Buddies’ signature fundraising event ARTATTACK! is back, and so is its most coveted item, THE INDIE PRODUCER’S PACKAGE. New this year, the Indie Producer’s Package is being auctioned on-line. Bidding is now open, and will close on November 10th at noon.


The package is bigger than ever this year with over $12,000 worth of art-making essentials, including:

  • A one-night rental of Tallulah’s Cabaret at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
  • 20 hours of creation space at the Toronto Fringe’s Creation Lab
  • Two quarter page (6 unit) colour advertisement in Xtra!, Buddies’ Queer Media Partner
  • One quarter page black & white advertisement in Now Magazine, Buddies’ Mainstage Media Sponsor
  • A photo shoot with max&, complete with make-up, hair and styling assistance
  • 10 hours of graphic design and advertising support for print, web and/or creative development from Raymond Helkio Advertising | Design 
  • A public relations package from JDA, a boutique public relations firm specializing in media, entertainment, and culture. The package includes the creation of a news release and media relations services for one production

BMO Financial Group Presenting Sponsor

Hosted by Gavin Crawford

Visual Art Curated by Jon DaviesMichael Chambers,Keith ColeSrimoyee MitraSophie HackettHeather Keung & David Liss
Design Curator MADE
Special Guests Kristyn Wong-TamKritty Uranowskiand Sasha Von Bon Bon
Guest DJ Bruce LaBruce
Auctioneers Charlene Nero & Martin Julien

12 Alexander Street, Toronto, ON
box office416-975-8555 |
poster image Monoceros by FASTWURMS | design by Jonathan Kitchen,

From Darwinism to Television: Michael Rubenfeld’s Muse Cluster

Hello SummerWorks Blog Readers! This is an important post for our blog. It is our first Muse Cluster. The first person to be featured in our Muse Cluster Series is appropriately Michael Rubenfeld our passionate and inquisitive Artistic Director. 

This post includes Michael’s inspirational list and brief comments about why these particular things catch his attention as an artist.








Photograph of Peter Singer by Sarah Lee/Guardian

1.  Peter Singer He’s an applied ethics philosopher.  I just read a short book he wrote on the need for the left to adopt Darwinism as fact, and accept it as a major factor in left-wing ideology.  I’ve been trying to write a play that deals loosely on evolution, and it was nice to enter someone’s mind who has been dedicated in effects on ideology.
2. The New Sunparlour Players album – Us Little Devils – It is a major recording leap for this band that I have loved for so long now.  This is the first album that I feel actually does them real justice.  It is a really well produced album full of incredible new songs.

3.  Philadephia – I’ve been working on the great play, Our Class, at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia for the past 7 weeks.  This is my first time here, and it is a great city full of incredible architecture, a vibrant theatre scene and great people.  Its also full of complexities surrounding class, race and American culture as a whole.  This is a really interesting time in this country, and its been cool to get to live inside it for a while.

4. Parenthood- I’ve just discovered this show on Netflix (Which is a trillion times better in America than Canada).  I’ve avoided watching it forever because I assumed it was an extension of the Steve Martin movie.  It’s not.  It’s actually a really sophisticated show about family that has some really great writing and some great acting and stars Peter Krause (Nate from Six Feet Under).  The story-lines get a bit repetitive at times, but there is also a dedication to complexity within the context of universal simplicity.

Blanka Zizka’s speech at the Zelda Fichandler Awards.

Hello dear SummerWorks friends.  Its Michael Rubenfeld writing from Philadelphia where I am working at a theatre called “The Wilma” on a production of “OUR CLASS” by Polish Writer, Tadeusz Slobodzianek.  The piece is directed by the Artistic Director of The Wilma, Blanka Zizka. Blanka, original from Czechoslovakia (now Czech-Republic) emigrated to the US over 30 years ago, and began what is now The Wilma Theater with her then husband, Jiri Zizka.  On Monday, Blanka received a prestigious directing award called the Zelda Fichandler award.  She made a speech that she has kindly allowed me to repost here, as it speaks to what I believe is a universal issue of how the theatre has adopted a business model that is dictating the kind of work we are making and how we are making it.  On another note: Blanka is a remarkable community engager here in Philadelphia, and the Wilma has done and continues to do some very interesting and interested work, including a number of Canadian productions.


Blanka Zizka at the Zelda Fichandler awards. October 24th, 2012

I’m extremely honored, thrilled and humbled to receive the Zelda Fichandler Award and to find myself in the company of these distinguished finalists: Richard Garner, producing artistic director and co-founder of Georgia Shakespeare in Atlanta; Joseph Haj, artistic director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC; and D. Lynn Meyers, producing artistic director of Ensemble Theatre in Cincinnati, as well as my good friend Howard Shalwitz of Washington DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre. I’m very grateful to be in their company.

In 1950, Zelda Fichandler left New York City for Washington, D.C, founded Arena Stage, and started the remarkable regional theatre movement that has grown into a myriad of voices, artistic missions and aesthetics that is exemplified in Philadelphia, the city where I have been working for over thirty years. Today, Philadelphia is experiencing an unprecedented birthing of small theaters. The artistic fermentation of new projects and the enterprising spirit of small companies – these are very exciting realities not only in Philadelphia, but across the United States.  I’m curious to find out if these energies can be sustained and if there is enough support for growth, learning, and maturing, so that these companies can grow and become extraordinary at their craft and yet not lose their initial idealism, energy, originality, and need to share ideas through art.

When my ex-husband Jiri Zizka and I arrived in Philadelphia from the former Czechoslovakia in 1977, we were young, idealistic, and full of the hope of creating a theater company.  After our first production, our adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which was created over six months with students from my physical theater class – the total budget was $600 and, of course, everyone working on the project volunteered – we learned that in order to be serious about creating theater pieces, we had to become a non-profit organization (What does that mean?), have a Board of Directors, be able to fundraise and start growing a subscription base. What an odd thing it is to include arts under the title non-profit, I thought. It doesn’t sound idealistic, artistic, or mission-driven; just the opposite, it suggests that theater, as everything else, is business; although business that doesn’t make a profit. I arrived from a country where politicians considered theater so important, dangerous, and subversive that it had to be censored, controlled, and perhaps suppressed all together. The idea that art should be a business was foreign to me.

During the 80’s and 90’s, the regional theater movement was very successful at building its institutions. Many theaters across the country, including The Wilma, raised capital funds to build new theaters, created administrative and production positions to run these institutions, and expanded their subscription bases. Danny Newman’s Subscribe Now!became the new bible.  As a norm, we all fell into a system of producing four to seven plays a year with four-week rehearsal schedules and five-week runs. This schedule was dictated by the subscription system. Subscription sales became the main source of income of regional theaters. The size of a subscription audience was a sign of a successful organization. Even the discussion at TCG national conferences during those two decades focused on subscriptions. “How many subscribers do you have?” Artistic Directors asked each other, beaming with pride when their numbers were higher than those of their colleagues.

If the subscription base dropped, something was wrong with the programming; Artistic Directors became responsible for the well-being of the institution and sometimes were fired by the Board of Directors if programs didn’t bring in a sufficient number of subscribers and the necessary box office income. They were not good for the institution. Is it possible that theaters started to program for their subscription audiences? Is it possible that we, the Artistic Directors of regional theaters, have lost our courage, spirit, idealism, and desire for experimentation in spite of the institutional growth of our theaters?… Or perhaps we have lost these qualities because of the institutional growth of our theaters?

What happened to the art? Theater, after all, is the most collaborative of all the art forms. But what happened to our collaborators, to our artists?

In the past regional theaters did not provide enough professional opportunities, so many actors moved first to NYC and then to LA to take care of their careers and to make money. Artistic Directors of regional theaters, including the Wilma, hired casting directors in New York and auditioned New York actors for productions in their hometowns. And so we found ourselves in an absurd situation – constantly searching for actors, casting for a role only by type, forcing actors to use the same skill over and over again, instead of helping them to develop their talents. Actors could do the same thing for film or TV, for much more money, and so the regional theaters ended up waiting for actors, who would choose to work in their theaters only if they didn’t get a movie, TV series, commercial, show on Broadway, off-Brodway, or even off-off Broadway. Only then, perhaps, their agents allowed them to take a job at a regional theater.

Freelance artists – directors and designers working in theater – have to take on many projects each year to make a living. They, like true nomads, go from city to city, from production to production. My director friends talk about directing five shows a year. My God, how does one do that? What kind of research and preparation can one do? How can one develop a unique and original interpretation of the text? My designer friends work on about 25 different shows a year. That seems completely insane! With this kind of schedule, how can these artists truly invest in one individual production? They don’t have the time.

And so we have arrived at a strange state of affairs: Theaters don’t invest in freelance artists and freelance artists don’t spend enough time developing productions in the regional theaters.  There’s no investment in continuity, learning, or experimentation.

Can we create art this way? I don’t believe we can. What we can do under these circumstances is only the best possible job. Theater has become a business, a not-for-profit business.

So, for me the big question is how do we return to creating art? I know that this has to be my focus and my effort in the next few years: How do we get back to creating art on stage? How do we create theater that is stunning, meaningful, beautiful, that shakes our audiences to their core and shows us what it means to be human?

I have more questions about making art in the regional theater: How do we create and support artistic communities in our cities?  How do we take advantage of what’s happening in our cities and support new artistic energies that are coming to life? How do we give support not only to playwrights, but also to experimentation in rehearsals and workshops to help us develop strong theater aesthetics? How do we change today’s practice of artists working in isolation?

Actors can’t work alone. They need to be in a rehearsal room, in workshops, they need to be challenged by new possibilities, they need to work within a collective. Playwrights, too, so often write in isolation from theaters, without the chance to observe actors experimenting with breath and vocal resonators, with language, silence, movement, ritual, and improvisation. Might these kinds of experiences give writers an impulse to experiment with a new style of writing? Wouldn’t it be great to have at least a week of rehearsals before we try to design our productions? How do we create a unified vision when we work on new projects in such a short amount of time?

Theatre is a collective art form. We cannot do it alone. We cannot do it in isolation.

I believe that we will find our audiences if our theaters produce work that takes on the complexities and issues of our lives in a courageous, bold, unexpected, and original way. We must not be afraid.

As the artistic leader of the Wilma I want to help create a culture in Philadelphia that is generous to its local artists, that helps them grow and learn, that challenges them but also supports and connects them to the community. Theater doesn’t need to happen only in the safety of our theaters. If we have a company we can go and perform in unexpected places; we can go to schools and to different communities. We can travel.  We need to be courageous, generous and giving. We need to listen to each other, be open, and learn. As artists we need to strive to get better in our work. We have to be able to create a memorable theater, one that matters.  Fear of failure makes us stagnate. Generosity and investment in people make us grow.

Thank you, once again. I’m very moved to be awarded the Zelda Fichandler Award. I want to thank the selection committee for this great honor.  I also wish to express my deep gratitude to Jamie Haskins, the Managing Director of the Wilma, for his commitment to the art of theater, for his passion, wisdom, and for his trust and support. I’m very lucky to work with Jamie as well with the rest of the Wilma staff and the generous Wilma Board.

Thank you all.


Blanka Zizka has been the Artistic Director of The Wilma Theater since 1981. Her most recent productions at the Wilma were In the Next Room, or the vibrator play (winner of 8 Barrymore awards) and Macbeth, the theater’s first-ever Shakespeare production. Blanka also directed the World Premiere production of Yussef El Guindi’s Language Rooms; her productions of Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched and Tom Stoppard’s Rock ’n’ Roll garnered 17 Barrymore nominations in 2009. She recently directed Leoš Janáček’s opera Kát’a Kabanová for the Academy of Vocal Arts, as well as Ariel Dorfman’s The Other Side, starring Rosemary Harris and John Cullum at Manhattan Theatre Club. At the Wilma, her credits include the U.S. Premiere of Linda Griffiths’s Age of Arousal, Althol Fugard’s Coming Home and My Children! My Africa!, Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife, the World Premiere of Raw Boys by Dael Orlandersmith, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis (Barrymore Winner, Best Overall Production and Best Director), the World Premiere o fEmbarrassments by Laurence Klavan and Polly Pen, and the Philadelphia Premieres of Lillian Groag’s The Magic Fire and Chay Yew’s Red. In 2002 she directed the World Premiere of Dael Orlandersmith’s Yellowman at Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre Center, Long Wharf Theatre, ACT in Seattle, and at The Wilma Theater. She was awarded the first Barrymore Award for Best Direction of a Play for Cartwright’s Road.

Summer Daily

Much of my university life was spent going on aimless walks; I loved having friends drop by spontaneously for an unplanned adventure. All of them began with a walk; they still do now. Lately I’ve begun to practice this spontaneous principle again. One of my favourite things to do while going on these walks, whether with a friend or on my own is noticing what people leave out on their lawns (in student and young professional areas the objects tend to be quite eclectic). The debris of one person’s life can become the seed for a wild tree of creativity for another.

Since I can’t exactly post a walk on our blog I thought I’d post pictures of my favourite objects that are often left behind: pots. They ignite my imagination so easily because they have so many possible uses, some are used for planting, others for delightful beverages or meals, and perhaps others simply for display. Many of them show their age visibly in ways that often surprise me. I hope you are riveted by the pots which may just plant in your mind the right seed for a creation. 


Maev Beaty from Another Africa Speaks With Us

I feel incredibly lucky to have seen Another Africa: a compelling and innovative production of two one act plays. The stories depicted in Shine Your Eye and Peggy Picket Sees the Face of God were daringly specific, rather than shy and general glosses of Canada’s relationship with Africa. Everything from the content to the technical elements of the play stirred my mind, creating a flurry of questions.

This is why I am very thankful that Maev Beaty, a cast member of the production agreed to answer some questions for all of us. I am so excited to share with you her playful and earnest answers.

Tom Barnett, Kristen Thomson, Tony Nappo, Maev Beaty in Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God. Photo by John Lauener.

H: Briefly describe a favourite new experience that this play has given you. 

M: The education I’ve received from my collaborators and the curiosity it’s fostered in me about my responsibilities to my fellow humans on a global scale. Perhaps that sounds like “Liberal White Guilt” laden hooey, but it’s actually much more practical than that. I’m grateful that working on this show has complicated my approach to my ethical choices. That, and this amazing meal at Swish by Han with Liesl and Kristen during tech week – wow that was yummy.

H: How did the inclusion of multi-media influence the rehearsal and performance for you? 

M: The demands on the actor playing Liz are significant. She has to manipulate an incredibly sensitive camera, with a series of repeatable close-ups, while acting for both the camera and the stage. It’s a huge feat and pulled off so beautifully (and heartbreakingly and hilariously) by Kristen. My job is to support her in that in any way I can, from cheering her on to getting out of the way of her monitor! But really the multimedia in our play enhances the story telling without interfering with our dynamic or ensemble work, so I get off easy.

H: What was one of the most striking things you’ve learned from the rehearsal process/or performance?

M: The production of Peggy has been a rich reminder of the relationship between my actor mind and body. It demands a slightly heightened and deeply emotionally available presence, combined with a completely engaged physical precision. And both the emotion and movement have to be repeatable, not from night to night, but from minute to minute. I would love to look inside our ensemble’s brain and watch how all the synapses fire and messages get sent! The emotional, thought, ensemble and physical demands are the most integrated I think I’ve ever experienced. And it’s that level of rigor that is so satisfying. I’m grateful for the demands of the script and the director and the immense generosity of my fellow actors to pull it off.

H:  In what way did this production expand and enrich your understanding of your experience and practice of theatre? 

M: I have been fortunate to be in a few projects that demand collaboration between a huge group of artists, for example TheatreFront’s The Mill project with four different playwrights, four directors and one acting ensemble. Being of part of this production, I have met artists from Africa, Europe, and North America, including team members from Canada, England, Germany, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, the USA, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Theatre is a human art form and this production is inextricable from the human beings I’ve been lucky to meet, to learn from and to be challenged by. A dream recipe for essential theatre in our city? A blend of creative partners who come from a totally different perspective than you, and partners who you can deeply trust with the vulnerability of courageous risk-taking choices. This production was overflowing with both, and I have been personally and professionally enriched by that. It will have a lasting effect on how I live my life and make my art.

Also if you haven’t seen it yet I urge you to! It runs until the 22nd. There is still time!

Summer Daily

I think it’s time to introduce myself. My name is Hannah Rittner and I have been the person writing the SummerWorks blog for the last week, which has been a lot of fun!

I am a recent graduate of the University of King’s College. At King’s I had an amazing time creating theatre, participating in animated discussions, and having impromptu jamming sessions with friends. I also studied! The studying was quite exceptional and challenging. My favourite thinkers are Luce Irigaray, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and Michael Frayn. On my spare time I write, listen to music, wonder into book stores, see theatre, laugh and cook for my family and friends.

The playwrights I love the most right now are Sam Sheppard, Shakespeare, Sarah Ruhl, Tennessee Williams, Kristen Thomson and Morris Panych. But don’t quote me on that, the list is always expanding and contracting. I don’t have favourite theatre performances, I have moments, and those moments are too vast to list here.

I magically fell into SummerWorks at the beginning of this summer before I left for New York. Currently I am the intern for the festival, like I was in June. This is brilliant news because it means I get to continue learning about the many facets of SummerWorks. I’m overjoyed to be working with Michael Rubenfeld and Joanna Barrotta again.

So yes, that’s that. I’m sure there will be opportunities to meet me in person should you find yourself in the SummerWorks office when I am there. By next week I will be there at least once a week checking mail and phone messages.

Hopefully this introduction satisfies you! I will end with leaving a video of one of my dearest friends Breagh Potter. She is making waves in the East for her soulful and pure resonating sound. Some of the best moments in my life in Halifax were spent sitting in Breagh’s living room listening to her band spontaneously erupt into song. I know you’ll love her as much as I do. She is an exquisite performer that is always open to spontaneity; she pours herself into every moment of the show. One day I hope she makes it to Toronto again.

In this video Breagh talks about making her first album and beautifully sings the song Black Birds. You can also listen to her on CBC Radio 3.

Have a glorious day and enjoy the music!

Summer Daily

It’s grey outside and the air is soft; I feel like a rain storm would make everything complete.

I crave the voice of a rain shower when I need calm and focus. That day is today. I certainly can’t control weather systems; but all hope is not lost! The relieving sound of clouds exhaling water can be found here:

Not only is this website a gorgeous audio experience, it is a lovely visual experience; I love that this site displays a window dressed with plump rain drops ready to fall. Oh my goodness! And I just thought of another thing to combine with this glorious site. Jonsi&Alex music. They are exceptional examples of imaginative and sensitive artists. I just want some one to create a play or a film with their music singing in the back ground. Below you will see the link to their website.

I have spent much of my life having too much fun combining their music with the rainy mood website. Hopefully you will too.

Summer Daily

Some times we forget to keep our creations simple. To simplify my ideas I watch videos about small animals or natural phenomenons. A fascinating way to unearth story is to see how different forms of life are affected by the same situation. This is why I’ve chosen to share with you this video on Monarch Butterflies from the National Geographic website.

Allow yourself to be innocently surprised moved and entertained. This video made me wonder if a wind storm has the power to wipe out millions of butterflies what would it do to us? So often we try to find the ‘drama’ or ‘humour’ in the complex things, but the action is always so sharply simple like a whisper that evaporates as fast as it came about.

Summer Daily

Clarifying abstraction is something we all do everyday. A fun and invigorating way to do this is to read poetry.These rich pieces of writing are gold mines for the imagination, inviting us to use alternative ways of understanding our experiences. Anne Michaels’ poetry is a perfect example of this; I am certain she will inspire you. Her writing is luminous and jarringly clear. Her plastic ideas on time and space force me to be more creative with my understanding of reality, the best space to be in for thinking of new ways to perform and create stories. In the following poem Memoriam you will see how Michaels gives the sky a mouth and memory an appetite; read it out loud and see what it does to you and your relationship with speaking and feeling, perhaps you will find a conceptual knot that you can only solve with a new theatrical creation.


Anne Michaels
From:   The Weight of Oranges / Miner’s Pond. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. p.20
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

In lawnchairs under stars. On the dock
at midnight, anchored by winter clothes,
we lean back to read the sky. Your face white
in the womb light, the lake’s electric skin.

Driving home from Lewiston, full and blue, the moon
over one shoulder of highway. There,
or in your kitchen at midnight, sitting anywhere
in the seeping dark, we bury them again and
again under the same luminous thumbprint.

The dead leave us starving with mouths full of love.

Their stones are salt and mark where we look back.
Your mother’s hand at the end of an empty sleeve,
scratching at your palm, drawing blood.
Your aunt in a Jewish graveyard in Poland,
her face a permanent fist of pain.
Your first friend, Saul, who died faster than
you could say forgive me.
When I was nine and crying from a dream
you said words that hid my fear.
Above us the family slept on,
mouths open, hands scrolled.
Twenty years later your tears burn the back of my throat.
Memory has a hand in the grave up to the wrist.
Earth crumbles from your fist under the sky’s black sieve.
We are orphaned, one by one.

On the beach at Superior, you found me
where I’d been for hours, cut by the lake’s sharp rim.
You stopped a dozen feet from me.
What passed in that quiet said:
I have nothing to give you.

At dusk, birch forest is a shore of bones.
I’ve pulled stones from the earth’s black pockets,
felt the weight of their weariness – worn,
exhausted from their sleep in the earth.
I’ve written on my skin with their black sweat.

The lake’s slight movement is stilled by fading light.
Soon the stars’ tiny mouths, the moon’s blue mouth.

I have nothing to give you, nothing to carry,
some words to make me less afraid, to say
you gave me this.
Memory insists with its sea voice,
muttering from its bone cave.
Memory wraps us
like the shell wraps the sea.
Nothing to carry,
some stones to fill our pockets,
to give weight to what we have.

Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt;
stairs leading nowhere; high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
had been left behind.

Summer Daily

Some of the greatest performers claim they have never been bored. Miranda July is one of those individuals. For July the word mundane only has meaning in an alternate universe. Her sense of wonder ensnares many; As a performer she is serene and achingly vulnerable. July’s insatiable curiosity translates beautifully to her performances. She finds beauty in simplicity and inspiration in surprise. Miranda July reminds me to let the simplest parts of existence rattle me out of the dangerous slumber of boredom.

So wake up AND watch this delightful video of Miranda July discussing the gorgeously simple and originally complex ongoings of people’s lives.