Orienting ourselves in the dark

Dancers, one holding a large flag, are in a community hall.
© Michael Slobodian

And suddenly, it is the end of November. For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, this means a time of shorter days and expanding nights. Here in Ottawa, brief sunrises accompany rumours of snow and the kind of cold that clears your mind. As we ease into darkness, I simultaneously contend with the extinguishing of light happening in the world right now, and how darkness can become a state of existence metaphorically, literally, and spirituality. 

What does it take to create in darkness? I spoke with co-creator Jonathon Young following the Ottawa premiere of Kidd Pivot’s Assembly Hall, and we discovered our shared affinity for the disorienting and the uncertain. While sitting in the audience earlier that night, I was struck by Assembly Hall’s invitation to contend with confusion, and the roles and structures we take on as we seek to find a way through it. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know that the stage is designed as a community hall: it almost looks like the space where you might have had a school dance, learned to play basketball, or avoided gym class. A theatre inside a theatre, the performance offers a glimpse of what artistic creation can teach us about being in darkness. We are invited to turn towards it, to un-numb, to gather together, and to be unafraid of not knowing as we seek agency within it. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does culture impact your life? Performing arts maker Amber Curreen offered this question at a session during the recent CAPACOA conference, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Your number might depend on how you define culture. Do you see it as what’s shared on stages, galleries, podcasts, concerts, and television; or does it also include layers of values, experiences, and ways of life?  

Culture is an ever-changing living thing, shaped by how each of us push its form and shift its edges. Each investment we make at the Fund is one of the ways we contribute to culture. The artistic creations we champion reach out across the country like beacons of possibility and light. We work in service of the imagination, fervently believing that artistic creation is one way to gift artists, audiences, and communities the vibrant culture that we all deserve. Check out our season calendar to see where these light-filled works will be across Canada and beyond.  

And please join me in celebrating our first investment of the Fund’s season: National accessArts Centre’s ICONIC+. It is culture-expanding, unabashedly complex, and dedicated to assembling and centering some wildly talented disabled artists. Watch for it in 2024! 

If you feel drawn to it, write to me and let me know how you’re creating through the darkness. How are you tending to culture, and how is culture tending to you? 


ThisGen Fellowship

Our friends at Why Not Theatre are excited to launch the call for applications for the 2024 ThisGen Fellowship. Produced in partnership with the NAC, ThisGen Fellowship is a fantastic national initiative that supports BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) women and non-binary* theatre artists in getting to the next stage in their careers through paid training, mentorship, hands-on residencies and labs, and peer-to-peer connection. The application deadline is December 15 – please share and apply

*Note: ThisGen Fellowship is a Trans-inclusive program. 

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