Welcome to the digital show program: The Year of the Cello
by Marjorie Chan and Njo Kong Kie | A Theatre Passe Muraille and Music Picnic Co-Production
Welcome to the digital show program!
To access the visual story, please click the button below. A Visual story is a package that aims to support people with communication difficulties, learning disabilities, English as a second language and Autistic People. It can be used to help anyone access and understand the play. The package may include spoilers.
Rong Fu is a Chinese-Canadian actor based in Toronto, who once carried a goat up a mountain at the tender age of fifteen. Select Theatre: Stage Kiss, The Orchard (After Chekhov) (Shaw Festival), Sherlock Holmes and The Raven’s Curse (Vertigo Theatre), The Crucible, The Royal Comedians (Soulpepper), The Millennial Malcontent (Tarragon Theatre), the marquise of O– (SummerWorks), The Money Tree (Roseneath Theatre, Dora Nomination). Recent Film/TV: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (CBS/Paramount+), Hello, Again (CBC Gem), My Fake Boyfriend (Buzzfeed/Lionsgate), Good Sam (CBS), Pretty Hard Cases(CBC/NBC), SkyMed (CBC/CBS). @rongideas / officialrongfu.com
Known for his artistic versatility, Bryan Holt has performed throughout North America and abroad in numerous concert halls and alternative venues. Bryan has appeared with many of the leading ensembles in the Greater Toronto Area including Art of Time Ensemble, Continuum Contemporary Music, Tapestry Opera, Against the Grain Theatre, and more. He has occasionally appeared in the cello sections of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, National Ballet of Canada Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra and more.
Bryan is one half of VC2 Cello Duo alongside his long-time colleague Amahl Arulanandam and they have been hailed by CBC Radio as “a tight unit, with excellent intonation and expression.” The duo will release their second album in February 2023.
Bryan completed his Doctorate of Music at the University of Toronto and also holds a Masters Degree from McGill University. He maintains a private studio in downtown Toronto while also visiting several schools as a guest coach.
Not just bound to the realm of classical music – the ever eclectic cellist Brendan Rogers is an innovative performer and recording artist. A two time recipient of the Felix Galimir chamber award and beneficiary of the Laura Kinton Muir prize he is always eager to be on stage in any form. Brendan also works as a session musician for touring artists at great venues including the Mod Club. In a similar vein, he regularly records for performing artists (such as ‘Russ’, and ‘Eli Rose’) and was recently featured on Rêve’s latest Single ‘Whitney’.
Keshia Palm is a Filipinx-German artist from Treaty 6 Territory who seeks to dismantle systems of oppression by creating thoughtful and inclusive art/spaces — as Producer, Director, Dramaturge, Playwright, and Actor. They have developed and performed new works with IBPOC, queer, women, and trans artists coast to coast. Since 2016, they’ve found community where there are trees standing in the water creating art, and supporting emerging artists through ArtistProducerResource.com, and artistic producing the Paprika Festival. During the pandemic, she has created micro-art-experiences through personal stories, poetry, going outside, reflecting on what gifts the future will bring, and what tools we have to ignite transformative change.
Keshia will be performing Sat Oct 29th at 2pm
A note from the co-creators
Welcome to the year of the cello.
This is the first collaboration between composer/pianist Njo Kong Kie, and playwright/librettist Marjorie Chan. While they share a discipline of creating for opera, for The Year of the Cello, they have set out to create in a new way. A play with cello.
One of the enduring inspirations for this piece is the quote, “Music is love in search of a word.” by poet Sidney Lanier. And this is where we find the two main characters, Wen, and The Cellist, who have never found the way to express the inexpressible, their love for Li-An.
The Year of the Cello is set in a dream-like place of stasis where Wen, and The Cellist have to work through their past, their connection and reconcile their relationship. It is not until the music feeds and informs the conversation that the healing can begin.
We have always envisioned the piece to be sound-led and have been so pleased to work with consultants Vivian Chong and Jess Watkin in creating a Blind-friendly production. We invite all audiences to sit back or lean in, close or open your eyes, but most of all, listen.
Like the characters in the play, the creators too were inspired by the sound of cello, and solo cello, in particular. It is often said that the cello most approximates the human voice. In this work we feature compositions of Kong Kie, but also those of J.S. Bach, the most iconic of composers for solo cello.
In fact, we use the Pablo Casals original gramophone recording of the Prelude from Suite 5 at the beginning of the play! Other historical recordings used include excerpts of the then contemporary Cantonese opera tune “Lotus Picking Song” recorded by Cho Chuk Wen and the early Chinese pop song “Tao Hua Jiang” (Peach Blossom River) by Li Jin Hui, recorded by Wang Ren Mei and Li Li Li.
We’re grateful for the support from the Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council for development, and the Ontario Arts Council and the Wuchien Michael Than Foundation for providing support for this production.
Thank you for joining us and enjoy.
Marjorie Chan & Njo Kong Kie (Co-creators)
Marjorie is the Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto since 2019, where she places access, community, innovation and collaboration at the forefront of the company’s approach. Born in Tkaronto (Toronto) to Hong Kong immigrants, she works variously as writer, director and dramaturge in opera and theatre as well as in the intersection of these forms and roles. Her work has been seen and performed in the United States, Scotland, Hong Kong, Russia and across Canada. Her full-length works as a playwright include Lady Sunrise, The Madness of the Square, a nanking winter, and Tails From the City, as well as the libretti for the operas, Sanctuary Song, The Lesson of Da Ji, M’dea Undone, The Monkiest King, and upcoming The Nightingale of a Thousand Songs for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company. For TPM, Marjorie has directed Ultrasound (2016), John & Waleed (2018) and John & Waleed – Digital (2021). Some of the other companies Marjorie has directed for include: Gateway Theatre, Cahoots Theatre, Native Earth Performing Arts, Obsidian Theatre and Theatre du Pif (Hong Kong). Marjorie has been nominated for nine Dora Awards and is the recipient of four. She has also received the K.M. Hunter Artist’s Award in Theatre, the Entertainment World Award (Best New Work), a Harold Award, the Bra D’Or Award, as well as the George Luscombe Award for Mentorship. Other notable nominations include the Governor General’s Literary Award for her playwriting debut, China Doll, and and most recently, Lady Sunrise. She has been artist-in-residence with Factory Theatre, Banff Playwrights’ Lab, Tapestry Opera, Cahoots Theatre, Theatre Centre (with 6th Man Collective), Theatre Direct Canada, SUNY (Geneseo, New York) and Theatre du Pif. Upcoming: Direction for The Chinese Lady by Lloyd Suh (Studio 180/fu-GEN/Crow’s) and the operatic adaptation of Madeline Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing with composer Tim Brady.
Njo Kong Kie: A picnic and ping pong enthusiast, Kong Kie also enjoys composing for dance, opera and theatre. His works include the concert-theatre Picnic in the Cemetery; the song-cycle I swallowed a moon made of iron (set to poetry of Xu Lizhi); comic opera knotty together (with Anna Chatterton); and music theatre Mr. Shi and His Lover (with Wong Teng Chi). Long-serving music director of La La La Human Steps, Kong Kie has collaborated with other choreographers as well as filmmakers to provide soundtrack for their works. www.musicpicnic.com
The Creators have been supported throughout their artistic process by Cahoots Theatre (Hot House), Factory Theatre, Banff Playwrights’ Lab, and Theatre Passe Muraille with development funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
The creators are deeply grateful for the input and engagement of participants through our workshopping process that have helped shape this work. Thank you to:
Factory Theatre (2014 – 2016)
Performers: Diana Luong, Mayko Nguyen, Rong Fu, Rosie Simon, Christopher Ross-Ewart, Bryan Holt
Cellists: Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Bryan Holt
Dramaturgy: Matt McGeachy, Nina Lee Aquino
Banff – Playwrights’ Lab (2015)
Performers: Quelemia Sparrow, Nadien Chu, Keith Barker
Cellist: Morag Northey
Dramaturgy: Brian Quirt, Jenna Rodgers
Theatre Passe Muraille (2022)
Performers: Rong Fu, Rosie Simon
Cellist: Bryan Holt
Dramaturgy: Indrit Kasapi, Karthy Chin
Prelude, Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor — Composed by J.S. Bach, for unaccompanied cello, 1717 – 1723
Prelude, Cello Suite No. 1 in G major — Composed by J.S. Bach, for unaccompanied cello, 1717 – 1723
Sarabande, Cello Suite No. 5 in C minor — Composed by J.S. Bach, for unaccompanied cello, 1717 – 1723
Rain — Composed by Njo Kong Kie for solo cello, 2015 – 2022
The Year of the Cello — Composed by Njo Kong Kie for solo cello, 2015 – 2022
About the Cellos
Bryan Holt’s instrument is an antique German cello from ca.1890 (maker unknown). He plays with bows made by Ottawa-based maker Bernard Walke, one of which has been nicknamed “Excalibur II”.
Brendan Rogers plays an English cello from the mid-1800s, made by Charles Harris. Her name is Camilla.
Echo is a Chinese immigrant, Tkaronto-based scenographer working in live performance. She has designed for Buddies in the Bad Times, Theatre Passe Muraille, Thousand Island
Abby Esteireiro (she/her) is a designer, director, and arts administrator based in Toronto. Most recently, she was the costume and set designer for The Boy Who Cried (Creme de la Creme/Toronto Fringe) and assistant designer for Apocalypse Play, or Bundle of Joy (Two Birds One Stone/Common Boots Theatre). Abby loves magic, fan culture and parasocial relationships, and Christina Aguilera’s rendition of “Reflection.”
Edith graduated from the Theatre Production program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) in 2016. Since then, she has worked on crew for film & television and painted for theatrical productions at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Crow’s Theatre, Tarragon Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille. On occasion, you may find her staring at a patch of wall or rusted fence, contemplating how to best replicate the effect with paint.
Creative & Accessibility team
Michael is very happy to be working with Theatre Passe Muraille and Music Picnic, both for the first time. Originally from Montreal, QC, Michael moved to Toronto in 2015. He graduated from Concordia University’s theatre program in 2008. Since then, he has been mostly stage managing, but he occasionally is a production manager, light and set designer and an actor. Selected stage management credits include: John Ware Reimagined, Cottagers & Indians (Blyth Festival). Per Gint, Engaged, Blood Wedding, It’s Munsch Time, Munsch-O-Mania, Metamorphoses (George Brown Theatre School). The Rainbow Fish, Stella – Queen of the Snow (Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia).
Matt McGeachy (Dramaturg) For Theatre Passe Muraille: debut. Matt spent ten seasons as dramaturg at Factory Theatre, and has also worked with playwrights at the Guthrie Theater, the Kennedy Center, Canadian Stage, York University, SummerWorks, and Banff Centre, among others. Upcoming: The Waltz, Vierge, and Armadillos (Factory Theatre); and First Metis Man of Odesa (national tour). Matt is a member of LMDA, and treasurer and interim president of LMDA Canada.
Born in Albania, Indrit has made Tkarón:to his home since 2000. He is the Founding Artistic Producer for lemonTree creations and Artistic Producer for Theatre Passe Muraille. lemonTree creations focuses on queer works, and Indrit has produced, acted in, choreographed and directed several critically acclaimed and award winning productions.
As the Artistic Producer of Canada’s original alternative theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille, Indrit continues to develop exciting new theatrical voices while also focusing on national and international touring for the company. He’s an Acting graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada, a 2018 Harold Award Winner and a 2020 Dora Nominated performer.
Karthy Chin is a producer, theatre director, and writer. As a theatre artist, she has worked with a variety of companies including Stratford, Cahoots, Factory, Driftwood, and Tarragon. She is a former participant of the Paprika Directors’ Lab and the Factory Foremen, and a graduate of Generator’s Artist Producer Training program. As a producer, she has worked for Shakespeare in the Ruff, SummerWorks, Luminato and Toronto Fringe Festival. As the Dramaturgy and Accessibiliy Intern at TPM, she is interested in how accessibility can be embedded in the creative process.
Vivian Chong is an accessibility consultant for theatre, art and graphic novel and film. Vivian was nominated for Dora Award Most Outstanding performer in her leading role in Dancing With The Universe in 2022. Her graphic novel Dancing After TEN was short listed for The Toronto Book Award in 2020. Besides creating theatre and art, Vivian also races in triathlons in the summer. She was the recipient of the athlete of the year by Achilles Canada, a track club for people with disabilities. Vivian is the founder of accessible yoga program and currently teaching yoga to yogis living with vision lost like herself. Vivian is the recipient of The Ontario Service Award for her volunteer work in blind summer camp helping young children adapting to blindness.
Dr. Jess Watkin finished her PhD at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies. She is a Blind artist-scholar focusing on Disability Dramturgy, care, support, and softness in creative ways. She edited the first collection of Disability plays in Canada, Interdependent Magic, which is available through Playwrights Canada Press.
You make it possible! Thank you so much for coming out to watch The Year of the Cello: the first world premiere production of our 22.23 season.
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