By Melissa Farmer
So let’s get a few things straight. This will be a very personal and biased response to Spent. There will be no money puns, none at all, to be found in the next150 words. If I don’t know you, if you know nothing about “that Lehman guy”, if you hate everything all the time, I still think you should go and see this show. Here’s why:
Spent is relatable and smart. Set within the framework of a BBC news broadcast, we meet not only a pair of Bay street traders who have lost their jobs, but also the media who are reporting on the catalytic economic collapse. As the two downtrodden buffoons leap from a building in an effort to make it all go away, we are right there with them (and, we have been here before) pre-fall, mid-plummet, post-collapse. We giggle at a twitching Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers who has managed to keep his pockets full; we giddily abhor the greedy devils and their maniacal gluttonous Hell and we recognize that guy we’ve all seen on the news who just wants to know how he’s going to afford his next burger. In its swift seventy minutes, we meet a bunch of absurd characters (all skilfully played by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza) who offer different ways in to the bigger question: to a collective who can put a price on everything, how much is an individual worth? It’s inventive, energetic, clever, fun theatre.
My cheeks hurt from smiling for seventy minutes straight. From Jain’s entrance with a “Hire Me” sign and a shaky, hopeful smile, I was sold. As Bay street traders, these two out-of-luck sad sacks are just trying to make tomorrow better than today. As the sundry other characters they play, Ravi and Adam emerge as masters of their craft. Their rapid-fire precision is incredible. On this stage, they are having fun and they are working really really hard. They are sweaty and spitty and you will still want to shake their hand, pat them on the back and give them a spitty, sweaty hug. It’s such a gift to be able to watch someone do something that he’s really really good at doing. It’s something I want to do more often.
Go see Spent. It has a short run, so hurry. Theatre like this is a rare commodity.
SPENT is on now until at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane). For tickets call:
416-866-8666 or click here.
Naomi Tessler is a writer, director and theatre workshop expert. Her show Through The Tulips is on at the 2011 Fringe Festival and below she talks about her personal journey with the show. Check it!
Q: Tell me about the show. You wrote it - what's special about it?
A: The Toronto Fringe festival will mark the inaugural full production of my play Through The Tulips. The play was written as a dedication to my grandparents, who have guided me with the Yiddish expressions spoken by Celia- the 'bubby' - in the piece. I weaved the inspiration from three of my grandparents together (one who has passed on) as their jokes and antics provide comic relief throughout the play. Set in a fictional tulip garden in Toronto, the play invites the audience to experience the beauty of an intergenerational connection and the magic of serendipity! Through The Tulips also dances into the supernatural world as Noam discovers and grapples with his ability to channel spirits. Noam's spiritual journey is a reflection of my own experience of learning to recognize and accept my own intuitive gifts. The scepticism as well as the encouragement Noam receives in the play, replicates my own balancing act between what I see as spiritual truths and societal norms. The play explores themes of relationships, life, death, spirituality, self-reflection all peppered with good old Yiddish humour!
Q: Why this play, and why now? Why this show for the Fringe? How is it suited for a Fringe festival environment?
A: I wrote Through The Tulips in 2008 in a playwriting course during my M.A. program at NYU and have wanted to share it with the Toronto community ever since. As Toronto is my native city, I have been truly looking forward to sharing the show here. The play is set in Toronto therefore I feel like Torontonians, especially Jewish Torontonians, can relate to specific references in the play. Last summer there was a staged reading of the show at Back Burner Production’s Patio Plays. After the success of the reading, I was inspired to keep growing with the show and was delighted when I got into this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival!
The Fringe presented an amazing opportunity to take the next step with Through The Tulips and share the show with a diverse Toronto audience. The show presents a heartfelt story with universal themes that I felt would provide a beautiful addition to the amazing variety of shows presented in the Fringe Festival. As the play centers on an intergenerational relationship, the show offers a solid bridge between younger and elder audience members-enabling all generations to find some point of connection with the different issues and experiences within the show.
Through The Tulips is suited for a Fringe Festival environment as it’s a show for everyone! All audience members will find a piece of the story to relate to, they’ll laugh, they’ll cry and laugh again! The show journeys through a lot of issues related to seniors, spirituality, Jewish mourning rituals (Shiva), death, life and everything in between. As Fringe Festivals draw such a diverse audience, this show will genuinely speak to everyone to and from the heart!
Q: Your company, Branch Out Theatre, runs theatre-based workshops; what does that entail? Who do you typically run workshops for?
A: Branch Out Theatre Workshops offer empowering and engaging, participatory theatre-based workshops for community building, personal growth, social change, literacy, environmental awareness, leadership, conflict resolution, wellness and creative self-expression. I offer workshops in Theatre of the Oppressed techniques: image theatre, forum theatre, Rainbow of Desire & games for actors and non-actors, playback theatre, storytelling, acting, physical theatre, improvisation and I custom design workshops to fulfill client’s requests.
The workshops I design all include a variety of theatre games to build confidence and community amongst participants and then use a number of the styles above to address the specific themes a client is interested in working on.
I offer workshops for schools, community health centers, seniors centers, social service agencies, offices, corporations, hospitals and Birthday partiesJ
I also host a number of workshops drawing from the styles listed above, most recently- Theatre of the Oppressed training workshops- for the general public out of the Artscape Wychwood Barns. .
Q: What is special/unique about having a show in the Toronto Fringe?
A: The opportunity to be part of an incredible festival that draws the theatre community together to support the birth and growth of new theatre! It’s truly a special way to take my show to the next step and the fact that there I get 7 performances is an amazing opportunity to draw a wide variety of audiences to the show, not to mention-7 is a very spiritual number in the Jewish tradition, which I find synchronistic given the nature of my play.
It is a personal goal to make theatre accessible! As the Fringe Festival ticket prices are also lower than a majority of options, I feel that the Fringe is a beautiful way to share great theatre with people who may not otherwise have an opportunity.
Q: Why do you continue to do live theatre and your theatre workshops? What's important about them?
A: As an artist and educator, I feel that it’s important to strike a balance between my art and my educational theatre praxis. The live shows excite me! They keep me on my toes and allow me to fully dive into the heart of my creativity and practice the self-expression I advocate for in my workshops. My workshops allow me to share my love for theatre with non-theatre communities and offer workshop participants an opportunity to explore important personal and social issues with the intention of inspiring positive change in a creative and participatory manner.
I hope to continuously find a balance between creating theatre and facilitating theatre-based workshops to fulfill my artistic and educational dreams.
Q: If you could offer words of advice/encouragement to a newbie audience member to the Fringe scene, what would it be?
A: Jump right in!! There are so many shows to choose from, but whatever you choose will be the right show for you. Looking forward to seeing you at Through The Tulips!!
Through The Tulips is now playing at the Factory Studio Theatre on: Fri, July 15 @12:15pm; Sat, July 16 @8:45pm; Sun, July 17 @1pm. Visit their website: www.branchoutheatre.com and their Facebook page.