Tor Lukasik–Foss has, in his own words, had a “very odd, sporadic, disparate career” performing in Hamilton.
“My first performances were in improve theatre,” he tells me, “stretching back to when Theatre Sports held weekly events at the Red Mill Theatre on James North in the mid–1980s, and I was an eager teen. The next iteration was as a songwriter and a musician, mostly through the pseudonym Tiny Bill Cody. Then, in the early 2000s, I merged my performance impulses with my inclinations as a visual artist and started doing mostly experimental things.”
This week sees the debut of Tor’s newest experimental performance piece, Seven Songs, which is playing at the Staircase.
“I’ve been interested in the culture that has been built around songs,” he says of the piece. “What they are used for, why people are compelled to write them, how listeners can build really intense relationships with them, why the act of singing is so terrifying, and so on. My idea is to present it in a way that it doesn’t read quite like a concert, not quite a storytelling event, and not quite a piece of theatre.”
Whatever the show presents quite as, Lukasik–Foss will not be presenting it alone. Seven Songs will be presented as a double–feature with Pity Face, the one–woman show by Lisa Pijuan–Nomura about her experience living with cancer.
“Too often, we look at those with cancer with a ‘pity face’,” she explains. “Instead of engaging the actual person, we treat them as their illness, offer platitudes and pity, and then back away.
“Pity Face is the very opposite of its name: instead of guilt–ridden, sad and tentative, it stares at cancer with a steady, sober and humourous gaze. Through anecdotes drawn from personal experience, I offer a dramatic and comic exploration for those experiencing cancer, their friends, family and allies, a guide to see and interact as real people.”
Though both shows are officially debuting (not counting a workshop production of Pity Face a few months ago), this is not the first time these two artists have worked together.
“Tor was one of the first artists that I met in Hamilton upon moving here,” says Pijuan–Nomura, whose own lengthy career as a multidisciplinary performer only reached Hamilton eight years past. “I didn’t want to move to Hamilton and just place my ideas upon a city that I knew nothing about. I wanted to look around and see what I could get involved with, or who I could collaborate with.”
The two eventually connected at the Mulberry Café on James North, becoming fast friends and frequently meeting to discuss both what she wanted to do, and what they could do together, culminating in their both serving in the Hamilton 7, a professional storytelling collective, and from there, Awkward Stories for Adults, the hit Hamilton Fringe Festival created with their cohort Andrew Gabourey.
“Hamilton 7 is very much a collaborative method,” says Lukasik–Foss, “that allows you to lean on a collective brain while shaping and building your own work. Co–delivering two one-act one–handers is just another way that we can support each other’s process, and improve each other’s work.”
“I think we complement each other as performers,” Pijuan–Nomura adds. “We are both interested in pushing the boundaries of storytelling to make it a more theatrical experience. We also like to laugh, even in the most awkward, sad moments.
“Tor is like a brother from another mother,” she concludes. “We are always sharing ideas and pushing our limits, and I believe the pairing of these shows is another extension of our continuing work together.” V
Pity Face and
Presented by: Lisa Pijuan-Nomura
and Tor Lukasik-Foss
Playing at: The Staircase Theatre
27 Dundurn St N, Hamilton
Showtimes: June 26-29 @ 7pm
Tickets: $20 general admission, $15 for students/seniors/arts workers
Box Office: Tickets available on Eventbrite.ca