An interdependent, multidisciplinary experience, Blind artist Alex Bulmer takes the arm of people in her new neighbourhood. Together, they walk, listen, and share life stories — an architecture of place emerges through multi-sensory moving-portraits that consider the past, illuminate the present, and evoke possible futures.
Originally created in 2018 as a live, interactive, performance, May I Take Your Arm? was re-imagined in 2020 as a livestream presentation for Spider Web Performance’s Festival of Live Digital Art, and reimagined again in 2021 as a 7-part multidisciplinary follow-at-home experience co-produced by Theatre Passe Muraille & ReDefine Arts, with the support of Common Boots Theatre. A purpose built website acted as a navigation map for audiences to experience the work in their own homes, in their own time and pace. Additional features of the show included a series of limited-edition accordion books designed by Anna Camilleri that were mailed as a tactile accompaniment to experience the show, as well as multiple synchronous listening stage events.
Elements from May I Take Your Arm? were also presented by Theatre Passe Muraille as part of Beyond Walls 2021 – a Theatre Passe Muraille initiative to welcome community members back inside the theatre, and to re-physicalize and reconnect with the space.
May I Take Your Arm? presentations include FOLDA Festival of Live Digital Art (2020 and 2019), Theatre and Accessibility in a Digital World Symposium, BMO Theatre, Vancouver (2019), Cahoots Theatre, Toronto (2018) and Festival of Original Theatre, Equity and Diversity in Performance UT (2019). May I Take Your Arm? was part of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre Collaborations Unit (2019).
If we walk together, does the way we ‘see’ our neighbourhood change?
“In 2018 I moved back to Toronto, after living in the UK for 15 years. While away, I’d become completely blind. Instead of a return to familiar landscapes and buildings, I came back to a void – endless space. Without sight, new territory has no here versus there, no this versus that.
‘May I take your arm?’ – a question I asked several people living in my new Toronto neighborhood, in an attempt to understand where in the world I had landed – to turn space into place into home.
If I walk with you, If you pin a memory to this bench or that building, if we share a stroll down this hill or through that playground, an assemblage of place emerges through a geography of story.
May I Take Your Arm? is a collection of arms, voices, images and textures gathered over the past three years, many during a time when being with you has not been possible, not live in performance or with your arm in my hand.
Walking with others has been a way to tell myself ‘here I am.’ I wonder if now, for more of us, walking together reminds us ‘here we are.’”
– Alex Bulmer, Co-Creator & Performer