Performance Club 2: Valley of the Dolls with Keith Cole

Tuesday / Jan 30 / 18
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Super-8 Downtown Hotel
222 Spadina Avenue

The Commons @ 401 Richmond
401 Richmond St. West, suite 440


You’ve go to climb to the top of Mount Everest

to reach the Valley of the Dolls.

It’s a brutal climb to reach that peak

which so few have seen.

You never knew what was really up there, 

but the last thing you expected to find

was the Valley of the Dolls.

You stand there, waiting for

the rush of exhilaration

you though you’d feel–but

it doesn’t come.

You’re too far away to hear the applause

and take your bows.

And there’s no place left to climb.



Fifty years ago, Jacqueline Susann wrote these opening lines in The Valley of the Dolls, what would become one of the most successful books of its time (with over 31 million copies sold, and counting) making Susann a household name (even if many still read her book under the covers in secret) and bestowing her with the honour of being the first author in history to have three consecutive books in the #1 position on the New York Times bestsellers list. Some might remember the Valley of the Dolls best as the cinematic vehicle for a pill and booze soaked cautionary tale of female ambition, fame, fortune and failure. Despite this, fifty years later the story is still relevant, telling us as much about celebrity culture today and it forewarned us then.


You’re got to climb to the top of Mount Everest to see the Valley of the Dolls, and you’re invited to take this journey with Toronto’s very own performance provocateur Keith Cole in a 5-session book club-cum-academic master class. The first 4 sessions take place in a sprawling hotel room. In Session 5, book club attendees gather with audience to watch a screening of the 1967 film directed by Mark Robson, listen to a key note speech by a secret special guest, and receive their “V of the D” diplomas.


This Performance Club provides participants with a survey of a range of theories and opinions about how we engage, understand and re-evaluate, literary works of art from the past. How do we talk about, feel and learn from a work of art that is still celebrated fifty years after its first release? Our lives are increasingly dominated by visual images on screens but what about the act of reading? The act of discussion? The act of listening? The act of offering up opinions? Have we globally lost the inter-personal understanding of the importance of ideas, the circulation of information and the importance of coming together to identify, contextualize and analyze literary works of art?


The Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann refers to many performance and non-performance outlets. Namely popular entertainment and academic forms ranging from fine art, television, Hollywood, cabaret, camp, feminism, fashion, musical theatre, drug culture, power dynamics and gender politics. All of which will be analyzed in this participant lead Performance Club.


In order to reach a greater understanding of how meaning circulates through our diverse and hectic lives Performance Club participants must first come to terms with 4 items of importance:

  • reading is crucial
  • participation is mandatory
  • attendance counts
  • opinions matter




Super-8 Downtown Hotel, 222 Spadina Avenue


Tuesday 30 January / 7–9pm

Tuesday 6 February / 7–9pm

Tuesday 13 February / 7–9pm

Tuesday 20 February / 7–9pm 



There is limited enrolment to attend ALL sessions (#1–4.) The first 8 participants to enroll for all sessions (#1–4) will receive a FREE softcover copy of the book.


Each week, there will be a limited number of "audited" spots to attend a single session. These spots also require registration. These spots are PWYC. Auditors attend single sessions and BYOB (Bring Your Own Book).



The Commons @ 401 Richmond, 401 Richmond St. West, suite 440


ALL WELCOME / PWYC (at door only)

Tuesday 27 February

7pm: Keynote & Graduation

8pm: Screening





As a proposition for a performance or the framework for an actual book club, Performance Club redefines the historical and contemporary performance art canon, one book club, and one book / article / essay / anthology at a time. Invited artists perform the role of book club facilitators, leading the audience through a performance of a reading, a reading performance, a performance about a book, or a bookish performance. This series is on-going. Sometimes we pick the book and invite an artist; sometimes we invite an artist and they pick a book. Just like a real book club, we ask the audience to read the suggested material before coming to the performance. But don't worry, just like a real book club, no one ever does. 


Performance Club: 2017–2019


Performance Club 1

Queer/Play edited by Moynan King

Performed by Moe Angelos

December 14–15, 2017


Performance Club 2

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Performed by Keith Cole

January 20–February 20, 2018


Performance Club 3

9Questions, an artist project by Gustaf Broms (2018)

(The time we made our own book.)


Performance Club 4

Book Club: snowflakes in the echo chamber

Performed by Moe Angelos

September 10, 2019


Performance Club 5

The Talking Grave

Performed by Hope Thompson

September 12, 2019


Performance Club 6

Art Immuno Deficiency Syndrome, subtitle; Does This Giacometti Make Me Look Fat?

Performed by David Bateman

September 19, 2019




[ Performance Club ]

+ IMAGE GALLERY: Performance Club 2 (Session 1)
+ IMAGE GALLERY: Performance Club 2 (Graduation)
+ ARTICLE: Performance Club 2: Commencement Keynote Address