Nightwood Theatre - 4x4 Festival

Nightwood Theatre Presents
4x4 Festival
An Off Road Event of Women Directors
October 26 - November 22

Nightwood Theatre has been helping to support and develop women in theatre for thirty years now, but you don't have to be a devotee of anything but theatre itself to enjoy its current set of offerings under the title 4x4 Festival. The event showcases four of Canada's top women directors in shows taken from the international reportoire of plays by women. As Artistic Director Kelly Thornton explains, "I wanted to take the emphasis off world premiere and playwright, and to have instead a more focused look at interpretation and the director's oeuvre."

A national study called Equity in Canadian Theatre: The Women's Initiative, launched by Nightwood with the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres and the Playwrights' Guild of Canada in 2004-2005 confirmed the suspicion that the result of largely male artistic direction led to significantly fewer female playwrights or directors enjoying the same level of employment in Canadian Theatre as their male colleagues. Without training and opportunitites for women directors, the chances for advancement to positions like Artistic Director remain few and far between - the 4x4 Festival is part of Nightwood's response.

Here's a bit on the Festival's very exciting line up:

That Face
Written by Polly Stenham (U.K.)
Directed by Kelly Thornton
Starring Sonja Smits
October 26 - November 21, Berkeley Street Theatre Downstairs

In a stunning debut called ".. fresh, passionate and blackly comic - exhilarating.." by the Daily Telegraph, Stenham wrote That Face at a mere 19 years of age, telling the story of a dysfunctional, substance abusing upper class family's unravelling.

Written by Dael Orlandersmith (USA)
Directed by Weyni Mengesha
November 2 - 15, Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs

This play, a 2002 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and winner of the 2002-3 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, was called "a landmark in theater history.. enthralling.. mind-altering.." in a New York Times Review, and presents an envelope pushing look at racial prejudice through the story of a relationship between a light skinned black man and a dark skinned black woman.

No Exit - a live-cinematic interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist novel
Conceived and directed by Kim Collier
Translated by Paul Bowles
November 11 - 21, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Main Chamber

The Vancouver Sun called it "jaw-dropping", the Globe and Mail "brilliant", and it won 2 Jessie Awards for Outstanding Production and the Critics' Choice Innovation Award. Sartre's seminal novel gets an innovative treatment as a "live movie" in what amounts to a hybrid film and theatre performance. In Collier’s vision the characters are literally locked up together and the viewer voyeuristically participates in their isolation through cinematic-style live projection, and she has this to say about her production, “In Sartre's world, who we are is inseparable from what we do, and we are forever defined by the morality of those actions, not by God or Devil, but by ourselves and each other. I felt compelled to find out what would happen if we went further. If we turned Sartre's original design inside out.” (that's Jean-Paul himself in the pic btw)

Serious Money
Written by Caryl Churchill (U.K.)
Directed by Eda Holmes
November 20 - 22, Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace

In a story that's truly for our times, the New York Times called Serious Money “A breathless, exhilarating crash course in the morality of high finance.” It's a brutally funny satire on the world of high rollers - what could be a better target?

Since the Festival's all about the directors, here's a look at their bios:

Kelly Thornton has been the Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre since 2001 where select credits include The Danish Play (Toronto, Edmonton, Ottawa, Copenhagen), Mathilde, Wild Dogs, China Doll (Governor General’s Award Finalist), Bear With Me and others. She has also directed at the Canadian Stage Company, Buddies in Bad Times, Yukon Arts Centre/Sour Brides, Theatre Passe Muraille / Planet 88 and others. She is the recipient of the Pauline McGibbon Award and a 2008 YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for her commitment to the mentorship and training of young women.

Weyni Mengesha is a Dora nominated director whose credits include: director & composer for the hit play da kink in my hair (Toronto, NYC & London); director/dramaturge for d’bi.young’s blood.claat (2006 Dora Award for Best New Play), and director for A Raisin in the Sun (Soulpepper/Theatre Calgary). She is the recipient of the 2008 Toronto Arts Council Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Award.

Kim Collier is Artistic Producer of the Electric Company Theatre and has been involved with the direction of most Electric Company’s productions, as well as directing for: Studio 58, Western Canada Theatre, Bard on the Beach and Chemainus Theatre Festival. She is the winner of numerous Jessie Awards.

Eda Holmes is the Associate Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival. At the Shaw, she directed The Little Foxes, Tristan, Love Among the Russians, Floyd Collins, Blood Relations, and The Return of the Prodigal. Other credits include: The Optimists and The Pessimist for Tarragon Theatre; and The Fall for Great Canadian Theatre Company.

Along with the plays and performances, the Festival includes a Directors Summit, held from November 13-22 and including Master Directors, Industry Panels and Dialogues (check the link to Nightwood for details). International delegates include Josette Bushell-Mingo (director of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad), Johanna Schall, a formidable German director and grand-daughter of legendary theatre-makers Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel; and Yael Farber, (celebrated South African Director of Molora). Canadian talent includes Kim Collier (Electric Company, B.C.), Jillian Keiley (Artistic Fraud, Newfoundland, Siminovitch Award-winner), Vanessa Porteous (Alberta Theatre Projects, AB), Jackie Maxwell (Shaw Festival, ON), Jennifer Tarver (ON), Nina Lee Aquino (Cahoots, ON), Weyni Mengesha (ON), Alisa Palmer (ON), Yvette Nolan (Native Earth, ON), Brigitte Haentjens (Sibyllines, QC, Siminovitch Awardwinner), and Eda Holmes (Shaw, ON) among others.


  1. The writing is wonderful and the descriptive passages are stuff of creative writing classes. The plot - such as it is - plods and plods. Suddenly in the last 60 pages or so the story picks up and (with a few dull overly descriptive interludes) becomes a page-turner. If only the entire book was like this it would be a classic on the order of say, COLD MOUNTAIN.


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