Spoil Sports & Smear Leaders

Street Theatre vs. the Pan Am Games

Calling all wet blankets! Come one, come all – negative nancies, killjoys, sour grapes, grinches, stick in the muds, naysayers, and party poopers! Bring your friends!

The Pan Am Games are hitting the city of Toronto hard this summer, and what a spectacle it all is! Well… we’ve got some spectacle of our own. It’s hard to criticize a public sporting event, because it’s all fun and games… right? What could be wrong with that? As sports-lovers, games-lovers, and fun-lovers who are also opposed to capitalism, gentrification, racist police violence, and colonialism, we’re embracing the inevitable. Yes, we’re spoil sports. But we’ve got our reasons.

Join us in a guerilla street theatre intervention that will last from the beginning to the end of the Pan Am Games and create points of disruption in the spectacle. We’re in this as a mining justice group, but there are lots of reasons to protest these games – we encourage you to bring your own concerns and analysis to this. All are welcome, especially folks looking to expand their comfort zones and have some political fun! Read on to find out more.

If you want to learn more about some of the problems with the Pan Am Games, click here: https://panamsolidarity.wordpress.com/

If you want to learn more about Barrick Gold’s involvement in the Games, click here: https://panamsolidarity.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/barrick-gold-more-than-just-a-bad-apple/

Want to be involved? Here’s what you have to do.

#1: LEARN THE SKILLS: Come to one of two “Intro to Street Performance” workshops that we’re holding so that you can get detailed instructions, hear more about the issues, and learn some basic street performance skills! These workshops are run by and centred around the needs of anxious folks, and it is our first priority to make this space and experience safe for people who usually feel uncomfortable in spaces like this. Please feel free to join us if you have some, lots, or absolutely-no-way-no experience in public performance!

The workshops will be happening on the following dates and times:

– Saturday, July 11th @ 2-3:15pm @ Ryerson University (at the Toronto People’s Social Forum)

– Saturday, July 18th @ 5-6:30pm @ United Steelworkers Hall (at the Toronto Anarchist Bookfair)

#2: HIT THE STREETS: Once you’ve been to a workshop, sign up for a shift (or two! or three!) to go out and perform at key times and locations throughout the games. All you need to commit to is one hour of time sometime between July 10th and July 24th. People should go out in groups of at least 4 people (although the more, the better!), so if you don’t have a group to go with we’ll make sure you get connected with others. When you’re out in public, there are three possible roles you can play (wearing extra special uniforms and sporting medals that highlight Barrick Gold’s contributions to the Pan Am Games):

  • Spoil Sports: Find a crowd of people and *emote* — fear, horror, disgust, rage at the spectacle of it all. Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how to do this!
  • Smear Leaders: More perky and energetic, leading people in ‘cheers’ and handing out props that draw attention to the issues.
  • Referees: Not there to perform, but to field questions, hand out info flyers, and keep an eye out for risk.

Feel free to make the performance your own and add props and costumes as desired. We will be setting up a ‘prop shop’ in a central location where you can go and pick up extra materials to increase your dramatic effect, but only if you want!

#3: REPORT BACK: Take a picture of your group’s intervention and post about your experience doing your performance in a private group for participants. This is so we know how it went, and so that others can get ideas/inspiration!

Want to participate as an activist/community group?

Anybody can participate as an individual, but we will also be reaching out to activist/community groups to sign up for shifts as groups. For example, if you’re a musical group you could introduce a musical number into your performance. If you’re a sports group, you could play a quick game of pick-up in a public place. If you’re a political group, use this opportunity to highlight the issues you organize around. Have fun and get creative! If you’re interested in sending members of your group to do a shift, contact [email protected] and we’ll help you get started!

Possible questions you might have: 

  • Why are you doing this?

As a mining justice group, it’s impossible for us to ignore the role that the Pan Am Games’ medal supplier, Barrick Gold, is playing in all of this spectacle. The design of the Pan Am Games’ medals is meant to suggest ‘unity’ across the Americas; however, Barrick Gold has become infamous for perpetrating violence, contaminating water supplies, causing illness, and bringing about a loss of livelihood at the mine sites where the gold, silver, and copper for the medals are produced. Many of these mine sites are located in countries represented in the Pan Am Games; what does it mean that athletes from countries like Peru, Dominican Republic, and Chile are celebrated in travelling internationally to Canada to play sports when many other residents of their country can’t live safely on their own land because of the Canadian mining company that sponsors these games?

The Pan Am Games is doing a lot of work to make it seem like it’s ‘giving back’ to the people of Toronto, and the mining companies that we organize against do the same thing; they pretend to be ‘development’ projects as a way of justifying violence, displacement, and pollution. As activists, artists, and critical thinkers we see through this, and believe that it’s possible to speak out against this agenda. As a mining justice group with ties across the Americas, we desire and work towards a real Pan American *solidarity*, rather than the false unit that the Pan Am Games espouses, which is based in the displacement and criminalization of marginalized people.

  • What if I’m interested but can’t make it to either of those workshop times?

Let us know if this is the case! If there are enough people in the same situation, we might be able to organize an additional workshop.

  • This sounds *really* scary and intimidating. What… how?

We totally get that. One of the goals behind this project is to build capacity for street performance (and general taking-selves-less-seriously) in Toronto activist communities, and we’re doing this by trying to create spaces for performance that are supportive, flexible, and really really really geared to people who feel nervous about this kind of stuff. All of the workshops will be run by anxious folks who are really attuned to the needs and concerns of shy/introverted/anxious people, and we hope that this will make this feel like a ‘safety netted risk’ for folks. If you’re feeling both interested and scared and want to talk that through, please email Kate at ke [dot] klein5 [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • What’s the accessibility situation?

There is enough variability in what’s required here that we can make most needs work by matching performance locations to / tailoring performances to physical needs. The workshop spaces are all wheelchair accessible and the workshops can be tailored to the needs of folks in the group (especially if you give us a heads up in advance about anything you might need). Feel free to email Kate at ke [dot] klein5 [at] gmail [dot] com for more details about what will be happening in the workshops so that you can plan for it.

Kids are welcome in every aspect of this! Please let us know if there are any other specific things that we can do to make any and all of this accessible to you.