Lessons in Temperament

Created and Performed by James Smith

“a memoir of minds gone out of tune”
– The New York Times

**WINNER – 2016 SummerWorks Festival PRIZE FOR PRODUCTION**

In Lessons in Temperament, creator and performer James Smith tunes a piano while exploring the concept of equal temperament in relation to the complexities of mental health, and he and his three older brothers’ experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, autism, and schizophrenia. Smith works to grant balance to the instrument that has both kept him grounded and kept him company throughout his life.

Directed and developed by Outside the March’s Mitchell Cushman, Lessons is part memoir, part performance art, part tune-up. This site-specific show offers a unique theatrical experience and a singular glimpse into the lives of those living with strange, beautiful, distempered minds.

Outside the March is reimagining Lessons in relation to forces of isolation brought on by COVID-19. 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, The Harbourfront Centre, Mirvish Productions, Crow’s Theatre, The Rose, Theatre Passe Muraille and Talk is Free Theatre.

Executive Producers

Josh Hellyer
David Daniels
Laurence Siegel
Judy Gladstone
Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith
Michael Levine




Lessons in Temperament is part of OtM’s 20/21 Solo Together series: three performer-created immersive memoirs exploring mental health, wellbeing and how individual minds filter and navigate our world. 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. Solo Together is 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 Solo Together Series also includes:

The Itinerary



Learn more about our Pay-It-Forward program that donates tickets to Lessons in Temperament to those who need them most.

  • TBA


a memoir of minds gone out of tune

The New York Times

Lessons In Temperament

The New York Times

intimate, deeply felt and poignant… wise and heartfelt lessons for us all.

NOW Magazine

Lessons In Temperament

NOW Magazine

Do yourself a favour and experience this show.

Mooney on Theatre

Lessons In Temperament

Mooney on Theatre

Lessons In Temperament

Creative Team

  • James Smith – Creator and Performer
  • Mitchell Cushman – Director and Developer
  • Nick Blais – Production Design
  • Nevada Banks – Associate Director
  • Kate Sandeson – Stage Manager
  • Michelle Yagi & Katherine Devlin Rosenfeld – Producers
  • Sarite Harris – Producer (SummerWorks run)
  • Imran Zaidi – Photography and Graphic Design


Awards & Accolades

  • Prize for Production – The SummerWorks Festival (2016)
  • Prize for Direction (Honourable Mention), Mitchell Cushman – The SummerWorks Festival (2016)
  • Outstanding Production – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • Outstanding New Play – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • Outstanding Direction – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • SummerWorks Highlight – Torontoist (2016)