One crumbling estate. Two embattled Sisters. A devoted maid. A handsome stable boy. An enigmatic doctor. A meddlesome neighbour. A terrifying thunderstorm. An escaped psychopath. One survivor.
Summerworks is a sprawling feast of theatrical invention and experimentation and this year there are two heaping helpings of camp. David Benjamin Tomlinson's Gash! - official blurb above - is a celebration/invocation/reverent spoof of hag horror, those wonderful Gothic movies that usually starred Bette Davis or a similar superstar past her prime. I had the great good fortune to attend a reading of Gash! and am on the edge of my seat waiting to see an actual production. It was hilarious, audacious and even made me jump a few times. And that was a reading.
Whether Tomlinson – in full delicious demented diva mode - will raise enough money to build the epic staircase that Gash! calls for (Tomlinson expressed his desire for one as grandiose as the one he danced upon in Dancing Queen) and if anyone has the urge to help in that quest, contributions are gratefully, and humorously, accepted at indiegogo.com at Bitch, Give Me a Dollar. You should Blanche, you should.
Bruce Gibbons Fell's Paradise Red is another production that would benefit from philanthropic intervention but, as he explained before a previous reading, art will triumph regardless of the size of the budget.
Set as a black and white Latin American soap opera, Paradise Red takes place in the days of Chile’s dictatorship in the 1970s, where a powerful military family has run amok. A story of repressed sexual desire and political violence during a melodramatic weekend in the home of General Cristóbal Riofrío, whom has recently died of supposed natural causes. His estranged son returns home after the funeral, suspicious of foul play only to find his alcoholic mother and good girl Catholic sister hiding sordid bloody secrets.
The Paradise Red fundraising campaign is taking place at fwyc.ca and the only thing more gratifying than helping bring a telenovela to life will be witnessing the catfights and fabulous fashionista faux pas that Fells promises.
Gash! and Paradise Red are on the top of my list of must-sees because of my love of camp and, I have to admit, familiarity with the artists and utter faith in their ability to entertain and enlighten. Fortunately Summerworks is a juried festival so purchasing a ticket to any show is relatively risk free. There is more gay content that I hope to savour with A Quiet Sip of Coffee (Or, This is Not the Play We've Written) blurbed as:
a self-proclaimed “gay/straight best friends duo,” wrote a prank letter to a fundamentalist organization asking for funds to produce their play Never Cry Wolfman. To their surprise, the letter was answered, and they were invited to workshop the piece at the group’s retreat in rural British Columbia—on the condition that they also spend two weeks participating in gay conversion therapy…
Hijinks undoubtedly ensue.
My curiosity is also piqued by Graceful Rebellion which asks
Can a queer Afghan woman identify herself in an occupied land? Part tribal storytelling, part folklore and myth.
Unknown Soldier delves into the Chelsea Manning story (a mythology that Sky Gilbert mined inventively for Hackerlove) and the always riveting Billy Merasty stars in Row which explores the adventures of an aging kept boy. Leaving the LGBTQ behind, I'm intrigued by (in no particular order and for particularly personal reasons) Bitter Medicine, El Jinete - A Mariachi Opera and Unintentionally Depressing Children's Stories. Browsing the program will reveal gems that speak to each and every individual and, during the course of the festival, overheard or solicited gossipy recommendations are the best way to learn what is a hit.
Seeking to branch beyond his renown as a theatre director and sex object, Buddies' Brendan Healy is testing his rock star skills in the music series that is also a part of Summerworks. Healy's cross-disciplinary explorations are echoed in the multitude of parties, art events, lectures, etc that accompany Summerworks - again one can choose to exercise their brain or just cut loose. I'm going to start with the high camp of Gash! and Paradise Red and then, inevitably, succumb to the allure of a darkened space mid-summer where magic of an unexpected form will take hold.
Summerworks runs Thurs, Aug 7 to Sun, Aug 17. summerworks.ca