Small Wooden Shoe is named after the tools French workers would use to "clog" the machinery when on strike. Their “sabot” – small wooden shoes – gave English the word “sabotage.”

Like them, we want to disrupt the machinery of "business as usual" in hopes for a better world. more about what we do

Theatre without ruling

Some thoughts spurred from a few Michaels comments.


I’m not looking to run an arts service or research organization – I’m a theatre director.

I believe in leadership. I believe in curation and position taking.
I’m not looking to run an “open-source theatre”, or a broadly defined “shared stake holder” art space [1]. Nor am I necessarily a champion of the New or the Next. I don’t think of myself or my work as avant-garde or that radical.

For better or worse, I’m absurdly interested in what can happen in the theatre. So, first, I want to find a home for my work [2] as a director and instigator of shows.

I also believe in a kind of generous ethical transparency [3].
I believe in the intelligence of the room and the vitality of agency and investment for collaborators and co-conspirators. There are people I turn to for inspiration, advice, support and deep input. I think there are times when crowd-sourcing is a great strategy. I believe that public, honest conversation can be good and healthy.

My interest in theatre and use of digital networks grew at the same time. The internet is making different things possible across distance and changing how ideas are shared. Expectations for participation, investment in process and recreational practices are changing. Definitions and understandings of “professional” are changing. There can be great and important lessons for the world and art making in all this opening and changing of tools and norms.[4]

Still, I believe in leadership. I believe in curation and position taking.
Not everything goes. The populism I can stand behind makes choices and is willing to articulate those choices. Not everyone will like the choices or the articulation, but that’s nothing new.

Part of the building-dream is that the main hall wouldn’t have to rented for the business plan to work. It would be in use: teaching classes, holding meetings, a space to run around and a place to dream, but first and foremost it should be a home for creating and rehearsing Small Wooden Shoe projects and the projects a couple other resident companies. I think of it as mostly a rehearsal/creation venue with performance opportunity - more Progress Lab than Theatre Centre or Buddies. Toronto doesn’t need even more mandate duplication.

Participation in the neighbourhood, the day care, after school programs, food services etc… might happen in the other spaces of the building, run by people much more qualified than I. There would need to be a connection with the working of the theatre companies - but also important separation.

Somewhere, I think in Brecht’s journals (to show my theatre-geek) - I read:

“How to lead without ruling?”

That’s been my question since.


  1. Those things have value in the world, just that that’s not what I would be best for. ↩

  2. “My work” involves many deep ongoing collaborations and meeting new people - it’s not only theatre but it mostly is. It is not an isolating activity, yet it does make choices. ↩

  3. Though I’m wary of certain calls for transparency, which are often thinly veiled attacks on front line workers and political enemies.  ↩

  4. There is also developments to be opposed and alternatives proposed.  ↩

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