Written by Thea Fitz-James and Wesley Babcock
WHAT IS DARK DAY MONDAY TO US?
We planted our feet in Toronto, and put down roots. As performers and producers, we knew of many comedy spots, storytelling shows, and performance art showcases in the city. But we could think of few showcases that brought different performance forms, styles, and disciplines together across the same stage. We met touring fringe festivals summer 2017, and missed the community of independent artists, and the energy of the creative process. At the Fringe, it doesn’t matter what kind of art you do—comedy, dance, music, storytelling, the-A-tAH—the platform is level. And you all get to hang out together at the fringe tent when it’s all over. We created Dark Day Monday for the day after it’s all over, when the theatre is closed, and the tour done. (also, Wes has limited creative faculties and can only come up with so many good names for things that happen on Monday).
Our version of Dark Day Monday is a curated monthly performance series featuring artists who defy expectations and break boundaries. We seek out acts that explore, play and fuck with performance forms or genres. We are interested in representing diverse performance talent from all genres and disciplines. We want to see something different. We prioritize featuring BIPOC and LGBTQAI++ performers and content. We want to showcase talent from Toronto’s local arts communities, as well as national and international artists passing through. The goal is to create a space for artists who are interested in pushing the boundaries of their work and performance, not just the ones who feel at home on traditional stages. So if any Ottawa locals are passing through, drop us an application.
And that really is the crux of it—while there are incredibly amazing places to perform in the city, they often fall into certain specific groups or disciplines of performance. The Wrecking Ball and Crapshoot are notable Toronto exceptions, but only happen every few months, and the competition to perform is fierce. Where can you see storytelling, music, and character comedy all in one night? Where can performers try out new stuff, cut their teeth on a new set, story, or song? We wanted to provide this kind of space.
The midnight cabarets are prominent performance event at many fringes- especially Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver (also 13th Hour at Montreal Fringe). We loved this kind of performance space: where anything can (and often would!) happen, where performers across mediums, who barely knew each other, would collaborate on original work, just because. The format for our event will feature 4 7-minute slots, an intermission, followed by a 40-minute feature slot. We are aiming to have a cohesive event, not broken up by chatter from hosts and lots of change overs, where all the acts address a central theme for the month. The theme for March, somewhat fittingly, is Beginnings
Having more venues for performance, and performance focused communities, only strengthen the arts communities of Toronto. We wanted to be part of this process.
But who the fuck are we?? Why are we doing this?
Well. The short answer is, that no one else is doing it.
Wes: I occupy a pretty privileged position in the world. I am a cis hetero-presenting settler white man. I am living in that privilege in all the training and life experience that has been afforded to me over my career in the arts and my education. I want to use as much of that privilege as possible to help bring our collective focus onto artists who occupy less privileged positions in our world. I want to build an infrastructure that takes the guess work and uncertainty and burdensome time commitments out of the making of art, and bring the art itself into the centre of our community’s focus. I make art too, and I think that my art is pretty important. But I acknowledge that there are more crucial and urgent stories to be told. I want to meet those people and listen to their stories, and I am in a position where I am able to create a platform that helps bring more and more diverse art to fruition in my community. That is even more important as the art that I make myself.
Thea: I enjoy running events, and dealing with the nitty gritty of getting an evening from point A to B, smoothly. I believe that all representation is political, and want to showcase work that speaks to this political moment. I am frustrated that in 2018 curators and theatres are still staging stories that are all (white) washed up. If you build it they’ll come; I want to build something better, that better represents the Toronto artists and environment that I know and love. I am a bi, femme, white, cis-female, manic, survivor and believe that having someone like me in a curatorial position helps bring more voices like (and unlike) mine to the stage.
As white, settler, able-bodied organizers, we are active in the continual, ongoing acknowledgment of our blindspots, and invite feedback, criticism and conversation; we are not building a mirror, we are building a platform and community. As we grow, we aim to increase the representation of different bodies within our curatorial/ organization team.
Because we’re artists, we know that art is worth paying for. We are taking on the financial risk and administrative burden of running a show, and giving every profited penny to the participating artists. We offer a door split to all artists, with a guarantee. We have a mandate to provide fair compensation to all our collaborators. We will never make more than the artists who perform on our stages, and we’ll show them the books to prove it. A portion of revenue from DDM events goes back into the series—but the artists get paid first.
Applications and event details are available by visiting darkdaymonday.com. We welcome local and visiting artists to join us on the Dark Day Monday stage! Also, follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates.
Editor’s Note: Back in 2016, the New Ottawa Critics were actively seeking ways to create more variety on our website and we really wanted to start offering content that addressed other areas of the theatrical event outside of the performance itself. Spearheaded by former NOC Managing Editor Wes Babcock, these more theory-based opinion pieces have become the hallmark of our Dark Day Monday series and we have gone on to publish some great articles surrounding topics like the ethics of theatre criticism; the concept of ‘New Criticism’; and the separation of artist and critic. We are thrilled to see Dark Day Monday being taken to a whole new level by Thea Fitz-James and Wes whose creative mandate seeks to embrace those artists whose work might fall outside of the traditional theatre “box”.