Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’

Artist Profile: Bilal Baig, Playwright

Interview by Hallie Seline.

It is an absolute pleasure to feature playwright Bilal Baig, chatting about what inspires him as an artist, the development of his current piece Acha Bacha, on stage this month with Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and on writing “the story you need to tell”.

HS: What inspired Acha Bacha and how did the piece develop?

Bilal Baig: I was sexually assaulted when I was seventeen. One of the first things that was irrevocably changed after my assault was my relationship with my mother. I began to think: I’m queer, I’m not very religious, I like to fuck with gender sometimes and now I’m a survivor of sexual assault – will my mother EVER think I’m good?

I sat on this thought for about a year before I took a playwriting class with Judith Thompson at the University of Guelph and under her guidance, the first draft of the play exploded out of me in a few weeks in April 2013. That summer, I was connected to Damien Atkins, who worked as a dramaturge on the play (and is still a current mentor in my life). Through the Paprika Festival‘s playwright residency program, I met, worked with and fell in love with Djanet Sears, which resulted in an excerpt sharing of the play at the festival in April 2014, where Andy McKim was present. From that point on in the play’s developmental journey, I worked predominantly with Andy, Jiv Parasram and Brendan Healy as dramaturges.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Tanja Tiziana

HS: I am very excited about the team working on the show. What has it been like working with these artists bringing your show to life?

BB: I am very excited about this group of artists coming together as well! There has been so much love in the room and a fiercely deep commitment to understanding the story and honoring it with such care, curiosity and empathy. I am in sincere awe of all the artists I get to work and play with every day throughout this process! So much love.

HS: What are you most looking forward to about sharing this show with audiences now?

BB: I’m really curious about what the conversations around power, sex and shame will be surrounding this play.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

HS: I know that you’ve both developed work with the Paprika Festival and worked with them. What has been the impact of this outlet on your growth as an artist?

BB: Paprika has been instrumental in my growth as an artist. It was a playground for me (for five years!) to explore my artistic obsessions and learn from what it feels like to put your work out there when it’s not ‘ready’. Artists who I met through Paprika five years ago have become friends I collaborate with today.

HS: What is best piece of advice you’ve received either in life or in art?

BB: “Write the story you need to tell”. That was actually the prompt given by Judith, which lead to the first draft of Acha Bacha. I think I use this advice in my life as well!

HS: What inspires you?

BB: I’m inspired by genderqueer Indigenous, black, people of colour living their truth. I feel like my art is probably inspired by shitty events happening in the world that devastate/confuse/terrify/arouse me to the point where I can’t talk about it anymore and I must write it.

Bilal Baig. Photo Credit: Graham Isador

Rapid Fire Questions:

What are you watching right now? America’s Next Top Model.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be? Fiji or New Zealand. Or Vancouver.

Favourite food: Mom’s chicken fried rice or biryani. Or pizza.

What other show are you most looking forward to this year? Trying everything in my power to catch Calpurnia before it closes. Looking forward to Prairie Nurse at Factory Theatre.

Current mantra or goal for yourself as an artist this year: You’re allowed to feel ambivalent about your work and this career you are pursuing. That is okay.

Acha Bacha

Who:
Co-Produced by Theatre Passe Muraille and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
Written by: Bilal Baig
Directed by: Brendan Healy
Featuring: Shelly Antony, Qasim Khan, Omar Alex Khan, Matt Nethersole,
and Ellora Patnaik
Set and Costume Design by: Joanna Yu
Lighting by: C.J Astronomo
Sound Design and Music by Richard Feren
Stage managed by Kat Chin

What:
For years Zaya has balanced his relationships with his religion and his queer identity. But as secrets from the past reveal themselves, and crisis strikes his family, he is torn between loyalties, culture, and time. Written by Bilal Baig, and directed by Brendan Healy, Acha Bacha boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora. The show uses both English and Urdu to tell a story about the way we love, the way we are loved, and how sometimes love is not enough.

Where:
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto

When:
February 1-18, 2018

Tickets:
artsboxoffice.ca

Connect:
@beyondwallsTPM
@buddiesTO
#AchaBachaTO

“A woman in front of a microphone, a master of ceremonies of her story.” In Conversation with Anna Chatterton, creator/performer of QUIVER

Interview by Hallie Seline

I had the chance to speak with prolific Toronto playwright Anna Chatterton, creator/performer/master-of-all of QUIVER. We discussed her inspiration for the piece, the importance of collaboration, taking risks, and allowing her new pieces to breath, grow and adapt with her over time.

QUIVER is on stage now to November 6th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, presented by Nightwood Theatre as a double bill with Quote Unquote Collective’s MOUTHPIECE.

Hallie: This is an incredible set up for a show with one performer. How did the idea for the show and then the idea for the need of this specific performance format come about?

Anna Chatterton: This story is inspired by my teenage self. When I was fifteen my older sister moved out and my mom would, at times, spend many nights at her boyfriend’s house. While I was welcome to join them, I was often alone at home. I was close to my dad but he lived in B.C., so we would talk on the phone a lot, but it was different than having him in the same city. Though I could take care of myself, it was pretty lonely. I remember a lot of silence, coming home to silence, waking up to silence.

Quiver was born out of that memory of feeling lonely, the dynamics in our single parent family and my teenage angst and anxieties. This play is a fictional account of that period in my life, and I am playing a fictional and dramatic version of myself, my sister, and my mother. I should point out that my sister and mother are actually very different than I portray them in the play – thus, fiction. The protagonist Maddie is closest to reality and myself, though I exaggerate parts of her for dramatic effect.

Photo by John Lauener

Photo by John Lauener

Hallie: Can you speak about how the play was developed? 

Anna: I originally began writing the play to be a solo show but then I started to write scenes so I thought, okay I guess this is a regular three-person play. Then I started becoming really interested in sound art, and wanted to learn more about creating live vocal effects for a theatre play. Luke Brown at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton asked me if I had a play for their studio series and I started to think Quiver might actually be the right fit as a solo play working with sound in the forefront. My partner Jim Ruxton, who is an electronics engineer, did some research and found a vocal processor that could pretty much do anything. When I approached Andrea Donaldson to direct Quiver, and told her what I wanted to do she said, “I love it – a woman in front of a microphone, a master of ceremonies of her story.” Then we hired sound designer Mike Rinaldi to help me actualize my sound dreams and we created a workshop production for Aquarius.

Photo by John Lauener

Photo by John Lauener

We talk about this show as being like a radio show that you watch happening live. I think the technology serves this story as the audience is always aware of me, the creator/performer, manipulating sound in front them while telling this intimate tale about a broken family. This woman (me, the performer) needs the technology to help tell the audience this story and I am totally in control of the storytelling.

Photo by John Lauener

Photo by John Lauener

Hallie: This is your 4th premiere in Toronto this year! Can you speak to your creation process and how you like to work and how you decide when a piece is ready to premiere?

Anna: I can write fairly quickly initially but I like to have a lot of time to sit with a piece, to come back to it again and again. I believe in the long process, often I will take up to three to four years before I feel a piece is ready to premiere. I like to allow a play/libretto breathe, as I change, grow, learn, and then let the pieces I am writing to change accordingly. I feel that ideally all plays or operas should have a workshop production, as that is the best way to see a piece, to learn what works and what doesn’t work in front of an audience (who understands they are watching a work in process), and then rewrite it before a premiere.

Photo by John Lauener

Photo by John Lauener

I really like collaborating. If I am writing a play, I like working with directors fairly early in the process so we can share our visions and dreams and thoughts and I can let those dialogues and notes guide the next drafts of the play. I also often work with my company Independent Aunties (with evalyn parry and Karin Randoja), where we create our plays together from the ground up and in the studio, evalyn and I co-write and act in the plays, and Karin dramaturges and directs. In opera the composer and I will come up with the story idea together and then I write the libretto, and the composer will set my text to music. 

Photo by John Lauener

Photo by John Lauener

Hallie: What would you like to see more of in Toronto Theatre?

Anna: More Risk. Allowing ourselves to fail in order to learn. Experimenting as artists, not playing it safe.

Hallie: Any advice for young emerging artists?

Anna: Have patience, and put in the work. It takes a long time to make good art. Ask for what you want, don’t expect to be asked.

Quiver

_mg_0711-johnlauener

Who:
Written and Performed by Anna Chatterton
Directed by Andrea Donaldson
Produced by Nightwood Theatre
Presented as a double bill with Mouthpiece

What:
“A brilliant and brave play.” – JUDITH THOMPSON
A single mother and a rebellious teenage daughter collide when a love interest comes between them, leaving 14 year old Maddie caught in the crossfire. Armed with little more than a microphone, laptop and vocal processor, writer-performer Anna Chatterton crafts and controls a sonic landscape in a masterful performance. A dark, delicious comedy about a passionate and imperfect family.

Where:
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON, M4Y 1B4

When:
October 21 – November 6, 2016

Tickets:
tickets.buddiesinbadtimes.com

Connect:
t: @a_chatterton
#Quiver

“Performing MOUTHPIECE is a bit like running a marathon & singing an opera simultaneously.” In Conversation with Norah Sadava & Amy Nostbakken of MOUTHPIECE

Interview by Hallie Seline

I had the pleasure of chatting with the fierce artists of Quote Unquote Collective, Norah Sadava & Amy Nostbakken, the creators and performers of MOUTHPIECE. We spoke about the necessity of precision, time and digging deeper in their creation process, the importance of touring and continuing the conversation nation-wide, and finally… #traininglikebeyoncé.

MOUTHPIECE is on stage now to November 6th at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, presented by Nightwood Theatre as a double bill with Anna Chatterton’s QUIVER (Keep posted for our interview with Anna).

Hallie: I was floored when I first saw MOUTHPIECE, so I’m thrilled Toronto audiences are getting another chance to see this! Can you speak about what sparked the creation of the show?

Norah Sadava: The spark that ignited Mouthpiece happened midway through making an entirely different play. Amy and I had begun working together on a piece about female relationships, but we couldn’t quite get at the heart of it without looking deeply at ourselves, and once we did that some major lightbulbs turned on for us. Once we started to dig inward we suddenly recognized our own hypocrisy, our own contributions to the oppressive heteronormative-white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy, our own confusion and inner conflict regarding where and how our generation fit into the ‘women’s movement’, and how we personally could rail against the stereotypes that have been fed to us through every portrayal of women we’ve seen since the moment we were born. So we decided that we had to make a show about that instead. 

Photo by Brooke Wedlock

Photo by Brooke Wedlock

Hallie: How did you develop the piece into what it is today? 

Amy Nostbakken: Mouthpiece was developed over a period of three years. That may seem like a long time but it is a drawn-out creative process that allowed us to insist on every moment being charged with multiple layers of meaning. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every breath and swallow and shrug in this show has been thought about and has a purpose.

Hallie: I’d believe it! You two are so precise in the show. It’s incredible to watch a piece with that much detail, intention and precision. It packs a punch!

Amy: When we decided to tell this utterly personal and extremely necessary story of what it is like to be inside one woman’s head, thus tackling the theme of what it is like to be a woman today, we did not take it on lightly. And it’s complex, you know? It’s subtle and non-linear and messy and also terrifying. So a lot of time was spent going over a piece of text or movement or music and asking – “Is this honest? No, but really? Have I censored this, or molded it to fit into my pre-existing ideas of what is ‘good’ which have inherently been crafted by some dead, white man?” For us it was just too damn important a subject to rush into production.

So to answer this question technically: we developed this piece through years of research, years of digging deep and then deeper, then needling right into our very cores, years of examining our own hypocrisy and privilege, years of stripping away, and countless hours of repetition in front of a mirror.

Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. Photo by Joel Clifton.

Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. Photo by Joel Clifton.

HS: I see you’ve been touring the show across Canada. Can you speak a bit about your experience bringing this show on the road and how it has affected you as performers and creators, and this piece? 

Norah: Taking Mouthpiece on the road has revealed to us that this conversation must be national. We can’t solely exist in our own little liberal-west-Toronto-artist bubble and preach to the choir forever. It is important to us to have our work challenged by other perspectives, other communities, other geographies, and hear responses from people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Feminism has to be intersectional or it’s not really progress at all. Of course we acknowledge that a theatre audience is already inherently biased based on the fact that they are at the theatre (have the money, time and interest to expose themselves to experimental art) no matter what town we are in. But having played this piece across the country, we can say that there are some truths that are a national (and international) matter. We’ve also learned that a bathtub can travel, and how to get the most possible free snacks on airplanes. 

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Joel Clifton.

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Joel Clifton.

Hallie: I’ve been seeing these incredible “training” videos of you both getting yourself ready to perform the show. It’s a huge feat watching you both do this show. Can you speak about doing this training, why you’ve found it’s important and where the idea for this came about? 

Norah: Performing Mouthpiece is a bit like running a marathon and singing an opera simultaneously. When we haven’t done the show for a while it takes a lot of juice to get back into shape; this show requires a great deal of breath control and cardiovascular fitness to carry out movement and vocals simultaneously for an hour straight. So in preparation for this run at Buddies we were trying to think of the very best regimen possible. Then we remembered something that Beyoncé said…

“My father, who was also my manager, made me run a mile while singing so I would be able to perform on stage without becoming exhausted.”

Apparently he would make Destiny’s Child wake up early every morning and jog around a track while singing their whole set. So we bought a cheap treadmill and upright bike off kijiji and started doing the whole show while switching back and forth between running and biking in the front room of my house (without our fathers forcing us into it, luckily).  Sometimes we sing 90’s hits instead of the show, and in honour of the source of inspiration, Destiny’s Child is on high rotation. It seems to work. We still get tired, but because of Queen B we never lose our breath completely.  

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Joel Clifton.

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Joel Clifton.

Hallie: If you could have your audience listen to one song or playlist before coming to see the show, what would it be/consist of?

Amy: The idea behind the music in the show is that you are taken on a journey through an abridged history of the female voice in popular music (so inherently, the female voice filtered through a male lens…). The compositions are inspired by southern hymns, opera arias, Bulgarian choirs, the Andrew Sisters, Billie Holiday, Tina, Janis, Joni, Beyoncé…

So I would pick any female artist that you love and while you’re listening to her sing, appreciate all the hoops she’s had to jump through for you to be able to hear her. Or you could just go for Billie Holiday or Nina Simone, can’t lose.

Norah: I’d also add Millie Jackson – Go out and Get Some. She always puts me in the mood for action. 

Hallie: Describe the show in 5-10 words.

Amy: Woman wakes to find: mom dead, voice lost, womankind still under thumb of patriarchy.
(That was 14 words, but I generally try to take an extra 28% whenever I can to make up for the 28% less I make as a Canadian woman compared to my fellow Canadian men.) 

norah-and-amy-475

Quick Answer Round:

Favourite line or moment in MOUTHPIECE:
Amy/Norah: The opening harmony in the dark.

Favourite place in the city:
Norah: Tie between Sunnyside beach and my kitchen table with a record playing.
Amy: Tie between Kensington Market and my bed.

What you’re currently listening to on repeat:
Norah: The new Leonard Cohen and the new Angel Olsen.
Amy: Solange

Where do you look for inspiration:
Norah/Amy: Lake Ontario, poetry

Best advice you’ve ever gotten:
Amy: It’s a tie between: “Only make good work” and from my grandmother: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel.”
Norah: “Use it or lose it.”

Any advice for young emerging artists:
Amy: Only make good work and don’t hide your light under a bushel.
Norah: Only make work that you feel is absolutely necessary. Have a reason, something that you are burning to say, and the rest is just logistics and hard labour.

 

MOUTHPIECE

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Brooke Wedlock.

Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken. Photo by Brooke Wedlock.

Who:
Created and performed by Norah Sadava & Amy Nostbakken
Directed and Composed by Amy Nostbakken
A Nightwood Theatre presentation of a Quote Unquote Collective production
Presented as a double bill with Quiver

What:
WINNER, Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble
WINNER, Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Sound Design/Composition

A harrowing, humorous and heart-wrenching journey into the female psyche. In the wake of her mother’s death, Mouthpiece follows one woman, for one day, as she tries to find her voice. Interweaving a cappella harmonies, dissonance, text and physicality, two performers express the inner conflict that exists within a modern woman’s head: the push and the pull, the past and the present, the progress and the regression.

Where:
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
12 Alexander Street, Toronto ON, M4Y 1B4

When:
October 21 – November 6, 2016

Tickets:
tickets.buddiesinbadtimes.com

Connect:
w: quoteunquotecollective.com
t: @QUCollective
fb: QUCollective
ig: @qucollective
hashtag: #MOUTHPIECE

 

Full Dark by Sharron Matthews at the 36th annual Rhubarb Festival

by Bailey Green

I saw Sharron Matthews perform cabaret for the first time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2011. Her incredible vocals, dynamite stage presence and the way she reached out to her audience completely captivated me. About two years ago, when Sharron began her artists residency at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, I witnessed the first incarnations of her new show, Full Dark. Full Dark had a different, gritty feel, and the piece dealt with themes of fear, loneliness and grief. Now, after several workshops and performances, Sharron is bringing Full Dark to the Chamber at Buddies for the Rhubarb Festival.

Sharron originally workshopped Full Dark twice before doing a full run at Sheridan College in the fall of 2013. After the Sheridan run, Sharron wasn’t sure she could return to the project. The subject matter had weighed heavily on her and writing the show, which had turned into more of a book show, had lost its joy. She sat down with Brendan Healy (Artistic Director of Buddies) for a long talk. Brendan suggested that Sharron bring in a director and a dramaturge. “I’d always been in charge of my own voice,” Sharron remembers, “but I’d thought about it. The distance [from the project], it helped me discover news things and be brave.”

photo by Mike Bickerton

Photos by Mike Bickerton

Sharron had seen The Gay Heritage Project in early winter of 2013 and had admired it for being moving and exciting work. Specifically she was drawn to how the creators, Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn & Andrew Kushnir, married storytelling and music. She connected with Andrew Kushnir and they set up a pair of three day workshops in March and October 2014 (attended by Sharron, Andrew, Brendan, with musical director Steve Thomas joining for the second one.) The workshops went well and Andrew Kushnir became the director and dramaturge of Full Dark at Rhubarb.

On working with Andrew, Sharron praises his intuitive nature as a dramaturge and his ability to stand even farther outside as a director to decide what serves the piece best. “Andrew sees what I’m doing and helps me find ways to get there when I’m not sure,” Sharron says, “I’m not giving away the steering wheel, someone’s helping me drive.” Cabaret is a meeting of minds, between performer/writer, director, dramaturge, musical director and musicians. Sharron raves of her team which includes Jason Chesworth on guitar and mandolin and Bob DiSalle on percussion. Musical director Steve Thomas has been her go-to chief arranger for many years and “is a really safe person to have on a trip like this.” Steve Thomas has a conflict with the run at Rhubarb, so stepping in to play piano is Wayne Gwillim.

As a constantly evolving artist, Sharron continues to push the her own boundaries as a cabaret artist. Earlier last year, she performed a Prince-themed cabaret at the Global Cabaret Festival at Soulpepper. And this past January, Sharron spent a month in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico hustling to promote her shows by day and performing two separate cabarets (made up of “previously loved material”) by night.

“I wanted to find new ways to tell a story, in cabaret,” Sharron says of her residency at Buddies. “For a long time I did the kind of ‘cabaret way’, essentially a lot of comedy so then I felt I’d earned myself a ballad. Now I want to tell deeper stories in the same format.” Of the process of rehearsing and creating a fresh production out of Full Dark, Sharron says “It’s very exciting and fresh and immediate. I get so excited about coming to work every day. I haven’t felt like that since I did Les Mis when I was 21.”

When asked about Rhubarb, Sharron expresses her excitement about a festival that celebrates pieces that are in transit, in action, in progress. Work that pushes boundaries and stories that are unique to the artists who tell them. As for the moment that Sharron looks forward to the most during Full Dark, she says it is right at the end. It’s a new mash up of “XO” by Beyoncé and “Glitter in the Air” by P!nk. “It’s a gift to myself because it’s right at the end. And I know it’s there,” Sharron says, “It’s a joyous song.”

Sharron Matthews: Full Dark

fulldarkkbanner

What happens when Canada’s best cabaret performer assembles a three piece band and takes a walk on the scarier side of the street? Full Dark expands Sharron Matthew’s signature style to delve into the darker sides of storytelling – about growing up fatherless, about being bullied, about sexuality and danger, the unacceptable, and the unexplained.

When: February 18-20 at 10:00pm

Where: In the Chamber at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Artists: creator / performer Sharron Matthews | director / dramaturge Andrew Kushnir | musical director / arranger Steve Thomas | guitar / mandolin Jason Chesworth | percussion Bob DiSalle

Tickets: included in your $20 Evening Pass

Full Dark is being developed by Sharron Matthews as part of Buddies’ Artist Residency Program

The 36th Rhubarb Festival – Young Creators Unit Preview

by Bailey Green

I met with the Young Creators Unit (kumari giles, Faith-Ann Mendes, Andre Prefontaine and Brian Postalian) at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre to learn more about their individual upcoming performances as part of the 36th annual Rhubarb Festival.

The four artists, along with YCU director, theatre-maker Evalyn Parry, and myself sat around a table in the Buddies Antechamber to discuss the challenges, origins and highlights of their individual creations over a 5 month-long process. Identity, ancestry and memory are some of the common themes that weave their way through the four distinctly different pieces of theatre. The following is drawn from the transcript of our conversation. 

BG: Tell me about your piece, where it began and what it’s about.

Faith-Ann Mendes – Justice Spelled with V(engeance)

I’m working on a show about a young, black woman and her experience at college. It’s a coming of age story about my character, Mia. She starts off trying to fit in, and then it turns into her seeking vengeance. She comes from my time, past and present, at Queens [University] – Super white, super wealthy, and it’s almost comical how extreme it is. I had this feeling like, this can’t be real. And it’s also very violent. I wanted to talk about that and what I would want to happen in a very “theatre” way. [The piece] explores fantasy, rape on campus and the culture of white privilege.”

Brian Postalian – There Was and There Was Not

“My piece started from a place of me not being sure of my history as an Armenian. There was a genocide in 1915 and over a million Armenians were massacred by the Turkish. My grandfather and grandmother were survivors of this genocide. My grandfather was a young orphan who was brought over from Lebanon to a farm in Georgetown, Ontario. However, my grandfather passed away before I was born. My grandmother also passed away when I was young. I didn’t know what the family stories were. The piece has been an exploration of this history that I feel I have been bereft of… that is lacking. It’s changing constantly, but at the moment it’s exploring the relationship between two Armenian orphans in Lebanon who are trying to make sense of the haunting the genocide has left and how they can recover, if they can recover.”

kumari giles – things i cannot speak

“My piece is about what happens when you listen to and uncover body memory. The story comes through a character named kumari, which is also my name, and their grandmother atchcha, their great-grandmother and a mysterious boy who comes in to play. It’s inspired by my own journeys of listening to different things in my body, the people who come to reside in them and spirits who reside around me. The messages that get passed through blood and body and the messages that get passed through voices when they can’t be passed through your body. It relates to queer history, as well as ancestral history, and a longing to find home in an in-between place.”

Andre Prefontaine – (mE)dith Piaf

“My piece is about… how does one find their artistic voice when they spend so much time listening to others? And when life presents you challenges do you succumb to them, or do you rise above? So I paralleled instances in my life to that of Edith Piaf. She’s like a guardian angel that shows up at the very end and gives a sense of purpose to it all. It’s about living your life in a way to find the true sense of your voice, living with no regrets. And then embracing the past, because it’s what gave you your present tense voice and how you use it to then shape what your future will be.

I asked the four artists to describe to me what has been some of the challenges and highlights of this intense creative process. Andre expressed his initial intimidation, coming from a slam poet background as opposed to a theatrical base: “It was equally as exciting because all of my comrades came in with nothing but ideas. Over the past five months it has been so encouraging to see the amount of growth. I’m not in this by myself. I see their pieces grow and that’s the strength I want to have for myself.”

Brian chuckled and revealed to me that Andre is the group’s resident astrologist: “He gives us our moon and star readings for the week.” All four artists smiled as Andre nods and laughs. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone,” Brian continued, “other people have been there and are still going through it. The energy we’ve all brought to the room on a consistent basis just reflects on each other.” Brian emphasized how comforting the shared energy of the group has been in supporting the creative work.

kumari cut right to the core of their challenges: “The whole process is challenging because you have to write a show in five months. I’m grounded in movement, so it was very challenging for me. When text is spoken out loud there’s the challenge of what folks are expecting and what you want out of it.” kumari discussed how in their personal movement practice they often write text, but then the words are translated into pure movement and therefore the writing is never revealed to the audience. For kumari, the most exciting part was meeting with the group and finding solace in shared experience as they delved deeper into the ever-growing, ever-changing work. “Putting this show on its feet and discovering more about the story while workshopping it has been very exciting,” kumari nodded.

Faith-Ann stared at the ceiling as she considered her challenges. “I guess…” she began before cutting herself off with a firm, “no, I know.” The group burst out laughing and I couldn’t help but notice the mutual respect and support shared between the group. Faith-Ann described her biggest adjustment, which was transitioning from a solo process to a collaborative process, with a full-fledged professional company on top of it all. Faith-Ann concluded the interview by saying, “Writing can be such a solitary practice, but theatre is so collaborative. To have that kind of impetus to come together and compare other voices makes my writing better. Less isolated.”

The 36th annual Rhubarb Festival runs from February 11th to the 22nd at Buddies & Bad Times Theatre. 

For more information about the Rhubarb Festival’s Young Creators Unit and the dates & times for each of these performances, please visit their website.