A photograph of a calm blue lake. To the left, there is a slab of flat rock and a white lighthouse situated on it. To the right is the other side of the rocky land. The sky is blue with light grey clouds.

The Personal and the Political: Responding to Contemporary Crises

Friday, June 11, 2021 | 14:30 - 16:00

Live panel on Zoom; spoken in English and French. No ASL interpretation or translation will be offered for this event.


Join Now in Room C

Between the Right and the Left: Staging Political, Emotional and Social Polarizations on Canadian Stage   


In the 2018 documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore blames the US oligarchy for allowing the rise of Trump and points at Trump’s skillful manipulation of media that in its hunt for “a hot story” has created a phenomenon of Trump(ism). In her book For a Left Populism, Chantal Moufe engages with similar effects of populist rhetoric, arguing that the time has come for the Left to reclaim its political weight using strategies of populist performance (2018).

But what type of theatre performance can truly engage with these philosophical propositions? Is it a documentary theater based on today’s polarized politics and presented in a designated theatre space: a theater that can be already preaching to the educated and to the converted? Or is it a street performance organized as a mass protest, or an outreach project, which involves both the leftist liberals and the underprivileged? The response cannot be homogeneous or out of context; each political project, I argue, needs to imagine its own means of performance pertinent to the questions and the experiences of its target spectatorship. Sometimes, putting forward a provocation to those who consider themselves open minded can already function as political incitement, specifically if such provocation triggers these liberal audiences to confront their own conservative beliefs, of which they might not be even conscious.      

One of such projects is The Assembly, written by Alex Ivanovici, Annabel Soutar, and Brett Watson of Montreal’s company Porte Parole and directed by Chris Abraham.  Enthused by interviews with political supporters of Donald Trump, The Assembly creates a theatrical response and provocation to the rise of extremism and tribalism today. It provides neither recipes for moral political behavior nor reconciliation between characters, and thus it turns the tables onto its audiences.

It is not surprising therefore that within several short years of its run, The Assembly steered both high praise and harsh criticism; to the extent that one polemical review “The Assembly aims to illuminate, but only simulates today’s divisive politics” written by Kelly J. Nestruck for The Globe and Mail has made a part of its dramatic canvas.  In this presentation, therefore, I propose to examine the mechanisms of political provocation and engagement as practiced in the project The Assembly. I discuss the aesthetics and the strategies of populist performance that can steer our political emotions, beliefs and standpoints; and I offer to analyze pros and cons of theatrical affect, when it comes to probing spectators’ personal politics.

Professor Yana Meerzon teaches for the Department of Theatre, University of Ottawa; and she was appointed a President of Canadian Association for Theater Research in June 2020. Yana’s research interests are theatre of exile and migration, cultural and interdisciplinary studies. She is the author of three books, with the latest volume Performance, Subjectivity, Cosmopolitanism published by Palgrave in August 2020.

Un estallido social (a popular revolt), a silent disease, a global pandemic: How to continue doing theatre in this context?


This reflection focuses on the detours needed to give shape to the creation Alas Para Volar: Autobiographical Story with 3 voices and 3 bodies as part of my doctorate in artistic research and practice; a work that focused on the intergenerational family memory that I was developing with my mother and my daughter.

How, (why) continue to do theatre in this context? This is the question I faced in the middle of a biographical theatre creative process in which I proposed to collect experiences from the daily memory of three Chilean women in order to transpose them to the stage. From the fall of 2019, personal, social, and global events have shaken things: an uncertain present imposing unexpected and unknown constraints on the creative process.

How to adapt? How to go from theatrical Convivio to tecnovivio (Dubatti, 2015)? How to face the impossibility of bodily co-presence in a concrete space-time? How to think of bodies that are not limited to the physical dimension in an approach where virtuality emerges as an alternative of creation? How to weave scenic dramaturgy, Corpography (Berenstein-Jacques, 2006) in this context? How to approach a hybrid approach of remote creation? How to adapt to a new era of theatre with health constraints that impose new rules both in the rehearsal room and at the time of (re)presentation? These are the questions I will address in this paper.


Andrea Ubal Rodriguez is an actress and director. A graduated of the Catholic University of Chile theatre school, she holds a Masters in Theatre (École Supérieure de Théâtre de l’UQAM, 2012) and is currently a doctoral candidate in artistic studies and practices (UQAM).

Her research-creation focuses on topics related to memory, identity and the transmission of testimonies on stage; methodologies for actor training and community theater. She has taught acting and movement at the Catholic University of Chile’s theatre school and in other acting training centres in Santiago.