Is My Microphone On?
A Canadian Stage Production
A powerful invitation to experience the world together anew.
How do we move forward from here? Young people will no longer be able to avoid the consequences of climate change. They speak to the adults in the audience, holding them to account, questioning the choices that have not been made, the ones that children will be forced to make, and what kind of future they stand to inherit.
In this Canadian premiere of Governor General's Award-winner Jordan Tannahill’s newest play in the form of a protest song, the creative team led by director Erin Brubacher supports a chorus of kids ages 12-17 in turning the theatre into a site of intergenerational reckoning. Urgent, moving, and confrontational, Is My Microphone On? is both a declaration of war and a declaration of love.
Featuring performances by Remi Ajao-Russell, Hiyab Araya, Jack Bakshi, Chloe Cha, Felix Chew, Nia Downey, Sidonie Fleck, Oscar Gorbet, Saraphina Knights, Iris MacNada, Iylah Mohammed, Amaza Payne, Sanora Souphommanychanh, Alykhan Sunderji, Catherine Thorne, Sophia Wang, and Skyler Xiang.
It was May 2019 when Jordan asked me to direct the premier of Is My Microphone On?, for an international theatre festival, in Germany, in 2020. So with Sherri Hay, Veda Hille and Cara Spooner, I dreamed up an epic rendering of Jordan’s poetic and powerful open text. It was an ambitious dream full of plans that became unthinkable in the time of Covid, including a cast of 25 kids blowing into inflatables (in very close proximity to audience members), and setting a selection of the text to music, for a children’s choir of another 75 kids— at a time when a choir, heartbreakingly, felt like a dangerous thing. That particular production never happened. Just one of an infinite number of pandemic losses.
Many concepts, proposed venues, script revisions, and two years later, Jordan and I found a home for this work in High Park with Canadian Stage. I cannot think of a more perfect place to share this piece than amidst the trees and the forest in this city. Why would we ever want to do it inside, apart from the natural world? I can’t imagine.
In her essential book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer says that, in indigenous ways of knowing, humans are the younger siblings of creation. “We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus the most to learn—we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance…They’ve been on the earth far longer than we have been, and have had time to figure things out.” What a tremendous gift to make this work in High Park, where we can be reminded of our relations and responsibilities to each other and all the species with whom we share Turtle Island and the Earth. So much appreciation for the team at Canadian stage for keeping performance alive, in a sea of obstacles, in this magical place.
The production we’ve realized is every bit as ambitious as those first 2019 dreams, if in some additional, unexpected ways. The tremendous young performers, who have made this piece their own, were isolated, attending school from their bedrooms, for much of two scholastic years. We began our rehearsal process from our homes, and hadn’t all ever met each other in-person until August. It was a shock to the system, learning how to be together again, and so intensively, but so very beautiful. Our staging proposal to keep everyone safe and comfortable, while remaining faithful to our core artistic values for this piece, was heavily inspired by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's Forty-Part Motet. I am filled with admiration and gratitude for Debashis Sinha for going with me on this one. It seemed improbable, but he made it happen. Then we left Kaitlin Hickey to make magic out of a challenge— something she is very good at.
We could create an exhibition entirely comprised of artworks that Sherri Hay has made and designed for this project that, in one way or another, the pandemic prevented. But she has remained stedfast, in giving us one of her trademark living sculptures to perform alongside us, all while endeavouring to reuse materials, buy nothing and generate no waste.
This work is a response to the climate emergency, performed during an election in progress. These kids are here to tell you to consider who you vote for and what you demand of your representatives. They can’t vote. They need you to take care.
We all need to take better care of each other and our shared world. We are wounded by our own hands. But as Robin Wall Kimmerer rightly says, “Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair. Not because I have my head in the sand, but because joy is what the earth gives me daily and I must return the gift.” Imagine what the world would look like if our actions were driven by returning the gift. If there is a way forward, I think it must be this.
— Erin Brubacher
Is My Microphone On? contains excerpts or lines inspired by: Greta Thunberg’s speech to world leaders at Davos on January 25, 2019; Thunberg’s speech to British MPs at the Houses of Parliament on April 23, 2019; Thunberg's address to the United Nations on September 23, 2019; a Facebook note posted by Thunberg on February 2, 2019; and Nature Now, a short film by Thunberg and George Monbiot, released September 19, 2019. “Let me recite what history teaches. History teaches” is from Gertrude Stein’s poem A Completed Portrait of Picasso.
Thank you to:
The very first readers of this play: Zaylie Grey Leake, Nuan Law Gallagher and Elektra Nadalin; the students at Pickering High School and their teacher Jennifer Goodine, who helped us hear it for the first time; Catherine Tammaro and Joce Two Crows Tremblay for sharing their ways of seeing; personal thanks to Cathie Rabyniuk, Jim Rabyniuk, Simon Rabyniuk, and Richard Lachman for their essential support.
This show would not have been possible without the incredible support and participation of the parents of our cast members.
The Dream in High Park outdoor experience has been designed with the safety and comfort of patrons, artists, and staff as the top priority. Canadian Stage will continue to monitor and respond to governmental policy changes and advice from health authorities to ensure we are always up-to-date and offering the safest experience possible.
Things to know.
- Face Coverings: Patrons and staff will be required to wear masks at all times.
- Reduced Contact: As much as possible, interactions between Dream in High Park staff and patrons will be contactless. This includes ticket scanning, box office transactions, and health screenings. Staff will be equipped with masks to keep all guests safe.
- Physical Distancing: Staff, stanchions, barriers, and signage will be in place throughout the Dream in High Park site to encourage physical distancing for patrons.
- Sanitation: Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the Dream in High Park site. All high-touch surfaces will be sanitized both prior to and following each performance.
Please do not attend if you have a fever or are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of attending, or if you have had close contact with anyone suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19.
All residents and visitors of Toronto must follow the City of Toronto's current Public Health regulations. Click here to view the current Public Health Regulations for the City of Toronto.
While we have put measures in place to enhance safety and help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission from person to person, an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in public places where people gather. By attending Dream in High Park, you voluntarily assume all risks related to possible exposure of COVID-19. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in removal from the venue.
Canadian Stage has been awarded the Safe Travels Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council. This international symbol is designed to allow travellers to recognize companies around the world which have adopted health and hygiene safety measures that ensure customers experiences are safe.
High Park is a unique and sacred ecosystem. We can all do our part to keep it vibrant for generations to come. Here are some guidelines on how to enjoy the park responsibly:
- Stay on paths. They were created to allow you to enjoy nature without affecting it. Stepping off a marked path may seem innocent, but it can result in damage to animal habitats and nests and can cause harm to native plants vital to maintaining balance in the ecosystem.
- Don’t disturb plants and animals by moving their things around. This is their home. That branch might have a specific purpose. Best to leave everything as is. They will appreciate it.
- Leave no trace. Anything you bring on your visit including wrappers, snacks and masks, should exit the park when you do.
- Open your heart. The beauty of High Park is to be experienced with your heart. Be present, listen to the sounds, enjoy the views and smells, feel the freshness of the air, and your spirit will swell.
By following these responsible practices, we can minimize our impact on the natural environment in High Park. Enjoy your visit!
Please note that vehicular access to the park is very limited. Please be prepared to walk to the Amphitheatre from one of the numerous points of entry to High Park.
Ticket prices will vary based on production and performance. For many performances, some advance tickets will be available for purchase at set prices however the majority of tickets will continue to be offered on a Pay-What-You-Wish basis. No later than noon two days prior to each performance, an allotment of tickets will become available at PWYW. Advertised ticket prices include applicable fees and HST.
Tickets will be delivered to you as a PDF attachment by email. You may either print your tickets and bring them with you to your performance, or you can display your ticket barcode(s) on your mobile device. Please be sure to have your tickets ready upon arrival and, if you are using your mobile device, have the brightness turned all the way up.
Seating in the High Park Amphitheatre is General Admission. Some performance may offer Premium Seating that will grant ticket holders access to a reserved section of the Amphitheatre.
Chairs are not permitted in the main amphitheatre seating area. Seating is on the ground, and we recommend guests bring blankets, cushions, and/or pillows to add to their comfort. If you are unable to sit on the ground, there are limited chairs on-site, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact the Box Office if you'd like to ensure a chair on the day of your performance.
The pathway leading from the road/sidewalk to the Amphitheatre seating is a natural, unpaved pathway and you may encounter tree roots, rocks, and sections of uneven ground.
Accessible seating is available in the top row of the Amphitheatre. Please inform our Box Office representatives if you require accessible seating when booking your tickets.
At least one accessible portable washroom will be available with roll in ground level access, grab bars, and a self-closing, unmotorized door.
While the pathway within the amphitheatre grounds is lit after sunset, the portion of pathway between the amphitheatre grounds and the road/sidewalk is not.
The gates to the Amphitheatre generally open 2 hours prior to each performance. As seating is General Admission, we recommend arriving as early as possible to find a spot in the Amphitheatre.
Premium seating is reserved until 15 minutes prior to the performance start time, at which point any unclaimed seats will be opened up for General Admission ticket holders.
For Dixon Road and Summer Music Festival performances the gates will open 1 hour prior to the performance.
Please do not attend if you have a fever or are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you have had close contact with anyone suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19.
Contact the box office at 416-368-3110 as soon as possible and our Audience Services team will be happy to discuss your ticket options.
The High Park Amphitheatre is an outdoor venue so we suggest you wear clothing appropriate to the weather conditions. You may also wish to bring sunscreen, bug spray, and a blanket or cushions on which to sit.
No, except for service animals, pets are not allowed in the High Park Amphitheatre.
The High Park Amphitheatre is situated in the heart of one of Toronto's most significant and iconic natural sites, High Park.
Please visit our High Park Venue and Directions page for detailed location maps and directions.
While there are several parking areas within High Park, please be sure to check the City of Toronto website to verify whether vehicular traffic is permitted in the park on the day of your performance.
Please note that High Park will have Vehicle-Free Weekends throughout the spring and summer of 2022.
Yes. We encourage guests who arrive early to bring a picnic with them to enjoy as they wait for the performance to begin.
Please note that alchoholic beverages are not permitted in the High Park Amphitheatre.
Yes, pre-packaged snacks and beverages will be available for sale.