Conveners: Natalie Alvarez, Stephen Johnson, Beatriz Pizano, and Trevor Schwellnus


This working group brings together researchers, artists, activists, and dramaturges to investigate how performance makes manifest the complex ways in which gestures, in their migration from body to body, and witness to witness, are instantiations of the “treaty” in the Americas. We ask how performance serves as an enactment and carrying forth of “treaty,” which we position in newly configured, expanded, and imagined ways as an embodied, performative negotiation and testimony of mutual responsibility between peoples and between the land and its peoples. In our examinations of scholarly writing and creative research projects, we will ask how bodily movement and gesture serve as implicit pacts, transmissions of testimony, and responsibility to the past, present, and future. Our focus will be on performances that serve as critical interventions in the preservation of embodied cultural memories attendant upon the rights of and responsibilities to the dispossessed and that bridge strategic alliances through gestural travel. Our interest in performance as treaty arrives in the wake of the ongoing Idle No More protests which, in the implicit references to movement (as opposed to idleness), seeks to redress the abuse of First Nations’ treaty rights; and Aluna Theatre’s re-staging of Daniel MacMartin’s 1905 diary of Treaty #9, which foregrounds the discrepancies between treaty as oral performative and embodied memory versus written record. Our aim is to foster alliances between First Nations in Canada, Latina/o, Indigenous, and those who have historically been, and continue to be, dispossessed in the Americas by examining gesture and its circuits of travel, with a particular focus on its manifestations in the Americas to the North.

The issues addressed in this workshop will be a continuation of discussions initiated at Aluna Theatre’s 2014 panamerican routes/rutas panamericanas international festival of performance and human rights in the Americas, a co-produced event with Native Earth in Toronto, February 17 to March 9, 2014. Beatriz Pizano and Trevor Schwellnus of Aluna Theatre have been in discussion with Aaron Pollard and Stephen Lawson of about finding creative ways to link the Toronto and Montreal events.


Our session will be treated as a workshop where performance pieces and scholarly writing will be shared, examined, and “dramaturged.” Writing and performance descriptions or excerpts will be circulated in advance in order to maximize the discussion time.


Participants should upload a 250-word abstract for a paper or proposal for performance that demonstrates its pertinence to the working session themes, along with a short bio. Sample images and performance clips may also be uploaded alongside the abstract or proposal. Materials should be uploaded via the online application form before October 9th, 2013.

We hope to keep our group small—eight to ten people—so that each project receives adequate workshopping time.

Convener Biographies:

Natalie Alvarez is an associate professor in the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University where she teaches in the Theatre Praxis concentration. She is the editor of the first two books on Latina/o Canadian theatre and performance, which aim to establish the field in Canada (Playwrights Canada Press). Her work on performance studies, performance theory, and Latina/o performance has been published in periodicals such as Theatre Journal, Performance Research, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Janus Head, as well as national and international essay collections. Her current SSHRC-funded book project examines simulations, interculturalism, and performance in military training and dark tourism. She serves as the co-editor of the Canadian Theatre Review’s Views and Reviews and is the recipient of the 2013 Richard Plant Essay Prize by the Canadian Association for Theatre Research.

Stephen Johnson is Director of the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. He has taught theatre history and theory, film studies, dramatic literature, and performance studies, as well as acting and directing, at the University of Guelph, McMaster University, the University of Toronto Mississauga, and the Drama Centre. His publications include an edited volume of forty essays, The Tyranny of Documents: the Performing Arts Historian as Film Noir Detective (PAR 2011), Burnt Cork: Origins and Traditions of Blackface Minstrelsy (University of Massachusetts Press 2012;, The Roof Gardens of Broadway Theatres, numerous book chapters on 19th and early 20th century performance, and articles in The Drama Review, Canadian Theatre Review,Theatre Topics and Nineteenth Century Theatre, as well as Theatre Research in Canada, which he (co)edited for ten years. His research project on blackface minstrelsy, The Juba Project, includes a database and website, available at His current research includes a web-based project, Canada West: Fringes of Show Business, focusing on the performance in Southern Ontario during the 19th and early 20th centuries (available as it develops at, and Cross-Border Blackface, a study of the performance of race in Southern Ontario.

Beatriz Pizano is an accomplished director and playwright. She is also an actor with more than twenty years of experience on stage, film, and television. She is the 2009 winner of the prestigious John Hirsch Prize for Direction from the Canada Council for the Arts and the recipient of numerous awards and internships including The Ken McDougall Award for Direction, The Chalmers Fellowship, The Urjo Kareda Award (Tarragon Theatre), and The Metcalf Performing Arts Internship. She has been an Associate Artistic Director for Theatre Revolve and Nightwood Theatre. As a writer/director, Beatriz has been nominated three times for Best New Play for her multi-award winning trilogy about women and war comprised of For Sale, Madre, and La Comunión. She has also created and led a number of youth programs both in Canada and Colombia. Most recently, she facilitated a theatre/photography workshop with ex-combatant children and youth victims from the armed conflict in her native Colombia.

Trevor Schwellnus is a Toronto-based scenographer – designing sets, lighting, and video for performance with independent artists. He is Artistic Producer of Aluna Theatre, and in 2009 – 2010 was Designer-in-Residence at the Theatre Centre. He directed, designed, and dramaturged Nohayquiensepa (Nooneknows) for Aluna Theatre, and designed La Comunión, Madre, and For Sale. He is currently developing a focus on the integration of artistic disciplines and intercultural practices through a Chalmers Fellowship. Trevor has collaborated in theatre and dance with Modern Times, Jumblies, Fixtpoint, Alameda, Cahoots, Buddies in Bad Times, Obsidian, Tarragon, Small Wooden Shoe, One Reed, Marie-Josée Chartier, Ame Henderson’s Public Recodings, Susie Burpee, Sasha Ivanochko, Meagan O’Shea, and others. He has 3 Doras (of 11 career nominations), a Harold, and a Children’s Choice Award.

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