New installation Dollhouse of Commons brings performance to the people


Claire Thérèse Friesen and her band play songs in the Dollhouse of Commons at The Forks while her border collie lays under their feet on Feb. 20, 2017. THE PROJECTOR/ Sean Guezen

A 20-square-foot dollhouse is set up at The Forks. A few children peer in through the front door, listening and giggling. Four musicians and a Border Collie squeeze in to play songs and celebrate their banjo player’s birthday on Feb. 20.

“We’re envisioning the space as a kitchen,” said Claire Thérèse Friesen, one of the creators of the Dollhouse of Commons. “It’s Shea’s 30th birthday today so I made a tiny cake.”

Friesen said that’s just one of the many ways the space will be used.

Built by Chris Pancoe and Shaun de Rooy and designed by 5468796 Architecture, the Dollhouse of Commons is a performance space and gathering place created by One Trunk Theatre to host pop-up theatre and art events from Feb. 15 to March 5.

“We were like, ‘wouldn’t it be so cute to have this little dollhouse?’ and it kind of evolved from there—this idea of being able to have people peek in,” said Friesen.

The dollhouse is speckled high and low with little red window shutters so even a toddler can see what’s happening inside. One wall can also fold out to make the space bigger for larger performances.

“We found out only in December that we would get the money to build this from The Forks for the warming huts,” said Andraea Sartison, One Trunk Theatre’s artistic producer.

Friesen and Sartison said they dreamed up the project as a way to introduce people to theatre in a public space who might not be exposed to it otherwise.

“For us to be able to bring theatre to people is for some reason—even though that’s how theatre started—innovative again,” said Sartison. “Even though it’s small, which constricts us spatially, it really opens your mind with all the creative possibilities, without it being like a big financial risk.”

Friesen said she wants the dollhouse to incite “conversations about home, our space, who we invite into our space, how we share space.”

She suggested that in the future they could have someone live in it almost as a performance art piece, biking from place to place and sleeping in it at night.

“We’ll build it up on casters so it can be pulled around, and then maybe we’ll find a way that it can be put onto a trailer to be pulled behind a car if we’re going long distances,” said Sartison.

She said that in spring they’ll re-evaluate the project. She hopes to bring the dollhouse around to schools in May and June and then festivals like the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in the summer.