Residency ~ BIG

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Playwright Jason Maghanoy joins the Theatrefront family 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.

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. 


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 

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.