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Century Song

Volcano Theatre (Toronto)

Feb 2 – 6, 2016

Historic Theatre

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We know now that you were… a woman who still struggled to sing the song that was your gift… It is not so much what you sang, as that you kept alive, in so many of our ancestors, the notion of song” – Alice Walker

Presented with the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Now here is something special: a wordless chronicle of the ages. Co-created by soprano Neema Bickersteth, Volcano Theatre director Ross Manson and choreographer Kate Alton, the show features a powerhouse performance by Bickersteth, a University of British Columbia-trained opera singer who has performed across Canada and Europe. The subject is nothing less than the 20th century writ large, and this work offers a truly original response to it. In this radical theatricalization of the recital form, Bickersteth uses her voice and body to move us through the decades. Against a backdrop of ever shifting visuals, she explores sonically the many identities that our history connects her to. The music ranges from Rachmaninoff to John Cage to a new commission by Canadian composer Reza Jacobs. All is surrounded by an animated environment created by fettFilm, one of Europe’s top projection design companies.

The show is inspired in part by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens—writings that chronicle the evolution of female identity in innovative ways. Bickersteth’s voice does them credit with an astonishing range: from sweet lyric beauty to half song, half cry. She delivers a performance fit for a century of feeling: whimsical, powerful, riveting.

Founded in 1994 and based in Toronto, Volcano is an international theatre company dedicated to using modern theatrical styles to explore questions of identity, politics and history. Its work has been presented to wide acclaim around the world.

The draw:“Soprano Neema Bickersteth is all coiled energy that snatches our attention whenever she enters the room” — The Toronto Star

Take a deeper look into the background and creation of Century Song:  http://volcano.ca/centurysong/

One of those companies that every great theatre city needs – bold, experimental, and bubbling with ideas” – Toronto Star

In the news:

I think it’s a recital pulled off the page in 3-D, using as much art as possible to infuse the lack of words,” Bickersteth offers. “In recital, who are you but yourself with your voice to share?” — Georgia Straight preview

Neema Bickersteth refocuses history through a black woman’s lens” — Neema Bickersteth on CBC’s the q

Can you create a show about 100 years of black female experience in Canada using the music of 20th-century male classical composers from Sergei Rachmaninoff to John Cage? If you’re Neema Bickersteth, then you certainly can – and will” — The Globe and Mail preview

Venue: Historic Theatre – 1895 Venables St.

Show Dates and Times:
Feb 2, 8PM: Opening
Feb 3 – 6: 8 PM
Feb 6: 2 PM

Post-show talkback: Feb 3

Running time: 60 minutes, no intermission

Soprano/Co-Creator: Neema Bickersteth
Director/Co-Creator: Ross Manson
Choreography /Co-Creator: Kate Alton
Piano: Gregory Oh
Percussion, Computer: Debashis Sinha
Composition: Georges Aperghis, John Cage, Reza Jacobs, Olivier Messiaen, Gregory Oh, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Debashis Sinha
Projection Design: Torge Møller & Momme Hinrichs (fettFilm, Germany)
Associate Projection Design: Kaitlin Hickey, Cameron Davis, and Jeremy Mimnagh
Lighting Design: Rebecca Picherack
Set Design: Camellia Koo
Costume Design: Charlotte Dean
Assistant Costume Design: Laura Gardner
Costume Assistant: Avril Stevenson
Stage Manager: Emilie Aubin
Production Manager: Patrick Lavender
Assistant Director: Michela Sisti*

*The services of Michela Sisti were made possible through Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program funded by the Ontario Arts Council.

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