Stage Door News

Toronto: Buddies in Bad Times announces a new format for The Rhubarb Festival

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Amidst an absence of live performance on our stages (and across the city) this season, The Rhubarb Festival leans into its spirit of experimentation with a new incarnation as a performative publication. In an intentional turn away from the digital, this year’s Festival takes the form of a limited edition book that seeks to embody live performance and the essence of Canada’s longest-running festival of new works. The format allows the audience to engage with the works however, whenever, and wherever they please.

“In our readiness to port live performance onto our screens, I’ve craved liveness and its inherent insistence on attention. The Rhubarb Festival seeks to be a balm from the hours we’ve spent staring into Zoom or doomscrolling on the Internet. Where many have already reinvigorated their relationship to printed material over the course of the pandemic, this year’s Rhubarb has artists imagining live performance for this form in ways that are at once inventive and subtle, challenging and pleasurable.” says Festival Director Clayton Lee.

Responding to the prompt to create performances for the page, this year’s Rhubarb artists go well beyond submitting scripts. Programming ranges from a choreographic score stemming from a consent-based practice, to a fever-dream drag performance; from a meal to music inspired by the sound of turning over a page; and from colouring pages to traces of conversations that look towards the future. In addition to the projects printed in the festival publication, a number of artists will be staging interventions on the books before they’re received by audiences.These projects include a plantable love note from the future, a project using electronic components and reactive ink, and custom textile book-bag. The interventions will be performed and distributed by chance across the entire set of books, making each copy truly distinct from the others.

The limited edition run of 888 books is available for pre-order now, with shipments beginning shortly before the festival’s opening night on February 10. 

  • Festival highlights include:

    • An invitation from activist and artist Ravyn Wngz into a conversation about her work with Black Lives Matter - Toronto, with Black Liberty. 

    • A set of intimate performance scores from [ field ] (artistic and life partners Coman Poon and Brian Smith) that hint at and experientially diffract from their ritual/performance, 1+1=0: performances in preparation for death, a death meditation on intergenerational, queer and cross-cultural sites of love.

    • Drawings of past works by performance artist Louise Liliefeld, who asks the audience to add to the work, presented here as colouring pages. 

    • 楊光奇 · Njo Kong Kie’s Score for Page Turning - a series of short compositions associated with an emotion evoked by turning a page. 

    • History Haunts the Body by British-Carribean artist Ashanti Harris, a text to be read aloud as a process of embodying and amplifying the quiet history of four Guyanese women in 18th and 19th century Scotland, accompanied by incantations of care.

    • New works from Natasha “Courage” Bacchus and Gaitrie Persaud, Sue Balint, Marshal Vielle, happy/accidents, Ashleigh-Rae Thomas, Nicholas Herd, Ishan Davé, and more. 


The book purposely exists in a single print run of 888 copies. It is written primarily in English, with one contribution written in English and in illustrated ASL symbols and another written partially in Chinese.

This book does not and will not exist in digital book form. We will, however, be creating an audiobook version of the book - the link to this will be e-mailed to everyone who receives a copy of The Rhubarb Festival book.

For more information visit The Rhubarb Festival.