news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

our ARTists - The Team Behind inFORMING CONTENT

In just over a week, we're opening the doors to inFORMING CONTENT - and some pretty amazing artists are waiting on the other side to make it happen.

inFORMING CONTENT is led by Volcano Associate Artist, and international award-winner, Deborah Pearson, supported by a team of facilitators with a track record of cutting edge work in Canadian theatre or dance: Audrey Dwyer, Jiv Parasram, Amy Nostbakken, Jacob Wren, and David Yee.

Let's get acquainted!


SUSIE BURPEE: Susie is a Dora award-winning choreographer and performer, and teaches classes for professional dancers and students across the country. She has been a company dancer for Dancemakers, Le Groupe Dance Lab, TRIP dance company, and Ruth Cansfield Dance, and now performs her own pieces, working closing with choreographers like Serge Bennathan and Lesandra Dodson. Recent Toronto credits include the movement material for Crows Theatre's Someone Else and Road Trip with Linnea Swan.

AUDREY DWYER: Audrey has over a decade of theatre performance experience behind her in Canada and throughout the United States. A graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, some of Audrey's most recent performances include thirsty (National Arts Centre), Clybourne Park (Studio 180/Mirvish Productions), Black Medea (Obsidian Theatre), and Breath in Between (Breath Collective with Crows Theatre). She was Nightwood's Associate Artistic Director from 2008-2009, is a Dora-Nominated director for The Apology, and was recently Assistant Director for Nightwood's tremendous production of The Penelopiad. She is writing her first full-length play, Calpurnia, with Obsidian Theatre's Development series.

"Audrey Dwyer...exudes intoxicating power...she presents a strong and determined figure, willing to fight for what she needs." Megan Mooney on Black Medea

JIV PARASRAM: Jiv Parasram practices and studies performative resistance, and is part of the performance studies (canada) project. His past artistic work has explored themes of human security, migrant populations, and international law. His current research examines suicide bombing, race, and disidentification. He is a founding member of Pandemic Theatre, a Toronto-based theatre collective that produces exclusively socio-political work. Jiv's recent work with Pandemic includes The Lost Sagas of Tjorvi the Flaccid (writer).

AMY NOSTBAKKEN: Amy is a co-Artistic Director of Theatre Ad Infinitum, a multi-award-winning international ensemble based in London (UK) and Toronto that develops new and original theatre for multi-cultural audiences. Amy trained at Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris and Concordia University in Montreal. Amy co-wrote, composed and performed The Big Smoke, first at the 2010 Ediburgh Festival, followed by a three month UK-tour and a North American premiere at Factory Theatre.

Read Amy's interview with Summerworks before the Toronto premiere of The Big Smoke: "[In Toronto] I discovered there were so many people concerned with creating spaces that were very unique, spaces that are always becoming and feel so alive. There is this feeling of constant movement." (click here)

JACOB WREN: Jacob is a writer and maker of eccentric performances. His books include Unrehearsed Beauty, Families Are Formed Through Copulation, and Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed. He is co-artistic director of Montreal-based the interdisciplinary group PME-ART and travels internationally with alarming frequency. Jacob was in Toronto to present THE DJ WHO GAVE TOO MUCH INFORMATION with FADO Performance Arts Centre:

DAVID YEE: David is the Artistic Director of fu-GEN Theatre Company and a Dora-Nominated actor and playwright who has been produced in Canada and internationally. His play, lady in the red dress, was nominated for the 2010 Governor General's Literary Award. David is a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre where his latest, carried away on the crest of a wave, is now playing.

Read David's interview about carried away on the crest of a wave at Theatromania: "I have been consistently surprised by what research and interviews uncovered. I've heard things that made me believe in people again, in the humanity of us. Things that gave me hope." (click here

ABOUT DEBORAH PEARSON: a live artist, playwright, and producer, Debbie is the founder and co-director of the multi-award winning Forest Fringe, and artist-led network committed to fostering a safe space to show work at various stages of development at the Edinburgh Festival. Her creative practice spans playwrighting, solo performance, devising, dramaturgy, and community and public art projects. In 2010, Stage Magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in UK theatre.

Last summer, Debbie created The Queen West Project for Theatre Passe Muraille: part audio tour, part immersive dance experience that explored the area's relationship to homelessness, mental health, and regeneration. A clip of the audio, by sound designer Thomas Ryder Payne:

Debbie also teamed up with Volcano last August on A Synonym for Love, our site-specific opera at The Gladstone Hotel:

Like what you see here?

ARTISTS: register to participate at inFORMING CONTENT at
AUDIENCES: RSVP to attend the lectures and performances at (space is limited)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Hungry for CONTENT

inFORMING CONTENT: exploring contemporary theatre creation
Lectures: May 3, 7-9PM
Performances: May 5, 3-6PM

inFORMING CONTENT has one core goal: to introduce our theatre community to new ways of constructing performance. At Volcano, we're passionate about using insights from academics and real world sources to stimulate the storytelling process, and it has driven some of our most incredible experiences in new play creation (check out Another Africa as just one example).

Still Life with Winter Vista, Iain Baxter&.
Featured in Bread and Butter, an installation
at the Jackman Humanities Institute.
The Jackman Humanities Institute is full of brilliant minds from all kinds of disciplines. The 2012/13 Fellows were all selected because they're working on projects relevant to the Institute's current theme: FOOD (yeah, we're loving this).

Food is a basic human need: it shapes desires and gives all kinds of pleasure. From a Humanities perspective, food can be explored from all kinds of diverse perspectives: both as an object produced and consumed, and as a means and symbol of our human relations. The diversity of what we eat (or don't eat) and how we produce and share it shapes cultures, communities, nations, and empires.

Six academics, including Jackman Fellows and U of T Scholars, will be presenting on topics related to the focus issue, and their research will inspire our inFORMING CONTENT artists to create experimental new works in response. Here are the incredible minds we're working with this year:

Stacy Jameson
Postdoctoral fellow in Cultural Studies
There's the Puking, There's the Gagging: Television Encounters with Foreign Food
This talk will explore the ideological implications of "gross" food competitions on American reality television shows, principally Survivor.  It will consider the ways in which displays of disgust at "foreign" food condense narratives about natural physical reflex with ideas about nationality and ethnicity.  Contestants on the show play native, acting out an imagined primitive life of subsistence.  Within this frame, the eating spectacles of the show construct a model of "protective gagging."  Survivor presents a spectacle that aligns the innate functions of the body (in this case the gag that protects the body from contamination and harm) with social and cultural distinctions, thus making Other peoples and foods appear naturally and unavoidably "primitive," "gross," and even "dangerous."

Mathura Sabanayagam
Undergrad fellow double majoring in English & Human Biology
The Life Force of Pasta Alfredo and Ice Cream: Food in Contemporary Breast Cancer Narratives
In this talk, I will discuss representations of food in two contemporary breast cancer narratives: Cancer in Two Voices by Barbara Rosenblum and Sandra Butler and Ordinary Life: A Memoir of Illness by Kathlyn Conway. Food imagery abounds in these two narratives, whether it is a special childhood meal shared with family and friends or the bland hospital food provided to patients following a surgery. Exploring four key themes centred on food and healing which emerge in these two "autopathographies," I will discuss how food represents a productive literary avenue through which women can explore and articulate their experiences with breast cancer. I will conclude by speculating on several of the broader questions which arise from this research (what does one gain by telling the story of illness through food? what can be learned through the study of illness narratives?) and by exploring the contemporary relevance of this topic to the worlds of food studies, medicine, and literature.

Xóchitl Ruiz
Postdoctoral fellow in Anthropology
Fava Beans and Peanuts: work and social support on a street corner in Bogatá
This presentation focuses on work and life of Señora Ricarda, a street vendor who sold fava beans and peanuts on the same street corner for 48 years. While Señora Ricarda was able to nourish her household through her work selling these foods, many of her encounters with long-term clients were transformed into other channels of social, nutritional, and economic support, including gifts of food, clothes, money, and friendship. Through the course of her years as a vendor, Señora Ricarda also experienced the changes in the neighborhood along with its residents; she experienced the fluctuations in currency and the devaluation of the Colombian peso alongside them; she saw neighborhood children grow up to become adults, and experienced the transformation of the capital and the country in relation to that street corner and her clients.

Erica Allen-Kim 
Postdoctoral fellow in Architecture
Building Saigon Nationalism
I examine how architectural interventions embody contested imaginings of Vietnamese American identity. I focus on two key moments when anxieties about assimilation and the refugee community’s position in transnational politics were spatialized: the controversy over a pedestrian walkway, Harmony Bridge, and the creation of the first Vietnam War memorial by Vietnamese Americans depicting both South Vietnamese and American military.

Aldea Mulhern
PhD candidate in Religion
Meals that Matter: imaginings of 'progressive' Jewish and Muslim food in Toronto
In a break with tradition, a group of socially and ecologically liberal Jews wondered whether they might join up with local Muslims and purchase organic, grass-fed cattle to slaughter for meat. I hope to tease out the implications of this moment by considering the relevant food laws and interpretive precedents in order to argue for increased attention to the imaginative dimension of constructions of self, another, and the other, and to note how religion is deployed as a concept under which certain differences can be relativized in order to further particular agendas of similarity.
inFORMING CONTENT is a FREE EVENT for audiences and for participants! RSVP here to attend the Jackman Fellows presentations on May 3, and RSVP here to see the performances on May 5.

If you're an artist who'd like to be part of the creation, visit our website and register today.

Debbie Pearson addresses the audience
and participants of inFORMING CONTENT 2013

Thursday, 11 April 2013

No Casino Toronto

Ross Manson (photo: Itai Erdal)
Volcano Artistic Director Ross Manson has written an open letter to his undecided City Councillor, Cesar Palacio (Ward 17 - Davenport), urging the Councillor not to support a casino in Toronto. If you're passionate about keeping Toronto casino free, make sure you let your councillor know

If you're looking for more resources, visit and visit them on Facebook and Twitter.

From Ross

Dear Councillor Palacio,

I will be unable to attend the community meeting you have kindly organized for tomorrow at the JJ Piccininni Centre, but, since you are my councillor, I would like to make you aware of my personal stand on the issue of a downtown casino.

The issue really clarified for me when I read the following quote from our mayor in the Toronto Star: "You need something to do after your meeting or convention. You want to have a place like a casino to go with your spouse or your business partners. You just don't go to a convention and go back to your hotel room."

He's right. You don't go back to your hotel room. But, as the Artistic Director of an internationally acclaimed theatre company based in Toronto, I find it insulting that the Mayor thinks a casino would be the thing our city might best offer to business people for an evening out. This gives me an insight into the Mayor's pro-Casino stand - one which seems to ignore the great diversity of entertainment, restaurants, bars and cultural options that already exist in Toronto. In fact, the presence of a casino in the heart of our downtown would be a stain on all fo this. Seeking to define our city as a casino destination, rather than a cultural destination, would be a tremendous belittling of our city - one of the truly great cities in North America. We should be comparing ourselves, our services, our dynamism to New York or Montreal, not to Atlantic City or Vegas.

At its core, a casino is about gambling. It is not about giving citizens better lives. It has no place in the centre of a great city. I don't believe the job projections are accurate. I don't believe the spin that our economy benefits from downtown gambling. I do believe the presence of a casino would detract enormously from the reputation of our city.

That's my own opinion, and one I know is shared by many of my neighbours in your ward. Toronto is better than this. We need no downtown casino. We should be aiming much, much higher. This is a city full to bursting with artists, with creative entrepreneurs, with people who have direct connections to other cultures the world over - this is our great strength. We are globally connected and multi-cultural. This has nothing to do with gambling. We should not be carving out a significant part of our downtown for gambling. We are not a city that gains by promoting gambling. We should build on our strengths, not on other people's weaknesses.

I hope you agree.

Sincerely yours,
Ross Manson

Sign the No Casino Toronto petition here.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Help Us Make Things Happen!

We're super pumped about the events we have coming up, and we hope you or someone you know might also be pumped! So pumped that they want to get involved:


For three days in May, Volcano is turning the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto into a wild creation lab, where young artists turn contemporary ideas from fascinating academics into radical new site-specific creations.

We're looking for:
  • Videographer(s) and Photographer(s): we need to capture as much footage and as many images as possible of the performances and lectures. These volunteer gigs are a great chance for students to build their portfolios. We need to book at least one videographer and one photographer for the lectures (May 3, 7-9PM) and the performances (May 5, 2-6PM). Please email Ginger Scott with a brief statement of interest to apply (if you have samples of previous work, we'd love to see it!). 
A performance at inFORMING CONTENT 2012
Up Later: Volcano Conservatory

Volcano's training program is back July 19-28 at the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement (map). This annual offering of workshops provides access to alternative training in techniques from around the world with top theatre practitioners. The full Conservatory schedule will be released in the next few weeks...we'll leave you in suspense about that for now, but suffice is to say we're super excited that Volcano AD Ross Manson is teaching this year (!!), alongside artists from Canada, the US, and Europe. If you're not already on our mailing list, get in touch ASAP so that you'll be one of the first to hear when the program is announced.

The Opportunity: We're looking for an On-Site Coordinator to provide support for the instructors and students throughout the two-week Volcano Conservatory. This is the perfect gig for theatre artists: we can't pay you, but we can offer you free courses with our fantastic instructors.

On-Site Coordinator responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
  • opening the studio in the mornings and locking up at night
  • distributing student receipts and collecting cash payments
  • distributing instructor paycheques
  • distributing and collecting course evaluations
  • sweeping and cleanup of the studio before and after each course
  • providing administrative support to instructors as required
  • communicating the day-to-day events of the Conservatory to Volcano staff, specifically in the event of an issue
  • other duties as they arise
The On-Site Coordinator is expected to be at the studio each day, for the full duration of the Conservatory, July 19-28. This typically means an 9:45AM start time, with classes ending at around 9:30PM (a 12 hour day, with a lot of downtime). This is an unpaid position. The On-Site Coordinator receives 50 hours of complimentary class time at the Conservatory.

If you're interested in being our 2013 Volcano Conservatory On-Site Coordinator, contact Ginger Scott today! Please provide a resume and a brief letter of interest (no more than 2 pages total). 

Movement for Actors with Peggy Baker (July 2011)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Show Your Support for the Arts

A major decision on municipal arts funding in Toronto is about to be made. Make sure it's the right one by speaking out in support of the sector.

Toronto Council Budget Vote: April 3

Toronto City Council is about to vote on whether to approve $6 million in arts funding for the 2013 budget. This funding is the first instalment in a four year plan that will bring Toronto's per capita arts investment to $25. The recommendation, ED20.5, is the result of concerted effort from across Toronto's arts sector over the past 10 years. A per capita increase was first introduced in 2003 by the Culture Plan for the Creative City and reiterated in 2011 by the Creative Capital Gains report. Both were unanimously supported by Council but the recommended per capita increase was not acted upon. For further background, you can visit the Toronto Arts Foundation, the Toronto Star, and NOW Magazine, for a start.

Artists, arts workers, and arts supporters need to show City Hall that this move is a step in the right direction. 

On April 3, come to Council Chambers and show your support for Toronto's arts community. Demonstrations like this are vital to the decision-making process, particularly for those Councillors who are still undecided. If you can't make it out, Tweet, Facebook, put up signs, and most importantly, call or email your City Councillor to let them know you think ED20.5 is the right move for Toronto.

Councillors at the Daniels Spectrum celebrate the
recommended increase to arts funding. Photo from

Public Consultations

The City and the TAC are holding public consultations beginning April 6. This is the community's chance to shape what the priorities for arts funding should be and share their ideas for future programs.

Remember: decisions made now will affect the course of the next four years of funding. If you have an opinion or idea, don't be shy. Make your voice heard!

Public Consultation Dates:
Additionally, the TAC is hosting one consultation that will focus specifically on TAC grant programs (new and continuing) on Friday, April 12 from 2-4:30pm at St. Paul's Bloor Street (227 Bloor Street East).

The City is also collecting feedback on what we think the funding priorities are in an online survey (click here). Please fill it out and share widely! It'll take 5 minutes tops and it's a very important way for the community to speak up and be heard., one group that was instrumental in realizing this new funding allocation, has released their positioning statement here. The TAF has released its funding priorities here

Federal Budget

Canadian Art has a great summary of the federal budget's impact on the arts. One key new initiative to consider is the First-Time Donor's Super Credit, which Canadian charities can use to encourage new / young donors to support their causes.

From the budget:
FDSC will increase the value of the federal Charitable Donations Tax Credit by 25 percentage points if neither the taxpayer nor their spouse has claimed the credit since 2007. The FDSC will apply on up to $1,000 in cash donations claimed in respect of any one taxation taxation year from 2013 to 2017... the Government will work with the charitable sector, including Imagine Canada, to encourage more donations by a greater number of Canadians and further enhance public awareness, reduce red tape and increase transparency and accountability in the charitable sector. 

Funding for the Canada Council appears to be staying at the same level. Read Canadian Art's full article here.

Arts Endowment Fund

The Ontario Arts Foundation is encouraging participants of the Arts Endowment Fund to write to the Province of Ontario to support renewing the program in the 2013 budget. Funding for the AEF ended in 07/08. For more information on the proposal, contact the OAF.