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programming announcement

October 5, 2021

After being closed to the public for 19 long months, we're back with a year of genre-defying new work featuring free online and in-person performances from award-winning artists and a highly anticipated international tour.​

We can’t wait to welcome you back for the first time since March 2020 for Comedy is Art—part live comedy festival, part digital production—from October 26 to October 30, 2021. Then, in February 2022, audiences will be welcomed back for Hybrid by Design, a festival featuring live and digital creations from the artists in Residency here at The Theatre Centre. From October 2021 through June 2022, the critically acclaimed climate science show Sea Sick will hit the road once again touring through Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland.

As one of the only companies in Canada offering Residency to comedians, the second edition of Comedy is Art not only celebrates but helps to develop comedic performance as an art form. The week-long hybrid festival will welcome small, distanced audiences to experience the city’s best comedians including Residency artist Brandon Ash-Mohammed (Tall Boyz, This Hour Has 22 Minutes) with his show, The Ethnic Rainbow and 2020 Juno Award-nominee Monty Scott as part of Comedy Records Presents. Comedy is Art is free to attend, with performances filmed live and available to stream globally. The schedule and tickets are currently available here

Our café programming under the leadership of Liza Paul—appointed to associate artistic director in 2019—creates a platform for BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ artists hosting long-standing events like the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, and shows like Comedy as a Second Language featuring Carol Zoccoli (Lugar De MulherSaturday Night Live Brazil).

“Comedy is one of the most underrated and under-resourced art forms there is,” says Liza. “Musicians get to rehearse in private to perfect their craft; the same is true for dancers, actors, acrobats—all these performing artists have the luxury of getting things just right in the rehearsal hall. For comedians, the only way to know if a joke works is to put it in front of people and see if it makes them laugh; that degree of vulnerability makes comedians some of the bravest performers. We work to program artists who will make you laugh, think, feel and laugh some more—that’s exactly what you can expect of Comedy is Art 2021.” 

Liza Paul and Bahia Watson
Photo of Liza Paul and Bahia Watson

Taking place in February 2022, Hybrid by Design will feature seven original creations from the artists in Residency, bridging live performance and digital creation in genre-defying ways. After showing at Festivales de Buenos Aires in April 2021 to rave reception, audiences in Canada can experience artists Milton Lim and Patrick Blenkarn’s asses.masses for the first time; the participatory video game performance explores artificial intelligence, labour and the allure of the herd mentality. Using augmented reality, artist Anand Rajaram will invite audiences into a 3D-modelled virtual escape room to experience a performance featuring live actors. As a precursor to her interactive event #000000 (“Black”), currently in development in Residency, Nehal El-Hadi (Int’maa) will present a provocative animated short film about surveillance culture and its implications on racialized youth. 

As part of Canada Council’s Digital Now program, Hybrid by Design will also feature the work of Residency artists Ash-Mohammed, Ian Kamau, Stewart Legere (Let’s Not Beat Each Other To Death, The Archive of Missing Things) and Lorena Torres Loaiza. Curated in part by London-based Battersea Arts Centre, this festival will also include a selection of international work, bringing Canadian and U.K. artists together for performances, panels, networking opportunities and more. Following the festival, pieces will remain available for audiences to enjoy online.

As audiences return to live theatre, Sea Sick, written and performed by award-winning science journalist Alanna Mitchell, will tour Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland from October 2021 through June 2022. This critically acclaimed show, which premiered at The Theatre Centre in 2014, is more urgent than ever as many grapple with the realities of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Sea Sick speaks of a need for huge systemic shifts, rather than individual actions,” artistic director Aislinn Rose explains. “Alanna and I had many conversations in the first few months of the global lockdown about the massive political will we were seeing all over the world. Now we know it’s possible for governments to act quickly, that change doesn’t have to be gradual. We know it’s possible for populations to act with immediacy en masse for the good of others. Alanna is updating the piece to reflect what we now know is possible.”

Sea Sick
Photo of Alanna Mitchell by Chloe Ellingson

Audiences can experience Sea Sick in-person at Belfast International Festival and Westival in Westport, Ireland (October 2021); Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, MB (March 2022); Stanford LIVE in Stanford, CA (April-May 2022); The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA (April-May 2022); and ArtsEmerson in Boston, MA (May-June 2022) with more dates to be announced in the coming months.

 We closed out a monumental 20/21 year where we offered two new streams of Residency—Exploration and Finishing—expanding support from four artists to 20. In 21/22, We remain committed to providing long-term resources for artists and creators to explore ideas and produce new works. Nehal El-Hadi, Brandon Ash-Mohammed, Ian Kamau, Stewart Legere, daniel jelani ellis, PJ Prudat, John Hirsch Prizewinner Jonathan Seinen (Iphigenia and the Furies (On Taurian Land), Black Boys), Prince Amponsah (21 Black Futures, Station Eleven), Viktor Lukawski, Jennifer Tarver (Escaped Alone, It Comes in Waves) and Rimah Jabr will continue on in Residency. The Residency program is generously sponsored by BMO Financial Group.

In partnership with Toronto-based Why Not Theatre, The Theatre Centre welcomes Residency artist Ian Kamau into a salaried position. This co-residency model, developed in collaboration with artist Shaista Latif, will see Kamau in a part-time role stretched across two years where he can focus on creating his latest work, Loss, a live-arts multimedia performance exploring mental health in Afro-Caribbean communities.

“When I got to The Theatre Centre all I had was the seed of an idea,” says Ian. “That idea has slowly grown, moved in many directions, sped up and slowed down and weathered some storms. The Theatre Centre has stayed the course, sheltered my idea at times. I’m not sure where else an artist like me would have found the kind of long-term support that would enable my idea to blossom.”