SummerWorks Preview: Clear Your Schedules

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be said that the matter of a certain FringeNYC production of a certain Nicolas Billon play pertaining to the patriarchal ills of a certain glaciologist has left us with little time to focus on what may be the most stacked SummerWorks lineup in recent memory. Familiar names like Stanton, Moscovitch, and MacKenzie; not one, but two generations of Colemans and the aforementioned Mr. Billon (who will bounce back and forth between Toronto and New York over the next week to keep up with his SW and FringeNYC commitments) have given festival goers the happiest of dilemmas. In lieu of focusing on a select few productions we’re excited about, we put a few questions to a few companies in this year’s fest and let them do the work. Here’s what they came back with:

LITTLE CRICKETS by Douglas Campbell and Byron Laviolette – Foundry Theatre Company

Eastern European Communism, inappropriate sexual relationships and Paris: set in the city of lights, two Romanian girls with no plans but big dreams meet a wealthy gentleman who offers them everything they could desire . . . for a price. Are they willing to play along?

What was the inspiration for Little Crickets? The playwright’s wife had overheard a conversation in a Paris cafe in which a wealthy man was trying to charm two Romanian girls. This small exchange was relayed to the playwright and sparked his imagination; he expanded this simple premise into a play that examines the shifts in power that occur in a flawed and creepy romance between an older man and two underage girls.

If your show was turned into a Hollywood feature, who would direct it? Byron would. Failing that, Pedro Almodovar.

What does the SummerWorks Festival represent to you? It’s pretty safe to say that SummerWorks is a proven launchpad for young and exciting talent. Many acclaimed productions have their start at the festival, and exceptional artists are noticed and go on to have exciting careers. Foundry Theatre Company has been blessed to have Byron at the artistic helm of this production.

THIRD FLOOR by Jason Hall – DeCo.

In a brand new condo, two neighbours become friends. But when a prank goes wrong, friends become accomplices. A Hitchcockian twist on contemporary living that asks: how well do you know your neighbours?

What was the inspiration for Third Floor? One night in my building I noticed my across-the-hall neighbour had left a garbage bag outside her door – again. But this time there was a post-it note attached that read: “Could you please not leave your garbage out as it really smells. Thanks!” followed by a smiley face. This got me thinking. Why would a person leave a post-it note rather than knocking on a door? And what kind of person leaves their garbage out in the first place? Just what is it about condo living that makes people behave in these bizarre ways? And so the idea for the play was born.

If your show was turned into a Hollywood feature, who would direct it? I’m a huge fan of both John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Daldry – I’m sure either of them would be able to bring out the psychological drama, dark humour and romance in the text, as well as have a lot of fun with the numerous Hitchcock references.

What does the SummerWorks Festival represent to you? SummerWorks to me represents Toronto’s most exciting and innovative live art presented to the highest standard: that’s why it was such an honour to be
selected. I couldn’t be prouder that THIRD FLOOR is getting its world premiere here before another production is mounted in London’s West End this October.

THE SAFE WORD by Nicolas Billon – The Forthcoming Collective

A dark comedy about a young man’s foray into the world of love, which includes his cynical, sharp-witted roommate and the gorgeous, enigmatic woman he meets online.

What was the inspiration for The Safe Word? It sprung from an idea I had — which I can’t talk about without giving away one of the show’s twists — but it was definitely influenced by my research into both online dating and social media. Thematically, I was interested in the idea that social media may be a misnomer of sorts, in that it provides the illusion of “socialness”. I haven’t made up my mind about it — I do find certain aspects of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. very useful, but I think it’s a question worth pondering (without being alarmist!). Really smart people like Zadie Smith (“Generation Why?“) and Jonathan Franzen (“Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.“) are asking great questions about this.

If your show was turned into a Hollywood feature, who would direct it? Jason Reitman. I think he’d get it. And the man hasn’t made a bad feature yet.

What does the SummerWorks Festival represent to you? I love SummerWorks. It’s hosted some of the most interesting and invigorating work I’ve seen in Toronto. As an audience member, I appreciate that it’s affordable. This will be my third year back, and I’m particularly excited by the line-up this year. The Safe Word is in excellent company.

YOU SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME by Tommy Taylor, Michael Wheeler, and Julian DeZotti – Praxis Theatre/The Original Norwegian

A theatrical adaptation of Tommy Taylor’s note posted to his Facebook after his arrest and detention at the infamous Toronto G20 Summit – a detailed, frightening and often funny account of the largest mass arrest in Canada. His story of 24 hour detainment in a cage and arrest without charge has been covered by national and international media. This is the true story of a heartbroken Canadian.

What was the inspiration for You Should Have Stayed Home? My inspiration for the show is the fact that I was pulled off the street with my girlfriend and arrested and detained at last year’s G20. I was locked in a cage, screaming for 24-hours until I passed out begging for water.

If your show was turned into a Hollywood feature, who would direct it? George Clooney; he’s directing political movies right now.

What does the SummerWorks Festival represent to you? SummerWorks, this year in particular, represents freedom of speech and the responsibilities of artists to truly reflect what is happening in our communities.

ELORA GORGE by Christopher Stanton – The Room

An Ontario town is perplexed when a man is found drowned in the woods – nowhere near water. As the mystery surrounding the stranger deepens, the people of Elora become oddly spellbound. Meanwhile, something darker lurks in Elora Gorge.

What was the inspiration for Elora Gorge? I started with the imagery from a creepy dream my mother had. The full story is here.

If your show was turned into a Hollywood feature, who would direct it? No question. David Lynch.

What does the SummerWorks Festival represent to you? SummerWorks offers the rare opportunity to bring ambitious new work before an enthusiastic and supportive audience. It’s been the first step of development for many of the most successful projects I’ve been part of.

For performance dates and times for these and each of the over 40 productions at this year’s festival, please visit the listings page here.

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