Blog: About Miriam’s World

Interview with artist Naomi Jaye

Theatre Passe Muraille is transformed into a public library in this immersive multi-media experience. Miriam’s World, based on Martha Baillie’s Giller long-listed novel, The Incident Report, is wry look into the life of librarian Miriam Gordon and a group of library patrons who frequent the branch where she works, and exposes both the dark and humorous urban life and issues. 

We interviewed artist Naomi Jaye about the show, and what audiences can expect to experience!

Naomi has a fair complexion and dark black curly hair. She sits comfortably, but has a curious smile, in front of a backdrop of the library installation.
A narrow alleyway leads to a library lamp that is lighting up the dark library. There are random objects and an old tv, many books and papers stacked on top of one another.
What inspired you to make this show?

NaomiI found Martha Baillie’s The Incident Report over a decade ago and fell in love.  The book comprises 144 incident reports, a kind of journal kept by the protagonist Miriam Gordon, a librarian who works at the Toronto Public Library.

I loved the granularity and the unique structure of the book, so even though my background is in narrative film, I wondered “how can I make this differently?” This immersive installation format felt truer to the book because of its non-linear structure.

It gives space for the audience to create connections and meaning. When you enter Miriam’s World, you experience a collection of moments set in a public library, which when strung together, have a momentous impact.

What are some interesting themes in the show?

Naomi: At its core, this piece is  about public spaces: who does the library belong to? Not many people know this but Canada has one of most heavily used library systems in the world. We have a familiarity with the space. In this work I’m asking the audience: Who occupies these spaces? Who are the people who work in these spaces? What function do these spaces really fulfill?

There is something so comic and devastating about the encounters Miriam has on a daily basis. I am very interested in exploring the space where comedy and tragedy intersect. To me that space feels intensely human.

Old library cart is beat up in shape and filled with books all the way to the top. Text reads miriam's world by naomi jaye.

This installation allows for you to connect with people’s lives through a collection of moments, an accumulation of immersive experiences. I hope audiences will come with an openness to experience and interact with Miriam’s World and ultimately have a visceral experience of a public library.

Theatre audiences may be unfamiliar with the format of this piece. What experiences can they expect?

NaomiI’ve changed the architecture of the storytelling space – the narrative is not the central thread.

In Miriam’s World, you have all sort of things – there are desks, papers, files, chairs, books, little nooks and crannies that the audiences can explore, so there are tactile element to the show. The characters are all life-size video projections, so it gives an almost otherworldly feeling of being surrounded by ghostly patrons. You are allowed to move freely anywhere in the space.

I can say that this is not a narrative experience where an audience sits and watches a story from beginning to end. My hope is that the audience will truly engage with all of the parts of Miriam’s World

Miriam's World by Naomi Jaye

“We, the public libraries of Toronto, lend books to any person living, studying, or working in the city of Toronto. We discourage all our patrons from urinating indiscriminately, singing loudly, snoring, drying socks on the heating vents, verbally or physically assaulting each other, cutting out the colourful pictures from our cookbooks, writing in library materials, licking or kissing the lingerie advertisements in the magazines we lend, and stealing library property.”*

*quote from The Incident Report by Martha Baillie

ASL Interpreted on Dec 11 & 17 at 2pm and 3pm. Please indicated when booking if you will be using the ASL Interpretation. This experience is wheelchair friendly.