PuSh Blog

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December 02, 2019

Portrait of Ravi Jain
Photo: Dave Leclerc

The story of Why Not Theatre Artistic Director Ravi Jain and PuSh Festival Artistic and Executive Director Franco Boni is about relationships—between organizations, between people, between humanity and a global climate emergency.

The story begins in Toronto, where Franco Boni served as Artistic Director of the Theatre Centre from 2003-2019. One of the best parts of Franco’s job was the nurturing of new talents, and bright among these was Ravi Jain, whom he mentored. Ravi went on to create Why Not Theatre, and in 2014 he brought A Brimful of Asha to PuSh. The next year, he was back with Sea Sick, an environmentalist wake-up call about our oceans which he and Franco co-directed.

It can’t be stated enough that the PuSh Festival is about community, a local, national and international community in dialogue about art and its role in the world. It is more than a festival – it intentionally brings people together.

RAVI JAIN

Fast-forward to 2019: Why Not Theatre’s Prince Hamlet arrives at PuSh, and Franco joins the PuSh festival. In everything from its bilingual dialogue to its defiance of traditional race, ability and gender boundaries, Hamlet reflects the spirit progressive values and artistic innovation that defines the work of Ravi and his company. This spirit is something that Franco shares; it makes him a natural fit for PuSh, and under his leadership the festival is now charging into the new decade with a powerhouse season.

And this is where we arrive at What You Won’t Do for Love. A special workshop presentation produced by Why Not Theatre and directed by Ravi, it marks a step forward for PuSh even as it reflects the longstanding ethos of activism that defines the festival, its new head and, of course, the Toronto theatre company—which has now been going strong for well over a decade.

Featuring life partners and environmentalist cohorts David Suzuki and Tara Cullis, Love asks a vital question: what if we could love Earth the way we love our children, our friends, our partners? In telling the story of Suzuki and Cullis’s long bond, and their struggle to combat ecological degradation, the performance promises to move and motivate audiences. This collaboration is new territory for PuSh, which is now investing in the development of a new work, with the promise of a full presentation in the 2021 Festival. This February, donors and passholders will have the opportunity to see an exclusive, one-night-only workshop performance.

In these relationships—between Ravi and Franco, Why Not Theatre and PuSh, art and activism—the common threads are commitment and expansion. The festival is defined by its dedication to creativity and political consciousness, but also by something just as important: stewardship. Since its founding, PuSh has sought to bring wider exposure to performers and companies from around the globe. Why Not Theatre is just one example of success in this mission, which the festival is proud to be extending to a new realm.

Story by Mike Archibald, PuSh Festival Program Copywriter

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