SummerWorks Prize for Production:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone

Contra Guys Award for New Work:

Winner: Post Eden

National Theatre School Award for Set or Costume Design:

Winner: Camellia Koo for Theory

Honourable Mention: Jung-Hye Kim for Iphigenia at Aulis

Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation:

Winner: Avatar

Canadian Stage Award for Direction:

Winner: Steven McCarthy for his direction of Bliss

The Spotlight Award:

Winners:  Edwige Jean-Pierre for Even Darkness is Made of LightAdam Lazarus for Wonderland

Honourable Mention: Rosemary Dunsmore for her performance in Kayak

The Steam Whistle Emerging Artist Award:

Winner: Johnnie Walker for Redheaded Stepchild

Honourable Mention: The entire crew of Countries Shaped Like Stars

RBC Arts Professional Award:

Winner: Foster Child Play

The NOW Magazine Audience Choice Award:

Winner: Ride the Cyclone

Thank you to all those that came out and supported the Festival throughout. Thank you to all those that got us to where we are. It has been a wonderful run for our 20th anniversary!

J. Kelly Nestruck speaks towards the Toronto Sun’s Homegrown issue.

The following is a repost (with permission) from J. Kelly Nestruck’s personal blog regarding Homegrown and his response to blog post by the Toronto Sun’s, Brian Lilley.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I won’t let the Sun go down on me.

The Sun’s Brian Lilley wrote a blog post defending his newspaper chain’s coverage of the Homegrown “story” last week against my Tweeted criticism of it. His response is fairly maddening right from the top – saying someone is “ignorant of the realities of the arts” is not the same as saying they’re ignorant. To set the record straight on that point, I’m sure Mr Lilley is not ignorant about many subjects and I look forward to discovering which ones now that I’ve started to follow his Twitter account.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to post a comment to Lilley’s blog post since last week and it hasn’t appeared. So I’m posting it here on my long-defunct personal blog rather than my Globe one, because it’s was never intended as a full-on blog post and, well, it’s a bit dated now.

Mr Lilley, can you honestly tell me with a straight face that, shucks, all the Sun has been doing is reporting facts and asking questions?

The Sun’s stories about Homegrown, right from that Saturday cover story titled “Sympathy for the devil”, have had an obviously negative slant. They have exaggerated the extent of – and tried to incite outrage over – the trickle of government funding that may have reached Homegrown through funding for the festival that is presenting it and 41 other plays, plus a series of concerts and other events. (The only direct funding was a $6000 grant from the Toronto Arts Council for a workshop of an earlier, fictional version of the play that was never produced.)

Remember how the Sun printed a list of telephone numbers of government and corporate sponsors of SummerWorks last week so readers could let them know how they felt about a play neither they nor any Sun reporters had seen or read? Does the Sun usually provide helpful lists of contacts for the subjects of its stories? How can you deny this was a campaign against the alleged funding of this play?

Here, in this blog post, you correct note that “the federal government and a couple of banks were sponsoring, indirectly, the presentation of this play”. Why did you not use the word “indirectly” in your oh-so-objective news report? The lede for the story you contributed to the Sun’s coverage was: “There will be no review and no withdrawal of federal funding for a play that gives a sympathetic portrayal of convicted terrorist Shareef Abdelhaleem.” Well, how could there be a review or withdrawal of federal funding for the play, where there was never any federal funding for this play?

That’s one of the aspects of this “controversy” that irritates me the most. I have a certain understanding of people who say: I can’t believe my tax dollars went directly to support X work of art. I’ve said that myself from time to time. But questioning money going directly to Young People Effing, for example, is a different thing from questioning all of the money that goes to the Toronto International Film Festival because it presented Young People Effing along with a couple hundred other films.

The Sun articles have tried to blur that distinction. At the very very most – and this is based on a no-doubt false assumption that SummerWorks’s Canadian Heritage grant was divided equally among the plays – Homegrown could be said to have got $840 or so from the feds, as you’ve said in your blog post, indirectly.

I might as well write an outraged series of stories about how $3-million in federal tax money went to support the Sun’s attack on Homegrown. Indeed, I have seen several ads for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival next to the Sun’s articles about Homegrown. The SSF received $3-million dollars from Ottawa’s Marquee Tourism Events Program to support its marketing initiatives. That money is what likely paid for those ads on the Sun’s website, indirectly. Where’s the review and withdrawal of federal funding for Toronto Sun articles?

The Sun’s preemptive campaign against Homegrown was unfair from the start, taking two words from an interview with a fairly green playwright – “sympathetic portrayal” – and using them to harass her then-unseen play and impune the SummerWorks festival, one of the most vibrant theatre festivals in the country, the launching point for so many of the most exciting new plays of the past decade, and one of the few artistic endeavours in this country unafraid to take risks.

That sums up my objection to your paper’s coverage. Things got a bit better once David Akin was on the story (and it actually became a story when the PMO commented).

As to what you say in this blog post, you’ve taken one of my tweets out of context and ascribed opinions to me that I don’t hold. I certainly don’t believe there’s “a right to arts funding” or that “just because a play is written it should be funded”. Who thinks that? That’s certainly not the case right now in Canada, nor should it be.

Our democratically elected governments have chosen to help fund the arts to a limited degree and I agree with that decision – in fact I’d like us to increase funding for the arts.

If someone has a problem with funding, take it up with the politicians – don’t attack artists, the vast majority of whom live in or near the poverty level, for applying and getting some of that funding. Why not go after the Prime Minister who is oh-so-concerned about funding plays that “glorify terrorism” (which Homegrown, misguided as it may be, does not), but is too afraid to actually take concrete action on that front for fear of political backlash. He, like the Sun, is just rousing the rabble. Sorry, but I expect more from journalists and politicians.

SummerWorks Board responds to Homegrown issue.

The Festival’s Board of Directors wishes to publicly respond to criticism regarding the The Homegrown Project‘s production of Catherine Frid’s play “Homegrown”.

The mandate of SummerWorks is to provide a forum for high-quality, original, entertaining and relevant plays that reflect the broadest possible spectrum of Canada.  It encourages submissions from all demographics and is proud of the vast range of styles and voices presented each year.  All  submissions to the Festival are juried by a selection of professional theatre artists, including the Festival’s Artistic Producer, Michael Rubenfeld.  This diverse group of artists works diligently to ensure the independent projects selected for the Festival meet the Festival’s mandate to “intrigue, excite and entertain an audience”.

The Board of Directors supports the jury’s right to select works which meet this goal and, more generally,  supports the individual artists’ right to produce their art.

The SummerWorks 2010 play “Homegrown” has been criticized publicly as being sympathetic to terrorism.  These criticisms were made prior to the play’s first performance and could only have been made by someone with little knowledge of the play.  The play in no way supports or condones acts of terrorism.

The SummerWorks Board of Directors has no doubt as to the appropriateness of the play being included in the SummerWorks 2010 line-up; they believe it has very successfully met the Festival’s mandate by engaging its audience, and the Canadian public in general, in a dialogue about the issues surrounding Canada’s response to terrorism.

“We’ve been extremely grateful to many of our major sponsors for their vocal support of SummerWorks, and furthermore to the majority of all mainstream media, who, after seeing the work, have all confirmed our position that the work does not glorify or support terrorism in any way,” said Summerworks Artistic Producer Michael Rubenfeld.

With the inclusion of “Homegrown” in the SummerWorks 2010 line-up, questions have also been raised regarding the appropriateness of public funding for SummerWorks.  One criterion that the jury does not consider is how a play will be perceived by funders, nor would the SummerWorks board ever wish them to do so.

“It would be a sad day for the festival and for all Canadians if access to artistic funding requires silencing the voices of specific groups of Canadians”, said SummerWorks board Chairman David Taylor.




Make Your Own Music Video!

If you haven’t been the incredible playground yet, now’s your chance!

BETWEEN SHOWS, Come to The Playground for a make-your-own-music-video extravaganza! Bring your mp3 player or choose a song from our playlist. Lip sync to win! Manipulate your video backgrounds in real time. Interact with green screen technology. Push buttons. We’ll be there to help… ONE TAKE ONLY, so make it the best 10 minutes you can.


A star-studded, gala screening of the days’ videos. A panel of judges (Jamal Severin-Watson, Jill Holmberg, Serena Lee and Scotty Don’t) will critique and award prizes in several categories including: best dance moves, best videography and much more.

Saturday, August 14th

    11am Scavenger Hunt

      Meet us at The Playground for the Official First Ever SummerWorks West Side Scavenger Hunt. With the Summerworks venues as our borders, we will re-discover the parks, shops and secret treasures of this corner of the city. With prizes for the first team back and the most creative bounty, this is one Hunt you won’t want to miss.

      9pm Dance Class Party

      Aurora Stewart de Pena leads an hour-long shameless pop dance class in The Playground. Deck yourself out in your flashiest dance class dance gear and learn some sweet moves.

    An Invitation to Stephen Harper


    Some of you may or may not have caught the little segment on THE NATIONAL on Monday night that took a look at the festival’s Homegrown issue. I was quite surprised to learn that Stephen Harper personally spoke about the issue. We were aware that the PMO office had issued a response, but Harper himself?

    “I just think most Canadians would find anything that glorifies terrorism to be abhorrent,” Harper said.

    We here at SummerWorks would like to invite Mr. Harper to see the play. We’d like to speak with him about how the play in any way glorifies terrorism, because it seems that we, and every single report from the press (other than the SUN) has assured its audiences that the play does not glorify terrorism. And so we’d like your help in understanding your perspective on what “glorifying terrorism” means. We are confused, and equally concerned, as we feel that there has been a false accusation thrust over the heads of our festival–the kind of accusation that has encouraged some certain public response such as this letter:

    subject: so you love terrorists …

    And you’re producing a play to prove it.

    Oh, don’t worry, Michael, I’ve seen you on the news, you’ve got your face on TV. Blaming Canada for this “Canadian-produced” maniac.

    And before you start smiling that smug, morally-superior smile (à la Jerry Falwell) asking “have you seen the play?” let me tell you, no I have not.

    I don’t need to. Any more than I need to go hear some fundamentalist Christian preacher, or Orthodox Rabbi preaching homo-phobic rhetoric. You see, I know they’re assholes without going to see them.

    Just as I know you – and the writer of this trash – are assholes. And I don’t need to pay good money to see your tripe. I’ve already paid you with my tax dollars.

    You have insulted innocent Canadians who could have been killed by this monster. You have defiled the memory of the innocents killed in 9/11.

    And I pray – truly pray – that my tax dollars will no longer be wasted on you “artistes” and your bullshit festivals.

    I would like to be able to respond to this, and anyone else who believes that “i, and the artists behind Homegrown are assholes who love terrorists”, but, again, Mr. Harper, we need your help to understand how we are glorifying terrorism so that we can stop. We have no interest in encouraging the public to commit acts of terrorism or any violence whatsoever. We, too, find this terrible. We are on the same page, which I think is a great place to start from.

    Mr. Harper, please come see the play, and please show us how we are glorifying terrorism. We don’t think we are, and we would like to find peace with you about this.

    With warm regards,
    Michael Rubenfeld

    Volcano Conservatory!

    Hello friends.  Our friends at Volcano is having their annual, incredible conservatory starting just after the festival.  The following is some information on this rare opportunity.
    The Volcano Convervatory is happing soon.
    to register – contact

    (from Ross Manson, AD of Volcano)

    There are places left in all eight classes at the moment. I HEARTILY recommend this year’s conservatory – it is a very special one. I believe that our theatre and dance practitioners need to be aware of these options for their creative processes. We all stand to gain by engaging with styles / systems of thought that can open an audience (and a performer) in new ways…

    Suzuki Technique: Japanese physical theatre training, developed by Tadashi Suzuki. This training builds will, stamina and concentration through some intensely physical exercises. A tremendous training for precision and focus and a discipline that allows for powerful performance. This stuff is exhausting, demanding and THRILLING. Taught by Michael Greyeyes (aug 16-20).

    Viewpoints: American Anne Bogart’s extrapolation of a system first made by NY dance guru Mary Overlie in the 70s.  The Viewpoints are a way of dealing with time and space in performance that combines the physical and the thoughtful. A beautiful and satisfying training. In this worksho p – in addition to the 9 physical viewpoints – the 7 VOCAL viewpoints will be introduced FOR THE FIRST TIME in Volcano’s association with this training. Taught by Michael Greyeyes (aug 16-20).

    Lecoq Red Nose Clown: Nothing trains a performer to be more open and vulne rable than clown work. And Lecoq’s training is among the best of all time. We are honoured to have a French master Lecoq teacher, Emmanuelle Delpech Ramey in Toronto to teach us to build exquisite performances from our own personal failures! NOT TO BE MISSED! (aug 26-29).

    Chekhov Technique: Anton’s nephew Mikhail was THE actor of his generation in Russia – and part of Stanislavski’s company, The Moscow Art Theatre. Mikhail took Stanislavki’s system further – designing exercises to develop physical and imaginative intuition as a means to create character. I LOVE this training – the best comprehensive acting training there is, in my books. This is perfect coursework for directors and actors alike. AND – it is so beautifully designed, that it works well for novice and expert. Most of contemporary Russian theatre is built on this training. Taught by Cynthia Ashperger (aug 21-24).

    The Actor and The Ensemble: Mnouchkine Technique – A FIRST for the city. i’ve written about this already – but this is a thrilling, one-of-a-kind opportunity. I am taking this class. Taught by Mnouchkine company member, Jeremy James (aug 21-25).

    Extended Vocal Technique – probably my favourite vocal training (and i have studied with Patsy Rodenburg, Cicely Berry and David Smukler). This training is especially good for freeing one’s voice of stress, and for increasing the range and suppleness of the voice. Taught by Katherine Duncanson – Volcano’s voice coach of choice (aug 26-28).

    Choreographies of Contemplation – a ONE DAY masterclass (for those on a tight schedule) examining notions of time in performance, taught by American dance/theatre wizard, David Brick. perfect for anyone who wants to examine how to shape time and perception of time on stage (aug 29).

    Spatial Touch/Fearless Dancing – a fascinating course that seeks to train a moving body to be wild with precision. A physical training for decisiveness, listening and play. Again – a David Brick specialty (aug 26-28).

    More info (and full course descriptions and teacher bios) here:

    Pricing here: (click on “Pricing and Registration”)
    There are discounts for AEA, CAEA, & CADA members, and for anyone who has ever taken a Volcano course. If you take a bunch of classes (6 or more) – you get 25% off.

    Musical Works!

    Hey friends,

    Last night was the first night of our new Musical Works in Concert series!  Romeo Candido’s PRISON DANCER packed packed packed the place.  We had to turn away nearly 50 people.

    Tonight is the second night with Joni Loves Mitchell, by Logan Medland.  The cast is the best this country has to offer, with Ted Dykstra, Paul Nolan, Nicole Underhay, Rachel Fischer and Christian Bellsmith.  The night is directed by Tracy Michailidis and Musical Directed by Logan Medland.

    Show starts at 10:00.

    I can’t tell you how excited it is to have the Lower Ossington Theatre so full and radically different each night.  The Performance Bar has been playing close to capacity so far each night, as has the musica series.  Last night Laura Barrett and Istvan Kantor both put on captivating performance.  Laura enchanted, Istvan terrified.

    Tonight, Snowblink, THOMAS and Marcus Jarmin and Daniel Briere’s Everyboy will play the performance bar.

    Tomorrow, as part of Musical Works, is Biggish Kids, a song cycle by Bram Gielen.
    The Performance Bar hosts Colleen and Pall and BOBLO (Erin Brandenberg and Andrew Penner).

    With love,


    Introducing the New SummerWorks AWARD

    In honour of our 20th Anniversary year, SummerWorks has had specially designed awards built for all award winners. I am very very pleased to introduce our newly designed SummerWorks Award, designed by OCAD student, Chao Gao.

    photo: Stephanie Tonietto

    This year, every participant who wins an award, on top of their prize listed in the guide, will also receive one of these beautiful, hand-made (by Chao himself) awards.

    Many thanks to Doreen Balabanoff and Mary Ann Lee at OCAD for partnering this year with SummerWorks on these.  And a huge thank-you to Chao for this fantastic design and his incredible work on building these for us.

    photo: Stephanie Tonietto

    photo: Stephanie Tonietto

    Three of the awards are currently on display in the glass case outside the Factory Theatre (on Adelaide).

    Awards will all be announce at 11:30 on August 15th in the Factory Theatre Coutryard.