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Lonely Child Project

Escape into the dream world of a child: surrounded in layers of colourful zebra stripes, fairies dance the farandole under a starlit sky, Merlin the Magician casts his magical spells and the evil fairy Carabosse glares down at the merriment from high up in her jade palace
 
Supported by the Toronto Arts Council and 
Canada Council for the Arts
 

Letters

A multi-disciplinary music theatre work in collaboration with composer Frank Horvat spanning the bridge between theatre, opera and the world of improvisation in both the body and the voice. 
 
Supported by the Ontario Arts Council and 
Canada Council for the Arts 

 

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Lonely Child Project

Film: 16:40: Premiere: the Revue Cinema, Toronto, December 5, 2022

The Lonely Child Project is an intricate tapestry of elements, combining contemporary music, theatre, dance and circus to reimagine Claude Vivier’s iconic Lonely Child in a dramatic setting by animating the role of the child sung by soprano Stacie Dunlop, while his dream world is brought to life through the choreography of aerialist-dancers Angola Murdoch and Holly Treddenick.

In our unique creation approach for this project, there has been no director or outside artistic vision. The work has come together organically through discussion, discovery and experimentation. The evolution of this work did not begin with a preconceived idea of what it should be, rather it has progressed from our research, play and feedback within the group. It is in this manner a truly collaborative approach to the creative process.

In March 2022, a film of the work was captured, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now incentive. In its current iteration, Lonely Child provides a wealth of potential as a digital or live presentation, as it can function as a powerful performance piece suitable for festival presentation, or other wide-ranging performance opportunities. Due to its nature of being both an icon of modern classical composition, and a powerful expression of aerial dance, this work will be a good fit for both music and circus presenters.

Theatrical production: 70 minutes: premiere: Fall 2025

The Lonely Child Project is a work-in-development that was initiated in January 2017. The core members of the project are soprano Stacie Dunlop, composer/arranger/musical director Scott Good and circus artists Angola Murdoch (LookUp Theatre) and Holly Treddenick (Femmes de Feu Creations) and creative consultant Sara Porter. It is a multi-stage creation project:

For the first stage (march 2019) a new arrangement was created of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child (originally composed for soprano and chamber orchestra) by composer/arranger Scott Good for singer (soprano Stacie Dunlop), pre-recorded instrumentals, and reimagines it in a dramatic setting by animating the role of the child sung by soprano Stacie Dunlop, while his dream world is brought to life through the choreography of aerialists Angola murdoch and Holly treddenick.

A stunning example of modernist composition, Lonely Child is an account of both affirmation and tragedy. A $7,500 grant was received from the canada council of the arts to support the initial exploration/creation stage of this project, with the first workshop stage being completed in march 2019. A second grant for $18,000 was received from the canada council of the arts and to support the next stage of the projects development that included the addition of 8 instrumentalists (string quartet, double bass, percussion and 2 accordion) and concentrated on refinement of the choreography and integration of the instrumentalists to the piece.

The work for this stage began in february 2020 and was scheduled to culminate in a private showing in april 2020, but was postponed temporarily due to covid-19, resuming in a newly visioned way as a recording produced in isolation along with two intensive isolation residencies took place in Toronto and at the Bank Art House in Welland in September and October, 2020. The isolation recording was produced at Big Smoke Audio in Toronto, by recording engineer Dennis Patterson. In March 2022, a film of this second stage of the work was captured, supported by a $50,000 grant through the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now incentive.

The third stage for this project was completed in 2023, with the support of a $25,000 Research and Creation grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and the next stage of development will take place in 2024, supported by a $7,000 Dance Projects grant from the Toronto Arts Council. Once this last stage of development is complete, it will see the individual work of Lonely Child at the core of a 70-minute hybrid contemporary music/circus production, to be presented with live or recorded instrumentals, and live voice.

With this vision in mind, in its current iteration, the Lonely Child Project provides a wealth of potential as on its own as a 17-minute digital, 17-minute live singular work, or 70-minute live fully realized production. It can function as a powerful performance piece suitable for festival presentation, as the reduced orchestration will allow for many more wide-ranging performance opportunities including potential collaboration with new music ensembles. Due to its nature of being both an icon of modern classical composition, and a powerful expression of aerial dance, this work will be a good fit for both music and circus presenters.

Letters

In  looking to reconcile the traumatic events of my childhood, I am creating a solo music theatre work. In this personal discovery of narrative, movement, sound and visual exploration, I navigate through the events of my early life being raised by a mother with undiagnosed mental health challenges and drug addiction, who had to care for two small children on her own. Explorations on the theme of forgiveness, are expressed through body and voice improvisation, along with the reimagining of existing vocal works and the animating of newly created songs with piano self-accompaniment. Canadian toronto-based composer Frank Horvat is creating the supporting soundscape for this journey.

With the goal of bringing to life a 60-minute solo piece that can be viewed as a live or digital event, I completed the seed-stage of the work in 2022 with support from an OAC Theatre Recommender Grant and continued the research and creation stage of this project in 2023 supported by a $25,000 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. 

Digging up the garbage of one’s past could be many things – scary, traumatic, overwhelming, uncomfortable – and I have had a huge resistance to unveiling this story. But the reality of it all boils down to this basic idea: that there cannot possibly be transformation without friction. so, instead of choosing to stay in a safe place, ignoring/dismissing/forgetting the past, I am facing it, unearthing it, venturing deep into the cesspool of my early years and seeing how I can tap into my memory archives to inform my artistic practice, and to challenge myself in ways that I have never before had the courage to explore. This is intensive work on so many levels, and I have always known that I have the capacity for more expression, more elements of creativity, and that through this investigation of my own history, I, the archivist, the explorer, the experiencer, am finding a new path into my own journey of creative exploration.

Is this an artistic risk? Of course it is: opening up to my vulnerability, exploring and excavating my inner-child wounds, investigating trauma through my body, my voice, my writer and piano player within that has never been explored publicly. To expose the story of shame that my grandmother threatened me never to say out loud. To allow my voice to embody the emotion, and come out of my body in an expressive way that might not be considered beautiful. To expose the raw, naked, fucked up truth of who I am and where I came from is a huge risk, but I have to take it. I have to make this work come to life, to tell the story of my crazy mother, and to find forgiveness through my creative exploration of the journey into this space inside of my life that is demanding discovery.

The incubation and gestation of this play has sustained much resistance from me in its process, to tell the story of my childhood with a mother who should never have been a mother. A story that when people hear me utter the words have asked, is it really true? And it is so very true. It’s possible that the way that I am experimenting and investigating on how to present this work to an audience could be uncomfortable, could be emotionally triggering, could be a similar experience to their own story; the potential relational aspect will be carefully attended to with content warnings. I have to tell my story in this way; it cannot be softened.

I hope that by telling my story, it might inspire others to find the strength to tell their own story out loud, to be heard.

Past Projects

The Harvester-Erwartung project:

Guided by my artistic vision as a producer and performer, this is a program that pairs a new chamber arrangement of Arnold Schoenberg’s epic monodrama Erwartung with a new opera, The Harvester, created by one of canada’s leading young composers, Aaron Gervais in collaboration with emerging Canadian playwright/director Paul Van Dyck. This new opera scored for baritone and soprano is based on Paul Van Dyck’s play “The Harvester”, an edgy and thought provoking piece, which won best of the fringe at the Atlantic Fringe Festival in 2012.

The first workshop of The Harvester took place at Gallery 345 in January 2016 and the second stage workshop saw the productions come to life with chamber ensemble, again at Gallery 345 in January 2017. 

Ascension:

In collaboration with aerialists Holly Treddenick and Angola Murdoch, we created Ascension for Balancing on the Edge at the Harbourfront Theatre.

In this trio we witness three personal journeys of transformation on and around the aerial ladder. At times reflecting each other, other times supporting one another along. The core of this work delves into a narrative exploring personal experiences of risk and balance, motherhood and feminism. Driven by the graphic notation and irregular score of John Cage’s Aria accompanied by his Fontana Mix, we have have created collaboratively and interpreted the score in a new and reimagined way vocally and physically. Witnessing the brink of insanity, on the edge of reality. The ladder is home as we ascend through the time and space of this work.

No Going Back:

“No going back: from a certain point on, there is no going back. that is the point to reach” – Franz Kafka

No Going Back incubated at The Banff Centre during my 20-week 2012/13 self-directed creative residency with violinist extraordinaire Andrea Neumann where we collaborated on György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments. The Kafka Fragments were enhanced by a visual presentation, which took the text of the fragments and superimposed them on to pages taken directly from Kafka’s journals and letters. This program was presented at The Banff Centre, New Music Edmonton, New Works Calgary, at the CMC Vancouver presented by the Little Chamber Music Series that Could, at Open Space Victoria and self-presented on Hornby Island as well as in Toronto at Gallery 345.

Rêve doux-amer:

Cinq Chansons de Baudelaire are some of the earliest of Debussy’s compositions. They provide a challenge to both the performer and the audience in their presentation, so in order to make them more accessible we added  theatrical elements of dramatic staging and story, guided by theatre director Roberta Barker, along with vocal piano works by Jonathan Harvey and Elliot Carter to the program, along with La descent vers l’enfer (descent into hell) from Sheila Silver’s Six preludes pour pianod’après poèmes de Baudelaire, and three newly commissioned works from Canadian composers Tawnie Olson, Clark Ross and Scott Godin.

This project was presented in September 2011 at the Music Room in Halifax, at the Newfound Music Festival at Memorial School of Music in St. John’s and in Toronto at Gallery 345 in January 2012.