Cahoots Theatre Projects in Toronto, Ontario is dedicated to creating, developing, producing, and promoting new Canadian plays and presenting theatrical works that reflect Canada's cultural diversity.
The company was founded in 1986 by Beverly Yhap, a writer who remained the Artistic Director until 1992. In 1990 Cahoots hosted a national conference and cabaret of playwrights of diverse cultures entitled “Write About Now!”
In 1992 the Board of Directors under President Wayson Choy appointed Co-Artistic Directors Jean Yoon and Lynda Hill. The mandate of Cahoots was focused on the professional development and production of new plays and playwrights through two initiatives: “Lift Off!” – a new play development series, and “3D: Three Daring New Works by Writers of Diverse Cultures” – in workshop productions. Dilara Ally took over as Artistic Producer in 1994. Marion de Vries was the AD from 1995 to 1997, producing the hit play by Edmonton playwright Marty Chan Mom, Dad, I'm Living with a White Girl in 1995, as well as “Lift Off! ‘96”, and a professional development workshop for emerging directors in 1995. In 1997 David Oiye became AD, and mounted M.J. Kang’s Noran Bang: The Yellow Room.
Jovanni Sy was appointed Artistic Director in January 2004. He summed up his approach to programming culturally diverse work as: “listening to the voice of the outsider. In defining diversity, race, gender, sexual orientation are all secondary to the concept of enfranchisement. Whoever is granted the least license to speak in our society is the voice we most need to hear. This principle is essential in a world where voices of dissent are quashed in the name of “homeland security”. As Canadians, it is our special responsibility to speak the truth. To be the voice of the outsider.” (Cahoots website).
Nina Lee Aquino, the founding AD of fu-GEN Asian-Canadian Theatre Company, was Artistic Director of Cahoots from 2009 to 2013, followed by Marjorie Chan until June 2019, who continued to support new play development through community outreach. Tanisha Taitt was appointed AD in July 2019.
Cahoots' first productions were Skull Riders by Jesse Glenn Bodyan and The Phoenix Cabaret by Xie Min. Its development and production history includes Leanna Brodie's The Vic; Tarek Ghaleb's Once upon a time in the park; Sheila James's Canadian Monsoon; Daniel David Moses' Big Buck City and The Moon and Dead Indians; M. Nourbese Philip's Coups and Calypsos; Betty Quan's Mother Tongue, nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 1996; Rahul Varma’s Trading Injuries; Columpa Bob’s Karis; Simon Johnston’s Running Dog, Paper Tiger; and Catherine Hernandez's Singkil (2003).
The 2004-05 season featured a workshop production of The Sheep and the Whale by Moroccan-born Quebec playwright Ahmed Ghazali, in a translation by Bobby Theodore. Set on a Russian freighter in the Strait of Gibraltar, it considers the impact that an African stowaway has on the lives of a sympathetic young couple, who also have experienced cultural dislocation -- a Moroccan Arab and his French wife. The play was co-produced with Modern Times Stage Company in 2007 at Theatre Passe Muraille. Also included in the 2004-05 season was “15 Minutes to Change the World” – an evening of new plays presented with PEN Canada, and Guillermo Verdecchia’s Ali & Ali and the Axes of Evil. In 2008 Cahoots' productions included A Nanking Winter by Marjorie Chan and Bombay Blackby Anosh Irani.
In the spring of 2012, Cahoots presented SIA by Alberta playwright Matthew MacKenzie. Set in a Ghanaian refugee camp, it exposes the desperate consequences of war in Liberia when a former child soldier kidnaps a young Canadian aid worker in order to ensure the safety of his sister, Sia, who is testifying against Charles Taylor, "The Devil" of Liberia.
The 2012-13 season included the world premiere of Sister Mary’s a Dyke, written and performed by up-and-coming Filipino-Canadian playwright Flerida Peña.
In March 2014, Cahoots premiered The Wanderers (dir. Chan) by resident artist Kawa Ada, which shows how an Afghan family responds to the consequences of dislocation in Canada.
John & Waleed (2015, dir. Chan) was a concert performance that documented the stories of two musicians, one from Kitchener in Southern Ontario, and one from Khartoum in the Sudan. It explored their musical traditions, migrations, and friendship.
In Ultrasound by Saskatoon deaf writer, Adam Pottle (dir. Chan, April 2016), a deaf couple struggles with conflicting perspectives toward deaf and hearing cultures while raising their child. The Enchanted Loom by Sri Lankan neurologist, Suvendrini Lena, was developed by Cahoots and co-produced with Factory Theatre in October 2016 (dir. Chan).
The 2018/19 season featured I Call Myself Princess by Jani Lauzon (dir. Chan), an interdisciplinary work about a Metis opera student who encounters an opera based on the life of Creek/Cherokee singer Tsianina Redfeather; and Good Morning Viet Mom by Franco Nguyen (dir. Byron Abalos) an autobiographical account about a young filmmaker who learns about his mother's extraordinary courage when she escaped from Vietnam and came to Canada.
Profile by Anne Nothof, Athabasca University
Last updated 2020-07-17