10 questions: Nina Lee Aquino

1) What the fuck is going on?
It’s the 5th annual Potluck Festival. The only festival in Canada that’s dedicated to developing works by Asian-Canadian playwrights.

2) How have you developed as an Artistic Director during your time with fu-GEN Asian Canadian Theatre?
I became bossier.

3) Are there any themes that are common to the work being presented in fu-GEN’s upcoming Potluck Festival?
None whatsoever. True to the potluck concept, each playwright really offers a unique “dish.”

4) What were some of the major challenges involved in turning this annual one-night-only event into a six-day festival?
Money, people, space, time and finding food to feed people for six days.

5) How do you overcome the static setup of a traditional play reading to make it into something that feels exciting and dynamic for the audience?
We make it kinetic.

We have a kick-ass festival “set” (design by Jackie Chau) that’s there for the readings. We also have a wonderful lighting designer to provide support for the directors and to spice things up a bit for the reading. Each presentation gets tech. Time/rehearsal as well – so it’s more than just park-and-bark style.

It’s amazing what you can do with music stands on stage.

6) How well are Asian-North Americans being served by and represented in contemporary Canadian theatre?
Not very well.

That’s why fu-GEN exists.

7) How does the company find the balance between on one hand working from a specific and exclusive ethno-cultural framing (e.g., producing only Asian-North American playwrights), while on the other hand advocating for a greater multiculturalism?
We produce Asian-Canadian playwrights because no one else is doing it. And our stories are just as important and relevant as the rest of Canada. We’re here to remain visible and present in the Canadian diaspora. So that people can go, “ah, that’s Canadian, too.”

We’re developing Asian-Canadian theatre artists to diversify the Toronto theatre community. So that when somebody from Stratford or Shaw see a fu-GEN show, they can see Asian-Canadian talent and go, “oh, i want to work with that designer or actor” and then they do. It can happen. It’s already happening.

Fuck balance. Never think about it. I just do my job.

8) How do you feel about your production of People Power earning four Dora nominations?
Feels good.

9) From your experience working with fu-GEN’s board of directors, what advice would you give to an independent theatre company looking to establish its own board?
Look for good people. People with loads of money helps, too.

10) How do you feel about the quality of theatre criticism in Toronto?
I don’t read reviews.

The definitive list of Canadian theatre blogs

The project: assemble a definitive list of Canadian theatre blogs.

Our criteria:
to be included on this list, the blog must have posted at least once within the past 30 days; the blog must identify as Canadian; and it must be primarily focused on theatre. And in the interest of keeping things independent, blogs that are offshoots of larger publications (for example, the theatre section on the BlogTO website) are ineligible for inclusion on this list.

The methodology: google blog search for “canadian theatre”, call for submissions (here and here), and anecdotal experience.

The list:

Daniel MacIvor’s notebook – Halifax
Compass Points – Ottawa
Third Wall Blog – Ottawa
Canadian Theatre Festivals – Ontario
Time and space – Toronto
Mooney on theatre – Toronto
Off the Fence – Toronto
One big umbrella – Toronto
Spinning/and/spinning – Toronto
SummerWorks Blog – Toronto
The TAPA blog – Toronto
Theatre is territory – Toronto
The Wrecking Ball – Toronto
Gypsy Roar – Hamilton
Moosguts Live – Winnipeg
Geeks on Drama – Vancouver
The Next Stage – Vancouver
Vancouver on stage – Vancouver
Victoria Theatre Reviews – Victoria

Grinder’s Grumblings – Wellington
On my knees – Toronto

Otherwise – Vancouver

Is this a definitive list? Probably not. This is an ongoing project. If you know of a blog that fits the above criteria, please email us the link, or drop it in the comments section of this post. Thanks!

We advertise your Fringe show – free!

Sounds impossible – and slightly suspect – we know. But here’s what we’re thinking: Send us a digital version of your 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival postcard or poster, and we’ll post it here on our blog, sometime between now and the end of the festival. Simple.

We get to learn more about your show, look at your awesome postcard, and everyone wins.

Please send your Toronto Fringe Festival postcards here.

By the way, does anybody have any fun stories about an upcoming North American Fringe Festival? What are you working on?

Critical lockout

Over at his Superfluities Redux theatre blog, New York writer George Hunka has penned a damning assessment of contemporary Western theatre criticism – and a call for an end to the critical apparatus as we know it:

“Given the place of the reviewing and critical community in the post-capitalist ideology that maintains journalists, the business community and artists as closely-aligned participants in the discipline, maybe we should place a moratorium on criticism and reviewing as well.”

He suggests sending theatre critics from all the major publications on one-year paid vacations. Then goes on to offer this slightly more practical solution:

“The other alternative, and perhaps more practical, is not to admit reviewers into one’s productions, not out of fear but out of a mistrust and bad faith that arises from the reviewers’ own public writings and comments. Ultimately this means that productions would need to live out the length of their runs with neither positive nor negative reviews, and the lack of publicity which accords to them.”

Check out the full post: On Horror and Criticism.

Blogging about theatre blogging

As part of their series on blogging and the arts, the good people at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival have interviewed Praxis Theatre’s Director of Marketing and resident blogger, Ian Mackenzie.

Questions involve the origins of the Theatre is territory blog, Celebrity Theatre, and the role of the Internet in bridging Canada’s cultural landmass gap:

“What do we gain from creating a stronger sense of our national theatre except – maybe – to bask in some heightened sense of our sovereign statehood?”

Click through to read the full interview and all its anti-nationalist tangents.

Walters is back with more Theatre Ideas

After a 40-day hiatus, University of North Carolina theatre professor Scott Walters has revived his popular and controversial Theatre Ideas blog. Back in early May, Walters closed the doors on his blog and expressed disappointment with the regional bickering that had begun to dominate the debate:

“I have used this blog, especially during the past five months, to develop my ideas about theatre tribes. I have floated the first drafts of ideas to see what needed to be clarified, fine-tuned, or scrapped entirely. It is now time to truly focus on the development of those ideas. It does not serve my purpose to continue scrapping with the usual bloggers about whether the theatre tribe idea will work – I know it will work; or whether it is worthwhile – I know it is worthwhile. I am wasting my time, and I don’t have any to waste.”

“Despite being filled with progressive minds, theatre is currently a conservative art form – conservative in the traditional sense of clinging to the past and resisting the siren call of the new. We currently have centralized theatrical power in a few places, and we know from other situations that those with power rarely give it up freely. While I have nothing against New York or Chicago, I believe the future of the theatre lies in geographical diversity, sustainable values, and a local focus, and the need to constantly address those two cities on this blog is wresting my focus from where it ought to be.”

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the theatrosphere is simply a more exciting place to be when Walters is in the ring. So whichever direction Walters decides to steer his blog, we can’t wait to see what happens next!

We advertise your Fringe show – free!

Sounds impossible – and slightly suspect – we know. But here’s what we’re thinking: Send us a digital version of your 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival postcard or poster, and we’ll post it here on our blog, sometime between now and the end of the festival. Simple.

We get to learn more about your show, look at your awesome postcard, and everyone wins.

Please send your Toronto Fringe Festival postcards here.

By the way, does anybody have any fun stories about an upcoming North American Fringe Festival? What are you working on?

Dora Award nominees – independent theatre

We’re a couple of days behind on posting this, but the 2008 Dora Award nominations for Independent Theatre are in.

Here’s the full list of nominees in the independent theatre category:

Outstanding new play
Anusree Roy – Pyaasa
Michael Rubenfeld – My Fellow Creatures
Beatriz Pizano – Madre
Michael Hollingsworth – Laurier
Brendan Gall – A Quiet Place

Outstanding production Waiting for Godot – Modern Times Stage Company
Lullaby – Dark Horse Theatre
Laurier – VideoCabaret
April 14, 1912 – Theatre Rusticle
A Quiet Place – single threat

Outstanding direction
Soheil Parsa – Waiting for Godot
Nina Lee Aquino – People Power
Michael Hollingsworth – Laurier
Allyson McMackon – April 14, 1912
Geoffrey Pounsett – A Quiet Place

Outstanding performance by a male
Nicco Lorenzo Garcia – People Power
Benjamin Clost – My Fellow Creatures
David Ferry – Lullaby
Ryan Hollyman – Lawrence and Holloman
Christopher Stanton – A Quiet Place

Outstanding performance by a female
Erin Shields – The Unfortunate Misadventures of Masha Galinski
Anusree Roy – Pyaasa
Marcia Bennett – Madre
Maev Beaty – Dance of the Red Skirts
Pragna Desai – Canada Steel
Karin Randoja – Breakfast

Outstanding set design
Trevor Schwellnus – Waiting for Godot
Camellia Koo – People Power
Trevor Schwellnus – Madre
Lindsay Anne Black – April 14, 1912
Jackie Chau – Antigone: Insurgency (Sophocles Revisited)

Outstanding costume design
Angela Thomas – Waiting for Godot
Jenna McCutchin – The Fort at York
Astrid Janson and Sarah Armstrong – Laurier
Nina Okens – Bella Donna
Lindsay Anne Black – April 14, 1912

Outstanding lighting design
Andrea Lundy – Waiting for Godot
Michael Spence – Raging Dreams – into the visceral
Trevor Schwellnus – Madre
Andy Moro – Laurier
Laird Macdonald – Breakfast
Michelle Ramsay – April 14, 1912

Outstanding sound design/composition
Romeo Candido – People Power
Thomas Ryder Payne – Madre
Brent Snyder – Laurier
Richard Windeyer – Breakfast
Christopher Stanton – A Quiet Place

Wow! What a wonderful year it has been in Toronto’s independent theatre. Congratulations to all nominees and best of luck at the Monday, June 30 Dora Awards ceremony.

Tonight! New work by Catherine Hernandez

Please join Praxis Theatre tonight for the season finale in our series of original play readings. This month, we are pleased to present Catherine Hernandezs Kilt Pins.

WHAT: Reading of Catherine Hernandezs Kilt Pins

Tuesday, June 10 @ 8 pm

WHERE: The Lower Ossington Theatre
100A Ossington Avenue (one block north of Queen St.)

Pip Dwyer, Jo Chim, Simon Rice, Greta Papageorgiu, Tania McCartney, Margaret Evans, James Murray. Directed by Michael Wheeler.

TICKETS: Pay-What-You-Can @ the door

For more information, please contact Laura Nordin.