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In Performance

In Performance: Dedicated to the Revolutions (Canada)

Dedicated to the Revolutions is a show about seven scientific revolutions that a grade eight teacher once said altered the course of humanity: Gutenberg, Copernican, Newtonian, Industrial, Darwinian, Nuclear and Information.

Erin Shields, Aimée Dawn Robinson, Chad Dembski Photo: Trevor Schwellnus

Erin Shields, Aimée Dawn Robinson, Chad Dembski Photo: Trevor Schwellnus

Six performers, not in any way experts in science and not apologizing for that, attempt to understand and question our notions of progress and knowledge and share that with an audience using things they found around the house.

Jacob Zimmer, Aimée Dawn Robinson Photo: Ömer Yükseker

Jacob Zimmer, Aimée Dawn Robinson Photo: Ömer Yükseker

With whiteboards, unrehearsed questions and answers, songs, and demonstrations, Small Wooden Shoe demonstrates the difficulty of demonstrating the effects of progress on our lives.

Small Wooden Shoe engages with the world in an honest, informal way while maintaining the need to step up and entertain. Absurd and delightful with a critical eye and a casual formalism, Small Wooden Shoe tries to help – and believes live performance might just be the best way.

Jacob Zimmer, Erin Shields, Chad Dembski Photo: Ömer Yükseker

Jacob Zimmer, Erin Shields, Chad Dembski Photo: Ömer Yükseker

Since 2006, Small Wooden Shoe has been developing Dedicated to the Revolutions by creating and presenting performances based on each of these revolutions in order to create a final piece that responds to a bigger picture of all of the revolutions and the very idea of revolutionary change.

Artistic Statement

When we made Dedicated to the Revolutions, I was thinking a lot about expertise and knowledge – about broader social questions of specialization and the assumptions that go along with them.

A culture in which some people are allowed to speak of certain things and others (hairdressers, artists and the like) should just sit quietly and then applaud at the end is what I was thinking about. I was thinking that science (and art) are areas where this opinion is particularly strong – areas where nonexperts fear to venture due to possible scorn and humiliation at the hands of the experts.

It’s an attitude that can lead to catastrophe as expertise removes itself from the everyday and we suddenly find ourselves with an economic crisis we can’t understand, a world we have to take on faith and hairdressers that aren’t allowed to do anything else.

I was thinking about how there might be room for something other than a particular kind of virtuosity and showing-off. And I love virtuosity and showing-off, but I wonder about other options – of proposing other strategies.

Of proposing vulnerability and even the importance of exposing our vulnerability in public. The show is loose and goofy in parts but always intentional. The act of standing in front of people and trying to think – as opposed to recite – with pleasure, desire and not a small amount of vulnerability was a proposal for the loosening of the structures that dictate who can think about what.

Questions of expertise and virtuosity in art are long standing and always shifting, but those aren’t the most important questions – taste in theatre and the people involved will change and change back. It’s the social questions I return to.

In bringing together thinking, vulnerability and pleasure, I wanted to find a way – for myself, my collaborators (without whom none of this would be possible) and the audience (without whom none of this would be possible) – to unite some parts of ourselves that are often pulled apart. The separation and alienation of aspects of ourselves and our culture into more specialized and exclusive chunks seems like a terrible idea to me.

Of course a 75-minute performance isn’t going to solve these problems. But maybe we can be part of a
discussion; maybe we can open up the conversation even just a bit.

That’s a least part of what I was thinking.

Jacob Zimmer
Artistic Director, Small Wooden Shoe

About Small Wooden Shoe:

Founded in 2001 by Jacob Zimmer in Halifax, Small Wooden Shoe is a theatre company now based in Toronto.

Small Wooden Shoe engages with the world around us in a curiously critical manner while maintaining the need to perform – to step up and to entertain. By being direct, honest and genial we hope to ease or transform the possible alienation between performers and audience. We do this in an attempt to find ways to ease or transform the possible alienation of contemporary living.

Believing that developing a sound artistic practice shouldn’t limit us to one performance style or genre, we have made political agit-prop (Delayed Knee Jerk Reactions, 2001), hard-boiled liveto- air radio (The Mysterious Death of WB, 2002), Chekhov adaptations (The Orchard, 2002), multi-media solo shows (No Secrets, 2003) and durational task based performances (Mostly Just Doing the Saturday Crossword). We have also created on-line think tanks, public meetings, teaching workshops, keynote lectures and publications, all of which we consider to be part of the same larger project that is Small Wooden Shoe.

Small Wooden Shoe performances are created in collaboration, led by Jacob Zimmer. Jacob brings the conceptual framework and starting points to the collaborators and the show is the result of the responses to his propositions and his response to those responses. This creative feedback-loop expands the work beyond the possibilities of a single maker, with all participants having a personal investment in the work, while maintaining a distinct and rigorous artistic vision that identifies the work as a Small Wooden Shoe production.

Wanting a local, national and international conversation about the world and about performance, we believe that touring, traveling and meeting are essential ways of extending the reach of the company and work we do while getting vital feedback and inspiration.


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Caden Manson is Editor In Chief and Curator of Contemporary Performance Network and co-founder and artistic director of Big Art Group, a New York City performance company founded in 1999.

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