A MESSAGE FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Welcome to Neworld’s 16/17 season, and this brochure, which I love. It was Christine’s idea: to stop writing promo for each of our shows, and instead get people in the company to have conversations with each other about our projects, where they came from, and what they mean. These conversations were so surprising and satisfying to have. Ridiculous right? You’d think we’d be having them all the time. But – in the panic of making everything happen – the truth is we often don’t. And I feel grateful for the reminder they give me of why we do this: because the many artists who make this work do so not because it’s a choice, or because they think it will lead to fame and fortune, but because they feel like they have no choice. Each of these projects feels urgent to me personally, to the artists making them, and to the future of the world we share. These are the conversations we want to have, with each other, and with you.
Like Inside/Out, Patrick’s extraordinarily intimate memoir of his time in prison, and his discovery of theatre there, and how it led a fucked-up young man (through, as he says, no-one’s fault but his own) to life-long connection to community. It’s being invited to festivals and venues around the country. I think that’s because it’s a great show. I think it’s also because talking with someone as honest and likeable as Patrick about their years-long incarceration for serious criminal offenses is not a conversation that the constructs and prejudices of our social world allows most of us to have. Or Winners and Losers, which is literally a conversation between two old friends, about privilege, competition, and friendship, and which enters its fifth year of touring this year. Or Jabber, a play for teen audiences about a 10th grade Egyptian immigrant who wears hijab and the complex relationship she develops with a kid in her new school with a reputation for anger problems. I’m particularly excited that this conversation will be led by Associate Artistic Director Chelsea Haberlin, who will direct the play. As Chelsea mentions in her note, she and I continue to have conversations about the intersections between her work – as one of the busiest and most exciting next-generation directors in Vancouver – and Neworld’s long history of new creation, political shit-disturbance, and experimentation.
And then there’s King Arthur’s Night, which is the product of almost a decade of the most provocative and interesting conversations I’ve ever had. It is the most radically inclusive project we have ever attempted – a fully integrated cast of professionals and community actors we met three years ago through our community partner, Burnaby, BC’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation. King Arthur’s Night is co-written by myself and my friend and colleague Niall McNeil, with music by Veda Hille, and directed by James Long, it builds on conversations that began with Lois Anderson and Steven Hill when we made Peter Panties in 2010. It is supported by the literally thousands of conversations Niall has had with artists across this country – from the Caravan Farm Theatre to the National Arts Centre to many points in between. Niall knows as much about theatre as pretty much anyone I know, and we’re proud to have spent the last three years making this King Arthur adaptation with him. It’ll premiere in Toronto in June, and its 30 member company will tour across the country after that. We promise to bring it home to Vancouver next season.
And King Arthur’s Night is an interesting one for me to land on. I don’t think I’ve felt more committed to any project in my entire life. Over the last three years we have worked to create a space of truly radical inclusion, in which people with a wide variety of intellectual abilities could make a show predicated on the idea that each one of us has something brilliant to offer it, and something equally fundamental to learn. And the risk of ‘getting it right’ in terms of inclusion is so important, and is not necessarily a given – our whole team is learning all the time through trial and error the best way to care for each other through this process, whether that’s lock boxes for backpacks, rehearsal snacks, or the volume of a rehearsal room. And that the best way we know to move forward is to have the conversations that hurt, that embarrass, that delight, and that transform our understanding of each other. – MARCUS YOUSSEF
A MESSAGE FROM THE ASSOCIATE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
The impulse to invite me into Neworld as the Associate Artistic Director came out of thinking ahead to Neworld’s future and a desire to add a new artistic voice. Immediately what followed was a collision of my lived experience as an individual and my art practice with the history of the company. Marcus and I make different kinds of work. There’s overlap but we have distinct practices. What I bring as an artist is somewhat different from what Neworld has traditionally produced. There’s opportunity in this but it’s also a challenge. I am a director first and foremost and I’m a theatre creator second to that. I’m passionate about the creation of new plays but mostly what I’ve worked on creating are narrative, naturalistic pieces. The other thing that’s different about me is that I’m white and there hasn’t been a white artistic leader in this company. But I am also an ally, and the stories I feel driven to tell are very ‘Neworld’. I want to tell diverse stories, stories that are honest, political and also funny.
In my new role as Associate Artistic Director, we’re creating a place for the work that I make within Neworld’s mandate. This season is a first stab at that and I’m stoked about what we’ve come up with. They are all projects that examine, in different ways, the role of white allies in a world that remains resistant to difference. I’m directing a showcase of Jabber, a TYA show by Marcus, I’m directing a workshop of Straight White Men, a by radical American theatremaker Young Jean Lee that examines what it means to be a straight white man from the perspective of a woman of colour, and Neworld is associate producing a show I’ve been co-creating for several years called The Pipeline Project. All of this was determined in conversation between Marcus and me, a conversation that is ongoing. I express what I’m passionate about and Marcus makes room, or doesn’t, for what I want to explore. Or we make work together. Or I challenge Marcus on his choices. Or I support what he’s making. I hope you check out what I’m up to this year and that you join in the conversation. – CHELSEA HABERLIN