Stage Door News

Toronto: Nightwood Theatre’s 34th Annual Groundswell Festival runs September 23-28

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Nightwood Theatre opens their landmark 40th Season with the Groundswell Festival of New Works, from September 23-28, 2019, at the Ernest Balmer Studio in The Distillery District.

This annual festival of contemporary women’s theatre features readings from Nightwood’s 2018-19 Write From The Hip playwrights, facilitated by Andrea Donaldson. This year’s festival offers five exciting new works from Lara Arabian (Siranoush), Catt Filippov (The Stray Sheep Cabaret), Katherine Gauthier (The Meeting), Tabia Lau (Tangled), and Anyika Mark (Making Moves).

This year’s festival will also feature a reading of the new play Children of Fire, co-written by Shahrzad Arshadi (a multidisciplinary artist, human rights activist, and winner of the 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Inspiration Award) and Anna Chatterton (Nightwood Theatre’s Governor General Award-nominated Artist in Residence). The festival wraps up with Nightwood’s first Feminist Un-Conference - an opportunity for theatre practitioners to propose and discuss the most pressing issues in theatre and feminism. 

2019 Groundswell Festival Schedule

All play readings are Pay-What-You-Can; tickets are only available at the door.

The Ernest Balmer Studio
9 Trinity Street, Studio 315, The Historical Distillery District


Monday, September 23, 6pm – The Meeting by Katherine Gauthier

Directed by Diana Donnelly

Happening in real time at a Love and Sex Addicts support group, The Meeting investigates the sexual and relationship holds that bind us. Exploring the real human stories behind the salacious news articles and exposing the queries that we reserve for late-night googling, this piece asks: What does healthy love look like? What do we do with our deviant sexual desires? Can we recover from abuse? What do we do when someone discloses their desire for a child, but vows not to act upon that desire?

Tuesday, September 24, 6pm – Tangled by Tabia Lau

Directed by Kesha Palm

A young girl is found dead in the water.  She is supposed to be in class, at the local college just four blocks away. Instead, she is found dead in the water. Tangled follows an investigator who enters a town, attempting to rebuild her last day from a series of interviews. What he finds instead is a community that is much more interested in keeping its own secrets hidden. As the residents grow increasingly less trusting, the threads between neighbours are tested, and the desperate search for the truth grows intricate. Do you remember where you were 152 hours ago?

Tuesday, September 24, 8pm – Making Moves by Aniyka Mark

Directed by Donna-Michelle St. Bernard

Making Moves delivers a day in the life of young, Black people in Toronto’s West-end. As they move through their day, it is impossible to ignore how political their social lives are, how they are all deeply connected, and that sometimes, there’s nothing more to do other than to keep making moves. Drawing inspiration from Ngozi Paul’s Da Kink in My Hair and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Making Moves stands as an embodied emotional response to the playwright's lived experience as a young Black Canadian.

Wednesday, September 25, 6pm – Siranoush by Lara Arabian 

Director Evalyn Parry

This one-woman show uncovers the life story of Siranoush, a pioneering 19th century Armenian female theatre artist who challenged a number of gender, class and ethnic barriers. As her story melds with the playwright’s own 21st century story of immigration and identity, an exploration of the personal as political unfolds. Incorporating multimedia, heightened physicality and multilingual delivery (including English, Armenian, French, Turkish), Siranoush is a piece that examines displacement, motherhood, language and artistic drive, and how we all ‘perform’ our lives.

Thursday, September 26, 6pm – The Stray Sheep Cabaret by Catt Filippov

Directed by Sadie Epstein-Fine

The Stray Sheep Cabaret tells the story of Moorka, a Russian-Canadian performance artist dying to be noticed both as an artist, and as a Russian. While scanning the radio waves for inspiration for her next piece, she intercepts a broadcast from Zoya – a member of a group of Russian writers who have faked their own deaths to avoid permanent muzzling by Uncle Vlad’s government. Zoya wants Moorka’s freedom of speech. Moorka wants Zoya’s notoriety. Both will stop at nothing to be heard. When Moorka travels to Russia to meet her counterpart, and the subject of what she thinks will be her breakthrough piece, her naiveté about her fatherland ultimately leads to her demise.

Friday, September 28, 6:30pm – Children of Fire by Shahrzad Arshadi and Anna Chatterton

Directed by Andrea Donaldson

Children on Fire is an intimate portrayal of the Kurdish female freedom fighters that hosted Shahrzad Arshadi and Anna Chatterton in the mountains of Kurdistan. The play follows the journey and layered relationship across cultures between Shahrzad and Anna.

Saturday, September 29, 10:30am to 4:30pm – The Feminist Un-Conference

Theatre practitioners are invited to listen, lead and unpack all things feminist at this hierarchy-smashing, participant-driven unconference. Join us afterwards for a celebratory cinq-à-sept to launch Nightwood’s 2019-20 Season!



As Canada’s foremost feminist theatre, Nightwood provides an essential home for the creation of extraordinary theatre by women. Founded in 1979, Nightwood Theatre has created and produced award-winning plays, which have won Dora Mavor Moore, Chalmers, Trillium and Governor General’s awards. The company is led by Artistic Director Andrea Donaldson and Managing Director Beth Brown, and has received public acclaim in artistic excellence, advocacy, and the successful training and development of emerging female talent.

Nightwood is thrilled to take this opportunity to announce the 2019-20 Write From The Hip Playwrights Unit: Bilal Baig, Shelley Hobbs, Erum Khan, Rachel Mutombo, Natialie Liconti and Phoebe Tsang. Facilitated by Nightwood’s new Write from the Hip Program Director, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, this year-long script development program supports emerging playwrights in completing a full play.

For more information, please visit or call 416 944-1740;8.

Find us on Facebook @nightwoodtheatre, and Twitter and Instagram @nightwoodtheat.