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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Volcano's Africa Trilogy - Part I - Introduction

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A long look at a really big idea
by Michael Wheeler

After much thought and talk about the lack of content about content on this blog and several others, this series will be an attempt to create an online discussion about the process and product of a massive theatrical undertaking. It is my hope that this will translate to something approximating content about content:

Volcano Theatre’s Africa Trilogy 

With some funding from the generous folks at Theatre Ontario, I will be training with Volcano as an Artistic Producer on this project. It's a really great opportunity to see and share how something of this magnitude goes from an inception to incredibly ambitous production.

Ideally, this series will follow the project to its conclusion for the next year and a half and will have multiple authors representing many of the different perspectives the trilogy will encompass. Volcano Artistic Director, Ross Manson, has been generous enough to be all for me organizing something like this. Thanks Ross.

Volcano’s website describes the project as:
“An international trilogy of plays that will focus on the West’s relationship with Africa.

The three playwrights come from three regions: Africa, Europe, North America. The directors come from different countries within these three continents, thus making the project a six-country, three continent effort.

The theatre artists joining the project are relatively young, and formally experimental – mid or early-career innovators, already with national or international reputations. The starting point is the 2005 series of Massey Lectures given by Stephen Lewis, United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from 2001 to 2006.”

Stephen Lewis speaks about The Africa Trilogy at The Gladstone Hotel

The Playwrights:

Binyavanga Wainaina is the winner of the 2002 Caine prize for African literature, and the founding editor of Kenya’s only literary journal, Kwani?. He is one of the most important literary figures of his generation in Central Africa.

Roland Schimmelpfennig is the winner of the 2002 Vienna Nestroy Prize, and the Schiller-Gedächtnis Prize (awarded yearly in Germany for an outstanding literary contribution by a young dramatist). He is one of the most prolific and heralded young dramatists in Europe.

Christina Anderson was identified by American Theatre magazine as one of only fifteen US artists under 30 "whose work will be transforming America's stages for decades to come."

The Directors:

Josette Bushell-Mingo was recently awarded the Order of the British Empire for her work in theatre in the UK. She is the founder of PUSH, an organisation set up for the promotion and development of Black British Theatre, and currently runs the Tyst Teater in Sweden.

Liesl Tommy grew up in a township in Cape Town, South Africa. She studied at Oxford and the Claire Davidson Drama Centre in London, then earned her MFA from Trinity Rep Conservatory in the USA. She has been hailed as “eccentrically imaginative” by the New York Post, and a “standout” by the New York Times.

Ross Manson is a Dora and KM Hunter award-winning theatre director based in Toronto, whose work won the 2006 “Best of Edinburgh” prize at the world’s largest theatre festival. His international award-winning company, Volcano, has been identified by NOW magazine as the “best independent theatre company in Toronto”.

The entire team is currently working with a cast of 10 workshoping the first draft of their three scripts at the Lower Ossington Theatre in Toronto. These workshops are actually the fourth stage of the process following a planning meeting at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel  in November 2007, a research trip to Rwanda and Uganda in March 2008, and a weekend of follow up meetings with the playwrights in New York City in June of 2008.

There is another workshop to follow in the spring of 2009 at Theatre Passe Muraille, and likely much more work between then and when it opens as part of Toronto’s Luminato festival in 2010.

So there should be lots to talk about. Stay tuned for more posts on this project from many different collaborators.


Anonymous said...

Mike, to call the O.A.C "generous folks" is misleading. They have been mandated by our government to award grants to artists based on arm's length peer review.

Michael Wheeler said...

Fair enough. Point taken. Theatre Ontario Professional Theatre Training Program grants are administered by Theatre Ontario, through a grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

I'm unfamiliar with their process, but am pretty darn sure they distribute these grants "based on arms length peer review". In any case, my intent was to show appreciation in general to funders and fund administrators, not to muddy any waters...

Lindsay Price said...

Wow, what an expansive project. Should make for some excellent content! I look forward to learning more about this.

Aaron said...

Congratulations Michael. I look forward to reading more about the work ahead.

Anonymous said...

HERE is a very interesting article about the influence of the internet on modern culture. I especially recommend this to those who complain of the Web's anarchy and vulgarity.

Happy Holidays to all! (Anon)

Michael Wheeler said...

Thanks for the link anon.

Shirky seems 10 x smarter than your average mortal, which may be why he is unintimidated by the vast flow of information that is the internet. I very much agree with his thesis that TV already caused a lot of the changes to society that people are getting up in arms about 40 years later and blaming the internet for.

Happy Holidays to you too.

ben said...

Interesting article (Clay Shirky interview), but he talks in such generalities drawn from "common wisdom" and "pop culture" gussied up in university talk, that moments after reading it, I can't come up with a single thing that was actually said. It's kind of like Noam Chomsky mixed with Entertainment Tonight, fascinating, but frivolous.

I mean really, the "Lost" fan-club is a deep effect of interactive media? Shows now-a-days have more fan clubs than in the 80's? Does any of this actually mean anything?

Michael Wheeler said...

Hey Ben,

I think his argument goes deeper than the examples you site.

Things that resonated with me were the ways different generations filter information (or don't), that we often site the latest fad when we should be considering structural shifts, and that the internet is unique in its ability to be a general purpose media.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a "Lost" fan myself, Ben, but I do think we're seeing a revolution in artist/audience interactivity.

I also see this article as a defense of volatility over control, an issue very dear to my heart.

Happy Hols to you too, Mr. You-Can't-Impress-Me.

ben said...

Happy christmas.