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Artist profiles, show overviews and performance schedules

Comedy

THE SECOND CITY (Toronto, Canada)
Milking the Laughs II
Ages 8 and up
Studio Theatre: Monday, May 24, 12 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 1 p.m.; Wednesday, May 26, 10:30 a.m.; Thursday, May 27, 1 p.m.

Children enjoy the laughs with The Second City, famous for its legendary sketch comedy and improv. The crazy cast, featuring Aurora Browne, Paul Constable, Jennifer Goodhue and Pat Kelly, puts on big laughs and great interactive fun that is based on today’s pop songs, teachers, hockey parents, green onions and more. The Second City’s improv alumni include John Candy, Andrea Martin, Colin Mochrie, Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, Martin Short and Nia Vardalos.
Dance Theatre

QUELLI DI GROCK (Milan, Italy)
*Chaos
Canadian Premiere
Ages 12 & up
Harbourfront Centre Theatre: Monday, May 24, 1 p.m.; Tuesday & Wednesday,
May 25 & 26, 1:15 p.m.; Thursday, May 27, 10 a.m.; Friday, May 28, 11:45 a.m.; Sunday, May 30, 2:30 p.m.

Chaos is a fusion of movement, language, dance and theatre. Intensely physical, highly expressive, this show is a humorous examination of the speed of modern society. Chaos is an ironic and comical look at the emptiness of daily living. There is no room for anguish, confusion and nuisance; it all takes place in the face of euphoria, in the place of a physical and verbal burst that slowly, minute by minute, increasingly becomes more contagious and uncontainable until the unexpected, irresistible and torrential finale.

Chaos, build on the techniques of dance theatre, develops, interlacing the use of elementary words, the key concepts of practical thought (up to the limit of uttering), and everyday gestures. The bodies of the dancers-actors, shown live or shot by a closed-loop camera, unflaggingly start from trivial gestures which, little by little, turn into a complex and exhaustive expression.

The usual image flourishes, stripped of its daily wear, with added elements of theatrical timing and the emanating energy of the relentless six actors. The same goes for the choreographies which relentlessly bring together and separate, accompanied by fragments of mainstream musical styles which invade the space to animate the stage, purposefully bare, at times decorated with the skeleton of a blue door or metallic chairs from which one can ascend or descend in a repetitive and vertiginous manner.

QUINTAVALLA-STORI-COMPAGNIA ABBONDANZA/BERTONI (Milan, Italy)
A Childhood Tale
Toronto Premiere
Ages 8 & up
Premiere Dance Theatre: Tuesday, May 25, 1:15 p.m.; Wednesday, May 26,
10:30 a.m.; Thursday, May 27, 11 a.m.; Friday, May 28, 12 p.m.; Saturday,
May 29, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 30, 2:45 p.m.

Mum and Dad are too tied up with the pressures of their everyday lives to be bothered with their kids. Neglected and disenchanted, Tomaso and Nina, brother and sister, long to break out of their house and seek their own way in the world. It is a captivating and challenging piece of dance theatre about dependency and freedom. Funny, passionate and moving, it is performed by two dancers who play all the characters and give voice to a generation so often ignored.

On stage the dancers (Michele Abbondanza and Antonella Bertoni) are by turns parents and children, father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister - yes, above all brother and sister, endlessly see-sawing between submission and rebellion, escape and self-defence, flight and return, or the threat of being stolen away forever with no return. They work beautifully together producing an impression of complete continuity in an energetic piece. Tomaso and Nina live their lives entirely together - what they do together alone is for them more important than anything else. This is dedicated to those who cannot survive without love. There is a simple set, a blue painted circle on the floor with a small translucent rock pile at its center, perfect both in the children’s bedroom and in their dream travels.

A Childhood Tale is the first stage of a project where the language of dance-theatre, normally reserved for an adult audience, is given a more direct narrative form to make it accessible to children. It is about children who are ill at ease in close relationships. It is about physical and psychological violence in homes and institutions and the crime of not listening to one’s own children. It is about offences without offenders.

In August 1995, Abbondanza and Bertoni appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci’s film lo ballo da sola (Stealing Beauty) and in December of 1995 they founded Compagnia Abbondanza/Bertoni. In 1996 they began an artistic-productive partnership with directors Letizia Quintavalla & Bruno Stori that led to the company’s first dance-theatre production for children. In 1996, the duo was awarded first prize as the best Italian dancers by the magazine Danza&Danza and the Cascina award for choreography.

Film

DAVE BIDINI (Toronto, Canada)
*Hockey Nomad
Ages 8 & up
Studio Theatre: Sunday, May 23, 1:45 p.m.; Wednesday, May 26, 1:15 p.m.; Friday, May 28, 10:30 a.m.; Saturday, May 29, 12:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 30,
2:30 p.m.

Hockey Nomad is a Gemini award-winning documentary that is based upon the best selling book, Tropic of Hockey by Dave Bidini, the rhythm guitarist for the Rheostatics and a hockey fan. The documentary follows Bidini as he travels the globe to unique locations in search of other die-hard hockey fans and the true spirit of the game. Bidini makes his way to the desert of Dubai in the U.A.E. where a beautifully maintained ice rink miraculously rises from the scorching red sands, then on to Romania’s famed Transylvania, where hockey first started in the 1920s after one local caught sight of the game being played on a 10-second newsreel. The newsreel came from a place called Canada. He ends his travels in Mongolia where the game is played in the open air in the shadows of a Buddhist temple and the first generation of players are still only in their 30s. In his travels, Bidini discovers that hockey connects players and fans everywhere in a common love of the game, of its exhilaration, and in the moments of grace that enrich it.

Bidini’s first book, published in 1998, was the popular and critically acclaimed On a Cold Road, about what it’s like to tour Canada as a rock and roll band. When he is not writing or travelling the world or playing left defence for his recreational hockey team, Bidini is a musician.

Music and Dance

MANDING JATA (West Africa / US / Canada)
*Sunjata
Toronto Premiere
All ages
CIBC Stage: Friday, May 28, 12:30 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, May 29 & 30, 2 p.m.

Manding Jata presents the music, dance and oral traditions of the Mande speaking peoples of West Africa. Much of the Manding Jata repertoire comes from this golden age, between the 13th and 15th centuries. The story defines the courageous struggle of Sundiata Kieta, the 12th son of the first king of Mali. Unable to walk at birth Sundiata had an appointment with destiny, forging the largest empire in African history centered in the fabled city of Timbuktu. The epic legend of Sundiata is recalled by the “Jali,” a hereditary musical historian with direct lineage to the royal courts of the 13th century Mali.

The story is defined through three musical narratives and dramatized by songs and dances. The transcendent sonority of the kora, xylophones and flute serve to transport the audience into 13th century Mali, while a Manding mask mime solicits audience participation to conjure ambience such as insects, rain or a flock of birds. The drama and excitement unfolds through high caliber gymnastics, drumming, dancing and acrobatic tricks. Sundiata culminates with a carnival on the mythical streets of Timbuktu, celebrating peace and unity across the great Manding Empire, also known poetically as “TILIBO,” “the place where the sun comes up.”

Manding Jata means “the Lion of Manding” in the Mande language of French West Africa. The group was assembled in 1996 to tour the musical theatre production SUNJATA. This show was originally designed for youth and family audiences and has now been presented internationally in English, French, Cantonese, and soon, Spanish. Most of the performers are formerly principal members of their respective national cultural troupes and currently enjoy independent careers as leaders, featured guests and soloists. All have been performing Manding repertoire from childhood. The artists of Manding Jata reside in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Paris, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Music

SCRAP ARTS MUSIC (Vancouver, Canada)
Phonk
Toronto Premiere
All ages
CIBC Stage: Sunday, May 23 & Monday, May 24, 2 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25 & Wednesday, May 26, 12 p.m.

Passions and personalities pulsate wildly during Scrap Arts Music’s visually stunning and audibly unforgettable “action percussion.” By bringing together five talented musicians, powerful original music, dazzling sculptural instruments and hyper-kinetic movement, the ensemble always leaves audiences wanting more. Based in Vancouver, this innovative troupe is led by percussionist Gregory Kozak who is schooled in jazz improvisation and world music traditions. He is also composer, performer, and inventor of the transforming, futuristic instruments used by the ensemble. Kozak’s awe-inspiring musical creations are handcrafted from the cast-away scraps of industrial production. His compositions are a groove-based fusion of world music traditions and 21st century sounds. In addition to Kozak, other performers include Scott Bishop, Sarka Kocicka, Malcolm Shoolbraid and Simon Thomsen.

Kozak likes transforming what we usually think of as useless junk or scraps into beautiful objects. He has friends in industrial machine shops that help him find materials. Each instrument can produce a multitude of sounds and are played in a variety of ways. Over the course of a concert their mobile instruments are moved through space and spun into unique configurations to reflect the ways in which the music is produced. Scrap Arts Music’s large-scale instruments not only make music but many are also mobile, tunable and designed for action percussion. Discarded sewer pipes, artillery casings and giant steel springs are transformed into gong arrays, plankophones, ziggurat drums and other unique instruments of Kozak’s devising.

Scrap Arts Music was founded in 1998 by Kozak and Justine Murdy who works in the capacity of co-director, artistic producer and company manager. The company is the next generation of Kozak’s show concept begun in S.W.A.R.M., which made its Broadway debut in 1998. The US debut for Scrap Arts Music was at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2001. In February 2002, Scrap Arts Music was nominated in the category of “best Live Performance” by the Pacific Music Industry Association for a West Coast Music Award. In 2001, the company’s debut CD (Phon) was released.

Physical Comedy

CIRQUE & CO. (Montreal, Canada)
Typo
Canadian Premiere
All ages
Premiere Dance Theatre: Sunday, May 23, 12:45 p.m. & 3:15 p.m.; Monday, May 24, 12:30 p.m. & 2:45 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 10:15 a.m.; Wednesday, May 26, 1 p.m.

Jamie Adkins, eclectic clown, brilliant juggler and spectacular acrobat, grabs the audience’s attention with numerous fast-paced juggling acts, a slack wire act and Chaplinesque comedy in Montreal’s Cirque & Co.’s production of Typo. Adkins’ journey begins with his character sitting at the typewriter attempting to write a show but it leads him on an adventure through his imagination while confronting the very real problems of life. The set begins as a blank page in the typewriter with objects appearing and changing as ideas are written. Each new page is a fresh start filled with possibilities and unexpected surprises taking Adkins places he never thought he could imagine. Adkins shares the stage with Anne-Marie Levasseur forming a small yet skillful cast that will certainly entertain and touch everyone's hearts.

It was in a park in San Diego that Adkins at the age of 13, was bowled over by what would become the driving force in his life - circus arts. At 16, he felt he was ready to give his first public performance. While people’s applause confirmed his talent, the laughter he sparked left him with his first taste of glory and wanting more. A clown was thus born. Over the ensuing six years, Adkins captivated and won over passers by on the street, finely honing his art while earning his living. When he was 22, his path crossed that of the local Pickle Family Circus, whose non-traditional approach appealed to him. The New Circus wave emerging in Quebec fascinated him so much it lured him over. In 1998, he joined Cirque Eloize’s Excentricus production and directly contributed to more than 500 presentations.

The accomplished artist has now taken on a fresh challenge. He has chosen to draw on his wealth of expereince gained over the past 10 years to create and give life to a show that bears his distinctive mark. Cirque Eloize did not hesitate to support him in this endeavour, and so their long-standing partnership has taken this exciting new turn. Cirque & Co., a new and dynamic company, is under the artistic direction of Jeannot Painchaud, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Cirque Eloize and Artistic Coordinator of the project, Roch Jutras. The first project to emerge from this alliance is Typo.

Theatre

MULTI STORY THEATRE COMPANY (Barnstaple, UK)
Firebird
Toronto Premiere
Ages 8 & up
Studio Theatre: Sunday, May 23, 12 p.m. & 4 p.m.; Monday, May 24, 4 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 11 a.m.; Thursday, May 27, 10:30 a.m.; Friday, May 28,
1:15 p.m.; Saturday, May 29, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, May 30, 12:30 p.m.

From the UK, Multi Story Theatre Company presents Firebird, a fast, physical and very funny re-telling of a traditional Russian folktale of a prince and princess, of journeys and battles, and of fantastical, mythical creatures. Prince Ivan and his brothers set off in search for the fabled Firebird that has been stealing golden apples from the Royal Orchard, but his brothers soon fall by the wayside, indulging their selfish passions. Ivan, guided by the Wise Woman of the Wild Woods, enlists the help of the horse with the silver mane, a fearsome wolf and princess Yelyena the Fair. Together they confront Lodgoth the wicked Tsar of the Frozen Wastes who controls the Firebird - they rescue the Firebird and head for home.

The Firebird is stimulating, entertaining and intelligent storytelling theatre for children. The story is performed by two actors, Gill Nathanson and Bill Buffery, who bring to life a host of entertaining characters, transforming everyday objects into fabulous creatures. They present all the shades and complexities of the adventure through a thrilling blend of live music, song, puppets and physical theatre.

Established in 2000, Nathanson and Buffery are the joint directors of Multi Story Theatre Company. The company creates plays for both children and their families and for adult audiences. The company tours theatres, arts centres and community venues throughout the UK and festivals worldwide. It also works extensively in schools, creating original work with young people as well as performing for them.

TEATRET FAIR PLAY (Holbaek, Denmark)
A Word is A Word
North American Premiere
Ages 5 to 9
Harbourfront Centre Theatre: Wednesday, May 26, 10 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.; Thursday, May 27, 12 p.m. & 1:30 p.m.; Friday, May 28, 10 a.m.; Saturday,
May 29, 12 p.m.

Denmark’s Teatret Fair Play stages A Word is A Word, a hilarious show that plays around with words, in which two children open a shop to sell words. Its poetry and humour appeals directly to children at the age where language forms a vital and integral part of their exploration of the world. Lotte (Lotte Faarup) and Henrik (Henrik Steen Larsen) are bored so they open up a shop selling words. Together they play the seller and the buyer of words. It’s a simple, imaginative idea where the words collected in each box have reasons for being with their fellows. The children have boxes full of them: words that want to play, words that frighten, words that rhyme and words that are hard to say. Some words are expensive and some are cheap. Some words are ready to use, right there on the shelf and there are some words which are carefully packed away. There are words to play with - words that can make you feel afraid - and then some words which cost so much that they can neither be bought or sold. The large box of rude words is also smelly and the box of angry words gets noisy when the man and the girl get at odds with each other. It all goes to make this a fresh, bright piece about how two can have more fun than one, how acquaintances go through rocky and smooth times and how words can make us fear, bring us friends and make fun happen. A Word is A Word is supported by KUNST.

Teatret Fairplay has been one of Denmark’s foremost children’s theatre companies for over 30 years. Based in its own theatre in the town of Holbaek (about one hours drive from Copenhagen), the company tours extensively over the whole of Denmark, producing work for children and young people of all ages - though each performance is designed with a particular age range in mind. The basis of its work is always a good story - a story that must be told and which must be told well.

Teatret Fairplay’s work is script based and can be a new interpretation of a classic text or well-known story or the commission of a new play - in this respect it is constantly developing new work.

THÉÂTRE DU COPEAU (Brussels, Belgium)
*Coâ?
North American Premiere
Ages 4 to 8
Brigantine Room: Sunday, May 23, 12:30 p.m.; Monday, May 24, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.; Wednesday, May 26, 12:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 29, 12:30 p.m. & 4 p.m.; Sunday, May 30, 12:15 p.m.

Belgium’s Théâtre du Copeau performs Coâ? In this musical tale the audience sits ‘round a lily pad and meets Jeremy Toad (Pierre Johnen), a talkative toad wading and splashing knee-deep in the water of his wonderful wetland. Jeremy goes fishing to get some supper for his friend (Marie-Sophie Talbot) who doesn’t like the rain or the water but must be rescued when he manages to get half swallowed by a “ferocious” pike.

THE TELLING THEATRE (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Beowulf
North American Premiere
Ages 7 to 12
Brigantine Room: Sunday, May 23, 2:30 p.m.; Monday, May 24, 12:30 p.m.; Wednesday, May 26, 10 a.m.; Thursday, May 27, 11:30 a.m.; Friday, May 28,
11 a.m. & 1 p.m.; Saturday, May 29, 2:15 p.m.; Sunday, May 30, 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.

Imagine how you would feel if you where the King of Denmark in the 700th century with gold, glory and a big reputation. Your only problem was a 500 pound ugly stinking troll, named Grendel, who kills your men at random. Maybe you would call it a true nightmare, but storytellers 1300 years later call it the magnificent
beginning of a great story. Sitting face to face around the Viking ship, the distance between the action and the audience is minimal – the audience feels like it is taking part in the thrilling tale – and who knows, maybe suddenly the audience does. Beowulf is supported by KUNST.

The almost true story of Beowulf has developed into a deep personal engagement for performing artist Jesper la Cour Andersen. For one and a half years, he recounted the story on the scene of the crime, at the edge of the Sacrificial Bog, only a few hundreds yards from the original ruin of King Hrothgar hall, near Copenhagen, Denmark. The scene is today part of Lejre Experimental Centre for Archaeology and History, where visitors can experience how life was in the time of Beowulf.

After choosing an old watering-can as his instrument, Troels Kirk Ejsing began his engagement in la Cour Anderson’s story, incorporating music and sound effects. In the autumn of 2000 Jesper developed the idea of the Viking ship set and the armours made of rubber-tubes, adding a strong visual edge to the adventure. The performance was presented in May 2001 at the world’s biggest Children’s Theatre Festival in Herning, Denmark and was very well received.

The Telling Theatre is a touring theatre company based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The company was founded in 1996 by la Cour Andersen and has been touring all over Denmark performing for groups of children, youth and adults. The company is exploring the meeting point between theatre and its origin: the storytelling. All its productions start by the telling a story, then add physical characters and develop the actions. Its performances have simple sets and costumes; it uses primitive instruments, which on occasion are used as props. Through expressive physical and vocal acting, mime, music and direct communication the company spurs the imagination of the audience.
Theatre/Dance/Music

RED SKY PERFORMANCE (Toronto, Canada)
*Sun Spirits
World Premiere
Ages 5 to 10
Harbourfront Centre Theatre: Sunday & Monday, May 23 & May 24, 3:30 p.m.; Tuesday, May 25, 10:30 a.m.

From Toronto, Red Sky Performance presents the world premiere of Sun Spirits, two contemporary Aboriginal stories staged together for the first time in one enthralling event. Tomson Highway’s Caribou Song and the traditional tale Raven Stole the Sun fuse theatre, dance, live music, mask and storytelling to create a dynamic and emotional performance.

Written by Tomson Highway, Caribou Song employs theatre, dance, storytelling and live music. It tells the story of two Cree children who follow the caribou by dogsled with their family. When the herd of caribou thunders through their camp one day, the parents worry that the children have been trampled. Instead, the children find a way to embrace the spirit of the caribou who rush by, leaving the children unharmed, and profoundly moved.

Before there were stars, a moon and a sun, the people of the earth lived in darkness. Raven Stole the Sun tells how the trickster raven transforms himself and comes up with a brilliant scheme for stealing the stars, moon and the sun. Raven Stole the Sun incorporates theatre, dance, storytelling, live music and mask. Raven is a central figure throughout the Northwest Coast and countless stories of Raven span the ages. Raven Stole the Sun is a play by Drew Hayden Taylor, and based on a traditional story of the Tlingit Nation as recounted by Sháa láa Maria Williams.

Created in 2000 by artistic director Sandra Laronde, Red Sky Performance creates innovative stage pieces for both family and adult audiences in theatre, dance and music. Red Sky is a dynamic new company that plays a pivotal role in shaping Aboriginal contemporary performance forms. Red Sky charts unexplored artistic links with a range of cultural communities both here and overseas bringing a unique and visionary approach to Canada's performance landscape.

*Programming which explores concepts of Cultural Collisions.

From April through August 2004, Harbourfront Centre examines Cultural Collisions through its diverse programming with explorations of globalization, emerging identities and fusion of artistic ideas. The Milk International Children’s Festival of the Arts programming explores many of these themes in highlighted performances.

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Festival Media Contact:
Linda Liontis
416-973-4381
lliontis@harbourfrontcentre.com
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