About the Project

Downstage is excited to partner with Calgary Can to support experimentation around their idea of "Bottle Picker Monologues" in October & November, 2017. 

Here's a one-page flyer about the project that you can download. 


Our overall goal is to use the skills of theatre to increase empathy and reduce stigma towards bottle pickers. Everyone deserves to feel safe. 

This part of the project is a "proof of concept", which means that we'll be experimenting with approaches and learning how best to tell these stories and make an impact.

  • Collect 25-30 stories around bottle picking (audio recordings)
  • Find ways to engage with folks who represent the full diversity of the bottle picking experience 
  • Meet twice a week for rehearsals to experiment with different styles of theatre
  • Do a 10 minute performance before at least two public events with existing audiences
  • Document what we do with great photos and video to support our learning and to help us explain the project to others
  • Decide on an approach toward a full performance in October 2018 for End Poverty Month, likely in a "cabaret" style with a range of short performances (e.g. live, spoken word, physical, recorded)

DOWNSTAGE is a professional theatre company based out of Arts Commons. We produce Canadian theatre, usually new plays by local artists, that explore big questions and social issues. We're now doing more "co-creation" of theatre with community members who may not consider themselves artists. 

CALGARY CAN is a group of Calgarians who are dedicated to reducing waste and improving recycling opportunities in Calgary by collaborating with the bottle picking community. Their vision is that bottle pickers are valued and compensated for their environmental and economic contributions; and their mission is to create a community-driven enterprise that involves and employs bottle pickers on their own terms.

For Participants

This project is open to:

  • anyone who has bottle picked, whether it's something you do currently or did in the past, do it full-time or part-time, downtown or in the suburbs, etc. 
  • anyone with a relationship to bottle picking (bottle depot employees, bylaw officers, transit employees...)
  • people who are curious about learning more about creating theatre - you don't need any previous experience in this!

We are meeting roughly twice a week in October and November to collect audio recordings of stories about bottle picking, then create about ten minutes' worth of theatre material to share and get feedback on, likely three or four pieces about 1-3 minutes in length. 

What you can expect at our rehearsals:

  • You'll be invited to contribute in this project in whatever way is interesting to you, including (but not limited to) as a performer, writer, designer, technician or stage manager, or just by sharing a story. 
  • You can drop in for just one or two sessions, or join us a couple of times a week for the next few months.
  • We'll spend time writing, workshopping and strengthening stories.
  • We'll decide together on the best theatrical form to support each story.
  • We'll learn and practice theatre skills including bringing in mentors to support any special skills we need.
  • We'll discuss and create or find any production components we need such as costumes, props, set pieces or sound cues.  
  • We'll be taking photos and video of our work at a lot of the sessions but will make sure to get your permission first; if you prefer not to be photographed or recorded, that's totally fine.      

Every rehearsal will start with a good, healthy supper from 5:30-6:30 pm then a working session from 6:30-8:30 pm. You can show up anytime before 6:30 - you don't need to be there for the full hour.
All rehearsal locations are inside Arts Commons opposite City Hall (205 8 Avenue SE). Check the specific date for which room we'll be in. There will always be a sign posted in the window of the Downstage office with the room details as well - our office is on the second floor of Arts Commons by the Big Secret and Motel Theatres. 

You can attend as many of the sessions as you like. 

You don't have to let us know ahead of time if you're joining us, but a heads' up is helpful to make sure we bring enough food!

Let Us Know You're Joining Us

First name only is okay if you prefer.
I'm planning to attend these rehearsals: *
Optional. If you want us to get back to you before the rehearsal, let us know how we can reach you!


CalgaryCan members Kristen and Randy at a community event. 

CalgaryCan members Kristen and Randy at a community event. 

Wednesday, October 11, Arts Hub - second floor of Arts Commons, +15 level, in between the Jack Singer and the ATP/TC offices
Thursday, October 12, Arts Hub
Tuesday, October 17
Thursday, October 19
Tuesday, October 24
Thursday, October 26

** Sharing #1
Date to be confirmed, late October

Thursday, November 2
Tuesday, November 7
Thursday, November 9
Wednesday, November 15
Thursday, November 16
Sunday, November 19

** Sharing #2 - Arts Commons "Happenings", Monday, November 27, event runs 6-9 pm, exact timing of our performance(s) to be confirmed!

** Potential Sharing #3?


Here we'll share quick notes about what we did at each session. 

Mentor Artists

Ellen Close is an actor and playwright as well as the Artistic Director of Downstage.

Lara Schmitz is an actor and director.

We will add more mentor artists to the team as the project evolves!

For Partners

We're looking for at least one more opportunity to share our ten minutes of material and get feedback in October or November. 

If you're hosting an event in Calgary and would be keen to bring us in as an "opening act", please contact Artistic Director Ellen Close at 403.294.7459 or ellen at downstage.ca to chat more!