The Conseil Québécois du Théâtre (CQT) caught Centaur’s General Manager, Chuck Childs, off-guard by throwing him and Caroline Lavoie a private party at the Maison de la culture in Pointe-Aux-Trembles in honour of their individual Prix Sentinelle awards. Chuck received the prestigious Prix Carrière – Caisse Desjardins du Plateau-Mont-Royal.
Thanks to the CQT for recognizing both of these exemplary people and a ‘gros bisou’ each to Jade Bruneau, Simon Fréchette-Daoust and Marc-André Perron from Théâtre l’Oeil Ouvert who created a truly festive event, despite the lack of revelers who would normally have attended.
Chuck’s wife, Anne Clark, secretly schemed with the CQT to make the event an intimate and heartwarming surprise, full of the music and stories that define Chuck and his many contributions to theatre, locally and nationally.
Now … let’s all go to “Chuckland”!
Did you notice the beautiful thank-you mosaic above? It features the beautiful faces of those who joined our Director’s Circle this year by donating whatever they could to support us our activities. It’s never too late to join!
In Quebec: Quebec’s World Theatre Day message comes from Anglesh Major, a relatively new face on the scene who is exploding on multiple fronts including pop music & opera, theatre, the small screen and online. His finger is squarely on the pulse of what’s new and immediate for Quebecois theatre makers and audiences. Read his message here.
In Canada: The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres (PACT) turned to Canadians to ask why they love theatre and MPs, Senators, Ministers of Culture, as well as theatre creators and administrators across the nation chime in.
Internationally: Spokesperson for the International World Theatre Day, the illustrious stage and screen actress, Dame Helen Mirren, had this to say.WTD2021_EN_Message_HelenMIRREN
Centaur Theatre is implementing the following prescribed health and safe protocols to keep you, the artists and staff safe, so we can all enjoy theatre once the Quebec government reopens theatres March 26th, 2021.
These measures include:
Centaur has also upgraded the ventilation system in both the theatre and public area.
Only the actors will be allowed to not wear masks, however a medical professional is visiting every 3 days to administer tests to confirm they are remaining Covid-free.
The Centaur 1 venue has a total capacity of 241 but will only seat 36 patrons per show. When purchasing tickets, you will be assigned specific arrival times to allow the safe flow of traffic as you make your way to your seat.
We know you are as thrilled as we are to be back in the theatre. We greatly appreciate your patience and cooperation respecting these government regulated safeguards.
Bon spectacle !
“Our history […] doesn’t only consist of the racism we endured and the struggles we faced. It’s also about the good stuff … our contributions, our inventions, our entrepreneurial endeavours.”
– Michaël P. Farkas: President, Black History Month/Mois de l’histoire des noirs (Quebec)
The enduring connection between Centaur Theatre and Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) goes back decades. February’s Black History Month is the perfect opportunity to praise the accomplishments of Canada’s oldest Black theatre company, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Here are just a few highlights from our longstanding alliance.
Thirty-five years ago this February, (when Black History Month was only a week long!) under the Artistic Directorship of actor/dancer/choreographer Don Jordan, BTW staged Edward Albee ’s The Death of Bessie Smith at Centaur. The current Montreal Gazette Editor-in-Chief, former arts reporter, Lucinda Chodan, host of our Sunday Chat-Ups, spoke to Mr. Jordan for this preview article.
You may notice Centaur alumna, Ellen David, at the far right in the photo; she was still Ellen Cohen back then. Tyrone Benskin, who later served as BTW’s Artistic Director, was also a cast member and our current Front of House Manager, Layne Shutt, was BTW’s Production Manager at the time and helped with the props on this show. Don Jordan returned to Centaur in 2015 as a chorus member in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.
Walter Borden wrote and played multiple characters in Tightrope Time, presented at Centaur as part of BTW’s 17th season. Walter’s outstanding one-man performance caught the eye of CBC Nova Scotia, (his home province), prompting this wonderful in-depth interview.
We were thrilled to have Walter back in the house for the magnificent BTW/Centaur/NAC co-production of Djanet Sears’s The Adventure of a Black Girl in Search of God. Most nights, Walter and his cantankerous cohorts stopped the show every time they made their signature ‘bodacious’ entrance.
For its 39th season, BTW presented Lorraine Hansberry ’s renowned seminal play, A Raisin in the Sun, featuring Ranee Lee, a Juno Award winner and member of the Order of Canada. Ranee has graced our stage as actor and jazz icon over the years, and this season she is generously sharing her time and expertise with us as one of the panelists in our Artistic Diversity Discussions @ Centaur.
In 2019, the emergence of more female artists of colour was exemplified by the triumphant all-female cast of BTW’s production of Trey Anthony’s How Black Mothers Say I Love You at Centaur. Ms. Trey is best known for her award winning play and TV series, Da Kink in my Hair. The play’s director, Tamara Brown, also directed Centaur’s world premiere of Michaela Di Cesare’s Successions.
Last season was supposed to wrap up with the BTW/Centaur co-production of August Wilson’s Fences, which would have starred BTW’s Artistic Director, Quincy Armorer, opposite Lucinda Davis as his wife, the third time they’ve portrayed a married couple at Centaur. Perhaps you were lucky enough to see Lucinda in the Centaur production of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Intimate Apparel and in The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God. Quincy’s affiliation with Centaur began when he worked as an usher, then as the Assistant Front of House Manager, a receptionist, and finally as the Assistant Box Office Manager. We much prefer him on stage or directing!
When Covid closed our doors last March, the set of Fences was entirely built. A year later both Centaur and BTW remain keenly optimistic about presenting this powerful play to Montreal audiences. While we wait for the green light to reopen theatres, our close association with BTW continues to flourish.
Happy Birthday BTW and happy Black History Month all!
Feature image credits : A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Tyrone Benskin with Peter Bailey, Adrienne Mei Irving, Ranee Lee and Leah Doz. Photo: Cindy Lopez
Four of the five Wildside shows have opened and are now streaming 24/7 from their individual web pages: Whiteface Cabaret, Black Balloon: Leila, 453 St-Francois-Xavier, and Night Cows.
BLACK BALLOON: LEILA AND WHITEFACE CABARET
By Faith Langston
MOONCOW THEATRE CO’S NIGHT COWS AND THE BAKERY’S SKIN
By Jacqueline van de Geer
Every night this week, Leslie Baker’s 4-part live stream, SKIN, premiers a new episode at 8 pm, Monday Jan. 18th through Thursday Jan. 21st. The four episodes will repeat in the same order Monday Jan. 25 through Thursday Jan. 28 and all four episodes, wrapped into one, will be online from January 29th to 31st .
We’re saving the newest addition to the festival for the closing weekend. Saturday and Sunday Jan. 30th and 31st at 2pm, tune in to Catalyst @ Centaur on YouTube / Facebook / Catalyst webpage. Each afternoon, four playwrights will read excerpts from their works-in-progress receiving dramaturgical support through Centaur’s Catalyst initiative, followed by a short interview with Wildside curator, Rose Plotek.
-Lorraine Carpenter explores “theatre from the edge”. Cult MTL
Wildside takes over the airwaves on CKUT 90.3FM‘s UPSTAGE for two consecutive weeks as host Sarah Deshaies talks to Wildside curator, Rose Plotek, and two Wildside creators:
– Katey Wattam, Night Cows (CKUT interview)
– Leslie Baker, SKIN (CKUT interview)
“Ne boudez pas votre plaisir. Allez faire un tour…vous serez charmés.”
“C’est magnifique[…]carrément hypnotisant” – Night Cows
“Vraiment original […]une excellente conception sonore et réalisation.” – 453 St-François-Xavier
Ariana Cipriani, Radio-Canada Culture Club
With our last season cut short, this year’s summary has taken on much more meaning for us. When the pandemic first hit, we knew it was important to stay connected with our patrons and fellow artists so all last spring we circulated a bi-weekly “staff picks” list to make sure people knew they were not alone and that Centaur was still busily planning for a future.
We initiated a series of online conversations that will carry into the New Year. We managed to pull off our first ever outdoor mini-festival … sadly cut short due to the reinstated Red Alert. We workshopped and streamed a live reading of Steve Galluccio’s new play, At the Beginning of Time, as well as a reading of Alexandria Haber’s play inspired by self-isolation, Housebound & Homesick. We initiated the Artistic Diversity Discussion and have created a Wildside Festival to kick off 2021 that is totally online and free.
We did our best to overcome the challenges of 2020 so this year in review is inspired by our core staff, who have been holding down the fort for 9 months and counting, until it’s safe to welcome you back.
“Three things stand out for me from last season. The standing ovation on the opening night of Alice and the World We Live In; having a private marionette lesson with Ronnie Burkett; and the chance to acknowledge my friend and mentor, Jackie Maxwell, on the opening night of Paradise Lost.”
– Eda Holmes, Artistic and Executive Director
“It was very heartwarming to see two of the Portico Project shows. It was the first time since the pandemic to see real actors, and they were performing on the steps of our beautiful building. So sad it was cut short, but it was a proof of the theatre community’s resilience. No matter what, we will survive!”
– Aleksandra Oleszkiewicz, Accounting Manager
I really enjoyed working on the Portico Project with all these up and coming companies. We had a lot of fun and it was a great energy!
– Howard Mendelsohn, Production Manager
“Hands down … my new Austin Mini & receiving the CQT ‘Prix Sentinelle’ award!”
– Chuck Childs, General Manager
“It was really great to see Amelia Sargisson in a big show like Paradise Lost because she used to be a Centaur usher.”
– Layne Shutt, Front of House Manager
“One of my favourite Centaur moments was definitely working on Paradise Lost: meeting and working with Jackie Maxwell and Lucy Peacock for the very first time and, of course, the wonderful cast of local actors who had to do an intense one-week ‘angel boot camp’!”
“My second favourite moment was working on Steve Galluccio’s workshop and live reading of his new play, since The Beginning of Time was the first time that I was working on a play with actors after months and months of isolation. It reminded me how much I love and need theatre and this community, and how much energy and joy it brings to me.”
– Luciana Burcheri, Production Associate
“Me and my son dancing in our seats for most of Michelle Sweeney’s kick-ass show, Her Songs, My Story. The whole audience rocked out to Aretha Franklin tunes that night!”
–Barbara Ford, Communications Writer
“One of the highlights of an otherwise gloomy 2020 was being able to sit in on the newly formed Artistic Diversity Discussion panel at Centaur Theatre, and not just because I was star-struck and inspired by the magical presence of jazz icon, Ranee Lee! The conversation turned towards honest representation on stage of, for lack of a better term, ‘otherness’, that neither white-washes/negates nor stereotypes … just incorporates and normalizes diversity and equity on stage…
…Julie Tamiko Manning simplified this by saying basically, ‘No Feathers’, referencing the pitfall of including indigenous actors/characters that are either ‘played white’ or presented as a trope for spectacle. This ‘No Feathers’ reminder sums up so perfectly what needs correcting when it comes to authentic diversity on stage, whether its queerness, Blackness, fatness, or any other ‘otherness’ that exists outside of the white/cis/het/middle-class/male/western default that has been the basis for SO MANY plays and stories. Let’s get to work and remember, NO FEATHERS! ❤”
– Jennifer Bisson, Development Assistant
“I loved being part of the Saturday Salons. Running the tech for the online conversations meant chatting with familiar and new faces whom I missed seeing since the theatre has been closed. And the conversations had were so inspiring and interesting.”
– Vanessa Rigaux, Digital Media Manager
“Also, that time Jane Wheeler put on a chicken mask during a video interview for Alice and the World You Live In.”
– Vanessa Rigaux, Digital Media Manager
“My favourite thing has been the connection to people who are passionate about theatre: our colleagues who share the common goal of creating theatre magic and our patrons who continue to keep me on my toes and share with us why they love theatre. That’s something that I luckily have been able to experience in person in the often festive and overly decorated Centaur box office and most recently from my very own dining room … my temporary makeshift box office!”
– Vanessa Gomory, Box Office Manager
“Live theatre! A whole audience breathing, laughing, gasping together as the story unfolds before them. MOB had us all on the edge of our seat till the very end. Oh no! You missed MOB because the run got cut short? Hmmmm … stay tuned, See you in 2021!”
– Eloi Savoie, Communications & Marketing Manager
We miss you; we miss making theatre for you, and with the optimism that the news of a vaccine has provoked in all of us, let’s hope that things are looking up for 2021.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
~ The Hottest Two Weeks of Winter Just Got Hotter ~
Centaur Theatre is very pleased to be able to present the 24th edition of the Wildside Festival, taking place online from January 12th to 31st, 2021. For the second consecutive year Centaur is partnering with La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines (SKIN) and Centaur’s current Associate Artist, Rose Plotek, once again curates the festival, which promises to be its most inventive yet.
As we enter the tenth month of the pandemic I feel like Wildside, a vehicle for theatre that pushes boundaries and exposes a broad array of voices, is more essential than ever. They are smart, risk-taking experimentalists with diverse interests and artistic influences who love a good dare … the very essence of the festival.– Eda Holmes, Centaur Theatre Artistic & Executive Director
The night of each premiere at 7PM, there will be a 15 minute live interview between Rose and the play’s creator viewable on Facebook or Youtube. Then head back to our website to watch the shows.
Couldn’t make it to the premiere? No problem! Our Wildside shows will be available to view for the duration of the Wildside festival. All videos will be featured on the show page on our website as soon as they are available.
All opening performances, except SKIN, are at 7pm, and once each play opens, it will be available on the website until January 31th, 2021. Videos will be available on each Wildside show webpage for viewing anytime, anywhere from the premiere night up to January 31th.
From January 18 through 21, a different episode of SKIN will be presented live each night at 8pm. They will be repeated in the same order from January 25 through 28 and a final compilation of all four episodes will be online for January 29, 30 and 31.
Our priority this year was to support local artists whose livelihoods have come to abrupt halt. I approached theatre makers whose work resonates with Wildside, asking them to create whatever they wanted in relation to what’s happening in the world right now. It’s really exciting for the artists and the audiences, all the more because of the present dearth of live theatre.– Rose Plotek, Centaur Theatre Associate Artist & Wildside Festival Curator
January 12 7PM – Montrealer Todd Houseman, and artistic partner, Lady Vanessa Cardona, subvert the idea of ‘red face’ with a freshly condensed cabaret (The Whiteface Cabaret) of their 2018 play, Whiteface, a satire integrating movement and mask to un-mask the complexities of Indigenous appropriation.
January 13 7PM – Sophie El Assaad’s richly evocative Black Balloon: Leila, presents a girl struggling with her identity within an environment unsuited to her.
January 14 7PM – Greg MacArthur’s 453 St-François-Xavier: a building. a future. an audio tour takes audiences on a sci-fi dive into Centaur’s potential futures. Following its metamorphosis from stock exchange to theatre, what other incarnations lay in store for the space?
January 15 7PM – In a digital-friendly reimagining, MoonCow Theatre Co. presents an abridged version of its haunting adaptation of Night Cows, the 1979 seminal theatrical text by Québécois & Indigenous creator, Jovette Marchessault. Using shadow puppetry, it brings together Indigenous, Anglophone, and Francophone approaches to reclaim Queer and feminist histories, asking audiences to imagine: what do liberation and connection feel like today?
January 18, 19, 20, 21 8PM (TBC) – The always surprising Leslie Baker returns to Wildside, teaming up with trailblazers PWM’s Emma Tibaldo and Scapegoat Carnivale’s Joseph Shragge, to create The Bakery’s SKIN, an imaginative examination of the satisfaction of living, inspired by a two thousand year old text and a photo of a doorway. SKIN is co-presented with La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines and is the only Wildside production that will broadcast a different episode every night and incorporate live performance.
For this year’s iteration, all of the creators are local and the newly conceived Catalyst @ Centaur will make its debut.
Catalyst @ Centaur will dominate the second weekend of Wildside at 2PM Saturday Jan 30 and Sunday Jan 31 to present artists from various cultural and artistic disciplines each evening, reading excerpts from their plays-in-progress. Ms. Plotek will also animate a Q&A after each reading.
Nils Svensson Carell
Montreal’s creative community is expanding rapidly; more opportunities for diverse creators to try new things, receive professional artistic support, and a platform to showcase their work are greatly needed. Catalyst @ Centaur is Centaur’s step toward addressing those needs.
November 29, 2020 will go down in the Montreal English Theatre Awards (METAs) history books as the most challenging since its 2012 inception. A never-before-attempted online ceremony to honour the past year’s theatrical achievements didn’t stop the volunteer committee from creating an entertaining gala celebration full of surprises, where “all the stars were out” … virtually!
Directed by Jen Viens, the 8th METAs ceremony was streamed live from the Geordie Theatre premises, and hosted by Justin Johnson and Adam Capriolo. Despite the shortened season, a significant number of productions were fully realized prior to the widespread cancellations. Twenty-five theatre professionals on the jury assessed seventeen professional productions by thirteen companies across sixteen categories.
All three of our main stage productions that we were able to present in the “cut-short Covid” season were nominated for various awards and we are very proud to receive the following:
A standing ovation for the METAC (METAs Committee) for going above and beyond to create a festive atmosphere, bringing levity and hope to the artists who long for the smell of greasepaint and to the audiences eagerly waiting for the lights to dim and the show to begin again.
Hearty congratulations to all of this year’s METAs nominees and winners, and to the special UHOT (Unsung Hero of the Theatre) and EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) honourees: Patrick Lloyd Brennan (a former Centaur Theatre staff member!), and Imago’s Artista mentorship program for young women respectively.
If you missed the ceremony, no worries. Break out the bubbly and visit the METAs YouTube page to watch.
Chuck Childs has been a strong advocate for the English Montréal theatre community for many decades. His role as Centaur Theatre’s General Manager has placed him as a leader in the arts scene in Montreal. His passion and dedication to this city’s thriving artistic community and his efforts to reach across the divide to our francophone collaborators has earned him the prestigious Prix Sentinelle, presented to him by the CQT (Conseil Québécois du Théâtre).
Centaur Theatre is so proud to have Chuck at the heart of our organization. Artistic Associate Rose Plotek sat down with Chuck to ask him a bit about his life in the theatre and what this prize means to him.
What made you pursue life in the theatre?
Well, school was never something I thought was a particularly good idea for me. My grade nine homeroom teacher wrote in my report card, “Is school really the best place for Charles?” But that started to change when I took industrial arts, which was woodwork and metal work, and in the second year it was technical drawing. One day that teacher gave me his keys, said take the tools you need and go to the stage and install the four doorknobs that are needed in the four doors. It was the set of Harvey. It was great fun! I liked that much better than being in class. I didn’t get the doorknobs done during that class period but he signed me out of my next classes so I could finish. Then I was truly hooked! I went on to work on the stage crew of that show. But it didn’t improve my schoolwork …
I ended up going to a private boarding school, and it was the best thing for me. Within two months I was building the set for Oliver on Sundays in the basement of the chapel. And I stage managed the show, and was involved in all the theatre stuff from then on. The school was very forward thinking and I got a huge amount of support. When it came time to decide if I was going to go on to become a civil engineer, which is what I have all the aptitudes for, my choice was to go to Waterloo, which had the best engineering program in the country but it took five years to do that degree OR there was a brand new technical theatre program at Ryerson, that was only two years long!
My father said “Is this what you really want to do?” I said “Yes! I really love it and I want to do a job I really love”, and he said, “Well it’s not the most secure profession and I don’t think it pays very well. And I’ve noticed that you like nice wine and food, and are you sure this is what you really want to do?”, and I said, “It will be okay because every day I will get up in the morning and WANT to go to work”. And my father said, “Fine!”
So I went on to Ryerson in the production course. It was in fact the first year they were offering this program. After two years of that program I went on and started in the business. I’ve been incredibly fortunate, I’ve been unemployed for maybe four weeks in the last forty-seven years!
How did your theatre journey in Montreal start?
I started at the then Saidye Bronfman Centre (now the Segal Centre) as a stage manager. When the Assistant Stage Manager left, my boss hired Anne Clark, who had done a year of training at the Banff Centre. During the first show we did together it was clear she was a far superior stage manager than I would ever be, so she took over my job and I became Production Manager for the company. I was there as production manager for five years. During which time I asked that stage manager to marry me and fortunately for me she agreed!
It was around that time that Maurice Podbrey [Centaur Founding Artistic Director] called me and said they were looking for a production manager. Centaur had just finished its ninth season, the last four years of which were after the building’s renovations. I joined at the beginning of the tenth anniversary season.
I was Production Manager through until the early 90s and then a lot of transitions happened. It was a difficult time, when a lot of government funding was cut and we received no funding increases. We needed to trim back the organization and unfortunately we needed to let some people go. I told Maurice he’d need a General Manager to make sure that what those folks had been doing was being taken care of, to make sure that things were still getting done. Maurice said, “Great; you do that!”
You’re involved with many parts of the community outside of Centaur: with PACT, with ELAN and you have taught at NTS. Why is it important for you to be involved in so many parts of the community?
To be a little corny about it, for those who are given a lot, a lot is expected. I feel lucky and it’s that sense of responsibility, as someone who’s somewhat of a leader in the Montreal English community, I have a responsibility to do what I can to support the community, to put my focus on theatre and the arts in this city, and support future generations.
What does it mean to you to be receiving this award from CQT? You are the first Anglophone to receive this award, what significance does that have?
I have to say I was completely stunned and very, very honored. There are very impressive people in Quebec culture who have been given this award in the past and being the first Anglophone means a lot. I was very touched.
I was very moved to be recognized by CQT because one of the things that I’ve worked the hardest at is the rapprochement between the English and the French communities, and that has happened despite the fact that I really don’t speak French well. I speak more French now than I did ten years ago and up until the pandemic, we had French classes here at the theatre two days a week, which was very helpful.
I’ve always felt it’s a shame that we don’t work closer together. And it is difficult because we work under two different collective agreements and that fundamentally means we work differently. And consequently there is always a sort of a lack of understanding from both sides. So I’ve worked very hard at trying to understand the French system and how it’s evolved and at the same time, try to articulate how our system works and how it has evolved. Today I feel that that rapprochement is happening, now more than ever. I’m so encouraged that Centaur is developing projects with French companies. I can see all the work over the years of reaching out is truly paying off.
Leading a theatre company through a pandemic is not something anyone would have been prepared for, but Artistic Director Eda Holmes has done a fantastic job of continuing to keep the Centaur a vital part of Montreal’s thriving arts community. I sat down with Eda to ask her a little about how she’s been making plans for the company in this unprecedented year.
Interview with Artistic Executive Director Eda Holmes by Rose Plotek, Artistic Associate, Centaur Theatre Montreal.
Where did the idea for the Portico Project come from?
I was thinking about all the artists here in Montreal for whom all their work and practice had come to a halt. I worried about what people were going to do with their creative energy. And when the Black Lives Matter resurgence happened, and the social justice conversation was at the forefront, I felt that this was a moment that people needed to talk and make work about. I also felt we must get whatever money we can out to the artists in the community.
And so I was thinking about how I could bring all those ideas into one central event, and still do it safely. I approached some of my colleagues who I believe have a good hand on the pulse of the artistic community here–Eo Sharp, Julie Tamiko Manning, and Nalo Soyini–and we talked about what we felt the community needed. We created a call for submissions which focused on “unpacking the moment we are in” and that is how the Portico Project was created.
As it became clear what kind of limited funding I would have to work with this year, I started to put other things in place, like the Artistic Diversity Discussion @ Centaur (ADD @ Centaur) and the Catalyst @ Centaur. It was pretty clear by June that this pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, and we would have to think about what work we could get out there and how. It’s been a uniquely challenging process but it’s been very inspiring to be able to ask, “What is theatre for right now and how can we best serve and inhabit that”?
Is asking yourself that question a continuation of what you do in your role as artistic director, or is it a change in direction brought on by the pandemic specifically?
I had actually started from that question in the company’s current strategic planning process. So it hasn’t felt like a complete shift, it’s just that the tools have changed, because we can’t put a show on stage and we can’t hire artists in the way we normally would. But the conversation is not that different from the question of what kind of work we want to be making and sharing.
Mostly I want to make sure that the work we are putting out there now is well positioned to be successful given our current reality. And that’s why the reading of Steve Galluccio’s play, At the Beginning of Time, worked so well. Not only is it filled with Gallucio’s natural wit and love of his characters but also because it’s written to take place in a small room between three people.
And so as our first attempt at a live-streamed event I felt we could achieve it fairly simply and successfully. Luckily that turned out to be true! We have many more plans for this year so stay tuned!
Can you tell us more about ADD @ Centaur?
Specifically when the Black Live Matter resurgence happened and theatre companies were posting statements of solidarity, I felt under pressure to post something, but I didn’t want to post anything until I could say something that we as a theatre could truly stand behind. For me what was most important was that Centaur needed to be an agent of change, that was the centre of our statement. Once we’ve said that in public, how do we do it? Just saying it is not enough. So what do we need to do? I started by calling Patrick Lloyd Brennan of QDF, because he had worked with us at Centaur in the past and is also very familiar with the community.
We discussed how the conversation needed to start with people who are very established in the community, people who really understand where Centaur is at right now in terms of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and how we got here. We will continue the conversation with another group of younger artists in the spring that will help us to articulate where we need to go next.
We are only 2 months in, but the experience and insight the panel is sharing with us has been revelatory and inspiring.
When we started, I didn’t want to bring in an outside organization to manage these conversations, I didn’t want to step back from the work that had to be done. I wanted us to do the work actively. We have to engage ourselves in this work. We have to take on the risk of being in the potentially challenging conversation. Not have someone tell us how to do it but actually formulate it for ourselves.
I think it’s important for us to create a future for Centaur that is authentic to this place. Our theatre does have a strong foundation to build on but there is no way that we can decide in a vacuum what the change should look like. We need to bring in other voices and other experiences to give the change real agency.
What does the future look like?
It is honestly really hard to know what will stick but in preparing for an uncertain future one thing is always certain! We will be in need of financial support to continue to make theatre that strives for artistic excellence alongside our pledge be be agents of change. Our upcoming campaign is in fact called, The Future @ Centaur. I believe that we can continue to make good changes and great theatre for years to come. I’ve certainly learned so much during this challenging time!
Have you ever heard of theatre ghosts? Ask Centaur staff and many will have stories to tell. Lights going on and off, doors opening, or a gust of wind coming up from nowhere. Scared of the dark? Don’t be. There is always a light left on stage.
In the spirit of Halloween, Centaur has dug up a script by Michaela Di Cesare, written for a special “ghost tour” offered as part of the 2018 Centaur Gala, where an usher led guests backstage and through the Centaur Heritage building’s dark underbelly.
Checks and balances. Living life on a ledg-er. That’s all I knew and that’s all this place was before. Tickers. Time. Opening and closing meant different things in this building, before. I sold stocks. And just so you know, the expression is wrong: it’s not a rat race because there’s no finish line. Well, there is one, but it’s not one you want to get to. Yep. I’m a cliché. The crash of ‘29 took me down with it. I told myself I couldn’t face my family, but really, I didn’t want to. I wasn’t who I wanted to be and that was unacceptable. So, I’ve been here ever since. And the cruel joke is this place becomes a theatre. A NOT FOR PROFIT theatre. The irony is not lost on me.
I haven’t been alone for 50 years. All sorts of characters coming in and out of here. They’re not so bad…The most important thing I learned is that stories don’t end. You might think you’re at the end, but…there’s always more. The play starts over the next night. Or someone who started as an usher here becomes an actor on stage years later. (That’s, uh, Quincy.)
On the year of our ghost tour, Michaela Di Cesare wrote Successions, and rumour has it she is now writing a sequel. She was Centaur’s playwright in residence in 2019/20, and often could be seen working in the Centaur gallery on a new script in the genre of a Spaghetti Western.
What is Michaela up to while Centaur’s ghost light keeps the stage warm for her? She recently received a Digital Original grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to adapt her monologue SanimaXmas (originally performed as part of Centaur’s Urban Tales in 2017) into a short film titled The Carcass.
The film will premiere on Halloween on Michaela’s social media channels (@michamusing on Instagram and @michamusings on Facebook). It will be up for a limited time only so make sure to stay in this Halloween, and maybe have your dinner before watching The Carcass.