Being Nominated for an Award Made Me Suicidal

Last year I saw posts from friends and colleagues about a tweet from Michael Redhill. After winning the 2017 Giller Prize for his novel Bellevue Square, Michael posted a picture of his bank statement. The Giller comes with a $100,000 cheque, and after depositing the prize money his account balance was $100,411.46. Some of my peers wrote how happy this made them, how this prize had changed the life of a brilliant hard-working artist. But all I could see was the remaining $411.46, and the thought of hundreds of other brilliant hard-working artists who will never win that prize. This made me question the entire concept of awards, and reflect on my own personal experience. Why don't we invest this money into the sector as a whole instead of handing a single artist a massive cheque?

Most of my career has been spent working on other people's ideas, perspectives, and stories. I've built a career on directing the development of new work. As more or less of a dramaturge. If you don’t know what a dramaturge is, I like to translate it to: "Being in the room while brilliant people make brilliant things." It is the greatest privilege of my life. But it also makes me feel like a fraud. An impostor. And this impostor syndrome can play in my head ad nauseam.

While these symptoms are not caused by the performing arts industry itself, I do think they play a part. Even the notion of calling this an industry is a contributing factor. If the performing arts is indeed an industry, then it is one that is fraught with financial barriers (job security, housing stability, etc.), making it inaccessible for many, if not most.  A recent university study suggests that Australian arts workers experience symptoms of anxiety ten times higher than that of the general population, and depression symptoms five times higher. Unless these findings are directly correlated to the aesthetics of toilet water draining counter-clockwise, it's not a huge leap to assume that the Canadian arts sector is in a similar position. 

I think this is why we lean so heavily on awards & prizes: if we can't provide steady income, we need to feel like we're rewarding individuals for their hard work. But I don't think that awarding the occasional cash prize or statuette helps the industry as a whole. If anything I'm afraid it puts a dangling carrot in front of our eyes. 

And yet I've wanted one. An award. I've wanted one so badly. 

I used to think that the cure for my "impostor syndrome" was a small bit of recognition. That an award would validate my work. That confidence could be found around the base of a trophy. In the early years of my career, I obsessed over awards: the Governor General's Award, the Dora Awards, the Jessies, etc. And every year during the Dora nominations announcement, I would glue myself to my Twitter feed to see if I personally earned that recognition, only to be inevitably disappointed. To be reminded that I'm not a real artist. Because if real artists don't get paid, they at least win trophies, right?

And then in 2015, I was nominated for the GG, along side my co-writer Tara Grammy, for our play Mahmoud. It was the most validating experience of my career. We were in the running for a $25,000 prize. I was going to be able to pay off my student loans! I was ecstatic. Giddy. I felt like I was on some sort of drug. Each "congratulations" was like a bump of cocaine. I bounced from friend to friend, acquaintance to acquaintance, looking for my next fix. 

But this dizzying, intoxicating experience came to an end, and the self-doubt crept back in. Only this time ten-times stronger. Ten-times more dangerous. I spun into a multi-week depression mixed with suicidal tendencies. I avoided groups of people. I spent hours alone in the dark of my room. I pushed away my family and friends. I grew resentful of my partner. And then, after countless suicidal thoughts, I was informed by the Canada Council that we did not win the award. I was relieved.

The frequency of my suicidal ideation has increased since that time. Which is not the fault of the award, the jury, or the Canada Council. But, that doesn't mean that the very mention of awards shows doesn’t give me swirling anxiety headaches.

Thousands of artists are still in debt; are still infrequently paid for their work; are still at the mercy of an ever-inflating housing market. Awards do not change this. So what exactly are we celebrating?

Tonight, Pandemic Theatre is nominated for six Dora awards. My dearest friend (and colleague here at Pandemic), Jivesh Parasram, is nominated for Outstanding New Play, for a work I helped him create with Graham Isador. And I will be at the Doras to cheer him on, along with many of my friends and colleagues nominated tonight. I'm going to try to treat it like a celebration; if not of the industry, then of my friends. But while I’m there I'm going to take it as an opportunity to engage in critical conversations with those I've worked with in the past, and to start new conversations with those I will work with in the future. 

And if you're nominated tonight (or if you win), and you're feeling more complex emotions than just joy, I'll be lurking around a cheese plate somewhere, drinking an over-priced glass of Ontario wine... if you need a break from the "congratulations".  

-Tom Arthur Davis

Jiv's Speech - 2018 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award

On Wednesday May 16th, Pandemic's Artistic Producer Jivesh Parasram received the 2018 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award! 

We had to miss the event at the Mayor's Arts Lunch as we're currently on tour in B.C. with "The Only Good Indian" in Victoria at Intrepid Theatre's the Uno Festival - meeting up with Jiv in Vancouver to pick up the tour there at upintheair Theatre's rEvolver Festival who's currently working with Theatre Conspiracy on their new show - "Victim Impact." 

 En Lai Mah, And Elizabeth Wong - Holding a Jiv (Jiv featured appears smaller than an actual Jiv). 

En Lai Mah, And Elizabeth Wong - Holding a Jiv (Jiv featured appears smaller than an actual Jiv). 

But lucky for the city that they got to hang out with our Good friends and Pandemic-ites Beth Wong and En Lai Mah who held it down in our stead! Beth delivered Jiv's speech, to apparently a standing ovation! Which considering that Beth Wong is a Boss, does make sense. 

We've received some requests to share the speech - so here it is!

"Friends, Colleagues, Honoured Guests,

It is with great sadness that I cannot be with you today.
But also with great joy that as a result of me not being with you - you get to meet one of my dearest friends. This is Beth Wong Kit Teng and she is Fucking excellent.

My name is Jivesh Parasram.

I was raised in Mi’kma’ki, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, territory of the Mi’kmaq peoples.

My family came there by way of what is now called Trinidad. Land of the Carib and Aarawak peoples.

We came there by way of….let’s call it….Colonialism… from somewhere in what is now called India – poor colonial record keeping makes it hard to know where for sure.

I am writing you from the Unceded Coast Salish Territories of the Squamish Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh peoples in what is now also called Vancouver - where I’m currently on tour and in rehearsal.

And I find it fitting that for all my displacements, these words are being read to you in T’karonto, the meeting place. Traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Mississauga Anishinabek nations; on dish-with one spoon territory. Where we practice co-existence and community daily.

I am grateful to all of the peoples who have accepted me onto their territory.

Perhaps a little less grateful so the British who accepted my ancestors onto the territory of a British indentured labour boat. But hey, here we are.

I am also grateful for all the people who have made it possible for me to receive this award through their continued emotional support:

My family. My partner Christine the greatest person I know. To Tom Arthur Davis my non-romantic partner at Pandemic Theatre where we’ve made most of our work together – I say non-romantic but I suppose there’s a certain idealistic romantic dream to running an independent theatre company.

To my mentors, my colleagues, and my friends who are also my family.

To Beth and Marjorie for nominating me. To En Lai, for literally and metaphorically picking me up off the sidewalk when I was too sick. To my community that I have found; and today feel deeply moved and accepted into truly.

Displacement or perhaps even placeless-ness has been a constant in my life.
In thinking what to write to you today someone told me –
"Reflect on your artistic work! What’s a recurring theme?”
– and I said “I don’t know. Crippling Depression?”

The last couple projects are basically “I’m sad! Colonial Violence! Mental Illness! Hindu stuff!” repeat.

But through it all is a core of Displacement. Or maybe longing. You know, “Sad Boy” stuff…

Despite living in Toronto for over a decade, I don’t know that it’s ever felt like home. To me, it holds a transient spirit.

I never planned to stay that long. I never thought it wanted me to.

Reflecting on that, I realize it was the same for Nova Scotia. Nearly everywhere I’ve been. Displacement. Maybe it’s just me? Maybe it’s just in my cells? Maybe that’s familiar?

And yet, Toronto is where I have found the most opportunity to create. To contribute. To collaborate.

So why here?

I think it’s because I am surrounded by a community that inspires me to contribute. I make art here because I want to offer something, everything I can, to the discourse of our multi-faceted culture.

Toronto may not be my home, because, perhaps I do not have a home – but it is home to my community.

But it’s not easy. The every day.

Myself, I live with that same crippling depression that permeates my work. I am a “Mad” artist, and I hold that identity – but perhaps I do not name it enough.

Sometimes I am ill. And as much as Toronto heals me, it also can keep me, and others, ill, by not being truly inclusive in its dominant culture for those of us who are “Mad” and otherwise marginal.

We all face many problems in this city: Lack of shelter, rising costs of living, violence, isolation, and a rapid current that demands productivity.

Toronto is a wonderful place to live – if we can live here amidst the pressure.

If we can find moments of breath.

If we can think beyond the colonial cultural foundation that was laid down here as a manufacturing centre, financial hub, and slaughterhouse. Hogtown.

But these foundations are not the earth.
They may be deep, but they’re not rooted. They can break.

I believe that the purpose of art is to expand the capacity for human imagination. The cultural sector’s responsibility is to be that imaginative potential. 
The playground, and training centre of imagination for its larger community

Another world is possible. But we need to collectively dream it.

And so we cannot simply accept the status quo. We need to be willing to break through that foundation.  Artistically, Civically, Communally.

Now, How do we do that?

…Look, they only gave me 5 minutes!  It’s an emerging artist award. I’m not that succinct! Check me back when I emerge I guess. 

However we do it. We do it together.

As a community that inspires its members to be their best and insists that barriers be removed so we can all have access to the chance to be our best.  

As a community that empowers its members; and one that welcomes and cares for outsiders.

That accepts placeless migratory people. Like you have done for me.

To all of you, to the city, to the land, the waterways, and to the ghosts and spirts,

Shukriya, Miigwetch, Thank you.

- Jiv



Intro to Qlab for Indie Performance Creators: Video and Sound

Workshop facilitator: Jiv Parasram

A Free workshop presented by Cahoots Theatre and Pandemic Theatre



Who should take this workshop

Are you still running sound cues off of Itunes? Are you using powerpoint for your projections? Have you ever wondered why changing that one fade is taking so long? Feel like you just want to understand how all this works? Then this is for you!


Why take this workshop?

The more skills you have, the less you have to rely on the labour of others. More importantly – the more you know about the work others do to support you, the more you can appreciate what’s going on in the room.

This workshop is for artists who would like to understand how to use Qlab – a relatively free piece of OSX software to advance their practice in the rehearsal hall, performance, or on late nights tinkering away and getting creative.

Workshop Objectives

Participants will gain an understanding of

·      Basic audio programming

·      Basic audio routing

·      Basic video programming

·      Basic internal video design functionality of Qlab

·      Basic video mapping

Workshop requirements

·      A Mac OSX laptop with Qlab 3 or Qlab 4 available for download free here:

·      A daily "rent-to-own" license for Qlab 3 or 4 for Video available for purchase here: ($4.00 USD ; credit card required)

Please note: You may participate in the workshop without the above materials, however we are unable to provide workstations (laptops) – so you may have to be more theoretical. If access to a credit card to purchase a license is a barrier to attendance please let us know and we’ll try to find a solution. 


Time & Date
Tuesday March 20th 2018 | 2pm-6pm

Cahoots Creation Studio
388 Queen St. E Unit # 3
(Entrance on Trefann street)

Registration info

Registration is limited to 12 participants maximum.

To register, please contact Sabah Haque. With subject line “QLAB WORKSHOP.”

About the Workshop Facilitator
Jiv Parasram (He/Him/His) is a multidisciplinary artist, facilitator, and researcher. He is the Artistic Producer of Pandemic Theatre, as well as the Associate Artistic Producer at Theatre Passe Muraille. Jiv worked with Cahoots Theatre throughout the set up of the Cahoots Creation Studio and is a “proper indie artist” consistently wearing multiple hats as a creator, producer, production manager, stage manager, sound designer, and probably a bunch of other things.


#RememberJan29 | "For My Family"

I don't remember where I was when the news came to me. Not precisely. What I do remember was the feeling of a drop in my stomach, a hollowness in my throat, a tension that pulled upwards from my brow through my eyes, mouth, jaw. And I remember thinking - of course this was bound to happen - so please let it be treated with respect.

Read More

"Take d Milk, Nah?" as part of Caminos 2017

Want to see a sneak peek of our latest work in development, before the full production in April 2018? Jiv will be doing a 20 minute presentation of his solo show, Take d Milk, Nah?as a part of Aluna Theatre's performance festival CAMINOS 2017

Inclusive – discursive – daring – incorrigible – CAMINOS 2017 is a festival of new works-in-progress from local Pan-American, Indigenous, and Latinx artists who are pushing the boundaries of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual arts, installation, and film.

They have some amaaaaaaaazzzzzing artists involved this year. We highly recommend you check out as much of their programming as you can.

Click here to learn more about this year's line-up.

"Daughter" at the Theatre Centre

Daughter is one of those shows that just never quits!

We not only have our production of it at The National Arts Centre coming up in 2018, AND just toured it to Romania, but the Theatre Centre has just announced that it will be a part of their 2017/2018 Programming! 

 Look how happy Adam is... Look at that creepy smile!

Look how happy Adam is... Look at that creepy smile!

The Theatre Centre is one of our favourite companies, because they support so many indie artists and produce some of the most provocative and engaging work in the country. Check out their amazing line-up of programming here

"Take d Milk, Nah?" as part of TPM's New Season

We're having a crazy week! 

Daughter wrapped up it's run in Romania; Shove It Down My Throat presented its sneak-peek presentation as part of Queer Pride; The Only Good Indian was announced as a part of this year's SummerWorks Performance Festival; AND NOW we're ecstatic to reveal that one of our latest works-in-development, Take d Milk, Nah?, which we're co-producing with b current, is going to be a part of Theatre Passe Muraille's 2017/18 season!

 Photo by Marko Kovacevic

Photo by Marko Kovacevic

This is Jiv's solo show about the time he birthed a cow... kinda. 
Click here to learn more about the project. (And the rest of TPM's amazing season!)

"The Only Good Indian" at SummerWorks

We're happy to announce that the next iteration of The Only Good Indian, which we originally performed at the Rhubarb Festival this past February, has been picked up to be performed at the 2017 SummerWorks Performance Festival. This makes it three years in a row for Pandemic's participation in the festival. 

We're super stoked to bring 2 time (!) Governor General's Award nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard onto this version of the project. We're excited to see how she'll contribute to the development of the piece. 

Click here to learn more about the project.

Jiv wins the Ken McDougall Award

We're absolutely ecstatic to announce that our very own Jivesh Parasram is the recipient of the Ken McDougall Award at the 2017 Harold Awards.

Here's a bit about the award according to the Harolds' website:

"Established in 1995 by Buddies In Bad Times Theatre, Platform 9 and Theatre Passe Muraille, the annual Ken McDougall Award serves to acknowledge a promising emerging director. Previous recipients have been: Franco Boni, Cathy Gordon, Michael Waller, Chris Abraham, Simon Heath, Patrick Conner, Ellen Ray Hennessey, Rebecca Brown, Nina Aquino, Kimahli Powell, Brendan Healy, Bea Pizano and Jacob Zimmer."


Jiv was actually awarded a Harold Award last year. So he's won a Harold in back-to-back years. He's the Tom Hanks of the Harolds!

"Shove It Down My Throat" to play Queer Pride

We're very excited to announce that our latest project, Johnnie Walker's Shove It Down My Throat, will be a part of this year's Queer Pride at Buddies in Bad Times!

This will be a special sneak-peak presentation on June 20th, as we get the project ready for full-production in 2018.

This presentation wouldn't be possible without the generosity of our amazing supporters. Thanks to your help with our FWYC campaign we managed to raise over $4,500 for the project's development.

We will be donating $500 of these funds to the Prisoner Correspondence Project, a solidarity project for Queer prisoners in Canada and the United States, linking them with Queer communities outside of prison.

"Daughter" Goes to Romania

We're pretty excited to announce that Daughter has been picked up to perform at the Sibiu International Theatre Festival in Romania. If you happen to be in Sibiu on June 18th, boy have we got a show for you!

Click here for more details on Daughter's involvement in the festival. 

The Sibiu International Theatre Festival is the largest performing arts festival in Romania, and one of the biggest in the world. Over the course of ten days, the festival presents a range of international performing arts, including theatre, dance, circus, music, and more.

Support Our Next Project

Pandemic is currently seeking funding through a FWYC campaign for our latest project, Shove It Down My Throat by Johnnie Walker. 

Shove is a new gonzo true crime docu-play about homophobia, violence, incarceration, sex, and mystery. It's inspired by the true story of Luke O’Donovan, a queer man from Atlanta, Georgia currently serving a ten-year sentence for five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of attempted murder. The play examines the attack, Luke's trial, and the key figures in the story with a mixture of investigative rigour and campy irreverance.

Pandemic Theatre has entered into an Artist Residency with Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (the world’s longest-running queer theatre) to further develop Shove. We're currently looking for donations to fund our development of the play through this residency. 

If you want to help fund this important play about homophobic violence, check out our FWYC Campaign. (We have some pretty awesome perks!)


"Daughter" at the NAC

We're excited to announce that our and QuipTake's production of "Daughter" will be a part of the National Arts Centre's 2017/18 season.

This marks the first time Pandemic has been to Ottawa since our TEDx lecture in 2012!

There will be three performances in February 2018, followed by panel discussions after each showing with esteem speakers to discuss the larger themes of the piece. You can read more about the NAC's season here.



We're excited to announce that Pandemic will take part in Buddies in Bad Time's 38th Rhubarb Festival! We will be premiering a new piece from our Artistic Producer, Jivesh Parasram. 

Stay tuned for more details on the project!

The Rhubarb Festival is crucial to the Toronto theatre scene, not just because it's Canada’s longest-running new works festival, but because it is a hotbed of experimental performance art. We always leave Rhubarb having seen a bunch of new aesthetic practices and diverse perspectives.

We even once saw a piece where a guy ate cabbage 'til he puked!
(...Okay, maybe that isn't selling it very well, but it was super funny!)

What we're trying to say is: we're honoured to be included this year.

You can click here to check out all the artists in this years line-up.

Pandemic Takes SummerWorks by Storm

SummerWorks was freakin' awesome this year! We saw some killer shows (shout outs to our friends d'bi.young anitafrika, Thomas McKechnie, Shadi Shahkhalili, Keith Barker, Donna-Michelle St. Bernard, ted witzel, Falen Johnson, Adam Paolozza, and Gabriel Dharmoo on some spectacular theatre), and we had two, count'em, TWO productions in the festival this year. And not to brag, but we think they were kinda the shit!

And so did others! Situational Anarchy was shortlisted for the SummerWorks Prize for Production. And Daughter was shortlisted for the Spotlight Award for Performance. AND to top it off, both were selected as "Best of SummerWorks" by NOW Magazine.

Accolades aside, festivals are great because they bring the community together. After show talk-backs, the special presentations by PechaKucha, countless late-night drinks. These are the things we enjoyed most. These are the things that harboured the discussion after the house lights came up. These are the reasons to make art in the first place. 

Speaking of late-night drinks: here's Tom, Graham Isador, and Jiv at the SummerWorks closing night party. What a bunch of toooooooooools!

Pandemic at the Doras

We had a blast last night at the Dora Awards, as we got to cheer on Tara for her Outstanding Performance nomination for Mahmoud!

So much fun. So much wine. So much headache this morning.

Congrats to all the winners and nominees, especially our good friends Andy McKim, Marjorie Chan, and Ravi Jain. 

Awards are kinda dumb, we know. But they're a great excuse to bring the community together to celebrate us all being crazy enough to devote our lives to the performing arts.

"Birth" Goes to NYC!

Birth (by our AD Tom Arthur Davis) has just been picked up as a part of the 2nd Annual Lift-Off New Play Series in NYC! The series, which takes place in late August, is presented by The Navigators, a New York based company who seek to produce new Science Fiction and Fantasy inspired theater that departs from the traditional theatre-going experience. 

Check out the full line-up on their website:
(Americans spell it "theatER"... Who knew?)

We can't wait to see how New York audiences react to our little dystopia!

Jiv Gets Harolded!

Artistic Producer, Jiv Parasram was honoured at this year's Harold Awards at the Cadillac Lounge in Parkdale, Toronto last night. A community based awards ceremony from the Toronto Independent theatre community, the Harolds celebrate and ridicule those fools of us who keep on making our scene a thing.

The awards were founded in 1994 to memorialize Harold Kandel - one of the most loyal theatre goers and avid hecklers in the history of Toronto theatre. 

After being inducted by Joseph Recinos, in proper form, as Jiv attempted to grasp at some form of make shift speech, he was aptly heckled by ahdri zhina mandiela who stated "anyone can get a Harold these days."  True enough! 

As a side note, despite the fact that Jiv is actually an award winning public speaker, improviser, and debater from his younger years, all he was actually able to put together on the spot was "uhhh....fuck all y'all!" - which was well received at this kind of event. Way to keep it classy, Parasram.

To read more on the awards and a full list of the inductees, check out Jon Kaplan's article from NOW Magazine by clicking here.