Preview: The Rhubarb Festival (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre)

hero_Rhubarb37-860x410Buddies In Bad Times Theatre is gearing up to present the 37th Rhubarb Festival from February 17th to February 28th 2016. The Rhubarb Festival is Canada’s longest running new-works festival, featuring performances from both emerging and established artists in theatre, music, performance dance and art.

Rhubarb has set up multiple nightly performances with experimentation at its core, so that each night is unique and entertaining.

We asked festival director Mel Hague a few questions about what can be expected at this year’s Rhubarb Festival.

What is the overall theme or feeling of this year’s Rhubarb?

Rhubarb has always been about pushing boundaries – this year I have our artists taking over our spaces with their ideas and works. Taking Space would be the theme – physical space, intellectual space, emotional space. This is what happens when a person stands up and shares their ideas through art – it takes up space. The Rhubarb Festival has been making room for this kind of sharing for 37 years and with each new generation of artist and with each slight change in the world that we live in it only becomes more necessary for us to do.

How has your perspective/focus changed from last year, your first as festival director, to this year?

Last year I had to work though a lot of nerves. I both feel quite calm and incredibly excited this year. I have learned that the best way to support an artist is to trust them, and the best way to push them is to question them. I feel like I’m in a place where I’ve found a way to do both.

What is new and unique to this year’s festival?

I mean, it’s Rhubarb so words like new and unique come with the territory a bit. This year we have so many artists who have never been a part of the festival before; Rajni Pererra, Motion, Neil Lapierre, Donna Michelle St. Bernard, Walter Scott, the elephants in the room collective, Bruce Gibbons Fell. It’s so marvellous to have their energy and excitement. We also have many artists that have been in many Rhubarbs – this balance of experienced and new – the energy feels like it is about to burst out of the space.

Is there anything you are specifically looking forward to?

We open tomorrow, so today I just can’t wait to have the incredible Rhubarb audience in the building again. They are always one of my favourite parts of the festival. And of course watching Artists change and grow over the course of the week – the pieces continue to build and grow and change from one performance to another.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the performances?

I hope that the audience has a wonderful, funny, immersive, thoughtful, imaginative, varied, time. I can’t tell you how to watch the shows, but we have over 100 artists involved in 10 days of work – if you’re looking for something, my bet is you can find it here during the Rhubarb Festival.


  • The Rhubarb Festival is on from February 17th to February 28th 2016 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander Street)
  • Shows start at 8pm, with Galleries opening at 7pm. The Indie X program runs from 9am to 6pm February 28th.
  • Tickets range from $20 – $35, with pay-what-you-can rush tickets available at the box office from 12pm to 6pm Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for that evening’s performance. Limit 2 per person.
  • Tickets are available online or through the box office at  (416) 975-8555

Photo of Donna Michelle St Bernard, Ange Loft, and Neil Lapierre by Tanja-Tiziana