Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ingrid Hansen and SNAFU take on Fort York: SummerWorks 2011 Dance Interviews


SNAFU Dance Theatre’s Ingrid Hansen answers some questions about Pretty Little Instincts.

LR: What inspired you to create Pretty Little Instincts?

IH: It’s really hard to say specifically – I think we’re inspired and influenced by everything we take in on some level. I actually started brewing this show while on a cross-Canada theatre for young audiences tour – even though Pretty Little Instincts has nothing specifically to do with youth. I was dealing with the wildness within myself, watching the people around me suppress their own instincts and intuition – and things began to grow. A bit like the mould growing out the damp walls of the apartment we’re staying in here in Toronto. It just erupts. Then spreads. Then you breathe in the spores. I’m not sure where I’m going with this metaphor but let’s pretend it’s really profound.

LR: How are you adapting to the space at Fort York?

IH: We use the huge sloping walls of the Fort, the deep grassy moat, and a wall set with huge wooden spikes. We also use the bats flying overhead, the gophers, the wind, the rain. . . we’ve been performing outdoors rain or shine, with the audience snuggled under tents as the rain gradually washes away the actor’s bodypaint leaving us mostly washed clean by the end of the show.

It’s an incredible, huge, raw open space.

LR: Can you describe the creative process for Pretty Little Instincts both at its inception and as you’ve taken it to new spaces?

IH: We have two brand new cast members, Seth Drabinsky (Toronto) and Heather Lindsay (HerebeMonsters, Vancouver) in this inception and the show has evolved a great deal – especially the characters. The space itself was a huge influence. We are still taking it in every night with each performance.

LR: In three sentences or less, what is SNAFU all about?

IH: Renegade Outdoor Dance Theatre.

LR: What made you want to participate in the SummerWorks festival?

IH: Who wouldn’t want to?

P.S. We have a teaser at http://snafu.liquidbeat.com/next/

We have only a few performances left and we’re out there RAIN OR SHINE.

Pretty Little Instincts

SNAFU Dance Theatre

Creator and Director Ingrid Hansen

Tuesday Aug 9 at 8:30pm

Wednesday Aug 10 at 10pm

Saturday Aug 13 at 9:30pm



All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

photo of SNAFU Dance Theatre by Gordon Lee

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Liz Peterson and Express Yourself at SummerWorks 2011

Liz Peterson speaks about Express Yourself playing at Hub 14 as part of this years SummerWorks Festival.

LR: What was the creative process like for Express Yourself — can you describe a bit how this work came to be?

LP: Well, it began really as an exploration of the process itself. Sean O’Neill (my collaborator and director of the show) approached me with this idea to create a show that was about “gestures of communication”.

We decided to develop a play without a script that was about performance. So we started with a couple of ideas, some shared influences, such as Pina Bausch, Marina Abramovic and we began to rehearse, without knowing what it was going to be.

Although there were a couple of elements that Sean knew had to be in the show, specific songs or stories or images, we didn’t have a structure. We worked like that for about 6 months, and then we decided that we had something that we were ready to show, but first we invited a couple of people to rehearsals, Ame Henderson being one of them.

Ame eventually came to collaborate with us on Express Yourself, even though we had originally asked her to look at it from a choreographer’s perspective, her input became crucial to the whole concept of the show.

We mounted a workshop of Express Yourself last December with an invited audience. And now we’ve been rehearsing casually again for a few weeks in preparation for SummerWorks.

LR: How is the choreography by Aurora Stewart de Pena integrated into the play itself?

LP: We asked Aurora to choreograph one particular part of the show where there is a shift in the performance and I enact a musical number. We’re constantly playing with shifting modes of performance throughout the play and we wanted to have a moment in the show where the aesthetic was a more heightened performative state; something tightly choreographed and a little tongue in cheek.

Both Sean and myself have performed in shows by Birdtown & Swanville (a company run by Aurora and Nika Mistruzzi) and we were both super exited to be able to include Aurora’s particular approach to choreography.

LR: Your venue is the wonderful and quirky hub 14 –how are you working with the space?

LP: Express Yourself really came to life in hub 14, and we’ve discovered that so many qualities of the show are in part due to the nature of the space.

We’ll be taking Express Yourself next spring to a theatre in St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery in New York, and we’re already trying to think about how to deal with being in a large black box with proper theatre lights and tiered seating and all the associations [with that theatrical setting].

Because Express Yourself is constantly questioning itself as a performance, we want people to be aware of the room: that it’s a studio, more of a rehearsal space than a stage, and because the audience is so close to the performer, it’s a very intimate show.

Having said that, we’re also working with Kim Purtell to find some interesting ways to light the space and that is proving to be a pretty exiting new aspect to the show.

LR: For those who may not know very much about you, could you give me a quick and dirty run down of your artistic pursuits, quests, peaks?

LP: Well, I’ve been creating shows for several years now. I used to run a company called Ammo Factory which was a group of theatre artists that I went to school with at the University of Toronto.

We did a couple of shows at Interaccess Electronic Media Gallery and a piece in the Images Festival. I’ve been interested in experimental performance since I was in a show written and directed by Alex Wolfson.

It was called The String Row Game and we rehearsed it for something like six months, a couple of times a week. Alex was really exploring a new aesthetic, and it was so exiting to finally mount it. We put it up at the Music Gallery in 2002. It was very rigorous, poetic and super challenging for the audience.

In 2008 I went to New York to intern with a theatre director called Richard Foreman who’s work was very much an inspiration for The String Row Game, as well as this group that I went to school with.

Richard’s rehearsal process was intensive and super idiosyncratic. It was weird to immerse myself in the world of this artist whom I had idealized for so long and to find him at the end of his career, a little tired of the whole circus of putting up a show and getting people out to see it.

He’s an amazing artist, and I’m so glad I did it, but it was also very eye opening. It made me realize I didn’t need to be in New York to create the work that I wanted to create. Toronto has a lot of interesting artists and a lot of potential. A quest of mine is to be a part of that potential.

LR: What do you value most as a performer and creator?

LP: Time. But that’s a practical thing. Boring. I think being able to question the work is important, especially when you’re collaborating with people. If you have a group of people in the room it’s important that questions be properly addressed, you know, like, why are we doing this?

Express Yourself

an Events in Time Production

at Summerworks Festival

at Hub 14

remaining shows:

Aug 9 at 7pm

Aug 10 at 9pm

Aug 11 at 7pm

Aug 12 at 9pm

Aug 13 at 5 pm

Aug 14 at 5pm

All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

photo of Liz Peterson by Laurie Kang

Friday, August 5, 2011

Susanna Hood, Shudder at the 2011 SummerWorks Festival

Susanna Hood

Susanna Hood, creator of Shudder and artistic director ofhum dansoundart, speaks about remounting a work, replacing herself and finding her voice.

LR: Susanna, you are dealing with an injury — how have you adapted the rehearsal process for Shudder to accommodate this?

SH: The main adjustment has been to replace myself with a performer who I really trust. Linnea Swan has performed the role once before, and I’m happy to have the chance to deepen my work with her in this piece.

I am actually looking forward to re-approaching the piece from the outside, where, in fact, I spent a good percentage of the time over its three-year creation process. I have some new perspective on the work as a whole, and liberating myself of the role of performer may allow me make more impactful changes to the piece.

I’ve also done something I’ve never done before, which is to give the performers two full days just to recover the material without me in the room. I did this to ensure that I wouldn’t get sucked in to engaging physically beyond my current means (it’s so easy to want to jump in and demonstrate).

I also chose to do this to practice giving over some responsibility to my collaborators. It’s the kind of act of trust that is worth practicing as I contemplate new relationships to my own work as an aging performer. The piece is bigger than me, it belongs to [the collaborators] as well.

LR: How have you used Francis Bacon’s paintings as fuel for this work?

SH: My first response to seeing an exhibit of his work live in 2007 was completely visceral. His work – its colour, its mystery, its distortion, its movement as violence enacted on flesh – shook my cells.

In some ways, it had a strange feeling of “home” to me. So I brought some of those images into the studio and we responded to them improvisationally. Some of my choices were highly influenced, or at least coaxed along, by reading an amazing book of collected interviews of Bacon by long-time contemporary and critic David Sylvester.

Francis Bacon was incredibly articulate in elucidating his creative process, many aspects of which inspired me. I have, in fact, returned to some of his view points to refortify the piece as we work on this remount.

His interest in what he called the appearance of a person – what lies under the surface – as well as the effect of violence enacted on flesh have been strong anchors for me.

LR: Can you tell me a bit more about the creative process?

SH: My creative process, in creation, is a bit unwieldy. It tends to be long and in layers. I go in with a pretty open field and some inklings and my collaborators, and then I go through a very circuitous process of building, tearing apart, seeing what remains relevant, and rebuilding.

This cycle happens numerous times, and what I’m generally trying to do throughout that is learn how to recognize and listen to the needs of the thing that is coming into being. This leaves lots of time and room for doubt and what feels like groping around in the dark.

But eventually I begin to learn how to communicate with it, and at certain point my job and my choices become crystal clear.

Remounting allows me to question what I’ve already taken as givens. I’m a little less precious about the piece, and I can consider things from a more distanced vantage point. In the few times I’ve done it, it has felt extremely satisfying.

LR: I suppose you’ve been asked many times, but I personally don’t know the answer so I must ask: how did you discover your personal vocal capacity and what made you want to explore it?

SH: I have always loved singing. I sang tons as a kid and I was in choirs and musicals all through school, along with playing several instruments. I’ve had a secret yearning to go into musical theatre for almost as long as I can remember.

At a pivotal point, I chose dance above everything else in terms of the time I had for training. When I moved to Toronto, I had the fortune of being pointed in the direction of a very forward thinking singing teacher – the first of several that I studied with. She’s the one that first really encouraged me to explore integrating my voice into my movement work.

At first I was resistant. I thought it was too weird, and some of the doors it opened up scared me. I’ve had and still have some great mentors, and I continue to learn so much from working with my voice. That’s probably at least part of why I’ve never looked back.

LR: what made you want to participate in the SummerWorks festival?

SH: Michael Rubenfeld was so enthusiastic when he saw the original run of “Shudder” last year, so we began a discussion then about the possibility of giving it another Toronto presentation at SummerWorks.

The fact that SummerWorks comes from a theatre sensibility seemed particularly suited to “Shudder” in particular and to an aspect of my work in general. I’ve had a hard time fitting what I do into the disciplinary categories sometimes required by various presenters, so I’ve learned to move in the direction of individuals who are excited by and want to support what I’m doing.


Presented by hum dansoundart

Conceived and Choreographed by Susanna Hood

Directed by Ruth Maddoc-Jones

Lower Ossington Theatre

Aug 6 at 2pm

Aug 7 at 7pm

Aug 8 at 4:30pm

Aug 10 at 7pm

Aug 11 at 4:30pm

Aug 12 at 4:30pm

Aug 14 at 7pm


All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

interview with Allison Cummings from Combat at the SummerWorks Festival 2011

Allison Cummings on Combat: 2011 SummerWorks Dance Interviews


Allison Cummings, co-director of a joint production by tiny bird theatre and Sore for Punching You, reveals a bit about Combat, premiering at SummerWorks Festival.

LR: What is Combat all about?

AC: Combat takes us into a mundane office in what might be Toronto where a young woman, returning from working in a conflict-zone overseas, attempts to re-enter society. Here she finds the tiny conflicts and bids for power amplified. Removed from the sensory experience of war she watches as her office becomes a battleground.

The piece explores scale and distance and how our relationship to conflict embodies itself into our everyday lives, whether it is happening far away on a mass scale, or within the confines of our interpersonal dynamics.

LR: How did you find or decide on your collaborators?

AC: Claire Calnan (co-director of Combat) and I began talking about collaborating together about two years ago, as we were both interested in continuing our individual practices in hybrid theatre. We then sought out performers and collaborators that were both open to and interested in exploring material through a melding of forms.

LR: Can you describe your creative process for Combat a little? What is it like in the rehearsal room?

AC: Both Claire and I approach the creation of work quite differently. We have both directed improvisational exercises, mine being mostly movement based and Claire’s being a technique called Open Canvas. We would then sit down with our writer Adam Underwood to discuss which things that appeared interested us the most.

I began choreographing segments quite early in the process, hoping to build a consistency within the world we were building that could carry throughout the piece and narrative.

We also start our rehearsals with a group ‘plank-off’. Everyone in the room assumes plank position and we decide on how long we are going to ‘plank’ for. Dylan Smith is at the most with 4 minutes, while most of us are almost at 3. This is really hard. And we are all now really buff. We are thinking that we may intimidate the other companies at the SummerWorks yard with our extraordinary buffness.

LR: What are the points of inspiration for the physicality of the production?

AC: Well, as above – Plank! Also, I have been working with images from videos of actual soldiers in Combat. With this we have created a base ‘move’ we are calling ‘Tunneling’.

Basically, it is low to the floor, sneaky and precise. Somewhat reminiscent of a soldier shimmying through a small space. Other moments in the work are built from conflicted communication, the characters built by the performers and the stillness of shock.

LR: What’s next after SummerWorks?

AC: For the team, we are approaching SummerWorks as our first phase in the development of this work. After this festival presentation, we will be gathering what we learned and planning on how to arrive at the next step. We are confident that what we are discovering is rich enough that Combat will have a life beyond this summer.

For myself, after SummerWorks, I will be getting ready to return to Thailand to enter into my second residency at Compeung, where I will be creating new work for an exhibition in Chiang Mai in December.


A tiny bird theatre/Sore for Punching You co-production

Theatre Centre

Aug 4 at 7:30pm

Aug 6at 10pm

Aug 9 at 10pm

Aug 11 at 7:30pm

Aug 12 at 5pm

Aug 14 at 5pm


All SummerWorks tickets are $15 each at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online, in person at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, or by phone at 416-504-7529. Advance tickets are $15 plus HST and a $1 service fee. Several money-saving passes are also available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Interview with Kevin Michael Shea of Common Descent's Hero and Leander at Summerworks 2011

photo by Danielle Donn

It’s Lucy again (Blue Ceiling dance director, dancer, choreographer, multi-disciplinary performer and person very curious about how artists make their work) with some interviews involving members of Summerworks Festival productions with a dance or physical focus. Hope you enjoy them! First up: an interview with Director Kevin Michael Shea of Common Descent’s production Hero and Leander.

LR: What inspired you to work on the Hero and Leander story?

KMS: It’s a really gorgeous story, but it hasn’t been interpreted too much throughout history, which means we can kind of make it whatever we want without having to worry about most people’s expectations of it. The actual myth, revolving around Hero and Leander, is really only about half of the play – the other half concerns a second relationship, inspired by the myth but with different characters, which means that even if people do know the myth, there will be a bunch of surprises in our version of it.

The story also just ends up being such a good way of looking at love, sex, and commitment – the contemporary connections just kept jumping out at me when I was working on it, and it’s lent itself particularly well to the songwriting Wade and Scott have done.

LR: How did you find or assemble your team?

KMS: Friends, and friends of friends. There are a few people I worked with a bunch before. Our set and costume designer, Anna Treusch, has designed most of my stuff at this point, and she brought a few members to our team, as did people Scott knew from musical directing various shows around the city.

LR: How have you made Hero and Leader? What has been the creative process (i.e. collaborative, improvisational, script-driven, spontaneously together, separate elements then integrated etc…)?

KMS: The idea to do something with the myth came up a long time ago, and I tried working on it from a few different angles. Initially it was going to be a very physical one-man show co-created with Wade Bogert-O’Brien (who ended up being the show’s lyricist), and then it was going to just be a play, and then, maybe inevitably, I asked Wade to write a song to help along a scene I was working on. I thought the song he came up with was hilarious when he half-sung it to me in my kitchen, and realized that a musical was the only way I could tell this story. For the next few months we continued in this fashion. I would write a scene and then ask him to write a song, which I would then incorporate. Then, a little while later, I met Scott Christian, who was looking for projects to work on. Once he came on board we raced through the rest. I would send Wade a scene, he would write lyrics and send them off to Scott, who would in turn write the music. And then we would all argue about it.

LR: How would you describe the physicality/dance involved in your show?

KMS: It’s a real mix of things. We have a little bit of real musical theatre choreography, though we’ve really tried to tailor it to the characters, which has resulted in a kind of skewed version of the type of dance people are probably used to in musical comedies. We also work a bit with suggestive movement for some of the more fantastical moments. Mostly, though, the physicality is working in tandem with the design to build images from scene to scene. Our inspirations range from Renaissance paintings of classical subjects to the ways I see couples I know behaving in life.

LR: What drew you to Summerworks Festival?

KMS: There are very few places in Canada where you can debut new pieces of theatre in an affordable way. Especially musical theatre that is aimed at an urban audience. So SummerWorks is absolutely vital in this sense. The other nice thing about it is that you end up being in such good company. Many of my favourite writers and directors and performers have had shows at SummerWorks recently, this year included, and the chance to test our work alongside these people is very exciting and satisfying from an artistic perspective.

Hero and Leander

A Common Descent Production

Summerworks Festival 2011

Factory Mainspace

Aug 4 at 5pm

Aug 6 at 7:30pm

Aug 7 at 10pm

Aug 10 at 7:30pm

Aug 12 at 2:30pm

Aug 13 at 5pm