news, updates, and conversations from Volcano Theatre

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Remaking History with Susie Burpee: Exploring Ways to Repurpose Our Stories

We are thrilled to have theatre and dance artist Susie Burpee teaching at the Conservatory this year.  In her workshop Remaking History, Susie works through the methods and ideas used to create her Dora award-winning work, Road Trip, calling upon memory and the meeting of chance and craft in order to create. 

Susie on Remaking History:

In 2009, I made a work called Road Trip, with my longtime artistic colleague Linnea Swan.  We co-created and performed the work together, and it was a wild ride.  Linnea and I had wanted to work together for a long time.  Our artistic histories were intimately linked.  We trained at the same professional school, danced for the same choreographers and companies, and had performed the same roles.  We had known each other for fifteen plus years.  And we shared similar perspectives and interests around performance and its relationship to audience.

Susie Burpee and Linnea Swan in a rehearsal for Road Trip.
Photo by Kevin Konnyu
We wanted to use our shared artistic history as source and foundation for the work.  But we weren’t interested in retelling our history verbatim.  We felt that if we could find a way to repurpose our stories, we might be able to create a new narrative that would give greater meaning to already existing themes and ideas. 

So we first gathered an arsenal of ‘moments’.  Pieces of choreography we had danced (we got permission), snippets of conversation, and other gestures and events that were somehow significant in our journey together.  Out of context and without understanding the back story, these bits of abstracted information would be a mystery to anyone but us.  We needed to find a way that we could put them together to create something understandable.

Susie and Linnea in rehearsal.
Photo by David Tilston
We devised an arbitrary way of ordering the ‘moments’ that included a particular way of repeating or revisiting events.  Through workshop, we began to realize the importance of this method of making.  By creating a simple language of moments, and over time returning (sometimes in an augmented way) to these events, the audience became versed in this new world by learning its language.  By becoming literate with the language of the piece, they were able to understand the implications of recurring events.

Linnea and I made an important discovery in the process.  The picking apart of important stories somehow removed the ‘preciousness’ of particular events.  Or perhaps, more importantly, it removed our own point of view about the implication of said event.  In this way, it liberated the moment to become something useful for creation.  The moment could take a different shape or color in different contexts.  And importantly for us, it could become both tragic and comic.

This workshop, Remaking History, employs the same process used in the making of Road Trip, which eventually became a two-part work.  The first half, created in 2010 for the Canada Dance Festival, had the feel of a ‘whodunnit’.  Events happened in strange succession and eventually ‘added up’ to an understanding of the world and these two characters.  In 2012 we created the second half and premiered the entire work at DanceWorks here in Toronto.  The new half was created as a deconstruction of the first half – a deconstruction of a deconstruction, if you will.  It was self-referential in the sense that it looked at the actual making of the work - with a distinct lack of reverence.  

Remaking History is a workshop for makers and interpreters of theatre and dance, and runs July 21 - 22, 2014 at the Volcano Conservatory.  To reserve your spot email

Watch an excerpt of Road Trip...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Meredith Potter Celebrated for Leadership in Arts Administration

A quick post to say that we are BEYOND ECSTATIC that Volcano GM Meredith Potter is the recipient of the 2014 Leonard McHardy and John Harvey Award for Outstanding Leadership in Arts Administration.

Meredith has been a vital force for Volcano since 2005, and is an astounding administrator, mentor, and volunteer. In Ross' words, "Meredith is a uniquely talented, dedicated, hardworking and fun person, and without her - I have no idea how any of Volcano's accomplishments in the last few years would have been possible."

THANK YOU Meredith, for everything, and congratulations!!

You can read the whole press release about our fabulous General Manager at