Review: New Ideas Festival, Week 2 – Alumnae Theatre

By Sam Mooney

New Ideas Festival 2011

This is week 2 of the New Ideas Festival at Alumnae Theatre. I missed week 1 because I was sick. Very disappointing. I was so looking forward to it. This is the 23rd year of the festival.

The New Ideas Festival is a juried, three-week annual festival of new writing, works-in-progress and experimental theatre, with a different program of plays each week, and a staged reading on Saturdays at noon. It runs from March 9 – 26, 2011.

This year’s festival presents 14 new works, ranging in length from 12 to 60 minutes. There’s something for everyone, including comedy and mixed-up relationships, dance, poetry, a trip on the TTC, and a little tea with terror.”

Week 2 (March 16 to 19, 2011) features:

  • REFLECTIONS by Flora Stohr-Danziger
  • THE HIDDEN WORD IN MY VOCABULARY by Richard Ballon
  • SUMMERS END by Francine Dick
  • EVES PRAYER (Act I) by Kelsey Blair

My play partner tonight was fellow Mooney on Theatre writer George Perry. When I was explaining the Festival to him I said that it was like a mini Fringe festival in an evening, 90 minutes of new work. Did he enjoy it?

Yes, he did. And so did I. I think you will too.

REFLECTIONS by Flora Stohr-Danziger

Cast clockwise from centre of Susan Q. Wilson, Marisa Crockett, Morna Wales, Adrian Yearwood and Anna Ross. Photo: Marisa Crockett

“Matilda finds an old photograph of herself as a young girl, triggering a flood of memories. She comes face to face with her earlier selves as she relives her lifes journey.”

George and I both thought this was an interesting idea but it needed more time to really develop it. It felt a bit rushed. There are three actresses who play one character at different ages. They didn’t all speak the same way. The teen-aged character sounded as if she was in line for a show at Much while the grandmother sounded as if she stepped out of a Jane Austen novel at times. It distracted me enough that I hard a hard time focusing on what the characters were saying.

THE HIDDEN WORD IN MY VOCABULARY by Richard Ballon

“Your mother crouches like a lion on the doorstep, reminding you: Honey, you invite guests into the living room. The bedroom is just for family.”

This had kind of a 50s beat poet feel to it. In fact when it was over George and I turned to each other and said exactly that. The piece is a combination of poetry and dialog and dance. I think I would have felt a connection if it had just been one thing. Neither of us felt that we got it.

SUMMERS END by Francine Dick

Summer's End - New Ideas Festival 2011
Heather Mann, Alyssa Owsiany, & Candi Zell Photo: Francine Dick

“Three sisters inherit the family cottage, but young Kristen has different plans for it than her much older half-sisters Carla and Sandy.”

Summer’s End is 15 minutes of perfection. Wonderful dialogue, perfect timing, great acting. We both loved it.

EVES PRAYER (Act I) by Kelsey Blair

Eve's Prayer - New Ideas Festival
David J. Phillips and Meredith Heinrich Photo: Taylor Graham

“In Heaven, granting prayers is a job description. Unable to meet her prayer quota, Eve turns to her colleagues for help, but discovers Heaven and its workers arent what they seem.”

I’m not the best program reader and didn’t notice that this was Eve’s Prayer (Act 1). When it was finished George said “that was just getting started”. (I guess he didn’t notice either) It is a great beginning and I want to see the rest.

It’s a great idea, It’s Heaven and the angels have quotas. They gossip, mis-information is rife. It’s just like an office. Very funny.

Terrific acting and terrific writing. This is one to follow.

Details:

New Ideas Festival Week Two is playing at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street, on the SouthWest corner of Berkeley and Adelaide Street East)
– Week Two runs until March 19
– Performances are at 8 pm with a matinee at 2.30 on Saturday
– Ticket prices are: Wednesday to Saturday: $15, Saturday Reading: PWYC, Saturday Matinee: $15
– For reservations or questions, please leave a message at: Phone: 416-364-4170, Box 1, or Email: reservations@alumnaetheatre.com

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