Thursday, 9 March 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Kevin Matthew Wong

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Kevin Matthew Wong is training in artistic direction with Marjorie Chan at Cahoots Theatre in Toronto

(February 27, 2017)
“The grace is abundant in my country,
and the generosity is fluttering high,
my wish is to see it in peace…
We want to live with dignity
We want to live with dignity. ”
- Translation by Ahmed Barakat of Baladi from John & Waleed
John & Waleed. Photo by Michael Cooper
There is an understated power in John & Waleed, the final production of Cahoots’ 30th anniversary season, a music and storytelling experience performed by the virtuosic titular duo. When Marjorie and I first spoke about the PTTP neither of us could have predicted today’s political climate and the timeliness of this production in making space for conversations on diversity and understanding difference. John & Waleed asks us to build bridges rather than walls, to pursue harmony in spite of hardship, and to open hearts, doors and borders.


PTTP training has been intensive and each week has brought forward its own unique learnings. I’ve been organizing my Cahoots files in folders that are categorized and sorted chronologically by week.

They’ve ended up looking like this: 
  1. Supporting Diverse Artists / Cahoots Company Future
  2. Hot House / Audio Description Training
  3. Theatre Ontario Showcase / Next Generation Artists 
  4. Translation Research / John & Waleed
  5. Grants, grants, grants!
  6. John & Waleed Opening / Project Parkdale Read
  7. Cahoots 30 Gala 
  8. Audio Interpreted Performance 
We’ve managed to stick mostly to plan, but some pleasant surprises have happened along the way. 


Audience Access

Pursuing a mandate of diversity today means being inclusive beyond considerations of cultural diversity. Diversity in performance ought to also consider gender, age, size and ability. During my second week at Cahoots I was able to learn about audio-described performances from Mala Naraine and Margot Whitfield from Ryerson’s Inclusive Media and Design Centre. Theatre Passe Muraille and Cahoots have recently been guided by Mala and Margot in exploring the “integrated” approach to audio-description. This approach involves the audio-interpreter integrating the feel and style of the show into the delivery of their audio-description. This Sunday Marjorie will be providing an integrated audio description of John & Waleed that is also an “open-description,” meaning that all audience members will be able to hear and experience audio-description that is typically heard only by select audience members over headset.

Project Parkdale Read

King Street outside Project Parkdale Read. An
organization for adult literacy in Toronto.
An incredibly meaningful part of my PTTP took place two weeks ago and was only three hours long. I had the privilege to visit and take part in Project Parkdale Read’s (PPR) adult literacy class. Although I was ostensibly there to capture video footage for John & Waleed, I tried to integrate fully into the class and, because of that, had a wonderful time meeting and befriending PPR’s participants and facilitators, including Cahoots playwright-in-residence Jo Simalaya Alcampo. Images of the PPR class appears at the end of John & Waleed during a montage of the faces of Toronto. I find that the images of PPR are particularly potent because, like Cahoots, PPR actively serves a diverse and often overlooked community. I am thrilled that PPR and Cahoots have found partners in one another. 
I left Parkdale inspired, motivated and changed. 


Personal Development

Next week John & Waleed will have closed. Marjorie and I will be discussing personal development and learning to be done in the weeks ahead. There will be cookies.
CAHOOTS: Cookies Are How Our Operating Team Subsists.


I began my first entry with gratitude, and I want to reiterate my appreciation for Marjorie’s guidance, for Theatre Ontario’s trust, and for our indigenous peoples and land and water protectors. However, I want to end this entry a little more boldly: I am proud to be part of Cahoots. To take part in even a small part of the conversation and action necessary for greater inclusivity in Canadian Theatre. I am proud to let people know about what we do, about the projects we mount, and the artists we support, and for that I am again grateful.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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