10 years, 10 artists
We started the Next Stage Theatre Festival 10 years ago…
To give indie artists an opportunity to take their work to the next stage! Since 2008, over 75,000 patrons have attended NSTF. $495,000 has been returned to the artists that participated.
In just 10 years, NSTF shows have received 25 Dora Mavor Moore nominations! (Click here to read them all.) Artists from the festival have gone on to become major players in Canada’s cultural scene, bringing the indie spirit with them. We are so proud to have offered them a platform, a showcase, a next stage.
Feeling nostalgic? View our first 2 NSTF programs below:
Read on to see what 10 of our past NSTF artists have to say about their experience at NSTF!
“I was insane/lucky enough to be involved in TWO shows in the inaugural year of NSTF: UnSpun Theatre’s DON’T WAKE ME, and Brendan Gall’s A QUIET PLACE.
NTSF was a stepping stone for my career. But – more importantly – the festival was (and is) a truly wonderful means of community-building. There’s a camaraderie between productions that’s wonderful, a feeling of sharing something special with those audiences. And what could speak more to the Canadian theatre experience than huddling together in a heated tent to get drunk on cheap beer together while it’s 20 below freezing just beyond the flapping sheets of white tarp.
A Quiet Place is definitely one of the shows that will be among my all time favourites. The NSTF production got nominated for 5 Dora awards. People still talk to me about this one, and how haunting it was. I was regularly working with Chris Hanratty, Kate Hewlett, Mike McPhaden, Brendan Gall, Geoffrey Pounsett, and James Cade. All of whom have gone on to great things, and all of whom were among the most inventive, risk-taking, hilarious, and generous artists I’ve had the fortune of working with. I often picture the incredible work we might do if we “got the band back together” now.
Congratulations. May we celebrate many more years of NSTF together.”
“After our run at Next Stage YICHUD (Seclusion) went on to receive a full production at Theatre Passe Muraille in co-production with us, Convergence Theatre, in February 2010. In 2011, it was re-mounted at TPM in May, and then traveled to Ottawa in June to be the headliner production for The Magnetic North Theatre Festival, where it was nominated for a Capital Critics’ Circle Award for Best Production. All three runs (plus the Next Stage run) each saw a 90% audience attendance(!) and NOW Magazine listed it as one of Toronto’s “Top Ten Productions of 2010”. YICHUD (Seclusion) was published by Playwrights Canada Press in the spring of 2011.
Before one show, Executive Director Gideon Arthurs let us know that there was a couple who phoned him directly, begging to buy tickets to our sold-out performance for that night. Gideon explained that he only had two “house-seats” left, which he had to keep for media or emergencies, and so he encouraged them to buy tickets for later in the week. They explained that it was their 10th wedding anniversary and they had had a Jewish wedding ceremony, and really wanted to celebrate their anniversary together at our wedding show. They offered to pay $500 for the tickets, as a donation to the festival!!! Obviously, Gideon obliged! After the show we all met and chatted and were able to thank them for their donation and express how moved we were that they chose to spend their special night with us. We kept in touch, and when we were fundraising for our full production at Passe Muraille they became donors, and celebrated with us yet again! To this day we call them “The Anniversary Couple”.
The only way to truly learn about your play at a certain stage in its development is to open it up and share the work with an audience. We emerged from our run at Next Stage with a giant creative wish list of things we wanted to explore next, and were fortunate enough to have several opportunities to do just that, as a result of our showcase at Next Stage. Over the course of the next two and a half years, the show continued to grow, ultimately reaching over 3,000 people.”
Thank you Next Stage for providing us with a safe space where we could take big risks!
“I’ve done two shows at Next Stage: The Corner and Gas.
Gas has had an incredible life: before it was performed at Next Stage it premiered in Montreal (produced by Infinitheatre and directed by Guy Sprung). After Next Stage it was published. Since publication it’s been produced in Tokyo twice (in-translation), and will be presented again in the spring of 2017 in Osaka (a new musical version if you can believe it.
I remember after Next Stage we performed my play The Corner as part of a fundraiser at the Kapisanan Centre. The Corner was inspired by the shooting of Jeffrey Reodica and we performed the show for a wonderful audience in the basement of this Filipino community centre after no rehearsal and with no tech (we lit the play by keeping the lights on in the board room and leaving the door open so that it spilled on to the playing area). The Reodica family came to this performance (which was amazing considering they missed the original NSTF run). I’ll never forget how powerful the experience was. After the show we talked about young people and friendship and gun violence and community and hope and just… I don’t know… I’ll never forget that moment and what the room felt like during the performance of the play. It was won of the best theatre experiences of my life.
NSTF helped me grow my career times one hundred. (Well… it got me a book and international productions and residences and new friends, so… I think that’s pretty cool).
NSTF is the hottest Festival ever.
Even though it’s on during the coldest time of the year.”
“Our show, Sick, was nominated for a Dora for best Ensemble. The youngest participant was 14, and the oldest was 25. They all had chronic conditions. I was so inspired by the response to Sick, that I collaborated with Krystal Nusbaum, a young actress with Down Syndrome, to create a show with nine performers with Down Syndrome. This show became Rare, which went on to win the Best of the Fringe, and then was invited by Soulpepper to be part of Winter at the Young, where it sold out and extended three times. We then toured to several places across Ontario. With the success of Rare we were approached by Spinal Injury Ontario, to create a show with people who use wheelchairs. This became Borne, which premiered at Soulpepper in the summer of 2014. Since then, we formed a company, rare theatre, which has recently been awarded a Trillium grow grant to support the development of four new projects featuring communities seldom heard and rarely seen on our stages.
Plus – we had a blast.”
“We wanted to use the bar/kitchen in Factory Theatre to do a site-specific show, which had never been done before at Next Stage. We pitched this to Gideon Arthurs, former Executive Director, and he liked the idea of adding another space to the festival. The bar was then transformed into the Antechamber space and has been a Next Stage venue ever since. Every year, we see a show in the Antechamber and it warms our hearts that it has continued on as a Next Stage staple.
Funny story: On our opening show, fueled by excitement and clown energy, Morro had an explosive cayenne pepper moment, hurling the powder into her eyes. Reacting with a jump she hit her head on a light, then turned towards Jasp who threw a pitcher of water directly into Morro’s face (thinking it would help her burning eyes). To top it all off, the microwave blew a fuse in the building, momentarily taking all the lights with it. We stood there in wonder for a moment – breathing it all in. The audience laughter was uncontrollable. Everything went wrong – It was great.”
“It’s wild to think it’s been 10 years of NSTF. It still feels like the scrappy new festival on the block, but also I can’t imagine Toronto without it.
My show, Post Eden, was nominated for an ‘Outstanding New Play’ Dora that year, and went on to be part of the National Arts Centre’s Ontario Scene in 2015.
One funny story that comes to mind is Sascha Cole injured her leg during tech week and had to perform most of the run with crutches! She was such a trooper (she was also rehearsing Shakespeare’s Nigga during the day at the time). I think a lot of people thought it was just an odd directorial choice.
People would sometimes come up to me after the show and say: “That’s my neighborhood! I grew up a few blocks away from there in Richmond Hill” or “I grew up in a neighborhood just like that.” It seemed, for some, the show captured an ineffable essence of their adolescence in suburbia. The fields, the cul-de-sacs, the backyards. Which was very satisfying as I only really set out to make a portrait of my own. NSTF offered me one of my first opportunities to return to a work, to dig deeper, and find more layers within it.”
“Guillermo Verdecchia, head of playwriting at Soulpepper, came to my Next Stage Show and connected with me after to talk about my work. He’s since become a mentor for me, and helped champion my other writing projects, which has led to residencies and workshops at The Banff Centre, and The National Arts Centre. Next Stage was a pivotal point in my development as a writer and producer. It kicked off the now 4 productions I have under my belt and the 4 I have still in development (not too mention the ones I haven’t even started writing yet). Backed by the FRINGE/Next Stage team my creative team and myself were able to learn and develop our mutual skills as creators and producers and help shift us through the difficult transition from emerging–to ’emerged’.
Funny story: WELL WE WERE REHEARSING DURING THE ICE STORM IN KENSINGTON AND HAD TO STOP REHEARSAL BECAUSE GIANT TREE BRANCHES WERE COLLAPSING IN THE PART ACROSS THE STREET. Yes, there’s nothing like doing an indie show in the middle of a January ice storm…..our props adventures were also complicated by that fact that our show was about painters and graffiti–and our set designer has a severe allergy to paint! Soooooo that had me rummaging through a lot of paint store garbage and recycling bins for our set/prop donations. I had a great time though connecting with local Toronto graffiti crews to source spray paint and graf gear–that’s the amazing thing about theatre–it takes you all over the place to meet new people. The graf artists and crews I connected with were pretty jazzed to learn I’d written a play about graf and found my love of all their old gear (and desire to take it off their hands) really humorous. I think being an indie prop finder has you asking a lot of people for their garbage……and ya know, it wouldn’t be an indie show if you weren’t hauling a set through the snow with a muffin shoved in your mouth and a coffee taped to your face while answering 13 emails and making a fund-what-you-can video at the same time….that’s just what self-producing is.”
“We created a sketch comedy revue for NSTF called Unbridled & Unstable. It was a stellar opportunity for us to create a bunch of shiny new material. A lot of our sketches that we created for the revue are ones that we still perform today as part of our regular repertoire. Since performing at the festival, we won “Producer’s Pick” at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival for our sketches. And, we went on to perform a couple of them at Massey Hall for GENERATOR – a show that celebrated arts and science hosted by astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield.
NSTF gave us an amazing opportunity to show our work to new audiences and expand our fan base. The run also gave us an excuse to develop a slew of new sketches (a lot of them were horse-themed to fit with the title of our show), and stage them in an awesome venue. It was a great showcase for us, and we were able to invite a lot of industry folks and develop our creative network.
We ended up taking the photos for our poster at Sunnybrook Stables with a real horse! His name was Mr. T.
Happy 10th anniversary!”
“There is literally no way that Mockingbird could have seen an audience without the Next Stage Festival. This unique opportunity allows artists to take risks (like an 11 person cast) and make choices that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to make. The artistic support, engagement with an existing audience, marketing and publicity, and production support are simply unparalleled. The staff at the Fringe really care about Next Stage artists, and we really feel that care and compassion. I am so thankful to have had this opportunity–it represents a watershed moment for me in my career and has already given me access to new opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
“We’ve done three shows at Next Stage (which may be a record). The first show, Conservatives in Love, by Dave Carley was a big hit originally at the 2007 Toronto Fringe – receiving a Best of the Fest nod from NOW Magazine. It was then re-mounted at the very first Next Stage Theatre Festival at the Factory Theatre Mainspace in 2008. (Also was on the cover of Eye Magazine.) That went on to further production at New Stages Theatre in Peterborough and separate productions of Dave’s script in the United States.
Our second show at NSTF was the wildly successful Three Men in a Boat originally produced at the Fringe in 2014 to great acclaim and amazing reviews. That show has been continually touring to 9 separate venues including a run at the 2014 TATA LitLive Festival in Mumbai, India. Three Men was remounted at last year’s NSTF Festival – selling out most of its run and receiving a Dora Mavor Moore nomination for Best Ensemble.
Our third show Clique Claque is an entirely new Pea Green play so we are very eager to present it as a world premiere at Next Stage this year!
Thanks to very successful runs at NSTF we have been able to showcase our new work to wider audiences and producers. That’s true of all three of of our productions.”