2023 in review at Intermission Magazine

It’s been one heck of a year at Intermission.

After founding and leading the publication for seven years, including steering it through the pandemic, Philip Riccio decided it was time to pass the baton. While change can sometimes breed uncertainty, we’re thrilled to report that Intermission is stronger than ever. Under new leadership and with more partnered theatre companies than ever before, Intermission continues to play a crucial role in filling the gap in Canadian arts coverage. 

We have lots in store for our readers in 2024. You’ll start to see changes to our look, as well as new content and a brand-new newsletter, in a few weeks.

But for now, here’s a look back at this most recent year of great Canadian theatre discussions.

New names on the Intermission masthead

Intermission underwent significant organizational changes in 2023. Following Riccio’s departure, Suzanne Cheriton joined the team as the new publisher, and Karen Fricker stepped on as editorial advisor. Under Suzanne and Karen’s joint leadership, we’ve been able to hire more freelancers, publish more reviews, and continue to grow the publication across many fronts.

In November, publishing and editorial assistant Liam Donovan and staff writer Nathaniel Hanula-James joined the team. In their few short months on the job, they’ve already made invaluable contributions to the site, and we can’t wait to see what they do in the new year. 

Some familiar faces remain on the Intermission masthead, including Janice Peters Gibson, who co-founded the publication and who now serves as its digital manager; Aisling Murphy, Intermission’s senior editor since 2021; and Dahlia Katz, the resident photographer who brings our Spotlight series to life.

Theatre coverage across Canada

This year, we’ve been able to expand our coverage well beyond the Greater Toronto Area, with partnerships in Calgary, Ottawa, and Winnipeg, as well as writing from journalists and artists all over the country. You can take a peek at some of our non-Toronto coverage here, here, and here.

Supporting a new era for Canadian theatre criticism

In 2023, Intermission published over 160 full-length reviews, as well as over 50 capsule reviews between the Toronto and Ottawa fringe festivals.

Other than reviews written as part of training programs (including the Toronto Fringe’s New Young Reviewers and the IBPOC Critics Lab), Intermission pays its critics competitive rates, and our writers undergo a rigorous editorial process comparable to that of a traditional newsroom. Intermission has served as a valuable stepping stone for emerging writers who have then gone on to contribute to other outlets, including NEXT Magazine, the Stratford Beacon Herald, the Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail.

2023 also marked the inaugural year of the IBPOC Critics Lab, jointly supported by Intermission and the Stratford Festival. Under the leadership of Jose Solís, eight cohort members participated in weekly Zoom meetings with guest teachers offering training and mentorship in numerous aspects of contemporary criticism. Then, with Karen, they spent three and a half packed days seeing shows and meeting artists at the Stratford Festival. Each member of the Lab received the chance to publish two pieces with Intermission, a number of which have already been published. We’re working hard to secure funding to make the Critics Lab an ongoing annual activity of the magazine. 

#spotlightszn

Around the “office” (okay, over Slack), we’ve joked that 2023 was the year of the Spotlight – and it’s true!

Thanks to fabulous partnerships with Canadian Stage, The Company Theatre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company, and the Stratford Festival, we published six Spotlight articles, showcasing the careers of Seana McKenna, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Sandra Laronde, Yvette Nolan, Maev Beaty, and Philip Akin. Bringing together long-form writing celebrating Canadian theatre artistry with stunning original photography, Spotlights are one of the Intermission team’s favourite aspects of our coverage. 

We have some exciting Spotlights planned in the new year that you won’t want to miss!

Top story picks from Intermission staff

While it’s kind of like asking us to choose between our children, we thought it would be fun to ask the Intermission team which stories published in 2023 have lingered warmly in our memories.    

Suzanne
It’s very hard to pick a favourite from amongst 12 months of excellent and impassioned writing, but if I must pick one, I can honestly say when I opened Fiona Raye Clarke’s Spotlight on Philip Akin in October, I got goosebumps. First, the brilliant images by the ever-inspiring Dahlia Katz. One of the most formidable leaders in Canadian theatre balancing a teapot on his head, the warmest and most sincere smile gracing his face. The opening salvo: “Philip Akin is a fifth-degree black belt.” No kidding. A memorable, textured piece illuminating one of the most inspiring and important artists in Canadian theatre history.  

Karen
The inaugural IBPOC Critics Lab was such a thrill. What a delight to spend time with and learn from a brilliant cohort of eight emerging critics, and to experience this year’s Stratford season through their eyes! As their Intermission articles start to roll out, an early highlight for me is Emily Radcliffe’s love letter to three Black performers in Stratford’s King Lear. A talented actor herself, Emily’s expression of gratitude to and admiration for Déjah Dixon-Green, Michael Blake, and André Sills represents the kind of work I’m proud we publish in Intermission: personal, passionate, and analytical all at once.   

Janice
Christine Horne’s beautiful tribute to Marti Maraden. Stemming from her previously published conversations with Martha Henry, Diana Leblanc, and Marti Maraden, Christine’s celebration of Marti as a kind and witty theatre maker offers such human insight into the world of theatre. Great artists writing about great artists gets me every time.

Aisling
While it’s hard to pick just one, Maev’s Spotlight took my breath away within five minutes of Mira Miller submitting her draft. The story is one of our most-read articles of the year and for good reason. The story (and the photos) capture everything that makes Maev Maev: her goofiness, her undeniable coolness, her ability to rock an unusual hat, and her bracing, enduring artistry.

Liam
Chris Dupuis’ rigorously researched and passionately written remembrance of theatre director Hillar Liitoja, who died this June. Oh, and every Ilana Lucas review.

Nathaniel
Andrew Kushnir’s searing, necessary article questioning the prevalence of Russian plays and Russian-themed work in Canadian theatres’ recent programming, and the comparative lack of Ukrainian stories on our stages, in the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine. Kushnir later went on to direct Bad Roads at Crow’s Theatre, which brutally yet beautifully exposed the realities of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.


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Written By

Aisling is Intermission's senior editor and an award-winning arts journalist with bylines including the Toronto Star, NEXT Magazine, CTV News Toronto, and Maclean's. She likes British playwright Sarah Kane, most songs by Taylor Swift, and her cats, Fig and June.

Written By

Janice hails from Canada’s smallest province. She moved to Toronto in 2003, so it’s home now too. She has worked coast-to-coast in the theatre world as an actor, stage manager, producer, and arts manager. She is most comfortable baking gluten-free goodies, running off to the theatre, or crafting at a toddler level.

Written By

Liam is Intermission’s publishing and editorial assistant. A critic and theatre artist from Toronto, his writing has appeared in Maisonneuve, This Magazine, NEXT Magazine, and more. He loves the original Super Mario game very much.

Written By

Nathaniel Hanula-James is a multidisciplinary theatre artist who has worked across Canada as a dramaturg, playwright, performer, and administrator.

Written By

Karen Fricker is a theatre critic at the Toronto Star, editorial advisor for Intermission magazine, adjunct professor of Dramatic Arts at Brock University, and a member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association. She previously worked as a critic in London, UK; Dublin, Ireland; and New York City, and has a PhD in theatre studies from Trinity College, Dublin. Her book The Original Stage Productions of Robert Lepage: Making Theatre Global (Manchester University Press) was the winner of the 2022 Canadian Association for Theatre Research’s Ann Saddlemyer Award for the best book in English on a Canadian topic. Her research interests also include contemporary circus and the changing nature of theatre criticism in the digital age.

Written By

Suzanne Cheriton is one of Canada’s most established and respected arts and entertainment communications professionals. With over 20 years of career experience Suzanne has represented film, television, and performing arts producers and artists at various stages of the presentation cycle including unit publicity, festival launches, theatrical and broadcast launches, season announcements and production openings. After getting a BFA in Theatre from York University she began her career working in film festival and distribution publicity at VKPR, contributing to campaigns for FoxSearchlight Pictures in Canada, the Hot Docs Film Festival and representing films at the Toronto International Film Festival. She launched RedEye Media in 2005, quickly becoming an industry mainstay with a continued focus on film and television and expanding her practice to include unit publicity, joining IA667. She has also brought her diverse skillset to film producing in the past, with credits on two feature films. Suzanne eventually made a full circle back to her roots, adding live theatre into her media relations practice and working with leading companies including Canadian Stage, Coal Mine Theatre, and Luminato Festival to name just a few. After managing media relations for the SummerWorks Festival for six years, Suzanne now sits on their Board of Directors.