Costume and set designers aren’t high on the mainstream media’s hit list, which explains why award-winning designer Judith Bowden, left, is so rarely interviewed about her art. Yet, when the curtain goes up on Mirvish Productions’ Cloud 9 at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre Tuesday night, Bowden’s set and costumes will be the first things to register with the audience.
Bowden, in collaboration with director Alisa Palmer, has created a metaphorical and physical environment for the characters of this daring satire to inhabit. There’s nothing straight-ahead about Cloud 9, a play by Caryl Churchill (Top Girls), that tackles political and sexual oppression in British colonial Africa and modern London; on Cloud 9, time shifts, age and ethnicity mutate, gender bends.
By the time critics and audiences get their opportunity to judge the theatrical success of the production (win free tickets, details below), Bowden will be hard at work on her next gig, designing sets and costumes for the Shaw Festival‘s An Ideal Husband. Such is life for a perpetually freelance artist.
While trolling for LiveWithCulture.ca header images this week I came across the picture at left on Doublecrossed.ca, one of two blogs maintained by local photographer Tanja-Tiziana. In her description of the shot, Tanja notes that she found the cache of old home movies — some stretching all the way back to the 1930s — at a contents sale. She paid $10 for the film and some slides, “which was probably more for the metal box they came in than for the actual contents,” Tanja told me via email.
How intriguing to settle down in the dark with a complete stranger’s memories, their history, their happy and maybe even sad moments. On her blog Tanja notes that these reels “are predominantly filmed on colour kodachrome and were edited together with much brilliance by the filmmaker. One moment we were in Florida watching friends in high pants and short ties smoke pipes and the next we were celebrating Christmas in Toronto.”
Live With Culture loves to take you behind the scenes and apparently so does choreographer and artistic director Santee Smith. Smith’s Kaha:wi Dance Theatre stages a pay-what-you-can dress rehearsal of its captivating A Story Before Time on Friday (January 15) at the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre.
I was so intriqued by the promo shot above that I put in a call to Smith who happily invited me to the National Ballet School’s Ivey House where the company is in rehearsals this week. The dance relates the Iroquois creation story, which comes to a head in a battle between twin brothers, the Holder of the Heavens, above centre, and the Bent One, above right, surrounded by a delightful animal posse.
Thanks to the Toronto Star’s 2010 Short Story Contest, anyone living in Ontario can test their literary chops: the annual contest, now in its 32nd year, is the most lucrative of its kind in Canada with a grand prize of $5,000, plus tuition for the creative writing correspondence program at Humber School for Writers. This year, for the first time, the Toronto Public Library has teamed with the Star to present this prestigious contest. City librarian, Jane Pyper, above left, joined fellow contest judges (from left) Richard Ouzounian, Elyse Friedman, Geoff Pevere and Matthew Church at a press conference Friday, announcing the contest details. Deadline for submissions is February 28 and winners will be announced in April during the TPL’s annual Keep Toronto Reading celebration.
I wanted a ticket to Monday night’s Trampoline Hall, the arty, esoteric lecture series, so that necessarily meant a trip to Soundscapes, the one and only outlet selling the passes. Soundscapes owner Greg Davis doesn’t sing, dance or paint (at least not for money) but he is undoubtedly a culture worker. In the decade since it opened on College Street, in the heart of Little Italy, Soundscapes has become a cornerstone of Toronto’s indie music scene, the first legitimate place many emerging artists peddle and promote their music and concerts.
Likeable and clean-cut, Davis (above) is the opposite of a High Fidelity-style music snob. “There’s definitely a stereotype that independent music stores have somewhat of an attitude,” concedes Davis, “and my personality is much more about being nice and wanting to share my knowledge about music rather than wanting to hoard it. Some people come in expecting the stereotype and we really strive to be approachable — hopefully when you come in you get the sense that this is a place where the people really LOVE music and if you LOVE music then you’re in the right place.”