Theatrical Creation

“I think there are various ways to create theatre. You can pick up a script and start staging scenes, or you can come together with a group of people (no script/no base), and say, ‘So… what now?’ Or you can do both…To be a theatre creator is to do any and all of those things. To “create”. I see such a freedom in that word. I love the process and freedom of having a voice in the room and making the ‘impossible’ possible. And every time I choose a project, that is what I look for. The possibility and the freedom to create.”
~Winnie Nwakobi  

Theatrical Creation 🤔, what melodramatics is she.lace bringing to the stage this week? Before y’all prepare to start letting your rotten tomatoes and cabbages fly from the messanie to the stage…allow us to “create” an explanation…

Theatrical: of or relating to the theatre [actors or acting] or the presentation of plays. Seems pretty straightforward. But as is the case with many words in the English language, context in conjunction with connotation can “dramatically” change the meaning. So what happens when we change the connotation from theatre to performance/behaviour, and add an (s)?

Theatrical(s): marked by pretense or artificiality of emotion, or by extravagant display or exhibitionism. The irony, the irony! Looking at the definition(s) “on paper”, it would seem in order to create sincere theatre, one would have to put on display insincere behaviour. In other words, an actor or actress is required to summon artificial emotion to create an organic connection with: their audience, the character being portrayed and, ultimately, themselves. Well, she.lace doesn’t make a habit of interpreting theatrics based on how they appear “on paper”…unless we’re talking about a playbill of course. By default, the arts requires sincerity, passion and emotion…and making a “Theatrical Creation” is no exception.

The question becomes, what is she.lace defining as theatrical creation? Well, the “what” is not as important as the “how”. So, “what” are we talking about and “how” are we going to explain it?! We’re encouraging you to approach everything you produce as theatrical. Anything you choose to create, whether it be breakfast or a theatrical play, should be done with conviction and purpose. To us, that requires passion…uninhibited passion. When you think of theatre we encourage you think of the untapped raw emotion that goes into an actor/actress’ performance. Think of the grandiose ideas that were envisaged, and then brought to life. Think of the stage…the lights…the curtains…the, sorry excuse the dramatics. We want you to think of how extravagant, abstract and pronounced theatre can be. We DON’T want you to view or interpret these things as pretentious, artificial or fake. It’s not being “over the top” or dramatic; rather, it’s an outward display of the deep commitment you have to your creation. she.lace hopes you find we’re employing too many theatrics to introduce this week’s model…that just means we’re “breaking a leg”.

winnie dressing room
Courtesy of Winnie Nwakobi

“Curtains…action, type!” Oh, that’s just the professional theatre creator helping us produce this blog post. Winnie Nwakobi is an artist! She’s really an artist…like really. Reason being is because she’s so many things, and yet all those things don’t compete or overshadow one another. She’s an artist, actor, dancer, producer all at once even if she’s only taking on one of those roles. For example, while she dances…she’s an artist who’s producing. So, hold on to this “playbill” it’s going to be a classic souvenir in the future. Oh, and get ready to participate in a standing ovation…But first, please have your phones, cameras, pens and papers ready.

Inquiring minds would like to know, who is Winnie?

Winnie: Who is Winnie? That is the question isn’t it. I always stumble when asked this question because I think I’m still answering it for myself. I’ve been told that I am kind, calm, collected, driven, busy. Some have told me that I sort of have an old soul. People often associate me with the arts. I would say yes to all of the above AND also that I am a person who loves and cares and is passionate about A LOT of things. I am a theatre creator and producer, but I am also an artist. I love to paint and I love to create crafts and I knit and I dance and I cook, and I also really like budgets and organization! I could really go on and on.  I wish I could just do it all, and sometimes I do!

Not to be too “theatrical”, but what does the title of Theatre Creator mean to you?

Winnie: I think there are various ways to create theatre. You can pick up a script and start staging scenes, or you can come together with a group of people (no script/no base), and say, “So… what now?” Or you can do both. Or you can go on an adventure, or have a crazy experience and say “This could be a play..” and then make it one. To be a theatre creator is to do any and all of those things. To “create”. I see such a freedom in that word. I love the process and freedom of having a voice in the room and making the “impossible” possible. And every time I choose a project, that is what I look for. The possibility and the freedom to create.

What does creating/producing theatre (art) do for you?

Courtesy of Winnie Nwakobi

Winnie: For me I LOVE creating something from nothing. I love being in the room with other people and talking about experiences, and connecting in a way I don’t usually get to at work, or school, or even at home. It’s so great when I come together with people and we all have a common purpose. We all have the same passion. It’s a really challenging thing to describe because it’s not an emotion, or a feeling, or a thought. It’s an energy.  I love the process. But I also love the result of bringing people together to watch this thing that came from nothing – from an idea or several ideas. And at the end of the day, whether people love it or hate it, the experience of putting up a show never gets old.

Complete this sentence, theatre empowers me because _ _ _ _

Winnie: It allows me to tell stories that need to be shared in the world.

What does the Toronto International Film Festival mean to you?

Winnie: The Toronto International Film Festival is an incredible festival that, to me, gives opportunities for aspiring filmmakers/artists in Toronto to see what is possible. I think it’s so incredibly important for people to have something to look up to, that isn’t a million miles away, in another country or continent. It’s so important for Toronto art-makers to see what can exist here. Somehow that can make it “more real” for some people. It makes it feel like it’s POSSIBLE. It’s right here! Filmmakers, celebrities, artists, media, all come to Toronto to see what we’re doing here. To see how big the film festival has gotten overtime really makes me feel proud to be in the city. Might I add that they also have some great opportunities for youth to get involved in various aspects during the festival, and also youth programming outside the festival. And I think that’s so important.

Sidenote: The youth are the future, and both Winnie and TIFF seem to concur. Two of the great opportunities (Winnie alluded to) provided by TIFF, outside the film festival, for youth engagement in cinema are: Next Wave (shout out to the Next Wave Committee) and TIFF Kids (celebrating its 20th anniversary). Just two examples of TIFF’s efforts to stimulate and engage young minds with the use of storytelling through film.


If you had to create your own acronym for TIFF, what would it be?

Fresh &

That’s the best I could come up with 🙂

Now, we think it’s fair to suggest you fancy yourself as a dancer (of various forms might we add). And we noticed on your Instagram profile you provided an alternative spelling to your name: W(h)innie. When pronounced aloud, this modification seems to be hinting at the whining form of dance. Care to explain, and confirm or deny? 😉

Winnie: Haha. Deny. That is so interesting and I have actually never thought about it that way. I do LOVE to dance! Give me some good tunes and my body just naturally grooves to it (sometimes I do wanna buss a whine, but I must contain myself in public). The alternative spelling actually came from one of my best friends! In high school, he thought my name was spelt with the ‘h’ (Whinnie). When I noticed that he would always misspell my name I informed him, so then of course he continued doing it to bug me. That’s where that really comes from, but I like your interpretation better.

Seems like she.lace knows a thing or two about theatrical creations ourselves😉.

Winnie dancing as a child
Courtesy of Winnie Nwakobi

You are of Nigerian and Indian heritage, how does that influence you both as a person, and your relationship with dance/theatre?

Winnie: Now that is a question. My whole life, I have been in this weird in-between space where I have to explain to people where I am from and how I am connected to both cultures, and why it’s important that I be identified as both (🇮🇳 and 🇳🇬). Both my parents raised me with a strong sense of culture and they never wanted me to forget where my ancestors came from. Being a person of both Indian and Nigerian heritage enables me to be very open to other cultures and experiences. It helps me relate to other people’s stories. I grew up in India and immigrated to Canada when I was ten years old. I still remember my first few years here, almost like the back of my hand. I remember vividly how nervous I was and how sad I was to leave all my friends behind. It took me years and years to get over that sadness. So I get it. I get it when people share their stories with me about missing their home. I had a lot of identity issues, and I still do sometimes. I still sometimes miss that part of myself. But when I accepted being here and the possibilities and opportunities that are provided to me here, I feel blessed.

Because I am here, I met my fiance – who has been such a driving force in my life. Because I am here, I am a theatre creator. I can’t give Canada the credit for my dancing skills (I’ve been dancing since I was five). But I have done things I could have never imagined, because I am here. I remember that everyday.


What does women’s empowerment mean to you?


A woman can do anything.


No questions. No discussion.

It’s really that simple.

What does it look like in theatre?

Winnie: In theatre, it’s all about sharing stories and experiences honestly. It’s about acknowledging the society around you and giving justice to the artform at the same time. I think we’re slowly seeing more women leading projects and leading organizations. It’s really about being able to have open conversations on what needs to change and what needs to be improved. We as a society, can’t be stuck in a historical mindset of the past. Things need to change with the times and with the world.


Who is Paula Wing to you?

Winnie: Paula Wing! Oh, Paula is an incredibly juicy person. I think you would only really understand that description if you knew her, but I think that’s just the perfect word. Juicy. Exciting. Inspirational. Wise. There’s just so much energy and love in her heart.

She was my first mentor. She was my artist instructor for the first theatre program I ever did when I was 16. I was part of a youth summer program at the Soulpepper Theatre Company in the Distillery District, and I remember when I was accepted into the program how excited and nervous I was. She blew me away. She is the one that taught me that you can make theatre out of anything! You don’t need a script. Being in that program taught me that you can be in a room and say “Let’s try some stuff and see what happens.” I came out of that program realizing that people actually have careers doing this work. And I told myself that I would love to work there one day (and now I do).

A few years after that program, I had the wonderful opportunity to be Paula’s teaching assistant for two programs! I have honestly learned so much from her over the years and now I get the chance to continue working with her on several other things. I would have never seen this coming when I was 16.

I think every person has someone in their lives who has inspired them. She’s one of the few people who continue to inspire me every time I encounter her. I think, other than her absolute awesomeness, one of the things I love is that she’s always willing to learn and grow. She’s human and I think that’s so incredibly important.

Sidenote: #ShareHerJourney. What’s this about?: TIFF has made a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. We will prioritize gender parity with a focus on mentorship, skills development, media literacy, and activity for young people.

Need we say more?! Checkout The Plan for the project and, if you can afford to, consider making a donation to make this important initiative become a reality. Take in this list of Ambassadors to Share Her Journey: Priyanka Chopra, Erika J. Olde, Jill Soloway, Jennifer Baichwal, Deepa Mehta, Stella Meghie, Ann Marie Fleming, Omoni Oboli, Ashley McKenzie and Carol Nguyen. All worth checking out!


What do you like about sneakers?

Winnie: I love the feeling of wearing down my sneakers. Is that weird? I just think that the more they’re wore down, the more places you’ve been in them. I have never been a collector of sneakers; rather I fall in love with the pair I choose to buy, and I wear them till they’re worn out. And I hold memories in them. I can tell you why and how I got each pair of sneakers I own and what I remember doing in them. Mind you, I only own like 3 pairs – but they each hold a lot of meaning for me.

Why did you model for she.lace?

Winnie: When I was asked to model, I didn’t hesitate one bit. she.lace does good work. You share stories. Real stories. That’s what I’m all about! The journey is just as important as the destination, and what better way to share one’s story than with what’s on their feet.

Tell us what your dream (ultimate goal) production looks like?

Winnie: Oh! Now this is a loaded question. Simply answered, I would bring together my mentors & the people I love working with the most, put us all in a room together and say “Let’s make something,” and leave the rest to the universe.

Well, we’re about to DM the universe and make it be known that she.lace wants to be in that room helping to create. There’s one thing we respectfully disagree with Winnie about, that wasn’t a loaded question. Don’t worry, we worked out our difference of opinions at the photoshoot. This is the ONE time she.lace will ever brag about having a tiff with our model.

Toronto International Film Festival a.k.a Trendsetting Impactful Fresh & Flavourful extravaganza (thanks Winnie 😉).

If you live in Toronto, you know it’s the unofficial start of Autumn when you see the movie industry’s finest start to “fall” into the city. Yes, the “Hollywood of the North” (yeah, we watch Game of Thrones…so what!) is electrified in early September by this annual festival. Just over 40 years ago (41 to be exact, 1976) this film festival began captivating audiences with culturally inclusive films. Now, it has grown into so much more than a two-week event bookmarked by celebrity sightings: TIFF is dedicated to presenting the best of international and Canadian cinema to film lovers. What began as the Festival of Festivals over 40 years ago, has become the world’s most important publicly attended film festival and grown to embrace programming 365 days a year. As a premier cultural institution TIFF offers screenings, lectures, discussions, festivals, workshops, industry support and the chance to meet filmmakers from Canada and around the world.

If there are any doubts that TIFF strives to be a cultural institution, just take a look at the partner festivals the organization supports and promotes. It’s nice to see a festival as large as TIFF using its platform to create a global cinema community.

As Winnie mentioned, TIFF is so much more than A-list actors/actresses, directors, producers, Oscar worthy films, red carpets, rush lines, street closures, cheering and insanely priced tickets. It’s about inspiring budding artists to create, and create theatrically. The festival has grown into a year-round mission to provoke thought and spark change. It’s a multi-platform approach to storytelling through cinema, and the range of stories being told is impressive. So, if you happen to be in Toronto in early September we suggest you plan to be at: Roy Thomson Hall, Royal Alexandra Theatre, Ryerson University, Scotiabank Theatre, Elgin Theatre or, of course, TIFF Bell Lightbox to name a few venues. Just note that when the end credits roll down for the festival, the work to educate through film is still on the screen…365 days a year.

she.lace wasn’t sure Winnie’s clout could get us any red carpet appearances…so we created our own. Roll the dramatic music!

What sneakers does a theatre producer wear when she’s dancing down King Street West? Well, the same sneakers W(h)innie the “Whining Queen” wears in a soca fete: Adidas Originals Adi Court Mid. Yes, a women’s exclusive from “The Brand with the Three Stripes” that makes she.lace want to watch a play about “jumping and waving” during TIFF!


“I would have never seen this coming when I was 16,” says Winnie. At the risk of revealing her age, we’re certain this goes into a long list of things Winnie couldn’t fathom when she was a teen. Actress, dancer, producer… did she know she’d be these things? Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. What she.lace knows is she started to theatrically create. Winnie joined a summer internship program and found someone and something that became indispensable for her artistic development. The something – a mentor and peers who supported and nourished her creative growth. The someone – a young woman who uses the pride of her mixed heritage to inform who she’s and her desire to create. An inspiring artist who was determined to use theatre as her “stage” to tell important stories to the world. A little bit of serendipity combined with a whole lot of passion and hard work… And what you get is an actress who’s desire to produce powerful theatre is no act at all. Someone who views an international film festival as a future “box office” to showcase her Theatrical Creation. she.lace wants to encourage you to dream big, and create bigger. There’s still a few days left to catch #TIFF2017. But, if that isn’t an option for you next year is only a year away. In early September the stars will start to shoot through Toronto… and we all know what to do when we see a shooting star. And while you’re making your wishes become your reality you may hear someone describe your work as to theatrical. Well, just bow (or curtsy) gracefully and say “thank you!”

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