Alex Wolfson and Bojana Stancic
And so, the animal looked back…

28 January – 14 March 2010

Opening Performances:

Thursday, January 28, 7:30 pm [opening night!] & Friday, January 29, 7:30 pm

Closing Performances:

Thursday, March 11, 7: 30 pm & Friday, March 12, 7:30 pm

And so, the animal looked back… is a unique venture of the AGYU into the world of experimental theatre, a theatre that has its roots equally in the art world and queer performance. The AGYU has commissioned two new plays under the overall title of And so, the animal looked back…, the performance of which open and conclude an installation that will retain props, performance elements, and projections from the first play.

Writer/Director: Alex Wolfson/ Set Designer and Visual Concept: Bojana Stancic/Costume Designer: Vanessa Fischer /Sound Designer: Matt Smith

Actors: Amy Bowles, Lindsey Clark, Vanessa Dunn, Nika Mistruzzi, Liz Peterson, Evan Webber

Program Notes

And so, the animal looked back… is essentially a project that examines the ways in which the many creatures who live on this earth interact with one another. The animal known as man has developed a certain type of interaction with the rest of the animal kingdom. There is man, the rational animal, and then the rest, “the animal kingdom,” with no differentiation between the elephant and the earthworm. This separation has turned to violence, with man using his technological prowess to impose our wants and wishes upon the rest. We do this both through physical violence, and through intellectual structures that create a living hierarchy, with man at the top, sitting on his throne, ruling those who sit below us. We eat their flesh, wear their skins, use them as tools for our most menial labour.

These interactions between “man” and “beast,” however, take place in a specific historical context, one that came to being only after the formation of the Cartesian subject. Individual, self-contained, and above all, rational. Descartes’ man knows the rest of the animal world, cohabits with them, but understands them only as automatons, aimlessly roaming the earth.

And so, the animal looks back… is meant to question the ways in which contemporary subjectivity is formed, a subjectivity that uses the separation between man and animal as the primary bedrock of the modern capitalist human subject. The two plays that bookend the show both take place in apocalyptic contexts. The first begins in the moment just after a biblical flood. Only one man is left in an empty world. To prove that, even then, he still is man, he builds a series of automatons, both of animals and men. These automatons are perfect in form, but he still knows that they are not alive, not rational beings like himself. He repopulates the world with these animals. They fill the ruined cities. He begins a new life with them. Eventually, he comes to realize that he has changed, he is no longer “man,” but something else. He must then question whether he ever truly was — whether any of us truly are “man” as we imagine ourselves to be.

The second play moves from the setting of a biblical wasteland to that of a contemporary laboratory. A group of primatologists are studying a chimpanzee named Max. One day Max begins to speak. Then to write. The primatologists are unsure of what to do with this new development. Soon Max begins to compose a long essay on the subject of the separation between man and animal, chimpanzee and animal, man and chimpanzee. Word leaks out to the world at large about Max. People become frenzied. Strange things begin to occur as the world slowly starts to fall apart. Pairs of animals, both human and otherwise, begin to congregate around the laboratory. Finally it becomes clear, Max’s essay is the last words to be spoken before a new flood, a new apocalypse, but unlike the deluge that occurred before the first play, this flood does not simply destroy, it also reconfigures new identities, new shared subjectivities. The play ends not with a prescription of what must come but simply with an understanding that things must change, and what will come is a mystery to them all.

— Alex Wolfson

Bojana Stancic (Set Design) was trained at the University College Drama Program, University of Toronto. She has designed plays for The Disturbed Family, Ammo Factory, and other theatre productions, as well as worked in film and television. She recently designed the set for Windows at the Summer Works Theatre Festival.

Alex Wolfson (Director) is a playwright and director. His plays are often performed in art galleries, including If I’m Me Today, Must I Tomorrow at Gallery TPW (August, 2008). His recent work, The Sexual Aberrations: Part One, was presented at the Rhubarb Festival in February 2009 and Windows was presented at the Summer Works Theatre Festival.

Alex and Bojana would like to thank the following people involved in And so, the animal looked back…:

Brendan Flanagan (Creative Advice)

Peter Freund (Technical Advice)

Nathaniel Wolfson (Concept Development)