Stage Door News

Toronto: A pandemic-inspired audio play commissioned by Canadian Stage runs July 20 to August 1

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Inspired by the current pandemic, award-winning playwright Susanna Fournier creates the new play What Happens to You, Happens to Me, a unique participatory storytelling experience that capturesresponses to how people are feeling after months of isolation.

This meditative audio experience is a letter, a questionnaire, a thought-experiment, a mindfulness exercise that takes the listener on a journey through grief and loneliness. Voiced by award-winning actor and playwright Kristen Thomson, the listener is asked to respond to a set of questions that delve into one’s inner self to examine isolation and our innate need for connection.

“When Brendan asked me what I was thinking about in early April, I was three weeks into trying to adjust to living in a pandemic world that was changing day to day, hour to hour. I found myself waking each day not knowing what world I was waking to. As an artist, I'd been suddenly cut off from the audience,” says Susanna Fournier. “As quarantine life continued to change, uncertainty became one ofthe things I could rely on – another was my desire to connect, to find a way back to reaching people and exchanging energy and experiences that felt intimate in a world of growing distance, alienation, and grief. What Happens to You Happens to Me is an experiment in form and connection. I think of it like a message in a bottle hurled out to sea - one that when you open it, reveals a theatre of possibility in your own mind, heart, and experience. Like anyone hurling a message in a bottle out to sea, I don’t know who will find it or if anyone will respond – and that’s OK – that's part of the experiment - can we connect this way? I don’t know if anything happens next, I'm balancing between uncertainty and desire and letting the world as it changes, and the communities and people I long for, lead the way."

“We are excited to launch this new work by one of the country’s most exciting and adventurous writers," says Canadian Stage Artistic Director Brendan Healy. “This play eloquently expresses our fundamental need for connection and is a profound reflection on the enduring tethers that keep us together, even during this period of physical distancing."

The incredible artists involved in this project all have close ties to Canadian Stage. Susanna Fournier’s Always Still the Dawn was part of the company’s 19.20 season (it sadly had to be postponed due to the pandemic), Kristen Thomson starred in 18.19 season’s Every Brilliant Thing, and ted witzel was an RBC Emerging Artist participant and has previously directed at Shakespeare in High Park.

What Happens to You Happens to Me is an opportunity for audiences to not only engage with the work, but to engage directly with Susanna, as listeners are encouraged to send their responses to her in the form of a voice memo, hand written note or video.

What Happens to You Happens to Me will be available on from July 20-August 1.

Susanna Fournier is an award-winning Canadian theatre-maker, actor and educator. Her main crush is constructing new texts for live performance and visioning interdisciplinary productions. Her work is rowdy, joyous, and sometimes “impossible”. In 2018/19, her company, PARADIGM productions, launched her critically acclaimed trilogy, The Empire. A graduate of The National Theatre School of Canada and Generator’s Artist Producer Training Program, Susanna was the first North American playwright to show work at Welt Bühne, an international festival hosted by Residenztheater in Munich where her text, antigone lives*, premiered in June 2018. For Susanna, writing explores the space between who we are and who we want to become – the story we know and the one our spirit wants to tell. She’s currently working on her first book of poetry.

ted witzel is a queer theatre-maker and programmer based between berlin and toronto. primarily a director, ted is also variously a curator, writer, dramaturg, translator, designer, and performer. he has worked in theatres in vancouver, montreal, stratford, ottawa, london, milan, palermo, stuttgart, ingolstadt, baden-baden and bad hersfeld, which is a small town with a lot of sheep in it. well, near it. ######## ted is assistant creative producer for the stratford festival laboratory, the company’s innovation wing. he was recently selected as a national theatre school’s artistic leadership resident, and is a participant in the banff centre’s 2019 cultural leadership program. ######## in toronto, ted runs an independent theatre collective called the red light district. recently, he led the co-creation of the performance series LULU // aspects of a femme fatale at buddies in bad times theatre. ted is also part of the core creative team behind susanna fournier’s THE EMPIRE: a trilogy of modern epics. ######## fusing high-octane performance, rigorous dramaturgy, digital aesthetics, and poetic text, ted’s theatre islocated at the intersection between the personal and the political, and the (visceral, emotional, intellectual) frictions between them. ######## ted was in the inaugural cohort of the york university/canadian stage MFA in directing, and has been artist-in-residence at harbourfront centre, buddies in bad times (toronto) and institut für alles mögliche (berlin). in 2016, ted won the kevin spacey foundation’s artist of choice award, which was a less dubious honour back then. ######## ted used to include a cute joke about his spider plant in his bio, but it recently died of neglect.