Last night to catch A Christmas Carol with the Weston Silver Band

Tonight’s the last night to see A Christmas Carol by Shakespeare in Action with the Weston Silver Band. Robin Breon, a theatre reviewer, gives it a rave review:

I’ve seen quite a number of Carols over the years and this one (to paraphrase Dickens) was as good A Christmas Carol as any good old city knew, or any other good old city, village, borough or town in the good old world!

 

Shakespeare in Action announcement delayed again

Shakespeare in Action is a ‘culturally-diverse professional theatre company’ that moved to the Artscape Weston Hub at the beginning of this year. On November 9, founder and Artistic Director Michael Kelly was accused of, ‘making a racist remark’ during a rehearsal of a production (Sound and Fury) that was then cancelled.

Mr. Kelly, has been suspended since November 9th pending the results of an investigation by SIA’s board of directors. The directors said they would disclose the results quickly, promising to report by November 25th. That date passed and the board announced a delay in order to not act, ‘hastily and rashly while it considers the results of its investigations’.

The results were then promised by the 29th but as of December 1, three weeks after the alleged incident, there is still no word on the SIA site.

Look for an update here once the results have been announced.

Update: SIA issued this announcement on Sunday December 1.

“Statement from Board of Directors, Shakespeare in Action 

December 1 2019

The Board of Directors (Board) of Shakespeare in Action (SIA) has conducted a thorough investigation of the incidents which occurred on November 9th and 11th, 2019 during rehearsals for the SIA production of “Sound and Fury”.

Firstly, on behalf of SIA, the Board would like to apologize to the artists, partners, and community members affected. The Board also regrets the impact the subsequent cancellation of two productions in our first season has had on students, schools, artists, partners and the community.

SIA is dedicated to growing the performing arts in Weston and surrounding communities, and understands that we cannot do this in a meaningful way without acknowledging the harm felt by those affected. The Board hopes that the recommendations outlined below can provide the beginning of a path forward to rebuild trust with our stakeholders so that we can continue to create fun, inclusive, and accessible performing arts experiences that reflect, engage, and celebrate this community.

Board Recommendations

Regarding Michael Kelly

While the Board believes there was no deliberate intention on Michael Kelly’s part to cause harm, his actions on November 9th and 11th did cause significant harm to the actors, the playwright, Marcel Stewart, and the broader community. Furthermore, his actions are not consistent with the philosophy and mandate of SIA, as well as SIA’s internal anti-harassment policy and the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association’s “Not In Our Space Policy”.

Given this, we find the only way to be consistent with SIA’s values and to honour the experience of those affected, is to have Michael Kelly immediately step aside from his role as Artistic Director.

However, Michael Kelly will remain with SIA over the next three months (until February 29, 2020) to assist with the transition of the organization to David di Giovanni, as interim Artistic Director, with the following stipulations:

  1. That Michael will undergo sensitivity training;
  2. That Michael will not engage directly with any artistic personnel;
  3. That a member of the Board will assume the position of Officer to conduct those administrative duties previously managed by Michael Kelly.

During these three months the Board would like to have continued and meaningful dialogue with those involved.

At the end of the three months, Michael Kelly’s position with SIA will be reevaluated.

Regarding The Position of Artistic Director

The Board is appointing David di Giovanni as interim Artistic Director

Regarding SIA and the Board The Board acknowledges that:
  1. SIA needs policies and practices to prevent and address personal and group oppression, discrimination and bullying;
  2. These policies and practices are necessary to ensure a safe space for all in both SIA’s operations and programming;
  3. SIA needs diversity on its management team and Board of Directors, as presently we do not adequately reflect the Weston community, our home.

The Board recommends:

  1. That the necessary policies and practices including, but not limited to, anti-oppression, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying, be developed and put into place and practice;
  2. Engaging a third party to audit the implementation of the necessary policies and practices;
  3. Engaging a third party to facilitate anti-oppression training;
  4. That all SIA staff and Board members – including future new members – receive this training;
  5. That new Board members from the Weston community be actively recruited with the goal of achieving a minimum of 50% representation on the Board from members from the Weston community.

Conclusion

The Board, made up of only volunteers, believes it has exercised its duty to act in the best interest of SIA, by considering the myriad parties affected. Moving forward, we have a shared responsibility in this incident, and to ensure that this never happens again. We commit to learn and grow and do so in a way that promotes a safe and respectful space for all.

Sincerely,
The Board of Directors of Shakespeare in Action

The full-length report including “Facts and Findings” is available here. “

 

Trouble at Shakespeare in Action

Michael Kelly, Artistic Director at Shakespeare in Action has been accused of  ‘making a racist remark’ by actors working on the production of ‘Sound and Fury’. The show, scheduled for Friday November 22nd was cancelled by SIA’s board of directors as a result of the accusations. The theatre company was chosen to be a co-tenant in the Artscape Weston Hub and began its residence earlier this year.

Mr. Kelly founded Shakespeare in Action in 1988. Here is the full statement from the SIA Board posted after the show was cancelled:

“Statement from Board of Directors, Shakespeare in Action 

ON NOVEMBER 12, 2019, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF SHAKESPEARE IN ACTION (SIA) BECAME AWARE OF ALLEGED ACTIONS TAKEN BY ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MICHAEL KELLY DURING A REHEARSAL OF “SOUND AND FURY” ON NOVEMBER 9, 2019. HE HAS BEEN ACCUSED BY ACTORS WHO WERE EMPLOYED BY THE COMPANY OF MAKING A RACIST REMARK. 

The SIA Board has taken immediate steps to suspend Michael Kelly from his duties as Artistic Director of Shakespeare in Action and is conducting a full investigation into this incident. We are making every effort to speak with all parties involved and hope to conclude this investigation swiftly and fairly. We are also taking steps to ensure lasting organizational changes and improved policies are put in place to prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future. 

It is of paramount importance to the Board and Shakespeare in Action that its performance spaces are safe and inclusive for all people regardless of creed, ethnic origin, place of origin, race, colour, ancestry, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. We believe it is our duty to ensure that all employees and actors feel safe, included and respected when working with the Company. 

We regret any pain caused to actors, stage crew, SIA staff and anyone else involved and are working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible. We anticipate concluding our investigation by November 25th, 2019 and will issue a further statement at that time. “

UPDATE:

This statement from the Shakespeare in Action Board of Directors was released on Monday November 25.

“The Board of Directors of Shakespeare in Action has concluded its investigation into the actions taken by artistic director Michael Kelly during a rehearsal of “Sound and Fury” on November 9th, 2019. 

The Board of SIA is aware that more than two weeks have now elapsed since November 9th, and it remains committed to a timely resolution. However, the Board would like to avoid acting hastily and rashly while it considers the findings of its investigation. The Board will deliver its findings and recommendations no later than the end of the week. 

In the interim, Michael Kelly continues to remain suspended from his duties as Artistic Director of Shakespeare in Action.”

Community Service Opportunity

The people at Toronto Bell Cote Heritage Preservation are holding an open house and orientation session on Sunday November 24 between 1 and 3pm. The purpose is to encourage high school students to learn about and participate in volunteer opportunities with the charity that looks after this important landmark in our neighbourhood. All Ontario high school students are required to volunteer 40 hours to a community organization in order to graduate.

Incidentally, this building is one of the few in the area using geothermal heating and cooling throughout the year.

For more details, contact Subhas Mukhopadkyay at [email protected]

Responses to recent shootings

The CBC covered some of the local responses to the recent shootings in Weston and the surrounding area. Several community groups were included, including Stachen Frederick from Frontlines.

Image from the CBC

At a meeting on Wednesday, she saw someone get the call that a relative had been injured.

“More and more youth are becoming fearful of living in this community,” Frederick said.

They try to engage children as young as six at Frontlines, with youth programming ranging from homework help to fitness and cooking classes. About 460 young people come through their doors a year.

Frederick says there needs to be more effort from all levels of government and more funding so places like Frontlines can be open later and offer more to young people.

She also says there’s a lack of spaces for young people in the community.

Upcoming events

 

Shakespeare in Action is putting on “Sound and Fury”—their version of Macbeth, but with a twist. I’m so in.

 

“With the same sword they knight you
they gon’ good night you…
that ain’t even half what they might do”
– Jay Z

Music, dance, and spoken word collide in this sharp, bold, and accessible world-premiere of Shakespeare’s most haunting play, MACBETH.  Inspired by the sounds and poetry of 90s era hip hop music and performed by five diverse and dynamic actors, SOUND AND FURY is Marcel Stewart’s smart and imaginative adaptation that bursts with rhythms and lyrics, putting a contemporary spin on this classic story of bloody ambition.

The public performances will be  on Fridays and Saturdays from November 15th to December 7th at 8:00pm

Tickets are available here.


Frontlines is hosting “Roots and STEM” on Friday, November 22. It’s

a program for youth ages 13-17 where they are able to explore the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while exploring their cultural roots through Black History


 

Guest post: Diana Stapleton on Weston’s food bank

WAES (Weston Area Emergency Support) was founded in 1986 by 12 area churches in response to the growing poverty in the Weston community. As its name suggests, it was meant to be an emergency support. Unfortunately the emergency continues. In 2019 WAES has served over 700 people each month from within our York South Weston catchment area.

WAES has been run out of the back of the Frontlines building at 1844 Weston Road for 30 years. This space was provided for us by the generosity of Weston Park Baptist church. We are so grateful to them for their support.

In September of 2019 we closed the door on our space at 1844 and moved into our new, expanded space at 1 King St in the Central United Church building. After only a few weeks there it is clear this was a good move for the food bank, the volunteers and the community.

Due to the increased space the food bank can now offer a “shopping model” of service. This allows community members to select the foods that best serve their needs. We are all very happy with the new set up.

WAES is totally volunteer run. We receive financial donations from Weston Lions, York Lions, High Park Rotary, many area churches, service clubs and individuals. We use this money to purchase food that is not donated, like chicken, vegetables and fruits as well as other key necessities.

In 2018 33% of those that came to us for help were children and youth under 18, and nearly 10% were seniors. 51% of adults and 20% of children stated they went hungry at least once per week due to lack of food in their home.

Some people will say – “food banks aren’t the answer to hunger in Canada”. I totally agree with that statement. They are not, and were never meant to be. Food banks are to our social service system what emergency wards are to our health care system. A person goes to a hospital emergency ward due a critical injury or illness for immediate help, but an emergency ward does not solve or prevent a health crisis. A person goes to a food bank for 3-5 days of food once per month. This will hardly end hunger for any family living in poverty. Both emergency wards and food banks fill a very specific need. Just like improving health care, ending poverty and hunger will take a lot of work, by all levels of government, businesses and individuals.

I believe that WAES serves a specific need in York South Weston, and that without it many more people would be hungry. A person can never tell what will happen in the future, a few bad breaks and anybody can end up needing to get this type of basic food support.

If you have any questions about WAES, or would like to volunteer or make a donation please call 416-247-3737 and leave a message.

Diana Stapleton

Chair, WAES