Stage Door News

Toronto: SummerWorks and Canadian Stage announce details of “We Were, We Are, We Will Be”

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Following an earlier announcement that SummerWorks and Canadian Stage would partner again this summer on the the multi-artist anthology We Were, We Are, We Will Be - co-curated by Daniele Bartolini and Luke Reece (Mixtape Curations) and conceived by Bartolini - the companies are pleased to share full details of the projects and artists in the anthology and presentation dates. 

A centerpiece of the summer programming for 2020, We Were, We Are, We Will Be (a SummerWorks Lab presentation) is an anthology unfolding over the course of one week, with both digital and analogue projects, that take you from your living room to hidden parts of the city for safe encounters with others. Artists working across disciplines reflect upon our past, present, and the possible futures we can shape together to create urgent, immediate responses to life in a pandemic and what performance can look like in this time of crisis.

Each audience member is encouraged to choose how they experience the work based on interest and comfort level – each project is designed to be experienced on its own or as part of the larger anthology.

A program that emphasizes a great diversity of backgrounds, perspectives, and artistic approaches, We Were, We Are, We Will Be will feature work by Jennifer Alicia, d’bi.young anitafrika, Rory de Brouwer, Chris Dodd, O’shane Howard, Eponine Lee, Melody McKiver, Esie Mensah, Alina Pete, and Philip Precious and includes everything from animation and cartoon based work, to dance, dub poetry, film, performance, photography, and live art installation, delivered across diverse platforms and spaces, from online presentations to live encounters in public spaces.

“It has been wonderful to support two SummerWorks alumni on their first collaboration with each other, and see how their unique artistic interests and imaginations have come together. The result is a project that reflects an amazing multiplicity of voices and artistic approaches, and that considers what performance and community can be,” says SummerWorks Artistic and Managing Director Laura Nanni. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Canadian Stage again this summer to co-present this exciting project.” 

We are extremely pleased to be partnering with SummerWorks on this meaningful and ambitious project that engages so many incredible artists, working in a wide range of disciplines, as they navigate and respond to the pandemic,” says Canadian Stage Artistic Director Brendan Healy.

One of the foundational ideas with this piece was to explore the limits of what performance can look like today and to turn those limitations into strengths,” says co-curator Daniele Bartolini. We imagined sending the audience on a journey: with the past the audience will experience the current isolation; in the present we begin to come into the world; and in the future we explore reactivating community and dialogue between artist and audience.”

Co-curator Luke Reece adds, “The pandemic has really highlighted how much we crave community. Conversations with the artists involved in this project, about what community means to them, became very central to the development of all the pieces in the anthology. For some community means untangling ancestry, for some it means looking at how local businesses are adapting to the pandemic, for some it means interrogating what community looks like in the future.”

The journey begins on August 18th with artistic responses to The Past, with three digital commissions all unfolding on one day.  Celebrated dub poet, theatre interventionist, and decolonial scholar d’bi.young anitafrika shares a longform dub poem, story come to town: colonisation tumble down; award-winning queer nehiyaw (Cree) cartoonist Alina Pete combines comic books, animatics, and poetry in Echoes of the Plague Times; and Nigerian refugee Philip Precious shares a first-person documentary experience recounting his journey from Nigeria to a refuge centre in Italy, in Irin Ajomi - My Journey.

Moving into responses to The Present, on the 19th and 20th two works, combining in-person and digital experiences, are presented each day. In cyclic dystopia, two-time national poetry slam champion storyteller Jennifer Alicia takes the stage with a poetic investigation of blood memory, ancestry, and the post-apocalyptic present Indigenous peoples live in today; theatre artist Rory de Brouwer explores the pervasive nature of organized crime in Toronto and how it contributes to entrenched systems of inequity in Our Secret Plague; in Please Remain Behind the Shield, Deaf theatre artist Chris Dodd examines the implications of wide-spread mask usage on the Deaf and hard of hearing; and in The New Office, photographer O’shane Howard shares a photo installation in a park that exposes how Black-owned businesses are adjusting to the pandemic.

Finally, in response to The Future, artists imagine the re-building of community in public spaces. For Bimose biidaabanwalking at dawn, Anishinaabe composer Melody McKiver creates an audio landscape that guides the listener through an exploration of a waterfront park, while contemplating what it means to reconnect with the land; choreographer Esie Mensah offers an interactive performance that manifests social distancing protocols through physical objects in Can You Trust Me?The anthology culminates with We Will Be: Rising As a Community, incorporating fun, physically-distant group games, collective art compositions, and conversations about the community we can be in our immediate future – a moving and community minded creation by young theatre artist Eponine Lee.

Working in collaboration with all the artists, SummerWorks and Canadian Stage have developed accessibility options for all projects, full details of which can be found online. As with all the 2020 SummerWorks programming, tickets for all We Were, We Are, We Will Be performances are free. Locations for site specific performances will be sent to ticket holders upon booking.

Regarding safe gathering at in-person performances and public works this summer, for non-ticketed events like art installations, we ask that everyone enjoy these works in adherence to healthy and safety guidelines, which are outlined on the SummerWorks website.  SummerWorks staff will be on-site to ensure these protocols are followed at all ticketed events.

We Were, We Are, We Will Be is a new SummerWorks and Canadian Stage co-presentation with the support of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto.

SummerWorks programming is kindly supported by Canada Council, Canadian Heritage, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Lindy Green Charitable Family Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, and TD Bank.

For more information visit and

About We Were, We Are, We Will Be

The Past
August 18
Three performances about the world that was, using digital technologies to connect artists and audience across distance with work experienced in your home.

story come to town: colonisation tumble down
a long dub poem by d'bi.young anitafrika
August 18 at 4:00 PM (EST)
Digital Experience
Spoken Word / Theatre

story come to town: colonisation tumble down
is an unwinding
into the coloniality
of time space place people
in search of
what we have yet  
to hold

A live performance from dub poet, theatre interventionist, and decolonial scholar d'bi.young anitakrifka followed by a Q&A.


Echoes of the Plague Times
By Alina Pete
August 18 at 6:00 PM (EST)
Digital Experience
Video & Film / Visual Art

The past and present collide in a visual exploration of literal and metaphorical plagues survived by Indigenous peoples and their connections to the current pandemic we all face. Award-winning queer Cree cartoonist Alina Pete combines comic books, animatics, and poetry to layer what has been survived before with what must be survived again. 

Presented as a double-bill with Irin Ajomi - My Journey followed by a Q&A.

Irin Ajomi - My Journey
Written & Created by Philip Precious; Facilitated & Edited by Tommaso Branconi
August 18 at 6:00 PM (EST)
Digital Experience
Theatre / Video & Film

A first-person documentary experience that recounts a journey from Nigeria to a Refuge Centre in Italy. Performed in Yoruba with English subtitles.

Presented as a double bill with Echoes of Plague Times.

The Present
August 19 & 20
Four artists respond to the world that is with site-specific works that animate and reclaim public space.

The New Office
Exhibited & Hosted by O’shane Howard
August 19 from 2:00-8:00 PM
In-Person Experience
Visual Art

An art installation showcasing six black entrepreneurs from the GTA in their elements post-pandemic. Highlighting Black professionals in the arts, fitness, fashion, beauty, food, and finance, who all look to strive and thrive despite their closed natural workspaces. The one space that is never closed and shared by all is a park. Nature never stops running its course, so why should we? 

Register in advance to receive the secret location via email on the day the installation is available for public viewing.

Our Secret Plague
By Rory de Brouwer
August 20 at 4:00 PM, 5:00 PM & 6:00 PM
In-Person Experience
Performance Art / Theatre

An exploration of the pervasive nature of organized crime in Toronto, and how it stakes claim on industry and contributes to entrenched systems of inequity.


cyclic dystopia
By Jennifer Alicia
August 20 at 5:00 PM, 5:45 PM, 6:30 PM & 7:30 PM
In-Person Experience
Performance Art

Two-time national poetry slam champion Jennifer Alicia takes over a public stage with a poetic investigation of blood memory, what it means to be a good ancestor, and the post-apocalyptic world Indigenous peoples live in today.


Please Remain Behind the Shield
Created & Performed by Chris Dodd; Directed by Ashley Wright
August 19 at 6:00 PM, 7:00 PM & 8:00 PM
In-Person Experience

The world has transformed. It’s a new day... and a new knight. Deaf performing artist Chris Dodd explores the armor that protects us and the armor that separates us through a multi-channel video installation that leads the audience on a path from screen to screen through public space. Performed in ASL with audio English interpretation.

The Future
August 21, 22 & 23
Three artists show us dreams of what the world will be, inviting audiences to reconnect through collective action, interaction, and exploration.

bimose biidaaban - walking at dawn
By Melody McKiver
Available for download August 21; Bike Ride on August 21 at 6:00 AM
Digital Experience & In-Person Experience
Interdisciplinary / Music

An audio landscape from Anishinaabe composer Melody McKiver guides you through an exploration of a waterfront park and asks you to consider what it means to reconnect with the land in Toronto. Register in advance to have the audio file sent to you via email to listen to on your own, or sign up to join a group bike ride that will experience the work together at dawn..


Can you trust me?
By Esie Mensah
August 21 at 6:00 PM
In-Person Experience
Dance / Performance Art / Theatre

An interactive performance from choreographer Esie Mensah manifests social distancing protocols into physical objects to create real connections between people and ask how we establish trust - or don't - while sharing public space. 


We Will Be: Rising as a Community
By Eponine Lee; Community Assistant Luke Reece
August 23 at 2:00 PM, 3:30 PM & 5:00 PM
In-Person Experience
Music / Theatre / Visual Art

Through fun, physically-distant group games, collective art compositions, and interesting conversations about the community we can be, Eponine Lee leads a collective exploration of what it means to be a community and how we reconnect in the wake of a pandemic. 

Suitable for all ages - children and families are welcome.