Mia S. van Leeuwen

An experimenter. A collaborator. A bouncer of ideas. Mia uses the body of performance to explore wide-ranging themes: identity, anxiety, sexuality, religion, childhood, fandom, altered states, consumerism, addiction, dystopia … Blurring the lines between theatre and visual art, she explores narrative through collage techniques and multi-genres, and delves into subject material with vigour & imagination. Mia is inspired to disturb, to make strange, to explore the ineffable, to rearrange, to question, to laugh, to sculpt space, to D.I.Y.     She is also obsessed with objects …

Research Interests: creative movement, viewpoints, devised theatre, object theatre, lip-sync, postdramatic theatre, performance art, performance anxiety, adaptation, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, ritual, wunderkammers, altars, Madonna, Pochinko clown, collage, assemblage, bricolage, and free association (streaming) approaches to movement-improvisation and the generation of performative text.

In the late summer of 2017, Mia moved to the desert-coulee-scape of Southern Alberta where she has begun a tenure track Assistant Professor position in the Fine Arts Faculty @ the University of Lethbridge.

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RECENT + ONGOING + PAST PROJECTS

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Destroy She Said is inspired by Caryl Churchill’s play The Skriker (1994) which tells the story of an ancient and damaged fairy – named the Skriker – who continually shape-shifts into a plethora of objects and people while warning them of the approaching environmental apocalypse.

Destroy She Said remains a cautionary story which uses fairytale to project hard truths. In our version, Skrikers multiply into a triadic-force that rises from the underworld into the Gland of Suburbia. They have come to answer the call: Who said destroy? Who is she? What is being destroyed?:  the self? the family? the society? the system? the environment? Something is not right in the Gland of Suburbia …

A note from Mia: COLLAGE and its related forms are the main organizing principles and techniques that have shaped the making of my devised performance works since 2002. Destroy She Said is not a written play but an evolving performance collage of textual sources and imagery that I have juxtaposed throughout the work. It is a disjointed narrative that points to the difficulty of dealing with trauma, and an attempt at highlighting the “mess” of contemporary human experience. In Destroy She Said, there is no guarantee of any one meaning but rather an invitation for YOU the viewer to attend multiple worlds at once to discover your own thoughts and experience of the landscape you are witnessing. Thank you for being here and meeting the work. Enjoy!

Text fragments: Caryl Churchill (The Skriker), Britney Spears (Oops I did it Again), Moother Gose (Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say A Word), Walter Benjamin (On the Concept of History), Marquerite Duras (The Lover), Daphne du Maurier (The Birds), María Irene Fornés (Fefu and her Friends), Ursula K. Le Guin (The City of Illusions), Peggy Lee (Is That All There Is?), Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies: A Very Gorey Alphabet), Samuel P. Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order), soundbites from Nadia Bolz-Weber (American pastor), Jim Rogers (American financial commentator and author) and stand-up comics Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Maria Bamford, and Michelle Wolf.  Various select Twitter Tweets and the use of improvised text via free association/stream of consciousness by the performers; a collage of word play!

*Destroy She Said is a long-term devising project that began in 2013 as part of an artistic residency at Mile Zero Dance in Edmonton, AB, and then morphed into a 30-minute performance at the Young Lung’s Dance Exchange Production Series in 2015. Thanks to the support of the Winnipeg Arts Council, Manitoba Arts Council and the University of Lethbridge Research Fund, the work premiered a full-length production, in Winnipeg June 14-16, 2018.

2018 production photography by Leif Norman

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The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

A devised adaptation of “The Creation” from the Wakefield Mystery Cycle at The University of Lethbridge, MainStage 2017/2018 season

Directed by Mia van Leeuwen + Assistant Director Ashley Rittinger

Devised by the Company: Katie Ogden-Boyes, Brent Clark, Richard Cole, Oluseyi Dada, Amara Hellman, Jordyn Nixon, Kaitlyn Olfert, Jordan Payne, Daniel J. Perryman, Anastasia Siceac

Elements of “The Creation” text adapted by Justin A. Blum

Projection Design by David O’Donnell + Sound Design by Corey Ariss

Production Photography by Jamie Vedres

“The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve” is an original performance created through a devising process that responded to the medieval mystery play “The Creation” as a starting point. Inherent in the process, devised theatre often poses the question: what is theatre? – a necessary query that continues to challenge, renew, and energize the form. This approach also invites all those involved (directors, performers, designers, technicians) to take an artistic leap into the unknown as the work emerges and evolves over time.

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There is no one method of devising theatre: the process is unique to the backgrounds, interests, and desires of those involved. Devising usually allows for a high level of agency for the actor-creators to contribute to the work. For our production, students were asked to bring in their own research interests related to the story of Adam and Eve. Podcasts, songs, articles, images, cartoons, poetry and more came into the room. As director, I provided a map that outlined a possible sequence of events to work within and sculpted space for the multiple perspectives of the research to be held. The map also contained performance concepts and approaches to story-telling that resulted in a variety of representations: video-montage, sound-collage, illustrative physical theatre, podcast-improvisation, and text translations of excerpts from “The Creation” into other languages (Yoruba and Romanian). Also, the story of Eve and her role in the fall of humanity was questioned and reconsidered in our telling.

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Although devised theatre is not a new form and can be traced as far back to the collectivist methods practiced in ancient mime, its contemporary application is growing in popularity in North America. Within Canada, various devising companies and training opportunities have rapidly increased over the past decade. At the University of Lethbridge, along with Acting and Directing, there is the recent addition of the Devised Theatre stream. As an Assistant Professor in the Drama department and as a theatre artist who has been creating and producing devised performance for many years, I am thrilled to be a guide in this process for the future theatre shakers & makers!

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Podcasts: The following podcasts and radio programs were used as inspiration for our work on “The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.” Short improvised excerpts from them, and/or responses to them, feature as part of the performance: BBC Radio 4 Beyond Belief – Eve http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03q6bql, Stuff You Should Know – Oh No, Snakes! https://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/podcasts/oh-no-snakes.htm, Traders Point Student Ministry Catalyst Audio – Adam & Eve https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/traders-point-student-ministry-catalyst-audio/id615584753?mt=2&i=1000347170971, The Mythology Podcast – Episode 1 Creation Stories http://themythologypodcast.com/mpc-001-creation-stories/, 365 Honest Questions – Question 52: Who or What is Lilith?, https://player.fm/series/365-honest-questions, Word on Fire Bishop Baron’s Sermons – Adam, David and Jesus https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/bishop-robert-barrons-sermons-catholic-preaching-homilies/id75551187?mt=2&i=1000383353250, The Mythology Podcast – Episode 22: Satan Through the Ages (Part. 1) https://www.acast.com/themythologypodcast/satan-through-the-ages-part-1-ABC News – Garden of Eden: What Do We Know About Adam and Eve?

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destroy she said

(research-creation workshop, Winnipeg, December 2017)

A return to and reconsideration of destroy she said with Ming Hon, Charlene van Buekenhout, Natasha Torres-Garner, Tanja Woloshen, Brenda McLean and Jaymez in preparation for a full-length production of destroy she said premiering in Winnipeg  June 14-16, 2018 at the Rachel Browne Theatre.

S-K-R-I-K-E-R’s (ancient damaged fairies) excavating through the muck, the mess, the murk. who said destroy? who is ‘she’? an attempt at multi-perspectivism for the purpose of looking at the real from various points of view. a debris of language, pointing to the impossibility of constructing a trauma of past. what is being destroyed? – the self? the environment? the patriarchy? ABCDEFG … “the words I have found no longer belong to me.” where do we go from here? join us as we grapple with these questions and more … #destroyshesaid2018 #thefutureisfemale #innocencelost #suburbia #spiritualcrisis #contemporaryperformance #picturebooktheatre #collage #decollage #winnipegartscoucil #manitobaartscouncil 

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In June 2017, Mia directed a museum-tour-skewer @ The Dalnavert Museum, the former home to Sir John A. McDonald’s son — Hugh John McDonald, located in Winnipeg, MB.

Postcolonial Postcards — part museum tour, part performance, part object theatre, part installation, all parlous with dashes of disrupts and subverts. Audiences travelled the exotically Victorian and delicate rooms for a short, snapshot-like ‘postcard’ scene, overturning their expectations of the local environment and complicating  the colonial narrative before moving onto the next room.

With performances by rascals Ming Hon, Frances Koncan, Kevin Klassen, Jeanne Randolph, and Charlene Van Buekenhout. Lighting and Installation by Jaymez. Sound Design by Davis Plett. Photography by Leif Norman.

With support from the Dalnavert Museum + The Winnipeg Foundation

Postcolonial Postcards was devised within a Canadian-Victorian museum setting wherein the housed objects already rest ripe with meaning. The artists confronted the caged artifacts through a variety of improvisation techniques combined with a mash-up of their own identity (and their own/other objects) as a basis for the generation of material. From Métis, Anishinaabe, Chinese, Mennonite, Settler, Immigrant, to dancer, actor, performer, writer, videographer and psychiatrist …the project took off from here, developing its own sense of logic-legs and landing in ways only possible with the presence of Frances, Kevin, Ming, Jaymez, Charlene and Jeanne.

The Parlour Room

“I spy with my little eye, something that is racist …”

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The nuisance of a noose.

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The McDonald’s Dining Room, where they enjoyed all their happy meals 🙂

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Should an accident occur during the dinner, appear to take no notice.

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Dr. Jeanne Randolph streaming history-onics in the study.

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“I come from a long line of first wives” … Ming Hon

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“Dear John …”       Sincerely,  Frances Koncan

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Who is Charlene van Buekenhout?

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“There is nothing left to see here, anymore.” We saw Kevin Klassen as The Hockey Man.

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“This is the voice of your collective Canadian unconscious. You have reached the penultimate postcard of this particular platform in your sesquicentennial-plus odyssey. Please proceed down the hallway and past the servant’s quarters. Let’s not disturb them, they have earned their rest. And we are just passing through. Past the past. Keep walking by the past.”

SAPIENTIA (phase III)

Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre

2017 (Montreal)

In May of 2017, Mia worked with Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre in Montreal, QB, directing/workshopping a re-imagining of the 10th century script SAPIENTIA by canoness Roswitha.

Martyrdom. Torture. Miracles.
The bounds of FAITH.
A moka pot, a flashlight, a mirror and three teacups.

Objects + Performers come together to render this object theatre adaptation of the 10th century dramatic text SAPIENTIA by ROSWITHA of GANDERSHEIM.

Watch our video preview of  SAPIENTIAhttps://vimeo.com/225737005

Stay tuned for a future 2018 Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre production of SAPIENTIA in Montreal. 

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Roswitha or Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim was a 10th-century German secular canoness, dramatist and poet who lived at Gandersheim Abbey, established by the Ottonian dynasty. She wrote in Latin, and is considered by some to be the first person since antiquity to compose drama in the Latin West. She has been called “the most remarkable woman of her time.”

SAPIENTIA (phase II)

aztec theatre + Theatre Incarnate

2015 (Winnipeg)

In 2015, Mia directed a second phase of the object theatre adaptation of Roswitha’s Sapientia, co-produced by van Leeuwen, aztec theatre and Theatre Incarnate + featuring Chris Sabel, Alison Vargo, Brenda McLean and Christopher Sobczak with support from the Manitoba Arts Council.

Production Photos by Leif Norman, Poster Design Ian Mozdzen + Mia van Leeuwen

“This beautiful and innovative production is gorgeous and deeply provocative. Mia’s staging using object theatre is brilliant, allowing one to take in this complex 10th century text with the kind of distance that transcends time, allowing one to think through the profound implications.” — Praba Pilar, Scholar and Performance Artist

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Destroy She Said

(phase II)

A performance collage inspired by Caryl Churchill’s play The Skriker (1994)

Created and Directed by Mia van Leeuwen

Produced by Young Lungs Dance Exchange at The Gas Station Theatre, September 2015

Featuring Natasha Torres-Garner, Ming Hon and Tanja Woloshen

Artistic Consultant Praba Pilar. Lighting by Steve Hunnie. Photographs by Lise McMillan.

“Have you noticed the large number of meteorological phenomena lately? Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Drought. Apocalyptic meteorological phenomena. The increase of sickness. It was always possible to think, whatever your personal problem, there’s always nature. Spring will return even if it’s without me. Nobody loves me but at least it’s a sunny day. This has been a comfort to people as long as they’ve existed. But it’s not available anymore. Sorry. Nobody loves me and the sun’s going to kill me. Spring will return and nothing will grow. Some people might feel concerned about that. But it makes me feel important. I’m going to be around when the world as we know it ends. I’m going to witness unprecedented catastrophe. I like a pileup on the motorway. I like the kind of war we’ve been having lately. I like snuff movies. But this is going to be the big one.” — Caryl Churchill, The Skriker

View Destroy She Said Trailer: https://vimeo.com/205826818

View Destroy She Said Excerpt “Fruit Loops”: https://vimeo.com/205980366

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White Bread

created and performed by Mia van Leeuwen

dramaturgy and co-direction Piet Defraeye

a performance collage that explores celebrity, addiction, and the social history of white bread; a biting satire on the decay of the American Dream, reflected in the aging body and waning star power of the pop-icon Madonna.

The work references a collage of sources including Jean Genet’s The Maids, Don DeLillo’s dystopian novel Cosmopolis, lyrics from songs by Madonna and Aaron Bobrow-Strain’s White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf; as well as original text by Mia van Leeuwen. Combining postdramatic approaches to theatre along with principles of Pochinko clown and neo-buffon, and experimenting with audience-performer relationships, White Bread employs a playful, provocative, and interactive performance style.

White Bread toured Europe in June 2014 (Antwerp, Munich, Innsbruck, Belgrade) and Edmonton’s Stagelab Festival (2016).

White Bread (preview): “Innovation & Experimentation in theatre at Stagelab Festival 2016”: https://afterthehouselights.com/2016/08/25/innovation-experimentation-in-theatre-at-stagelab-2016/

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 Photos by Mat Simpson + John Battye

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Tiny white pills. An island surrounded by sharks. A maid named ABBIE COXIN.

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White Bread is an engaging performance unlike any other that I have seen in Western Canada. A cutting critique of pop culture performed in a unique aesthetic.” – Kristine Nutting (Director & Playwright, Edmonton)

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“…astonishing, visually punctuated theatre that arrests assumptions about fame…Mia’s prowess at storytelling allows audiences to break traditional boundaries of performance with glee….I will be forever haunted by van Leeuwen’s image of decrepit Madonna – in the same league as Brazil’s plastic surgery ladies.”   – Gerry Morita (AD Mile Zero Dance Co., Edmonton)

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“Destroy She Said”

(phase 1 / research-creation)

Mile Zero Dance Artistic Residency, Edmonton, February 2013.

Directed and Created by Mia van Leeuwen.

Performers: Patricia AllisonGeorgia Irwin and Jeannie Vandekerkhove

Photos by Mia van Leeuwen, Raquel Fanjul and Daniela Masellis

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Collage by Sylvia Grist based on Destroy She Said residency showing (2013)

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SAPIENTIA (phase I)

Canoe Festival / workshop presentation

2014 (Edmonton)

Directed by Mia van Leeuwen

Featuring: David Barnett, Nancy McAlear, Brendan Nearey and Kara Chamberlain

Dramaturgy by Stefano Muneroni

Script Adaptation: Joseph Shragge & Mia van Leeuwen

“Sapientia, presented at Workshop West’s Canoe Theatre Festival was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had in a theatre as of late. An adaptation of a 10th century dramatic work by Roswitha of Gandersheim, Director and Designer Mia van Leeuwen has used the form of object theatre to cast a different light on a work that is over 1000 years old.”

To read more from the review “Object Theatre Form in Sapientia Creates Layers of Meaning” view link here: https://afterthehouselights.com/2014/01/22/object-theatre-form-in-sapientia-creates-layers-of-meaning/

“There is nothing predictable, and everything original, about the conjunction of talents and theatrical inspirations that led to the show that launches the 2014 edition of the Canoe Festival tonight.”

Read more about Sapientia preview by Liz Nichols, Edmonton Journal:

Blog: http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/01/22/sapientia-the-dance-of-objects-at-canoe/#__federated=1.

(Photographs by John Battye)

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ADHERE & DENY

Mia performed objects with Grant Guy’s avant-garde object/puppet theatre company Adhere & Deny in Paradise Lost (2009), Still Walking (2010) and The BedBug (2011).

The BedBug:

an adaptation (by Grant Guy) of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s play (1929)

Featuring Carolyn Gray, Coral Maloney and Mia van Leeuwen

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MICHAEL DUDECK

Mia joined forces as a performer with cultural engineer Michael Dudeck in WOMBTOMB 2011 (Brooklyn, New York) and AMYGDALA 2011 (Winnipeg).

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AMYGDALA performance at aceart, WPG, 2011.   Photo by Karen Asher

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GUERNICA

Mia collaborated on the wordless physical theatre work Guernica (2008) with Theatre Incarnate. 

For the Winnipeg Fringe Festival 2008, Theatre Incarnate presents a unique and darkly absurd theatrical experience of cyclical violence. From an original scenario created by Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, Guernica combines her “Illustrative Performing Technique” with influences from Picasso’s nightmare impressionistic painting (of the same title). For their 12th production to date, Theatre Incarnate has assembled a collective creation between Director/Performer Brenda McLean and local performers Delf Gravert and Mia van Leeuwen.

See TRAILER of Guernica here: https://vimeo.com/9675264

(pix by Ryszard Hunka + Leif Norman)

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Thanks for visiting!

Mia xo

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