Second night (Tue Dec 4) of cold reads for New Ideas Festival 2013. The lineup started with Eglinton by Anthony MacMahon, to be directed by David Suszek in Week Three. Mary calls her friend Charlie for help when a date with a Bay Street type (this is very definitely a Toronto setting!) goes horribly wrong. Meanwhile Charlie has an unfortunate dating experience of his own. The playwright specifies that both characters are onstage the entire time, even through each other’s monologues – they don’t always speak to each other. Nice contrast of the characters: Mary’s speeches are descriptive and lyrical; Charlie’s bitter-verging-on-nasty, but funny. Carolyn Zapf, one of the New Ideas Artistic Directors, was curious about where Charlie and Mary were when they had monologues. MacMahon responded that the style was modeled after Irish theatre; no frame or place.
Next up was Flora Stohr-Danzinger’s My Red Feather Boa, which originally appeared in the 2004 New Ideas. To celebrate the Festival’s 25th anniversary, it was selected as an audience favourite, and will be directed by the original director, Nancy Bradshaw as the Festival closer. It’s a monologue told by Celine, a small-town girl from Chicoutimi. Quebec, who came to Toronto with dreams of stardom. She tells the story of her adventures – both tragic and funny – in a group therapy session , interacting with other [unseen] patients and the doctor.
R.J. Downes, a playwright formerly based in Toronto but now living in Kingston, Ont. , has penned the comedy Two Actresses, to be directed by Pam Redfern in Week Two of the Festival. Assistant Director/Stage Manager will be Sean Speake. Margo and Susan are best friends (they say!) who are also bitter rivals in their community theatre group. The play takes place in a hospital emergency room, where they’ve wound up – in full Victorian costume – after Susan “accidentally” pushed Margo off the stage during a dress rehearsal. The reading was recorded for the playwright, and there were lots of guffaws and snickers at all the theatre jokes and zingers. Director Pam Redfern noted that the first draft of the script was “very AbFab” [British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, sweetie darling. What – you haven’t seen it?]. She thinks it still needs “a bigger ‘a-ha’ moment” – something to explain why these two are still friends, and what does Susan, who’s stuck with all the “dignified supporting roles” while Margo snatches the leads, get out of the friendship.
Last on tonight’s schedule was Rain Chan’s Lullaby for the Abandoned, which will be the Saturday reading in Week Three, dramaturged by Shaista Latif and directed by Brenda Darling. It was inspired by an article that Chan read only in August, and she whipped off a 12-page script and submitted it to New Ideas. It was accepted, she kept writing, and the piece is now at least 60 minutes long. The story centres around a family in China, and ranges from the present, with 88-year old matriarch Liu Ying in a hospital suffering from kidney disease, all the way back to her young adulthood, when she began collecting abandoned babies to raise them. China instituted its one-child policy in 1979 [for some reason I thought it was much earlier…], and girl children were frequently abandoned. Liu Ying, a fictional character based on the real woman profiled in the article, is a poor cleaner who cannot resist taking in these girls, to the despair of her concerned husband – “We have too many babies!” he protests, more than once. Also in the present, Liu Ying’s now-adult daughters (one biological and two adopted) try to comfort their sick mother with the help of a sympathetic hospital nurse, and reassure her that the youngest adoptee, a 7-year old boy, will be cared for and educated. Director Brenda Darling intends to have several workshops of the play as the script develops, and asked for actors interested in improv and script development to contact her.
Tonight’s readers were: Zahir Gilani, Barbara Haber, Susan Kerr, Anthony MacMahon, Lara Mrkoci, Kay Randewich, Kristen Scott, Maria Wodzinkska, Sangeeta Wylie.
Two more nights of cold reads to come!