Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers

Hey Torontonians! Lend me your ears!
My friend Tom Berend wants to tell you about his new play called "The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers" which is part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. Here's the backstory in Tom's own words.

I volunteer teaching older children with severe reading disabilities, and I was posting questions to an on-line dyslexia discussion forum in the UK. Somehow, a dyslexic theater group picked up my name not realizing that I was in Canada, and Lennie, the producer sent me an invitation to a theater performance they were producing that weekend; a shoestring affair for dyslexic actors and writers in the backroom of a pub.

Now, I had never heard of dyslexic theater, and I'm betting you haven't either. I was intrigued. The play they were marketing was about as small-scale as you can imagine. And yet here they were, these dyslexic young people embracing literacy and storytelling, proudly and confidently telling their own stories in their own voices.

I thought that was the most amazing thing. Everything I had learned about dyslexia until then involved lowered expectations, extra assistance, accommodation, curriculum modification, etc; How wonderful and inspiring, these guys were doing theater because they loved the theater. I wrote back that I couldn't get there in time, but perhaps we could pass a hat to sponsor her company to present in Toronto. We kept in touch, and now they are bringing a new play to the Toronto Fringe Festival, "The Taliban Don't Like my Knickers", with seven performances scheduled at the Tarragon Theater.

The Fringe is a crazy celebration of small and emerging theater, it's the best entertainment value in town. I hope you come out for a lot of the plays, and bring all your friends too.

But in particular I'm hoping you come out to see our dyslexic London friends, and their new play. "The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers", has nothing to do with dyslexia, it's just great storytelling.

It is a stylized two-hander, loosely based on the story of Yvonne Ridley, a journalist who was captured by the Taliban. But it is really about freedom and sacrifice, the pursuit of truth, the cost of holding to our convictions, and what it is that gives people strength.

What I find most unique and different is the dyslexic imagination that drives the show. It is very visual, very stylized, very graphic. Images are as important as words, there are two projectors running and an audio soundscape playing to support the spoken narrative. There is a written script, I've seen it, but it seems to have evolved as an afterthought. It is wonderful theater, and very, very different, you simply have to experience it. "The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers". Come and see it at the Tarragon.

We're having a talk-back... In partnership with the Ontario Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, we will be setting up a talk-back at the end of the July 11 performance. a chance meet the writers, producers, and actors, and ask them questions. Again, July 11 only. It is intended for dyslexic students with an interest in theater or film-making, but of course everyone is welcome. The team in London has been working on a short documentary, a work-in-progress that I'm hoping we will screen then. Space is limited however, we have to move to the Taragon's Solo performance space upstairs to give the next Fringe production a chance to set up, and we can only seat about 60 people up there. That's the July 11 performance.

I should mention that the play is a tiny bit edgy, not really suitable for under-12. "The Taliban Don't Like My Knickers". If you google 'Taliban' and 'Knickers', you will quickly find links to this production. I hope to see you there. Thank you.

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