This is the first in a series of posts detailing some of my projects from 2020. Because of the nature of the projects and the Big Shift that happened last year, I wasn’t very advertisey in the moment. While many planned things dropped, I was still able to be part of a bunch of interesting and inspiring projects. Over the next little bit, I’m planning on detailing each and sharing some lessons learned during each.
First up is a project I co-lead with Alice Cavanagh, produced by Frog in Hand in collaboration with Clay and Paper Theatre.
CYCLOPS was a project that manifested as 3 distinct wandering performances roaming neighbourhoods in Port Credit, central Toronto and in the east end of Toronto. These localized parades shared a few elements: they needed something tall (like a banner or large puppet), they needed to be mobile (wheeled methods of transportation highly encouraged), and they needed to include music and ways to make sound. Aside from that, artists had freedom to create what they wanted.
My group, the “Planting Queens” (a play on the Abba song “Dancing Queen” which became our silly anthem) were a wandering quartet of clown gardeners (because everyone took up gardening in 2020) designed to spread joy along the lakefront. Trowel (me), Sprinkle (Drew Berry), Fern (Rohan Dhupar) and Petal (Mackenna Martinez) wandered the streets of Port Credit from the piers of the harbour to the bridge across Cooksville Creek. We sang for, laughed with, cheered on cyclists and runners and greeted people we met on our way.
I did mention there were other Cyclops groups happening around the city at the same time ours was parading around Port Credit. Here’s a quick peek at Alice’s group, Space Force, with the wonderful Clarke Blair and Erin Eldershaw wandering the east end of Toronto:
And the wonderfully bizarre group of wild animals caught on the prowl in central Toronto, with their group The Pond. This group included Lizzie Moffatt, Keitlyn Seibold, Zachary Bastille, Jeremy Pearson and Michael Derworiz:
My only real regret is our scheduling. We scheduled each of these pieces to be wandering at the same time. It was a tricky thing, being our first live performance since the lockdown in mid-March. On the planning end it seemed fine: focusing on our own geographical neighbourhoods and coordinating at a distance would limit travel. Keeping the numbers low would, ideally, minimize the risk of infection. Each group was advised to have all necessary safety measures on-hand (face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes). But each group member was also performing. We planned to keep these self-contained, and because of this inward-looking focus we didn’t notice the big, person-shaped hole right beside us.
The groups needed a support.
We misplanned the importance of an outside body to accompany the groups: someone whose sole responsibility would be to act as a reminder to clean, to take breaks, to field questions from the audiences and to step in in case anything happened to ensure the safety of the performers.
This should have been myself, or Alice. Our schedule didn’t allow this and so we were both performing, simultaneously, in different cities. I especially didn’t see this need because my group actually had Colleen Snell (director of Frog in Hand) accompany us every day. This meant I didn’t flag it until things were well underway. While we are lucky that nothing drastic happened during these performances there were definitely situations, such as people getting a bit too close, where it would have come in handy to have that extra body.