making spaces better for people


On The Road Again

Hello New York City! We’re here to meet some of the most exciting and influential people working in the arts today. Stay tuned for our posts about the panel sessions at the International Society for the Performing Arts 2013 New York Conference.

“Over the past few years most regions have experienced profound changes be they economic, political or social. But have arts organizations and their leaders become more innovative in tackling these challenges or have they in fact retrenched? As new technologies and leadership models become available are we as an industry exploiting these tools to our best advantage? Over the course of three days we will explore these questions. Each day will commence with a different keynote followed by thematically linked sessions.” –ISPA website

Ruth Tait chats about her newest work “Fallback Position”

Theatre Local: Tell us a bit about your piece: What can people expect to see?

Ruth Tait: This is an 8 minute animation film using chalkboard animation process.

This film arose out of my experience of working as a personal support worker for a disabled man — from whom I have learned a great deal — and also out of my love for animation, which is always a work in progress.

TL: Is this the first piece you’ve created specifically for a small audience?

RT: No. I have to think that almost everything I do is for a small audience but that could be a mistake to think so. “From little acorns, etc…”

TL: What inspired you to create this piece?

RT: As I said, this film arose out of my experience of working as a personal support worker for a disabled man. I also think of him as a friend. I’ve ended up going out to places around the city with him and I’m completely amazed at how little support for his needs there is in the general public or city infrastructure, whether you’re talking about arbitrary placement of door openers (maybe half of which can be accessed by my friend) or even people yelling at him for getting in their way (yes… this actually happened!)

So, my idea with the film was to try to take the viewer into the position that I took early on — imagine this accident happened to you and you were paralyzed. How would you cope? War and general mayhem on the roads is putting people into wheel chairs on a daily basis but even the least little bit of public sensitivity, which could make these people’s lives much easier, is abrogated. I’ve spent my life making art and I want it to have some worthwhile influence, however small.
TL: Is this the first time you are participating in Nuit Blanche? If not, What other pieces have you done that happened in the “white night”?

RT: I aired a piece in “Tell YOUR Story” at the Theatre Local event in 2011. It was a film of transition shots from some autobifictionalography comics (to coin Lynda Barry’s term)

TL: Whats up next for you?

RT: I’m working on illustrations for a children’s book called “A Brooklyn dog in France”. I also have a storyboard that I’m dying to turn into another chalkboard animation.

Ruth Tait Photo

Ruth Tait (a.k.a. Rutz) has a trained observer’s eye, used over several years. She locates her practice within both a fine art painterly sphere as well as commercial illustration. She works as a graphic designer and web designer. She also has an alter-ego: Rutz — who ventures into the primordial world of comic books, exploring themes of a somewhat feminist nature. She self-publishes her graphic novels as chap books. Currently, along with her regular employment, she has returned to Ontario College of Art to complete a degree in Design/Illustration. Her studio is located at the new Artscape Wychwood Barns complex.

Gail Nyoka chats about “Stories Untold”

Theatre Local: What inspired you to create this piece?

Gail Nyoka:
I’m haunted by the idea that there’s a missing piece of British history – that of the children of West Indian immigrants to Britain in the 1950s and 60s.  I want to shine a light on this unacknowledged generation, and tell stories that have been hidden, and which still have relevance in the present time.  I kept some of these events locked away for most of my life.

TL: Is this the first time you are participating in Nuit Blanche? If not, What other pieces have you done that happened in the “white night”?
GN: Last year, at Nuit Blanche, I was part of Tell Your Story.  I was amazed at how my story resonated with the audience and connected to people.  I love the concept of participating in small audience events: it’s intimate – a direct connection with the people there.

TL: What’s up next for you?
GN: I’m working on a storytelling piece with storyteller/musician Rainos Mutamba from Zimbabwe.  It’s based on the life of a famous woman from Zimbabwean history, who was a spirit medium called Nehanda.  She led an uprising against British incursions into the land.  The piece is a mix of storytelling, movement and music – I’m very excited about it.  It’s going to be part of the Toronto Storytelling Festival in March.


Novelist, playwright and storyteller Gail Nyoka won the Chalmers Canadian Play Award: Theatre for Young Audiences with her stage play Mella Mella. Her novel for eight to thirteen-year olds, Mella and the N’Anga: An African Tale, was a finalist for the Governor General’s and several other awards. She has participated in storytelling events and was part of Tell Your Story at Canada’s Smallest Theatre for Nuit Blanche in 2011.

Émilie Gauvin chats about her newest work “Truth or Dare/Truth or Die”

Theatre Local: Is this the first piece you’ve created specifically for a small audience?

Émilie Gauvin: Yes. And what is appealing to me is the idea of sharing a secret, the possibility of recreating a kitchen family reunion, the direct interaction with the audience, the possibility we have to know each other by the end of the piece.

TL: What inspired you to create this piece?

EG: 1- Because of the small audience, I wanted to get rid of the 4th wall. 2- Truth or dare game

3- My undeniable french canadian québécoise origins and the recent provincial election which was stained by a traumatizing assassination attempt against the new Premier, who is the first woman to ever occupy this position in Québec.
TL: What’s up next for you?

EG:  More TV writing and a new show for Tout le monde s’appelle Alice.

Photo of Emilie Gauvin

Émilie Gauvin is a French Canadian theatre artist based in Montreal. In 2010 she was commisionned by Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec to work with artist Rebecca Singh to develop a theatrical piece performed on spinning bikes. She is currently part of the team of head writers and creators of the sitcom Fée Éric, aired in Québec since February 2012. As an actor, she was recently part of the cast of Bug, a play by Tracy Letts, presented at  Théâtre La Licorne, in Montreal, in May-June 2012. With artist Martin Boisclair, she is co-director of the creation company Tout le monde s’appelle Alice. Their goal is to create original theatrical productions, and to tour them in order to reach audiences outside of the major cities.

Norman Yeung chats about his newest work “In this moment.”

Theatre Local: Tell us a bit about your piece: What’s it about? / What can people expect to see?

Norman Yeung: I’m currently in a period of decluttering my life.  Amidst the cacophony of too much communication and learning to be a more mature and responsible adult and changes to my personal and professional life… I want to simplify.  I’m also a hapless Romantic who’s always living in a different space and time, reminiscing about the past, dreaming about the future, discontented by the present.  I want to cut out extraneous noise and discern what really matters, what’s important in the moment.  Sometimes, while walking along a bustling downtown street at 5:05PM, or passing busy bars at midnight, I find myself thinking about nothing.  All I am doing is observing the sights, sounds, and sensations.  I’m not in my head.  I’m living in the moment.  It’s during these moments – fleeting as they are – that I find focus and clarity.  I want to access these moments more, and I want the audience to experience this happy nothingness along with me.  Sometimes, in spite of our minds frantically racing about trying to figure out our relationships and careers and commitments, all that really matters is that the wind is chilling our nose… the bakery is emitting deliciousness… the busker’s guitar sounds lovely…

I’d like the audience to transcend the noise with me.  We all could use some peace, if only for a moment.

TL:Is this the first piece you’ve created specifically for a small audience?

NY: I’ve created a few pieces that are most effective with a small audience.  My absurdist “Mandy Panda”, about a Caucasian actress who wants to play a Chinese panda, is so lo-fi with its slide projections and glockenspiel that it celebrates a rough-and-tumble environment with a casual, small crowd.  With Kathy Moretton I created “Lichtenstein’s an 8: A New Formula to Quantify Artistic Quality”, a Brechtian piece that, by comparing and contrasting science and art, proposes that artistic value can be assigned a quantifiable number.  It encourages audience participation – or at least alienation – and seems to work best in a small space.  After all, a character leaps out of the audience to refute the scientist-character’s theories.  Again, it incorporates slide projections and a dinky glockenspiel; I find my love of lo-fi works best in a small space.

The reason why I’m appreciative of small spaces and small audiences stems from my love of modern dance.  I’ve attended many performances by EDAM and Kokoro Dance in relatively small spaces where I absolutely had to sit in the front row because I wanted to see the dancers sweat, hear them breathe, hear their bare feet squeak, see the white paint dripping off their bodies to riddle the black dance floor.  When I watch La La La Human Steps perform in rather large spaces, and I’m sitting far from the stage, I lose the intimacy between performer and spectator.

“In this moment.” is all about clarity and communion between performer and spectator, rejoicing in the shared time and space, and is best served with delicate intimacy.  Further, I find that sometimes the most intense moments of focus, the clearest of moments, happen during live performance, which is the most ephemeral mode of art.  By its very premise, “In this moment.” celebrates ephemerality.

TL: What’s up next for you?

NY: My next big project is playing the role of Hassan in the stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” (play written by Matthew Spangler).  This Canadian premiere is produced by Theatre Calgary and Citadel Theatre, from January to March, 2013.  I’m thrilled to be playing such a complex character in a story that is absolutely relevant to our current state of affairs.  I’m also excited to spend my winter in Calgary and Edmonton, despite people warning me about the cold.  I ain’t scared.  I can’t wait to experience my first chinook.

Photo of Norman Yeung

Norman Yeung: Norman works in theatre, film, and visual arts. Plays he has written include “Pu-Erh”, “Oolong”, “Theory”, and “Lichtenstein’s an 8: A New Formula to Quantify Artistic Quality”. “Pu-Erh” premiered in 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto and was nominated for four Dora Mavor Moore Awards, including Outstanding New Play. “Pu-Erh” was a finalist for the 2009 Herman Voaden National Playwriting Competition, receiving an Honourable Mention. He was a member of Canadian Stage’s BASH! artist development program and fu-GEN’s Kitchen Playwrights Unit. He was a member of the 2011 Tapestry New Opera Composer-Librettist Laboratory, where he started learning the craft of writing libretti. The operas were performed at Opera Briefs at Theatre Passe Muraille in 2011. His post-apocalyptic opera “Black Blood”, composed by Christiaan Venter, was produced by Tapestry New Opera and presented at Paprika Festival in 2012. He is featured in the book “Voices Rising: Asian Canadian Cultural Activism” by Xiaoping Li. As an actor, Norman’s recent film and television credits include a supporting role in “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (Sony/Screen Gems), a series regular role in “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil” (SPACE/CTV), and roles in “King” (Showcase) and “Rookie Blue” (ABC/Global). His theatre credits include lead roles in “Jasmine” (SummerWorks/Factory Theatre), “Pu-Erh” (SummerWorks/Theatre Passe Muraille), “Fugitives” (A Western Theatre Conspiracy), “Exit the Dragon” (VACT/Firehall Arts Centre), “Filthy Rich” (Firehall Arts Centre), and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (Gateway Theatre). He will play the role of Hassan in the Canadian premiere of “The Kite Runner” (Theatre Calgary/Citadel Theatre) in 2013. Films he has written and directed include “Marnie Love”, “Hello Faye”, and “Light 01”, which have screened at international film festivals, on Movieola Channel, Mini Movie International Channel (Europe), and on Air Canada. He was Second Unit Director on “The Tracey Fragments”, a feature film directed by Bruce McDonald. He is currently writing “Anne Darling”, “Rowds”, “Scabs”, and “Margaret Loses Her Daughter”.

Lizzie Violet chats about Nuit Blanche

Theatre Local: Tell us a bit about your piece:  What can people expect to see?

Lizzie Violet: I will be reading a series of horror themed poems, part of which are from a series of Zombie poems I’ve written over the last 2 years.  Since I will be doing a late night reading, I’m going to go with a mostly undead theme.


TL: What inspired you to create this piece?

LV: I’ve been writing horror poetry and short stories since I was a kid, and been into Zombies since then as well. There is something intriguing about them, that even in their undead state they have a sense of community and determined survival instinct.  The series of Zombie poems is about different aspects of Zombies, such as being chased, becoming one, a child’s perspective, Zombies perspective etc.


TL: What’s up next for you?

LV: I’m currently working on a poetry manuscript as well as continuing to freelance.  I have a poem that will be coming out in the next edition of CAROUSEL Magazine.  Performance wise, I will be hosting a Mexican Day of the Dead themed The Beautiful and The Damned in October and featuring in December for The Plasticine Reading series.  Any additional upcoming readings/features will be posted on my blog


Photo of Lizzie Violet

Lizzie Violet Writer, editor, poet, literary reviewer, horror know-it-all, Lizzie Violet is the dark little girl, with a crooked smile. A lover of all things creepy, including horror silent movies, she is also a well known Zombiephile. She is currently working on a novel, a poetry manuscript and the latest book she edited, Best New Werewolf Tales, Volume One can be found at Since returning to the world of performance, she has featured at Tumultuous Tuesdays, The Beautiful & The Damned, Get Your Groove On, PRIDE, Wonder Women IV and V and Smashwords. Her poetry can be found various anthologies and magazines including the upcoming issue of Carousel. Along with hosting The Beautiful & The Damned she has upcoming features for POtea and Jam, Nuit Blanche, The Plasticine Reading Series and many others to come. For more information about Lizzie Violet, ironic anecdotes and upcoming listings please check out her blog,

Neema Bickersteth chats about her newest work “Sonic Spectrum”

Theatre Local: Tell us a bit about your piece, what’s it about?

Neema Bickersteth: Sonic Spectrum is a basically a mini voice recital. ROY G BIV is the theme of this song grouping. I will be using my classical training but sometimes in non conventional ways.


TL: What inspired you to create this piece?

NB: When I sang in Rebecca’s space last year, she said it was as if my voice was painting her being. Now that is inspiring!


TL: Whats up next for you?

NB: Magi in Harlem Duet by Djanet Sears with Black Theatre Workshop. My first gig in Montreal!!


Photo Of Neema Bickersteth

Neema Bickersteth is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, where she received both a Bachelor and Master of Music. Opera Canada described her as having “amazing control of her vocal palette, producing a warm and sensual colour”. Neema takes pleasure in collaborating with various artists, which has allowed her opportunities including the great honour of performing for the XIVth Dalai Lama, Shirin Abadi, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. More recently, Neema has been a part of some innovative new theatre with Urbanvessel, Native Earth Performing Arts, Nightswimming, Flight Works, Tapestry New Opera Works and Artistic Fraud