Following a successful run in 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille, Canadian Stage is pleased to present the premiere of Project: Humanity's The Middle Place from February 14 to March 12 in the Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs (26 Berkeley Street). Opening and media night: February 17. Tickets from $22 to $49 available at 416.368.3110 or www.canadianstage.com
This gripping piece of verbatim theatre was crafted from interviews with residents and employees of a youth shelter. In 2007, Andrew Kushnir, a young, white, middle-class playwright and performer, ventured into Rexdale, one of Toronto's roughest neighbourhoods, with a video camera to interview youth and employees at Youth Without Shelter (YWS) about their lives and experiences there. Commissioned by Project: Humanity, Kushnir culled striking moments from 450-pages of transcripts and orchestrated the creation of a compelling 50-page script. The play underwent further development through a series of performances last fall.
The Middle Place met with critical acclaim during the 2009 Summerworks Theatre Festival and in 2010 was presented by Theatre Passe Muraille in collaboration with Canadian Stage. In support of Project: Humanity's groundbreaking work, Canadian Stage and Theatre Passe Muraille have partnered to establish a "rolling opening", combining their resources to allow the diverse audiences of both companies to experience the production within a single theatre season. The play officially premieres with the February 17 opening at Canadian Stage.
"The Middle Place is a unique piece of theatre, the result of a rare act of engagement between makers of theatre and both the management and residents of a Toronto youth shelter," says Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic & General Director of Canadian Stage. "The spirit, humanity and profound artistry of this project has enabled another unique collaboration between two Toronto theatres, Canadian Stage and Theatre Passe Muraille. Understanding the dynamics of the world in which we live from all angles is where the theatrical experience begins, and sharing this one is of particular importance."
The 2011 production of The Middle Place is a touching and frank examination of the aspirations, frustrations and tenacity of some of Toronto's homeless adolescents. Avoiding sentimentality and condescension, this docu-drama explores the lives of its subjects using their own words. The performance is both familiar and unsettling as it captures some of society's most unheard voices. Under the direction of Alan Dilworth, five actors (Akosua Amo Adem, Antonio Cayonne, Jessica Greenberg, Andrew Kushnir and Kevin Walker) bring to the stage the extraordinary circumstances of sixteen homeless youth, four tireless caseworkers and one outsider in this disquieting and hopeful play.
"The intention with The Middle Place continues to be the creation of a reflecting pool, where each of us has the opportunity for a unique encounter with members of our community and ourselves," says director Alan Dilworth.
"Project: Humanity and this play are indebted to the generosity and courage of the youth we spoke with," Kushnir adds. "They've afforded all of us an amazing opportunity to take a walk in their words."
According to YWS research 10,000 youth are homeless at one point in any given year in Toronto. Over 70 per cent of Toronto's homeless youth have experienced some form of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Approximately 30 per cent experience mental health issues, 20 per cent struggle with addictions and just over half (50 to 60 per cent) have an education of Grade 11 or less. Prior to arriving at YWS, 40 per cent have gone without food for one day in the past week.
10.11 Berkeley Season Sponsor: CIBC
About The Middle Place:
Written by Andrew Kushnir
Transcribed by Andrew Kushnir and Catherine Murray
Directed by Alan Dilworth
Performed by Akosua Amo Adem, Antonio Cayonne, Jessica Greenberg, Andrew Kushnir and Kevin Walker
Set and Costume Designer: Jung-Hye Kim
Lighting Designer: Kimberly Purtell
Sound Designer: Thomas Ryder Payne
Choreographer: Monica Dottor
Stage Manager: Kinnon Elliott
Assistant Stage Manager: Ashley Westlake
About Project: Humanity:
Project: Humanity is an incorporated not-for-profit organization that raises awareness of social issues through the arts, with a strong emphasis on community service. Founded in 2004 by a group of emerging Toronto artists, the company brings to light local and global human interest stories and offers the public engaging and accessible opportunities to contribute to their communities. Since 2007, Project: Humanity has focused on engaging with and improving the lives of shelter youth. For more information visit www.projecthumanity.ca