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Park "legacy in our neighbourhood" celebration:

The legacy benches will be unveiled at a park celebration sponsored by the Dufferin Mall on Sunday June 23 at 2.30p.m. This is an Ontario Arts Council project that has allowed local artists Kristen Fahrig and Jeff Chown to work with school children, youth, and many park users of all ages to turn two old and worn park benches into a dazzlingly colourful piece of community art, using paint, clay, and carving tools. The benches will be located across from Arie Kamp's equally colourful poppy-flowerbed on the much-used park walkway NORTH of the rink. Now people coming back from the mall with their packages can have a rest on the benches and enjoy both the flowers and the bench decorations. At the unveiling celebration there will be pizza (make your own, with dough, sauce and cheese provided free by the Dufferin Mall - thanks to mall marketing manager Mary Thorne - flavoured with herbs you can pick from the park community gardens), still-warm park-oven bread, marimba dance music, a rummage sale, and the first Clay and Paper Theatre giant puppet performance of the season.

The things people have painted on the benches are pretty interesting - pictures from their lives, maps of their home country, inspiring verses, pretty, abstract designs, mementos to their true love. There are also tiles with pictures and messages on the concrete bench ends. These colourful benches will become the background of more neighbourhood gossip and carry-on over the years, as people sit on them and chat and look out over the park landscape.

As if that weren't enough, the project also turned out 68 ceramic tiles painted by people in the park. The tiles will be installed in the playground. Look for them - they'll appear in lots of unexpected places. A kind of treasure hunt. The Uzbeki yurt was up in the park from May 25 to June 2. That means that the yurt's owners, Michelle Oser and Ian Small, slept in the park for 8 nights, along with Lola (their daughter) and various friends, as well as one of the park staff. It turns out that sleeping so close to Dufferin Street is the opposite of restful - the traffic never stops. Tough for Michelle and Ian, sometimes, with all the noise and questions and visitors. But a very interesting exhibit for park users. The yurt - the conical, traditional dwelling of nomadic tribespeople in Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and other parts of Central Asia - was a beautiful, functional structure with such remarkable illumination (from the round top opening) that many visitors just sat quietly inside on one of the carpeted platforms, not saying a word. When it rained and the felt walls got damp, the smell was pretty reminiscent of the barnyard (the felt was made of sheep and camel hair). The smell of wet felt was a big hit with the park dogs, who clearly thought it was the best smell ever.

The yurt brought many visitors into the park who don't usually come here, including people connected to Doctors without Borders, the international medical aid organization. They came to meet with Ian and Michele (who worked with that organization in Uzbekistan for four years), and they had many late-night conversations around the park campfire. On the last day, some of their Afghani friends cooked a giant rice-and-lamb meal over the fire, which they shared out among the yurt visitors - delicious.

June 14, 15, and 21: Clay and Paper Theatre prepares for and presents Day of De Light

a celebration of love and courtship in Toronto. To prepare for the day itself, there are costume/music workshops from 1p.m. to 4p.m. on Saturday June 14 and Sunday June 15. They're open to anyone wishing to participate, to "get in the mood of summer celebration," as Clay and Paper Theatre director David Anderson says. Then on Saturday June 21, Clay and Paper will begin their seventh summer season in Dufferin Grove Park with the First Annual Day of De Light. David Anderson says: "Join artists, musicians and puppet pageantry as we celebrate the summer solstice. The day features activities to participate in and performances to enjoy, including a remount of our "Return of the Green Man," the stilting talents of the Zagadka Zoological Society and aerial fabric dancers, Gravity Works. Musical performances include the Louisiana-western-funk of The Jeremiahs, African-based marimba band Niamamusango, and Toronto mbira Sessions, music from Zimbabwe on traditional thumb pianos with singing and rhythm."

For event or workshop information, call 416 537-9105 or visit clayandpapertheater web site

July 8-13: Dusk Dances:

They're coming again this summer, five different groups of dancers for six early-evening performances (until dusk) in July, all over the park. If you want to watch them practise, their practice schedule is from June 30 to July 4, 11.30 to 3.30 daily. This year apparently they'll include a sensational break-dancing group, on the basketball court. Their Friday and Saturday performances will be preceded by Friday and Saturday night supper in the park, by the bake oven.

July 25 to August 17: Clay and Paper Theatre will present "The Sylliad:

My big fat Greek war story: "the epic brouhaha of tragic pride, violence, eating, violence, more violence, jealousy, word conquest, more eating, violence, (sex?), and violence as King Uncle Shrub and Rumesfilles do battle with Ohowi bin Hatin and Sodam Insain." The play will run Wednesday through Sunday at 7.30 p.m.

GOLD, the play...and their chef.

Tuesday-Sunday: dinner from 6, music and sideshows 7.15-8, play at 8, ending by torch-light.

Every evening except Monday nights, our park's resident puppetry theatre company, Clay and Paper Theatre sets up its giant puppet and its theatre props in various locations at the centre of the park. The play begins at the bake oven. This year for the first time, director David Anderson has hired a chef. His name is Dan DeMatteis, he comes to us from Montreal, and he's been showing us how to cook delicious street food in the wood oven. From 6 o'clock every night, with a little help from park friends, he serves up a $5 meal of roasted or baked dishes straight out of the oven, with a salad often including ingredients from the park gardens. This is an affordable neighbourhood meal in the church supper tradition, right in our park.

Diners can watch the set-up for the play happening around them, and then shortly after seven the band strikes up near the oven. The side-shows start, asking the question - what is gold for us? What do we value?

The play itself begins by the hill just south of the oven, at 8 p.m., and from the time the knight, "Sir Gawain," rides up on his enchanted (invisible) horse and invites the audience to follow him on his quest for the golden grail, excited children and smiling adults are led from one colourful plot site to another. Barbara Klunder has designed ingenious sets, costumes, and the giant "rink man" puppet. "Wal-marvel" plays a role, as does a "corner store" that's a hilarious, pull-at-your-heartstrings puppet. The actors sing and dance and tumble through the complex plot of questing and disappointment and - finally - resolution, as the play concludes exactly where it began: at the bake oven.

This is the second "workshop" year of this folk tale/modern quest play. The play will probably be reshaped somewhat by the (very spirited) actors, and director David Anderson, and writer Larry Lewis, as the season progresses. If you want to be a part of this creative process, come a few times, and see things change. You can offer your input: the cast is very friendly, and spontaneous audience input is occasionally ad-libbed into the play.

There are limitations to audience input. One evening at the end of July, a young father walked right through the play's action talking on a cell phone, following his young tricycle-riding son and making no attempt to go around. When he then walked through a second time, STILL talking on his cell phone, his life began to be in danger from the audience. Mr.Rude Cellphone-man, go somewhere else with your cell phone and come back when you open your eyes!

One remarkable thing about performances that move around the park, like the Dusk Dances in July and the Clay and Paper play this month, is how they transform the park landscape. Trees that form a backdrop to a dance look different than before. The evening sun makes a puppet and a grassy hill glow at the same time. And, to the extent that Dan DeMatteis' cooking is also a performance, he puts a whole new slant on the park bake oven.

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