Sarah Marchand is a born producer.
Taylor Trowbridge, Nightwood Theatre
Photo Cred: Graham Isador
Most of the work that I do is produced under my company name. In four years, Alma Matters Productions has brought fourteen unique, important, and timely projects to life. While the genre of performance varies, there are core values that I prioritize in every piece: Alma Matters Productions is committed to producing and creating works that examine social prejudices against mental health, ageism, gender disparity, body image and racial inequality. My Grandmother, Alma Decevito, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2000 and was told that she had at most five years to live. Yet thanks to her supportive community and determined nature, Alma kept thriving until 2017. People living with Alzheimer’s are often inappropriately described as ‘empty shells’ - a hollow vessel of the person they once were. However, given my volunteer experience with the Alzheimer’s Society and close relationship to my grandmother, I strongly stand against this viewpoint. Defying medical experts, I believe that the love and support Alma was given for seventeen years helped her to persevere. The Latin translation of alma (nourishing, kind), and mater (mother) reminds me of my maternal roots, and how it takes a community of love and support for individuals to flourish. The passion and dedication given to my grandmother is the kind of care I want to replicate in my theatre practice: everyone is welcome.
My experience comes from working on grassroots projects in independent theatre. I have collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including ESL, emerging artists, and artists with disabilities. For me, form and discipline are not mutually exclusive: when a creative team thrives, so does the art. It is important to me that I am sensitive to the specific needs of the work and artist. Recently, I co-produced the English premiere of Winter of ‘88 at the 2020 Next Stage Festival. Inspired by Director/Playwright Mohammad Yaghoubi’s experience living in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Winter of ‘88 received a NNNNN review from NOW magazine. In 2018, I co-produced the English premiere of Swim Team at the SummerWorks Festival. Inspired by the real stories of women’s sports in post-revolutionary Iran, Swim Team was listed in NOW’s “Best of the Fest” for Production, Direction, Ensemble and Design. Supported by The OAC, TAC, and CAC, Swim Team was remounted at The Theatre Centre in November 2019.
Sarah is very organized and committed. She is curious, responsible, and makes her directors feel safe and in good hands.
Aida Keykhaii, Nowadays Theatre
In 2019, I produced the Canadian debut of Non Gratas, an improv-comedy show that explores the experience of being latinx immigrants in North America. At the same time, I produced the premiere staging of Drink of Choice - a dark comedy exploring the often misunderstood and underrepresented world of asexuality. Winner of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Patron's Pick, Drink of Choice was picked up in the fall for a remount at Factory Studio Theatre.
As part of my artistic mandate, I am actively engaged in charity performances: Meggie McKinnon's Life Psycho made its premiere at the SOLOCOM Comedy Festival in New York City, which explores the playwright’s struggle to accept her mother’s terminal illness. Since 2018, I have produced Comedy Calorie, an ongoing cabaret series with proceeds going to Sheena’s Place, Ontario’s only nonprofit organization that helps people with eating disorders. In April 2019, I produced Dogma4Kidz, an evening of storytelling with all proceeds going to Birth Mark, a charity that assists in navigating the system of sexual, maternal and infant health in Toronto.
I want to dedicate my work to emerging artists and artists recently new to Canada. Having primarily worked with these artists, I want to ease the process of starting from scratch. It is deeply rewarding when I see projects in their infancy carry on to become sold out, award-winning productions.
For established theatre companies, I understand the fear of taking on a ‘new name’: What if they can’t bring an audience? While this concern is valid, my experience has shown this not to be the case. There are so many people in Toronto that are excited to come to the theatre, once they feel welcome to it. Sometimes, it is just a matter of thinking outside the usual demographic: people I speak with that don’t go to the theatre regularly often say that it’s “not for them”. As a producer, it is important for me to explore why people feel this way, and how theatre as an art form has created that (un)intentional reputation for itself. I’m still exploring this question, but each project brings me closer to the answer.
One of the hardest things about being a new artist in a new city is getting started. It can be quite daunting to knock on a theatre company’s door - as I continue to learn and grow, my hope is that new artists won’t have to worry about that, because my door will always be open.
Photo Cred: Liam Murray