Some “don’t miss” mid-January
Shows from the Wildside Festival, Red Bull and Mint Theaters, the Jewish Public Library and the Wheel Club
By Byron Toben
It’s hard for any entertainment events to compete with the turmoil in the USA last week, and more threatened leading up to the inauguration of Biden and Harris on January 20. Still, there are some unique goodies to be seen on the free or low-cost spectrum in theatre, film and music.
Montreal’s annual Wildside Festival at the Centaur Theatre began on January 12 and runs until the 21st. Five experimental plays with some guest reviewers will be posted soon.
New York’s Red Bull Theater heads my “Don’t Miss” list for both theatre and historical aficionados. Their rendition of The African Company Presents Richard III by Carlyle Brown is based on a true story, back in 1882.
At that time, in New York City, William Brown, a former West Indies steamship steward, founded The African Grove Company, the first black theatre company in the USA. Its choice of doing Shakespeare’s Richard III the same week as an all-white group was presenting its version drew the ire of the white group’s promoter, Mr. Price. He feared that the novelty of blacks doing the bard would draw the audience away from his show, which, interestingly, had hired J.B. Booth to play Richard (J.B. was the father of J.W. Booth who had shot President Lincoln in 1865.)
Price successfully arranged for police to close down the African Company on bogus charges of possible disturbances, even rioting.
The seven actors, each Zooming from Washington, DC, California, Austin, Texas, Toronto, Atlanta and New York City, streamed the show live on January 11. That filmed show remains on Red Bull Theater’s site until Friday, January 15, available at any hour. The January 14, 7 pm show will have a Q&A session added at the end.
Red Bull’s slogan is “Revitalizing The Classics For Today’s Audiences.”
New York’s Mint Theatre, which specializes in overlooked or forgotten plays of merit, has an inventory of full productions, sets and all, that it has mounted in the past. Currently, it is streaming Lillian Hellman’s first play, Days To Come. That opened on January 4 but continues until February 21.
The Jewish Public Library begins its 14th annual Israeli and Jewish Film Festival:
January 16 – Esau
January 23 – The Dead Of Jaffa
January 30 – Sublet
February 6 – Love in Suspenders
February 13 – Van Goghs
The cost for the entire series is $30 for members or $50 for others. For individual films, a donation of $18 is suggested.
On January 15, harmonica virtuoso and teacher John Kerkhoven performs a solo show in the spacious but otherwise closed for now Wheel Club. Free but donations are welcome.
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.