New performance festival grows out of SummerWorks: Michael Rubenfeld discusses Progress

Michael Rubenfeld headshot

Michael Rubenfeld is the kind of guy who easily turns his energy into action. “If I find myself complaining about something that I think is missing, that’s when I realize that somebody just has to do it,” the artistic producer of SummerWorks tells me over coffee at the Theatre Centre on Saturday.

That’s the energy that drove Rubenfeld to create the Music Series at SummerWorks three years ago, pairing musicians and theatre artists for innovative hybrid performances throughout the festival, and now it’s pushing him and his collaborators to start Progress, a brand new multi-arts festival of performance and ideas launching February 4-15.

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Écoute pour voir (Danse Carpe Diem/Emmanuel Jouthe) 2014 SummerWorks Review

EcoutePourVoir

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most surprising. Écoute pour voir at SummerWorks is so straightforward you might just miss it: dancers pair off one-on-one with audience members, sharing a single iPod with two sets of headphones. Don’t shrug off the modesty of this concept—the performance is as beautiful as it is candid, and utterly satisfying.

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The Re-View Project (Linnea Swan) 2014 SummerWorks Feature

re-viewLinnea Swan is candid: her Re-View Project is not going as planned. This ambitious attempt to launch a critical conversation about criticism and its impact upon theatre artists, theatre festivals and theatre audiences is gasping for attention, swamped out by a million and one other SummerWorks projects. (On the night I stepped into her Re-View Booth, I was one of only three names on her four-hour appointment list.)

As she expressed it to me, her project is as much about conversations as about criticism: we already have plenty of forums for artists to talk to and about other artists, but how often do we hear laypeople talking about theatre? When we talk about “audience development”, are we talking about engaging these people in conversation, or just treating them as potential butts for our seats? Continue reading The Re-View Project (Linnea Swan) 2014 SummerWorks Feature

If Hearts Could Bloom (Burr Oak Secondary School) 2014 SummerWorks Review

If Hearts

Walking out of If Hearts Could Bloom, one hears the inevitable remark: “I felt like my heart did bloom!”

I’m sure the cast — students at Burr Oak Secondary School  have heard that line plenty. They probably heard it at school; they probably heard it at the Sears Ontario Drama Festival, then again at the Sears Festival finals; and now they get to hear it at SummerWorks, where their bouffon play about individuality and identity is driving audiences to tears and laughter.

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I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You (Zeesy Powers) 2014 SummerWorks Review

Zeesy Powers didn’t trample all over my soul like I thought she would. The way my heart was beating when I went into her show I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You at SummerWorks, clearly I suspected her of some terrible genius for laying people bare and confirming their worst fears. Thankfully, the show was much more interesting than whatever my fragile ego had in mind.

I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You is pretty much exactly what the title suggests, except that Powers doesn’t appear to take any weird relish in being blunt or authoritarian. Performed in a talk-show format and live-streamed on the Internet, participants place themselves opposite Powers and submit to hearing some honest commentary.

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