Thursday, January 29, 2009


Visiting Fu-GEN Theatre on Thursday night felt, in many ways, like coming home.  Not because Randy and I were getting in touch with our Asian-Canadian roots (...we have none...) but because we felt a lot of empathy for the way this company works and the kind of work they create.  With only a few paid staff members it's clear they're all working far more than anyone is getting paid for, (sound familiar?), but it's an incredibly nice group of people, full of talented artists, making really unique work.  (Hopefully this too sounds familiar to our blog readers, but I'll let you guys be the judge of that.)  

Fu-Gen is a six year old company dedicated to telling the stories of the Asian-Canadian community in Toronto.  The play we saw, LADY IN A RED DRESS, was a new play about the Head-Tax and Exclusion Act issued against Chinese Immigrants from the 1920's to the 1940's, but with a generous helping of magic and all things other-worldy.  (I'm sure their website 
describes it much better than I have so click the 
link, and when you do be sure to watch they animated trailers they've created for this pieces.  They're really beautiful.)

Our stellar host for the evening was Byron, the Company Producer. He very generously invited us to join them for the show and Opening night celebration.  We were able to meet everyone from the Artistic Director to the designers, the playwright, the staff and even some Board Members.  It was a really lovely evening and pleasure to meet everyone at Fu-GEN.  It's really heartening to know just how similar things are wherever you go.  We share so many of the same struggles and the same thrills when our work really succeeds as theirs did on Thursday night.

The space they performed in, The Young Center, also at the Distillery District is definitely worth a mention.  It's a relatively new arts center with several performance venues, generally used by itinerant young companies (like the Atlas or DCAC in DC).  It has a great bar and cafe and beautiful architecture.  It's a really fantastic venue.


On Thursday, we headed out to the Distillery District just east of downtown. The place in and of itself is really interesting--a former distillery, one of North America's largest--that's not been turned into shops, restaurants, galleries, artist's studio and performance venues. (Similar in some ways it seems to what they've done at the former Lorton Prison in Virginia.)

Our meeting today was with Brian Quirt, the Artistic Director of Nightswimming. His company, founded in 1994, focuses almost entirely on the dramaturgical process. Brian said that after initially self-producing some full productions he realized that there were a lot of components to producing that he just didn't find satisfying. He then set out to create a company where he could do just what he loved most working with a play and playwright from the very beginning, helping to shape a piece--on the playwright's own timeline--and then helping to find that piece a home at another company that will produce it. It seems they've tackling some really fascinating work with great success.

Their current venture is a 7-play cycle called THE CITY OF WINE. Written over a 15 year period the plays follow the 7 generations of the citizens of Thebes. In the last 3 years, Nightswimming has partnered with seven universities all across Canada to workshop, and ultimately produce each of these pieces. Later this month they're bringing all seven groups to Toronto to stage their pieces here and then, ideally will find a future home in which all seven plays can be professionally produced. I think we both found Brian's work and his vision fascinating. He's found a way to truly revolutionize the way playwrights and theatres work together and seems to be providing a really essential service.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Toronto & Tarragon

Earlier this year, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC awarded the Rorschach Artistic Directors a grant to travel to Canada to meet Canadian Theatre artists and to see their work. In the icy predawn hours of Wednesday we embarked on our adventure...
Arriving in Toronto a few hours late thanks to weather delays and deicing, our first stop was the Tarragon Theatre. Founded in 1970, its focus is on developing and producing primarily new Canadian plays. The Tarragon's Literary Manager Andrea gave us a tour of their space and then sat down to tell us a little more about the Company's work.

The theatre itself is a fantastic little space tucked away on a side street a few blocks from the subway. As Randy put it, it's like Snoopy's house, it seems much bigger on the inside than it does from the outside. It houses the company's two theatre space (named "Mainspace" and "Extra
 Space"). Despite have two stages, multiple rehearsal spaces, office space and a costume shop, it still felt intimate and very cosy. It reminded me a lot of Woolly's home at 14th & Church and it was interesting to see a company of that size in a venue like that.

Andrea told us a great deal about the company play and playwright development programs. Their work seems nothing short of prolific with programs that touch on every point of a play's development. After our meeting with her, we had the pleasure of seeing EAST OF BERLIN in the 
Extra Space. It was a remarkably tight, beautifully designed 3-character play about the son of a Nazi soldier. All in all it was an excellent beginning to our theatre experience in Toronto.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tuesday! Tuesday! Tuesday!

On Tuesday, January 27, 2009 @ 10:00AM, Rorschach Theatre will offer an unbeatable, one-time-only VERY limited discount on tickets to The Fire of Love Fete: A Benefit for Rorschach Theatre to only our nearest and dearest friends.  Join The Rorschach Theatre Group on Facebook to get all the details.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Exile in Canada

Just in case you missed your weekly dose of Jane's Backstage column in the Post...Rorschach is going to Canada.

 Yes, it's true we're really taking this "Rorschach in Exile" thing seriously...

...and the Canadian Embassy along with the Helen Hayes Awards are helping to make it possible.

Rorschach's Artistic Directors, (along with Janet Griffin of Folger) have been awarded the Canadian/Washington Theatre Partnership grant for 2009.  The grant allows the Artist Directors "to visit their Canadian counterparts and to become better acquainted with Canadian theatre and playwrights."

So the intrepid JMF and RB are off to enjoy the balmy 17 degree temperatures of Toronto in the last week of January.  Winter weather aside, we're really thrilled to have this experience and are taking suggestions from any and everyone of what we should see and who we should meet in the Toronto theatre community. 

 If you have any friends or favorites we should get to know up north post a comment!