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“WHITE HEAT, Online Trolls & The Hustle of Writing” In Conversation with Graham Isador

Interview by Megan Robinson.

This year will be the fifth time that accomplished storyteller, Graham Isador, is presenting his work as part of the SummerWorks Performance Festival. Isador is well-known for his successful one-person shows, but, with White Heat, he’s written a traditional play that he hopes will succeed in having a life beyond the festival.

Based on real events, Isador’s new play draws on his insights from working as a culture writer and journalist (most notably for Vice, GQ, and CBC), as well as the challenges and dangers that many of his co-workers and friends have faced in their careers as journalists. In our interview, Isador continues to grapple with the seriousness of online harassment, wondering how we can determine the severity of a threat, and the problem of assuming it’s all just talk. It’s this curiosity that drove him to write the show, which is about a journalist who becomes targeted by an alt-right podcaster. The story of White Heat is relevant and thought-provoking, exploring what can happen when online threats become a reality.

We spoke with Graham about his ambitions for White Heat, dealing with online trolls, and the hustle of writing.

MR: Why SummerWorks?

GI: Laura (Nanni) has been pretty pivotal to my career in a lot of ways. It’s funny, I don’t really know her that well but I have immense respect for what she does and the dramaturgical questions she’s always asked about my work has elevated it in a way that has been super beneficial for how I think about my work and the way I want it to move forward. I think I owe SummerWorks a lot for anybody recognizing my work in theatre. So there’s that. And it’s a very conscious choice, to be completely transparent about it. This is the first time in the last couple years that I’ve put on a show that hasn’t been a one-person thing. This is me sort of shooting my shot. I understand why maybe my stuff hasn’t been programmed in the past, because it didn’t really fit within the context of theatre seasons or what not, but it’s sort of a chance to be like, ‘this is the crew I’ve assembled who are very talented, the script is good and relevant, and I want to get it seen by artistic directors’. I’m extremely proud of the crew we’ve put together to elevate this story and SummerWorks is a showcase, at this point, to be able to hopefully get it programmed somewhere else.

MR: When you wrote those other shows, did you think a theatre might pick them up? So is this you sort of like, acquiescing and saying, ‘okay no one wanted that so I’m going to play your game’ a little bit?

GI: I think that the stories I’m wanting to tell, on a personal level, is why I wrote those one-man shows. And because every once in a while I’ll get an ache and I’ll think I want to be an actor, but that’s not true. I don’t really want to say other people’s words or remember other people’s lines and be accountable in that way. But I do have a need to be on stage once in a while, so the one-man show is sort of a way to get that out of my system so I don’t embarrass myself in front of our community trying to be a different character than myself.

White Heat is built out of the fact that, in the past year, there’s a handful of colleagues, mutuals on twitter, and friends who are journalists who have been put on neo-Nazi kill lists. If I have an article that’s a hit, for a week someone will tell me to get hit by a bus, or that they’re going to beat me up, or that I’m a fag. So I started thinking about the relationship between those two things, and the people behind those comments. The extreme examples of all this is not stuff that has happened to me. The stuff I deal with in terms of harassment on a daily basis is peanuts compared to what a lot of my colleagues who are writing hard news deal with. But I wanted to be able to talk about what the reality is for me in those situations, as well as what the reality is when I’m having beers with friends and we’re talking about this stuff – that harassment part of our daily lives. And it’s all a joke and it’s all online until somebody gets shot.

The offices at Vice Montreal last year were occupied (for a lack of a better word) by bikers from the alt-right who came to the office because of an article that was written and offered threats to the Vice Montreal writers. A couple weeks after that, there was a shooting in Maryland at the Capital Gazette where five journalists were shot and a handful of others were injured because of things they wrote.

I mean I write about bars and buffets and abs and dumb culture shit and I get some of this as a blowback but the reality is that it’s feeling, even for me, a little more dangerous and a little more real lately. So it was like, ‘this is the story that I need to tell’, and I didn’t feel like doing it as a one-man show because it couldn’t really do justice to all the stories. It allowed me to dig into the themes and dig into the realities of what that is for friends, without having the burden of it all being 100% factually accurate.

Photo of Tim Walker in WHITE HEAT by Graham Isador

MR: So your play is about the most extreme case, the really violent and the more political version of it, but what you experience is mostly the bullying and the trolls?

GI: Yeah and I’m not a victim in this situation. I choose to put myself out there in a lot of these ways but it’s just interesting to me that it’s a reality of these things. And as the temperament of society changes, this becomes politicized regardless of what I do.

MR: What do you mean?

GI: Well, by writing for the CBC, by writing for Vice, people have narratives about what those institutions are. So it doesn’t really matter what I’m writing, I become an enemy to them based on this thing. I’m very fascinated with the idea that anything that gets written or anything that reaches a certain level of critical mass just becomes fodder for countless vile comments towards you. And what is it that we’re doing that it’s now just a by-product of doing work like this and what does it say for the larger societal context?

MR: Has it ever made you want to stop writing? Have you ever had an article go up and felt like you needed to take a break from it or take a pause?

GI: The only time that it’s kind of given me pause, at this point, is when it’s starting to affect people who aren’t me. I chose this, right? No one is telling me to write stuff.

MR: But you can choose it without knowing what it’s going to feel like.

GI: I think that’s true but I’ve also been doing this for seventeen years. I started writing about bands when I was thirteen. I kind of know what’s what at this point. One of the things I’ve been trying actively to do when I’m writing true personal stuff is get other people out of it as much as I can. Then it only becomes about me and not my friends or partners or whatever else, because they didn’t ask for this in the same way that I did. So that’s when I think about stopping. And then there’s times when you’re having a day that’s particularly hard for whatever reason, and then an article pops up that calls you names. And I engage with that stuff. I read the comments. I know you’re not supposed to.

MR: Why do you read the comments? What do you get out of it?

GI: Well if someone was saying something about you, wouldn’t you want to know?

MR: Personally, not always, no. Because it can still get under your skin even if you know they don’t have anything worthwhile to say, right? I guess you probably have thick skin, but I definitely have thin skin.

GI: I don’t know if I do. I go back and forth with it. I think part of anything with performance, with writing, with whatever, is a certain desire to make sure that your opinion is relevant. There’s a certain arrogance that goes along with it. To be like, ‘look, what I’m telling you is important and you should pay attention to me.’ I don’t think I would do this work in theatre, in journalism, if I didn’t feel that way. I think that’s the manifestation of why I do this stuff in the first place: I want my ideas to be important to other people, and I have something to say. Which also means that I am curious how people respond to that. It’s part of my temperament that I engage with those types of things. And sometimes I take them more seriously than others.

MR: How long has it taken you to write the play?

GI: Three months? I pitched this with an idea, and probably about two monologues and SummerWorks was interested in the themes and interested in some of the people that I’ve been working with. Jill Harper, who is directing it, is pretty incredible – she won a Dora for Pool (No Water). Tim Walker is mostly known as a comedic actor but this gives him a chance to show off his drama chops. And there’s Makambe Simamba – I think if this were a year from now I would not be able to work with her because she’d be booked for something huge. She’s going to be a really big deal.

MR: I’m curious what your end goal is. You do so many different things – is there one thing you’re reaching for more than anything else?

GI: No, I just kinda want attention… No, all this is the same thing to me. It’s all storytelling. Producing, writing, photography, all of it. It’s just the way to communicate ideas that are important to me. I look at who my heroes are, people like Jon Ronson or Anthony Bourdain, who are able to dabble in all this different stuff. All of it is facilitating this one idea that their life is also their art. There isn’t this big barrier between what I am and what I do and what I’m trying to bring to the world. Bourdain was a huge hero of mine. There was like eighteen different things that guy did and it was all playing to this bigger idea of using food to be able to talk about human experience and culture. For me, it’s how do we use all these different mediums to say, ‘these things are important’. More recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can use those same avenues that I have to be able to tell stories of people who may not be able to have their own voices. So that responsibility is something I’ve been thinking about recently. I’m exhausted all the time but I also don’t do anything I don’t want to do.

MR: I see your name popping up online all the time, and every time I see another article come up, I’m so curious about how you’re so productive… you seem overwhelmingly productive! How many articles did you write last year?

GI: Sixty. Maybe more. This year I’ve done fifty-four.

MR: That feels like a lot. Does it feel like a lot to you?

GI: Yeah. I think at some point in the next couple years I’ll be able to calm down and focus myself to do less. But right now the reason I get to do stuff is because I keep doing stuff. It’s a hustle, right? And like, if you want these things for real, that’s what you do. But there’s something to be said, definitely, for taking your time and thinking about these things, but I’m not talented in the same way. I’m a worker, and I have a little bit of talent, I’m decently smart, but the difference between me and a lot of other people is that I will continue to keep doing things until I get better at them. There’s a handful of other writers in this city who I know are better writers than me but the difference is that I try to do it absolutely every day and by doing that you just gain enough experience to keep growing and growing and growing. Between all these things I can make an okay living for myself, just barely. I don’t want to do anything else except write. So I just write all the time.

White Heat

SummerWorks Performance Festival with Pressgang Theatre
Written by Graham Isador
Directed by Jill Harper
Performed by Makambe Simamba and Tim Walker
Sound Design by Christopher Ross-Ewart

A revealed identity leads to an impossible decision.

Journalist Alice Kennings grapples with how to act after uncovering the identity of an alt-right podcast host calling for violence against the media. Based on real events, White Heat is a play about all the things we justify to ourselves. Written by Graham Isador (VICE, GQ) and directed by Dora Award winner Jill Harper (Pool No Water).

Longboat Hall at The Great Hall
103 Dovercourt Road, Toronto, Ontario

Sunday August 11th8:30pm – 9:45pm
Monday August 12th9:30pm – 10:45pm
Wednesday August 14th6:00pm – 7:30pm



Nominations Announced for the 40th Anniversary Dora Mavor Moore Awards

Congratulations to all of the nominees for the Dora Awards 2019! And thank you to everyone for an incredible season of the arts. We can’t wait to see what 19/20 brings.


Nominations Announced for
40th Anniversary Dora Mavor Moore Awards

Soulpepper Theatre tops General Theatre Division with 14 nominations.

The Musical Stage Company & Young People’s Theatre tie in Musical Theatre Division with 14 nods each.

Coal Mine Theatre front runner in Independent Theatre Division with 10 noms.

Canadian Opera Company leads in Opera Division with 33 nods.

DanceWorks flies highest with 13 taps in Dance Division. 

Solar Stage heads Theatre for Young Audiences Division with 10 noms.

Toronto (May 28, 2019) – At a press conference held May 28 in the Davies Takacs Lobby of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) announced 282 nominations for the 40th Anniversary Dora Mavor Moore Awards, which recognize excellence in professional theatre, dance and opera in Toronto. On Tuesday, June 25 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 49 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, the Silver Ticket Award and the Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award will be presented.

As TAPA announced in April of 2018, all performance categories for the Dora Mavor Moore Awards for the 2018-19 season are gender neutral. All former binary male and female titles have been replaced with gender inclusive designations as applicable to “Outstanding Performance” categories. Notably, the Doras are the first professional theatre, dance and opera awards show in Canada to adopt a fully gender-inclusive policy. Other changes to the Dora Awards include new stand-alone Divisions for Musical Theatre, Opera and Touring.

For the 2018-2019 season, running May 2018 to May 2019, 108 producing companies registered 219 eligible productions. Below are some nomination highlights.


In the General Theatre Division, Soulpepper Theatre Company heads the nominations list with 14 taps over 5 productions. Soulpepper also earns 11 nominations in the Musical Theatre Division, bringing its grand total to 25.

Soulpepper’s The Royale garners 7 nods including Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction for Guillermo Verdecchia, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for both Christef Desir and Sabryn Rock, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design for Ken MacKenzie, Outstanding Lighting Design for Michelle Ramsay and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition for Thomas Ryder Payne. Soulpepper’s Orlando sees 4 nods: Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role for Sarah Afful, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for Alex McCooeye, Outstanding Costume Design for Gillian Gallow and Outstanding Lighting Design for Lorenzo Savoini. Single taps go to The Virgin Trial for Outstanding New Play to Kate Hennig, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Lovell Adams-Gray and Wedding at Aulis for Outstanding Costume Design to Michelle Tracey.

Crow’s Theatre earns second spot overall in the Division with 10 nominations over 4 productions, 6 of them for Middletown: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction for Meg Roe, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role for Gray Powell, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for Jeff Meadows, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design for Camellia Koo and Outstanding Lighting Design for Kevin Lamotte. The Wolves, produced by The Howland Company and Crow’s Theatre, sees Amaka Umeh earn a tap for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role and Sarah Doucet one for Outstanding Costume Design. Kimberly Purtell earns a nod for Outstanding Lighting Design for We Are Not Alone and Julie Fox gets one for Tartuffe (in a co-presentation with Canadian Stage).

Obsidian Theatre follows with 9 nods over 2 productions, 7 of them for School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, tying Soulpepper’s The Royale for top spot for a production in the General Theatre Division. Obsidian also earns 1 nomination in the Independent Theatre Division for a grand total of 10 nods. School Girls taps are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction for Nina Lee Aquino, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role for Natasha Mumba, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for Bria McLaughlin, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design for Rachel Forbes, Outstanding Costume Design for Joanna Yu and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition for Reza Jacobs. Obsidian’s Oraltorio: A Theatrical Mixtape sees nods for Outstanding Direction to Mumbi Tindyebwa and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition to DJ L’Oqenz.

Other Outstanding Production taps in the General Theatre Division go to bug (Luminato) and Secret Life of a Mother (The Theatre Centre), both of which earn 4 taps in total including Outstanding New Play for Yolanda Bonnell and Hannah Moscovitch, respectively. Bonnell is also up for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role in bug while Maev Beaty is nominated for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role for Secret Life of a Mother. Luminato’s total nomination count is 5: 4 in General Theatre and 1 in Touring, while the Theatre Centre’s grand total is 6 including 2 in the Independent Theatre Division.

Other Outstanding New Play nominees are Charlotte Corbeil-Coleman for Tarragon Theatre’s Guarded Girls (which also earns Vivien Endicott-Douglas a nod for Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role) and the team of Lisa Karen Cox, Maggie Huculak, Raha Javanfar, Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava and Cheyenne Scott for Now You See Her, a Quote Unquote Collective, Nightwood Theatre and Why Not Theatre co-production.

Additional Tarragon nods include Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Virgilia Griffith for Harlem Duet, which also sees Allen Booth earn an Outstanding Sound Design/Composition tap. Stephanie MacDonald earns a tap for Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role for New Magic Valley Fun Town, bringing Tarragon’s total nominations to 5.

Other notable taps include, for Canadian Stage, Outstanding Direction to Brendan Healy for Every Brilliant Thing, and Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to Jenny Young for Romeo and Juliet. Canadian Stage’s total count in General Theatre is 3 plus 3 in Touring for a total of 6. 


In the Musical Theatre Division, The Musical Stage Company and Young People’s Theatre (YPT) tie in leading the pack with 14 nods each, for two productions each. Soulpepper rounds up 11 nods for its production of Rose, and David Mirvish tallies in at 9 for Dear Evan Hansen.

The Musical Stage Company’s nods comprise 10 for Next to Normal and 4 for Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life, co-produced with Outside the March.

Next to Normal nominations are Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction to the team of Philip Akin and Tracey Flye, Outstanding Musical Direction to Lily Ling, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to each of Ma-Anne Dionisio and Stephanie Sy, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to both Brandon Antonio and Louise Pitre, Outstanding Lighting Design and Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Steve Lucas and Outstanding Costume Design to Alex Amini.

Dr. Silver: A Celebration of Life nabs nods for Outstanding New Musical to Anika Johnson and Britta Johnson, Outstanding Original Choreography to Barbara Johnston, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Bruce Dow and Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to Peter Deiwick.

Young People’s Theatre’s 14 nods in this division are comprised of 9 for Mary Poppins and 5 for Under the Stairs. With an additional 3 taps in the Theatre for Young Audiences Division, YPT’s total nomination haul is 17.

Mary Poppins earns taps for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction to Thom Allison, Outstanding Musical Direction to Wayne Gwillim, Outstanding Original Choreography to Kerry Gage, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Vanessa Sears, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to Jade Repeta, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Brandon Kleiman, Outstanding Costume Design to Bill Layton and Outstanding Lighting Design to Jason Hand.

Under the Stairs earns nods for Outstanding New Musical to writer Kevin Dyer and composer Reza Jacobs, Outstanding Original Choreography to Viv Moore, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Teresa Przybylski, Outstanding Costume Design to Anna Treusch and Outstanding Lighting Design to Michelle Ramsay.

The 11 nominations to Soulpepper Theatre Company for Rose are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding New Musical to writer Sarah Wilson and composer Mike Ross, Outstanding Musical Direction to Mike Ross, Outstanding Direction to Gregory Prest, Outstanding Original Choreography to Monica Dottor, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Hailey Gillis, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to each of Peter Fernandes and Sabryn Rock, Outstanding Lighting Design and Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Lorenzo Savoini and Outstanding Costume Design to Alexandra Lord.

The David Mirvish production of Dear Evan Hansen sees nominations for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction to Michael Greif, Outstanding Musical Direction to Elizabeth Baird, Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to Robert Markus, Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role to each of Allessandro Constantini and Sean Patrick Dolan, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to the team of David Korins and Peter Nigrini, Outstanding Costume Design to Emily Rebholz and Outstanding Lighting Design to Japhy Weideman.

Other notable nods in the Musical Theatre Division go to Eclipse Theatre Company for its presentation of Kiss of the Spider Woman which earns a total of 6 nominations: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction to Evan Tsitsias, Outstanding Musical Direction to Chris Barillaro, Outstanding Original Choreography to Sara-Jeanne Hosie, and Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role to each of Kawa Ada and Tracy Michailidis.


In the Independent Theatre Division, Coal Mine Theatre takes the lead with 10 nominations, 5 of them in co-production with Studio 180 Theatre for The Nether and the others spread out over three productions. Human Cargo and Saga Collectif tie for second spot with 7 hits each, both for a single production: respectively, The Runner and Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land), making each the leading production in this division. Native Earth Performing Arts follows closely with 6 nods: 4 for Isitwendam and 2 for After the Fire in a co-production with The Theatre Centre.

Coal Mine Theatre and Studio 180 Theatre’s The Nether nods are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble to Katherine Cullen, Hannah Levinson, Mark McGrinder, Robert Persichini and David Storch, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Patrick Lavender and Nick Bottomley, Outstanding Lighting Design to Patrick Lavender and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition to Richard Feren.

Coal Mine scores 3 hits with Hand to God: Outstanding Direction to the team of Mitchell Cushman and Marcus Jamin, Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Frank Cox-O’Connell and Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Anahita Dehbonehie.

Coal Mine’s The Father earns Eric Peterson a nod for Outstanding Performance of an Individual while The Wonder Pageant sees Ron Pederson, Kayla Lorette, Matt Baram, Jan Carauna, Paloma Nunez, Waylen Miki and Kris Siddiqi nominated for Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble.

Human Cargo’s 7 taps for The Runner are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding New Play to Christopher Morris, Outstanding Direction to Daniel Brooks, Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Gord Rand, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to Gillian Gallow, Outstanding Lighting Design to Bonnie Beecher and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition to Alexander MacSween.

The Saga Collectif 7 nods for Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land) are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding New Play to Ho Ka Kei (Jeff Ho), Outstanding Direction to Jonathan Seinen, Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Virgilia Griffith, Outstanding Costume Design to Christine Urquhart, Outstanding Lighting Design to Jareth Li and Outstanding Sound Design/Composition to Heidi Chan.

The Native Earth Performing Arts 4 nods for Isitwendam are: Outstanding Production, Outstanding New Play to Meegwun Fairbrother, Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Meegwun Fairbrother and Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design to the team of Hans Saefkow and Andy Moro with Melissa Joakim. After the Fire scores taps for Outstanding New Play to Matthew MacKenzie and Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble to Sheldon Elter, Jesse Gervais, Kaitlyn Riordan and Louise Lambert.

Other notable nods in this division include Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Augusto Bitter for Theatre Passe Muraille’s CHICHO, Outstanding Direction to Erin Brubacher for Generous Friend’s Noor and to Leora Morris for PARADIGM productionsThe Philosopher’s Wife, and Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Catherine Fitch for Leroy Street Theatre’s Her Inside Life and to Mattie Driscoll for Cue6 Theatre’s Dry Land.

As well, Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble nods go to ARC for Human Animals, DopoLavoro Teatrale for If on a Christmas Night, Obsidian Theatre for Judas Noir, Aluna Theatre for Stones and Why Not Theatre for Wring the Roses. 


In the Opera Division, the Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) productions lead with a total of 33 nominations over six productions, making the COC the leader in overall nominations as well. The COC’s Otello earns 8 taps, the most for a production in the Opera Division. The COC’s Otello, Eugene Onegin, Hadrian and La Bohème all vie for Outstanding Production, as does Against the Grain Theatre’s Kopernikus which, along with Eugene Onegin and Hadrian, sees a total of 7 nods and earns Against the Grain second spot in the Opera Division.

Hadrian also receives a nod for Outstanding New Opera for writer Daniel MacIvor and composer Rufus Wainwright as does Hook Up, a Tapestry Opera production in partnership with Theatre Passe Muraille, for writer Julie Tepperman and composer Chris Thornborrow as well as the Canadian Children’s Opera Company’s The Monkiest King for writer Marjorie Chan and composer Alice Ping Yee Ho.

Otello garners the following additional hits: Outstanding Direction to David Alden, Outstanding Musical Direction to Johannes Debus (who also earns the same for the COC’s Elektra and Eugene Onegin), Outstanding Performance of an Individual to both Gerald Finley and Tamara Wilson, Outstanding Scenic/Projection Design and Outstanding Costume Design to Jon Morrell, and Outstanding Lighting Design to Andrew Cutbush.

Additional Outstanding Direction nods go to the team of Joel Ivany and Matjash Mrozewski for Kopernikus, John Caird for La Bohème, Robert Carsen for Eugene Onegin and Jessica Derventzis for Opera 5’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Outstanding Musical Direction nods also go to Bernard Labadie for the COC’s Cosi fan tutte and to Topher Mokrzewski for Kopernikus.

Joining the race for Outstanding Performance of an Individual are Ambur Braid for Hadrian, Angel Blue for La Bohème, Christine Goerke for Elektra, Thomas Hampson for Hadrian and Tracy Dahl for Cosi fan tutte. Johnathon Kirby wades in for his role in Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

As well, Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble nods go to Cosi fan tutte and Eugene Onegin as well as Kopernikus, Opera 5’s Open Chambers: Hindemith & Shostakovich, along with the Canadian Children’s Opera Company’s The Monkiest King and The Snow Queen. 


In the Dance Division, DanceWorks hits top spot with 13 nominations including 5 for Blood Tides (DanceWorks / Kaha:wi Dance Theatre), 5 for No Woman’s Land (DanceWorks / Jaberi Dance Theatre) and 3 for The art of degeneration (DanceWorks / Louis Laberge-Côté). All of them are up for Outstanding Production as well as Outstanding Original Choreography: Roshanak Jaberi for No Woman’s Land, Louis Laberge-Côté for The art of degeneration and Santee Smith with Jahra Wasasala and Marina Acevedo for Blood Tides. Additionally, Louis Laberge-Côté is tapped for Outstanding Performance of an Individual while Blood Tides and No Woman’s Land are up for Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble.

The National Ballet of Canada dances into the runner-up slot with 7 nods including 5 for Frame by Frame: Outstanding Production, Guillaume Côté for Outstanding Original Choreography, Jack Bertinshaw for Outstanding Performance of an Individual, Antoine Bédard for Outstanding Sound Design/Composition and Étienne Boucher for Outstanding Lighting Design. Hannah Fischer vies as well for Outstanding Performance of an Individual for Paz de la Jolla while Anna Karenina earns a nod for Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble.

Third place goes to Red Sky Performance with 4 taps, all for Trace: Outstanding Production, Outstanding Original Choreography for Jera Wolfe, Outstanding Sound Design/Composition for Eliot Britton and Outstanding Lighting Design for Alexis Bowles.

Additional Outstanding Performance of an Individual nods go to Dreamwalker Dance Company’s Andrea Nann, nominated twice for her company’s All of Our Dreaming program: once for the piece A Crazy Kind of Hope and the other for In a Landscape. Evelyn Hart and Johanna Bergfelt are also nominated for the same for Citadel + Compagnie’s Four Old Legs and SKOW, respectively. José Maldonado earns a tap in this category as well for Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company’s El Caudal Que Yo Tengos from its show Impulso.

Joining the Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble race are Dreamwalker Dance Company for Dual Light: Brendan and Yuichiro (from All of Our Dreaming), Esie Mensah Creations for Shades, Peggy Baker Dance Projects for who we are in the dark and Toronto Dance Theatre with two entries: Slow Dance and This Shape, We Are In. 


The Theatre for Young Audiences Division sees Solar Stage lead the pack with 10 nods over four productions followed by Théâtre français de Toronto and Why Not Theatre in a tie with 5 each, both for one production. Why Not Theatre’s Eraser and Théâtre français de Toronto’s Les Zinspirés: L’âge de raison each come out on top with the most nominations for a production in this Division. (With 3 in General Theatre and 1 in the Independent Theatre Division, Why Not’s total nods come to 9.)

Eraser sees taps for Outstanding Production, Outstanding Direction for the duo of Bilal Baig and Sadie Epstein-Fine, Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble, Outstanding Achievement in Design for Maddie Bautista (sound design) and Outstanding New Play for the team of Bilal Baig, Sadie Epstein-Fine with Christol Bryan, Marina Gomes, Yousef Kadoura, Tijiki Morris, Anthony Perpuse and Nathan Redburn.

Les Zinspirés: L’âge de raison scores nods for Outstanding Direction for Chanda Gibson, Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble, Outstanding Achievement in Design to each of Simon Rossiter (lighting design) and Glenn Davidson (scenic design) and Outstanding New Play for the team of Olivia Cyr, Mariam Guira, Errine Jean Charles, Cathlin Jiaqi Han and Abigail Morin; Coached by: Krystel Descary, François Macdonald, Marie-Claire Marcotte, Pierre Simpson and Donald Woo.

Other Outstanding Production nods go to Harbourfront Centre for both We Are All Treaty People and New Owner as well as to the Wee Festival’s KNOCK! and Young People’s Theatre’s The 26 Letter Dance.

Both Shakespeare in Action’s Suddenly Shakespeare and Puzzle Piece’s The Little Prince: Reimagined garner 4 hits: Suddenly Shakespeare’s are Outstanding Direction to Michael Kelly plus 3 taps for Outstanding Performance of an Individual to each of Chris George, Alexandra Montagnese and Mussie Solomon; while Puzzle Piece’s are Outstanding New Play to Richard Lam, Outstanding Performance of an Individual to each of Kira Hall and Richard Lam, and Outstanding Achievement in Design to Anahita Dehbonehie (scenic design).

Additional taps for both Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance of an Individual go to Makambe K Simamba for b current performing arts Our Fathers, Sons, Lovers and Little Brothers which also sees Donna-Michelle St. Bernard earn a nod for Outstanding Direction for a total of 3 hits for the show.

Two Solar Stage shows also earn 3 nods apiece: Ugly Duckthing nods include Marty Stelnick for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Achievement in Design (puppetry design) as well as Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble; Treasure Island gets on board with Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble, Outstanding Performance of an Individual for Faly Mevamanana and Outstanding Achievement in Design for Marysia Bucholc (scenic design). Other notable Solar Stage nods include Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble for A Merry Munsch Pyjama Party! with the duo of Dahlia Katz and M. John Kennedy up for Outstanding Direction.

Other notable nods include Outstanding Performance of an Individual to Morgan St. Onge for Roseneath Theatre’s Head à Tête, and Outstanding Performance of an Ensemble for both the WeeFestival’s Tweet Tweet and Young People’s Theatre’s Antigone: . 


Canadian Stage leads in the Outstanding Touring Production award race with 3 out of the 5 nominations: Hofesh Shechter Company’s Grand Finale, Akram Khan Company’s XENOS and Kidd Pivot’s Revisor. Also in the ring are Luminato with Teac Damsa’s Swan Lake / Loch na hEala and Aluna Theatre with Wilson Pico’s Los Materiales de la Ira y el Amor presented at its RUTAS International Multi-Arts Festival. (This award will be given out in advance at a special invitation-only reception honouring all the nominees.)


See the accompanying complete list of nominees. The full list is also available online at as of 1pm today. Of note, the following and various designers all received 3 nominations: Gillian Gallow, Jason Hand, Thomas Ryder Payne and Lorenzo Savoini.

Twitter – @doraawards : #DoraAwards   #DORAS2019                #theatreTO


For the fifth year in a row, the Pat and Tony Adams Freedom Fund for the Arts will provide a cash prize of $1,000 each to the recipients of Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role in the General Theatre Division and Outstanding Performance in a Featured Role in the General Theatre Division


In addition, the recipients of the Pauline McGibbon Award, George Luscombe Mentorship Award and Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award were bestowed at the press conference.

The recipient of the 2019 Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award is the extraordinarily talented arts producer Sherrie Johnson who was recently appointed Executive Director for Crow’s Theatre after serving as Executive Producer at Canadian Stage for six years. The award recognizes the important work of theatre, dance and opera administrators and is named after the founders of Toronto’s Theatrebooks (1975 to its closure in 2014). The winner receives a plaque and a cheque for $1,000 through the generous sponsorship of the late Elizabeth Comper. Recipients of the LMJH Award have at least 10 years of demonstrated commitment to the performing arts, in addition to having made an impact on the industry in Toronto.

The recipient of the George Luscombe Mentorship Award is Jacquie P.A. Thomas, founding Artistic Director of Theatre Gargantua since 1992. Named in honour of Toronto Workshop Productions’ revolutionary theatre founder and artistic director, the award is administered by TAPA and comes with original artwork by Theo Dimson, a copy of the book Conversations with George Luscombe: Steven Bush in conversation with the Canadian Theatre visionary and a $500 prize. Ms. Thomas has maintained an unwavering commitment to producing original Canadian theatre and to the development and support of the artist, including young and emerging artists. A pioneer of Canadian multi-disciplinary devised theatre, she has created numerous socially relevant, award-winning works. This year, Jacquie P.A. Thomas celebrates her 27th season as the Artistic Director of Theatre Gargantua, one of the longest serving female Artistic Directors in the country.

Toronto-based scenic artist Ksenia Ivanova is the recipient of the 2019 Pauline McGibbon Award, created in honour of former Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon for her support and patronage of the arts. It includes a $7,000 prize and a medal designed by Dora de Pédery-Hunt. The award is presented to an Ontario-resident professional artist in the early stages of their career who displays unique talent and has the potential for excellence. Every three years, the award goes to a designer, then to a director, and the third year to a production craftsperson. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Kesia moved to Canada in 2010 and enrolled in Humber College’s Theatre Production program. Since graduating in 2013, she has contributed scenic work to more than 100 productions across Ontario for companies such as Tarragon Theatre, the Stratford Festival, Soulpepper, Crow’s Theatre, Factory Theatre and Coal Mine Theatre. Though still in the early stages of her career, she has embraced her role as a teacher and mentor, leading her teams with a commitment to creativity that will ensure a strong next generation of theatre creators.


TAPA’s third annual Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award in honour of the beloved, long-time NOW Magazine theatre critic will be given out at the Dora Awards show and ceremony on June 25. The Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award is co-sponsored for the third year in a row by NOW Magazine and Yonge-Dundas Square. The public is invited to choose a winner and vote for their favourite show from the list of nominees for Outstanding Production – or they can choose their own! Theatre, dance and opera fans can cast their votes online at at May 31 at noon through to June 19 at 12 midnight. …The winner receives a special plaque from NOW Magazine.



On Tuesday, June 25 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 49 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, the Silver Ticket Award and the Jon Kaplan Audience Choice Award will be presented. Fresh from touring his new solo show BOOMX, the incomparable Canadian theatre artist Rick Miller hosts this very special celebratory evening. A director, actor, comedian, musician and playwright, Mr. Miller is well-known across the country for his widely acclaimed one-man shows that include MacHomer, BOOM and Bigger Than Jesus (for which he won a 2006 Outstanding Performance Dora). The 40th Anniversary Dora Awards are penned by actor and writer Diane Flacks, currently starring in the title role of Nathan the Wise at the Stratford Festival, and directed by Ed Roy, recipient of Pauline McGibbon and Dora Awards for directing.

Tickets go on sale May 28 through the Sony Centre Box Office at 1 Front Street East or call 416.368.6161 x 1 or book online at the Ticketmaster website: 

In honour of the 40th Anniversary of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, an Early Bird special price is being offered: Just $40 for both the Awards Show and After-Party! The Early Bird offer expires on Tuesday June 11 at 5pm, after which regular ticket prices will be in effect.

After June 11 at 5pm, ticket prices are:

Regular Tickets (Awards Show & After-Party) are $90.00 (+HST & Ticketmaster fees)

Student, Senior and Artsworker Tickets (Awards Show & After-Party) are $70 (+HST & Ticketmaster fees)
Pre-Show VIP Reception Tickets (includes Awards Show & After-Party) are $190 (these are only available by emailing Scott Dermody at to reserve)
After-Party ONLY Tickets (purchase at the door beginning 10:30pm) are $20.

40th Anniversary Dora Mavor Moore Awards

– Toronto’s Theatre, Dance and Opera Awards –

Tuesday June 25, 2019

Hosted by the multi-talented, multi-award-winning Rick Miller

Written by Diane Flacks, Directed by Edward Roy,

Musical Direction by Evelyne Datl, Lighting and Production Design by Andrea Lundy, Produced by Jacoba Knaapen

At the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East, Toronto, ON M5E 1B2

6:00pm-7:00pm Pre-Show VIP Cocktail Reception in the Lower Lobby of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

7:30pm Dora Mavor Moore Awards Show in the Sony Centre

10:30pm After-Party in and around the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

TICKETS ON SALE May 28, 2019

For both Early Bird and Regular tickets, visit the Sony Centre Box Office at 1 Front Street East

or call 416.368.6161 x 1 or book online at 

Awards Show & After-Party
$40 for the 40th
Offer expires Tuesday, June 11, 5:00pm

Regular Tickets (Awards Show & After-Party): $90.00 (+HST & Ticketmaster fees)

Student, Senior, Artsworker Tickets (Awards Show & After-Party): $70 (+HST & Ticketmaster fees)

Pre-Show VIP Reception Tickets (includes Awards Show & After-Party): $190
(email Scott Dermody at to reserve)

After-Party ONLY Tickets (purchase at the door beginning 10:30pm): $20

For information visit
Twitter: @doraawards   #DoraAwards #DORAS2019 #theatreTO

Artist Profile: Susanna Fournier

Interview by Hallie Seline.

Susanna Fournier is one of the most multifaceted artists in Canada right now. She is daring to go big, speak her mind, challenge the status quo, and continue to push to every boundary that comes her way in order to shake the world up with her art. I have been so in awe of her and her work over the past few years, seeing her drive to take on bigger projects, exploring and expanding her process, all while accepting the challenge of wearing ALL OF THE HATS in order to make her art happen. I couldn’t think of a more fierce artist to feature and I was thrilled to be able to speak with her about what motivates and inspires her, what she’s learned by daring to go BIG with THE EMPIRE TRILOGY, and what advice she would give to fellow artists trying to make it happen.

Hallie Seline: Your Empire trilogy is a massive project. Not only are there THREE PLAYS that are being produced in a year, but there’s podcasts, passports, an extensive fundraising project, partner feature drinks and online graphic novels! Tell me a bit about where your inspiration for this trilogy came from and what made you want to go BIG with it?

Susanna Fournier: I don’t know how to tell small stories. I grew up on Star Wars, Mozart’s operas, the Mists of Avalon, and Lord of the Rings. These all seemed like reasonably normal sized stories to me. 

In terms of the content, I think of the Empire as an origin story of Western modernity. I explore conflict on the macro and micro level. I write about systems of power through exploring how these systems appear in our daily lives, in our homes, our bodies, and sense of self. Current culture is stuck on a path towards destruction, I wrote The Empire to try and trace that path back. I’m not sure we can change the path if we don’t look at just how long we’ve been on it. I write in genre because I want to shake people out of their patterns, shake them out of the day-to-day and into a heightened space. When we travel our senses come alive, when we encounter a new place, new language, new culture, we pay attention in a different way. The Empire is set in an imagined world to shake us into looking at this one with more attention. 

Producing The Empire revealed to me that I’m not just interested in theatre, I’m interested in STORIES. I’m a story-teller, and I’m curious about all the ways we can tell stories. In a theatre, in a book, on the radio, in a picture or across a cocktail. The Empire isn’t just three plays, it’s a whole universe. Alison Wong, who is producing it with me, really helped me see that, and has been working closely with me to make these ideas possible. When I say, “What if we did (insert new idea)???” She’d say, “Yeah, let’s do that,” and then ACTUALLY finds a way to do it.

Playwright, Susanna Fournier, on the set of ‘The Scavenger’s Daughter’. Photo Credit: Haley Garnett.

HS: You have worn so many hats already in this project. What are some stand-out lessons you have learned while taking on the roles of: writer, producer, actor, director…

SF: As a producer: my job is to create containers for everybody else (creative team, venue, and audience) to reveal and experience the art. No matter how much you plan for the process and experience to go one way, it will inevitably go many other ways. Problem solving and your community are your biggest assets.

As a playwright, your play doesn’t exist without all the other elements: design, actors, space, audience. You bring a bunch of pages to day one of rehearsal, and then you have to let the process teach you about your play. You haven’t met your play until you all start doing it. You have to let the play speak – which might mean you suddenly feel like you don’t recognize it anymore. Be curious about it. It’s never going to be the version you see in your head. Thank god – what would be the point of doing it if you can just watch it in your head?

As an actor: you know that nightmare about having to go on and perform a show you didn’t rehearse? I just lived it for a 2 week run. You CAN actually learn a whole show 3 days before opening. You don’t need as much time to work as you think you do to make choices and commit to them. Get off book as soon as you possibly can. Imagine how much deeper your work would be if you were off book by day 1. You can do this. I dare you.

Susanna steps in at the 11th hour as the Philosopher in the first play in the EMPIRE trilogy, ‘The Philosopher’s Wife’. Photo Credit: Bernie Fournier.

HS: What has been your biggest challenge you’ve faced in undergoing this project and how have you taken it on?

SF: Raising the money to produce a whole season of theatre as indie artists and being understaffed because we don’t have the money to hire the amount of people it takes to execute a whole season of theatre. Working inside this challenge is ongoing. I’ve had to interrogate my relationship to money, to asking for it, and to keep asking for it. For instance, if you want to check out Empire Trilogy’s “A Name for A Name” campaign here, you can see how close we are to reaching our $15,000 goal and help us get there by donating today 🙂

HS: We love all of the resources Generator is putting out into the world to empower artists to make their art happen. As an artist taking on many roles, can you speak to me about your experience with the Generator Artist Producer Training (APT) program?

SF: I could not produce a project like this without the training I did with APT, and the continued support Generator is giving me as a resident company. Beyond the classes, which covered everything from budgets, to contracts, to timelines, to curation, and marketing, etc. APT and Generator gave me a community of support. Kristina Lemieux is a revolution. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone as committed to empowering artists and creating meaningful sector and social change. Generator is quickly becoming a hub for the indie artists of Toronto, and my hope is that more indie companies will begin to work together and organize around Generator. What would happen if “indie” teams formed a stronger network, what resources could we share, what kind of terms could we set when working inside and outside of more traditional institutions? What’s possible?

Actor, Josh Johnston, as Jack in ‘The Scavenger’s Daughter’. Scenic Design by Michelle Tracey. Photo Credit: Bernie Fournier

HS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

SF: Making art that runs against the mainstream is lonely. You’re going to work with great people, but it’s still going to be lonely. Make friends with your loneliness.

HS: Where do you look for inspiration?

SF: Women who rail against the shitty deal society “offers” them. Women who say no. Women who dance. Women who laugh at power. Women who fuck. Women who ask questions. Women who scream. Women who fail. Women who make mistakes. Women who rage. Women who transform. Women who love. Women who sing.

HS: What do you do to take care of yourself as an artist?

SF: I don’t know, I’ve had less than 25 days off since The Empire trilogy started pre-production in May 2017, but I have amazing friends and family who help me every single day and bring me food a lot.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Morning or Night Person? A lot of both lately (work)

Go-to drink? Double espresso with touch of hot water and some kind of non-cow milk. I love cocktails and vermouth but I’m not drinking much these days (see above re: work)

If you could be reincarnated as an animal what would it be? A human.

Last book you read? Heartbreaker by local powerhouse Claudia Dey

Favourite play? Jill Connell is a fucking genius and everything she writes breaks my heart and brings me back to life at the same time. Read: The Supine Cobbler, The Tall Building, Hroses.

What are you listening to right now? My gut. And early 2000’s sad angsty tunes.

Favourite place in the city? Sunnyside beach life guard tower (when I need to see the lake and remember the immensity of life).

What in your life could you not live without? Women and faith.

Current Mantra: Several mantras these days: Keep going. You can’t control everything. Let go. Trust.

Finish these sentences:

I am most creative when...I am dancing”

I feel happiest when…I am creating (which is a form of dancing)”

I feel fired up when…I am writing (also a form of dancing)”

In the Toronto theatre scene, I want to see…more radical work, more abandon (so dancing), and more leaders re-structuring institutional power (which is also a form of dancing)”

THE EMPIRE Trilogy by Susanna Fournier

Susanna Fournier
t: @SusannaFournier

Paradigm Productions & The Empire Trilogy
t: @paradigmprodxn
fb: /paradigmtheatre
ig: @paradigmprodxn

“On Creative Process, Being Infatuated with All Things Theatre & Appreciating Being Brave in Different Ways” In Conversation with playwright Rosamund Small on the World Premiere of SISTERS at Soulpepper

Interview by Megan Robinson.

Playwright Rosamund Small spent much of her 2017 reading novels. One of her tasks as part of the Soulpepper Academy, under the guidance of Guillermo Verdecchia, was to find a story to adapt for the stage but it wasn’t until she read Edith Wharton’s novella, Bunner Sisters, that she knew she had the right project.

The long short story follows two sisters that run a shop together in 19th century New York City. They work together selling pieces at the front of the shop while sharing a living space in the confined quarters in the back of the shop. And when one sister is given a clock for her birthday, the story begins.

We spoke with Rosamund Small, covering everything from her creative process to her present infatuation with all things theatre-related, in light of the world premiere of her play Sisters at Soulpepper Theatre, on stage now until September 16th.

MR: What was it that you were most curious about with this story? What made you think definitely this one?

RS: It has twists and turns that were shocking to read. I mean really shocking. It’s a cliché to say things about it being a page-turner, but it really is. I think what grabbed me from the moment I opened it, is that the very first thing that happens is the older sister buys a birthday present for the younger sister, and it’s a clock. And their lives are made so beautiful by this clock. It’s the biggest deal to have a clock and to be able to know what time it is.

It brought me into it in the sense that, that’s a world; you have one counter and one bed and one clock, and that’s all you have. The stakes of that world are very high, right? The closeness to having nothing. And on the flip side, there is the joy when anything shifts for the better. It’s very extreme.


MR: Adaptation seems like a natural fit for you, because you seem to have a history of working with things that already exist. Would you say that it felt natural?

RS: I would, and I think for some people an adaptation is ‘how do I put this book on stage’ and sometimes it’s more like an abbreviation. I thought of this as a collaboration with the material. I’d also say it’s a radical rewrite. It’s an interpretation. So I get to bring what I find curious about the story, what I find curious to add to the story, my own sense of rhythm and humour, and kind of blatantly transform things about it into what I think they should be, and what I think makes it the most dramatic. I don’t feel like I adhere to the limits of the material if I don’t want to.

MR: All of your projects seem very specific, what draws you in to a project?

RS: I was just thinking how I have the world’s weirdest resume. My resume has that I worked for the show Workin’ Moms on CBC, and worked with a ballet company. It’s just very all over the place. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way at all, I think in some ways it means I don’t know myself. But I get attracted to the most random things, and I’m very fortunate also to have support and collaboration to commit to a project for a long period of time. This play has taken a year, and it’s the shortest timeline I’ve ever worked on for a play. Vitals took two years, Tomorrowlove took over two years, so I have that time to look at source material or ideas and collaborate with people. But I need something to bounce off of. Whether I’m bouncing off realities, interviews, a novel, whatever it is, I need something to hit up against, that I can add to. That can be very helpful. Limitations are very useful.

MR: If every work you do is so different, how would you define your voice? There’s got to be something about you that makes it yours, and I’m curious if you have a definition or something you always come back to?

RS: I think it’s the search for companionship. A search for connection. Even Occupy [Performing Occupy Toronto], back in the day, I thought I was doing something about politics, and of course inherently I was, but actually, I was interested in people gathering and the impossibility and the hope that everyone will be able to connect and move forward and get along with each other. I think that brings me through all of my work.

This work is about two people who are in a way living their lives right next to each other and yet there’s a gap between them, there’s a distance between them, even though they’re physically close and they’re siblings. I find the complexities of human relationships pretty consistently compelling.


MR: Now that you are seeing the project on its feet, how does it feel? Is it what you imagined, have they done things with it you could never have pictured?

RS: There are always things you can’t picture. I’d be really disappointed if it was exactly as I imagined it. That’s the theatre, right?

MR: What did you learn about yourself as a writer through this adaptation, something you uncovered or learned through the process?

RS: I think that less is more. I’m learning over and over again that the moments I’m going to script should not leap off the page in their completion because the actors are their completion. A play is not meant to be the full experience. Leaving those gaps and leaving those spaces for where an inhale, or a tilt of the head, or a self-conscious tug of a shirt that the actor will do without planning, is going to say more than a monologue, you know? Just reminding myself over and over that this is not for a reader, this is for someone to inhabit and observe and participate in. I mean this is Drama 101, I’m saying things that everyone learns in their first anything, but then you learn it again and again.

MR: What are you excited about with this production of Sisters?

RS: I’m excited about everything. One: that it will be beautiful. It sounds beautiful, looks beautiful. It’s also a celebration of beauty in lots of ways. These characters are interested in finding a more beautiful life and in a deeper sense of that word, in finding something glorious and celebratory and delicate about life, when they don’t have a lot of things in life that they can feel that way about. One of them goes to an orchestra and experiences that, and it’s such a profound moment for that character. I think theatre is beautiful, so there’s sort of a meta-theatrical element of seeing people engage with art on stage because the sisters are experiencing art, so we are watching them experience that.

I’m honestly really excited by the performances. It’s not a paint by numbers script, it’s a very challenging piece of work with a lot of complicated subtext, and the depth of the performances is amazing to watch. I feel like I learned so much just watching them.

While being nervous, there’s nothing I’m not excited for.


MR: How do you feel when you look back on your work at this point in your career?

RS: I’ve obviously learned a lot, and there’s a lot of eye-rolling about bad writing habits, or self-indulgent writing habits. But there was also a time in my life where I was a certain kind of brave that I’m not now, and now I’m a certain kind of brave I didn’t use to be. I think you have to appreciate the fact that you change.

MR: What inspires you today?

RS: I’m always inspired by Anika and Britta (Johnson). They’ve got a show coming up, Dr. Silver. The word ‘immersive’ gets around a lot, but they’ve really pushed it so that it’s really a communal experience, it’s like a spiritual experience that I think speaks to their relationship with music, and I think the spiritual connection they have with music.

I’m inspired right now by a lot of books – I’m reading Miranda July’s book, The First Bad Man.

MR: Very, very crazy.

RS: It’s insane!

MR: It’s so brave

RS: It’s so brave, it’s so nice because you write something and you think ‘that’s bad, that’s insanity,’ but then you read someone else’s insanity and you think ‘that’s so great!’

I’m also in a really lovey-dove phase with art and with theatre. A friend of mine said I was a theatre mom. I’m like, ‘look at them up there just risking it all! Look at this volunteer handing out programs! The world is so beautiful, can you believe this?’

I’ve just been off the charts positive and excited for everyone and all of it, all of the time. So it’s a bit much, to be honest. I’ll probably crash soon.

MR: I love that you love theatre so much. I sometimes wonder if everyone is just going to leave for TV.

RS: I think it’s important to take breaks. I was working elsewhere, right? I was working on a television show, and while I loved that as well, and the break from that is going to bring me back to television, the grass is always greener. It was the same when I went traveling for six months. I came back and stuff I’ve been complaining about for years, I was now like, ‘this is an amazing theatre! I love this theatre. I love how cute and broken the seats are.’

But it’s nice. I’m hoping to cling to the feeling because it won’t last forever. You can’t love something that much every hour of the day. It’s just not possible and that’s all part of it.



Rosamund Small, Playwright
ELLORA PATNAIK, Puffed Sleeves Lady

ERIKA CONNOR, Costume Designer
KIMBERLY PURTELL, Lighting Designer
RICHARD FEREN, Composer & Sound Designer
MONICA DOTTOR, Choreographer
KELLY MCEVENUE, Alexander Coach
SARAH MILLER, Stage Manager
ANDREA BAGGS, Assistant Stage Manager
DAVID BEN, Magic Consultant
KATHLEEN JONES, Apprentice Stage Manager

Ann and Evelina have created a little corner for themselves in New York at the turn of the century. When a handsome clockmaker comes to call, the powerful bonds of sisterhood are put to the test. Inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edith Wharton’s pioneering novella, Sisters shows us hidden heroism in everyday life.

Soulpepper Theatre
50 Tank House Lane

On stage now until September 16th.




In Conversation with artist Tom McGee on Being a Dramaturge, Collaborating with Kat Sandler and Embracing His Own Style as Playwright & Director with FEATHERWEIGHT at the Fringe

Interview by Megan Robinson.

Tom McGee is a story nerd, with a resume to prove it.

Behind every hit Theatre Brouhaha show has been McGee, working as the diligent dramaturge alongside playwright Kat Sandler. He has been there helping her craft the hilarious, dark and punchy scripts we’ve all come to expect from this ambitious company.

With their newest production, Featherweight, McGee is swapping places with Sandler. While McGee steps into the roles of writer and director, Sandler is working as both producer and dramaturge.

Featherweight is a dark comedy that promises to be as relevant as your Facebook feed and to prompt your most heated post-show debates (did you see Bang Bang?), remaining faithful to the Brouhaha mandate of creating theatre for the Netflix generation.

Brouhaha’s fast-paced shows speak to what is in the zeitgeist; this is a company that understands it is competing not only with other theatre but with all digital content. And the company has a creative process that moves as quick as their dialogue. In this age of content, it’s important to McGee that each show gets put on stage quickly, while the story is still topical. Rather than two years of development, a Brouhaha show gets more like two months (the script will get a little longer). Concerning the longevity of this style of theatre, McGee believes that it’s the memory of the play and the experience of the audience that matters more than it’s potential success in the unlikely event of a remount. Plus, at the rate Sandler and McGee can whip up a script, McGee would sooner come up with a new show that can speak to what is happening in the current moment anyway.

I got to speak with Tom to get his thoughts on the struggles of dramaturgy and learning to embrace his own writing style.

On Working with Brouhaha and Kat Sandler

Tom McGee: I’ve worked in some capacity on all of Kat’s scripts, with the exception of her long-forgotten piece Dirty Girls, which she did in the Fringe. Even Mustard and Bang Bang; I was a consulting dramaturge on both of those. Often Kat will hire me on the side because Factory and Tarragon will have their own dramaturges (who are excellent) but I’ve been working with Kat so long that our short-hand is so good. She can basically call me up and be like, “You know that thing I’m always worried about? This scene.” And I’ll be like, “Oh ya, I see what you’re talking about – how about this, this, this, and this?” And she’ll be like, “Great! Thank you! I needed that.”

As a Dramaturge, If You’re Doing Your Job Right, You’re Invisible

TM: Tom Arthur Davis, one of the guys who runs Pandemic Theatre, wrote a really interesting piece around the Dora Awards about depression and dramaturgy, “Being Nominated For An Award Made Me Suicidal,” and it’s pretty intense, but he touches on something about dramaturgy that I’ve certainly struggled with. It’s the same thing that a good editor will encounter on a film or in a novel which is; the job is to make the writer’s work as good as the writer’s work can be, and there isn’t a ton of credit in that. Aside from the writer’s indulgence at the end of the novel, that everyone usually skips, where the writer will say, “Oh my god, I can’t fucking describe how much I need my editor”, and everyone goes, “I don’t know who that is but I loved your book!”

Dramaturgy can often be that way and I struggled with that for a long time.

Kat and I are very dear friends, and she’s always been very appreciative of what I’ve done, but the first Brouhaha show we did was very, very tough.

I was producing it, and I dramaturged it, and I was a ghost. At the time I was hell-bent on being an actor, and I just helped make this company, and my name was all over the show, but I felt completely invisible. And it was really hard.

For me what ended up really helping was getting an art therapist. What I’ve been working on with her, which has been tremendously helpful, is unpacking those feelings of invisibility and how to accept personal credit when there isn’t necessarily big, flashy, showy credit. It’s definitely a struggle. Every part of the arts comes with a cost and I think this is the big one for dramaturgy.

Tom Arthur Davis summed it up in his piece, something along the lines of, your job is basically to facilitate other people’s brilliance… and that’s cool, and there’s huge satisfaction in that. Like when I can make one of Kat’s pieces click, which is what we call it: the click. It’s that moment where she’ll be like, “Great, got it, thanks,” and then she hangs up and goes and punches out like a billion pages. That feels tremendously satisfying.

Photo Credit: John Gundy. Michael Musi as Jeff in FEATHERWEIGHT

On Swapping Roles With Sandler

TM: Honestly, we’re both nerds for story so this is has always been both a job and a hobby for us. The number of times that we’re like, “Okay, we’re both really stressed. Let’s just go out and get a drink and not talk about this,” and then, of course, we end up talking about it because it’s fun!

Early on the struggle that Kat was having working as my dramaturge was she’d say, “I’m always going to try to make your script more like my scripts.” And in my head, I’m thinking Thats fucking great, your scripts are great. Let’s do that! So we had a few, not necessarily growing pains, but I had to adjust to being a little more assertive about my style and what I actually liked about my script.

I had a reading of what was supposed to be the production Featherweight script, right before we were about to go into rehearsals and it was rough. A lot of the criticisms, all fair, where people were kind of being like, “Is this what you were trying to say?” and, no one had said it outright, but it was a lot of that classic, “It’s very interesting” and I was like, “Oh shit, no one likes this…”

So I’m on the subway on the way home and Megan Miles, my wife, was like, “Do you even like this play anymore”? And I was like, “No, actually… I fucking hate it.”

I was writing some short story at the same time that was just completely bonkers and I was like, “I like this short story! It’s fun. But this play is so weighed down, and I don’t know what to do… blah blah blah.” Just admitting that got me thinking that I needed to re-write it the way I would like it to be, and suddenly it all just clicked into place! What is funny is this draft of Featherweight that’s onstage now is actually closer to the very first draft I wrote. It’s come completely full circle. Even though the characters are different, and their arguments are different, and what’s going on is kind of different, it feels more like the original because that’s when I was expressing the style I actually wanted.

Because I look up to Kat and I like Kat’s style so much I took every note as gospel. You know, my style is strange, and Kat and I have a similar tone but a different style, so I had to kind of grab hold of my own style harder for this show. Which she, again, had been advocating for the whole damn time, but just not necessarily in terms I was understanding.

Photo Credit: John Gundy
L-R: Kat Letwin as Thoth, Michael Musi as Jeff, Amanda Cordner as Anubis in FEATHERWEIGHT

A Very Brouhaha Directing Process

TM: We always work our stuff on its feet and what is on stage is wildly different than what I went in with on the first day of rehearsal. We’ve cut a bunch, we’ve changed some things, we’ve tailored it to the performers, but I’ve never run that process. I’ve always dramaturged that process, Kat’s always been the leader of that. So at first, I wasn’t sure if I could do that myself. But despite how different I am as a director and a writer, ultimately the rehearsal style ended up still being a very Brouhaha process.

That Brouhaha Style 

TM: What’s been really nice is that even just from the reviews no one has been like, “Oh this is really different from a normal Brouhaha show.” Everyone’s just taking it as a Brouhaha show, which means a lot to me. It has been many, many years, and it’s very nice to put my name and style to one of these things and have audiences respond to it in a way that I would hope for. I’ve been thinking about these audiences for a long time.

Making the Job Work for You

For me, the solution was to find ways to keep working on my own style to fill in the gaps. In this case, it was writing short stories and basically just doing things that, even if they don’t really have wide reach, they fill that need for me to be creating and developing my own voice.

I love dramaturgy. I don’t think I could make it my only output, but that’s also just me. I’ve got a really restless brain and on the one hand that’s great for dramaturgy because I always like to be chewing on something, but if I’m only chewing on other people’s stuff I tend to get restless, so it works as long as I have multiple things to sink my teeth into.


Director – Tom McGee
Cast – Amanda Cordner as ANUBIS
Michael Musi as JEFF
with Kat Letwin as EVERYONE ELSE
Producers – Kat Sandler, Tom McGee

Upon dying, Jeff awakes in a bar full of ancient gods that will weigh his browser history against a feather to determine if he was a good person… or face damnation. Equal parts ‘American Gods’ and ‘Twelve Angry Men,’ FEATHERWEIGHT asks: what effect does our online life have on others? Will Jeff’s browser history damn him? Would it damn you? From the minds behind BRIGHT LIGHTS (NNNNN) and SHAKEY-SHAKE AND FRIENDS (NNNNN)

178 Bathurst Street

12th July – 8:00pm
13th July – 8:00pm
14th July – 8:00pm
15th July – 8:00pm

Featherweight is SOLD OUT online but you can always show up early at the venue and try your luck at the door!


Photo of Tom McGee by James McKay