Tuesday, 11 July 2017

This is Not She at Toronto Fringe Festival

Julia Haist is a playwright, performer and director based in Toronto. She made her creative debut at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2013, writing, directing and performing in Slumgum & Quaqua’s Give Up the Ghost. She most recently directed Or Not to Be by Andrew Batten at Alumnae Theatre.

Hi Sam! 

Hi Julia,

So tell me a  little bit about this play. Your character, Maura, is an english teacher trying to teach Shakespeare while under various pressures. Where does this character come from?


I was inspired to write This is Not She by my mother, who taught high school English for over thirty years. I witnessed both the rewards and challenges, the struggle for teachers to attain adequate resources for their students, the prevalence of teacher strikes and work-to-rule campaigns, as well as the job itself, educating and connecting with people who don’t always want to engage. I realized this would provide the perfect environment for a character at the end of her rope, fighting to maintain control while her personal life is in a state of turmoil.



What kind of a breakdown does your character go through during the show?


So I'm not sure how much I can say about the "breakdown" without spoilers; A lot of her struggle comes from how the events that have happened to her recently affect the way she's seen by others, and this class in particular is a sort of stand she's making,  that she won't be defined by what's happened.

Whether or not she succeeds in maintaining her professionalism and identity is the main crux of the show, and on some level, that's for the audience to decide. 


Why did you pick this particular Shakespearean piece, Troillus and Cressida, to integrate into your script?


It's a strange, obscure play that no one seems quite sure how to categorize (comedy, drama, satire etc.) but happens to somewhat mirror the situation Maura is in and shares a ton of themes, like infidelity, war, love, morality and such. 

Originally I looked into Troilus and Cressida because I was looking for a play that audiences wouldn't know very intimately, so that I could teach the themes of the show and tie it in with the events of this class without the audience bringing their own defined ideas of what the play's about. Every time I bring up Troilus and Cressida, which I looked into because I knew basically nothing about it, practically everyone (including my English teacher Mum) says "oh yeah... I don't really know anything about that play."


As writer and performer, how do you manage the dynamics of interacting with the audience both as classroom and theatre-goers?


Managing the dynamic was actually a huge challenge; the character is going through a hard time and sometimes isn't the most friendly or attentive person; once I started doing this in front of people, we realized that that dynamic is troublesome because we are asking a lot of the audience.  That was a balance we had to find and that I continue figuring out. But the audiences we've had have been very generous and even if they don't start out totally enthusiastic about the participatory elements, they seem to quickly realize that they know how to do this; they've been in a classroom before, and they become excited to participate! 

This is Not She is an interactive solo show written and performed by Julia Haist that explores the relationship between teacher and student, taking dark and unexpected turns along the way. Audience members can expect to read from one of Shakespeare’s more obscure plays, Troilus and Cressida, share their own thoughts on love and war, and get to know their teacher far more intimately than anyone anticipated, including the teacher herself.

The Simian Assembly is comprised of Playwright/Performer Julia Haist and Director/Dramaturg Taylor Marie Graham for the purpose of bringing This is Not She to the stage. After directing Graham’s script Cottage Radio at the 2015 Fireworks Festival at Alumnae Theatre in Toronto, Haist brought her idea for a solo show centred around an English teacher to Graham, who is herself an English professor at Sheridan College in Toronto. The two continued developing This is Not She over the next year all the way to its world premiere at the 2017 Montreal Fringe festival.

Taylor Marie Graham (Director, Dramaturg) is a writer, director, producer, and educator living in Toronto. Taylor is the recipient of the George Ryga Award for Excellence in Playwriting from York University. In 2016, celebrated playwright Judith Thompson named Taylor as the up and coming playwright to watch in Playwrights Guild of Canada’s The Playwright Applause campaign. Her opera The Virgin Charlie was nominated in 2008 for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Opera / Musical.

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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Wild, Wooly, and Wonderful: tales of “pre-gentrification” Parkdale

A was for ART PARTY.
We were likely a headache to the old staff at the Dog and the Sister. Scraps of paper from collaged flyers for ill-attended concerts were inevitably strewn about their establishment floors whenever more than a few of us were congregated. We called ourselves an artists collective but maybe we were just a confetti factory.

B was for BLOB
A social grouping including everyone to whom you are related, all those with whom you have played in a band, and anyone with whom you have swapped spit

C was for CULT
This was not an art-cult. Nobody was being coerced into abandoning their family or socio-financial potential in favour of bohemian splendour and seedy grandeur. There was no mayor of IMAGINATION TOWN

An obscure and inefficient method of street promotion that appropriates real estate news boxes and the like to create dusty, ephemeral, and mostly invisible public art, whose commercial ineffectiveness is both critique of and tribute to the culture of advertising it subverts

E is for ERIN
To whom the first half of the DILLA-PLATH album was demoed and whom the second half aimed to impress

F is for FUN IS BACK

An oft employed slogan of JOHNNY AWESOME, WE ARE FRENCH, and other blob affiliates, originally c. 2008

A band whose drum chair was once abandoned for Oh Henry $, denied me, granted upon DAWN LEWIS, and for whom I implemented the first “cargo-cult” style merch table at SNEAKY DEES

H is for HIGH PARK
Across from McKENZIES PUB, the saturday afternoon open mic of which marks the first meeting of myself and Mr “Mischeif” McGoey.

Who played blues on the steps of NOT MY DOG until he came of age, who stayed up all night before his drivers test listening to Milli Vanilli on the boombox. That guy.

One quiet night at the LABYRINTH open mic, I met this convivial and powerful man. I told him I needed backbeats and he said he likes the Band. He held the RETRO RADIO drum chair hence.

Who slept on my couch and dreamed up his set list for the only ever live show by GARLIC FLAVOUR. Who proclaimed “my best friend is white” and Yank the chain, flush the bullshit down the drain”

My cousin's cousin's old band, under whose influence i have attempted to dislocate both my shoulders, and there was that time at the CADILLAC when i stripped off my outer pants while grinding to their grooves.

M is for MIP
Notwithstanding my own sister, the blobber whom i have known the longest, currently on a west coast summer tour. Loud, proud, and powerful. Esp. stoked for u to play Lop Lops.

In 2008 several Blobsters performed at the MnB Yummy Ethiopian restaurant, and held the first and only “Boxasaurus Parade”, led by person or persons wearing a paper mache dinosaur head and causing a lot of silly noise, even by NB standards

O is for OPEN MIC
A traditional gathering held by musicians, poets, and sometimes standup comediannes, a sort of musical potluck occuring usually at a local watering hole on an off night and featuring a wide range of performances, random collaborations, often birthing bands

Anna Mernieks (now with BEAMS) and Katie Plant (now married) started a two piece rock band in high school. Their dance crew was straight clowning, they killed it at Wawapalooza

Q is for QUINCEY JONES, who spoke at the memorial for Oscar Peterson at Roy Thompson hall almost ten years ago, which is a decent entryway into the whole Miles Davis sidebar...

Land of baby strollers and green grocers. Also a good place to run into Damon from the Muckabouts. Clearly above Parkdale on the social ranking because the name of the street is more easily mispronounced

One of many attempts to descibe and/or pidgeonhole the various and ferociously un-pidgeonhole-able musical offerings of Toronto's downtown westside

T is for TIA BRAZDA who, let's face it, got me as close to Drake as I'll ever get: https://youtu.be/H-561e330ew

U is for the UNFAMOUS
The state of being well-known and easily identified only within one's own social sphere

Dan Burke`s club on Queen where one picturesquely rainy night RETRO RADIO played an all-boombox set and i burned a hole thru my cool shirt with a cigarette(the rain saved me)

W is for WAF and thereby also WARREN MCGOEY, who is an unprincipled genius and ought to be stopped, and who discovered the Garrison back before it was the Garrison.

X is for BLOB X, which, aside from the BLOBMAS XMAS 2009 offering, was the tenth and final compilation release by T. Babinski of underground Parkdale bands on compact disc

Y is for YARDWORK, a band inspired in the way of Sonic Youth and Deerhoof and featuring our pal Christine. Had a dream about you bud, where are you now?

Z is for ZE. It sounds just like he or she but denotes no specific gender and sidesteps the potential plurality of “they”. Dont be a stick in the mud. Be respectful and open-minded

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

150 degrees of pride (part one)

Fuck me canada, you dont look a day over 100

Fuck you Parkdale, you just lost the dog and mezzrows in less than a year

Fuck me Beardonce, u were amaze last wknd

Fuck you John Mayer, ur a dick and a white supremacist

Fuck me Drake, 25 simultaneous billboard hits?

Fuck you Dre, cowardly dr

Fuck me TO Loungers, u have called for the grimy rock, and we shall bring u weekly mixtapes, starting up again tuesdays in august

Fuck you Church. Unmarked children's graves in your yard are still unrepented

Fuck me Sweaterpants, nice work at TO Lounge, catch Mark Watts and the gang every Tuesday in July🍸🎶🎸🍻

Fuck you Cosby. Let's have a cypher, ill tear your weak words apart

Fuck me Trudy. U got some backbone now but still sound unsure in the house.

Fuck you Gomeshi. We won't forget.

Fuck me Brandon. Doctor Decters throwing down some solid modernist ish. B would prolly mention Malevich

Fuck you TTC. More security and worse service. “ride the rocket” i guess they never said “friendly skies”

Fuck me Pride, u sure do know how to party

Fuck you Oliver Stone, you`re not edgy, just self-centered and ignorant

Fuck me Toronto, u look beautiful this summer

Fuck u America. Choose healing, choose life. Stop clinging to an old fake copy of Time Magazine for dear life. Face truth.

Monday, 5 June 2017

The A B Cs of the Parkdale Underground

A is for Aurora Lavender, who can basically make anything and sings good too

B is for Meagan Ballantyne, who's in residency at TO Lounge with her project Authentic Imperfection, performing every Thursday night this June

C is for Chris Harrison, who may or may not be available for comment

D is for for DB Buxton, who's band rocks and will sit down for a talk on june 13

E was going to be for Everyone in Parkdale is famous (in Parkdale) but i think its better to be happy than famous

F is for Aaron Florendo, who's in for an interview on June 6th

G is for Mauve Grove, our house band June 20th, on tour through southern Ontario and Montreal this summer

H is for How can there be this much talent in one bar!?!?!

I is for I think the alcohol helps mediate all their egos

J is for Jenna Strautman, here to hype Rotary Dial`s upcoming album release at the Garrison June 9th

K is for Kylie Precepa, a cool northern breeze of song blowing our way June 13

L is for Lennox, joining us on June 20th

M is for Max, international artist and Insta feed-pleaser

N is for Nia, who will be my co-host in futurist coinage June 27

O is for not yer Open mic, every Wednesday night at the TO Lounge

P is for Peter J Ramsay, also known as the Dread Pirate Laserbeard. He has invented an alcohol and hypnosis based form of regression therapy I like to call “the butterfly effect”

Q is for June 6 DJ Q-Na (pronounced “quick sodium”)
a multimedia selection of queen west and east coast underground music

R is for Robert, our gracious host and bartender.

S is for Shelly, who is also our gracious host and bartender

T is for Teddy Syrette, a poet whom Parkdale can chew on for years

U is for will i CU there?

V is for Very fun summer nights

W is for Wait theres always more! Roslyn Dennet! Half of the Skyline brunch crew! Pamela White! MIP? Luis from Unit 102! Mercy Now (childcare schedule permitting)

X is for Xenophobia, whose cure is our goal

Y? Because they're letting us.

Z is for the Zappaesque riffery Marks gonna drop on y'all June 27

Friday, 19 May 2017

Farewell, Cornell

When i was 12,“ fell on black days” was my least favourite soundgarden single. It was too mellow for me (for a grunge song),and was in heavy rotation on muchmusic

. I was
Burned out on it over 20 yrs ago.
Now, its playing just after midnight on the day Chris Cornell took his own life, and i am quite moved,compelled to write.

The purpose of this post is threefold:


to celebrate a band i like


to comment on recent reactions to celebrity death


to voice my concerns on the ability of contemporary society to wrap its head around the real struggles of depression and suicidal ideation.


Down on the upside came out when i was 15. It was summertime and i was doing all i could to master musical technology, lugging a bass amp to family cabins, plugging vcrs into tape decks, saving up for my first cd burner. Pretty noose rocked my world just as much as bullet with butterfly wings did the year before,i taped it off much asap, i loved every video for the singles off that album,picjed up any guitar magazine that offering transcriptions of the songs. I never saw them play live,but soundgarden still provided me with many real experiences.

When i was young, first exposed to music, videos and other forms of popular culture, i lacked or rather did not apply the critical eye, the perspective with which i now see the 90s.

Of course not. Every riff i heard,every image i saw was simply absorbed into the sponge of my mimetic mind. Impressions of youth.



The primary reason why today there is an emerging culture of celebrity mourning: We currently have more names and facts about fampus people rattling around in our heads tjan at any previous point in time.

Nevermind the saints,royals,ancestors, protective spirits and local cults of old. Ignore the so called constellations of hollywoods old star system.

It is now, wired up and inspired to pursue each and every celeb obsession we can,after decades of north american cinema and literature and discography, that all previous canons of canonification are being buried beneath a deluge of information pertinant to the latest and ever quickly replaced engenues, hype acts,rock clowns, bad girls and boys whose units they wish we would shift. More celebrities equals more public deaths and more outpourings of grief sadness and other emoticons.

But when someone takes their own life,nobody knows what to say. RIP. Thanks for the tunes, the shows, the lyrics, the “backdrop to my adolescence”. What u will...

What shocked me about both cornells and robin williams’ suicides was that it seemed as though they had overcome their mental illness and strove thru depression to great accomplishment and success, established a comfortable,profitable career and reached a healthy and empowered middle age. I can only hope to do and share and work and travel so much by that pount in life. Im a little behind on the rock and movie-star trajectories of my life.

And yet... 

Chilling reminders that depression is a lifelong affliction, one with which i and many others will only ever learn to live in balance,not without and never completely free of. 

Maybe my life of simple culinary and cultural contribution is what saves me. Imagine having the legacy of a decades-long acting career, or the extra gravity of the superunknown weighing on your head along with  inevitable feelings of worthlessness and self-annihilation?


Our countrys current overdose crisis is being compared to the aids crises, really only a crisis and not simply a public health issue because it is one experienced by marginalised groups whose experience of life lies outside of and is terrifying for the mainstream conciousness to behold. I cant count on one hand the number of people i know even close friends to whom i would really feel comfortable describing my suicidal feelings.

It is a terrible burden to place on anyone,outside of artistic grounds,a poem, video, or piece of music that does more than parents and guidance counsellors to assure the traumatised, the neurotic, the anxious, the depressed and the psychotic that their frame of mind is not unique, that others feel the same way. A great track.on Superunknown is called “like suicide” ffs.

Solutions exist for people living in a world where a successful artist is still able to feel their life is worthless. But such solutions come at the price of bravery,great discomfort, and seemingly tireless persistance. If youre not ready to face your demons just yet, have no fear. Soon enough even the president wont have any other choice.

To quote mr Cornell

Sitting here like uninvited company
Wallowing in my own obscenity
Share a cigarette with negativity
Firing the pistol that shoots my holy pride
Leaning on the pedastal that holds my self denial
Standing here like wet ashes with exes in my eyes
Drawing flies