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Theatre and dance in the park

Swizzlestick performed its Harvest Play on stilts from Sept.20-24. Even though it was cold and dark and sometimes threatening weather, the performances were very well attended and the audiences were enthusiastic about everything: the costumes, the music, the lighting (hidden high up in the trees), the dances, the live music (with Portuguese bagpipes!), the comedy of three gorgeous black crows who think they can wreak havoc on the farmer-until they learn their lesson.

The park staff had warned Christopher Pinheiro, the director of Swizzlestick, that fall is a bad time to put on performances. But people who came to watch said: it's about time there was something special in a park in the fall. So the park staff were glad to be wrong.

The five child performers in the play said they didn't mind coming out every night even on school nights. The large and enthusiastic audiences were exciting for the kids, and their parents told us they'll never forget this.

Coming up: The Night of Dread

This community parade is on Saturday October 28. Whoever wants to be in the parade can assemble at our park at 4 p.m. The dress code is, wear black or wear white. If you want to make a mask, Steve Smith and Julie Whitfield will be running a free mask workshop at the Dufferin Mall from 1 to 5 p.m.

If you want to wear one of the big puppets, come out to a puppet dress rehearsal on Sunday Oct.22, from 1-5. Even if you can't make that, you could still show up at 4 o'clock on Oct. 28 and have a chance of getting one of the big puppets, or at least a "dreadful" mask.

Here is the schedule: Saturday Oct.28, 3 p.m. hot dogs and juice at the park, get on costumes. 4 p.m. assemble for parade. Parade leaves the park at 5.45 p.m., goes along Bloor over to Shaw, then down and along College over to Dovercourt, then back to the park. There will be giant stilt walkers, giant puppets, lots of musicians, and some secrets not to be revealed beforehand. The parade will return to Dufferin Grove Park by 7.15, to be met by scary acts and theatricals in the soccer field for 45 minutes. The action then moves to a large "bonefire" and cabaret near the bake ovens, with a roast pig on a spit, fresh bread (including Pan de Muerto), and "songs of finality" by the Holy Cows Country Band and by Darbazi, our friends the Georgian choir.

The parade and the many community workshops leading up to it have been funded by the Urban Issues Program of the Sam and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation, as well as the W.Garfield Weston Foundation, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council. Councillor Mario Silva and Joe's No Frills also helped out.

The Night of Dread

This "masked parade," on Saturday Oct.28, was by all accounts a great success. There were approximately 600 people at the park when the parade started, swelling to over 1000 out on Bloor and College Streets, as people poured out of stores and restaurants to join the dancing and the revelling. On College Street the restaurant waiters deserted their tables, and so did the patrons, as the huge skeletons floated by and the Escole De Samba drummed their irresistible beat. Jimmy Longo of Longo's Grocery said it was the best parade he ever saw. Some of the younger kids in the park say it's the beginning of another kind of Caribana.

A crushing amount of work precedes an event like this. In the weeks before the parade, the rink house became a sewing studio, as masks turned into full puppets with flowing black floor-level coverings - long enough to cover giant stilts, that is - and multiplied on the coathooks, jammed the garage, overflowed out of the field house. Most of the puppets and instruments were made by professional artists hired by David Anderson. But some of the masks were made at fall weekend workshops, by a small number of neighbourhood people brought out by the signs on every lamp post.

Night of Dread Costume

The ghostly baboon masks were made at St.Mary's Catholic High School art classes (teacher, Miss Hudec over two weeks, under David Anderson's guidance. The black and white "bone" xylophones and other instruments were made at a St.Mary's physics class studying sound waves, with the help of Nuno Cristo. And when the day of the parade came, Mrs. Hooker, one of the St.Mary's vice principals, brought her husband out to march in the parade. They are both very tall so you could see them even in a crowd of stilt-walkers. Two other teachers, Helena Kusma and Elena Russo, and a handful of students also came to the parade. In their art class the students shot a video of their mask-making. Tony DeSousa, St.Mary's principal (who came to the parade as it gathered in the park) says some students plan to take their video and show it to some elementary classes, so they'll want to participate in the parade preparations next year.

Will there be another Night of Dread parade next year? David Anderson says, yes. The Sam and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation has given him a three-year grant to produce this public revelry, in the cause of community-building. It sounds as though the funders were well pleased with this project, and so they should be.

After the parade returned to the park and burned up all the "fears" that had been painted on cardboard boxes ("hunger," "flying," "politics," "slimy food," etc. etc. etc.) at a giant bonfire, there was more music and lots of bread from the ovens - sixty loaves of rosemary bread and thirty coloured-sugar loaves of "bread of the dead." And Celio from Councillor Silva's office brought a roasted pig on a spit from a nearby Churrasqueira. By some local miracle, even though there were so many people, there was just enough food for everyone, down to the last crumb of pig.

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