It's taken the better part of a year, but Toronto's Volcano Theatre is finally going to make it to Rwanda.
After 11 months of assiduous fundraising and gifts of 250,000 Aeroplan miles from generous donors, the company's much-acclaimed production of Michael Redhill's Holocaust drama Goodness leaves for Kigali and Butare next month.
Its four performances there - part of the Arts Azimut Festival, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide - will follow an 11-day run at the Theatre Centre (Sept. 16 to 27).
Goodness documents an encounter between a descendant of Holocaust survivors and the survivor of another, unnamed genocide. It won the Best of Edinburgh award at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and later, in New York, drew a rave notice from the Times, which said the play had "the intimacy and discordant reach of a late Beethoven string quartet." It has also had subsequent successful runs in Helsinki, Barcelona and Vancouver.
Volcano artistic director Ross Manson, who also directed the play, had long hoped to take the project to Rwanda.
But cuts made last year to PromArt, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's $4.7-million cultural-diplomacy program, put that plan in jeopardy.
Now, after months of becoming what he calls "the poster child" for the Harper government's arts cuts, Manson says he's just $10,000 short of the roughly $90,000 needed to gain liftoff.
"But we're going regardless," he said in a recent interview. "We'll find the other funds somehow," by borrowing money from future projects and fundraising the gap. Box office from the Toronto run, he hopes, will make up some of the shortfall.
Volcano's challenge, of course, is one faced by other Canadian groups and artists that tour their work. Although many corporations and foundations have been generous in providing financial backing for local productions, few funds exist expressly to underwrite the costs of taking theatre, music and dance abroad - something that Manson says pays incalculable dividends.
And, as Manson's spreadsheet for Goodness indicates, the costs of travelling even with bare-boned shows is not cheap. In this case, the budget includes more than $4,000 just for vaccinations required to travel to Rwanda, about $20,000 for air fares, and the cost of travelling with a portable generator (in case of electrical blackouts, still common in Rwanda), dimmers, a lighting board and portable sound system.
The Aeroplan miles contributions came as the result of an e-mail appeal sent out last year by Volcano.
The Goodness remount kicks off the 15-year-old company's most ambitious season. With a budget of almost $1-million, Manson is assembling three plays - dubbed the Africa Trilogy - focusing on the West's relationship with Africa. The playwrights and directors all come from Africa, Europe and North America. The project was commissioned by Toronto's Luminato festival, where it will premiere next June, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Manson, who will direct a show at York University this fall, is also incubating a new play by Toronto playwright Hannah Moscovitch.