Christopher Morris gets ready to pack his bags.
Morris on the move
Good thing theatre artist Christopher Morris likes to travel.
As artistic director of the recently formed Human Cargo, he's planned out several years of multidisciplinary creation that involves artists and other participants as far afield as Iceland, Israel, Afghanistan, Georgia, France and Pakistan.
He's had lots of practice developing shows in other countries, having worked with Theatrefront and director Paul Thompson on various projects outside of Canada.
But with Human Cargo, he's using the creation of new works through cross-cultural exchange and youth mentorship as the basis for exploring social and political issues. Both artists and audiences, he hopes, will be inspired to look at the human condition in fresh ways.
The company's currently working on Night, a three-year exploration of how the Arctic winter's darkness affects the human psyche. Theatre artists from Nunavut, Iceland, southern Canada and Germany have taken part in early stages, and the final version will be performed in Inuktitut, Icelandic, French and English.
Participants have included performers Michelle Fisk, Benjamin Clost, Jennifer Morehouse and Susanna Hood and designers Gillian Gallow and Michelle Ramsay, who've been part of workshops in Nunavut and Iceland. Night will premiere in late 2009.
But that's just the start of Morris's plans. Petawawa explores the effect of the war in Afghanistan on family and friends of soldiers in combat. Canadian and Afghan actors are writing the piece along with playwright Jonathan Garfinkle and Morris, drawing on interviews with people from both countries.
Morris appears in The Runner, a solo show helmed by Georgian theatre director Gocha Kapanadze, based on research in Israel and Palestine about the work of Z.A.K.A., an Orthodox Jewish volunteer force that collects the remains of Jews killed in accidents.
The North African Youth Exchange project brings together Toronto and Paris-based youth of North African descent to investigate their experiences of identity and immigration.
All the productions will play in the creators' countries. humancargo.ca.
Want to look beyond the dull days and darkness that engulf us at this season? Then check out the annual Kensington Market Festival Of Lights, held Sunday (December 21), the year's shortest day, starting at 6 pm sharp.
Sponsored by Red Pepper Spectacle Arts, the evening's events begin with a parade that includes honorary leader Olivia Chow and a group of costumed figures, giant puppets, stilt-walkers and fire-breathers. After viewing theatrical tableaux on rooftops and in storefronts around the Market, you can watch a fiery solstice send-off in Alexandra Park.
Festival artists include Samba Squad, Clay and Paper Theatre, Shadowland Theatre, Rich Underhill and the Kensington Horns, Eagleheart Drummers and Singers and the Island A-Rhythmics.
Everyone's encouraged to bang a drum or pan, come in costume and carry a lantern. You can make your own bamboo-and-paper lantern the day before, on Saturday (December 20) from noon to 6 pm, at Steelworkers Hall (25 Cecil); a suggested $10 donation covers material and instruction.