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From January 14
to February 7, 2016


The Theatre Centre

Performance Dates


For Progress 2018 click here.

Progress is an international festival of performance and ideas presented by the SummerWorks Performance Festival in partnership with The Theatre Centre. The festival is collectively produced by a series of Toronto-based curating companies, operating within a contemporary performance context.

To purchase tickets, click on the show title below.

The festival includes the following ticketed performances:
Riding on a Cloud, by Rabih Mroué (The Theatre Centre)
Century Song, created by Neema Bickersteth, Kate Alton and Ross Manson (Volcano Theatre)
El Refugio de Freidel, by Liliana Súarez Henao and Beatriz Pizano (Aluna Theatre)
What I learned from a decade of fear, created by Beatriz Pizano, Lyon Smith and Trevor Schwellnus (Aluna Theatre)
LIFT THAT UP, created by Dana Michel (Dancemakers)
History, History, History, created and performed by Deborah Pearson (Volcano/SummerWorks)
MONOMYTHS, curated by Jess Dobkin and Shannon Cochrane (FADO Performance Art Centre)
Blind Cinema, conceived and directed by Britt Hatzius (Forest Fringe/SummerWorks)
O, choreographed and performed by Project O (Forest Fringe/SummerWorks)
This is How We Die, written and performed by Christopher Brett Bailey (Forest Fringe/SummerWorks)
As the Flames Rose We Danced to The Sirens, The Sirens, created by Sleepwalk Collective (Forest Fringe/SummerWorks)

Progress 3-Show Pass – good for one ticket to your choice of any three ticketed Progress productions – $50
Forest Fringe Microfestival Pass – good for one ticket to each of thefour Microfestival productions – $50

Riding on a Cloud
Written and directed by Rabih Mroué in collaboration with Sarmad Louis
Performed by: Yasser Mroué, Rabih Mroué
Curated and Presented by The Theatre Centre

January 14-16, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online
Presented in Arabic with English surtitles

“Riding on a Cloud is an accomplished piece of theater, at once emotionally moving and bristling with intelligence, its story both intensely personal and utterly universal” – Daily Star, Lebanon

Actor, director, and playwright Rabih Mroué investigates the personal and political legacy of conflict and trauma inRiding on a Cloud. Intertwining fiction and non-fiction, his brother Yasser Mroué appears on stage as himself, recounting memories from his experience of being shot in the head during the Lebanese Civil War. Suffering from aphasia, Yasser was left with the ability to recognize people and things in front of him, but not in images. On his doctor’s advice, Yasser created videos as therapy, in an attempt to recover his understanding of the relationship between reality and representation. Yasser’s videos fuse with his recounted memories on stage to offer a captivating reflection on the subjective nature of creating narrative.

Assistant: Petra Serhal
English Translator: Ziad Nawfal

Century Song
Created by Neema Bickersteth, Kate Alton and Ross Manson
Starring Neema Bickersteth with Gregory Oh and Debashis Sinha
Curated and presented by Volcano Theatre

January 19-23, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online

Century Song is a live performance hybrid created by powerful soprano Neema Bickersteth, and Dora-award winning collaborators Ross Manson (direction) and Kate Alton (choreography).

Inspired in part by Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Bickersteth seamlessly melds song and movement to inhabit a century of women whose identities are contained within her own.

El Refugio de Freidel  | The Refuge of Freidel
By Liliana’s Suárez Henao and Beatriz Pizano
Curated and produced by Aluna Theatre
Co-produced with the Freidel Collective

January 20-23, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online
Presented in Spanish with English surtitles

From Colombia’s Avant-Garde theatre to Toronto’s after-hours service industry, Liliana puts a face and a name to the refugee experience. Liliana weaves her experiences of forced displacement, arrival, and her journey as an artist in Canada, with the plays of controversial Colombian theatre-maker, and her director, Jose Manuel Freidel: an artist who fought against his society’s indifference toward justice. Freidel was assassinated a few blocks away from his beloved theatre at the age of 39.

“Leaving my country of origin meant making a complete stop in my life as a theatre artist. Creating as an actor had always been vital for my identity and development as a person and as a woman. And then there I was, in a new world, charged inside with memories and images and with no means to express them, as I had done so before in my life.” – Liliana

What I learned from a decade of fear
Created and performed by Beatriz Pizano, Lyon Smith and Trevor Schwellnus
Curated and produced by Aluna Theatre

January 21-24, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online
Presented in English with Spanish surtitles

Are white privilege, second-class citizenship, surveillance, and interrogation the market price we pay for peace, order, and good government? What of the lives of others, whose countries are disrupted in the name of our safety and comfort?

In an idealistic act of penance, Canadian-born white male Lyon Smith submits to having Colombian-born brown female migrant Beatriz Pizano pull incriminating details from his more-or-less average life. Under a visual palette composited from live security cameras and found footage, what begins as a eulogy for the human costs of our collective safety becomes a ritual to atone for a decade of repression, war, and paranoia.

Directed and designed by multi-award winning artist, Trevor Schwellnus, this daring piece showcases Aluna’s continuing commitment to risk and experimentation. The piece has been presented in New York City (La MaMa ETC), Bogotá, Colombia (Festival Alternativo), Montreal (The Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro), and Toronto (Aluna Theatre), and returns to Progress following a 2015 Dora nomination for Outstanding New Play.

Conceived and created by: Dana Michel
Performed and created by: Rob Abubo, Amanda Acorn, Ellen Furey, Simon Portigal
Curated and produced by Dancemakers

February 3-6, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online
Performed in Portuguese w/ English subtitles

i am and we then were thinking about: how to get yo life and how to live these skins.

and then i and we thought: let’s live some specific micro moments in a glass box, okay.

so then: 
is it possible to wear another person like a glove? is it possible to inflate the glove, attach yourself to it by some string, light a fire under it and float with it to unknown but at least higher places?

and one of the forethoughts:
It is not playdough. It would be too basic to assume that it is just here to be my son. He becomes bigger than me. And he’s not about me but I am a part, I am a big and small part. I’m the mom, but that’s just a word.

History History History
Created and performed by Deborah Pearson
Presented by SummerWorks and Volcano Theatre

January 22-23, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $20 – $25 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online

“You can sift through photographs and records and and wonder to yourself, who the f*ck were these people, and how long does it take before I can take their tiny, infinitesimal decisions to go for coffee that day, or to wear blue, or to ride horseback, how long does it take before I can take these for granted as having been not simply silly ridiculous maybe even thoughtless decisions, but as being the events and non events and failures and successes that led to me. Not just being born, but being here. Being in this room with all of you, at this moment?”

Deborah Pearson shares brand new work-in-progress material from a show that is still not finished, and has still not started, but she can never remember a time when she did not have this idea. The material will involve a 1956 Communist Football comedy, a shuffling parade of dictators, a writer who lost his name, and an actor who lost his voice. All details that somehow, directly or indirectly, led to her being here today with you. And to you, very possibly, being there with her.

“An absolute joy.” – Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, on a work-in-progress sharing of History History History

History History History was developed in part at the National Theatre Studio. It is a House on Fire research and development commission with Theatre Garonne (Toulouse) and Bit Teatergarasjen (Bergen).

Conceived and curated by Jess Dobkin and Shannon Cochrane
Featured artists: Maria Hupfield (Anishinaabe/Canada/USA) Ursula Johnson (Mi’kmaw) and Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree/Métis/German) Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan (Winnipeg, Canada) Feminist Art Gallery (Toronto, Canada) Armando Minjarez (Mexico/USA) Jefferson Pinder (USA)
Presented by FADO Performance Art Centre

February 3-7, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets: PWYC, cash only at the door, starting 2 hours before each event
ASL interpreted

MONOMYTHS invites a diverse collection of artists, scholars and activists to revision Joseph Campbell’s conception of the hero’s journey through performance art, lectures, workshops, and other offerings. This new assemblage of non-linear un-narratives proposes a feminist cultural, political and social re-vision of the world. The MONOMYTHS perception of the universal journey favours dispelling the notion of the lone patriarchal figure on a conquest to vanquish his demons–both inner and outer–in consideration of community, collectivity, and collaboration.

Joseph Campbell’s influential 1949 book The Hero with a Thousand Faces subscribes a common pattern to all of the world’s mythic narratives. According to this fundamental structure, the archetypal hero confronts a great test and is challenged to embark on a monumental quest. Over the course of the hero’s journey, many trials must be overcome until a victory is won and the hero returns home with new knowledge about himself and the world. Campbell’s concept of the monomyth (one myth) is a recognizable motif in both ancient mythology and contemporary culture, including film, music, literature, sports and advertising. A current trend in popular visual culture replaces the male character with a female one, in spite of the fact that our heroine–from the get-go–would make different choices if the conditions, and conditioning, allowed.

Each MONOMYTHS stage stands alone, however the work of each presenting artist is interdependent and connected. These independent visions, when stitched together through the audience’s collective presence, form an exquisite corpse of a larger experimental narrative.

Radically interpreted by artists from First Nations, Canada, Mexico and the US, part one of MONOMYTHS at Progress presents the first five stages of the journey: The Ordinary World/Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting of the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, and Belly of the Whale.

Performance dates/times

February 3, 4–8pm Stage 1: The Ordinary World/Call to Adventure Maria Hupfield (Anishinaabe/Canada/USA) Ursula Johnson (Mi’kmaw) with Cheryl L’Hirondelle (Cree/Métis/German)

February 4, 8pm Stage 2: Refusal of the Call Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan (Winnipeg, Canada)

February 5, 8pm Stage 3: Meeting of the Mentor Feminist Art Gallery (Toronto, Canada)

February 6, 1–3pm (workshop) 6pm (performance) Stage 4: Crossing the Threshold Armando Minjarez (Mexico/USA)

February 7, 4pm Stage 5: Belly of the Whale Jefferson Pinder (USA)

Tickets: The events in the MONOMYTHS series are offered on a sliding donation scale (PWYC). However, you are required to either pre-book a ticket, or collect one at the box office prior to the start of the performance as there is limited seating for each performance.

Blind Cinema
Conceived and directed by Britt Hatzius
Presented by SummerWorks as part of the Forest Fringe

January 30-31, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $15 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online

In the darkness of a cinema space, the audience sits blindfolded. Behind each row of audience members is a row of children who in hushed voices describe a film only they can see. Accompanied by the soundtrack (which has no dialogue), the whispered descriptions are a fragile, fragmentary and at times struggling but courageous attempt by the children to make sense of what they see projected on the screen.

Based on the method of audio description, Blind Cinema as a live event is an experience where the act of watching a film becomes a shared investment: A collaborative and imaginative act between seeing children and blinded adults. It embraces the fact that the act of trying to find the right words to describe (even if at times being ‘at a loss for words’) and of trying to hold onto the consequently unstable images created in the mind’s eye, will always only be an approximation. To articulate in words in order to share experiences involves a struggle, a struggle that seems to be closest to those in the midst of discovering language’s potential and limits.

Britt Hatzius is a guest of the Goethe-Institut.

Choreographed and performed by Project O (Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small)
Presented by SummerWorks as part of the Forest Fringe

January 30-31, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $15 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online

Refusing to be held down, O presents bodies that are negotiating histories, fantasies and assumptions. A dance that winds its way through the mess of identity politics in a physical unfolding of a realisation of difference. A duet about being black, mixed and female that addresses awkward and uncomfortable everyday experiences. Born out of the duo’s personal experiences of and conversations around culturally ingrained racism and sexism in the UK, O seeks to expose a tangible, yet often ignored, colonialist perspective which still prevails within Western European society.

O has been kindly supported by Arts Council England, Chisenhale Dance Space, The Yard Theatre and workspacebrussels.

This is How We Die
Written and performed by Christopher Brett Bailey
Musicians: George Percy, Alicia Jane Turner, Christopher Brett Bailey, and Apollo
Produced by Beckie Darlington
Presented by SummerWorks as part of the Forest Fringe

January 30-31, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $15 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online

A motor-mouthed collage of spoken word and storytelling. Tales of paranoia, young love and ultra-violence. From the desk of Christopher Brett Bailey comes a spiraling odyssey of pitch-black humour and nightmarish prose. With echoes of Lenny Bruce, William Burroughs, beat poetry and B-movies, This is How We Die is a prime slice of surrealist trash, an Americana death trip and a dizzying exorcism for a world convinced it is dying…

Winner of the Arches Brick Award 2014 Winner of an Off West End Theatre Award 2015 Shortlisted for Total Theatre Award 2014 Commissioned by Ovalhouse, and made with support from Arts Council England, the Basement, Cambridge Junction and Norwich Arts Centre.

As the Flames Rose We Danced to The Sirens, The Sirens
Created by Sleepwalk Collective
Performed by iara Solano Arana
Presented by SummerWorks as part of the Forest Fringe

January 30-31, 2016, at The Theatre Centre
Tickets $15 (plus service charges) | 416-538-0988 | Purchase Online
Saturday’s performance will be presented in Spanish with English surtitles
Sunday’s performance will be presented in English

iara is starting to fear the worst. She’s looking for a roomful of strangers whose arms she can fall into. And while she knows that she cannot necessarily be trusted, and may not be entirely deserving of help, tonight she would like to put herself in your hands…

In an hour of troubling troubling intimacy and drunken excess, all played out in minature, Sleepwalk Collective chop up and replay the iconography of B-movies and early cinema in a joyous and desperate attempt to re-work cinematic and cultural clichés into something heartfelt and profound. This is a cry for help, and it’s about me, and you, and the strange and sometimes frightening connection that is growing between us.

Winner First Prize, BE Festival Birmingham 2011 Winner Best Actress, BE Festival Birmingham 2011 Winner, Best Actress, SKENA UP Kosovo 2011 Winner Best Direction, Festival ACT Bilbao 2010.

The 2016 Progress curators are Aluna Theatre, Dancemakers, FADO Performance Art Centre, SummerWorks Performance Festival, The Theatre Centre, and Volcano Theatre.