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

Category: SummerWorks

July 30, 2012, by
1 comment

by Michael Wheeler

If you were in Toronto this summer it was hard not to run into the two weeks of heavy construction at Queen and Spadina. In this video, long-time friend of the show Amy Pagnotta serenades the construction with a dedicated version of ‘Downtown’ filmed by Vanessa Guillen.

The Toronto Star reports that Toronto appears poised to adopt run-off voting in 2018. In this video, Dave Meslin, who spearheads RaBIt (Ranked Ballot Initiative), explains what the deal is with run-off voting on The Morning Show. Separate from the information, it’s fun to watch how ‘Mez’ slowly wins over the hosts who seem unimpressed with his props at the top of the piece – before realizing this guy is totally truthing them.

Actress Amy Rutherford has established herself as one of the top theatre artists in Toronto appearing recently in shows by Studio 180, Volcano Theatre, Necessary Angel, Tarragon Theatre and The Wrecking Ball. She also adopted a starling briefly and wrote/filmed a v-log for Ryeberg about it. The above is of the moment she releases the bird back onto the world. You can read/watch the whole piece here.

The Pop Group’s Fierce Monsters at Summerworks is the most Praxis non-Praxis show ever created. Produced by Artistic Producer Aislinn Rose, starring frequent Praxis performers Margaret Evans and Laura Nordin, directed by Tim Buck 2 performer and You Should Have Stayed Home illustrator Jody Hewston and written by Dungeons and Dragons participant Becca Buttigieg – it’s a no-brainer to end up on the blog. Check out the video they made about weapon training for the show (It’s a Western!)

This is just a pic for social sharing

September 12, 2011, by

Michael Healey – Art by Jody Hewston

For the inaugural edition of our new series Culture Heroes by Jody Hewston, we look back at the past few months, and declare Michael Healey our clear Culture Hero of Summer, 2011.

In response to the Canadian Heritage department cutting its funding of Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival, Healey put out a call to action for all Artistic Directors of theatre companies that receive federal arts funding to come together in an act of solidarity for freedom of speech. His words were straight to the point:

If you find yourself anxious about the potential ramifications for your own company’s federal funding as a consequence of taking part in this demonstration, I can think of no better reason for participating in it.”

You can read an analysis of the SummerWorks Homegrown controversy here on the Praxis blog. Michael Healey’s own words in the Globe & Mail can be found here, and Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck’s views on the matter here. A great backgrounder on the story, as well as a list of the companies who answered Healey’s call is available here on the Wrecking Ball blog.

August 9, 2011, by

Brothers – Click to enlarge

by Shira Leuchter

It’s SummerWorks! I can’t think of a better time to see some of the most innovative performance work around. And I’m so thankful that Philip McKee, Jeremy James and Rose Plotek invited me into their rehearsal room to watch them create a sequence of their show, Brothers.

If you’ve seen the show, feel free to let me know in the comments section if this image resonates with you in any way.

Materials: Paper, Plant Material, Wooden Dowels, Twine, Matches

About the show: Brothers plays at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the 2011 SummerWorks Festival until Sunday, August 14th. You can get tickets here.

Shira Leuchter makes performance stuff and other art stuff. She recently worked with UnSpun Theatre on a new piece that was performed as part of Harbourfront’s HATCH program this April. She collects all of her shallowest thoughts here.

August 4, 2011, by

The World Premiere of You Should Have Stayed Home is 5pm @ The Theatre Centre as part of the SummerWorks Festival

NOW Magazine

“(SummerWorks) is tackling one of the biggest thorns in the city’s side in recent years: last year’s G20 summit, demonstrations and police overkill. In the highly anticipated play You Should Have Stayed Home, writer Tommy Taylor depicts his experience as a detainee in the squalid makeshift prison where hundreds of protesters were held.”

The Globe and Mail

“Despite a certain controversy over a play about homegrown terrorism last year, SummerWorks isn’t shying away from politics. In this show from Praxis Theatre, Tommy Taylor adapts a Facebook note he wrote last year after being detained for 24 hours during the Toronto G20 Summit for the stage. Billed as “the true story of a heartbroken Canadian.”

The Toronto Star

“Here are a few of our best guesses as to what shows might cause a stir (and even if they don’t, they’re worth checking out).
You Should Have Stayed Home: A G20 Romp
The always political Praxis Theatre teams up with Tommy Taylor’s company The Original Norwegian in a stage adaptation of Taylor’s experience being illegally detained while out for a walk during last summer’s G20.”

Click here to buy tickets

July 29, 2011, by

by Michael Wheeler

Six days to opening and things are heating up.

Tommy Taylor reads from the script at one of our BIG rehearsals

In the current configuration and story-telling methods this means we have probably room for 5-7 more guys in the cage. It will be just fine without them – there are some objects on stage that did not exist in reality, and what we are doing is much more representative rather than a re-creation, at this point, but why stop now?

So here it is, the final call for participants in a show about G20 and the weekend Toronto stopped being part of Canada.

You can either do it, or you can’t. If you can do it, we want you, especially if you are a guy. We are pretty good with women, though we could probably take two more.

Here are the details. Email to let us know you’re coming – or heck – just show up to rehearsal #3. Today at 6pm.

All rehearsals and performances @ The Theatre Centre.

July 29 – 6-10 PM & July 30 – 1-5 PM

Aug 4, 11 AM – 3 PM

PERFORMANCES – The Theatre Centre
August 4, 5 PM
August 6, 2:30 PM
August 7, 10 PM
August 10, 7:30 PM
August 12, MIDNIGHT
August 13, 10 PM

July 15, 2011, by

The proceeds frorm these nation-wide readings will go to the recently de-funded Summerworks Festival

by Michael Wheeler

Today will see over 70 companies across the country join together in readings of the play Homegrown by Catherine Frid, in an impressive display of solidarity amongst Canadian theatre artists.

As one of these 70, it is a heartfelt honour for Praxis Theatre to join our peers from coast-to-coast in an action that supports the notion that art is created within an ecosystem, and that it is a slippery slope down the road towards censorship if a government only forms relationships with artists that support or reinforce its ideological agenda.

Here’s all of the key Homegrown info:

As a final note, a tip of the hat to playwright Catherine Frid who didn’t ask for any of this but lends her play to the entire country tonight. And another to event organizer Michael Healey for showing leadership in pursuit of solidarity in a time when we needed both.

July 7, 2011, by

The production is now seeking for female performers as well!

Click to enlarge

Image Courtesy of Natural Resources Canada

Momentum grows for nation-wide performances of Homegrown by all theatre organizations that receive federal funding in protest of Summerworks Festival being defunded by Federal Government

by Michael Wheeler

Last week saw freedom of speech and federal support for the arts come under unprecedented attack by the Harper Government when the Summerworks Festival had its Heritage Department funding pulled with no information given as to why.

This follows a series of co-ordinated attacks on the festival by SUN Media and even The Prime Minister himself, some of which I wrote about last August, when the performance of the play Homegrown by Catherine Frid, about a lawyer’s relationship with a man convicted of terrorism, was being used as a smokescreen to deflect attention from public outrage over the discontinuation of the long-form census.

Last week, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty followed up the Summerworks announcement with this statement:

“One thing I’d say, and maybe it’s different than it used to be, is we actually don’t believe in festivals and cultural institutions assuming that year after year after year they’ll receive government funding. They ought not assume entitlement to grants … no organization should assume in their budgeting that every year the government of Canada is going to give them grants because there’s lots of competition, lots of other festivals, and there are new ideas that come along. So it’s a good idea for everyone to stay on their toes and not make that assumption.”

While it may seem reasonable to suggest that arts organizations shouldn’t simply expect automatic renewal of funding, there is no argument to be made for this kind of  cut to an organization with a strong record of meeting and exceeding its mandate, announcing consecutive years of record-breaking attendance and growth.

The cumulative message behind the Summerworks axe and the statement by the Finance Minister could not be more clear:

If you create work that critiques the Harper Government – we will take away your funding.

So begins what will likely be a challenging era for cultural institutions that are committed to making groundbreaking work which may (gasp) challenge the dominant value system – or just aren’t interested in being propagandists for a mean-spirited regime designed to respond to the commands of a leader who cannot tolerate criticism. When L’Etat C’est Moi is the rule of the day – and Moi has a big problem with people putting on plays about ideas he doesn’t agree with – Houston We Have A Problem.

Of course the argument is being presented that this is freeing up funds to support new ideas – but anyone who knows anything about the way the cultural ecosystem functions knows this is complete hogwash: Stripping Summerworks of $43,000 in funding to free up $500,000 for The Walk of Fame Festival is like declaring yourself pro-Rain, but anti-Cloud.

Even if we accept for a moment that promoting already famous people like Alex Trebek is a good idea that needs support from taxpayer dollars, how on earth do they imagine artists on very rare occasions become famous? They struggle to hone their craft in festivals devoted to groundbreaking work just like Summerworks, which has an extraordinary record as the birthplace for a number of the most exciting new works in Canadian performance. Last year’s Summerworks hit, Ride The Cyclone, recently announced an off-Broadway deal as a direct result of participating in Summerworks.

After traveling from Victoria BC to Toronto to participate in the National Series at Summerworks, Atomic Vaudeville's 'Ride The Cyclone' get a chance to take their show to NYC.

Almost none of the artists involved in Summerworks will be paid a living wage. Practically everyone doing a Summerworks show is working a second/third job and knows the best they can hope for financially is a small honorarium and that the show will go on to have a greater life after the festival. Everyone participating does it anyhow – because they know that Summerworks is an important place for new contemporary performance in Canada.

All of this is to say giving Summerworks the axe is an extremely poor approach to public policy and the cultural equivalent of poisoning the well.

The immediate impact of this politically motivated intervention in cultural policy is that ticket prices will go up and the marketing budget will go down. All tickets, including for the Praxis Theatre/The Original Norwegian Co-Pro, You Should Have Stayed Home, are now going up by 50% to $15. ($10 + $5 FST*) *Free Speech Tax. Summerworks is also in the midst of a grassroots fundraising campaign you can participate in here.

Canadian Actors Equity Association’s Executive Director Arden R. Ryshpan was the first member of the theatre community to respond to the situation with a statement released by CAEA last week:

“It is hard to interpret the Minister’s statement as anything but a threat and a potential ideological attack on the arts. I don’t recall seeing similar statements made about long-term government support to other industries such as forestry, fisheries or mining. Given that our industry is larger than all three of these sectors combined, we deserve better from our Government including meaningful consultation leading to thoughtful program change and development, if required. An off-the-cuff remark by a Minister alluding to substantial change of practice is shocking and imprudent.”

Artists across the country have also independently begun to respond positively and pro-actively to the situation. The Globe and Mail reports Western Edge Theatre in Nanaimo, B.C. will perform a public reading of Homegrown on July 15 with all proceeds going to The Summerworks Festival.

Multi Dora-winning Shaw and Tarragon playwright Michael Healey has sent out a call to action to all Artistic Directors of organizations that receive Federal arts funding to join Western Edge Theatre in performing a reading of the play, whether or not they participate in the fundraising initiative. Healey has offered to provide scripts and keep a list of participating companies so that the initiative can continue to gain momentum.

This is not the type of storm theat can be weathered by hoping they won’t come for you. Or if they do survive it that way – lets talk about how relevant the work those theatres end up putting on will be. Will Stephen Harper’s vision of Canada be the only art that forms partnerships with the government? The final sentence of Michael Healey’s message to AD’s of Canadian Theatres urging them to participate in a nationwide reading of Homegrown expresses best the necessity of a national response to this attack on Canadian culture:

“If you find yourself anxious about the potential ramifications for your own company’s federal funding as a consequence of taking part in this demonstration, I can think of no better reason for participating in it.”

December 23, 2010, by

The Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West will eventually become a permanent home for The Theatre Centre

The Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West will eventually become a permanent home for The Theatre Centre

by Michael Wheeler


A permanent home for The Theatre Centre

The Theatre Centre has existed in many locations since being founded in 1979, began a research and development program for Toronto indie theatre in 1984, and updated this practice in 2004 to its groundbreaking residency program now in place. It is an established leader in boundary-pushing, innovative and challenging approaches to performance and has nurtured and developed the talents of many of the city’s top artists.

In April, City Council offered the long-term lease of the former Carnegie Library at 1115 Queen Street West to The Theatre Centre as sole tenant. After 48 years of closure to the public, residents of Toronto will be able to enjoy the building once more.  More money still needs to be raised to bring this much needed resource and home for a community into reality, but this first step, and the commitment of a number of key foundations to support this move, is my #1 pick for 2010.


Citizens Against Proroguing Parliament

What? Yep. That was this year. Can you believe it? Hoping Canadians wouldn’t notice their democracy being shut down by framing it as a “procedural issue” Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid questions about the treatment of Afghan detainees and was met with impressive organization online and in the streets. It’s hard to tell what was more heartening: a single Facebook page becoming an overnight organizing megaforce or 200,000 Canadians asserting their right to live in a democracy coast-to-coast with a single voice. It’s a good thing we finally got to the bottom of that whole Afghan detainee thing….Oh – wait a second!?!


Rosie DiManno

For real. This is not a joke and I am not being ironic. Turn your filters off for a second: I get it. There was a point in my life where I was ready to start a “Bring Back DiMannoWatch” Facebook Page. Then Rosie became the only reporter in Toronto interested in capital “J” journalism as it related to G20. Instead of recycling myopic statements by subjects with much to hide, DiManno has been doing the work The Toronto Police Force and, well, every other journalist in the city, was unwilling or unable to do. She has already achieved tangible results by bringing the facts to a place where the public can interact with them and forced me to remember that human beings are often complicated and contradictory creatures.


People who did the thing they said they would do, in the time alloted, the way they said they would do it

Most successful endeavours this year were likely based on your contributions.



Summerworks is one of the most important theatre festivals for new independent performance in the country. Some of the shows produced there may not or may not speak to Conservative values, and the festival may or may not have submitted a grant late at a certain point. None of this changes the important role the festival plays in Canada’s performing arts ecosystem and the opportunity it presents for emerging artist/entrepreneurs to jumpstart their own careers.  The recent move to Queen W. and the inclusion of independent music are also a big plus for making it an event with wide community appeal.

Cardinal Clement was angered concerned data from the census could establish facts that differed from official state doctrine

Cardinal Clement was concerned data from the census could establish facts that differed from official state doctrine


Munir Sheikh

Whatever ideological differences we may have with one another as citizens, it is not acceptable for the government to act as if the Enlightenment didn’t happen. Facts are relevant, data is important and logic can only be ignored at our peril.


Sidney Crosby

An overtime sudden-death goal to win the final gold medal of an Olympic games, at home, simultaneously making your country the one with the most gold medals at the games, and establishing a new record for gold medals by a country at any Olympic winter games. Our grandchildren will be jealous.

8 comment of the year

I would like to acknowledge the highly subjective “winner” of this category each year in this space. Even though I just interviewed Brendan Gall six weeks ago, if we’re going to base these things on merit, I believe he was also the clear winner of ‘Comment of the Year ’ for his response to our February post: “How Do You Get a Grant?


The moderate growth of the theatrosphere

Although there is plenty of room for many new projects at the intersection of online tools and performance, 2010 was the year many companies committed to expanding their artistic practice online. From interviews with Studio 180’s creative team, to checking out pics Obsidian Theatre had uploaded of a cast member transforming her appearance, to Alberta Theatre Projects creating an audio mixtape from online submissions, to hearing from a flow of artists creating new work through the ‘My Story’ posts on The Tarragon Theatre Facebook Page – this was a significant year for the integration of social media tools with performance.


It’s still unclear whether any of the funds from the City’s Billboard Tax will reach their original target of “public art” to offset the visual pollution caused by billboard advertising as originally intended, recommended by city staff, and supported by a majority of Torontonians. Ten years from now, the real value of this movement may be the politicization and organization of a generation of artists and community activists.  This is a new cohort of engaged citizenry that understands how to communicate through social and mainstream media and is determined to have an impact at City Hall – not just for arts funding – but to contribute to a city that is understood as a community and is based on inclusive values.

August 15, 2010, by

SummerWorks Awards 2010

This year's SummerWorks Awards designed by OCAD student Chao Gao.

SummerWorks Prize for Production:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone

Contra Guys Award for New Work:

Winner: Post Eden

National Theatre School Award for Set or Costume Design:

Winner: Theory

Honourable Mention: Iphigenia at Aulis

Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation:

Winner: Avatar

Canadian Stage Award for Direction:

Winner: Steven McCarthy, Bliss

The Spotlight Award:


Edwige Jean-Pierre, Even Darkness is Made of Light

Adam Lazarus, Wonderland

Honourable Mention: Rosemary Dunsmore, Kayak

The Steam Whistle Emerging Artist Award:

Winner: Johnnie Walker, Redheaded Stepchild

Honourable Mention: The entire crew of Countries Shaped Like Stars

RBC Arts Professional Award:

Winner: Foster Child Play

The NOW Magazine Audience Choice Award:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone