The Toronto International Film Festival – The Scenes behind the Screens

“My name is Carol

I am an ordinary person who on several days during early September had the privilege of doing an extraordinary job

A job you cannot do anywhere else in the world…….

I was a Volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival – part of the TIFF volunteer army at what is widely considered to be the largest Public Film Festival on the planet

Forget the glam, the glitz and the galas, this is the grass roots level of the Festival, the crowds, the chaos (organized of course), and the queues; the lost, the confused, the angry and the excited.

We of the orange TShirts are your directions; your answers to questions; we are the “live” version of your Festival Guide.

You can count on us – as you line up to claim your ticket; your seat; your glimpse of Celebrity.

You will find us behind every red carpet “updo” and mega watt smile; at every barrier, theatre or stage door and even on the the corners of streets in the downtown locales of the streets.

Our iconic orange Tshirts are the beacon of sanity amidst the wonderful annual brouhaha that is TIFF.

So what’s a day working at the Festival like?

Read On….

To even get to this day volunteers have submitted an essay on why we should be chosen; attended a selection session; an interview, and attended 2 training sessions. We have had the Customer Service doctrine drummed into us “in the nicest possible way” and we are expected to be totally professional around the myriad celebrities and hordes of general public that will walk into our line of vision.

6.am wake up call (for a 7.30 start today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street West). Unfold and fight my way into a freshly pressed “Florida” orange volunteer TShirt – (4 sizes fit all)

7.15am – Arrive at The Tiff Bell Lightbox – O&B Canteen shut so no coffee before kick off. Greeted at entrance by the early bird Orange T shirt shift who at this point are marshalling volunteers to the Volunteer Lounge on Floor 4

Arrive at the Volunteer Lounge
– done it all before and have had refresher training so know exactly what to expect. This time I have elected to be a Theatre volunteer at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the majority of my shifts with one “Go anywhere, Do anything” “ACE” shift where in fact I get sent home early because of the lack of need for back up during that afternoon!

Three other buzz- filled days follow, filled with usher and “clicking” duties and I got lucky in that I “saw” 3 movies whilst ushering, one of which was s star studded gala! I also used my volunteer tickets (the perk) to see a move at Hot Docs cinema on Bloor as a bona fide ticketed member of the audience and I attempted to use one of my treasured tickets to rush a Press & Industry” screening for the Bill Murray movie – which was full do after a 45 minute wait I leave movie less. So now I know what it feels like first hand to “fail” in the Rush line!!!

Being a movie-goer at the festival is not for the faint hearted. Guests range from serious TIFF aficionados who research every TIFF contender simply wanting to get a first shot at seeing a movie that will go on general release very soo, to those that want to catch a “never to be publicly released gem”. Others will take vacation after pouring over mind blowing colour coded schedules; trying to decipher the movie pass/members’ pass dynamics. They will queue up to watch back to back films whilst working out how to skew the space/time continuum in order to catch a movie at a theatre 10 minutes away from a screening that ends 5 minutes before the next one starts!!!.

Queuing amongst these are those that merely want to be part of something very special, to catch a little red-carpet reflected glamour. Whatever the reason, as a Volunteer I got to see from the inside the amount of trouble and care taken to maintain TIFF’s standing as the largest public film festival in the world and to maintain its reputation as the “go to” Film Festival for both Movie makers, celebrities, press and public..

In short TIFF has it all sewn up from the inside out.
I’ll be back – as they say…..
Over and Out

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Les Coquettes Cabaret – Burlesque with a twist

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In the follow up to Burlesque week here in Toronto it seems timely to do a sound bite on “Les Coquettes Caberet”

Having been to some predictably cheesy drag shows in my time I thought I should do a little research before dragging along my poor unsuspecting partner. There is a world of difference between your average “hen night” drag show and sumptuous Burlesque, the definition of which – and I quote – is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects”. As a theatrical art form it is historically rooted as far back as the 17 century and at its most extravagant peak as an entertainment outlet for the repressed Victorians.

What Les Coquettes presented was Dita Von Teese meets “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets Village People with a passing nod at “Moulin Rouge”.
The show called “Exhibition” was – in the true tradition of Burlesque – loosely woven around the seriousness of projected images of famous art masterpieces.
The Mistress of ceremonies La Minouche – “Bred for love in both New York and Paris” was stellar as the hostess moving the show along with raunchy “tongue in cheek” intros relating the artwork to the stage showpieces. Articulate, eloquent, cheeky and and stunningly coquettish La Minouche was a consummate raconteur, a delicious parcel of bawdy vivaciousness, wrapped in boudoir stripes, a bodice that barely held her credentials in check and topped with wayward tumbling red curls beneath an enormous feathered pirate hat!
Les Coquettes is a rousing, sexy, edgy revue of cirque, comedy, song, dance and striptease. Conceived in 2004 by Catherine Skinner and Kathryn Romanow, its’ talented roster offers the following ways to blow your mind:

Classic Striptease
Torch Songs (complete with fire, if you are so inclined!*)
Clown
Stand-Up Comedy*
Dance
Boylesque (burlesque with male performers!)
Aerial Silks*
Aerial Hoop*
Fire Dancing*
Pole Acrobatics*
Live Musicians*
Interactive characters to add atmosphere*
Illusion/Magic

Admit it
Your interested is “piqued” just a little isn’t it?
Over and Out

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Best Local Theatre Experiences to enjoy in Toronto

Forget the big-ticket Broadway shows that hit our fair city every season. Forget the wonderful Stratford and Shaw Festivals that require a trip out-of-town. Get down to grass-roots level by supporting Toronto’s vibrant local theatre, the bread and butter theatre scene underpinning the big stuff. With an ever-changing menu of plays, and venues; with various theatre companies taking their productions on the road and staging their plays outside in parks or in heritage properties, the possibilities for enjoying highly professional and unique theatre are endless.
This is Theatre which reaches out to embrace you; visceral experiences that you are so close to you could almost be a part of them.

This is Theatre that will give you the rewarding jaw dropping experiences, the unexpected moments, the exceeded expectations. The theatre that runs on very few cast, literally no props and limited funding.
About the List: The list is split between “Roving Theatre companies who do these “Roadshow”performances around the city and Local theatre venues some of whom have their own in-house Production companies.

Art of Time Ensemble
http://www.artoftimeensemble.com
The creation of musician Andrew Burashko, this company makes it onto this list because although primarily music focussed, the company always pushes the boundaries with daring and new multi-media collaborations between film, theatre, dance, poetry and even painting. To watch an “Art of Time Ensemble” performance is to experience something truly unique and exciting. Best seen so far was their interpretation of HG Welles “War of The Worlds’ as an on-stage “Radio Show”

Brant Theatre Workshopshttp://www.branttheatre.com
These operate all around the GTA and seem to focus on performing in historic venues inside and outside the city i.e. Bell Homestead. Biggest claim to fame; their stunning interpretations of “Dracula – A Love Story” traditionally multi-staged throughout the halls, balconies and rooms of Toronto’s Casa Loma” – often with an organist thrown in to “toe” the many footpedals of the Casa Loma pipe organ for extra atmosphere.

Buddies in Bad Times – dedicated to the promotion of Queer Canadian Culture http://www.buddiesinbadtimes.com
Self described as “Canada’s Home to Queer Culture”, Buddies was formed in 1979 and, like most fledgling theatre companies, moved from venue to venue until finally settling down at its present location on Alexander St. in 1994.

Classical Theatre Projectwhttp://ww.classicaltheatreproject.com
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this groups wickedly inventive and hilarious pared down versions of Shakespeare – abridged! All 37 plays in 75 minutes – with craft ale thrown into the ticket price .
Check out “Shakesbeer” at Wychwood Barns

Clay & Paper Theatrehttp://www.clayandpapertheatre.org
Moniker ; Clay & Paper Theatre is not funny and never serious”
A mask/large-scale puppetry company that creates community driven, multi-disciplinary works mostly performed in public spaces and incorporating pageantry and narrative storytelling.
Claim to fame – they rehearse in full public view making their art accessible to all.
Don’t miss their “Night of Dread” held annually every October.

Fu-Gen Asian Canadian Theatre Companyhttp://fu-gen.org
Fu-GEN’s founding members started out in 2002 with the mandate of filling the Asian void they saw in the Canadian cultural landscape.

Humber River Shakespeare Companyhttp://www.humberrivershakespeare.ca
Like Brant Theatre Workshops this tiny theatre company perform all over Toronto and the GTA again mainly in historic settings and open air spaces – they do a terrific version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” each Christmas, also look out for the annual Shakespeare tour, performances of which fan out all over the GTA each summer They also do some innovative one-off productions on the side such as “The Sonnet Show” – whereby five Canadian playwrights create exclusive new works using a 14-line Shakespeare sonnet as inspiration, and with only 14 days to complete a 14-minute play!

Nightwood Theatrewww.nightwoodtheatre
Founded in 1979, Nightwood Theatre is the oldest professional women’s theatre company in Canada. It produces develops and tours landmark, award-winning plays by and about Canadian women.

Shakespeare in the Ruffhttp://www.shakespeareintheruff.com
With minimal props and maximum imagination Shakespeare in the Ruff only performs in the summer season at Withrow Park. Catching a performance by this company is fast becoming a Toronto tradition.
Blanket picnics a must!

Soulpepperhttps://www.soulpepper.ca/ is a rep company founded by actors for actors, they continue to revisit and reinvent the classics, both well-known and obscure, while mentoring and providing much-needed space and production opportunities to new artists. Operate out of The Young Centre for the Performing Arts

The Guild Theatre Festival Company http://www.guildfestivaltheatre.caSeeing The Guild Theatre Festival company “do their stuff” at the quirky Guild Inn gardens high atop Scarborough bluffs is a real treat. Anybody familiar with the cult 1970’s British series “the Prisoner” will be able to relate to the “other world” alternate reality that the Guild Inn Gardens possesses thanks to the presence of an eclectic architectural collection that dominates the landscape. Bits of Toronto’s grandest late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings are scattered amongst the trees and manicured flowerbeds of the Park which is overlooked by the sad and now dilapidated Guildwood Inn an erstwhile arts and crafts colony from the 1920’s. The troupe perform their classics on the open-air Greek stage and despite simple but adequate stage settings (who needs more on a Greek stage) maximizes the use of lighting and gorgeous costumes to heighten the experience. Last Years “Misanthrope by Molière was so glorious that even the privilege of being in the audience for two visits weren’t enough! Wonderful casual folding chair/al fresco picnic atmosphere with soft drinks and snacks on sale and with the Producer/Director and Founder showing you to your seat and making introductions etc.

Video Cabarethttp://www.videocab.com
Utilizing one of the Theatres at The Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery – see below – Video Cabaret is one of the most unique performance offerings on stage. Performing plays based on Canadian historical events under the umbrella series “The History of the Village of the Small Huts”, the style is a satirical “Spitting Images” (UK television satire) and Restoration theatre. The audience watches the show in a “black box” environment whereby the heavily made-up performers are “lit” and positioned within a curtained stage setting with the entire Theatre in total darkness. Their next production “Trudeau and the FLQ from the series “The History of the Village of the Small Huts – 1963 -1970

LOCAL THEATRE VENUES
Keep a look out for or subscribe to the following entities:

Enwave Theatrewww.harbourfrontcentre.com
Small 2 tiered theatre housing between 350-400 seats, each with a great view of the stage. great sound; ice cream available, accessible by streetcar. Often host Art of Time Ensemble – see above. Cool “aside” about the “EnWave” air conditioning system. It is cooled through a system of pipes that sit under Lake Ontario which draw cold water into a pumping station downtown which then uses a heat exchange system to cool air that is then circulated through the subscriber buildings – uses 75% less electricity than traditional air conditioning. Neat eh?

Passé Muraillehttp://www.passemuraille.on.caAnother example of “Theatre” utilizing heritage buildings. Theatre Passe Muraille is housed in a converted bakery, in fact it has retained some of the original features namely the original loading doors at the front, and the horse stable windows at the back Again an alternate theatre company focussing on Canadian works. Passe Muraille also lends itself out to the comedy improv group “National Theatre of the World” when they need a full 2-tier theatre setting

Red Sandcastle Theatre http://redsandcastlethestre.com                                        Strolling along Queen Street east (north side) near Broadview you will pass a tiny unremarkable storefront with windows plastered with bill posters for past and current performances and events. Look up and you’ll see that you are in front of the Red Sandcastle Theatre. Open the door to a long thin living room sized space flanked on the left by a battalion of around 50 folding chairs in row formation opposite, no,  actually abutting onto a crudely curtained off performance floor. Do not judge the theatre by its “costume”, Red Sandcastle theatre, the brainchild of Artistic Director and founder Rosemary Doyle is the humble home to some of Toronto’s best talent. Look closely at the cast of any play you see here and you will spot the seasoned talent of Toronto shaking it up in back to back plays and DORA nominated performances.

Red One Theatre http://www.redonetheatre.com
Co op based theatre that utilizes neglected and unconventional spaces in which to perform productions that aim to blow the myth of what theatre is or should be. Catching a production here can be tricky as the runs are sometimes as short as a single performance and rarely last longer than a couple weeks.

The Lower Ossington Theatre http://www.lowerossingtontheatre.com                “LOT” a tiny space on Ossington does a great job of promoting itself and the many and varied small-scale productions through Groupon and Buytopia. Famously hosts the irreverent “Avenue Q” a “blue” full-size “Muppet” puppet meets “Sesame Street” production that seems to revisit about 3 times a year.
A is for Absolutely don’t take your kids
B is for Bert and Ernie loosely represented by erstwhile gay room mates Rod and Nicky
C is for Cookie Monster aka Trekkie Bear who er – do not share the same values AT ALL.
D is for DO Like it on their Facebook Page
Terrific irreverent unexpected bum clenching fun…

Canadian Stage companyhttp://www.stlc.com
Base themselves out of three Toronto theatres: The St Lawrence theatre formerly the Bluma Appel Theatre, Berkeley Street and during the summer season at High Park Amphitheatre where they produce not one but two alternating Shakespeare plays on summer evenings between July and September
If you are neither a big theatre goer or lover of Shakespeare, do yourself a favour this summer and be part of the summer magic that is Shakespeare in the Park. Get there early or reserve a cushion online.

The Tarragon Theatrehttp://www.tarragon-theatre.com
Well known for its development, creation and encouragement of new works the Tarragon is one of the main centres for contemporary playwriting in Canada. Over 170 works have premiered here since 1970 which is when the founders Bill and Jane Glassco, converted a pre-war industrial building – once a cribbage board factory into a two stage theatre seating around 230.

Young Centre for the Performing Arts – Distillery – http://www.young-centre.ca
A modern four theatre venue set in the century old “Gooderham and Worts” Distillery District. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts was envisioned by George Brown College and Soulpepper Theatre Company to be a home to the entire Toronto arts community. Anchored by the presence of Soulpepper’s year-round classical repertory and George Brown College’s Theatre School, the Young Centre provides a home for the leading artists and arts organizations. Offers a small cafe service. Excellent for a spot of theatre as easily accessible by streetcar with on-site parking available.
Still running till 8 March 2014 and highly recommended the three part Alan Ayckbourn trilogy “The Norman Conquests”.

Break A Leg.

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) The Scenes behind the Screens

Toronto International Film Festival logo

Toronto International Film Festival logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“My name is Carol

I am an ordinary person who on several days during early September had the privilege of doing an extraordinary job

A job you cannot do anywhere else in the world…….

I was a Volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival – part of the TIFF volunteer army at what is widely considered to be the largest Public Film Festival on the planet

Forget the glam, the glitz and the galas, this is the grass roots level of the Festival, the crowds, the chaos (organized of course), and the queues; the lost, the confused, the angry and the excited.

We of the orange TShirts are your directions; your answers to questions; we are the “live” version of your Festival Guide.

You can count on us – as you line up to claim your ticket; your seat; your glimpse of Celebrity.

You will find us behind every red carpet “updo” and mega watt smile; at every barrier, theatre or stage door and even on the the corners of streets in the downtown locales of the streets.

Our iconic orange Tshirts are the beacon of sanity amidst the wonderful annual brouhaha that is TIFF.

So what’s a day working at the Festival like?

Read On….

To even get to this day volunteers have submitted an essay on why we should be chosen; attended a selection session; an interview, and attended 2 training sessions. We have had the Customer Service doctrine drummed into us “in the nicest possible way” and we are expected to be totally professional around the myriad celebrities that will walk into our line of vision.

6.30 am wake up call (for a 7.45 start today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on King Street West). Unfold and fight my way into a freshly pressed “Florida” orange volunteer TShirt – (4 sizes fit all)

7.30am Arrive at The Tiff Bell Lightbox – O&B Canteen shut so no coffee before kick off. Greeted at entrance by the early bird Orange T shirt shift who at this point are marshalling volunteers to the Volunteer Lounge on Floor 4

Arrive at the Volunteer Lounge – All virgin territory for me, so look through the scattered clipboard lists and find I am not on any of them. Can I go home then?

Because I signed up to do an “ACE” go anywhere anytime duty today, I need to report to another Volunteer desk – also on the 4th to receive “transfer” orders.

As it stands I get assigned to Scotiabank which even at 8.30 in the morning is a “bun fight”.

9am – Our volunteer lounge here is a curtained off section of the ticket plaza on the ground floor, already seething with shoals of orange clad volunteers, I slide in unnoticed, stow my rucsac of worldly goods behind a chair, (praying it will still be there 7 hours later) fill my water pouch, don my badge and report to my shift supervisor.

9.15am Travel up the “Matter of Life and Death“ Scotiabank escalator – I digress here -seriously look at it next time you go to this theatre and if you’ve seen this iconic David Niven film, recall the moving staircase to heaven which moved out of the black and white genre to colour ( a technical triumph in its day). The Scotiabank escalator is so long, the movement appears juddery and the building is so futuristic and light filled that it appears to extend into heaven – theatre heaven in this case as this is an enormous multi level multi screened complex with an IMAX and several UltraVox screens.

Anyway, Scotiabank is an enormous multi-level multi screened complex with an IMAX and several UltraVox screens. The bulk of TIFF movies will be shown here because of its sheer capacity. Just trying to get to one’s position can take 15 minutes; manoeuvering around crowd control barriers, dodging line-up dead ends and trying to get through the Volunteer “link up” barriers – where Volunteers link arms to form a human chain to minimise line pollution and confusion of those folk exiting and entering theatres. If you hate crowds and even though this is controlled bedlam, this will blow your mind

9.30 to 2pm – Today is largely Press and Industry screenings so fairly straightforward as most of these know the ropes.

Get assigned as one of the theatre Ushers in two films – “Club Sandwich“ (Mexican) and Yikes a horror film called “The Sacrement”.

Ushers are supposed to ensure that all guests ar seated; no-one is pirating; all cellphones are off and to keep an eye open for any audience issues. This is an easy duty at at press and video screenings as this demographic are allowed “work” on electronic equipment throughout the film and many simply pop in and out to catch bits of a movie before moving onto the next screening.

2.45pm – collect my TIFF reward voucher (for a screening if I can book one) and battle my way out of the theatre.

Day done

Three more fun filled days followed and aside from queue management; general herding and ticket tearing, I was lucky enough to again get to usher in the actual movie theatre ( twice for star studded Q&A screenings) again several times. A real perk of volunteering and in no way guaranteed.

Ushering duties which should have been the “quietest” role, unearthed some unexpected excitement. An issue with an angry reporter in a press and industry screening, and during one film I had to man the second floor gallery of a theatre for the RUSH crowd. These folk are literally “rushed” up during the last minute and inevitably this means that not all are seated whilst the house lights are up meaning that seats have to be found in the pitch dark. – The reality of this: 1 usher (moi) for around 50 guests all arriving at the theatre entrance completely fazed by the pitch black. Although comprising all walks of life many many of “my” RUSH visitors were elderly and unable to walk up and down the steps with ease, their challenge compounded by the dark. Every guest who needs help with seating must be assisted so I had a very up-close and personal interaction with many audience members that day.

Crowd control involves moving large quantities of folk from outside the theatre, into the relevant line-ups in the atrium at any given location, and then moving the lineups to the actual theatre to another lineup outside their movie destination whilst trying quickly and safely “herd” those exiting the theatre out of the – by now – heaving cinema atrium in a manner that doesnt spoil a guests experience. The moveable “crowd control” barriers are indeed a site to behold and those in charge work their magic with controlling the many and varied lineups in a seamless manner remembering that at any one time for instance in TIFF Bell Lightbox – the Mother venue – there are as many as 4 simultaneous screenings, press junkets and events happening within that space.

As an added challenge there are also hordes of TIFF junkies queuing up outside theatres in temperatures of 35% just on the off chance of acquiring a “RUSH” ticket to a potentially under subscribed movie. People are mostly in a good humour – the buzz in the theatres is unbelievable and there is always off chance that a celebrity might be “in the house” and if you are in the general area all TIFF week spotting celebs on the Red Carpet outside one of the theatres; in the theatres, in a movie or simply wandering around the area is virtually a dead cert.

Being a movie-goer at the festival is not for the faint hearted. Guests range from serious TIFF aficionados who research every TIFF contender simply wanting to get a first shot at seeing a movie that will go on general release very soo, to those that want to catch a “never to be publicly released gem”. Others will take vacation after pouring over mind blowing colour coded schedules; trying to decipher the movie pass/members’ pass dynamics. They will queue up to watch back to back films whilst working out how to skew the space/time continuum in order to catch a movie at a theatre 10 minutes away from a screening that ends 5 minutes before the next one starts!!!.

Queuing amongst these are those that merely want to be part of something very special, to catch a little red-carpet reflected glamour. Whatever the reason, as a Volunteer I got to see from the inside the amount of trouble and care taken to maintain TIFF’s standing as the largest public film festival in the world and to maintain its reputation as the “go to” Film Festival for both Movie makers, celebrities, press and public..

In short TIFF has it all sewn up from the inside out

Mainly Press and Industry screenings going on here so most of these know the ropes. Got assigned as one of the theatre Ushers in two films – “Club Sandwich“ (Mexican) and Yikes anhorror film called “The Sacrament” This was an unfortunate assignment for me as I HATE the whole Horror film genre and just stood with my eyes averted the entire time and concentrated entirely on the reaction of the audience. If I’d had a paper bag I would have popped it over my head and added earplugs for complete protection – oh yes that would have been very professional because as the Usher one has to watch out for signs of videoing/texting etc, for audience members with issues.

This is an easy call at press and video screenings as this demographic are allowed “work” on electronic equipment throughout the film and many simply pop in and out to catch bits of a movie before moving onto the next screening. On one of my duties there was an exciting little incident with a journalist taking umbrage at a fellow reporter who texting continuously and overtly at the front of the theatre was assumed to be “pirating” by said journalist. The situation was superbly handled and diffused by TIFF Management and Cineplex staff but the angst and shouting added a certain dimension to the experience and it was unfortunate for me that I was the Usher actually in the theatre and therefore the first recipient of his ire.

Three more fun filled days followed and aside from queue management; general herding and ticket tearing, I was lucky enough to again get to usher in the actual movie theatre ( twice for star studded Q&A screenings) again several times. A real perk of volunteering and in no way guaranteed.

So I experienced (from the inside as it were ) a star-studded screeningof an amazing Newfoundland based film called the “Grand Seduction` with Q&A from actors and Director starring Brendan Gleeson ( Harry Potter, the Guard etc), and again that afternoon manned the theatre in a screening of “The Invisible Woman” with Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas.

Ushering duties which should have been the “quietest” role, unearthed some unexpected excitement. During one film I had to man the second floor gallery of a theatre for the RUSH crowd. These folk are literally “rushed” up during the last minute and inevitably this means that not all are seated whilst the house lights are up meaning that seats have to be found in the pitch dark. – The reality equals 1 usher (moi) and around 50 guests all trying to locate a seat; many of them elderly and unable to walk up and down the steps, their challenge compounded by the dark. One of my “guests” actually momentarily passed out on me at the entrance to the second floor auditorium. With the help of two willing and able members of the audience who came forward to assist we made her comfortable and established her identity and current medical status and then I was able to run out of the auditorium and quickly deploy what is known as a “headset” (a Supervisor with a means of communication to the Mother ship) I had to watch her like a hawk for the duration of the film with regular visits from TIFF “Management for support. The lady was met at the end of the film by TIFF personnel and escorted to her next film.

Crowd control involves moving large quantities of folk from outside the theatre, into the relevant line-ups in the atrium at any given location, and then moving the lineups to the actual theatre to another lineup outside their movie destination whilst trying quickly and safely “herd” those exiting the theatre out of the – by now – heaving cinema atrium in a manner that doesnt spoil a guests experience. The moveable “crowd control” barriers are indeed a site to behold and those in charge work their magic with controlling the many abnd varied lineups in a seamles manner remembering that at any one time for instance in TIFF Bell Lightbox – the Mother venue – there are as many as 4 simlutaneous screenings, press junkets and events happening within that space. As an added challenge there are also hordes of TIFF junkies queuing up outside theatres in temperatures of 35% just on the offchance of acquiring a “RUSH” ticket to a potentially under subscribed movie. By and large most of the guests are there to enjoy themselves and rarely did I hear any complaints. The endless queuing is part of the enigma that is TIFF; and of course there is always the offchance of seeing celebreties either in the theatres, on the red carpet or simply wondering around Toronto.

Just looking from the inside out I can see why the Toronto International Film Festival (the largest public film festival in the wortld) has such a great reputation, their actual staff have it all sewn up.

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A Summer of Incredible Toronto theatre

Forget the big razzmatazz Broadway shows always present in a Mirvish theatre or two in Toronto’s entertainment district.

The following are fine examples of the vibrant theatrical scene underpinning the “big stuff”.
This is Theatre you can almost reach out and touch, visceral experiences that you are so close to you could almost be a part of them. And Toronto’s normally spectacular summer weather brings lots of theatre out into our Parks and open spaces.
Having said that this second tier of theatre is not in the outdoor category but rooted in the 6 month season Festival genre. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival based in Stratford Ontario and The Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake run throughout the summer months too so visiting at this time ensures you get to benefit from glorious days in each of these very pretty areas. Both Festivals are a couple of hours outside Toronto; both last several months and afford theatre-goers the opportunity to see several different plays during a day or perhaps over a weekend.
This year Stratford is showcasing
the usual diverse menu of Shakespeare, musicals and plays.
Choose from the following :
Romeo and Juliet
Fiddler on the Roof
The Three Musketeers
The Merchant of Venice
Tommy
Blithe Spirit
Othello
Measure for Measure
Mary Stuart
Waiting for Godot

The Shaw Festival at gorgeous Niagara on the Lake, is a staple of the annual thespian calendar. This massive event again stretches through the summer months well into the Fall and is well worth a trip round Lake Ontario. Many folk make a weekend of it spending a night or two in one of the many historic B&B’s.
My favourite B&B – “The Two Bees” http://www.twobeesniagara.com

And so now to the grass roots level of Toronto theatre. Hunting around this level has given me my most rewarding jaw-dropping experiences, this is where the real and unexpected gems lie. With an ever changing menu of plays, and venues; with various theatre companies taking their productions on the road and staging their plays outside in parks or in heritage properties, the possibilities for enjoying highly professional and unique experiences are endless.
What is so amazing about these is that they often operate with very few cast members and literally no props – just relying on honed talent and each other.

Shakespeare in High Park
Why not spend a couple of our gorgeous summer evenings scooched down on the grass of the outdoor amphitheatre of High Park. Shake out a rug/cushion; lay out your special al fresco picnic ( don’t forget the Penguin Bars) and watch as incredible performances play out before you. As the evening draws in, spot-lights pick out the fleeting spectres of bats and moths within the canopy of trees over the stage and the shrill crescendo of the summer cicadas provide the intermittent backing vocals. Nothing better…. Canadian Stage is back with “Shakespeare in High Park” this time with two plays: ” Macbeth” and The “Taming of the shrew” (so you have to go twice).

“Art of Time Ensemble”
These folk did an incredible re-enactment of HG Welles’ “War of the Worlds radio Broadcast as it would have been staged in 1938 and whilst they are primarily a music ensemble they often link up with actors to produce powerful collaborative work.
http://www.artoftimeensemble.com

Following hot on the heels of their Incredible “Sonnet Show ” Fundraiser at Montgomery’s Inn, “The Humber River Shakespeare company” are touring their “As You Like It” throughout the GTA including appearances at The Old Mill, Evergreen Brickworks and Montgomery’s Inn – from July 9 – August 4
See website schedule details
http://www.humberrivershakespeare.ca

“The Classical Theatre Project” who brought us their hilarious rendition of the “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at Casa Loma and Wychwood Barns last year will be performing
Twelfth Night
Romeo and Juliet
MacBeth
All at Toronto Centre for the Arts
classicaltheatreproject.ca

And “Shakespeare in the Ruff” will be showcasing their annual Withrow Park outdoor season – look on their website for upcoming summer production. http://www.shakespeareintheruff.com

“Brant Theatre Workshops” who perform the much loved and delicious “Dracula a Love Story” to awestruck Casa Loma and Sanderson Centre audiences are back at the historic “Bell Homestead” (home of Alexander Graham Bell ). They’ll be performing on the front porch of the Bell Homestead National Historic Site, as they open their season in July with a unique version of the Wizard of Oz ( in 3D) followed by a play about Alexander Graham Bell, Helen Keller, and Annie Sullivan in August. Imagine a play about Bell performed in his own home! Stellar…..
http://www.branttheatre.com

“Red Sandcastle Theatre” on Queen Street West – the tiniest theatre I’ve ever had the privilege to sit in is worth keeping an eye on.
Generally pwyc or minimal entrance fee and always a surprising theatre.
redsandcastlethestre.com

Don’t want to miss a thing?
Look out for/or better still subscribe to the following entities (both theatre companies and theatres):

Red One Collective at the Storefront Theatre
Video Cabaret
Soulpepper who reside at The Toronto Centre for the Arts in the Distillery district.
Necessary Angel
Buddies in Bad Times
The St Lawrence theatre formerly the Bluma Appel Theatre – home base of The Canadian Stage company
http://www.stlc.com
Passé Muraille
Yonge Centre for the Performing
Arts – Distillery
The Lower Ossington Theatre
The Tarragon Theatre
Enwave Theatre (on Lakeshore)

Break a Leg……..

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Stop Press – My picks of cool upcoming “Don’t miss” Experiences” in Toronto

Of course this is not an exhaustive list (you’d need to read “Now” cover to cover for weeks for that sort of detail) and doesn’t include the Stratford,& Shaw Festivals and summer contenders like Caribana, Canadian Stage Shakespeare in High Park etc. The following is stuff that is either upcoming, doesn’t fit a particular genre or which maybe a little out of the ball park.

Theatre
Going going gone – Until Saturday June 1 at the Yonge centre “Video Cabaret” perform this incredibly original interpretation of the “War of 1812”. One chapter in Michael Hollingsworth’s epic 21-part play-cycle, “The History of the Village of the Small Huts” this has to be seen even if you are not into Canadian History. A cross between Punch and Judy, Spitting Image and a Restoration comedy you will be blown away by this intimate theatrical production
http://www.yongecentre.ca

Agatha Christies -“The Mousetrap”
Originally commissioned by the BBC in 1952 to celebrate Queen Mary’s 80th birthday- Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap is the longest running play in the history of live theatre. Celebrating over 60 years of continuous performance it is currently playing at Lower Ossington theatre till June 19
http://www.lowerossingtontheatre.com
Phone: 416-915-6747

“The Sonnet Show” at Montgomery’s Inn
Montgomery’s Inn is the century old Inn that is home to the Humber River Shakespeare Co.
14 lines – A Shakespeare sonnet serves as an inspiration for a new play
14 days – A writer to write the play
14 minutes – each new play will run 14 minutes
Different eh?
Everything we’ve seen these guys do has been a blast so this should be no exception.
May 24
Humberrivershakespeare.ca

The Scriptease show is coming to the Tank House theatre in June. Both Naomi Sniekus and Matt Baram (collectively The National Theatre of the World) are seasoned improv artists and Second City alumni.
They do a progressive improv show at the John Candybox Theatre on Peter Street on Friday nights where beside their own brand of brilliant “seat of your pants” comedy they showcase new and promising acts.
The Scriptease show has been running for a few years on and off in some of Toronto’s most interesting theatre spaces such as “Passe Muraille” and the now defunct “Bread & Circus” stage.
Here’s how it works: they ask ten well known playwrights to write the first two pages of a play. They do a cold reading of the two pages and then improvise the rest of the play. They are in costume and there’s a set.
http://www.yongecenter.ca
thenationaltheatreoftheworld.com

“Book of Mormon”
Currently playing, this irreverently witty, camp and gobsmackingly politically incorrect stage show is a collaboration between South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez (so you get the picture right?) playing at the Princess of Wales theatre until June 9.
Look out for the welcoming committee of suited and booted young Mormons recruiting outside the theatre before each show!
http://www.mirvish.com/…/thebookofmormon

The Tall Ships are visiting Toronto Harbour in June
To see our modern skyline vying with the jumble of masts from tall ships berthed on Toronto Harbour is unforgettable!
Don’t miss the official launch of the TALL SHIPS® 1812 Tour. 20-23 June 2013.
Toronto will be the only port to host the full fleet of ships as they travel throughout Ontario during this pan-provincial event to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. .
For more info See my blog “The Tall Ships have left Toronto harbour written after their last visit in July 2010.
Torontowaterfrontfest.com

Free Movies at Yonge/Dundas Square
One of Toronto’s many free outdoor summer movie pop-ups opens at City Yonge Dundas Square end June through August.
Edward Scissorhands/ Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman and other off the wall movies
Free start at 9pm Tuesdays
YDSSQUARE.ca

Oh and if you’re into ZeppelinTribute band Zeppelinesque play Yonge Dundas square on July 19 as part of Indiefest

Summer Music Series at “Casa Loma”
The wonderful homegrown ballad -maker Jesse Pitcher pitches up on June 25 at Casa Loma as part of their Summer Music series
Oh and for Fathers Day how about becoming a Knight for the day? – also at Casa Loma
Plus you can also learn archery, bee keeping, or track ghosts there this summer
Just sayin…….
See website for details
Www.casaloma.org

The Warplane Heritage Museum – Hamilton
It’s “fly in a WW2 plane” experience begins in June. There are around 16 warplanes that you can book a flight on, with the iconic Lancaster bomber being at the top of the tree. For a cool $2800 or so (with tax receipt) you can have an hour’s flight on the only passenger operating Lancaster in the world!!
She and the other aircraft start flying June 1 but a warning: the Lancaster’s flying days are numbered – she is almost at her sell-by date. For more info visit my blog on the museum “Bombs Away” 18 September 2012 or visit
Www.warplane.com

Coming in October at the Yonge Centre – “The Norman Conquest trilogy”
This Alan Ayckbourne trilogy (written in 1973) has lost none of its freshness and appeal because it’s subject matter – the human condition remains unchanged no matter which century.
6 characters take the stage in three different plays that take place on the same weekend in different parts of the house and garden
Each play “Table Manners”, “Living Together” and “Round and Round the Garden” – is self-contained, and may be watched in any order, some of the scenes overlap, and on occasion a character’s exit from one play corresponds with his/her entrance in another.
http://www.yongecenter.ca
Soulpepper.ca

Oh and for any “I Love Lucy fans, some of the antics of the feisty red-headed iconic heroine are being showcased in the upcoming “I Love Lucy” stage show in November
Mirvish.com

Over and Out

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Toronto’s Hidden Gems Part 1

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The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres

Elgin and Winter Garden theatres tour
Go off-stage with a free guided tour of one of the world’s last stacked double -decker theatres at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre centre.
The action takes place behind the scenes with this docent-led tour of this National Historic site. Lasting 1½ hours, it includes the history and restoration of the complex with a visit to both the original and new lobbies; the elegant Elgin Theatre and the floral themed Winter Garden with its ceiling vines and murals. Check out the world’s largest collection of vaudeville scenery and the Winter Garden’s original Simplex Silent Film Projector. Thursdays at 5 p.m.; Saturdays at 11 a.m.
Adults: $12, Students and Seniors: $10 (includes HST) Cash only. No reservations required.
http://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/ewg

• Casa Loma
Take an archery class in the grounds of a Castle.
Don the arm guard, place the nock into the bow string, brace the bow and release ….. William Tell eat your heart out. A unique city archery experience back dropped by a faux gothic castle and overlooking the city and CN Tower below, this is a hands-on workshop suited to adult beginners that will afford all participants the chance to develop and hone their archery skills.
Class size is small (10 people per session) and Reservation is a must.
Other archery options are also available see website for more details
You can also do ghost tracking, watch a Shakespeare play or listen to jazz in the gardens….
See http://www.casaloma.net for details of all upcoming events

• Sail on an original WW2 powered Tall Ship – SS Kajama
One of three masted vessels run by the “Great Lakes Schooner Company” – Kajama is a 1930’s 3-masted schooner that now spends her autumn years plying Lake Ontario.
Whilst she initially sets off under power, once the wind picks up her sails are unfurled and she is set free to sail as history intended. For those that want to hoist a mainsail or two there is the option to participate in sailing but landlubbers can simply sit back, have a snack or a drink and enjoy the sail.
Stop press …..
The “Tall Ships” armada is coming to Toronto 20-23 June – this is an incredible sight – the masts of 15 or so vessels vying for attention with the skyscrapers of Toronto’s skyline.
http://www.tallshipcruisestoronto.com/

Over and Out