SummerWorks Performance Festival returns for its 26th year August 4-14, with expanded programming and new venues, to provide a platform for new and adventurous performance works, offering one of their most diverse line-up to date.
As this year’s festival is about to begin, I have finally narrowed my list of performances to recommend to you. The 2016 program travels via landscapes and languages, genres and locations – from ensemble pieces to one-on-one experiences and from main stages to secret, immersive locations. This personal curated list includes an array of performances to titillate all your senses.
Mr. Shi and His Lover
Inspired by the real-life story of a Chinese opera performer and his French Diplomat lover who believed him to be a woman, this intimate musical theatre performance illuminates their enigmatic affair and the ensuing espionage scandal that rocked the political world. Stylistically varied and emotionally rich, the score takes its inspirations from opera, musicals, and vintage pop from both East and West.
*This piece is already getting some buzz. Be sure to not pass up the chance to be part of this experience.
A one-of-kind audio-only theatre experience. Audience members are blindfolded and then guided into the theatre to a swivel chair and experience a story that surrounds them through a thrilling sonic landscape created by GRT Artistic Director Eric Rose and Associate Artist Matthew Waddell. Bradbury’s classic short story presents two new parents in the imagined retro-future of 1988 confronting the realities of their newborn baby… who has been born into another dimension.
Soliloquy in English
This is a book for multiple voices about the language that connects them. In each performance, Vancouver-based artist Patrick Blenkarn invites a small group to share in reading the book out loud and to bring to life a collage of stories and experiences about learning and living in English—the dreams it makes possible and the marks it can leave behind.
Award winning choreographer Nova Bhattacharya offers a new creation that pushes the limits of bharatnatyam’s signature precision, theatricality, and rhythmic complexity. Dancers extraordinaire Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy embark on a deliberate and chaotic race to a broken finish line.
d’bi & The 333 Live Concert
d’bi.young anitafrika teams up with Sudanese master musician Waleed Abdulhamid, veteran drummer Odel Johnson, impassioned Trombonist Christopher Butcher, and genius guitarist Patrick O’Reilly to create a musical odyssey of infinite proportions. This is the new protest music.
*I’ve seen the band perform live… if you know what’s good, you’ll reserve your tickets soon.
Maylee Todd & La-Nai Gabriel’s INAMORATA
To mark the release of her 3rd record, Todd asked La-Nai Gabriel to rearrange her album in an unconventional way with an all female band. This will be a live recording of that band.
An Afro-futurist dub-opera set in Ontario, this is the culminating play in d’bi.young anitafrika’s new triptych, The Orisha Trilogy. The story takes place way into the future – the Pickering Nuclear Plant has exploded, and a group of Black womxn form a small council. How in the midst of government oppression, repression of the gender revolution, and ecological degradation do we still find hope?
*As a fan of d’bi’s work for many years – and having seen the first two pieces of this triptych – I am very much looking forward to this piece. If you’ve yet to see this artist at work, do not wait much longer. She will challenge you as an audience member but in the best of ways.
In Utero Out
This is a shadow puppetry show exploring a spectrum of intergenerational tales of embodiment. Become immersed in the imagery and microcosms presented – large-scale shadow projections and soundscapes tell a spectrum of intergenerational tales of embodiment. This work is inspired by issues of reproductive justice and multiplicity of experiences bodies can hold.
First time playwright Jijo Quayson makes her professional debut with Osia. This is the story of a Ghanaian family who struggles to find a better future. The youngest of the family, Harmosia, straddles two worlds- real and fantasy- as she tries to understand her surroundings.
This Is How We Got Here
This is about the enduring resilience of the human spirit in times of sorrow, and the capacity we all have for forgiveness. Lucille and Paul have lost their son Craig to suicide. Through a non-linear narrative, the broken pieces of a story come together in a heartbreaking journey to find a way forward after the death of a child.
Win lives on the rez and Roe lives in the city. After years apart two cousins meet in a Toronto alley to recreate a ceremony from their childhood, but can they remember how? When the words missing and murdered, truth and reconciliation, occupation and resistance are everywhere, how do two Mohawk women stand their ground?
This list of recommendations comes after carefully reading about all the pieces at this year’s SummerWorks. These performances appeal to me for many reasons. It is my hope that you will step out of your comfort zone and attend some of these.
SummerWorks programming has a lot to offer. I encourage you to go to the festival’s website for more listings, and more information about the artists, the shows, and the festival.
Single Tickets range from PWYC-$15. Three, seven, and 10-Show Passes are also available. Tickets and passes are available online, over the phone (416-320-5779) or in person at the Central Box Office from 10am-7pm; or at the door one hour before showtime.