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

Author: Aislinn

May 29, 2014, by
1 comment


two kinds of hell by Charles Bukowski

I sat in the same bar for 7 years, from 5 a.m.
(the day bartender let me in 2 hours early)
to 2 a.m.

sometimes I didn’t even remember going back
to my room

it were as if I were sitting on the barstool

I had no money but the drinks kept
to them I wasn’t the bar clown
but the bar fool
but at times a fool will find a greater
fool to
admire him,
it was a crowded

actually, I had a viewpoint: I was waiting for
something extraordinary to

but as the years wasted on
nothing ever did unless I
caused it:

broken bar mirrors, a fight with a 7 foot
giant, a dalliance with a lesbian, many things
like the ability to call a spade a spade and to
settle arguments that I did not
begin and etc. and etc. and etc.

one day I just upped and left the

like that

and I began to drink alone and I found the company
quite all right

then, as if the gods were bored with my peace at
heart, knocks began upon my door: ladies
the gods had sent the ladies to the

and the ladies arrived one at a time and when it ended with
the gods immediately–without allowing me any respite–sent

and each began as a flash of miracle–even the bed–and the
good ended up

my fault, of course, yes, that’s what they told

but I remembered the 7 years in the bar, I hardly ever bedded
down with anybody

the gods just won’t let a man drink alone, they are jealous of
his simple strength and salvation, they will send the lady
knocking upon that door
I remember all those cheap hotels, it were as if the women
were one: the delicate little rap on the wood and then:
“oh, I heard you playing that music on your radio…we’re
neighbors, I’m down at 603 but I’ve never even seen you in
the hall…”

“come on in…”

and there go your balls and your sanctity, Men’s Liberation,
they say, is not needed
and then you remember the bar
when you walked up behind the 7 foot giant and knocked his
cowboy hat off his head, yelling:
“I’ll bet you sucked your mother’s nipples until you were
12 years old!”

somebody in the bar saying: “hey, sir, forget it, he’s a mental
case, he’s an asshole, he doesn’t know what he is

“I know EXACTLY what I am saying and I’ll say it again:
I’ll bet you sucked…”

he won but you didn’t die, not at all the way you died when the
gods arranged to get all those ladies knocking and you went for
the first flash of miracle

the other fight was more fair: he was slow, stupid and even a
little bit frightened and it went well for quite a good while,
just like with the ladies those gods

the difference being, I thought I had a chance with the


Fallen Angel Still


BUTT KAPINSKI at the Toronto Festival of Clowns

created and performed by Deanna Fleysher
FRI, May 30 @ 8PM
SAT, May 31 @ 6PM
SUN, June 1 @ 4:30PM
at the Pia Bouman School, 6 Noble Street

Tickets hereThe director of international hit Red Bastard comes back swinging with BUTT KAPINSKI. Think it’s a solo show? Think again. Private eye Butt Kapinski invites you to co-star in a film noir fantasy. This funny, filthy, fully-interactive ride is riddled with sex, sin, shadows and subterfuge. Let’s kick reality to the curb and play in a world of dark dreams and bad similes.Winner: Most Orgasmic Production and Best of Fest (Hollywood Fringe 2013), Volunteers Choice Award and Cultch Award (Vancouver Fringe 2013), Official Selection: Dallas Solo Fest 2014, UNO Festival 2013 and Out Of Bounds Festival 2012. ADULTS ONLY!

Check out the trailer here.
For more information visit the show’s website here.

“Super funny and astonishingly inventive. Like watching a trapeze artist soar without a net…”
~ Artsbeat LA

September 18, 2013, by

The #G20Romp team in Carcross Desert - the smallest desert in the world, Yukon

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:

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!

Click here for tickets in Vancouver.

July 5, 2013, by

by Aislinn Rose

2011 #TentTalk hosted by Gideon Arthurs.

2011 #TentTalk hosted by Gideon Arthurs.

Today I will be hosting a Tent Talk for the Toronto Fringe Festival called “Please don’t start a theatre company“, inspired by issues and ideas raised in the article of the same name by Rebecca Novick.

The panel is also informed by my work, examining new creation models with Arts Action Research in their program Theatres Leading Change, currently being administered by Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts.

We’re going to examine this issue from as many perspectives as possible, using Novick’s article as the jumping off point. We’ll look at the challenges faced by artists entering a sector that has experienced substantial growth over the years, while increases to funding in that sector have stalled. Does it make sense for new artists to try to squeeze themselves into old models? Is there a better way for our small companies to focus more of their energies on the work of creation? Novick asks: “what can we build instead?”.

Essentially the goal is to arm artists with as much information as possible and let them make their own informed decisions.

So join us at the Fringe Tent (behind Honest Ed’s) at 5pm. The entire series of Tent Talks is being discussed on twitter via the hashtag #TentTalk, so if you can’t make it but want to ask a question, send it that way and we’ll try to answer as best as we can.

  • Check out the original “Please don’t start a theater company” in advance.
  • You may also be interested in Jane Marsland’s recent publication on Shared Platforms for the Metcalf Foundation. Jane is one of the foundation’s Innovation Fellows, as well as a consultant for Arts Action Research, participating in Theatres Leading Change.


Beatriz Pizano 2Beatriz Pizano is the founder and artistic director of Aluna Theatre: a company that creates, develops, produces and presents artistically innovative and culturally diverse performance work, with a focus on Latin Canadian and women artists. Beatriz has established herself as a writer/director with a distinctive voice that combines her roots with her experiences as a Canadian immigrant. She has worked extensively as a performer, writer, dramaturge and director.  Her trilogy about women and war that she wrote and directed (For Sale, Madre and La Comunión) received a total of 4 Dora awards and 13 nominations, including 3 for Outstanding New PlayRecently, reviewer Paula Citron wrote: “Colombian-born Beatriz Pizano is one of Canada’s important Latin-Canadian writer/directors”. Beatriz has also received a number of awards such as the prestigious John Hirsch Prize for Direction from the Canada Council for the arts, and a Chalmers’s Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council.  In 2012 her first short play for young audiences, The Suitcase, was included as a curriculum insert for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.

Julie Tepperman HeadshotJulie Tepperman is an actor, playwright, educator and co-artistic director of Convergence Theatre (with Aaron Willis), creators of the hit plays AutoShow, The Gladstone Variations and YICHUD (Seclusion).  They just closed the Canadian premiere production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play.  Recent acting:  Mary 2 in Passion Play (Convergence, Outside the March, Sheep No Wool), Mr. Marmalade (OTM); Out The Window (The Theatre Centre); YICHUD (Seclusion) (Convergence/TPM); two seasons at The Stratford Festival.  Playwriting:  YICHUD (Seclusion) (published by Playwrights Canada Press); I Grow Old (as part of The Gladstone Variations – Dora nomination); ROSY (as part of AutoShow); a re-imagining of Strindberg’s The Father (Winnipeg Jewish Theatre).  Julie is part of the core producing team of Toronto’s Wrecking Ball and is a graduate of George Brown Theatre School.

Alex Addy JohnsonAlex Johnson is a one-time actor and two-time director turned producer and arts administrator. She is co-founder and Project Director of The Playwright Project, and currently working as Operations Manager for The Downstage, a brand new performance space (with a bar!) on The Danforth. She has worked as Programs and Outreach Assistant at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, and in literary programming for Luminato. She is co-founder of Written on Water Theatre and recipient of the Women’s Auxiliary Performance Award from the University of Windsor.

daiva headshotDaiva Zalnieriunas has worked as an actor, creator, stage manager, teacher and producer. She studied acting at the University of Windsor. Upon graduating, she formed a theatre collective with some classmates called Written On Water theatre (WOW). She is the co-founder of the Playwright Project (formerly known as the Tennessee Project). Favourite roles include: Olivia in Twelfth Night; or What you Will, Angie/Detective/Four in EDGE (WOW), Madge Owens in Picnic, Ellie Dunn in Heartbreak House, Brooke Ashton in Noises Off (University Players). Film/Television: Eva Pearce (Murdoch Mysteries), Elanor (Paradise Falls), Tuesday (Tuesday/TIFF Short Selection), Saffron (Compulsion), and Delilah (National Geographic’s Faces of the Bible). Currently, she is working on an upcoming interactive theatre production with WOW, and will be enrolled in the SITI Company’s conservatory this fall in New York.

March 28, 2013, by

Civil Debates 1

by Aislinn Rose

Last year, after the firing of Ken Gass from Factory Theatre, David Ferry and I exchanged open letters on this site. David’s letter, addressed to the younger generation of theatre artists, first appeared on Facebook.  He asked why the newer generation of artists was so silent on the issue. Was it apathy? Had he and his contemporaries failed the next generation by not setting a good example?

“How have I and my contemporaries failed in setting an example for you, so that you do not feel compelled to speak up in such a time?

Why do we as a community of artists have so little to say politically about our own institutions in comparison to similar communities from other cultures… USA, Britain, France, Germany as well as the non-Eurocentric communities of theatre artists in the world?”

I responded by saying I felt the issue was larger than the firing of one Artistic Director, and that an assumption could not be made that silence on one point was an indication of apathy on all points. I talked about this generation’s participation in Toronto’s Culture Consultations, about our work with TAPA & Arts Action Research’s Theatres Leading Change, about the Indie Caucus and our ongoing struggles to bring necessary changes to an important but outdated institution that is the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, and more.

“This is not apathy, but a quiet community of passionate and dedicated artists working away at changing what no longer works. I am not silent, I sit on no fence, and I am not complicit. I’m just offering my voice to a different fight.”

While it was clear that neither of us was going to suggest the firing had been handled well, we certainly had come out on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of what the response to the situation should be.

What was most compelling was the intense, articulate, and passionate debate that appeared in the comments sections of these posts. Across generations most commenters were willing to sign their names to their ideas and opinions. It became clear the greatest value to be derived from our disparate viewpoints was the space that was created between the two, allowing for discussion on all the murkiness and grey in between.

On Monday, April 1st, we’re bringing this discussion into a physical space and we’re asking our community to join us in that murkiness. The debate structure we’ve chosen, based on the Canadian parliamentary model, requires a bold, clear statement, allowing for our incredible speakers to address their opposing viewpoints with passion and rigour:

Be it resolved that Boards of Directors have the right and responsibility to overrule the Artistic Direction of a theatre company.

I want to be very clear about the nature of the discussion I hope this debate will engender. This is a complicated issue, and there is much to be learned on the topic. As a result, I feel I can’t say this enough: we are not coming together to argue. We are coming together to listen, consider and respond.

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts about Civil Debates, “just like the best acting, each debater should have a responsibility to hear the arguments that come before them and respond – not just deliver a prepared statement.”  Our goal is to address more than the firing of one artistic director, or one theatre, or events in one city. We’re addressing larger issues, the results of which could be seen in theatres across this country over the last few years.

Join us on Monday for this important and spirited discussion. I hope you will come with an open mind, a willingness to listen and learn, and even just the slightest chance that someone on this panel might change your mind, regardless of the perspective you came in with.


Creative Cities Debate - March 15, 2013

Creative Cities Debate – March 15, 2013

Debate 2: Arts Boards
Hosted by Theatre Centre Managing Director Roxanne Duncan
Moderated by Praxis Theatre Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose
Debaters Franco Boni, Brendan Healy, Gideon Arthurs and Jini Stolk
April 1, 2013; doors 7pm, debates 7.30pm
The Theatre Centre Pop-Up, 1095 Queen St. West, at Dovercourt
PWYC at the door.

Twitter Hashtag: #CivilDebates

Click here for more information about the Civil Debates series in partnership between The Theatre Centre & Praxis Theatre.


February 28, 2013, by


by Aislinn Rose

Last week we blogged about an upcoming event at Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage Festival: The Dachshund UN. Well, tonight’s the big night for little doggies, and Praxis Theatre will join the throngs of dog-lovers and UN nerds as about 36 dachshunds enact a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. 117 dachshund and dachshund-mixes have been recruited for the effort, and you can get to know each of them here (if you can handle this much wiener dog in one sitting).

Praxis will be there to live tweet the event tonight at 7pm and you can follow the hashtag #DachshundUN right here in the live stream below. I’ll try to get some good pics. If you’re on twitter, you can follow us via @praxistheatre, and via @AislinnTO and @michaelcwheeler.

36 dogs on stage. What could go wrong?

Dachshund UN continues until March 3rd.

February 26, 2013, by


“Hidden Histories & Spectacular Misfits” @ Videofag, Photo by Jordan Tannahill

by Aislinn Rose

In 2007, the Indie Caucus was announced by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts as a forum for companies to work together through the many challenges that face indie theatre in Toronto. However, for the last few years, the Caucus has been focused primarily on tackling the major issues we face together in relation to Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

You can click here to read the plethora of Indie Caucus-related posts we have written over the last few years. These posts include our campaign to get an indie-focused slate of candidates elected to CAEA Council in Ontario – along with our 5 successful new Ontario reps.

Last year I took on the role of Co-Chair of the Caucus, taking over the reins from everybody’s favourite guy, Richard Lee, and I was later elected to the TAPA Board of Directors where I’m a representative for indie theatre, amongst an awesome group of people advocating for Theatre, Dance and Opera in the city.

On Wednesday March 6th, I’ll be co-Chairing our next Indie Caucus meeting, but this one is going to be a little different.

On March 6th, our meeting will be held at Suburban Beast’s new interdisciplinary performance space, Videofag. We’ll be meeting with our regulars for a quick update at 6pm (where we’ll probably talk about Equity’s new “small-scale” theatre policies), and then opening the doors at 7pm to anyone who’d like to know more about the Indie Caucus, and any companies or individuals interested in joining.

I look forward to talking about joint marketing initiatives, an indie mentoring program, and other issues you might bring to the table – and probably a recap about Equity’s new small-scale theatre policies.

TAPA has created a non-facebook event here, where you can RSVP to let us know you’re coming. If you can’t attend despite your interest in the Caucus, feel free to send an email to and we’ll add you to the list for future meetings and event invitations.

Look forward to seeing you March 6th!

Videofag is located at 187 August Avenue in Toronto.


December 27, 2012, by

Chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa

by Aislinn Rose

On December 10th, over 5000 people rallied across the country against controversial omnibus Bill C-45. This legislation makes sweeping changes to the Indian Act and drastically reduces protections for waterways without any consultation with First Nations, in direct opposition to existing treaties. You may not have heard about those rallies on December the 10th because our national media was busy covering a certain little well-dressed monkey lost at an Ikea store.

But the grassroots campaign known by its twitter hashtag #IdleNoMore, which grew rapidly through the use of social media, coupled with the current hunger strike by Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, has forced a narrative shift. With blog posts in the Guardian, interviews on CBC (below), and various news articles and editorials, the movement has found an international audience, and international solidarity.

Chief Theresa Spence has been on her hunger strike since December 11th. She seeks a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a representative of the Queen to discuss our country’s existing treaties. “All treaties were signed by the Crown — the government — and our ancestors … the treaties are there for a reason and either the prime minister doesn’t understand them, or he doesn’t want to respect them,” Spence has said.

Movements of solidarity have popped up across the country and in other parts of the world. In Toronto, Native Earth Performing Arts has organized a Fasting Relay in solidarity with Chief Spence. Artists in the community have each taken a day throughout Spence’s hunger strike to fast for the day in support of her efforts, and to send a unified message to the Prime Minister to meet with the First Nations leader.

What Chief Theresa Spence is doing is forcing the government and all of Canadian society to decide publicly whether they care if she – and by extension her people and our shared land – ceases to live. She is willing to die.  This is an extreme measure that I have not had the courage to take. With this fasting relay, I am proud to join with my many beautiful communities to support Chief Spence in this small yet symbolically significant way.

~Tara Beagan, Artistic Director, Native Earth Performing Arts

Below is an ever-growing list of relay participants as gathered on Native Earth’s facebook event page. Please add your name to the comments section if you have joined the fast and are not on the list, and be sure to let Native Earth know if you haven’t yet joined the relay but would like to.

Find out more about upcoming Idle No More events on their official website here.

Native Earth Fasting Relay Timeline

Dec 12 Chief Spence began.

After 24 hours, and a fair assessment landing on the reality that Harper would not be hearing her, the organizing of this support relay began.

Dec 13 Steve Tredget (NEPA family) fasted in support before this relay began

Dec 14 Tara Beagan (NEPA)

Dec 15 Derek Garza (NEPA) and Tahani Afaneh (NEPA family)

Dec 16 Janet Antone (NEPA)

Dec 17 Jiv Parasram (Pandemic, New Harlem and Cahoots Theatre)

Dec 18 Aislinn Rose (Praxis Theatre), Richard Cliff (NEPA family) and Kenneth Williams (playwright)

Dec 19 Keith Barker (NEPA)

Dec 20 Rae Powell (NEPA) and Brooklyn Doran (NEPA family)

Dec 21 Winter Solstice, Andy Moro (NEPA family) and Troy Emery Twigg (Centre for Indigenous Theatre), Michelle Latimer (NEPA family, filmmaker)

Dec 22 PJ Prudat (NEPA family), Eli Ham (NEPA family) and Leah Simms-Karp (NEPA)

Dec 23 Rupal Shah (Nightswimming and Obsidian Theatre, NEPA member), Anita Majumdar (actor/playwright), Christopher Ross (NEPA family)

Dec 24 Deb Courchene (NEPA), Ashley Bomberry (NEPA family), Jiv Parasram again.

Dec 25 James Cade (NEPA family), Marjorie Chan (playwright)

Dec 26 Cole Alvis (NEPA), Luke Larocque, Jordan Tannahill (Suburban Beast)

Dec 27 Michael Wheeler (Praxis Theatre), Ruth Madoc-Jones (NEPA family and SummerWorks), Marilo Nunez (Alameda Theatre), Naomi Skwarna (Suburban Beast)

Dec 28 Brooklyn Doran, again (NEPA family), Aislinn Rose, again (Praxis Theatre) Sasha Kovacs, Marion de Vries (Centre for Indigenous Theatre)

Dec 29 Laura Nanni (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre), Christine Rambukkana

Dec 30 Michael Rubenfeld (SummerWorks), Lisa C Ravensbergen (NEPA family)

Dec 31 Colin Doyle (actor) and Darla Contois (CIT)

Jan 1 Nicole Joy-Fraser


November 6, 2012, by
1 comment

Abdelfattah Abusrour, Amer Khalil and Kamel Elbasha in Facts

Dan Daley sends Praxis a letter from Palestine where he was touring with Arthur Milner’s Facts:

Palestine: how much do you know about it? In the little town of Bethlehem on the closing night of the month-long Arabic language tour of Arthur Milner’s Facts, I feel that I know even less about Palestine. What I do know is that I met numerous Palestinians with big hearts and a great passion for the arts. Yet still I come away from it unsure of what to do – to forget or to take action?

Kamel Elbasha & Abdelfattah Abusrour

Our Canadian team included myself, Arthur, Samer Al-Saber (director) Martin Conboy (set & lighting designer) and a brief visit from Jennifer Brewin (artistic director of Theatre Columbus). We were given an entire apartment to live in at the home of Dr. Abdelfattah (co-producer and actor) and his wife Naheel Abusrour along with their five children. We could even get a lift from the Doctor’s employee, Salim, whenever we needed to go somewhere.

Dr. Abdelfattah or “Abed” as most call him, runs a cultural centre in the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem (a small village of homes that stand butted up against the separation wall) This camp has existed since the Israeli instated partition of 1948. If you’re not aware, this was one of the first extensive occupations that led to thousands of Palestinians refugees in the region. Abed was born in Aida camp during the 1960s. He is the only one in his family of seven children to study abroad and achieve a doctorate (a PhD in biological engineering). One evening he said to me: “I quit my career because I saw that I could make a greater difference through art and theatre and now it has become my career”.  So he formed the Alrowwad Cultural & Theatre Society with its own educational facility in the heart of the camp. I spent much of my time volunteering at the centre as we prepared for the tour. On a daily basis I saw numerous children from the camp receiving an education in music, dance, media arts and theatre.

Alrowwad became the co-producer of the tour with the New Theatre of Ottawa. It’s impossible to describe how the limited resources of Alrowwad continually contributed to the success of the production. Most of their equipment including video cameras, computers and stage gear is donated. Most of the young men and women who work there are donating their time. In my two months here I can say I have become very close with several of them and that’s just the kind of people they are.

Cast at the home of Kamel Elbasha

Kamel Elbasha, the translator of the play, is the single reason the show managed to find a co-producer that could commit to the time the project needed. He essentially championed the project from the beginning and even took on the role of the character Yossi.

The tour wasn’t all fun all the time. There were times that it seemed like no one could care about what we were doing. The team and me were always un-sure if anything was actually going to get done and if anyone was actually going to come and see the show. Given our Canadian sensitivities, we had to get used to their way of working and sure enough we were delightfully surprised by their ability to coordinate huge tasks at what seemed frighteningly last minute. Much gets lost in translation I think.

On tour we drove across much of the Palestinian territory and into Israel, back and forth across numerous military controlled checkpoints. One such checkpoint confiscated our rental car and put it through an inspection that involved pulling body parts off the frame. It was almost amusing watching a young Israeli soldier carry our spare tire out from the inspection garage to be x-rayed. The best was watching another soldier come across a stack of our tour postcards. She had a moment with it, of course noticing the Arabic text, showed it to her companion and moved on. This was possibly our worst encounter. In most cases, we would flash our Canadian passports and they would barely blink. However, if you got into a discussion with them, their party line was often: “What are you doing here?” Our reply: “Visiting Palestine!” Their reply: “Don’t you mean Israel?”…

At the performances we would usually have a “talk-back” session with our audiences in a mix of Arabic and English. Rarely did these discussions leave the realm of politeness, but on occasion some presented a critical reaction. One such audience member criticized Palestinians for maintaining a level of complacency that is undermining their freedom. Another attributed this complacency to the extensive amount of foreign aid in the region, which has improved the lives of many, but like a bad drug, it only numbs the pain while Palestinians continue to bleed more land to Settlers – that’s my own paraphrase, but I think it’s a good summary of what she said.

Arthur with audience post show in Ramallah

I appreciated one young woman in the crowd who exclaimed that she wanted more from our play, that it could go further, but she couldn’t articulate what exactly “further” meant. Others felt it was a refreshing experience to see a play “which did not depict Palestinians in a depressing light”. Many were excited to have a pair of Israeli characters on stage. At Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, the excitement was palpable in a room full of young Palestinian men under the age of 21. I had been told that much of the arts are inundated with the same images emphasizing stereotypes and failing to recognize the good humour Palestinians have about their situation.

Many have asked Arthur why he wrote a play about Palestine and Israel, why he as a Canadian was even interested and how he came to tell this story. One very different question, which generated a strong discussion, came from a young girl who asked, “What did Canadians think of the play?” Before Arthur could answer, one audience member exclaimed, “must have been like preaching to the converted!” and Arthur replied, “No, it was like preaching to the ignorant”.

The production under the direction of Samer (a Palestinian-Canadian) has taken on a greater sense of humour than I think Arthur or I expected. The depiction of the Settler appeared sheepish and pathetic. He is much less threatening than our Settler was in the Canadian production. I guess there is a need to laugh at that which oppresses us. What better form of therapy? I only make note of this because our

Samer pre-show with audience in Jaffa

Canadian audiences, in a concerted effort to be considerate and compassionate about everything, took the performance somewhat more seriously. The text is full of jokes geared toward a western audience, which the Canadians responded to, but our Palestinian friends used physicality to generate the humour.

A man of great distinction in Bethlehem, a professor of biology who attended our opening night, proclaimed “I would pick the Settler over the Palestinian Cop any day!” His point being that you can trust the political leanings of a Settler, especially a fanatic settler since their intent is pretty clear. To the Professor and other audience members, a cop of the Palestinian Authority needed to be a bit of a low-life. It became clear that there is much distaste for the Palestinian Authority. Alternatively, our PA cop behaved like a role model, as the ideal version of a government representative they might want.

The talk-backs, personal discussions and encounters I had here led me to think a lot about fanaticism and the purpose it has in a place like this. Fanaticism gets attention. Many settlers are considered fanatics and they’re hated by both Palestinians and any left-leaning Israeli. There are Palestinian fanatics too, but sadly I’ve heard them described as “oh yes the people living in Gaza right?” Or to take that stereotype further: “the terrorists right?”

Loading out from Bethlehem

I can only base my reactions upon what I saw here. I don’t know enough to fully understand the situation. There are divisions upon divisions within both nations. Some would say there are several nations, for example: separating orthodox Jews from secular Israelis.  However many divisions, the dispute continues to subject Palestinians to a discriminatory occupation and Israelis to an instituted level of denial. No one is at ease.

Our tour of Facts was a success for the people involved. It has been invited back to perform for a complete run at several of the theatres we visited including a venue in Ramallah, Hebron and Jaffa. Our Palestinian co-producers plan to do just that and return to those venues in the new year, but this time it will be without the Canadians. Instead they want to come to us in Canada and if anyone knows a pool of money to help them come here, please be in touch.

If I cannot forget then I want to make sure others can witness.

From Palestine,

Dan Daley
Associate Producer
Arabic Language Tour of Arthur Milner’s Facts

November 1, 2012, by

by Aislinn Rose

Voting in the CAEA Council elections ended last night and the results are in.

Huge congratulations to five of our seven endorsed candidates in Ontario who ran as a slate promoting indie issues, improved communication between staff, council and the membership, and a re-examination of the role Equity plays within the performing arts ecology in Canada.

Those new Councillors are:


Hume Baugh

Mark Brownell

Kristina Nicoll

Vinetta Strombergs

Aaron Willis

Congratulations also goes out to the other two fine candidates elected to Council in Ontario: Nigel Bennett and Yanna McIntosh.

Here’s hoping that an Indie Advisory Committee is formed, allowing Brenley Charkow and Kate Fenton, our other two endorsed candidates to participate in a significant way. Jason Chesworth would also be an excellent addition to such a committee.

Full National CAEA election results can be found here.

Follow Aislinn on twitter: @AislinnTO

October 31, 2012, by

by Aislinn Rose

I recently had a conversation with four of the seven Ontario candidates we are endorsing in the current CAEA elections. Voting continues today until 5pm PT.

In attendance: Hume Baugh, Mark Brownell, Vinetta Strombergs and Aaron Willis


AISLINN: To get the conversation started, could you go around the table and tell me who you are, what your relationship with Equity is?

Hume Baugh

HUME: I’ve been a member since 1984, so that’s something like 28 years. I’ve done lots of different things and have worked for larger companies, but I’ve also spent a fair bit of time over the years doing smaller indie theatre and have observed for years that it’s been difficult, next to impossible in many cases to do it without interference from Equity, which is always too bad.

What really got me interested in Council is what happened to me in December when I and three other people tried to produce one of my own plays and it was a nightmare of being forced by Equity to use a higher level of a contract than I could afford to do, and just feeling like there was no way to have any dialogue, and a staff member refusing to meet with me when we reached an impasse. I was outraged.

The issue of indie theatre and the issue of the kind of communication that’s happening with the association is really what got me interested in being on council.

Aaron Willis

AARON: I’ve been an Equity member for ten years. I got hooked into thinking about Equity Council similarly to Hume, when I was starting to create as an indie theatre producer and having similar difficulties and conversations. Basically being dictated to about what should or shouldn’t happen, and then having to sign agreements that didn’t reflect anything about the way that the work was being created.

Rather than running for Council I ran for the CPAG, the Council Policy Advisory Group, in the last term, and I was co-chair of that with Brenley Charkow. Sitting on the CPAG gave me a real picture of how Equity works from the inside. At the end of those three years, I thought this is a severely dysfunctional organization that doesn’t represent its members very well at all. I thought that means it’s actually time to run for council and try to do something about it.

Vinetta Stromberts

VINETTA: I’ve been a member of Equity since the dawn of time, since the beginning of the alternate theatres. I go back to the 70s. I’ve been on Council before Policy Governance, and I got involved with fighting Equity, because that’s what it’s been, since the late 80s with the original group trying to get the equivalent of festival waivers for Rhubarb.

It was those next wave of small theatres, which was the first wave since the original theatres in the 70s. They were fighting Equity to find a way to do mostly the play development festivals like Rhubarb. The Fringe was in there too, so there was a group of us, who basically did what we did this time around, to get the indie agreement negotiation started, we invaded an Annual General Meeting and we put a motion on the floor. After that negotiation started, every time we showed up at Equity to negotiate, there was a different group of people across the table, even different staff members.

Mark Brownell

MARK: I’ve been a member since 1988. I picked up from Vinetta with the Indie in the 90s with Naomi Campbell. The Council at that time had a lot more control over what was going on and I think there was more of an indie-friendly council back then because they recognized there was a problem. In fact, I think Equity has sort of been realizing there has been a problem that needed to be solved, but there’s always somebody there to sort of block it along the way.

I was the one who initiated the resolution that passed 96 – 1. It was basically a bunch of us who invaded the Annual General Meeting… which hadn’t received quorum the last two times, by the way, so they could pass two or three years of minutes. So they were actually pretty happy. They kind of thought, oh, maybe we should engage the indie on this, even though I don’t think they had any idea or intention to fix anything… they were just happy that people were interested. Of course, the people who are interested have pitchforks…


MARK: At that time Equity was blind, deaf and dumb to anything indie. You go back to previous minutes of previous councils and they had no idea what was going on. It really hit them, it was a blind side…

HUME: About what?

MARK: About any kind of dissatisfaction within the indie. It’s been brewing for 20 years…

HUME: But there’s been so much fighting with indie artists…

MARK & VINETTA: But that’s not Council…

AARON: That’s one of the things that came up is this gulf between staff and council…

MARK: It’s huge…

AARON: I said this at the all-candidates meeting: Staff represents Equity, Council doesn’t. When the Indie Caucus started bringing this stuff up, councillors were saying “why didn’t anyone come to us?”. But nobody knows who you are, no one knows who council is, and when you call Equity you deal with a staff member. That’s who you talk to.

Talking Equity at the Annex CSI cafe

MARK: I have to mention at the Montreal AGM a couple of years ago, we put forward yet another thing that passed again. Zach Fraser was involved in that, and Sarah Stanley… it was basically a reaffirmation of my mine, and Walter Massey stood up, one of the original members of Equity, and I thought oh Christ, here it comes… and he stood up and said “we’ve been facing this problem for a long time and we need it to be fixed”…

AARON: wow…

MARK: One of the original members of Equity said that. And all the people who were against it couldn’t vote against it. They were ready to vote against it. We only had a quorum of about 50 people in Montreal, but suddenly all those councillors who were so dead set against it could not stand against this man who had actually created the union. I was shocked. It was a really wonderful night.


AISLINN: You mentioned being involved in the writing of the current indie policy and I want to talk about this notion of getting great people working in a room together on what a new agreement should look like, and then this history of these draft agreements moving behind closed doors and what comes out is very different to what went in. Do you see that happening again?

VINETTA: I don’t have a lot of faith in how they are portraying the results of the survey. If you say to people, “Hume, would you rather work for Equity minimum, or work for less?” Duh. Of course, we know what the answer is. However, if you have an opportunity to work on a project you believe in, are you willing to work for less? Yes. But they will skew that result and say, “oh, 98% of the people said they want to work for minimum… and only 78% said they were willing to work for less”.

The point is, nobody says you HAVE to work for less, but they say you CANNOT. So they are preventing people from working, which I believe is unconstitutional. And I’m not talking Equity Constitution. They’re preventing us from doing the work we want to do. And the work that charges us, that makes us better, that fulfills us.

AISLINN: There’s been a lot said about the survey and the poor questions that were asked, because obviously the preference is to work for minimum fees. But I feel there were some very clear results that came out of the survey in terms of what many artists value more than minimums, like the opportunity to work with certain artists, creating stuff that’s their own.

MARK: Aislinn, that is where your document comes in very very handy. Because we now have a benchmark. When the new Indie and Co-Op comes out we can compare the two and say here’s where it meets and here’s where it doesn’t meet the survey results.

AARON: This thing about taking stuff behind closed doors, the first I’d heard publicly at all that there was going to be a new Co-Op and a new Indie was when Kerry Ann mentioned it on Facebook.

Kris Joseph did this great job leading the Independent Theatre Review Committee and now he’s saying “I’ve seen a draft of the agreement Arden is working on”. So Arden’s doing it herself.

I think it comes down to contempt for artists, saying “we know better than you”…

VINETTA: … you mean “hobbyists”…

MARK: There’s a paternalism.

AARON: “We know better than you about how you should do your business and how you should create your art. We’re here to protect you from yourselves.” And I find that deeply insulting. There are so many artists who are entrepreneurial and we need an association that supports that and doesn’t squelch it.


AISLINN: In the survey there was a number, something around 25% of the respondents, admitted to having lied to Equity about work they had done…

MARK: That’s low… that’s a low figure…

HUME: The lying isn’t new though… it might just be increasing…

MARK: We had a wonderful AGM at Passe Muraille as part of the CPAG a couple of years ago. We didn’t really intend it, but we suddenly had a whole panel that stood up and said “I lie, I lie. You’re telling me I have to do it this way and I can’t afford it so I lie”. And suddenly people in the audience started standing up and saying “I lie too”. At that point I was shaking my head and asking, at what point are these agreements totally pointless? If people are lying, if they’re having to bend the rules every time… and it’s not just members, it’s Equity itself shuffling all these productions into the Co-Op.

AARON: Equity would like to be the gateway to professionalism. You get your Equity card and that means you’re a professional artist. But that’s not true. There are lots of people who create stuff and make a living and who aren’t Equity and don’t need to be.

Hume talking indie theatre

HUME: You also have these individual artists who decide they want to get together to do a project. Maybe one of them got an OAC grant, so now all of a sudden this person has to become an engager. Equity is constantly pitting its membership against each other.

The whole first 20 years of my career we’ve kind of accepted that this is way Equity is and you just have to fight or lie, but in December it was absolutely insane that when I was producing a show the only organization I had trouble with was my own association, that’s crazy to me. I pay my dues, and I spend this whole time being treated like a criminal, or a shifty kind of person.

MARK: I belong to four associations. Equity is the only one I don’t feel has my back.


AISLINN: You were saying before that there’s a disconnect between members, council and staff, that council is out of the loop. As four of the seven looking to fill the seats in Ontario, if you get elected, what do you want to do to change that?

MARK: Policy Governance is the biggest barrier between Council & membership.

AISLINN: Can I stop you there, because I wonder how many members know what the hell that is?

AARON: Essentially, Council cannot tell staff what is good or not good about an agreement. If some of us get on Council, people who have worked in this way and have useful things to say about what is good or useful in an agreement… all we can do is write policy that Arden will interpret to fix the thing she’s writing.

There’s this idea in Policy Governance, that Council only looks at the Big Picture, not at the details. And then Council has to speak in one voice and present a united front, as opposed to advocating for specific things that need to happen.

What I would like to do once this new indie agreement comes out, if issues come up, I will say “I think there are things that need to be changed”, even though, technically under policy governance I’m not supposed to do that.

MARK: That’s how we can represent the membership.

HUME: I can’t imagine if I was elected, thinking about doing anything else. How would you be able to sit there is somebody brought forward something you disagree with and not say “I disagree”?

Mark, Vinetta & Aaron

MARK: When the door is closed and you’re in Council, you speak your mind. The moment there is a decision made by Council, all Council is supposedly in agreement.

VINETTA: I’ve been asking around in the community and various organizations to get a sense of what others think of Policy Governance and they say it’s for the corporate world, and it doesn’t even necessarily work there.

AARON: It prevents the people who are elected from actually communicating with the membership.

Jason Chesworth [one of the other Ontario candidates] wrote a great piece on facebook about all the things he would do as outreach to membership, and under Policy Governance, he wouldn’t be able to do any of those things.

MARK: One of my biggest interests is advocacy, but under Policy Governance I can’t do it. I can only put it into policy to make Arden/staff do it. But Advocacy should be a core value.


AARON: As an organization that is not a union, but something that represents a bunch of self-employed contractors, what Equity’s role could be in helping the ecology of theatre grow is finding ways to not just defend us as workers, but to also advocate, defend and encourage us as entrepreneurs.

A trade association is a bunch of members working together to grow and prosper, and Equity could be leading that.

MARK: It all comes down to pride in membership. Equity should be bending over backwards so that members finally say, “I’m proud to be an Equity member”. Currently that’s not the case. That is Equity’s main challenge.

Follow Aislinn on Twitter: @AislinnTO