“Do you consider yourself to be an anxious person?”
We live, as they say, in an age of anxiety. The daily stream of fear from world news means that we not only shoulder our own burdens, but those of billions of others. Worry Warts, presented by Convergence Theatre at the 2019 SummerWorks Performance Festival, is a short, guided tour through our personal anxieties, helmed by a troupe of sympathetic listeners.
It is an experience in two parts; the first, detailed in this review, includes a short interview and activities where you’re asked about your anxieties. Next, excerpts from these interview transcripts will be used for a devised theatre performance presented six times over the course of the last weekend of the festival. The interview comes with a ticket to one of the performances on August 17th and 18th, which must be booked separately after you obtain your interview ticket.
Upon entry, participants fill out a waiver and choose a fake name to use during the experience. Invitingly cheerful colours and cartoon frogs festoon the space, along with a free-for-all candy smorgasbord to soothe pre-rattled nerves – or, possibly, to increase anxious vibrations with the power of sugar.
After the preliminaries, primed and standing on your chosen frog spot, you see the smiling faces of the Keepers pop up through the windows of the Worry Depot, and upon entering, you’re matched with your own personal Keeper. This Keeper will, with your permission, record your 15-minute conversation, asking you icebreakers and leading questions about your personal bugaboos as both of you sit on exercise balls. Chairs are available if your perch seems too precarious.
Fifteen minutes is not a lot of time to get into our deepest fears, but the conversation feels comprehensive nonetheless. My interviewer, Colin, was an excellent facilitator, knowing when to add commentary, when to sit back, and mostly, when to be kind. It felt more like 15 minutes of therapy than a clinical capturing of information for a future script.
The second part of the initial process is there to further the theme; a series of mindful crafts, including adding your thoughts to an affirmation wall, a worry monster, a worry shower, and a window of gratitude, encourages you to further engage with your anxiety, the factors that feed it, and the factors that may work to reduce it. I particularly found myself ruminating on the concept of being the “Defensive Pessimist,” protecting oneself but also upsetting oneself by preemptively envisioning the worst-case scenario. The design of each area, by Anahita Dehbonehie, is candy-bright, bold, and invigorating, a kindergarten classroom for adult imaginary foes.
One thing I would say is that there are a lot of activities, and a little less than 15 minutes to complete them; this encourages rushing over mindfulness. In fact, it actually gave me some additional anxiety; my hands shook slightly as I tried to complete the linked-ring “anxiety shower” craft with enough time to visit the other stations.
Despite the fact that it touched on a difficult mental space, I enjoyed my brief time at the Worry Warts depot, and not just because I was fueled by candy. It might be cliché to say, but for a few minutes, I felt seen. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming performance based on the roiling aggregate of a week’s worth of individual fears; okay, I’m a little anxious, but I’m working on it.
This review is a snapshot of the first performance of a work-in-progress. The production is one of several pieces at the festival presented as part of the SummerWorks Lab programming introduced in 2018. The participants in SW Lab are still in the development process and will continue to evolve throughout the festival.
The interview portions of Worry Warts are happening at the Toronto Media Arts Centre – Expansion Space (32 Lisgar Street)
- Saturday August 10th 12:00pm – 12:30pm
- Saturday August 10th 12:45pm – 1:15pm
- Saturday August 10th 1:30pm – 2:00pm
- Saturday August 10th 2:15pm – 2:45pm
- Saturday August 10th 3:00pm – 3:30pm
- Saturday August 10th 3:45pm – 4:15pm
- Saturday August 10th 4:30pm – 5:00pm
- Saturday August 10th 5:15pm – 5:45pm
- Saturday August 10th 6:00pm – 6:30pm
- Saturday August 10th 6:45pm – 7:15pm
- Saturday August 10th 7:30pm – 8:00pm
- Saturday August 10th 8:15pm – 8:45pm
- Saturday August 10th 9:00pm – 9:30pm
- Saturday August 10th 9:45pm – 10:15pm
- Sunday August 11th 12:00pm – 12:30pm
- Sunday August 11th 12:45pm – 1:15pm
- Sunday August 11th 1:30pm – 2:00pm
- Sunday August 11th 2:15pm – 2:45pm
- Sunday August 11th 3:00pm – 3:30pm
- Sunday August 11th 3:45pm – 4:15pm
- Sunday August 11th 4:30pm – 5:00pm
- Sunday August 11th 5:15pm – 5:45pm
- Sunday August 11th 6:00pm – 6:30pm
- Sunday August 11th 6:45pm – 7:15pm
- Sunday August 11th 7:30pm – 8:00pm
- Sunday August 11th 8:15pm – 8:45pm
- Sunday August 11th 9:00pm – 9:30pm
- Sunday August 11th 9:45pm – 10:15pm
- Monday August 12th 5:00pm – 5:30pm
- Monday August 12th 5:45pm – 6:15pm
- Monday August 12th 6:30pm – 7:00pm
- Monday August 12th 7:15pm – 7:45pm
- Monday August 12th 8:00pm – 8:30pm
- Monday August 12th 8:45pm – 9:15pm
- Monday August 12th 9:30pm – 10:00pm
- Tuesday August 13th 5:00pm – 5:30pm
- Tuesday August 13th 5:45pm – 6:15pm
- Tuesday August 13th 6:30pm – 7:00pm
- Tuesday August 13th 7:15pm – 7:45pm
- Tuesday August 13th 8:00pm – 8:30pm
- Tuesday August 13th 8:45pm – 9:15pm
- Tuesday August 13th 9:30pm – 10:00pm
- Wednesday August 14th 5:00pm – 5:30pm
- Wednesday August 14th 5:45pm – 6:15pm
- Wednesday August 14th 6:30pm – 7:00pm
- Wednesday August 14th 7:15pm – 7:45pm
- Wednesday August 14th 8:00pm – 8:30pm
- Wednesday August 14th 8:45pm – 9:15pm
- Wednesday August 14th 9:30pm – 10:00pm
- Thursday August 15th 5:00pm – 5:30pm
- Thursday August 15th 5:45pm – 6:15pm
- Thursday August 15th 6:30pm – 7:00pm
- Thursday August 15th 7:15pm – 7:45pm
- Thursday August 15th 8:00pm – 8:30pm
- Thursday August 15th 8:45pm – 9:15pm
- Thursday August 15th 9:30pm – 10:00pm
The six performances of the theatrical piece will be held on:
- Saturday August 17th 1:00pm – 2:00pm
- Saturday August 17th 3:30pm – 4:30pm
- Saturday August 17th 7:00pm – 8:00pm
- Sunday August 18th 2:00pm – 3:00pm
- Sunday August 18th 4:00pm – 5:00pm
- Sunday August 18th 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Warnings: Audience participation
SummerWorks tickets uses a Pay What You Decide system for every show: $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level.
Advance tickets are available up until 3 hours before show time and can be purchased as follows: Online, using the Buy Ticket link found on every show page; In person at the main SummerWorks Festival Box Office the Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West) – open August 8-18 from 12pm-8pm. Tickets purchased in advance are subject to a convenience fee of $2.50/ticket. Any remaining tickets will be made available for sale at the performance venue starting 1 hour before show time. Venue box offices accept cash only.
Money saving passes are available if you are planning on seeing at least 4 shows.
Photo of Julie Tepperman by Aaron Willis