All posts by S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman has great faith in the power of theatre to make change, and has been putting his money where his mouth is on that one for some time. A writer, performer, and lecturer, Bear works full time as an artist and cultural worker and loves to see as much live performance as possible – making this a fantastic gig for him.

Review: Bearing (Luminato)

Bearing is an eye-opening opera about residential schools, part of the 2017 Toronto Luminato Festival

The hero quote on the Luminato page for Michael Greyeyes and Yvette Nolan’s Bearing is Michael Greyeyes searing comment: “Every person in Canada is surviving residential schools, because if you’re Canadian you’re part of it.” My relation to residential schools is not personal – there are no residential school survivors in my family – but the need to learn about them, and to engage in reconciliation comes through ethical and treaty obligations. I am a treaty person, because I live on land that was part of the Toronto Purchase.* With this in mind, I went to see Bearing expecting to be implicated, to learn, and be moved. I did not have the experience I expected.

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Review: Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction (Kabin and U.N.I.T. Productions)

Morro and Jasp failed to connect with our writer in Stupefaction, on stage in Toronto

Off the bat I should tell you: I am a tremendous Morro and Jasp fan, and I looked forward to Morro and Jasp in Stupefaction like any kid counts down to an especially desirable event. I prattled on with glee the whole way to the new Streetcar Crowsnest theatre to my two companions about how much I have loved every single Morro and Jasp show I have ever seen.

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Review: Louis Riel (Canadian Opera Company)

0241 – (l-r, foreground) Russell Braun as Louis Riel, Michael Colvin as Thomas Scott and Charles Sy as Ambroise Lépine in a scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Louis Riel, 2017. Conductor Johannes Debus, director Peter Hinton, set designer Michael Gianfrancesco, costume designer Gillian Gallow, lighting designer Bonnie Beecher, and choreographer Santee Smith. Photo: Michael CooperLouis Riel is a glorious think piece, on stage at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto

Even mid-performance, reviews of Louis Riel at the Canadian Opera Company were being expressed all around me. The individual sitting behind me chewed gum loudly and sighed repeatedly, exasperatedly, during all of the second and third acts. Beside me, a young woman sat rapt and motionless, her face slack with pleasure. It’s a rare opera that inspires such extreme reactions, but even the cheerful bar manager at the first-floor bar commented that she had heard so many opinions and none of them were tepid. “Everyone has something to say about this one,” she said. “It’s quite different.” And so it is.

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Review: Munschtime! (Young People’s Theatre)

Young People’s Theatre’s play brings the stories of Robert Munsch to the Toronto stage

With a pair of seven-year-olds and a stalwart spirit I ventured to Young People’s Theatre on a sunny Saturday for their new show Munschtime! Adapted from four classic Robert Munsch tales by longtime YPT director Allen MacInnes and collaborator Steven Colella. The stories are framed by a granddaughter who keeps asking for just one more story and her grandparents who, of course, indulge her. I wasn’t ready for another after the show on Saturday, but I liked the ones I got just fine.

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Review: Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry (Harbourfront WorldStage)

Daniel Barrow uses layered imagery to haunt and delight Toronto audiences

Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry, playing at Harbourfront WorldStage Redux, is not exactly theatre. But it is more like theatre than it is like anything else.

Daniel Barrow works from the middle of the room. In the middle of the audience, lit by the light of the overhead projector, he layers images, manipulates them, and tells a story that is mesmerizing, satisfying, and deeply disturbing. It’s totally compelling, and leaves you full of questions.

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Review: S h e e t s. (Veritas Theatre)

Salvatore Antonio’s play S h e e t s explore’s intimacy at Toronto’s Theatre Centre

Despite the buzz about “Naturist Appreciation Night” on Saturday, I saw S h e e t s. with my clothes on, as did the rest of the audience at Theatre Centre. S h e e t s. (yes, that’s the title) is, according to the program, a play about many forms of intimacy in a single hotel room and there was, as advertised, a lot of nakedness and specifically erotic/sexual content.

Of the scenes, most contained at least one completely naked person (in addition to the entirely naked guy who was onstage the entire time; more on him in a moment) which sometimes worked brilliantly. Overall, that roughly summed up my experience of the play – what worked, really worked for me. What didn’t left me shrugging.

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Review: Boys With Cars (Young People’s Theatre)

“Thoughtful and Precise” Boys with Cars arrives at the Young People’s Theatre in Toronto.

Boys With Cars, playing now at Young People’s Theatre, is an adaptation — and that’s only partly a metaphor. Written by and starring Anita Majumdar, the show is adapted from a trilogy of plays called The Fish Eyes Trilogy that focus on the experiences of young Indian women in rural British Columbia (even the play that ostensibly features a young white woman). The girls are navigating the complex, conflicting pressures of their culture and the context in which they’ve found themselves, and though the plays feature teenagers, the work was not originally intended as theatre for young audiences. This may account for why it’s refreshingly free of the didactic heavy-handedness that often lays like a dead fish over plays that treat Serious Issues.

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Preview: 38th Rhubarb Festival (Buddies In Bad Times Theatre)

Well known for its genre-bending, experimental nature and risk-taking ethos, Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre is a wild ride of multiple short performances every night. In previous years I have had stories whispered in my ear, watched snippets of opera, voluntarily locked myself in a closet with clowns, thrilled to splendid choreography, watched rapt at profoundly honest storytelling, been issued an identity card that marks me forever as a Big Spoon, and more (so much more). A mix of emerging performers and established talents (often working in new idioms), it’s a delight for all the senses.

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Review: Five Faces For Evelyn Frost (Canadian Stage and Theatre francais de Toronto)


Five Faces for Evelyn Frost experiments with social media to tell a story, on stage in Toronto

A quintet of youthful white-appearing actors, rapidly changing projection of photographs, bright white light, onslaught of short declarative sentences, nonlinear storytelling — taken together, these form most of the new show Five Faces For Evelyn Frost at Canadian Stage. If two or more of these appeal to you, you might find Five Faces For Evelyn Frost an appealing artistic work. I did not.

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Review (Kid +1): James and the Giant Peach (Young People’s Theatre)

Young People’s Theatre presents the beloved classic James and the Giant Peach in Toronto

In children’s literature, there are few tropes more beloved than the good-hearted child who defies a horrible guardian to reach for her or his dream. James and the Giant Peach, one of my favorite examples of this theme, is currently showing in one of its modern, musical incarnations at Young People’s Theatre. Showing again, actually, after a successful run in 2014, with a new set, new costumes, and a truly excellent new cast.

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