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explorations & finishing

In 2020, in response to COVID-19, we added two new creation streams: explorations and finishing. Explorations allowed artists to spend a year supported in their pursuit of burning questions that may impact a larger work, or the future shape of their practice. Finishing created an opportunity for an artist to take a work that has been in development for years into an intensive period of design and technical experimentation. Both streams allowed us to see if there are new ways in which we can fill gaps in how our sector supports creation. 

Neema Bickersteth & Nikki Shaffeeullah – Black Paris: The Notion of Song

Black Paris: The Notion of Song is an interdisciplinary performance piece that fuses music, installation, and theatrical storytelling. It draws from Alice Walker’s seminal essay In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens; and other themes relating to the nature of art forms and ‘artists’, race and culture, moms, flowers, and beauty. Neema Bickersteth is a creator and performer working in music and theatre. Nikki Shaffeeullah is a director and creator working in theatre and community-based arts. Moveable Beast is a collective of artists, led by Neema Bickersteth, examining culturally diverse and hybrid identities through performance, with projects including Century Song and Treemonisha.

Adam Lazarus – Bouffon

Swiss photographer Ander Petersen knows how to capture humanity. In this way, I’ve always thought of him as a master Bouffon Artist, who can highlight the deep lines of experience, and show us that we are all beautiful, grotesque, and oh just so terribly alive. Bouffon is very alive theatre. It’s vicious. It’s visceral. It laughs at the hypocrisies of the human experience. It walks the razor’s edge of offence and necessity: we’re ugly, now watch, laugh, and admit complicity. Bouffon is a creation lab, where a group of diverse artists will muck around in the bouffon form and create something epic. Hailed as “Toronto’s favourite twisted clown”, and “the bouffon king”, Adam Lazarus brings a dark and comic sensibility to all of his work. He has acted as a creation director and collaborator with countless artists, and is known for dynamic and implicating solo performances, including DaughterThe Art of Building a Bunker, and Wonderland. Adam is an award-winning theatre artist and instructor whose work has been showcased nationally and around the world. He lives in Toronto with his wife Sarah, and their two children, Josephine and Oliver.

Anand Rajaram – The Monster From Inside the Third Dimension

The Monster From Inside the Third Dimension is an immersive choose-your-own-adventure 50s-horror/sci-fi-inspired project presented in a VR video game-style setting with escape room puzzles and wandering interactive characters that may be friends or foes. It’s a family-fun sto—oh no! Look out behind you! AHHH IT’S THE MONSTER FROM INSIDE THE THIRD DIMENSION!!! Anand Rajaram is an award-winning improviser, actor, playwright, director, musician, teacher & puppeteer. He is an accomplished theatre performer and creator, film and tv performer as well as voiceover artist for video games and cartoons. He is artistic director of @N@f@N@, currently creating augmented reality digital content for live streams under the banner of his company, Cardboard Dreams.

Lorena Torres Loaiza – Pandora in the Box

“We’re building a giant comic people can walk through, moving the rules of comics page layout to a 3D space. For the story, we’ll explore how hope is preserved, lost, and how it can be created anew. To begin, we’ll explore the Pandora’s box myth. She’s let evil out. The world is ruined. But unlike evil, hope won’t come out of the box by itself. Perhaps she goes in the box to find it. Or perhaps the box itself is a safe place to hide, if she can ignore hope’s naïve, pesky attitude in there.” Lorena Torres Loaiza grew up in Colombia, and then in Canada. She works in comics, illustration, and fiction, often in a quirky visual style using fantasy elements. She likes flawed people solving problems, not heroes. Lorena has a handful of short stories and comics published, and helps with projections for local theatre sometimes. She’s a 2020 Writing Excuses Retreat Scholarship winner. Right now she’s just finished a graphic novel and is working on this Pandora comic and a new fantasy novel.

Milton Lim & Patrick Blenkarn – asses.masses

asses.masses is a solo video game performance for multiple players about sharing the load of revolution. The narratives of multiple asses collide in a journey through the obsolescence of the manual labourer, political idealism, digital labour, and virtual revolution. In each show, audience members step forward one at a time from the herd to seize the means of production (a video game controller) and to lead us through a world of asses (donkeys) in pursuit of a life worth living. Patrick Blenkarn and Milton Lim’s ongoing collaborations constitute a framework for investigating labour and value, utilizing game mechanics in performance, and manifesting alternative modes of discourse. Their projects are heavily informed by their respective trainings in performance making, critical thinking, and game creation. They are the co-creators of the performing arts economy trading card game culturecapital, and the archivists behind the performance archive

Thomas McKechnie – Anticapitalist Ritual Magic

We’re not going to make it through the death triangle of Climate Change, Forced Migration, and Fascism without a reconnection to the spiritual. Weird communist and erratic prophet, Thomas McKechnie is creating new rituals for a new world that’s coming. Prayers to prevent burnout. Funerals for the bosses in our heads. Renaming rituals for queers and criminals, blessing for burning cop cars, all the magic we’ll need to overthrow capitalism. Thomas McKechnie is a playwright, bike courier, union organizer and student. His writing credits include The Jungle with Anthony MacMahonRemembering the Winnipeg General, and 4 ½ (ig)noble truths. He was part of the paradigm-shifting union campaign to win collective bargaining rights for app-based food couriers at Foodora. He also helped found Artists for Climate and Migrant Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty. He does this with multiple overlapping mood and cognitive disorders so fuck the haters.

Victoria Mata

Cacao | A Venezuelan Lament, is a multi-sensorial interactive dance installation, that explores the socio-cultural-historic-political traces of Venezuela’s cacao industry through the story of two cousins reuniting. Inspired by creator and choreographer Victoria Mata’s childhood memories of playing in Venezuela’s cacao farms, cracking open cacao pods and sucking on the cotton-soft fruit. This installation is an homage to Venezuela’s cacao farmers and their resilience to preserve their way of life in the face of national crisis and the pressures of neoliberal industrialization. Victoria Mata is a Venezuelan-Canadian settler in T’Koronto and a poly-lingual choreographer, dance artist, and activist with a background in expressive arts therapy. Mata’s career was first sculpted by pedagogic, self-directed training, which proceeded with training under internationally renowned choreographers. Mata’s sensibility to inclusion and border stories is due to her eclectic upbringing in three continents before the age of fifteen. Intersectional, multi-framed community-arts and the abolishment of violence against women are some of Mata’s passions. She has intricately woven these themes in her MFA in Contemporary Choreography and they are the foundation for some of her recognitions such as being a grant recipient of the Metcalf Foundation, a finalist of the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award, and 7 Dora nominations.

Header: Lorena Torres Loaiza’s Pandora in the Box. Photo by Dahlia Katz