Four emerging creators at the Rhubarb Festival that you'll be buzzing about

Rhubarb — Canada's longest-running new works festival — kicks off its 37th edition this week at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and within its expansive program of dance, music, performance art and theatre comes four young artists you'll surely be hearing a lot about in the future.

This won't be the last time you hear about their work

From left: Marina Moreira, Chase Lo, Joshua Middleton and Monica Garrido. (Alejandro Santiago)

Rhubarb — Canada's longest-running new works festival — kicks off its 37th edition this week at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, and within its expansive program of dance, music, performance art and theatre, there are four young artists you'll surely be hearing a lot about in the future.

Being able to tell queer stories has become an amazing source of inspiration, as I wasn't able to talk about this back home.- Monica Garrido

Chase Lo, Marina Moreira, Joshua Middleton and Monica Garrido make up the quartet of this year's Emerging Creators Unit, which showcases original work created and developed through Buddies' Queer Youth Arts Program, and CBC Arts talked to them by email about their work.

So how about we start off by introducing ourselves?

CL: My name is Chase Lo. I am an emerging interdisciplinary performing artist in dance/theatre.

MM: My name is Marina Moreira, I was born and raised in Toronto. I am an actress and, lately, a writer as well.

JM: I'm Joshua Middleton and for the last 21 years I've been residing in Toronto.

MG: My name is Monica Garrido and I'm from Monterrey, Mexico. I like to believe I'm a performer, filmmaker, writer, producer and — after a few drinks — an amazing dancer. 

Chase Lo (Rhubarb)


Who or what inspires you as artists?

CL: A number of (often queer and of colour) artists in visual art, fashion, movement, theatre, and literature. I'm inspired by the quest for, and experience of, intimacy, connection and love. And the women/femmes in my life.

MM: Everything, everyone. I find I am most inspired by moments or thoughts we may otherwise throw away. The things you say or see or hear that don't seem very important but, somehow, get stuck in your head. 

JM: People that inspire me would be iconoclasts, people on the fringe — or the ones who just dare to go too far. These people would be David Wojnarowicz, Dianne Arbus, David Lynch, Anais Nin, Darren Aronofsky, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath,  Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon, Tess Parks, Shirley Manson, David Fincher, Roy Stuart and Eve Ensler.

Marina Moreira (Alejandro Santiago)

MG: I find listening to others and learning their stories is really inspiring — observing their movements, reactions and feeling them, too. Also, having questions about my own life helps me to create as I find art necessary to understand a lot of stuff. Working with queer artists, and being able to tell queer stories has become an amazing source of inspiration, as I wasn't able to talk about this back home.

Talk a bit about work you'll be showing at Rhubarb.

MM: I'll be presenting Frida Kahlo Googles Herself. I originally proposed it as an idea of playing Frida Kahlo as she googles what her legacy has become, and it has turned into a performance piece about how we want to be remembered, or how we want other people to see ourselves.

CL: Al/Lex is an interdisciplinary piece about a character who begins to unravel the parts of themself that have been hidden, suppressed and shamed. Within Alex emerges Lex, who is initially drawn out by his sexual exploration.

JM: The work that I am presenting is a two-character chamber play called Max, which revolves around an older and younger man dealing with issues of abandonment and fatherhood. 

MG: The Cunning Linguist is a series of stories from my life in Mexico through my journey to Toronto, as I search for my voice as a queer woman. It is a really personal story; thankfully I got an amazing director, Beatriz Pizano, to help me bring it to life.   

Joshua Middleton (Alejandro Santiago)


What have you learned about yourself or your work through the process of this program?

CL: That having the right support and resources makes all the difference in keeping me motivated and accountable to the artistic goals I set out for myself. 

JM: The process of the program is fast, but even if we met only once a week, our program coordinators Sunny Drake and Mel Hague would propose new challenges to re-work what we had initially presented during the audition. This helped me understand that the process is more important than the finalized component.

MM: One thing I have learned is that you can't predict what a project or an idea will end up looking like. The piece as it is now is very different from what I wrote about in my original proposal, but it is definitely where it needs to be. I've learned to ask what my work needs in the present, rather than trying to work toward an imagined end goal or go back to the kernel of an idea I had three months ago. I think it's a pretty good way of looking at life, as well.

Monica Garrido (Rhubarb)

MG: I've learned so much that I can't even put it in words. This experience changed my life and I think I will never end thanking Sunny and Mel for the opportunity, the wisdom, the challenges, the truth, everything... Josh, Marina and Chase made this adventure even more amazing. Their talent is overwhelming, and it was incredible to be able to meet with such talented group of people weekly to talk about art and theatre. I also learned in a way to be proud of being queer. As a person who is still in the closet back home, being able to have a stage to tell people this is my journey and this is who I am is a gift.

CL: Come into the program with a specific idea and vision of the story you want to tell but be open to the evolution of it. 

MM: "Just do it." Keep saying that to yourself. It's a pretty decent affirmation and you'll find it can be applied to many situations. 

JM: Don't doubt yourself — and don't think that your piece is the best thing you have ever written. The piece you audition with is not your final component. Remember that you are in this program because you like to create intellectually challenging queer pieces of work, so it is of utmost importance to be vulnerable to challenges that will be posed, both externally and internally. Everyone will challenge your work, but Rhubarb does so in the most supportive environment. Live by your work, save your drafts and take a breath.

MG: Enjoy it to the fullest — even the stress of it. This will be one of the best experiences of your life. This is the place to explore whatever you want to explore. You will be surrounded by incredible, talented people that all want you to succeed, so don't be afraid of making mistakes because a lot of the times you will find answers in them. 

Rhubarb Festival Emerging Creators Unit. Created and Performed by Chase Lo, Marina Moreira, Joshua Middleton and Monica Garrdio. Feb 19-20, 26-27. Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto. 

These interviews have been condensed and edited.

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