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Humour in Hard Times: Parading Through Parks with Shadowland Theatre

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Shadowland Theatre works with local communities to showcase their distinctive histories, create new stories and celebrate special events. Together, they craft stories, images and events that go beyond their individual expectations; where the whole becomesgreater than the sum of the parts. The collective, creative approach that Shadowland Theatre uses takes place over days, weeks or months to culminate in performances, parades and multi-year collaborations.

Home Follies performers gather for a photo (Photo courtesy of Shadowland Theatre).

Shadowland works in both rural and urban landscapes and has a strong commitment to environmentally themed, site-engaged work that connects to the rhythms of our planet. They create large-scale, outdoor shows where the park landscapes provide the settings, and local landmarks and community members become the characters. In any story connected to the land Indigenous artists and knowledge-keepers are invited to bring their knowledge to the centre of the work. Shadowland Theatre animates streets, parks, and public spaces with their whimsical yet introspective outdoor theatre performances featuring larger than life puppets and characters.

Performers from Shadowland Theatre in action! (Photo courtesy of Shadowland Theatre)

This summer and fall as part of Arts in the Parks, Shadowland presented Home Follies which is a pageant style performance that travels through the landscapes of four parks in the GTA: Dentonia Park(East York), Parma Park (East York), Rustic Park (Etobicoke) and Fountainhead Park (North York). Shadowland’s signature spectacle arts – giant puppetry, stilt-walkers, live music and site animation were displayed in an age-old, and 21st century, story of challenge and adversity, revival and celebration. Pre-show workshops were held for community members to become involved in the show’s ensemble scenes. With its bold images, physical performance, humour, and live music, Home Follies was a family friendly, all ages event, featuring a diverse cast, cultural traditions, and languages. And was presented safely incorporating all relevant covid protocols and safety measures including distance viewing.

Prior to the main show, Shadowland would host an hour-long workshop, with pre-registered community participants, that taught: drumming with Njacko Backo; ensemble performance with Anne Barber and Lochlan Cox; sound effects with Chris Wilson and Brad Harley; and a tour with Alan Colley on plant medicines and Indigenous teachings. There was also a post-show period that allowed audiences to take photos with the theatre characters, talk to the artists, and look at the props and costumes.

The Home Follies Logo (photo courtesy of Shadowland Theatre)

The Home Follies performance itself showcased the story of earth enduring the harsh realities of COVID-19, climate change and capitalism, in a playful and tongue and cheek manner. Using humorous characters, vibrant costumes/props and a fusion of musical features from an array of cultures – Shadowland Theatre was able to bring an interactive thoughtful storytelling experience to all the local GTA parks they visited throughout their presentation of this theatrical piece .

Want to see more of Shadowland? Check out a snippet of the Moving House, Finding Home performance from 2020 or the 2021 short film What Makes a House a Home .

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