dossier: Kevin Rees for OUBLIETTE / Summerworks

Coincidence, chance, serendipity: each of these are beautiful forces that wander through our world uninterrupted. They are reminders that, as soon as you think you understand the world around you, there will always be something unexpected that will, once again, fill you with wonder. The world is mysterious and if you’re open enough to accept this you will begin to welcome these little (or big) surprises.

Last week, I was walking home through a residential street I had only walked through maybe twice before after completing my roster of Volcano classes for the day. As I navigated this unfamiliar street I saw a woman shaking out some bags on the sidewalk. Getting closer, me walking, her shaking out dirt and hitting canvas, she turned towards me and we immediately recognized each other. This woman shaking the bags was an artist I met maybe three years ago now at the annual, or biennial, Unconference by Small Wooden Shoe (which is happening again very soon and you should go to it) by the name of Michelle Polak. Last I heard from her she was participating in a tour of I, Claudia. We very easily began talking about theatre, I was throwing her some stuff that had me very inspired from the recent classes I was taking with Volcano, and she began telling me about her experience working on OUBLIETTE, a show opening this week at Summerworks. We asked a lot of “How”-questions and walked away from each other, I think, with a bit more wonder in our minds than when we began.

Later that night, Michelle got me in touch with Kevin, the writer / director of the show she’s working on. I’m quite curious to see OUBLIETTE. After talking with Kevin and reading his responses to my questions, it seems he is full of as much wonder and awe as Michelle and I. 

So, without further ado, I give you dossier #21:

Kevin Rees

Who are we talking to?

I am Kevin Rees. I have been creating theatre, acting and writing for the past 15 years or more. A lot of my original work has been with emergency exit – a company Sean MacMahon and I started about 12 years ago when we wanted to shake shit up a bit. We do multi-media performances that use improvisation quite heavily and we do everything ourselves (call cues, operate lights, music etc.)

This year I began Think, Pig! to have a platform for performances I want to do that don’t sit in the perimeters of emergency exit. I’ve got a project in development right now (section 2 will be at the Performance bar on August 15th) called I am Trying to Lose my Mind.

I have also written a few plays – Rabid (which won the Summerworks Jury Prize back in 2001 alongside Matthew MacFadzean’s richardthesecond), which was all about skinheads and fratricide, and Madder which was about a town with a missing girl and a tainted water supply. Fast – my first play was about excruciating love.

I’ve been a performer mostly though for companies like Clay and Paper, DNA, Modern Times, bluemouth inc., Afterglow, and some other delicious dance and theatre companies.

What drew you down this path? (to theatre, to playwriting, to directing, to this particular show, to wherever the hell you are in life)

I began acting in high school and have to say it was all about escape back then. I wanted to act my way out of my actual life because it was harsh a lot of the time. I was awkward, I was deeply angry, and I found that theatre was a fount of things I didn’t allow myself or just couldn’t find in reality. It also allowed me to unleash. Theatre gives you permission. You never have to apologize for your actions. Theatre is the opposite of hiding.

Oubliette originally began because I wanted to write something for women only. I wanted to work with some particular women- and I wanted to write something I could not cast myself in. I have always been fascinated by and read about war and watched films about it, been deeply disturbed by the idea that seems to float around that it is somehow necessary. It fucking isn’t. Then I started thinking about the body-counts – TV says – 300 people died in Baghdad last night during “shock and awe”; but who were they? And why are we treating this like the playoffs?

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?

Probably when I sat in the audience watching about 3 of my friends in a production of ”You Can’t Take it with You?” in high school. They all auditioned and I was terrified and didn’t. We went to Cawthra Park which had an arts programme. I remember thinking – that was the last time you turn away from that kind of fear. The ball was already rolling then though. I also recall realising what an ACTOR was when I was watching an episode of Dallas with my Mum when I was maybe 10. I thought John Forsythe had a very interesting occupation.

Theatre is terrifying.

I used to think acting was the most nerve wracking job, I still tremble in the 15 minute call before curtain, but then I wrote something that I did not perform in – so I had to sit in the audience; that taught me a lesson. I didn’t know my guts could feel like that. Fear is healthy.


It’s such a great word. David Bowie says it in Labyrinth, that was when I first heard it. When I began researching what they were I was really intrigued but also amazed at the effort someone would go to to make someone forgotten. It seemed a perfect setting and symbol somehow to explore ideas surrounding genocide.

What kind of atmosphere do yo intend to set up, or can someone expect while attending OUBLIETTE?

I’d prefer not to answer this one. I think the atmosphere of the play is one of the most vital aspects, so I’d rather leave it unexplained. My friend Hillar Liitoja (of DNA) covers the synopses on the backs of books so that while reading it everything is new information as he comes across it. The synopsis hasn’t pre-conceived anything for him. I think Hillar is a very smart man.

I understand this piece has been in development for a long time. Can you speak a bit about the history of it? Why now?

I don’t recall precisely when I began writing it but it was first workshopped in June 2004 with a TAC grant I received. The first cast was Viv Moore, Heidi Strauss, Michelle Polak and Allison Cummings. That was an incredible experience. My friend Heather Lash directed it. She has experience as a theatre director and has worked first hand with refugees at a centre here in Toronto. We did a couple staged readings in the back room at the Playwright’s Guild where I worked at the time.

In 2006 I ran away from home and moved to Budapest, Hungary for 4.5 years. Near the end of my time there I hired 4 more actors Patricia Hughes, Rachel Lambinon, Gretchen Meddaugh and Liana Andrews and we did another workshop at this amazing bar/hostel in Pest called Roham. That was odd and awesome. The audience there didn’t know me really, many of them didn’t have English as a first language – I got some very useful feedback, made the language more stripped down and I began to concern myself much more with the rhythm and tone of the play.

Now, here we are. I am returning to Summerworks after not having produced or performed at this festival for about 9 years. I am very pleased to be back.

What is your favourite memory from the development of OUBLIETTE?

Probably early on this time around when Michelle Polak and I had a meeting at her house. We were a couple weeks in and she wanted to “get inside my head” so she could help out with rehearsals as an assistant director. We sat down at the kitchen table and went through the whole script and she poked and prodded with her fabulous actor brain – she asked me all kinds of really detailed questions and drew stuff from the script and suggested the temperature and made links where I didn’t realise I had written them and whatnot. I think that meeting was fuelled by ginger tea. She is the best question asker ever. I was going to say “interrogator” but that is too aggressive for Michelle. She helped me realise all the detail that was there.

She’s been there from day 1 asserting that I should follow my instincts. She is a great ally.

Describe OUBLIETTE in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.

Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare does a nice job I think…

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?

I’ve included postcard image, a drawing, and a mugshot.

Oubliette 001

Postcard Front New (2)

For showtimes and performance info, click on the picture above and you’ll be redirected to the facebook event page. Or check out the Summerworks site. That also works.

dossier: Coyote Collective for ICARUS DANCES WITH THE SUN

Today’s dossier is an exciting one. The folks of Coyote Collective have such a vigour and passion for generating work that I can’t really say anything to add to the following dossier. The only thing I know is I’ve spent much time with Max Tepper, who is an unbelievably encouraging fellow, and some time with Susannah, Blue, Garett and Eric at various events and parties and you can see, just by looking at them, just by talking with them, that they have that spark behind their eyes. 

Their most recent production, ICARUS DANCES WITH THE SUN will make it’s premiere THIS SUNDAY, June 16th as part of Clay and Paper Theatre’s Annual Dufferin-Grove Park event DAY OF DELIGHT! Outdoor theatre! Beautiful weather! A park! Coyote-pelt-masks! Check it out!

Ahem. Here is dossier #13:

coyote collective

Who are we talking with?

Susannah Mackay, Blue Bigwood-Mallin, Max Tepper, Eric Welch, and Garett Oliver. The young pups of Coyote Collective!

What drew you down the path to physical theatre?

Susannah – Art has always been a huge part of my life; I was dancing and painting before I could read or write! I suppose I was drawn down this specific path because of the complexity and wholeness of theatre as an experience. There is also something intoxicating and mysterious about theatre; it is so all encompassing and tangible in the moment and then -POOF!- its gone once the house lights come back up. I think this nebulous quality is what has always drawn me into theatre and continues to do

Blue – I think the way someone gets drawn into any artistic form is seeing a piece of art or an aspect of that type of work and having their perceptions moved because of it. I found myself on the physical-creation side of theatre as I was drawn to many other artists that worked this way. I was also drawn into their forms and modes of expression and from there began to work on directing, writing and acting as a way to test out these various modes.

What is your earliest memory of realizing, yep, this is what I’m going to do with my life?

Blue – I first became interested in acting when I was around 8 or 9 years old and saw the Jim Carrey movie “Me, Myself and Irene”. The images of him fighting himself and being ridiculous made me think “I want to be able to do that”, to have the ability to make people laugh was very important to me as a child and after seeing the movie I got involved with the island group Shadowland and scored my first major role as a paper-maché fish.

Max – I completely relate with Blue in wanting to make people laugh being the biggest contributor to my desire to perform. My parents used to joke with the other parents when I was growning up. They would go on about whose child would grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer, and my parents would always say: “Yeah… Max is probably going to do stand-up and smoke cigarettes.”

How did Coyote Collective come to be?

Susannah – Despite being current Artistic Director, I didn’t found the company! I’m told it was conceived after a few too many drinks at the TPM Backspace bar and a shortlist of favourite collaborators. However, I can say we have remained together because all of us have a love of essential, simplistic work and dark, comedic honesty. I think each member has a perspective that is, to be frank, a little cracked, a little strange, and a little wild at heart.


Max – Blue had been working on this Icarus character for about a year now. A stiff accountant that secretly yearns to fly and dance. Icarus has seen two prior incarnations. The first was during Blue’s undergraduate thesis show for Creative Ensemble at York University, and the second was at a fantastic performance workshop hub called New Art Night run by the fine folks over at Living room Theatre. So for the summer we wanted to bring Icarus back and put him into a story that could allow us to work with new languages of gestures, and also keep us focussed on creating work that all audiences of all ages, and of all languages can understand.

What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or can someone expect from ICARUS DANCES WITH THE SUN?

Max – Super-fun, dopey-love, let’s-be-kids-again atmosphere.

What is your favourite memory from a past Coyote Collective show?

Garett – When we first started, and our lights didn’t work, we were all tired from doing other shows, and we didn’t know if we would be ready in time. A member of the Excalibur press showed up to give us our first article. Made me realize that we were being noticed, and people were interested in what we were doing.

Eric – The moment in my life that will be etched in my brain until the end of time came about during the run of “Like A Generation” It was a matinee show and my parents and siblings were all coming that afternoon to see it. There is this one scene in LAG where my character literally has sex with his television. No matter how hard you work to justify this moment in terms of its necessity to the narrative, or the audience experience, when you have to get down and do it with your family that knows you so intimately well right there, well, it’s downright awkward. Working with Coyote has given me the rare opportunity to have sex with a television right in front of my family. It was a thing. It happened.

Describe ICARUS DANCES WITH THE SUN in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.

Eric – It is the cure for what ails you

Garett – A show of comedy understood universally.

Max – The sound your shoulders make when you relax them after a long day’s work.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share? Photos, videos, links, posters, stories, wishes?

Check out our website for more updates on the company –

Also a big thanks to Clay & Paper Theatre for having our work put on in their Day of Delight Festival! It’s been such a pleasure working with them!

Come see the whole she-bang on Sunday, June 16th and join Coyote Collective as their premiere Icarus Dances with the Sun!

Coyote Collective's Abbey Road

Day of Delight