DA Hoskins didn’t set out to create a new show when he began This Is A Costume Drama. The Toronto-based choreographer’s early explorations were more a gesture of self-care. In the process of setting up a tour for his previous creation Land of Fuck, he was administratively and financially maxed. Feeling the need for release, he began $10 Situations, a light-hearted workshop at Videofag that re-examinined parts of previous pieces without money or pressures of production.
“I was really needing to keep the creative stimuli alive,” Hoskins says, on a break from rehearsal. “It was essentially an exploration in playing and finding a way to relax into a process. I had no idea the material we were working on would turn into a new piece, but it was an integral stepping stone for me.”
The search for that playful sensibility became his new starting point. His cast of eight performers engage in a prolonged game of adult dress-up as they inhabit various characters, including: a Vegas chorus line, a dominatrix, a schoolmarm and Ronald McDonald. Blending movement, film and text, courtesy of writer Jordan Tannahill, the work brings together a seemingly bizarre range of references, from German nursery rhymes, to Valley of the Dolls, to the Kenyan University Massacre.
It wouldn’t be a Hoskins show without a healthy dose of nudity, including frequent collaborator Brodie Stevenson waving his wang at the audience while speaking in Mandarin, and an 18-foot-tall film projection of Videofag co-proprietor William Ellis with a hard-on. Though there’s obviously a perpetual piss-take in his use of sexuality, Hoskins isn’t motivated exclusively by shock or titillation.
“With everything we’re up against in the world, all the violence, the poverty, the destruction, I find myself asking where can we, as adults, find a sense of innocence,” he says. “I’m looking at how we can return to a sense of play against that backdrop. The aim is less to make a definitive statement than to create a kind of landscape for dialogue.”
From self-therapy to group therapy and back again, Hoskins’ creations aim to fulfil a serious need — for his audiences, a means of fighting back against a seemingly hopeless world, and for himself, a way of navigating the challenges of a career as an independent artist for nearly three decades.
“I try to be philosophical about it,” he says. “Instead of seeing it as a hindrance, I look at it as something that’s trained me to work on a level of incredible efficiency, doing as much as I can with as little as possible. I’m definitely not doing what I do to get rich, so I have to feel like I’m being fed by my work.”
“I might stick it out for another 10 or 15 years and let it take me to my grave,” he adds, then pauses with a laugh. “Well actually, you’re talking with a manic person, so who knows?”