Stage Door News

Toronto: SummerWorks Performance Festival announces its 2019 programme

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Just one year away from celebrating 30 years as one of Canada’s most vital launch pads for new performance work SummerWorks Performance Festival, today unveiled the full programming lineup for its 29th edition, kicking off August 8 and showcasing boundary-pushing, adventurous work at multiple venues in Toronto for 11 days through to August 18, 2019. This year’s Festival will showcase an expansive lineup of performance works from across the country, including pieces from some of Canada’s most acclaimed artists alongside work from auspicious emerging artists.

Continuing to push the boundaries and explore the possibilities of performance, SummerWorks 2019 invites audiences to go on a digital scavenger hunt in a public library, get paid to contribute to a meditation on labour and consent, imagine possible futures at the ends of the earth, hear the words of children from the mouths of adults, attempt to form a democracy in a time of scarcity, and travel the streets and consider how the city has changed.

Running through the works curated for the SummerWorks Presentations and Lab this year is a consideration of ‘public’: what is public space, how is it made and negotiated? What is the impact of making something public? And what is the power of the public to enact change? Many works will consider new possibilities for the public sphere, animating space to rediscover, engage with, and celebrate the Festival neighbourhood in new ways.” said SummerWorks Artistic and Managing Director, Laura Nanni

One vital expression of this concept in the 2019 Festival will be enacted at the Sanderson Branch of the Toronto Public Library with The Archive of Missing Things from Halifax’s Zuppa Theatre. A performance, an online book and a game, The Archive of Missing Things take participants on a virtual 90-minute scavenger hunt through the library with an iPad and a headset, to explore a maze-like archive in search of the secret at its center. Like the library itself, this multidisciplinary project will be free to the public.

Public libraries are one of the few spaces in the city where individuals are invited to engage with and take materials without expectation of a fee to participate,” comments Nanni. “They are open to all-ages as spaces for learning, collaboration, congregation and inspiration. They are sites of archive and memory, but also activity. They reflect and respond to the diverse needs and cultural fabric of the community and are often one of the first public resources used by newcomers and youth; in this way also introducing their first opportunity for civic engagement. We are thrilled to be able to offer this compelling piece of work in a Toronto library and to make it financially accessible as well.”

Other public spaces that will extend the Festival footprint - which was centralized around Lisgar Park last year - include west Queen West back alleys and park spaces, Queen Street itself, and heading south, a special Indigenous Learning Centre opening at Ontario Place.
Solidifying the streamlined structure for the Festival introduced last year, SummerWorks 2019 again presents 32 performance works split between the SummerWorks Presentations (fully developed works offering a snapshot of contemporary performance) and SummerWorks Lab (a place for exploration, experimentation, and sharing process) streams. 

2019 SummerWorks Presentations highlights include:

  • In 805-4821 Davis Plett tells a trans coming out story involving an 80,000 word Facebook correspondence, with a hacked overhead projector
  • A theatrical song-cycle based on case files of women incarcerated at Rockwood Asylum from acclaimed indie musician Simone Schmidt (aka Fiver) and directed by Frank Cox-O’Connell, Audible Songs From Rockwood.
  • The AMY Project returns with stories of queer resilience and new post-apocalyptic worlds in The Breath Between.
  • In Cliff Cardinal’s CBC Special, enjoy storytelling and music from the lauded writer and performer as he lays claim to the CBC identity and offers new contributions to the ongoing mythology of the Canadian experience.
  • Artist Johannes Zits contemplates the relationship between body, identity, and clothing as well as the fashion industry’s role in global pollution in Encumbrance. 
  • In the glow of a single neon light, a being extricates itself from the void to feel alive in Fade-Out from acclaimed dancer-choreographer Anne-Flore de Rochambeau.
  • David Yee and Nina Lee Aquino reunite to explore the legacy of Rochdale College, Toronto’s greatest experiment and most infamous failure in rochdale. 
  • Wah Wah Wah from Celia Jade Green, directed by Bilal Baig, is a searing look at how sexual microaggressions make a young woman explode.

Another way ideas of public space are examined this year is through environmental themes in works that explore eco-anxiety, waste and consumerism, and that imagine possible - and sometimes apocalyptic - futures. In this spirit, this year SummerWorks partners with Why Not Theatre and Environmental Defence to present a special 10th anniversary reading presentation of Nicolas Billon’s 2009 SummerWorks Audience Choice Award winner Greenland with original director Ravi Jain. Greenland exposes a world in which receding ice levels off the coast of Greenland have revealed that an area thought to be part of the mainland is actually a separate island, a discovery which mirrors a growing rift between the island’s discoverer and his increasingly distant family. The decision to bring it back to the Festival this year highlights the question: How much has changed? Performances of Greenland act as a fundraiser that will equally benefit Environmental Defence and future SummerWorks Festivals.
In the SummerWorks Lab in 2019, acclaimed activist and artist Syrus Marcus Ware brings two projects to the Festival, Antarctica, an immersive installation using film, textiles, and performance exploring a post-apocalyptic future in which Antarctica is being colonized, and with collaborator Rodney Diverlus, burn, burned  a clash of dance, sound, and textiles meditating on power and conflict, staged in public space; dancer Syreeta Hector explores identity, blackness and Indigeneity in Black Ballerina;Sunny Drake and Alan Dilworth come together with young dramaturgs Eponine Lee, Ozzy Rae Horvath, and Sumayya Iman Malik to create a verbatim play for adults drawn from interviews with children in CHILD-ISH; Deaf performing artist and Artistic Director of Edmonton’s SOUND OFF Deaf theatre festival Chris Dodd (nominee for the 2019 Governor General Innovation Award) writes and performs Deafy, blending ASL, the spoken word and surtitles to weave a tragicomedy about community and what it really means to belong; Theatre Replacement’s James Long and and Spreafico Eckly’s Andrea Spreafico (Norway) use a 2006 magazine article about Roger Federer as the foundation of an exploration of shifting social context and the written word in Footnote Number 12; join toastmaster S. Bear Bergman and a rotating cast for a Gender Reveal Party (where there are always more than two choices) - cold drinks and the cool breeze of gender freedom will be served; in I AM A GENIUS. DOES ANYONE HERE KNOW ME? Celebrated Newfoundland artist and recent inductee into the Danse collection Danse Hall of Fame, Lois Brown plays around the edges of chronic pain and dementia and creates a shimmering world of forgotten and brilliant things using a microphone, paper, plastic, foil; journalist and theatre-maker Graham Isador stays backstage this year, contributing a new play inspired by the true story of a colleague who writes about the alt-right, becoming the subject of their attacks and is then faced with the moral question of whether or not to out them in White Heat; and Convergence Theatre’s Julie Tepperman invites audiences of all ages into the ‘Worry Depot’ to share their anxieties in 30-minute one-on-one sessions in Worry Warts.

Nanni concludes, “I am excited by a feeling of urgency in this year’s work. The sense of disquiet that pervades society today permeates the program and is attacked from all sides - drama, humour, technology, physical expression, satire and social experiment and intergenerational collaboration are just some of the ways SummerWorks 2019 artists are exploring and taking on the world in this year’s Festival.”

SummerWorks Exchange

Also part of last year’s restructuring, the Festival formalized industry and professional development activities under the SummerWorks Exchange banner. In the SummerWorks Exchange, the Festival produces events that facilitate artist and community growth, strengthen the ecology of live performance in Canada, and expand dialogue and collaboration with the international arts community. Including training and networking opportunities between artists and curators from Canada and beyond.

This year the SummerWorks Exchange is offering conversations, workshops, pitch sessions, and more, all focused around the concept of 'making space' as it relates to accessibility and sustainability practices, reconnecting with the land through an Indigenous lens, and site-specific creation.

Highlights in the 2019 Exchange include a conversation with Elder Dr. Duke Redbird presented in partnership with Myseum of Toronto, Toronto Biennial of Art, and Ontario Place, at the site of the Wigwam Chi-Chemung - an art installation and summer Indigenous Learning Centre being built into a pontoon houseboat covered with indigenous artwork and docked at the Ontario Place Marina beginning June 2019. Leading site-specific, immersive theatre makers, Outside the March’s Rosamund Small and Mitchell Cushman will lead a workshop on devising immersive and site specific performance; in Creating Sign Language Magic artists can explore the possibilities of creating accessible sign language productions; and Moving Publicsinvites participants on board a neighbourhood bus for curated conversations on the performance and politics of mobility.

Pay What You Decide

SummerWorks again offers a sliding scale ticket model allowing audiences to increase their support of Festival artists while maintaining financial accessibility. Called Pay What You Decide, single tickets can be purchased for $15, $25, or $35 (all seating is general admission and there are no limits on any price level), and some events are either free or by donation. Money saving 4-Show and 8-Show passes and are available starting today at and single tickets go on sale July 16.

The complete SummerWorks 2019 programming list.

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