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Rhubarb returns for its 39th season - Drew Rowsome - 416 Scene - MyGayToronto

Rhubarb returns for its 39th season
10 February 2018

It's Rhubarb time again! From February 14 to 25, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is host to a galaxy's worth of adventurous theatre and audiences. Divided into "Week One" and "Week Two," each week presents core programming of six performances and nightly special presentations, parties and art installations. It is possible to go every night of the festival and see something new. There are no reviews allowed at Rhubarb but previous year's previews - 2013201420152016 and 2017 - proved to be startling prescient and completely faulty. There is always a performance that got its start as a Rhubarb seedling that sneaks under my radar.

So this year I enlisted the help of some theatre artists I admire who are part of this year's Rhubarb festival to get some insider expert advice. Much thanks to Bruce Gibbons Fell the writer of The Communist Manifesto for ChildrenPearle Harbour the star and creator of Pearle Harbour's Battle Cry and Heath V Salazar who brings Gay Jesus to Virgen and drag king style to Boiband the Boyband.

Drew RowsomeWhy is your production the must-see show at Rhubarb?

Bruce Gibbons Fell: It's the public birth of this play: the first time an audience sees any of it. This child's delivery is going to be very raw; it will be a staged reading of some of my favourite parts. It'll be over the top and conceptual, with a piece of my heart in it too. There will be children. There will be Communism. There will be games. Maybe some dancing; maybe even a little blood. Or fever. Children get fever all the time

Pearle Harbour: Don't you feel that calamity in the air? Something big is coming our way, fast, and you have no idea how bad it's gonna be. And if we're going to war (and the Doomsday Clock is ticking down on that), you're definitely going to want Pearle Harbour by your side. Battle Cry is a drag concert extravaganza, featuring new orchestrations of wartime hits, reveals, revelations, and extra-special surprise appearances!

Heath V SalazarBoiband the Boyband and Virgen invite the audience into a world in which they have permission to be fallible. Boiband the Boyband opens conversation around elements of toxic masculinity, meanwhile, Virgen explores the compounded impact of past experience on the present day through the lens of queer sexuality. But both shows, though manifested through differing disciplines, make space for healing and celebrate the strength it takes to actively choose the ways in which we wish to grow.

Rhubarb is known for experimentation, scandal and shock. What do you hope your show is remembered for?

Bruce Gibbons Fell: I'd love for it to be a "What the farm was that? I want to see more!" situation. This is a distilled version of the play (with are references to 1950s movie trailers as well as quite conceptual games. It has a lot to do with what I call WASPtinos (White Anglo Saxon Protestant Latinos: the world I come from), which is pretty strange if you ask me, and also with childhood awakenings. We've all had some kind of awakening of that kind, and sometimes it's good to revisit them and go back to our first social scandals and shocks.

Pearle HarbourBattle Cry is going to be a foot-stomping, blood-pumping, tear-jerking, heart-stopping good time. But it's always about Pearle's audience: we are going to bringing people together using music that was written to tear people apart. But if you're asking what's gonna get people the rowdiest, we will have a live firing squad . . .

Heath V Salazar: I hope that when folx look back on their experience with Boiband the Boyband, they remember that we as people have the power to reclaim and define our identities in a way that honours all of ourselves. That just because we may carry several labels at a time, it doesn't mean that we are any less whole. I also really hope they dance. As for Virgen, I hope it helps folx recognize the potency of their existence. I want them to know that that potency is deserving of love.

What other shows, and why, are you personally excited about seeing during the festival?

Bruce Gibbons Fell: There is so much, and I'm so excited for all the Latinx artists in the festival this year! Otros Rostros (exploring Mexican masks); Random Closeness (I've been following this play for a while now); Pearle Harbour's Battle Cry (if you've never seen Pearle Harbour before, go!); Boiband the Boyband (a Latinx drag king boyband concert!); and last but not least, Empty Orchestra Dreamland which I direct and co-created with Jessica Zepeda and Benjamin McCarthy. It's a sci-fi karaoke extravaganza and dirty dance party for the end of the world, which will be the opening night party for the Rhubarb Festival on Valentine's Day.

Pearle Harbour: The emerging creators are such a gorgeous bunch this year, it's exciting to see what Rihannon Collett, Erum Khan, Kwaku Okyere, and Heath V Salazar are dreaming up. 

Heath V SalazarWhite Girls In Moccasins by Yolanda Bonnell, Noor by Erum Khan and The Communist Manifesto For Children by Bruce Gibbons Fell.

Drew Rowsome: And I just want to add three more that I am excited about (and I like to get the last word in, hard to do with Pearle Harbour in the house): Gashkigwaaso by Waawaate Fobister who was so extraordinary in Agokwe, and The Seat Next to the King's Kwaku Okyere's Maame: A Queer Black Fairy's Tale, and Augusto Bitter in a new incarnation of Chico. Actually you can't go wrong with any Rhubarb performance, they're all short and intense and the unexpected one is going to be the one that takes your breath away. 

Pearle Harbour: Our musical director Steven Conway is infectiously enthusiastic, so I'll echo him in saying we cannot wait for Missdick Vibrosis. Steven has no idea what to expect but that's how he likes it, and he fully expects to be blown (away).

More from the talented trio at drewrowsome.blogspot.ca

The Rhubarb Festival runs Wed, Feb 14 to Sun, Feb 25 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. buddiesinbadtimes.com

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