Review: Buzz Festival (Theatre Passe Muraille)

by Michelle Barker

I’m going to start off by saying that this review won’t be a review so much as a piece about my experience with the Buzz Festival at Theatre Passe Muraille.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Buzz Festival, it is a festival that showcases excerpts of new works from Toronto artists.  I was fortunate enough to stage manage a show during the Buzz Festival last fall and I’ve been as earnest advocate of Buzz ever since.

I attended Buzz on Wednesday the 20th and three pieces were being shown that particular night.  The first was a collective creation that is being developed by Jason Maghanoy, Jordan Tannahill, Andrew Moodie, Judith Thompson, and Erin Shields.  The piece revolves around five characters whose voices have been or are being silenced by the state.  Most off the monologues explored the theme of death, one of them posthumously.   I was really moved by the piece as a whole, even though it’s still in its early stages.  It was also exciting to have been able to see the authors hear their words read by other people for the first time as they all sat onstage.  It is an experience that you don’t get to witness a lot in Toronto theatre outside of Buzz.
The second piece of the night was written by Lauren Spring and was comprised of two intimate scenes.  I think that Spring has found some really interesting characters and situations to explore and I hope to follow this particular work as it develops.  The audience seemed to be captivated by the world that she has created, especially in her second scene, one between a wife and her soon-to-be ex-husband.

The final piece of the night was performed by Tommy Taylor.  It told the story of his arrest during last Summer’s G20 Summit here in Toronto.  He gave a first-hand account of his absurd and illogical arrest while passing through a peaceful gathering near Front street.  The subject matter is incredibly interesting and derives from a post that Taylor posted on Facebook shortly after he was released from prison last year.  This story will be part of Summerworks this season.

I love seeing the early stages of new work, so Buzz Festival is right up my alley.  It also allows writers and audiences the opportunity to interact through response forms with questions formulated by each playwright about their pieces.  After each excerpt, audience members are invited to take a few minutes to respond to the work that they just saw and the authors take these comments away with them at the end of the night.
All in all, a great night of theatre.  It’s nice to see what we as theatre- goers have to look forward to in the next while!

Buzz Festival plays until April 22 with new pieces being showcased each night at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Ave.)
– Performances are Tues – Fri 7:30 PM
– Tickets are by donation