Sunday, February 17, 2013

Transformation by Fire - Women Overcoming Violence Through Clay

I don't remember being as moved by an art exhibition as I was after viewing "Transformation by Fire - Women Overcoming Violence Through Clay" at the Gardiner Museum.  The ceramic pieces in this exhibition were all created by women who have endured and survived physical or sexual abuse.  For over a decade, through a collaboration between the Gardiner and the Barbara Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, "psychotherapeutic" workshops have been led by art therapist Suzanne Thomson and ceramic artist Susan Low-Beer to provide victims of violence an outlet to express their suffering, trauma and hope for rebuilding their lives.

This exhibition highlights a selection of these compelling works, along with powerful and often poetic personal statements or interpretations provided by the artists themselves.  The piece in the promotional ads, called "Hands", has the most beautiful text accompanying it–"Hands .. Once hiding my scars and stifling my voice, now a forest of hands supporting, holding, caring, cradling, reaching out, embracing my story".

Several motifs reoccur in the works.  One is the concept of walls and how they hide what is happening actually happening inside. The sculpture Picture Perfect depicts the facade of a normal suburban home on one side, while showing the painful truth on the other.  And yet, there is hope of rising above of it, depicted by the bird in the window ready to fly away.  The title of the piece called "If Walls Could Talk" pretty much says it all...

It was humbling, yet uplifting to discover the stories of courage and resilience of these women, as told through their ceramics and their words.  Many of the works included depictions of hope, healing, and rebirth, often symbolized by a lotus flower, or new growth coming out of a decaying tree.  The description under the piece called "And The Heavens Wept" proclaims "Never underestimate the power of the human spirit".  Under "Core Beauty" are the words "The outer tree is dead ... I live with wounds on my outer shell ... yet inside of me is a child that is a seed of hope".

It was clear that the participants found these sessions to be therapeutic and empowering.  The malleable, transformative nature of the clay allowed these women to release their memories, fears and emotions, rendering them into physical forms.  Hopefully this exhibit succeeds in bringing the issues of violence against women to the forefront.  "Don't allow violence against women to be the silent, secretive elephant in any situation" is the plea of the work titled "Remember, Elephants Have a Long Memory".

The show is offered with free admission, in order to maximize audience viewing and  awareness of the issue of violence against women.  There is a collection box at the entrance for donations, as well as a souvenir booklet on sale at the gift shop for $5, with proceeds going towards this worthy cause.  I'm hoping that everyone rushes out to see this show. I'm still thinking about it days later!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Theatre: Wizard of Oz at Ed Mirvish Theatre

After religiously watching the reality show "Over the Rainbow" which chose the actress to star as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and having my favourite, Danielle Wade be declared the winner, I had high hopes for this musical.  It is hard to pinpoint exactly why, but we found the show to be merely mediocre.  For the most part, the singing was strong enough, the sets and costumes were appropriately drab in Kansas and vibrantly colourful in Oz, and the special effects for the tornado scene and the representation of the "Great Wizard" were well done through the use of video.

What the show seemed to lack is heart.  Perhaps part of the problem was the inevitable comparison to the iconic Judy Garland movie.  Set up against this standard, the characters in the musical seemed to be pale imitations.  In the early scenes when Dorothy was feeling displaced and unloved, singing the song "Nobody Understands Me", Wade came across as petulant as opposed to sympathetic.  When singing her big song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", Danielle's voice faded out occasionally when she turned her head, although she did hold the last note of the song for an impressively long time.

The so-called "munchkins" were the same height or taller than Dorothy, which just felt wrong.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote extra songs for the musical to flesh out the characters of the witch and wizard a bit more, and to advance the story line.  Most of them were bland and forgettable, including Professor Marvel singing "Wonders of the World" and the drippingly sappy "Already Home", sung by Glinda, Dorothy and the cast prior to Dorothy clicking her heels to return home.  The only new song of note was the deliciously menacing "Red Shoes Blues" cackled by the Wicked Witch of the West as she ordered her minions to find Dorothy and get back the slippers.  The song "Bring Me the Broomstick" bellowed by the Great Wizard was enjoyable but too short.

Some of the lyrics and spoken lines from the original songs and dialogue of the movie have been updated and modernized.  When Dorothy meets the cowardly lion, he makes passing references to the song title "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and the movie "The Lion in Winter".  One of the wittiest additions to dialogue addresses an issue that I always had with the movie.  When saying goodbye to her friends, Dorothy tells the Scarecrow, "I think I will miss you most of all".  In the musical, the tin man and lion finally take umbrage and call her on this slight against them.  I always thought it was insensitive of her to say that :)

Finally, I was interested in seeing Toto, since "Over the Rainbow" also "cast" the dog.  I didn't realize that it was just a gimmick and there was no intent of putting the canine winner in the musical.   I was wondering about this while watching the reality show, since the dogs were not limited to the cairn terrier breed that played Toto in the movie.  All breeds were allowed and at one point, there were even bull dogs and German shepherds in the running.  Had they really planned to put the winner in the musical, that could potentially have caused major rewrites to the show.  The witch would have to say, "I'll get you my pretty, and your giant dog as well", and Dorothy would have had a heck of a time carrying a huge dog in her arms!  That was amusing to think about.  So it's just as well that the dog(s) who played Toto were appropriately small, professionally trained "actors".

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Theatre: Craigslist Cantana - Do You Want What I Have Got?

The musical "Do You Need What I Have Got? - A Craigslist Cantana" uses content from Craigslist as source material for its "plot" and lyrics.  For 80 minutes, the ensemble cast perform a series of vignettes, each based on real Craigslist ads.  Most of the stories revolve around weird and wacky items that people try to sell, exchange or give away for free, as well as the personal ads and missed connections, which range from sad or touching, to funny, to kinky and creepy.  There are multiple songs or stories that stretch the realm of believability and make you wonder .. "is this for real"?

Items offered included a "children's guillotine, only used once and has been cleaned afterwards", "a casket, airtight, once used to store vegetables", "an autographed copy of the bible", "headless dolls", and "pink flamingo lawn ornaments, one has a bullet hole through its head, will trade for liquor".

One of the most amusing songs was a duet where one man was trying to obtain a dead deer to "prove" to his his wife that he had been hunting when he actually was off on a 3-week tryst with his mistress.  The other man was trying to find a taker for a dead moose which died of natural causes on his propery and now its his responsibility to dispose of it.  The interweaving of the two stories was hilarious.

Personal ads were taken out to look for roommates possessing very specific criteria, to admonish neighbours for distasteful acts, and to find companionship.  One man offered to trade a big bowl of chili for some weed, but also craved for a male friend to have coffee with .. in their underwear - but this is not a gay thing!  Another ad offered to "pay $1 for someone to come over to his house, get into a bathtub full of cooked noodles while wearing a bathing suit, and stay there for at least 5 minutes .. but don't bring sauce".  I can't even begin to wonder why!

The funniest missed connection came from the snatch and grab thief who stole a woman's wallet, but thought they had a connection and got her name and number from her driver's license.  Other touching stories highlighted various sad and lonely people who just hoped that they had been noticed.

The cast changed costumes constantly as they moved from story to story, using minimal props such as chairs or umbrellas.  The most effective prop, used in recurring bus scenes, was the overhead rail that the passengers hang onto.  This was simulated by having the three taller actors hold up/hang onto a long metal bar while the shorter actor held a strap hanging down from the bar.

This is an entertaining musical with a clever concept that has contemporary relevance by  taking advantage of the social media craze.  It was also quite eye-opening for me.  Up to now, I have only used Craigslist to try to purchase a few innocuous items such as electronics.  I will have to investigate this site much more closely.  

Factory Theatre
125 Bathurst St.
Jan 30-Mar 3, 2013

Upcoming Toronto Festivals for 2013

Here are the dates for festivals happening throughout 2013.

Entrance Fee
Jan-Feb 2013
Winter City
Toronto's WinterCity Festival hosts free entertainment at Nathan Phillips Square and different creative arts events including fun skating parties
Jan 25-Feb 11, 2013
Fixed price 3 course meals in noted restaurants around the city
Mar 15-24, 2013
Home Show
Canada Blooms
Mar 27-31, 2013
One of a Kind Spring Show
“One of a kind” handcrafted arts, crafts, clothing, etc.
Apr 4-7, 2013
Silent Film Fest
Apr 1-30, 2013
Toronto Reading Festival
Libraries across Toronto
Apr 25-May 5, 2013
Hot Docs
Ticketed $10
Canadian International Documentary Festival
May 4-5, 2013
Jane Walk
Walking tours in neighbourhoods across Toronto, celebrating the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs
May 1-31, 2013
Exhibition of digital and analog photography
May 25-26, 2013
Doors Open Toronto
Buildings around Toronto not usually open to the public will be made available for public visits or tours
May 25,26 2013
Toronto Island Garden Tour
Visit the cottage homes on Ward's Island and tour the beautiful gardens.
Every other year.
May 31-Jun 2, 2013
Waterfront Blues
Blues festival at Woodbine Park (Lakeshore Blvd & Coxwell)
Jun 5-10, 2013
Short Film Fest
Canadian Film Centre (CFC) World Wide Short Film Festival!festival:cfc-worldwide-short-film-festival-ca
June 14-23, 2013
Free + ticketed shows
Toronto festival of arts & creativity featuring celebrations in dance, music, film, literature, theatre, visual arts and designs.
June  8, 2013
Yonge-Lawrence Village Day
Village-long sidewalk sale, quality entertainment ,kids zones play areas &task=view_detail&agid=15&year=2013&month=6&day=8&Itemid=1
June 2013
Taste of Little Italy
Tastings of Italian cuisine, live entertainment, crafts, music
June 13-15, 2013
Wine & Spirit Festival
Sugar Beach
June 10-16 2013
NXNE Music Festival
North by Northeast Music Festival of emerging and indie bands
June 21-30 2013
Pride Week
Free + ticketed shows
One of the biggest Pride celebrations in North America.
June 20-29 2013
Toronto Jazz Festival
Ticketed Shows
Jazz concerts scheduled  downtown core at different clubs and venues.
June 22-23, 2013
Dragon Boat Race Festival
Toronto Centre Island
July 2013
CHIN International Picnic
Picnic celebrating cultural diversity - Bikini pageants, cycling races, music, food, circus, kids zone
July 3-14, 2013
Toronto Fringe Festival
Ticketed Shows
Eclectic, avant garde productions to choose from including dramas, comedies, musicals and more
July 6-7, 2013
Corso Italian Fiesta
Free + food for sale
Free outdoor festival of italian food, music, live performance, shopping
July 5-7, 2013
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition
Free + art for sale
Paintings, portraits, sculptures, art of various medium for sale and judging
July 12-14 2013
Honda Indy Toronto
Ticketed event
Open-wheel racing of the IZOD Indy Car Series,2010 Honda Indy Toronto 
July 5-21 2013
Fixed price 3 course lunches and dinners
Try Toronto's finest restaurants for a 3 course meal with slow, surly service  for $15-20 lunches and $25-35 dinners
Jul 9-Aug 4, 2013
Free +
Ticketed shows
Festival of Caribbean cuisine, music, dance, and the Caribana parade.
Jul 20-21, 2013
Festival on Bloor
Bloor St. from Spadina St. to Bathurst St.
Live music, craft vendors, kids activities, theatre
July 19-28, 2013
Beaches Jazz Festival
Free concerts +
Ticketed shows
Free outdoor jazz concerts in a variety of settings such as Kew Beach, Distillery District, etc. Free and fee-based jazz workshops. Ticketed jazz events and shows.
Aug, 9-11, 2013

Taste of the Danforth
Free + food for purchase
Outdoor kiosks selling food tastings (mostly Greek but also other ethnicities) from the numerous restaurants along the Danforth. Live entertainment.
Aug 20-22, 2013
Hot and Spicy Food Festival
Free + food for purchase
Aug 16-Sep 2, 2013
Canadian National Exhibition
Adults $14, Children/Seniors $10
Largest national fair in Canada - rides, games, shows and more
Sep 6-8, 2013
Cabbagetown Festival
Neighbourhood festival with shopping, food, entertainment, mini zoo, historic walking tour.
Sep 6-8, 2013
Vegetarian Food  Festival
Free + food for purchase
Harbourfront – speakers, exhibitors, cooking demos
Sept 5-15, 2013
Toronto International Film Festival
Tickets starting from $16
One of the most prestigous international film festivals in the world and often a good predictor of upcoming Oscar nominations.
TBD 2013
Beer Week
Food and drink purchase
Craft beer and food events across Toronto
Sep 22, 2013
Word on the Street
A booklover’s paradise with a marketplace of more than 250 book, magazine and literacy exhibits, readings by more than 170 Canadian authors, poets, storytellers, and performers, and a myriad of workshops for aspiring writers.
Oct 20, 2013
Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Entry fee
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon & Half are part of the Canada Running Series—A Selection of Canada's Best Runs
Oct 5, 2013 - 7pm to sunrise
Nuit Blanche
From dusk til dawn, exhibitions of still and performance art in traditional and unusual spaces including free access to all art galleries and museums
TBD 2013
International Festival of Authors
Ticketed events
Renown authors give readings, interviews, lectures, roundtable discussions and book signinings.
Oct 2013
Zombie Walk
Trinity Bellwoods Park – Makeup provided
Oct  2013
Night of the Dead
Assemble in the park at 4pm, Parade departs at 6pm; PWYC, $10/suggested donation
An evening of pageantry, music and masquerade including towering puppets, stilt dancers, fire twirlers and fearful masks in a daring exploration of dread.
Nov 1-10, 2013
Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
World’s largest indoor agricultural and international equestrian competition
Nov-Dec 2013
One of a Kind Christmas show

“One of a kind” handcrafted arts, crafts, clothing, etc.
Nov 26, 2013
Cavalcade of Lights

First Lighting Celebration at Nathan Phillips Square