“If a woman or midwife could perform any kind of medical procedure, they were suspect. Churchill’s ‘Tom Vinegar’ is a play about how strong voiced women are misinterpreted and misunderstood.” ~ Lynne Griffin


Tickets: $10-15 / 4-show Pass: $45 / Playwright project

The 2014 Playwright Project is running this week, from April 23 to May 4.  Run by project Director Alex Johnson, the mandate is to “celebrate Toronto as a city of neighbourhoods by uniting its artists and audiences in one week of exciting stories.”

In it’s third year, the Playwright Project has featured dozens of local theatre companies and the works of Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard in the past with performances at various venues across Toronto.  Stepping out of habit this year features four works by feminist playwright Caryl Churchill and will be housed under one roof at The Downstage Theatre (798 Danforth Avenue).


For those unfamiliar, Caryl Churchill is an English dramatist, born in London and whose family immigrated to Canada where she spent her childhood in Montreal.  Returning to England in 1960, she attended Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University.  Downstairs, her first play, was produced in 1958.

The 60’s and ’70’s were spent writing radio and television plays, mostly for the BBC.  She received 3 Obie awards in the 1980’s.  Her work has been associated with surrealist and postmodern theatre, dealing primarily with feminism, sexual politics and general oppression.  Tom Vinegar, one of the four plays produced this week, was inspired by the English Women’s Rights Act of 1970.

Director Carly Chamberlain of The Neoteny Theatre Company utilized a black and white art direction, screen projections and recordings for her production of Tom Vinegar.  The cast features the talents of Madeleine Donohue, Sophia Fabiili, John Gordon, Lynne Griffin, Keelin Jack, Jessica Moss, Kelly Penner and Sabryn Rock.

vintomteaser2Set during the English witch trials, the 1976 play examines the abuse of power and gender inequality.  Churchill originally wrote lyrics to create a non realistic use of music for this play and sound designer Chris Reineck recorded the actors in the rehearsal space bathroom to create the unusual soundscape. Reflecting sexual discrimination, the lyrics are projected onto a screen.

Actress Lynne Griffin elaborated on her preparation,  “I read a translation of Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches), by Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer.  Written in 1486, it was THE guidebook to identify witches.  It was highly misogynistic.  If a woman or midwife could perform any kind of medical procedure, they were suspect.  This is a play about how strong voiced women are misinterpreted and misunderstood.”

Playwright Project features two shows per night.  Tom Vinegar is coupled with Cart/Horse Theatre Company’s version of A Number.  Bad Joe presents Three More Sleepless Nights is paired with the Circle Snake Production of Drunk Enough To Say I Love You.

There are various ticket packages including the Weeknight Single Ticket for $10,  or the Weekend Single Ticket for $15.  This price includes two paired shows.  Or you can see all four productions on the Weekend 4 Show Pass for $45.  The Playwright Project runs until May 5 on the Danforth at The Downstage Theatre, just east of Pape.

joy-head-shotJoy Tanner (@JoyTanner9) hails from Pittsford, New York. She has been acting professionally on both the big and small screens for over 20 years. She is best know for her roles in Cold Squad, Life With Derek and DeGrassi The Next Generation.