Winter Programming and Activities
Barely two weeks into 2021, and our start is undeniably tense. While vaccines are beginning to be deployed, we’ve entered a second state of emergency in Ontario, with stay-at-home orders in effect. As things continue to shift, we’re planning with flexibility and responsiveness in mind.
As a small but nimble team, we’ve been adapting, imagining, collaborating, experimenting, and building new skills – with international livestream presentations, outdoor performances, and digital community conversations all taking place over the Fall. To support queer artists through the pandemic, we also expanded our Queer Emerging Artists Awards, giving out twenty in December. Over the next few months we maintain our focus on artist development, community exchange, and experimentation.
“I am consistently encouraged by the work artists are doing in our communities. Observing their ingenuity, agility, and ability to embrace the ever-changing circumstances around us creates a template for theatre companies to strive towards as we prepare for a post-vaccine world. With that in mind, over the next three months experimentation and learning emerge as a prime focus — both for artists and the company. I’m thrilled to see how programming staples including the Emerging Creators Unit, 2-Spirit Cabaret, and The Youth/Elders Podcast are already being reshaped by artists – small changes that anticipate larger structure and systems change.
The shift to the development of skills and deepening of knowledge is mirrored in our company’s internal reflections and reviews of process and working relationships. Having spent the past three months assessing our current realities and identifying gaps in our knowledge and experience, we now move towards addressing these areas of discrepancies through a community-focused lens to – hopefully – build a stronger foundation for working together.”
– Daniel Carter, Interim Programming Director
As we begin 2021, two artist training programs are underway, the 2-Spirit Cabaret is shifting to a longer development model, and another group of residency artists will be accessing resources to continue work on their projects. Intergenerational connections continue to be an important priority as well, with our series of monthly facilitated discussions led by Ty Sloane and leZlie lee kam, and the return of two programming pieces: The Youth/Elders Podcast and a Pen Pal exchange.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be winter at Buddies without The Rhubarb Festival. Rhubarb continues to be a fertile ground for experimentation, taking on a very different format this year. Audience members will be able to experience new works from over 20 artists through this year’s performative publication.
BUILDING ARTIST CAPACITY
Two artist training programs will be running concurrently over the next few months with sharings at our Queer Pride Festival in June. The Emerging Creators Unit, led by Tawiah M’Carthy with Philip Geller, will see three artists receive artistic and professional development through meetings, workshops, and masterclasses. This year’s cohort includes drag and performance artist Weird Alice, theatre artist Janis Mayers, and comedian Ajahnis Charley. Alongside the ECU, we’re thrilled to announce our first-ever Emerging Company in Residence. Phoenix the Fire, led by Deaf artists Gaitrie Persaud and Natasha “Courage” Bacchus, will be entering into a one-year mentored relationship working with Buddies over 2021 to hone producing skills, curate community workshops, and develop their work.
Meanwhile, the 2-Spirit Cabaret with Native Earth Performing Arts takes on a new format this year, with an artistic development period over the winter and spring and masterclasses hosted by international artists Hot Brown Honey and Tarik Elmoutawakil (Brownton Abbey). This year’s curator and participating artists will be announced in the coming months.
EXPANDING OUR RESIDENCY PROGRAM
Our residency artists continue to work on their projects over the winter months, with manidoons collective (White Girls in Moccasins) and We Other Sons Collective (What’s Done, Must Come) building on work started in the Fall. Residency artists Pencil Kit Productions, new to the program this season, will begin work on Raf Antonio’s WHITE MUSCLE DADDY, a multimedia project exploring the colonization of queer desire through the lens of a vampiric predator in an urban queer village.
As well, parallel to their project development, resident artists manidoons collective (Cole Alvis and Yolanda Bonnell) will be working with Buddies staff to reimagine values-based processes of building working relationships and preparing spaces for artists and community members to work and gather.
EXPERIMENTING WITH FORM
While many productions and projects have shifted to online formats over the last several months, this year’s Rhubarb Festival heads in a more analog direction. Bringing together over 20 artists, this year’s performative publication seeks to recreate the experience of a live performance festival in a physical object: a book.This limited edition publication (888 books will be available) collects movement scores, illustrations, documents, poems, and more. In addition to the published pieces, artists will perform interventions on the books before they’re received by audiences – think: painted pages, love letters that can be planted, and textile book wraps. Look out for new works by artists including Ravyn Wngz, Njo Kong Kie, Aria Evans, Louise Liliefeldt, and Sue Balint.The book will be on sale for pre-order on January 14, when we’ll also be announcing the full artist lineup.
In Conversation continues with co-facilitators leZlie lee kam and Ty Sloane discussing topics including gender euphoria, age and authority, and religion and spirituality. Building on the appetite for these intergenerational conversations, we’re bringing back The Youth/Elders Podcast for a second season, after a pilot project in 2018 at the Oakwood Village Library. This new incarnation sees a rotating panel of five hosts, with the first episode due out in June. Ty and leZlie are joined by Naomi Bain, S. Bear Bergman, and Rhoma Spencer who together will curate, host, and record these new episodes over the next few months. Back by popular demand (our first round saw over 500 registrants from across the country), we’re also re-launching our Pen Pals project to help get you through the winter and ongoing lockdowns, in partnership with Pride Toronto.
Through a new collaboration with Push.Pull (curated by Dainty Smith and Golboo Amani), we’ll be hosting showcases exploring QTBIPOC cabaret and performance art, with a stellar lineup including Ravyn Wngz, LAL, Lucinda Miu, Betsy Swoon, and Mikiki.
Since the summer of 2020, Buddies staff have been engaged in group-led learning and departmental reviews examining how racism, anti-Blackness, and discrimination manifest at Buddies. In the fall, the Board of Directors began working with a diversity and inclusion consultant. These first, internal phases of work have focused on assessing our current reality and knowledge, and lay some of the groundwork for a fulsome, community-engaged, organizational review process that will occur over the course of the coming months. Look for more information coming up. If you have questions or feedback contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: a statement from the Board of Directors regarding organizational review and transformation was posted February 5, 2020 on a new page that includes more information on the process. You can access that there.