Theaturtle was established in 1999 to create essential, ecstatic theatre that touches the earth and agitates the soul. The name is inspired by a myth shared among Native Americans and Jews that the world sits on the back of a turtle. Alon Nashman is Artistic Director and the one constant member of the collective, but many remarkable collaborations have been born under Theaturtle.
In 1999 Adam Nashman’s The Song, an evocation of love, loss, and the soul’s journey based on the biblical Song of Songs and featuring Alon and Deborah Hay, was held over at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace in Toronto. Robert Cushman called it “…a tribute to the possibilities of the human body and human imagination.” (National Post)
In 2000 Wajdi Mouawad’s AlphonseTheatre, about a boy’s struggle not to give up his imagination as he grows up, was hailed as “A One-Man Wonder.” (Toronto Star) Alphonse subsequently went on to a Theatre Direct production co-directed by and starring Alon, which Kate Taylor called “A Runaway Theatrical Success.” (Globe and Mail) Shelley Tepperman’s translation of Alphonse, dedicated to Alon, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and the production was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award and a Brickenden Award.
Over the course of five years Alon and Mark Cassidy of Threshold developed the solo play Kafka and Son, based on a letter Franz Kafka wrote to his father. Theaturtle was able to forge partnerships to build this work, initially with the Ashkenaz Festival in 2002, then with the World Stage Festival in 2005, and finally with the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal JCC in 2006. Reviews were ecstatic, with comments such as “…thrilling adaptation…brilliantly realized.” (National Post), “…sheer understated artistry…perfection.” (Toronto Star), and “Theatre at its best!” (CBC Radio), and Kafka and Son topped the list of the outstanding performances of 2006 in The Globe and Mail. Kafka and Son was nominated for two Dora Mavor Moore Awards. The play toured with acclaim to Fringe festivals across Canada in the summers of 2007 and 2008. Kafka and Son was also invited to the National Theatre of Iceland. In 2010 Kafka and Son will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In 2009 Alon directed a workshop production of a vibrant and important new play, Noah’s Great Rainbow by Sam Chaiton, with music by Mighty Popo, Waleed Abdulhamid and David Buchbinder. It tells of a refugee of the Rwandan genocide who takes a job at an old-folks home and befriends a Holocaust survivor. The two men discover they have more in common with each other than with anyone else in their lives. A racially mixed cast of 10 morphed through the more than 25 roles, creating a ritual of storytelling, song, and shared healing.
In 2006 The Snow Queen, adapted and scored by Canadian composer Patrick Cardy, was brought to theatrical completion with the help of the Banff Centre. Directed by Alon, and featuring the Tokai String Quartet, this production marked a return for Theaturtle to stories in which the child’s experience is central. The Snow Queen was presented by the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, and garnered Dora nominations for Outstanding Production and Performance for Young Audiences. Snow Queen will tour to Ottawa’s WinterFest and Vancouver’s Music in the Morning in 2011.