September 29, 2014

Theatre: May I Recommend...

Fall season is one of my favourite times in Toronto. It also signals the beginning of another theatre season. We are definitely fortunate to have a vibrant theatre scene in T.O. with companies big and small, which are absolutely offering something for all tastes.

I hereby offer you a modest list of shows I think are worth checking out. Some of these have already began their run; nonetheless, there is still some time to catch them before they end.

Past Perfect / Le Passé Antérieur
By Michel Tremblay
Théâtre Français de Toronto (TfT)
Until Sunday, October 5th
English surtitled performances: Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 PM
and Saturday matinées at 3:30 PM

Synopsis: Montreal, 1930. The city is in an economic crisis. Albertine is 20 years old and has a secret dream: to experience a great love that will last a lifetime. Albertine is not one for small hapiness. For her, love is demanding, exclusive, total, just like in the movies. One day, she meets Alex, a young man of 23 years, and believes her dream has come true! But this dream will become a nightmare, a brutal wakeup call. Albertine will forever remain trapped in this broken time, this unfortunate past in which she will seek revenge all her life. A ruthless reckoning, a descent into hell in the tortured soul of a girl broken by love and obsessed with revenge.

If you have yet to attend any of TfT's performances, I highly recommend that you do. Their productions are high calibre and are a great way to experience franchophone theatre without leaving the city.

Escape From Happiness 
By George F. Walker
Alumnae Theatre Company
Until Saturday, October 11th 

Synopsis: A bizarre event in a dysfunctional family prompts an incident of brutality in this intensely dark Canadian comedy. Part of Walker’s East End Trilogy, this play explores the most tender moments at the most violent times.

The productions from Alumnae Theatre are often interesting and thought provoking. I also like attending their perfomances, which provide a medium for promoting the work of women in theatre. And do not forget, their great space, a converted firehall, which adds to the experience as well.

Life, Death And The Blues
By Raoul Bhaneja
Theatre Passe Muraille (TPM)
In Association with Hope and Hell Theatre Co.
Until Sunday, October 19th

Synopsis: This is a concert/theatre hybrid performance that combines autobiography, interview, live music and multi-media to explore the power, passion and meaning of The Blues. Performing with Bhaneja will be the Juno award-winning Canadian R&B/Soul singer Divine Brown with music provided by band members - Jake Chisholm on guitar, Tom Bona on drums and Chris Banks on upright bass.

Hybrid performance has a bit of a twist to it, yes? I will be at TPM for opening night this week, so I will have more to say after that...

An Enemy of the People
By Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Florian Borchmeyer
Tarragon Theatre
Until Sunday, October 26th

Synopsis: The Chief Medical Officer of a small Norwegian town, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, has made a shocking discovery, but to go public with his test results would spell the end of his town's prosperity. The people don't know that the newly-built Baths are contaminated with industrial waste, and if the world finds out, it will send the community into economic collapse.

I am not familiar with this Ibsen play but its themes sound relevant to today's society as well. I would be keen to see this productions; not to mention it also gets you out of downtown for a bit.

What Makes a Man
The songs of Charles Aznavour, re-imagined by Jennifer Tarver and Justin Ellington
Necessary Angel
Canadian Stage
October 5th to November 2nd

Synopsis: In a moment of personal self-examination, four distinct aspects of one man are born: poet, survivor, performer and prophet. These aspects combine to make a universal portrait of what it is to be human that deconstructs the fabric of personality. Collectively embodied by four extraordinary vocal artists and supported by a band featuring some of Toronto’s finest musicians, the show promises to be a memorable experience.

I am unfamiliar with Aznavour's work, but what better way to learn about his life and achievements than through live music? I also suggest you look at the line up of artists involved in this production; it sounds like a great night out.

Given that theatre season is just beginning, this is but a small yet varied list of shows for you to enjoy this month. Click on each link for more details on the productions, as well as, for showtimes and ticketing information.

September 24, 2014

Preview: Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival 2014

The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival is a volunteer-run not-for-profit initiative that works to bring a series of events for local young and emerging filmmakers in the Greater Toronto Area. If you're a fan of independent cinema, the festival gives you the opportunity to enjoy and support projects by up-and-coming talent. It also offers an educational forum for participants the chance to learn from one another and engage with experienced industry veterans. This year, the festival will feature 36 short films.

In light of the upcoming festival screenings on Saturday, September 27th, here is a list of films I've previewed along with some thoughts on these.

Programme: Questions And Discovery

Jessie MacAlpine: A Story of Youth and Science
Nicole Cedic / Documentary

Science prodigy, Jessie MacAlpine, has been impressing those around her with her inquisitive and humanitarian nature since childhood. Jessie has also made the news as in her first year in a Life Sciences program at the University of Toronto, as she discovered a potential treatment for malaria using mustard oil as its main ingredient. This short film is a look at this charming young woman, her passion for science and learning, while at the same time aiming to use her scientific research to benefit others. Interesting and inspiring.

Programme: Personal Portraits

Michaela Kurimsky (director), Leanna Kruse (producer) / Drama

This short film had an Indie GoGo campaign earlier this year, and I had read about it in The Arts Guild. The film about the power struggle between two sisters and their entanglement with psychosis. The relationship between the sisters is tense, yet loving. The setting, a cabin in the woods in the middle of winter, adds to this tension. Themes of temptation and sexuality also come to play here. The short is atmospheric, and its minimal dialogue, will challenge you to sort out the interplay of emotions, tension, and the bond between siblings.

Ashlee Mitchell / Documentary

In this very personal short, Ashlee Mitchell introduces us to her mother, Rhonda Mitchell. Unfortunately, Ashlee did not get to know Rhonda, as she passed away from cancer while Ashlee was still quite young. Through interviews with family, and friends, we learn the vibrant person Rhonda really was. Along with these, there is the creative layering of old family video clips and photographs. A personal letter to her mother, and a means for Ashelee to know more about her, Rhonda is a touching short film.

Programme: The Bonds That Bind Us

Beauty, Ravaged, Change
Anna Shannon, Pegah Peivandi (directors) / Animation

Stop-motion animation shorts are some of my favourite types of short films. It not only takes a lot of dedication, and time to make a cohesive story, but they can also be very engaging. In this film, Shannon and Peivandi cleverly remind us of the interconnection between humans and their environment. This connetion implies we have direct impact on one another. In a very short amount of time, the filmmakers are able to clearly and charmingly get this message across, and send us a good reminder as well.

Jill Lefaive / Drama

I came across an article on this short film on another website. Lefaive stated she was inspired to make the film from a French folk song called Il étais une bergère, which she learned while growing up in the Lafontaine region. The film is set in the time of the Great Depression in rural Canada. It tells the story of a young girl, Marie, who lives in a farm with an abusive father, and of her uncle Sévère who resides at another farm with his ailing male partner Aimé. Heavy religious undertones of guilt and penance, the film is about familial connections. It also shows that one can find strength, love, and moral support when most needed from even the youngest of relatives.

The screenings will take place at the Maple Leaf Cinema in the CN Tower this Saturday, September 27th.

For the second year in a row, I've been invited to join the festival's Critics Panel as a jury member for its Critics' Choice Award... such a great opportunity! Join us for the Awards Ceremony on Sunday, September 28th also at the Maple Leaf Cinema in the CN Tower. For full listings and ticketing information, visit

September 22, 2014

TEDxToronto 2014: Relentless Pursuits & More...

We are driven by our pursuits. They are the ideas, goals and dreams in our lives that we commit to which are greater than ourselves, fuelled by a passion, dedication and the burning desire to achieve. Our relentless pursuits are what engage us and provide us with intense focus to improve the experience of tomorrow.

This year's TEDxToronto theme is a relentless pursuit of not just ideas worth spreading but ideas worth doing. They are the manifestation of our ideas in action and give us the uncompromising determination to venture into the unknown. Relentless pursuits feed our curiosity of the world, and present worthwhile challenges that bring meaning to our lives.

Most of the speakers and performers who will take the stage on October 2nd, at the Royal Conservatory of Music, have been announced. The speakers incluce an esteemed newspaper publisher; a fifteen-year-old activist fighting for GMO labelling in Canada; a functional neuroimaging and diagnostic brain imaging specialist, and one of the performers is a no-commitment choir that have become a city-wide phenomenon. They each have wide-reaching and real impact on individuals and communities in Toronto and beyond.

What do a Raptors superfan, the photographer of Cosmopolis Toronto, an Olympic and World Champion kayaker, and a professor of computer and mathematical sciences all have in common? Each person is pursuing their greatest passion, and each illustrates how determination and dedication can deliver incredible results that can create profound change.

Every year, the eclectic mix of speakers is what has made this event notable. And so, this year I decided to apply as a delegate. The great news is that I have been accepted to attend, and will be partaking in the talks, and alll that is TEDxToronto.

Applications to attend TEDxToronto 2014 are now closed. However, you still apply to volunteer at this one-day mind stimulating event. As well, there will be additional speakers and performers announced, along with details about the official satellite live stream and after party.

For more information on TEDxToronto as a whole, and about this year's event, visit And stay tuned for more of my own TEDxToronto here and my other social media pages.