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Posts tagged ‘Nirbhaya’

Nirbhaya and Nightwood – Part Two: In Conversation with Kelly Thorton, Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre

Interview by Bailey Green 

On a rainy morning in the Distillery District, I sat with down with Nightwood Theatres Artistic Director Kelly Thornton to discuss women in theatre, Nightwoods current season and Nirbhaya. 

In 2014, writer/director Yaël Farber and producer Margaret Moll reached out to Kelly Thornton with the intent of bringing Nirbhaya on a Canadian tour. “I’d known Yaël was working on a piece in India,” remembers Thornton. “And when we looked at the materials and subject matter [of Nirbhaya], for Nightwood, it’s a no brainer. This show had to come to Toronto and Nightwood is the perfect company to bring it here. We’re a politically-based company, that believes in changing the world through art and tackling the urgent issues around people’s lives.” 

Kelly Thornton met Yaël Farber in 2009 when Thornton was running the Four by Four Festival, a festival that focused on female directors, in Montreal. At the recommendation of South African director Lara Foot Newton, Thornton brought Yaël Farber in to teach a master class. They ended up running the directing program at The National Theatre School together. Thornton and Farber’s paths diverged as they went on to work on many different projects, but they remained on each other’s radar.

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Nirbhaya – The Company. Photo by Sinbad Phgura.

Thornton describes Farber’s theatre as “sacred and ritualistic”. She describes that when Farber directed Miller’s The Crucible at the Old Vic in London, she asked her cast to consider giving something up and to explore the repression of their desires like the Puritans they were portraying.

Farber’s theatre seeks to ground itself in the immediate world we live in. Nirbhaya could not be a more poignant reflection of that principle. When asked about the subject matter of the show, Thornton replies:

“Violence against women has been an issue… well, basically since the beginning of time. It’s tough subject matter but we need to have this conversation. Theatre can give us catharsis and a call to move forward. And with Kathleen Wynne’s action plan to end violence coming into effect and the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th, Nirbhaya is a cultural centre piece on this subject matter. Its impact as it travels around the world is amazing. It’s truly a transformational piece.”

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(L to R) Poorna Jagannathan and Priyanka Bose in a scene from Nirbhaya.

When Thornton was asked about her focus in programming the current Nightwood season, and whether she found that any common elements appeared, she said “this season feels, for me, as if it is tackling the urgent issues of our time. It’s a highly political season.” Obeah Opera spoke about the Salem witch trials, but from the perspective of the African/Caribbean slave, and gave voice to those whose history had been silenced. Unholy tackled misogyny in religion in the form of a public debate about whether or not women should abandon religion altogether. Nirbhaya seeks to dismantle the oppressive silence surrounding the victims and survivors of sexual assault. The Public Servant deals with how public service was gutted under our former government, and how red tape can stifle the best of intentions. Refuge, written by one of Nightwood’s founders Mary Vingoe, is particularly relevant with the global refugee crisis.

When asked about what action theatre companies should take to be more inclusive of female and female-identified creators, Thornton discusses her extensive history of working with female practitioners, academics, as well as PACT, Playwrights Guild of Canada and more recently, Equity in Theatre. Thornton credits their hard work but acknowledges that we still have a long way to go:

“If you have a predominant Canadian theatre of male artistic directors, unconsciously their programming choices are affected by their gender; so I think two things have to happen. I think male AD’s have to understand that they have a responsibility—as Justin Trudeau just pointed out to the world—to stay awake to the other half of the population.               But also to get more female artistic directors into Canadian theatre. And that’s what the Canadian Women’s Directors Catalogue is about. The least women are in the regional houses, the most are in the independent scene, and so getting them in as directors in the regional houses is very important. Otherwise when the time comes to replace that regional AD, as a woman, if you’ve never directed on a regional stage you will never be consider eligible to be artistic director of that company.”

When asked what advice Thornton would give to young women beginning their careers in theatre, and she replied, “Be bold and unapologetic with your own power. Stand up and have your voice heard. Risk. Ask for what you want.”

Rapid Fire Questions with Kelly Thorton:

Currently Reading: The Element by Ken Robinson

Last Play You Saw: Unholy

TV Show You’re Addicted To: I don’t watch much TV anymore, but I guess the last show would have been Breaking Bad.

Favourite Coffee Shop: Furbo

Song Stuck in Your Head: “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from Guys and Dolls (we were auditioning for the Lawyer Show this week.)

nirbhaya-BIG-header

Written and directed by Yael Farber,
Presented by Nightwood Theatre in association with Amnesty International present an Assembly, Riverside Studios and Poorna Jagannathan Production.

Nirbhaya was inspired by true events that occurred in December of 2012 in India, when a woman boarded a bus heading homeThe piece is a tapestry of personal testimonies, which tears away the shame that silences survivors of sexual violence.

When: November 18-29

Where: Harbourfront Centre Theatre

Tickets: $20-45. Purchase here.

For more info, visit Nightwood Theatre’s website.

 

 

Nirbhaya and Nightwood – Part One: In Conversation with Beth Brown, Managing Director of Nightwood

Interview by Bailey Green 

It was a joy to sit down with Beth Brown, Managing Director of Nightwood Theatre. She has a kind and welcoming spirit that I noticed from the moment I met her. After discussing a shared love of animals (with the exception of mice) and a connection to the city of Montreal, over steaming mugs of tea, we spoke about Nightwood Theatres upcoming production, Nirbhaya, running November 18-29 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. The transcript of our conversation has been edited for length and clarity:

BG: How did you come in contact with Nirbhaya?

BB: We were made aware of the project through the producer Margaret Moll. She’s aware of Nightwood Theatre and our mandate and she felt it would be a perfect fit for this show. We were very inspired by the story and how it came to be. So we watched the video, reviewed the materials, and then began thinking about the logistics of bringing it to Toronto.

BG: And how did you bring it to Nightwood and Toronto?

BB: Since the production had toured before, that was very helpful to us. But one of our biggest challenges was finding a venue to put it in. Since we don’t have our own venue, we’re at the mercy of the availability of other theatres. [Nirbhaya] requires a specific stage size and we wanted a specific capacity for the audience of this show. And it was at the last minute when we found Harbourfront. Margaret wanted to get a Canadian tour for the show, so we ended up forming a strong relationship with the Cultch in Vancouver, where the show is, currently, and together we applied for funding from the Canada Council of the Arts.

BG: What common themes or elements do you see in the current Nightwood season?

BB: I love this season because of its diversity of story. There’s a lot of different stories being told. I think they’re all extremely impactful and relevant to now… to this time period. I think that they are entertaining as well as thought provoking. They grapple with issues that hit home for everyone. They are interesting and compelling.

BG: Can you tell me a bit more about your role, and what the most challenging and most rewarding aspects are?

BB: Well, I’m the managing director. Rewarding, for me, is definitely seeing the productions on stage and talking to people about them after. Whether they like them or not, I always find it to be really interesting conversation pieces about how the art affects people… what they take away from it. By and large, I have never had a conversation with someone who has disliked the work we put on stage, so that’s really rewarding to get that positive feedback and the detailed feedback as well. It’s not just ‘oh that was a great show,’ there’s always something specific that hit them or that resonated with them. Challenging is always financing, looking after the various budget lines, the nail biting as you’re watching the box office and hoping that you hit your targets and that people are going to come out and see the shows. That is always challenging. In regards to rewards, I always enjoy working with our staff and our community, the theatre community. The networking is great – so supportive and helpful.

Stay tuned for parts two and three where I speak with Artistic Director of Nightwood – Kelly Thornton, and the Writer/Director of Nirbhaya – Yael Farber!

 nirbhaya-BIG-header

Written and directed by Yael Farber,
Presented by Nightwood Theatre in association with Amnesty International present an Assembly, Riverside Studios and Poorna Jagannathan Production.

Nirbhaya was inspired by true events that occurred in December of 2012 in India, when a woman boarded a bus heading homeThe piece is a tapestry of personal testimonies, which tears away the shame that silences survivors of sexual violence.

When: November 18-29

Where: Harbourfront Centre Theatre

Tickets: $20-45. Purchase here.

For more info, visit Nightwood Theatre’s website.