Appreciation of We Were, We Are, We Will Be (continued)

by Lynn on August 24, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Continuing on with SummerWorks Co-presented with Canadian Stage and Mixtape Curations: We Were, We Are, We Will Be

What:  (The Present): The New Office, Please Remain Behind the Shield, Our Secret Plague and (The Future): We Will Be: Rising as a Community.

When: Aug. 18 – Aug. 23. But each event played for only one day (multiple times on that day).

Where: Various outdoor locations.

Who: Gifted artists with something to say.

Why: Because not even a pandemic can cancel SummerWorks if Laura Nanni, Artistic and Managing Director has anything to do with it.

The New Office

Exhibited and Hosted by O’shane Howard.

From the press information: “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 took to strive and thrive despite their closed natural workspaces.”

O’shane Howard created six stations, each enclosed in its own circle, properly distanced over the public park on the Esplanade). In each circle was: a large photograph of the highlighted entrepreneur; a framed sheet of paper with questions for each person asking how nature affected their work in this instance, their thoughts on the importance of trees for example;  a simple table on which were the tools of the trade of the highlighted entrepreneur.

The first entrepreneur was a barber and on the table was a towel on which were various combs, scissors, etc. all beautifully arranged on a slant on the towel. The table for the fashion designer had a puff with sewing needles stuck in it, a measuring tape, scissors etc. The artist supplied a large painting and on the table were paints, brushes etc. The finance person had an adding machine and other paraphernalia. The fitness exhibit had two dumb bell weights on it. And so on.

One observer at a time could stand inside the circle to get up close to the exhibit and read the replies to the questions. When an observer finished and left the circle, the next person could move on as we all circled the exhibit in one direction.

I loved the care, simplicity and meticulousness of the exhibit and the reliance of each entrepreneur to cope with a situation that disrupted their livelihood.

Please Remain Behind the Shield

Created and performed by Chris Dodd.

Directed by Ashley Wright

From the press information: “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 piece was performed in the laneway and courtyard of the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Theatre on Berkeley Street. A yellow arrow directed us to go up the laneway beside the theatre to the playing areas. There were three playing area each with a television screen and ‘setting’ of medieval books, clothing and perhaps a sword or two.

At each station a video came on of Chris Dodd telling us the story. Chris Dodd is deaf and his speech is compromised by it. Consonants and vowels are not distinct so the video has surtitles that express what he is saying. He is also signing while he talks. Initially I found reading the surtitles problematic because the sun was glaring on the screen and I could not see to read properly. This worked out eventually.

Dodd told of the difficulty his character had at his job because of COVID. Zoom meetings were difficult because he could not lipread properly or express himself. He lost his job. His room mate was a medieval scholar—hence the books and medieval artifacts—and moved out to live with his girlfriend. Dodd’s character was alone. Wearing a mask made communication impossible. He could not read the speaker’s lips. He lamented that no one at work bothered to learn ASL to communicate with him. He did speak warmly of a woman who was a cashier at his local grocery story who was kind, considerate and tried to learn some ASL in order to ‘talk’ to Dodd’s character.

Please Remain Behind the Shield is a terrific piece of theatre that speaks of the challenges the quarantine has had on those who are deaf and or hearing impaired. It makes us aware of how hard it is to communicate behind a mask or shield; how marginalized people are without the means of communicating and how people who can hear do little to try and accommodate those who can’t.

I was so impressed with the professionalism of the whole piece. And more than anything I was moved by the tremendous exertion Chris Dodd put into trying to speak clearly so that we could understand him. I listened hard to what he was saying, trying to make out his words. Loved the challenge of this piece.

The Secret Plague

 Written and performed by Rory de Brouwer.

“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.”

We are on the Bentway, under the Gardiner Expressway. A casually dressed man (Rory de Brouwer) pitches us to buy a condo. He talks about the cost of a small studio and the better deal of a two bedroom. He is smooth-talking, confident and lobs statistics and facts to get us to buy. Then he takes a break from the pitch, relaxes and talks about organized crime in Toronto and how it’s tied to the huge condo industry. He talks about buying condos for investments and for shady dealings.

We had been asked to download a video to our phones before the production and then to go to a quiet place surrounded by condos to watch it. The video gave a clear account of how organized crime and real estate work in Toronto. It was chilling. Again, the presentation is accomplished and artful.

The Future.

We Will Be: Rising as a Community

By Eponine Lee, Community Assistant Luke Reece

“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.”

Eponine Lee is the real deal, a theatre treasure and at 13 years-old, the future. She has created this show with the help of Community Assistant Luke Reece. The show took place at the out-door skate board ‘park’ on Lower River Street. The audience was invited to view various tables with artifacts on them under headings such as: respect, education, communication, determination, the environment, collaboration, people. Some of the artifacts are: a letter to Eponine’s grandparents expressing how much she misses them (for respect); a mirror (under the heading of people); a set of gears that fit perfectly to express collaboration. This is all Eponine Lee’s imagination. Woow.

The audience was invited to engage in games, charades, art projects etc. And they collaborated, worked together and became a community.

I can appreciate that the various offerings in this truncated SummerWorks festival are works in progress that are still exploring and examining. But all works of art are works in progress. I was mighty impressed with the polish, accomplishment, technical proficiency and artistry of the works I saw.

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