#Luminato10: monumental and Rufus Does Judy

Get the scoop on our just-announced shows, monumental and Rufus Does Judy.

Mar 4, 2016 | BY: Jorn Weisbrodt

It was almost the first year that I came to Toronto that I connected with Sarah Rogers who was working with Menno Plukker one of the great Canadian theatre agents. Menno represents Robert Lepage whose Playing Cards – Spades was co-commissioned by Luminato and premiered here in 2012. Sarah told me then about this amazing dance piece called monumental that she was trying revive with live music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It sounded absolutely stunning.

Holy Body Tattoo in monumental. Photo by Yannick Grandmont.

Nine dancers spending most of the performance on a plinth – the top surface of which is hardly larger than their feet. Behind them a screen with a crazy slideshow of images and videos all depicting modern civilization. Isn’t dance about movement, bodies moving in space, changing patterns of human interaction? Not here. Here it is all about isolation, being bound to a place, almost like Prometheus, who chained to the rock created human mankind. I never thought about this, but mankind was created by a chained god. We were created out of an imprisonment and suffering obviously.

Holy Body Tattoo in monumental. Photo by Yannick Grandmont.

And these nine confined bodies are bopping in an ocean of sound, music and noise by Montreal post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The piece sounded exciting and I told Sarah Luminato would definitely be interested if she could pull it together. From then on, about every 6 to 8 months Sarah called with updates but wasn’t able say, “it is happening, I got everybody to agree, here is a budget”. Until about a year ago. I almost didn’t think it was still possible. When she called and said: ‘everyone is on board, rehearsals are starting, the PuSH Festival in Vancouver, home to Dana and Noam, the two choreographers and founders of The Holy Body Tattoo, the dance company who created the piece has since dissolved, is premiering the piece,” I thought great, let’s do it!

Holy Body Tattoo in monumental. Photo by Yannick Grandmont.

It is a nice bracket to my time in Toronto, something that really started as a mere idea, comes now to fruition. It shows how long ideas can sometimes gestate, how time is an important factor in programming a Festival – and of course, timing is everything on stage, in dance, in theatre but obviously also in life. If it had happened any time earlier, we would have presented it in a regular theatre but now monumental is going to be in the monumental Hearn Generating Station. I don’t want to brag… but I believe that this piece will not look better anywhere in the world than here in Toronto at the Hearn. The steel and concrete maze of the Hearn is almost an extension of the set. It blows the show into gigantic dimensions. It emphasizes the confines of modern society and cities that the piece is talking about. Inside the Hearn it will look as iconic as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the first classic film of the industrial era that depicts the dehumanization of industrial life.

If you are of the type who loves to sear images on your retina and engrave memories in your brain, this is the piece to see and experience.

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Rufus Wainwright in Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, 2006. Photo by Gus Powell.

The antithesis to monumental and its dark criticism and unease of contemporary time and civilization is the second huge Canadian project of Luminato’s 10th anniversary. It is also another good bye to Toronto: Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! does Judy! Judy! Judy! is Back! Back! Back! I know he is back. He is my husband, but he had to be allowed to properly say good bye to Toronto. And what a good bye it will be. With so much sparkle and drama it will outshine 2014’s If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway concert at the sold out Sony Centre. If there has ever been a concert that was richer in devotion to a more-cultish figure but at the same time more original and daring than any groundbreaking act of performance, someone please let me know.

Rufus Wainwright. Photo by Gus Powell.

In 2006, Rufus and I had just become a couple and I remember flying to New York for the second night of the Carnegie Hall recreation of Judy Garland’s most famous, nah, show business’s most famous concert of all time. Robert Wilson was my date. David Bowie attended the concert, and it was apparently the only social outing of the entire calendar year that he did; Sarah Jessica Parker, Marc Jacobs, Viktor and Rolf, and every closeted or out queen of New York. Carnegie Hall was their palace that night and Rufus was its fool and ruler. That night it was the place to be if you were someone, or anyone really.

About three years ago Rufus said he wanted to do the concert again for its the 10th anniversary. Carnegie Hall came into the picture and when it was clear that I was leaving Toronto and the Luminato Festival, it felt obvious that Rufus should have a moment on stage to say good bye to the city and the festival as well. He has been such an integral part of Luminato since day one, with a relationship that started long before I was here.

Rufus Wainwright in Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, 2006. Photo by Gus Powell.

When I was hired as artistic director, Janice Price asked that we organize a tribute to Kate McGarrigle, Rufus’ mother, my mother-in-law, and one of the great figures of Canadian and of course world music and culture, which we did. A year later, we organized Joni Mitchell’s 70th birthday concert, it was Rufus who asked Joni whether she was writing any new material after he sang an a capella song dedicated to Kate to Joni late at night in the garden of Carrie Fisher’s house in Beverly Hills. After she finished reciting This Rain it was Rufus who said to her that she should do this on stage at Massey Hall for the Luminato concert and she agreed. And then a year later Rufus inverted conventions of show biz again and did an all-male Broadway Love Duets evening that was a smash hit at the Sony Centre.

If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway, 2014. Photo by David Leyes.

As in previous years when Rufus performs at Luminato, to avoid any conflict of interest, I left it up to the board to decide if we’d present the show or not. Nobody could resist doing Rufus does Judy. The show is only being presented in New York and in Toronto.

Rufus Wainwright in Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall, 2006. Photo by Gus Powell.

The Hearn Generating Station is obviously the first venue where he is doing the show where Judy did NOT do it. I think we will be able to prove this June, that the Hearn can be the most sparkly concert hall in the world, truly a backdrop for rainbow illusions and dreams, a place to welcome a new tomorrow and a place for the two of us to say good bye to five wonderful years in this city that has let this festival do so much.

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