KISS by Guillermo Calderón

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Two couples meet for dinner to take their minds off the war raging around them. An unexpected profession of love, an untimely proposal, and one kiss later, one of the foursome lies dead on the floor. Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón’s newest play breaks open cultural barriers, challenging us to confront the limits of our own understanding, and exposing the suffocating effect of an oppressive, omnipresent regime. For its second year in residency at the Berkeley Street Theatre, Theatre Smash (2016’s Das Ding (The Thing)) joins forces with ARC and Canadian Stage to present a work essential to our time.

28 March–16 April 2017


ARC proudly presents the North American premiere of Guillermo Calderón’s Kiss, in collaboration with Theatre Smash and Canadian Stage



The creative team includes ARC Resident Artists Liza BALKAN, Jackie CHAU, Carlos GONZÁLEZ-VIO, and Bahareh YARAGHI. They will be joined by Theatre Smash’s Ashlie Corcoran, Dalal Badr, Natasha Bean-Smith, Peter Eaton, Greg Gale, Denyse Karn, Jung-Hye Kim, Rebecca Picherack, and Naomi Wright.

Ashlie Corcoran and Christopher Stanton say this of KISS: “We are thrilled to tackle this exciting, troubling and timely play. Through our process, two Canadian companies will interpret a Chilean playwright, who, while living in NYC, wrote a ‘Syrian’ play originally commissioned by a German company. All of this overlap makes the play a thrilling vehicle with which to explore how artistic practices can comment upon current international events – while raising major questions about cultural representation and permission.”


KISS was first commissioned by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Spring 2014).



Proud. Humbled. Amazed. And SOOO excited!

Talk about a powerhouse company. Three of our wonderful team have been named as Top 10 Theatre Artists in 2016 by NOW Magazine.

Amazing work by amazingly talented people, being justly rewarded! Sincere props to Andre SillsBahareh Yaraghi and Deborah Drakeford!!!

Congrats to everyone involved! And stay tuned for more from us in 2017. The excitement is just beginning.

Voices of Pomona [Aviva/Ollie]


I said to my partner Arturo, “I wish we had another week of rehearsal before we open.” He reminded me I say that every time I’m on the precipice of opening a show. But this time I really mean it. Because there’s so. Much. To. Mine. Even mime. We still have to mine the mime.

This play is circular and twists back on itself. It’s loopy. I like it and want to spend more time in it. Learn to mime the dark tunnels and stockinged faces. I want more time to fill in the rest of every cut off sentence, every moment of every back story, how did I get here step-by-steps.

Years ago I acted in a play Chris wrote, Elora Gorge, and I struggled to make logic of it. “There isn’t any.” Chris proclaimed. “Simply be in the moment. Act each moment”. I fought that, wanted to make sense of a Twin Peaks type world, and in the end, Buddha’s mandate was the savior. For all acting, I suppose, being in the moment is the savior. But especially handy when acting in a play that has no clean beginning middle and end. It’s a loop. So be in each moment of it, play each moment truthfully, and….that’s all you can do.

So the next three days are about looping the work so I feel confident enough to be in the moment, not the moment ahead or behind, but playing, breathing, living in the space between you and me.

Here I am in the moment of wishing we had another week before opening.

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Aviva Armour-Ostroff

Aviva works in Toronto as an actor, director, writer and producer.

Most recently, Aviva appeared in VideoCabaret’s The Great War, where the cast won a Dora Award for Best Ensemble. Prior to that, Aviva appeared as Berta in Hedda Gabler (Necessary Angel/Canadian Stage) and as Virginia in Age of Arousal (Factory Theatre). She was nominated for a Dora Award for her performance in ARC’s production of Moment.

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Reflections On Pomona


Living in the weird world of Alistair McDowall’s POMONA for some time now, it’s been easy to fall in love with the dark and fantastical elements of the show. The nods to Lovecraft and the Necronomicon. McDowall’s complex yet elegant structure that plays ingeniously with the timeline, twisting and folding our notions of what happens when. The fluid sense of identity. The sudden shifts in tone. The constant surprises.

It’s scary. It’s strange. It’s hilarious. It’s absurd. But it’s also deadly serious.

POMONA examines action and inaction in the face of some of the ugliest truths. How we turn terrible realites into stories, and then compartmentalize or ignore the stories.

It asks difficult questions about gender politics, and our tendency to marginalize victims of gendered violence – particularly sex-workers – as having somehow earned their fate. Upon first reading the work, this aspect of the play resonated very strongly with me in terms of contemporary Canadian life. The show is mythological, fantastical, even magical in scope – but I read it as a clear allegory for a reality far too familiar to Canadian audiences. Throughout the rehearsal process, we’ve been working hard to foreground the parallels between this script and contemporary issues such as Canada’s institutionalized apathy surrounding the long-running stream of missing and murdered indigenous women, or the sickening time it took for police and the public to take action in the Robert Pickton case in which at least 26 already-marginalized women from Vancouver’s downtown east side (many of them sex-workers) were murdered.

The play also makes us aware of the violence we ourselves commit every day, through silent acquiescence, willful ignorance, or apathy. Very early in POMONA, a character named Zeppo crystallizes the dilemma of trying to live an ethical life in the age of information. He says, ‘Every part of our lives and culture and diet and health and the clothes we wear… it’s all built on this foundation of pain and suffering. It’s like it’s impossible to be a good person now… There’s just people who are aware of the pain they’re causing, and people who aren’t aware.’ We need only examine the terrifying conditions of industrial livestock, or the tragedy of sweatshop buildings collapsing in Bangladesh, or the reliance of the Canadian economy upon fossil fuels in the face of climate change to understand how deeply implicated we all are. We compartmentalize. We justify. Occasionally, maybe, we weep. And yet, by and large, we continue to live as we have lived.

So. Is it even possible to live a ‘good’ life when our daily life is so closely linked to great violence occurring out of our sight? In an age where we are constantly bombarded by global tragedy through both social- and mass-media, how do we choose what to take action upon – or to truly care about? Will our ability to compartmentalize our own evil acts forever yield the same results – a cycle of violence, an unending loop? How can we, as individuals, help to break this cycle?

For the team here at ARC, POMONA is a richly envisioned, smartly written, darkly funny, haunting, and compelling allegorical tale that feels vitally relevant.

– Christopher Stanton, Director

Voices of Pomona [Bahareh/Keaton]


“Everything bad is real.”

That line hits me hard every time. There’s no turning away from it.

It’s as if the playwright is screaming: “Now that you know, what’s your next move???”

I play Keaton. She’s been a wonderfully mysterious character to dig into. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that she holds secrets, she’s other-worldly, she’s a fighter, she’s instantly immersed in Dungeons & Dragons… but above all, she’s looking to fuck shit up.

Now that’s a treat for any actor. It’s definitely been challenging though – because McDowall keeps her mysterious. On purpose, I think. She’s not supposed to be a clear-cut character. I think she’s there for the audience to assess for themselves. I would love to hear who (or what?—Keaton is to you after you’ve seen the show.

I can hardly contain my excitement about this piece. It’s smart, twisted, complex, surreal, HILARIOUS, dark and so very on point.

It’s a world where role playing games & reality blend into one. And McDowall doesn’t make it easy for us to decode any of it—which is why it’s all so exciting.

Pomona is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or read. And I’m thrilled for the audience to enter this world. To decipher for themselves when the story is a game, or when it’s real. Or when it just might be both.

Come join us!

It’s game time…(or is it?). ROLL DICE!

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Bahareh Yaraghi

Bahareh is a Toronto based performer and a five-time Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee (Individual & Ensemble). She was most recently seen at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season in the Canadian English premiere of The Aeneid.

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Voices of Pomona [Deborah/Fay]


We’re in the middle of week two.

Our PM extraordinaire, JP, has now created some semblance of what our stage will be for us to play on, explore, negotiate, hide in…

We’re getting a handle on our characters.

We’re puzzling out this world.

Remember from our Day One post where Chris said Nick hands out Rubik’s Cubes?

Yah. I’m obsessed. I met with a 13 year old wizard who worked with me on it. I CANNOT walk past an unsolved one without solving it. I have a mission: solve it under two minutes. My best time so far is 2:10. Not good enough. My colleagues all have a cube and just LEAVE THEM, lying there, UNSOLVED. What the hell?

Carlos says Let it go Drakeford.

Bahareh says Hey! That was mine!

Andre says Here. Do mine.

Aviva and Liza grin at me.

Ryan laughs.

Chris says Yah. The Rubik’s Cube. I don’t know if that says the right thing.

I groan and collapse.

Chris says Oh I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days but didn’t want to say anything because I thought Drakeford will kill me!

I get up. Cube in hand.

I say I’m really proud that I know how to solve this thing.

My company applauds me.

I play Fay. She wants answers. I love her. She has qualities I hope I have.


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Deborah Drakeford

Deb has worked across the country from Kamloops BC to PEI.

She has been on the Artistic Committee for ARC since 2006 and has performed Moment, Bea (Dora nominations), The City, A Kind of Alaska as well as numerous staged readings and now is very excited about Pomona.

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Voices of Pomona [Liza/Gale]


M.C.Escher’s “Relativity”

This is what the dive into the script sometimes feels like. With snacks. And laughter.


Alistair McDowall’s Pomona: It has me up at 3am thinking about moral codes. OK, living in 2016 has me up at 3am thinking about the same thing. But let’s focus on this incredibly addictive puzzle of a play. And moral codes.

The Universal Moral Code, created by a Dr. Kent M. Keith in 2003:


  • Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.
  • Do not lie.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not cheat.
  • Do not falsely accuse others.
  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Do not commit incest.
  • Do not physically or verbally abuse others.
  • Do not murder.
  • Do not destroy the natural environment upon which all life depends.


  • Do to others what you would like them to do to you.
  • Be honest and fair.
  • Be generous.
  • Be faithful to your family and friends.
  • Take care of your children when they are young.
  • Take care of your parents when they are old.
  • Take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
  • Be kind to strangers.
  • Respect all life.
  • Protect the natural environment upon which all life depends.

I play Gale. She runs a business. I’d call her upper (middle) management.

I’d suggest that the above code is nowhere in the vicinity of her bedside table.

I suspect that she sleeps well.


Maybe not.

It’s only week 1.


Liza Balkan

Liza is an actor, theatre and opera director, librettist, writer and educator. Pomona marks her first show with ARC.

Over the past three decades, Liza has appeared in multiple productions in Toronto and across the province and country, as well as in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington DC. She received a Dora Award for her performance in Theresa Tova’s Still the Night (Theatre Passe Muraille/Tapestry/Tova Ent). Upcoming: KISS (Theatre Smash/ARC/Canadianstage)

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