From the artists: May I Take Your Arm?

Black banner with artist headshots from May I Take Your Arm collaged one after the other.

Blind artist Alex Bulmer takes the arm of people in her new neighbourhood. Together, they walk, listen, and share life stories — an architecture of place emerges. Experience their journeys through these multi-sensory moving-portraits that consider the past, illuminate the present, and evoke possible futures.

Originally created in 2018 as a live, interactive, performance installation, May I Take Your Arm? has been re-imagined into a 7-part multidisciplinary follow-at-home experience. Read about the project from the artists behind the work: Alex Bulmer, Anna Camilleri, Tristan R. Whiston, Becky Gold and Katie Yealland.

*While you’re here, follow Theatre Passe Muraille, Red Dress Productions and Common Boots Theatre on social media!

A photograph of Alex Bulmer. Alex is a white woman with short light brown hair. She wears black cat-eye sunglasses, and a burgundy leather jacket over a navy blue shirt.
Alex Bulmer

It all started with my move back to Toronto and a need to know where in the world I had landed.

Then it became a show.

Enter a global Pandemic. 

And here we are: an online assemblage of May I Take Your Arm? pieces – collected to create a digital space. I  can’t help but notice the connection between this collected space and how I collect and assemble all physical space:  shapes emerge, walls and boundaries are discovered, bits and pieces of knowing eventually combine to form a meaningful whole – through each 27 centimeter step of my feet, through each reach of my hands, through  the centering act of listening.



A black-and-white picture of Tristan from the chest up. Tristan looks off to the right. He is middle-aged with white skin, short brown hair, and wears glasses. He is wearing a button up shirt with a collar.
Tristan R Whiston

We began with audio, with listening. 

We began with a desire to explore a neighbourhood through sound and story.

So, in May, 2018, RDP invited 9 storytellers who had a connection with “Cabbagetown/St Jamestown” to share a walk of their choosing with Alex Bulmer, and we audio recorded these walks. 

As an artist team, we weren’t exactly sure what we were “making,” but the starting place was listening, and we have primarily been led by what arrived, by what was encountered on those walks – stories, characters and of course “noise.”

Early in our process, Alex said “sound without meaning is simply noise.”

I have lived in the Cabbagetown area for 20 years; through this work, I now hear my neighbourhood anew. What had always been there in the background as chimes, bells, beeps, clangs, scrapes, hums, buzzes, creaks, chatter have emerged as melody, harmony, rhythm: the resonant drone of airplanes (a never-ending presence in 2018 giving way to a strange quiet in 2020); the piercing ever-present bird-song; the rising and falling hum of traffic in the not-so far distance.


A photograph of Becky Gold from the shoulders up, taken against a grey wall. Becky is a white queer person with freckles, clear-rimmed glasses, brown hair and a pixie cut with short bangs. In this photo they smile for the camera
Becky Gold

Since first premiering at Cahoots Theatre in 2018, May I Take Your Arm? has been restaged five times; each iteration distinctly unique and illuminating. Out of these five productions, two of them took us away from our home base of Toronto. For me, as a support worker/creative enabler, the experience of touring this show in places like Kingston and Vancouver has presented an exciting opportunity for Alex and me to really live and breathe the ethos of the work – to walk together, arm in hand, to discover and orient ourselves to new and unfamiliar surroundings. 

While May I Take Your Arm? has evolved and shifted throughout its various iterations in different spaces and locations, for me, the show has always been about interdependence, connection, and care. At its core, this show invites a reconsideration of how one experiences and navigates their unique world – through sight, through sound, through touch or smell. It invites reflection on how one gives and receives support, connects with others, and navigates the constantly changing world around us. While we wish we could have been in space with you all this year, we’re so glad to have you join us this way for our newest iteration.

A colour photo of Katie Yealland. Katie is leaning into the frame, with her right arm resting on a wooden rail, looking directly ahead and smiling.
Katie Yealland

In the previous iterations of May I Take Your Arm?, my main role was operating a camera, wirelessly connected to a projection system. As Alex navigated the environment, I shadowed her explorations. Sometimes 100 ft wide, the projection added another layer of liveness, revealing poetic abstractions and details of the space, and movements and textures within it.

For our June 2020 production, I filmed all the new footage in the neighbourhood and created video sequences that were live mixed into our show. I also operated the live camera in our adapted garage theatre for our livestream edition. The piece was re-worked to reflect the reality of the lockdown and how it affected the spirit of the show, with new writing, video, and audio elements.

For this production, I’ve helped with presentation of video documentation, and I’ve joined Anna’s book making project.

A grainy photo of a white woman with a blank facial expression shows her staring into the camera. She has dark curly hair
Anna Camilleri

During the 2018 walks that became the ground for this project, we moved as a caravan: Alex and a storyteller, walking arm in hand, Charles ambling backward with a boom mic, Tristan marshalling, and me zig-zagging ahead and behind, recording notes and impressions.

Despite my long relationship with the neighbourhood and its people, I was struck by proximity and contrasts. The density of shadow cast by high sun. The pungence of garbage bins and magnolia in bloom. The canopy of trees amongst Victorian houses. The absence of trees amongst multi-story towers. A neighborhood on the edge of highway, river, and urban forest.

For this 2021 iteration of May I Take Your Arm? I wanted to bring the character of place alive beyond digital records of the immersive tactile installations originally created for the live performance — installations that invited touch. I offer a series of 200 handmade books to bridge the space between public and private and alone and together; to enact the intimacy of theatre created through the interaction between audience and artist. The books tell the story of place and the land that mediates, hosts, and supports our creative inquiry, and upon which we are guests. These books are similar by design and different by dimension and material application.

I’m grateful to Katie Yealland, Annanda DeSilva, Sierra Sun, and Rhekia Fahssi for bookmaking production assistance.

Save the date!

top right corner of the accordion book we can see a foraged pine image tied with natural strings. It site behind a botanically dyed paper against sunny grass

The virtual stage will be FREE and available to access starting  June 14th on the May I Take Your Arm website, which will be the “stage” of the show. (Website designed by artist Wy Joung Kou).

The limited edition, hand-made book by artist Anna Camilleri is a mailed, tactile portion of the May I Take Your Arm? experience, and it is on sale nowGet your copy now to have it mailed to you by June 14th.