A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

 

UPDATED MONDAYS

Updated: May 16, 2016

NOTE: There will be no blog entry for the week of May 23-29, as I will be in Montréal making an appearance at this year’s What The Fur furry convention May 20-22 at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Pointe-Claire Montréal Airport (6700 Trans Canada Highway) in the Dealer’s Room at Table 38 and yes, I’ll have books, comics and other items available to purchase and have signed (Please click on link below for more information). Just look for the Snow Leopard ArtsEntertainment banner and hope to see you there! The blog will resume on May 30. Sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for your support. It is truly appreciated! - JB

EDITION #89 - WEEK OF MAY 16-22, 2016

Timeless Sifros, Electrifying Laneways

CONTACT Photography Festival 2016 Reviews

Part 2 of a 3-part series

Lee Henderson: Never Letting Us Take Breath

Zalucky Contemporary, 3044 Dundas Street West

Through June 4; Wednesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

No basic theme runs through this installation piece except for some long-forgotten vintage family vacation photos of no fixed location Henderson displays, including a carousel slideshow of the same photos. Along with an audio soundtrack of dialogue readings from the certain experiences that people encounter with little or no correlation to the slideshow or photos in question (in one dialogue, the narrator quotes “Anxiety is fear stripped from imagination”), the exhibit has that strange, eerie sense of sentimentality from these aged and often yellowed photos they inhabit.

Jim Blomfield: Wandering Through Time

West Toronto Paint, 2975 Dundas Street West

Through May 31; Mondays-Wednesdays 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursdays-Fridays 7 a.m.- 8 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

In his latest travelogue photos, the Waterloo-based Blomfield brings the Greek isle of Sifros onto elongated black and white silver gelatin prints of rocky outcroppings, stony pathways and wandering landscapes and seashores, giving a timeless glimpse of the timelessness of this isolated area of the world, as well as having a sense of depth to them.

Group Exhibit: Urban Stories

Latitude 44 Gallery, 2900 Dundas Street West

Through May 31; Tuesdays-Fridays 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

In a more pared down annual CONTACT group showing at the Latitude 44 this year, it just has three artists stick to the theme of the streets with Ralph Kroman’s heavily electrifying Lane City series focusing on some of Toronto’s 2,400 laneways across town that were built prior to World War II through black/white, colour and colour-toned shots. In these photos, he captures each lane’s unique character and identity, some with time-lapse photography getting all the action while enhancing some of the graffiti art in others.

Words on the street by linda o. nagy goes looking at street art in differing forms from overt political statements (“Refugees Welcome”) to one-word scrawls on a subway pillar (“SEX”), even to something more charming on a rust-coloured iron hinge on the ground (“Cloud – I feel lower than this right now…”) depicts all about expression of the quick to studied thoughts that makes all the difference.

While a bit out of the exhibit’s context, Brian Anderson’s The Tools My Father Gave Me are his black and white series of carpentry tools shot on Epson Ultra-Chrome that the artist has gripping items like saws, chisels, pens to callipers in his hand with loving respect, showing some sense of ownership of heirlooms that should be treasured and cherished. A bit average in subject, but they do have some directness.

***

CONTACT 2016 currently running through May 31. Most venues are FREE. For information, call 416-539-9595 or visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.

Jazz fest enters third decade

Left-right: Sarah McLachlan, Joe Jackson and Oliver Jones will make their appearances at this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival June 24 to July 3, marking thirty years of bringing jazz to the city.

2016 Toronto Jazz Festival Preview

It may be hard to believe, but the Toronto Jazz Festival is probably one of the heartiest survivors of the music festivals in this town, be it from the changing tides of the music’s popularity from year to year or the tumbles and troubles of funding that plagued the organizers back in the 1990s trying to make the transition from tobacco company sponsorship (still remember those media luncheons that offered free cigarette packs at each table!) to the current major sponsor, TD Canada Trust, not to mention the fading away of jazz legends that almost make it harder by the year to book and maintain its genre.

But survived it has to make it to 2016 for its thirtieth anniversary, often having to expand its repertoire in order to gain an audience and this year is no exception. “I feel so fortunate to help bring to our stages each year the most exciting musicians, playing the most exciting music,” said festival Artistic Director Josh Grossman, who took over the position from the late co-founder Jim Galloway a couple of years ago. “In 2016, we are truly featuring some of the most important artists in the development of jazz over the past thirty years and some of the artists who are set to take jazz – and the Festival – into the future.”

Packed with about 1,500 musicians spread over eleven days in over 350 concerts from June 24 to July 3 within the downtown core, the fest organizers have some new things to present starting with its festival hub at Nathan Phillips Square’s (100 Queen Street East) Mainstage Tent with new seating options: Reserved with a assigned row and seat number for the best seats in the house, Lounge Premium with guaranteed access to the elevated lounge area with a first come, first serve setting and the regular General Admission to the main floor seating, also on a first come, first serve basis.

Also new is a new partner onboard with Second Cup with a new concept café at King and John Streets with programming to launch a year-round initiative to bring contemporary to traditional jazz to the city and the late-night jam sessions will be kicking it at the old standby the Rex Jazz & Blues Bar (194 Queen Street West) led by Chris Gale Quartet on a nightly basis, along with acts Tara Davidson Quartet (June 24), Alex Pangman Sextet (June 25), Metalwood (June 26) to the Justin Bacchus Collective (July 1), among others.

For its lineup, two of this country’s jazz heroines saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett and vocalist Molly Johnson join forces on June 30th at the Mainstage Tent to celebrate Bunnett’s landmark album Spirits of Havana that made her a name in the Afro-Cuban jazz circles worldwide. Other names to grace the Toronto Star Stage as well will be Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (June 25), Lee Fields &The Expressions and Allen Stone (June 26), singers Grace Potter (June 27) and Gregory Porter (June 28), superstar Robert Glasper Experiment (June 29), conscientious hip-hop meister Michael Franti & Spearhead (July 1) and the irascible rebel music legend Joe Jackson (July 2), with a couple of more acts to announced in the coming weeks.

Also coming is the fest opening act Sarah McLachlan at the Sony Centre (1 Front Street East) on June 24; The Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street) hosting the Bill Charlap Trio for two nights June 24 and 25, Laila Biali Trio with Phil Dwyer (June 26), Robi Botos with a few friends over three nights with bassist Bill Novotny Duo (June 28), the Hilario Duran Duo (June 29) and his quartet with Seamus Blake (June 30), a tribute to the recently released art-house Chet Baker biopic Music From Born to Be Blue with Braid, Turcotte, Wallace & Clarke (July 1).

Canadian jazz icon Oliver Jones goes on his farewell tour at the Jane Mallet Theatre (27 Front Street East) June 28, as well as the Avishai Cohen Trio makes a appearance on June 30; at the Horseshoe Tavern (368 Queen Street West) is Keifer Sutherland – yes, that one – performing music from his forthcoming debut album Down In A Hole June 27, the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers come June 29 and The Hot Sardines on July 2. And coming to Koerner Hall (273 Bloor Street West) this year is the Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis (June 28); piano greats Chick Corea Trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade (June 29) and the Ramsey Lewis Quartet with the opening act of rising star child prodigy Joey Alexander leading his trio on June 30.

***

More acts to be announced. Tickets now on sale. For information, call 1-888-655-9090 (Ticketpro); 416-408-0208 or (Koerner Hall events); 1-855-872-7669 (Sarah McLachlan) or visit ticketpro.com,ticketmaster.ca(McLachlan) or torontojazz.com.

Luminato revs up new hub at the Hearn

A digitalized rendering of the front lobby of The Hearn when Luminato takes over the decomissioned electrical plant as its new performance hub after years at the downtown David Pecault Square, complete with shuttle buses to the lakeshore venue; just in time for its tenth anniversary next month.

Luminato 2016 Preview

As it prepares to enter into its second decade, the multidisciplinary arts extravaganza Luminato undertakes its greatest challenge to date in its ten-year history – setting up shop by turning an old industrial building into the city’s newest temporary arts venue, The Hearn Generating Station (440 Unwin Avenue) down by the lakeshore area that used to generate Toronto’s electrical needs in the last century, for their major performances and visual arts, as well as expanding the festival from its ten-day format into seventeen (June 10 to 26) and breaking in a new Artistic Director to replace the outgoing Jorn Weisbrodt after guiding the festival for five years.

Luminato scores a coup for obtaining the exclusive North American premiere of the critically-acclaimed The James Plays trilogy about three generations of the 15th-century Scottish princedoms period.

“It feels totally natural and clear that as the climax completing Luminato’s first decade and launching its second, the Festival shows Toronto and the world the possibilities that lie within our city,” stated Weisbrodt, who came up with the idea for a new residency for the festival after holding the last two galas there in 2014 and the highly popular 48-hour Unsound Festival in 2015, which also will be returning there this year. “The Hearn Generating Station could be the cultural icon of the new millennium – a new idea of a cultural institution where ideas, art forms, artists, and audiences are no longer separated but brought together to create new energy, new ideas. Culture does not need to spread out across multiple institutions anymore – flat, hierarchical, high and low. It should be three-dimensional, transformable, mutually energizing and enlightening – truly something for everyone.

“Every great international city has a unique cultural institution. Buenos Aires has the Teatro Colón, Milan has La Scala, Paris has the Louvre, New York has MoMA and in June 2016, Toronto will have the Hearn Generating Station,” he continued. “Luminato Festival was founded a decade ago to infuse new energy into Toronto, to ‘turn the lights back on’, to bring Toronto to the world and the world to Toronto. In the Hearn Generating Station we will create the world’s largest multidisciplinary generator of art and culture, offering a globally unique, exceptionally rich and highly integrated cultural experience.”

In order to preserve one of the finest examples of Art Deco buildings ever built in the world, the organizers have kept the original designs and will turn it into a flowing venue of stage, exhibition and entertainment as not to compete with each other (however will seal off restricted areas yet to be developed), but to compliment courtesy of the architectural firm PARTISANS, entertainment technology company Solotech Toronto, building code consulting engineers LRI Engineering and Blackwell Structural Engineering Services and the acoustics consultancy, Charcoalblue.

The composition will go like so: the 274-meter Turbine Hall becomes the fest’s main audience pathway to the other venue spaces with concession stand options along the way as various bays will house galleries and performance spaces for artistic partners including the NFB and Ontario College of Art and Design University, the Grand Staircase area will hold the Jackman Gallery and the third floor Side Room will host Kid Koala’s Music to Draw To (June 25), among other events.

The Music Stage has enough space to hold its three events, the aforementioned DJ rave party spectacular Unsound Toronto (June 10-11), Rufus Wainwright’s Judy Garland 1961 comeback tribute concert, Rufus Does Judy (June 23-24) backed by a 36-piece orchestra led by Broadway legend Stephen Oremus and the Canadian post-rock dance production collaboration by The Holy Body Tattoo and Godspeed You! Black Emperor on our capitalist urban culture, monumental (June 14-15).

Left-right: Rufus Wainwright recreates his smash-hit concert performance tribute to Judy Garland, Rufus Does Judy, June 23 to 24; and monumental, the anti-capitalist post-rock dance production makes its Toronto debut at Luminato June 14 to 15.

The 1,200-seating Hearn Theatre will have the highly-anticipated National Theatre of Scotland’s ambitious trilogy cycle about the 15th-century Stewart princedoms by Rona Munro, The James Plays (June 16-26) over a eleven-hour marathon or the ten-day run; and in between them will be the German award-winning virtual reality project about the arms trade, Situation Rooms (June 10-19), plus two visual arts projects, Pierre Huyge’s 2012 landscape-sized Untilled (Liegender Frauenakt) and back by popular demand from 2012, Michel de Broin’s gigantic mirror ball piece One Thousand Speculations.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs a double bill of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and Gershwin’s An American in Paris June 21; local parkour group The Monkey Vault Team jumps about the place June 17 to 26, including the BASE jumping Team FX from the Hearn’s 215-metre tall smokestack June 10 to 11; master hypnotist Asad Mecci mixes comedy with the suggestion of the mind trick for Hypnohype June 16; filmmaker Stan Douglas explores post-World War II Vancouver with the NFB/Toronto International Film Festival dark interactive installation Circa 1948 and a recreation of last year’s smash epic production of R. Murray Schafer’s Apocalypsis as a CD listening party on June 16.

For better access, Luminato will run free twelve-hour shuttle bus services to and from the Hearn from Union Station, with additional pick-ups en route from The Westin Harbour Castle Hotel and the Commissioners Street TTC stop.

As it showers itself with praise for getting Torontonians and the world to see its mélange of arts for over ten years, this year’s Luminato is a bittersweet one as it bids farewell to Weisbrodt as his final fest by getting Josephine Ridge to take over the artistic director reins for next year. Well respected for her thirty years of experience in her native Australia as the artistic director of the Melbourne Festival from 2013 to 2015, General Manager and then Executive Director of Sydney Festival from 2003 to 2012, Deputy General Manager of both The Australian Ballet 1997 to 2002 and the Australian Chamber Orchestra from 1993 to 1997, it’s fair to say Luminato will be left in good hands.

“I couldn’t be more excited to introduce Canada to the incomparable Josephine Ridge, following Jorn Weisbrodt’s widely admired five years,” said festival CEO Anthony Sargent. “Josephine’s global reputation as an artistic curator and cultural leader is widely recognized and enormously impressive. I’m thrilled that Josephine shares our enthusiasm and ambition for the future of Luminato at the dawn of its second decade, and for the city of Toronto. I’m also very proud that Josephine is the latest in a series of highly-respected, internationally-acclaimed cultural leaders to choose Canada’s largest and most ambitious city in which to live, work and create.”

“Our search committee was fortunate to meet with a remarkable group of short-listed candidates from Canada and around the world,” added Luminato chairperson and co-founder Tony Gagliano. “This interest and their qualities speak volumes to what Luminato has been able to achieve in our first decade, not least the international impact which the visionary programming and artistic contributions of our current Artistic Director Jorn Weisbrodt, and before him, Chris Lorway, have made. We look forward to building our second decade with Josephine, and to welcoming her to Toronto and the Luminato family.”

In her own words, Ridge has much respect for Luminato, her predecessors, the city and what it’s done to put it on the artistic map. “I believe so deeply in the fundamental importance of festivals such as Luminato. It is a great honour to accept the role of incoming Artistic Director,” said Ridge. “I am confident that together with Anthony and the team, we can ensure Luminato’s future as one of the most acclaimed city-based arts festivals in the world – and most importantly, one that is deeply embedded in the cultural fabric of Toronto.”

***

Tickets now on sale, some events are FREE. For more information, call the Luminato Festival Box Office at 416-368-4849 or visit luminatofestival.com

EDITION #88 - WEEK OF MAY 9-15, 2016

A mother of a play

How Black Mothers Say I Love You (Trey Anthony Productions/Girls in Bow Ties/Factory Theatre)

Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst Street

Saturday, May 7; 7:30 p.m.

Theatre Review

The West Domestic Scheme, one of the post-World War II employment initiatives established in the 1950s, allowed young eligible West Indian women to work as domestics in homes around North America to create new lives for themselves and their families, sometimes even at a cost of their own familial cohesion over a thirty-year period. How Black Mothers Say I Love You by the playwright of ‘da Kink in My Hair, trey anthony, gives a compelling and tangible insight of these policies as a comedy/drama that aims true to the heart.

Set in present-day Toronto, youth counsellor Claudette Robinson (Robinne Fanfair) comes home from Montréal on a leave of absence to care for her mother Daphne (Ordena Thompson) who is still feisty with her tongue and god-fearing as ever, despite her cancer-stricken state of health. Including her younger yuppie sister Valerie (Allison Edwards-Crewe) whose idealistic marriage is falling apart, Claudette has to cope with her mother’s judgemental mood swings about her life, sexuality, ingratitude and the long periodical stretches of non-contact with her.

As the spectre of long-dead sister Cloe (Jewelle Blackman) flirts about the homestead, old wounds get reopened by Claudette in regard to their upbringing and as to why their mother left them behind in Jamaica with her grandparents to immigrate to Canada for a six-year period as kids which Daphne tries to bury with denial and the scriptures, much as she’s weighted by guilt and remorse over the hard choices she had to make for her and her family.

Handling the reins of directing as well as writing, anthony guides this play with such emotional depth well balanced with boisterous humour and sometimes explosive drama in only the fashion she can put in with her cracking script which never lets up in its exuberant pacing the cast keeps up very well on the simplified, if colourful set/costume designs of Rachel Forbes, Steve Lucas’ lighting design and the excellent tunes by Gavin Bradley of mix of R&B, gospel, reggae and calypso.

Thompson is the true nucleus of the production with her acerbic wit and motherly mannerisms that’s hard not to be won over; Fanfair plays the insecure and semi-resentful Claudette with such steadiness, especially with her own sense of confident pride being a lesbian; Edwards-Crew provides the humour and voice of reason here, as Blackman while mostly playing a mute ghost role – and a accomplished violin player – deftly bridges all these factors in the play.

Anthony does it again in bringing the African-Canadian and -Caribbean experience alive and bountiful for How Black Mothers Say I Love You more as a healing process for those effected by these life choices we make for the better with love, heart and understanding. Already one of this year’s best theatre experiences.

***

How Black Mothers Say I Love You runs through May 15; although at a near sold-out capacity as of this writing. For tickets/information, call 416-504-9971 or visit factorytheatre.ca

The gospel according to Chester

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible

by Chester Brown

270 pp., Drawn &Quarterly/Raincoast Books

Hardcover, $24.95

Graphic Novels & Comics/Theology

Book Review

Breaking quite a bit of taboos in his last book, the 2011 confessional and critically-acclaimed bestseller Paying For It; where he openly told about his solicitations with prostitutes and stance on sex-workers’ rights, cartoonist Chester Brown explores a bit further on the subject that’s bound to be even more controversial in how the world’s oldest profession is actually portrayed in the scriptures for Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible.

Picking solely on the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary plus a couple of other well-known bible stories (more on them a little later), Brown adapts these yarns in his clean-line styling and crosshatch renderings on how these women mainly used their intellect and bodies without payment in order to establish their way in religiously-stoic societies of those periods that mainly looked down on their gender and role(s) in a otherwise male-centric world.

This is established in the story “Matthew,” where the disciple in his later years decades after the crucifixion of Christ tries to find a way to include the fact in his gospel without getting censored that the Virgin Mary was a what one called back then a parthenos – an ancient Greek word that often, if not always, refers to a woman who has never had sex – up to her pregnancy with her son (even the bible acknowledges this in Luke 1:27 and by Christ himself in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas) and men who paid prostitutes for sex in those days were considered “virgins,” through using the Old and New Testaments.

Then comes the other stories about loyalty to family and deity worship (“Cain and Abel”, “The Prodigal Son”, “Job”) and parables with twist endings (“The Talents”, “Bathsheba”) telling a lot more than one would expect about the (un)fairness of life and blind faith that brings out the question the father in “Prodigal Son” who rhetorically asks: “Do you think God wants mindless worshippers who can only follow instructions?”

Brown’s research is fully thorough with notes, arguments and counterarguments in the afterword defending Mary Weeps without wanting to debunk the bible and its teachings, including his own theories and hypotheses, building a credible stand on female empowerment against the male hierarchy (“Ruth” is an excellent example) that will be, and should be, by all means read, debated and reread by believers and non-believers alike.

Treated with logic and clarity with just as much level-headedness than any noted theologian could put to print, the book lends itself on the role of prostitution in the bible and the questioning of one’s god’s laid-out rules not to challenge or contradict, but to find out own way, perhaps even more. Highly recommended.

***

Chester Brown will make an appearance at this week’s Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2016 (May 14-15) at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street), admission is FREE. For information, visit torontocomics.com.

Faux movie posters fun, Lost over Kokomo

CONTACT Photography Festival 2016 Reviews

Part 1 of a 3-part series

The Long Weekend: Coming Attractions

TIFF Lightbox, 350 King Street West, Street-level corners of King West and Widmer Streets

Through May 31; 24/7

The Winnepeg-based art collective The Long Weekend, which includes two noted members and founders Guy Madden and Paul Butler; present Coming Attractions, an satirical orgy of 1970s and ‘80s-styled faux European and art-house film posters of “pet projects” by fictional filmmakers that never realized their cinematic masterpieces in a large inkjet vinyl covering of the film centre’s street corner.

Mixing surrealism and photo-realism in collage styles, the oddball titles ranging from Space Wars 3D, Cowboy Mansion, Van Heusenhunter, 8 and Seminar, among many; is amusingly imaginative for its nonsensical context. Funny enough, it’s kind of the pity all these films don’t actually exist, although they all look like they could have been made at one point or another.

Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari: Toilet Paper: Toronto Carousel

Corner of King West and John Streets

Through May 31; 24/7

Hyperreal sculptor Maurizio Cattelan with photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari of Italy satirize advertisements bordering on eccentricity, be it snakes all over a drum kit, a woman sensually sprawled atop a table on a bed of french fries or a well-dressed man covered in spaghetti and tomato sauce; shows a warped sense of provocative humour going a long way with this series of thirteen prints showing the absurdity of consumerist media.

Christian Patterson: Bottom of the Lake

CONTACT Gallery, 80 Spadina Street, 2nd Floor

Through June 30; Tuesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 12-5 p.m.

A multimedia exhibition of the simplistic life in the Wisconsin hamlet of Fond du Lac, Christian Patterson’s hometown waxes nostalgic with his collages of photos and memorabilia like a light blue rotary dial phone against a snow-speckled backdrop, Nixon impeachment paraphernalia, phonebooks, burnt matchbook covers and seafaring items makes the isolationism and snapshot of the 1970s sounds like paradise compared to today’s much faster-paced world that would seem so alien and disjointed for those born the decades afterward in viewing this.

The 2015 Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards Shortlist

CONTACT Gallery Hub, 80 Spadina Street, 2nd Floor

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Fridays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 12-5 p.m.

Every year about thousands of photographers worldwide compete in the annual Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation’s PhotoBook Awards of a print medium that hasn’t completely faded away in the digital era. The coffee table books on display range from varying subjects ranging from socio-political flashpoints like Noa Ben-Shalom’s Hush camera lens on daily life at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Fire in Cairo by Matthew Connors’ look at the chaotic post-revolutionary Egypt under Sisi’s counterrevolutionary and failing autocratic rule.

First Photobook winner You Haven’t Seen Their Faces is a gutsy countermeasure against the surveillance society during the 2011 England Riots by outing rioters’ faces to the public by the police, where Daniel Mayrit takes CCTV camera shots of the politicians and captains of industry, plus their net worth; responsible for Britain’s current economic woes that created the riots in the first place in flipbook form, rightfully turns the tables.

Others take in bygone eras of New York’s decadent nightlife captured in Tod Papageorge’s Studio 54 of the long-closed famous nightclub to the Special Jurors’ Mention-winning Deadline, an insightful and unique newspaper-styled story of the shrinking newsroom of the Philadelphia Enquirer that author/photographer Will Steacy spent five years working at.

Arnold Zageris: Antarctica

Abbozzo Gallery, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite #128

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Based on five trips to the Antarctica, the Peterborough-based photographer Arnold Zageris captures the fragile, if harsh region for all of the polar ice shelf’s wild beauty in all of its four seasons on archival inkjet prints, be it Gentoos penguins roaming about glacial mounds peeking with bits of blue among the greyish and brownish environs on a overcast day remaining in a majestic and ominous setting (“Gentoos at Home”) or traces of oxide red of a dormant volcano against blackened ground and glacier runoff (“Shadows on a Volcanic Rim”).

Gorgeous examples of icebergs float amidst grey surroundings in “Blue Ice” and “Grounded Iceberg,” pink and yellow hues of a sunset’s glow diffuses quite nicely on a light blue sky along a coastal range for “Reflective Sunset” and “Nacreous Sky” shows the change of blue spectrums spreading upwards against the clouds is a interesting piece away from the fauna and ice shown here.

But perhaps its most telling photo is “Stained Hillside, Paulet Island” of a penguin colony scattered among bare shale without any snow, reveals how deep a problem global warming really and truly is in this part of the world and what we must to do protect it. Declaring the continent a protected world park, a idea suggested two decades ago, doesn’t seem so crazy any more now after looking at this shot.

Kotama Bouabane: We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, 401 Richmond Street West, Suite #120

Through May 28; Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Part-photo and part-sculptural, this exhibit is a eclectic one surrounding on the coconut, the symbolism of all things tropically exotic in Kotama Bouabane’s concept of object and image ranging from a coconut-themed bar stand chirping singular notes of the Beach Boys’ 1988 classic hit “Kokomo” – where the show’s title comes from the song’s chorus – on a khene (traditional Laotian reed) to make it unrecognizable; bamboo-imaged and green cellophane tubes to imitate drinking straws; portraits of tourist selfies in Banff, only the coconut replaces the camera on the selfie sticks; fifty shots of coconut-husked images with holes giving it a ghostly touch and a series of white watermarked ridges obscuring a forestry image.

While the artist is looking to spoof the illusion of travel and leisure photography is interesting and ambitious, it could have been fleshed out further by stripping some of the esoterical structure that wouldn’t be seem a bit ordinary from a layperson’s point of view and the point would have gotten more across.

***

CONTACT 2016 currently running through May 31. Most venues are FREE. For information, call 416-539-9595 or visit scotiabankcontactphoto.com.

EDITION #87 - WEEK OF MAY 2-8, 2016

Star Wars parody a couple of parsecs off

One-Man Star Wars Trilogy (Starvox Entertainment)

Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front Street East

Wednesday, April 27; 8 p.m.

Theatre Review

Over a decade ago, I saw Charles Ross’ One-Man Star Wars down at Harbourfront and was enthralled with the writer/actor’s comedic take on the beloved George Lucas universe. In the long, long-awaited return engagement of its recent run of this sanctioned parody of that galaxy far, far away, I was just as anxious to see this unfold again in a larger venue and somehow, it’s kind of lost its magic this time around.

Mind you, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and the franchise’s resurrection from last year’s The Force Awakens has increased its popularity – not that it ever waned to begin with – and trying to compact all three films of the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) by packing the major highlights from them into 90 minutes is no easy task. And bless him, Ross has the courage and stamina to pull it off, not to mention his interaction with the audience whenever he adlibs with puns and snatches from the prequel trilogy and Force Awakens into it.

The main sticking point is that it feels like you’re watching all of this in fast forward mode and if you’re not familiar with the saga, you’ll be lost in some of the rapid-fire dialogue. Most of the time he’s humming John Williams’ score and themes from the films from its epic battles and incredible space heroics that feels like unnecessary filler, which I certainly don’t remember before.

But it’s not to say it isn’t fun watching a grown person in what is pretty much child’s play in recreating the series, where he does some good impersonations of Yoda, Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt and Emperor Palpatine. While it would virtually be impossible to do it all word-per-word which is understandable for the rushed approach here (and perhaps some copyright laws Ross can’t stray from), so it’ll appeal to the Star Wars crowd out there willing to laugh at the space-fantasy opera and its place in popular culture.

anthony goes matriarchal

‘da Kink in My Hair creator trey anthony returns with her newest play How Black Mothers Say I Love You

Theatre Preview

She made us and the whole world aware about African hair with her highly successful stage musical-comedy (and its shortly-lived television adaptation) ‘da Kink in My Hair back in 2001 and now playwright/actor/motivational speaker trey anthony world premieres her latest work How Black Mothers Say I Love You in Toronto (May 7), dealing with the separation of African-Caribbean women from their families to work elsewhere, while at the same time touching base on mother-daughter relationships. The playwright gave a phone interview from her home in Atlanta to discuss How Black Mothers Say I Love You, her reasons for relocating to the United States after several years in Toronto theatre and the status of African-Canadian theatre today.

What prompted you to write this play?

I started to write it when my grandmother got cancer and she was ill, so I began writing the piece ‘cause I wanted to really speak to her about the regrets that she had in her life. And one of the things that she mentioned, and she had a lot of them; was leaving my mother back in Jamaica for six years and she went to England (to work). So I decided to start to write the piece as a love letter to her about the regrets that she had about them, being a mother who had to leave her children behind.

Do you feel that the legacy of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism has played on why African-Caribbean women are (sometimes) forced to make a choice in becoming domestic labour in North America and Europe?

Oh, definitely! I think we cannot take a look at the choices that these women make and not see how most of these decisions are based on economical decisions, right? And colonialism definitely affected that these women had to make these choices because those resources weren’t available in their homes for them to take care of their children efficiently, so then a lot of women then were forced to make those decisions, yes.

Back in 1988, there was a Genie Award-winning film Milk and Honey that basically ran on the same themes of a West Indian single mother who sacrifices the care of her own child to take care of another woman’s children. Do you see any similarities to this play to that one?

I’ve never saw that film. I have heard of it, but I haven’t seen it, to tell you the truth. (The film) sounds very similar, but I guess that’s the only thing. There are several original ideas [in the play], and I’m sure that the theme of black Caribbean women leaving their children is so prevalent I’m sure a lot of people have thought about maybe exploring the idea in different art forms.

It’s been about fifteen years since ‘da Kink in My Hair brought you worldwide attention. Do you feel that it’s been helpful or has changed for the African-Canadian theatre scene since that time?

Sadly, I don’t think there’s been much progress or as much progress as it really should be. As successful as ‘da Kink was, even for myself, in trying to get the play produced I went to five different theatre companies in Toronto trying to get it produced and none of them wanted to add it to their season(s). I had to independently produce (it) myself, so I think there’s definitely a lack of openness to creating black-themed work and producing them, so we have a long way to go. Yes, I think ‘da Kink opened some doors, but I still think that we got a lot of progress left to make in Canada around [bringing racial] diversity into the theatre industry.

I’ve read once that you’re scaling down your presence in theatre circles awhile back. Is this leading to eventual retirement and is Black Mothers your swan song?

(Laughs) Oh, no! What I’m doing currently is that I’m scaling down my presence maybe in Canada and moving my branch to the U.S.. I’ve been doing a lot of projects and work in Atlanta and that’s where I’m mostly based at [these days]. I’ve also been doing a lot of public speaking and wellness, which has been a big interest for me. Theatre will always be, like my biggest love. But I am definitely doing more work in the U.S. versus Canada, so maybe that was what was portrayed in those interviews, but I’m definitely far from retirement and still quite young! (laughs) So I don’t think I’m retiring yet.

Do you feel that the American market is a bit bigger than the Canadian one?

I think there’s a lot more openness to diverse work in the U.S., especially black work. Let me give you such an example: I went down to the U.S. to shop Black Mothers and in less than two months of being down there, I had a workshop production of it, I’ve had three theatre (companies) asking to produce it in their seasons (and) I’ve been offered two playwright residencies, so it’s been just the opportunities (here) that I have not been given in Canada. So it made me question like, why do I continue to work in a place where I’m always trying to get my work done? Whereas in the U.S., it’s much more open and welcoming to my work, to my voice and to my talent.

Are you looking forward to How Black Mothers Say I Love You will be received here in Toronto?

I really am. I’ve workshopped it twice here and people really loved it, they’ve responded very favourably to the piece. And I think it’s a very timely piece, I think a lot of us from Caribbean backgrounds can relate to the piece and we’re really excited about seeing ourselves onstage. I think it’s not very often that we get to tell stories from our vantage point and so I know that the play will be very well received here and people are excited.

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How Black Mothers Say I Love You runs in Toronto May 5-15 at Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). For tickets/information, call 416-504-9971 or visit factorytheatre.ca.

Superb superhero smackdown

Captain America: Civil War (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney)

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Producer: Kevin Feige

Screenplay: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; based on the Mark Millar graphic novel and characters by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Film Review

As last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and more recently Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice had demonstrated, you can have way too much of a good thing when you’re trying to best yourself by unnecessarily going over the top in the process. For Captain America: Civil War, it grounds the superhero ensemble film back with a heavily structured script uncluttered from the aforementioned films with some serious food for thought to ponder over without skipping the thrills or fun.

Picking up after the events of Ultron, the Avengers team is brought onto the carpet after a mission in Lagos, Nigeria led by Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Evans) with Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Johansson), Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) while successful in deterring a theft of a deadly bio-weapon, ends up with some serious collateral damage.

Headed by Secretary of Defence Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) and sanctioned by Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Downey Jr.), they’re about to be regulated by a United Nations accord in order to monitor and control their actions, bringing division amongst the team members. Just as the agreement is about to be signed at a Vienna conference, a terrorist bomb goes off and it’s pinned on the former HYDRA operative Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes (Stan), still recovering from his brainwashed state.

Believing his reformed childhood friend to be innocent, Rogers goes out of his way to protect Bucky from the authorities, his comrades and the vengeful talons of newcomer African superhero Prince T’Challa a.k.a. Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), whose diplomat regal father was killed in the Vienna attack. The stakes get upped when those siding with the Captain versus those with Iron Man on whether the former questions the policing methods leading the restriction of freedoms outweigh the latter’s need for security against the very forces that threat them come to blows, all being manipulated by one Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) with his own personal agenda at play.

Director brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who also helmed Captain America: The Winter Soldier; do a excellent job again in balancing the drama, humour and action in getting their sequences together from screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who’ve adapted Mark Millar’s 2006-2007 masterpiece comic book series/graphic novel born out from the wake of 9/11 that questioned what price for peace during the so-called War on Terror with competence and believability that even superheroes can do wrong for the right reasons. The themes of revenge, loyalty and familial discord loom heaviest but evenly distributed by the filmmakers, which is fair to say at this point, makes Civil War the strongest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so far.

Both Evans and Downey Jr. have come a long way in creating some complexities not only in their characters as the film’s leaders here, as much as they’ve done for the relationship that teeters on the edge for the once-dutiful super-solider who’d never questioned authority before against the billionaire playboy tech genius that contravened every rule in the book but now weighted by guilt, yet still cocksure with his zippy comebacks that amuse throughout.

Johansson sits on the fence between the two sides in this family feud is an interesting aspect here as is Stan as the ex-villain who’s unsure he’s completely free from HYDRA’s control, while Boseman makes a great debut as the Black Panther (can’t wait for the solo film come 2018) of carrying the conflict of learning to dispense reason as the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda over wanting to avenge his wizen father’s senseless death. Also in bit parts is Jeremy Renner as master archer Hawkeye brought in from retirement, Don Cheadle as Stark’s old buddy James Rhodes/War Machine, Paul Bettany voicing the android Vision by blending a sense of Star Trek’s Data’s naivety and intelligence with wonder to be the other voice of reason with Black Widow, along with Paul Rudd as Ant-Man to add a little comic relief and Emily VanCamp as CIA agent Sharon Carter as a ally and possible love interest with Evan’s Cap.

And yes, oh yes, Tom Holland is definitely perfect as the latest actor to step into the Spider-Man/Peter Parker role since Tobey Maguire with that gee-whiz youthful innocence, wit and heroism for the future reboot of that franchise, not to mention Marisa Tomei looking to be the hottest Aunt May ever to hit the screen.

Among the onslaught of superhero films to come out this year, Captain America: Civil War stands out as a frontrunner while still preserving some questions for future MCU films that leaves one wanting more to come with this type of calibre filmmaking to tap the surface of timely and topical subjects sorely needed for discussion long after you leave the cinema.

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Captain America: Civil War opens in cinemas across North America on May 6.