Preview: New Groundswell Festival (Nightwood Theatre)

Nightwood Theatre presents the New Groundswell Festival in Toronto’s Distillery District

Nicole-Brooks-720x540Women and theatre, power, politics and feminism: these are a few of my favourite things and they are all on offer at the New Groundswell Festival: A National Festival of Contemporary Women’s Theatre. Groundswell is a festival of new works presented by Nightwood Theatre and it is taking place in the Distillery District from September 8-14.

There are two workshop productions this year. Playing in the Dancemakers Theatre is Obeah Opera, performed a cappella by an impressively large all-female cast. Obeah Opera tells the story of the legendary Salem Witch Trials from the unique perspective of enslaved African women.

With Individual Desire is playing down the hall in The Ernest Balmer Studio. Famed bad-girl American poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and her mother Cora spend two months together in a secluded farmhouse near Dorset after Millay flees Paris in this theatrical imagining of what transpired.

Groundswell also features a National Play Reading Series. I browsed through the descriptions of the six readings and found a host of very important topics. The politics of “Mammy” culture, firsthand accounts of the Japanese Canadian experience from internment to present, guilt, revelation and obsession were ones that stood out the most for me.

Finally, for night owls such as myself, there are three late-night Saloon Salons on topical industry themes. Actors in the Driver’s Seat is a discussion on how actors can drive their own career forward and find a way to juggle writing, producing, directing, or any combination therein. The Rise of the Indie Producers focuses on the difficulties and potential solutions to self-producing in the Indie theatre scene in Toronto. A Debate: Disparity for Female Practitioners in Canadian Theatre is a Myth is a lively mock debate on the opportunities and climate available for female practitioners working in Canada.

New Groundswell Festival offers a stunning line-up of contemporary Canadian work presented from an underrepresented but growing women’s perspective. I am very interested in seeing how Obeah Opera has transformed from its first run in 2012 to its present incarnation. I am also excited to attend With Individual Desire, where I hope to be served several shades of Grey Gardens.

And of course, as an emerging producer, the third Saloon Salon speaks directly to me as it would to any enterprising creative.

There is a lot to engage with at New Groundswell Festival this year. See you in line at the pancake breakfast!



  • New Groundswell Festival is taking place at various venues in the Distillery District (9 Trinity Street) from September 8-14
  • Check the full schedule for individual times and locations
  • Workshop productions are $20 (plus HST) and can be purchased online or at the door (CASH ONLY)
  • The National Play Reading Series and Salons are PWYC at the door

 Photo of Nicole Brooks provided by Nightwood Theatre