De-construction of Individual Myths

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This week, we had the opportunity to sit with Lambert Pounel, our international facilitation intern, to talk a little bit more about the workshop he is offering through Mixed Company Theatre on August 18th and 19th.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in theatre?

My name is Lambert Pounel. I come from France with eight years of work in theatre as an actor and director. After being engaged in physical theatre and a founding member of various theatre companies like Théâtre du Balèti, the company 4éléments and the company Paupières Mobiles, I am now completing a professional certificate program at La Sorbonne University in Paris to become a facilitator in dramatic arts. I have always been interested in working with both professional and amateur actors to explore personal stories, and the process of transforming them into universal messages. In particular, I’m curious about the dark side of our human experience and how we can use this as a creative tool for positive change.


What will be explored in the workshop you will be facilitating on August 18-19th?

Participants will learn to devise theatre; transforming their personal experiences into creative theatrical materials, build a collective and under the umbrella of collective creation, share their personal narratives. We will learn to change our perspectives, using our past experiences and our histories to tap into ourselves.


What will participants gain from the workshop?

We will learn to build community. This workshop will allow participants to assume their individuality in the group while learning how to be part of a collective. They will also develop their presence on stage. They will build confidence in using their voices to speak directly in order to be authentic.


What are some of your theatrical obsessions?

Truth is a big one. Coming to the stage with what you are and using your own truth, what you’re feeling that day, to inform your performance as opposed to shying away from that truth, or faking your way through a character. I’m interested in authentic work, how can we use our own experiences to fuel our characters? Reacting in the moment not only as your character, but as yourself, to what is being presented in a scene.


Discomfort is another one. The theatre for me is a place where instability and discomfort is palpable. Actors give a part of themselves when they’re onstage, and the public being provoked by that is asking them to be active in the participation of what they’re watching. Theatre for me is an opportunity to put the performers and the public in a place of vulnerability with one another and seeing what comes out of that. It is not however in opposition with pleasure or the joy they might experience, but allowing for discomfort allows for the audiences to go even deeper into the sweeter moments.


 

Lambert’s workshop will take place Thursday August 18th-Friday August 19th 6-9pm.
157 Carlton Street, Toronto. Call us at 416-515-8080 or e-mail us at info@mixedcompanytheatre.com to book your spot!

Our volunteer Isabela gives her thoughts on MCT

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1. Tell us about yourself.

 

I am a 24 year old that loves theatre in any shape or form. I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and moved to Canada about four years ago to pursue my career in the Arts. I am a graduate of St Clair College’s Music Theatre Performance Program and would not be able to choose between singing, acting and dancing for my life. I love sunsets, coasters and most of all, puppies.

 

2. How has your experience with MCT been so far?

 

MCT has been so incredibly welcoming to me. They were my first contact with the Toronto Arts “world” after I moved here and I couldn’t have chosen a better place to start. Everyone is so helpful and receptive. They made sure I was getting the best experience I possibly could and getting exacly what I wanted out of the internship – which in some places doesn’t happen.

 

3. What do you intend to gain from being an intern at MCT?

 

I have focused so much of my time focused on my craft on stage that I forgot how important the producing and creative parts of it are. I wanted to learn more about how a theatre company works and MCT was kind enough to let me learn from them.

 

4. What exactly drew you to MCT?

 

There is something so special about theatre made by people who actually want to make a difference with the Arts. Everything MCT does has an intention, a purpose. I realized theatre had to be my career when I understood how important it is to the communities around it. I always looked for a purpose in life, a way to help the world, and that is what theatre is – it makes people reflect or even just crack a smile. When I found out what kind of work MCT focused on, it only made sense to me to connect with them.

 

5. Where do you see yourself in the next 2-3 years?

 

Working with what I love and making a difference to others – hopefully.

 

6. Finally, what do you like about theatre?

 

Life is hard as it is. There is so much to worry about and so many awful things that happen in the world every day. However, you can be having the worst day of your life – like, you lost your job, ended a relationship and spilled coffee on your favorite dress on your way home – and theatre will get your mind off of it. There is something magical about seating down in a theatre that makes you forget about everything else, even if it is just for 60 minutes. I love that.

 

Interview with Ayla Lefkowitz of CANVAS Arts Action Programs

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This week, we talked with Ayla Lefkowitz who works with us at Mixed Company Theatre, and is also Co-Founder of CANVAS Arts Action Programs. Check out the interview below:

 

1) When did CANVAS begin? What was the impetus behind starting this organization?

 

My good friend Miriam Selick and I co-founded CANVAS Arts Action Programs (CANVAS) in September 2014  (www.canvasprograms.ca). Back then it was just an idea. A small one actually. To run an after school arts-based program for middle school students that challenges gender norms and homophobia and educates on consent and positive relationships. Back then we didn’t picture creating non-profit organization. We now have over 10 facilitators and dozens of programs at different schools, camps and community centres, reaching over 1000 youth and over 900 youth workers/camp staff members in the first year.

 

While we definitely didn’t plan for it at the beginning, starting something like this was something I always dreamed of. In Undergrad, I became very passionate about combating sexual violence and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. I volunteered for the Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Student Society, educating high school students on consent, sexual assault and supporting survivors of violence. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do as a career, though when I left school, it was clear that the kind of work I wanted to do and felt was essential did not exist.

 

My interest in arts-based learning grew through my training with Mixed Company Theatre (MCT). In summer 2015, I trained as a Facilitator/Joker during the Professional Development workshops at MCT, learning the creative strategies of Forum Theatre. Simon and Kristin from MCT continue to be amazing mentors to me in my development as an arts-educator and social entrepreneur.

 

 
2) How did you and your co-founder Miriam Selick meet?

 

Miriam was at my 4th birthday party. Yup. Though we weren’t friends back then. Our mom’s are in the same book club. We went to school together from kindergarten to grade 12, but only became friends in grade 9 when we coincidently switched to the same large public school outside of our area.

 

Now both of us in our mid-twenties, she is a teacher with experience in arts-based education and I have a Masters with a focus on health promotion, gender and sexuality. Our talents and interests complimented each other’s perfectly, and we share the same values and work ethic. I could not have found a better co-founder if I tried.

 

3) Tell us a little bit about your upcoming programs.

 

We have a lot happening this upcoming school year! We have received 2 grants from Ontario Trillium Foundation. Trillium’s Youth Opportunities Fund will be funding our two-year project called “Celebrate! Body Positive Storytelling”, which is a 10-week accessible arts and theatre program for youth with disabilities. Through the program, participants will creatively explore identity, body image, gender, sexuality, consent, and positive relationships. We will be running 7 of these programs at several different schools and community centres across the city.

 

We also recently received Seed funding from Trillium to run a 2.5 hour arts-based workshop called Speak OUT on gender and sexuality in middle and high schools in the Peel District School Board, which challenges homophobic and transphobic bullying. We also run a 6-week Photography program with queer and trans youth at The 519 and an 8-week Spoken Word Poetry program at Antibes Community Centre. Too many more things to write here!

 

 
4) Is there interest in adding new workshops on your horizon? In an ideal world what other programs would you delve deeper into or begin including?

 

Yes, definitely. We are always full of new ideas. We started offering our programs to youth workers and teachers as well and that has been going great. They seem to love the interactive nature of our programming and we would love to run more of programs like these. In an ideal world every teacher and youth worker would have a mandatory training on Consent Education and Gender & Sexuality, so that they can make sure that their students are celebrated for their diversity of gender and sexual identities and that they have the knowledge and passion to combat sexual violence.

 

5) What have been some challenges you’ve faced?

 

Though financially, like most non-profit start-ups, it’s very challenging to get enough money to do all the work you want to do, my biggest challenge is navigating how the work affects me. On top of it being pretty exhausting work, it can be very emotionally draining. It is also not uncommon during our consent workshops to have participants come up to me after to tell me that they were raped. In these situations, I make sure they have somewhere to go for support. As a facilitator, walking out of an emotionally taxing workshop, it can be hard to leave it all in the classroom. And I sometimes find it hard to not feel overwhelmed by the problem I’m working tirelessly to combat. But we have created a network among CANVAS facilitators to regroup and reflect together so we can support each other if needed.

 

6) Who are some of your mentors? Who inspires you?

 

While there are many amazing feminist change makers out there who inspire me, I think my mother inspires me most. It’s easy to idealize leaders I don’t know, but I connect with the complexity of what it means to be a leader that I see in my mother. She is an Endocrinologist and the Principle Investigator of several clinical trials. And she works HARD. To the outside world she is one of the leading physicians in the field of Diabetes in Pregnancy in the country, but I get to see her when she comes home and stresses and worries. And what makes her so amazing is that despite her inner worries, she always continues to challenge herself, overcome roadblocks, and work non-stop to achieve her goals. In some moments I worry and question myself too, but watching my mother inspires me to continue to challenge myself and dream big.

 

 
7) What’s your favourite aspect about the job?

 

I love that I’m constantly learning. Miriam and I have to do everything. Facilitation. Program development. Evaluation. Sales. Website design. Grant writing. Project management. Volunteer coordination. Partnership development. Finance. Human resources. I’ve learned more in the past 2 years than I ever have in school.
CANVAS has been a fast track to experience. And that experience helps me in my work at Mixed Company Theatre. I don’t think I would have been able to do the work at MCT as well as I do without experiencing trial and error learning with CANVAS.

 

8) Do you have any outstanding stories you would like to/are able to share with us since beginning your work with CANVAS?

 

At a consent workshop we ran for high school students from different schools in London, Ontario, the students were extremely engaged and had amazing ideas. Though this wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for our workshops, what stands out to me about this workshop is that during the wrap up of the workshop when we ask, “does anyone have any last questions or comments?”, two participants shared with the whole group that they had been raped and sexually assaulted, and then thanked us and the whole group for this work and believing survivors. Following this, one participant after another responded saying how strongly they now felt about fighting rape culture and spreading consent. I was completely blown away and couldn’t hide that I was becoming emotional by the incredible support and trust that was filling the room. Having such confirmation of our work from young survivors of sexual violence was the most affirming and motivating feedback I have ever received.

 

For more information on Canvas Programs, visit them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: @canvasprograms 

Herman Ellis of Scadding Court talks Inter-GEN

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Herman|Scadding Court|Inter-Gen|MCT

Scadding Court Community Centre (SC) has partnered and worked with Mixed Company Theatre (MCT) a number of times over the past 25 years. Herman Ellis, who is now a program manager at SC, started his relationship with SC as a young individual using the services at the community centre almost 30 years ago. Since then has worked his way up through the ranks. He first met Simon, the Artistic Director at MCT, when the company put on the SCAT Cabaret with SC. Herman later reconnected with Simon through a SC and Ryerson collaboration for an LGBTQ older adult program, which included a forum theatre piece that MCT facilitated. Later MCT would collaborate again with Ryerson to put on an older adult Aboriginal show in 2015 titled, ‘Out of the Illusion’. The summer of 2015 SC and MCT also developed a youth workshop and put together a performance for World Drama Day.

 

The Inter-Gen Project: Year One

Herman appreciates that through the Inter-Gen Project MCT is adding a variety of arts projects and programming to seniors and youth, something that SC didn’t previously have. In the first year of this project, MCT ran a number of workshops with older adult and youth SC community members. Together they were also able to develop a show. The older adult participants liked the experience of exploring what they enjoyed ex. ballroom dancing and playing instruments, which reminded them of their childhood. MCT’s process of working with community participants allowed them to incorporate all of their talent into the show.

Herman observed that the workshops had multiple levels of impact: (i) There was a lot of community and trust building in the rehearsal phase allowing participants to highlight their skills and interests; (ii) Participants learned what it took to put on a show and overcome obstacles; (iii) Participants were able to see how their work affect the audience, and they were able to share their stories. Herman believes that MCT’s partnership with SC is a unique one that came with the large challenge of a language barrier where 80% of older adult participants did not speak English. Through including interpreters and finding ways to communicate without speaking, MCT was able to overcome this barrier – an ability that Herman highly respects and admires.

No matter what challenges MCT faced they were able to adapt, anticipate changes, work through cultural assumptions, and assumptions about older adults. The Chinese older adult participants were very hesitant to talk about their experiences as immigrants, their histories, or personal stories. Despite this MCT was able to go with the flow and encouraged these participants to engage in whatever manner they were comfortable.

Some of Herman’s intentions for working with Mixed Company Theatre included: Providing an access point to the performing arts at SC; having a strong partnership with a professional organization that works well with and respects community participants and partners; being able to continue working with a trusted organization; working with an organization that communicates well. Scadding Court Community Centre is a very busy and dynamic centre that has many projects going on at once. Herman greatly appreciates that MCT is a strong, flexible, interdependent, and well-structured organization.

 

Has the Inter-Gen Project brought youth and older adults together in 2015?

MCT has facilitated separate workshops for youth and older adults building trust with each, but has yet to bring them together in 2016. Herman hopes that 2016 will see greater inter-generational work. He thinks that, in general, we underestimate youth and their interests in participating. AT SC youth readily participate in programming, but mainly sports after school programs and field trips. According to Herman getting youth to participate in the arts and life skills building after school programming has been more and more difficult in recent years. This has been an ongoing trend he has observed in the non-profit youth-serving sector. Community organizations are competing with so much more alternate programming, and the plethora of things to do on the internet that is taking up more and more of the time of students after school. Herman sees that some solutions to this drop in youth engagement are: offering tokens, honorariums, and food at each session.

One of the challenges for the Inter-Gen Project is finding or creating incentives to retain youth and older adult participants for a year, far less for all three years of the project. Herman sees a solution to retaining youth would be to reach out to the youth who already have an interest in the performing arts, e.g. theatre and dance students, as well as youth interested in the arts as a whole.

Herman sees himself as living proof of the benefits of doing theatre from a young age. As a young black youth that lived in the Projects being part of school and community theatre kept him busy and afforded him the opportunity to engage with a wider diversity of cultures and world views. He was far too busy rehearsing, developing relationships with the theatre community, and having fun, to be tempted by the drugs and alcohol that other young kids in his neighbourhood were experimenting with.

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