This is Progress

Messiah Complex

SummerWorks launches Progress; a new festival bringing international performances to Toronto

This week marks the opening of Toronto’s newest festival; Progress. Produced by the SummerWorks performance festival, Progress is dubbed an “international festival of performance and ideas”. The focus is global but the size is more manageable than its summer counterpart; the programme features roughly a dozen performances, workshops, talks and exhibits, hosted in a single venue; the new home of The Theatre Centre on Queen West.

The choice to focus on international performances is interesting. Toronto prides itself on its multiculturalism and aspires to be a cosmopolitan “world class city” so presenting works from around the world seems a natural fit.

However, there isn’t exactly a dearth of companies presenting international theatre in this city; Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage and the annual Luminato Festival, present a steady stream of bold international performances, every other year Canadian Stage’s “Spotlight” program presents work from a different focus country (South Africa this year) and even on the commercial theatre side, the Sony Centre has carved itself a niche by booking acts from around the world. It will be interesting to see what Progress brings to the table.

I suspect the choice of the festival’s name provides a hint of what to expect; eschewing the most obvious name for the new festival; WinterWorks, to call it Progress. That’s Progress as in “progressive” or avant-garde, which sets the expectation for the type of out-of-the-box, boundary-pushing, controversial, stimulating and challenging works that SummerWorks is known to present. These works often walk a fine line between obtuse artiness and sheer, mind-blowing brilliance; which side of the line a given performance falls on will largely depend on one’s personal taste.

The festival takes a curatorial approach to its programming. Members of a curatorial team representing a handful of Toronto’s leading performing arts companies; SummerWorks, The Theatre Centre, Why Not Theatre, Volcano Theatre, Videofag, FADO, Dancemakers, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre, each bring one or two works to the festival.

Some of the performances we’re most looking forward to include Novorossiya: No One’s Land, a timely, documentary-style piece built on found texts exploring the Russian-Ukrainian conflict; Cine Monstro, a Brazilian adaptation of Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor’s Monster, performed in Portuguese; D-Sisyphe, in which a Tunisian performer uses the Greek Sisyphus myth as an allegory for contemporary Arab society; and Silent Dinner, a Canadian/Irish durational performance in which Deaf, CODA (children of Deaf adults) and hearing performers prepare and eat a meal in complete silence.

As is the case with SummerWorks, Progress is gearing up to be bold, ambitious, experimental and challenging. It’s the first year so we don’t know exactly what the festival is going to look or feel like yet but we’re definitely looking forward to checking it out.


  • All Progress Festival performances are being held at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W)
  • Tickets for Progress Festival Shows range from $10 – $30, several events are free
  • Showtimes and ticket information are available at

Photo of The Messiah Complex (The Crowning with Horns) by Larry Glawson


The Progress 2015 Programme

From Press Release:

Novorossiya: No One’s Land (Ukraine)
Curated and presented by SummerWorks
Reading performed in English, translated from the original Russian and Ukranian
Created by: Pavel Yurov and Anastasiya Kasilova
Directed by: Pavel Yurov

Dramaturgy by: Jonathan Garfinkel
February 14, 2014
90 Minutes

On April 25, 2014, in Slovyansk, Ukraine (Eastern Ukraine) theatre director, Pavel Yurov was falsely accused of being a spy for the Ukrainian government, and taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists. He was beaten and tortured for two weeks and remained in captivity for more than two months. After being freed in July 2014, he sought to make sense of the experience and started writing Novorossiya: No One’s Land with Ukranian artist, Anastasiya Koralova. To build this documentary style piece, Kasilova and Yurov explore found text from interviews with Ukranian and Russian press that explore the multiple disparate perspectives on the conflict. Part journalistic experiment, part theatre, this remarkable project asks the painful question: how did the place Yurov once called home become his captor?


Marathon (Israel)
Curated by SummerWorks
Performed in English
Choreographer/director: Aharona Israel
Actors/dancers/vocals: Ilya Domanov, Merav Dagan, Gal Shamai
February 4-6, 2015
Running time: 60 mins

Three figures run in a circle, struggling to continue as they spiral into the depths of Israeli consciousness. As their journey becomes harder and more painful, their stories break down, revealing the wounds of contemporary Israeli society. Combining dance, text, theatre and grueling physicality, Marathon uses the autobiographical stories of the performers to reflect a state of constant emergency. Who will survive? And how?

Marathon premiered at the 2012 Acco Fringe Festival. This is its North American English-language premiere. Following Progress it tours Canada, visiting Public Energy (Peterborough), the undercurrents Festival (Ottawa) and the Chutzpah! Festival (Vancouver).

Marathon is co-presented with The Koffler Centre for the Arts, and generously supported by Spotlight on Israeli Culture, the Embassy of Israel and the Israeli Consulate (Toronto).


The Messiah Complex 5.0 (Canada)
Curated by Videofag
Performed in English
Created and performed by: Michael Dudeck
February 5, 2015
Running time: 60 mins, contains nudity

Performance-lecture The Messiah Complex 5.0 uses the Harlow experiments as a springboard to explore the concept of religious evolution. The Harlow experiments were used to study infant relationships by replacing newborn monkeys’ mothers with surrogates made of cloth and wire. Separated into segments, acclaimed artist Michael Dudeck first explores the evolution of faith, religious practice and iconography from a queer perspective. The multidisciplinary work culminates in the creation of hybrid images, videos, diagrams and texts from pop culture, ancient religion, Freudian psychoanalysis, archaeology, queer theory and anthropology. The work creates a hypnotic stylized ritual that’s immersive and disturbing.


D-Sisyphe (décisif)  (Tunisia)
Curated by Volcano Theatre
Performed in Arabic with English subtitles
Created and performed by: Meher Awachri
Directed by: Meher Awachri and Imed May
February 6 & 7, 2015
Running time: 60 mins

Khmais, a construction worker, spends a night at the construction site meditating about his life. Despised by his wife and son, rejected by society and abandoned by God, he sees nothing but wreckage: his life is in ruins. Faced with the apparent meaninglessness of existence, Khmais looks forward to a new day…

Tunisian actor, dancer and playwright Meher Awachri performs his acclaimed interpretation of the ancient myth of Sisyphus, offering insights into contemporary Arab society and the idea of what revolution entails – all through spoken word and choreography.

Progress presents the North American premiere of D-Sisyphe, with generous support from Why Not Theatre and The Goethe Institute.


Margarete (Poland)
Curated by SummerWorks
Performed in English or Polish
Created and performed by: Janek Turkowski
Video: Margarete Ruhbe, Martyna Glowacka, Adam Ptaszyński, Marcin Piatkowski, Najek Turkowski
February 11, 2015 special preview at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s Rhubarb Festival
February 12-15, 2015
Running time: 55 mins

In this intimate theatre performance, 16 audience members sit down to have a coffee or tea with creator and performer Janek Turkowski. With humour and irony, Turkowski recounts his experience uncovering and constructing stories based on a set of private 8mm films he discovered at an outdoor market in Berlin. The performance is a reflection on the lost and found, through memory and the legacy of silent film.

Margarete is generously supported by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto.


Cine Monstro (Brazil)
Curated and presented by Why Not Theatre
Performed in Portuguese with English subtitles
Directed and performed by: Enrique Diaz
Written by: Daniel MacIvor
Translation: Barbara Duvivier and Enrique Diaz
February 12-14, 2014
Running time: 75 mins

Brazilian actor and director Enrique Diaz performs in a critically acclaimed adaptation of Daniel MacIvor’s Monster. Presenting this classic Canadian play in Portuguese introduces it to a new community in Toronto.

Diaz transforms himself into a series of MacIvor’s characters, from a young boy who tells the story of the neighbour who hacked up his father in the basement to quarrelling lovers or a filmmaker who never completed his epic film, these characters are separate yet eerily related.

Cine Monstro is presented by Why Not Theatre in association with Progress. It is made possible through the generous support of the Department of Canadian Heritage.


Silent Dinner (Ireland/Canada)
Curated and presented by FADO Performance Art Centre
Performed in English and ASL
Created and performed by: Amanda Coogan (Ireland) and collaborators (Canada)
February 7, 2015
Running time: 8 hrs

FADO Performance Art Centre presents Silent Dinner, created with artist Amanda Coogan and in collaboration with local artists, performers and non-performers. Silent Dinner is an eight hour performance in which 10 people prepare, cook and eat a dinner in complete silence. The participants are a combination of Deaf, CODA (children of Deaf adults) and hearing artists, performers and non-performers from Toronto. Post-performance, the audience will be invited for dessert and conversation with Coogan and collaborators. ASL interpretation provided.

Silent Dinner is presented by FADO Performance Art Centre in association with Progress.

Additional programming:


Make. Make Public.
Curated by Dancemakers
February 8, 2014

Dancemakers takes over The Theatre Centre with a special Progress edition of its creation workshop Make. Make Public. The workshop is led by Dancemakers curators Emi Forster
and Benjamin Kamino. People from any artistic background, with any level of experience are invited to join in collaborative, dance-derived processes. Following the workshop, the public is invited to witness what’s been created as the seeds of initial ideas and share their thoughts with the makers.

Also during the festival, Dancemakers will curate ‘Dance as Metaphor, Language and Lens’, a conversation featuring Progress artists Aharona Israel and Meher Awachri, along with Dancemakers’ resident Zoja Smutny.


Dramatic Action – The Republic of Inclusion
Curated by Alex Bulmer and Sarah Garton Stanley
Part of The Collaborations at Canada’s National Arts Centre English Theatre
Sunday, February 15, 2014

Alex Bulmer and Sarah Garton Stanley call for a rigorous and provocative discussion about the state of inclusion in our theatre community. A conversation for theatre makers, audiences, leaders, funders, all those in the performance world, and those who are being left out. Progress: it’s about accessing the arts and about the arts being accessible. The event will be live-streamed through