In August 2000, Liza Balkan witnessed the beating death of a man named Otto Vass during an altercation with the police in the west end of Toronto. Called to the witness stand on a number of occasions over several years, Balkan found herself needing to delve more deeply into what had happened. Seven years after the incident she started a creative journey, inviting others into a multi-year process of turning verbatim court transcripts, audio, video, and text derived from interviews with lawyers, officers, family members of the deceased, activists and artists, into a documentary theatre project that examines policing and police violence, use of force, mental illness, racism, the justice system, witnessing, and memory.
This book chronicles this project’s process through its various iterations and includes the script from The Theatre Centre/Luminato Festival co-production in Toronto in 2018, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley.
News & Reviews
“Incredibly powerful, edge-of-your-seat stuff…This is art that heals and transforms. It is art that connects our community.” — Mooney on Theatre
“Out the Window has a raw, powerful quality that distinguishes it from other theatre: it will leave you with questions rather than answers…Balkan’s look at memory, making art, mental illness and police violence and the court system should be essential viewing for anyone interested in these issues.” — NOW magazine
About the Author
Liza Balkan is an Ontario-based, multi-disciplinary theatre artist whose practices and artistic inquiries continue to evolve as she heads into her fortieth year in the profession. She works as an actor, director, librettist, writer, and educator. She has written text for music works produced by Tapestry Opera, Bicycle Opera Project, Opera McGill, Brooklyn Art song Society (NYC), Scrag Mountain Music (Vermont), and Five Borough Songbook 2 (NYC). In collaboration with composer Paul Shilton, Liza recently created, wrote, and directed the verbatim song cycle So, how’s it been? which had a sold-out run at the outdoor Here for Now festival in Stratford, Ontario during the summer of 2021. She also wrote the text for composer Brian Current’s new opera Gould’s Wall, in production in 2022 at Koerner Hall/RCM. During a multi-year residency at the Theatre Centre, she developed her documentary/verbatim project Out the Window. Liza directed its original production at the Theatre Centre and it was produced at Toronto’s International Luminato Festival in 2018, directed by Sarah Garton Stanley. Early written works include her solo shows BRANGST, and Leftovers, performed at assorted festivals and fringes across Ontario. Liza’s recent directing credits include Much Ado About Nothing for Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park, Every Brilliant Thing (starring Rebecca Northan) at Grand Theatre in London, and the premiere stage production of Stephanie Martin’s opera Llandovery Castle at Opera Laurier. Liza has been an actor in multiple productions across Canada and in the US. She received a Dora Award for her performance in Theresa Tova’s Still the Night (Theatre Passe Muraille/Tapestry).