The 35th Rhubarb Festival to taunt and tease Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Feb. 12-23

The 35th Annual Rhubarb Festival is kicking off in Toronto’s Church/Wellesley Village February 12th, running until the 23rd, 2014. Over 100 artists will transform Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and local hotspots with contemporary theatre, dance, music, and performance art. We spoke to festival director Laura Nanni about experimental works, the fusion of music and theatre, and how the festival mingles with the community and its audiences.

Henri Faberge and Humboldt Magnussen; Photo by Tanja-Tiziana
Laura Nanni; Photo by Tanja-Tiziana

In her fourth year as festival director, Laura Nanni, pictured at right, is excitedly awaiting to bring this years artist program to Rhubarb’s adventure-loving audience. With her roots as a producer and curator, Nanni encourages the creation of new work at Rhubarb, especially those that push the boundaries of what performance can be. She asks artists to think outside the box.

“If you look back to really early Rhubarbs,” Nanni explained, “it’s always encouraged a mix of disciplines, where a painter could be a playwright, for example. At Rhubarb, you can see non-performers or people trying something for the first time.”

Nanni said they ask artists to explore their own curiosities and how they can explore them through new territory. One way Rhubarb is exhibiting these projects are through “open space calls” where artists are bringing their work into places like the 519 Church Street Community Centre, the Canadian Lesbian + Gay Archives, and Pink Triangle Press.

Nanni said audiences are going to see a lot of musical artists working in new ways this year.

“With Regina the Gentlelady, it’s the first time they’ve created a one woman show where it’s more text based and narrative rather than the music driving the piece,” Nanni said.  “Musicians are really looking at the intersection between narrative, performance, and music. Experimenting with the form of the ‘concert’ in relation to theatre.”

But music is only one part of this week-long extravaganza in unique and transformative work.

Heather Cassils; Photo by Manual Vason

“Rhubarb is programmed in a way that you’re meant to not see just one show – it’s a full night. If you come, you come for a whole evening of multiple performances.” Nanni said, adding that, if you’re only going to come for one evening, “I would recommend opening night and that is because you’ll get a really good taste of the festival.”

Rhubarb is trying to change the culture of how work is viewed, Nanni explained. “Every year there are new audience members that come to the festival, but there’s also a really dedicated audience that come to see things that could completely blow their mind.  Audiences aren’t coming to judge, they’re coming to be a part of the experience.”

Nanni promises the festival is going to “as loud and as boundary pushing as ever!” Opening night brings trained bodybuilder and performance artist Heather Cassils, pictured above. Cassils’ work actively challenges perceptions of gender, pushing the physical body to its extreme limits. There will also be events in five spaces including the board room and dressing room at Buddies, live podcast recordings, and shows in the cabaret, if that gives you an idea of how busy a night at Rhubarb can be! The list of talented individuals involved would go on and on, so, for the whole festival schedule, click here.

The Rhubarb Festival is the oldest festival in Canada dedicated to new work.

While many events are free or PWYC, evenings requiring tickets are $10 for week one events, and $20 for week two events. You can get them at Buddies Box Office!

Bridget Moser for Jagged Canyons – the story of two sisters who were once friends, now enemies.

Article by Andrea Wrobel

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