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2006 – 2011: Other Worlds

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In the technology-driven global village of the early 21st century, Theatre Direct worked to develop and present theatrical experiences that challenged traditional forms and conventional content. Several initiatives centred on Creation and Arts Education Residencies, sending artists into schools to work with students for extended periods of time. Continuing to work with artists of diverse backgrounds, the company brought an unparalleled range of perspectives to their young audiences. 

In 2009, Theatre Direct opened the doors to its new home in the Artscape Wychwood Barns – a redeveloped historic site in Toronto with its own fully-equipped theatre and an education studio.

2006: The Babysitter

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-5-49-45-pm2006: The Babysitter

Written by Eric Woolfe
Directed by Michael Waller
Set and costume design by Joanne Dente
Puppet design by Eric Woolfe
Lighting Design by Geoff Bouckley
Sound and music composed by Paul Sportelli and Jay Turvey
Stage Manager: Marie Fewer

Cast:
Christine Brubaker
Audrey Dwyer
Mike Petersen
Eric Woolfe

The Babysitter, a “slasher puppet play” featured an eerie rabble of puppets terrorizing a baby-sitter, her young charges, and her friends. With thrills, chills, and laughs, The Babysitter examined the monsters within, and how to come to terms with one’s inner terrors.

2006: The Demonstration

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-21-46-pm2005: The Demonstration

Devised and directed by Mark Cassidy (with The Company)
Designed by Camellia Koo
Choreography by Viv Moore
Lighting Design by Geoff Bouckley
Sound composition by Anna Friz
Stage Manager: Isaac Thomas
Education Project: Josh Bloch

Cast:
Nisha Ahuja
Ella Chan
Karim Morgan
Frank Cox-O’Connell
Sodienye Waboso

Billed as “a kinetic meditation on democracy,” The Demonstration was inspired by stories from youth, and featured writing from several playwrights, including Marjorie Chan, Lisa Codrington, Dave Deveau, and Soraya Peerbaye. The framework of the show centred on the story of five students who must create a class presentation about democracy for a visiting politician. Using physical, vocal, and musical energy, the show explored where the personal fuses with the political, and highlighted issues such as justice, power, belonging, freedom, and change.

2006: The Carpet Project

2006: The Carpet Project

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Created by Katya Bonnenfant, Cobi Van Tonder, Hans Werner Klohe, and Su-mi Jang

With Grade 5 and 6 students of Dovercourt Junior P.S.

The Carpet was a creation and arts education project involving artists from the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany and students from Grades 5 and 6 at Dovercourt Junior P.S. in Toronto.

the carpet is a costume
the carpet is a mountain
the carpet is a sea
the carpet is a road
the carpet can become a curtain of shadows
and perhaps at the very very end, it’s a train…

Students worked with international artists to create a “carpet” from recycled items such as clothing, paper, and nets. The carpet was transformed variously into landscapes or entities to describe both the outer and inner spaces that students were exploring.

Through the use of choreography, design, voice, sound, and music, children became performers, dancers, and singers. This innovative three-week residency broke new ground for theatre in education, and became a joyous celebration for artists and students alike.

2007: The Seedling Festival

2007: The Seedling Festival

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This large and eclectic festival presented a number of first works of theatre for young audiences by exciting artists, and furthered development of Theatre Direct plays already in progress. After a process that involved artists mentoring other artists, a weeklong festival of readings and public performances helped to celebrate these engaging new works.

Plays and excerpts featured during the festival included:

THE HOTHOUSE PLAYS
Dramaturge: Laurel Smith

The Best I Can
Written by Lauren Brotman and Amber Godfrey
Read by Lauren Brotman

Two young women struggle with the lack of community in the lives of their own families.

Lifeline
Written by Marilyn Campbell
Directed by Mark Cassidy

Cast:
Tess: Vanessa Matsui
Keith: Michael Longstaff
Griffen: Adriano Sobretodo Jr.

Two classmates who write and illustrate an e-zine clash when one of their fans begins to send them desperate emails.

Melancholy Baby
Written by Valerie Buhagiar

Cast:
Carmela/Angel/Creature: Clare Preuss
Aunty/Bird Lady/Nurse: Lara Arabian
Roger/Dog Boy: Daniel Karasik
French Teacher/Man/Buddy: Gordon Bolan

Teenage Carmela suffers from a lack of harmony between mind and body. When her mind implodes with thought and her body with fear, she is left speechless – literally.

Refined
Written by Lisa Codrington
Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela

Cast:
Sweet Girl: Sabryn Rock
Sis’tuh Girl: Lisa Codrington
Bandy: Ardon Bess

Sis’tuh Girl takes Sweet Girl on a tour through a history she never knew she had.

Spray
Written by Erin Shields

Cast:
Charlie: Nicky Phillips
Kofi: Ryan Field
Jack: Gordon Bolan

16-year-old Charlie is struggling to define herself. She becomes obsessed with the art of a subway graffiti artist, whose work seems to speak directly to her.

In Search of Gandhi
Written by Pierre Tetrault

Cast:
Jehan: Anand Rajaram
Carly: Corey Murray
Vince: Ryan Field
Devon: Art James
Mother: Doris Rajan
Father: Sam Moses

Jehan has never felt as if he belonged in his Vancouver community. When he crashes into his principal’s car and totals it, his parents decide to relocate to Scarborough, where he will have to find a place for himself – and a friend.

Pageant Play
Written by Elizabeth Helmers

Read by Elizabeth Helmers

Twelve-year-old Crissy, on the run from the law, explains why beauty pageants are ugly.

The Bones of William Shakespeare
Written by Tom Carson

Cast:
Harriet: Nicky Phillips
Phil: Ryan Field
Ken: Gordon Bolan
Other: Cathy Murphy

Harriet is still struggling to come to terms with the loss of her father when her mother announces her plans to remarry – sending Harriet on a journey through Hamlet-like madness and revenge.

NEW PLAYS FOR YOUTH

Binti’s Journey
Written by Marcia Johnson
Adapted from the novel The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis
Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela

Cast:
Binti: Sodienye Waboso
She: Junia Mason
He: Mxolisi Welcome Ngozi

The festival gave audiences a chance to get a first glimpse of this moving drama about a courageous young girl, her grandmother, and the issue of AIDS orphans in Africa.

In the Dark
Written by Andrea Donaldson
Directed by Lynda Hill

Cast:
April Parker: Laska Sawade
Jay Bae: Danl Chen

This piece emerged out of Andrea’s explorations with interdisciplinary artists and student workshops at Central Technical School.

Nelly Boy
Written by Dave Deveau
Directed by Mark Cassidy

Cast:
Nelly: Cole J. Alvis
Man: Jason Lambert

Nelly Boy follows the journey of a biologically male fifteen-year-old who doesn’t identify as either male or female.

NEW PLAYS FOR CHILDREN

The Magic Paintbrush
Written and directed by Christina Wong
Music by Noel DiTosto; additional music by Jason Montojo

Cast:
Chu Yee/Villager: Tammi Chau
Aunt/Mei/Guard: Denise Mader
Teacher/Artist/Guard: Kristoffer Pedlar
Uncle Ping/Emperor: Wayne Sujo

Christina Wong dramatized this poignant Chinese folktale about a man who is given a magic paintbrush so that he can help the poor.

Mamta
Written and read by Sharada K. Eswar

Indian folktales form the basis for this charming show.

The Gardener
Written by Mike Kenny

Cast:
Joe/Harry: Michael Ripley
ASL Interpreter: Philip Daniel

In this play by British playwright Mike Kenny, Joe, a gardener has lost something. As he searches for it, he recalls his childhood. Joe remembers how he became a gardener, and his bond with his forgetful Uncle Harry.

Sanctuary Song
Libretto by Marjorie Chan
Composed by Abigail Richardson

Directed by Lynda Hill
Music Director: Wayne Strongman

This multimedia opera was inspired by the true story of a zoo elephant whose keeper leads her to freedom. This first presentation of Sanctuary Song gave audiences a sneak peek at what was to become one of Theatre Direct’s biggest hits.

2008: Sanctuary Song

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-5-53-40-pm2008: Sanctuary Song

Librettist: Marjorie Chan
Composer: Abigail Richardson
Directed by Lynda Hill
Original Set & Costume Design by Kelly Wolf
Video Design by Luisa Quintavalle
Choreography by Viv Moore
Stage Management by Kathryn Westoll
Production Management by Caroline Hollway
Assistant Stage Manager Nicola Benedickson

Music Director: Wayne Strongman

Cast:
Sydney: Xin Wang
James: Alvin Crawford
Penny: Girl -Sharmila Dey
Hunter: Circus Owner-Frank Cox-O’Connell

Orchestra:
Violin: Michael Schulte
Piano: Lizzie Lavado
Percussion: Ryan Scott
Conductor: Wayne Strongman
Assistant Conductor: Susan Suchard

Developed in partnership with Tapestry new opera works, Sanctuary Song premiered at the Luminato festival. This opera took audiences on a journey through the life of an old circus elephant, from her early years in Southeast Asia to her years of captivity in a circus, and finally to her eventual happy ending at an elephant sanctuary.

Poached by hunters, Sydney is sold to an American circus to be trained as a dancing elephant. Her faithful zookeeper, James, hears Sydney’s memories of her happy life of freedom and her cherished friend Penny. James vows to set Sydney free before she dies.

Soaring voices, vivid movement, and heartfelt performances — along with a live ensemble and beautiful costumes, set, and lighting — made Sanctuary Song unforgettable. Called “a tone poem of a life’s journey” by the Globe & Mail, the show went on to tour schools and has been remounted several times.

Winner: Dora Award for Outstanding New Opera or Musical, 2009.

Sanctuary Song was remounted in 2011 at the Wychwood Theatre and in 2013 at the National Arts Centre

2011 Company
Sydney- Xin Wang
Penny, Girl -Sharmila Dey
James-Jeremiah Sparkes
Circus Owner, Poacher-Martin Julien
Violin-Michael Schulte
Piano-Daisy Leung, Lisa Tahara

2013 Company
Sydney-Annie Ramos
Penny, Girl-Sharmila Dey
James-Alvin Crawford
Circus Owner, Poacher-Shawn Arbuckle

2008: Offensive Fouls

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Written by Jason Long
Directed by Andrea Donaldson
Set & Costume Design by Jung-Hye Kim
Sound Design by Duncan Morgan
Stage Management by Gerry Egan

Cast:
Joey: Colin Doyle
Christine: Ella Chan

Teenage sweethearts Joey and Christine grapple with racism in this sensitive, humourous, and revealing play. Alberta playwright Jason Long examines how racist taunts, familial attitudes, and even internalized racism affect the couple’s relationship and their community.

2007: Letters to Africa Residency

2007: Letters to Africa Residency, Kent PS

In November of 2007, Theatre Direct undertook a three-week creation and arts education residency at Kent Street Public School in Toronto’s west end.  as a complement to the development and premiere production of Binti’s Journey, Marcia Johnson’s adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s novel The Heaven Shop. A team of artists worked closely with an ensemble of students using spoken word, visual arts, dance, music, and radio arts to learn about and respond to the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, and the experience of young people there.

The residency featured the following artists:
Mxolisi Welcome Ngozi, specialist in sub-Saharan dance and music.
Junia Mason, spoken word artist
Monique Stewart, visual artist
Darren Copeland, radio artist
Ben Lawrence, videographer

Students worked toward building bridges of understanding with their peers in Africa, and used Ellis’s non-fiction book Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS to help explore themes of community, family, and culture.

2008: Binti's Journey

2008: Binti’s Journey

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Adapted by Marcia Johnson from the novel The Heaven Shop by Deborah Ellis
Directed by ahdri zhina manilla
Set and costume design by Melanie McNeill
Lighting and sound design by Duncan Morgan
Movement and Music Direction by Mxolisi Welcome Ngozi

Cast:
Binti: Jajube Mandiela
Kwasi: Sefton Jackson
Junie: Lisa Codrington
Memory: Dienye Waboso

Stage Manager: Kristin McCollum

The 2009 production starred Jujube Mandiela, Patrick Amponsah, Lisa Codrington, and Dienye Waboso. The cast of the 2012 production featured Ijeoma Emesowum, Thomas Olajide, Allison Edwards-Crewe and Dienye Waboso.

In 1995, over half a million children in Malawi were orphaned by AIDS. Binti’s Journey follows the journey of one of them, a young girl who works as an actor in a popular radio drama in Blantyre, Malawi’s largest city. Although her mother has died, life is good for Binti…until her father, too, dies, and Binti learns that AIDS caused their deaths. Separated from her siblings, Binti sets out for her grandmother’s house, many miles away. Once she arrives, she finds her “Gogo” running an orphanage for children who are homeless or parentless due to AIDS. Binti must come to a new understanding of family, and learn to live and love again.

Binti’s Journey has been seen by thousands of audience members since it first premiered in 2008, and both adults and young people have found the show exceptionally moving and uplifting. The show continues to be part of the Theatre Direct repertory. More information about the current production can be found here.

2009: Walking the Tightrope

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-12-34-14-pm2009: Walking the Tightrope

By Mike Kenny
Directed by Thomas Morgan Jones
Set and costume design by Kelly Wolf
Lighting design by Geoff Bouckley
Music and sound design by Mike Ross
Stage Manager: Jessi Linn Davies

Cast:
Stan: Wayne Robson
Esme: Sharmila Dey

Every summer, Esme goes to stay with her Grandad Stan and Nana Queenie. But this summer when Esme arrives, Nana’s not there. This lovely play about love and loss by UK playwright Kenny takes us on a journey to the sea and the circus, as Esme and her grandfather learn to face the changes in their world.

2009 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences,
2009 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance, Theatre for Young Audiences, Wayne Robson

 

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