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Care Failure performing in Germany

Care Failure performing in Germany

Toronto based punk rock group Die Mannequin is a young band of three that’s already enjoyed lots of success and attention.  With the pending release of their first ‘real’ full length studio album, Fino + Bleed, there’s no sign of stopping either.  Lead by now 22 year old front woman Care Failure (Caroline Kawa), she was 16 when first revving up her career in the music industry and awarded her own sub-label, How To Kill – a division of Warner Music.

The band started as The Bloody Mannequins releasing their first EP, sharing its title with the record label.  Despite the genre difference, tracks were produced by Canadian electronic duo Jesse F. Keeler and AI-P, better known as MSTRKRFT.  Failure briefly slipped away, joining Canadian supergroup The Big Dirty Band, featuring Rush’s Geddy Lee (bass), Alex Lifeson (guitar), Ian Thornley and Three Days Grace’s Adam Gontier (vocals/guitar).  For Failure, the audition led to surprise, “it was a quick experience but a lasting one.  I thought I’d get backups and got the whole song – I’m still like a pup but with them even more so.  Maybe Alex just liked my voice, he’s a sweetie.”

That ‘whole song’ Failure snagged was a cover of Sonny Curtis and The Crickets’ I Fought The Law which was included on the soundtrack for The Trailer Park Boys: The Movie with a full video.  The video featured fellow Die Mannequin Anthony “Useless” Bleed though he didn’t contribute to the track.  Bleed who’s been with Failure for six years nicknamed her Fino, which is where the title of the new album comes from.  The third Mannequin rounding out the group is drummer, Ghostwolf.

For their second EP, Slaughter Daughter, Die Mannequins turned to Billy Talent’s Ian D’Sa to produce two tracks as well as international producer/dj Junior Sanchez.  “The producers we chose, we just got on the phone and asked ‘em,” Failure says.  “There’s nothing bad to say about any of them,” adding the dance backgrounds of some enhance her process.  “I like to shake it!  I like to write heavy dance music, if you can dance around in your underwear, it works for me.”

Failure’s satisfied with not having rushed straight into a studio album, “EP’s are awesome, you get together as a band and become bulletproof.”

Aside from great producers, Die Mannequin was also invited to travel alongside Guns ‘n Roses for their Canadian tour, “it was like Guns ‘n who?” Failure said referencing the call.  Shortly after, at performance of their own, Failure, who brings audience folk up on stage for any given song per show did so only to be informed afterwards that her guest was from iTunes.  Another golden moment turned opportunity which saw Autumn Cannibalist become the free single of the week.

Fino + Bleed

Fino + Bleed

The lead single from Fino + Bleed is Bad Medicine, which Failure had a say in.  “Getting creative control is useless if the label has veto, they wanted something else and I wasn’t feelin’ it.  I’m lucky I had a say; we just have to agree in the end.”  Other highlights of the new album include Dead Honey and Start It Up. Written in just a month (due to the theft of Failure’s laptop), the album is also available in a deluxe edition paired with the documentary called Rawside, directed by Bruce McDonald.  Failure joked, “It’s crazy, we must be the first band to have a DVD history [in an early album], we just laugh about it.”

Failure, who writes what she knows and counts The Pixies and Queens of the Stone Age amongst her inspirations, shared her writing process. “Creativity’s so strange and different for everyone; it’s a muscle too.  I write something every single day, some are shit.  Remind yourself it has to be fun.”

Fino + Bleed is an unquestionably fun punk rock album which hits stores September 8.

Boasting a cast of 14, the latest production from this province’s World class Wonderbolt Circus is called Tricksters.  The show, unveiled for a sneak peak in St. John’s, is without disappointment.  Those that grew up familiar with early Wonderbolt days have a golden opportunity to feel the magic in its purest form again and with any luck the show will eventually (and hopefully) be available on DVD.  Ringmaster Beni Malone performs in his classic, beloved way; signature funny clown hips, on stilts and playing with fire – his cherished charming smile, popping out for a well timed laugh.

Beni Malone in Tricksters

Beni Malone in Tricksters

Malone is joined in Tricksters by nephew Dash Malone who takes on an anime-style Zoolander appearance, living up to his name, zipping and flipping around the theatre.  Also from the family clan is Anahareo White-Malone who returns home from Germany, where she’s very obviously blossomed from training and is a rising international aerialist sensation.  White-Malone takes on a number of characters in the show including an uptight foreign woman milling about the audience before the show struggling to find her seat harassing ushers played by Lauren and Jeff Smyth.

That character reappears throughout the show with Champaign.  For the second act, in a pencil skirt and high heals she proceeds to perform acrobatics in a hanging hula hoop dangling over the stage with white round Chinese paper lanterns floating around her.

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

Wonderbolt's Tricksters

Prior to that standout solo, White-Malone snuck down on white silk ribbons attached to a stage fly wearing a white mask.  She was followed down by Josh Oliver in the same piece, whose aerial strength was revealed off the top of the show when he’d been lowered from a hatch in the ceiling on black canvas straps right over the audience. Both performances were beautifully executed, visually stunning and easily trigged tears for some in combination with the soundscape.

The sounds by George Morgan and Bill Brennan were nothing short of outstanding.  Speaking with producers at the intermission revealed Morgan made certain percussion elements, such as a wall of more then 7 gongs.  A brilliant play fight shared by Oliver and David Mercer graciously shared the spotlight with the Wonderbolt band with class when the four used plastic piping to tap familiar tunes out on their thighs.

Mercer was joined by fellow Gentleman Juggler James Burke as the main through-line characters with Beni Malone.  Both attempted to lure Mercer to step away from being fixated by the formulas of a rubrics cube in lieu of their world of make-believe.   The second scene featured a touching but comedic shared campfire complete with roasting marshmallows between Beni and the Gentleman Jugglers.  All three strategically used vocal exclamations during times of surprise, when Oliver snuck down from a fly and grabbed Mercer by a harness made to look like the back of his shirt for example.

A number of times a big dog popped out on stage to alarm Mercer, Burke and Malone as an especially great way to draw the younger audience in.  Also vaguely familiar to the youth was a character that resembled the ever-popular Mary Poppins played by Kat Finck.  She impressively lowered on stage holding an umbrella by a wrist strap that was also attached to a stage fly.  Finck later reappeared opening the second act with an impressive costume change and diabolo performance.  The second act also heats up with an amazing two hoop performance by Allison Collins (Ali Hoops) with Smyth ushers dutifully standing by the fire exits of the Reid.

A clear audience favourite was the vignette including world champion Aboriginal hoop dancer Terrance Littletent who’s joined by Jayson Littletent for vocals and percussion.  This is a particularly relevant feature as the show moves from St. John’s to the 5th Annual Kamataukatshiuht Circus Festival.  After running from August 19-23rd at the Reid Theatre (matinees Aug 19/20 at 2:00pm), Wonderbolt will take Tricksters to Natuashush and Sheshatshiu before doing a cross-island tour of Arts and Culture Centres in February 2010 after becoming a part of the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympics.

For more information about Wonderbolt go to www.wonderbolt.ca.  Tickets for Tricksters at the Reid Theatre are available at the Holy Heart Boxoffice or by calling 579-4424.

It is virtually impossible to miss that it’s clearly ‘festival’ season in St. John’s, NL.  From the Nickel to Wreckhouse and on to the Festival of New Dance, there is absolutely no shortage of entertainment.  With Neighbourhood Dance Works (NDW) at the helm for the 19th season, the Festival of New Dance has packed a baker’s dozen of performances and presentations in from July 21 to 26th, along with a sprinkling of parties throughout.

Festival of New DanceWhat’s exceptionally interesting this year are some of the venues.  Calla Lachance, Program and Publicity Administrator, explains planning for this year’s festival was challenging but worthwhile.  “Without the LSPU Hall, you begin to realize how limited downtown is for presenting certain forms of art, dance in particular. This city really needs another mid-size theatre that can accommodate more performance art,” Lachance says, adding her voice to the many from within the arts community who’ve been recently lobbying for a new venue.

The challenge uncovered venues that “mightn’t have otherwise been considered and as a result we’re bringing life to all sorts of little pockets throughout St. John’s; it is really exciting,” Lachance concedes.  “Our audience is going to love our venues and the artists we’re showcasing are some of the biggest names in the contemporary dance scene.”

With a desire to keep venues within walking distance from one another in the downtown area, NDW looked up its options Lachance continued, “it’s exciting because we had to visualize how other spaces might work and what would best showcase dance artists.”  The mix of venues turned out as eclectic as the dance, including the Kirk, A1C Gallery, Cochrane Street United Church, Wild Lily Dance Centre as well as three outdoor venues like Pippy Park, the Eastern Edge Gallery parking lot and stairs adjacent to the Supreme Court.  Look out!

Some highlights of this year’s presentation include streamings, choreographed by St. John’s native Tammy MacLeod featuring Andrea Tucker, taking place at the Kirk July 25th and 26th.  Also, two-time Dora Award winning choreographer Susie Burpee from Toronto has created The Rolling Parlour Cabaret, at the A1C Gallery, its title inspired by Winnipeg singer/songwriter Christine Fellows who performs live within the show.

Tammy on Current's Cover

Tammy on Current's Cover

For MacLeod, having streamings be part of it all is an honour, “the Festival is one of the few times contemporary dance takes centre stage, it can springboard presentations into other festivals. Exposure and focus on the work with a professional venue to present in; ultimately, the festival provides a showcase.”

The show was inspired by Sylvia Plath’s poem Last Words as well as an organic working process with the dancer, Andrea.  streamings attempts to create a world for its only character, constructing landscapes of awareness, integrated and disintegrated, she is “lilting in the regions of her imagination, she is the architect of her own mind. Pools of black and an opening to the present, she captures her essence and reconstructs her world.”

Working with Victor Tilley for lighting and Chris Driedzic on the complimenting soundscape which includes recordings of Rennie’s River and a soda can, the show developed over improvisation.  “As the movement vocabulary emerged so did the chairs, black holes and the possibility of emulating birth on stage. The birth imagery has remained consistent through the many incarnations.”  Originally MacLeod was also on stage when the work was informally presented at the Backdoor Cabaret in January 2008 (then titled Trusting Chairs).

For Susie Burpee, the ability to perform cabaret-style is an attractive feature of the Festival of New Dance.  She was drawn by a call for works that could be performed outside of a traditional theatre-style venue.  Her 45 minute show is armed with “themes of solitude, fragility and fortitude,” she explains.  Credited by the Toronto Star with an ability to showcase “fully human characters struggling for connection,” Burpee uses “metaphor that exists in movement, song and special objects” to convey the world’s wonder and fragility.

Susie Burpee

Susie Burpee

The Rolling Parlour Cabaret marks the fifth time that Burpee has collaborated with Christine Fellows and initially was inspired by “the idea of spinsterhood,” Burpee shares.  “I am interested in movement that is transformative and creates a character for the stage,” she adds.  Burpee’s signature presentation style is a fusion of vivid imagination and bold choreography.  Her background in theatrical study supplemented with dance training  gives her work a point of view like no other.  And Burpee’s studies continue, having recently attended L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris for Bouffon.

As for MacLeod, she will be continuing to train with her colleagues and independently, adding her need to “rely on the community of dancers to develop my craft and hone my skills as a mover and choreographer.”

More information on either of these shows as well as a full festival schedule, program notes and biographies are available at www.neighbourhooddanceworks.com.  To check out any of the presentations of the 19th Annual Festival of New Dance, tickets and passes can be purchased at the Holy Heart Theatre box office in person or by phone at 579-4424.

All of the ingredients to create the perfect storm of jazz and blues are mustering up, right now.  In a matter of days, the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival will rev up and get started.  This year promises to be one of the best yet, as Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues seeks to get settled after launching its new brand just last year.  While the look is shiny and new having only been unveiled immediately before the 2008 festival, this year is actually the eighth annual event since the original Hew Knoo Jazz Festival as it was once known.  The calibre of festival has ostensibly grown and now the truly international flavour is being fully embraced for the first time by including it in the festival’s name.

This year’s line up of 150 artists packed into 40 concerts over a six day period from July 14th – 19th is reflective of impeccable taste and variety.  If anything is for certain, there’s plenty to celebrate at this year’s festival which kicks off July 14th with a Latin inspired evening at the Martini Bar featuring Salsa Roca, Bill Brennan and Banda Brazil.

Multiple Juno nominee’s Cadence, not to be missed on day two, are a four-man group who need nothing more then a vocal warm up and a microphone.  They’ve performed alongside greats such as Gordon Lightfoot and Quincy Jones and as part of Wreckhouse, they’re also offering a workshop on stage presence before their show in the afternoon!

Also on July 15th at the D. F. Cook Recital Hall, The Bad Plus will be performing tracks off their most recent release, For All I Care which mixes up highly familiar rock and pop pieces with classical songs all on the same album.  The thought behind the somewhat concept album was that all music can share the same space and be appreciated.  Unlike the group’s initial release, Prog, the latest offering is the first time The Bad Plus has welcomed a guest vocalist.

Getting right to business with a great schedule highlight for the whole family, Kelly-Ann Evans, Janet Cull and Dana Parsons will be paying tribute to Motown’s 50th anniversary on July 16th at Holy Heart Theatre.  The local ladies of soul will honour the work of women including Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack and The Supremes.

Wreckhouse Schedule of Events - click to enlarge!

Wreckhouse Schedule of Events - click to enlarge!

After the kids have gone to bed, Dusk will feature Kirsten Price later that same night with Gramercy Riffs opening and again the next with Janet Cull & the Backline.  Billboard magazine claims Price “should offer triple A radio a new star,” and people are likely to have heard her soulful voice before her solo album Guts and Garbage in commercials for Coke, Clinique and Campbell’s.  Her tracks have also been featured in shows such as The L Word, CSI and ABC’s Cashmere Mafia.

Saturday, Halifax-based Gypsophilia perform at the Martini Bar as well as The Shuffle Demons who include three saxophonists, a dancing drummer and an upright bass player.  Celebrating a quarter century together, The Shuffle Demons are known for a wacky wardrobe and a no holds barred approach to performance which often has them playing right in the middle of their audience.  Gypsophilia is also not a small group, featuring seven young talents who released their ECMA nominated debut album in 2007 called Minor Hope.  They’re now following that up with Sa-Ba-Da-OW! They’ve been promoting the record since its June 19th release on a national tour that makes a stop at the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival.

For a taste of Gospel, another of the four workshops being offered this year will take place Saturday July 18th, hosted by Ken Whiteley – one of Canada’s most respected Roots musicians.  A performer since the 1960’s with the Original Sloth Band, Whiteley’s even taken to the Saturday Night Live stage with Leon Redbone.  Those that attend the vocal workshop in the morning will also have a shot at performing themselves when Whiteley does a Roots and Gospel Revue at the Elim Pentecostal Tabernacle the following afternoon on Sunday.

The festival will be non-stop right up to the final highlights lined up for the night of Sunday July 19th that include the beloved Nickel Gets Jazzed and Wreckhouse Gets Framed at the Martini Bar.  The event features silent films shot on old school film during the Nickel which are screened for the first time, accompanied by a jazz musician.  Just up the street at Dusk, Blackburn will be the grand finale to an extremely jam packed six days!

Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues has made it incredibly easy to get involved with these events; complete schedules, workshop information and tickets are available through their newly redesigned website, www.wreckhousejazzandblues.com.  They’ve also included a Festival Pass option for the die-hard jazz and blues lovers at an amazing value of $140.00.  Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues has also set up some free events throughout the festival week geared towards families and the outdoors.  The Murray Premises Courtyard and Harbourside Park will play host to a lunchtime concert series and on Saturday July 19th Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko perform at the Bowring Park Amphitheatre, perfect for a picnic!

With almost a dozen contenders registered and more pouring in, everything is set for the What You Got Wednesday’s DJ Tournament hosted by Loft 709 in association with sceneSTIR Productions. The complete list of DJ’s will go public when registration closes and anyone interested can get involved in a prequalification round that will whittle out the top eight who will go head to head with one another over a three week public tournament.

dj Sina

dj Sina

The first night, each DJ that shows up will get their 15 minutes of fame – literally. But it won’t quite be that easy. Unlike previous competitions that have taken place in the St. John’s metro area – What You Got Wednesday’s is on a mission to find the most versatile DJ – contestants will have to cram three different styles or genres of music into the time they’re allotted. Outside of this requirement, anything’s game.

Jonathan Loder is one of the event planners and the promoter but he attributed the idea of getting the competition going to the local and well loved DJ Sina. “Red Bull did DJ competitions across the country this year, but they didn’t come to Newfoundland. Sina thought that it was important for the talented DJ’s in St. John’s to be showcased.”

The judging panel will include Sina along with two additional local pro’s yet to be named out of the St. John’s music scene. They will be watching to see how each contestant reacts to the different crowds each night as the tournament progresses. “This contest is really going to show the contestants versatility as well as their ability to impress people who have an appreciation for DJ’s and not just a particular type of music,” Loder adds.

On a more tangible level, the judges will have to score each performance in five categories that include creativity, track selection, skills, stage presence and audience response. The performer with the highest score on a given night will proceed to the next round. With the top eight selected on night one, the second evening will cut things down to a top four with the final two being determined on night three, leading to the battle royale on the finale night. The performing set times will progressively increase from the beginning from 15 minute sets to half an hour to a full hour.

With $1,500.00 of cash and gear at steak, the winner will also be given a golden opportunity to open for Montreal-native DJ Shortcut, who was named the best club DJ in Montreal this year. “This is a great opportunity for people to get their music out, there are a lot of good DJ’s in this city that most people don’t get to hear. Hopefully a couple of people will end up with some gigs downtown out of this,” Sina encouraged.

The contestants that do sign up can rest assured that they won’t even need to be responsible for bringing their own gear. As the hosting sponsor of the event, Loft 709 will be providing a Pioneer DJ M800 mixer, 2 Technic 12’s, 2 CDJ 800’s and a Serato Scratch Live.

What You Got Wednesday’s is all set to discover and uncover some of the amazing and talented DJ’s and that’s what Loder and Sina are looking forward to the most. The best advice from Loder, “be creative, make sure you plan out your set, and come prepared for some tough competition.”

While every DJ is different in how they prepare for a performance, there is likely no dispute that the competition will be stiff. Sina is hoping there is opportunity to learn as well for the contestants, “because it will enhance [their] ability to transition between a variety of styles using beat matching and scratching, while keeping the crowds involved.”

The What You Got Wednesday’s DJ Tournament will begin Wednesday, June 3rd; presented by Loft 709 and sceneSTIR. Also being supported by local business Ballistic, and sponsors WESC and Volcom. Any interested DJ’s that want to sign up can email their information to seamusd@gmail.com (deadline Sunday, May 31st).

Josh Munden got more then he bargained for when he signed on to work at Club Med Turks & Caicos. So did Daniela, who was transferred to a new location from Club Med Brazil. The Newfoundlander and Brazilian met in 2002, he was the Chief Catcher – having already clocked 4 years – and she was a Flyer working at the circus. “After working, practicing and performing together for 3 weeks, it was obvious we were in the wrong relationships. We fixed that right away,” Josh shares proudly.

Josh Munden

Josh Munden

Josh’s interests in travel were sparked after “a student exchange program in Cuba for 4 months,” offers Daniela. She was led to Club Med because of her educational background in Restaurant Management though she applied herself with the kids and sports going on as well. And, “it was as soon as we made our first ‘catch’ that got us hooked,” Josh exclaimed.

With more then two decades of aerial acrobatic experience, Josh was a competitive gymnast for 7 years with Cygnus and Daniela has been involved in everything from ballet to swimming and even the Brazilian martial art, Capoeira. “All you have to do is see [it] and you will understand where the acrobatics come from, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” compliments Josh, who has some unbelievable career highlights himself. Wanting to be a stunt man since childhood, Josh worked to make the dream come true and appears in Nelly Furtado’s Forca video and on an episode of Mutant X. He’s also performed with Circus Sublime and was a rigger for Britney Spears in Toronto.

Daniela Munden

Daniela Munden

The duo returned to Newfoundland, establishing ACRO-ADIX to teach acrobatics to anyone interested in the challenge and experience, not to mention the fun, in a safe environment; eventually determining if students are flyers or catchers. “In my opinion, the flyer is the show, they throw the tricks, and are the ones that have to look tight and clean in the air. The catcher is the finisher; it’s all on their shoulders. They call the timing; they’re the quarterback of the team,” Josh explains.

“It’s just like dancing in the air, the catcher and flyer need to work together, trusting each other,” Daniela adds.

The timing couldn’t be better for ACRO-ADIX, “because the aerial arts are booming thanks to Cirque du Soleil who work hard to make their performers perfect and they need more for future acts,” says Daniela, adding athletes are starting younger. In fact, age is one of many ‘qualities’ that don’t even play a factor. Josh and Daniela have taught an 85 year old all the way down to their daughter, Luna, who started at 2. They’ve also had deaf students as well as autistic youth, and a blind 11 year old from Alaska up on the trapeze. “It’s just a great way to be fit, feeling free,” Daniela says, “I challenge myself and guide students to succeed safely on their own terms.”

Becoming an aerial artist can also be as big or small a commitment as the student wants to make it. Having been asked to audition for Cirque twice already, the duo has the connections needed to help their students achieve real goals and build careers. Or, flying on the trapeze can be more of a hobby or just a personal fitness method. Of course, “like any sport or physical activity, the better shape you are in, the better off you will be. But just doing this activity is going to get you in good shape,” Josh points out. It’s a full body work out and entertaining at the same time.

More information including class times and registration is available at http://www.acro-adix.com or by calling 743-3618. ACRO-ADIX is at 161 Thorburn Road and 2 hour classes are $30.00, with additional drop-in weekend programs like Fun Fly Day! Classes for flying trapeze and bungee trampolines are offered 3 times daily, 5 days of the week (they will be outside to accommodate the ideal 40’ clearance). The Munden’s hope an indoor location will be determined in the near future but will take advantage of every nice day. They’re also planning a show for the end of the summer featuring students and hope to perform in a few themselves. There are more goals too, setting up the euro-bungee trampoline at the Regatta, Sea Hawks half time shows, fundraising opportunities and getting schools involved.

The Munden's

The Munden's

Josh and Daniela Munden couldn’t be a more dedicated pair and both agree there is nothing more rewarding than having a positive impact in people’s lives. “If Cirque du Soleil is coming back and doubling shows, that means there’s an interest,” and ACRO-ADIX is the first of it’s kind in Atlantic Canada, “so the sky’s the limit,” according to Josh. And he just might be right.

Yuk Yuk's

Yuk Yuk's

Hailing from Sackville Estates trailer park in Nova Scotia (but half Newfoundlander – her father’s from Rocky Harbour), Nikki Payne has come a long way and has had one hell of a ride, or at least one hell of a time riding it! That can almost be taken literally as it relates to this interview even. Payne was delayed as a result of a fender bender the day of, but still she pulled through! She accredits the unforeseen as being what ultimately got her into her line of work and says herself that she’s “still not sure if it is a career,” as she laughs. “[It was] a total fluke! My whole career. I was a mascot for my college athletic teams; that led to all this.”

From mascot to Mercer, Payne got her big break on Rick Mercer’s Made in Canada. “He’s given me a lot of breaks,” Nikki admits. Just as recently as March 2009, Payne was back on the CBC show circuit as a guest of George Stroumboulopoulos on his show, The Hour. When she was asked about what she thought about The Hour experience, her only comment was, “George is HOT!!!! Such a big crush.”

Nikki Payne

Nikki Payne

Of course, Nikki and George share similar roots. Many are familiar with her signature delivery of humour on Much Music’s Video on Trial, but she’s enjoyed plenty of other network television success not to mention a few awards, nominations, and national comedy tours! With so much going on, there was just too much excitement to choose from, “they’ve all been highlights because I’m just so happy to be doing this. But, Just For Laughs was a big dream come true; Last Comic Standing on NBC was this out of the blue thing that was great and Comedy Inc. was like summer camp!! It was me just getting to hang out with people who I really I like and get paid for it!”

Every comic has their own approach. Their own style. With Nikki, her style cannot be missed. Unsure of how to really define her own style, Payne offers, “I hump things. There is Ethnic comedy, female comedy and alternative comedy. I think I’m observational, I observe an object; and then I hump it.”

Surprisingly, everyone is not a fan. Ever curious as to whether any spitfires created from Video on Trial commentaries? Nikki didn’t offer any examples but did reveal, “there is the “I Hate Nikki Payne” Facebook group. Maybe you could ask them…wait don’t!!”

But still, she keeps at it and the reason being is simply put. “Honestly, I have no skills. I know that’s a hack line but really, no skills.” But when asked for advice for emerging performers, the sensible and smart Nikki comes out, “do it because you love to make people laugh. Don’t let your ego ruin it.”

Nikki Payne at Yuk Yuk's

Nikki Payne at Yuk Yuk's

There is a serious side to her as well, like anyone. When world issues were brought up, she exclaimed, “Issues??? Like global warming??” and also shared that a real defining moment which only took place recently when she gave her father a kidney in 2008 elaborating, “that changed everything.”

She is currently at work on a one person show; in fact it is being called My Big Fat Donated Kidney; so from life experience comes inspiration, perhaps. Payne is an observer after all! Up next in Nikki Payne’s immediate future though, are two held over appearances at the St. John’s Yuk Yuk’s (April 23 – 25 / April 30 – May 2) which are not to be missed. In her words, up next for Nikki is “world domination… and a trip to Signal Hill!

Jessica Mealey and Katie Burke found certain women being ignored when it came to fashion. After plenty of work, “lot of laughs,” and “a few decorating disasters,” the duo are set with Structure Wardrobe and Style. Mealey says one of their biggest challenges was the wait, but they learned patients. “We had amazing assistance locally with the [funding] process, but it was difficult to wait for meetings, paper work, applications, while in our minds, the wheels were in constant motion!” Jokes aside the major lesson learned was that, “dedication and confidence take on a whole new meaning when starting up a business.”

The idea is service. Structure plans to give its clients attention, “it’s about embracing your size, learning to dress for your body, and bringing clients appropriate clothing that enables them to achieve a desired look. People can expect trendy hip clothing made for them; clothing that is designed well and flatters each and every shape.”

Structure has furnished its racks with designer clothing by “researching plus size women; what they find most appealing, and what they feel is missing from the existing plus size stores.” Then the two took off; Mealey jet-set away to a plus size fashion expo in Toronto, taking in runways and meeting designers. “Katie spent some time in New York visiting showrooms and networking to find out what’s hot and what the latest trends are in plus size fashions.”

Most of what they’ve sourced in terms of product is American, though one line hails from Toronto; that’s not to say they’re not open to more Canadian content. “We’d love to find a local designer who was interested in creating some pieces. We’ll also be looking into local accessory designers and local artists/photographers to display their work in our space.”

Everything from belts to jewellery will be available to accessorize and the ladies plan to offer up some specialty lingerie and undergarments in the near future.

Worried all this sounds a bit too lavishly expensive? Mealey assures that “Structure has something for everyone.” The price ranges are variable and while still designer, they plan to carry casual wear along with the career and high fashion lines.

Located in Churchill Square, the boutique will offer “a very modern, yet very comfortable” atmosphere with “a large retail space, seating area and a more separated studio room for make-up applications and consultations.” Burke and Mealey wanted to go for “the feeling of an exclusive women’s club.”

Still striving to offer women even more, Structure will offer “makeup for all women, for any occasion,” with regular application ($50.00) or by airbrush ($70.00). They’re currently only offering the service but eventually plan to offer full makeup lines. For those Brides out there wondering, Structure will do group bookings for makeup applications and will also do special orders for gowns through their designer suppliers.

Structure Wardrobe and Style opens May 1st at 11:00am with the Grand Opening on May 2nd in the evening complete with refreshments and a fashion show previewing this season’s hottest looks.

Beni Malone as Greta

Beni Malone as Greta

When Martin Sherman‘s Bent premiered in 1979, audiences were still largely unaware of what happened to pink triangles in concentration camps. “Survivors didn’t talk about it, because in Germany homosexuality was still against the law when the war ended,” director Sandy Gow of c2c theatre points out. Now, three decades later, it has carved out a position of prominence amongst its contemporaries.

“The play always feels immediate to me. Most days I don’t even think of it as a period piece,” Gow admits. “It’s full of energy, and even though it’s set against one of the worst events in history, it’s allowed to feel good sometimes. I still remember reading the first scene and laughing out loud. We need those moments; otherwise the ending would be too hard.”

Bent is about a “self-indulgent, charming” character named Max who is on the run from the SS in Berlin following the Night of the Long Knives in pre-war Germany.  He is accused of homosexual relations, eventually caught and relegated to Dachau.  Gow approached the script’s serious subject matter knowing, “it was important to address it openly and honesty, but not to drown in it.”

Gow specifically noted the talents of Andrew Whalen, Calvin Powell and George Robertson who have taken on the roles of the Gestapo, SS Guard, Officer and Captain. “Sherman didn’t shy away from the brutality these men inflicted, so we’ve jumped into the deep end with him. Working with violence and weapons onstage has been part of the experience. It’s important for it to not overwhelm the play, but the physical danger of the time has to live alongside the love story.”

Before the casting process, Gow already had her Max in mind and wanted Philip Goodridge for the role.  Interesting considering Sherman also had the actor whom he wanted to cast in that role in mind as early as initial drafts – Sir Ian McKellen.  Gow confessed, however, that “finding Horst was a challenge since the relationship between the two prisoners is thorny but extremely intimate at times.”

Bent Poster

Bent Poster

Ultimately, Jon Montes’ memorable audition led him to the part and Gow couldn’t be happier, gushing that “his Horst brings out the best in Max,” which is the best anyone could hope for in a loving relationship, regardless of surroundings. “This is a play about Max embracing who he is in the face of hatred and cruelty and being strong enough to feel the things he so desperately tries not to.”

Bent is known for one of the greatest love scenes of all time, despite the fact that there is no touch at all and Gow says that Goodridge and Montes have been “fearless” about approaching the intense moments.

The show’s strong cast has fully committed to the show as well.  Gow’s favorite aspect of the show is that the audience never leaves Max and other characters weave in and out, exposing glimpses that show how they all effect, love and change Max. “There was a lot of excitement and many that auditioned already had copies of the script or had previously studied it. When I asked Beni Malone to play Greta, he already had his copy on the shelf and Mack Furlong had been to the original production in 1979.”  Rounding out the cast are James Hawksley and Keith Pike.

The set, designed by Sam Pryse-Phillips and lit by Brian Bishop, allows for the show to move through a number of transitory settings that include an apartment to a bar, park to forest and a train to the concentration camp. The sound design was created by Shannon Hawes.  c2c theatre’s presentation of Bent will run from April 1-5 2009 in the Basement Theatre with a PWYC matinee on Saturday, April 4th at 2pm. Tickets are $20.00 and are on sale at the Arts and Culture Centre Box Office or order them by calling 729-3900. In c2c theatre tradition, they invite those attending on opening night to stay after the show for a small reception with the cast.

When Terri Andrews initially did The Rocky Horror Show at The Majestic back in 2002, Phil Goodridge “was absolutely rotted.”  The show he’d waned to be a part of since being 13 years old was finally here and he was heading back to Toronto for university and couldn’t audition.

He would get his chance six years later but not right away.  When auditions happened for Divas Do Broadway II, the number Sweet Transvestite was in the line up and Goodridge had his sights set on Franknfurter.  After making it known (well known) that he wanted the part, Andrews was surprised, but cast him as Riff Raff for Time Warp to see how far he was willing to go.  Clearly Goodridge delivered because after the official Rocky auditions, he “got a call from someone looking for Frank and it was Terri,” sharing that he “lost [his] mind when she said it.”

Phil Goodridge

Phil Goodridge

Not long after Goodridge went out and signed up with a gym to get ready.  “There’s not a lot of coverage in those outfits! I’ve only worn a corset once and I have to say say, they suck in the gut really well. The thing about wearing ladies undergarments, well, you just have to let go and get wild with it because that’s really what the show’s all about!”

Goodridge pointed out that the show will not simply recreate the movie though, which he feels is important because then people could watch the DVD. Film fans will recognize some honoured parts though and the show has no intentions of disappointment.

“We didn’t go into any scene with a pre-conceived notion of what it should be like which is great because we keep finding really great moments that’ll be really fun and new for the movie fans and also great for people who are seeing it for the first time.”

The cast also has members who are discovering Rocky for the first time but according to Goodridge “everyone involved is really into it, rehearsals are so much fun!  That’s definitely going to translate on stage.”  The energy at rehearsals helps the group strike a comfort zone according to Goodridge who says, “it’s really one of the best times” he’s had with a show. “Terri’s been a big part of that too because she has a clear vision of what she wants but she doesn’t force anyone to go one way or the other. She likes to see what people can bring to the table and sort of tailors it from there.”

Helpful for Goodridge, who’s never tackled anything this wild before. “I’ve been involved with musicals before but never one quite so raucous. And I’m usually wearing more clothes,” he laughs. “I’d never worn heels, much less platform heels, but I started wearing them early on in rehearsal and that actually helped a lot with the character. Everything’s a bit grander when you’re almost a foot taller.”

As for his character, he’s been conscious throughout rehearsals to put a touch-a touch-a Phil in his role and not mimic Tim Curry. Though he admits some lines slip out “very Curry-esque” he knows that “no one is an exact replica of their on-screen counterpart” and is certain a perfect balance has been struck.

Rocky Costume Contest

Rocky Costume Contest

When asked what his best memory from the production was so far, he confessed that he couldn’t choose between two. When it came time to rehearse “the scene where Frank seduces Brad and Janet, the three of us knew one another before doing this show and were pretty comfortable but we couldn’t stop laughing at each other. We’re talking all sexy and I’m throwing their legs in the air and it was just all too ridiculous.”

The other memorable moment came out of a signing rehearsal. “We were going over I’m Goin’ Home, my favourite song from the show, and there’s a part in the chorus where the entire cast starts singing this big swelling harmony. It was so beautiful – kinda almost wet my pants.”

The Rocky Horror Show runs at the Holy Heart Theatre, March 20 – 22nd 2009 with early and late shows on the first two nights.  Tickets are available by calling 579-4424 and there will be a best costume contest running along with the show.  Two winners will be chosen from the audience each performance and will receive tickets to the closing night where the best of the best will receive Rocky Horror t-shirts and $200.00 in cash.

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makin’ sense of it all

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