Category Archives: theatre

The Writer’s Alphabet vol. 20; “T” is for Theatre

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I love theatre because it is literally alive, and live, and living right in front of my eyes. Sure, shows are workshopped and previewed, rehearsed and remounted, but every time I step into a theatre, and every time the lights go down and the actors take their marks, it is the beginning of a new, unique show. Every performance is different, no matter how the cast, the stage manager, and the director try (or don’t) for consistency. Every single show will have a dropped line, a tech malfunction, an inflection, or an improved performance. These are just a few examples of things that make every performance unique, but I think the idea is clear. Live shows are performed by living human beings. Every night is different because every night people are different. This obviously excludes casting flips, and director’s notes, but those two things also contribute to how the performance I saw on a Thursday could be different from the performance you see on the Friday.

Further to the “living thing” point, I love theatre because until the next performance, there are no do-overs. There isn’t an editing bay to cut together filmed scenes. If someone messes up on or off-stage, that miscue is a part of the show. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I celebrate it because in the shows I’ve seen, missteps have led to some of the best comedic moments and showcased the talent of the actors and their ability to seamlessly recover without breaking character. Plus, most of the time the audience won’t even notice.

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2015 Summer Preview!

HEY! Here’s some writing and performing related stuff happening in my fair city of Toronto this – 2015 – summer and fall. I’ve also included events that have already passed (and that I was too dumb to get ahead of) so you (and I) can plan for next year. If you say you’re bored, it means you’re boring, or you just need to read a book or something. Go see some damn art damnit!

Stratford Festival: Stratford, Ontario is home to this 61 year-old theatre festival featuring the work of The Bard performed by some of the world’s best talent from APRIL to OCTOBER.

Shaw Festival: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario hosts performances of plays written by or written during the lifetime of George Bernard Shaw from APRIL to OCTOBER.

inspiraTO: The 10th year for this theatre festival held at the Alumnae Theatre from MAY 28th to JUNE 6th, that features blocks of 10 minute plays all revolving around a particular theme or concept.

Pedestrian Sundays: Literally walk in the streets of Toronto’s coolest neighbourhood every Sunday from MAY 31st to the end of warm weather.

Breakthroughs Film Festival: Short Film festival featuring emerging female filmmakers at the Innis Town Hall on the weekend of JUNE 5 & JUNE 6th.

EXEE: Great beers and live bands every night at The Only Cafe during the week of JUNE 13th to JUNE 20th.

Female Eye Film Festival: “Always Honest, Not Always Pretty”, goes the tagline for this film fest featuring female filmmakers and it runs from JUNE 16th to JUNE 21st at The Royal Cinema.

Open Roof Festival: Music and films for $15 ever Wednesday at 99 Sudbury from JUNE 17th to AUGUST 19th sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

NXNE: A music and arts fest that takes over the city in a good way from JUNE 17th to JUNE 21st.

Pride Toronto: The annual extravaganza of LGBTQIA culture revs Toronto up for the summer and features fantastically flamboyant marches, parades, performances, and other great “p” words at various venues from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Luminato Festival: Everything art and all in Toronto at a variety of venues and times all around the clock from JUNE 19th to JUNE 28th.

Toronto Fringe Festival: Awesome indie theatre killing it with reckless abandon, and an outstanding beer tent at venues and times that only awesome indie theatre can rock from JULY 1st to JULY 12th.

Shakespeare in High Park: Once again High Park is home to a double-bill of Shakespeare wherein the same cast performs a comedy (“The Comedy of Errors”) and a tragedy (“Julius Caesar”) on alternating nights at their outdoor amphitheatre from JULY 2nd to SEPTEMBER 6th.

ReelheART International Film & Screenplay Festival: Festival that features film screenings and script readings at various venues including The Carlton Cinema and the AGO from JULY 6th to JULY 11th.

Christie Pits Film Fest: Free/pwyc outdoor movie screenings at Christie Pits park every Sunday during JULY & AUGUST.

SummerWorks Performance Festival: SummerWorks has performers acting, singing, and dancing sometimes all at once at venues across the city from AUGUST 6th to 16th.

Toronto International Queer West Film Festival: Queer West features films from local and international LGBTQ filmmakers and promotes the beauty of diversity and creativity at The Revue Cinema from AUGUST 7th to AUGUST 9th.

Buskerfest: If you want to see someone ride a unicycle while juggling live chainsaws and holding a torch aflame in their mouth then check out Toronto’s Buskerfest along Yonge Street between College Street and Queen Street and this is now going to be a run-on sentence because I promised myself only to write one sentence per event to keep things simple and so I can’t confirm the fire-mouthed chainsaw juggler but there will be music, juggling of some sort, acrobats, food and clowns and depending on whether you like clowns or are terrified by them the clowns might be nice or sinister and the clowns and others can be found on Yonge from AUGUST 27th to AUGUST 30th.

TOindie Film Festival: Fantastic event featuring indie films from Toronto and across the world held at the local gem known as The Carlton Cinema from SEPTEMBER 3rd to SEPTEMBER 12th.

Toronto International Film Festival: A world renowned film fest featuring talent, both renowned and waiting to be rewound, from across the globe and at venues across the city from SEPTEMBER 10th to SEPTEMBER 20th.

The Word on the Street: Books, magazines, and literary “stuff” can all be at Harbourfront Centre on SEPTEMBER 27th from 11am to 6pm.

International Festival of Authors: Writers are everywhere but during this fest they can mostly be found at Harbourfront Centre talking and signing and talking and probably writing from OCTOBER 22nd to NOVEMBER 1st.

NaNoWriMo: Join authors around the world and write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of NOVEMBER.

In addition to all of this, there is the Toronto Festival of Beer, various street parties throughout Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods, and Yonge and Dundas Square always has something going on!

Stuff I’ve missed because I am an idiot but check it out to plan for next year:

Inside Out: LGBT Film Festival; Doors Open Toronto; Canadian Film Fest; Canadian Music Week (CMW); CONTACT Photography Festival; Hot Docs; TOindie Shorts Festival (affliated with the TOindie Film Festival)

 

SOURCES: NOW Magazine; The Toronto Star; the various festival websites listed above; my massive head and the memories contained therein.


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.2; “B is for Bastards”

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Bastards. What are we dealing with here? According to the Google Dictionary a bastard can be anyone of the following:

“a person born of parents not married to each other”; “an unpleasant or despicable person”; “a scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, weasel, snake, miscreant, reprobate”; et cetera…

According to my other online source of entertaining information, Wikipedia, a bastard can mean all those things and more.

So what do bastards have to do with writing, writers, and the writing life? Quite a bit actually. First, we as writers can be, and have known to have been, fucking bastards of the 1st degree. Bukowski, Hemingway, Thompson, et al, are all well known bastards and according to my research for the first article in this series, also assholes. But bastard is the word of the day, so we’ll stick to that. Being a bastard as a writer is not uncommon, but also not entirely necessary. Being a bastard also means being stubborn and sticking to an ideal, for example, the ideal of a story or character. By keeping your head firmly up your ass, as only the best of the bastards are wont to do, you as a writer can fight for your version of a story. This is only recommended in extreme circumstances when you actually have the leverage in name to negotiate while your head is entrenched inside yourself. Not having any cache will get you nowhere and just have possible agents, publishers, and producers wondering, “who was that bastard that was yelling with his head up his ass. I’ve never heard of him and now no one else ever will.” The moral? Being a stubborn bastard only works when your name carries some weight in the industry so that the sight of you bent over yourself and mumbling into your colon can be overlooked. Though being professional always wins out in the end.

Characters as bastards. Similar to characters as assholes, writing a character who is a bastard in the “scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, weasel, snake, miscreant, reprobate” way is vital to a great story. Obviously having your antagonist as these things works, but try writing your protagonist this way. I find that I’m leaning towards more protagonists that aren’t entirely lovable. Or at least, if people love them, they don’t love themselves which makes for great conflict and tension because then the character is acting in spite of themselves for the good of those around them. The internal conflict and tension is so great that it can’t help but spill over into the external world of the character, leading to many different layers of build-ups and payoffs. I believe the term “anti-hero” is appropriate here.

All in all, bastards. They add to any story, however, being one yourself is only recommended if your name precedes your words. Even then, why?


Toronto Cold Reads

The good people at Toronto Cold Reads are accepting submissions of your work. Which is a great thing because the good people at Toronto Cold Reads allow your work to be read by professionals, live on stage! Check out their website in the embedded link above and check out their page specifically for writers here: Submissions for Writers.

And for good measure here are other links!

Toronto Cold Reads on Facebook

Toronto Cold Reads on Twitter


The Writer’s Alphabet vol.1: A is for Assholes

letter AHere is the first post for the intended new column, “The Writer’s Alphabet” wherein I will take a letter of the alphabet and pick a word to profile that starts with that letter and how that word applies in the writing world. So, why not start with “A”?

What can “A” stand for? Assholes, of course.

Assholes: Everyone has one and everyone can be one. They can be hilarious and they can be evil. Let’s cover two aspects of the asshole. First let’s discuss actual people you might work with, or you possibly being an asshole yourself. Then, we can discuss characters.

So, people/colleagues/you. When it comes to this aspect of asshole-ness some people might think that being an asshole will get you further in the industry than being meek and mild. I argue against both of these perceptions and suggest following the “No Asshole Rule” that Bill Lawrence had on his successful show Scrubs. It ran on NBC for 9 seasons so I think Bill knew what he was talking about with this one. With the “No Asshole Rule”, Bill said if you want to work on this show, no matter your resume or pedigree we will not tolerate being an asshole. No diva behaviour, and no complaining. And, again, Scrubs ran for 9 seasons, so I think this rule worked out. When it comes to working with or being an asshole, I suggest grinning and bearing it and never going back with the former and simply not doing it with the latter. In my fledgling amount of experience in the writing and entertainment industry the best advice I can come up with for being a good writer/performer/entertainer is first, cut out all of the bullshit that is holding you back and second, be professional. Being professional begets becoming a professional and thus, working with other professionals. Following that train of thought, being an asshole…

As for assholes and characters? The bigger the better. Why? Because the bigger the assholes the more conflict they create and conflict, even in minute amounts, is the life blood of every story.

Consider this: Jimmy wants to go for a picnic with Janey. Jimmy looks outside and sees that it is raining. Jimmy throws the picnic basket at the wall and spills mustard, wine and delicious cheese everywhere. Janey ponders what the hell he was thinking because “that was some damn delicious cheese damnit.” Jimmy yells at the weather and then at the cheese and then at Janey and storms off to pout while Janey stares at the mess he made and ponders all of her life decisions.

So we have Jimmy being an asshole in his reaction to the weather (also an asshole in a way), his yelling at everything and his pouting. This has created conflict with Janey and himself and if the weather is sentient in this story then he has also most likely angered it as well, because the weather is just doing its job. If Jimmy simply said, “Hey Janey, let’s be awesome and have a picnic in the living room and maybe play a round of twister afterwards”, we have no conflict, and no story beyond a good “campfire” moment…before the tornado comes through and blows both of these non-assholes half-way across the province.

And I think that covers it for the most part.

To conclude, Being an asshole: BAD! Writing assholes: GOOD!

Thanks for reading.


FALL 2014 PREVIEW!

Here is a very short list of things happening in fair Toronto in the next and best four months. Get out and enjoy! Yay art!

Toronto Independent Film Festival: September 4 – 13 @ Carlton Cinema

Toronto International Film Festival: September 4 – 14 @ Various Venues

The One More Night Festival: September 11 – 14 @ The Box

Queen West Art Crawl: September 12 – 14 @ Trinity Bellwoods Park

Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) Fall Workshops: September 16 – December 17 @ 1137 Dupont Street

JFL42: September 18 – 27 @ Sony Centre and others

The Word on the Street: September 21 @ Queen’s Park

Culture Days: September 26 – 28 @ Various Venues

International Festival of Authors: October 23 – November 2 @ Harbourfront Centre

Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair: November 13 – 16 @ Metro Toronto Convention Centre


Blogroll Updated!

I added some new links to the blogroll. Some are friends, others acquaintances, and some aren’t even people! All are talented and entertaining.

The new additions:

Marcus Thomas; Tracey Beltrano; Christina Walkinshaw; Nicole Stamp; The Punnery by Olga Kwak; Yehuda Fisher; Dahlia Katz; Beer in a Glass Productions; Fresh Baked Entertainment; The Brett Heard Comedy Development Workshop; Toronto Independent Film Festival; International Festival of Authors; John Green; Jonathan Tropper; Luminato Festival; Stephen King; Steven Pressfield; SummerWorks; The Word on the Street; AND, Toronto Fringe Festival!

 


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