SummerWorks Guide: Hot-Button Issues


Hot-Button Issues

THE CHEMICAL VALLEY PROJECT, by Julia Howman and Kevin Matthew Wong

Aamjiwnaang, an indigenous community of 800 residents, is smothered by the Canadian petrochemical industry. Two sisters, Vanessa and Lindsay Gray, have dedicated themselves to fighting environmental racism and protecting their community’s land and water. In Chemical Valley Project, theatre-makers Kevin and Julia document and explore Canada’s ongoing relationship with energy infrastructure, its colonial past and present, and indigenous solidarity and reconciliation.

ERASED: BILLY & BAYARD, by the Queer Songbook Orchestra

Two men altered the course of civil rights and music, yet their stories were pushed into the shadows. Being extraordinary meant little if you were black and queer. One was a creative force behind the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the other devised one of the greatest demonstrations for freedom alongside Martin Luther King Jr. The Queer Songbook Orchestra intersect music with storytelling, illuminating the lives of Billy Strayhorn and Bayard Rustin.


With field recordings, audio effects, and a well timed air horn, Explosions for the 21st Century uses sound design to explore contemporary culture. The result is part lecture, part stand up, and part existential crisis. Written and performed by Chris Ross-Ewart, the show is an erratic, real time, exploration of why we make sound and how we listen.


Amy has a hard time feeling present. Liam, her loving boyfriend, will do whatever he can to wake her up – whether Amy’s ready for it or not. Tenderness turns into teasing turns into BDSM, and Amy’s boundaries around safety and danger become blurred. At what point does Liam’s concern become coercion? Can Amy trust Liam’s good intentions, or is presence a place she needs to find on her own?

WHITE MAN’S INDIAN, by Darla Contois

This is the story of Eva, a Cree teenage girl, and her journey through the maze of a White Man’s high school.

In a hilarious new work from emerging First Nations artist Darla Contois, Eva goes on a quest for identity and spirituality through the hallways of teen angst, racism, and an evil prom queen. Both poetic and humorous, White Man’s Indian is a moving story of memory, courage, alienation, and belonging.


An Indigenous woman’s perspective on what it means to listen.

LESS, by Ryan Lee

An expressive, physical journey using memory and personal truth to explore the expectations of trying to fit the masculine ideal. Mixing explosive athleticism with compassion and sensitivity, Less looks at how gender inhabits our movements, interactions, and relationships.

THE LOST ONES, by Pam Patel and Jason White

A concert/play hybrid about love, loss, manipulation, and politics. Musical collaborators Pam Patel and Jason White take you on a journey through the isolation of online dating, the distraction of internet surfing, and, eventually, the devastating fate of child soldiers. Featuring re-interpretations of text and music by Frederic Rzewski, Sam Melville, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bob Dylan, and more.

THE NAILS, by Jason Maghanoy

Ally and Josh spend every summer with their father as he goes from small town to small town working for a construction company in America. But this summer is different. This summer they grow up. This is the summer that everything changes.

The Nails is a play about family. It is a play about faith. And it captures a world of freedom and extremism in all directions; love and cruelty exist within the same space here. Sometimes they feel like the same thing.

NOCTURNE, by Jordan Tannahill

Every day two hundred species of plant, animal and insect disappear from the planet forever. Jordan Tannahill invites audiences to listen to the first two hundred notes of Chopin’s Nocturne to mark each extinction and consider how, like a note in a score, each loss is both discrete and part of a grander system. And like the abbreviated recording itself, this unprecedented dying-off is far from finished.

THE ONLY GOOD INDIAN, by Jivesh Parasram

Part lecture, part meditation, and part threat, The Only Good Indiantakes a shockingly raw look at where our similarities begin and where they end. Each night a different performer straps themselves into an extreme situation – forcing the audience to ask – what would you die for?


An actor is offered a chance at stardom if he is willing to play up a stereotype he does not identify with. Published in the Summer 2009 issue of Canadian Theatre Review, Professionally Ethnic is a comedic political satire about the awkward way multiculturalism is implemented in Canadian theatre.

UNVEILED, by Fay Nass

A collective or professional and non-professional artists look at politics from a female perspective to bridge Iran’s political history with life in Canada, today. Plunging the audience into darkness, the ensemble recounts stories of personal and social upheaval, punctuated by powerful images revealed in fleeting flashes of light.

See the rest of the guide here.

The SummerWorks Performance Festival is on in Toronto from August 3 – 13.

Click here for tickets or more information

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