The Rhubarb Festival
February 2021

“Toronto’s go-to event for thought-provoking, political, adventurous entertainment” – Toronto Life

curatorial collective
Theresa Cutknife, Clayton Lee + Van Lisa
festival director
Clayton Lee

Canada’s longest-running new works festival is a hotbed of experimentation, where artists explore new possibilities in theatre, dance, music, and performance art.
This year, Rhubarb is proposing an alternative: the creation of a physical performative publication that attempts to capture the energy of Rhubarb and, perhaps, recreate the live performance experience itself.

Submissions are now closed for this year’s Festival. Stay tuned for programming information and more details about the book launch scheduled for January 2021.

Rhubarb is offering a decentralized approach to curatorial decision making with the introduction of a Curatorial Collective. Continuing their work in 2020, the three curators – Van Lisa, Theresa Cutknife, and Festival Director Clayton Lee – will collectively work to not only shape and articulate a vision for the 2021 Rhubarb Festival but support the festival artists through the entire process. This initiative has been made possible by Native Earth Performing Arts and Workman Arts, with each of these organizations selecting and financially compensating a member of the curatorial collective.

Solitary leadership is long-obsolete; the Rhubarb curatorial collective ushers in a new path forward, an experiment in radical governance that thrives with continual growth. Our model of collective leadership is intentionally horizontal, democratic, and discussion-based, where the director and co-curators share equal decision-making power. Transparency, accountability, flexibility, responsiveness, and artistic integrity are our key collective values. Our mission will continue to adapt based on the community’s needs, and our team and institutional supports will continue to return to it, to hold each other in accountability and transformation.

Tania Bruguera paid homage to Audre Lorde’s seminal text when she wrote that “art is not a luxury.” If neither art nor poetry are luxuries, then they are necessary means for survival, for changing the status quo. The Rhubarb Festival is annually produced by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and aims to critically engage with the gaps, by: seeking diverse representation in our leadership; drawing voices from the periphery into the centre; emphasizing process over product and providing ongoing supports, in resistance to elitism; learning from call-ins and grassroots social movements; and visioning beyond professional development, forging a community of care.

Launched to mark the festival’s 35th anniversary, The Rhubarb Archive is a (hopefully) comprehensive list of all the projects, performances, experiments, parties, and special events to ever grace the stage at Canada’s longest-running new works festival