2019 Playwright-in-Residence

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Playwright Jason Maghanoy joins the Theatrefront family at our new Playwright-in-Residence for 2019 to work on his new play BIG, a chamber piece. 

Big data intersects with every component of our daily lives: how we build cities, what we watch, where we live, what we buy. Big data helps shape our lives and is integral to how we are building our future.

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It is also the ideal tool for governments to monitor its citizens. This comes with real danger: big data reflects but also warps who we really are. We live our lives, but our digital footprints can be separate lives, antithetical to who we really are. 

Big is a chilling drama about the future of privacy and the interconnectedness of society.

CLARA gathers information, working for a data-mining firm on behalf of the Department for Homeland Security. She collects information and spends her days looking at the social media accounts of immigrants, pulling information into a database. 

ROBERT is a married man. He has a beautiful wife. Two kids. A good job working at a data-mining firm on behalf of the Department for Homeland Security. He is also a Fuck Boy.  

BEN is a young writer working at Buzz, a media company navigating its way through today's rapidly evolving engagement economy of fake news. BEN has his pulse on culture and he discovers a potentially huge government scandal about data-mining and decides to go on the offensive, breaking the story, without approval... 

All three stories intertwine and explode together. 

Dylan: I first met Jason doing a workshop of his superb play, Gas, at the Factory Theatre in 2006. When I read that play, my jaw hit the floor. It was raw, beautiful, human, wild, political, complicated. I knew his voice would be a provocative, poetic and essential force in Canadian Theatre for many years to come.        

Vikki: When Jason began describing the subject matter of Big, I was captivated. When he described the structure, a chamber play with two actors, I was as hooked. Working with Jason to build a contrapuntal world that explores our struggles, betrayals and fears in the Internet-of-things-universe will be thrilling and inspiring. 

It’s not enough to have a great story idea, for us, the power is in how the story is told. We are so excited to jump into this dark, funny, complicated world and explore the tone and rhythm of the three stories expressed with two actors. In BigJason will create a complex melody, speaking to something that is affecting and provoking every part of our lives during a time of tremendous social, political, environmental and economic instability.

Jason finds beauty in ugliness. He finds truth and hope in the darkest of corners. The worlds that he creates are somehow both hyper-realistic and arrestingly theatrical. There is a desperate need to connect, to overcome unbearable loneliness, at the core of all his work, which fascinates and moves us. We have such admiration for Jason’s abundant moxie and undeniable ambition and we are ecstatic that Jason will be creating his new play Big with Theatrefront.


New Commission  The Master Builder

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Nicolas Billion and Vikki Anderson are currently working on a new adaptation of Ibsen's The Master Builder. Theatrefront has seeded the Nicolas to begin work on the script. 

This is one of Ibsen’s most mysterious, symbolic and lyrical dramas exploring the life of architect Solness, once ruthlessly ambitious, but who, in his later years, not only feels threatened by the younger generation but also fears the decay of his own creativity.

What we are searching for is The Master Builder in contemporary idiomatic Canadian English, which preserves the play’s original feeling without constantly inflicting on the audience the smug sense of attending “a classic” — so that the life’s blood of the play and its characters can burn through us. Ibsen objected to literary translations and wished his work to be performed in the vernacular, place and period of the audience. We want to bring a modern Canadian sensibility to the tone and vigour of the text, moving Solness into contemporary times. 

Some changes will be made to whet Ibsen’s work back to the same sharp, scathing edge it had in 1892. Nicolas’s approach in adapting The Master Builder is to reduce the friction of its status as a classic and allow a seamless experience of Ibsen as a contemporary. Some of the changes will be pragmatic (the play feels too long for our audience’s more sophisticated understanding of narrative); some will be to update anachronisms (Solness designs skyscrapers rather than churches); some changes will be practical (some gender switching); Solness is omnisexual — his appetite is for youth, indifferent to gender. 

Leaving Ibsen in the past can tempt the audience into a Downton Abbey ease and nostalgia, which are antithetical to the reality of his work. The reality of his work is that his plays are an attack on everything we still believe in, every middle-class value we use to show our worth and significance in a world; a world that is retreating into suspicion, mistrust and fundamentalism at an alarming rate. Now is precisely the time for Ibsen — a voice across time confronting us at every turn, every intention and with every lie we tell ourselves. For example, Solness will be omnisexual — his appetite is for youth, indifferent to gender. Ultimately, we want to highlight one of Ibsen’s remarkable achievements — a protagonist who is both ‘man’ and ‘troll’, an all-too-human monster who is proof of the thin, liminal boundaries between one and the other. If Solness were more religious, he’d be a Sharia cleric; more narcissistic, he’d be Donald Trump. Either way, he is a harbinger of the fate that awaits these modern dinosaurs. 

“Ibsen was one of the greatest poets in the world. But he gave up poetry to give you prose in a dining room. I want you to go home, kneel down, and thank God that he gave us a dining room instead of poetry, because it is from that dining room that we get the truth.” — Stella Adler


2018 Playwright-in-Residence 

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Theatrefront welcomes Toronto-based playwright and actor Rose Napoli as our new Playwright-in-Residence.

Rose is a Dora nominated actor and playwright and she was named by NOW Magazine as one of the top ten theatre artists of 2017 and has been called a ‘rising star’ and ‘an artist to watch’ by the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.  Most recently, her play, Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells), premiered as part of The Consent Event at Crows Theatre produced by Nightwood. Her play, Ten Creative Ways to Dispose of your Cremains, enjoyed a sold-out run at the Toronto Fringe Festival this past summer.  

We are inspired by Rose's strong, original voice and we can't wait to share her work with you in the future. This position is integral to our company’s focus on long-term development. 


2017 Playwright-in-Residence

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Theatrefront welcomes Toronto-based playwright, actor and director Eva Barrie as our inaugural Playwright-in-Residence. This position, integral to our company’s focus on long-term development, will become an annual position.

Originally from Okotoks, Alberta, Eva has created art in Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Canada and the United States. She is a graduate of Ryerson University’s Performance Acting Program and has trained with Anne Bogart’s SITI Company. Eva was the creator behind Shakespeare in the Ruff’s My Co-Mates & Brothers in Exile, which explored a refugee’s journey to Canada, created with Shakespearean and found contemporary text. Last fall, her play Agency was produced by Yell Rebel at the Theatre Centre.

During her residency with Theatrefront, Barrie will focus on developing a new work about grief. We are inspired by Eva’s talent as a performer and her strong poetic voice as a writer; we are eager to see how her work develops with us this season.


Collective Creation  RumiNation™

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Devised collectively by Vikki Anderson, Andrew Shaver, Jessie Ash, Naomi Skwarna and Piotr Biernat RumiNation™ explores the role of Rumi and the appropriation of his poems in Western culture. Often hailed to as the “most widely read poet in America”, Rumi has been whitewashed for decades, generally referred to as a Sufi, or simply a mystic. He is much less frequently described as a Muslim, a jurist and an Islamic scholar. It is even less frequently revealed that his poems were born of his Muslim faith. Funny that. Especially in light of recent events. 

Featuring actors Owais Lightwala, Mina James, Anand Rajaram and Andrew Shaver, we workshopped an inception of RumiNation™ culminating in public performances at Artscape’s Youngplace with full design elements in November 2015. Joanna Yu joined us as Production Designer.

Billed as a self-help spiritual retreat, to promote personal growth through the power of Rumi,audience members were checked in with questionnaires, given lanyards, spirit-names and masks, and then taken through a series of lectures and break out sessions with the Guru and his minions. A disruptor arrives and the Guru is brought into question, inciting a coup, which finally leads to a dance party. As these things do.

What began in early discussions as an attempt to understand why Rumi is so popular, and how best to theatricalize his work, RumiNation™ quickly became a satirical comment on how shallow and blind the concept of ‘diversity’ can be in our Western culture.

The final phase of this work is still in development.