Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘The Downstage’

A Few Words with Alec Toller, Director of Caryl Churchill’s Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? – 2014 Playwright Project

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: So, Alec Toller, you’re putting up Drunk Enough to Say I Love You? with Circlesnake Productions for the Playwright Project.

AT: So I’ve heard!

RQ: As have I! Can you tell me a bit about the show?

AT: It is telling the story of Guy and Sam, and Sam is basically a country. Sam is the US So it’s sort of examining the world and people’s love/hate relationship with the United States through the lens of a homosexual relationship. Because of course, how else would you look at it?

Alec Toller, Director of Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?

Alec Toller, Director of Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?


RQ: What drew you to this show, out of all of Caryl Churchill’s writing?

AT: It was the only one I read. No, no, I’m kidding. I read a bunch and with Churchill (as with many other playwrights), when they do short work, they lean more toward the experimental, and that’s not something that I usually know how to do. With this play, although it’s still experimental, there’s a clear through-line with story and plot and characters who have wants and needs. A lot of the dialogue is very fragmented, so instead of saying something like “Hey, let’s go to the store”, they’ll say “let’s store go”. So, it’s quite weird. On top of that, the majority of it is historical or political references to things the US has done in the past seventy years in its interaction with the rest of the world. So, it’s very complex and very dense but you get these little pockets or windows of them speaking to each other and it’s just as people. That really provides this arc and through-line that allows you to hear what the political stuff is from a different perspective or a different angle that’s maybe a bit more digestible or it may be just a very confusing buffet.

RQ: Do you think there’s anything in this show that’s relevant to the current political climate?

AT: Totally! Yup! This play was actually written in 2006, so it has references to twin towers, and Guantanamo, and Iraq, so there’s very recent political stuff along with Truman doctrine stuff. Fighting communism is a very strong through-line. Also, when I did research for the show, it was very illuminating to see just how much the States (and many other countries, I’m sure) involve themselves in other countries’ affairs in very deliberate and often nefarious ways. Like the US really enjoys overthrowing governments, democratically elected or not. As long as they are communist or left-leaning, they’ll just get rid of them. They would even fund drug dealers to fight communists because communism was scarier than drug-dealing. This is well-known, the Contra affair.

Playwright of 2014 The Playwright Project- Caryl Churchill

Playwright of 2014 The Playwright Project- Caryl Churchill


RQ: One of the major themes in Churchill’s work is the exploitation of the downtrodden or the underprivileged, do you see that in this work, or is it more of a representation of these national and socio-economic powers?

AT: I would say that it shows in the relationship between Sam, who is the United States, and Guy, who is a person. Their relationship is definitely unequal in power. One of the main themes of the show is that whether you like what the States has done or not, they are still the biggest superpower. They are enormously influential. You just sort of have to accept that and then deal with it. Guy is definitely secondary to Sam.

RQ: So it sounds like there’s a sense of inevitability, or an unstoppable force.

AT: It certainly doesn’t celebrate or even defend some of America’s less pleasant actions but what I’ve found that it does is not even look at what they’ve done from a moral position, but just as a country that has power trying to maintain that power. When you re-contextualize that into a relationship, it gives you that perspective of “Oh, when a country overthrows another country’s government because they’re afraid of them, that’s like someone in a relationship deleting their ex-girlfriends’ numbers from their phone”, you know? It’s a way of maintaining power and control, and the ways we do that socially and politically are way more similar than we think.



RQ: Where do you think these smaller festivals like Playwright Project fit into the Toronto theatre community? What can you get out of them that you can’t get out of the smaller ones?

AT: I’m in it for the ladies, mostly. One thing I really like about the Playwright Project in comparison to other festivals is that it does give you the opportunity to work on modern classic work, which you can’t do at Fringe or Summerworks. It’s pretty unique. Generally my interest is in doing new work, but there’s a slew of plays that we’ve all read or playwrights we’re excited by, and there’s not much opportunity to mount their work. There’s not much room in the Canadian landscape at all to do any kind of established text. Generally, the way grant funding and all of that works is really geared toward new work, which can be actually destabilizing. There was that big push from the 1960s onward to make Canadian culture a “thing”. And that push is still going on now. And it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it is useful to drop in and look at older work. It seems like a kind of hamster wheel thing to keep focusing on new work and never revisiting work that’s even ten years old. Really great narratives drop you into pre-existing stories or unknown worlds. When you see a show about something that’s happened that year, it can be very exciting, and you feel like a part of something, but when you see work that’s twenty years old, or fifty years old, there can be a deeper sense of connection or of reducing alienation. You can realize that the things you’re experiencing are things that people have experienced forever. That is something that storytelling aims to do, and sometimes, when it succeeds, it can be more powerful with older work.

Drunk Enough To Say I Love You?

By Caryl Churchill presented by Circlesnake Productions as part of the 2014 Playwright Project


Drunk Enough To Say I Love You? places the world’s love-hate relationship with the United States in the form of a romantic relationship. When Guy is seduced by Sam, who represents the U.S., she feels intoxicated by her but shocked by her ruthlessness. Guy must determine whether the love she feels for Sam is worth staying with her, and if she can ever leave.

Directed by: Alec Toller
Starring: Claire Armstrong, Caitlin B. Driscoll
WhereThe Downstage (798 Danforth Avenue)
Tickets: Available  HERE
Single Tickets: Weeknight Single Ticket: $10.00, Weekend Single Ticket: $15.00
Project Passes: Weeknight 2-Show Pass: $15.00 (see both shows playing on a weeknight), Weekend 4 Show-Pass: $45.00 (see all four shows playing on a Saturday or Sunday)

About the Director:

Alec is the artistic director of Circlesnake Productions and director of Dark Matter,  Special Constables (The Storefront Theatre Season), Angel City, (Playwrights Projectthe feature film Play. Alec was the assistant director on the triple Dora-nominated Laws of Motion (Small Elephant Co-op, dir. Christopher Stanton).


Circlesnake Productions creates film and theatre work for modern audiences who have adapted to a cinematic language. Circlesnake’s plays blaze by like an action film, and its films pop with dialogue found in the theatre. We match works to their appropriate medium to best tell their story while breaking down artistic divisions. Older works return in new forms and new works borrow from the old because at Circlesnake, good stories come back.

A Few Words with Sarah Kitz – Director of Caryl Churchill’s Three Sleepless Nights – 2014 Playwright Project

Interview by Ryan Quinn

RQ: So, Sarah Kitz! You are directing Three Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill with Bad Joe Theatre for the 2014 Playwright Project.

SK: I am!

RQ: And this show takes place around the beginning of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

SK: It’s early in her reign of terror.

RQ: Yeah! I was wondering if you could speak to the point of view the show takes on her. She was the first female British prime minister, but she didn’t leave a fantastic legacy.

SK: Well, it’s interesting because Churchill stridently doesn’t talk about her shows. Other people talk about them, but she doesn’t do interviews. So, you’re forced to just go to the text. She is such an overt feminist, and Margaret Thatcher obviously was no feminist, even though she was holding the highest office in the land, it was all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Women did not do better under her government, and minorities didn’t do better, and underprivileged people didn’t do better. It’s a political play because of the context, but we don’t hear people discussing much politics. What we get instead is people in tenuous circumstances that are getting increasingly dangerous and just the traps closing around them. We understand because of the framing of the show that that’s largely, but not totally, Thatcher’s doing.

RQ: A society or a community in flux, and how it affects the people in it.

SK: Yeah, and not so dissimilar from now, with the economic divide widening dramatically. The people on the bottom end of that are going from a hand-to-mouth situation that’s bearable into a really precarious place.

RQ: Well that’s something I wanted to ask you about, how the world of this show parallels our own, but you just touched on it, how social classes are becoming further apart.

SK: When I chose this show, I realized that with some of her work, you can get away with not doing a British accent very easily, but I don’t think this is one of them. It’s very “London working class”, so we decided to keep that, but the resonances in people with economic hardship is so unfortunately similar to what’s happening right now that I think that will reverberate very strongly.

RQ: How do you approach something like this that’s so similar to our world now, but also so firmly planted in a certain era?

SK: I think, fortunately, with someone like Churchill, she’s so clever in her writing that you can just serve the text and know that it will resonate. The actors are really, really good, and the scenes are stand-alone but interrelated so we get a few different viewpoints going on and that’s helpful as well. It’s not just one bedroom with two people for the entire show. One of the couples has a bit more money and resources than another, so you do see some change. I don’t think it’s ultimately a very optimistic play, but I think that making art is overtly an optimistic venture, so they balance out.

RQ: What is it about Caryl Churchill that you think makes her great for a festival like this?

SK: She’s so political, and the politics in our country are so in-your-face right now that we need to have more politics in our theatre. And her political discourses are very palatable in how theatrical they are. So you can come see a political show and it will be entertaining, not didactic, though there is a lot of substance in there. Plus, since she doesn’t talk about it, as artists working on the show, you can kind of do whatever you want in the realm of working with the script you have. She hasn’t said, like Shaw, the table must go here beside the french door. You can imagine it fresh every time and that’s really exciting. I don’t know what the other directors are doing with their shows, but I imagine we’ll see four drastically different, ambitious theatrical adventures, that’s really exciting.

Playwright of 2014 The Playwright Project- Caryl Churchill

Playwright of 2014 The Playwright Project- Caryl Churchill

RQ: What do you think the place is of these small festivals in a city with a few large festivals every year?

SK: I think it’s fabulous. With the Playwright Project in particular, we get to focus in on a particular writer, one who has a broad body of work to choose from. It’s incredible immersion. Plus I think the selection body is very interesting, why we choose these shows. Part of it is practicality, what we can do on a small budget in a small space. A lot of her shows are gigantic, and nobody in this festival is doing a show with a cast of fifty. Also, though, there’s not a lot of Caryl Churchill done in this city, and what is done is put on at a very high level like Alisa Palmer did Top Girls for Soulpepper, and then she did Cloud Nine for Mirvish. If you want to talk politics, that’s a different price bracket, those tickets. So there are a lot of people in this city that don’t have access to those shows just by virtue of how much they cost. And they have to cost that much because it costs so much to put them on.


RQ: So she’s a playwright that’s speaking directly to the hardship of the lower half of society, and yet most people in that lower half can’t afford to see it.

SK: I mean she doesn’t always put her words in the mouth of the lower class, but she does have a focus on the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the politically under-served. She is very populist in that way.

RQ: What do you hope people discuss, or think about, or argue about on the way home?

SK: I hope people argue about what the traps are, because I think there is more than one in my show. And also how familiar the refrains are that we get ourselves into in relationships. How much fine negotiation it takes to get out. Fine negotiation or revolution, explosions of the status quo.

RQ: In some senses, is the explosion ever justified, or is it ever essential?

SK: Exactly. If they’re justified, how they’re justified, and the disparity between the lip service and the execution. And if the execution ever happens, or if we stay trapped and talk about it and do nothing. If silent revolution is possible, or if that’s a lot of tongue wagging and a lot of sitting around.

Three More Sleepless Nights

by Caryl Churchill, presented by Bad Joe as part of the 2014 Playwright Project


London, 1980. Thatcher is newly in office. It’s the end of an era; it’s a new age. Late night communication breakdown. In the close quarters of the bedroom, enter people on the brink.

Directed by: Sara Kitz
Starring: Diana Bentley, Chala Hunter, Jeff Margolis, Ryan Rogerson,
Where: The Downstage (798 Danforth Avenue)
Tickets: Available  HERE
Single Tickets: Weeknight Single Ticket: $10.00, Weekend Single Ticket: $15.00 

Project Passes: Weeknight 2-Show Pass: $15.00 (see both shows playing on a weeknight), Weekend 4 Show-Pass: $45.00 (see all four shows playing on a Saturday or Sunday)

About Sarah Kitz:
A Toronto writer, director and actor, Sarah recently directed the hit show Savage in Limbo for Bob Kills Theatre, which extended its run at The Downstage. She has assistant directed Long Days Journey Into Night at Soulpepper (dir. Diana Leblanc); associate directed This Wide Night at Summerworks (dir. Kelli Fox), and has directed for Fringe, Summerworks, Here Is My Hand, Leah Posluns Theatre, One Night Stand, My Livingroom’s New Art Night, and Birmingham Readings at The Stratford Festival.
As an actor Sarah has been a member of the Stratford Festival Company and a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, where she played Eliza in Pygmalion (dir. Chris Newton) and Fool in Lear (dir. Martha Henry). Sarah has played Olivia in Twelfth Night (Dream North); Hali in The Sicilian (Fringe); Portia in The Merchant of Venice (St Lawrence Shakespeare Company); One Woman Freak Show (Buddies/Cheap Queers).
Upcoming Sarah is directing a new play by Nicolas Billon. This fall Sarah will play Edna St Vincent Millay in With Individual Desire, currently in development with Lady Parts Theatre and Nightwood Theatre, to be presented at Groundswell.

On Our Radar TO: Get Stoked for Theatre this November!

Why is theatre relevant? Whether it allows you to re-connect with your inner child, be exposed to a new perspective, challenges your pre-conceptions or allows you to let your guard down, whether you’re looking for a sexy night out, a night to sing and dance with childish glee without feeling out of place, or simply looking to be entertained and connect with those around you through classic love stories and a beer in hand, these productions are On Our Radar, Toronto, and we think you should get stoked for theatre this November!

Savage in Limbo

Written by John Patrick Shanley, presented by Bob Kills Theatre


With a newly extended run, we’ve heard nothing but exciting things about this production. Bold, brave work, exciting use of a new venue to the Toronto scene (The Downstage), and some incredible talent that must be noted!

“John Patrick Shanley is an Oscar, Tony and Pulitzer prize-winning writer of stage and screen. He is best known for the 1988 film Moonstruck, and the 2004 play Doubt, which was also adapted into an Oscar-nominated film in 2008.

Bob Kills Theatre is an experience in visceral theatre. Founded by Melissa D’Agostino and Diana Bentley, the company strives to present unique, often surreal, texts in interesting venues. With an emphasis on bold stories and the virtuosity of performance, Bob Kills Theatre aims to challenge, engage, entertain and instigate.”

Various 32-year olds seek love, sex and a way out of their dead-end lives.

Where: The Downstage, 798 Danforth

When: **Extended Run** October 22nd – Thursday November 7th 8pm.

Tickets: $20

The Double

A TheatreRUN production presented by Tarragon Theatre


Adapted from the novella by Dostoevsky, created and performed by Adam Paolozza, Arif Mirabdolbaghi and Viktor Lukawski, we’ve heard this production described as hilarious, whimsical, psychologically complex, haunting and magical. If that doesn’t catch your interest, maybe this delightful trailer will. Catch this gem of a remount before it closes!

“When are you no longer yourself? The anxious government clerk Golyadkin is plagued by a stranger who looks just like him but is more daring, romantic and brash. Inspired by Dostoevsky’s novella The Double, this theatrical triangle between a neurotic, his doppelganger and a stand-up bass transports us to 19th century Russian high society and Golyadkin’s labyrinthine search for his identity.

After a hit independent run last season that saw a Dora Award win for lighting design, Tarragon warmly welcomes this dark satire about our deepest fears of losing our identity.”

Where: Tarragon Theatre Extraspace

When: October 15th-November 24th

Tickets: 416-531-1827 Tarragon Box Office

Dirty Butterfly

Written by Debbie Tucker Green, presented by Bound To Create Theatre as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 Presentation Series


If there is one production we have been excited about for its first professional Canadian Theatre debut, it’s Bound to Create Theatre’s production of Dirty Butterfly as part of Obsidian Theatre’s 2013/14 presentation series. Since its first run at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival, we’ve heard nothing but incredible things of this arresting play by British playwright Debbie Tucker Green and after seeing its opening, this hypnotic play is not to be missed!

“This drama explores voyeurism, power and guilt by confronting the collateral damage of domestic abuse and racial economic divide.”

Where: Aki Studio Theatre, 585 Dundas E.

When: Previews Oct. 30-31st, Opens November 1st and runs to November 17th. Tues-Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm

Tickets: $20-$25 Preview 15$, November 10th PWYC.

Moss Park

Written by George F. Walker, presented by Green Thumb Theatre/Theatre Passe Muraille

There’s a new George F. Walker in town and with some pretty incredible young Canadian talent as its leads, local talent Haley McGee and Vancouver native Graeme McComb, and we’re into it!

“Moss Park is an intimate look at two young people as they confront an uncertain future.  In this follow up to Tough!, George F. Walker takes Bobby and Tina on a journey as they fight to map a life that doesn’t include poverty.”

Where: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson

When: Previews Runs November 5th-16th, Tues-Sat 7:30pm, Mat Sat 2pm.

Tickets: $15-$32.50, Matinee PWYC, 416-504-7529,

Alligator Pie

Featuring poetry by Dennis Lee, presented by Soulpepper

Soulpepper's Alligator Pie in rehearsal, Raquel Duffy, Mike Ross, Gregory Prest. Photo Credit: Nathan Kelly

This needed a remount in the most heart-felt way. We saw this last fall and what a treat it was to watch this talented group of artists weave the children’s poems of Dennis Lee together with heart, humour and glee-inducing creativity. This family-friendly production is definitely enjoyable for all ages on so many levels as it celebrates imagination and invention.

Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane
When: Opens November 3rd and runs to December 1st
Tickets: $23, Rush $5-$22 416-866-8666,

Romeo and Juliet

Written by William Shakespeare, presented by Shakespeare BASH’d


If you know anything about Shakespeare BASH’d it’s the long line-up of Fringe hopefuls trying to snag the last few tickets at the door of their two sold-out Fringe hits with both their 2012 production of Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing this past Summer at the Victory Café. If you managed to get your tickets early, then you got to see what all of the hype was about – a clean, story-focused Shakespeare, chalk-full of boisterous local talent, all of which you could enjoy with a drink in hand. Well BASH’d is about to present their first tragedy outside of the Fringe circuit and bring us to the incredible 3030 Dundas West in the Junction, inviting us to grab a beer (perhaps from one of the 3030’s many local craft beer selections) and reconnect with Shakespeare’s greatest story of original young love-at-first-sight.

Where: 3030 Dundas West in the Junction

When: November 19th-23rd Tuesday-Friday 7:30pm, Closing Saturday at 4pm

Tickets: $16-$21 with advanced purchase highly recommended*


Mature Young Adults

By Wesley J. Colford, presented by Aim for the Tangent

MYA Promo Shot #1

We had the pleasure of catching this gem at the Atlantic Fringe Festival on a visit to Halifax this September and we’re very interested to see it in its next stage of development in Toronto at the intimate Videofag space. Andrea Nemetz from the Chronicle Herald expresses our thoughts on Mature Young Adults perfectly: “Everyone has been a teenager in love, or will be. …an astonishingly real look at that most complicated of emotions.”

“This tragi-comic love story continues the theatrical tradition of East Coast playwriting greats David French and Daniel MacIvor with a contemporary twist for the Facebook generation. In a world where labels and gossip fly through cyberspace like lightning, is it possible to love without giving up your identity? Can you escape the container your community places you in?”

Where: Videofag, 187 Augusta Ave.

When: November 20th-24th: 19th-22nd 8pm, 23rd & 24th 4pm & 8pm

Tickets: $15 at the door. Advance tickets available through T.O. Tix

After Miss Julie

Written by Patrick Marber, presented by Red One Theatre Collective


If you are looking for a crazy, sexy performance to spice up your life as the temperatures drop… we’re looking to After Miss Julie presented by Red One Theatre Collective. After Miss Julie is a version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie by Patrick Marber, where Marber amps up the power play between Julie, John, and his fiancée Christine to a deliciously dangerous level. The result, a steamy and at times manic and even hilarious power play amongst the class structure of 1945 England. With David Ferry as the director and a cast of some exceptional young local talent (Claire Armstrong, Christopher Morris and Amy Keating), we can’t wait to see what Red One brings to the Storefront this November.

Where: The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West

When: November 15th-30th (Preview November 14th) Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Sundays 2pm

Tickets: $20/ Tuesdays $10/ $15 Preview)

The Sacrifice Zone

Written by Suzie Miller, presented by Theatre Gargantua


If you’ve never been to a Gargantua performance, now is your chance to catch their world premiere of their 10th cycle of work The Sacrifice Zone. Created through their unique process, Theatre Gargantua is artist driven and works as a creative ensemble, producing projects in two-year cycles. We’re overflowing with excitement to see their latest creation, blending physical theatre, vocal soundscapes and unique storytelling and staging and we think you should be too!

“An industrial explosion shatters lives in an isolated resource town, rocking the balance of the community. While Alex and Hannah struggle with the loss of their partners, Laura and Patrick renegotiate the boundaries of a love affair, and newcomer Elly watches the emotional landscape change as arrestingly as the physical environment does. When everything is at stake, what would you sacrifice to make things right?

The Sacrifice Zone cuts right to fundamental questions of who and what are our responsibilities? And is balance, indeed justice, ever possible? Gargantua explores real world issues of individual, corporate and environmental accountability through their signature physical and critically acclaimed contemporary visual style in this gripping production based on a script by celebrated Australian playwright Suzie Miller.”

Where: Factory Studio Theatre
When: November 13th-30th Wednesday-Saturday 8pm, Saturday November 16th & November 20th 2pm.
Tickets: $19-$25, Buy tickets at 

The Gay Heritage Project

Created and performed by Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn & Andrew Kushnir, presented by The GHP Collective in association with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre


We just caught a glimpse of this promo video, and we can’t wait to catch it mid-November! A collaboration between acclaimed theatre makers Damien Atkins, Paul Dunn, and Andrew Kushnir, The Gay Heritage Project offers audiences a unique chance to discover, celebrate and connect to our queer heritage. Once again, Buddies in Bad Times provides Toronto with relevant, thought-provoking, socially-conscious theatre.

“Three of our country’s most gifted creator/performers set out to answer one question: is there such a thing as gay heritage? In their search, they uncover a rich history not often shared and shine new light on contemporary gay culture. The result is a hilarious and moving homage to the people who came before us and the events that continue to shape our lives.”

Where: Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, near Yonge & College

When: November 17th-December 8th, Tuesday-Saturday 8pm, Saturday & Sunday 2:30pm, Preview Performances 8pm

Tickets: $20-$37

Know something that should be On Our Radar, Toronto? Connect with us through Twitter & Facebook using the hashtag #OnOurRadarTO or send us an email to What’s on your Radar?