Creator/Stage Director - Gwen Dobie
Creator/Director of Design - William Mackwood
Interactive Media Artist - Don Sinclair 
Composer -Thomas Sandberg 
Costume Designer -Teresa Przybylski
Graphic Designer - Jimmy Zhang
Costume Construction - Andrew Cleveland
Costume Construction - Alyssa Marie Prigioniero
Hat Construction - Amanda Wong
Carpenter - James McKernan
Scenic Painter ~ Vincent Perri
Lighting/Projection Assistant ~ Andrew McDowell
George Degenkamp ~ Digital Media Assistant and Projections Operator
Alyksandra Ackerman ~ Stage Manager, Production Manager, Publicity Co-ordinator
Rochelle Grandmont ~ Production Manager, Publicity Co-ordinator
Click to see workshop images . . .
See headshots and bios below . . .
“What will they say about us when we’re gone . . .”

Imagine a possible future; insects rule the earth. On the crumbling steps of the Paris Opera House, a curious collective of bugzzz find a copy of Puccini’s Tosca. Enthralled by the mystical symbols, but bewildered by the emotions, they risk everything to find some value in the buried and forbidden human legacy.

Bugs were the first life form to crawl out of the primordial ‘soup of creation’ on to dry land. As humans continue to forge a path to what soon may become an uninhabitable planet, many believe insects will be last surviving life form. Their ability to adapt rapidly to climate change, and survive despite ever-diminishing resources, ensures they will be around long after the last mammal expires.

In his text, A Short History of Progress, Ronald Wright notes that we, unlike any other creature, “leveraged natural evolution by developing cultures transmissible through speech from one generation to the next”, and as a result, “we moved beyond the environments that had made us, and began to make ourselves”. Our unalterable, undying belief in ‘progress’, mostly through the ever-accelerating use of technology, has brought us to a crossroads. Unlike the examples he offers of previous cultural failures; Easter Island, Rome, Sumer, the Mayans, Wright argues we no longer have ‘outside’ resources that will allow us to recover and rebuild from our mistakes. We are now one global village in which resources are stretched to the breaking point, and Wright stresses that we must get it right this time!

Our Bugzzz, assumes we did not. It takes a similar archaeological look back at our failed culture
through the lens of our highest art forms. Our insect heroes, have discovered pages of old opera scores. In an attempt to reconstruct and honour ‘humankind’ through the lyrics, dance and music of this elevated art form, they find themselves at odds with other insects who are offended in the extreme. Why honour Homo sapiens, the one animal in the history of the world, who not only managed to destroy themselves, along with all other mammals, but almost managed to destroy the entire planet? And that is the question Bugzzz, asks. How could a life form be capable of such beauty and seemingly, such destructive indifference?

-Read article from York University Y-File Newsletter on research project

-View images from the April 2011 presentation at Staging Sustainability, the July 2011 Script Workshop, and the January 2012 music workshops.

artwork by Jimmy Zhang

Gwen is a founder and Co-Artistic Director of Out of the Box Productions. Their inaugural production Opera Erotique opened in Victoria in May 2004 and toured the West Coast of British Columbia. She produced and directed In the Wings for the Sidney Summer Theatre Festival; The Third Taboo, which toured Western Canada in 2006; Prior Engagement at the Belfry Studio Theatre; and Sound in Silence, which premiered in Victoria in 2008 and at the Theatre Centre in Toronto in 2009. Most recently, Gwen remounted Opera Erotique at the Tranzac Club in Toronto.

Other directing credits include the Pan Faculty production of Dido and Aeneas at York University, the Canadian premiere of the Danish opera On this Planet by Anders Nordendoft and the world premier of the Opera Eyes on the Mountain by composer Christopher Donison. From 1998-2003 Gwen acted as Stage Director and Program Manager of Opera Studio at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Working in collaboration with Selena James and Robert Holliston, she created and directed original works for the company including Opera X Posed, Ay, Amore and Romeo and Juliet. Gwen performed for the Deaf Culture Centre in Nuit Blanche 2010 and the Blind/Deaf Collaboration for Helen Keller International, Sense Scotland, Glasgow, UK.

An Associate Professor at York University, Gwen teaches in the acting area of the Theatre Department.

William J Mackwood is a founder and Co-Artistic Director of Out of the Box Productions. Over the last five years he has lead the design team for productions of Opera Erotique, The Third Taboo, Prior Engagement, and Sound in Silence. They are currently in the development stage of their next work; Bugzzz, a cautionary tale. He recently designed projections for the Pan-Faculty production of Dido and Aeneas. The heart of his research lies in developing meaningful stories told through a ‘performance fusion’ supported by sustainable ‘design on demand’.

As a Professional Lighting Designer he has designed for, among others, Ballet Victoria (Court of Miracles, Peter Pan, Alice a Wonderland of Dance), Kaleidoscope Theatre (Little Women, Disney’s Aladdin Jr.), and Chemainus Theatre (Lost in Yonkers, South Pacific, Saint Joan). William designed lighting for the dance creations of Holly Small, Susan Cash and Keiko Kitano at the World Dance Alliance in New York City. He was also pleased to design lighting for Krystal Cook’s Emergence at the recent Impact 11 Festival.

On faculty in the Department of Dance at York University, William teaches Dance Production, Lighting Design and Dance Video. In addition to teaching, he serves as Director of Design and Production Manager for the Department’s curricular performances.

William is a Professional Member of the Associated Designers of Canada, C.I.T.T. and IATSE Local 168.

Don Sinclair: interests and creative research encompass physical computing, wearable computing, interactive sound art, laptop performance, web art, database art, interactive dance, video projection, cycling art, sustainability, green architecture and choral singing.

His web/data art work Variations/Variantes, included in a retrospective of in Canada since 2000 by the Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montréal (no 32 / 2008), is part of a series of works based on oh, those everyday spaces, a database of over 25,000 images captured during a 15 month period while cycling in and around Toronto. Work from this series has been exhibited at the Images Festival (Toronto), T-minus Festival of Time-Lapse Video (New York), (Jerusalem), SINTESI : Festival Delle Arti Elettroniche (Napoli), RestCycling Art Festival (Berlin) and Toronto Bike Week Bike Art Showcase.

Professor Sinclair has worked with several local choreographers and dancers to create works that explore movement-based manipulation of sound and image. His collaborators include Holly Small (a journey toward the end in the shape of air, Draw a Bicycle, Night Vision - Nyx), Susan Lee, Yves Candau/Nur Intan Murtdaza and Karen Kaeja/Diana Groenendijk (Stable Dances at Nuit Blanche 2008).

The exploration of the sonic world is important to many of his works, and he has collaborated with numerous sound-based artists to create audience-focused interfaces. They include Andra McCartney (Journées Sonores, Canal de Lachine, interaction / rétroaction / feedback, Toronto-Norwood-Toronto); Chantal Dumas/Christian Calon (around radio roadmovies); and Darren Copeland/New Adventures in Sound Art (Toronto Island Sound Map, Mississauga Sound Map).

Current projects include the development of several physical computing-based works. The Cyclist Comfort Visualizer is a wearable computing piece designed to be worn by a cyclist in traffic. Making Conspicuous Consumption is a set of works that display aspects of a building's energy consumption. He is also part of a SSHRC-funded team holding a research creation grant, engaged in a project titled Reflections of the Unimaginable; a Multimedia Rendering of Three Cities Hosting the Holocaust.

Professor Sinclair has taught new media in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York since 1990. He was the primary designer of the Faculty's new media courses and was instrumental in the development of the inter-Faculty Specialized Honours BA Program in Digital Media in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Department of Communication Studies. An enthusiastic participant in collaborative teaching, he  has developed innovative cross/interdisciplinary courses in interactive dance with Holly Small (Dance) and physical computing with Wojtek Janczak (Design), as well as working on technology-enhanced learning initiatives with Renate Wickens.

Professor Sinclair currently serves as Coordinator of the Fine Arts Cultural Studies Program.

Thomas Sandberg is a composer, musician, actor, performer, producer and singer. Educated at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Member of Danish Composers Society and Danish Actors Union. Soloist with the following Orchestras: Tivoli Symphony Orchestra, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra, The Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Solo show Performance: Musictheatre / Theatremusic (1997), The Man who murdered Music (1999), Musical Monologues (2000), The secret life of Harry Wallbanger (2001) On this Planet (2002), Sandberg Explorer (2004), TRANSIT (2005), INTER_FACE (2009), LOOP (to be premiered in march 2011)

Thomas has premiered 35 chambermusicworks with different ensembles, 19 chamberoperas and 15 solopieces. Extensive touring all over Denmark and the nordic countries and performed in numerous radio – and TV – productions as actor, soloist and musician. Co-founder of several Danish ensembles including ATHELAS Sinfonietta Copenhagen. Works with the integration of computers and electronics in music and performance. Prizes and Awards: The Danish Music Critics Prize 1998, Danish Composer Union Prize 2003, Danish Radio Award 2003, TeaterET Music Theatre Prize 2005, Danish Arts Council 3-year Grant 2006 – 09 More info, photos + audio/video excerpts of Thomas’ work on:

Teresa Przybylski: Theatre designer and architect Teresa Przybylski joined the faculty in York University's Theatre Department in 2000, bringing a wealth of professional experience gained in Canada and Europe.

Well-known as a designer for opera, theatre, dance and film, her extensive Canadian credits include productions at the Stratford Festival, Canadian Opera Company, Young People's Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, National Arts Centre, Theatre Smith-Gilmour, Theatre Francais de Toronto, Theatre Columbus, Native Earth, Necessary Angel, VideoCabaret and others.

Recent projects include set and costume design for the Canadian Opera Company productions of Il Tabarro and Cavalleria Rusticana; art direction/design for Rhombus Media's Don Giovanni Unmasked, which earned her a Gemini Award; set design for The House of Bernarda Alba at the Shaw Festival; and set and costume design for The Birds in the Stratford Festival. Last season, she designed the costumes for Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto) and the Shaw Festival's production of the Brecht/Weill musical Happy End.

Projects this season include sets and costumes for the Pleiades Theatre production of Hosanna at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (October 2006); set and costume design for Scorched at Tarragon Theatre (Feb-March 2007); and costumes for Lucy at CanStage (March-April 2007).

Professor Przybylski is the recipient of five Dora Mavor Moore Awards, most recently for set design for Two Words for Snow at Toronto's Artword Theatre, 2003.

Jimmy Zhang is a Digital Illustrator and Concept Artist who has a broad background in Traditional Art. While focusing primarily on illustrations in the genres of Fantasy and Science-Fiction, he is also an environment, character, and visual-assets designer. His expertise extends into typography, print, and matte-painting. His most recently published project is the cover of Mongoose Publishing’s Pen & Paper Role-Playing-Game, Stars Without Number, which debuted at Gen Con LLC (2011).

*Chris Karczmar: playing “Bott”

Chris Karczmar is delighted to work for Out of the Box Productions for the first time.  Previous Canadian theatre credits include: Otto Frank/Diary of Anne Frank @ Shakespeare in Action/Al Green Theatre, The Tempest & Two Gentlemen of Verona @ Stratford. York University MFA Programme: title role/Titus Andronicus, Ferryman/ The Bundle, Pontocarrero/The Bewitched, and Bowl/Seven in the City of Wine Festival @ Theatre Passe Muraille. Guest artist @ York: Lance/Table Talk. Favorite U.S. Regional theatre: The Groom/The Wedding @ Mark Taper Forum; Angelo/Measure for Measure @ Center Theater; Ben Redleaf/Canadian Gothic @ Steppenwolf; Zappy/Angel’s Fall @ Northlight; Pompeii/Antony and Cleopatra @ Chicago Shakespeare; Humphrey/Lady’s Not for Burning @ Court Theatre; Channon/The Dybbuk & Fritz/I Am a Camera @ National Jewish Theater; Uncle Peck/How I Learned to Drive @ Stage Works, NY. Awards: Joseph Jefferson Citation, L.A. Weekly Award, Metro North News.  Also featured and guest starred on a number of T.V. series, including The Border & General Hospital.

*appears with the permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

*Neema Bickersteth: playing “Flit”

Neema Bickersteth is a graduate of the University of British Columbia, where she received both a Bachelor and Master of Music. Opera Canada described her as having “amazing control of her vocal palette, producing a warm and sensual colour”. Neema takes pleasure in collaborating with various artists, which has allowed her opportunities including the great honour of performing for the XIVth Dalai Lama, Shirin Abadi, and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  More recently, Neema has been a part of some innovative new theatre including: Voicebox and Stitch (Urbanvessel), Blue Note (Nightswimming), Dark Star Requiem (Tapestry New Opera), Like an Old Tale (Jumblies Theatre), Cake (New Harlem Productions), Obeah Opera (b current), Caroline, or Change (Acting Up Stage/Obsidian), and Oil and Water (Artistic Fraud)

*appears with the permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.

Matthew Romantini: playing “Klik”

. . . is a multi-disciplinary artist, and the artistic director of The Thistle Project, a Dora-nominated performance company that adapts non-theatrical sources to the stage. He is the recipient of a 2008 Chalmers Professional Development Grant and a Canada Council Individual Artist Grant to study with his mentor, Erika Batdorf, and a nominee for the 2011 KM Hunter Award.  Recent credits include a season with the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble as guest choreographer and performer, Peter and the Wolf (Theatre Rusticle, 2011), EN: A Raincity Street Dance (TomoeArts, Vancouver 2011) The Boys In The Band (Ghost Light Projects, 2012 Vancouver, 2011 Toronto), Inseparable (Ottawa’s Arts Court 2010), One Pure Longing (2010 Luminato Festival), choreographing 32 Octaves (National Capital Commission, 2010), the West-Coast tour of April 14, 1912 and Birnam Wood (Theatre Rusticle, 2010), Peer Gynt  (The Thistle Project, 2010), and Twelfth Night (2010 Dora nominated, productions in 2008-2011).  Upcoming: Bugzzz (Out of the Box Productions 2012), leading a physical theatre workshop for Equity Showcase Theatre (2012) development of in|variance, with composer Kieren MacMillan (Dodecacophony), an unnamed Vaudeville collaboration with Tim Walker, and development of several solo multi-disciplinary projects including the Ur Sonate, Corporel, and Psappha.   

Matthew trained for eight years as a competitive figure skater (1988-1996), and included modern dance, ballet, jazz, karate, flamenco and improvisation in that training. He attended the College of the Humanities at Carleton University (1999-2001), and completed an Honours BFA in Acting Magna Cum Laude from York University (2001-2004).  He has trained in contemporary dance and butoh forms with Kokoro Dance in Vancouver (2005-2007), and in aerial silks with Brandy Leary in Toronto (2009-2010).  Matthew has received grants and awards from Carleton University, York University, The Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, the Laidlaw Foundation, and has been nominated for 5 Dora Awards (2007, 2010) and a Total Theatre Award at the Edinburgh Fringe (2008). 

As a teacher, Matthew offers butoh classes and workshops in Toronto, Ottawa and Cincinnati, has taught improvisation, contemporary dance and figure skating, has mentored as a movement coach for numerous companies across the country.  In addition, he is a Moksha Yoga instructor, and a teaching assistant for Peter McKinnon at York University, and with Michele George at Equity Showcase.  In the summer of 2012, Matthew will lead a workshop at Equity Showcase, on devising a show using non-theatrical imagery as source material.

Alyksandra Ackerman is a multi-disciplined artist currently studying at York Unversity. Previous stage management credits include Bugzzz: A Cautionary Tale (June 2011, workshop), After Miss Julie (National Theatre School of Canada), Jew For A Day (Bird of Mouth Productions), and Gang of Four  (John Binkley Productions). Congratulations to everyone for all the hard work and dedication put into such an incredible show!

Rochelle Grandmont has been a part of the York theatre community for two years now and is currently majoring in Theatre Production at York University. She has experience production managing, stage managing and assistant stage managing for two shows in York's Playground festival, Grimsby Ontario's 12 Play Student festival, and other independent projects. She has experience teaching and mentoring other students in management as well. This summer Rochelle is looking forward to working as an assistant stage manager for a Fringe Festival production and working with Speakeasy productions and Marvin Ishmael.

Andrew Cleveland Is thrilled to be working on such an exciting project! EUROPE: 2011 Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography: Scenofest and Six Acts (Dir. Pavel Štourac). TORONTO: 5th Anniversary of Toronto's Nuit Blanche Festival - The Endless Pace (Dir. Davide Balula). UPCOMING: Costume designer for The Wizard of Oz (Orangeville Music Theatre). FILM AND TELEVISION: "Pastor Greg", "The Incredible Hulk", and "Vimy Ridge 90", in front of Her Majesty the Queen. Working professionally since the age 14, his other credits include commercials, student films, music videos, and print modelling. BFA in Theatre: Production and Design (York University, 2013). 

Alyssa Marie Prigioniero is an aspiring Costume Designer who recently graduated with a BFA in Production Design at York University. Alyssa has had the privilege of studying under Costume and Set Designer Teresa Przybylski during her time at York, and is excited to have been her Design Assistant for Bugzz. Alyssa also recently had the pleasure of Assisting Teresa for the Theatre Smith-Gilmour production of As I Lay Dying. Costume Design credits for Alyssa include: York University’s Hippolytos (directed by Micheline Chevrier); Toronto Fringe Festival’s A Tranny Tale and Dinosaur; York Playground’s The Specimen and A Much Debated Cleaning. Other theatre crew credits: York University’s Rhinoceros, Metamorphosis,The Bundle, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The Grand Theatre: West Side Story, and Beauty and the Beast. Abroad Credits: Prague Quadrennial’s Six Acts Installation, and the International Student's Work Exhibition in Beijing, China.

Michelle Tracey is thrilled to have contributed to Bugzzz. She is currently studying Theatre Production and Design at York University specializing in costume design and construction. Some of her favourite theatre credits include Macbeth (Costume Construction, Classical Theatre Project), I Love You Because (Set Construction, Angelwalk Theatre), The Drowsy Chaperone (Set & Costume Design, Vanier College Productions), Hippolytos (First Hand, Theatre@York) and The Provok'd Wife (Head Cutter, Theatre@York).

George Degenkamp is a fourth year student studying Digital Media at York University. Although this will be his first time working in theatre production, he has had experience working on a number of media based motion tracking projects in the past. His work has involved interactive virtual reality environments, player tracking game simulations, and robotics with a focus on emotional feedback.  His current projects include an independently developed 3D puzzle game, ‘The Artisans’ (to be released 2013), and an emotionally responsive pinball machine.

Andrew McDowell is currently a student of the Theatre Production and Design Program at York University. He is excited to join the innovative Out of the Box Productions team, as William Mackwood’s Research Assistant. Andrew’s focus on this production will be the Lighting and Projections within the company’s ecological conscious framework and multidisciplinary approach to opera.


George Perry from Mooney on Theatre states this is a “must see play’. The “post-apocalyptic world created by their creative team is incomparable” and “The beauty of the play is extraordinary on many levels.” (Read the full review) And Glenn Sumi of Now Magazine agrees that Bugzzz ‘has an intriguing premise’. (click for images)

Out of the Box Productions

Bugzzz ~ a cautionary tale

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