unnamed-1I was immediately excited about Buy Us, For You, By Us because the image of a brown skinned girl with braids in a camel turtleneck spoke to me. I am a huge fan of the turtleneck. I’m also a huge fan of representation and seeing people who look like me depicted in creative works. So, without even knowing what Buy Us, For You, By Us was about, I had a good feeling.

What I had failed to notice was that the model had a lot of armpit hair…on the outside of her shirt. Now I was intrigued. While doing a little more digging online, I came across photos of people with more armpit hair, but also hairy nipples. Again, on the outside of their shirts. I was confused.

I was also curious. What did Buy Us, For You, By Us mean?Buy us. For you. By us. David Roth’s artist statement described this as “a locally-inspired look at urban planning and lifestyle marketing.” There was also mention of the artist being somebody who encourages to audiences to rethink how they examine worth and value. I expected also that there was going to be a powerful statement about bodies and how we groom and clothe them. Fast forward to an especially rainy Tuesday afternoon, and I am on the number 9 bus, eastbound on Broadway to see Buy Us, For You, By Us at Field Contemporary.
unnamed-3As I opened the door to the the gallery, I was already feeling a little intimidated by how few things and people there were in the room. Some framed pieces on the walls, three garment racks with clothes hung on them and a barber’s chair in the center of it all. I said ‘Hi’ to the two people huddled over a computer in the corner, one of them echoed my greeting and they resumed their conversation. The clothes, which were hung as they would be in a retail space, all had hair on them. Some shirts with hair on the armpits, others with hair shaped into nipples and even some with hair on the sleeves. There were also gloves with hairy knuckles strewn about. The armpit hair was realistic and varied in texture, which left me wondering if it was real.

These garments, framed or as is, were all for sale. There were also printed photographs of the garments being modelled. All the pieces were named after people, which left me thinking that the shirt titled Jamie had Jamie’s hair attached to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave with an understanding of why any of this mattered or should be interesting. In fact, I had to thumb through the pages of a binder that I was not quite certain was meant for visitors to even discover that detail.
unnamed-5My feeling is that work should speak for itself, or be explained. Clearly some statement was being made. What that statement was however, was completely lost on me. There was no artist’s statement or explanation of what the work was about, though there were people working in the space who might have initiated a conversation with me, as the only person in the space. Instead, they chatted amongst themselves and stared at their phones.

I really wanted to like this exhibit, but instead walked away confused and with wet shoes. It’s difficult to say that it’s worth making the trip, because all of the images can be seen online and I gained nothing from the experience of visiting the gallery, besides seeing with my own eyes that this was in fact hair glued to everything. I would have preferred to walk away with an understanding of why there was hair on all the garments and what David Roth hoped to achieve with this work.


David Roth’s Buy Us, For You, By Us runs at FIELD Contemporary from December 18 – January 16. More by Roth at http://davidrothprojects.squarespace.com/.


When I walked into the Cultch, the greeter immediately warned that the show would be between 100-120 minutes without intermission. I beelined for the bathroom, then to the bar. Not only do they serve beer (and wine) at the Cultch, but they’ll even let you bring it to your seat inside the theatre. This evening was off to a great start.

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Photo by Sagal Kahin

When the lights dimmed we made our way to our seats and were pleasantly surprised at both the set up and the size. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. When Ronnie Burkett emerged, dressed in all black, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. It seemed everybody knew and loved Burkett already. In his introduction he talked of his past work, which again, the audience seemed to know all about, then explained his objective with the Daisy Theatre. He wanted to create a puppet show for adults that was fun; a departure from his past work, which was decidedly darker.

As far as marionettes go, I’ve only ever seen Pinocchio and Gepetto at work. This was a change of pace for me. The opening number starred Dolly Wiggler, who would dance to music and peel off her clothing one item at a time, burlesque style. I didn’t know marionettes could move like that. I was laughing and in shock, looking over to my friend to confirm that she was seeing this. Her rhythm, as created by Burkett’s hands, which moved quickly without distracting him from the song he was singing, was incredible.

Funny for the most part and provocative throughout, Burkett had the audience laughing and cheering from start to finish. I laughed a lot, but I also cringed some. Especially when Franz was on stage talking too much–at least for my liking–of inviting starry-eyed audience members backstage and humping them from behind while they were distracted by smaller cuter puppet named Schnitzel.

From the applause, to the coos, to the shouts of encouragement everybody seemed to know from the moment the show began that this was a participatory event. The length, I would learn, varies because Burkett invites the audience to hoot, holler and applaud as a way of voting for which puppets or songs they would like to see performed. This was something I quite liked. Quickly it became clear that many of the audience members had seen this play before and were keen to see some of their favourite puppets return to the stage. At one point the lights came on and he looked into the audience for a volunteer. Burkett would settle on a man named Gavin, who would learn how to make a puppet play the piano while bobbing his head to the music–“he” being the puppet. Gavin would also go on to sing on cue and even take off his shirt.

The Daisy Theatre_publicity image
It was a while before I was able to find the connection between these puppets, all telling stories or singing songs that had nothing to do with the others. In a way, it felt disjointed. I’d been in a gambling mood when I decided to see the show without first doing any research about Burkett or the Daisy Theatre, which I would realize part way through was a variety show. Even still, I struggled to make sense of why some of them were performers, while others were just there to tell stories.

In addition to Gavin, the highlights for me were without a doubt Jesus (yes, Christ) and Edna Rural. Neither sang or danced, but rather they talked to the audience. Jesus, who may actually have been performing stand-up routine, was dreading the holidays with his parents Mary and Joseph. His birthday is a tense time and his parents don’t approve of his girlfriend, he explained while weaving clever jokes, with even more clever biblical references into his story. Edna, a widow from a small town in Alberta, is an expert baker, and talks endlessly because she fears that if she’s quiet somebody will give her bad news. Everybody had a good laugh when Edna told the story of her pie crust made with dill, which of course was referred to as dill dough (read: dildo). I’m not a big fan of sex jokes. They’re popular and funny making me a minority on this one, but I can’t help but find them boring and a little too easy.

While I thought two hours was a little too long and the sexual references a little too frequent, I quite liked this play. It was smart, topical and funny. It was also sad, heartwarming and relatable. Burkett is quick-witted and truly a master of his craft. He brought each puppet to life with his voice and movement and that alone makes for twenty dollars well spent. The fact that no two nights are the same, has me curious as to who will grace the stage of the Daisy Theatre in the nights to come. In this regard, it makes sense that this is a show people come back for.


The Daisy Theatre runs until December 20 at The Cultch (1895 Venables Street). Tickets are available by phone at 604.251.1363, or online at thecultch.com.


I showed up to Arts Umbrella at precisely 8:03 to see The Distance Between New Brunswick and Toronto, not realizing that a) it was after 8:00 and b) there were absolutely no late entries to Fringe shows. As the friendly lady behind the table apologetically explained that she could not let us in, another volunteer interrupted, with the kind of aggression that led me to flinch in surprise,that you can’t be late and no, we can’t give you a refund. Lesson: be on time.

Flustered, I proceeded to the box office, where a very nice volunteer said he would be happy to help us find another show. He recommended The Inventor of All Things and at 8:08 we power-walked in the direction he had pointed, hoping to get there in time for the 8:15 start.

We arrived at 8:11, only to learn another lesson: the Fringe Festival is a credit or cash only affair. Thankfully, I’m friends with real adults, who can be counted on to have more than a debit card in their backpack. Tickets obtained, memberships purchased, and with a few minutes to spare, I took a deep breath and reached for a program. On it was a man in a tub, holding a knife in one hand and a puppet in the other. “What’s this…?” I asked. “It’s the show!” the woman behind the table replied, convinced I was a moron, but determined to be nice to me.

By 8:31, I’d arrived at the conclusion that the nice man at the box office had been looking at the schedule for the previous day when he recommended the show to me. Written in chalk on the stage before me was an outline of what this play would be about: puppets and murder. Nervous and full of dread, I took my seat and prepared myself for what was to come. But to my surprise, Baker’s Dozen: 12 Angry Puppets had me laughing, smiling and nodding in agreement from start to finish.

The Baker has been found dead in a bathtub, the Candlemaker has disappeared but was definitely at the scene of the crime, and the Butcher is on trial for murder. Twelve puppets are summoned for jury duty to determine whether the Butcher killed his husband, the Baker. With their snap judgements, biases, and even indifference, those puppets had me hoping never to find myself at the mercy of a jury.

I had expected for the puppeteer to be hiding in the darkness, dressed all in black. Adam Francis Proulx, however, is very much a part of the show, without distracting from the periwinkle puppet on his right hand. Armed with only his voice, facial expressions, body language, and a single puppet, Proulx switches from one character to another with ease. Reaching into his jury box for different wigs and facial features, he creates new personas, all while moving to dramatic music. When he returns to the chair at centre stage, he–and his puppet–are transformed. With humour and creativity, one man and one puppet tell a story that reminds viewers that juries can be fallible.

And this brings me to the most important lesson I learned at the Fringe this year: if you think puppet shows are not for you, you’re wrong.


Baker’s Dozen: 12 Angry Puppets hit the stage at this year’s Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val, which runs until Sept 20. For a full list­ing of Fringe events, visit the fes­ti­val web­site

When I first laid eyes on the works that comprised Kate Duncan’s ADDRESS Assembly, I felt that I had walked into someone’s home. A very stylish someone. Certainly not my home or any I’ve been in before, but definitely some place I would like to live, or at the very least visit. It looked like something from Pinterest, which for those who may be confused, is the highest form of compliment I could offer. A collection of things so beautiful, you’ll want to remember them when you finally have a grown-up home to decorate and a budget that allows you to shop somewhere other than IKEA.

Photo by Sagal Kahin
Photo by Sagal Kahin

Mouth open and eyes wide, I resisted the urge to touch everything. Ceramics by Heydey Design were a highlight. Made to look as if woven from cloth or straw, they were so convincing that I felt obliged to touch them all and confirm that they really were made from porcelain. The Hendrik Lou blanket knit from wool and rope made me wish everybody else in the room would leave me to nap. The side table which doubled as a terrarium; the speckled Lissu Linen pillow cases; the thumbtack stools; the ring dishes–I wanted all of it, including the plants I know couldn’t ever actually keep alive.

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The works complimented each other so well, one might have thought they were made to exist here in this sun filled space. Together these pieces, made by a collective of 15 makers and designers, brought outside in. So did the light, which flooded the room thanks to the Waterfall Building’s floor to (two-storey) ceiling windows. Wood. Leather. Clay. Wool. Glass. It was picture perfect, but approachable. All together or on their own, these were works I could see occupying spaces in which real people lived. And yet the rugs were so beautiful they forced me to wonder (a few times): are we supposed to take our shoes off?


ADDRESS is an assembly of designers/makers, deeply dedicated to their craft presenting expertise and exceptional work. The 12 day home and design show is part-gallery, part-pop-up shop, and part-showroom, curated and produced by Vancouver-based furniture designer/maker Kate Duncan. Located at the prestigious Waterfall Building, 1540 West 2nd Avenue, ADDRESS runs from May 20-31st 2015.