Mia practices the body of performance to explore wide-ranging themes, playfully blurring the lines between theatre and visual art, and delves into subject material with vigour and imagination. Altering perspective, baring process, queering, unsettling, combining different forms, questioning representation, making strange, fragmenting time, and juxtaposing imagery are actions that inform the making of her various projects.
Mia is the co-artistic director of the experimental – out of line theatre – founded in Winnipeg in 2003, alongside Ian Mozdzen.
Mia’s recent and independent ventures include Sapientia (Montreal 2019, Lethbridge 2018, Winnipeg 2015), Destroy She Said (Winnipeg 2018), Postcolonial Postcards (Dalnavert Museum, Winnipeg 2017), and White Bread (Edmonton 2016 and Antwerp, Munich, Innsbruck, Belgrade, 2014). Mia’s object theatre adaptation of Sapientia – a martyr play written in the 10th century by history’s first known female playwright Hrotsvitha of Gandershiem, won two 2018 METAs (Montreal English Theatre Awards) for Outstanding Independent Production and Outstanding Contribution to Theatre (produced by Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre, Montreal).
interests: postdramatic theatre, physical theatre, devised theatre, tanztheatre, theatre of images, feminist theatre, dark comedy, creative movement, viewpoints, meditation, pochinko clown, object theatre, lip-sync, ritual, Death Studies, the macabre, religious theatre, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, Madonna, pop-culture, the Tarot, the ineffable, intuition, weirdness, queerness, altered states, play, dream-logic, cognitive dissonance, spectacle, collage, bricolage, assemblage, stream of consciousness, free association.
Mia is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Lethbridge.
collaborators + artists i have worked with include: Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre (Mtl), Robert Leveroos (BC), Theatre Outré (AB), Long Take Collective (MB), Jeanne Randolph (MB), Natasha Torres-Garner (MB), Tanja Woloshen (MB), Charlene van Buekenhout (Echo Theatre, MB), Ming Hon (MB), Alexandra Elliot (MB), Jaymez (MB), Praba Pilar (Columbia, USA), Brenda McLean (MB), charlie peters (MB), Ryszard Hunka (MB), Angelica Schwartz (Mtl), Davis Plett (MB), Leif Norman (MB), Julia Ryckman (MB), Richard Altman (MB), Heather Lee Bea (MB), Grant Guy of Adhere + Deny (MB), Guy Maddin (MB), Nancy Sandercock (Los Angeles), Eve Rice (MB), Alexis Kochan (MB), Ken Gregory (MB), Frances Koncan (MB), Kevin Klassen (MB), Piet Defraeye (AB/Belgium), Kristine Nutting (AB), Valerie Planche (AB), Jeannie Vandekerkhove (AB), Patricia Allison (ON), Georgia Irwin (ON), Tom Stroud (MB), Claire Borody (MB), Debbie Patterson (MB), Sharon Bajer (MB), Claire Therese (MB), Theatre Incarnate (MB), aztec theatre (MB), John Turner of Mump and Smoot (ON), Michael Dudeck (Italy/Scotland), Mandy van Leeuwen (MB), Michel Saint Hilaire (MB), Marcel Balfour (MB), Nancy McAlear (AB), David Barnett (AB), Christopher Bullough (Wishbone Theatre, AB) and Ian Mozdzen (India).
RECENT + ONGOING + PAST PROJECTS
an object theatre adaptation of
Hroswitha of Gandersheim’s 10th century martyr play
Produced by Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre
Adapted by Joseph Shragge from a literal translation by Lynn Kozak
Directed by Mia van Leeuwen
Montreal’s WildSide Festival (Jan 2019) + MainLine Theatre (Aug 2018)
“One of the most striking and unexpectedly enjoyable productions of the year.” -Montreal Gazette’s Jim Burke
Two Time META (MONTREAL ENGLISH THEATRE AWARD) Winner:
OUTSTANDING INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION (Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre) + OUTSTANDING THEATRICAL CONTRIBUTION TO THEATRE (Evan Stepanian) + Nominations for Outstanding Direction, Ensemble, and Sound Design
“The masterful team behind this production take Hrosvitha’s blunt narrative and work magic to make it compelling. First off, Lynn Kozak’s literal translation and Mia van Leeuwen’s conceptual adaption and direction, represent the best of the best … The words selected, the intent of every scene, and the overall conception of the production is perfectly crafted art… it absolutely must be seen.” -Rachel Levine, – Montreal Rampage
“Piercing imagery, evenly skilled performances, and a whimsical narrative make for a compelling theatrical affair…Scapegoat Carnivale enthrals once again with a striking creation bearing its trademark eccentricity. Miss not one of its three presentations at the Wildside – unequivocally a highlight of the fest.” – Montreal Theatre Hub
“Scapegoat Carnivale’s production of Sapientia is what all open-minded, passionate theater goers live for: smart, irreverent, imaginative works born out of creative teamwork and contagious passion. This show deserves to play to full houses and tour so that more people can discover humanity’s first known female playwright and this theatre company’s original, rallying projects.” – ZoneCulture
History’s first (known) female playwright Hroswitha of Gandersheim (c. 935 – c. 1002), was a 10th-century German secular canoness, a dramatist and poet who lived and worked in Gandersheim Abbey. The fact that she is so rarely performed prompted the American feminist drama group the Guerrilla Girls to issue the “First Annual Hroswitha Challenge” on their website, announcing that they would bestow the First Annual Hroswitha Award on whichever professional theatre decides “to scrap their plans of producing yet another production of a Greek tragedy.”
Sapientia tells the story about a Christian noblewoman who, when faced with religious persecution from the Roman emperor, allows her three children to be martyred. Protected by their faith, the children instead become immune to physical pain and undergo miraculous bodily transformations! In Mia van Leeuwen’s adaptation, she uses object theatre, a form of puppetry where performers animate found materials (a mirror, a flashlight, an espresso maker, teacups) to represent this ecstatic tale. The result is a grotesquely comic romp into the medieval imaginings of Hroswitha of Gandersheim.
Performed by Alison Darcy, Robert Leveroos, Alexandra Petrachuk and Paul Van Dyck
Dramaturged by Anthony Kennedy
Stage Managed by David Epstein, Set Design and scenography by Robert Leveroos
Lighting and Costume Design by Bruno-Pierre Houle, and Sound Design by Joseph Browne and Evan Stepanian
Early development of this production was done with Joseph Browne, Alison Darcy, Anthony Kennedy, Robert Leveroos, Joseph Shragge, Mia van Leeuwen and Lar Vi.
Previous productions of a similar text with the same director have been seen at the 2014 Canoe Fest in Edmonton, in Winnipeg in 2015 (produced by aztec theatre & Theatre Incarnate) and most recently with Theatre Outre in Lethbridge, Alberta in October, 2018.
Photography by Patrick Andrew Boivin and Mia van Leeuwen.
an object theatre adaptation of
Hroswitha of Gandersheim’s 10th century martyr play
Produced by Theatre Outre (October 2018)
Lethbridge, Alberta (Club Didi)
Adapted by Joseph Shragge from a literal translation by Lynn Kozak
Directed by Mia van Leeuwen
(with generous funding support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts)
Featuring: Jordan Payne, Jay Whitehead, Kathy Zaborsky, and Erica Barr
Set design: Deonie Hudson
Lighting design: Lee Burckes
Stage Manger: Stephanie Savage
Production Photography: Jaime Vedres
Alice: a devised adaptation
based on characters and logic from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass
created with students from the University of Lethbridge Drama Department
& Gail Hanrahan as the Red Queen
facilitated/directed by Mia van Leeuwen
assisted directed by Alex Watz + Braedan Pettigrew
lighting design: Lee Burckes scenic design: Dave Smith
costume design: Julia Wasilewski
David Spinks Theatre, University of Lethbridge, February (2019)
by Jaime Vedres
|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
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
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.
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.
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!
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?
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
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.
SAPIENTIA (phase II)
aztec theatre + Theatre Incarnate
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
“Destroy She Said“
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
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/
Photos by Mat Simpson + John Battye
Tiny white pills. An island surrounded by sharks. A maid named ABBIE COXIN.
“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)
“…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)
“Destroy She Said”
(phase 1 / research-creation)
Mile Zero Dance Artistic Residency, Edmonton, February 2013.
Directed and Created by Mia van Leeuwen.
Performers: Patricia Allison, Georgia Irwin and Jeannie Vandekerkhove
Photos by Mia van Leeuwen, Raquel Fanjul and Daniela Masellis
SAPIENTIA (phase I)
Canoe Festival / workshop presentation
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:
(Photographs by John Battye)
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).
an adaptation (by Grant Guy) of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s play (1929)
Featuring Carolyn Gray, Coral Maloney and Mia van Leeuwen
Mia joined forces as a performer with cultural engineer Michael Dudeck in WOMBTOMB 2011 (Brooklyn, New York) and AMYGDALA 2011 (Winnipeg).
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)
x portraits x
Thanks for visiting!