I slipped into the Alumnae Theatre on a rainy Saturday night to catch a production of redShow, one of two mainstage showcases at InspiraTO, Canada’s largest 10-minute-play festival. It was my first time attending the fest and I looked forward to seeing what the medium had to offer. I was not disappointed – though not without its flaws, the show has a ton of heart.
Each playing off the theme of the urban jungle, the seven 10-minute pieces are tied together by the veteran work of set and media designer Lumir Hladik. His simple handful of black boxes is versatile and easily transported, making for lightning-fast set changes and a number of interesting stage pictures. Coupled with the engaging projections incorporated into each piece, it lends the show cohesiveness and a smooth, professional style.
The one element that stands out all night (and one gets the feeling that it extends throughout the festival) is the energy and enthusiasm of all players involved. Everyone – actors, writers, directors and designers – truly believes in what they are doing and in the power of theatre. In the presence of such passion, one can’t help but feel inspired.
The audience is also a strong believer in what is happening onstage. The house may be half full, but it is wholly supportive.
And with good reason – there is some excellent work to be found here. In Leo Rising, Angie Farrow’s third script for InspiraTO, a freshly jilted bride calls out her lover while processing how in sweet hell she arrived in her position. Liz Laywine is excellent in the role, displaying some real and touching vulnerability in her short time on stage. Of all of the plays, this feels the most polished – novel storytelling, a compelling performance and a clear arc to the action, time limit be damned.
There is much to enjoy in the other pieces as well, including the sweet, cheesy underwear jokes in Meeting Mr. Right; the fun, flip character actors in Call Raul; the unflinching gaze of Broken Windows at police violence and cultural differences; Lavetta Griffin’s gutting performance in The Ugly; a comedic and hard-hitting exploration of racial prejudice in The Twelve-Forty; and William S. E. Coleman’s festival-topping script in Border Lines.
The final and extra 10-minute play is a brief history of the festival, created to celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Performed spoken-word-style by festival founder Dominik Loncar, it feels a bit like getting cornered at the bar after the show. The story is what you would expect of any small theatre company: humble beginnings, struggling to make ends meet, key people coming on board. When the AD later confesses that this is his “first time acting,” we forgive him a little, but not much.
However, any shortcomings are more than made up for by the palpable atmosphere of community and care at redShow, both on and off the stage. InspiraTO’s commitment to creating a safe space for artists to play and create is laudable, and one that deserves our support.
If you haven’t yet, go check out InspiraTO. Support local artists, enjoy some excellent acting, and expand your theatrical horizons, all in one night.
InspiraTO runs until June 6 at the Alumnae Theatre. For more information, visit www.theatreinspirato.ca.