Wednesday, April 24, 2019


We are living through a glorious gender revolution and this play roars the language of that revolution.
Judith Thompson

Judith Thompson – Dramaturg and Director

For the last 2 years, I have sought out, stumbled on, and commissioned extraordinary short plays from emerging playwrights whose words have knocked me out. Our mandate at RARE theatre has always been to serve communities that are rarely heard or seen on our stages, and so I found nine playwrights; each from a marginalized community whose voices had barely been heard, and whose characters had hardly been seen. How could I present nine one act plays without finding a golden thread which connects them, and in fact, turns them into a whole? I could not resist the challenge, and the company embraced it. 

Thirty years ago when I began my career, I was riding the crest of the wave of new Canadian work, work that was unafraid to feature local characters and settings the audience knew.  Tough and bold writing such as mine, Brad Frasers, Tomson Highways, was embraced. However, there was little representation of voices from the queer community, particularly the queer and trans people of colour. We are living through a glorious gender revolution and this play roars the language of that revolution.




Nine blazing hot works written and performed by new Canadian dramatists with gate-crashing ideas, delicious poetry and unique characters woven into a spectacular journey to the Underworld, in search of the self.
These hot new Canadian dramatists bring gatecrashing ideas, serious politics, and fresh bracing language to the stage. They have created current, compelling characters never seen on our stages before, showing us how the very concept of human identity is shifting.


Soul pepper website:

the playwrights; 

Bilal Baig, a queer Muslim artist; 

Ellen Ringler, who has navigated the mental health system; 

Nikoletta Erdelyi, a young poet who uses a wheelchair, 

Radha S. Menon, a brazen South Asian British Canadian playwright; 

Grace Campbell, a fearless writer, performer and visual artist living with a disability, 

Maddie Bautista, a Saudi Arabia-born Filipino theatre maker and composer/sound designer; 

Simone Dalton, a queer Trinidadian-Canadian playwright; 

Samson Brown, is a self described, Jamal Of All Hustles, with a primary focus on trans advocacy and the arts; and 

Carolyn Hetherington, an 89 year old internationally acclaimed actress who has proven to be an extraordinary playwright.



Artistic Director of RARE Theatre Company, Judith is a playwright, director, actor and professor of theatre at the University of Guelph.  She is the author of 15 published plays, many of which are performed all over the world. They include The Crackwalker, Lion in the Streets, Perfect Pie, and Palace of the End. Her play Who Killed Snow White, premiered at the 4th Line Theatre in August, 2018. She has directed and co-created four plays with artists with exceptionalities including Body and Soul, Sick, RARE, and Borne  Most recently, she wrote the play Wildfire specifically for 7 performers with Down syndrome, all of whom had appeared in Rare. She wrote two feature films, Perfect Pie and Lost and Delirious, several TV movies and many radio plays.  She has twice won the Governor General's award for playwriting, as well as the Toronto Arts Award, a Dora Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Award, and the Amnesty International Award for Freedom of Expression. She is honoured to have the privilege of collaborating with performers with exceptionalities.
some thoughts on their work from some of the playwrights 

Radha S Menon - Playwright/performer



Award-winning animal-fanatic playwright, Radha S. Menon was a working actor in British Theatre and television. She moved to Canada and learned how to make films; but returned to her theatrical roots to explore the use of heightened language. In addition, Menon is an award-winning art director for indie and art house films and has an M.F.A.  in Creative Writing at University of Guelph.
I am exploring humanity’s need to separate itself and create dominion over the animal kingdom, including the commodification and complete exploitation of non-human animals. The brutal practices of factory farming must end; if we don’t recognise the rights of these sentient beings and this global exploitation of animals remains unchecked most wild animals will become extinct within 50 years. This will be man’s worst crime yet.  Additionally, the socialization of many traditional South Asian girls (not exclusively) remains much like the practice of animal husbandry. We are trained with the carrot and stick to be obedient and docile, pushed to marry young that caters to selective breeding, which has resulted in a skewing of the natural sex ratio in India and China. I believe that toxic masculinity and violence against women is a direct result of religious dogma that supports gender bias.

I was most fortunate to have Judith Thompson as not only my drama professor during my MFA, but also as my thesis advisor. I have learned so much, being guided by this artist’s incredibly formidable mind, experience and distinct humanity. This process has been a boon; I spend so much time alone, writing, stuck under a rock that being able to collaborate with all the wild and wonderful artists, make new friends and be exposed to so many ways of thinking and working has greatly expanded my horizons.


Maddie Bautista – Playwright/Performer



Maddie Bautista is a Saudi Arabia-born Filipino theatre maker and composer/sound designer. Acting Credits: The Girl in My Nightmares Wear White (SummerWorks 2016 Spotlight Award for Performance), Hannah in Paradise Comics(Filament Incubator), and Ming in a workshop of COMMON (Studio 180).
I started to write my piece in 2016 in my last year of Humber College. Before leaving the school, everyone training as a performer was to create a 15-minute piece about something that mattered to them, or something that they were really excited about. I decided to write about my 14 years in Saudi Arabia and what it was like to grow up there.

I miss the land and the people and the music and the food so much. There's nothing like eating Saudi's best fried chicken in the heat of the desert, surrounded by a Filipino community who decided to call that place home. I'm from Jeddah - by the way. My piece Jeddahwi - is an ode to my beautiful and flawed community and family. What my community hides and sweeps under the rug is the Underworld, and the story is told through the eyes of a 10 year-old girl.

Judith has immense trust and curiosity for all the writers on this team! It has been an affirming process so far. It has been an honour learning from so many other gifted playwrights in the development process, especially as a first-time playwright. It doesn't get any less daunting to create, but it's very affirming when people trust your work.


Simone Dalton - Playwright



Simone Dalton is a writer and social change communicator. She holds an MFA from the University of Guelph, where she received the Constance Rooke and Board of Graduate Studies Research Scholarships. A work of creative non-fiction, her thesis explores themes of grief, sense of belonging and place, race, class, and inherited histories. Her work has been published in The Unpublished City: Volume I, a 2018 Toronto Book Awards finalist curated by Dionne Brand, and is forthcoming in the anthology, Black Writing Matters. For two years, she was the co-host of Guelph’s Speakeasy Reading Series and recently completed a residency with Firefly Creative Writing studio. Simone lives in Toronto and was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.
My creative work, thus far, engages a fair amount grief. Sometimes it is through ancestral memory or inherited histories, but often it is simply about loss. These preoccupations can bring up the underworld, the place of the dead, in a physical sense. For Welcome to My Underworld, I was more concerned with what we bury. Vows, my piece in the production, asks what do we leave unsaid, undone, and who/what remains as a result of the silence?

A look of awe is standard every time I tell someone about the vision behind the project, about collaborating with eight other writers, each with disparate, yet thematically connected stories. That's the power of Judith Thompson. Working with her on this production has been a gift. She helped me develop precision in my writing and think differently about what is possible with theatre. 


Ellen Ringler - Playwright



Theatre is a new adventure for Ellen and she loves the depth of creative muscle on which it thrives. As a graduate of the English and Theatre Studies MA program at the University of Guelph, she was given the opportunity to study the theoretical components of theatre and improvisation, while beginning to write and develop her own narrative voice.

I wanted to share my perspective living with severe mental health issues, because it is what I know very intimately, and it is often invisible. I also wanted to make visible my own privileges in receiving treatment for my illness by reflecting on things I have witnessed as injustices within the mental health system. In this way these things are my “Underworld”; the hidden side of me that is ill and the many flaws in the mental health system. 

Collaborating with Judith Thompson and these wonderful playwrights has sharpened my editorial skills and allowed me to feel truly safe in a creative environment. 


Sharmylae Taffe-Fletcher – Lighting Designer


Sharmylae is an emerging theatre artist with a passion for lighting that spans her entire life. She is a recent participant in Obsidian Theatre’s Mentor/Apprentice program. Other theatre credits include lighting design apprentice for The Wild Party (Acting Up Stage), Death of the King (Modern Times), Ultrasound (Cahoots Theatre), as well as lighting designer for Bleeders (Watah Theatre, SummerWorks 2016), Letters to the Universe(Buddies in Bad Times), She, Mami Wata, & the Pussy WitchHunt (Watah Theatre), Pose Ball (New Ideas Festival) and Finding Temperance (The Muddy Mary Project). Thank you to her supportive family and friends.
I wanted to be able to give each piece a distinct feel while keeping the show cohesive. We agreed on the forest as a shared location, and include green, leaves and branches in various ways in lighting. In each piece, we have used the theme to come up with visual cues that will hopefully enhance the story each playwright is trying to tell.

The challenge with this show has been making sure that the colour story is both cohesive for the show as a whole and distinct for the individual stories. I've changed my mind a few times on which way to go! But the rest of the team's work on the show has given me a reference point to turn back to when I'm full of doubts. 


SAMSON BROWN – Playwright/Performer



Samson Brown is a self described, Jamal Of All Hustles, with a primary focus on trans advocacy and the arts. He uses the arts (acting, tap dancing, playwriting, stage and production managing) to create visibility for men of trans experience and to educate the general public on trans issues. 
I wrote my piece thinking about the things that are often not said by trans bodied folx. One of the things that are not often said, is the issue of safety around public bathrooms. Often when conversations around trans bodied folx and public bathrooms is discussed, the focus has been on transwomen and their experiences and less on transmen. In general when discussions are had about trans bodied folx, the discussions are often based around transwomen and/or white identified/privileged folx and are 97% focused on the American experience. So to hear about one experience from the Black transman community in Canada, I felt was important.

This opportunity has helped with deepening my collaborative work since I predominantly work on my own, both as a writer and also as a performer. So learning from Judith with collaborative work has been great. Being able to tell my story in my own way is a great feeling and I'm always grateful for any opportunity to do so. 


Bilal Baig – Playwright/Performer



Bilal Baig is a Toronto-based playwright, actor, devised theatre creator and producer. He is an OAC Playwright- in-Residence at Theatre Passe Muraille, a member of the Emerging Creators Unit (ECU) at Buddies, as well as The Foundry at Factory Theatre. Bilal is also part of a collective that has created an online space (and offline spaces too) for queer + trans south asians called
My impulse to write my newest play, Kitne Laloo Yahan Pey Hain, was deeply rooted in my frustration with how the media sells us ideas that when trans folks and people of colour are killed, that their lives aren't worth remembering with all their nuances and rich complexities. And how we - as a culture - whether we like it or not, buy into these harmful ideas from time to time. As I'm becoming "more visibly trans", I also wanted to write about what it feels like to live with a daily fear of being killed.

It's been such a privilege working with a theatre hero of mine. Judith was a pivotal force in my playwriting journey six years ago and has supported my work ever since. It is very exciting working so intimately with her as well as such a dynamic group of loud, outspoken, passionate and loving artists.

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