34 I've been approached on street corners for a variety of different reasons throughout my lifetime but the one I experienced today was by far the most interesting (I'm a city gal these things are just so darn inevitable). It started something like this: I was waiting for a streetcar on Toronto's infamous Queen Street west and the next thing I knew I was approached by a friendly Summerworks staff member (they're always friendly I swear friendliness is in the fine print of their hiring policy somewhere) who greeted me and said "hey want to see a Summerworks show it's free". Moments like these are a rare and beautiful occasion: as much as I firmly believe in paying artists for their hard work I'm also a student, and I love seeing live performances and pretty much anything cultural or artsyesque so I was willing to give up my evening if necessary for this rare opprotunity. What I really hope for is that these guys start getting patrons and recognition there's nothing I've ever seen that I could compare that to.
What I ignorantly signed myself up for was something 100 times more exciting than I expected. In this particular performance it's one audience member and about four or five actors guiding the audience member through a series of alleyways. It's loosely based around the story of Alice and Wonderland and uses the rhymes of Alice and Wonderland's author, Lewis Caroll. There's also a hint of Dante's inferno influence. In this particular context the audience member is temporarily Alice and the mythological mysterious nature of the characters and the things they say to you make you experience the same perplexed, lost, and confused emotions as Alice did in the original narrative. Every adventure and every encounter feels like a dream due to its distance from predictable reality and the unpredictable nature of what you will be told to do, where you will be told to go,and where your adventure leads is guaranteed to make you temporarily much more interested in these dream like requests than the activities of Toronto's downtown core happening in the background. The immediate instinct is to assume that there is a protagonist: the protagonist is the audience member and the actors are all guides and active participants in this theatrical game. Be prepared to run, the woman you're told to follow gets gradually faster and eventually moves at the pace of a fast sprint but don't worry this exhausting chase ends after not too long. Another tip: the suitcase is tough to open and I had a hard time finding the hat and coat but make sure to find them: they're key. "Midway along the journey of our life" makes you question such matters as what's the difference between a raven and a writing desk. Be prepared to be lost, if you're lost you're in the exact state you're supposed to be in. Pay close attention to the woman with the stilts and the big pink clock: she's your most important guide and listen and watch carefully.The actors anxiously await your arrival and show up in key parts of your journey, guiding your every move. Check it out: it's called "Midway along the journey of life". If you're in toronto and have an hour to kill (and $15) and you're not shy about performances that use audience interaction go for it! Another highlight of the Summerworks theatre festival....