Performance Criticism Training Program

About PCTP

The Performance Criticism Training Program (PCTP) provides training and mentorship to artists and aspiring critics who are interested in producing performance criticism for print or other media. Critics play an important function in educating audiences about the many components of a performance, what they can expect to see, and offering language to articulate what they may be feeling. Critics extend the conversation about performance began by artists, and ideally stimulate vibrant and productive dialogue within the culture at large. The PCTP is investing in these emerging critics to discover their own voice, style, tone with which they will fill these functions.

The training will include developing formal and technical skills; considering in-depth the relationships between criticism and creativity and between the arts and their publics; exploring terminology; and adjusting writing and other forms of communication to the various platforms available. Six individuals will learn the skills to publish thoughtful criticism of live performance within the GTA. This program will combine hands-on learning and networking opportunities for emerging critics and journalists who want to focus on the arts, or artists looking to transition into criticism. 

From April 30 through June 25, 2018, six participants were lead through weekly coursework, attended a performance per week, and wrote a review of that performance which was edited by guest facilitators. They were included in NOW magazine’s Toronto Fringe coverage, joining the NOW team in reviewing all the shows in the Fringe. Participants were paid a fee of $1,000 to participate in the program and received additional honoraria provided by NOW magazine for coverage of the Fringe.

The program was developed by Karen Fricker, Carly Maga, Katie Leamen, Cole Alvis and Kristina Lemieux with support from Lisa Alves. The program will be led by members of this team and guest instructors Hayley Malouin, Erica Commanda, Emma Doran, Lee Slinger, Glenn Sumi, Michael Rubinoff, Kelly Nestruck, Michael Wheeler, May Antaki, Maija Kappler, Carrie Sager, Aidan Morashita-Miki, Jordan Bimm. 

The 2018 Cohort

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Asheda Dwyer

Asheda Dwyer is an emerging cultural critic with an interest in performance arts that originated from speculations of literature, film, music, and philosophy. She is also a cultural worker with experience in libraries, galleries, and museums, and holds a Master of Arts degree, with distinction, as well as a graduate diploma in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from York University. Her curiosities to develop theater and other performance-based criticisms form part of her ongoing practice to deepen her study of the arts, and how drama, in particular, stages an accessible ground of inquiry, to dialogue the complexities of relevant, social and political questions, in society. She is inspired to challenge the intellectual quorum of these contemplations as reflected in Canadian contexts, both among and for, new and existing generations of audiences and critics, alike. In early 2017, Asheda successfully launched a communal library project in northern Chile, which serves as a collaboration between grassroots organizations, to support the critical literacy development of marginalized people of local African, and Indigenous, descent. She is also the founder of Pressed – a new literary gathering in the city aimed at supporting critical thinking through engaging arts criticisms at the intersections of black feminist thought, ecological sustainability, and community redevelopment. In 2018, the Ontario Book Publishers Organization in conjunction with the Toronto Arts Council selected her poetry as one of the winning recipients of the annual What’s Your Story competition. Her writing has appeared in Caribbean Quarterly, Shameless Magazine, and The Ethnic Aisle. 

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Jordy Kieto (he/him)

Jordy is a Congolese Black Panther. Debuting as a stand up comedian in Edmonton, he's gone on to tour most of the Canadian circuit, appearing at the Comic Strip and the Just for Laughs Festival in 2016. Through his media network, NiggaNews.ca, he utilizes AI Technology and Hip Hop culture to dissect everyday events. After moving to Toronto, he was chosen to join the Fringe mentorship program, where he learned production skills, as well as the importance of accountability and representation. His stage credits include The Threepenny Opera, HMS Pinafore, and, most recently the role of Silvio in Dauntless City Theatre's Two Gentlewomen of Verona. He remains ever cognizant of the fact that he was raised by powerful black women. The onus of his work is to pay their love forward

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Molly Johnson (she/her)

Born and raised on Cape Breton Island, Molly Johnson makes body-based texts and performance projects exploring alternative ways of being in a capitalist patriarchal society. A Dora Award-winning dance artist, Molly has danced for and with many brilliant humans including Nova Bhattacharya, Susie Burpee, Sabina Perry, Julia Sasso, Riley Sims, and Heidi Strauss. She has spent a decade performing in public spaces with Dusk Dances, toured internationally with Montréal’s Danièle Desnoyers/Le Carré des Lombes, and was a key collaborator with Marie France Forcier from 2007 to 2016. Her collective and individual work has been presented at PS: We Are All Here, SummerWorks, Kinetic Studio, Dancemakers, Mile Zero Dance, and the Halifax Fringe Festival. Based in Toronto, Molly is co-artistic director of hub14 art + performance works and a freelance writer in the space between. thisismollyjohnson.com

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Robyn Grant - Moran

A Nova Scotian transplant living her best life in Toronto, Robyn has spent the last two decades working as a Registered Massage Therapist by day and dreaming of singing opera and taking singing lessons when it she could afford them. With the spectre of arthritis looming, Robyn decided to take a leap of faith and complete her Bachelor of Fine Arts in music at York University.  As a classical singer and a Métis woman, Robyn found it difficult to connect wholly to the music and pedagogy in the university setting. It was because of this that she discovered a love of ethnomusicology, and recognized the importance of cultural representation in education and the performing arts. Since returning to school, Robyn has had the good fortune of studying with world class teachers, performing in a few operas including the object of her morbid fascination and academic focus, Louis Riel (Harry Sommers).  She’s also been gifted opportunities to try her hand at public speaking as well as the support to foster a love of writing. Though she still works as an RMT, Robyn spends far more time writing about opera and classic music, and attempting to make music of her own.

Rhiannon Collett (they/them)

Rhiannon Collett is a non-binary artist and playwright whose work explores the ritualization of grief, gender performativity, queer identity and the psychological effects of sexual objectification.

Selected credits include Miranda & Dave Begin Again (winner of the 2016 Playwrights Guild of Canada RBC Emerging Playwright Award); Wasp (commissioned by Nightswimming as a part of their 5x25 initiative); The Kissing Game (commissioned by Youtheatre and Young People's Theatre as part of the 2018 Leaps and Bounds program, developed as a part of the 2018 Banff Playwrights Lab, produced by Youtheatre as a part of their 50th anniversary season); Tragic Queens (commissioned and devised with CABAL Theatre, nominated for 7 Montreal English Theatre Awards, presented at the 2018 Wildside Festival); La Somnambule (an immersive, site-specific adaptation of Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, commissioned and produced by Cabal Theatre, co-written with Joseph Shragge), The Revolutions (commissioned and produced by Spiderwebshow), and There are No Rats in Alberta (created as a part of the 2017-18 Buddies in Bad Times Emerging Creators Unit, presented at the 2018 Rhubarb Festival). Most recently, Rhiannon was a guest artist at the LungA festival in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland. 

Rhiannon is a settler in Toronto, on the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Huron-Wendat and the Haudenosaunee peoples, and in Montreal, on the traditional, un-ceded territory of the Kanien’kehá:ka people.

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Shay Erlich (they/them)

Shay Erlich is a hard of hearing, multiply disabled, and genderqueer child and youth care practitioner, wheelchair dancer, and circus artist. Shay holds a MA degree in Child and Youth Care from Ryerson University and their recent thesis project explored how social circus can be understood as child and youth care practice. Shay’s performing experience additionally includes performing theatre and prose pieces at various Toronto venues. Shay is currently looking to find intersections between wheelchair dance and partner acrobatics and is excited about the future of this new art form. Shay is presently in the process of founding The Cyborg Circus Show - a circus company that focuses on cultivating disabled and non-traditional circus artists and producing circus performance that celebrates the limitless world of disabled circus performers. As a theatre critic, Shay is passionate about better inclusion and representation for disabled artists. Shay is critical about how disability is included and represented in the performing arts scene both locally in Toronto and globally. They believe that there is a need to encourage producers, directors and casting agents to ensure that non-disabled performers are not given roles portraying disabled people, and that the arts sector should encourage and promote disabled people writing disabled characters. There is a need for greater inclusion of art that reflects this lived experience, rather than an experience of disability that comes from an able-bodied writer or choreographer who may unconsciously reflect outdated stereotypes about disability. Shay finds hope in the disability arts scene in Toronto and globally, and believes that we are sitting on the cusp of a disability arts revolution. Shay believes that by cultivating and further supporting disabled writers, directors, producers, and critics, a far more inclusive and representative arts scene in Toronto will continue to emerge.