Monday, February 25, 2019

interview with Shannon Litzenberger


"Inspired by Christopher Dewdney’s Award-winning book Acquainted with the Night, WORLD AFTER DARK explores the relationship of the physical and metaphorical night. From the three stages of nightfall to the science of the cosmos; from the birth of nightlife to the empire of dreams; from the biology of nocturnal creatures to the mythology of the night sky, Dewdney’s compelling poetic reveries and scientific explanations journey us on an epic voyage through the mysteries of night."

db Could you talk a little about your first response to the Christopher Dewdney book, and some specific examples and/or aspects of the writing that may have inspired the movement from the writing to the dance performance...

sl Dewdney’s text is comprised of 12 chapters, each associated with an hour of the night. He begins on a hypothetical night at 6pm (sunset) and ends at dawn. The ground he covers in between is rich in poetry and scientific fact about all things related to the night. 

I was first drawn to the chapters about nightfall, dreams, insects, bedtime stories, nightlife, and demonic possession. I selected excerpts of the text from these chapters and used the words as inspiration for generating movement material that I then shaped into scenic episodes. 

db Could you describe some of the images that manifest in the choreography, as representations of the themes that run through the Dewdney book, and how you personally and professionally responded to those images and themes...

sl The night-inspired themes I was most compelled to explore were about transformation, emancipation, desire and mystery. 

For example, I was drawn to the image of the Luna Moth and its biological imperative to travel toward light. Moths are of course symbols of metamorphosis and so the moth’s choreography is full of effort and becoming. I discovered that long exposure photographs of moth trails under streetlamps at night revealed their extraordinary pathways of travel toward light. 

Another image in the work is that of the nightclub cabaret. Dewdney’s text suggests that at night we can transform into our ideal identities. I was interested in this notion because it evokes the question: What permission does the night grant us that the day denies us? The nightclub scene and all of its physical comedy was a lot of fun to create. 

db The ideas expressed in the brief description of the dance performance (above) are intriguing - has your work explored similar themes in the past around "nocturnal creatures" and "the mythology of the night sky" and "the mysteries of night..."

sl In 2012 I created a short duet called ‘The Den’ that explored the subconscious animal and its effect on our ability to relate in a highly civilized world. My choreography has always been interested in the physicality of the animal body. These images arise often in my work and I enjoy exploring physical material that moves us through both the instinctual and intuitive aspects of our humanity.

db How are "the three stages of nightfall" represented in the work, from a choreographer's perspective? For example, are there particular moments and pacing that reflect each stage of nightfall...
sl I love the way that dance offers the possibility of presenting ideas as embodied action and metaphor. This work is full of symbolism conveyed through the body as well as through the poetic text of Dewndey’s essays. In the show, night is personified as a woman. At nightfall she arrives in a world where she has been forgotten.


Thursday, February 21, 2019


presented by THEATREFRONT 


About two thirds of the way through this darkly exhilarating play one of the characters says to the other character "This is not high school!!!" Indeed, Mules is not about high school. It is about the aftermath of high school, replete with all of the psychological trauma that many people find themselves harbouring throughout their lives - trauma based in class privilege (or lack thereof), gender separation that intersects with class identity, among other things. 

What begins as a hilarious predicament in an airport washroom ends as something far removed from any specific setting as it creeps into our hearts and minds, and reveals the frequently terrifying socio-economic situations that can come about due to the lifelong effects of past histories. 

There are are times when the situations may seem implausible and way too far 'out there' for some spectators, as the odd audience member seemed to grimace agonizingly every now and then. But grimace often turned to laughter within  the darkly comic recognition of basic human functions reserved publicly for a washroom. 

But despite the seemingly odd implausible plot moment, the extreme nature of the situation wipes all incredulity away like the swipe of some pristine sanitary tissue, and shows onlookers that these are frequently very 'dirty' and fully possible scenarios that certain disenfranchised subjects may find themselves within all too often. Playwright's Beth Graham and Daniela Vlaskalic have created a brilliant, layered look at how young people frequently move through the profound trials and tribulations that can gain a stranglehold on their futures, becoming victims and victimizers, saviours and betrayers, in one fell swoop.

Anita Majumdar handles the streetwise character of Cindy with great versatility both physically and emotionally, and can never be fully 'sized up' as a true friend or a betraying desperado. Majumdar's acting moves from believable sincerity into mean spirited betrayal with seamless agility. 

Eva Barrie's Crystal matches her sparring partner as she represents a kind of innocence gone 'wrong' - and yet through no fault of her own - as she tries to regain a lost friend from her frequently distorted memories of their supposed high school camaraderie. Her final moments are heartbreaking and require an incredible intensity that Barrie rises to with great finesse. 

Tim Walker's intervening Troy adds a needed and highly effective contrast to the duelling young women as he skilfully portrays a seemingly innocent guy doing his job, yet gradually revealing himself as a man caught in the complex web of a MeToo moment that Troy is not able to fully articulate, becoming a fraught and offensive figure who appears likeable in his early moments as he stumbles into mayhem.
Set Designer Brandon Kleiman's realistic washroom provides the action with a very versatile and effective performance space that director Vikki Anderson utlitlizes to great success as actors perform in stalls, using toilets as pedestals, rising above the malodorous confines of  a cubicle, giving the overall action great physical variety and comic interaction. 

Costumes by Lindsay Forde have an authentic air of young women just beyond early youth, grappling with adolescent memories in casual and semi-formal attire that reflects both class and gender ID. Crystal's beleaguered party dress becomes a surprising bit of prom night nostalgia, while Cindy's jeans and t'shirt effectively define her rough and ready desperado focus with a late in the play move into a jacket that a gutsy, atypical Barbie might have worn to a demolition derby.
At it's heart, Mules appears to be about a desperate attempt to regain an innocence that never fully existed. The comic plight of young people, approaching adulthood, and finding that their lives did not fully evolve beyond the same restrictions that the corridors of education, class, and gender afforded them. They needed a form of guidance that never found them. And when they end up in the 'can' that innocence explodes in tragicomic ways as they search for a new beginning that threatens to flush itself down the toilet at any moment.

Good Morning Viet Mom

In a world where Hannah Gadsby is heralded for her authentic and brilliant mix of standup comedy and heartfelt, often tragic, storytelling, Franco Nguyen's GOOD MORNING VIET MOM is a welcome addition to the genre. This solo show, a Cahoots production, is a poignant and hilarious examination of the ways in which a young man in his twenties has come to the realization that his mother is far more complex and worthy of sympathy than he might have realized as a child. 

Sympathy moves back and forth throughout, between mother and child, father and son, coming to no full resolution perhaps due to the fact that the individual inquiring and examining is still very young, very inquiring, and very skilled in the art of combining genres. At 31, the circumstances of his parents lives have begun to come poignantly and hilariously clear to him within the past six to ten years as he examines, through film and narrative, their struggles, their adventures, and their misadventures. Their lives as immigrants leaving Vietnam after the war are woven throughout the hour long show, directed skilfully by Byron Abalos, as Nguyen is guided through a minimalist set, combined with video projections, giving the overall experience a strong multimedia/multi-emotion complexity. 
Nguyen has an immediate onstage charm, infused with a quirky physical and emotional bravado that both strengthens and makes vulnerable his position within the narrative he weaves. His timing is seamless, with effective repetition and pauses that simultaneously heighten the comedy and the audience awareness of the heartfelt queries of a young man digging deeply to understand a complex familial past. Moments of video interaction provide both comic and poignant moments as actual family members speak to the issues at hand, and represent an at times moving, at times comic, rapport with the central onstage character.

And yet the nature of standup, when it is combined with prolonged storytelling, frequently calls out for a bit more narrative throughout the monologue to counterpoint the snappy millisecond form of the jokes and one-liners. The title character of the mother, playing on the Robin Williams film title, could use a little more detail and empathetic play, perhaps referencing the idea that the title suggests - a plea from the front of a historic conflict that has scarred global consciousness and highlighted North American complicity in profound and lasting ways. 
The father character moves in and out of extremely conflicted moments that may never be fully resolved, yet find semi-solace in a very poignant section. This is both a valued strength and a necessary weakness of a show and a young life that move into a theatrical form whereby testimony, comedy, and resolution are always in flux, always in question. Nguyen's entrance onto the standup comedy/storytelling stage is a promising and highly entertaining theatre event within a mixed genre that needs as much diversity as it can get through the stories of Canadians still marginalized by stereotype and complex forms of racism and xenophobia. 

An early section finds extremely funny moments regarding Hollywoods ongoing penchant for reducing Asian characters into a generic brand that fails to distinguish between specific ethnicities. Matt Damon's questionable role choices become a playful-cum-scathing moment of great 'fun.' At times the 'joke's dig very deeply into stock stereotypes, frequently playing uncomfortably with some of the most cliched and problematic racialized sentiments. And of course, this is perhaps the prerogative of the performer's subjectivity, while more detailed examinations of those jokes projected onto/written into that subjectivity could go a little further into a kind of hilarious analytic comic adventure - moving further into that stereotype and attempting to explode its origins.Good Morning Viet Mom is a layered and engaging beginning for a career and a story that has many more components to explore. 


Friday, February 15, 2019

photos by David Hou

Emerging from a huge mesmerizing upstage eye-like set piece, and frequently gravitating toward a downstage arrangement of elegant ceramic vessels, an ensemble of women dancers evoke a strong and powerful sense of camaraderie, meditation, ongoing struggle and celebration in the current Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (Six Nations/Toronto) production of Blood Tides. The gender politics of the overall work are concisely set out in the program, and manifest onstage in a gorgeous sweeping mediation as the choreography gives rhythmic and physical 'voice'  to an ongoing anti-colonialist struggle that finds elements of profoundly conflicted masculinity within its textual and aesthetic discursive strategies;

"There is the way that the #MeToo movement has not quite spread to Indian Country, for fear that speaking out about abusive indigenous men will reinforce racist ideas about our communities. There is the way that women's voices have been largely silenced by Indigenous men, who have taken the toxic masculinity of colonial Canada and used it to their strategic advantage in a country that always prefers men to women...

Kaha:wi Theatre's Blood Tides is a moving, visceral piece that ultimately acts as a balm for all the Indigenous women it was created for."

Performance Notes by Guest Writer Alicia Elliott

A seamless collaborative team (see below) brings the complete experience together with precise and varied tones,deftly supporting the overall stage pictures and the choreography with spectacular set pieces, accompanying projections, beautifully designed costumes, lighting, sound and  original music that adds to the power and beauty of this wonderful piece of dance theatre. 

Santee Smith - Managing Artistic Director/Concept for Blood Tides

curator's note

With a rich and strong artistic vision, Santee Smith has crafted a ritual, theatrical experience to awaken memories and propose possibilities for women in our time, and 
for generations to follow.

Mimi Beck, danceworks

"When ceremonies have been put into a colonial sleep how can we reawaken them?"

Santee Smith

"How can women occupy space from internal to external? How does this reflect societal expectations of how women can move and the energies she can embody?"

Santee Smith


following material from DanceWorks online source:
DanceWorks presents Six Nations’ Kaha:wi Dance Theatre in 
Toronto premiere of Blood Tides
- conceived and directed by Artistic Director Santee Smith -

TORONTO (January 10, 2019):  DanceWorks proudly presents the highly acclaimed Kaha:wi Dance Theatre (KDT) in the Toronto premiere of Blood Tides, conceived and directed by KDT Artistic Director Santee Smith of Six Nations of the Grand River territory. Blood Tides delves into sacred space to retrieve women’s ancient knowing and rites of passage. Blood Tides runs for 3 nights only – Thursday, February 14 through Saturday February 16 – at Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre. 

Illuminated by elemental and ancestral forces, Blood Tides activates sacred alignments from cosmos to womb. Its imagery and energies span the wide range of what is woman: warrior, leader, mother, divine goddess, creator, huntress and thresholder of life and death. With an ensemble of four Indigenous women, Blood Tides acknowledges the magnificence of woman in all of her phases and ages. 

Through the power of the feminine voice and body, Blood Tides opens a sacred space with an inter-generational, inter-cultural and interdisciplinary performance featuring song and dance of earthworld, underworld and universe for a rematriation to the house of humanity.

This visual and sonic feast is performed by Marina Acevedo (Mexico/Zapotec), Julianne Blackbird (Kahnyen’kehàka Nation /Mohawk Nation), Santee Smith (Kahnyen’kehàka Nation /Mohawk Nation), and Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala (Fijian/New Zealand), with dramaturgy by Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock Nations). The recorded musical score by Cris Derksen (mixed Cree Nation) features Pura Fé (Tuscarora and Taino Nations), Ngāhuia Murphy (Ngāti Manawa, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana, Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu, New Zealand), Semiah Smith (Kahnyen’kehàka Nation /Mohawk Nation), and others for an international Indigenous women’s emotive landscape where Lightning Woman, Mother of Mothers, and Clay Woman come to tell their story, gather strength and activate power.

View a 1:30 min excerpt for Blood Tides at

Blood Tides is the second production in Santee Smith/Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s triptych performance series: Re-Quickening (2016), Blood Tides (2018, St. Catharines’ FirstON Performing Arts Centre premiere, co-presented by Celebration of Nations) and Skennen (slated for 2020), all created through Indigenous process and from a Konkwehon:we (Indigenous woman’s) perspective and research. 

Blood Tides opens up space to question, retrieve pre-colonial Indigenous women’s knowledges, and weave her narratives and experiences. The embodiment of her divinity and humanity united, owning and navigating space, Blood Tides activates women’s ceremony and cycles remembering Indigenous matrifocal ways of being,” notes Santee Smith.

Santee Smith is from the Kahnyen’kehàka Nation, Turtle Clan, Six Nations of the Grand River, Haldimand Treaty territory. She is a multidisciplinary artist, award-winning producer and Managing Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre which she founded in 2005 and which has grown into an internationally renowned performing arts company. Exploring the intersection of Indigenous and new performance, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre’s works feature visually stunning, visceral, and thought provoking performance conceived and devised through Indigenous knowledge, process and methodology. Facebook & Insta: @kahawidance

Santee Smith trained at Canada’s National Ballet School, completed Physical Education and Psychology degrees from McMaster University and an M.A. in Dance from York University. Her body of work includes 13 productions and over 12 short works. Her independent commissions include collaborations with National Arts Centre Orchestra, Fall for Dance North, Canadian Opera Company, North American Indigenous Games - Opening Ceremonies, Stratford Festival, National Film Board of Canada and Yokohama Noh Theatre, among others. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the K.M. Hunter Award for Dance, Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award, Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Choreography for Susuriwka – willow bridge, and the 2017 REVEAL Indigenous Arts Award, among others. 

DanceWorks began as a collective of independent dance artists in 1977 and has grown to become Toronto's leading presenter of independent dance. DanceWorks offers seasons of eclectic, exhilarating choreography programmed to intrigue, challenge and enthrall. DanceWorks adds to the theatrical experience with Carol's Dance Notes and post-performance conversations with artists.

DanceWorks presents the Toronto premiere of
Blood Tides
from Six Nation’s Kaha:wi Dance Theatre
Conceived and Directed by Artistic Director Santee Smith

Thursday, February 14-Saturday February 16 at 8pm
Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
207 Queens Quay West, Toronto
For tickets call 416-973-4000 or purchase online at

Dynamic Ticket Pricing - the earlier you purchase, the more you save:
Prior to the week of the show - $36; During the week of the show - $40; Day of Show - $42
Discounts: Seniors - $28, Arts Industry - 20% discount, Students - $15 and Groups of 10+ - $23
Follow DanceWorks on twitter @DanceWorksTO and friend on Facebook @DanceWorksTO

runs at the Fleck Dance Theatre (Harbourfront) until February 16th

Thursday, February 14, 2019



Canada’s longest-running new works festival returns for a 40th year. Rhubarb transforms Buddies into a hotbed of experimentation, with artists exploring new possibilities in theatre, dance, music, and performance art. Rhubarb is the place to see the most adventurous ideas in performance and to catch your favourite artists venturing into uncharted territory.
Rhubarb is a space for artists and audiences to experiment together by trying new things and testing their boundaries. You always get to see more than one show (often 3 or 4) in one night, and no two nights of Rhubarb are ever alike. So come out and see what’s happening.
The Rhubarb Festival is funded, in part, by the Government of Canada | The Rhubarb Festival est financé en partie par le gouvernement du Canada.

photo of Makram Ayache, Ammanuel Solomon, Kate Lushington + Simon Bracken by Tanja-Tiziana

AND for full info on the fabulous Rhubarb Festival see;

AND and for a teaser for this weeks activities - 



A Trouble of Queers: The Bricks & Glitter Cabaret

Friday, February 15
In the Cabaret

Bricks & Glitter, Toronto’s DIY summer QTBIPOC festival, brings their queer magic to Buddies for an evening that includes performance art, queerlesque, comedy, and an avant-garde slop queen.

Brock Hessel + Vince Rozario / curators
Mikiki Burino / host + performer
Carolina Brown, Sedina Fiati, Monica Garrido + Coco La Creme / performers



A Trouble of Queers: 

"The Bricks and Glitter Cabaret is a teaser of what’s 
to come at this year’s Bricks and Glitter Festival 
(Aug. 23-Sept. 1, 2019) and a kind of reenactment of last year’s festival. 

So, for RHUBARB, the Bricks and Glitter Cabaret is basically a 9-month-old 10 day QTBIPOC arts and culture summer festival squeezed into one hour of a 40-year-old queer theatre winter festival. 

It’s a big joyous, quivering, and campy “fuck you” to gentrification, white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism, heteronormativity, and  compromise."

The Father - Coal Mine Theatre

Perhaps the greatest strength of Florian Zeller's acclaimed, multi-award winning play is just how infuriating it is. It took a good night's sleep and a few more hours of frustrated self examination before I could stop hating it. It initially struck me as a harrowing, circular narrative that amounted to precious little. And then it hit me. I was taking it all too personally. Watching the opening moments and the half hour that followed, I was enthralled. But for the next hour I grew increasingly agitated and annoyed. At one point I had the urge to ask one of the actors to pour me a glass of wine from the onstage table to calm my shattered nerves. But I assumed it was grape juice or some damn thing - and that would not have helped at all!!!

And yet, despite my self proclaimed dramaturgical peccadilloes, Eric Peterson in the title role gives an incredible virtuoso performance from start to finish, with the support of an impeccable ensemble. Christopher Hampton's superb translation very quickly reveals Zeller's original narrative as a perfectly structured, at times comic, at times deeply poignant interrogation of growing old, and all the joy and terror that may come with that inescapable process. 

Peterson's performance is a master class in sustained nuance. He captures every word and emotion with such clarity that the acting, at times, distracts from the story, thank heaven! I needed a break from the terror every now and then. 

Peterson's comic timing is incredible, and the seamless movement into intense grief and bewilderment is detailed and heartbreaking. Paul Fauteux's 'Man' possesses a similar  quality as he moves intricately from concerned onlooker to angry interlocutor. Trish Fagan provides a controlled aspect to this semi-familial disaster discourse that grounds the conflict with a constant sense of rationality and possibility. 

Beau Dixon, Michelle Monteith, and Oyin Oladejo  take on supporting roles that contributed immensely to the mystery, the mayhem, the hostility, the immense love, and the mixed emotion. Oladejo in particular, in a short scene with Peterson, shares a mid afternoon intoxicating libation and adds to the movement from comic to sharply conflicted with immense skill and vivid character development.

Eric Peterson as Andre with Oyin Oladejo as Laura (also Assistant Director)
Director Ted Dykstra provides highly effective and expansive blocking on a small, elegant, frequently claustrophbic stage, that simultaneously felt like a kind of entrapment as well as a broadly designed open space for six actors in search of impossible resolution to play upon. 

Anna Treusch's set gives the environment an elegant 'continental' feel for the movement between supposed European locales. Richard Feren's sound design, with interventions by Debussy, sets the tone for oncoming suspense that can never be fully realized. Such is life. 

By the end of the play, and even now that I have had time to recover, I still have the feeling that something was missing. Was it the play? Was it my lack of libationary comfort? Perhaps the final thirty minutes could have revved up the suspense and bewilderment with tempting visual and sound effects, distracting me from what I initially (and mistakenly) perceived as an annoying bottomless pit of mystery and lack of resolution. But again, that is life, part and parcel of my subjective dramaturgical daze. 

In spite of all that, this is a spellbinding show - not to be missed. And if it suits you, take a small flask, conceal it elegantly, and sip accordingly when the spirit moves you. To quote Bette Davis in All About Eve"Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night." 

A very bumpy one...

Eric Peterson and Trish Fagan

Beau Dixon (left) Trish Fagan (right) Eric Peterson (centre)

Michelle Monteith (left) Paul Fauteux (far right)


Monday, February 4, 2019

The Way of Haiku, The Way of Tanka, and Poetry that Heals by Naomi Beth Wakan