Erin Brubacher, Sherri Hay, Veda Hille and Erum Khan
January 2021

When the pandemic hit Canada in March 2020, a few of us were working on an international collaboration. Collectively, the team had already taken a total of eight flights (fourteen including connections) — all before rehearsals had even begun. How could we have done more of our work at a distance, in preparation for the privilege of being together? What if we didn’t take the luxury of flying, or the means to do so, for granted? What would we need to do to establish creative trust with new collaborators in a virtual space?

I feel like we’re asking how we would like theater to be more ethical, more comfortable, more inviting, more enjoyable and accessible in person. And how can we ask those questions of an online space? That’s been a very productive way of thinking about things.

— We Quit Theatre

It’s remarkable how different the access to internet is between southern and northern Canada, it’s really bad here. It’s a $2000 flight, there’s no roads to get here, we are quite physically removed from the rest of Canada. So for us to gain equality in the world, the only thing we’ve got really is the internet.

— Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory

The offers, reflections and tools shared in these virtual pages are not meant to solve the problems of the moment we’re in; they are meant to help with the problems of the future. Artists like to say that they lead the way. We make meaning out of actions and gestures and believe in the power of signs and symbols. The choices we make now, about how we work together and the impact of our actions on the health of the land, water and the people of this planet, will be what future artists have to live with.

When it comes to the amount of time, money, resources, etc., required to make a big production in terms of touring, a lot of us as artists are struggling around the carbon footprint… of being able to direct more money into supporting our collaborators instead of so much of the peripheral production costs. Doing more with less, you know. And having these constraints push us more creatively.

— Jess Dobkin

As live artists, we think that physically being together is important; we aren’t ready to give that up, especially considering that we have whole systems to change, of which travel is just one part. But shouldn’t we at least consider meeting across oceans as a precious opportunity, rather than business as usual?

I hope that we always have online options because the worst thing that could happen would be to come out of this pandemic and switch back to only in-person things for performance and theatre, and immediately shut the door again — on all the deaf, disabled and mad creatives, who, for the first time, are able to be engaged in this conversation. I hope that we’ll all have online components… Am I going to be flying back and forth to Banff for two weeks ever again? That seems like an environmental nightmare. Now I’m in a situation where I actually think politically, I don’t think I could do that, whereas before it was just so normalized. Yeah, so there are ways that I hope we don’t go back.

— Syrus Marcus Ware

This field guide is a set of proposals based on each of our gleanings from four distinct artistic perspectives, and upon the amalgam of ideas collected through conversation with over thirty colleagues, from across fields, forms, and geographies, in collaborative arts. Though performance is our dominant lens, we hope this guide will be useful to all artists in working with others at a distance. The offers in this guide are also the result of the creative labs we ran together, for different groups of teenagers, during the past ten months. These labs were empathetic processes that helped keep our creative spirits alive in a time of isolation.

I do think that, in the future there will be plenty of room for what I refer to as more conventional live performance — the last couple of millennia hasn’t killed it, so why would it go away now? And I think people will be really hungry for authentic live, real experiences of real people in real places. We’ve done so much on distance performance now, I feel like there’s gonna be a lot of directions to go with the hybrid work. I’m really excited about how these things bridge together. I’m excited to see how this online work might influence the way that we’re doing live and in person things as well. Things that gather, and that sort of magic. And people are willing to do that now that there’s a greater level of comfort. So I think this is just sort of expanding the field of practice in a way.

— Ian Garrett

Working remotely can be an isolating, unsatisfying thing even without a pandemic to navigate. But, in our experience, it can also be an opportunity for connection, progress, and creative possibility.

One seat on a return trip from Halifax to Vancouver produces 3550 lbs of CO2 emissions. Depending on how you count it (and how your electricity is generated), participation in a one hour video meeting produces from 0.1lb to 2 lbs. To make it real, we can put this in terms of cost in Arctic ice — a four hour Zoom call shrinks Arctic ice by about 1.5 centimeters whereas the loss generated by the carbon emissions of a one way flight across Canada is about 3 meters squared.