Review: New Ideas Festival Week 3 – Alumnae Theatre

by Sam Mooney

New Ideas Festival Alumnae Theatre

The weather almost convinced me not to go to the opening of Week 3 of the New Ideas Festival at the Alumnae Theatre last night. My play partner didn’t make it but I did, and am so glad that I did. It was a wonderful evening.

New Ideas is a juried festival and I had been wondering whether the jury was presented with ideas or with scripts. Tonight I was sitting next to Brenda Darling, one of the Artisitc Producers and asked her. And the answer? Usually scripts although occasionally they will choose a concept.

Some of the shows have had more work done on them than others, some of them are close to perfect and some of them still need a fair amount of work.

Tonight’s shows were all close to perfect. Week Three (March 23 to 26, 2011) features:

  • LETTING GO by Neale Kimmel
  • FROM HERE TO THERE AND BACK AGAIN by Rosemary Doyle
  • ELEGY FOR A LOST BOOKMARK by Nicholas Sgouros
  • TWO WEEKS IN NORMANDY by David Nicholson
Letting Go - New Ideas Festival Alumnae Theatre
Robin Cunningham & Sarah Cody in Letting Go. Photo: Joanne Williams

LETTING GO by Neale Kimmel

What can I say about a 15 minute play that made me laugh and made me cry? Amazing. A gem. Fabulous. Playwright Neale Kimmel has captured and distilled the emotion of losing someone you love and presented it in a funny, touching, poignant vignette with an unexpected twist.

The performances by Sarah Cody, Robin Cunningham and Razie Brownstone were excellent, their timing was impeccable.

 

FROM HERE TO THERE AND BACK AGAIN by Rosemary Doyle

At the New Ideas Festival there is a piece of paper folded inside of the program. On the paper is the name of each play and a space for comments and feedback. At the end of the show the audience hands back the paper. (I actually use it for my notes so I don’t hand it back.) Tonight a couple of the playwrights had included a question.

Rosemary Doyle’s question was “Does enough happen on this trip to merit a play? I’d say yes.

The characters were well developed. It’s an interesting idea, we get to hear what people are thinking as they ride the streetcar. And they’re the people we see all the time on the TTC. The gorgeous young thing talking and texting on her cell, oblivious to everyone and everything around her, the defeated looking middle-aged woman holding her shopping bag, the 30 something woman writing in ajournal and watching the other passengers, the young man looking up from his book to check out the young woman and the woman writing in her journal, and the crazy guy.

Doyle even managed to get two acts into a 15 minute play. It left me wanting to know more.

 

ELEGY FOR A LOST BOOKMARK by Nicholas Sgouros

 

Elegy for a Lost Bookmark - New Ideas Festival
Darren Harris and Sarah Williamson in Elegy for a Lost Bookmark. Photo: Paul Marques

This is a sweet story about a connection that almost happened. The dialogues is great, you can really feel the connection developing between the characters. It amazes me the way that a playwright can develop a character so fully that you feel as if you know the back story, that you know the characters. All all in 15 minutes.

TWO WEEKS IN NORMANDY by David Nicholson

Two Weeks in Normandy New Ideas Festival
Derek Perks & Linzee Barclay in Two Weeks in Normandy. Photo: David Nicholson

David Nicholson also had a question about his play – “The play you’ve seen is set in France, 1959. Can you imagine it in any other time and place?” I know why he asked. This is a translation of a French play Villegiature that was written in 1894. So yes, it could be set in another time and place.

The premise is a bit ridiculous but it’s funny. Two couples on vacation together. One of the women leaves her husband and asks the other woman to tell the first woman’s husband. At the same time the second woman’s husband leave her and asks the first woman’s husband to tell the second woman. Are you still with me?

The two of them individually figure out how they’re going to manage it. They talk to the audience, telling them their plans and ideas when they’re alone on stage. When they’re both onstage they still talk to the audience in asides.

Lucie is an adorable flirty character and Jacques is a perfect foil, very serious.

This made me want to see more French comedies. Fluffy and entertaining.

And my aside – Linzee Barclay’s dress is gorgeous.

Details:

New Ideas Festival Week Three is playing at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street, on the SouthWest corner of Berkeley and Adelaide Street East)
– Week Two runs until March 26
– 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

7 thoughts on “Review: New Ideas Festival Week 3 – Alumnae Theatre”

  1. Hi, Sam –
    Thanks for the great review!
    Correction to one of the photo credits however. The photo of the woman reading under a beach umbrella, and a man leaning over her that’s posted under “Elegy For a Lost Bookmark” headline is NOT Derek Perks & Linzee Barclay in Two Weeks in Normandy.
    The beachy couple are Darren Harris and Sarah Williamson, and the photo was shot by Paul Marques.

  2. … agree, the night’s shows had a lot to offer. and — for what it’s worth — i agree with your aside.

    … where i am a bit more cautious to offer praise though, is to “from here to there and back again” by rosemary doyle. specifically, because that “crazy guy” mentioned above walks a thin line between a negative depiction of mental illness, and a counter-productive one.
    … as the review mentions, this play dabbles in the thoughts and fantasies of streetcar riders. and it is commendable that ms. doyle is inclusive enough in her outlook to take on depicting what a person with a mental illness might be thinking as well. … however, when this figure begins to mimic shooting (pantomiming a gun, saying “bang-bang” repeatedly), this plays into years and years of depictions of the “crazy” as potentially dangerous.
    … to give ms. doyle the benefit of the doubt, the shooting pantomimed onstage might be intended as a playful tic that the character has. and i’d be the last person to say something onstage is wrong or shouldn’t be allowed — of course not. … what concerns me, is that those that suffer from mental illness already face a lot of social misconceptions and soft prejudice, and that “crazy guy” — a depiction of person suffering from mental illness — seems to reinforce those misconceptions, and is just ambiguous enough to tacitly keep up barriers to genuine social awareness and acceptance …

  3. Interesting point. I agree completely that people with mental illnesses face prejudice and that as a society we don’t do nearly enough to help or support them.

    I just assumed that Ms Doyle had been on the subway the same day that I was when there was a man who kept pointing an imaginary gun at people and saying “bang bang”. Not a fun ride.

    She did show the “crazy guy” as a “normal guy” in the second act and made a point of letting us know that he was taking his meds.

    It’s a tough call, isn’t it?

  4. … maybe, she was … what’s alarming however, is that of all the people that were available, ms. doyle chose a person that forwards a misleading stereotype of a person with mental illness as a disruptive — the character talks to himself loudly — uncooperative — the character is asked repeatedly to leave the vehicle before complying — and imbues the character with a behavioral tic that might be interpreted as a violent fantasy. … statistics indicate that this is not true. the vast majority of people even with the most severe mental illness are harmless.
    … if we were in a post-mental illness culture, where the harmless involuntary behavior of mental illness were understood, and dealt with correctly, i’d cut ms. doyle some slack. in my experience however, i have observed a tendency by authority figures (in this case, the streetcar driver) to shun the mentally ill, and do so with little hesitation. … it’s unfortunate, but we are not in a post-mental illness culture. where we can make fun of our own social bias against such illness. and what ms. doyle offers, in my opinion, is not a look at how silly we used to be, or are in the most unusual situations, throwing a person off a public vehicle for doing absolutely no harm, but a representation of the norm. and by showing it without the slightest bit of objection or even comment from other characters is, to me, to condone such social prejudice.

  5. Hi Adam, I am glad we have started some debate! I did want to point out however, that the character of “Mom” does object, she leaves the streetcar to find “Bill” and that Bills reaction of “Bang Bang” isn’t random, it is objecting to the texting phone going off repeatedly. The texter is the problem; Bill is the only one who says anything about it and gets unfairly penalized. After he goes, the people left on the streetcar react to the texting, not his reaction to it. In act two, I wanted to show that our assumptions about where Billy was in life weren’t necessarily accurate. And I then have at the end of act two, everyone saying “Bang” to the text’s buzz going off, because we are all thinking it, even if we don’t have the guts to say it.

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