2021-2022,  blog

A Pandemic Walk

Robyn has dark black hair and fair complexion. She has hazel green eyes and wearing a bright red lipstick, with a black dress smiling

Writing and photographs by Robyn Grant-Moran

Robyn Grant-Moran (Métis) is a Toronto based writer, artist, and podcaster. While studying classical singing at York University, Robyn became fascinated with Indigenous representation in opera which lead to studying theatre criticism. 

After graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Robyn began writing for theatre publications focused on elevating voices of those historically underrepresented and in 2019, Robyn won the Nathan Cohen for Excellence in Critical Writing Outstanding Emerging Critic Award from the Canadian Theatre Critics Association.

Since then, her writing has been published in Intermission Magazine, The Dance Current, The Toronto Star, as well as the Globe and Mail. Robyn cohosts the Canadian Opera Company’s podcast Key Change, as well as being a member of their Circle of Artists, working for greater diversity and inclusion of Indigenous voices in opera. When not writing, Robyn is often making beaded jewelry as the Salty Magpie, learning how to ride her beloved motorcycle, and still waiting out the pandemic with her wee rat dog in their box in the sky. 

Mel has long dark brown hair and dark, accentuated glasses. She is wearing dark lipstick and long beaded earrings

Illustrations by Mel Bartel 

NENDOWAAMJIGET – WOLF CLAN | Toronto-based Nishinaabe artist Mel Bartel believes that all art is healing and therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if you are viewing it or creating it, the effects are the same. She is known for her expressive and intuitive ability to capture emotion, personality and spirit with acrylic paint on wood cradled panels. She studied art at Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto and at OCAD briefly.

Mel grew up on the Manitoba prairies and was raised by a Mennonite family. She had been given up for adoption by a young Ojibway woman from Lac Seul First Nation, Mel began exploring her Nishinaabe roots. She continues that journey to this day and knows it will be a life-long journey of discovery. Mel met her birth-mother in her 20’s. Recently, she connected with her half brother and cousins. In 2019, Mel received her Nishinaabe name, colors and Clan.

Following a successful career as a graphic designer, Mel has returned to expressive art as her primary focus and has discovered a passion for beading beautiful hand woven creations.

www.melaniebartel.com @melbartelart @bead.for.me

A Pandemic Walk

Part of #BeyondTO editorial zine by Robyn Grant-Moran | Content warning: mentions of isolation, residential school, loss, and death

Pink flowers on a tree branch, taken from a phone from a walk, pointed towards the sky

Day 1: I lose my job. But so have many other people. It’s a new and strangely comforting kind of anxiety. We are told it’s just for two or so weeks, and I hope that’s accurate even though I know it isn’t.

Day 9: Life remains on pause as I watch my theatre arts friends from the periphery, feeling so isolated. Companies reschedule performances, hope for the best, make contingency plans. Suddenly the paused and isolated life feels like the easier and less terrifying existence. 

Day 87: The world sees the brutal murder of George Floyd. So many protests, so many reckonings. Are things actually going to change or are we just going to talk about it?

The days, they blur and I’ve lost track. This is gonna end soon right? How long can my only form of entertainment outside of Netflix and bang my head against the wall be walking with my bubble?

Day 115: Ooh! Zoom plays! Everyone is doing online productions suddenly and there is so much POSSIBILITY! Why haven’t we always been doing this? Note to self: the future is hybrid and accessible.

Month 5: There is the promise of a return to live theatre just in time for complete digital fatigue! Hallelujah!

Month 6: False alarm. Funny how when disease control measures are lifted in a pandemic, in the autumn, there is a spike. Back to exclusively digital till the Spring. Right?  It’s just till the Spring???

Spring: I’ve lost count entirely. Walks with my tiny bubble just isn’t cutting it anymore, but then magic like the sunset reflecting off the houses peaking out from between the heavy blooms of an enormous bush.

Dog has fur still after so much compulsive petting. Small mercies.

Blue digital illustration. Flowy and free lines interrupt and link each sections of the illustration. Some trees, and a line of someone's eyes and nose, flowers, and a small yellow chicken entering from the right side

Community members, friends, and a parent all die.


A FaceTime funeral in another province for one is the best it gets for ritual farewells.

Circular shapes merge from the bottom closer to the viewer towards the top. There are pink, red, and purple splashes of colour. Something links the circles to each other and a chicken looks down from up right
Robyn smiles and frowns as lemmy licks her forehead while taking a selfie
Robyn smiles and frowns as lemmy licks her forehead while taking a selfie

Suddenly, freelance work! 

Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, a podcast about opera. Couldn’t come at a better or stranger time. 

1 Year, Month 6: Ground penetrating radar finds mass grave found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. 200 little ones. 

What seems like a concrete road extends from one corner to the other. Splashes of blue, orange, and yellows cover it. There is a tree drawn with a black and red line standing in the corner

Drinks in parks. I check my age and country. Yep, still middle aged, still in So Called Canada…


Year 1, Month 6: Get a motorcycle, drop it lots, but life is a giant dadventure on my reliable station wagon of an introduction to adventure bikes.

Year 1, Month 9: More little ones who didn’t make it home. Who will tell their stories?

Year 1, Month 11: Theatre might reopen! But suddenly I’m living on top of a police checkpoint? People are protesting mandates, seems to be driven by conspiracy theories. How did we even get here? Review Day 87. At least some of us are holding everything together better than the white replacement conspiracy theorists? It is, indeed, the strangest timeline… 

A more happy colour palette, a mint blue chicken walks through a bright yellow road, towards trees. Large pale circle setting or rising behind her

Year 2 (almost to the day): Can it be? Opera Atelier, Buddies, Canadian Opera Company, live dance performance, and so much more has returned. Even if it’s all compressed, one act, sitting for an hour and a half straight, theatre is back! 

The pandemic isn’t over, we still need to mask, we still need to protect ourselves and each other. But we made it. Welcome to Theatre Passe Muraille and welcome to #BeyondTO.

Scored in Silence poster which is in a bright neon yellow colour compliments our brick walls and red doors on a sunny day

 As we re-open our doors for in-person shows again, we gratefully acknowledge the original caretakers of this land, the Anishinabek, Wendat, Haudenosaunee  and the Mississaugas of the Credit. We embrace the collaborative and collective values as exemplified by Indigenous cultures, and we aspire to live up to those values. We are also particularly inspired by the Dish With One Spoon Treaty. 

This agreement binds people on this land to share peacefully with their neighbours, so that we may all have enough. There is one dish, one spoon, and no knife.  In that spirit, we honour all who came before us, our own ancestors as well as all the Indigenous caretakers, named and unnamed, recorded and unrecorded. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work, play, and create here in this community, and on this territory. 

This is part 1/4 of the whole zine!

This part 1/4 of a printed zine, created by Robyn Grant-Moran for the #BeyondTO festival, which will open Theatre Passe Muraille’s big red doors again since closing to public in March 2020: after numerous postponements, closures, and lockdowns throughout the pandemic — we’re finally here! Follw the buttons to continue reading.