All But Gone Fundraiser

Join us for an unforgettable evening of live performance, dinner, and silent auction in support of Necessary’s Angel production of All But Gone, A Beckett Rhapsody. Individual tickets and tables of eight available for purchase. Tax receipts will be issued fro the maximum allowable amount.

Tickets can be purchased here: Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.30.30 AM

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Walter De Maria, 1977

Walter De Maria, 1977

“Sanity is found at the centre of convulsion, where madness is scorched from the bisected soul.” – Sarah Kane

As we work towards opening 4.48 Psychosis, my assumptions regarding mental illness continue to be challenged in the best way possible. One thing that’s been discussed in rehearsal and around the office this past week is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), the ubiquitous treatment that is divisive as it is mysterious.

ECT has been around in some form since the late 1930s, and but it remains unclear exactly how it modifies the brain the way it does. Fundamentally, ECT is an induced seizure, electricity delivered to the brain through brief-pulse currents. The muscles are depolarized with a relaxant to limit the convulsions. What is known is that ECT produces a variety of temporary and long-term affects within the human brain, changing thought, feeling, and behavior.

Naturally, ECT has a contentious reputation. Our brains are the safe and source of our identities—our sense of self. When historically the treatment was used to control so-called misfits and deviants, how are we to see it as a potentially beneficial form of treatment for chronic depression? The truth is that ECT is

n’t good or bad in and of itself. It is a powerful tool that can be used and misused by anyone with access to it.

Is ECT a “brute force assault on the brain,” as it was described in this Toronto Star cover story from mid-December? There is no denying that people who’ve undergone ECT have experienced adverse cognitive effects. But the more I learn about it, the more I have to entertain the idea that it is more (and less) than crude or brutal or damaging.

In a recent conversation, my friend Emily mentioned the possibility that one day we might look back at chemotherapy with as much skepticism as we now observe ECT. Chemotherapy has been derided as poison, but it continues to be used to treat cancer because of one undeniable factor—it works.

The upshot of Emily’s analogy is clear: we will never get rid of a treatment that, even as it damages one thing, palliates another. As soon as something better, faster, or cheaper comes along, the paradigm will shift, and we are free to condemn something as arcane and inhuman.

I can neither endorse nor refute ECT as a form of treatment. My limited experience with it is that my grandmother, who suffered from (what was then called) manic depression, underwent multiple rounds of (what was then called) Electroshock therapy. In my mind, my grandmother was fun and creative and energetic, sometimes frighteningly so. Periodically, she would electively check herself into a treatment facility, and upon return, would appear glassy-eyed and distant. Not herself. But in time, she’d come back. It was a relief, and I often wished that she wouldn’t go for those treatments, which I imagined involved an electric chair, upholstered in floral chintz like the furniture in my grandmother’s living room.

Now I am older, and I see that ECT not a magic bullet, nor is it a form of torture. It has helped some, and not others. Some treatment facilities and administrators apply it judiciously, and some don’t. How do we think about it? Is it a political, ethical, moral, or medical issue? Is it all of these things?

I’m curious to know.

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The artist and reflections on normalcy

We are curious creatures, by nature and habit. We feed our curiosity by manipulating the boundaries of the material world surrounding us. As we push back on those boundaries the environment within ourselves remains largely enigmatic. Of all the curiosities of the human condition few stimulate deeper pause than our reflections on normalcy. In light of the clinical and theistic discourses we’ve architected through our efforts to interrogate normalcy, we are often paused by events that shift the signposts delineating insiders from outsiders, the markers that separate us from them.

It’s through these discourses that we come to accept what it means to be normal, and it’s through the artist that we are offered a glimpse into the world of the abnormal. The artist’s conventional utility is that of a window through which we can safely peer into worlds we dare not explore ourselves. Satisfying both our voyeuristic impulses and our need to cast derision, shame or praise.

The artist excavates madness through artistic discourse. Unlike theism and science, the arts provide a lens through which the experience of madness can be expressed commonly. The artist functions as both an outsider and an insider. The artist assumes the role of the contemporary, an observer of convention, allowing audiences to peer into the underpinning darkness. The artist’s work has allowed us to observe madness with sympathy and awe. Through the clumsy exploits of would be knights, or as a manifest of arcane knowledge and power. The artist’s work reflects madness through the prisms of gender, race, sexuality and civilization.

Madness and normalcy; the perspectives of outsiders and observers, converge through artistic expression in challenging and relevant discourse. A discourse that has broad implications for individuals and communities alike and can help us interrogate the madness taboo through a multiplicity of lenses beyond the immediacy of our own experiences. This is the vital role of the artist.

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Reconciling the art in arts marketing

One of the marketing challenges for arts organizations is balancing its pragmatic and artistic prerogatives. Marketers can easily find themselves at odds with organizational trustees charged with curating the artistic, cultural or aesthetic vision. Without oversight and diligence, and despite a common interest in organizational success, the outcomes of these discussions can leave stakeholders feeling misrepresented, misunderstood and skeptical of one another. One part of the dilemma is the need of the organization to protect its cultural authenticity, its vision, and cultural authenticity is what can become problematic for marketers. That’s not to say that marketers are inconsiderate of what it means to be authentic, quite the opposite. Marketers have long recognized that audiences mobilize in very different ways around “brand speak” or gimmicky messaging, typical of corporate campaigns, versus the brand dialogue that emerges within customer communities independent of the marketing machine. The latter’s authenticity being a product of planning, patience and long-term custodianship. The same forces are at work when it comes to arts organizations.

Arts organizations, especially those with artistic directorship, invest in artists. More to the point, they invest in the vision of the artist. Often the vision of the artist can transform the vision of the organization itself. It’s through this relationship that the enduring value, the authenticity, of arts organizations emerges. The same organizations rarely invest in the vision of a marketer. Rather, they invest in the tactics that marketers produce in support of more pragmatic objectives. As a result, the output of the artist and the marketer are scrutinized in very different ways, but often through the same lens. This very subtle distinction can result in ongoing repercussions throughout the organization if not reconciled.

So how can we reconcile the vision prerogative of the organization with the need for marketers to engage short term, hard sell tactics on an ongoing basis? The answer, not surprisingly, is for the marketer to excavate tactics from all aspects of the organization’s artistic dialogue and perhaps the broader arts community itself. Social media can provide a window into the subtleties of audience engagement around authentic messaging. Posting a simple photo from a production meeting, or a series of throws from a brainstorming session can help bridge the authenticity gap and result in more uptake than, say, simply posting details of the latest promotion. Marketers can themselves invest in the visions of artists just as organizations do. Rather than producing a poster internally, why not call for a submission from a local art collective? Hard sell messaging will always be a necessary element of any marketing strategy, but finding opportunities to introduce elements distilled from the organization’s daily artistic dialogue is far more likely to provoke genuine responses from audiences. And those are the responses that resonate with authenticity.

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Call for Submissions

Necessary Angel Theatre is seeking proposals for original work in support of its upcoming production of 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane.


Necessary Angel will curate a series of original, multi-disciplinary works reflecting on the artist’s relationship with depression. We are seeking work that excavates depression from the perspectives of contemporaries, outsiders and insiders alike.  We welcome and are encouraging proposal submissions from visual, literary, dance and spoken word artists.

Selected submissions will be eligible for financial prizes ranging from $250 – $1000, inclusion in promotional materials, and curated through the performance run of February 11 – 23 at venues selected by Necessary Angel. Winning submissions will also be considered for inclusion in an original, bound publication investigating the subject matter of depression.

About the Production

4.48 Psychosis weaves the imaginative with the unimaginable, presenting audiences with a glimpse behind the veil of severe clinical depression. Freeform in both its treatment and casting, the play has garnered acclaim for its stark, sometimes disturbing authenticity. Every inch of Kane’s scarred consciousness lays bare in Psychosis, a cragged landscape where viewers are compelled to confront the convention and reality of depression.

Original text:

Submission Guidelines

  • All submitted artwork/literature must be original work owned/managed entirely by the submitting artist/s.
  • All submissions must be accompanied by an artist’s statement outlining how the material informs/progresses the subjects of madness and depression.
  • All submissions should be delivered via email to
  • Preliminary literary submissions should be no more than one page in length (excluding artist’s statement)
  • Preliminary video submissions should be no more than 3 minutes in length and less than 10MB
  • Preliminary visual arts submissions should be low-resolution JPEG’s no more 1000 px wide or 1MB in file size.

All submissions should be submitted no later then Friday January 11, 2012 by email to


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Necessary Angel is seeking applications for the position of Artistic Director

Necessary Angel is undertaking the pivotal task of identifying its next Artistic Director. Our past achievements provide solid footing from which to propel ourselves forward. Our new Artistic Director will provide us with the leadership necessary to shape that future. The outcome of the search process will not only help to plot Necessary Angel’s future trajectory, but also bring form to our vision; exploring the theatrical arts through original work that challenges assumptions and engages multiple points of view.


POSITION: Artistic Director

LOCATION: Toronto, Ontario

REPORTS TO: Board of Directors


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Necessary Angel’s OAC Theatre Creators’ Reserve Deadline – Extended to December 17, 2012

Necessary Angel Theatre, an influential and original presence on the national and international theatre scene for over 30 years, is calling for submissions of new work or adaptations* for consideration of development funding of up to $4,000.

The monies will be dispersed to qualifying work that complements Necessary Angel’s mandate of challenging conventional civic discourse, tackling socially influential topics, and engaging multiple points of view. While we have a strong history of developing new play texts we also encourage submissions from artists interested in breaking down barriers between forms.

Rather than looking for easy answers, your work should provoke ongoing dialogue.

Individual & Collective Submissions Welcomed

Necessary Angel believes in the vitality of creative collaboration and diverse approaches. In addition to individual submissions, we are encouraging submissions from collectives of designers, playwrights, directors and choreographers alike.

* Please ensure you hold the rights to the work you are submitting.

Interested? To find out how to submit your work please visit:

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