U of T’s annual drama festival kicks off at Hart House Theatre this Thursday night, featuring nine productions.
The nine shows that comprise this year’s festival includes submissions from clubs, college drama societies, independent submissions, as well as an improv showcase. This is the 16th year that the festival has accepted only original work by current students.
The festival will be adjudicated by Jill Carter, an assistant professor who teaches at U of T’s Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies. Following the conclusion of the festival on Saturday night, Carter will conduct the awards ceremony, which will include awards for best production, best direction, and best playwriting.
Chronically, presented by the UTM Drama Club
Lauren Lacey’s play, directed by KhaRa Martin, examines how chronic illness affects one’s experience of time. Some of the questions explored by the production include how to cope with the monotony of illness and how younger people deal with the knowledge that they will be sick for the rest of their lives.
Cloud 8, presented by the Trinity College Drama Society
Written by Vivian Xie and directed by Q-Nahm Park, Cloud 8 is the story of a Chinese mother and her Chinese-Canadian daughter attempting to navigate their relationship across disparate timelines.
2018 McGill Drama Festival, presented by U of T Improv
This year, the McGill Drama Festival coincides with U of T’s. On Thursday night, the audience will randomly select three of the six titles of plays being performed at McGill, to be improvised by the performers. “We figured it would be unfair to make someone pick between one or the other,” said James Hyett, who conceived of the format and will be hosting the show. The idea was inspired by a similar event put on by an Edmonton improv troupe around the time of the Fringe Festival.
I Can’t Trust Anyone, Everyone Hurts Me: A Comedy presented by the UC Follies
Though it was written by Celeste Yim and Aba Amuquandoh before the #MeToo moment, I Can’t Trust Anyone’s subject matter proved prescient. Directed by Abigail Whitney, Khadijah Salawu, and Ahlam Hassan, the show is about three friends who discover that one of their favourite celebrities has allegedly acted in a violent manner toward women, and it shows how they deal with this news.
Yim said that parts of the script were rewritten after it was accepted to the festival. In the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, she and Amuquandoh felt that the script could focus less on explanation and more on “[building] a feeling of recognition.”
The play combines difficult subject matter with levity and humour. “We wanted to represent that every situation is complex, that there is no cardinal rule for forgiving everyone or not forgiving anyone… Also we wanted to make a lot of dick jokes,” said Yim.
The show’s actors are also exclusively people of colour. “We’re a small village of people of colour trying to represent how terrible and hilarious and extraordinary it is to be alive right now,” said Yim.
The Green, The Gold, The Grey, presented by the SMC Troubadours
Written by Liam McConnell and directed by Shay Santaiti, this show is about two men on opposite sides of a conflict. They must confront each other’s ideals and their own.
Tinsel Town Bartleby, presented by the Victoria College Drama Society
Tinsel Town Bartleby takes place in the mailroom of a Hollywood agency’s office, where an intern is going through celebrity fan mail that will never reach the addressees. Writer and director Emily Powers said that the play was inspired by her own experiences working at a production company and sorting through fan mail. “I was surprised how intimate many of the letters to celebrities were,” said Powers. “There was something powerful in the fact that outside of what I read, their stories would continue to go unheard.”
The play is comprised of eight monologues, performed by characters who do not actually interact on stage. However, Powers said, “the monologues together seem to form an entirely new collective story.” The show will also use multimedia elements by projecting actual celebrity interviews to help round out the Hollywood setting.
The cast of I Can’t Trust Anyone, Everyone Hurts Me: A Comedy.
Pills and Mangoes, presented by the UC Follies
The show centres on Ben and Lucy, a couple who are dealing with the effects of mental illness. Lucy works to be supportive of Ben, who suffers from social anxiety and depression. Writer and director Hannah-Rae Sabyan said that the show is inspired by her own relationship with her boyfriend. “Writing this was my outlet,” said Sabyan.
Sabyan said that writing Pills and Mangoes was the hardest thing she’d ever done and that seeing her own experiences depicted on stage was not always easy. She added that the message she’d like for audiences to take away from the show is that “it’s okay to struggle, and that it’s okay to ask for help.”
Raining Petals, presented by the SMC Troubadours
Written by Q-Nahm Park and directed by Park and Serina Keh, Raining Petals follows the story of Soo-Ho, a first-generation immigrant to Canada. Soo-Ho faces difficulties in balancing his traditional Korean background with his acclimation to Canadian society, and he experiences a “pivotal moment” that will alter the family dynamic forever.
The Rhythm Method, an independent production presented by Friends from High School
The Rhythm Method was written by Micaela Robertson and will be directed by William Dao, who recently directed the UC Follies’ production of Spring Awakening.
The 2018 U of T Drama Festival runs at Hart House Theatre from February 8–10.