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Posts tagged ‘The Howland Company’

“On Taking Time, Listening & Why We Stretch” In Conversation with Director Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster on THE WOLVES by Sarah DeLappe

Interview by Megan Robinson.

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, director of The Wolves, onstage now at Crow’s Theatre with The Howland Company, speaks of her process with calm and steady confidence. When it comes to directing, her approach is to give the process lots of time and to listen carefully to all collaborators. Though still a relatively new director, Courtney gives the impression in her thoughtful discussion of already having years of experience under her belt.

This is the Toronto premiere of The Wolves, a show that follows a competitive U-17 girls soccer team throughout six different games. It’s a physically demanding show, that at times required that the cast practice their soccer drills and ball handling in parks and soccer domes rather than the rehearsal hall. When it comes to unraveling the creative process, Courtney has only good things to say about her collaborators, “We have a wonderful cast and a real sense of camaraderie, and I take joy and pride in having played a part in creating that.”

We spoke with Courtney about taking one’s time with the work, and the power of theatre (and specifically The Wolves) in finding relief from the outside world.

Some days you just need a good story to escape into, right?

MR: In the marketing for this show I get the impression of teamwork and I see photos of these strong young female characters, but what is the main theme that you are personally interested in exploring as a director?

CCL: I’ve been thinking a lot about why we stretch. At the beginning of the show, they’re in a stretch circle, warming up before the game. In the show, we meet them every Saturday over six different games, and over the course of those six weeks, a lot of different things happen to these girls. They are at their most certain and confident at the beginning; they know who they are, they know what’s going to happen, they know they are the best team, and they’re all stretching together. And of course, by the end of the show, lots of different things have happened.

So, that we stretch to become flexible is what I’ve been thinking about. It’s a subtle sort of arc but hopefully by the end of the play we understand that they are learning to become yielding without losing. They are dealing with change in a way that empowers them and allows them to keep moving forward. And I just think that’s a lesson that we would all benefit from.

Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

MR: I’m curious about telling these stories about groups of women specifically, because I feel like this year in theatre I’ve seen a lot more of that, not to say it’s a trend-

CCL: It’s definitely in the collective consciousness. I see it most predominantly with Shakespeare and how the various Shakespeare producers tend to produce the same plays at the same time.

MR: Are we reaching for some sort of solution or?

CCL: I just think it’s really exciting.

With our cast, the feeling in our room for me has been exceptional because when I graduated theatre school some time ago my experience was always of being one of the only young women in a show. Because there’s only one role for an ingenue, for example. It was so rare to be in a room with a lot of other women and non-binary actors of a similar age. And then adding to that, I always used to joke about just disappearing when I turned thirty-five, because it just seemed like at that time, not that long ago, there would just be no options for me. So it’s very exciting and gratifying to see that shift happening, because it does feel like, ‘Oh wow, I might have work in the future.’

And despite the depressing news cycle we’ve been in recently, it is exciting and reassuring to know that collectively we’re all recognizing that there’s been a real dearth of female stories and we’re doing our best to remedy that.

And in The Wolves you’re seeing young women talk about all kinds of things, in their outside lives they’re all kinds of different people, but the one thing is they’re really good at soccer. So we’re showing them in their position of strength and in their safe place.

I feel like that’s a shift too. We’re depicting different groups of women – they’re not mean, catty, high school stereotypes.

They are there to do one thing and that’s play soccer really well and we get a glimpse of their lives through this lens.

Photo of THE WOLVES by Dahlia Katz

MR: Does this feel like a big deal, like a turning point in your directing career?

CCL: Oh huge. It really exemplifies what The Howland Company is for, which is to give opportunities to our members that they wouldn’t otherwise get. Ruth Goodwin is the lead producer on this project and right from day one she was like, ‘Well you’re directing this’. And at various points I said things like, ‘Well, am I really qualified to direct this?’. But she’s been so encouraging. We have to stretch ourselves and we have to learn. I went into the company very specifically wanting to find opportunities to direct more. Everyone went in with slightly different goals.

It’s hard to get those directing opportunities when you don’t have a lot of experience because people need to see your work to hire you. So yes, it’s absolutely a big deal and a wonderful learning experience for me.

Heath V. Salazar & Ruth Goodwin in THE WOLVES. Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz

MR: What made you want to direct? Where does that spark come from?

CCL: In university I had to learn to tone down my desire to act for everyone else, and also when I entered the professional acting world. But that desire to kind of control everything never really went away.

And then just practically speaking I think a career in the Canadian theatre world is all the more fulfilling the more you diversify. There’s no real clear stairway to success in Canadian theatre and so if you have access to a lot of different income paths and a lot of different creative outlets, I think it’s just more satisfying. Directing is just another way to create opportunities for myself and get to be an artist.

MR: What do you like about directing? What does it feel like when it’s going really well?

CCL: I love collaboration. I love being the refiner in collaboration, the person who hears a bunch of ideas from a bunch of different people and is able to say ‘Okay, this part of this idea is great, and this part of this idea is great, and let’s try it all together like this’. I like to be the filter in a way. And I just love creating a room where everybody feels seen and heard and safe and thus, creative.

Which isn’t to say that theatre is always fun. When we were in tech week, and we’re in the theatre for 12 hours, there’s just a point where fun is not a possibility anymore.

Brittany Kay and Heath V. Salazar in THE WOLVES. Photo by Dahlia Katz

MR: You said you get a lot of joy in helping them be creative, and finding their own joy. How do you do that? What does that look like?

CCL: A lot of listening. Making sure we take the time, when we can, everyday to go round, check in with everybody and make sure that there isn’t stuff that is slipping through the cracks. Making sure the actors feel that they can speak up. And for me that can be a challenge. Because the challenge as a director is that there is no time, right? It’s always a rush to get it done. So on this process I’ve been really trying to deliberately slow myself down and check in and listen.

MR: I’m interested in how big a part collaboration plays in your process.

CCL: It’s huge! I feel there is a shift from the tradition of the singular director or singular genius-auteur-director, though there is certainly a place for that, into more collaborative processes in the theatre. The “no man is an island” approach to making theatre is something I’m very interested in and tend to enjoy more.

THE WOLVES. Photo by Dahlia Katz

MR: Outside of theatre, what do you find inspires you? What do you draw from? Maybe from what’s been going on in the news, to keep it specific.

CCL: I don’t know if I can go there. I hide from my own incredible sense of cynicism. I can’t tell you what an escape The Wolves has actually been, with so many things going on politically in the world, that I can spend the week in a room of remarkable women and non-binary creators, with all kinds of experiences and thoughts and voices. A theatre actually sometimes feels like such a relief and escape. I have a lot of pessimism about the future of humanity!! So going and playing in the dark and telling stories to each other just feels like the best and safest thing to do… But what inspires me are brave, change-makers and storytellers. And people who listen.

MR: Can you give me a name of anyone right now that comes to mind?

CCL: Alan Dilworth, the current acting artistic director at Soulpepper. I’ve just watched him over the course of a difficult year do an enormous amount of listening. Not just listening but really receiving. He’s not just show-acting with his listening, he’s really interested. And I find his quiet patience very remarkable and inspiring.

MR: Sounds like a good leader to draw from as you step into doing this more and more..

CCL: Definitely.

THE WOLVES. Photo by Dahlia Katz

MR: Lastly, who is the best soccer player?

CCL: Oh, you are putting me in such a dangerous position. I don’t know if I can give you names. But I will say that there is a difference between being an excellent soccer player and being an excellent soccer actor. So, when people come and see the show I would say the people who are doing the best soccer acting may not be the best soccer players and vice versa.

MR: That’s a fair answer

CCL: Sometimes the challenge is more about restraining enthusiasm and strength in the show. You know, we’re in a theatre.

(All Photos Featured by Dahlia Katz)

The Wolves

The Howland Company and Crow’s Theatre Production
Written by Sarah DeLappe
Directed by Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster
Starring: Rachel Cairns, Aisha Evelyna, Ruth Goodwin, Annelise Hawrylak, Ula Jurecka, Brittany Kay, Heath V. Salazar, Hallie Seline, Amaka Umeh, Robyn Stevan
Set & Lighting Design by Jareth Li
Sound Design & Composition by Deanna H. Choi
Costume Design & Movement Coaching by Sarah Doucet
Stage Manager – Sam Hale
Production Manager – Courtney Pyke
Assistant Director – Rebecca Gibian
Apprentice Stage Manager – Hannah MacMillan
Assistant Lighting Designer – Scarlett Larry
Assistant Sound Designer – Cosette Pin

Left quad. Right quad. Lunge. A girls indoor soccer team warms up. From the safety of their stretch circle, nine girls navigate and question the world around them with the determination of warriors. This provocative play, nominated for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, captures the profound beauty of adolescence and paints a portrait of  nuanced young women navigating the game, their lives and a growing understanding of a complicated world.

Crow’s Theatre
345 Carlaw Ave.

On stage now until October 27th
Monday-Saturday at 8pm
Wednesdays at 1:30
Thursday at 1pm
Saturday at 2pm








“Making Improv Magic, The Value of Play & Working with Colin Mochrie” In Conversation with Liz Johnston & Mimi Warshaw on ENTRANCES AND EXITS at the 2018 Fringe

Interview by Megan Robinson.

The concept of Entrances and Exits, a new farce on stage now as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, is a complicated one. To make things more complicated, it’s also entirely improvised!

This impressive and unscripted farce is split into two parts; with the first twenty minutes playing out in the living room with a series of entrances and exits into and out of the bedroom and then restarting a second time with the same scenario, but set in the bedroom. This requires that the cast do an instant replay of sorts; filling in the blanks of the story, hitting all the main plot points, and eventually culminating with a satisfying resolution. And hopefully they can make us laugh along the way.

Somehow, the cast pulls this off without any planning and with very minimal mid-show discussion.

We sat down with actor, improviser, Bad Dog Theatre Company member and Entrances and Exits co-creator Liz Johnston and Howland Company member and E&E production manager Mimi Warshaw to figure out how they make that improv magic happen, some common misconceptions about improv, and, of course, what it’s like working with Colin Mochrie.

Megan Robinson: What does a rehearsal look like for this type of improvised show?

Mimi Warshaw: Paolo (Santalucia, the director) brought a lot of his acting training into it and was really interested in playing with characters, discovering characters and trying on some clown work. So that was the beginning, just to play. That helped to know how everyone worked. That was the focus of the first half.

The last month and a half was about finding the show. And it grew in pieces. There was a lot of, “Let’s play with one room, then the next room, now let’s see what happens if we flip the set.”

A lot of playing and coming back and saying, “How did that feel? What worked? What can we do better?”

MR: Is there anything not improvised? What might be consistent throughout the show? The characters? Anything?

Liz Johnston: You really don’t know what will happen.

MW: I’ve seen maybe a dozen versions, maybe more, and no two shows have been the same.

MR: How much do you play for each other and how much is for the audience?

LJ: The audiences have been really generous, so I think we’ve been playing a lot for the audience. The thing about improv is that you also get the joy of making each other laugh. There are so many fabulous moments where someone will say something, and you just can’t help it. And the audience feels kind of in on it because they know it’s improvised. That’s really joyful. That’s what I love more than any kind of theatre, where you can really have everybody be on the same page, and they can be like, “I know exactly why this is funny. I was here for every part of it.”

MR: What is a myth or misconception about improv?

MW: I firmly believe that people think improv is just people going up and being funny. But I think good improv is funny because it’s recognizable. When I’m at an improv show, there’s always somebody who gives a suggestion like, ‘we’re in a volcano at the end of the earth.’

And I’m like, ‘we’ll never be there so…’ Maybe it would be funny, but I’m more interested in seeing somebody in a bakery having a traumatic moment and seeing the comedy in that.

I don’t know if it’s a misconception, but I like seeing reality on stage, and I think there’s comedy in that. I think that’s funnier than just a bunch of jokes.

I also think people are terrified of doing improv because they think they aren’t funny…

LJ: Another thing is that it’s nice to have people now recognize that there really are different styles of improv, that are all valuable.

So you can go to an improv show and have big laughs and fast scenes and big characters and enjoy that just as much as going to see something like this longer narrative unfold and have unexpected turns, more dramatic moments, and have them both be beautiful and both be improv.

I don’t want to run into a trap here… I love short-form improv. I love games (an easy thing to describe it as is what you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway). There’s so much joy in that, and there’s so much talent in being able to do that well. It’s truly harder than anything else. So I never want to say those aren’t worth as much as a long-form unscripted piece of theatre.

MR: So farce is very slapstick and physical. How do you improvise that sort of thing? Or do you?

MW: It’s not just physical, it leans towards the improbable, leans towards the ridiculous, so it doesn’t need to be grounded to reality. And we definitely do that. As much as there’s still truth, it still has that sense of play.

The other thing I’ve been told about farce is it doesn’t need to have to have a moral. It can just be a really beautifully fun and hilarious time.

LJ: I always forget we have so many different definitions we’ve gone through describing what farce is, but again leaning towards the improbable.

Like: There’s a dead body in the other room, this is true, what else is true? It’s not about calling the cops or trying to figure out what happened. It’s us trying to be like, “Okay, there’s a body in the other room, but we also have to make sure everything’s fine for the party.”

We like the fact that as much as it is ridiculous, it’s all stuff that could happen. It’s all about the foibles of humanity and the relationships between people and it takes those tensions that might already exist, those love affairs that exist, and heightens them to the point of the ridiculous.

MR: Must be fun!

LJ: It is nice to escape a little bit. Which is not to say that we don’t deal with the issues of what’s going on in reality, but because it is so focused on just relationships between individuals and how silly and absurd they can be, it is a bit of an escape to get to go there and just live in that ridiculous and joyful place.

MR: Have you ever showed up to rehearsal and been in the shittiest mood and not been able to find that joy?

LJ: I had one where it was an 11 pm show, and I had just done D&D Live!, which is another show that I LOVE, and it’s so funny and also improvised. I’d done that earlier in the day and I’d done another show, so I came to do the 11pm show, and I was so zonked. I could not find my energy. But it’s the same thing that happens for any performer; the audience starts to come in, you have the cast around you, you put on your costume, and you’re like, “This is the best thing ever! What’s next?”

So it’s a nice medication for tiredness.

MR: Some of the best questions can come from inside the process. Do you have a question you’d like to ask each other about your experience within the show?

MW: Liz, when you’re standing backstage, and you’re like, “I need to figure out what I’m bringing to this scenario”, what’s that process like? How do you feel in that moment?

LJ: I don’t know. I really don’t think about it. I like to just go on stage. That’s the kind of classic improv thing: if you can really get used to just trusting yourself to go onstage.

Just open the door, going, “Here we are! What happens next?”

MW: In the show, how much awareness do you have of the bedroom when you’re in the living room?

LJ: I usually have an idea of what I think is going on. And everybody is so good at having their own ideas.

We talk about this in improv, it’s called “group mind” where everyone sort of ends up on the same page without discussing it at all.

The number of times that will happen with this show… I mean, it’s the magic of it!

MR: So the magic of it is a surprise to the improvisers too? I know as an audience member, that’s how it feels. Those moments feel…

LJ: Totally, you come back, and you’re just like wow! It feels so wild.

MR: What about pushing boundaries?

LJ: You check in. You talk about it, whether it’s physical touching or subjects you can touch on that may be a boundary. Even just one night, with my nose bleeds, and I was like, “Listen, guys, it might happen. I have tissue in my pocket. I’m okay, it’s okay.” And any of those types of conversations, you just need to have them. And we’ve had those. Any good cast will talk about it constantly.

MW: There are moments where people will say things, and we’ve had this in rehearsals, where somebody will take a dive, and be like, “I’m going to propose something…”

But our cast is really supportive and really knows each other and so they’re able to support them. And that’s what I love about improv – you can do something, and guaranteed, five people will say we’ve got your back, we’ve got you, we’ll take care of you.

There have definitely been moments where you need to be risky, but these people handled that with such care, and such responsibility, they made it so safe.

LJ: Anyone who is making a faux pas, it’s coming from a place of fear.

The biggest thing in improv is you need to go on stage making a choice to make everyone else look as good as possible so if you can do that, if everybody is doing that, then everybody is going to look great. You’re setting up everyone else to succeed. You can’t do that if you’re undercutting them or sacrificing them for a laugh or commenting on something for the sake of the audience.

MR: Lastly, tell me about working with Colin Mochrie!

LJ: He’s just the most generous man.

It’s such a generous thing to do; to know your name will lend fame, or excitement to someone’s show. He does that so willingly and generously.

He did this exercise with us, which is really difficult. Everyone was struggling to keep up and we started playing with the format of the game so it got faster and went backwards and forwards, so fast! But Colin was having no trouble, just breezing through it. Everyone know’s how funny he is and how sharp, but good lord the man is fast. And so present. We’re so excited to have him on the show!

Entrances and Exits

Presented by The Howland Company in association with Bad Dog Comedy Theatre
Created by Liz Johnston & Ruth Goodwin
Director: Paolo Santalucia
Starring: Ghazal Azarbad, Conor Bradbury, Nigel Downer, Dylan Evans, Ruth Goodwin, Liz Johnston, Connor Low
Designed by: Christian Horoszczak
Production Manager: Mimi Warshaw

A completely improvised play based on the structure of traditional farces we love like “The Norman Conquests” and “Noises Off”.

125 Bathurst St
M5V 2R2

13th July – 7:30pm
14th July – 9:15pm
15th July – 12:00pm


A Chat with James Graham on LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS LEMONS at the 2017 Toronto Fringe

Article by Megan Robinson

James Graham, of the Toronto-based ensemble The Howland Company, enjoys wandering through bookstores and letting play titles and covers jump out at him. And when they do, they get added to a list. It was in March of 2016, in London, England, that the catchy and memorably titled Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by British playwright Sam Steiner caught his eye on a bookshelf in the National Theatre bookstore.

When The Howland Company was approached by Slow Blue Lions to work together on a Fringe show, he pulled out the list where he had noted Lemons as a possibility for future productions. The script fit the sort of criteria that the practical company looks for when choosing a play; the right length, about young people, the right amount of characters for the particular project. Plus, the rights were available.

“It’s always exciting when one of those plays that intrigues you finds its way to the front of the line,” he told me, in reference to Lemons making it off the list and onto the stage at this year’s Fringe Festival [and recently announced as PATRON’S PICK!] (And when life gives you Lemons… you put it on at the Fringe…. Sorry, I had to.)

The ambitious 60 minute show, with north of 200 lighting cues, follows Bernadette and Oliver as they navigate their relationship under the newly imposed law that restricts every individual to a daily limit of 140 words. There was a lot to cover in my interview with James Graham, who plays Oliver in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons. In way more than 140 words, we spoke about working with director Harveen Sandhu, how language shapes relationships, and the importance of silence.

Photos of Ruth Goodwin and James Graham by Dan Abramovici

Meg Robinson : Tell me your favourite line from the show.

James Graham: I have tons of favourite lines. It’s so well-written. (he thinks for a while) At the end of one of the fights in the first half, Bernadette, Ruth [Goodwin]’s character, is kind of trying to explain to Oliver why this law might not be a bad thing and she tells him, “You can’t pigeon-hole me, I’m a million different things.” And I say to her, “How are you going to explain all those things in a hundred and forty words?” And she says, “I don’t know, maybe I’m not going to explain them.”

And I say, “Then nobody is going to know who you are.”

If there’s one part of the play that really speaks to me it’s that one. Because for all of the questions the show brings up (How do we know who we are or who someone else is? Are we defined by our language? Are we defined by the words we are able to use to describe ourselves or are we something regardless of language?) That exchange really encapsulates them for me.

And I remember when I first read the script, that was an exchange that really rang true for me.

MR: What were your thoughts when you first read the script?

JG: I loved the form and how Sam Steiner, the playwright, wanted to structure that journey of before the bill and after, and the differences between those two worlds.

What was intriguing to me was exploring how we talk to one another and how we take language for granted. How we use it to lie to each other and to actually walk around the truth, sometimes, as opposed to using it to speak as honestly and potently as we can. I think the premise of Lemons and the removal of that language forces these people to live in silence and in that silence you’re forced to really talk to one another and I thought that was a really powerful thing to explore.

MR: What moves you about the relationship between these two characters? 

JG: What moves me is watching a couple lose each other and find each other again. One of the themes of the play is how can you know someone else? Is it even possible to know someone? Does love exist without words?

I think the dynamic in the middle of the play is two people who lose touch with why they connected in the first place. And it’s painful. They have all the words in the world and they don’t communicate with each other.

And then this devastating law gets passed and it’s beautiful to watch them find each other again. And listen and communicate. And when they have to really choose something to say to each other, the stuff they choose really means something. At the end, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but it ends with a reveal of something that’s been left unspoken for some time.

Whether it means that their relationship is going to survive, well, the play leaves that open, but at the very least there’s an offer made; that I’m going to be honest with you. I’m going to share this thing. And I think that’s a really beautiful journey. And as a result that’s something that I’ve been curious about and exploring in my own relationships.

MR: When you are immersed in a show it can start to, like, tint your everyday life. You start to see things through a show-lens. How has being in the show shifted your own perspectives?

JG: I’ve been more curious about relationships – the language of relationships and how we talk to one another. I’ve gone on a few dates over the course of the process and have noticed the way that new couples or people who have just met each other talk, what things they choose to reveal to one another, what rhythms develop between two people. That’s been interesting.

Silence and the power of silence versus the need to articulate everything has been something I’ve noticed a lot more. And I think part of the play, part of Oliver’s journey, is towards acceptance and not a passive acceptance but a kind of presence. And I think silence is that state. It’s the state of acceptance of the world. And language sometimes can be the means to fill a void. That distinction has made itself more clear in my life.

So whether I’m a better communicator now than I was at the beginning of the process is probably not the case…

MR: But there’s an awareness?

JG: There’s an awareness, which I find kind of great.

MR: How did your director, Harveen Sandhu, get involved?

JG: I’ve been a huge fan of Harveen’s work as an actress for a long time. You see her once on stage and you know immediately how extraordinary of an artist she is; her intelligence, her emotional intelligence, her clarity, her discipline and dedication is all there in her work.

When Ruth and I we were brainstorming directors, I had a thought that maybe this would be something she would be interested in.

And I think one of the things that The Howland Company strives to do is to give space for talented people to step into a number of different roles. I think Harveen should do this. Canadian theatre would be in really extraordinary hands if she continued to explore directing as another form of expression. Because she really has a gift for it. We’re very lucky.

MR: If you could give the show another title what would it be? 

JG: I like the title! The first thing that comes to mind is 140. But I think that’s too on the nose. I don’t know.

MR: One last question – do swear words make the cut?

JG: Mhm… but then they disappear.

MR: They realize it’s not worth it?

JG: Well that touches on a point that the play tangentially gets to, which is that while the law does allow people to communicate more clearly with one another, what you lose is the joy of language – the expressiveness of swear words. You get down to a kind of bare essentials but I think you lose a great degree of expression and warmth and joy that we take in word play.

MR: Did you come up with a title yet? 

JG: I think maybe I would just call it Fewer Lemons? The citrus play… Lemons X 5

MR: Titles are hard.

JG: Let’s stick with what we have. It’s pretty great.

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

A Co-Production with Slow Blue Lions & The Howland Company
Written by Sam Steiner
Director – Harveen Sandhu
Cast – Ruth Goodwin, James Graham
Stage Manager – Sam Hale

A new law will limit the number of words you can say in a day: max 140. Soon you will have to speak without words, ‘say it all’ with no language; the ‘inarticulate speech of the heart’ is no longer just a song. The young Bernadette and Oliver meet just as the law is about to be enacted. Now their love must grow within its limits. They struggle with its rules, with obedience, with themselves, and with how they are going to live. They must make words count, and yet learn to talk without them. Political change becomes very personal.

1115 Queen St W

14th July – 9:15pm – Sold out
16th July – 1:00pm
16th July – 8:30pm *PATRON’S PICK*


t: @TheHowlandCo
f: /TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
i: @thehowlandcompany

#FiercelyFringe 2017 – Part 1

It’s the most WONDERFUL TIME of the year! Happy Opening to the 2017 Toronto Fringe Festival! Every year, we are constantly inspired by the core values of The Toronto Fringe Festival:

  • It’s about creating art at a grassroots level.
  • It’s “theatre by the people, for the people“.
  • It’s about taking risks and exploring something new.

So, we asked this year’s Boss Fringe Artist Babes: How are you FIERCELY representing these values? How are you #FiercelyFringe?

After an overwhelming response, we’re thrilled to share our first #FiercelyFringe preview with you, listed in no particular order, and in two parts (because we can only get our scroll on for so long…)

We hope this gives you a more personal look at these shows and the artists behind them as you plan your viewing schedule over the next two weeks.

Be sure to follow along with us on twitter, facebook and instagram for our full #FringeTO coverage celebrating all of the people and moving pieces that make this festival so electric!

See you at the Fringe Club #FiercelyFringe friends!


Pineapple Club 


The Pineapple Club team is comprised of Director/Choreographer Robin Henderson (of last year’s Best of Fringe hit, Dance Animal) and performers Paul Barnes, Jonathan Shaboo and Pascale Yensen.


The Pineapple Club tagline is “Come for the comedy. Stay for the calamity”. With everything that’s happening in the world, it’s especially important to be laughing right now.


Where else would you find a mash-up of comedic dance, sketch comedy and social commentary? Pineapple Club speaks to the emotional fallout of the world’s events in 2016 through the unique lens of comedic dance, sketch comedy, puppetry and music.


t: @PineappleClubTO

Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun


From a group of seasoned Fringers boasting a total of 13 Fringe tent romances collectively, Janelle Hanna’s new solo show Bad Baby Presents: Rules Control the Fun is not simply a clown show, but it does feature her clown Bad Baby, prominently. Think of it instead as a new play about love, loneliness and humans’ need for connection, as well as it being Bad Baby’s first Fringe appearance, all rolled into one.


Bad Baby has seen a lot of Fringe shows, and she is a self-proclaimed fringe expert. So she knows exactly what to do and what not to do. She knows all of the rules.


What makes us FIERCE is how the play itself goes deeper, exploring themes that writer and performer Hanna feels strongly about: love, relationships, vulnerability and shame. Expect a lot of laughter and comedy at this show, but don’t expect to see only that.


t: @lark_and_whimsy
i: @janellemhanna

Interstellar Elder


SNAFU is the creators of SOLD-OUT shows ‘LITTLE ORANGE MAN (***** – VueWeekly) and ‘KITT & JANE,’ (****½ – Edmonton Journal)

We’ve been touring across Canada for the last ten years, both to all the fringes and to curated festivals like Wildside, Undercurrents, Next Stage and SummerWorks. All of our shows are weird.


In Interstellar Elder, we meet Kitt, fierce lone geriatric astronaut adrift in a spaceship carrying cryogenically frozen human cargo. Her mission: protect the last of humankind.

“Amazingly versatile physical comedian with the BEST ENDING IN THE HISTORY OF FRINGE.” – Montreal Gazette.


This summer, we’re touring 9 FRINGE FESTIVALS across Canada. #FringeHogs. This is my second time winning the CAFF lottery in the past three years, whereas some artists have applied for CAFF every year for the past two decades and never been drawn. If I win CAFF a third time, I expect death threats from other fringe artists.


t: @snafudance



#FiercelyFlamenco – Inamorata Dance Collective was found in 2014 by Mexican Canadian dancer, Sofía Gudiño, to explore experimental crossovers between contemporary and flamenco dance, music and theatre.


Their premier full-length work, Picaza, is an honest and visceral look into one woman’s journey to self-awareness, told through bilingual poetry, dance, traditional Latin music, and experimental compositions!


One of this year’s Culturally Diverse Projects at the Fringe, this group of twelve multidisciplinary artists is #FiercelyFringe, building everything in their grassroots show from scratch and pooling their creative resources to learn from each other and create something completely new.


i: @inamoratadance
#Inamorata2017 #Picaza

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons


The Howland Company with Slow Blue Lions


(1) It’s about love, and law saying you can’t say more than 140 words/day; (2) It’s the healthiest, most citric, show in Fringe; (3) It’s funny and touching, also has a couple of tips for mostly silent relationships.


(1) women directing and producing*, each for first time; women AD and intern; *producer won Cayle Chernin Award for theatre production’; (2) show is by first time playwright Sam Steiner and comes from UK Fringe.


f: /TheHowlandCompanyTheatre
t: @TheHowlandCo
i: @thehowlandcompany

Welcome to the Bunker


Portius Productions is a brand new company that aims to explore the opportunities different theatrical spaces offer for experimentation with audience immersion and interaction, with an emphasis on all things nerdy. Its inaugural show, Welcome to the Bunker! is written, produced, and performed by Clare Blackwood and Ryan F. Hughes, and is an immersive zombie apocalypse comedy set in a bunker deep below the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace.


This is a show for nerds, comedy lovers, and anyone who wants to laugh at two weirdos trying and failing to lead an apocalypse orientation for the survival of humanity.


We’re pushing the boundaries of how to involve audiences inside of a traditional theatre space, taking them out of their pre-armageddon comfort zones, and maybe singing welcoming songs to them. That is, if the zombies don’t get to them first…


t: @bunkertofringe

Macbeth’s Head


I’m Kyle McDonald, the founder of Malfi Productions, whose mandate is: to produce entertaining and interesting film, television, theatre, and literature by merging tradition with innovation for an audience who craves emotional and intellectual risk. We’re dedicated to injecting classical material into something contemporary and relevant.


How many people can say they’ve seen a disembodied head with magical powers running around on a dessert trolley while threatening to destroy all of Shakespeare’s work?


We’ve gotten this show on the road with pure love: from the illustrator who did our amazing artwork, to the composer who made original music, to our photographer who’s shot us free of charge. Also, there is little to no set, and we’re relying only on our wits to tell the tale of this maniacal head! And, the script is half in original verse, which seems like a pretty bold move in the age of one liner TV scripts!


t: @malfiproduction
#macbethshead #malfiproductions #longlivethehead

Perfect Couples


We’re an indie theatre collective dedicated to generating bold new work. We are passionate about stories from underrepresented voices, and providing opportunities for emerging artists to flex their muscles.


Our fringe show, Perfect Couples, is a good example of this. Written, directed, designed and performed by emerging artists, the show is distinctly millennial. Yet, refreshingly, it’s never reductive or patronizing— there’s not one mention of twitter or selfies. Perhaps more defining as a millennial piece is that it talks about mental illness, which is rampant among 20-somethings. The play is a twisty trip down visual artist Valencia’s unravelling, and we see how her struggle with mental health impacts her relationship and community. Women-driven, queer, sexy as hell…


Perfect Couples by Mitchell Janiak is both witty and dark. It takes advantage of what Fringe provides— an opportunity to take risk and tell stories that aren’t heard often enough.


t: @PencilKitProd
i: @PencilKitProductions
f: /PencilKit

Monsters By Nature


We are Kindling Collective! We take an intersectional feminist perspective to classical works. Our show Monsters By Nature was created in a similar fashion to how Frankenstein made his creature, by piecing together classical and self-written texts, punk and folk music.


Audiences explore what makes them feel empowered by their inner monster and reflect on their perceptions of people that they fear.


Monsters by Nature owns the term Fiercely Fringe by its bravery to examine the roots of our fears. It’s terrifying to watch pieces that force you to look into what makes you a monster. But it’s also empowering to do so. At rehearsal last night I thought how fulfilling it feels to be in a room with 6 fierce women, an electric guitar, and bare hearts telling these stories of characters that have remained relevant through the ages. We can’t wait to meet you in the midnight.


i: @kindlingcollective
f: @kindlingcollective
t: @kindlincollec3
#kindlingcollective #whatareyouafraidof

13 Ways the World Ends


Good Morning Apocalypse is a comedy troupe from South Ontario, formed in 2015.


Why see our show? For one thing, we have a hour-long revue about all the ways the world will end, and not once does someone mention Donald Trump. Nothing about what’s happening in the U.K. either, since we couldn’t find a rhyme for “Brexit.” There’s zombies, but not enough to get you all zombied out. At one point someone plays the saxophone – badly. There’s a killer robot, and a killer plague, and a lovely little sketch about how all the bees are dead and we’re next. Mostly it’s full of people who go through their days with a vague sense of dread, and who also have opinions about which of the Mad Maxes is the best Mad Max.


This is the kind of show that can only happen at Fringe, and we’re fiercely proud of it.


t: @ApocalypseGood
i: @GoodMorningApocalypse

White Wedding


I’m a female writer / director who is trying to combine those skills for the first time with a new play called “White Wedding”! I’ve had a lot of luck in the past as both a writer and director and now I’m trying to bring those two sides of my brain together with an incredible group of creative individuals!


White Wedding explores really recognizable feelings in a new way. Instead of asking what happens as a wedding, White Wedding asks what happens in a hallway above a wedding. What private conversations and secrets are told? Who makes out with who? Who ends up drinking themselves into a sad quiet corner somewhere? Why do we celebrate stupid emotions like love again?


We are creating theatre in a found space firstly because we think it’s a cool thing to do, but also because it’s a necessity. Re-imagining theatre for new spaces for today’s audiences is what will bring in new audiences, make people feel invited to the art form, and open up the stage to something new, something novel, something fierce!


t: @PortAlbertPro
i: @portalbertproductions

Bendy Sign Tavern


Sex T-Rex is a comedy collective that has been in the Toronto Fringe since 2013!


Bendy Sign Tavern is our most Fiercely Fringe show yet- a site specific puppet show where six-legged barflies trade actual Fringe reviews and you can order a pint from a puppet!


We’ll have rotating fringe guests from our favourite shows. Throw in live music and Sex T-Rex’s signature wit and you’ve got a real tour-de-fierce.


t: @sextrex
f: /sextrexcomedy



The Gracie May Theatre Company, named after the creator’s late childhood dog, is devoted to creating new Canadian content. The company refuses to take any political stand and holds no beliefs whatsoever.

 The founder, Joey Monahan, currently resides in a fortified compound near Georgetown, Ontario.


MUTTS OR: 101 LIBATIONS is a unique comedy, not for the faint of heart. As dark as it is funny, the story follows two hopeless, helpless, and hapless drunks who steal dogs and return them for reward money to support their addiction. After taking a service dog and causing the death of a blind man, the two find themselves at odds with each other when one wants to continue their lifestyle and the other decides to stop.


It has been created and is being performed by a small group of local artists. Although the play itself never states a location, it is very much a Canadian, and specifically a Torontonian piece. It has been made with the intention of making people laugh and hurt at the same time, because in life sometimes something can be humorous and heartbreaking at once.


i: @GracieMayTC
f: /GracieMayTC
t: @GracieMayTC

The Stories of Lantern Tales



I am a storyteller.

Encountering the storyfire in 1981 at the age of 28, when I hitchhiked 70 miles from St. Catharines to Toronto to hear my first storyteller, Trinidadian Paul Keens-Douglas. I became interested in composing original tales, especially stories inspired by my childhood in the Ottawa. Valley. I am a violinist/fiddler and featured in festivals across Canada and abroad.


Composed in traditional forms The Stories of Lantern Tales are unique, shaped by a childhood spent in the countryside of Black Bay Road.
 They are an excellent opportunity for listeners to meet the devil, a 4 tonne traction engine with a soul, 12 sea serpents and a cedar canoe pulled by six Ottawa Valley beavers.


The distillation of images and experiences that came from growing up as a child in an isolated Ottawa Valley countryside, wandering alone along endless trails in the woods, the silence of a winter moon.

Through the imagination of the listener those experiences live again.

Death Meets Harlequin


Unspoken Theatre was founded in 2011 by sisters Nina & Natalie Kaye, and focuses on new writing with a classical influence. We have produced over a dozen new plays by local women writers.


Our short comedy, Death Meets Harlequin tackles big themes with a light heart, using archetype, music, dance, Commedia dell’Arte, and physical comedy to infuse our attitude on life and death with a little optimism.

Our cast and crew are Festival veterans, with credits at Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival and Big Ideas Festival; SoCap Theatre’s Short Short Play Festival; InspiraTO; and the Toronto Fringe.


Death Meets Harlequin offers something for everyone. A deeper meaning for the philosophical thinkers; bright costumes and silly songs for the kids; great new writing for the lovers of literature; a touching family story for the ones who cry and laugh at once; and a circus pre-show by Deflying Feets for anyone else!


t: @TheatreUnspoken

The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert!


Lesley Robertson and Matt Shaw are “The Diddlin’ Bibbles”, a comedy band making their Toronto Fringe debut. Co-written and directed by the hilarious Dana Puddicombe, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” tells the story of Rose-Marie and Jessop Bibbles, a sex-positive and spiritual singer-songwriter duo, who have travelled from small-town Wisconsin to Toronto to perform at the Toronto Fringe Festival – their lifelong dream.


Their show, “The Diddlin’ Bibbles Live in Concert” is part sketch comedy, part live concert, part mockumentary, part metatheatre, and part love story. Think: Flight of the Conchords meets Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind meets #the6ix.


This show is “fiercely fringe” because it’s a new play written and designed specifically for the Toronto Fringe Festival, St. Vladimir Theatre, and Toronto audiences! The entire show is a self-reflexive comedy spoofing the experiences of the Toronto Fringe Festival, the arts, and the city of Toronto.


f: /thediddlinbibbles
i: @thediddlinbibbles
t: @DiddlinBibbles

Madeleine Says Sorry


Prairie Fire, Please was founded by Aaron Jan and Madeleine Brown, lightweights with no taste whatsoever in alcohol. We welcome you to judge our poor choices – we’re likely already judging yours. Madeleine Says Sorry is the company’s inaugural production. Will it be our last? Depends how bad the hangover is…


Where else can you see a 6×4 foot poster-shrine of David Suzuki, and a magical cardboard Apologemeter X that descends from the heavens?


How are we #FiercelyFringe?
 We collectively had three very successful fringe shows last year. Rowing, Silk Bath, and Knots. This one is nothing like any of those shows. Our process has been entirely funded by popsicles. 
We never start rehearsal on time. Our director cannot afford underwear. We are one of the most diverse teams in the Toronto Fringe! #FiercelyFringe


t: @MadeleineSaysTO
i: @madeleinesaysto

Pillow Talk


We are a group of comedians, actors and creators who met while attending the Second City Conservatory Program. Shortly after graduating, Charlotte Cattell and Olivia Brodie-Dinsdale reconnected to start a sketch duo, the O.C. After their successful show at Montreal Sketchfest they thought there would be no better idea than asking their friend and fellow creative, Adam Martignetti to join them in making a completely original sketch revue.


Pillow Talk is not what you would expect from a traditional sketch revue, we wanted to keep things real and make it more than just making people laugh. We tackle those intimate and vulnerable moments in life that people wouldn’t normally talk about openly. Pillow Talk, doesn’t imply the usually sexual connotation. I mean, we would like to think we are pretty darn sexy!


Written by 3 real people about real experiences, Pillow Talk couldn’t be anything more than “Fiercely Fringe”! We are people with anxieties, fears and the notion that ghosts are real! But what is more fierce than displaying those moments for everyone to see.


f: @Pillowtalkfringe2017
t: @PTFringeTO17
i: @pillowtalkfringeto




how.dare.collective. is making their debut at this year’s Toronto Fringe. The brainchild of two-time Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame performer-choreographer St. Stella and writer/director Kay Brattan, their mandate is to create theatre for the underdog – representing the underrepresented. The Lysistrata company is made up of experienced and talented performers from both the theatre and burlesque communities, and some of whom are well-known in both scenes, such as Sebastian Marziali (El Toro to the burlesque & boylesque community).


Lysistrata brings an appetizing take on classic Greek comedy to the contemporary audience. Brattan has used her own words to combine three different translations of Aristophanes’ work, and through the combination of slam poetry, songs and striptease, this will be a retelling of the story the likes of which has not been seen before, with the two mediums blending to embody and convey the messages of the piece (such as female empowerment, peace not war and, of course, equality).


With this show, we bring together the varied talents of our diverse company to tell this story in a fresh, powerful and memorable spectacle. Bring on the glitter and good times!


i: @LysistrataTO
t: @Lysistrata_TO

The Miserable Worm



We are Let Me In, a theatre collective spearheaded by Justine Christensen and Patrick J. Horan. We seek to remix, alter, satirize, and break “classical” plays, thrusting them into a contemporary landscape.


Our show, The Miserable Worm, exposes gendered expectations often ingrained in old works, bringing to light new colours from Chekhov’s “untitled play”, which our show is based off of. The story is made new through gender-bent casting; particularly by placing a woman in the title role of the smarmy playboy Platonov.


Let Me In’s The Miserable Worm is Fiercely Fringe because it draws in and implicates the audience into the action. As soon as they walk through the doors of the Annex, each audience member becomes a guest at the Platonov Estate. They are privy to the events and intimacies of a fatal night of hard drinking and painful nostalgia. Oh, and it’s going to be really funny. 


t: @LetMeInTheatre

Lover Lover


Subverting Something is a company founded by Veronika Gribanova and is now based in Toronto and New York. Our mandate is our name. We’re almost half serious.


A lesbian and a straight man walk into a bar: a love story. It’s complicated. Lover Lover is a story about the limitations and possibilities of love. This site-specific play is an intimate conversation between strangers in a public space. At Nightowl, a bar in Little Italy, audience members can have a drink and watch the story unfold. Allow us to subvert your expectations.


Lover Lover explores issues that aren’t often discussed in a public setting. Questions of sexuality, identity, and polyamory, as well as of vulnerability and intimacy, are brought to light. We have risked placing emotion at the centre of our work and we are telling the truth as we understand it, which is both an obligatory and subversive act.


i: @subvertingsomething
t: @subvertingsome

For the Love of Pie



I’m the daughter of a French Canadian mother who taught me the importance of butter and extravagance. For the Love of Pie, my play, showcases a lot of that French “je ne sais quoi”! Montrealers and Chicagoans were dazzled by the show nominating it for Best Solo Theatre Production (Montreal Fringe) and naming it one of of the 5 Best Bets of the Chicago Fringe (TimeOut Chicago).


Why see it, Toronto? Because sometimes we take ourselves too seriously and need to be reminded that life is not as easy as pie and why not embrace failure as opposed to suppressing it.


It’s fiercely fringe because, well, it’s just me writing, producing and playing three very extravagant characters leading over the top ridiculous lives and my challenge is to make their story resonate with the audience.


t: @PieGeorgiaPeach



The Creation Coffin is a Toronto based company that focuses on progressive work, emerging artists and female creators. The cast and crew of Hexen are all recent Randolph Academy Alumnae.


Fringers should be sure to see Hexen because it is a savage critique on the society that we have constructed for ourselves, through a powerful, sexy and feminine lens.


Hexen is truly “fiercely fringe”. The show and our site-specific venue are designed to make you feel like you’re deep in a forest. Because of this we did the majority of our rehearsals outdoors and we have benefited greatly from the inspiration that nature provides. Stylistically, Hexen is quite pioneering – we would describe it as a “deconstructed musical”, something we have never seen done before but are fiercely experimenting with for this year’s Fringe Festival!


f: /thecreationcoffin
i: @thecreationcoffin



Sue Morrison is a world-class teacher of performance-oriented Clown and Bouffon.

Mélanie Raymond has been working and training at DynamO Theatre (acrobatical theatre) for 15 years.


The performance has been described as like having a conversation with a best friend that you didn’t know you had. The arc of the show is affected by the qualities that the performer brings to the theatre each night, and the qualities of the audience, and how those interact. The audience is part of what happens each night and no two shows are the same.


This is outsider theatre. This is bottom-up, grassroots theatre. The collaborators developed the script through a process of question and answer, call and response between the outside eye and the inside eye… a bricolage brought to life using the language of twelve masks. There is a universality to the experiences that the performer encounters and explores.


t: @guayoyo_ca
i: @guayoyo_ca



Malcontent Theatre Company is a diverse, grassroots indie company made up of performers from students to seasoned professionals. We are committed to inclusiveness and challenging standards.


RISE/FALL is an immersive, site-specific production that has the audience divided by a wall. A unique show happens on each side, and occasionally interacts with the other side. The wealthy percentage of society has gained control of the government and banished anyone of minority to the other side of a wall.


This production is fiercely Fringe because we are an independent group of local artists, who are playing around with new theatrical concepts and tackling political issues with no holds barred. We are creating a show unlike anything any of us have ever seen, and are taking a huge risk with such a complicated concept. This deals with subjects that are close to everyone’s hearts, including segregation, prejudice, racism, homophobia, and Trump’s America.


t: @MalcontentTC
#RiseFallFringe #BreaktheWall

The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me  


We are Spindrift and our combined talents include: acting, writing, directing, magic, music and stage combat! We put all of these to use in our very first Fringe outing, The Night Hart Crane Kissed Me.


What’s a Hart Crane you may be asking? Answer: a sailor-loving, hard-partying poet who burned through the burlesque houses, vaudeville theatres, boxing matches and speakeasies of Jazz age New York before blazing out at 32. His grave merely says: Lost At Sea.


We chart his final hours, explore how his life and art intersect with our own, and attempt to invoke the feeling of encountering his poetry for the first time using all of the rad methods mentioned above. This summer we invite you to get #KissedByHart


t: @spindrifttc
i: @spindrifttheatreTO

Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of Your Cremains 


We are Theatre Rhea and Neoteny Theatre.


Yes, it may have the longest title ever, but most importantly it’s a millennial love letter dedicated to the misfits of the Peter Pan Generation. Lucy and Bennett, our two main characters, are lonely but are given the chance to connect. Written by Rose Napoli and directed by Carly Chamberlain, be sure to visit us in the backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille, just down the street from the tent!


Our characters are just like the people who come to the fringe. People who exist on the periphery, and find a connection by being on the outside. The show itself may be about nothing. Or it may be about everything. But it’s definitely about an urn of ashes and six popsicles.


t: @TheatreRhea

The Life Henri 


Award winning Artist Adam Bailey: creator of Fringe hits The Assassination of Robert Ford and Adam Bailey is on Fire, and director of The Enchanted Crackhouse .This year I’m doing The Life Henri, a play about dead painter Henri Rousseau. It includes a slideshow and we’re selling wine. 


It’s a really intimate experience that’ll sweep you away. We got four stars when we tested it in Edmonton and it deftly touches on some modern issues like bullying. Plus, slideshow!


Henri Rousseau should be the patron saint of Fringe. An outsider artist, spends years unlocking the key to success, overcoming poverty and incarceration along the way. Also, I mash his story with a 1970s horror movie and somehow that makes it all very touching.


i: @still_your_friend
t: @stillyourfriend

Traffic Jams



Resilience Theatre. We are a feminist theatre company dedicated to telling women’s stories and those of the underrepresented. This is our first production and hope this opportunity will allow us to make connections and create more content that young people can relate to that illustrates their experiences.


Five-word pitch: woman attacks depression with ukulele! See this show because it’s funny, relevant, and sometimes uncomfortable. It deals with issues many young people are facing, particularly artists, and highlights the different ways mental illness can surface within one person.


This show came from a late-night phone call between two friends about mental health and artistic struggles. We refused to wait for this story to be told, so we’ve brought it to the stage ourselves. Mental illness is tough to talk about, even for us, but by taking the risk to show this battle, we can contribute to a dialogue on mental health.


f: /resilienceTO
t: @resilience_TO
i: @resilience_to

Love and Information  


The play is by Caryl Churchill, will be directed by Andrea Donaldson and performed by the 5th term students at Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. Our show is essentially 50 mini shows packed into one.


Contemporary issues regarding knowledge, communication, and our capacity to love and be loved are beautifully represented. We explore these issues in the most unique ways, incorporating movement, song, and even silence. There is so much to take away from this beautiful painting of humanity.


As the actors, we have been very thankful for the process. Every day we go into rehearsal and are utterly moved by our discoveries. We dive into various human behaviours, points of view, sexualities and cultural differences. When something doesn’t work, we ask ourselves why, and approach it from a different angle. It has been the most incredible journey for us, and we cannot wait to share it with Toronto.


#RALoveandInformation #LoveandInfo #LoveandJan #JanLovesInfo #RAPA

 The Resurrectionists  


House of Rebels Theatre started in 2014 as a podcast audio drama company, that has since expanded into interviews and original stage plays. In the 2016 Toronto Fringe, we produced King of the Castle, and are excited to bring another exploration of morals and humanity to the Randolph Theatre this year!


The Resurrectionists tackles one of the western world’s best-kept, darkest secrets. Grave-robbing in the 19th century was a rarely-reported crime that occurred anywhere people studied medicine. Shortages of bodies with surpluses of students lead to creative, criminal solutions to the growing demand. This play examines Canada’s habit of hiding it’s less-savoury history, and why we keep letting ourselves do so. 


The Resurrectionists is co-produced with Theatre Parallax. We are companies interested in theatre that is provocative AND entertaining – and we don’t believe those are mutually exclusive qualities. We want to have our art, and like it too.


t: @RebelsTheatre
i: @RebelsTheatre

Kassandra aka Joyia, Fringe Concert Series  


My name is Kassandra, aka Joyia, and I’m a musician. I’ve made it my mission to make unique music, which represents myself. I make all of my songs in both acoustic and electronically produced versions. I make music that combines R&B with a bit of an electronic sound. I’ve coined my genre as “soultronic,” and want to bring the genre to life in my own unique way.


I’m part of the Fringe concert series on July 9! True songwriting and composition has always been my passion, and I’ve been building up a new repertoire over the last few months. For the first time, I’m making music that I feel is 100% me, and it’s the most liberating feeling ever.


I create art for the reason art was created. It’s a freedom of expression, a chance to connect people. It’s finally giving me a chance to share my true self with people. It’s been a long journey of self-discovery, and I can finally say that the music I make truly represents me. 


t: @joyiamusic

Life Records 2: Side B 


I’m Rhiannon Archer & I wrote/perform Life Records 2. This company is just me & I named it after my late dog Beefy. He was really great! 


2 words: IT’S FUN! Everyone should see Life Records 2. Unless if you hate fun, then maybe just stay home.


7 words: Because I’m Fierce & in the fringe! I’m really putting myself out there in order to connect myself and the audience with one another.


t: @rhiannonarcher
i: @rhiannonarcher

A Flea in Her Ear



Pulse Theatre’s “A Flea in Her Ear” is a modern adaptation of one of the greatest vaudevilles ever! We made the characters quirkier, the relationships more sensual, the show more exciting! A splendid cast, terrific creative team, a visionary director.


The energy, the sexiness, the colorfulness, the playfullness- our show is funny and entertaining! All the original comedy gold, plus hippies and furries, and just a touch of…well, let’s not spoil the surprises! Even if you do know the original script – you don’t know this show!


A part of Pulse Theatre’s mandate is working with immigrant artists and diverse performers – “visible and audible minorities”, and we did just that – our talented cast and crew depicts the wonderful diversity of Toronto’s theatre scene. A fierce comedy with a powerful ensemble and crew, and beautiful promo art by the amazing Derrick Chow! Our Flea roars like a tiger!



The Balding 


Jeff Gandell is a Montreal writer, storyteller, actor, musician and teacher. I tell stories that aim to make people laugh and feel a greater connection to the emotional landscape of the universe.


The Balding is a hilarious story about a twenty-year-old man who’s convinced he’s going bald because he’s still a virgin. In his quest to find romance, he falls down a rabbit hole of dangerous car accidents and property destruction. It’s a show about learning to love the fleeting nature of all our lives. Basically, the lighter side of mortality and decay.


It’s funny! The rawness and vulnerability of the protagonist will make audiences concurrently laugh and feel better about their own insecurities. Plus, there are a couple of raucous rock n’ roll numbers. And it’s a masterfully constructed story that will leave audiences breathlessly anticipating what comes next. Come on!


t: @jeffgandell
i: @jeffgandell




Seven Siblings Theatre utilizes the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique to create the Theatre of the Future, Fantastic Realism. We’re presenting a sci-fi thriller that pushes the boundaries of government control. Written by genre-shattering female playwright Eliza Clark, the show is centered around a mother and daughter relationship holding their ground as the government tries to “RECALL” potentially dangerous or psychopathic children. 


Clark dives into a troubled child’s mind and examines emotional understanding as the two desperately try to start fresh. The world of this play is a truthful and surreal depiction of our future society.


This Fiercely Fringe show not only gives us sci-fi in theatre, something you don’t see often, but gives women the lead narrative in what is usually a male domain. Plus… we have violence, blood, guns, mature language, a shopping list of food props, sci-fi machinery, and a sick sense of humour. We’re fierce as f$%k.


t: @SevenSiblingsCo

On The Inside  


My name is Michelle Thoms and I’m the writer and director of On The Inside, a play about a young woman caught in the vicious cycle of Canada’s Corrections System. It doesn’t stop there though, it’s also about humanity and the lengths people go to survive.


People should watch this show because it raises questions about solitary confinement, society and about the grey area that sits between professionalism and caring.


We are pushing the envelope by taking a true story and extending and exploring further questions that surround it. Questions like: Why is the rate of women of colour increasing at a dramatic rate in Canadian federal prisons? Why is self injury increasing in women’s prison? Is “othering” used in the prison system and to what extent?  As well, On The Inside is taking a risk because it is being presented as a docutheatre production. 


t: @ontheinside17
i: @ontheinside17

*Submissions have been slightly edited for clarity and length.

But wait! There’s more!

For more #FiercelyFringe, continue here.



In Conversation with Holger Syme – Adaptor & Director of The Howland Company’s upcoming workshop production of “Casimir and Caroline”

Interview by Ryan Quinn

I got the chance to speak with Holger Syme, director of Casimir and Caroline at The Luella Massey Studio Theatre, presented as part of The Howland Company’s four-day workshop weekend. Syme translated the work and adapted it with the company, and this public workshop production will run from November 19th-22nd, with talkback sessions for audience feedback.

RQ: Tell me a bit about Casimir and Caroline, which you’re directing for The Howland Company.

HS: Ah, where to start… a German director said in the 1970s that “To summarize the plot of his plays is mostly fruitless,” and I think that’s right. Casimir and Caroline, as a “story,” is about a whole bunch of people at a party: some hit on each other, some break up with each other, one has a major health disaster, one ends up in jail. But within that kind of banal, kind of mundane scenario, Horváth examines an incredibly rich cluster of questions: what does love mean in a culture in which it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish commercial and emotional relationships? What happens to desire in a consumer culture? What do you do with feelings if you have no words to give them proper expression? And, really, most broadly, how can you live a life that’s in any way ethically justifiable in a world in which everything has become consumable?

RQ: You’ve translated and adapted this text from Ödön von Horváth, and you’re directing it as well. What draws you to this particular text?

HS: Well, first of all, how astonishingly contemporary it feels. I mean, what I just said the play is “about” applies a little bit more to our adaptation than to Horváth’s original, but really only a bit — all of those themes are in the 1932 text as well, although the kind of commodity culture Horváth experienced was of course quite different from ours. He was also writing on the eve of the Nazi’s first major election victory in Germany, and that’s obviously not our political climate. But the broader economic and social picture he’s drawing on — that’s very comparable, with the unspeakable divide between rich and poor, with the widespread condition of living on the brink of social deprivation, in an existence where losing your job can mean losing everything that you think of as “your life,” and so on. So that was the text’s primary appeal: that it seemed to speak so clearly, from the 1930s, to our own moment.

But I also find Horváth’s dramaturgy extremely interesting, and his dramatic language. His plays aren’t really structured as linear narratives — they are panoramic, and that’s a very appealing structure to me. It allows for a sharp focus on character and situation, both of which make, I think, for exciting challenges for actors and directors alike; the “story” is so simple and straightforward that it forces us (makers and audiences alike) to think about the issues that are being negotiated, and it really allows for a focus on the theatrical moment: what someone is doing right now, in front of you. How they’re moving their body, how they’re acting vis-a-vis another person, what they’re saying, how they’re occupying the space. It allows the audience to watch moment by moment without having to think too hard about what happened before and what’s going to happen next.

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RQ: How was the process of adapting this text different from translating it?

HS: That’s where the language bit from earlier becomes relevant: Horváth writes in a really, really odd German. His plays read a lot like Sean O’Casey re-scripted by Pinter, if you can imagine such a thing. They’re extremely idiomatic — some dialect bits, tons of clichés, lots of 1930s pop-culture quotations, literary allusions of a not especially sophisticated kind, etc. If you translate that straightforwardly, it’ll sound awfully stilted — and partly, that stiltedness is absolutely necessary. Very few of Horváth’s characters have access to an “authentic” language: especially when they’re trying to express their deepest feelings, they sound like a Hallmark card or a self-help book. So the big challenge is not making the text sound “natural,” but finding precisely the right kind of stiltedness.

I had a first stab at that in my original translation, and then we worked very intensively, with lots of improv exercises, on finding those lines. We also felt that the gender politics of Horváth’s play were the one aspect that needed updating — his broader political perspective felt current, but his women slipped too easily into victim roles. So we made a lot of changes there, including turning two pretty marginal part-time prostitutes into corporate employees with a good deal more dramatic life. And we transformed the two older wealthy establishment figures in the original into two young overprivileged guys working in the tech industry — partly because of the Howland Company’s mandate, but also because it allowed us to focus on economic privilege more sharply, without having to negotiate generational conflicts as well.

Strictly in terms of process, the difference was that between sitting alone at home, translating the text; and spending many hours in rehearsal rooms, recording totally free and more guided improvisations, and then turning those into scenes by picking and choosing lines (alone at home). What’s really important to me, though, is that while we “adapted” Horváth’s text in the sense that we found contemporary equivalents for his own historically situated language, we are very faithfully following the original play’s dramaturgical structure. His first stage direction says that the play is set “now,” and that’s been my guiding principle: you can’t be “true” to this play if you set it in 1932 and in Munich. It’s not a history play.

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RQ: You’ve done a lot of travel, and taken in theatre in many different cultural and historical contexts. How does that inform your process as a director?

HS: That’s an incredibly difficult question. Partly, this is a research project for me: I wanted to see what happens when you bring theatrical texts and practices from other cultures into contact with actors who are trained to work in the context of our own, Canadian assumptions about theatre. But of course I’m usually “just” an audience member outside of Canada — and what you see on stage relates only in a very complicated way to what happens in the rehearsal room!

It’s definitely true that because I see so much theatre elsewhere, especially in Germany, there are things I just don’t care about that others might consider very important. And there are things that I find totally crucial that others might find silly or negligible.

RQ: Do you find that you find yourself mixing elements of world theatre with Canadian theatre practices? What would you say any uniquely Canadian theatre practices are?

HS: OK, specifics? Er… “world theatre” doesn’t really exist, as far as I’m concerned. And what I find important keeps shifting as well. But here’s a few things: there’s a kind of spontaneity in German performance that I desperately want to see more of — the ability to move while speaking, to respond immediately to anything and anyone around you (in a way that’s going to be different, often radically different, from night to night), the freedom to mess with the text quite a bit, and so on. So I’ve been pushing hard for that. I’ve tried my best to reassure my cast that whatever they think might “make sense” probably does, in that moment — and that my role really is just to tell them if it doesn’t. The impulses should come from them, and they should be empowered to offer whatever they can think of. On the other hand, I also really care about stage images — spatial relations between bodies in particular. So some moments have to be very strictly blocked. There’s a tension between those two directorial impulses.

Uniquely Canadian? I’m not sure. Certainly a focus on story — though that’s a general Anglo theatre preoccupation. A general grounding of everything in psychology, rather than, say, politics. That’s for “straight” theatre such as this — there are other, very powerful “Canadian” theatre practices, in the fields of devised theatre or movement-based theatre, but that’s not really what we’re doing.

The big challenge for me, but also the really exhilarating aspect of the work, has been to put the show on stage in a way that allows the actors to play to their strengths without giving up on my own desire to keep the project focused on politics and dramatic situation. Things like allowing a moment to keep going past what the “story” might require, because it’s interesting, or entertaining, or compelling as a theatrical moment — that’s not something I see very often around here, and it’s something I really love in German theatre. But I think it’s pretty counterintuitive to Canadian actors; I suspect it feels a bit self-indulgent to be so uneconomical. But I don’t think it is. I think it’s exciting.

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RQ: What do you think is the importance of companies like The Howland Company? Is there an eventual reshaping of the Canadian theatre landscape happening?

HS: Companies like Howland are all about creating opportunities for young actors to put thrilling, fresh work on stage — and I thinks that’s crucial if we want our theatre to remain as anything other than a social occasion (or obligation) for well-to-do people above a certain age. If I’m honest, I wish companies like this didn’t need to exist as independent outfits: I wish our larger, established institutions would make more room for this kind of work, and for these kinds of actors. There’s nothing more exciting to me in the theatre than to see actors who are still growing on stage; though it’s even more thrilling to see such actors work with very experienced colleagues, and to see those older actors having to respond to someone who’s doing things in a very different way than they’re used to. But in our current system, that’s very rare, because the young people mostly make their own work and opportunities (and can’t pay well enough to attract many more established figures), whereas actors that survive in the theatre industry for long enough to become established mostly work in a different world. There are exceptions, of course (David Ferry comes to mind as someone who frequently crosses that divide, and Soulpepper has been exemplary at integrating young performers in major roles), but it’s a real problem, and a real limitation. I hope we can figure out a way of changing that.

RQ: What do you hope people are discussing on their way back home after seeing this show?

HS: How to live. How to love. Whether to have a donut, a popsicle, or a rotisserie chicken.

RQ: As we’re heading toward the new year, what changes would you like to see happen in the Toronto theatre community next year? What would you like to see continue?

HS: Ha! See above. I always say the same thing, boringly. I want to see fewer new plays and more classics done in a new way. I want us to stop seeking inspiration on Broadway — because, seriously, why? When has thrilling art ever been inspired by rank commercialism? If we need to look for inspiration in the English-speaking world, look to London (but not the West End). Look to the Almeida and the Young Vic, and occasionally the National Theatre. Continue? To let our actors take all the risks they want. (Or would that be a new thing?) Believe more in performers and less in storytellers.

RQ: You’re the the Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English and Drama at the University of Toronto Mississauga; as well as being a Harvard Graduate. What is the relationship between the academic landscape of theatre and the performance community? Is there enough of a conversation?

HS: In short, no. But that really is a HUGE conversation topic! I’m worried about the anti-intellectual climate in many parts of the theatre world — not just here, but everywhere, really. I’m troubled by a certain kind of aloofness towards theatre people on the part of quite a few academics. I find it really unhelpful how many theatre people and academics think they know right from wrong, and think that the “others” don’t. On the other hand, I’m also always baffled by how similar some academics and some theatre makers are, in a bad way: take Shakespeare. With any given performance, you’ll have plenty of disappointed academics and theatre people who object to performance choices because they don’t reflect their own understanding of the play — but that’s not what they say. They’ll say those choices were bad, or ill-conceived, or stupid, or just “wrong.” There’s too little willingness to let a show speak for itself, to see it as simply an intriguing theatrical event that is valid and compelling in its own right, not because it “interprets” a text. And that’s true for many academics and for theatre makers and critics alike. In general, I think both academics and theatre people should take theatre itself more seriously. (And again, I could name many exceptions to all of this!)

RQ: Any parting thoughts?

HS: Brecht said that theatre had to be entertaining before it could be political. I think we’ve tried to be true to that in Casimir and Caroline — entertaining, exciting, moving, all of those things. But then, political. Or at least I hope so…


Casimir and Caroline

A workshop production

By Ödön von Horváth
Translated, Adapted, and Directed by Holger Syme
Presented by The Howland Company
Featuring: Alexander Crowther, Sophia Fabiilli, Ruth Goodwin, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Cameron Laurie, Michael Man, Jesse Nerenberg, Hallie Seline, Mishka Thébaud, Kristen Zaza.
Lighting Design: Jareth Li
Sound Design: Samuel Sholdice
Stage Manager: Jordana Weiss
Producer: James Graham

When: Thursday Nov. 19 – Sunday Nov. 22 at 8pm

Where: Luella Massey Studio Theatre, 4 Glen Morris Street, Toronto
(One block North and one block East of the Spadina/Harbord intersection)

Events: Talkbalk sessions to follow each night. All are welcome.

Tickets: $15. Buy here.



Casimir and Caroline from The Howland Company on Vimeo.

*On Sunday, November 22, presented with Casimir and Caroline as part of The Howland Company’s four-day workshop weekend , at 2pm there will also be a reading of take rimbaud, a new performance text in development by Toronto playwright Susanna Fournier, workshopped by The Howland Company.

take rimbaud

Admission will be free for this reading.

“We are all terrifying creatures these days. The Restless ones. What do the Restless seek? Comfort? Or, oblivion”

By Susanna Fournier
Presented by The Howland Company
Time: Sunday November 22nd, 2015 at 2pm
Location: Luella Massey Studio Theatre, 4 Glen Morris Street, Toronto
(One block North and one block East of the Spadina/Harbord intersection)
Tickets: Free admission