Saturday, September 19, 2015


For many middle-class Canadians, home ownership is a benchmark of personal and financial success. For a single woman, self-employed, and working in the arts, being able to get it together to buy a house solo is a huge achievement.

Karen Hines, a beloved performer (POCHSY) director, (MUMP and SMOOT) and writer managed to do just that.  In 2006, she bought a home of her very own in Toronto.  Then her real estate dream turned into a nightmare.

I spoke with Karen as she, and designer Patrick Lavender and Kelly Reid were taking a break from busily transforming performing/art space Videofag into what she described as "a murky psychological space - kind of a dessicated Ikea showroom."

For the next few weeks, Hines will be using the deconstructed zone of domesticity she and her collaborators have created, to perform CRAWLSPACE, her latest play, based on her brief, expensive, and ghastly experience of home ownership in Toronto.

It all began when, at the end of a very successful year professionally, Hines decided to jump into the white-hot Toronto real estate market. "I felt queasy right from the start. I did all the things you are supposed to do. I worked with an agent (played by Georgia Beaty). I got a home inspection: but, certain elements didn't feel right. Small things turned into huge problems."

Hines chronicled her experience with the house in a National Magazine Award-nominated article for SWERVE Magazine, "MY LITTLE HOUSE of HORRORS". The play, however, is not a straight adaptation of the article.

"Creating the show has been a very organic process. Sound is a huge part of the environment. We've built this dream showcase room, and we're inviting 15 people a night into the space to have a salon experience.  I want the audience to have the feeling of being invited into my living room.  It's a lived experience."

"I have a great team!  John (Turner) who I've known for 30 years directed. Mike (Kennard) helped create the sound.  Then I have all these great, fresh young artists like Jordan (Tannahill) who invited me to be part of the Videofag season, and who consulted with me on the script."

What made buying the house such a terrible life experience?

"I needed things to go perfectly: and they didn't. The dream is: you're going to create this beautiful space, a showcase.  You're going to have all of this security. The reality is how much it costs to repair things."  A pause.  "An overheated market is fueled by greed, property lust, flippers who know what to do to make a house look perfect. I want to create a space to explore all of the emotions that arise in that kind of intense situation.  Buying a house is very emotionally driven."

I have to ask: "Where do you live now?"

Hines said," I now live in Calgary with my wonderful boyfriend.He has been enormously supportive and helpful. I am still recovering from the experience." So at least  Hines ended up with one dream, and found a prince.  Phew!

Not only that, the show she's created out of her real estate nightmare is a hit!

Hines' willingness to go to the dark side of  home ownership certainly seems to have struck a chord with Toronto audiences.  Her two week run had nearly sold out before she opened. She's added performances on September 28th and 29th to accommodate demand.

Hines and company's CRAWLSPACE, is a white hot Toronto property. Jump on the bandwagon and get a ticket, if you still can.

CRAWLSPACE continues until September 29th at 7:00 pm nightly at VIDEOFAG, 187 AUGUSTA AVENUE in Kensington 

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