Preview: SummerWorks Performance Festival

Behind the scenes with artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld

The 23rd annual SummerWorks Performance Festival, Canada's largest juried theatre festival, opens next week featuring a lineup of more than 35 theatre productions, as well as the popular Music Series, Live Art Series, and Performance Bar. We caught up with the festival's artistic producer Michael Rubenfeld to find out more about what audiences can expect from this year's offering.

Theatromania: Tell us about this year’s SummerWorks Performance Festival. What excites you most about the 2013 lineup?

MR: All the work this year is very strong. We have an incredible crop of local artists presenting work, including Jordan Tannahill, d’bi.young, Jani Lauzon, Allison Cummings, bluemouth inc., Heidi Strauss, Donna-Michell St. Bernard, Adam Lazarus, Alex Poch-Goldin, Sky Gilbert and many more.

Our National Series is out of this world. We’re presenting a uniformly strong National Series, with Itai Erdal’s How to Dissapear Completely, STO Union’s 7 Important Things, iShow from Montreal and Broken from The Yukon. I’m also very excited to be presenting our Artists-in-Residence, Sook-Yin Lee and Ben Kamino and their production of How Can I Forget? They are working with director, Erika Batdorf to develop the piece and show it at the festival.

I’m particularly excited about a piece called Schützen which we have invited from Berlin. It’s a performance work by artists Cecilie Ullerup Schmidt and Matthias Meppelink. I saw this piece in Berlin and it’s a really poignant, innovative reflection on the nature of wartime behavior. We also have a marvelous audio piece by Ant Hampton and Glen Neath from the UK called Hello for Dummies, and a one-on-one piece from Israeli artists, Aharona Israel, called At Your Service

Lastly, I’m very excited about our Music Series. We’ve put bands with theatre artists to create unique evenings of performance. This year we’re working with The Wooden Sky, Maylee Todd, Justin Rutledge. Snowblink and The Bicycles.

Theatromania: If you could choose a theme for this year’s festival what would it be?

MR: Collaboration and formal diversitywe’ve put a lot of energy into programming many different kinds of performance, from one-on-one experiences like At Your Service and Hello for Dummies, to large-cast, large-scale shows like iShow and The Life of Jude

Theatromania: It looks like a lot of effort has gone into sprucing up the Lower Ossington Theatre Cabaret Space (100A Ossington Ave). How would describe this new festival hub in a few sentences?

MR: It’s a central meeting spot, a place to get information, see performance and sit back and hang-out. We think that socializing and hanging out is a really important part of a festival, and we’re really thrilled to be able to offer that this year.

Theatromania: Any advice for SummerWorks first-timers?

MR: There’s a lot of different kind of workdon’t be afraid to try to see something that you may not naturally be drawn towards. We’ve spent a lot of time curating the festival to make sure our audiences are engaged, and we’re really excited to offer you such a diversity.

Theatromania: What do you hope audiences take away from this experience as a whole?

MR: That live performance can be both engaging, provocative and exciting. And that there are many different ways to think about experience live art. I also hope you walk away thinking that SummerWorks is the best place to see live performance in the entire country.  

SummerWorks runs from August 8 to 18. Visit for more information and show schedules.


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