Praxis Theatre is currently on hiatus! Please find co-founders Aislinn Rose and Michael Wheeler at The Theatre Centre and SpiderWebShow, respectively.

Date: 2010 February

February 26, 2010, by
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Editor’s Note:

We received the info below from our friends at and are happy to repost here.

Note the event will be moderated by Variation on Theatre #7 and Theatre Why Not Artistic Director Ravi Jain. Note that those involved in the budget process are likely sizing up this whole situation to see how much trouble it’s going to be to just sweep this under the rug. Note that if you show up you will play a small part in contributing to that assessment. Finally, please note how well the colours of the invite work with the rest of this website!


The billboard tax has been passed but zero new money has been invested in beautifying or democratizing access to public spaces with art in the 2010 Budget. This goes against highly favourable public opinion polls by EKOS (2009) Environics (2007) and Pollara (2005) and a 4500 person petition, 60 endorsements by organizations and reams of city plans to build a successful Toronto for the long-term. Along with the Mayor, city councillors from across the political spectrum have also been very supportive of a billboard tax to fund art in committee, council and the press. Similarly, public consultations, staff and consultant’s reports stated that the purpose of the tax was to support arts and city beautification projects.

We are not really sure what happened, however the budget has not passed yet. It’s time to get a bit pissed — then get smart and help correct this mistake by coming to the town hall. It worked to get the tax. It might just work to take it back!

Join / Invite / Spread the word via Facebook Page:






** Please forward and spread the word. See you on Monday! **

February 22, 2010, by

KD Lang sure did Own The Podium with her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujiah

k.d. Lang sure did Own The Podium with her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

Does the possibility of Toronto City Council abandoning the Beautiful City initiative, the 93% cuts to BC culture concurrent with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and the coming 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto mean bad news for Torontoians who value art and culture?

by Adriana Alarcón

The art sector envisioned a Billboard Tax that would reclaim the public visual landscape and allow the public to participate in painting the picture, so to speak. But the community will receive ZERO dollars from the new tax for art programs. The Staff Recommended 2010 Operating Budget simply avoids a general 5% decrease in funding to the arts. Topics like downloading pressure from Provincial government on city services; decreases in funding to other city programs; have risen past the need to allocate revenues from the Billboard Tax directly towards funding for the art sector. Pro-art councillor Gord Perks was a strong supporter of the Billboard Tax and pro dedicating the funds to the arts. Recently, however, an email communication suggests that it’s the general idea of ear-marking dollars which he finds problematic. “I do not support dedicating the tax revenue to a specific program” he stated.

Local artists had hoped the City would work to acknowledge the contribution from the arts sector in generating an estimated $10.4-million per year. Old fears are resurfacing as artists see the 90% decrease in funding to arts and culture by the same province that is hosting the world’s premier athletes and start to shudder. Starving artist stereotypes aside, I am quite sure that many essential, arts-service organizations, independent theatre companies and young collectives would make the most out of every penny from these new coffers. With that appreciation, I fear most that a sum like $10.4-million is one that is too easily swallowed up by mega productions of international, amateur sporting events like the Pan Am Games, which are coming to town in 2015.

The Toronto arts sector must look west to the role of arts and culture at the Olympic Games and work hard to build on the momentum started by the BCBF and Department of Culture. In British Columbia we can witness high profile Hollywood names with Canadian links in tourism commercials. MTV is broadcasting live performances held nightly at Whistler and Vancouver medal ceremonies. Yet funding to the arts in BC has decreased dramatically in recent years – by 90% last year. Let us also remember that after arts-funding was cut severely at the Federal level in 2008, Prime Minister Harper poured that money into the Olympic Torch Run, which was more evidently sponsored by Coca-Cola than by the Government of Canada, in my opinion. Could Toronto be the next to see culture budget slashing followed by limitless spending on Games preparations?

It’s not all down with art and on with brawn. Artists can look forward to opportunities in the Opening Ceremonies and in large scale concert, performance and exhibition series that are to be expected in four years to celebrate the Pan Am Games. Artists play a vital role in interpreting and communicating Canadian values, in making sense of the complexity that is the collective Canadian identity. After this week, we must note that VANOC tapped into our gifts to elevate theirs. However, it is especially important now, to ensure the City of Toronto meets their moral obligation to acknowledge the work by the many individuals who supported the Billboard tax. It is timely to make a positive impact on our industry and to continue the beautification of the cityscape.

Rob Ford was the only councillor during the Billboard Tax debate to explicitly suggest the new stream revenue wouldn’t go to culture.

It’s also not about artists turning on athletes. My fear is about seeing one sector have its expectations and deadlines met by all means available while the other is perennially tucked behind road work and social programs, despite the dedication shown by the Visual Art sector on the Beautiful City campaign. The Provincial and Federal governments have pledged to support the infrastructure projects required to bring the 2015 Games home. Soon the focus will be diverted towards new housing projects and revitalization of the waterfront, again. Toronto will undoubtedly play the multicultural card in it’s touting of the city around the Western Hemisphere and generating sponsorship opportunities. Sporting events are highly profitable marketing opportunities – in the long run. In the short run, they will cost the City a lot more than $10M per year. Without supporting or protesting the Games, Billboard Tax dollars should be thought of with sights on the future of the industry that made that money available.

Artists bring their own fan base, they further increase the hype level of the adrenaline charged environment, and they open new markets. They provide a means to entertain the masses. This is essential for games organizers since the actual sporting events are too expensive or somehow elusive to the local market. Also key for a successful Olympiad is leaving the host city with a sense of pride and some good memories. Having volunteered and worked at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in 1999, I can point to the Games as the time when I saw Burton Cummings perform live at the Closing ceremonies by request of Manitoba’s Premier, which then led to a Guess Who reunion tour. Personally, I’m not hoping for a Rush reunion. My hope is that given the rise of Hip Hop in Latin America as well as Toronto’s connections to recent success stories; a sensational, summer concert line-up could be expected from July 10 to July 26, 2015.

What about the local scene? What about young rappers, slam poets and performers that could be engaged in the dialogue between games attendees and ‘real’ Torontonians? How about continuing to support the budding stars that can one day do their part in promoting the Canadian profile in the world stage? What about nurturing and incubating the masterpieces of the future?

Let’s hope that Toronto artists are not asked to bear the burden of the cost of the Pan Am Games. Let’s hope that artists are asked to wear our costumes and stage make-up for 17 days – but not at our own expense – especially after our creative thinking opened a new source of income for the City of Toronto.

Adriana Alarcón lives in Toronto. Her art practice includes various fields such as writing, music, design and visual arts.

February 18, 2010, by


By Michael Wheeler

Throughout 2010 I will be engaged in a Director in Training program at The Tarragon Theatre funded by The Canada Council for the Arts. The premise of this program is that although I have significant experience directing theatre in festivals or site specific locations, I am still lacking in some key skill sets – namely how to tech a show and work with designers in a full professional production that has multiple days of tech and several previews.

Basically the program should teach me how to direct a show with a real budget in a big theatre. I have been an assistant director or script coordinator on a number of large budget shows, but the focus has always been on the process in the rehearsal room. At this point the other half of a director’s job is what I really need to bone up on, and I am thrilled (and a little incredulous frankly) that I have been presented with this opportunity.

As anyone who has ever done a fringe show knows – design elements are difficult to prioritize in indie theatre: Often festival productions have one “special” – a light designated just for the use of a particular show. Sets must be kept simple in order to be loaded on and off stage in under 15 minutes. Sound design must be kept basic in order to be programmed along with all your lighting cues in under three hours.

Site-specific work offers more freedom but comes with new obstacles: Power supply for lighting instruments is always an issue as is the ability to hang them without a grid.  Sets must often be built inside the venue to fit though human-sized doorways. A lot of time gets burnt on how and where people will sit. Insurance, washrooms, fire exits come up time and again too. Design elements always seem to move to the end of the list.

To bring me up to speed on how the established theatre world has been working with design while I have been making-it-up-as-I-go for the past seven years, I will be investigating and learning about the design and technical elements at theatres across the country and at The Tarragon Theatre.  Sometimes my travels take me along with Tarragon Theatre Artistic Director Richard Rose, and sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to be included by other companies.

The goal of the program is to give me the knowledge and understanding to direct a play at any theatre regardless of scale or budget. As editor of a website about indie theatre I would be remiss if I didn’t write about all of this, so starting next week start looking for posts on the topic, starting with Tear The Curtain a project The Electric Company has been commissioned by The Arts Club to premiere at The Stanley Theatre in Vancouver – aka the most technically ambitious production I’m aware of a Canadian indie company ever attempting – so it will be a great place to start!


February 16, 2010, by

Amnesty International launched this multi-platform human rights awareness campaign in Belgium.

by Aislinn Rose

Ever since our most recent workshop in January, my research has been focussed on ways in which we can incorporate wireless and cellular technology into our HATCH work-in-progress.  In particular, we’re trying to find out the best way to allow our audience members to send us text messages throughout the show so that we can project them on screens and/or televisions.  (We have some ideas, but if you’ve got any advice, please feel free to share it in the comments). When it comes to figuring out the solution, we have to keep asking ourselves, “What do we need it for?” – a great question both logistically and theatrically.

As mentioned previously, we want to engage all of you in the debate about civil rights, and we want to do that before, during, and after our presentations.  So we’re using all of the resources we have available to us, including the theatre, our website, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever hand-held gadget you’re currently addicted to (it’s the iPhone for me).  As theatre artists we’re looking at political content and attempting to agitate you and bring awareness by employing some of the techniques typically employed by activists, and there are all kinds of activists who inspire us… and some who are even turning around and using theatrical techniques to get their points across.

The campaign by Amnesty International asked the humans of Belgium to wake up, and what I particularly like about it is that it’s asking a progressive society to stop taking their human rights for granted, reminding them that they must remain forever vigilant.  So are we awake in Canada?  A few of us (across the political spectrum) seemed to be on January 23rd.  But what about when it comes to stickier, less black and white issues?  It seems too easy to want to defend human rights when it’s a child being denied entrance to a school, or a couple being refused a marriage ceremony in a church.

It appears to become more of a challenge to remain awake and engaged when we’re talking about the rights of someone who has (allegedly) fought against us, who has engaged in illegal activities, who has been deemed an enemy or a traitor.  But when does a human being stop deserving basic human rights?  Surely if human rights are something worth fighting for, then we should be willing to fight for them in every situation.

I’ve been searching for a quote for the last several weeks in relation to our Section 98 project and to the issue of civil rights in general, and I think I finally found it.  It is attributed to Margaret Chase Smith a former Republican Senator from Maine, and she said, “the right way is not always the popular and easy way.  Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character”.  So while it may be unpopular, I’d like to know when we’re bringing Omar Khadr home.

By the way, did you know that music by a number of popular western bands (including R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine) has also been used to torture detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq?  I’ll leave you with this little number from Rage Against the Machine… but I will say this, it would be a pretty good torture device for me as well.  And also: Keanu Reeves’ movies.

February 12, 2010, by
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Marc Bendavid and Rosemary Dunsmore

It was a fabulous opening night for George F. Walker’s And So It Goes at the Factory Theatre. Celebrity Theatre managed to sneak in where Marc Bendavid was all about talking to the press. Rosemary Dunsmore didn’t seem so sure.

February 11, 2010, by


Hello, Praxis blog readers!

A few weeks ago Michael Wheeler put me, Brittney A. Filek-Gibson, affectionately known as BFG, in charge of Praxis Theatre’s social media strategy. By which I mean he gave me the password to the Twitter account.  And held me to my months-old promise of creating a Praxis Theatre Facebook fan page.  I graciously accepted my newfound social media supremacy responsibility, along with the official title of Person Who Understands The Internet, though I suppose in hindsight that Internet Goddess would’ve been more concise.  But I digress…

With the tweets tweeting and the fan page built, M. Wheeler told me I should write a blog post introducing myself because, “I always think it’s weird that you don’t know who you are talking to through these tools.”  I was also asked to include an image, which I happily agreed to since the only other picture of me to appear on this blog is absolutely ridiculous (Fun Fact: it’s the first thing to pop up in a Google image search of my name, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?).  So fine, agreed, fantastic.  Except that now I’m staring at a computer screen the night before I promised my post would be done, I can practically see him shaking his head, and I have no idea what to tell all of you.  Eeek!

First I did what any reasonable person would do in my circumstances: stalled for time.  Then I did what any reasonable person who understands the internet would do: asked Twitter and Facebook for help.  My friends Carl and Lois suggested I tell you that I’m awesome.  Great, check, done. And that I was once in a play Carl produced in a parking lot. Long story.  Facebook yielded zero helpful results.  I assume this is because they recently changed their layout for the zillionth time, it keeps crashing, and no one can find anything.  Two strikes, social media, you are really failing me here!  I believed in you! And now I’ve made this whole post, which probably didn’t need to be longer than a paragraph, into a minor melodrama.  That is something you should know: I have, on occasion, been know to be the teeniest, tiniest bit dramatic.

Which leads me to the best suggestion Twitter generated this evening: talk about why I’m a performer.  I’m going to expand on “performer” and say that I’m a theatre artist.  And I’m a theatre artist because I believe that theatre can change the world.  Which might sound naïve or idealistic or silly, and maybe it is.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.  Theatre creates community, between artists, audiences, institutions, between everything and everyone with whom it comes in contact.  And through these connections, theatre is capable of impacting society, policy, people, ideas, and leading to change.  Or at the very least, asking the questions that lead us to the evaluations that lead us to change.  This is what I embrace as an artist, and I think it’s fundamental to what Praxis does as well.  In fact, Section 98 and the open-sourcing of our creative process is a perfect example of this attitude.

And what better way to contribute to and to expand our community than through social media?  While the blog is still the central focus of Praxis’s online presence, I think that both Twitter and Facebook provide another interesting opportunity to engage with the company in a different capacity and to continue creating that community.  And I am really excited to be part of that dialogue.  After all, the internet is basically responsible for me working with Praxis in the first place, which is the last thing I’m going to tell you about in this post (you could find out more about me and my antics by clicking here if you were so inclined).

As a recent graduate of NYU, I moved back to Toronto in late 2008.  I hadn’t lived here since I was nine, and it didn’t take long to be discouraged by the fact that I knew not one single person in the Toronto theatre world and I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.  This was a frustration I expressed at length in the comments on this very blog and one that I am not entirely done talking about. This was my official introduction to Praxis Theatre, followed by a brief meeting in the real world. Now fast forward to the Fringe Festival and an email offer of help on my behalf.  “Straight up, we need a stage manager,” says Michael Wheeler.  I was on vacation in Moab, UT at the time and I blame the desert heat for making me think this was a fantastic idea.  I’m grateful I agreed to take the risk of making a fool of myself, having never stage managed anything before, because I’ve had a blast and made some fabulous friends.  And I’m still doing it!  I’ve even figured most of the stage managing bit out since, although I still have no idea how to program a light board and please don’t talk to me about sound.  My point is that a little over a year ago, I was just a few initials in the comments section of this blog.  And now, here I am, Praxis, your guide to Twitter and Facebook.  Such limitless power responsibility! You’re stuck with me.  And I’m thrilled.

So I’ll leave you with the question that started it all: what should we talk about now?

Click here to join the new Praxis Theatre Facebook Fan Page

February 9, 2010, by


We asked Kelly Nestruck if he would provide a picture of himself - he said he would prefer to be represented by this picture of Gilles Duceppe eating a whole fish.

by Michael Wheeler

Torontonians like to think the role of a theatre critic is to hand out stars and write the occasional preview puff piece  – try telling that to Globe and Mail critic Kelly Nestruck.

The Windy City is blowing Toronto away

  • Written by Kelly Nestruck
  • Directed at anyone who wants Toronto performing arts to be awesome.
  • Starring the civic and performing arts community leaders of Chicago and Toronto.
  • In The Globe and Mail newspaper.
  • Three-and-a-half stars out of four.

There is a spectre haunting Toronto – the spectre of a World Class Performing Arts City. All three levels of government have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: through funding Toronto arts municipally less per-capita than any major North American city, through inside deals made by provincial government mandarins, and federal prizes created through the use of falsified documents.

Kelly Nestruck’s latest piece in The Globe and Mail can be read as a critique on all of these decisions and a simultaneous wake up call to the city’s cultural leaders that it is an outdated notion that Toronto is “on top of the world” as far as the performing arts are concerned. The argument is presented through a comparison of how Toronto and Chicago stack up against each other in four the four Cs: Civic leadership, Collegiality, Comprehensive Criticism, and Confidence.

In each instance Chicago comes out on top – for the most part because the Chicago community actually views themselves as, and operates as, a community.  They understand fundamentally that all parts of the performing arts are part of an ecosystem – from the recent theatre school grads putting up a storefront show to a Broadway-bound musical. As such, Chicago has become not just a stepping-stone to greater success in NYC, but a place TO BE a world-leading theatre artist or patron. Period. If a show transfers to New York – great for the producers – but the city continues to be a great town for theatre regardless.

Embedded in the article are a number of suggestions I fear will be lost in the simplistic debate about “Which city is better?” so I list them below. Perhaps we will revisit them in several years time to see if any progress has been made in the revitalization of Toronto’s performing arts:

  • Stop using those ridiculous flags along the roadways imploring Torontonians to “Live With Culture”. WTF does that mean? How is that at all helpful? It’s time to divide them up amongst the ACTUAL cultural institutions in the city.
  • Start investing arts infrastructure in the city. Not just big name theatres, but smaller spaces and rehearsal spaces too. Ten years after Mayor Daly began investing in Chicago’s performing arts, not only are they booming, the city estimates it has already made “far more” in increased revenue than the original investment. It’s smart money.
  • Some of the major Canadian theatres (okay CanStage and SoulPepper) oughta stop having opening nights on the same evening. This is probably more frustrating to a critic for a national newspaper than anyone else, but he’s right that it is an illustration of a grander chasm regarding the responsibility the powers-that-be feel towards being constructive community members.
  • The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and The National Post need to start reviewing a much wider variety of shows – including non-Equity ones. It is ridiculous that membership in a professional association should impact whether or not a production is great art. This rule does not exist in Chicago, NYC or London and is the simplest and easiest way to begin the inevitable indie theatre renaissance that our community desperately needs. The thing about ecosystems is that you can’t pick and chose which parts of them to report on.
  • Confidence: We will only be taken seriously, when its clear we believe in ourselves. For real.

Where Nestruck goes astray in his analysis is neglecting to mention the serious ethos of collegiality that still exists amongst the emerging artists in Toronto’s theatre scene despite all these obstacles. I am constantly blown away by the mutual support and willingness to help each other that exists in my generation of artists and I actually think it is our greatest strength moving forwards. Likewise, citing TAPA as ineffective seems particularly egregious as it has 23 active committees all formed by volunteer members from the performing arts community, was the birthplace of The Indie Caucus, distributes a bi-monthly theatre guide throughout the city, runs The Doras, TO Tix, and a variety of programs that make the performing arts more accessible to youth and at-risk communities. I mean, what else do you want from an arts service organization?

On Sunday evening, The Canadian Theatre Critics of Canada hosted a panel discussion with The Tarragon Theatre titled, Reviewing on the Internet: The Rebirth of Theatre Criticism? Because I was watching the Superbowl (in Vancouver) I can’t tell you what happened there, but I can tell you this: The internet made Kelly Nestruck the theatre critic for Canada’s most influential newspaper through his online work for Torontoist, The National Post and The Guardian. And now we’re having this conversation here and in The Globe and Mail – so I’m going to go ahead and give that rhetorical question a “yes”. And the reason it’s different now is we’re talking about what is actually going on, what needs to be done to make it better, and not a fictional reality that serves established old-guard interests.

February 4, 2010, by

Regen Thiel

Now that the Princess and the Handmaiden has wrapped up at Lorraine Kisma, rumour has it that Princess Regan Thiel is looking to buy some property….

Regen Thiel 2

It seems that playing a princess has gone to her head and in order to live happily ever after, only one place will do.

February 2, 2010, by

Tony 2

A3 image

Tony Nappo and Maev Beaty continue their discussion on The Africa Trilogy Blog of the issues and ideas that have arisen through the process of workshopping the trilogy with a post titled: Theatre Versus Rice and Beans.

Click The Africa Trilogy Image to go to the blog and read the whole post.

February 1, 2010, by
1 comment

grants cartoon

Further to the discussion on the previous post, and this one, and this one too.