NEWS & REVIEWS
Congratulations to the 2009 Arts Awards Winners.
The Awards Ceremony took place at the Centre
In The Square on
Azam Fouk Aladeh of Multicultural Cinema Club Film Festivals (Festival or Event); Meghan Bunce (Leading Edge); Majdi Bou-Matar IMPACT (Special Jury); Ernest Daetwyler (Visual Arts); Judy Allred (Mentor), Paddy Gillard-Bentley of Flush Ink Productions (Performing Arts), Jean Narveson (Open)
Cheryl Lescom (Music); Heather Majaury, IMPACT (Special Jury); Boyd McDonald (Lifetime Achievement); Maxine Graham (Special Jury); Jack Cole of The Old Chestnut Song Circle presents Folk Night at the Registry (Festival or Event – Community Achievement); Charmian Christie and Lisa O'Connell of Pat the Dog Playwright Development Centre (Literary); Brad Cook (Leading Edge)
Kathleen Bissett (Textile, Fibre, Quilting), Gerry Remers of Christie Digital (Corporate Arts Supporter), New Hamburg Live! Festival of the Arts (New Festival or Event)
performing arts | HEMMERICH FLANAGAN PERFORMING ARTS AWARD
Flush Ink Productions
Flush Ink Productions, challenging the boundaries of traditional theatre since 2006,
has established four unique projects; She Speaks, women’s work, women’s words; Unhinged, Kitchener’s Festival of Site-Specific Theatre; Urban Scrawlers, promoting playwright development; and its signature event, Asphalt Jungle Shorts.
The Magnetic North
theatre festival winds up this weekend, with performances and events too
numerous to mention. But here's one of them: "One of the acts
participating in this year's program," I'm told, "is Flush Ink
Productions' Asphalt Jungle Shorts, a different kind of theatre that takes
place in a variety of locations during a walk through
Call it theatre without a theatre.
Embracing the Shakespearean notion that
"All the world's a stage," a group of actors will soon hit the
streets of downtown
It's the fifth installment of the ever-growing Asphalt Jungle Shorts series, an interactive theatrical event that requires the audience to meander from one non-stage to the next.
Starting Thursday, the eight-night festival will see a dozen actors scattered throughout downtown sites stage 15 short plays. Some plays are barely a minute long; the biggest of the bunch is only 13 minutes.
The audience will know almost nothing about the sites or the plays in advance, except that they'll meet at the Kava Bean Commons shortly before showtime, ideally in comfy footwear. The element of surprise is a key component in the success of Asphalt Jungle Shorts. A play could suddenly begin unfolding on a fire escape, down a back alley, in a storefront window or right beside you.
Occasionally, the city itself provides the drama, such as when a pair of police officers arrested a belligerent man along the walking route of Asphalt Jungle Shorts. The audience assumed it was a play -- and they were quite enjoying its gritty realism -- until they were ushered away.
"Not only (does the) city become a set, but it becomes a character," says Paddy Gillard-Bentley, who founded Asphalt Jungle Shorts nearly four years ago. "The lines of reality and imagination are blurred."
Gillard-Bentley won't disclose the sites chosen for this year's plays, except for one: the clock tower in Victoria Park. Israeli playwright Yohanan Kaldi penned his play Towering Passion specifically to be performed there.
Other sites are anybody's guess. They could be anywhere. One play during a previous Asphalt Jungle Shorts unfolded a storey beneath street level as the audience watched from directly above through a large metal sidewalk grate.
To keep audiences guessing throughout the evening, programs are only handed out at the end of each show.
Asphalt Jungle Shorts
Starts at Kava Bean Commons,
May 21-24, 27-30
Tickets are $15, and audiences are asked to
arrive 15 minutes prior to show time. For reservations and more information,
visit www.flushink.net or call
Lost in the jungles
This is, by far, the most difficult review I've ever had to write. Not because I’m not capable of telling you exactly how wonderful Asphalt Jungle was. Because I can. It’s just that I can't.
I should explain.
Asphalt Jungle Shorts III is, as theatre goes, a fairly unique experience. Upon ordering your ticket, you are given three things: a time, a location and advice to wear walking shoes. Beyond that, the production is a mystery; you have no idea who the actors are, where the stage is, or even what the basic plotline may be.
From that first location, you find yourself whisked off into a place where the lines between life and art begin to blur. Pieces of the play can take place anywhere; on the street, in buildings, above you, below you, even beside you as you wander through the heart of the city.
You get this weird,
As the production wends its way through the city, random passersby will, unknowingly add their contributions to the production, subtly changing it night after night.
Even the gawkers who simply stop to stare add to the production in their own way, because for this short time they are the stage; a living, organic backdrop to a fiction that makes its home in reality.
This then is why I must leave you so completely in the dark. The heart of this play lies in its mystery, and to pass on even the smallest portion of what is to come would break the spell that is so essential to the evening.
When the play first began, I had no idea I was in the centre of the opening scene until a minute or so after it started, when I realized that the first set of actors were chatting directly over my shoulder.
These smooth segues between theatre and reality continued throughout the night, and often the two meshed together in unexpected ways. Over the course of the evening I heard civilians heckling the actors, saw a teenage guy hand one of the lead actresses a condom (Yes, really) and watched as various vendors hawked their wares to the audience. Asphalt Jungle is appropriately named; you’re exploring through uncharted territory, and anything could leap out of the bushes.
Of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a reviewer if I didn’t discuss the nuts-and-bolts of the play, and on this score, Asphalt Jungle does fairly well.
Acting ranges from solid to very good throughout the play, with occasional hints of over-acting among some of the younger actors. Particular highlights included Jennifer Cornish’s comedic acting, Katharine Mills in her ongoing role and Kristopher Bowman in an episode of really well executed physical comedy.
One of the more interesting aspects of the play was that it brought together a wide variety of playwrights and directors, and this is evident in the eclectic nature of the various scenes, which range from pure drama to physical comedy.
The writing itself once again ranged from solid to excellent, and surprisingly included a number of more experimental pieces, which worked well within the slightly surreal atmosphere of the production.
The writing was not without its problems however, most of which stemmed from the setting of the play itself.
Certain scenes that would pass without comment on a stage seemed very written in the open air, mainly due to the contrast between the theatricality of the writing and the reality of the setting. Most of these scenes made up for this theatricality with their native wit, but I found the second and third scenes particularly rankled.
Thankfully though, they were short and lonely amidst the rest of the play. I was also very impressed by the way certain directors (namely Paddy Gillard-Bentley and Tracey Kenyon) made use of distance, angles and pedestrian traffic to camouflage actors from the audience until their scene was well under way, adding to the audience’s perplexity and enhancing segues between scenes.
I do wish I could have seen a bit more improvisation in the dramatic scenes to better match certain heated dialogues to their very public settings, but I think that this was more a symptom of the need to make sure the audience heard, than any fault of the cast and crew.
Overall, Asphalt Jungle was a well-executed and solid production with wit, verve and a great deal of fun.
So there you have it. I wish I could say more, but my hands are tied by the nature of the production, and in the end it isn’t really necessary. You should see Asphalt Jungle not because of its plotlines, but the experience it creates.
Maybe you’d like to know more, but you’ll just have to trust me. Go. Lose yourself in the jungle.
ASPHALT JUNGLE TAKES IT TO THE STREETS
The cast of Asphalt Jungle Shorts uses
the textures and venues of downtown
MATHEW McCARTHY, RECORD STAFF
Where can you go to watch 15 unique plays all in one night?
It's a secret.
What plays can you see?
When can you see them?
OK, that part can be revealed.
Starting Wednesday and
continuing through Sept. 22, you can go . . . somewhere . . . in downtown
The secrecy is an important part of the show, Asphalt Jungle Shorts.
The experimental theatre
project, now in its third production since last September, stages short plays
at secret locations around downtown
The audience walks from one unusual venue to the next, thus turning the entire downtown into an impromptu theatrical space.
To give away the plays and their locations would spoil some of the fun.
What artistic director Paddy Gillard-Bentley will divulge, however, is that the upcoming incarnation of Asphalt Jungle Shorts is the most ambitious and surprising yet.
"It's such a different kind of experience," she says.
"I want to make it the best I can, and the way I can do that is keeping the mystery about it. I don't even tell my closest friends what's going to happen."
Half the time, Gillard-Bentley herself doesn't know what will happen. For instance, last year, audience members assumed (incorrectly) that a police takedown was all part of the show.
In a sense, downtown itself becomes a character in the short plays, and the actors must go with the flow when downtown steals a scene.
The plays of have been staged in back alleys, dumpsters, closed shops, hotels and City Hall.
This time, six directors and a cast of 12 will perform the 15 new plays, which Bentley narrowed down from nearly 300 submissions from playwrights around the world.
Among the directors are members of Lost & Found Theatre Kathleen Sheehy, Gary Kirkham and Richard Quensel.
The audience will be guided from one "stage" to the next by crew members, and Gillard-Bentley hopes it will help people appreciate downtown Kitchener.
"I love downtown, and I understand there's a need to reacquaint people with it."
For tickets and information on
where to start the theatrical adventure, call
Breathing new life in city's 'energy block'
After about 40 or 50 years to get it right, The Mackenzie King Square may finally be receiving its makeover.
is the "take-off" season: Over the last couple of weeks there have
been various launch events in and around the square (also referred to as the
civic district) in
On Sept. 6 the spotlight was on the district itself: This was the first public presentation of a plan that proposes a major transformation of the block that contains the greatest concentration of cultural and civic institutions in the region: The Mackenzie King Square which is the area bounded by Queen, Ellen, Frederick and Weber streets.
It was a fairly low-key affair, with just a few invited guests -- some folks from the neighbourhood, along with people associated with the various cultural institutions involved, like the Kitchener Public Library, Centre in the Square, Registry Theatre, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Grand Philharmonic Choir, and Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery.
As Centre in the Square general manager Jamie Grant explained in his remarks, back in the 1950s and '60s there was a grand, integrated plan for the area. But that vision was never fully realized.
The proposal is to finish what was started 30, 40 and 50 years ago. The first step in the planning process is an open, public invitation to "imagine the possibilities."
to the Kitchener Public Library, KWAG, Centre in the Square or City of
That video is a link to another event that took place the following day: the official public launch of a new local media project called CAFKA.TV.
The "imagine the possibilities" trailer is a CAFKA.TV production.
CAFKA.TV is the brainchild of the creative minds behind the Contemporary Art Forum, Kitchener and Area, the region's biannual contemporary visual arts celebration.
Part of the purpose is to spread the word near and far about CAFKA.07: Haptic, which will have an official launch of its own on Thursday.
The intention is also to supplement the limited coverage of local, national and international contemporary art in the mainstream media with something fresh and vital. But above all, if you click on CAFKA.TV you'll see the aim is to have fun.
There are some interesting synergies: CAFKA, building on a long-standing relationship with KWAG, now involved with the entire civic district.
These kinds of synergies were even more evident at an after-work season launch reception at The Registry Theatre last Thursday.
Almost all of the other civic district cultural organizations are involved in some way: The KW Symphony, for instance, is part of a Classics at The Registry series. KWS trumpeter Larry Larsen spoke about playing improvisational jazz with references to paintings provided by KWAG behind him on the stage.
The Registry, the connections extend to some of our most dynamic theatre arts
ensembles: Lost & Found Theatre (which will be presenting Some Assembly
Required on Oct. 25 through Nov. 3); the MT Space (Pinteresque/Exit Strategy,
Nov. 15-24); Poor Tom Productions (The Anorak, Nov. 28-Dec. 1). The
It felt like a real celebration; there were very good energies in the room.
By all accounts, the energy was also flowing at the gala launch of a new era for the KW Symphony the following evening, the first regular season concert with conductor Edwin Outwater. I couldn't make it to that one, so I'm relying the Phil Bast's video coverage on www.therecord.com and Sandra Deefholts' review in Saturday's paper.
What I did do, though, is catch Asphalt Jungle Shorts III -- another presentation of a sequence of short plays -- 17 of them altogether -- performed on-site in various downtown locations.
The reference may be somewhat out of place here, although there are people in the current production connected to almost all the theatre groups mentioned above. But there is no civic district location, and the stage is the very antithesis of the world-class concert hall facilities at Centre in the Square: They are literally "taking it to the streets" here.
The main reason I'm mentioning it is that the run continues tomorrow through Saturday, so there are four more opportunities to see it, and this is my only chance to say "don't miss it."
The box office is in
the K-W Book Store (
Martin DeGroot is
executive director of the
Arlene Thomas plays Gina in
The Orange Whistle, one of
the plays in Asphalt Jungle Shorts.
Downtown's a stage for 17 quirky plays
As night falls on the city, 20 strangers gather outside an empty downtown parking garage. No one knows what to expect. A sign duct-taped to the wall reads Please Take the Elevator to the Fifth Floor. The strangers oblige.
The door opens, revealing a woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat seated behind a small table. She hands out lanyards and tells the strangers to wear them around their necks. A card dangling on each lanyard reads Asphalt Jungle Shorts. And it warns: Maybe Bring an Umbrella -- a caveat worryingly similar to the one given to people in the first few rows at Sea World. The strangers are ushered into a brightly lit, echoey expanse of the garage. A man hands everyone a folding chair from a blue van. In front of them, a young, lanky man tinkers under the hood of a car. He mutters to himself.
People whisper. When does the show start? Is this part of the show? A downtown church bell chimes eight times.
Then: "I collect river water," blurts the man who was handing out chairs.
It is the first of many odd statements made in many odd locations as part of a very odd theatre production. A young woman in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform climbs over a concrete wall and asks: "Would this be the nightmare camp?" Moments later, the guy tinkering with the busted car admits he often dreams that someone is trying to feed him poisoned sardines. And that all happens in just the first five minutes of the two-hour theatrical experience.
Asphalt Jungle Shorts is
theatre without a theatre. It's a roving production of 17 quirky,
site-specific plays in which the city itself is the stage. It is the
brainchild of Paddy Gillard-Bentley, a
None of the plays is longer than 20 minutes. One includes just one shouted word. The performances are strong and fittingly cracked, handled by mainstays in local theatre like Kathleen Sheehy, Heather Gurd and Gary Kirkham (in a particularly ludicrous role).
The first play, The Orange Whistle by Californian playwright Shirley King, is about a man stranded in a parking garage -- hence the setting. When it concludes (with a hilariously nightmarish twist), the audience is asked to follow the leader to the next location.
To reveal the locations would
sabotage the impromptu appeal of the production -- but all are within a few
blocks of the parking garage at Duke and
Along with the 12 actors,
The scripted and unscripted elements compliment one another, creating a unique atmosphere that could never be duplicated inside a theatre.
As Shakespeare wrote, "all the world's a stage." Asphalt Jungle breathes new life into those words.
ASPHALT JUNGLE'S MOVING EXPERIENCE
There are so many great things on the cultural calendar for the next few weeks that it's hard to know where to begin:
Opening night of the 2006-07 Theatre & Company season on Thursday and Friday.
Music in the
Park with the K-W Symphony in
The weekend of
Sept. 23-24 looks especially rich, with the Cambridge Artist Studio Tour and
these returns, a brand new cultural event has been generating some buzz: the
promotional material for Asphalt Jungle Shorts, a program of brief,
site-specific plays performed in unexpected locations throughout the
downtown, promises "theatre like
The point of
departure for each performance is the Duke Street Parking Garage (the one
with the striking concrete helix between Queen and
mover here is
Asphalt Jungle Shorts includes some 17 plays by 11 playwrights, led by six directors, performed by 12 actors.
The list of directors includes many familiar names: Darlene Spencer, Heather Gurd, David Antscherl; Kathleen Sheehy will act as well as direct; Gary Kirkham is acting, directing and playwright for two of the offerings. Nicole Lee Quesnel is working as stage manager.
Part of the
motivation is to animate the city centre: Gillard-Bentley loves the genuine
urban feel of
Although Gillard-Bentley has lived in this area all her life and cannot imagine working anywhere else, she has also been able to draw on an extensive network of professional contacts and get artists from as far away as California, Missouri and Ohio involved in the project.
All this is being done on a shoestring budget: A few business sponsors have come forward (most notably Jump Logistics of Cambridge), but most of the startup funds have come from the producer's own pocket. First and foremost, it is Gillard-Bentley's energy and hard work that allowed this project to happen, along with the dedication of the artists, who are all working on a profit-sharing arrangement.
It is also
important to acknowledge the role of the City of
The key here has been seasoned, knowledgeable city staff who are trusted with enough discretionary power to allow them to take some risks. It is a practice that has yielded the city and its citizens benefits of incalculable value over the years through cultural endeavours such as the Registry Theatre, Globe Studios, Open Ears, the Contemporary Art Forum, or the Tapestry celebrations of diversity.
This has been
a subtle, slow development of something that become part of the way the city
operates. It is something that might escape the notice of an observer like
Glen Murray, the former mayor of
At the same
time there's Asphalt Jungle Shorts, along with scores of other, often equally
modest, but also equally creative, original, and therefore highly risky
endeavours that the city has helped make happen. And that is evidence that
can be cited to support the proposition that this community deserves, and
for Asphalt Jungle Shorts: Sept. 14 to 16, 21 to 23. For more go
Tickets $15 / $5 eyeGO. Audience size is limited, so reservations are