The 2014 World Stage season draws to a close this week with The Speedy, a world premiere Fresh Ground new works commission. The performance/installation tells the (true) story of The HMS Speedy, a schooner that sank in our very own Lake Ontario some 200 years ago.
World Stage artistic director, Tina Rasmussen, shared the following special message about the show:
I first heard about the company when they did a presentation of their work Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump in 2007. You see, I am from Calgary and this is a place that is well known and sacred to us Albertans. It caught my attention. It turns out that the company was co-founded by two Albertans, Chris Hanratty and Chris Stanton, in 2004. They caught my attention too.
A lot of the people from that show were part of a theatre collective called The Room who had applied to and were accepted into Hatch, Harbourfront Centre’s performing arts residency programme. Their presentation was a fascinating, intelligent and innovative collaboration called Red Machine: Under the Knife asking seven different writers to write about the seven different parts of the brain and create a theatrical language to interpret one idea.
In the meantime, UnSpun produced more work and galvanized under the husband-and-wife leadership of Artistic Director Hanratty and Creative Director Shira Leuchter. Then in 2011, UnSpun were part of the Hatch residency with their work in progress One Block. It examined how we are shaped by our physical environments, by the people in our lives and our histories through a convergence of landscape and story. With this work, UnSpun took a bold and defining move by self-identifying as contemporary storytellers. Through artifacts, be they objects, stories, songs or text, their approach to creating theatrical material became akin to cataloging a modern day archaeological dig through performance.
The company took some great strides in confidence and found a unique space in Toronto’s dense and challenging theatre ecology with their rigorous research, thoughtful engagement of publics and their desire to tell stories, real or imagined, in ways that made the size and noise of the world understandable and a little more human.
After the company’s year-long residency here, the conversations of creation, production and dissemination continued, as it does with most of our Hatch co-horts, and we encouraged UnSpun to apply to our Fresh Ground new works commissioning programme.
A key facet of Harbourfront Centre’s mandate is championing the creation of new artistic work, providing a forum for invention and inspiration. In December 2011, our fifth call for submissions was geared to celebrate our 40th year by illuminating, in some way, our unique waterfront site, its relationship to the Toronto Harbour and Lake Ontario and our role as a gateway to the city.
You can imagine that we on the jury were completely gobsmacked at the story of The Speedy, how appropriate it was to the call for submission and a perfect next step in our growing relationship with the company.
UnSpun were awarded a commissioning prize, and since early 2012, we have worked closely with the company on their budgets, marketing and media plans, sat in on conceptual meetings and rehearsals, have given feedback and support and provided ideas about building communication templates for their practice and their approach to build capacity for their company through further definition and touring. We have also made friends and shared milestones.
What you see on our stages is a relationship with artists that usually takes years to mature, and we are proud to introduce to you to a member of our extended family, UnSpun Theatre. We believe in them, we hope you do too.
Enjoy the show.
This is your last chance to experience World Stage this season. The Speedy runs May 15-18.
UnSpun Theatre (Canada)
May 15-18, 2014