Rough House Theatre's A Last Resort plays Friday and Saturday at 8PM
Friday and Saturday mark the final two days of Free Fall ’12 presented by The Theatre Centre in association with The Drake Hotel. Free Fall is a biennial national performance festival featuring new and boundary-testing works by emerging and established artists from across Canada co-curated by Theatre Centre AD Franco Boni and Praxis AD Michael Wheeler.
Mohawk/Tuscarora theatre artist Falen Johnson looks at the Queen and Ossington area from an Indigenous perspective. What was here before here was here? Who was here? And what’s still here? Come for a walk and explore the visibility/invisibility of the Indigenous history of the city of Toronto. You may be surprised where your feet land.
A Last Resort Fri Mar 30 and Sat Mar 31 @ 8PM
In 2004, Candelario Andrade left his home in Mexico and set off in search of a new life. In 2000, Camille Gingras returned to Canada as a last resort. A multimedia performance in English and Spanish, A Last Resort intimately explores the lengths two people will go for that perfect life just beyond the horizon.
Route #501 Revisited (v2 Public Streetcar) Sat Mar 31 @ 1PM
A tour of Queen Street, aboard a streetcar, conducted entirely via Twitter by @goldsbie via the hashtag #route501. As quiet and awkward as any TTC journey, yet immeasurably more fun. A rumble between the private and public spheres, as they uncomfortably rub up against each other and compete for your attention.
The Wooster Group image by Nancy Campbell - Click to enlarge
Guest post by Stephen O’Connell
Among producers of experimental theatre the Wooster Group is unique for its combination of aesthetic and political radicalism with intellectual rigor.
From the beginning, its work has been tough, difficult, vigorous and controversial. It has consistently addressed pressing social issues, including the victimization of women, racism, and the multifarious processes of dehumanization.
It has shocked and outraged a public inured to the unconventional and the daring.
It has brought into theatre material usually considered inappropriate, tasteless and illicit (including pornography, blackface and pirated text) not for sensational ends, but to explore and challenge middle-class culture, to question its assumptions and mode of operation and to reveal that which it has systematically suppressed.
It has made the New York theatre a vital arena in which social, political and cultural issues are debated.”
~ Breaking the Rules by David Savran
That description of the Wooster Group was published in 1986 and it is as true today as it was 26 years ago.
I first came in contact with the Wooster group 6 years ago when I first moved back to New York. I was keenly aware of their history and their controversial body of work. You could immediately recognize their overwhelming influence upon the independent theatre community in the city. At the ripe old age of 42 and already the co-artistic director of two successful Canadian theatre collectives(bluemouth inc. in Toronto and Radix Theatre in Vancouver) I contacted the performance garage, home to The Wooster Group and volunteered to be an intern. Despite my assumptions about my experience and level of expertise, I agreed to get coffee and pick up mail just like all the other recent college graduates interning there. In exchange I got to sit in on the company’s rehearsals and have an opportunity to watch their creative process first hand.
Two years later I was still interning at the garage, although I arbitrarily started referring to myself as an apprentice, because it somehow made me feel more useful. What I learned was not all useful or great, but definitely inspiring. I was disappointed to discover that the company did not function as collective as I had hoped. Several of the founding members had either moved on or had passed away, and the remaining company operated in more of a traditional theatre hierarchy than I had dreamed. Elizabeth LeCompte was basically the director at the helm, and I imagine the group dynamic may have been somewhat different in the earlier days.
The Wooster Group – VIEUX CARRÉ – director’s notes
What I did find was a room ignited with an explosive creative energy. The playfulness and pace of creation was like nothing I had experienced before. People were contributing and cutting ideas faster than I could keep up. I barely had a grasp of one image before the group had already moved on to three or more ideas ahead of me. I was dizzied by the incredible pace and amount of material generated. I had become so precious with my own ideas that I couldn’t imagine an atmosphere where good ideas were simply the currency that allowed you to remain in the room. At the garage you could work on an idea for over 2-3 months and it would easily be disregarded in a matter of seconds. I once spent 2 solid months erasing Richard Burton’s image from a film version of Hamlet, only to have it cut in an impulse, simply because the scene was too long. Then they would be on to the next thing. Layer upon layer, ideas are generated, recycled, trashed, confabulated, appropriated, exploded, ridiculed, deconstructed and then re-contextualized.
What you get is an onslaught of ideas and provocative images like nothing you had ever experienced before. I don’t always like what I see when I go see a Wooster show. One thing is for sure; you can’t help but have a strong opinion about it. To me that is the true test of relevant art.
The Wooster Group’s Version of Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carré opens at World Stage on Wednesday.
Image of Stephen by Gord Hawkins
Stephen O’Connell is one of the artistic directors of the Toronto-based interdisciplinary theatre collective bluemouth inc. The company is a former resident company at The Theatre Centre, and Stephen was also co-curator with Franco Boni of Free Fall 2010. Next up for bluemouth is the return of the immersive theatre project Dance Marathon, May 18-19 at World Stage.
Radix Theatre's Babylonia - Click the image to read the full post on the Theatre Centre Blog
by Aislinn Rose
Free Fall ’12 starts Saturday March 24… have you uploaded your memories yet?
Last month I sat on a Social Media Week panel to talk about the online component I had created for Liza Balkan’s Out The Window, part of Free Fall ’12. Joining me on that panel was Radix Theatre’s Andrew Templeton from Vancouver, to talk about the company’s workshop presentation of Babylonia. From the moment he played the trailer I was enthralled…
An exchange that brings together cultural players from two cities for a sharing of ideas, trends and experiences. Because of its proximity, its vibrant independent performing arts scene and its architectural and historical connection to Toronto, Chicago is often referred to as a ‘sister city’ to Toronto.
Building on the success of the first city-to-city exchange with curators and programmers from Dublin at FreeFall ’10, The Toronto/Chicago Summit at Free Fall ‘12 will cultivate a meaningful connection between Chicago presenters and Canadian programmers and artists, and provide a platform for discussing concerns, climate, interests and curiosities that drive performance creators and presenters in both cities.
The Summit Schedule
March 24 – Opening:
Welcome Potluck @The Drake Lab, 4pm – 6pm
This is a free public event.
The Toronto community welcomes our guests with a potluck dinner on their first night in the city. Anyone is welcome – bring a dessert and join the meal and the conversation.
March 25 – Day Two:
Artist Breakfast @The Drake Underground, 10.30am
A Free Fall tradition, the Artists Breakfast provides an opportunity for guests to meet the festival’s artists. This event is also a fundraising event for The Theatre Centre. Your $50 tickets gets you exclusive access to festival artists, the Keynote Address at 12.00pm and a tax receipt for your donation. Please contact 416-534-9261 or email email@example.com to purchase tickets and for more details.
Keynote Address @ The Drake Underground, noon
This is a free public event.
“The Global Ocean is a single interconnected system that contains 99% of the living space on the planet.”
The bottom line: humans are setting the table for a mass extinction of life on the planet, and we have a narrow window to pull back from the brink. Alanna’s talk will set the framework for a follow-up discussion about cultural ecosystems, as they exist now and what we imagine them to be in the future.
Panel Discussion with Chris Jones and J. Kelly Nestruck, @The Great Hall Studio 3, 2pm
This is a free public event.
Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods. Our Chicago guests will go on a special artist tour of these communities and their cultural landmarks. Tweet us @TheatreCentre if you would like us to visit you, or follow #gettoknowTO.
Watch the trailer for Free Fall ’12
We welcome these prominent cultural producers and presenters from Chicago at The Chicago/Toronto Summit:
Erica Mott – Education and Community Programs Director, Links Hall
In 2011, Luminato had multiple local shows including Necessary Angel's Tout Comme Elle, pictured above, which had a cast of 50 Toronto theatre artists.
by Michael Wheeler
Welcome to the re-vamped praxistheatre.com. It was almost four years ago that I wrote my first major post for Praxis. It was titled Lumi-not-go and was a response to the festival not being responsive to what the needs of the artistic community needed when it invented itself one fine morning. It was followed up by a critique that looked at how else the money used to create the festival could be spent titled, How Luminato Failed Toronto. Yes, I have been ripping off Mike Daisey for that long.
A lot has happened in this space and my involvement with Luminato since that time. I ended up working over three years at different times as Artistic Producer in Training, Online Coordinator and Assistant Director on Volcano Theatre’s The Africa Trilogy, which was likely Luminato’s most successful locally created work. The festival put real money over an extended period of time into a piece of theatre that combined international calibre directors and playwrights with local actors and designers in a massive experiment that was the hit of the festival. I blogged the heck out of it on praxistheatre.com.
The whole thing went so well that last year Luminato invited me back to do a seminar for staff on effective cultural blogging, especially in support of the multiple local shows in the festival. It was a feel-good story about how a critique can lead to the incorporation of real change. It felt like Luminato had listened to the community that it was supposed to foster and be a part of.
All of that seems to have gone out the window with Wednesday’s announcement that Luminato would have zero local content in the theatre, dance and opera department in 2012. It’s like they completely forgot that they live in and are part of a community (again). Until major organizations recognize they are part of a larger ecosystem and have a role to play, we’re probably doomed to mediocrity. Do they not see renting talent instead of growing it is an unwise investment?
When The Playhouse closes in Vancouver, the silver lining that no one wants to talk about is those public funds that support it can go back into the pot at least. When Luminato operates this way – which I’m sure the Heritage Minister will cite later as increased funding – we lose twice. No opportunity – and less access to investment to do it ourselves.
Just like The Africa Trilogy, Theatre Smith-Gilmour's Lu Xun Blossoms (2011) contained local and international artists.
The other big losers are Torontonians. High-end theatrical performances tend to be quite expensive, so you better have some cash if they want to see Robert Wilson and Philip Glass re-live past glory. Meanwhile the local talent that exists here the other 355 days of the year will be no better off than before. Paying top dollar for high-end touring acts does not make you a world class city, don’t let a free concert or two fool you. What does it say to the world that we don’t even care to promote or present our own theatre? It does not scream sophistication.
Luminato has a new Artistic Director this year, Jorn Weisbrodt. Much of what we’re seeing is not his choosing, although it will be his job to stand behind it. His quote on the homepage of the Luminato website seems to indicate that programming work from Toronto is something he sees as part of his mandate:
“Luminato is Toronto’s fifth season when the festival stages the best of our city and invites the world to celebrate and transform it with us.” (Emphasis added)
It’s time to start the business of investing in local talent and actually making Toronto a hotbed of groundbreaking works 365 days a year. This is going to be messy, confusing, non-linear, and wholly worth it if key players would show the leadership to make it happen.
*The updated and upgraded praxistheatre.com is brought to you by the incomparable Graham F Scott. Thanks Graham. You Rock.
Below is playwright and director Morris Panych’s letter as it appeared at the theatre during the final performance transcribed by Lois Dawson:
The Vancouver Playhouse is more than just the sum of its parts. Yes, it employs hundreds of actors, directors, designers, administrators, ushers, builders, technicians; but it’s what the theatre gives back to the community that really counts.
The Playhouse has been central to the cultural identity of the city, the province, and the nation, for fifty years. Without such cultural institutions as this, we are diminished collectively. Our very hearts and souls and the hearts and souls of our community are tied to this theatre. One should fight with all of the demise of this company or any other cultural organization that has been so central to the development of cultural life here, as it represents the very voice of Vancouver.
Whether or not you are a regular theatre-goer in this community, you are a member of this community and this theatre belongs to you. It is through cultural institutions like this theatre that the collective voice is heard, that consciousness and art has a home and that life is breathed into the concrete and steal of this city. Vancouver needs culture to stay alive, vibrant, relevant; it’s more than just real estate.
Please call your City Councillor, your MPP, or your MP, and make your voice heard. Stand up for cultural life in this city; stand up for your city.
I started working on Liza Balkan’s Out The Window in 2010 when I was invited by Chris Abraham to join a development and workshop phase with Crow’s Theatre. I was in the very early stages of examining my own project that involved court transcripts, interviews and verbatim text, so it was an ideal project for me to observe.
I had no idea at the time that I would go on to work with Liza over the next couple of years, providing dramaturgical support at first, and then creating my most complicated online project next: The Brain.
Out The Window chronicles the years Liza spent making her way through the Canadian justice system after witnessing the death of Otto Vass after an altercation with the police in 2000. The piece also examines the years after the 2006 inquest, during which Liza has conducted countless interviews with lawyers, activists, police, and members of the community.
Bankers boxes at Liza's window - click to enlarge
Throughout those years, Liza has accumulated several bankers boxes, hundreds of computer files, and DVDs, CDs and mini DV cassettes filled with research, testimonies, and the work created by designers, actors and other artists. As I worked with Liza, it became apparent to me that this vast amount of content needed to be archived somehow, and preferably in a way that would make it accessible to the public. Enter: The Brain.
As Artistic Producer of Praxis Theatre, I have long been interested in experimenting with methods of interacting with potential audience members in the lead-up to a show, and continuing the conversations sparked by the show’s content after the show has ended.
For Out The Window I proposed the creation of an “online brain” that would allow me to try to capture Liza’s knowledge, along with the history of the project, in an interactive tool that would provide the public with an opportunity to navigate the immense amount of information according to their own interests.
Using “PersonalBrain” mind mapping software (and its online counterpart WebBrain), I have created four main sub-sections that branch off into a myriad of different sibling and child “thoughts”. Some thoughts contain embedded photos and PDFs, while others contain links to articles and documents. The Brain is a work-in-progress with a huge amount of information still to come. For an overall flavour of what’s currently available, right-click on the background of The Brain and select Wander mode. Click anywhere on the screen to set it back to normal.
One of the other things we’ve been exploring with our work at Praxis Theatre, is how our online activities can directly impact the development of our work. I am very excited to see how the creation of The Brain has had an impact on Out The Window. With the existence of our living archive, we’ve been able to make peace with the elimination of certain sections of text or design work, knowing that these elements would go on to have a life online.
The Brain has also found its way into the design of the show itself, which may mean that I’ll actually have to add The Brain to the Creative Iterations section of The Brain.
Click here for more information on Out The Window at the Theatre Centre opening March 17th at 7pm, and check out the brain before or after the show to learn more.
“I begin with the etymology of ‘settler’ as a thing or person that settles, within the etymology of ‘settle’ as a thing or person that ‘comes to rest,’ that establishes a ‘permanent residence.’ But ‘settle’ also belongs etymologically to ‘reconcile’ or “reconciliation,’ which in turn belongs to ‘bring together’ (again), to ‘make friendly, and to make consistent.’”
This March will bring Free Fall ‘12 to The Theatre Centre, an eight-day biennial national performance festival featuring new and boundary-testing works by emerging and established artists from across Canada.
This iteration of Free Fall investigates shared and individual experiences through theatre, installation, performance art, new media, lectures and online performance.
Co-curated by Theatre Centre Artistic Director Franco Boni and myself, there are works from across the country and also the City of Chicago. The relationship between our two cities will play an important part in this iteration of the festival, which will also host the Chicago-Toronto Performance Summit, an exchange that brings together cultural players from both cities for a sharing of ideas, trends and experiences.
Local Toronto artists at Free Fall ’12 include, Jonathan Goldsbie, Falen Johnson, Coman Poon, Liza Balkan, the Toronto District School Board Media Arts Co-op program with Charles Street Video. This is the last time Free Fall will be based out Theatre Centre’s current home at the historic Great Hall, before it moves to its new home, half a block down Queen Street at the soon-to-be transformed Carnegie Library.
It’s a true honour to be a part of putting this festival together and I hope you’ll visit the Free Fall ’12 site to see which events and performances are ones you would like to check out.
“After the years and years of weaker and waterier imitations, we now find ourselves rejecting the very notion of a holy stage. It is not the fault of the holy that it has become a middle-class weapon to keep the children good.”