Choir Boy is in the house, and we're excited to have Mike Payette bring his vision and leadership to this breathtaking production. In this edition of CS Grid, we hear about his love and passion for reviving this play for the stage, introduce the wonderful characters, what he loves about the show, what he wishes audiences can take away from this production and more!
Join us in welcoming Jordan Laffrenier (he/they), Canadian Stage’s new Associate Artistic Director! Jordan is an award-winning director, producer, playwright, dramaturg and educator. As a theatre advocate, he has supported numerous on and off stage theatre works and we can’t wait to see his forward-thinking artistic vision, and his dramaturgical eye in action.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am an artist, community builder and educator.
What does Canadian Stage mean to you? Any special memories you want to share?
When I draw a line between the shows that had the greatest impact on me over the years many of them involved Canadian Stage. Canadian Stage has made shows that have challenged my notion of what theatre can do stylistically, socially and politically. The last play I saw before the pandemic was AF by Red Sky Performance at Canadian Stage. In this show, Red Sky Performance combines dance, shadow work, live music and physical storytelling to explore the Anishinaabe fire prophecies. Red Sky invited guests to celebrate after the show with food and dance. I have thought about that collective experience a lot over the last couple of years.
How did you get started in contemporary theatre in Toronto?
For most of my pre-college life, I wanted to be an engineer. When it came time to apply to universities a friend of mine told me that they were applying to film school. I had never considered art as a career option before and then it was all I could consider. Before that, I had taken some drama classes and was in a production of Romeo and Juliet in which I played the character that bites his thumb in the first scene. After that, I did everything I could do to get into theatre school, I even tried switching to the local arts high school for my last year of study: they said no. I went to a play bookstore that has since closed where I read Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad. I reached out to Mouawad after reading it, not thinking that reaching out may be inappropriate, to my surprise he got back to me and even ended up giving me tips on my university application. His generosity set the tone for much of my experiences in theatre since; I hope to be a fraction as generous to the next generation of artists.
What excites you about the role?
So much! I feel really honoured and humbled that I was thought of for this position. Toronto has been my artistic home for nearly a decade and I feel really proud to be a part of the arts community here. There are so many artists in Toronto and across Canada that are making really exciting work and I hope to work with more of them in this position.
What do you envision for Canadian Stage?
I hope we continue to find ways to support our stories, our story tellers and the communities that surround Canadian Stage. I envision Canadian Stage as an ‘artist first’ company that supports artists as people and makes space for the additional challenges that come with making art, especially during a pandemic. I believe we need to continue to challenge our beliefs about who belongs in theatre and who we prioritize in our artform by developing visionary artists and audiences who have historically been excluded from our stages.
What can we expect during your tenure as Associate Artistic Director?
Hopefully, a lot of joy, curiosity and dreaming about what the future can look like.
What do you wish to bring to Canadian Stage’s creative processes, dramaturgy and producing?
I hope to re-imagine some of the ways that I have seen dramaturgy and producing practiced in Canada. I have been a part of many processes where the playwright is given notes before they have even had a chance to articulate their intentions with the work and the structure of their play is molded into an Aristolian structure that is now thousands of years old. I believe every artist has a unique structure inside of them and ideas about where their work should go. My goal is to support them along this journey.
Follow him on Instagram at @jordanlaffrenier!