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Stratfest Lab Launches R&D Residencies, Script Incubator

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The Stratford Festival's Laboratory is a hive of activity at the moment, with a number of Canadian theatre artists coming to Stratford to develop their work. They responded to a call for submissions made this past summer and are bringing their in-development work to the Festival as part of a new R&D residency program in the Lab.

Founded by Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino in 2013, the Lab is the Stratford Festival's research and development wing, created to drive the Festival's artistic and organizational evolution through various experiments and workshops. It aims to promote inclusive and innovative theatre practices and to make new connections within the national arts community, while fostering the many relationships that already exist.

"I believe that the Stratford Festival is at its best when it welcomes new creative relationships," says Cimolino. "The talented artists joining us for these residencies have exciting ideas they hope to explore here in Stratford. I look forward to welcoming them and seeing their work develop. I sense that both the artists and the Festival itself will be richer for this exchange."

Response to the call for R&D submissions was very strong. "We had 66 applications, from which we selected six projects," says Ted Witzel, the Stratford Festival's Artistic Associate for the Lab.

The call for submissions was very broad, seeking in-development theatre projects, and allowing the word "theatre" to be interpreted as broadly as possible. There were no specific criteria for form or content of the projects. "We told applicants that their projects don't have to riff on Shakespeare (but they could); they don't have to have words in them (but they could); they don't have to exist yet (but they could)," witzel says.

These week-long residencies in Stratford have an in-kind value of between $5,000 and $10,000, including fees to the artists, travel to and from Stratford, accommodations and rehearsal space, along with dramaturgical and producing support from the Lab team.

In reviewing the submissions, the Festival decided to add a second new development opportunity. "The projects we selected for the residencies were pursuing creation models that veered away from traditional text-driven approaches," says witzel. "However, we found ourselves keen to support some of the exciting script-based proposals we received as well. We're piloting a 'script incubator' model this year, to allow a few of these playwrights to work in rep with a micro-company of actors to move their drafts forward, and allow us to get to know their work."

Within the script incubator, four playwrights will be given three half-day sessions with actors and time to do re-writes in between. They will be given a fee, accommodations and dramaturgical consultations with the lab team.

Last summer the Festival partnered with the SummerWorks Performance Festival, offering a similar award for Research and Development. The inaugural winner of the 2019 prize was Syreeta Hector, for her acclaimed piece Black Ballerina. Syreeta will be christening the Lab's new studio in the Tom Patterson Theatre Centre with a week-long residency in June, following residencies at Kaaitheater in Brussels and Canadian Stage in Toronto.

R&D Residency Projects: Winter 2020

Leopards & Peacocks

Written by Gitanjali Lena

Company: Teardrop Collective

December 13 to 15 and 19 to 21

Members of Leopards and Peacocks' comedic theatre team will experiment with character revision for the role of Lakshan from hearing to Deaf. They will work through the multilingual script changes starting with playwright and dramaturge and then in bringing Deaf actors, a director and ASL coaches to work through three scenes in the studio. Gitanjali Lena has assembled a top-notch team of South Asian artists who are approaching this smart and ambitious queer rom-com with thoughtfulness, rigour and wit.

i am your spaniel

Written by Gislina Patterson

Company: We Quit Theatre

February 10 to 16

i am your spaniel, or, A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare by Gislina Patterson is a drag-lecture-karaoke-dance-poem using first folio text analysis, Sam Rockwell movies, audio recordings of family dinners, and autofiction to re-imagine Shakespeare's most performed text. We Quit Theatre's work was last seen at the SummerWorks Festival, where these startlingly inventive emerging artists won the Buddies in Bad Times award for Risk and Innovation for their piece 805-4821.

PING!

Created by Aaron Jan

February 10 to 16

PING! is a sports-play/movement-theatre hybrid that explores the embodied, physical relationship between second and third generation Chinese-Canadians and table tennis. The project explores how displaced children and grandchildren of immigrants experience a connection to their homeland and culture through the kinaesthetics of competitive sport. The PING! team, who all self-identify as mediocre athletes at best, will spend a week in a self-designed ping pong boot camp. Their residency week will culminate in a public tournament to which the local Stratford community, artists and staff are invited to challenge the artists.

The Art of Storytelling

Created by Joseph Recinos

January 27 to February 2

The Art of Storytelling is a theatrical passage through time and space, a retelling of

who we are by connecting to our ancestral voices, infusing three languages, poetry,

storytelling, theatre and music with Indigenous tradition and current cultural

aesthetics. The Art of Storytelling brings the audience on a journey through allegory and myths. During their residency, the TAOS team will be focusing on refining the piece's ceremonial, physical, and musical throughlines, working with drums, loop pedals, movement and medicine.

peasantz

Choreographed by Alyssa Martin

Company: Rock Bottom Movement

February 3 to 9

A radical look at peasants impersonating femme fatale Lucrezia Borgia through highly stylized genre-bending contemporary dance, original devised text and rearranged choral pop music, peasantz will shed glimmering light on the power of surrealism and escape, offering a ruthlessly feminist approach to performance, with Borgia as the icon. Rock Bottom Movement are quickly gaining a reputation for sexy, smart and subversive dance pieces, generated through strong collective processes.

Switching Queen(s)

Created by Sedina Fiati, Anna Malla & Naty Tremblay

Company: The Switch Collective

January 27 to February 2

The Switch Collective is an interdisciplinary performance group that has been co-creating new methodologies and political performance materials for the public sphere since 2016. Switching Queen(s) is a 60-minute interdisciplinary, roaming public performance to be shown in Toronto's Queen West area in the summer of 2020. This community- and place-engaged collective of theatre makers are coming to Stratford to reimagine their collaborative process as they prepare to welcome new collective members for their newest piece.

2020 Script Incubator Projects

WASP

By Rhiannon Collett

In a town where Angels are impregnating women on their 21st birthdays, a genderqueer revolutionary holes up in an abandoned church to take control of their own destiny. WASP is a modern gothic about abortion, biological essentialism and intergenerational trauma.

The Drum Major Instinct

By Makambe K. Simamba

An epic trilogy in which an African Prince and Princess lead their people to colonize Europe and change the face of history as we know it.

The Pryce Academy

By Mazin Elsadig + Philip McKee

An original musical that satirizes how progressive politics and art can be used to transform and perpetuate systems of exploitation and inequality.

Seven Pieces

By Jenn Forgie

An interdisciplinary play exploring dissociation from the Body and Self, Identity and Belonging through the story of Kate, her child self and a captive Asian elephant.

For more information about the Lab, visit https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/AboutUs/TheLab and follow @stratfestLAB on Twitter.



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