Stage Door News

Toronto: Luke Reece tells his story in As I Must Live It February 11-March 2

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Kicking off the Mainstage season, in February, Theatre Passe Muraille is thrilled to begin the new year with the World Premiere presentation of their co-production with Modern Times Stage, AS I MUST LIVE IT, on stage February 11 – March 2 in the Passe Muraille Mainspace.

A funny, endearing, and thought-provoking new work, AS I MUST LIVE IT comes from award-winning spoken word artist Luke Reece. Through poetic storytelling touching on everything from antagonistic squirrels to Chris Pratt’s abs, Reece shares his experiences growing up with a mentally ill father in a mixed-race family. Featuring Reece’s signature deft wordplay, with the direction of internationally acclaimed audience-specific practitioner Daniele Bartolini and stunning projections from one of the UK’s leading immersive production design companies, Limbic Cinema, AS I MUST LIVE IT brings the page to the stage for an intimate and pun-filled event.

“This show is a culmination of ten years of writing spoken word pieces that started as a way to process my experiences and relationship with my father,” shares Reece. “Now…now it’s much more than that. It’s a beacon for those who have had similar experiences – and for those who haven’t. It’s a sharing of stories and poems ultimately to talk about something real, with as much heat and humour as possible.”

The ‘something real’ Reece wants to talk about, is the significantly under-addressed experience of mental illness within the Black community – and among Black men in particular. Reece comments, “The beginning of reframing is just to have the conversation. I am putting it in a frame, presenting an option of framing. From there, we can tear it apart or make it better. But we have to start with making a frame, instead of putting it in your garage behind skis that you never use. When we don’t talk about things, we hurt ourselves and each other. Essentially, I’m trying to use this piece as a giant wedge to stop the cycle.”

An award-winning producer, playwright, poet and educator, Luke Reece is the Associate Artistic Director at Soulpepper Theatre, and a highly regarded arts leader. In addition to his work within traditional theatre mediums and venues, Reece is one of Toronto’s most decorated slam poets, becoming the Toronto Poetry Slam (TPS) Grand Champion in 2017, winning the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word as the captain of the TPS team and then again in 2018 as the team coach. In 2018 he placed 2nd in Canada individually which earned him a spot representing the country at the 2019 World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris France where he placed 4th.

Marjorie Chan, TPM Artistic Director articulates that: “AS I MUST LIVE IT is one of the three works this season, that started or continued development at Theatre Passe Muraille, even as a global pandemic shut down many theatres. We’ve been pleased to be able to support the various development phases of this incredibly personal piece through the past four years. Luke and Daniele have created a potent and rather large piece of work and so we’re thrilled to be welcoming Modern Times Stage as a collaborator as we prepare to finally share it with the world.”

“We’re always looking for innovative, aesthetically & formally radical, imaginative, and profound works of art, and progressive artists, creators, and organizations – Luke Reece is that special artist, and collaborating with TPM and Daniele has produced a piece of art that has that special and unique aspect of theatre that reminds us all why we fell in love with it to begin with!” says Rouvan Silogix, Artistic Director of Modern Times Stage.

Reece’s collaboration with Daniele Bartolini began in the spring of 2020, when they were brought together by then SummerWorks Festival Artistic Director Laura Nanni to co-curate a multi-artist anthology project reflecting on a changing world in the grip of the pandemic. The pair connected personally and creatively right away, and Reece asked Bartolini to join him in an upcoming workshop for AS I MUST LIVE IT.

Speaking to directing Reece in this production Bartolini says, “A stranger walks on a stage. Within seconds we have the impression that we have known him forever, that we love this person. This is the gift Luke Reece has as a performer. As a director, what do we do with this ability? We simply create any condition to let it exist freely. We protect this gift. My approach to directing this piece is just that, protection.”

AS I MUST LIVE IT, previously ‘Building Relationships with the World’, has been a part of the Buzz In-Development Series at Theatre Passe Muraille since 2020. During this time, they were also in the Digital Creation Lab, during which it was suggested they look into collaborating with Limbic Cinema. Driven by the desire to build out an immersive experience from Luke’s language, they approached Limbic – a leading, UK based immersive production design company – and ended up partnering with them to create the visual world for the piece.

“Limbic have created a magical video design for the piece,” comments Bartolini, “This isn’t only a show. It is a place of encounter of people and stories and a place of encounter of forms – auto-fiction, spoken word, immersive theatre, art installation.”

Performances of AS I MUST LIVE IT will run Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 4:30 PM. All performances of AIMLI will be captioned. Mandatory masking performances are scheduled for February 17 and 25 and March 1. All performances at Theatre Passe Muraille offer a relaxed environment. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Can-Afford at three price points, $12, $35, and $65 and are available now online at