Remember what Toronto looked like 20, even 10, years ago? The downtown core still possessed a unique character back then; old buildings happily rubbed shoulders with their newer, larger counterparts, making up a vibrant and uniquely Canadian city.
But as condo developers continue to jam their ubiquitous concrete behemoths into any space available, many long-time residents have been left feeling that our beloved city is in danger of becoming a characterless clump of condominiums.
The gals at Split Britches empathize, having dealt with similar issues surrounding their Manhattan home. They ruminate on these urban changes in their newest performance piece, Lost Lounge, opening May 3 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
“It really is about the urban redevelopment of our own neighbourhood,” says Lois Weaver, who founded the troupe back in 1977 with her artistic and romantic partner, Peggy Shaw. “It’s a piece about loss and what happens to our memories when we lose our landscape.”
Though she was aware of the changes happening around her, Weaver says, she still experienced a jarring epiphany looking at the extent of her town’s upheaval – an experience that led to the creation of Lost Lounge.
“I walked down Bowery and onto Bond St, and suddenly I literally didn’t know where I was for a moment,” she says. “It’s now full-on designer shops and buildings. I’m getting older, and it’s easier to walk into a situation or place and have difficulty remembering something without those familiar visual prompts. It’s almost like an entirely different city sometimes.”
But it’s not just the visual changes that trouble Weaver and Shaw; the duo has also seen a shift in less tangible qualities.
“It’s not just the landscape of the city we’ve lived in, but also the cultural landscape that’s eroded, including the great little places that had the lounge acts we’ve always loved,” Weaver says.
Lost Lounge pays tribute to those acts, using a quaint cabaret space as the setting for the characters’ lamentations. As fictional lounge singers, Lois and Peggy (they use their real names in most shows) explore the pros and cons of urban development through text, as well as songs from Louis Prima, Keely Smith and Yves Montand.
“We try to do almost an architectural dig of what has been there before,” Weaver says. “It’s not like we’re against progress, but at the same time we feel quite nostalgic. There may not be any real answer, but even if we can’t find one, we can just sit with the question and the contradictions.”
Thurs, May 3-Sat, May 5
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander St