Founded in 1979, the Rhubarb Festival is Canada’s longest-running festival of new performance. I love this festival for its unique place in the theatrical landscape as a seeding ground; for its programming of strictly new, not-previously-produced performance projects and theatrical experiments; for its focus on experimentation from a variety of forms including theatre, dance, performance art, music, interdisciplinary, or hybrid forms; and for its devotion to pushing the boundaries of theatre and performance. The work here is often raw, untested, risky, daring, provocative. You may love what you see, you may hate what you see, you may question what you see, but it won’t be dull and you won’t be bored.
Each of the two weeks has a different set of shows, all 30 minutes or less, so you can (and should) see at least three or four over the course of a night. Here are six that stood out for me, three from each week.
The Rhubarb Haunted House
Feb 15 at 8:00 pm
Some events happen only once, which is the case with the Haunted House, launching the festival with the ghosts of Rhubarb past taking over Buddies. Artists bring old work back to life in a full-facility performance installation featuring David Bateman, Daniel Ellis, the Independent Aunties, Justin Manyfingers, Thomas McKechnie, Alistair Newton, Fay Slift, Brian Solomon, Trixie & Beever, Jacob Zimmer.
Joan of Arc w Guns
Feb 16–18 at 9:00 pm; Feb 19 at 3:30 pm
An immersive museum exhibit from the distant future chronicling the rise of a “dark age” brought on by the figure of Joan of Arc. With a live band. Created and performed by John-Philip Faienza, William Ellis, Marina Moreira, Mariana Medellin, Jackie Rowland, Roberto Ercoli, Teri Madonna.
He’s Built a Fucking Time Machine
Feb 16–17 at 10:00 pm
The final part of the Tenderpits Trilogy which began with Tenderpits, followed by Revenge of the Popinjay, and now ending with this piece, an interactive meditation on looking back, moving forward, and what it truly means to be present. Created and performed by Anthony Johnston, Nathan Schwartz.
We Are in a Non-Relationship Relationship
Feb 23 at 9:00 pm
A live graphic novel performance by Colombian-born interdisciplinary artist and musician Lido Pimienta. “I can cope with rejection. I am an independent woman, I need my space, I need more time for myself, you know what I mean? Like I feel as though life has something in store for me, something bigger than myself, I can reach so high and far you know?”
Feb 23–25 at 8:00 pm; Feb 26 at 2:30 pm
A sacred fight space where performers and stuffed animals come together using kalaripayattu, kink, and dance to evoke intimacies of queerness. Performed by Gitanjali Lena, Bilal Baig, Jasbina Justice, Sheesha YaDil.
Feb 23–25 at 9:00 pm; Feb 26 at 3:30 pm
Sarap is the Tagalog Filipino word for delicious, but at Rhubarb it is the title of a Filipinx horror drag cooking show that re-imagines the tastes and tales that bring us home. Performed by Patrick Salvani / Ms. Nookie Galore.
The 38th Annual Rhubarb Festival runs at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre for over two weeks, from February 15 to 26, 2017.For tickets or more information, click here