Sunny speaks about his latest constellation of creative works.
How would you describe CHILD-ish?
It’s a deceptively simple exercise in listening to adults speak children’s exact words to see what we learn about people of all ages. Adults speak as themselves - they’re not pretending to be kids - and the results are surprising. At first glance, it’s a lot of fun, and then there are these moments that go BOOM and are surprisingly profound.
How did you get the idea?
The idea for CHILD-ISH came about from a time I arrived to look after a 7-year-old, to find her on the couch, head in hands, balling her eyes out. I asked what was wrong and she shared her utter devastation that her classmate didn’t want to marry her. She was really going through it, until – right between sobs – she started doing acrobatics on the couch and in literally only minutes, she was over it! I’ve spent longer stewing when someone hasn’t returned a text message! Her mom and I shot each other amazed looks: when did we forget how to use playfulness and presence to move through things? And I started wondering if sometimes I try too hard to adult and what it would be like to be a little more childish.
I wanted to see what else we could learn from children’s experiences of the world and what would happen if we listened to kids more deeply, so over several years we interviewed over 40 kids aged 5-12, either individually, in pairs or small groups. And then I’d take the transcripts and often combine together multiple interviews, being careful to stay true to the original meaning. I’d then workshop the scripts with our inter-generational team, often adding in new layers of verbatim material from the conversations with our young dramaturgs.
What do you want the audience to experience?
I hope that adults will listen to kids in new ways, engaging deeply with their ideas and experiences. I hope adults will also reflect on new possibilities for their own lives, inspired by the smarts and strategies of kids. I hope the show will spark conversations about consent and how we can build a culture of consent together. I hope children’s open approach to friendships, mental health, the climate crisis, 2SLGBTQI+ and diverse communities will be a healing balm and an inspiring call to action.
CHILD-ish was originally a theatre play. Now, there is a whole CHILD-ish universe including a podcast and a web series. What has changed during the development process?
After sold-out work-in-progress showings at SummerWorks (2019), COVID derailed our journey towards a live production. At first we were devastated: our intergenerational team–including our core 7 young collaborators–feels so strongly about this project and we have poured years of our lives into it.
Then, we got excited about the possibilities of expanding the work into multiple platforms. Even though we can’t wait for theatres to open again, we never want to go back to single platform work!
First we adapted the work into this web series, filmed on location in playgrounds across Toronto (following all COVID protocols). It allowed us to use visual storytelling and also transform the work into this short and snappy format. Now we’re also making a podcast where we will flip the format and have kids interview adults!
Working in all these different mediums is super rich creatively and is bringing out so many new layers in the work. And, we can’t wait to apply everything we’ve learned to bring you all a live theatre show in future. To find out more about CHILD-ish, click here.