It has been a lot 

I am writing this message sitting at my desk in the MT Space office after having been away for exactly 2 years. Our office is on the upper floor of a church – there is a Celtic jazz band playing in the Sanctuary and our Apprentice AD, Nada Abusaleh, is devising her own work in the Chapel. Hearing the music and people talking downstairs makes me feel bittersweet as we look ahead to the rest of this season and beyond. 

The past two years have been rough. Artists were propelled into an existential crisis and there was despair as people in our communities teetered on the edges of financial security and survival. We know this. Many of us felt this. Now as we prepare for what might actually feel like reopening our doors for a long while, we gather wearing our scars on and in our bodies. 

I will be marking six years as the Artistic Director of MT Space this summer. Saying I have learned a lot is an understatement. Soon after I stepped into this position, MT Space was forced to leave the home where we were founded, we began a multi-year hunt for a General Manager, our Founding and IMPACT AD Majdi Bou-Matar stepped down, and we were faced with the global COVID pandemic. In addition, we continue – I continue – to face daily racist and misogynist micro-aggressions that come with the territory of being a Woman of Colour running a Multicultural theatre organization. 

As I look ahead at my next few years as Artistic Director, I sometimes wonder how the heck I’m still standing. Then I remember that I have a community of people who lift up my leadership, and more importantly, recognize that I am human. 

What we do 

Learning that a fellow actor in Ukraine was leading his people while facing an invasion gave me such a palpable feeling of responsibility. It was a reality check of sorts, reminding me of the importance of what we are trying to do at MT Space and how connected it is to survival – whether we tour overseas to open dialogue about terrorism or support the development of work that addresses the anti-gay purge in Chechnya.  

This work is at the heart of what we do and why we exist. But as we grow our team and infrastructure, I have faced the challenges of being seen as an institution and enforcing rules and regulations that are at odds with all of the above. 

This notion of ‘being an institution’ implies that we are comparable to the large, colonial entities that have had decades to establish their legacy and are now (only now!) being called out for privileging whiteness. These institutions have been built to stay and uphold, sometimes impose, a certain set of values. This is not MT Space, and it is not what I intend for MT Space to be.  

Rather, we are a conduit that uses theatre as a means to instigate societal change, with the hope that one day we will no longer need to exist. We are a collection of human beings who have come together to do the necessary work. I am a solo artist, leading this community of people as I walk this challenging and important path. I invite all of you on this journey with me as we continue to tell the difficult stories, challenge the status quo, and be on the front lines of change with our art. 

The work ahead / The process of re-opening 

I think of the remainder of our 21-22 Season as planting seeds of solidarity and hope across generations as we work with incredible artists, community partners, and youth and children.  

We look forward to bringing Chelsea’s Story to different communities to raise awareness of human sex trafficking, working alongside our partners at the Sexual Assault Support Centre. I have the honour of continuing to stretch my directing skills with Page1 Productions and Isaac Mule as we embark together on a journey to develop There Are No Gays In Chechnya. In addition, MT Space is fortunate to be mentoring through various projects three amazing women in the community: Nada Abusaleh, Viktorija Kovac, and Sam Mercury through Inter Arts Matrix’s COVE/COVOX Initiative.  

As our doors reopen, I feel comforted by the fact that this community has been able to expand and grow against so many odds. This brings me hope and keeps me going. We look forward to sharing this hope with you. 

Pam Patel 
Artistic Director, MT Space 

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