman have anything to do with this?
Tsk… Tsk… Of course not! Put those thoughts of nepotism out of your mind. Ken was hired because he has the white stuff for the job, of course.
Er… Sorry. Did I say “white stuff”? I meant “Right Stuff”.

Has Donovan King shown up yet?

Inquiring minds want to know: where is shit-disturber/Car-Stories-Guy Donovan King this year? Will he hold another weird protest? Will he eat a peach? Will he roll his trousers?
Until he shows up and does something gossip-worthy, spend a moment reading this fun-to-read decision rendered by the Conseil du Presse de Quebec a couple of years ago, after King's 2001 complaint against everyone on earth. Needless to say, the complaint was not upheld.
Does anyone know what the verdict was in King's trial (started this April only) after he was arrested for protesting 2001's Frankies?

Blork is Back

That's right... Blork's Infinitely Unqualified Reviews is back up for the 2003 Montreal Fringe. So far he has reviewed Sluts are Only Human and At Random.

Got Fringe gossip? Send it to jkelly@cup.ca!



Friday, June 13, 2003

Friday Evening Mailbag: Fringe! Flamers! M.J. Milloy!

Let's start with the Fringe stuff...

From the improv show Uncalled For, Anders Yates (he's the one whose head is superimposed onto a sperm in the cast picture) writes:
First off, thanks for the perfect mix of impartiality and a totally biassed plug. I appreciate it. Now on to comment on your picks:
I'd add Tyrannous Rex to the Must See list just because it's directed by one half of Sabotage and the one he directed last year (which also featured the same star) got great reviews from the few people who actually saw it. I believe it got the Centaur award too.
I agree with most of your must see picks, (especially those Circus Cowboys. I saw their Fringe For All, and they are really entertaining. Picture one cowboy standing on the other cowboy's head and doing lasso tricks. 'Nuff said), I just wish there was room for more, like TJ Dawe's main show, A Canadian Bartender at Butlin's. Oh well, on to your pans.
As much as I gotta say you're right about Star Wars Survivor, I'm still gonna see it. Why? The same reason I watched American Pie or There's Something About Mary. Gross-out jokes do work on me from time to time. I saw their show last year, Cobra: The Musical, and it was a huge mess of really low-brow humour, but I have to admit that even through the soaring temperatures of their oven of a venue, I laughed quite a bit. Still, I'm hoping for more from the TJ Dawe directed One Man Star Wars Trilogy.

Anders: I completely agree with your pick of Tyrannous Rex. This duo's show last year, The Elephant Club won a Frankie and got a run at the Centaur. While I did not get to see The Elephant Club, I heard it was amazing.
As for T.J. Dawe's new show, I'm sure it will be wonderful, but that lovable scoundrel doesn't need any encouragement from me. He'll sell out every show, no problem. The One Man Star Wars Trilogy is directed by T.J. too, is it? I hope he isn't spreading himself too thing.
TOMSTWT brings back memories of Fringe wonder Rick Miller (MacHomer, But is it Art?). Could be good or bad.
As for Star Wars Survivor, I didn't even realize it was by the same people who did Cobra: The Musical. That's even more reason not to go. I thought that show was horrendous [see 5/30/2003]. How much you want to bet the guy who played Serpentor is going to be Darth Vader?
- Thanks for writing, Anders!

From No Cycle, Liesl writes:
Agreement in show choices, but I think "Jem Rolls" should be added, as he was fantastic last year. Lots of energy. If you didn't get to see him then, be sure to check him out.
- Thanks Liesl.

Winner of the Lede Writing Contest

The Challenge [Check out 5/29/2003] was to come up with a worse lede for this story from The Calgary Sun:

Urine won’t be the only thing Calgary city hall is flushing away with the installation of new urinals.
The renovations will save $50 a year in water costs, but will cost $1,800 for the four units.
The city installed the new water-saving urinals Thursday, as part of its move to make civic facilities environmentally friendly.

Well, we have a winner, and that winner is M.J. Milloy, Montreal journalist and blogger at www.thenewforum.ca. His lede was:

You're in luck if you hoped Calgary city hall wouldn't flush plans for environmental improvements at city hall.

Ow... That's horrendous! Congratulations M.J. You win a beer with me. That's right. I'll be hanging out at the Montreal Fringe Beer Tent next Saturday and, if you show up, I'll buy you a beer. If you don't we'll do it another time.

Thanks to all those who entered!

My First Flame!

You're not a true blogger until people start flaming you. I guess my time has finally come because a visitor-- who goes by the name of Liane -- left this comment on my last entry:

I can't help but feel sorry for you. You seem like a very selfish, self-involved person who likes to conceive of himself as enlightened. Somebody had to say it.

Bam! Thanks Liane...
And if anyone has any clue as to what might have provoked Liane to leave that message, I'd love to find out.
MONTREAL FRINGE FESTIVAL PICKS AND PANS PREVIEW!!!

Well, the 13th edition of the Montreal Fringe Festival is starting today. Sadly, I will not be back in Montreal until next Friday night, so I’ll be missing out on all that hot Fringe Fun….

But not quite. I’ve decided to turn my blog into Montreal Fringe Festival Flaming Central for the next 13 days. And I’m starting it off with my list of 8 shows you should go see and 8 shows you should avoid seeing...

Anyway, I figure I can be totally unbiased, because I am not there in Montreal to be seduced by beautiful Fringe performers with sneaky self-promotional agendas, as opposed to Jason Whiting and Matt Radz who are surely being liquored up and flirted with by the Solid State Breakdance Collective as you read this. (By the way, has Amy Barrett popped that baby out yet?)

Two things before I get to my lists:

1) Send any and all Fringe gossip, as well as angry letters and your own pithy reviews of shows to jkelly@cup.ca. I’ll post just about anything.

2) I have purposely excluded my close friends’ shows from the 8 Shows that you must Catch list, just to prove how above the fray I am. Therefore let me quickly plug Uncalled For, No Cycle, and Ninjas Get All the Chicks. These three are the best shows ever produced and I encourage you to go see them.

Without further ado...

8 SHOWS THAT YOU MUST CATCH:

Sabotage: In Fine Form: I’ve seen two Sabotage shows now. Last year’s show, (Sabotage III, was it?) was the funniest thing I have seen in my life. I am serious. I had great difficulty controlling my bladder. You must go see these fellows. (Me-berry?)

All Classical Music Explained: I saw Rainer Hersch’s show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival way back in 1997, when Sorority Girl Slumber Party Massacre and MacHomer were all the rage. My memories are vague, but I remember two things about this show. 1) A volunteer named S------ was madly in love with Rainer and baked cookies in an attempt to woo the Brit. 2) This show is hilarious, especially if you have any musical background.

CARMEN: All right! It’s about time someone plays around with opera in a Fringe show. If there’s any artistic medium that needs to find some way to achieve relevancy amongst the kids, it’s opera. Plus, CARMEN is adapted and directed by Anica Nonveiller, who runs Aria. No, not the club! Aria, the private classical singing school. Let’s hope the venue has good acoustics.

JOB II: Frankly, Eli Batalion and Jerome Saibil’s show doesn’t need any buzz from a lone blogger exiled in Toronto. So let me just say this: The original JOB lived up to its hype, which was rather hard to do, considering it was hailed as the best Fringe show since sliced bread. These guys get better every year, so I hope 2003 won’t break the trend.

Confessions of a Repressed Mennonite: Mennonites are awesome. No, really! Having lived in Winnipeg for many summers, I know the Mennonites who abandon their clique and move to the city are some of the most entertaining and fun people you’ll ever meet. There’s some good buzz coming out of the Prairies on this show, so I’m going to take a leap of faith and say that it’s one of the shows to watch for this year.

Les Circus Cowboys: Dudes! Circus Cowboys! Like, real circus cowboys from the Ecole nationale de cirque de Montreal! How could this possibly be anything but great? I repeat: CIRCUS COWBOYS!!!! Holy Fuck!

The Contract: Jason Maghanoy is a promising young playwright whose main problem is that he always directs his plays himself. Now, if only there was some way we could team him up with a great director who has worked on the original productions of some of Canada’s most successful first productions… Yoicks! Maghanoy! How did you score Guy Sprung (Fennario’s Balconville! Pollock’s Doc! Salutin’s Les Canadiens) to direct a play of yours at the Fringe? I expect something good.

The Power of Ignorance: Mix together half of the hilarious, British, vaudevillian troupe Hoopal (Chris Gibbs) and four quarters of Fringe impresario T.J. Dawe (T.J. Dawe). I don’t really see how this could go wrong. This will either be brilliant or the most surprising Fringe flop ever.

8 SHOWS TO AVOIDING CATCHING, LIKE SARS:

Teaching Witchcraft: Keir Cutler’s first Fringe show was, what, four years ago? It was called “Teaching Shakespeare” and it was pleasant and funny and well performed. Cutler’s shows since have got worse every year. Last year’s, Teaching Shakespeare, was just plain lousy as theatre, a polemical lecture about the authorship controversy disguised as a play. (Weird Cutler Fact: Did you know that the good Dr. Cutler was once drafted to play for the Montreal Alouettes? It’s true!)

Molière Than Thou: I’m got an idea! Why don’t I pack up my little English-language Illinois-based show about Molière – the world’s most famous French playwright – and present it in the biggest French-speaking city in North America? Maybe I will be proven wrong, but this just smells like disaster.

Antiviol: A collective production about rape created by theatre students? Count me out.

Bisexual Alphabet: Okay, so the sexuality-themed show is a constant at Fringe festivals. However, having read the title and the description and the length (75 mins!) and the fact that it is part of this guy’s undergraduate degree and the fact that he’s from North Carolina… It all just spells didactic, early-90s-identity-politics boredom.

Hair Retain Odour: Toss this one in the same category as Bisexual Alphabet. From the program: “Stephen Sharpe reflects on how an Irish born rural immigrant with a Catholic upbringing becomes an neurotic urban dwelling gay waif.” Catholic becomes neurotic gay man? Holy shit! Stop the Presses!!! (This reminds me of what one of my friends said to another friend when he came out: “That’s great that you’re writing about your struggle with your sexuality!! Just do us all a favour: keep it in your diary and never publish and/or perform it!”)

In the Mouth of the Juney Bug: A Play by John Cocktoasten: Okay. I don’t want to be mean here or anything. But I don’t think you could write a brief for a play that would make me want to see it any less than this: “A multimedia visit to the world of a pop-culture virtuoso in the midst of a battle to maintain control over his world. Through puppetry, music and striking theatrical allegory, insperado [the production company] invites you to join them as they seek to discover what happens when the consumer becomes the consumed.” Now, perhaps, if they had written: “The Muppets meet Naomi Klein!”, you would have seen this show on my “What to See” list, instead of down here.

Richard III ou la chute du corbeau: I’ve got an idea! Why don’t we have Richard III, about to die, being confronted by the women from his life? That sounds great! Also, why don’t we wring all the life and fun out of Shakespeare’s brilliant black comedy?

Star Wars Survivor: Kill me. Look guys, you fucked up! You’re supposed to mix one element of HIGH culture with another element of LOW culture. For instance, Survivor: Prospero’s Island. Or, Georg Lukcas’ Star Wars. Or, if you must mix low and low, add one more low. For instance, Star Wars Survivor: The Musical. Got it? Good, you’ll know better next time.

Question, Comments, Death Threats, Calling Me On My Shit? Email me at jkelly@cup.ca.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Five things I wrote and then deleted while writing essays early in the morning in the year 2001.

1. When Karen and Martha go to confront Mrs. Tilford, they try to defend themselves with language. The stage directions reveal that Mrs. Tilford is not, in fact, an upstanding citizen but rather the sultaness of a deep-south opium den. "Tilford [in the manner of an opium den sultaness]: You shouldn't have come here" (Hellman, 372).

2. Nosek considers opposition to pan-Germanism as the main impetus for the creation of pan-Slavism and national consciousness among many of the Slav nations. Of course, Nosek, as the Secretary to the Czecho-Slovak Legation in London working with Masaryk, was referring to Pan, the mythical flute-playing goatman. "Pan-slav?" he remarked. "Is that a crocodile I hear ticking?"

3. By comparing these two movements, I think there is a lot of information to be gleaned (and protestors would do well to pay attention). There is a great quote from The Age of Reform in Major Problems: While it may be "feasible and desirable to formulate ideal programs of reform, it is asking too much to expect that history will move in a straight line to realize them." Radicals may be disappointed, but as Peter Collier and David Horowitz write, "Fuck the degree! Let's go be journalists."

4. Before looking at what contributed to the formation of a strong Catholic Irish-Canadian identity during the decades leading up to confederation, it should be noted that a great deal of the sense of cohesion that was found in the community was brought over from the sheep. "Baa," he remarked.

5. Other differences between French and English versions of Beckett's plays come from his relative grasp of the two languages. While it is generally asserted that Beckett wrote equally well in French and English, Novelist Vladimir Nabokov has said of Beckett, "They won't let me move within one kilometre of a school."

Monday, June 02, 2003

Poem of the Week

Commuter
by PJ Kavanagh

Deaf and dumb lovers in a misty dawn
On an open railway platform in the Dordogne
Watched each other's hands and faces,
Making shapes with their fingers, tapping their palms,
Then stopped and smiled and threw themselves
Open-mouthed into each others' arms

While the rest of us waited, standing beside our cases.
When it arrived she left him and climbed on the train
Her face like dawn because of their conversation.
Then she stepped down, grabbed his neck in the crook of her arm,
Gave him the bones of her head, the bones of her body violently.
Then climbed on again alone. Her face hardened
In seconds as we moved away from their island.
Tight-lipped she looked around for a seat on the sea.