12 days, 3 lineups, nearly 100 performances; at the ShortStanding Festival, the only thing that’s diminutive is the time length of each mini-show — 30 minutes tops. And while Espace Freestanding on 4323 St. Laurent may also only seat a humble party of 35, there’s enough creative wattage being generated in the room to power The Strip end-to-end.
At the no-frills Freestanding Room, simplicity facilitates the focus on storytelling. Exchange and collaboration are inherent to its business model as it serves as an incubator for co-op members to nurture budding projects and compositions. As founder Johanna Nutter notes of the concept, the premise is to “foster a higher level of communication and co-production within the acting community”. The result has been a charming patchwork of showpieces that colour Montreal’s theatrical cityscape.
We at the Hub got a glimpse of the goods (nod to festival founder/producer Jenn Quinn and associate producer Nic Turcotte) as the six acts from Lineup E steamed the room. Emcee Lynn Kozak kicks off the night in an astute tackling of the Iliad’s deceased (“My Favourite Deaths”, Oimoi Productions) and continues her musings intermittently between sets; you know it’s good when you’re engulfed by a chorus of raucous laughter that mutes your very own.
Kathleen Stavert, writer/performer of the ensuing one-woman wonder “The Psychology of Plants” (That’s What She Said Productions), tactfully reminds me of my own internal war of Trojan proportions: I versus I, and perfectionist me never wins in the strife to achieve my impossible standards of feminine aesthetics and excellence.
Following are deux duos in BullPen Productions’ “Empty Rooms” with Katherine Turnbull (Artistic Director/Co-Creator/Performer) and Michael Lortie (Co-Creator/Performer) and Ad Hoc Theatre Collective’s “A Weekend Away” with Miranda Handford (Writer/Performer) and Simon Fadel (Performer). The former is a narrative of resentment and guilt as estranged twins cope with their mother’s passing; the latter, a tragicomedy on the trials of married life.
To round out the fine lineup are Gender Rubble Collective’s “Miranda and Dave Begin Again” (by playwright Rhiannon Collet) and Kaleidoscope Theatre’s musical saga “Captain Aurora II: A New Dawn” (Book/Music/Lyrics/Direction by Trevor Barrette and Orchestrations/Musical Direction by David Terriault). With spirited performances delivered by the ensemble of young actors, both are workshop productions currently being brewed in time for the 2016 St. Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, and we’re desperate to taste a little more.
The Shortstanding Festival plays at The Freestanding Room (4324 St-Laurent, 3rd floor) until February 28th. Tickets can be reserved or purchased at the door for $18 ($15 discounted), $25 (two-night package) or $33 (see all three lineups!). Contact the box office at shortstanding@freestanding
Note: Lineups C and D not reviewed.
Review by Camila Fitzgibbon, Editor-in-chief at MontrealTheatreHub.com