dossier: Adam Lazarus for The Art of Building a Bunker / SummerWorks

As SummerWorks gets ready to open, and as the performers are applying the last of their pre-audience polish to their shows, I am trying to figure out my schedule and how to fit everything in. Just like the artists’ minds before opening a show, there is always so much to do and not enough time to do it. 

Luckily, I was able to connect with Adam Lazarus a couple times this year about interviewing him for this site. The first was for The Toronto Festival of Clowns, but, as it goes when you are organizing a festival, time just disappears. Adam then got in contact with me shortly after the festival to do something for his SummerWorks show. I said I’d be more than happy. We gave each other so much time! Almost too much time… I almost forgot about it, this time. 

But! Here we are: a day before the festival, and a dossier for proof. I’m very excited to share this honest and humourous dossier with you today. The first time I saw Adam he was dressed as a recently deceased Vladimir Lenin who took to haunting a soldier stuck in a boxcar of a motionless train on its way to Tyumen. I remember it well. It was definitely one of my top Fringe experiences that year.

Enough said. Here we go, with dossier #22:


Who are we talking to?

Adam Lazarus. Born and raised in Toronto. Theatre maker, teacher, husband, father. Travelled around, learned some here and there and then started making shows. I love actors and creative thinkers. I love problems and the process of finding possible solutions.

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

Bunker is born out of a meditation on my difficulty functioning in the world — I’m too sensitive, I’m not always a great communicator, I’m not well read enough, I’m misunderstood, I’m moody, I’m angry, I’m defensive, I’m an egomaniac, I’m an underdog, I’m private. I want a better world and can’t do anything about it. I want my family to be safe. I want to take more naps.

More generally, I wanted to write a show about how people are tricky.

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

I’ve always been a bit of a masochist with art. I like impossible situations and put pressure on projects to fulfill an impossible artistic desire — to fully fulfill. If a project doesn’t, I change angles for the next venture. What I’m doing with my life is always changing and evolving. I’ve never had an absolute, resolved moment of career realization. I just keep working: I love acting, writing, directing, teaching, studying, producing, gardening, hiking, swimming. I do them all and then some.

Why The Art of Building a Bunker or Paddling the Canoe of Myself Down the River of Inclusivity and Into the Ass of the World?

As a title? Cause it’s funny and you remember it. Or at least remember that it’s the long titled show.

As a show? Cause that’s what we’re all doing right now – we’re building our bunkers, our safe spaces, and happy places. We do it to protect ourselves from, or to function better within, this complicated world we’re living in.

What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or can someone expect when attending BUNKER?

Prepare to enter the mind of Elvis Goldstein. It’s a little noisy in there. And funny and sad and confused.

How did you and Guillermo Verdecchia meet?

I met him outside the theatre a few years ago. We were introduced. We shared a few jokes. A beautiful relationship blossomed.

Have you two ever co-created a show before? If so, what drew you back together? If not, how did this all get started?

This is our first time working together. Guillermo is a deep and intelligent thinker, and a fantastic storyteller. He’s also very funny. Really, it evolved naturally. We got into a room, started improvising, and now we’re premiering the workshop presentation of our play 8 months later.

What is your favourite memory from a past Summerworks experience?

In 2011, Susanna Hood’s Shudder. I love her work. That, and winning the Spotlight award for my bouffon show Wonderland…

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


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

Early on in rehearsals, Guillermo and I listened to this terrifying and mesmerizing woman rant about the world for 20 mintues. As Guillermo puts it, she became our spirit guide as we ventured along the rivers of our bile and toward the shores of our spleens.

Here’s the poster of the show (click on the image to be taken to its SummerWorks profile):

bunker poster copy

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: Heidi Strauss, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood for “for me?” / Summerworks

Heidi Strauss, another of the past ADs of hub14, has been instrumental in helping us get up on our feet and making sure we are headed in the right direction. Her care for detail and efficiency is quite motivating. I’ve never seen her work before, so am definitely looking forward to catching this original, site-specific Summerworks show.  I’ve also never met Kate Alton or Luke Garwood, but if Heidi was commissioned to choreograph / direct this piece, I’m sure the dynamic created between the three artists will be an experience worth seeing at Summerworks.

I’m grateful all three of them decided to participate in this dossier, so without any further ado from me, as this is a super-sized post, we’ll get right into it.

dossier # 20:

kate alton and luke garwood heidi Strauss

Who are we talking to?

Heidi Strauss, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood.

What drew you down this path? (to dance, to wherever the hell you are in life)

Heidi: Many people are probably responsible for where I am and what I’ve learned to this point. But the bottom line is that I love dancing, the simple act of moving and the possibility of what it can do to move people, to transform.

Kate: I was always drawn to dance. As a child there was never any question in my mind about what I wanted to do. It has always felt like part of me. It feels particularly good to be doing it now, with one of my favourite choreographers, a fabulous partner and after a hiatus from performing while I stayed home with my young twins.

Luke: Mostly street signs. oh…the figurative path? The figuratively gravel laden, dusty, dance path? Well I started because I saw it on TV and thought it might be fun to do. I was about 10. I enjoyed it so much I haven’t looked back at a map or gps (trying to stay in theme) since.

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

Heidi: Going haywire on a ballroom floor when I was 2 at a wedding reception. I was wearing a violet dress with purple flowers that I called a dirndl, even though it wasn’t (my mom bought it at JCPenny). But seriously, it’s a question I keep asking: is this what I want to be doing? So I am not continuing out of habit – that it’s a decision — because some days it’s a hard decision.

Kate: I don’t remember ever thinking anything else.

Luke: There was no ‘one’ moment but rather a culmination of experiences. I have trained for the goal of becoming a professional dancer since the age of 11. So I was pretty set early on, but it was through the teachers I was lucky enough to work with, encountering fellow students/colleagues who shared the passion, and the performance opportunities I was able to gain, that truly made me want to commit “my life” to the art form.

Why “for me?” ?

Heidi: ‘for me?’ because it is a commission made think very much about Kate who asked me, and about the nature of what developed in the first process with she and Luke a few years back. I often think a duet is able to translate so much so clearly about behaviour, about why we react certain ways, why we do certain things for each other, and why we don’t. The commission also came about at a particular time when I was/am asking a lot of questions about whom we are doing all this for, what is performance? On a personal level these questions relate to acts of generosity in life, and professionally (though a distinction between personal and professional is often blurry) through work we make and perform. In the latter part of the process the question ‘for me?’ became one the three of us asked about our city – which will be evident when (if) you see the show.

The sweet answer, however, is that there is stage when a toddler is growing up and given things, from a glass of water to a new toy, when they ask with disbelieving delight: ‘for me?’ I think, as adults, we do this too — but silently and particularly when we are taken by surprise, or something we are given has a special kind of weight.

Kate: Really a question for Heidi, but one sense of it is the exploration of who a performance is actually for. Is it for the performer, the creator, the audience, and what are our respective roles in those relationships? What does it mean to give and to receive, in the context of performance and beyond? What are the gifts that are given to us by our ancestors, the gifts of our personal history?

Luke: My interpretation is that it’s a play on the give and take that happens in a theatrical performance. We’re trying to create a piece for an audience to enjoy while actively pursuing our own artistic and aesthetic goals, which could generate the question: who is this performance for? I think Heidi hits a rare balance with her work by creating pieces a wide-ranging audience can truly enjoy while still being artistically relevant and challenging. As far as I can tell “for me?” is actually for all of us.

What kind of atmosphere do you intend to set up, or will someone experience while attending “for me?”

Heidi: One where the weather co-operates, the audience is welcomed and feels comfortable.

Luke: We unfortunately have little control over our atmosphere and seeing as our piece takes place outside it’s especially disconcerting. We have all doubled up our efforts to recycle and reduce our green house emissions so that the atmosphere maintains it’s healthy-ish state of protectiveness. Fingers crossed.

Have you worked with each other before? How did this specific collaboration begin, and, if applicable, how did the very first collaboration between you begin?

Heidi: I danced with Kate Alton in a work of Laurence Lemieux’s shortly after I finished school and then again in stage and film work of Michael Downing/dancefront. Later on I danced in a number of her works when her company Crooked Figure Dances was Overall Dance. Those works included Tartan Briefs and Great Leap Forward. She is one of my mother’s favourite dancers. This is the first time I have worked with Luke, although while I was a co-director of hub14 we commissioned him to create something for Full Stop, and Luke and I are working on and off on a gallery project with Jenn Goodwin. It has been a real pleasure, and honour to develop something with these very generous folks.

Kate: The three of us have never worked together before. I have worked with Luke both as a fellow dancer at Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie, and also as rehearsal director there. I think the first time Heidi and I worked together was on a solo I did for her way, way back for Series 8:08. So long ago I don’t know what year it was! I have never worked for Heidi as a dancer before but she has been involved in two of my projects. I have been admiring her work for years.

Luke: I had worked with Kate at CLC and Heidi and I had done a collaborative project together but I had never worked on a piece like this with either of them, so I was more than eager to come on board.

What is your favourite memory from working on “for me?”

Heidi: Being unable to continue working because of uncontrollable laughter, speaking in double negatives, rehearsing in a baseball diamond when we were double booked in the Lower Ossington rehearsal space.

Kate: Off the top of my head I would say it was the last run-through we did, the first full run-through onsite. I had a sense of the whole work coming together and it was very satisfying. We laughed a lot in the process, worked hard and I rediscovered the dancer in my body, so lots of good things.

Luke: There was a day of gift giving where we ended up sharing more than just material gifts, we gave each other our stories, memories and histories, and that was pretty special.

Describe “for me?” in three adjectives, a phrase, or with sound.

Heidi: What we do is what we do.

Kate: Colour, Connection, Conversation. Not adjectives, but those are what come to mind.

Luke: ohhhhhooooooooooo (that’s a sound)

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

Luke: I wish you’d all come see the show and let us know what you think.

for me poster