What’s on at Another F!*#@$G Festival at Theatre Network? Hey, Jesus and Shakespeare will be there

Rebecca Merkley, creator and star of Jesus Teaches Us Things, Dammitammy Productions. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

Yes, Edmonton, Another F!*#@$G Festival is coming at you. Find the festivities — multi-disciplinary, adult, contemporary — at Theatre Network, in their beautiful new Roxy on 124th St. starting Tuesday And here’s big-shot validation: Shakespeare and Jesus will be there.

Little Willy, The Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes. Photo supplied.

The mainstage headliner, opening Wednesday for a four-performance run (through Saturday), is Little Willy. It marks the homecoming of a true original, the Canadian marionettiste/ actor/ playwright/ designer/ artisan Ronnie Burkett, whose history with TN goes back three decades. The Daisy Theatre, that riotous X-rated cabaret marionette ensemble, arrives with the Bard himself, to have a go at Romeo and Juliet. And all the leading ladies of the company, including burlesque star Daisy Wiggler and the aging diva Esmé Massengill, jockey for the plum ingenue role. Check out 12thnight’s interview with the ineffable Ronnie Burkett here. 

And Jesus H! Yes, the guy with the big hair and the old-school showbiz charisma is here to fill in at the Christian Bible Assembly’s Grade 2 Sunday School class. And if you thought he was kinda mopey and listless, wait till you see his rockin’ entrance in Jesus Teaches Us Things, which premiered at the Fringe last summer. It’s the inspired creation of its exuberant star Rebecca Merkley. And as I can attest, the Dammitammy Productions show, directed by the expert clown Christine Lesiak, is a riot. Check out my August review here. It runs Saturday. 

The Pansy Cabaret, starring Zachary Parsons-Lozinski and Daniel Belland. Photo supplied.

If you missed its Fringe premiere last summer, you shouldn’t miss the chance to see The Pansy Cabaret, created by the indefatigable queer history researcher Darrin Hagen (co-creator of Unsung: Tales From the Front Line, currently running at Workshop West Playwrights Theatre). It’s an extraordinary re-creation, in vintage music and the flamboyant vintage performance (by Lilith Fair, aka Zachary Parsons-Lozinski, accompanied by pianist Daniel Belland), of the period a century ago in New York City — in pansy bars, music halls and cabarets, on Broadway stages and in vaudeville — when brave queer and gender fluid performers were the hottest ticket in town. The “pansy craze” is a fascinating and little-known history (abruptly truncated by the end of Prohibition and the rise of homophobia), when playful free expression seemed possible. The Pansy Cabaret is a show that celebrates that time, a legacy that seems ever more fragile in these right-drifting times. It runs Wednesday through Friday. Have a peek at my Fringe review here.  

Girl Brain’s Alyson Dicey, Ellie Heath, Caley Suliak in the deluxe bathroom at Theatre Network. Photo supplied.

Girl Brain, that quick-witted and adventurous sketch comedy trio (Alyson Dicey, Ellie Heath, Caley Suliak), have devised a new show for Another F!*#@$G festival. Humans Never On Stage (Saturday) is inspired by Working, the 1974 Studs Terkel oral history volume in which he got working people talking about what they do and how they feel about it. The monologues are based on Girl Brain’s verbatim interviews, and an interview with the girls about the experience of gathering them. Theatre Network’s Bradley Moss directs. 

Marv n’ Berry, a five-member hit sketch comedy troupe — Chris Power-Borger, Quinn Contini, Nikki Hulowski, Mike Robertson, Sam Stralak — arrives onstage Thursday and Friday. 

The range of arts experience is wide. There’s a burlesque night Thursday:  Bosom Buddies by the joint forces of House of Hush Burlesque and Capital City Burlesque,. There’s a music night Sunday, with AV & The Inner City, Tzadeka, and Maria Dunn. 

The lineup includes a workshop performance Saturday of a new musical What Was Is All (formerly titled Host Town), by Jacquelin Walters and Michael Watt. Currently in development, the musical takes us to a rural commune whose inhabitants are preparing in divergent ways for the end of the world. Presented by Nextfest, the performance showcases songs and scenes from the new piece. 

And there’s visual art, too. The Human Experience features the photography of Curtis Trent (a record of the 1992 Toronto Pride parade), Larry Louie (whose photos speak to human resilience in extraordinarily harsh circumstances), and Ryan Parker (who takes us Backstage in the theatre world).  

The F!*#@$G kicks off Tuesday, with opening ceremonies that feature Mercy Funk and iHuman, among others. The full schedule and tickets for all F!*#@$G stage events are at theatrenetwork.ca.  



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