Flights of Imagination: This is We – an Interview with Shira Leuchter

On October 12 get ready to make, move and create! Flights of Imagination: This is We will take you on a fantastical journey exploring the play between individual ceremony and community celebration! Richard Lee, Michaela Washburn and Shira Leuchter will whisk you away on the adventure of a lifetime – one that will ignite, inspire and illuminate your imagination! Three artists and one remarkable collaboration. You won’t want to miss this interactive experience! Did I mention we were lucky enough to snag an interview with artist, Shira Leuchter!

Shira Leuchter is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, a Dora-nominated actor, theatre creator and artist. She is also the Creative Director for UnSpun Theatre and has performed with some of Toronto’s most innovative artists and companies. Leuchter co-created and performed in The Speedy, which had its world premiere at Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage in 2014.

Who or what inspires and influences you the most? In particular, what inspired this piece and/or the idea for Flights of Imagination: This is We ?

It’s hard to predict what will become a source of inspiration and for me it’s varied. It can come from anywhere, really: a person I meet while traveling, a picture in a children’s book or a comment on a social media forum. I know it’s something I want to pursue if I become a bit obsessed with it and can’t get it out of my head.

With this piece in particular, we were given the task of creating space for children to build a ritual. We were drawn to the idea of children developing their individual identities while becoming conscious of being part of a larger community. How are they different? How are they alike? How can they build something meaningful with their peers?

When did you start developing your Flights of Imagination piece?

We started working on the concept for the piece in July. We came up with a basic concept and have been honing it over the past few months. We’re trying to leave space for kids to take it in their own directions as well, so I guess we won’t fully know what it is until the day.

As a young person, do you remember the first performance and art show that you saw that made you want to work in theatre and become and artist?

I saw Jim Bett’s The Treehouse at the Edge of the World at Young People’s Theatre as a kid and it changed me. I don’t remember a thing about the play, other than I thought it was magic. I directed versions of it for weeks on end during kindergarten recess, which was probably intolerable for my friends. It took me years, though, to realize that I could actually work in theatre.

What was the last show or performance that you saw that surprised you? What was it about that particular performance?

The first thing that comes to mind is Disabled Theater, which was part of last year’s World Stage season. I came to the performance with an idea of what I was about to see and I was so wrong. It was one of the simplest approaches to staging and storytelling I’ve seen. It was a total surrender to the people on stage, people who are usually not represented in any way.

Can you please explain the importance of immersing young people into contemporary art?

This is a really big question! I know art is valuable for young people in many ways I haven’t even thought of. I think it’s important for children to see that there are many ways to interpret, interrogate, express and question the world around them and how they feel. Art can help us to think in unconventional ways, it can help children develop their identities, it can help us connect to our peers and communicate when we can’t find the words or don’t know the words that we want to use.

Is there something unique about performing at HarbourKids that is unlike performing at any other event?

I’ve never performed at HarbourKids before, but I do know that working with Harbourfront Centre is really special. The staff at Harbourfront Centre put the art and artists first and that doesn’t happen everywhere. They work hard to accommodate strange requests and to help us realize our vision. They care deeply about artists and the work we make.

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