Why Not Theatre presents The RISER Project 2018, three world premieres and one workshop presentation of new Canadian work as part of a unique collaborative producing model for emerging and independent theatre artists, running until May 12 at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West, Toronto.

The fifth edition of RISER begins with Mr. Truth, an off-the-beaten-sketch-comedy-path parody created and performed by Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton; running in repertory with Tell Me What It’s Called, an experimental exploration and collective creation directed by Ximena Huizi from Why Not Theatre’s Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Round two of RISER 2018 will present speaking of sneaking, a contemporary, cultural remix of two traditions created and performed by daniel jelani ellis, directed by d’bi.young anitafrika and choreographed by Brian Solomon; and Everything I Couldn’t Tell You, an Indigenous technological tearjerker written by Jeff D’Hondt, directed by Erin Brandenburg.

In a series of nightmarish vignettes, a demon-like entity forces people to confront the repression of their erotic truths in spectacularly painful ways. A grotesque orgasmic hallucination, Mr. Truth offers a satisfyingly uncomfortable dose of the primal, the lurid, and the bizarre. Created and performed by Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton.

Fresh from two months training with Teatro Los Andes in Bolivia and Teatro Malayerba in Ecuador, director Ximena Huizi has invited colleagues in Toronto to join her in an exploration of vulnerability for Tell Me What It’s Called. Huizi intends to develop a creation process based on movement, text, and image in a space that challenges the ideas of collective creation. Huizi will be joined by her frequent collaborator, playwright and dramaturg Thomas McKechnie, and by others as the work demands.

Inspired by experiences of growing up queer in Jamaica and finding home in Canada, speaking of sneaking is about displacement, desperation and deception. A multidisciplinary mash-up of dance, poetry and pantomime where the archetypal Jamaican ginnal and the mythical African Anansi meet. Created and performed by daniel jelani ellis, directed by d’bi.young anitafrika, and choreographed by Brian Solomon.


Daniel Jelani Ellis pulls of a tremendous feat in this one person production. Not only does he work the door as the theatre usher, handing out programs, making sure everyone has seats and their cellphones are turned off, he then moves to centre stage and performs a variety of characters over the one hour duration of Speaking of Sneaking. It’s the story of growing up different, a bit queer, in a cultural that is not always so very welcoming to different lifestyles. What Ellis portrays is a young conflicted man with a dual persona, a story all too common to LGBT individuals across the world – one for close friends and accepting family members, the other for those best not know the real you. His movements, expressions, and different dialects are tossed around with ease, as the audience learns to love all sides of the two different characters, Ginnal and Anasi. A wonderful performance that was rewarded with a full house standing ovation!

A radical art therapy developed by an Indigenous neuropsychologist is Megan’s–a volatile drunk capable of great violence–last hope. Through music, art, and technology, and the reawakening of the lost Lenape language, wisdom emerges. Everything I Couldn’t Tell You is written by Jeff D’Hondt, directed by Erin Brandenburg, and stars Cheri Maracle, PJ Prudat, Jenny Young.

Developed to help address the challenges of producing indie theatre in Toronto, the RISER Project brings together a community of senior leadership and emerging artists to support the artistic risk that independent artists must take in order to create and innovate. The RISER producing model is designed to maximize existing infrastructures by sharing resources, risk, and commitment to reduce the producing burden on indie artists, especially the high cost of production and the difficulty of building audiences.

Beyond the financial investment and professional mentorship, the heart of RISER is about building relationships, and RISER participants are also generous, flexible, curious, and willing to share and work in new ways. RISER aims to create an interdependent theatre ecology where the success of one is the success of many.

Founded in 2014, RISER has since engaged 140 artists, presented 15 new Canadian productions which have received 14 Award Nominations, and saw a total attendance of 6271 patrons. The 2015 RISER presentation of Mouthpiece, from Quote Unquote Collective, was nominated for six Dora Awards, winning two; was picked up by Nightwood Theatre for their 2016 season, toured with Why Not Theatre in Canada, the US and the UK; and is being mounted again in Toronto this April.

Why Not Theatre presents
The RISER Project 2018
April 15 – May 12, 2018
The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator, 1115 Queen Street West

Mr. Truth
Created and Performed by Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton
April 15-24, 2018 • Opening Night Monday, April 16 @ 9pm
A Lester Trips (Theatre) production

Tell Me What It’s Called
Created by the Collective | Directed by Ximena Huizi
April 17-24, 2018 • Opening Night Wednesday, April 18 @ 7pm
A Tell Me Theatre production

speaking of sneaking
created and performed by daniel jelani ellis
directed by d’bi.young anitafrika | choreographed by Brian Solomon
May 2-11, 2018 • Opening Night, May 3 @ 9:30pm
an sos collective production

Everything I Couldn’t Tell You
Written by Jeff D’Hondt | Directed by Erin Brandenburg
May 4-12, 2018 • Opening Night Saturday, May 5 @ 7pm
A Spiderbones Performing Arts production

All Tickets Pay What You Can Afford $5 – $20 – $35 – $60*
To purchase tickets, call 416.538.0988 or visit tickets.theatrecentre.org

*A note on ticket prices for RISER: In order to ensure accessibility, Why Not Theatre invites you to Pay-What- You-Can-Afford. You can pick any one of four prices—$5, $20, $35, $60—whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission, and there are no limits on any price level. Pick the price you can afford to pay for your ticket and book your seat.

For more information riserproject.org/
FB/theatrewhynot | @theatrewhynot #RISER18

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.