Mylène Chicoine is no stranger to horror. She founded Festival de la Bête Noire as a way to share what helps her to de-stress.

While some turn to comedy and laughter, for Chicoine and those like her, it’s horror and horror-themed art that allow them a form of catharsis, freeing themselves from their demons by confronting them head on.

Festival de la Bête Noire is a horror theatre festival that normally has hosted shows that audiences take in on site and in-person since 2018. But the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a great toll on the arts.

Theaters are closed, and gatherings that would allow for live shows are banned for now. For those needing to keep art and culture alive, the pandemic and the ensuing public health measures have presented a lot of challenges and the name of the game has been adapt or die.

Festival de la Bête Noire has decided to go online this year and I spoke with Mylène Chicoine about what that means.

“We’re not doing in it an actual physical space,” she said. “It’s a multimedia online event from people’s living rooms. We’ve removed the physical aspect completely.”

In order to keep the authenticity of live theater consistent with the spirit of past festivals, Chicoine and her team decided to have as little postproduction as possible, meaning that recorded shows should try to minimize editing and video effects after recording.

“We are NOT a movie festival, we are a THEATRE festival. We still want to see theatre, and performance, and live art even though it’s technically not live.”

When asked about the response to the change in format this year, she said most of the responses have been extremely positive, admitting that Bête Noire almost didn’t happen this year due to the pandemic. The festival happened because of the outpouring of support from the theatre community and its fans.

“We had a lot of demand from the community: Are we doing it this year? Are we doing it? Is it going to happen? We need it. The biggest motivation for the team was the community wants it so we’re going to give it to them.”

Festival de la Bête Noire has 16 shows this year. Two of the shows are mixed shows featuring separate performances within a single show.

The virtual festival has a few alumni, including the The Malicious Basement, Quagmire Productions, and Marissa Blair. In the name of transparency, I myself am acting and handling design for Quagmire’s Poe in the Snow.

Chicoine says that festival alumni were given an extra week to apply knowing that they are faithful participants who have provided good content in the past.

“We like to have repeat performers because it gives them a name and a platform that they need.”

The virtual format has not been without its challenges. Many artists expressed concerns about the ban on post-production, claiming that the festival was trying to restrict their art.

“We don’t want to restrict their art, we want to restrict their technology, that’s the big difference. If you’re in a venue, you’re not using a green screen, you wouldn’t use one in your living room either. We don’t want to make it look like a movie, but of course we’ve had to be a bit more flexible, especially with the new lockdown.”

Chicoine says the festival’s limits on technology this year were among some of the biggest challenges for performers. It forced performers to stretch their creative muscles and think outside the box.

Other challenges for the Festival de la Bête Noire were unfortunate realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. People involved with the companies and performers or their loved ones were exposed to the virus and either got sick and/or were forced to self-isolate. The pandemic itself resulted in some theatre companies dropping out of the festival entirely.

“We understand completely that these things are going to happen and we have had production meetings with every company that has required one to formulate a different kind of plan, whether it’s an extension, being more flexible on technology, but unfortunately we did lose a couple of companies to COVID.”

Most of the companies that dropped out were outside of Montreal and could not participate due to the pandemic, while some participants even got sick and died. It has been really upsetting for everyone involved with Bête Noire, but Chicoine and her team anticipated this happening.

Festival de la Bête Noire 2021 is fulfilling its mandate by giving artists and performers a platform to explore the horror genre by performing, creating and watching, and being a part of something, bringing people together in a socially distant way.

When I asked Chicoine if there were any advantages to going virtual, she pointed to fact that it allowed for more international entries, speaking of participating companies in the US and as far away as Japan. Chicoine mentioned The Peony Lantern by The Yokohama Group, a multimedia performance that takes place in the World Peace Theatre in Kawasaki, Japan.

Given the unpredictability of the pandemic, Mylène Chicoine is preparing for disaster, but it has not dampened her excitement for the shows on offer this year. When asked if there were any shows she was particularly excited about, she mentioned Pento by Mad Paradox, a show about mental health issues.

As for the technicalities regarding the accessing the shows, Chicoine and her team demurred from using sites like YouTube and TikTok because they’re too restrictive. In order to avoid the censorship that comes with those sites, all ticket holders will be sent a Google Drive link to their show which gives them one week to watch it at their convenience. Viewers don’t need a Gmail account to access the link.

Festival de la Bête Noire is running virtually from February 17, 2021 to March 15, 2021. For more info check out

The Shiner is a charming one-woman show about the two selves we have inside us at all times; the adult and the child. Performed by Katie Legitt and directed by Al Lafrance, this show crams thirty-odd years of experience into one solid hour of storytelling. And like any good story there’s moments of happiness and sadness, silliness and wonder.

Just like LaFrance’s last Fringe show The Quitter, The Shiner relies completely on the ability of its star to captivate the audience. Whereas Lafrance relied on his snarky wit, Legitt brings her own unique strengths to the table. For Legitt this means demonstrating her passion for her day job as a spiritual animator, as well as being able to transform into a naïve, scrappy version of her younger self.

Legitt does both masterfully. Kudos also has to be given to the scriptwriting; the show has just the right amount of younger/older self to balance the serious/silliness aspect. Too much of either and the show would have veered off course. What a pleasure to see a strong woman who embraces the pain of the past and the passion for her work and literally turns it into a work of art!

Some dance performances make you feel like dancing and some make you think you “just don’t get it.” Then others have the power to keep you in your seat long after the theatre has emptied because you are speechless. Such was the case with Maori New Zealander Charles Koroneho’s Pure at Montréal Arts Interculturels until Nov 30.

Movement, immanence, anguish and something akin to magic happened on the stage last night, and even after having a chance to interview the prolific performer/director, this humble reviewer is still at a loss for words.

A native of Auckland, Charles Koroneho is a philosopher’s dancer, a theatrical shaman, a teacher, visual artist and poet whose work makes you feel like everything else you’ve seen this season is child’s play. This is perhaps because it is imbued with something beyond performed “meaning,” with a symbology all its own and a trunk-load of histories that have come from the other side of the world to confront and display his alienation and attempt to “inhabit” Montreal (which is Koroneho’s newfound home after falling in love with a brilliant Quebecoise three years ago) and deciding to relocate to this icy colonial place.

“The backdrop for Pure is this back-and-forth and the feeling of returning home,” Koroneho told me the day before his opening night this week. Pure is both a Maori word for a ritual of the unknown (which can only be expressed from the place of knowing and remembering), and serendipitously a word with ritual connotations in both English and French. The piece is the result of Koroneho’s TÜAHÜ choreographic research, which informs both his practice and his teaching.

pure mai montreal 2“Tuahu is place that is distanced from our everyday life. It is a historical/anthropological space,” Koroneho explains. In Maori spirituality, there are three main “spaces” of cosmic, physical and psychic significance: the urupa or burial place, the marae, which is both a meeting place and sometimes a burial platform, and tüahü, which encompasses the worldspace of “everything else,” including, for Pure, the space of the stage at the MAI.

Koroneho’s set design for the piece includes a giant metallic backdrop that he transported in pieces all the way from Auckland, a large reclining dais (perhaps referencing birth and rebirth), and an oblong “carpet” of mulched wood bark that covers the floor. A plank, a glowing talisman, a staff which gets woven in phosphorescent rope, are some of the weighty symbols the artist manipulates in the 70-minute performance. Opening with an amplified field recording of a casseroles demonstration from the summer of 2012 in Montreal, and closing with a mesmerizing Maori traditional prayer chant sung live, Pure has the multi-dimensional elements of a one-man opera. Love, death, the eternal return, and an unspoken theme of resistance to colonialism pervade the work.

The difference between inhabitation and occupation is another subtheme Koroneho let me in on when we spoke about Pure, and one that I think deserve much more exploration from those who benefit and suffer from ongoing colonialism. “Inhabitation is a time-based project [whereas] occupation is a spatial concept,” he posits. Coming to Montreal for love, encountering the challenges of a new country and a new language and living his heritage as an artist and feeler all become incarnate in Pure, and the result is at once unsettling and grounding.

“If you really immerse yourself in the study of humanity, I can’t think of a greater thing to be than an artist. It makes you curious about life and about people,“ Koroneho concluded simply. If Montrealers have the privilege of seeing Koroneho continue to make work here, I will be the first to admit that our curiosity is more than piqued. It is stymied, and we’re the richer for it.

* Images courtesy of MAI/Oriori C

This year’s Art Matters Festival is already underway. The event runs from March 8–22nd with venues scattered all around the city. The student run festival aims to join the emerging art community of Concordia University’s undergraduate students with local art institutes. All organizers, curators and artists exhibiting are Concordia students. The festival promotes growth, diversity, exposure, communication, and community.

The first official event was hosted event for the festival’s 13th edition was hosted at the Mainline theatre on Nuit Blanche, and another opening party featuring djs and video projections at Espace Reunion.  Artists from all disciplines are celebrated: visual art, dance, performance, music, and design are just some of the  expressions showcased by this year’s line-up. Come  celebrate the creative individuals that make up Concordia University’s population.

Here are all eleven exhibitions being held this year:

Assumptions are not derivative of accepted facts but of distant tales. -March 7 – 19 at Galerie Espace

Curio – March 8-22 at Coat Check Gallery

Erase and Rewind – March 8 – 22 at Studio XX

Ill Palette – March 8 –  22 at Eastern Bloc

Lab 353 Biologie Materialiste – March 8 – 22 at Espace Projet

Menagerie for Hair & Wood – March 11 – 17 at La Baraque

Nature/Culture – March 8 – 22 at Studio #427

Ruins – March 11 – 22 at VAV Gallery

The Tactility of Objects: A Retrospective – March 7 – 18 at Les Territoires

Youth Well Wasted – March 8 – 22 at BBAM! Gallery

Another F****** Exhibition About Identities -March 1 – 30 / Casa Del Popolo


For more information on curators and artists, attend the open house weekend March 16-17. 

When activists founded AIDS Community Care Montreal in 1987, they hoped that one day we would see people live with HIV and not just die from it. Twenty-five years later, community org ACCM celebrates survival and success with a fabulous cabaret hosted by Antonio Bavaro, with Toronto’s Ryan G Hinds, and performance artist Danny Gaudreault + friends this Sunday, February 3 at the Sala Rossa. (See details for our ticket contest below!)

Active in the Toronto and Montréal cabaret scenes, a beloved writer for Xtra and all-around fabulous personality, Ryan G Hinds (featured photo by Georges Dutil) will be making Cabaret87 the highlight of a whirlwind weekend such as he’s so notorious for in Montréal. Winner of the 2011 Steinert & Ferreiro Award for LGBT commitment to the arts, Hinds is diva with enough soul for two cities, and will doubtless be a show-stopper on Sunday night.

In terms of my art, AIDS means honouring the past, celebrating the present, and charting the future. Every time I step on stage, I bring ghosts with me: artists and story tellers like Craig Russell, Sylvester, Peter Allen, and Liberace inspire my work. For ACCM’s 25th anniversary I wanted to tell a story of looking back with affection (without denying the tough moments) and remaining hopeful for tomorrow, and I dedicate it to our absent friends and present comrades.” – Ryan G Hinds

Known for his triple (goddess) threat performances as Connie Lingua (or Hedwig, or Frank-N-Furter more recently) Antonio Bavaro is a Concordia theatre student, and so much more! Hailing from the Court of the Wild Rose, and soon to be featured in his own 10th Anniversary show (Cabaret Cochonne), Bavaro is a fixture of the alt-drag scene in the 416, 780 and 514 who is sure to serve more than lip sync at this special event. He’ll be thinking about Sticky Vicky (the late Vincent Richards) when he takes the Sala Rossa stage to host Cabaret87.

Antonio Bavaro as Frank-N-Furter at the Mainline Theatre, 2012

My first friend/mentor to pass away from AIDS is an Edmonton legend: the electro-punk Broadway club kid coat-check queen by the name of Sticky Vicky, Vincent Richards. They were the first drag queen to be nice to me when I was still under-aged, and they were always supportive of my charisma, uniqueness, nerve & talent once we started performing on the same stage. (Supposedly she was the #1 blow-job groupie of punk band SNFU). You never really understood what she was saying, but you always knew she cared. Thank you, Vicky.” – Antonio Bavaro

Inexplicably moving performance interventions are Danny Gaudreault’s calling card, whether at Radical Queer Semaine events or at numerous art festivals like Visualeyez and Écho d’un fleuve. His work evokes loss and alienation with a decidedly theatrical approach. Inspired by clown and nightmarish Edward Gorey-esque motifs, Gaudreault is unflinching and always awesome.

COHÉSION et autres tentatives – Performance #4 from Danny Gaudreault on Vimeo.

My art practice is about affirming a hybrid identity by adding several layers of perceptible references. Similarly, HIV/AIDS is not an identifiable motif, but is present when I make reference to my own vulnerabilities: I am potentially affected and therefore concerned. I am also engaged in looking at ‘the other’ in an empathetic way, the same mode in which I consider the past, the present and the future: with hope.” – Danny Gaudreault (translation by JA)

Coral Short and Deanne Smith round out a stellar line-up of queer artists who will help ring in ACCM’s silver anniversary in style. See you there!

Cabaret 87 – ACCM’s 25th anniversay

Hosted by Antonio Bavaro w/ Ryan G Hinds, Danny Gaudreault, Coral Short, Deanne Smith + friends (Cocktail hour hosted by Lady Gaza + Mini Maul, with lots of prizes and an auction!)

Sunday, Feb 3, 8pm – $15

@ La Sala Rossa, 4848 boul. St-Laurent, Montréal

WIN 2 FREE TICKETS TO CABARET87 by adding a comment below and liking our Facebook page. The winning commentator/liker will be selected randomly on Saturday, Feb 2 and announced on Forget the Box’s Facebook page (go ahead and like ACCM‘s too).  Good luck!


Lamp show

This past week Café Zosha played host to a different type of DJ set. Upon entering the space, nothing seemed odd or unusual. The narrow café was decorated with the usual cozy décor, with the addition of a lamp on each table. Together there were 12 domestic style lamps creating ambient light through the space. Some look like the one’s in your grandparent’s house, while others are seemingly generic like they were found in a Home Hardware decor section.


Lamps lined benches and perched on armchairs while some spilled over onto the floor. Within the first few moments of entering, the audience became aware of a technological presence. The light of the side lamps faded slowly in and out, creating high and low light. The pulsating lamps soothed and calmed as we all settled in for a peculiar type of orchestral experience.

Music for 12 Domestic Lamps is an installation and improvisational performance project created by Adam Basanta, Julian Stein and Max Stein. The three artists work as composers and media artists. For this particular event the trio control the behaviour of the 12 lamps from behind their laptops. The lamps emit sound and light as a reaction to the actions of the artists controlling them. With the use of digital mixers and programming interfaces, these mundane objects are turned into objects of fascination. Through the artists manipulation, the environment is altered by controlling the expressions of the items within.

When the trio got behind their digital mixing boards, the atmosphere changed and the audience’s attention focused. The audio and visuals start slowly and subtly, then become more aggressive and pronounced through the duration of the piece. The light being emitted from the 12 lamps function as a visual representation of the audio waves being pumped through the loud speakers.

music for lamps
Adam Basanta, Julian Stein and Max Stein, photo by Adrian Kornelsen.


The improvised composition is made up of sound bytes that range from jarring to tranquil. Among many, you can pick up the creaks of poorly oiled doors, a jingle of coins, and the soft sounds of breathing. A ringing phone in the distance is represented by short bursts of light, the crackling voice of the operator that follows is a less intense visual, and then the dial tone beeps the lamp’s glow on and off. The performance lasted for approximately half and hour, and though at times it was agitating I thoroughly enjoyed it. As the three settled in, the digital orchestra became less scattered and more rhythmic as they tapped their feet and bobbed their heads.

Music for 12 Domestic Lamps has been in production for a year now, with the initial performance having taken place in April of 2012. The Café hosted the second and third performance of it last Monday and Tuesday night. The next happening will be on March 2nd at the Goethe-Instut here in Montreal. Take a look at the video from the last exhibition.

Zoofest is back for the third year running, carrying in its large clownish arms an assorted mash of comedy, music, satire and performance. It’s the crazier, slightly cooler little cousin of the Just for Laughs festival and looks to be even bigger and busier than before.

The idea for Zoofest was originally conceived by Gilbert Rozon, founder of Just for Laughs, who traveled the world’s festival circuit for 25 years, examining different approaches to making festivals. Amalgamating everything eclectic he had learned, Rozon created Zoofest.

The festival is a diverse bi-lingual event, and attracts not just Canadian and French-Canadian performers but American and European ones too. There are no strict rules or genres, Zoofest tries it’s hardest to give a broad spectrum of artists the chance to be seen and/or heard.

However not all acts are considered underground and the lineup this year contains some pretty big names as far as comedy is concerned. Hannibal Buress (writer for 30 Rock) returns this year after last years highly successful Zoofest performance. Coming across the water to perform is English comedy star Russell Howard (Mock the Week) bringing with him his energetic British humor.

Canadian comedy award nominee DeAnne Smith is performing her new show About Freakin Time in Underworld starting the 21st of July. This Barry award nominated piece looks to be both intriguing and witty and is definitely worth checking out. Another show which promises to be interesting is Paul F. Thompkins’ show Life’s Works which is a candid comedic recounting of his journey through his formative years.

Ventriloquist Nina Conti

Outside of “straight-forward” comedy, there are buckets of experimental and unique performance and music shows. Other People’s Problems is a performance based on the predatory and manipulative nature of self-help mediums. Ventriloquist Nina Conti demonstrates her technical prowess and witty dialogue with her show Talk to the Hand.

Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns bring their New Orleans brand of stylish soulful music to Café Cleopatra and this is definitely one of the many music acts you don’t want to miss.

I could continue listing artists but there is simply too much going on to give a fair taster of the festival as a whole. I’ve never felt more justified in saying “there’s something for everyone”. Check out the lineup on the Zoofest website and see what tickles your ribs.

The advantage of a festival that shoots for a fringe-esque feel is that the admission prices are kept as low as possible to allow for the greatest possible accessibility. Ticket prices to Zoofest events are relatively affordable (averaging about 20 bucks a show) and even cheaper if you plan on seeing a lot, in which case an All Show Pass would be worth the 39 bucks they’re asking. It really seems like a festival that likes being chummy with its audience.

Taking into account the festival’s growth from 13,000 spectators in ’09 to 30,000 in ’10, it’s safe to say that this years festival is a pretty big deal. It runs from the 9th of July until the 31st which is pretty telling of the scope of Zoofest. If the trend of growth continues from last year then this time around the festival will be madder as ever.

Check out the Zoofest website for more information

It was announced to me shortly before the Montreal Infringement Festival started that Anal Pudding were coming to stay at our apartment. Images of this large Buffalo band ripping the shit out of my place were haunting to say the least. Luckily when I eventually met this quirky feacaly themed group, they were ambassadorial in their attitude and friendly-ness. We all hung out and I got a chance to speak to lead singer Kurt who is the main dude when it comes to Buffalo Infringement. It was exciting to hear just how evolved a small idea like Infringement can become and even how organized and professional it appeared to be. But here, the Montreal festival rolled on.

We showed up to Barfly on the final Friday of the fest a little late, in keeping with the vibe that prevailed throughout the week. Anal Pudding mounted the stage and the surrounding floor space like a pack of confident madmen (and women). The packed Barfly bopped and jumped to songs with titles like “Your dog’s got crazy nipples” and “Turd Perv“. Surprising to me was that their blend of Zappa-esque “potty rock” was genuinely funny and intelligently composed. Towards the end of the set, rather suitingly, somebody broke out a large box of toilet paper and the ensuing streamer battle was intensely fought to the soundtrack of “Your Momma’s got a strap-on“.

I was excited to see the Smoke and Mirrors show which describes itself as “a critical analysis of the mainstream media and a platform for alternative perspectives on world events”. The evening, hosted and run by Jay Lemieux, begins upon reaching the door of the gallery. The lights are low and moody, smoke swirls in the light of a projector which displays trippy visuals on the wall. Dark figures sitting on the couches. The orange glow from their cigarettes briefly illuminating their faces. We were treated to interesting videos as the performers readied themselves.

Dancer Sadrine Charbonneau performed a beautiful burlesque number which saw a female soldier slowly cast off her authoritarian shackles. Clothes dropped. Flower petals showered. Everyone was impressed.

Next, two members of the group Talk/Sing skeleton played an intimate set which none the less had us all clapping and whooping with enjoyment. Tatiana Korelava demonstrated a corporate/corporeal focused piece of performance which subtly made us question the “dominating standards on an individual body” The show closed with a comedic lasso show by Ty Cardaci. His whip tricks combined with quick political humour was definitely an interested way for things to wrap up.

At last, the final day of Infringement arrived. It was to be a mellow end to a hectic 10 days. First up was a revisit to the dumpster dive art drive. (with a slight change of venue) We gathered a little weary and red-eyed and made our way to our studio. The art, I found, actually worked a little better this time around. Pieces came together quite nicely and the chalking gave the alley-way a lot of character. An interesting piece was Donovan Kings “I’d rather Infringe” which was an AA Fringe Pass tenderly torn in half stuck to a wall. Everyone drank our wine feeling quite proud. To finish things off as they started the party moved to Mont Royal where the official closing picnic was held.

The infringement festival was a blast. A lot of it went extremely well and even when it didn’t, it held a sort of train-crash hypnotism on me. It’s inspiring to see that all it takes is passion and dedication to be able to pull something like this off. I will definitely heading to Buffalo to continue Infringing.

Photos by Chris Zacchia

For more photos of the shows check out ForgetTheBox’s Facebook page and don’t forget to “Like” us 🙂

Sometimes intentions get shot to shit. What was supposedly a bi-daily article on the Infringement Festival quickly became derailed as the momentum swept us all up and threw us down a flight of stairs. But alas, it was my fault. I seriously underestimated Infringement’s power to bend somebody’s life around it for the duration of 10 days. Ah yes, it has been an interesting and frequently hypnotizing event, and as it draws to a close this weekend, I’m left with a sore liver and a headful of craziness.

Opening weekend came to a dramatic and controversial boil as Infringement went mano-a-mano with the Fringe’s appropriation of Parc Des Amériques. It was a nasty scene with bad vibes abounding, and the inherent political undertones are edging me towards silence on the whole affair. Not because I dislike argument, but because I just don’t feel like stepping into that particular pile of shit right now. I’m fresh off the boat and wearing fresh shoes.

Right before the much talked about (talked is putting it nicely) shenanigans between the two festivals, I took a stroll down an alleyway. Not any alleyway, mind you; the Dumpster Dive Art Drive had moved in for the afternoon. The goal: converting a seemingly innocuous alleyway into a provocative art gallery.

Everyone was in great spirits. Wine flowed, and even the artistically inept among us found inspiration in the assorted melange of waste. It was fascinating as people on their leisurely Sunday meanderings unexpectedly and unwittingly found themselves in a surreal gallery. If you missed it and are intrigued, as you should be, a second Dumpster Dive Art Drive is taking place on the final day of Infringement, Sunday the 26th.

The 21st and 22nd saw me in a rather more serious mood as documentaries around the theme of cultural resistance were shown. First, I saw some shorts, including explanatory pieces on culture jamming and a heart-breaking 20 minute film,  Remembering Bagua, which examined the violent conflict in Peru that took place in June 2009. For the most part, I was genuinely surprised to see this story unfold – a  testament to the truth of it being a criminally under-reported event.

The following evening I went to a screening of Into the Fire, which looked at the G-20 riots in Toronto and the suspicious and despicable activities of authoritarian figures over those few days. It was a disturbing piece and portrayed the closest thing to a dystopian Orwellian police state that I have seen. It’s an important film and should be spread and shown to as many people as possible. There is tremendous power, after all, in directing the world’s line of sight.

Next up was a vernissage in the impressive Xpression gallery. Organized and executed by artist Christine Rigby, the event was extremely successful. Free booze (for a small donation of course) lubricated our artistic appreciation. The art itself was impressively eclectic and professional, and all agreed that it was a beautiful exhibition.

And so, having had a rather respectably cultured couple of days, I checked my schedule and saddled up for a debauched end-of-week music orgy. Interested?

Don’t go too far honey, I’ll be right back.


Photos from Infringement facebook page.