Dancing In A Window
Rachel Levitt on The Assembly Theatre’s innovative new approach to theatre.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have shut down and postponed countless performing arts opportunities, but it also forced artists and organizations to get creative. Zoom shows, outdoor theatre and spikes in video content swept the nation, but now it’s time for an innovative approach from The Assembly Theatre: art performed through a window.
Outside of The Assembly Theatre at 1479 Queen Street West will be The Window of Opportunity Festival running August 3rd – 15th. Spectators will view exclusively through a window on the street as the artists perform inside.
Assembly producer Sebastian Biasucci chatted with us on the creation of the festival.
“Late last summer after many months of creating virtual content, Assembly's two Co-Artistic Directors Luis and Cass came to one of our weekly producer meetings with an idea. COVID numbers were way down at the time, and they believed that they had a way to bring back live performance safely with The Window of Opportunity Festival. We all immediately loved the idea, and while we were not able to do the festival that fall due to COVID spikes, we were determined to do it when it was safer.
I think the reason we created the festival was because we wanted to do anything and everything within our means as an indie theatre space to bring in person performance back. We wanted to bring it back for performers and for audiences in a way that was as close as we could get to what is usually expected from The Assembly Theatre and where everyone felt safe and comfortable.
Amazing virtual theatre came out of the pandemic from Toronto artists, and we enjoyed finding ways to create opportunities in that space, but it just isn't what we do. This is much closer. And we hope that this festival makes performers and audiences feel that amazing and irreplaceable feeling that you get when enjoying live performance.”
I am fortunate to have a piece being featured in the festival August 11th and 12th. In fact, my work “Normal People” will be performed by fellow A Dance Way of Life writer Nicole Decsey! For those who don’t know, she and I met working on pandemic dance projects for my company Dance : Corps.
While watching “Normal People” for the first time at tech rehearsal, I got goosebumps knowing it would finally be seen in person by audiences instead of through a screen. Setting the piece in a window allowed me to coach Nicole in a different way than when we were through a camera. The movement became sharper, the grittiness was heightened and the window allowed a trapped-in-a-haunted-house vibe that complimented the work perfectly. Some things were meant to be in person and this work is one of those things.
Pictured above: sneak peek at the tech rehearsal for "Normal People"
What does Sebastian find special about the festival though?
“I think what's most unique is that you can just stumble onto the performances. You could just be walking down the street and spontaneously catch an amazing dance piece or captivating performance art piece. It's accessible, approachable and intimate. It's like street performance but with way more bells and whistles at your disposal. It's what I like to call busking.”
For your information dance lovers, my piece isn’t the only dance piece you can see here. Krista Newey’s Funeral Buffet will run August 3rd and 4th. Described as “a place for dead ideas to finally live”, the performance is based on old ideas that never made it out of the notebook or onto the stage.
“It's rare that you get to be so up close and personal to dance performance and I think audiences will love that. Not enough people are exposed to dance and I'm so happy that we are bringing dance right to the people of Queen St. West and making it accessible.” Sebastian says of both dance works in the festival.
“It's been really exciting to see how the pieces have evolved and changed since artists initially pitched them last fall. And some have stayed the same and we're so happy that their initial idea is being carried out as imagined after all these months. Above all we're so grateful to have these artists stick with us to see this through to the end and we're so happy to be with them on the journey back to performing in person.”
Full schedule for the festival below. The event is free, however pay-what-you-can donations are encouraged via the below link: