Meditations on Life and Death: Intervention, Emancipation and Memory

Cassandra Silver & Colleen Osborn

“Sweetness Follows”: Bystander intervention and the Theatrical Event

The rules in theatre, like in so many social situations, are implicit and clear—a spectator’s role is to watch and bear witness (Wake 2009, Schaeffer 2014). In this paper, we are interested in the conditions that invite other kinds of responses: specifically, what makes us shift from witness to participant? Although we ask this question in the context of theatre, it echoes more broadly in the cultural conditions of a media-saturated 21st century. What activates us? How can we produce Rancierian emancipation (Ranciere 2014)? Sweetness Follows, a play by Colleen Osborn, told the story of a young and potentially dangerous woman who attempted an overdose and learned when she woke up in the hospital that her liver sustained terminal damage. Her death is inevitable. When we staged this play in 2013, we experimented with environmental promenade theatre; our actresses, clad in hospital gowns, led their audiences on a carefully planned route through downtown Toronto. We were surprised when spectators broke with theatrical convention in order to intervene when they perceived that the performer was in danger. By reading this case study against theories of bystander intervention (Levine 2008; Hadley 2010; Fileborn 2017; Rentschler 2017), we present a dramaturgy of streetside caring.

Colleen Osborn completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in 2017 and works as the Undergraduate Coordinator at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Notable playwriting  works include: Take It, Easy (2017, bouffon puppetry for Unmarked Theatre’s ‘Creme De La Femme Cabaret’); Bonds Beyond (2016, Glass Reflections Theatre/Array Space); Tripping with Trump showcased at ‘Brave New PlayRites Festival 2016’ in Vancouver, BC and the ‘2016 One Festival’ at The Space in London, UK; How it Crumbles (2015, The Space, London, UK); Take It, Easy (2014, Toronto Wrecking Ball #16 at The Theatre Centre); Botched (2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival at Studio Leonard Beaulne); Here to Stay and Seen This One Before at Alumnae Theatre; and co-authored Guantanamo: Hotels & Resorts with Pandemic Theatre. Colleen has been published in City Voices: A Book of Monologues by Toronto Artists.

Cassandra Silver is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at the University of Toronto, with a specialization in Knowledge Media Design. Her SSHRC-funded dissertation explores the dramaturgy of participatory spectatorship in video games and in gamified theatre. She is the founding Director of the Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research and the Managing Editor of Theatre Research in Canada. She teaches or has taught at the Universities of Alberta, Waterloo, and Toronto, and at The Abelard School. She has previously shared her work at CATR, ASTR, PSi, and TAPRA, and in Theatre Research in Canada, TDR, and Theatre and Learning. She has chapters forthcoming in Theater and Videogames: History, Theory, Practice and Digital Theatre in Canada. Outside the academy, she freelances as a director, stage manager, and dramaturg in theatre and opera.

Kate Johnson

The Lived Reality of Correctional Workers

The Quaker Statement on Penal Abolition claims suggests that penal abolition is necessary because “prison is as harmful to the cagers as it is to the caged”. The literature about the impact of prison work on the corrections staff supports this notion. Kate will present on how her vocational experiences reflect both the literature and the lived reality for correctional staff in Canada and many other parts of the world.

Kate Johnson is a Quaker who spent 20 years “in and out of prison” as a social worker and chaplain serving at 3 young offender facilities and 4 adult facilities. At the request of the prisoners of Joyceville Minimum Security Institution, she spear-headed the Canadian implementation of a victim impact curriculum and facilitated the creation of the “Pros and Cons Music Program”. Kate currently serves as the Inter-faith chaplain to Queen’s University in Kingston and a Masters student in the Cultural Studies program at Queen’s.

Kathryn Lawson

“A Glass of Whiskey”: A Short Film

In Proust’s Swann’s Way, Marcel famously experiences his childhood home spring forth from his cup of tea. This video uses this Bergsonian notion of memory and aims to insert it with intersubjectivity. Can a loved one spring forth from a glass of whiskey? What if that loved one has died? How does memory continue after someone’s death.

Kathryn Lawson is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Queen’s University. Having attended the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at Western University for a Master’s degree, Kate has also attended summer schools including The School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University to study vitalism with Branka Arsic and Tillburg University’s Philosophy Summer School to study nihilism with Simon Critchley. Kate’s work focuses on continental philosophy and religion and brings in an emphasis on Eastern religious thought, temporality, and ethics. Before her University education, Kate attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and worked as an actor in New York City. Favourite roles included Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stella in Streetcar Named Desire, and Edna in Waiting for Lefty. Kate interprets and practices philosophy as an expression of artistic community engagement.