Blind Date is a raw, intimate and honest portrayal of what it means to put yourself out there. Rebecca Northan creates an experience that moves beyond the traditional notion of theatre. The performance takes the entire audience along with them on a voyeuristic journey into someone else’s life and the date is both familiar and not. When I go to a play I sometimes wonder if the actors or director has considered the entire space. Often theatre is set up so that we go in, all face forward on our chairs and watch as the actors entertain us from the confines of the stage. Blind Date used up the entire space, the actors knew we were all there and this became “our” experience.
Prior to the show we’re all hanging out in the Cabaret space and mingling with the performers. You can tell who’s in the show because they have red clowns noses on which at first I didn’t quite understand because if this is a play about a blind date, how is a clown’s nose appropriate?
By the end of the show the noses provided two really important functions for me. First, they created a separation between the actor and the selected ‘date’. In this particular show the audience member was really on his game and I had brief moments where I forgot he wasn’t a professional actor. That being said there is an unbelievable risk being taken by both David Benjamin Tomlinson and Julie Orton because they become fully responsible for carrying the full weight of the performance. No matter what happens. When you stick an unknown entity such as an audience member into a full show there is no telling how many terrible things can go wrong. The audience member could just be impossible, difficult, afraid, defensive or a whole host of possibilities. I suppose on that’s not unlike going on a blind date where your mind will want to run over all the scary things that could go wrong which is precisely why this show works so leaving meriting on the edge of my stool for the whole show.
“Fundamentally it’s the same show every night but then again it’s not.” -Mark Aikman, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre
The clown noses were also a metaphor for how brave it is to put oneself out there. Whether that’s in the form of a blind date or by being visibly queer when you make some portion of your self stand out you risk being made fun of. That’s kind of what the whole performance was like, a giant risk-taking adventure that paid off.
“Where does the date begin and the fantasy end? By constructing this simple yet brilliant meta-theatrical premise in her show, Northan has created a spellbinding evening of unpredictability and performance acumen.” -David Bateman, Bateman Reviews
The show takes the entire audience on a voyeuristic journey and David Tomlinson where truly lots could go wrong and yet nothing did. Even the moments when it seemed the ‘date’ was upstaging David, he handled it with mastery which filled the space with authenticity. I’m going back for another Blind Date.
Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson take turns in the starring role. Check the schedule below to see who’s performing when. Until October 9th, 2016 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.
Photo of Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson by Tanja-Tiziana.
A native of Italy, Fabio Zito has a history of work that has continually been supported and produced by his home theatre but the topic matter of his latest work proved to be too much and for the first time his script was rejected. Not being discouraged, Fabio went of the hunt for a replacement company who could provide them residence and a public performance space – enter the spunky East Village theatre Wild Project.
The Snail is a story about a boy who is locked in a body that he doesn’t recognize until he decides to start living as a woman and while the premise is intoxicating, the execution of the story fell short of making a connection with the audience. The Snail is part Jay & Gloria from Modern Family meets Brandon Teena from Boys Don’t Cry and while Arianna Luzi gave a mesmerizing performance as Andrew, it wasn’t enough to fully bring the audience into the narrative. New York has numerous trans/gender-themed plays (see MDLSX and Boy), some experimental and others very thoughtful, but The Snail was a slow and sticky attempt at telling somebody elses story and it reminded me of a life lesson my cohort Amy Pearl once told me.
For years, Amy had been trying to get her work accepted into Toronto’s queer Rhubarb Festival but Buddies in Bad Times Theatre turned her down. Frustrated, Amy called up the artistic director at the time (and founder) Sky Gilbert to find out why her work, despite being queer in content, was continually passed over. He told her that it wasn’t what was in her work but rather what wasn’t. Amy’s work was probably gayer then most gays could ever hope to be yet it was lacking the vulnerability and insights that can only come as a result of an actual lived experience. It’s not that Amy couldn’t tell a gay man’s story (she’s gayer then most gays I know), Sky was suggesting that she get comfortable in her own shows before attempting a mile someone else’s heels. It’s sage advice because most people spend their entire lives trying to unpack their own identities and so aiming to do that for another human being just pushes the story that much farther from reality.
Photo by Ben Powless: Hamlet In A Hot Tub at Nuit Rose Closing Ceremonies, Pride Toronto (2015).
(1) You won’t learn a thing if you do it perfectly. There’s a difference between making a mistake in public and intentionally making a public mistake. We adapted the original production of Hamlet In A Hot Tub (HIAHT) so we could perform it in the washrooms during the Rhubarb Festival and despite weeks of rehearsals, performing out of the washrooms with an actual audience remained a theory right up until opening night. Lacking a model for how the show should workI had to give up trying to control our space so that the constant uncertainties became an expected part of our process, and to some extent, the show itself.
(3) The audience can be your friends, literally. An audience made up of complete strangers can be nerve-wrecking but at the end of the show those strangers will go home and remain strangers while our friends, family and peers can be a source of feedback to reflect on against the backdrop of what we intended to produce.
(3) A cast of theatre actors can be more reliable than your own family. Being there for each other can be as simple as always being on time because everyone involved in the show depends on everyone else, moving mountains to be at a rehearsal is just how the family grows tighter. In 2015 we performed Hamlet In A Hot Tub fourteen times and thanks to the dedication and shear madness of the cast and I’m proud to call this highly dysfunctional (surrogate) family my own, here’s to a steamy 2016!
Hamlet, Ophelia, Gertrude and Polonius are Hamlet In A Hot Tub in this outrageously funny and gender-bending adaptation of Shakespeare set in a modern day bathhouse. Written + Adapted by Brock Hessel, David Bateman also featuring Paul Bellini, Amy J. Lester, Directed by Raymond Helkio and Music by Stewart Borden.
What do Liza Minnelli, Joan Rivers, Bette Midler, Rosie O’Donnell, Kathy Griffin, and Ryan G Hinds have in common? They all love high camp, sequins, show tunes and they’ve each been guests to the historic Don’t Tell Mama, a cabaret piano bar in New York’s theatre district. And now Ryan (Hedwig & the Angry Inch; MacArthur Park Suite, A Disco Ballet, Starry Notions) will upstage them all by performing a one night show for the last stop on his three city tour. The Toronto premiere was met with a standing ovation at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, before mounting it at the Mainline Theatre in Montréal and now he’s headed to the big apple for what will be his cabaret debut performance.
#KanderAndEbb will no doubt be high camp both because Ryan is involved and because it’s cleaverly based on John Kander and Fred Ebb who were the famed songwriters behind Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Funny Lady, Zorba, The Visit and New York New York.
Expect some new arrangements of old classics plus experience some of Kander and Ebb’s lesser-known songs performed by the impossible-to-upstage Ryan G. Hinds. Ryan has performed with artists such as Todrick Hall, Debbie Reynolds, Lady Bunny, Sky Gilbert and yes, even Liza Minnelli. Go see #KanderAndEbb, you are guaranteed a great time. Musical director Mark Selby on piano, Jeff Deegan on bass and Julian “Fatsound” Clarke on drums.
#KanderAndEbb November 15th at 8PM Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46th Street
Saturday November 15th 2105
8pm $10 (+2 drink min)
Tix: (212) 757-0788 or to reserve.
TORONTO: Buddies in Bad Times, October 4th at 8 PM
MONTREAL: Mainline Theatre, October 9th and 10th, 8 PM NEW YORK CITY: Don’t Tell Mama, November 15th 8PM