Surviving the Pandemic with Site-Specific Theatre
At the beginning of the pandemic, when artists and audiences were forced inside, the first Canadian theatre companies to pivot their programming and launch live theatrical works were those with long histories of challenging what theatre is, where theatre can happen, and how theatre meets its audience. Site-specific companies, Outside the March, Boca del Lupo, and Zuppa Theatre, launched Mundane Mysteries, Red Phone, and Vista2020, respectively. In Kingston, The Cellar Door Project – known for staging work in record shops, cemeteries, and bars – broadcast Talk to Me on the airwaves of Canada’s oldest radio station and staged To You on front lawns and porches throughout the city.
This roundtable brings together site-specific practitioners and researchers from across the country to reflect on their response to Covid-19 and examine how the practicalities of the site-specific form may provide an avenue to reconnect artists and audiences when stages remain closed.
Alex McLean is a theatre artist based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is a co-artistic director of Halifax’s Zuppa Theatre Co. and has co-written and directed the majority of that company’s shows. With Ker Wells he was a founding member of Number Eleven Theatre (1998 -2006), and he holds an M.A. from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. A specialist in devising, Alex has taught extensively, published scholarly articles, and collaborated with practitioners across multiple disciplines. His work explores the past, the present, and things that are too big or small to contain.
Mariah Horner is a site-specific theatre creator and PhD student based in Kingston, Ontario. She was the director of Kingston’s Storefront Fringe Festival from 2016-18, CFRC's Shortwave Radio Theatre Festival and the inaugural winner of the Patrick Conner Theatre Ticket Award. Co-founding site-specific theatre company Cellar Door Project in 2013, Mariah has since produced fifteen new works in Ottawa and Kingston in cemeteries, record stores, bars, parks and the Diefenbunker. Her PhD research investigates abolitionist dramaturgies and she is currently working with Dr. Jenn Stephenson on a project about participatory dramaturgies.
Andy Houston is an artist-researcher in intermedia and site-specific performance and an Associate Professor of theatre and performance at the University of Waterloo. Since 1997, he has directed and dramaturged several large-scale site-specific, intermedia productions as well as other performance projects that address pressing topical issues. As a scholar, he has published widely in his field and has edited a Canadian Theatre Review issue on site-specific performance, as well as a collection of writings on environmental and site-specific theatre in Canada, published by Playwrights Canada Press.
Sherry J. Yoon Currently Artistic Director of Boca del Lupo, Sherry is a theatre creator, curator and director with a passion for creating and presenting new performances through collaborative pursuits. Sherry has co-created over 40 productions that include large scale and intimate work. Her award winning productions have toured festivals and venues across Canada, Europe and Mexico. Selected credits include Richmond Gateway Theatre/National Arts Centre, Bard on the Beach, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival, Harbourfront, Festival Cervantino, and Festival Transameriques. Sherry also sits on the Studio 58 Arts Advisory and has been part of the Canada Council’s Racial Equality for the Arts in Canada committee, Arts Advisory Committee for the Theatre Section at Canada Council and BC Arts Council Advisory.
Robert Motum With a background in site-specific performance, Robert has staged work on an active city bus, in a castle, over Snapchat, in a dorm room, in a gallery, in a vacant Target store, and occasionally even in a theatre space. His recent work has been supported by Outside the March, Convergence Theatre, and the Stratford Festival Playwrights’ retreat. He hold an MA in performance from Aberystwyth University (Wales) and is a current PhD candidate at UofT’s Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies.
Mitchell Cushman is a director, playwright, producer, educator and founding Artistic Director of Outside the March. As one of Canada’s leading immersive theatre artists, Mitchell’s work has been seen on stages as large as the Royal Alexander Theatre and the Stratford Festival, in spaces as intimate as kindergarten classrooms and living rooms, and in locales as far flung as Whitehorse, London, Edinburgh, Munich, Finland and Japan. Directing credits for Outside the March include The Golem’s Mighty Swing, The Flick, The Tape Escape (Co-Creator), Dr. Silver, The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale, Jerusalem, Lessons in Temperament, TomorrowLove™, Mr. Burns, Vitals, Passion Play, Terminus, Mr. Marmalade, Oh the Humanity and other Good Intentions. Mitchell has received numerous distinctions for his work, including a Dora Award for Outstanding Direction, three Dora Awards for Outstanding Independent Production, the Siminovitch protégé award, the Ken McDougal Award, and the Toronto Theatre Critics’ awards for Best Production and Best Director. He is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s MFA Directing program.
Passionate about multiple forms of storytelling craft, Sébastien Heins is an acclaimed actor, playwright, theatremaker and filmmaker. For Outside the March, Sebastien has written, directed, designed, and produced bold, high quality trailers and ad campaigns for the company since 2009. Outside the March acting credits include Oh, the Humanity, Mr. Marmalade, Vitals, That Synching Feeling and Mr. Burns: a post-electric play. Other credits include the Stratford Festival’s Breath of Kings: Rebellion & Redemption. Sébastien’s solo show Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera won the Best Emerging Artist Award at United Solo Festival in NYC. He was chosen for the Stratford Playwright’s Retreat, and the Obsidian Playwright’s Unit. He enjoys leading workshops of “Vocal Masque”, the mime-driven- storytelling-style, for the TDSB, UrbanArts, CultureLink, b current, and the Thespo Youth Theatre Festival in India. He is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada