The #G20Romp team in Carcross Desert – the smallest desert in the world, Yukon
by Aislinn Rose
We’ve just arrived in Vancouver from Whitehorse, after an incredible week touring our #G20Romp, You Should Have Stayed Home, to The Yukon.
I have to admit we were all a bit nervous about whether we would find enough detainees from the Whitehorse population to join Tommy in his cage during a pivotal scene in the show. I’m happy to report we had am amazing turnout of over 50 participants over the course of 4 shows, many of whom participated in several, or even all of our performances at The Yukon Arts Centre. With daily rehearsals before each performance, we were able to incorporate new participants for each show, including audience members who felt compelled to take part after hearing Tommy’s story.
Many thanks to the participants of Whitehorse:
Kim Hawkins, Josh Regnier, Zoe Verhees. Liza, Donald Watt, Lianne Maitland, Mallory Pigage, Jeccyka Brown, Mathew Guimond, Brian Fidler, Luc Laferte, Jim Gilpin, Simon Lacombe, Hazel Venzon, Jeff Nordlund, Jennifer Solomon, Katherine Alexander, Linda Leon, Jess Macdaniel, Simon, Maureen Conway, Mary Simon, Shauna Jones, Sarah Johnston, Kate Andre, Lee Ash, Mayuko, Kim Beggs, Ryan McCallion, Marlene Walde, Todd Vanderlinden, Moira Sauer, Conrad Bishop, Sally Wright, JP Pinard, Tracy Allard, The Wheeler family from Dawson City, Matt Guimond, Bianca Martin, Carly & Ashley, David Skelton, Colleen Segriff, and the students from the Music, Art & Drama (M.A.D) program: Danielle, Kat, Sana, Megan, Kestral, Mary, Tory, Kylee, Loughlan, Claire, Caitlyn, and Brooke, and anyone else we may have missed.
Big thanks to our Toronto-based participant coordinator Scott Dermody for helping to make all this happen.
A major thank you is also owed to YAC Artistic Director Eric Epstein and Associate Artist Erin Corbett of the Yukon Arts Centre, who were incredible hosts and truly went above and beyond to make the show a success.
Having demonstrated many superhero skills over the week, Erin even looked after the children of some of our detainees one night to ensure the Wheelers of Dawson City could participate in the show. We were also thrilled to have Eric join the show as a detainee not once, but twice during the run. This tour would not have been possible without our first invitation from Eric Epstein after he saw our original production at SummerWorks in 2011.
Of course, while we were in The Yukon, it was a mix of work, rehearsals, performances, travel, and planning for the other stops on our tour. We each took photos as we made our way, and we’d like to share some of our favourites with you here:
Our view from the plane as we fly away.
We met some German tourists who took our photo by the lake.
Ended up in Carcross to enjoy the view.
Gettin’ stuff done, Praxis style
We spotted the Yukon Arts Centre’s awesome poster all over town!
Next stop: Vancouver – Firehall Arts Centre!
Our volunteer detainees play a game of condom ball
Welcome to Whitehorse!
The Nothern Lights came out for opening night
Awesome photo from the booth on Saturday night with a great group of detainees
Even on a cloudy last day, the view of Whitehorse from the Arts Centre is amazing
Lighting magic, in progress
Stopped by the smallest desert in the world.
On the way to Carcross we came across Emerald Lake…
The #G20Romp team in Carcross Desert – the smallest desert in the world, Yukon
We’re looking forward to our weeks ahead in Vancouver at The Firehall Arts Centre, before we head back for a Toronto run and then Montreal and Ottawa. We can still use your help to make this entire tour possible. Check out our Indie Go Go campaign here to make a $10 donation. Every $10 helps!
Ready to hit the studio and shit all on your mixtape
Nah, literally, shit all on your mixtape
Wipe with the credits, leave stains on the Jewel case
In just two takes, dog, the booth’ll get souffléd
You’re hiding something like a toupee
Truthfully, my friend: touché
You gon’ get exposed like an up-and-coming model
And to me your label seems like one of them pageant mommas
So guess who’s the little bitch? That’s you
You must suck a lotta dick: That’s true
Praxis Theatre is thrilled to announce their upcoming presentations of You Should Have Stayed Home, the staged adaptation of Tommy Taylor’s viral Facebook note, How I Got Arrested and Abused at G20 in Toronto. The show is a one-man piece of storytelling in the tradition of Spalding Gray, as Taylor recounts 48 hours in his life as a citizen on the streets and eventually caged in the detention centre.
Part-way through the narrative, there is a scene that incorporates up to 25 participants that can be played by actors and non-actors when the action arrives at a cell in the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre.
You Should Have Stayed Home is a play about Tommy Taylor’s experience over 48 hours at the 2010 G20 in Toronto. While trying to return home from his first ever protest as a law-abiding citizen at the “Free Speech Zone” at Queen’s Park, Taylor was swept up in a mass arrest, caged with 40 other people in a ten foot by twenty foot cage and denied drinking water until he passed out from dehydration.
Taylor’s Facebook note, How I Got Arrested and Abused at G20 in Toronto went viral in 2010 and has since been translated into seven languages and appeared in twenty-one countries – a detailed, frightening and often funny account of the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Tommy’s story has been covered by national and international media, including a Gemini-nominated CBC documentary named after the production.
After winning the largest cash award at the 2011 SummerWorks Festival, and becoming one of the festival’s highest grossing shows, Praxis Theatre is about to embark on its largest project ever: a cross-Canada tour to Whitehorse, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa.
Tangentially, a conversation came up at the debate connected to an ongoing discussion in this space: performance and memory.
Mr. Coyne conceded there was probably some role for the state to play in archiving and preserving great works, noting that mark of a great writer is their words survive themselves and their era.
As theatre artists, we can’t aspire for our work to be preserved in the same way. You were either there, or you weren’t, and you missed it. Gone forever. We can archive notes, programs, props – even scripts – but the work itself cannot be preserved (as Holger Syme also notes in his post to makes a different point) in a way that it can be reproduced .
This is neither here nor there with regards to the substance of the debate, but it reminds me that part of what makes live performance distinct is it is ephemeral and I am cool with that.
Photo Credit: Kaz Vorpal via Creative Commons (click for profile)
by Maggie MacDonald
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), predator drones, or just plain drones: we’d better get to know them, as they are soon to know us.
The use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen has sparked ongoing debate in the US, and amongst policy-watchers and academics elsewhere. Artists such as filmmaker Omar Fast have been analyzing the role of the drone pilots, who deliver remote controlled strikes on targets thousands of miles away, against a hazy object that may or may not have been a threat to national security.
Journalists and political scientists alike are asking: even if an individual poses a threat, does extra-judicial killing do anything more than set a dangerous precedent, and inspire survivors to plot a counter-attack against the enemy in the sky?
A computer can already beat a human at chess; when will a computer beat a human at moral reasoning? The musical Young Drones is about two war machines who do just that. From their motherboards springs consciousness, from consciousness, conscience. The UAVs see rabbits attempting to hop across a busy highway, and feel a terrible pain at not being able to rescue the animals from certain death or mortal maiming under the wheels of oncoming cars. Without knowing the rabbits, the drones feel a love for them, and once this love is stirred, it extends to all living things, and to each other.
Through the medium of science fiction rock opera, Young Drones breaks down an all-too-present topic into its most basic, melodic elements, in a way only pop lyrics can do. Take matter, break it down, simplify it, hold it to the light. Underneath the questions about US foreign policy, and unfolding dramas in the War on Terror epic combat theatre, the character of the predator drone is the hero of an ancient storyline about technology itself, one that began when humans first turned wood and stone into weapons in order to gain a fleeting advantage over fellow human rivals.
Image: Amy Siegel
After sticks and stones came hammers and swords. Like the sword, the predator drone calls to question the notion of technological neutrality. Recent attempts to market drones as restaurant helpers, beer delivery devices, and possible pizza-man replacements are similar to the Atomic Energy Commission’s “Atoms for Peace” campaign, which proposed nuclear weapons as tools for dam building and mining. Someone even had the great idea, never realized, to use nuclear bombs to liquify the tar sands, before recent extraction techniques were developed.
Young Drones tells the story of two UAVs developed with one purpose in mind: “Protect the Oil.” That is the anthem the humans sing when launching the devices. But these drones are equipped with something scientists and engineers have long sought to create, but only science fiction writers have succeeded in producing: artificial intelligence. The humans believe that it will make the drones better at securing the landscape, since they are able to assess threat level, strike, and destroy, with minimal human input.
In science fiction film and television, cyborgs like the Terminator are depicted as the zenith of human achievement: killing machines… with a cause. Robocop, T2, the “good” Cylons of the new Battlestar Galactica. Even when the androids do the right thing, they do it by killing the bad guys. Where are the conscientious objector robots? With Young Drones, we propose that if humans created something more intelligent and stronger than our species, that creation would do better than our species. Once in love, the Young Drones refuse to kill.
The androids, robots, cyborgs, and autonomous agents of cinema reflect our self-myths of superman and homo economicus. Greed, the tragedy of the commons, these are stories we tell, though usually with bigger budgets and less special effects than the hits of James Cameron, and Damon Lindelhof (call it denial, but I won’t drag Ridley Scott into this– that’s a fun example cognitive dissonance for you.)
In “Happy Birthday, David” a “viral clip” created to promote the blockbuster Prometheus (the latest in the Aliens franchise), the interviewer asks killer cyborg David, “What makes you sad?” At minute 1:25, he answers, “War, poverty, cruelty, unnecessary violence. I understand human emotions, although I do not feel them myself… This allows me to be more efficient and capable…”
The notion that rationality (and related economic idea “rational self-interest”) is divorced from emotion, empathy, sensitivity, and a feeling of mutual responsibility, has been turned on its head by advances in neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science. Yet this myth persists, against the evidence, and it is reflected in the cyborg films that audiences flock to see, where killer robots are born of a confluence of bad ideas from eugenics, to neoliberal economics. The only things our “Young Drones” are willing to destroy are these bad ideas. And the humans cannot order them otherwise.
The drones in our musical are young; like most teenagers, they defy the human parents who create them, to design their own future. It’s never too late to rewrite your program, and aim to be better than the myths of your species.
Image: Amy Siegel
Music: The Bicyles and John Southworth, Writer: Maggie MacDonald, Director: Stephanie Markowitz, Visuals: Amy Siegel
Showing August 15th at Summerworks, Black Box Theatre, 1087 Queen Street West, Doors 9pm
Most of our revenue at STO Union comes from international festivals. But any creations that we’ve made at STO Union, usually started with a small grant.
When I look at what STO Union has accomplished over the years, on paper, it looks amazing: we’ve toured to the top festivals in the world, we’ve created small pieces that have long shelf lives and that bring in more revenue from fees than any grants they ever receive. But the reality of the job is that it has been more of a vocation than anything else.
I left Toronto officially in 2004. What propelled me out of the city was that I couldn’t stand seeing up close the capitulation of the art world to the market.
I had to find some kind of psychic ‘space’ that was still ‘free’, so I moved to a village in Quebec.
When I think ‘market’, I think of the square in my village where locals go to see their produce and wares. Down the block, there are two churches, restaurants, entertainment venues and a community centre. There are places of business, places for contemplation, places for entertainment, and a place for the community to gather. There’s also a post office, a fire department, and a hospital. I can see more sharply how society functions through the lens of the smaller scale that a village offers me.
What I am seeing is that the separation between what occupies human time is being eroded: when you’ve placed ‘money’ at the top of your priorities, then everything becomes the ‘market’: it affects the way we relate to each other, what we do with our time, how we work. All interactions become subtly, (and sometimes not so subtly), defined by this.
The market takes over the territory and empties it out of its most precious and unique qualities, turning everything into ‘work’. It’s like an invasion or an infection: slowly taking over our relationships, our time, our attention until that is all that we see. For me, as an artist, now is the time to respond to this, with all hands on board.
A recent letter from a professor to the students of Goldsmiths (University of London) to the students sums it up:
“Perhaps you disagree with my point of view – I can understand that you might be entirely resigned to the notion that capitalism will never be overcome. Maybe you have moved beyond this resignation into a full-blown cynicism. The impression you as artists give is often that everything has already been recuperated, that all radicalism is produced broken, that all resistance is already integrated into the capitalist whole. Your works often make the claim of regretting this, but it is a false claim insofar as it is a process to which they happily contribute. Clearly, few of you are actually interested in a critique of capitalism (but a pseudo-critique that sells will have to do), but for those of us who care about art, for those of us who think that art’s critical capacities have not been exhausted and extinguished, for those of us for whom the abolition of capitalism is not a choice but a necessity, you are the enemy.”
The debate I am having with Andrew Coyne is based on completely insane premises:
it doesn’t matter any more whether we go to the governments or to the business community for money to do our Art projects because the government is now too deeply influenced by the business community and corporate state. The liberal class failed to confront the rise of the corporate state and now it ceases to function.
Ultimately, the concept of ‘we don’t feed those who bite the hand that feeds them’ makes all funded art-work ultimately impotent. If it becomes too potent the funding will be withdrawn.
For myself, capitulation to the market has nothing to do with what ‘the people want and are willing to pay for’, it has to do with surrendering our last strongholds, the last bits of territory that the market doesn’t fully control. Without those free and open spaces, we are all just slaves in denial.
Nadia Ross is the artistic director for STO Union, one of the company’s at this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival (7 Important Things). She lives in Wakefield, Quebec.
*Note the printed SummerWorks Guide incorrectly lists this debate as being on August 11th – it is in fact on August 14th at the Performance Bar at 5pm.
We felt lucky to receive this letter from Sarah Garton Stanley a week ago. We hope you will agree it makes some salient points about lists and the quantification and qualification of culture into singular lists. It also had us thinking about the anti-ness of this site. If this becomes a definitive space for singular (read: institutional) truth, then it probably isn’t the alternative status-quo challenging place it once was when it began by asking various artists “What the fuck is going on?”
So embedded in this letter is a call to action: For each of us to make our own lists. To create our own personal understandings of theatre history and to allow this multiplicity of expression and perspective to inform our understanding of where this art form has been so far. We think this is a worthy objective in 2013, when each of us has access to self-publishing tools and the opportunity to communicate our own values, experience and reality.
ar & mw
Dear Jordan and Praxis,
Everybody knows that it is not THE list, right? That it is just A list. Right? I mean everybody knows a play is still worthy if it is not nominated for an award. I mean we all KNOW this, right?
I was running the other morning and feeling blissed out on eve-ish of my 50th birthday, that I still can. And bliss led to a great opening of “thinking space”, and the unlocking of something that had been eating at me since the first publishing of Jordan’s list, but this gentle “eating at me” sensation had – my bliss was telling me - begun to transform into a background kind of rage. What was going on? I realized that it was as a result of watching the slow motion shift from Jordan’s awesome list into a largely un-authored list that now sits authoritatively on the Praxis Website. (The pun was not intended but I need to let it stand as the irony is worth considering.)
Initially I was super-charmed by Jordan’s list. Then I was saddened that more of my work was not represented on the list. (After all I won the drama prize in high school, so where is my prize here?) I tried to respond on Twitter because I really felt – personal ouches aside -that I wanted to see DNA’s The Last Supper on that list. My suggestion didn’t– as far as I know – get picked up on the social media trawling nets so I will restate it here. This play, DNA’s The Last Supper, was a stunning piece of art and meditation, and it spoke to the angst of a generation, and the loss that comes with it. Watching it made me feel as though I had been in the space of a tremendous spirit. And actually I was, as not only was there an abundance of regular genius in this piece, there was also the last breaths of Ken MacDougall being shared with a community. So I am writing this letter to you because you are people that I admire, and I want you to know about this terrific show.
But also, I was aware as to my feelings of jealousy. Why? Because by making this initial generous list, stating your sense of what’s important, and watching your capacity to put your great ideas into action are truly exciting. So of course, this makes me jealous! And jealousy leads to action. Covertly like Iago, or with gusto and embarrassment as I am endeavouring to display here. But jealousy also pours the foundations of a very deep arts crush. I am a fan of your writing, I love the energy you have given to an arts movement in the Toronto, with Videofag, amid other pursuits, and you seem completely generous and charming. All great relationships operate on a bit of jealousy. So…I hope you will forgive mine.
Because truth be told, I thought the act of your list was genius generous. My mum passed away a little over a year ago from alzheimer’s dementia. In her final months she lit up like the Las Vegas Strip when I walked into the room, but she did not know my name. My sense of her love for me was assured but I could not rely on her “remembering” me in a substantive sense of the word memory. I think it is why, throughout history, we humans have gasped for breath when we realize “shit! The past is slipping” Shit! Get it down.
I just completed my MA in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. I was interested in failure, and how it finds its way into performance creation. I ruminated on how failure impacts a collective sense of time, and whether or not it can be parsed as an active ingredient into a creation tool kit. While studying I came to understand the importance of historiography. I came to see that there are concurrent histories being written but that it is – ultimately – power that decides what “history” will look like in the future. And it is because of this –finally – that I felt the need to respond, and, thanks to a great Sunday morning run, found the keys to unlock the “how to” do and the “why”.
My initial response to the first action of you publishing/sharing your anti-canon went like this: “Oh Wow. Cool. Where is this play? Hunh! I wonder how many of these he has seen? Really? Oh! I had forgotten about that one. Cool, (again), Jordan is brilliant. I am so jealous”
This more considered response comes as a result of the migration of the list to the Praxis Website. Not only is the list now called the Anti Canon List and referred to across media platforms as such, but the mechanics (such an old school term in light of Social Media platforms) are now in place to send countless iterations of something that started as A list (Jordan Tanahill’s list) and is now becoming THE list (published by Praxis). And I wonder what might happen if we (the great unpublished would-be list makers), followed you into this list making madness, and made our own lists. Maybe I am just using all these words to give myself permission to do just this. To not feel oppressed by the choices that are being made outside of my choosing.
Don’t get me wrong, I was really happy to see the initial list but I am also interested in who is responsible for the additions. I am interested in the additions too, but it is the opinions that get them on the list. And those opinions get lost when the list gets quoted, and referred to. When history chooses. Perhaps this period in history could be seen, then, as a group of lists, as a period where author takes precedence over authoritative. Seems like a worthy goal.
When one of my earliest theatre companies took flight, I wrote an article in the CTR. It was about the production of Romeo and Juliet that we did underneath the Bathurst Street Bridge. The article was called “Permission Granted”. I recently encountered the article and was touched by its innocence. And yet, I was already a few years older than you are now Jordan. But I see now, again, that permission remains central to all of our efforts and work as artists. We must constantly give ourselves permission. No one else will. Jordan you have reminded me of this. I am so grateful.
So on my list, Sarah Garton Stanley’s list, I include and acknowledge the great list that Jordan Tanahill initially made and now offer these additions as my own:
This makes my list incomplete. Things I loved not mentioned because Jordan’s list already did. Or things I loved too much not to leave on a second time. Really my list stands as an honest attempt to respond to Jordan’s proposition of the anti-canonical idea. I take this to mean “the off mainstream rememberings” of Canadian Theatre History. But I also think it has something to do with things we have loved and lost. I will keep thinking of new plays to add to my list and will use the “competitiveness of performance creation” that LeCoq taught so brilliantly, to see how my list can grow, based on what gets missed elsewhere.
So my proposal is this; keep it as your list Jordan. And Praxis, see if you can house the many lists of individuals. It is, ultimately, an impossible project. But it would be nice to slow the move to gospel, to take some time hearing from as many peoples as possible, and so I am also challenging everybody who is interested, to make their own list, and to get it out there. And Praxis and Jordan, I am hoping you will consider renaming the list on the Praxis Website with the addition of Jordan’s name. So that all of the people who feel left out, and who are not emboldened enough (for all kinds of good reasons) to add their loves to the pile, will know that it is not THE list but just A list.
I have an arts crush on Jordan. And with this crush I have chosen to follow his lead.
There is a wonderful Ted Talks about leadership. It is called How to Start a Movement and the speaker is Derek Sivers:
I recommend you give it a watch as it has bearing on my writing this response.
Sarah Garton Stanley
PS: In high school we were allowed to vote for ourselves for the drama prize. I did. And I have always wondered if I would have won had I not. I will never know.
 Jordan recently pointed out that he had responded to this. I missed this progression.
 See how smart Walter Benjamin was? Still relevant -if only in an iterative sense – after all these years.
*If you’d like to add to the list of anti canon lists, post your contribution on facebook using the hashtag #MyCanon
“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.”