by Lynn on February 10, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer


At the Theatre, Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Conceived and performed by Autumn Knight

Performed Friday, Feb. 8, 2019, 7:30 pm only.

From the program and other blurbs:

Documents centres dialogue, gesture and the voice of both the artist and the audience to uncover and critique structures of power. Troubling the division of labour between the performer and the audience divisions, Documents involves a public read-ing of the documentation that serves to authenticate or legitimize citizenship. Central to this work is a filing cabinet that both holds the props required for the performance, while also serving as a portrait or trace of the artist. The interactive reading of the doc-uments in the files addresses the embodied specificities of race, class, gender, sexuality to contrast whether these categories accurately reflect the bodies that are meant to represent—while underlining how different audiences and relationships to power may influence this reading.”

This is fine if Autumn Knight is in fact reading the ‘document.’ Her reading and presence gives the piece context and power. But if Autumn Knight is not there as she wasn’t on Friday, Feb. 8, the only date of her advertised show, then the result totally lacks context and thus becomes something else–pretentious drivel.

The show was to start at 7:30 pm. I was waiting to go in by 7:15 pm. The door to the venue, the Franco Boni Theatre was closed. Folks from the Theatre Centre went into and out of the Theatre several times. What were they checking?  At 7:30 pm a woman obviously involved with the show quietly said that she would be back in a few minutes to gather the people who might have been waiting downstairs. The doors were opened at 7:35 pm. At 7:45 pm the woman introduced herself as Shannon Cochrane, the Artistic Director of FADO Performance Art Centre and the curator of Documents. There was a filing cabinet and two desks, one up stage and one downstage with the cabinet in the middle. The lights remained on. She asked/picked? a volunteer to read ‘the document.’ The person selected mumbled and stumbled over reading and was mainly unintelligible and totally inexpressive.

Someone with the Theatre Centre asked if we were all over 19 years old. A drawer of the filing cabinet was opened and plastic cups were passed out to the audience. Then white wine from the bottle was poured into the cups for those who wanted that, or red wine in plastic baggies, or water, or beer, or even bourbon. Then the ‘volunteer’ still reading from the document, read off questions to the game “Never Have I Ever.” If the statement was false for those in the audience they drank. Buried in the questions were some dealing with race and class. For this predominately white audience  without the woman of colour who created and should have performed the piece, there is no context. Photos of celebrated women of colour were passed around. We had to wait until every person passed those photos. No context. (They mean something to Autumn Knight, the show’s creator). At points in the ‘script/document’ the volunteer had to go to the filing cabinet to get something, flipping through files, looking. We waited until the volunteer had to ask Shannon Cochrane for help. And we waited. Then another ‘volunteer’ was chosen who didn’t mumble, but needed help trying to figure out what was expected when that volunteer went to find something in the filing cabinet. Again, Shannon Cochrane was there to help. And we waited.

Then the script/document instructed the volunteer to make a call on a cell phone. A woman, answered. “Hello?” said the person called. “Hello” said the volunteer. “Hello” said the person called. “Hello” said the volunteer, until the person called asked questions of the caller. A person in the audience called out to the person on the phone: “Who are you.” The answer? “Autumn Knight (the person who should have been doing the show!). The audience member asked, “Where are you?” Autumn Knight side-stepped the question. She instructed the volunteer to take a bow and the volunteer and the audience were to leave “and don’t fuck it up any more,” or words to the effect. Too late Autumn!

Autumn Knight apparently had a special presentation of the show on Thursday, Feb. 7 for an invited audience for which she was present. Apparently it was a terrific evening. She allegedly told them she would not be there for the ‘real’ performance Friday, Feb. 8.

No one told us. There was no sign, note, announcement that the creator and performer of the show wouldn’t be there for this performance. What kind of mean farce is this?

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1 Tandy Cronyn February 11, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Good Grief!! If ever anything deserved your “Red Face of Fury” this has to be a top contender.