Nominated for: leading the indie theatre charge in its very first year.
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Some of the best work in Toronto theatre this year has come out of its smallest spaces. Scrappy producers are renting storefronts and quickly turning them into DIY black box venues, despite knowing that the outcome of all that hard work could be sold out from under them for development—places like the Storefront Theatre and the Downstage, and Unit 102 Theatre. More mid-sized venues are appearing on the cultural landscape as well: Native Earth’s Aki Studio, the Theatre Centre’s new digs (coming in 2014), and Crow’s Theatre’s new space in Leslieville (coming in 2015).
But none of these venues showcased as great a diversity of art as Kensington Market’s Videofag, which had a phenomenal slate of programming in its first full year.
Videofag, which makes its home in a former barber shop on Augusta Avenue, was opened in November 2012 by playwright/director Jordan Tannahill and actor William Ellis. The two, who are partners both professionally and personally, live in the back rooms behind the storefront space—which makes it essentially their living room. Over the past year, the space has been a busy nexus of performance and art, a focal point for a wide assortment of communities, including the queer art scene, underground film culture, comedy, and theatre.
Henri Fabergé’s Feint of Hart, an epic DIY theatrical series that few in the theatre community caught during its run at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, was remounted in a condensed version in the snug confines of Videofag. Site-specific theatre company Outside the March made it the home of its monthly storytelling series The Spoke, which involved performers like Tony Nappo, Renna Reddie, and Anand Rajaram recounting intimate tales for podcast. And icons like Nina Arsenault and Sky Gilbert debuted new work there.
Tannahill’s own company, Suburban Beast, had a banner year as well, but his highest-profile work was directing Sheila Heti’s All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, the famously “unstageable” play often referenced in her bestselling novel How Should A Person Be?, also at Videofag.
That these newer studio spaces are artist- and producer-owned, and are dedicated spaces churning out new work that could eventually result in Toronto’s next breakout hit, is a great thing for Toronto’s grassroots cultural economy. Here’s hoping Videofag, the Storefront Theatre, and all the other little spaces doing heavy lifting in Toronto continue to flourish in 2014.