This week, host Phil Rickaby chats with award-winning playwright, Taylor Marie Graham. We take a thrilling deep dive into the heart of her play, “Corporate Finch,” dissecting the complexities of its characters’ relationship, the chilling plot within the confines of an abandoned factory, and how a 22-hour writing competition was instrumental in overcoming the writer’s block that initially haunted her creation process. Taylor gives us her unique perspective on horror on stage, bringing to light the innovative ways she employed the physical space of the theatre to heighten suspense and tension.
Our discussion takes a fascinating turn as we explore the potential of horror in theatre, drawing from the traditional presentations of horror in the theatre before film took the reins. Taylor shares her insights on how live audience, coupled with light and sound manipulation, can escalate the thrill of the genre. We also delve into the interesting challenge of staying one step ahead of the genre, and the excitement it brings. On a more academic note, we delve into Taylor’s theatre course at Western University, where she scrutinizes the history of theatre in Toronto, addressing critical questions of representation and identity.
As we navigate towards the tail end of our conversation, we cast the spotlight on Taylor’s doctoral research on the Blythe Festival. We delve into her process of selecting pivotal moments from the theatre’s history to focus on and explore the tragedy of plays that have never seen the light of day. Taylor underscores the importance of ensuring the accessibility of these unpublished plays, shedding light on their often overlooked value. We round off our conversation by addressing the evolution of theatre and its potential to challenge audiences, inviting them to revisit and re-imagine their relationship with this age-old art form. We hope you’ll join us for this enlightening exploration of Canada’s theatre scene, the thrill of horror on stage, and the intriguing intersections of art and academia.
Taylor Marie Graham is an award winning playwright, librettist, director, theatre scholar and educator from Cambridge Ontario. She joined me to talk about her play Corporate Finch, which rounds out a summer of performances with a run at IMPACT Fest in Kitchener, Ontario. In this conversation we talk about the unusual origin of Corporate Finch, taking the play to festivals around Ontario, and her how her academic practice and her artistic practice compliment each other. Here’s our conversation.
This week Phil Rickaby chats with Patrick Blenkarn and Milton Lim about asses.masses, a unique theatrical experience that sits at the intersection of video game and theatre. This episode promises to uncover the layers of this innovative game-meets-stage play and will leave you questioning your perceptions of traditional theatrical conventions. Expect to be drawn into a world where the audience becomes the performers, engaging in a live, interactive video game that requires the negotiation of power within the story, all while remaining enjoyable to watch for the non-participants.
As we navigate through the mechanics and origin of asses.masses, you will also find yourselves questioning prevalent stereotypes about the humble donkey. Commonly misconceived as stubborn and unsmart, our fascinating exploration of the donkey as a symbol of labor initiates insightful discussions about digital labor and its implications today. Coupled with the intriguing concept of game show mediation and audience involvement, this episode will certainly broaden your understanding of performance art, digital labor, and animal symbolism.
Our discussion extends beyond the boundaries of performance, delving into the debate over video games as an art form. You’ll be immersed in the collaborative process of game development and storytelling as we dissect the structure of Asses Masses and its influence from other famous titles. We also reflect on the changing attitudes towards art consumption and its impact on the reception of such innovative works. As we conclude, you’ll be left with a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of game development, the symbolism of labor, and the power of audience engagement in redefining performance art.
Patrick Blenkarn is an artist working at the intersection of performance, game design, and visual art. His research-based practice revolves around the themes of language, labour, and economy, with projects ranging in form from video games and card games to stage plays and books. His work and collaborations have been featured in performance festivals, galleries, museums, and film festivals, including the Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires, the Humboldt Forum (Berlin), Festival of Live Digital Art (Kingston), STAGES Festival (Halifax), Banff Centre for the Arts, Risk/Reward (Portland), SummerWorks (Toronto), rEvolver (Vancouver), RISER Projects (Toronto), and the Festival of Recorded Movement (Vancouver). In 2020, he was nominated for Best Projection Design at Toronto’s Dora Awards. In 2022, his work with Milton Lim, asses.masses, received the National Creation Fund from the National Arts Centre of Canada.
Patrick has frequently been an artist in residence at galleries and theatres around the world, including The Arctic Circle (Svalbard), the Spitsbergen Artist Center (Svalbard), GlogauAIR (Berlin), Fonderie Darling (Montreal), Malaspina Printmakers (Vancouver), Skaftfell Center for Visual Art (Iceland), VIVO Media Arts (Vancouver), and The Theatre Centre (Toronto).
Patrick is also the co-founder of and a key archivist for videocan, Canada’s video archive of performance documentation, and one half of Guilty by Association with Cole Lewis. He has a degree in philosophy, theatre, and film from the University of King’s College and an MFA from Simon Fraser University.
Milton Lim (he/him) is a digital media artist, game designer, and performance creator based in Vancouver, Canada: the traditional, unceded, and occupied territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
His research-based practice entwines publicly available data, interactive digital media, and gameful performance to create speculative visions and candid articulations of social capital. This line of inquiry aims to reconsider our repertoires of knowledge aggregation and political intervention in the contemporary context of big data and algorithmic culture. Often cheeky and audience/participant driven, his work challenges standard performance traditions including duration, linearity, and repeatability. Milton holds a BFA (Hons.) in theatre performance and psychology from Simon Fraser University.
He has created works for and performed in various international festivals and venues including PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (Vancouver), CanAsian Dance Festival (Toronto), Carrefour international de théâtre festival (Quebec City), IMPACT Festival (Kitchener), Seattle International Dance Festival, Risk/Reward Festival (Portland), Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires, artsdepot (London), Battersea Arts Centre (London), New Theatre Royal (Portsmouth), Strike a Light Festival (Gloucester), Hong Kong Arts Festival, soft/WALL/studs (Singapore), and Darwin Festival.
Performance credits include The Arts Club’s The Great Leap, Gateway Theatre’s King of the Yees at Canada’s National Arts Centre, and Theatre Conspiracy’s award-winning immersive show: Foreign Radical at CanadaHub (Edinburgh Fringe). Milton’s media artworks have been presented at the Vancouver Art Gallery, San Francisco State University, F-O-R-M, VIVO Media Arts Centre, and The New Gallery. In 2016, he was awarded the Ray Michal Prize for Outstanding Body of Work at the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards.
He is a co-artistic director of Hong Kong Exile, an artistic associate with Theatre Conspiracy, a co-founder and key archivist with the videocan national archive, an infrequent Sessional Instructor with Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts, one of the co-creators behind culturecapital: the performing arts economy trading card game, and a founding member of Synectic Assembly—an Artificial Intelligence focused art collective.
Upcoming: Milton is part of an 18-month Artistic Leadership Residency with the National Theatre School (Canada); his work on the asses.masses video game project recently received the prestigious National Creation Fund and premiered in Buenos Aires in February 2023; along with Patrick Blenkarn, he will be doing a self-directed residency in South America (February-April 2023) as well as continuing work with Darren O’Donnell, Alice Fleming, and a dedicated group of young people at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin over the next few years.
Labour, technophobia, donkeys, and sharing the load of revolution: asses.masses is a long form participatory performance that follows the epic journey of unemployed asses as they navigate the perils of a post-Industrial society in which they’ve been made redundant.
At its core, asses.masses is a custom-made video game designed to be played on stage by a live audience. Brave spectators take turns each night stepping forward from the herd to seize the means of production and become the player. There are no instructions. It is up to the audience and their self-elected leaders to make decisions and play out their version of the game.
Cheeky, political, and best described as Animal Farm meets Aesop’s Fables retold by Franz Kafka, Karl Marx, and Sonic the Hedgehog, asses.masses puts the control(ler) in its audience’s hands and asks them to discover the space between the work that defines us and the play that frees us.
This week on the podcast, host Phil Rickaby talks to writer, actor, and friend of the podcast, Ryan M. Sero. We’re taking an in-depth look into his upcoming production, Best Bard Bits, and peeling back the curtain on his one-man show. Listen in as we navigate the challenges of writing for theatre, from staging combat scenes to making a silent character intriguing, and the pressure of creating an unforgettable experience for the audience.
Immerse yourself in the artistry of live theatre as we explore the relationship between the performer and the audience, and how breaking the fourth wall transforms the viewer’s journey. Ryan reveals his knack for creating scenes of chaos through the smallest of moments and how Best Bard Bits is the embodiment of this talent. We’ll also dive into the importance of supporting independent creators, and the crucial role experts play when firearms are used onstage.
In this enlightening episode, we’ll also address the creative and logistical challenges Ryan faced when producing his one-man show. Hear about his unique concept of being buried alive on stage and the suspense it created for the audience. We’ll also discuss the magic of live theatre, the power of theatre experiences, and how to market them effectively.
Primarily a writer and actor, Ryan M. Sero is always seeking ways to be creative and to help others create, too. Since graduating from Redeemer University in 2008, he has worked in the arts primarily in Hamilton, but has found his way almost across Canada, and a little bit into the US.
He co-founded Make Art Theatre in 2010 and became the sole artistic director in 2014, using his position to further the voices of Hamilton’s theatre community. One of his most satisfying achievements has been to bring live theatre to the Supercrawl Festival.
Ryan is a member of the Mohawk tribe, as well as having Scottish ancestry.
On this episode, we bring you playwright and performer, Deborah Shaw, and director and dramaturg, David Agro. Together, they are the dynamic duo behind the production of her, shedding light on how they navigated the choppy waters of the pandemic to bring their creative vision to life.
From a casual chat about their first experiences in theatre to a captivating discussion about how audience feedback and critical reviews helped shape their production, this talk is a rollercoaster ride. Deborah heartwarmingly recounts her return to the stage after a long hiatus, crediting an encouraging Grade 8 teacher for sparking her public speaking confidence which eventually led her to craft her own play. On the other side, David speaks passionately about his vision for the show and how his knee-jerk reaction to the script was instrumental in shaping the final production.
Finally, we pull back the curtain on the making of her, scheduled to run at the Red Sand Castle Theatre from September 6th to 10th. Discover how Deborah’s personal inspirations breathed life into the script, and how David finessed his directorial magic to bring Her to the stage. Be prepared to be swept off your feet as we navigate through the meticulous and iterative process of creating a play. So take a seat, get comfortable, and prepare to be captivated by these brilliant minds of the Canadian theatre scene. It’s a performance you won’t want to miss!
Since graduating from Theatre Humber, Deborah has been involved in many productions in Toronto as an actor, stage manager and costumier. Creating and performing in her own work has been a particular joy. She was a founding member of Carpe Dinero (commedia dell’arte), as co-director, co-writer and performer. Deborah has also been the Entertainment Director for the Pirate Festival, and she debuted the role of Susan in the world premiere of the Samuel French Inc. Canadian Play Contest winner, A Year In The Death Of Eddie Jester, by T. Gregory Argall. Always expanding her performing interests, Deborah launched into bellydancing with Arabesque Academy, where she regularly performed as one of the Arabesque Earthshakers. She was also the costumier and backstage manager for Arabesque Canada under Artistic Director Yasmina Ramzy. Deborah recently created her own unique style of dance fusion in her show Raqs Macabre, for which she is the producer, writer, choreographer, costumier and dance artist. The Fringe Festival made it possible for her.—Deborah’s second completed playscript—to receive a full staging while other works and ideas have impatiently waited their turn.
David and one-person plays have a history together. His professional debut performance, for Heresy 3 Productions at Brock Centre for the Arts, was as Andrei Vukhov in Judgement— the first Canadian production of Barry Collins’ harrowing full-length solo drama. David continued to develop his acting and directing skills at the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, where he had the immense good fortune of learning from many of his theatre heroes. A diverse range of experiences in the Toronto area eventually led to his most recent projects— adapting, directing and performing condensed solo versions of plays which have made a lasting impression on him, including Judgement, The Dresser, Bent, Hosanna and The Elephant Man. Exploring the possibilities in solo pieces has become a consuming interest. When presented with the opportunity to make his first foray into The Toronto Fringe Festival as dramaturg and director of Deborah Shaw’s original one-actor drama, David felt right at home being part of the company of two that breathed life into her. He recently presented a newly-revised version of his own one-person show, Bedrooms of the Nation.
In this episode, theatre reviewer Janine Marley from A View From the Box opens up about her transformation from an avid theatre-goer to a well-respected theatre reviewer. Listen in as we explore the intricate elements of theatre reviewing, the magic of fringe festivals, and the extraordinary process of planning for such events. She also sheds light on the difference between merely chattering about a show and scrutinizing it, revealing the mental fortitude required for the latter.
In this inspiring dialogue, we dig deep into the revolution of theatre writing in the era of social media. Janine provides a unique perspective on how she uses TikTok for her reviews. We also discuss the shifts in theatre writing’s landscape and the hurdles encountered while promoting shows. Rounding off our discourse, Janine uncovers her future plans, her commitment to propelling the theatre industry, and her passionate love affair with theatre.
In this enthralling discussion, Janine and I venture through her journey into directing and writing in the theatre world. We also dive into the vibrant and electrifying experience of attending fringe festivals around the globe. Janine shares her strategies for tackling the challenge of fitting meals into the busy schedule of a theatre reviewer and her delightful experiences of connecting with internet friends in-person at these festivals.
Janine Marley is an independent theatre reviewer born in Kingsville, Ontario and has been a Torontonian since November 2020. She holds Honours BA and MA Degrees from the University of Windsor in English Language and Literature with her studies primarily focused on theatre. She began acting at a young age and continued acting in productions until 2018. After graduating, she became a theatre practitioner co-founding Paper-Knife Theatre Company in Windsor, Ontario, as well as working for The Edge Productions in Windsor and Groundling Theatre Company in Toronto. She started her blog, A View from the Box, as a personal project to share her passion for theatre. Now that she lives in Toronto, she is turning that passion into becoming a reliable resource for all things live performance including theatre, dance, opera, and music.
Renowned theatre critic Glenn Sumi lets us behind the curtain, sharing stories of his journey from a university paper writer to a respected voice in Toronto’s dynamic theatre scene. With a career spanning from Extra Magazine to Now Magazine, Sumi’s candid conversation allows a rare glimpse into the challenges and triumphs of breaking into the theatre writing industry.
Throughout this fascinating discussion, we delve into the art of theatre criticism, with Sumi sharing his unique approach to crafting reviews that respect the artist’s intent and captivate the reader without revealing too much. He also opens up about the particular challenges of reviewing shows that don’t immediately ignite a strong reaction, and how his attendance at thousands of performances has shaped his writing skills. As he navigates the new landscape of theatre criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic, Glenn discusses how he has had to lean on the opinions of trusted colleagues when personal attendance isn’t possible.
Looking to the future, this episode explores how the pandemic has impacted the arts and the struggle to find reviewers, along with the potential of filmed stage shows and the necessity for accessibility and financial support in theatre. As Sumi reflects on his role in Toronto’s diverse theatre milieu that encompasses remarkable artistic leadership, comedy and music collaborations, you’ll gain invaluable insights into the world of theatre criticism. Join us for an enlightening conversation on the future of theatre, and an exploration of the vibrant theatre scene in Toronto.
Glenn Sumi is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor who recently launched the theatre website So Sumi. Until December 2022, he was a writer and editor at NOW Magazine for 25 years, where he wrote about theatre, comedy and film.
A graduate of the Canadian Dance Company and the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, becoming an artist has been a lifelong journey. She has had the privilege of working with many international entertainment companies, performing in a variety of theatrical productions all across the globe. At the age of 32, she has been to 33 countries and through her travels has made an effort to better understand the world and its inequities. Alongside her artistic endeavours, her passion for climate justice and environmentalism has been ongoing. Over the past two years she was able to complete two courses: “Greening the Economy: Sustainable Cities” from Lund University in Sweden and “Political and Moral Foundations” from Yale University. She has participated and volunteered for many climate change and social justice organizations with Friday’s For Future, 350 Canada, Not Another Black Life, Stop Highway 413, Every Child Matters, Black Lives Matter, Juneteenth, Banking on a Better Future and Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction. She completed a 6 month mentorship with the City of Toronto, Women4Climate, in which The Fourth R was mentored by climate experts across Canada. Currently, she is in presentation of her theatrical multimedia dance piece called THE FOURTH R: reduce, reuse, recycle, Revolutionize. Since the launch, The Fourth R has been shown 40 times; a cross Canada tour (PEI, Halifax, Edmonton), events (Lion’s Club Int., Esperanto Gallery, Swansea studio showing), and a southern Ontario school tour (15 schools, reaching over 5000 students).
Previous work and credits: She has choreographed musical theatre (Shrek, Dora the Explorer, Hair, Seussical the Musical, The Little Mermaid, Fame, Little Women LOT/FirstActProd) and children’s touring theatre (Little Red Theatre). She has choreographed music videos for Juno award winning Splash n’ Boots and with production company Yeah! Films for Canadian bands Seaway and Pin Up. Her work has been shown at festivals like Fever After Dark with Jerome Bobb and Bazaar. She has taught dance, musical theatre and scene study with several different Toronto based companies including York University and Ryerson School of Performance Summer Intensives. Her work with the bold indie theatre company, Echo Productions, has given her the chance to choreograph stories like, Bonnie and Clyde, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dog Sees God and Charles Manson: Son of Man. She has performed contracts in Newfoundland, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Yukon Territory and has toured across the United States (Hair National Tour-Starvox Ent.), Europe (Hair European Tour), Maritimes Canada (The Great Big Boo) and South America (Norwegian Cruise Line). In 2018, she launched her independent dance company, Dance Fachin with their premiere work, Worldly Women. Worldly Women is a story about the different kinds of oppression women face around the globe. The show won the prestigious Jury’s Choice Award (Ottawa Fringe) and Patron’s Pick Award (Island Fringe). In early 2019, she performed in the first regional production (since it’s run on Broadway) of An American in Paris with Arizona Broadway Theatre. There she was in the female ensemble, singing, dancing and en pointe. She has been dancing in various music videos with MMEntertainment including Jassa Dhillion’s video PYAR HOGYA which has over 17 million views.
Lindsey Middleton is a Canadian Screen Award nominee. Lindsey is best known for playing Vanessa and co-producing the internationally award-winning web series, Out With Dad, where she won two Indie Series Awards for Best Supporting Actress, and a IAWTV Award for Best Female Performance in a Drama. Lindsey has toured theatre across Canada and Europe and performed in over 50 productions. As a writer, Lindsey is one of the co-creators of the Roku Channel show Just Hysterics, a collective of female-forward comedy sketches, that has been recognized at both Stareable Fest and TO WebFest. Lindsey also co-wrote Unmute and I Love You and It Hurts with Theatre of the Beat; both pieces were commissioned by Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region and her first play Session which premiered at the Paprika Festival. Lindsey is currently writing a new TV show all about her days showing cows at local fairs as well as writing her first novel about her travels to over 30 countries before turning 30. Lindsey is a 2023 Halls Island Artist Residency Recipient.As a director, Lindsey has Associate Directed the sold out run of Legally Blonde: The Musical for Hart House Theatre, and Pippin for Theatre Sheridan. Lindsey produced and directed Best Kept Secret, the 400 person immersive event that marked the grand opening for the Anndore Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Kathleen Welch is a director, performer, and writer based here in Toronto. She is thrilled to be working with such an incredible team to bring this strange and beautiful play to life. Recently, Kathleen has been working on SAMCA, a play which she co-wrote, composed the music for, and acts in. This project is ongoing and she is looking forward to bringing it to Toronto audiences soon. Kathleen’s favourite past directing credits include The Anger in Ernest and Ernestine and 12 Angry Jurors. She is also currently writing a new play, Bluebeard’s Wives.
Riot King is back with another exciting, site-specific production! Don’t miss the limited run of ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ by Tennessee Williams presented at Sorry Studios. Named one of Williams’ most poetic plays, ‘Suddenly Last Summer’ is a strange and unnerving Southern Gothic play that explores mental health, repressed desires, and the lengths a dysfunctional family will go to keep dark secrets hidden. Williams’ play uncovers the frightening and disturbing realities that can hide behind what is seemingly beautiful.
Cassie Muise is an experienced artist with credits in theatre, voice over, film and television. She is currently writing her first musical, “God Catcher”, which will premiere this summer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. In addition to performing, Cassie has experience as a director, choreographer, and teacher. Select credits include: Nickie in “Sweet Charity”, Tina Denmark in “Ruthless”, Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family”, and the award winning short film, “T-Minus”.
SummerWorks Performance Festival is a curated festival of theatre, dance, music, live art and interdisciplinary forms, widely recognized as one of the most important platforms for launching new work in Canada.
Michael Caldwell (he/him) is a choreographer, performer, curator, artistic director, producer, and arts advocate, based in Tkaronto, Canada.
Garnering critical acclaim, his choreography has been commissioned/presented throughout Canada at major festivals, in traditional venues and in site-responsive and community-engaged contexts. Michael’s most recent choreographic work responds to the ‘site’ in as many ways as can be conceived, and subverts traditional modes of viewing. He recently premiered ‘Two x 30’ – a large-scale performance/sound work as part of ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art, and is currently working on two collaborative multidisciplinary performance projects. Caldwell is a two-time K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation Artist Award finalist.
Michael has performed/collaborated with over 55 of Canada’s esteemed performance creators/companies, working internationally and performing across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. His performances have earned him two (2) Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding performance in dance.
Currently, Michael serves as Artistic Director at SummerWorks in Tkaronto, and as Programming Advisor for Festival of Dance Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia. Most recently, as Creative Director: Programming at Generator, he led the reimagination of the overall governance structure of the organization, moving towards a co-leadership framework. Previously, Michael played a pivotal role in the growth and development of Fall for Dance North, serving as Executive Producer for eight years. He has also previously guided projects with CanAsian Dance, Dusk Dances, Older & Reckless, and Kaeja d’Dance’s ‘Porch View Dances’. In addition, he acts as a consultant with various arts organizations and as a mentor to many emerging artists/curators in the Tkaronto arts community. With a bachelor’s degree in film/art history from Syracuse University in upstate New York, and professional dance training at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Michael now serves as President of the Board of Directors at The CanDance Network
Born and raised in Tkaronto, Morgan Norwich (she/her) is an arts administrator, creator and producer, who brings to SummerWorks over ten years of experience in non-profit theatre, with a specific focus on performing arts festivals and partnership building. For four years, Norwich served as Operations & Partnerships Coordinator at Theatre Alberta, where she managed membership data and ongoing partnerships. During this time, she also participated in a multi-phase adaptive change and capacity-building program led by EmcArts in the U.S. to help address complex challenges and transform their practices. In addition to her most recent role as Development Manager at Toronto Fringe, Morgan has worked with The Rhubarb Festival and SummerWorks in a variety of roles over the years. For ten years, she and playwright Johnnie Walker created and produced new works as Nobody’s Business Theatre. Their most notable project, Redheaded Stepchild, appeared at SummerWorks Festival in 2010. Written and performed by Johnnie and directed by Morgan, the show toured festivals across North America, and was published in 2016 by Playwrights Canada Press. Morgan continues to perform as a founding member of BoylesqueTO, Canada’s premiere “Boylesque” troupe, where she emcees under the stage name Balonia Wry.