During the spring of 2008 I had the pleasure of producing and directing a live stage performance of Pee-wee Herman’s Big Adventure. In the style of Rocky Horror, we had a ‘shadow cast’ performing in front of the actual film, at the Bloor Cinema. The production was a fundraiser and launch event for the newly established Toronto Cyclists Union and attracted over 1,400 people to two sold-out evening performances. (see video below)
Lex Vaughn amazed everyone with her perfect portrayal of the beloved protagonist, PW Herman. The rest of the cast was comprised of local indie stars such as Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Sook Yin Lee (DNTO, Shortbus), Gentleman Reg, Magali Meagher (Phonemes), Joel Gibb (Hidden Cameras), Maggie MacDonald (Betty Burke), Andrew Whiteman (Apostle of Hustle), Jo-Ann Goldsmith (BSS & The Old Soul), John Caffery (Kids on TV) and many others.
So the question I’ve been getting, almost daily, since our Pee-wee show is “are you gonna do it again?” The answer is yes, and no.
My feeling about Pee-wee is that we pulled it off so well, I simply can’t imagine trying to do it again. We’d never be able to top our first production, so all that work would just be for the sake of doing the same thing, again. I’m not a big fan of unnecessary repetition, so the Pee-wee show has been archived and locked away. The script has been shredded and we’ve erased all of Lex’s lines and stage cues from her brain, using hypnosis.
But fear not. The Story is not Over. The unexpected success of the production (including the cover of Eye weekly) is too much to ignore. The amount of money and awareness that was raised for the Toronto Cyclists Union helped ensure that the new bike group would get off the ground and survive its first year without external funding. The combination of politics, theatre and fun was quite simply explosive.
So I’ve decided to do a new show, every two years. A new show, with a new theme, and a new cause.
I’m happy to announce (with some degree of tentativeness) that at some point in 2010, cast members will be reuniting for a live stage performance of The Neverending Story. The event will be designed to raise awareness about the importance (and nearing extinction of) Toronto’s independent bookstores. Just this month, Pages Bookstore closed down after 30 years. Other stores to shut down in recent years include Ballenford Books and David Mirvish Books which closed in march. Earlier this year, the Scream Literary Festival even hosted a Bankruptcy Walking Tour, visiting the “graves of our independent bookstores”. Fortunately, Toronto still has a handful of indie bookstores remaining (and a few new ones), including This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, which is hosting its 30 year birthday party tonite (Wed Sept 16) at the York Quay Centre (with readings by bill bissett, Lee Ann Brown, Eileen Myles, Stuart Ross) and an after-party at Supermarket.
Proceeds from the 2010 shadow cast event will help fund an online campaign to promote our remaining independent bookstores using a new website, banner ads, PSA videos, and searchable maps.
Lex Vaughn will return, playing the lead role of Atreyu. Many of the other cast members will return as well, in addition to some exciting new faces on the stage! Stay tuned for announcements later this year…
To help us out, let us know in your own words why you think indie bookstores are important. Leave us your comments below.
Also, if you’d like to get involved and help with this production, let me know! I’m looking for:
• Costume designers
• Prop designers
• Web developers
• Graphic designers
• A/V production
• General volunteers
And I’m looking for an 80-foot flying furry dragon with a dog face. If you have one, please get in touch…
Highlights from last year: