Stage Door News

Toronto: SummerWorks wraps up an historic summer season

Thursday, August 27, 2020

As this unprecedented summer begins to wane, SummerWorks prepares to conclude this unique summer season of free programming. Summer 2020 will end as it began, with a celebration of art, possibility, and perseverance in the End of Summer Mix.

A curated collection of video, music, text and visual offerings, End of Summer Mix is everything you need for you or your bubble to celebrate and reflect on the end of the season. Featuring some of SummerWorks’ favourite artists, regular collaborators, new friends, and staff, End of Summer Mix will include a collection of recipes, playlists, performances, activities, and provocations to experience in your own time and way. The “Mix” will be available for download on August 29 at Artist contributors include Colin Asuncion, Elder Duke Redbird, Eponine Lee, Fay & Fluffy, Rock Bottom Movement, Syrus Marcus Ware, and Triga Creative with Sarah Creskey.  

The “engage on your own terms” offering culminates a season like no other, which saw SummerWorks switch gears in response to the global pandemic, presenting a summer-long curation of work that began in May running through to the end of August. The season reached audiences online, over the phone, in parks and alleyways, through a podcast, short films, and live presentations for small, distanced groups.  Projects were brought to life across myriad mediums: audio drama, comic book and graphic art, dance, dub poetry, film, interactive live experience, art installations, live performance, photography, pre-recorded audio tour, and more. SummerWorks activities were accessible not just across Canada this year, but to audiences from across the globe. 

At the heart of programming curation was a mandate to engage and support as many artists as possible and for community partnership to be central in the pandemic response.  Since May, SummerWorks activities put over 150 artists to work. Additionally, over $90,000 in fees were paid to artists - an increase over previous years. The summer season also unified the efforts of 28 community and arts organizations.

I am so pleased with how we at SummerWorks and our cherished community collaborators were able to come together this summer,” says SummerWorks Artistic and Managing Director Laura Nanni.So many things about what we dove into this summer were big unknowns – which can be destabilizing, but also a creatively fruitful place to live. Despite the huge challenge of not being able to stage public performances for audiences in the way we are used to, with the support of the SummerWorks team and the many artists and partner organizations we collaborated with, we kept the work going, we experimented together while finding new ways of making and connecting. I really feel this exemplified our mandate of exploring the possibilities of performance. While we look forward to presenting the Festival and gathering in person again one day, I will treasure what we accomplished and how we marked this historical moment in time together.”

The 2020 summer season kicked off in May with Essential Play – a performance party co-presented with Canadian Stage and in collaboration with Club Quarantine. In June SummerWorks partnered with long-time collaborators Outside the March to bring their successful phone-based improvised mystery series The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries, across the globe Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Germany, Ireland and the UK, as well as creating an ASL performed version. 

July saw the creation of the first ever Artist Residencies as part of the SummerWorks Lab, supporting 18 artists in the research and development of new inquiries and projects from home, with sharings online.  In August, SummerWorks partnered with Canadian Stage again on the 10-part anthology work We Were, We Are, We Will Be, which started with online presentations and slowly re-introduced public performances in outdoor spaces for small groups.  SummerWorks and Canadian Stage also joined together with TO Live to present Volcano Theatre’s 3-part anthology Metamorphosis: A Viral Trilogy, an audio-drama written by internationally acclaimed Giller Prize-winner André Alexis; and the The AMY Project returned to SummerWorks with a collection of short films in Undertow. In these last days of the month, artist Mark Reinhart continues to animate public spaces around West Queen West and Parkdale with Health & Safety Notes, a community-centered public art project that sees Reinhart collaborate with local artists and organizations to craft messages of hope and connection displayed on building exteriors, crafted from brightly-coloured duct tape. All sites are mapped on a custom google map accessible on the SummerWorks website, including information about each partner organization participating.

Recognizing a significant lack of diverse voices in Canadian arts media, 2020 initiatives also included a pilot program to develop and uplift BIPOC voices in art criticism.

SummerWorks commissioned three emerging BIPOC critics to write a response to work in We Were, We Are, We Will Be and paired them with mentors in the field for editorial support. The commissioned writers included Jenna Shummoogum (with support from the Toronto Star’s Carly Maga and Karen Fricker), Nicole Eun-Ju Bell (with support from NOW Toronto’s Glenn Sumi), and Sid Malcolm (with support from’s Rosey Edeh.) Work was shared on the SummerWorks website and social channels.

2020 summer season projects were created and presented in partnership with The AMY Project, Canadian Stage, Club Quarantine, Deaf Spectrum, English Theatre Berlin, Farnham Maltings, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, MAYK, Melbourne Fringe, Mixtape Curations, Outside the March, Project Arts Centre, Stratford Festival Lab, The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, TO Live and Volcano Theatre. Community partners for Health & Safety Notes include Antikka Cafe, Artery, BAND (Black Artists’ Network in Dialogue), Kate Duncan, Gallery 1313, Andrew Kerr, Loga’s Corner, Parkdale Centre for Innovation, Parkdale Adult ESL Class, STEPS, The Theatre Centre, Toronto Media Arts Centre (TMAC), Workman Arts, and Womxn in Paint.

In line with SummerWorks’ ongoing commitment to accessibility, all online programming was supported by ASL translation, captioning, audio description and/or downloadable script. 

SummerWorks programming is kindly supported by Canada Council, The Department of Canadian Heritage, Government of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Lindy Green Charitable Family Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, The Aubrey and Marla Dan Foundation, Hal Jackman Foundation, and TD Bank.

Photo: Esie Mensah. © 2020 Andrew Williamson.