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Catching up with our 2017 Theatre Creators’ Reserve Recipients

For eight seasons, Studio 180 Theatre has had the pleasure and the privilege of being a recommender for the Ontario Arts Council’s Theatre Creators’ Reserve Program (recently renamed “Recommender Grants for Theatre Creators”). Having recently been selected to once again be a participant in the program in 2017/18, we thought we’d take a moment to touch base with the creators of the projects that earned our recommendation this year and see how they’re coming along!

2017 TCR RECIPIENTS

Daniel Bennett, Views
Alison Lawrence, The Right
Polly Phokeev, How We Are Part III: Lecture
Amy Rutherford, Mortified
Darrah Teitel, Behaviour


Daniel BennettDANIEL BENNETT (with Gary Mok) – VIEWS

Tell us what it’s all about.
Views strives to answer the question – do minorities have to erase their culture in order to gain status in a multicultural society like Toronto? Conceived from our fascination with the cultural mosaic model and its relationship to the Canadian identity, we hope to investigate whether systemic oppression and social tension are buried beneath the façade of multiculturalism. This will be done by interviewing a wide variety of Torontonians to access the personal beliefs of the residents of the city. The interview transcripts will be the source material to develop the text.

What does the support of the Creators’ Reserve program mean to you as an artist?
The support of the Creators’ Reserve program means that we are able to follow and develop creative ideas. Without the subsistence it provides, we would not be able to dedicate the time to fully interrogate our ideas and it is likely that the project would never get started. The Creators’ Reserve program is an investment in our writing and the development of new Canadian theatre.

Tell us where the project is right now.
Currently, we are refining the pivotal question of the project and determining the specific demographics that we believe will best reflect the city of Toronto in relation to that pivotal question. In order to do this, we are currently researching the demographic and ethnographic patterns of Toronto residents over the past 50 years.

What’s next?
After we have found the correct demographic to interview for the project, the next step will be to conduct the interviews and mine the information for common themes. From there it is time to develop a first draft of the script!


Alison LawrenceALISON LAWRENCE – THE RIGHT

Tell us what it’s all about.
The Right is about the legally and morally murky world of Medical Assistance in Dying. Late last year I was told by a doctor that the defining term in the Medical Assistance in Dying legistlation, Bill C-14, is that a person qualifies when death is “reasonably foreseeable”, which is “a statement of law that has no equivalent in medicine.” I began to realize that the general public for the most part misunderstands how Bill C-14 is applied and who qualifies. At the same time, the passing of the bill hasn’t ended the controversy over Medical Assistance in Dying. If anything, it has intensified it. So what does that mean to someone who wants to die?

What does the support of the Creators’ Reserve program mean to you as an artist?
Creators’ Reserve has given me the time to “find out”. At this early stage of development, to be able to carve out a chunk of time to sit in the library, to read and to conduct interviews has been absolutely invaluable.

Tell us where the project is right now.
I have a notebook filled with facts, impressions, ideas, and quotes, and my search history looks a bit ghoulish. I have spoken with palliative care specialists, ICU doctors, assisted suicide advocates, psychiatrists and nurses. The people who deal with this issue are smart, passionate and committed.

What’s next?
It’s a big topic, and I am still exploring, but I am on much more solid ground now. The next step is to take all this information and wrestle with it into something more specific and personalize it. The next step is to write.

Polly Phokeev

POLLY PHOKEEV – LECTURE

Tell us what it’s all about.
Lecture is a dual-narrative play, half live and half on the internet, that examines groupthink and accountability in the social media age. The audience logs into an online class forum while observing a lecture on the works of Virginia Woolf; while the professor speaks about progressive feminism and queerness, someone links the class to a racist publication she wrote years ago, spiralling the classroom into a vicious debate about their professor’s viability as an instructor.

What does the support of the Creators’ Reserve program mean to you as an artist?
The support of the Theatre Creators’ Reserve Program means that I can take time to fully research and develop my ideas for this work in a dedicated period of time, without losing sleep!

Tell us where the project is right now.
Right now, the project is in its research phase – I’m knee-deep in Virginia Woolf’s works, prepping the lecture aspect of Lecture (which will need to be both academically rigorous and theatrically interesting… phew).

What’s next?
I’m aiming to finish a draft of the play by the end of summer, and in the fall of 2017 my creative partner Mikaela Davies and I will be workshopping Lecture with the support of funds from the TAC, OAC, and CCA.

Amy Rutherford

AMY RUTHERFORD – MORTIFIED

Tell us what it’s all about.
Mortified is a coming-of-age story. Its central themes are sex, shame and transformation. The structure of the play is a contemporary interpretation of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen and explores the potency and danger of female adolescent curiosity.

What does the support of the Creators’ Reserve program mean to you as an artist?
Support from Studio 180 and the Ontario Theatre Creators’ Reserve has validated my work as a writer and given me time to truly explore this story while also holding me to a deadline. The opportunity to share one’s work can be terrifying, but also exhilarating and necessary to play development.

Tell us where the project is right now.
I am currently at work on a third draft of Mortified which includes strengthening visual aspects and themes, integrating Greek Chorus elements and The Little Mermaid story into its overall structure, fleshing out supporting characters and experimenting with cast size.

What’s next?
In July, actors and director Anita Rochon will join me in doing a small workshop that will culminate in a reading for a small invited audience and Artistic Directors.


Darrah TeitelDARRAH TEITEL – BEHAVIOUR

Tell us what it’s all about.
Behaviour is a play about the normalization of sexual abuse. At the heart of the play is a woman, named Mara, who lives with rape and doesn’t address it. The play doesn’t address it either until halfway through. What we watch is a story of a normal-seeming woman living a regular life among people. The creeping sense that something is wrong makes us wonder who among these people is abusing her. The truth is they all are, because rape makes a woman vulnerable on all fronts. After she finally reports what is happening, her life explodes, and she has no way of putting it back together.

What does the support of the Creators’ Reserve program mean to you as an artist?
The TCR support is essential to the creation of this play. Without it I never could have turned what was an exciting, feverish idea into something resembling a play. Furthermore, it enabled me to bring more creative individuals into the process and through their brilliance, I learned so many smart things about the play. A writer can talk until they’re blue in the face about their intention to write something, but until they have money to sit in a room for a while, no progress will be made.

Tell us where the project is right now.
It’s growing. It’s gaining momentum. It’s three quarters of a solid first draft. It’s had one workshop and quite a bit of early interest from some A.D.s. It has a director attached and all I need to do is finish the dang draft and get it out to about 10 people who have an interest or stake in the project.

What’s next?
Because of the work we did after a one-week workshop in February, the project was chosen by GCTC (Great Canadian Theatre Company, Ottawa) for a year-long residency. I have funding and resources for a full year to continue working on it. My collaborators and I feel that the play becomes more and more relevant with each passing news cycle about endemic rape in Canadian society and we don’t want to wait too long to get this show to an audience.


Details about how to apply for the 2017/18 Recommender Grants for Theatre Creators will be posted on our website and social media in September. Those interested can also check the the Ontario Arts Council website for up-to-date information.