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Artists To Watch

There's no lack of talent at this year's fest. Keep your eye on these folks, who will be SummerWorkin' it to the bone.

By: Jon Kaplan and Glenn Sumi

Sabrina Reeves

WHAT Performer in Blindsided, about a woman who flashes back to her childhood after being hit by a car while riding her bike to work.

WHY One of the founding members of the site-specific collective bluemouth inc. (veterans of several SummerWorks shows), Reeves is a focused, physical performer who adds an electric spark to any performance. This is a solo show with her Montreal company Fée Fatale, but expect lots of multimedia excitement, including large-scale film projections that blur the line between past and present.


Guy Sprung

WHAT Adaptor/director of Kafka's Ape, in which an ape gives a lecture on how he evolved from an animal to a hard-working, hard-drinking mercenary soldier.

WHY Sprung, who ran Toronto Free Theatre in the 1980s and was later co-head of Canadian Stage, is currently artistic director of Montreal's Infinithéâtre. The company remounts this version of Kafka's A Report To An Academy; the praise for the Quebec staging suggests that Sprung hasn't lost the vibrant, textually incisive qualities he brought to some of his Toronto productions years ago.


Cole Alvis

WHAT Director of ROW, about an aboriginal "kept boy" who's been sequentially cared for by a number of men and, though no longer young, is looking for his next daddy.

WHY A queer Metis actor/director/administrator who's worked with Native Earth, the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance and lemonTree creations, Alvis brings a sharp sense of theatricality to his work, which is simple and goes straight to the heart. In ROW, written by frequent Fringe playwright T. Berto, he collaborates with a trio of native performers (Dillan Chiblow, Billy Merasty and Garret C. Smith) who embody the main character at different ages. Expect the result to be insightful and moving.


Lili Francks

WHAT Actor in Chicken Grease Is Nasty Business, a comedy in which a mother who fries the best chicken in the South concocts a plan to lure her sons back home.

WHY Francks, who's appeared in The Adventures Of A Black Girl In Search Of God, The Golden Dragon and Goodness, always scores with simple, non-nonsense performances that resonate long after the curtain falls. In playwright Michael Miller's Chicken Grease - the two previously worked together in El Paso - she's surrounded by a great cast, including Karen Glave, Danny Waugh, Christian Lloyd, Dian Marie Bridge and Sedina Fiati, with Kim Blackwell directing.


Jennifer Walls

WHAT Performer in Recurring John, Kevin Wong's musical look at one man through the eyes of those around him, part of the always sold-out Musical Works in Concert series.

WHY The multi-talented Walls runs the Monday night musical theatre open mic show at Statler's and has wowed theatre audiences as Liza Minnelli in her Fringe hit Liza Live! and the two-hander Liza & Barbra (with pal Gabi Epstein). Last month she stood out in the Fringe hit Hugh & I - playing in drag, no less. So look for her and a terrific cast that includes Paula Wolfson, Chris Tsujiuchi and Arlene Duncan in Wong's show, which, judging from video clips, has the feel of a song cycle like Elegies or Songs For The New World.


Daniele Bartolini

WHAT Director and creator (with others) of The Stranger, a two-part mystery "serial" that begins with a walkabout, participatory jaunt through the Queen and Bathurst area and concludes with narrative loose ends being tied up at the Theatre Centre.

WHY Along with his collaborators, including Danya Buonastella and Rory de Brouwer, Bartolini entranced audience with the outdoor Midway Along The Journey Of Our Life in SummerWorks 2013 and The Last Seven Steps Of Bartholomew S. at the Bata Shoe Museum. He's again creating a one-on-one theatrical experiment in The Stranger that's certain to put the viewer through an unconventional, dreamlike experience. Can't wait to go down this rabbit hole.


Ronald Pederson and Daniela Vlaskalic

WHAT Performers in The Bull, The Moon And The Coronet Of Stars, a sexy, comic and romantic spinoff on the Minotaur myth that involves heartbreak and redemption.

WHY Delightful performers individually - Pederson was a member of the National Theatre of the World, and Vlaskalic co-wrote and -performed national hit The Drowning Girls - the pair collaborate as the Theatre Department, which has presented The Exquisite Hour and Pith! Working with director Vikki Anderson and choreographer Monica Dottor, they're sure to bring laughs and tenderness to a play that promises wine, museum artifacts and an orgy of cupcakes.


Sascha Cole

WHAT Actor in Antigonick, poet Anne Carson's adaptation of the Antigone story, and guest narrator in Erin Fleck's Unintentionally Depressing Children's Tales, a collection of sad/humorous stories that blend shadow puppetry, stop-motion action and storytelling.

WHY A SummerWorks regular (Dutchman and Post Eden), Cole's also proven her talent outside the festival in The Diary Of Anne Frank, Shakespeare's Nigga and New Jerusalem. She'll bring a lyrical quality to the title figure in Antigonick, who's fatally caught between public and private demands, while we can imagine a playful, tongue-in-cheek quality to her work as Fleck's narrator.


Benjamin Kamino

WHAT Creator/performer in Fathers & Sons: Kamino Family, a six-hour experiment involving the artist, his brother and their dad.

WHY The lean and expressive Dancemakers hoofer is one of the most adventurous artists around. His SummerWorks 2013 piece, How Can I Forget?, with Sook-Yin Lee, was undisciplined but fascinatingly messy and raw, playing with the idea of memory and reality. Now he's venturing further into the avant-garde in this piece where he'll be dancing continuously, interrupted by his dad, Timothy, with contributions by mural/tattoo artist brother Alexander. Audiences can enter and leave at any time, but since Kamino is so watchable, you might want to stay for it all.


jonkap@nowtoronto.com | glenns@nowtoronto.com | @glennsumi

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