Outside the March’s ‘20/‘21 Season to Include Work by 14 Canadian Creators across both In-Person and Digital Platforms
For Release September 10th
Featuring work and new commissions by Elena Eli Belyea, Katherine Cullen & Britta Johnson, Anahita Dehbonehie, Devon Healey & Nate Bitton, Sébastien Heins, Karen Hines, Todd Houseman, Jordan Laffrenier, Me Time, James Smith, David Yee & Marcus Youssef.
OtM is thrilled to be expanding its staff with four new additions: Sébastien Heins (Associate Artistic Director, New Platforms & Initiatives), Laura McCallum (General Manager), Jeff Ho (Company Dramaturg) and Rosamund Small (Artistic Associate).
Outside the March announces its “Season-in-Process,” a range of pandemic-responsive new works marking the first full season of original programming in the immersive company’s 10-year history. Building off the memorable five-month run of the internationally-acclaimed The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, these projects will empower an expansive collection of voices, allowing them to create, interrogate and share in an organic way during uncertain and isolating times.
This slate of in-person and digital offerings is described by Artistic Director Mitchell Cushman as “about amplification and transformation. As a company, we’re in the midst of learning how to best meet the immensity of this moment: how to newly engage with immersive performance within the distanced context of a pandemic, and how to dismantle systems of racial inequity in which our organization has always been complicit”. With that in mind, this Season-in-Process presents initiatives designed to empower an extensive community of artists as they respond to our evolving present.
“This year we’re consciously supporting more writers and creators than ever before, served by an expanded team,” says founding company member and newly-appointed Associate Artistic Director Sébastien Heins. “Together we hope to meet the demands of the moment in responsible, flexible and compassionate ways.”
The season includes a trio of solo productions engaging pivotal themes of mental health and wellbeing (The Solo Together Series), four large-scale immersive new commissions (The TD Forward March Program), an anthology of new plays interrogating the medium of Zoom (The Stream You Step In) and a live multi-disciplinary offering as part of the NAC’s Grand Acts of Theatre initiative (Something Bubbled, Something Blue). Each of these projects is designed in their own way to be adaptable to our constantly-shifting reality. Whatever the next twelve months has in store, Outside the March is committed to finding ways to share these stories—be it on the back of a flatbed truck, through a feature film adaption, or inside inflatable zorbs—all of which are active parts of current planning.
“We’re in the process of figuring things out,” says Cushman. “For some of our upcoming programming, we don’t know exactly how and where it will be performed. For others, we’ll be experimenting in mediums we’ve never worked in before. We want to empower our community to learn as we go. We want to give artists time, space and money to react, create and reinterpret in real time. My hope is that immersive theatre can be a unique tool for connection and reflection at this moment.”
The SOLO TOGETHER Series
At the centre of the season is the Solo Together Series: three performer-created immersive memoirs exploring mental health, wellbeing and how individual minds filter and navigate our world. “One of OtM’s hallmarks has always been achieving a level of intimacy in our immersive work,” says Cushman. “And while our usual ways of creating intimacy are challenging in this moment, each of these shows offers the possibility for audiences to connect with their own humanity by experiencing someone else’s.”
The series is a natural next step for the company after The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, which engaged audiences ages 4-99 about their individual anxieties, fears, hopes and curiosities while living in isolation. Solo Together is similarly designed to provide a forum for introspection, self-knowledge and care as all of us grapple with isolation and loneliness. OtM will share these stories across in-person and digital platforms over the next year, responsive to evolving health and safety precautions. The series includes:
The World Premiere of The Itinerary, created by Sébastien Heins, which poses the question “What do we do with the time that we have left?” Recently “playtested” at Kingston’s Kick & Push Festival, The Itinerary is a love letter to videogames and the artist’s Caribbean family history, with players using their smartphones to control the performer’s every action. With an intimate band of fellow players, audiences will explore a world of memory, imagination and compassion through Heins’ personal lens of the Windrush generation, familial loss and human perseverance. The piece “reflects an understanding of care, and what it means to provide it” (Kingston’s Theatre Alliance) and will be shared with OtM audiences this winter in a production envisioned to feature both in-person and digital elements.
Revisiting James Smith’s award-winning Lessons in Temperament, reimagined in relation to forces of isolation brought on by COVID-19. Hailed by The New York Times as “a memoir of minds gone out of tune”, Lessons features Smith tuning a piano, while exploring the concept of equal temperament in relation to he and his three older brothers’ experiences living across the mental health spectrum. In addition to offering a select number of live performances, this fall OtM is collaborating with Smith and cinematographer Gabriela Osio Vanden to adapt Lessons into a feature film shot in a dozen different shuttered theatres, in conversation with CAMH, and in partnership with The Stratford Festival, Soulpepper, TO Live and The Harbourfront Centre.
A site-specific reimagining of the award-winning musical comedy Stupidhead! Written and performed by Katherine Cullen and Britta Johnson, and directed by Aaron Willis, Stupidhead! is about the glamour of failure and the celebration of futility. It’s about being a kid with a lot of dyslexia and not being able to fit in—and how being a human is really embarrassing. All of the time. “…riotously funny, musically charming, and emotionally resonant… a perfect blend of humour, heart, and soul.” (Kingston Theatre Reviews). OtM will bring Stupidhead! back to Toronto in a new immersive production planned to inhabit both indoor and outdoor venues in the spring of 2021.
TD Forward March 2020 Commissions
Outside the March is thrilled to announce the artists and projects commissioned through the 2020 TD Forward March Program: Devon Healey & Nate Bitton (Rainbow on Mars), Todd Houseman (The Children of the Bear), Jordan Laffrenier (A New Black Poet), and Me Time (R.A.V.E.). This wide-ranging group of new immersive experiences includes: a sensory reclamation of blindness encountered through the story of Plato’s cave; a mythic mask exploration of intergenerational trauma; a contemporary dialogue with the works of Langston Hughes; and a Black Mirror-meets-Berghain futuristic rave opera. See below for full bios of the commissioned artists.
Thanks to the support of TD Bank Group, each project receives a $5000 commission and is paired with a Co-Conspirator—Co-Conspirators are “outside eyes” from a variety of disciplines who will assist with artistic development. Forward March received over 140 applications submitted from across the country, with pieces selected by a jury composed of Cushman, Program Curator Jeff Ho, Rebecca Ballarin, Anahita Dehbonhie, Sébastien Heins, Lindsay Junkin, Griffin McInnes and Michelle Yagi.
“I was so inspired by hundreds of genre-bending, dynamic, and diverse proposals,” says Ho. “I am confident that Sarah, Todd, Jordan, Devon and Nate will ignite and redefine what it means to create immersive theatre, and I’m so thrilled that OtM will support these stellar artists in these new creations.”
OtM’s Forward March Program began in 2015. Its initial commissions included Anika & Britta Johnson’s Dr. Silver, a Celebration of Life, Marcus Jamin’s The Golem’s Mighty Swing and Robert Motum’s A Community Target, all of which went on to receive full productions from the company over subsequent seasons.
The first year of development on these new pieces will culminate next summer with the return of The Pop-Up Experience—a site-specific crawl through a Toronto neighbourhood in which audiences will experience excerpts of each piece.
The Expanded Outside the March Team
In order to make this eclectic season possible, OtM is expanding its core team with four new positions. Founding company member Sébastien Heins will serve as the company’s new Associate Artistic Director, New Platforms and Initiatives, with a focus on re-contextualizing where and how the company’s work takes place and developing new programs in support of BIPOC voices. “I’m honoured to design new services for artists that will give them meaningful avenues to create, collaborate on, and share their work,” says Heins. “As a founding member of OtM, it’s a personal privilege to support this expanding team and community as we work towards our shared goal to build a more plural theatrical ecology.”
Laura McCallum also joins the team as the company’s first General Manager, bringing to the organization a wealth of expertise from work with Studio 180, Project: Humanity and the Shaw Festival. “It’s an invigorating time to join the company as we shift our focus towards new work development and decentralizing our creative leadership to bring more artists to the table,” says McCallum.
Building on his work as the TD Forward March Curator, Jeff Ho will serve as OtM’s new Company Dramaturg, returning to the organization that, as Ho describes, was “my very first professional home after Theatre School, to continue amplifying QTBIPOC creators, and to support a greater diversity of representation through immersive theatre.” Ho’s responsibilities will include facilitating new play development, supporting the TD Forward March Commissions and developing new initiatives to support new generation and QTBIPOC theatre creators.
In addition to Ho, in November OtM will welcome another award-winning writer to its staff in Rosamund Small, a playwright who has been a favourite of OtM audiences (Vitals, TomorrowLoveTM), and who will serve as Artistic Associate in an Artistic Direction apprenticeship supported by the Metcalf Foundation.
Rounding out the Season-in-Process are two partnership productions conceived to uncover unexpected possibilities through new performance realities created by the pandemic:
Something Bubbled, Something Blue
First is Something Bubbled, Something Blue, produced by Talk is Free Theatre in association with Outside the March as part of the National Arts Centre’s Grand Acts of Theatre Series. Co-created by Mitchell Cushman & Anahita Dehbonehie with choreography by Cameron Carver, the piece casts a surreal lens on a COVID wedding by playfully manifesting the metaphor of personal bubbles as inflatable Zorbs, which will be inhabited by the formally-attired members of a wedding party. It aims to side-step the false choice between isolation or reckless endangerment by exploring and exploiting the necessary restrictions that keep us safe but apart.
The piece will premiere September 12th in Barrie, Ontario at a yet-to-be-revealed location, and will also be filmed to be shared later online. The wedding party will feature a cavalcade of exciting performers from both the dance and theatre world including David Ball, Jacqueline Burtney, Sierra Holder, Amy Keating, Emily Lukasik, Caitlyn MacInnis, David Andrew Reid and Margaret Thompson. For more information, visit nac-cna.ca.
The Stream You Step In
Then, in November, audiences from all over can experience The Stream You Step In. This co-production from The University of Windsor and Outside the March is an anthology of original plays commissioned specifically for the School of Dramatic Arts’ graduating BFA students occurring entirely over Zoom. Through the project OtM is supporting some of Canadian theatre’s pivotal playwriting voices: Elena Eli Belyea, Karen Hines, David Yee and Marcus Youssef.
The Stream You Step in will be presented in two double-bills:
November 5th to 8th
good white men
by David Yee
A first-person POV digital deep dive into the heart of the white ally industrial complex. Three young men on their journey to allyship get derailed by a neighbour who does all the right things in all the wrong ways.
The River of Forgetfulness
by Karen Hines
Four bright young artists grapple with a poisonous living situation. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”… they quickly learn is a meaningless platitude.
November 19th to 22nd
by Elena Eli Belyea
Thistle films an apology video. Blake and Alistair attend couples therapy. Natali plans to live forever. Love, loss and longing intersect in this new work written for and about the internet.
Thank You for Your Labour
by Marcus Youssef
A group of white students is organizing an online music show to show solidarity with their racialized peers. For tonight’s meeting, they’ve invited the faculty’s only brown student to join them. Good intentions meet unspoken desires in this Zoom comedy about whiteness, isolation, and how hard it can be to do the right thing.
Click here for more information and to book tickets.
Outside the March’s 20/21 Season is made possible by
Our Leading Season Supporters
Josh Hellyer & The Audrey S. Hellyer Foundation
Sandra & Jim Pitblado
Andrew and Hillary Cumming
The Bulmash-Siegel Fund
About OUTSIDE THE MARCH
Outside the March creates unforgettable immersive encounters—redefining the experience of theatre for a new generation of audiences. Over the past decade, we’ve become one of Canada’s leading immersive theatre companies, by inviting audiences to play with us in a Parkdale kindergarten classroom, parade with Queen Elizabeth along the Danforth, venture to Roncesvalles on an EMS call, follow a piano-tuner into living rooms across the city, weather the apocalypse in an abandoned Leslieville movie theatre, infuse a Davisville funeral home with love, unlock mysteries in a beloved Annex VHS video store, and place a call to our eccentric private investigator service. Past immersive experiences include: The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, The Flick, The Tape Escape, Dr. Silver, The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, Jerusalem, Lessons in Temperament, TomorrowLoveTM, Mr. Burns, Vitals, Passion Play, Terminus, Mr. Marmalade.
Artistic Director – Mitchell Cushman
Managing Producer – Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld
Creative Producer – Griffin McInnes
General Manager – Laura McCallum
Associate Artistic Director, New Platforms & Initiatives – Sébastien Heins
Company Dramaturg – Jeff Ho
Artistic Associate – Rosamund Small
Head of Design – Nick Blais
TD Forward March 2020 Commissions Artist Bios
Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, known here as Me Time, (she/her) is a DJ, educator, event producer and community advocate who engages dance music as a catalyst for social change. Since her early career on stage and screen in The Lion King and later, as a series lead on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Me Time has continued to fuel her passion of creating experiences that encourage childlike wonder and play. From performing at Tomorrowland Belgium, to headlining underground parties in Toronto to selling out her monthly dance parties EveryBody and Bass Witch, she is a champion of safer spaces that celebrate moderation, provide a platform for marginalized artists and hold intentional space for self-expression. Me Time founded Selecta School to address gender inequity on lineups by providing inclusive DJ education that focuses on nurturing the innate ‘selecta’ in all of us.
Todd Houseman is a Nehiyo (Cree) mixed blood actor, improviser, and writer from Edmonton, Alberta (Amiskwaciy). His work focuses on decolonization by prioritizing indigenous narratives through satire, political commentary, and storytelling. Todd recently graduated from the acting program at the National Theatre School of Canada but has yet to physically walk across the stage. He is the co-writer/producer/star (with Ben Gorodetsky) of the cultural comedy web series Folk Lordz, and the co-creator of the play Whiteface (with Lady Vanessa Cardona). In his free time, he enjoys building masks, forging knives, or being in the forests of western Alberta.
Devon Healey works in the area of critical disability studies, theatre and drama as well as in education. All of her work is grounded in her experience as a blind woman guided by a desire to show how blindness specifically and disability more broadly can be understood as offering an alternate form of perception and is thus, a valuable and creative way of experiencing and knowing the world. She holds a two year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship with York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design in association with the Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology. Devon is an award-winning actor and holds a PhD in Disability Studies from OISE/University of Toronto.
Nate Bitton is a visually impaired, award-winning Fight Director, stage combat instructor, performer and occasional stunt man. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto Mississauga/Sheridan College Theatre and Drama Studies program and is a certified Fight Director and Instructor with Fight Directors Canada. Nate’s “fight scenes” says Glenn Sumi from Now Magazine, “are among the most convincing I’ve ever seen on a local stage.” Nate’s work explores and engages storytelling through movement and staged violence guided by a commitment to creating safe and supportive environments in which performers can flourish.
Jordan Laffrenier is a theatre director, educator and dramaturg based in Toronto. He has held musical theatre development roles in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto, including Amélie on Broadway, Paradise Square/ Hard Times (Berkeley Repertory Theatre California), Sousatska (Tiberius Entertainment). Currently, he works as the Co-Coordinator of Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre Program, The Associate Artistic Director of Ray Hogg’s Prime mover and as dramaturg for Cahoots 2020/2021 Hot House Lift-off program. He is the founding Artistic Director of Then They Fight Theatre, a dramaturgically based theatre company dedicated to developing new work by artists from the initial spark of an idea into a fully realized production.
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