Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Long Dark Night & Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week

Queer selections from the SummerWorks Theatre Festival

Long Dark Night

Set in the red-light district of an anonymous city over a single evening, Long Dark Night follows philandering alcoholic detective Skip Tracer (John McNeill) in his quest to find the missing husband of beautiful but dangerous debutant Femme Fatale (Sonia Lindner). Aided in his search by devoted but ditzy assistant Irene Pfeffener (Jessica Moss), Tracer becomes entangled with Tuesday Mae (Julianna Ozorio) matron of the infamous Tit Tat nightclub and Frankie DeRodes (Colin Murphy) a low-life thug by night and insurance salesman by day.
The show began as a series of sketches playwright Mark Shyzer wrote for the Midnight Review comedy show in 2006. Shyzer turned to composer Jeff MacLean to pen the music for the piece, which will be performed live during the show. Acting as both homage to and send-up of the 1940s film noir genre, the show blends in musical comedy, an entirely different form that emerged during the same time period. Incorporating both genres in the same work emerged from both a genuine interest in the forms, as well as a desire to see how they might interact in the same piece.
“They are polar opposites in terms of style and content, so I thought it would be interesting to smack them together and see what they have to say about each other,” says Shyzer. “Musicals often take this hokey approach to storytelling that says life is about believing in yourself and making your dreams come true. Film noir has a darker perspective and things often don’t work out in the end. If there’s a moral to this show, I guess it’s that sometimes life just kicks you in the balls.”
Long Dark Night
Premieres Fri, Aug 5, 10:30 pm
Theatre Pass Muraille main space
16 Ryerson Ave
Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week
Diane Flacks never thought she was a femme. The well-known Toronto writer/performer always saw herself resting in the relative centre of the lesbian gender expression continuum. But when she began work with playwright Lois Fine on her new show, Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, for SummerWorks, Fine put Flacks in her place. 
“As a proud, diploma-carrying butch, she told me it was hilarious for me to think I’m anything other than a femme,” Flacks laughs. “My partner and I have a running joke that we’re a butchy femme in love with a femmy butch but never know which is which. It turns out I’m a femme after all, so I guess we’ll have to come up with a new joke.”
While her real-life identity leans more to the middle, Flacks will be tapping her inner girliness to play Freda, the femme half of a not-so-happy lesbian couple. She and her butch plumber partner, Jem (Kathryn Haggis), are struggling with what may be irreconcilable differences, but they also have two kids: 14-year-old Tee Jay (Andy Reid) and 19-year-old Sam (Sadie Epstein-Fine), played by Fine’s real-life daughter.
Considering how established Flacks is, it’s exciting to see her perform at SummerWorks, a festival of indie companies where artists walk away with a few hundred dollars for their time and effort, if they’re lucky. While the chance to work with Fine and director Judith Thompson were big factors in her decision, Flacks says also that it’s important that established artists are part of the festival, particularly during the current crisis facing SummerWorks.
Controversy erupted last year over Catherine Frid’s play Homegrown, about Canadian-born terrorism suspects. It made national headlines when Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared that the play promoted terrorism, without having seen or read it. Heritage Minister James Moore then slashed the festival’s funding for this year, mere months before opening, leaving the administrative team scrambling to keep things afloat.
“Now that the festival is being threatened, it’s even more important to support it,” Flacks says. “What’s happening is not only disgusting, but also frightening for artists across the country. This incident is the canary in the mine shaft for the Harper government’s agenda. We need to wake up and see what is really going on.”
Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week
SummerWorks Theatre Festival
Premieres Fri, Aug 5, 8pm
Factory Theatre Studio
125 Bathurst St