Shira is an actor and theatre creator. Much of her work includes performance, live art and installation. Her work is rooted in meaningful consideration of the role of the audience and the ways that we collaborate in performance encounters.
Shira’s live art performance, Lost Together, was awarded the 2018 SummerWorks Festival Production Prize and was presented as part of the 2019 Progress Festival. It will be presented as part of Nightwood Theatre’s season in 2021. Shira has received commissions from organizations like the Gardiner Museum and Harbourfront Centre. Shira’s work has been the subject of recent scholarly articles, has been taught on the curriculum at University of Toronto and University of Windsor, and she’s been a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Concordia University. She’s a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada (Acting) and the University of Guelph. She’ll be starting an MA in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University this fall. Shira runs UnSpun Theatre with Chris Hanratty, with whom she parents two cool kids.
Shira facilitates Hack Lab at Balancing Act/Theatre Direct.
Q: What is your caregiving role?
A: Mom to Calla (8) and Geneva (2)
Q: Since becoming an artist caregiver…
A: …I’ve had to take a close look at what parts of my artistic practice were vital and what parts were not as interesting to me anymore. I chose to focus on making my own work and let go of auditioning for other projects. I just could not do everything. I wanted more control of my time and what I was putting into the world. Everything in my life slowed down, and I was able to embrace my natural art-making pace (i.e., working very slowly).
I can only steal bits of time to work occasionally, and so much of my current creative process is just thinking, walking, talking to other people. This shift in pace and priorities has allowed me to interrogate the feeling-so common in our industry-that I had to be sharing work as much as possible. I just don’t really care about that any more, I care about the value of what I’m making.
Q: What is the most exciting, unique or creative strategy you have put in place to support an artist-caregiver (perhaps maybe for yourself!)?
A: I have almost entirely changed the kind of work I make. I’ve changed it for many reasons, but one of the big ones is that I wanted to make work that I don’t have to rehearse much and that isn’t clunky to produce. Basically, I make smaller, deeper, weirder, more intimate work now. I’m just not able to take on a huge rehearsal process and long hours away from home. I wanted to make work that was interesting and vital to me, but that also allowed me to meaningfully participate in my home life.
A few years ago I was in talks with a wonderful organization about touring one of my shows; they really wanted it but they just couldn’t commit to a time. We talked for about two years about possible time slots, and then they offered me a time frame that was just after the birth of my second child. I didn’t want to travel far from home and rehearse and set up a one-person show with a newborn. And that was the end of our two year conversation. So making work that is nimble and flexible is important to me now. And also really and truly only working with folks who are committed to shared values.