May I Take Your Arm?

by Alex Bulmer, Tristan R. Whiston, Anna Camilleri, Katie Yealland, and Becky Gold

May I Take Your Arm? Illustration by Tari Sami

An interdependent, multi-disciplinary experience

Blind artist Alex Bulmer takes the arm of people in her new neighbourhood. Together, they walk, listen, and share life stories — an architecture of place emerges. Experience their journeys through these multi-sensory moving-portraits that consider the past, illuminate the present, and evoke possible futures.

May I take your arm? A Theatre PAsse Muraille and REd Dress Productiosn Co-Productions with teh support of Common Boots Theatre. Red banned with white text and greyscale image of Alex.

Current MITYA presentation

Originally created in 2018 as a live, interactive, performance installation, May I Take Your Arm? was re-imagined in 2021 into a 7-part multidisciplinary follow-at-home experience. A purpose built website acted as a navigation map for audiences to experience the work in their own homes, in their own time and pace. This latest iteration of May I Take Your Arm? is a Theatre Passe Muraille & Red Dress Productions co-production with the support of Common Boots Theatre.

Elements from this most recent iteration of MITYA will be presented again by Theatre Passe Muraille as part of Beyond Walls – a TPM staff led initiative to welcome community members back inside the theatre, and to re-physicalize and reconnect with the space. 

Registration is free for:

Rest At The Theatre – November 27th, featuring hand-made tactile books by Anna Camilleri
A Day of Listening – November 28th, featuring MITYA audio (and transcript) by Tristan R. Whiston


Trailer

Transcript of trailer
[CANE TAPPING ON SIDEWALK]

[STREET NOISES]

Hello everyone, I’m Alex Bulmer. In April of this year, I moved to a part of the city I did not know at all.

[VOICES]
— May I take your arm?
— Yes, sure!
— Yes, you may!
— Okay, I’ll take your right one.

“May I take your arm?” is the first thing I said to people in my new neighbourhood.

[VOICES]
— May I take your arm?
— Absolutely. Now just to let you know, I am in a power wheelchair.
— May I take your arm?
— Yes, of course.

We walked.

[VOICES]
— We’re gonna go for a walk together.

We talked…. It was all an attempt to help me understand where in the world I had landed.

[VOICES]
— Where are we right now?
— Where are we gonna go?
— And, where are we going?
— We’re going to go to the farm.
— Oh great!

[FARM ANIMALS]

— So, how long have you been visiting Riverdale Farm?
— Um….

[COW MOOS]

— There’s a cow!!!
— Oh!
— Are the cows in a field or are they in a pen?
— They’re in a pen. They’re in a pen right now, yeah.
— Aww…. Do they ever get to wander out of pens or do they….
— I don’t think so.
— Oh no….

[PLANES OVERHEAD]

— And now we are entering the little archways at the, um, entrance to Necropolis.
— ‘kay.
— Yes, it’s one of the oldest, um, cemeteries, um….
— What’s that one say?
— Hmm, this is very funny…well, interesting…not funny necessarily. I think the family name is Dye.
— Oh no! [LAUGHTER]
— D-Y-E not D-I-E.
— Oh that is funny. Okay, D-y-e.
— Yes, and there’s all these beloved wives.
— Okay. He had a lot of beloved wives. Okay, so this is Dye….

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

— And where are we going?
— Well, I just like the parks around the neighbourhood because there is like a few of them. They’re kind of like isolated islands in the Caribbean. And I just like to walk around in them and see the trees…. Oh, there is a tree here! — Can I feel the tree?
— Yeah, come this way.
— It’s so great….

[CHILDREN PLAYING OUTSIDE]

— Alex Bulmer, it’s Janis Purdy!

[LAUGHTER]

— Oh!
— I can’t believe it.
— Hello!
— And these are 12 of my Beaver Scouts surrounding you!
— Why do you need that thing?
— Why do I need a white cane? Does anybody want to take a guess?
— Um, ‘cuz, ‘cuz you can’t see, so you have to swing it around so you can know where you’re going!
— Aww! [CLAPS HANDS] That’s exactly right! I have to swing it around so that I know where I’m going. Because I’m blind.

[VOICES ECHO IN HALLWAY]

— Okay, so now we are walking down a hallway?
— Yes. Yeah, the door’s opening right now. So….

[PLANES OVERHEAD]

Over here, is the roof!
— Oh wow!
— So you can hear all the sounds. It’s actually pretty bright outside right now. It’s really…it’s so amazing. This is like the smell…. More of a smell garden.
— Okay.
— So like when you smell over here.
— Where?
— Over here….

[BIRDS CHIRPING]

What started as a genuine need turned into…well..this: a pilot production in development with Red Dress Productions. Art that asks, “How do any of us turn space into place into home?”

[PLANES OVERHEAD]

If we walk together, does the way we ‘see’ our neighbourhood change?

In 2018 I moved back to Toronto, after living in the UK for 15 years. While away, I’d become completely blind. Instead of a return to familiar landscapes and buildings, I came back to a void – endless space. Without sight, new territory has no here versus there no this versus that.

“May I take your arm?” – a question I asked several people living in my new Toronto neighborhood, in an attempt to understand where in the world I had landed – to turn space into place into home.

If I walk with you, If you pin a memory to this bench or that building, if we share a stroll down this hill or through that playground, and assemblage of place emerges through a geography of story.

May I Take Your Arm? (Not Yet) is a collection of arms, voices, images and textures gathered over the past three years, many during a time when being with you has not been possible, not live in performance or with your arm in my hand.

Walking with others has been a way to tell myself “here I am.” I wonder if now, for more of us, walking together reminds us “here we are.”

– Alex Bulmer, Co-Creator & Performer

Installation photo from May I Take Your Arm?

May I Take Your Arm is about interdependence, relationships between people, our relationship to the St. James Town and Cabbagetown neighbourhoods, and the land upon which these neighbourhoods are settled.

Artist Team Biographical Notes


Alex Bulmer

Named one of the most influential disabled artists by UK’s Power Magazine, Alex Bulmer has over 30 years professional experience across theatre, television, film, radio, and education. Alex is dedicated to inclusive collaborative art practice, fuelled by a curiosity of the improbable and deeply informed by her experience of becoming blind. She is activated by obstacles, well exposed to the absurd, and embraces the disciplines of generosity, listening, time, and uncertainty within her artistic and personal life. Alex is Artistic Director of Common Boots Theatre, co-founder and artistic director of Cripping The Stage with The British Council, and the lead curator of CoMotion Festival 2022, an international disability arts festival produced by Harbourfront Centre.

Tristan R. Whiston

Tristan R. Whiston is a Toronto-based theatre director, dramaturge, writer, performer, audio and community artist. He has written and directed five audio documentaries for CBC, including Middle C, which won the 2007 Premios Ondas Award for International Radio. Tristan’s film pINCO Triangle was honoured with three 2018 Queer North Awards, including Best Canadian Film. He is co-artistic director of Red Dress Productions.

Anna Camilleri

Anna Camilleri has been working with performance, image, and text for 25 years. Her inquiries span socially engaged practices, narrative, materiality, and the public imaginary. Her books have been recognized with distinctions from the LAMBDA Literary Foundation, the Association of Independent Publishers, the American Library of Congress, and are part of the University of Toronto’s Fisher Rare Books Library Queer Canadian Literature Collection. She is co-artistic director of Red Dress Productions.

Katie Yealland

For 20 years, Katie Yealland has worked in the commercial film industry primarily as a grip (film technician), and since 2010, Katie has worked with Red Dress Productions in various roles including community artist, live video animation, and production lead.

Becky Gold

Becky Gold is an accessible drama instructor, creative enabler, and PhD candidate in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University. Her research explores disability-driven and inter-abled artistic practice, with a focus on interdependence, relation-building, care, and access-intimacy in the creation process. For the past three years, Becky has worked with Alex Bulmer on a variety of artistic projects as a support worker and collaborator. This work has and continues to influence her approaches to audio description and access aesthetics.

Wy Joung Kou

Wy Joung Kou is a queer, chronically ill, multi-disciplinary artist. Their body of work spans mosaic, poetry, sound, movement, performance, video, and installation. Grounded in a disability justice framework centering accessibility, community and interdependence, their artistic practice is interwoven with personal narratives of grief, care, and intimacy. They are a member of Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers, the inaugural winner of a JRG Grant for Artists with Disabilities (2018), and an ILGBT Artist Residency alum.

Charles Ketchabaw

Charles Ketchabaw is the Managing Director of FIXT POINT Arts & Media and Co-creator / Producer of The Tale of a Town – Canada, a national project which has brought him all across the country conducting interviews, recording sound and designing interactive audio performances. May I Take Your Arm x Theatre Passe Muraille makes Charles smile. Two incredible forces combining for good.

Co-Creator & Performer: Alex Bulmer
Co-Creator, Sound Editor/Dramaturge: Tristan R. Whiston
Co-Creator, Environment Designer/Maker: Anna Camilleri
Co-Creator & Live Video Animation: Katie Yealland
Creative Access Support & Audio Description: Becky Gold
Sound Consultant & Field Recording: Charles Ketchabaw
Website Design: Wy Joung Kou


Photos

View photos from this performance on Flickr

Presentation history

  • Theatre Passe Muraille 20.21 season. Online, June -July 2021
  • MITYA Premiere Pilot (produced and presented by RDP). Cahoots Theatre, Toronto ON, September 2018
  • Festival of Original Theatre (FOOT) 2019: Equity & Diversity in Performance. Centre for Drama, Theatre & Performance, Toronto ON, February 2019 
  • FOLDA Festival of Live Digital Art 2019. Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Kingston ON, June 2019
  • Arts Club Theatre Company and Bard of the Beach Shakespeare Festival: Theatre and Accessibility in a Digital World Symposium.BMO Theatre Centre, Vancouver BC, October 2019 
  • FOLDA Festival of Live Digital Art 2020 LIVESTREAM. June 2020

Funders: Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, National Arts Centre English Theatre (The Collaborations)