Our 30th Anniversary! Join Us!

A party like this one only

happens once every thirty years…

I am in the midst of writing grants, which along with the administrative tasks, also means envisioning future seasons, the productions, the programming, the plans. It is a part of the job that I really relish, taking ephemeral dreams and making them concrete.  As much as it is rewarding to look into the future, I have also had the recent pleasure and privilege of connecting with the former Artistic Directors of Cahoots over the last few months. It has been an extraordinary journey, listening to their stories of the earlier days of the company, the funding struggles, the battle for venues, and yes, the continuing advocacy for space on Canada’s stages.  Their stories were at times from a different era, and at other times all too familiar, but perhaps on a different scale. In many ways, the company’s role, defined 30 years ago, remains utterly vital and relevant.
Former Artistic Director (1998 to 2003) Guillermo Verdecchia articulated in his article “Seven Things about Cahoots Theatre Projects” (2005, How Theatre Educates, edited by Kathleen Gallagher) as such:
“Cahoots was founded in 1986, and was burdened, it seems to me, with the Herculean task of having to, in some way, defend, promote, train, assist, encourage, develop and produce virtually all those professional and aspiring professional, visible, ethnic, and cultural minority theatre artists whom the mainstream theatre companies consistently ignored and who couldn’t find a home or employment…”
And yet as Herculean as it may have been, (and perhaps still is), so much has been accomplished over these past 30 years. With 35 productions and counting, it means hundreds of scripts developed,  hundreds of artists engaged, thousands of audience members. Moreso, in our broader reach, Cahoots has hosted workshops, conferences, forums, resources, youth engagement and more. It is hard to encapsulate the enormity of 30 years of Cahoots. It is a legacy of work that does not live with me or our most recent production, but with the previous leadership, and all the artists, the actors, the writers, the designers, the funders, the supporters  – and yes Cahoots’ legacy lives with you.

On May 8th, we will celebrate our 30 years, first by honoring our past, starting with board volunteers, administrators and then with our artistic leadership.   Most of the previous artistic directors will be in attendance, including founder Beverly Yhap. Then, together as community, we will then honour and recognize the future, our 30 for 30 artists – chosen emerging artists who we believe will have impact for the next 30 years and beyond.

It is going to be a special evening as we look back to the leaders of the past, and look forward to the leaders of future. Won’t you join us?

With thanks,

Marjorie Chan


Monday May 8th, 2017
The Ballroom at The 519
519 Church St. Toronto, ON.

Cocktails at 5:30
Welcome ceremony
by Jani Lauzon at 6:00
Frank Hull performs at 6:30
Food service from Fabarnek Restaurant begins at 7
30th Anniversary Celebrations at 8 P.M.
Waleed Abdulhamid & John Millard perform at 9
ASL Interpretation provided  
The 519 is a fully accessible venue



GUEST BLOG: Wallis Caldoza, Dramaturgy Intern

Wallis Caldoza, a current student at Queen’s University approached Cahoots about spending some time with our style of play-creation and development. She is Cahoots’ dramaturgy intern for 2016 – 2017.  Here, she writes about Cahoots’ production of THE ENCHANTED LOOM by Suvendrini Lena in fall of 2016 in association with Factory Theatre. 

How weaving prose, projections, and pivoting allowed Image of a Tamil family circling their father who lies in pain on the floor. for an understanding of manmade trauma in The Enchanted Loom by Suvendrini Lena, and directed by Marjorie Chan

The importance of The Enchanted Loom appears to be most evident in its director’s ability to convey the hereditary nature of manmade trauma using contemporary theatrical conventions and aesthetics, whilst maintaining the culturally imbued tonality of the
script itself. This piece puts forth the notion that trauma, namely trauma inflicted uponhumans during wartime crises – in this instance the Sri Lankan Civil War – has a sort of ripple effect, whereby future generations feel its negative impact.

In May 2009, the Gardiner Expressway was obstructed by protesters begging the Canadian
government to assist in the ending of the Sri Lankan civil war. Many of these protesters were
of Tamil descent. The Enchanted Loom’s plot follows a Tamil family who escaped Sri Lanka
in the wake of this crisis. Thangan, the father of the family, suffers from seizures of
unknown causes but purportedly triggered and caused by the torture he endured at the hands
of the Sri Lankan army. His wife, Sevi, is the breadwinner of the family working as a cleaner
and Thangan’s main form of support. They have two living children, Kanan and Kavitha, the
former being a medical student who advocates for surgery for his father, the latter being
much younger and constantly being told of her heritage and its importance. The greatest
suffering this family seems to have faced is the loss of their son, Kavalan, who had
apparently died in the civil war, but who we find out later is actually still living. There are
two additional characters within the pieces who are both doctors, who also come from
countries of political unrest and violence. From this paltry description alone, it is clear to see
the importance of the title of the piece: there are complex, weaving narratives that all deserve
to be heard and told; however, in order to achieve this in practical terms and not on paper is
another matter entirely.

A staged image of chaos as a group of people are caught in a protest. The events within this piece are told in chronological order for the most part, with changes in location, and oftentimes a fluidity of time in conjunction with this. This method of storytelling is supported by Lena’s use of poetic prose. Her use of rhythm and imagery
within her writing allows for a specific contrast with the tangible set pieces that are used. The stage itself, oriented as an alley, is white, clean, and simultaneously both malleable and
untouchably pristine. The words of the script itself seem to bounce invisibly off the white surfaces and the glass structures lining either side of the stage like bookshelves. The objects within the bookshelves – medical books, newspapers, a money box (the mother’s savings that will be used later to help Kanan find his lost brother), and the dancing anklets that will also
aid in the weaving of this narrative – all seem to absorb her words slightly, allowing them a sort of divinity. The audience is truly unable to escape the weight of the language, the images conjured up, as the actors pivot round the stage.

A man in a hospital gown resting his head on a pile of books.  Behind him, a surgeon wearing hospital scrubs and a mask is miming a brain operation. The imagery is deceptively beautiful. Sevi describe selling her body to men through her description of her dancing for survival. We hear Kavitha describe hearing the anklets calling to her, the cheeky way in which she practices speaking Tamil with her father echoing the
unspoken curiosity of the audience – how can we connect to this other world within our own? Like children, perhaps. When Kavalan is finally miraculously found via a dream sequence with his father who he is undergoing surgery, in a forest no less, he describes the honour of
being a Tamil Tiger in visceral language. Lena carefully allows the characters to wound and heal one another through language, but also allows for a sort of passing down of history with the passing of words to-and-from each character. In moments when medical terminology is
used, Lena has utilized the cadence of the words to her advantage. There is no need to understand the exactitudes of they describe. The rhythm of the language with the movement onstage is as steady as a heartbeat and so human that one cannot help but hold onto all thestrings of the narrative being thrust towards oneself, and be tugged along.

This production also utilizes projections, created by Cameron Davis, to their advantage. The
images are far more literal. They are utilized to allow for a sort of tethering point for the
audience. The speed of the performance is steadied by the images of the father’s brain
undergoing its seizure-ridden activity, the jungle that Kavalan is choked in, and various
images of rhythmic movement that evoke a sense of disparity and loss. The latter of the
aforementioned images are used in conjunction with the dance-like motions and blocking
employed by Chan in her direction for the actors. The seemingly flat projections are forced
to become three dimensional as the actors push through them, distorting the images and
forcing the audience to adapt to having a similar sensory experience to not only Thangan
within his brain, but within the – presumably – emotional bodies of the characters. The clear
images allowed the audience to gain clarity and recognize that the connection to the play was
not to be found within the literal world before them.

Photo of a woman's bare feet wearing traditional Traditional silangai anklets. She rests her hands on her shins. Her black shoes are on the floor beside her feet. The utilization of poetry, projections, and the pivoting onstage allowed audience an offer to acknowledge a culture that has not been portrayed onstage often. There is an appreciation for its intricacies; it feels as though there is a sort of conscious effort made by both the
playwright and director to say “It is so much more than simply this, but accept this as a doorway in”. This is rather clever in terms of carving out space for the audience to be able to feel less alienated; it is perfectly adequate for any person to walk in, with any amount of
knowledge that they possess, so long as they are able to also tote in a sense of empathy, sympathy, and willingness to let these theatrical conventions and aesthetics complete their
purpose: weaving.

~ All production photos of THE ENCHANTED LOOM by Suvendrini Lena by Dahlia Katz Photography ~