Before we announce the winners of the 2023 MyEntWorld Critics’ Pick Awards, we’re proud to present our annual Nominee Interview Series.


Outstanding Solo Performance nominee Gislina Patterson joins the Nominee Interview Series to discuss his brilliant work in the complex and complexly named i am your spaniel, or, a Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare by Gislina Patterson. A meta-theatrical academic lecture/poignant examination of identity and self, We Quit Theatre’s i am your spaniel ran as part of the 2023 SummerWorks Festival and is about to take the stage at Buddies in Bad Times for a tragically short two-show run January 18 & 19 (get your tickets HERE!).


Can you remember your first experience with theatre?

The year I was born my parents co-founded an outdoor Shakespeare company, and instead of paying for childcare they would usually bring me along to their rehearsals and performances.


How did the concept for i am your spaniel come about?

i am your spaniel started as a short performance piece for a cabaret. I thought it would be funny to write a summary of a play I hadn’t seen or read in a long time as quickly as possible and get a lot of the details wrong. The character was “high school student Gislina Patterson” giving a book report on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Tell us about the development process to create the script.

Lengthy! The source material of the play is on the one hand quite academic, and on the other, quite personal. Different drafts foregrounded different elements of these twin ‘research’ paths, and it took us quite a while to find the right balance. Incorporating new discoveries, learning which discoveries had staying power, curating the most exciting and compelling collection of details. Along the way we did some residencies that were really helpful, at the Stratford Lab and SummerWorks Lab.


The depth of Shakespeare knowledge on display in the show is really impressive. Walk us through the creation of the academic lecture within the play. 

I knew a bit about first folio text analysis when I started. I really do think that using the first folio makes reading and performing Shakespeare a lot easier! That part was pretty easy because once you know a few rules you can extrapolate as far as you like. I’m not much of a history buff so once I knew I wanted to understand the sociopolitical landscape of the time Shakespeare was writing in I read Sylvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, a marxist feminist exploration of the rise of capitalism in Europe. That book really helped me grasp the context of the gender and class dynamics represented in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the material reasons for those dynamics.


Then I found a Shakespeare scholar named Richard Wilson who writes about Shakespeare and political power which introduced me to a really new way of looking at how and why Shakespeare wrote what he did, and also pointed me toward documentation of Shakespeare’s investments in agriculture during a dearth. Knowing that Dream was written in 1595/6, I started looking very closely at that time and place, and I eventually found a paper about Bartholomew Steer, a carpenter who attempted to lead a worker’s uprising in 1595 in an area directly between London and Stratford-upon-Avon along with his brother who worked as a weaver. As far as I know I’m the first person to suggest a connection between Bartholomew Steer and his brother and Quince and Bottom, the carpenter and weaver characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I don’t think my scholarship would stand up to academic scrutiny, but luckily I’m not an academic!


Tell us about the rest of the production team and how they came together.

For the most part it’s just myself and my collaborator Dasha Plett! I sewed the costumes and designed the projections, Dasha wrote and arranged the music, I write and perform the show, Dasha dramaturged and directed it… at the same time, dividing these roles oversimplifies the process. There isn’t really any aspect of the production that we didn’t both work on. Over our long development process, ted witzel has come in clutch several times with invaluable knowledge, wisdom, and guidance. We also have been lucky enough to have worked with several wonderful lighting designers during the show’s history, Logan Cracknell for our SummerWorks run, and Darren Shaen for our Buddies Run! And all the amazing technicians we’ve worked with, who are totally essential to the success of any theatrical performance, but maybe especially when you work in a quite DIY fashion like we do.


Did you have a favourite moment in the production?

There’s a sequence in the play that covers a huge range of information, from Shakespeare to the “killdozer” to Winnipeg civic politics in the 90’s. In that sequence I talk about hearing Meryn Cadell on the radio as a child, which was my first exposure to the concept of transition. Dasha scores that entire sequence live using digitally manipulated samples from Meryn Cadell’s song “Lying”. I love how Dasha manipulates that one song to evoke so many moods and vibes, and it feels like a fitting homage to Cadell who, on his hit song “The Sweater”, monologues over a sample of “Walk and Talk” by Syd Dale.


What do you hope audiences took away from the production?

Serious answer: During the performance I read a couple passages from the book Abolish the Family! by Sophie Lewis. I hope this play can be an introduction for some people to the concept of family abolition. It’s a scary sounding proposal that can actually be a very beautiful, radical, and loving way to reimagine community and care.


Silly answer: We spent hours designing and screenprinting recycled tshirts for spaniel and every time I happen to see someone wearing one since, my heart sings!


What are you working on now or next?

Two new plays, one about a group of Instagram influencers who slowly succumb to the brainworms of their own infographics, and another about age-gap lesbian cannibalism. Dasha and I are also starting work on a verbatim musical adaptation of Irreversible Damage, a 21st century classic of violent transphobic literature.


Do you have anything you’d like to add?

This week at Buddies in Bad Times, January 16th-21st, we are performing i am your spaniel alongside two other shows, 805-4821, an expanded cinema overhead projector text performance and Passion Play, in which we duet on synthesizer and cassette loops and improvise erotic revisions of bible stories by candlelight.