World Building for Choreographers

Your boots scuff across gravel as you begin to see lights coming from a compound behind a metal fence. The gate is open. There is a shipping container with tables full of science equipment emerging from it. In one corner of the compound, you see what you assume was the kitchenette although the dishes are rusty and whatever food was here has long since been removed. By people? Animals? As you explore the main container you understand it used to be a Climate Research Station but has since been abandoned — seemingly in a rush: papers, tools, vials and beakers filled with liquids and questionable materials, even pictures of those who used to work here still populate the station but are covered with spiderwebs and the dust of time.

You can almost imagine the life that was here long ago; their voices seem loud in your ears as you rifle through their work, trying to piece together any evidence you can that would shed light on their evident demise. As the night falls and the winds pick up, you hear footsteps against the gravel and the clanging of pots and pans. A new source of light makes its way into the compound and a hooded figure enters the site, a large pack on his back. It’s almost as if he doesn’t see you as he begins to search through the contents of this mysterious site. What is he searching for?

These were the opening moments of Frog in Hand’s 2021 performance Stories in the Woods, a site-specific, promenade dance-theatre piece set in a mysterious post-post-apocalyptic reality. The world we created helped us channel our thoughts about the themes of climate anxiety, the uncertainty of the future and the resilience of both nature and humanity into a container (quite literally) to house the piece’s dances.

Stories in the Woods, 2021

World Building can be an integral tool to elevate your show.

It can be a method for you to collect your thoughts into a cohesive whole.

It can be a way for you to make sense of those themes you want to approach and display to your audience.

And it can be a way to entice your audience to want to meaningfully engage with your piece.

World Building for Choreographers, a 4-week online class

I’m happy to be joining Colleen Snell to co-lead a 4-week online class about worldbuilding in performance. In it, we’ll talk about character design, setting, story vs. world and think about crafting immersive experiences and rich worlds for our audiences to inhabit, explore and experience.

Worldbuilding for Choreographers is a mix of lecture-style presentations with activities sprinkled throughout to help reinforce our approach and to get you to immediately apply the theory. You can join us live the night-of or catch up on your own time by watching that week’s recording.

We start tomorrow night, Oct. 20th and run to Nov 10th, but there’s still time to sign up! Just click the link and you’ll be taken to Eventbrite.

I hope to see you there!

Click the image to find all of Frog in Hand’s Fall class offerings!

War of the Worlds Reimagined

In 2020 while the world was pivoting to understand the new realities of life under a pandemic, Colleen Snell, Callahan Connor and I brainstormed a way to do the same with what was supposed to be the next show from Frog in Hand: a live Toronto Fringe dance-performance set to an audio version of H. G. Wells’ classic tale War of the Worlds.

All of a sudden, we didn’t have a deadline. The realities of live performance anytime soon seemed like a dream that disappears as soon as you wake up. So what’s a dance-theatre company to do? Probably many things, but we decided to turn to the world of audio dramas, having already been inspired by Orson Welles’ famous 1938 reimagining.

We didn’t want to just copy the brilliance of Orson Welles’s piece. We wanted to make something different. Something our own. And now, locked away in our homes because of a deadly bug, we had time to create.

The three of us decided to split the task so we would each have an opportunity to tell a portion of the story. Together we listened to the original book and collected images and narrative techniques that resonated with us.

What really stood out to me, listening to this story written in 1897, was the sense of awe the narrator in the first half showed in the face of the unknown and potentially unknowable. Everything seemed, on that listen, uncertain; details would change from paragraph to paragraph. The narrator would question their own senses. It reminds me of the same techniques Jeff Vandermeer uses so effectively in his weird fiction such as Annihilation and Borne. I talk about all this in a bit more detail here.

And so my story began: the story of Alix, a person wanting to escape it all and reconnect with the world around her. So she plans a trip with her friend Sam, a solo canoe trip in the heart of the Algonquin before convening at a meeting place to venture further into the woods as a duo.

Little do they know that while they are dealing with their own journeys, something much larger is about to change the world forever.

After months of joint writing time over Zoom accompanied by instrumental albums; workshopping with the Frog in Hand Summer Company; engaging audio genius Miquelon Rodriguez (@troysteel) who advised us how to set up recording studios in our closets surrounded by sweaters and blankets for optimal sound capture; rehearsing and then finally recording everything, we had something. By the end of the year we were able to hand it all over to Miquelon.

And what he sent us back was stunning. To imagine a world and write it on paper is one thing. To hear that world come to life in your ear holes is quite another.

My introduction to the War of the Worlds Reimagined project, The Algonquin Tapes, premiered at 2021’s Digital Toronto Fringe a received some wonderful reviews.

And now the entire trilogy is available online.

Each part takes a different angle and throws you into a new setting and cast of characters as the world deals with this new unknown.

Here’s an excerpt from part three: Back on the Air written by Callahan Connor.

I’m really proud of what the team has created here. Colleen’s piece, Last Day, is a visceral piece of writing and Callahan’s, Back on the Air, is this charming bit of hope and community.

If you’d like to get away from a screen for a bit and listen to a 3-part story about the world ending and then not ending, I’d be so happy to hear what you think.

“Acting” in my closet.

Moments of joy from 2020, pt. iii

Continuing the 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 throughout.

Odditi(m)es | A Tragic Comedy in Pandemic Times

In the summer, as the pandemic continued and restrictions were becoming a little more lenient, my friend and collaborator Troy Hourie received funding to create a live performance adapted for the then-current realities. His idea was to adapt an old form of puppetry, following the traditions of Portuguese Dom Roberto and English Punch & Judy shows, and adapt it for a contemporary Canadian audience. This allowed us to speak directly about the lives of three individuals during the pandemic lockdown.

Dom Roberto puppet shows are often played behind a tall, four-sided cloth covered box, with the puppets appearing at the top. Troy’s idea of opening up that box to create one long counter, made of four equally sized panels allowed us to showcase 3 different houses: a snapshot of a neighbourhood. This gave us a 2 meter distance between puppeteers. It also meant having 3 puppeteers instead of one, myself, Colleen Snell and Troy.

Odditi(m)es was live-streamed to, well anyone who wanted, but specifically to a group of beautiful puppeteers in Portugal called Teatro e Marionetas de Mandragora. A document of the performance can still be viewed on Troy’s site:

Odditi(m)es | A Tragic Comedy in Pandemic Times – Troy Hourie Portfolio (

The Learning

Outdoor theatre during a pandemic is possible and so important.

Opening private spaces to community is beautiful. This show happened in Troy’s backyard, which just so happened to be designed as a raked outdoor amphitheatre. It was possible to distance and clump households together because of this. If you have the space, use it!

Small puppets and loud colours read from a distance.

Nature is the greatest stage.

Projecting through a mask is difficult but possible.

3 days to create, rehearse and learn how to use these newly-made puppets really lets you understand what is meant by the “exquisite pressure of time.”

I need to work on my wrist strength.

I am still ambidextrous.

Puppets are the best.

Performer Profile: Colleen Snell & Andrew Gaboury




A dancer and an actor who also write things.


They’re going to read some writing, maybe move some writing. Three segments, many pieces.


Colleen can be found through her award-winning, site-specific performance company Frog in hand.

Andrew can be found right here.