The Spice of Omnivore.

WWAS-photo My calendar is prompting this post.

It’s the kind of variety that is the gift of Toronto and this current moment in history and that gift is important to appreciate.[1]

Watching / Attending

Last Tuesday to next Tuesday:


This week: office work, taxes, research, pitching and prep for 4 different Small Wooden Shoe projects:

Next week:

This isn't to brag, complain or fall into the busy trap. It's to say that I like when I remember to take advantage of the possibilities. I also like my garden and kittens.

Garden1 Kittens-13-05-23

  1. It’s also unsustainable time-wise and financially - only possible because I am exchanging labour (box office, documentation, reflective writing) for tickets in every case and being supported as a teacher and consultant. The balance of finding what works and what can sustain. But these are ok problems, cause there’s some great art and great people there.  ↩
  2. I almost went for a Nova Scotia “b’y” joke but decided to pass.  ↩

Material surprise

I caught two programs at the Images Festival this weekend and wondered if –The nature of surprise is different in analog and digital

(for the sake of a very digital either/or I’m including live performance in analog and - importantly for my experience at Images - including film as opposed to digital video)


In analog, we (the audience) can be happily1 surprised by content and by material.2

In both analog and digital we can be surprised by content of course - something unexpected happening in the thing we’re seeing. Structure, events, language, image, context, juxtaposition etc… The common elements can all be a part of this. Experimental or classical, academic or populist etc… all play this game.

In analog work, the material can also surprise - first the artists and then the audience and this surprise can be central to the meaning making. The body can do the unexpected, the language slips, the paint behaves in unpredicted ways, the celluloid does something different. These productive mistakes are then integrated into, or become, the content.

But material surprise is not something I, as an audience member, look for or experience with digital. When it exists it's only jarring (I'm thinking of digital noise, broken code, dropped frames)

2 pieces by way of example:

In Sugar Beach, it’s the in camera processing of film that surprises - Mark shoots through a small hole, rewinds the film and does it again – resulting in a “same but different” that’s beautiful and bound to the material of film.

On the other end of the spectrum: Simon Quéhiellard’s Maître-Vent is a piece of him setting up discarded materials (broken umbrellas, boxes, skin ply) by the side of the highway and recording their reaction to the wind of passing trucks. So much surprise, delight, tragedy, expectation and narrative ensue from watching his desire and the reactions of plastic bags and pop cans. It’s the best Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton film made last year. The surprise, though, isn’t in the material of video. Digital accidents would be out of place and much less meaningful.

This probably isn’t a new thought in the world - and I’d love to be pointed towards the exceptions - but it was lovely to experience it first hand.

Images Festival is on until April 20th two things other things I want to catch:

  • Rope  - FADO co-presention at the Theatre Centre Pop-Up. April 16th is your last chance.
  • Ants at Interaccess - Oh!m1gas is a tribute to the sophistication and organization of ant colonies

  1. “Happily” for me is a pretty open term I use for a response that one is glad to have had - this, of course, can include a wide range of responses. ↩
  2. Another insufficient but helpful dialectic. ↩

Tonight we read and sing

Small Wooden Shoe Reads Difficult Playsand Sings Simple SongsTHE NUIT BLANCHE / KOERNER HALL EDITION

Very late tonight - September 29 (well, September 30th, technically) 1:30 AM - 4:00 AM (you're free to come and go - staying the full time or not)

Royal Conservatory of Music - Koerner Hall273 Bloor St. West (Bloor and Bedford) FREE

Normally we’re all secret and stuff, but this one is so exciting that we just can’t be: pictures from sound check.

In the sometimes chaos of Toronto’s all night art thing, Small Wooden Shoe and the Royal Conservatory are pleased to provide a respite of beauty and space.

Join us in the dark hours as we read Gertrude Stein and sing simple songs. Come and go, enter into Stein’s language, rich, challenging, funny and stunning: a landscape that we can visit and depart from.The room will be dark, letting your ears open as your eyes settle on the outlines of the architecture and music stand lights.

With special appearances from the 3penny Choir and many Small Wooden Shoe regulars.

Please join us.

Conjuring Aspirations

Jacob Zimmer for Small Wooden Shoe

It’s been 10ish years of Small Wooden Shoe.

10 yearsOf fast, cheap and rough political agit-prop (Delayed Knee Jerk Reactions Series), of hard-boiled live-to-air radio (The Mysterious Death of WB), of Chekhov adaptations (The Orchard), multi-media solo shows (No Secrets) and durational task based performances (Mostly Just Doing the Saturday Crossword) of the conversational formalism we’ve become best known for (Perhaps in a Hundred Years andDedicated to the Revolutions.) of great plays in grand halls (Life of Galileo)

and Christmas concerts (more on that later), on-line think tanks, public meetings, workshops, lectures and writing.

And we are only upping the ante.

Times are different. Theatre companies must also be different.

Small Wooden Shoe changes what a theatre company is.
(Want to join in? Keep reading.)

We are a production company and a think tank, a social space and a big idea in a small room. An over-ambitious plot to make it better, one interaction at time. Dedicated to finding better ways of working and coming together.

We make things to come to. Experiences to have.

We bring people together to share an experience and talk about things they care about. There is probably drinking. The time is relaxed and filled with pleasure, but death and politics are still discussed, people fall in and out of love, plans are hatched and action taken. Stories are told. Songs are sung.

We care about a good night out. (We think that’s a fair desire for your night out.)

“Good” can include tears; bewilderment; mind bending; political fury and almost always: laughing.

Continuing these things we do, We will think about the good parts of populism and work on those. We will make things that lots of people can, and might actually want to, come to.

Tickets will be $20 and under. Accessibility is a financial issue.

We will embrace ambition, ethics, and the scale of our imaginations.

We will care more about the world than about theatre or performance.

We will find ways of spreading the word and listening to what people say.

We will find a way to be local. Where ever we are.

We will teach and study and seek out partnerships and friends with places and people usually distant from theatre.

Not everything we do will be immediately recognized as theatre. But it will be.

(And we will perform in theatres also. We won’t deny that we like theatre - telling stories, bright lights, acting out scenes, songs and dances, and all those old plays. All of that can be so great.)

We will admit what’s going on. And we will try to help. And for all of this, We will need some help. We will need a “we.” People who want to make this happen.

Singing songs together to fend off the cold seems like a good place to start - so, we sing songs from 3penny Opera. They are beautiful songs about horrible situations and cynical people. Perfect to tuck between Christmas and New Year.

It costs 3¢ at the door and is more party than performance. There is information and pictures here.

Please join us.


Talk to us Let us know how to help. One of the oddities in the arts is not talking with the people we perform and work for. Let us know what we should be doing more of or places we should be doing what we’re doing. We won’t be able (or maybe willing) to do it all - but we’re curious about how you’d like us to help.

Spread the word Talk to your friends. In person even. For all the technology and money in the world - word of mouth is still the most important and effective way of getting people excited. That being said - sign up on facebook and pass this on to friends who you think would be interested.

Buy a lifetime subscription - for $500, you can see every show we will ever make. And through your belief and support, you can make sure we get there. Payment plans available. More info here. Donations of any size help too.

Train with us? - If we taught a workshop, would you come? What would you most like it to be about? And how long do you like your workshops to be? And how much would you pay (by the hour, by the day?)

Hire us - We don’t just make shows. We can facilitate conversations, conferences, brainstorming sessions. We can consult on making events better - more fun, more helpful. We can lead workshops and teach university courses. Or maybe there’s something else?

Contribute your time - We’re not sure exactly what it might look like, so we’re open to suggestions. Let us know what you’re good at and what you’d like to do.