Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland was formed in St. John’s in 1995 by the production team behind In Your Dream’s Freud. Freud had been a directing/creation project for Jillian Keiley and Chris Tolley while they were studying at York University, mounted under the company title of Artistic Fraud. The company name itself was inspired by the show’s content: a baudy and farcical take on artistic pretension framed within the trial of Oedipus Rex as witnessed by Sigmund Freud while under a cocaine induced hallucination. When Jill moved back to St. John’s after completing her degree, she wanted to remount the massive Freud (45 people in the cast) utilizing the large and fast developing community of artists coming out of Memorial University’s MUN drama, and the younger set of the city’s existing arts community. Originally produced as a fundraiser for Resource Centre for the Arts Theatre (RCAT), Freud was an instant hit. When RCAT took a pass on a remount, Jill and her production crew (Geoff Seymour Jr., Kelly Jones, David Somers, and Gian Fazey Koven) decided to form a company to make it happen. The company was to be a sister company to the original Artistic Fraud in Toronto, and thus Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland was born.
Robert Chafe was original cast member (playing Freud himself) and close friend to Keiley et al, and worked as a performer on the first shows: In Your Dreams, Freud; The Cheat; Jesus Christ Superstar; and Great Big Stick. His first creative collaboration with Jill came with 1997’s Under Wraps, which they developed with composer Petrina Bromley. The show was also a massive hit, and over the next three years it played three sold out runs in St. John’s and toured to Halifax, Calgary, Banff, and Vancouver. By the time Under Wraps wound down in 2000, Robert was acting Artistic Associate for the company, and he and Keiley were full steam ahead on other collaborations.
When Jill left the administration of the company in 2012 to take the helm of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre, Robert stepped up to become Artistic Director. Patrick Foran, who had a long connection with the company as a performer (Jesus Christ Superstar) and one time board member, was hired as Artistic Fraud’s producer.
In the last 20 years Artistic Fraud has created 15 original pieces of theatre
(In Your Dreams Freud, The Cheat, Under Wraps, Signals, Emoticons, Icycle, The Chekhov Variations, Burial Practices of the Early European Settlers Through to Today, Belly Up, Nightingale, Emile’s Dream, Fear of Flight, Afterimage, Oil and Water, and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams) as well as staged works by Michael Crummey (Hard Light, and Salvage), and Berni Stapleton (The Pope and Princess Di).
The work of the company was originally based on Jill’s interest in a director driven theatre in the spirit of Edward Gordon Craig. In plays and workshops for the first ten years of the company’s history, Keiley and her co-creators explored and developed a process she called Kaleidography, which involved the pre-rehearsal charting of instances on stage, timed and executed utilizing music as a time piece. This process eventually evolved into a more collaborative exploration of chorus and ensemble in performance. One of the trademarks of the company is the actual size of our productions; our choral theatre aesthetic often calls for large casts, with works involving up to 20 contracted professional performers.
In the last twenty years we have presented lectures and workshops on our work at:
Puerta de las Americas (Mexico City)
Performance Creation Canada (National Conference, St. John’s)
Literary Managers and Dramaturges of the Americas (Toronto)
The PACT Conference (Banff)
US Institute of Theatre Technology (Toronto)
Association of Atlantic Theatre Educators (Wolfville NS)
Atlantic Theatre Conference (Graduate Studies, University of Toronto)
We have also presented undergraduate workshops at the following institutions: York University, UBC, Simon Fraser, Studio 58, University of Calgary, Dalhousie, National Theatre School, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Queens University, Memorial University (St.John’s;) as well as professional workshops and presentations for several Canadian professional companies, including this year, workshops at the Nightwood 4×4 Directors Summit, and Edmonton’s Playworks Ink Conference.
Artistic Fraud also has a history of hosting artists and academics interested in the development of the process. We have been a subject of three Masters theses’ and regularly host national and international observers who have come to Newfoundland to study with the company.
Artistic Fraud has served as a laboratory for the practical development of choral theatre. In their twenty years with the company, Jill and Robert have explored and experimented with many facets of the process within the parameters of Artistic Fraud productions, always with the knowledge that our city and country hold adventurous audiences that are willing and eager to play along and join us on the new ride. These experiments in form and function inevitably find their way practically into Jill and Robert’s work outside of the company as well. In this way the company serves as an important incubator for some of the most significant and far reaching Newfoundland theatre works of the last two decades.
Major milestones for the company:
1995 – Halifax tour of In Your Dreams Freud. This 45 person production played to sold out audiences in St. John’s four times before touring to Halifax.
1996 – Development of Kaliedography, initially a blocking notation system, later a notation system for blocking/text/musical/gestural/technical instances on stage.
1996 – Staging of The Cheat, an 81 person math/music extravaganza.
1997 – Writing and production of Under Wraps; A Spoke Opera, by Robert Chafe, Petrina Bromley, and Jillian Keiley.
1998 – Creation of Kaleidography charts for Jesus Christ Superstar. This was our first time showing a large local audience our work in patterns and blocking scores.
1998 – Production of A Midsummer’s Black Light Dream. This production, originally staged in an under ground iron ore mining shaft, in Bell Island was done in full black light.
1998- Artistic Director Jillian Keiley is awarded the Canada Council John Hirsh Prize for her work with Artistic Fraud.
1999 – Halifax tour of Under Wraps; A Spoke Opera.
2000 – Development and production of Signals. This production tested our technique by casting audience members in the production.
2000 – Tour of Under Wraps: A Spoke Opera to Calgary, Banff, and Vancouver.
2000- Lectures and workshops about the work of Artistic Fraud at UBC, Simon Fraser, Studio 58 and Rumble.
2001 – Development and presentation of Michael Crummey’s book of poetry Hard Light as a stage production.
2001 – Workshops for the new ice-puppet show Icycle.
2001 – Presentation by RCA of Artistic Fraud production Emoticons, commissioned by the Marconi Celebrations and featuring St. John’s soprano Shelley Neville.
2001 – Development of Chekhov Variations for the 2002 Sound Symposium. Based on The Seagull, this was an exploration of the natural rhythms and music in natural speaking, pairing four professional actors with four professional string players.
2002 – Production and presentation of Icycle at the Yukon Arts Centre and the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.
2002 – Production of Chekhov Variations at the 2002 Sound Symposium.
2002 – Co-production and presentation of Tempting Providence in St. John’s with Theatre Newfoundland Labrador.
2003 – Re-mount of Chekhov Variations at the Memorial University School of Music.
2003 – Production and workshop presentation of Belly Up.
2003 – Production of Salvage: The Story of a House, our second stage adaptation of the work of Michael Crummey, this one staged in a heritage home in downtown St. John’s.
2004 – Production of Burial Practices of the Early European Settlers Through to Today a theatrical examination of funerals and their music.
2004 – Remount of Salvage: The Story of a House for a summer run at Commissariat House, a provincial historical site.
2004 – Premiere production of Berni Stapleton’s The Pope and Princess Di.
2004 – Artistic Director Jillian Keiley is awarded the Siminovitch Prize for Directing
Jillian Keiley and Robert Chafe present lectures on the work of Artistic Fraud at LMADA, The PACT Conference, PCC, and an assembly of North Atlantic Theatre Academics.
2004- Artistic Associate Robert Chafe is shortlisted for the Governor Generals Award
2004- Presentation of Da Da Kamera’s Cul De Sac in St.John’s.
2005- Co-Presentation of Theatre Smith Gilmour’s Chekhov Longs with RCA Theatre Company.
2005 – Jillian Keiley and Robert Chafe present a lecture on the work of Artistic Fraud at the University of Toronto and the USITT Conference.
2005- Development of initial workshop production of Fear of Flight with Students from Grenfell College in Corner Brook.
2006- Artistic Fraud initiates the invitation for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival to showcase in St.John’s .
2006- Jillian Keiley and Robert Chafe present a lecture on the work of Artistic Fraud at The Puertas De Las Americas Conference in Mexico City.
2006 – Production and Presentation of Nightingale, the story of Georgina Stirling, at the Magnetic North Festival in St. John’s.
2006 – Jillian Keiley develops Tilt in Florence, Italy with Teatro Sotteraneo and Artistic Fraud.
2007 – Production and presentation of Belly Up in St.John’s, and tour to Theatre La Chapelle in Montreal.
2007 – Initial workshop of adaptation of Michael Crummey’s Short Story AfterImage
2008- Jillian presents a workshop on kaleidography and the work of Artistic Fraud at Prairie Theatre Exchange in Winnipeg
2008- Artistic Fraud presents the fully professional, completely scored and sung production of Fear of Flight at the LSPU Hall.
2008 – Vive La Rose (eventually renamed Emile’s Dream), a co-production between Artistic Fraud and The Stephenville Festival, opening July 2 in Stephenville. This production is based on the life of Black Duck Brook Fiddler and Storyteller Emile Benoit.
2008- Artistic Fraud opens Emile’s Dream at the Cook Theatre in St.John’s, December 5.
2009- Artistic Fraud opens Afterimage at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto
2009- Artistic Fraud tours Fear of Flight to Toronto (Factory Theatre) and Ottawa (Magnetic North Festival).
2009- Artistic Director Jillian Keiley is awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Memorial University for her research and work with Artistic Fraud.
2009- Artistic Fraud launches commission of Oil and Water a new work based on the true story of Civil Rights Activist Lanier Phillips and the people of St. Lawrence who befriended him.
2010- Artistic Fraud presents Afterimage in St.John’s
2010- Emile’s Dream Tours the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Culture Centres.
2010 – Robert wins the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama for Afterimage.
2011 – Oil and Water premieres in St. John’s. The entire run sells out before opening night.
2012 – Oil and Water tours to Toronto (Factory Theatre), Calgary (Magnetic North Festival) and across Newfoundland and Labrador.
2012 – Workshops on the re-development of Under Wraps
2012 – Jill is appointed the new Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre.
2012 – Patrick Foran joins the company as producer.
2013 – the revitalized Under Wraps premieres in St. John’s.
2013 – workshops, in concert with the National Arts Centre, on Oil and Water and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.
2014 – Oil and Water tours to Halifax (Neptune Theatre), St. John’s, London Ontario (the Grand Theatre), and Ottawa (The National Arts Centre).
2014 – text, music, and staging workshops for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.
2014 – research and development begins on Between Breaths.