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Theatre @ York launches its 2016-17 season focusing on dis/ability and inclusion

Theatre @ York launches its 2016-17 season focusing on dis/ability and inclusion

TORONTO, November 7, 2016 York University’s Department of Theatre has announced Extraordinary Lives: Difference and Ability as its theme for the year. Theatre @ York launches its season with a compelling new production of Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard’s dark comedy A Party for Boris, which previews November 13 and 14, opening November 15.

Veteran theatre-maker and York MFA candidate Matthew Earnest makes his Canadian directorial debut with the show, which runs through November 19 in the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre at York University’s Keele campus. The production is designed and performed by undergraduate theatre students.

A Party for Boris uses the metaphor of disability to pose questions about human relationships in a violent world. Earnest reflected that, “Bernhard was chronically ill from childhood, which naturally informed his view of human fragility. But he also grew up in Austria, in the heart of a brutal war [WWII]. Inevitably, that also shaped his intellectual and political development, and his thinking about human nature.”

Earnest has mounted award-winning productions in Europe and across the US, including a New York Times Critics’ Pick that ran off-Broadway for nine months.

With Extraordinary Lives: Difference and Ability, York’s Theatre Department is devoting the current academic year to exploring questions around dis/ability and performance. The department’s thinking around this theme is guided by an advisory panel of prominent Deaf, Mad, and “crip” artists who are serving as facilitators for the season:

  • Sage Willow, multidisciplinary queer non-binary Deaf artist and educator;
  • Eliza Chandler, artistic director of,the,nonprofit arts organization Tangled Art + Disability and assistant professor in the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University;
  • Syrus Ware, a member of the Performance Disability Art Collective, co-programmer of Crip Your World (Mayworks 2014), coordinator of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Youth Program and a facilitator/designer at The Banff Centre; and
  • Sarah Garton Stanley, co-creator of SpiderWebShow and associate artistic director (English Theatre) at Canada’s National Arts Centre.

“We’re working to challenge traditionally “abelist” modes of making theatre”, said Ines Buchli, Chair of the Department of Theatre. “Our goal is to be more inclusive and accessible to students and audiences with variable physical and sensory abilities.”

Scenic designer Yasaman Nouri describes the world she’s created for the play as “a conversation starter for how we experience our bodies, and how difference in ability affects and shapes that individual experience.”

Costume designer Jamin Daniel said, “I felt it was important to express how important Boris's party is in the lives of the guests. I wanted to explore and celebrate what it means to have a body.”

A Party for Boris and future Theatre @ York shows will include a Relaxed Performance and an ASL interpreted performance.

York University is known for championing new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-discipline programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 26 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 295,000 alumni. York U's fully bilingual Glendon campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

York University’s Department of Theatre has been the springboard for a generation of outstanding talent. Alumni include actors Rachel McAdams, Tori Anderson, Maurice Dean Wint and Deborah Hay; directors Weyni Mengesha, Stafford Arima and Jillian Keiley; playwrights David Hein (Come From Away) and Ins Choi (Kim’s Convenience), and designers Jason Hand, Dana Osborne and Gillian Gallow.

Media Contact:
Gloria Suhasini, Media Relations, York University, 416 736 2100 ext. 22094,