Friday, July 27, 2012

MAGIC MIKE and the Tantulus of easy money

The record-breaking temperatures in Toronto this summer have made movie theatres a welcome refuge.

Last Saturday night, my friend and I decided to go see MAGIC MIKE.  Channing Tatum, who stars in this picture, co-wrote the script based on his personal experiences as a male stripper.  The demi-monde of ambiguous and tawdry sexual relations ( Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Girlfriend Experience) is a place filmmaker Steven Soderburgh has visited before. In some ways, this script and his talents as a director and a shooter are a natural pairing. Here, he runs sexual desires and economic desperation together in yet another uneasy and unholy alliance.

The film begins with a scene of financial emasculation.  Adam is a 19 year old man who has shown great promise as an athlete.  Accepted to university on a football scholarship, he gets kicked out day one for hitting his coach. Now broke and sleeping on his sister's couch, he is reduced to scrambling for day labour as a roofer.  The pay is crap, the work is brutal and the boss makes Scrooge look like a reasonable guy.  With little education and few skills, our young hero's journey toward better prospects is not going to be an easy one.

Fellow roofer Mike is saving to start a custom furniture business .  To facilitate this, he has a second job at night, taking his clothes off in front of women. It's fairly lucrative and easier than roofing. Adam starts peeling for a living and his nice boy good looks and buff bod make him an instant hit with the college girls and middle aged ladies who come to watch his act in Tampa. He becomes a professional party boy in a tourist town that loves a good time.

This role reversal: mostly young men stripping for mostly young women initially gives the film a kind of innocence.   Soderburgh, perhaps wanting to curry favour with a straight(er) audience or perhaps wanting to ignore the fact that gay or straight, it is mostly men who pay for sex of every sort, avoids that territory entirely.

As the story progresses, the level of dis-inhibition required by such a public display of sexual desire on the part of both the spectators and the dancers is frequently arrived at through the use of drugs.  This leads to the usual unhappy and dangerous consequences.

The sinister and overheated glow Soderburgh bathes much of the film in taints everything it touches with the nasty chemical patina of a fake tan. The heat is on and it is both seductive and hellish.

Mike and Adam make a deal with the Devil in the form of strip club owner, Dallas. Matthew McConaughy  is riveting in the role of the MC/owner. He's the degenerate glamour of evil personified.  I've seldom seen a better depiction of a certain kind of narcissistic male: superficial charm on the outside and a sucking hole of need and entitlement on the inside that no amount of cash, coke or sexual adulation will ever fill.  The only person in the film old enough to be a parent to any of the young men who work for him, Dallas is a bad Daddy indeed.  He dangles the possibility of partnership in the club in front of Mike, then Adam with no intention of ever making them equals.  Dallas is as emasculating and enslaving as the business he's in. When he tears off his leather pants and flings his gilded body on the edge of the thrust stage of the nightclub, allowing girls to cover him with caresses and money, we feel the both his thrill in tantalizing and his terror. His performance is an act of supplication to the sure knowledge that he is at the end of his ephemeral and vacuous power, the thrall of his impossible and rapidly decaying beauty.

In MAGIC MIKE, all the jobs working class men used to do to command worth, respect and social currency:  the cowboy, the fireman, the construction worker, the cop, the military man are on offer as impotent parodies of themselves. Even the rebels, the biker boy and the beat box dancer, Magic Mike himself, are up for sale at the club.  The bad boys have become someone college girls and working women buy for the night before they go home to a boyfriend or husband with real career prospects.

When the military act comes onstage on the 4th of July, the U.S. Army is reduced to a tease, The men in uniform are a display of  hyper-masculinity that is really about currency extraction, as evidenced by the stuffed g-strings that end the dance. The film's metaphor is complete: this is America as strip club, a glossy, sexed-up spectacle of ersatz male dominance, offering only an illusion of power, the tropes of masculinity devoid of potency or command.

Of course the army is the only other real employment option for these young men and the theatre of war is no jiggle show. However there is no more moral certainty in taking up the gun abroad than there is in pretending sexual desire for money. The choice on offer for these men is a choice between rings in hell.

Soderburgh does a bit of a tease here himself.  He sets up all kinds of interesting questions.  What happens to a man when he divorces himself from his own sexual desires to service the desires of others? Is the wash of money in certain businesses as addictive as the drugs?  He then, sadly fails to answer them or even fully explore them.

Mike's attraction to Brooke, Adam's grounded older, working class, medical admin sister gives the film its heart. Both Tatum Channing and Cody Horn's performances are great.  Horn makes a meal of being a shrewd and silent observer of fools who think anything in life worth having will be easy or cheap. Channing shows us the suffering of a man who is not valued for who he is, a kind, hardworking and generous person, but rather  for what he looks like. There's a great moment in a bar when Mike runs into a girl he's been sleeping with who is out with her fiance.  He's one down, the dirty secret, the piece on the side, as disposable to this woman as last season's party shoes.

When Mike steps up and protects Adam from thugs after a drug deal gone awry, Brooke is finally able to see his moral worth and they have a tenuous but hopeful, human connection. Like Mike and Brooke, the audience is invested in Adam.  The ending is so ambiguous with regard to his fate, it fails to satisfy on any level.

The film ends up evoking much more than it delivers. MAGIC MIKE is a great tease and fun to look at, but in the end, like the strippers at its heart, it promises much more than it delivers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Winnipeg Fringe: AQUA BOOK BYOV Shows Moved to the Conservatory

A quick update on a venue change: all performance scheduled to be at Aqua Books ( 123 Princess) are now at:

211 Bannatyne

This is a well-known Fringe venue from years past, so patrons should have no trouble finding their way there. Performers who have shifted down the road include:
BREMNER DULTHIE  - kabaret '33
Bremner and Melanie's joint effort  - BREL AND PIAF...

If I missed your show, please FB or tweet me and I will update this post.

Kudos to Chuck McEwan and the intrepid Winnipeg Fringe for resolving this so swiftly and so well. What could have been a disaster has just been a very temporary set-back. The Conservatory is a nice air-conditioned venue, a short sprint from the beer tent.  Get out and support your touring Fringe favourites!

I posted on FB about this earlier today but I am just going to say it here: this is NOT the fault of the Winnipeg Fringe.

Aqua Books is a BYOV. and has been for the past few years.  Kelly Hughes, who has been a great supporter of the live performance scene downtown made Aqua a popular venue for readings, theatre and music. Aqua relocated this spring and  Kelly has been busy renovating his new location at 123 Princess.  I am not sure how this happened, but no occupancy permit for Aqua was obtained from the city by Aqua for the festival and so city officials shut it down opening night. Apparently, the same thing happened at Aqua during the Jazz Festival in Winnipeg a month back.

Mr Hughes is not a neophyte at this.  He must surely have known a permit would be required.

I would really like to know if  the failure to obtain the permit was an oversight on his part and the city was just being ham-fisted about paper-work or if the space was not completed and substantially not up to code and so he hoped to just dodge the inspection?

Fringe performers often pay up-front for a BYOV venue at least in part, so it is quite possible they are out of pocket on two counts:  lost revenue for cancelled shows plus paying for a space they are now not using.

I know running and moving a small  shop is a hand-to-mouth business, especially a bookstore in the current climate.  Renovations are never cheap. We all want to see Mr. Hughes succeed with his venture. However none of this makes renting people a space they can't use acceptable.

Someone needs to get to the bottom of this.  Either the city needed to cut Hughes some slack and let the shows go on or Hughes knew some time ago he could not be ready in time and owed it to the performers and the Winnipeg Fringe to let them know it advance.

It's a sad story, but at least the performers got a happy ending.  Things are looking less certain for Aqua.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Winnipeg Fringe Envy or Stuff I'd Be Seeing If I Were There...

The Toronto Fringe is now done for another year.  I ended my festival as I traditionally do, seeing the winner of the 24 hour playwrighting contest and then heading off to the beer tent to say good-bye to my friends who are heading down the road to other festivals or back home.

The pre-show line-up chats  this weekend were almost as entertaining as the plays themselves.  The week ended well.

Sadly I'm not heading down the road to Winnipeg.  If I was back home this week, I'd be trying to see the following shows:

Stuff I've seen here or elsewhere and would recommend:

OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP:  just brilliant, a favourite show of last week
JEM ROLLS :10 STARTS AND AN END:  great performance poetry from a master wordsmith
TJ Dawe in MEDICINE: TJ at his most personal, moving and thought-provoking.
THE BALLAD OF HERBIE COX directed by Jonno Katz, which got great buzz here and deserved better houses.
THE FIRST CANADIAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES for its smart script and fine performance by Priscilla Yakelaishek.
ELLAMENTARY was a light, feel-good musical, perfect for teen-aged girls.
LAVINIA was in Winnipeg a few years back features the wonderful Tara Travis and works for kids and grown-ups alike.
TEMPLE OF KHAOS:  comedic mayhem and political satire.  Fun.

Stuff I haven't seen with performers or writers whose work I know and like:

7 WAYS TO DIE:  a mask-work show written by Workshop West GM and darn talented Keltie Brown ( daughter of Ken Brown)
THE ADVERSARY:  Andrew Bailey writes and performs and if his last show LIMBO was any indication this will be moving and smart.
THE BIRDMANN:  we met in Victoria last year. Trevor does a show combining magic, comedy and physical theatre like no other.
BREAKING RANK:  Howard was in Victoria with his true story about fighting the US military post-Vietnam. It's a great story well worth hearing.
FOOLS FOR LOVE:  I saw Rocket and Sheshells at the Toronto Clown Festival and adored them. Battle of the sexes at its charming and ridiculous best.
HUFF:  I saw a version of this script back in the fall and was very impressed with Cliff Cardinal's writing and acting.  A powerful, darkly humorous and disturbing story.  He was picked for SUMMERWORKS here, a hotly contested juried festival which bodes well.
KUWAITI MOONSHINE:  Tim Murphy is telling a true story and he is a charming and engaging writer and story-teller.
LITTLE ORANGE MEN:  I've sadly managed to miss this show in both Victoria and Ottawa.  She sold out in Victoria and had great buzz in Ottawa.  It looks great.
LULU:  a wonderful cast of Winnipeg actors including Andrew Cecon and Claire Therese tackle a great 19th century classic. Good play, good actors:  how can you go wrong?
MINDING DAD:  Ken Brown (SPIRAL DIVE) and Jon Patterson (HOUSE, among others) are doing Ken's play about a father-son relationship and how that relationship is affected by Altzheimer's.  Sure to be one of the highlights of the week.
MORE POWER TO YOUR KNITTING NELL:  Melanie Gall has a fabulous voice and this is a  show to take your mom to during the Fringe, featuring songs from WWII and knitting! She had buzz in Ottawa.
NE ME QUITTE PAS:  Bremner Dulthie and Melanie Gall do the rep of Piaf and Brel.  They both have international careers as performers for good reason.  Bremner was one of my fave things in Ottawa last year.
PETE AND CHRIS:  they killed in Toronto and Victoria, they have made me laugh hard in the past and I like their style of comedy.
SHELBY BOND:  THE POOR MAN'S GUIDE TO BEING RICH:  Sound and Fury alumnae Bond can do no wrong on stage. This will be charming and funny.
STRETCH MARKS: two of the crew I did BREAST FRIENDS with ( Kim Zeglinski and Heather Witherdon) are joined by some other moms in a comedy about sex after children. Looks fun!
SOUND AND FURY: DIRTY FAIRY TALES:  Richard Maritzer and friends are cheeky, naughty, irreverent and hilarious.
TEACHING HAMLET:  Keir Cutler will give you an English class you won't soon forget.  Always love him for his dark, smart, passionate stories and well researched scripts.
TIL DEATH DO WE PART:  Ryan Gladstone takes on the Six Wives of Henry VIII.  This will be funny, physical and informative.
THE TOURING TEST:  talented Winnipegers Scott Douglas and Ross MacMillan are headed into the future.  I'd love to go too.

THIS TOWN:  Carol Lee and Jonathan had a big hit in Edmonton last year and this is a good script.

THE WATER IS WIDE:  Randy Rutherford sings beautifully and is a consummate story-teller. This will be wonderful, I'm sure.
WINGS OF DARKNESS:  Columpa Bobb, a fine actor, writer, comedian and theatre teacher wrote this and I'd love to check it out.
UNDERBELLY:  Jayson (GIANT INVISIBLE ROBOT) MacDonald brings a new show to Winnipeg.  Jayson really connects with audiences and I've liked all his other work.
VERRSUS SAYS SURPRISE:  Ottawa audiences loved this show, including my friends Brian Carroll and Barb Popel.  Another show you can take your mom to about slowing down in a faster and faster world.

Between this, the outdoor stage, street performances, beer tent food, libation and gossip and your own random discoveries of new talents form Winnipeg's great pool of actors and writers and new people from away you should easily be busy for the rest of the week. Have a blast!  I'll look forward to hearing about your adventures in Fringing at Winnipeg's 25th fringe.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Toronto Fringe: Process, Plot Problems and Perfection

The Toronto Fringe is heading into its final, usually frantic weekend.  The weather has held, most of the reviews are in.  There's now a stereo playing very quietly in the performers' bar.

The Fringe is a week to see theatre but it is also a social week for me.  I've had great times late night hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones in ticket line-ups and at the beer tent before biking home under the stars.

I've managed to see one or two shows a day most days.  Last Friday night, it was TEMPLE OF KHAOS. Saturday, I saw PORN STAR.  Sunday, I saw THE FIRST CANADIAN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Monday, I saw Soup Can Theatre's production of Sophocles' ANTIGONE.

The Fringe is a place for people to develop new plays and new ways of working. It is one of the truly exciting things about the festival.  The above list is an interesting sample of some of the kinds of work on offer this week.  I would describe all of the above shows as work in process, for a range of reasons.

Do people bring fully polished work to the festival?  Of course:  there are many seasoned performers who make their living preparing and then touring a polished gem of a show to an audience who comes to see them, knowing their standard of work is consistently high. I'll speak more about some of those people later.

Other people come to the Fringe to experiment:  to develop a large cast musical that is a few workshops away from being in a bigger theatre.  I saw DROWSY CHAPERONE for the first time at the Toronto Fringe and I preferred that version to the Mirvish hit.

I see people trying out styles and ideas and developing as groups years before they hit mainstream theatres. This is true of many improv comedy troupes.  New writers present first plays here.  More seasoned writers try riskier ideas here.  Theatre practitioners who want to try new methods of working or work in a different medium or create more experimental work  using clown or hybrids of dance and theatre or dance and poetry or site-specific work or a radical take on a classic text they are not able to do in the constraints of the season of a traditional theatre come to the Fringe to develop their shows.

Some experiments work better than others. I saw four shows this week that come out of this tradition of using the Fringe to experiment with  style, technique and process. None were perfect but they all held my interest.

TEMPLE OF KHAOS is a four-person show, mixing clown and commedia techniques to tell a tale about the folly of war.  The performers are changing the show as they go along each day, refining physical business and altering the script.  I loved the premise and I enjoyed much of it. There's some sharp social commentary here and some very funny character work and physical business.  Be warned: this is absolutely work in progress and it has that messy feel, not inappropriately for a show with KHAOS in the title.  Worth seeing, as long as you are OK with things on the loose side.

THE FIRST PRESIDENT....features a very smart, very dark, social satire in the form of an address to a university graduating class in the future (2084 to be exact) delivered by the hot, but not too sharp future President of a United NA, a certain Ms. White-White.  Priscilla Yakielashek gives a very nuanced and beautifully detailed rendering of a woman whose ambition, good looks and lack of critical faculty has allowed her to be manipulated into running the free world according to certain elite (male) interests.  Jem Rolls wrote the script, which is wickedly droll and blackly well-observed, although there may be more thoughts on the table than an audience can absorb in the time allowed.  I enjoyed it, but I wanted more space between ideas. Worth seeing, especially when you're done with brain candy and dumb comedy and want some smart laughs and food for thought. At Venue #7, St. Vladimir's.

Soup Can 's production of Sophocles' ANTIGONE is set during some unnamed G20 riot. Sadly, this badly conceived update lowered the stakes in one of the great tragedies ever written in any language.  The game cast displayed acting skills ranging from barely amateur to Stratford-worthy fabulous.  The young ladies and some of the young men were not well seated in their voices and were tough to understand, especially in the first third of the play.  The chorus looked menacing in gas masks in a great visual, but we never got to experience their vocal power to great effect. The director piled on unnecessary stage business, taking off Antigone's boots during another character's speech, for instance, simply undermining the great text and splitting focus in a way that hurt, not helped the play.

I found myself waiting for Creon and his son to reappear for more debates after what proved to be the most galvanizing scene of the play. Both their performances were terrific.

I have no problem with updating a classical text and repositioning it in a contemporary environment.  Palestine, Afghanistan, Egypt's Tahir Square, Syria would all have worked better than this "First World problem" G20 take.  I'd like to see this again in a better version, but it is worth a look for a chance to see a rarely produced great play. At Venue #4, The Randolph Academy (the former Bathurst Street Theatre).

Chris Craddock, a very witty, political and talented writer had a massive hit here at the Fringe a few years back with BASHED, THE MUSICAL which was brilliant.  PORN STAR predates it and it is not as strong a piece of writing.  There are too many plot digressions and far too many issues presented for any one, strong narrative to carry the day. Moreover, the weakest and least credible story is the one that drives the plot.

I'd previously seen PORN STAR in Edmonton as one-woman show and the weaknesses of the script were less evident when one person was doing it.  Here, four terrific actresses including Amy Lee and Heather Marie Annis of "Morro and Jasp" fame have taken it on and their uniformly fantastic work  underlined every problem with the script.

The stuff that works is great. The gay love story ( I don't want to give away too much plot here), the naughty librarian's imaginary sex life, our time with a dead angel in Hell are all fabulous: moving, hilarious, human. The stuff that doesn't work:  the hash of religion and politics that lead to a climax that feels forced and tacked on, equating freedom to watch porn and reproductive choice as issues of equal weight (no, absolutely not) stick out like sore thumbs.

Audiences are loving it and it is 100% worth seeing for the acting alone. Try and ignore the convoluted and unfocussed plot and dodgy sexual politics and go for the laughs, the warmth and the feel-good ending. Whether or not I agree with his every thought, Chris Craddock is always damn funny and this crew delivers the play's heart and humour. At Venue #1, The Tarragon Theatre.

Then yesterday, I had tried and true Fringe nirvana:  Jem Rolls doing 10 STARTS AND AN ENDING and TJ Dawe in MEDICINE.  Polished, meticulously rehearsed performances and elegantly constructed, intelligent, heartfelt and witty writing came together in two very different shows that reminded me why I do this:  to try and hit that bar and make work at the level I saw yesterday.

Jem is a performance poet from the UK.  He's been touring the circuit since 2001.  He is an energy force field onstage, hitting the audience with wave after wave of words,visions, ideas, controversies and a full range of human emotions.  I ended my time with him holding a mental picture of being in an all you can eat ice cream bar in Thailand.  I went many other places in that hour, including across Canada in one minute, revisiting many of the places I have been to in my own summers of Fringe touring.  It was for me, as it always is with Jem, a wonderful trip. He wasn't sold out yesterday:  he should be. At Venue #6, The George Ignatieff Theatre.

Then on to TJ Dawe, who took me on a trip of a different kind: a psychotropic one.  TJ goes to the heart of a B.C. forest  with Dr. Gabor Mate and a couple of shamans on a quest to heal a traumatic psychic wound. The journey he takes us on is both intensely personal and profoundly universal. Last night, I plummeted, as if in a dream, to the bottom of the performer's unconscious and the depths of his all-too human soul. The writing was beautifully observed, sensitive and resonant and the elliptical structure of the story was masterful. Much of the audience was moved to tears. This MEDICINE is truly cathartic. Line up well ahead of the curtain time or you won't get a seat. At Venue #8, The Helen Gardiner Phelan Theatre.

I'm going to have an early night in preparation for a weekend of more theatre and socializing.  I'll see those of you who are here in a line-up or at the beer tent.  Have fun!  I know I will, as I have all week.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 2 at the Toronto Fringe: Thought provoking clowns and an entertaining history lesson at the TARRAGON

My first Fringe show last night was poignant and bitter-sweet for many reasons.  The wonderful clown duo of Morro and Jasp opened  their adaptation Of Mice and Men last night: OF MICE AND MORRO AND JASP.

The lights come up on the duo with their battered touring suitcases.  At Jasp's prompting,  Morro takes out her pink ukelele and sings "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" with a hat in front of them.  Our beloved clowns are flat broke and down on their luck:  the costs of mounting their last production have left them impecunious.  They are busking, sleeping in bushes and forced to abandon their own creative endeavors to join a carnival and be with scary, not nice people doing scary, not nice things.

They dream of owning a clown farm:  a happy place of creative freedom and bucolic bliss but that dream  is going to take some serious cash and they are down to their last loonie.

This latest offering is the duo's take not only on Steinbeck's classic tale but also on the touring performer's nightmare:  you take an artistic risk, end up broke with no place to live and are forced to back-burner your dreams and take whatever work you can get. It's happened to almost everyone I know at some point, including me.

I am not going to tell you what happens in the end but I will say that their observations about touring tragedy and people's desire for a happy ending certainly resonated for me on several levels. It's a brilliant show: risky high-stakes work from two fine performers at the top of their game.  The ending moved me to tears and laughter as these two so often do.  I'm glad I went when I did because this show is certain to sell out. 

The second show I saw last night was PIECING TOGETHER PAULINE.   Chris Coculuzzi and Roxanne Deans have collaborated on a play about the life and times of opera singer and performer Pauline Viaradot.  Intellectual, accomplished and ambitious, Viradot knew many of 19th century Europe's greatest talents including Berlioz, Chopin, Clara Schumann, Georges Sand, Liszt and Gounod who all figure into the story.

The play is a thoughtful and well-researched exploration not only of the life of Viradot herself, but of the lives of women artists in the 19th century.  It was amazing to me how many of the same issues continue in the 21st century.  One reason so few women over 30 tour on the Fringe circuit is childcare, which was a problem in the 19th century.  Apparently some things don't change.

There was great and palpable stage chemistry between Kirsten Zaza as the younger Viradot and her husband, her lovers, her friends and  her admirers. Elva Mae Hoover does a great job of making the older Viradot sympathetic and compelling.  The natural chemistry between all of the actors really added to the enjoyment of the show and made the characters feel real and human. The staging is simple, clean and effective.

With a cast of 14 in a period drama spanning several decades, this is certainly one of the most ambitious productions staged this Toronto Fringe season.  There's some fine acting work both comic and tragic. A number of the actors do double duty as two characters. It's a tribute to the production that everything and everyone in the complex story was clear.

This is a 90 minute show. I know there are always concerns with running time in situations like these but there were a few moments last night I felt could have been allowed to breathe a bit more, especially the dropping of the curtains for the death scenes. Some of the musical bridges could have run a little longer. Also, if we are to have the leading lady change onstage, she needs a period slip under her period costume.

These are minor quibbles with an engaging production that gave me an entertaining history lesson, something I always enjoy.  It's well worth checking out.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Toronto Fringe: nice plays Dudes but where's the party?

The Toronto Fringe opened on Wednesday night.  It is one of the largest Fringes in the country, 155 shows in a city that is one of the largest in the English-speaking world for theatre.  The range and quality of offerings here is always high and I look forward to my time in the stalls this week which begins tonight.

For one of the largest theatre festivals in the country, Toronto has one of the smallest festival sites.  This is in part due to the fact the festival is quite spread out, but not entirely.  Winnipeg and Edmonton have very spread out performance venues now but there is a major festival central in both cities.

On the small festival site in Toronto, there is a visual Fringe with people doing mini-performances, art installations and interactive performance art. It's very nice and creative.  That part of the festival takes place on Honest Ed's parking lot, where the festival beer tent used to be.  There is also a lecture series on various aspects of the business of theatre:  very useful and we appreciate the help.

What there isn't is a party.

Before the beer tent was in Honest Ed's parking lot, it was beside the Tranzac Club and moved inside at 11:00 pm.  There was a cabaret and a DJ and dancing until the wee hours.  It was the best week of the year.  No more.

Last night, after we had our 9:00 pm  free ice cream (thank you), a bunch of earnest young things in matching t-shirts  that said they were "The 100", dutifully herded us into the alley beside Honest Ed's  where we were allowed to stand and drink quietly:  no music, no cabaret, no karaoke.  Apparently the neighbours complained about noise so the party aspect of the Fringe has been cancelled.  I figure the real reason is the surrounding bar owners decided the actors, staff and festival patrons should be spending their  beer tent money with them and used noise as an excuse to shut the party down.

It feels as if the festival organizers got together and said " what is the least we can possibly do to throw a party we don't want to have and make it as little fun as possible so these people will just go home or to a bar down the street?"

I 'm sorry dear festival managers and powers that be, but the "party" aspect of this year's Fringe totally, completely sucks. It reminds me of the small-minded, uptight Protestant, no fun, Type A anal retentiveness of Toronto that never, ever goes away, the Women's Christian Temperance aspect of this town, the pursed lipped parsimony that makes me long to be somewhere people actually like to have fun, say Montreal or Winnipeg.  It is the real reason Toronto is a hated place in the rest of the country.  Those of us from elsewhere know that unless we are  totally focused on work 24/7 here, we will be seen as lazy, shiftless slackers. 

In Montreal, the Just for Laughs theatre is the performers' bar and party space and it stays open until dawn and there is music. There is also a park with a beer tent, performances and a hang-over brunch Sunday with Crisco Twister. In Edmonton, the Fringe has an entire market square with a stage for street performers and street performers all over the site. The Festival hosts a nightly cabaret and throws the performers, staff and volunteers a party with food closing night. There are also two private bars that stay open until the wee hours during the Fringe on either end of the site.

Ottawa, tiny in comparison has a park with food, drink, a cabaret and dancing.  Their opening night was an actual party that went until 1:00 am.

In Winnipeg, the festival has a park with free public performances day and night, a street market with many kinds of food and merchandise and a combination of festival-sponsored and private enterprise (Jay and Mae, I missed you last night) and 3  bars on site, two festival run and one private.  There is music, drinking, food and dancing until 4:00 am.  The theatre festival is big and loud.  People do circus acts with fire in the street at 1:00 am. The Fringe gets a special license for a street party on the first weekend. The performers put on  a private cabaret after midnight in a private bar near the Fringe that sells out every year and is one of the highlights of the Festival:  it is rude, cheeky, naughty and fun.  And yes, people live in Winnipeg's theatre district in really expensive condos.  In Winnipeg when you throw a street party, the neighbours come join you.  If they wanted to be in a dry religious commune where you have to drink secretly in an alley, they'd head  back to Altona.

If PRIDE can have a 4 day street party in a residential neighbourhood in Toronto with three deafening stages, 4 parades, public drinking and naked people on leashes marched through the street without incident why can't  the theatre community of Toronto have a DJ after 11:00 pm? If it's  because of the neighbours, it's time to get different neighbours.

Here's a thought:  move this party to the Factory Theatre or inside Honest Ed's where we could have drinking and dancing and music and performances like they have in Winnipeg and Edmonton and Montreal during the Fringe and we could have some actual fun.  The current set-up sucks. This festival can do better and it should.  We have world-class theatre here.  Let's have a world-class party to celebrate.